Book Review

Oughterlin to Lough Swilly, A Local History, Hugh Doherty, Arthur Lynch and Áine Ní Dhuibhne (Letterkenny 2015) pp202


The district covered in this publication lies in the Fanad peninsula between Oughterlin and Lough Swilly and is largely concerned with the parish of Killygarvan and its townlands. The period which is the main focus of the book is the first half of the twentieth century and the work has been compiled by a local committee with three well informed editors as authors.

It is a very attractive, colourful production, richly illustrated with maps, photographs and drawings.

For the visitor to the area the book is a welcome bonus with its extensive introduction to the landscape and topography, featuring hill names, lime kilns, burns, lakes, waterfalls, mass rocks, altars, standing stones, beaches, coastline, rock features and bridges; there is also the rich archaeology of the district, including the impressive carvings of the Drumhalla cross-slab which has some features similar to St. Mura’s Cross at Fahan.

As the book had its origins in a townland project, placenames feature prominantly. An interesting feature is how townland names were altered over the centuries, for example in the Killygarvan District Electoral Division. The listing of householders in Griffith’s Valuation will be very useful for genealogy. It is sad to see that country shops are no longer prominent in rural life so it is good to have them recorded for posterity, together with our dwindling post offices. Traditional farming and fishing are expertly dealt with. One interesting fact is that the local sail maker was a woman called Annie McLaughlin whose family came from Inishtrahull  island. There has also been a great transformation in trades and occupations and the book records the valiant work of local midwives, tailors, blacksmiths, shoemakers and tinsmiths. Other interesting chapters deal with schools, churches, priests, nuns, customs, cures, games and marching bands. Country life was anything but dull and the dance halls, bands and famous singers such as John Kerr are covered in some interesting and witty detail.

The book is a comprehensive compilation of the rich heritage, folklore and culture of a beautiful district and may be used as a model by other rural communities who are keen to preserve the past. – Seán Beattie.


Dr. Seán Beattie is the Editor of the Donegal Annual 2016, the Journal of the County Donegal Historical Society.  The Annual was launched by Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, NUI Galway in Jackson’s Hotel Ballybofey on Saturday 10th September 2016.