Towns of County Donegal

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Donegal:  It is also in the parish and barony of Donegal. The town is situated on Donegal Bay and is about 12 miles north of Ballyshannon. The town was founded around a castle that was built by Red Hugh O'Donnell in approx 1500. The castle was altered by Sir Basil Brook in 1610 who was land lord here after the plantation in 1607.   It was the chief seat for the O'Donnell's, who were kings of Tir Chonaill. The name 'Donegal' in Irish is 'Dun Nan Gall' which translates as 'Fort of the Foreigners'.  Red Hugh O'Donnell and his mother Nuala O'Conor also had an abbey built near the town in 1474. It was a Franciscan friary. Both Red Hugh and Nuala are buried at this site.  In 1591 the friary was seized by the English but the O'Donnells retook it in 1592. Nine years later the English once more seized it and when the O'Donnells tried to take it back the English blew the buildings up.

Family names from mediaeval period in the Donegal town area: O'Donnell, McNulty, O'Gallagher, McRoarty and McDunlevy.

Letterkenny: is a town about 20 miles west of Derry and 9 miles north of Stranorlar. It is in the parish of Conwal  and in the barony of Kilmacrenan. There is a large cathedral in the town that was built in the 1890's. Approx 2 miles west of the town is the ruins of an ancient monastery with a medieval church and a holy well.  There is a battle site 3 mile south west of Letterkenny at Scarriffhollis, a ford over Lough Swilly. Where in 1650 Sir Charles Coote's Parliamentary army  destroyed the last Catholic army in Ulster with the loss of 1,500 lives. When the catholic officers surrendered, to Coote  on the promise of quarter, he had them butchered. These catholic officers included Henry O'Neill, son of Eoghan Rua who was clubbed to death outside Coote's tent.  The catholic  Bishop of Clougher and commander of the catholic forces a man called Herbert Mac Mahon escaped capture after this battle but was captured a few days later. Coote had him hanged in Enniskillen, 6 months later.

Family names originating from the Letterkenny area are: O'Donnell, O'Laverty, McLoughlin and McCool. 

Lifford:  is a town that sits on the west bank of the River Foyle. It is in the parish of Clonleigh and in the barony of Raphoe. It is only 1km or half a mile from Strabane which is in County Tyrone.

Family names that originate form the Lifford/Strabane areas are: O'Gormley, O'Derry and Hayes.

Other towns in Donegal.

  1. Ballyshannon: A town about 12 miles south of Donegal town. It is in the parishes of Inishmacsaint and Kilbarron and in the barony of Tirhugh. Family names originating around here include McWard, O'Cleary and Hayes. 

  2. Ballybofey: Is a small town about 10 miles south of Letterkenny. Ballybofey is in the parish of Stranorlar and in the barony of Raphoe. Names originating from here include O'Kenny, O'Cannon and O'Pattan. 

  3. Falcarragh: Is a small village on the North West coast of Donegal. It is approx 25 mile NW of Letterkenny. Falcarragh is in the parishes of Tullaghobegly and Raymunterdoney and is in the barony of Kilmacrenan. Family names originating from the Falcarragh area include McCoyle, O'Friel and McSweeney.

  4. Killybegs: Is a small town on the coast of Donegal Bay and about 14 miles west of Donegal town. It is in the parish of Killybegs Upper and in the barony of Banagh. Family names that originate from this area include, McSweeney and McNelis.

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