Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Co. Donegal

Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary comprises of several cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland. Here are From-Ireland.net’s records for Co. Donegal.

  • Place
    Buncrana Town
  • County
    Donegal
  • Parish
    Fahan Lower
  • Content
    BUNCRANA, a market and post-town, in the parish of LOWER FAHAN, barony of ENNISHOWEN, county of DONEGAL, and province of ULSTER, 11 miles (N. N. W.) from Londonderry, and 129 .50 miles (N. W. by N.) from Dublin; containing 1059 inhabitants.

    Though of some importance in the reign of Elizabeth, this place subsequently fell into great decay, but was restored and laid out in its present form by Sir John Vaughan, in 1717. The town is beautifully situated on the eastern shore of Lough Swilly, at the foot of the mountains of Ennishowen, and, from the romantic and picturesque beauty and salubrity of its position, has of late years become a bathing-place of considerable resort.

    It consists of three principal and several smaller streets, remarkably clean, and contains 248 houses, of which the greater number are large and well built of stone; the environs are adorned with several handsome houses, villas, and bathing-lodges. Buncrana Castle, close to the town, was the residence of the O'Donnells and O'Doghertys; but after the flight of O'Nial, O'Donnell, and other northern chieftains, in 1607, the territory escheated to the Crown. In the following year, Sir Cahir O'Dogherty, having rebelled against the English authority and carried on a sanguinary war for nearly six months, was defeated and taken prisoner by Sir Arthur Chichester, and was closely confined in this castle, which was shortly after granted to Sir Arthur : one of the towers, with the staircase of stone and the dungeon beneath, remains tolerably entire. A new castle, now the property and residence of Mrs. Todd, was built by Sir John Vaughan in 1717; it is approached by a very handsome bridge over the river, and in front are extensive gardens and terraces, all in excellent preservation.

    Lough Swilly here expands into an arm of the sea, bounded by mountains and rocks of majestic character, and forming a capacious haven of easy access, suitable for vessels of any burden. On the south side of the entrance are the Silly Rocks, about half a mile from the shore; on the west side, at Fannet Point, there is a lighthouse, with a fixed light of nine lamps, showing a deep red colour seaward and a bright light towards the lough. Two rivers empty themselves into the lough, one on each side of the town, after falling over several ledges of rock in their channels: in the northern, or, as it is commonly called, the Castle river, is an extensive and valuable salmon fishery; on the southern river are flax, oatmeal, and flour-mills.

    From its central situation the town has been chosen as the head-quarters of the artillery forces attached to the batteries on the Foyle and Swilly. At Nalds' Point is a battery, which is one of six erected on the threatened invasion of the French, with accommodation for one officer and 27 men, now under the care of a master-gunner and five men; and at Ballynary there is a coast-guard station. Considerable portions of the adjacent mountain district are being brought into cultivation: copper and lead ores are found, and slate of excellent quality abounds in these mountains, but has never been worked. In 1745 the linen manufacture was introduced by Col. Vaughan, and flourished for some time, and, in 1784, various branches of the cotton trade, paricularly the weaving of velvets, fustians, corduroys, and plain cloth, to which the printing of cotton was added, but, although carried on with much spirit, it declined after his death. A manufactory for sail-cloth and ducking was afterwards established, and coninued to flourish till the year 1830, when the premises were destroyed by fire. There are now in couse of erection extensive mills and factories for weaving fine and coarse linens for the Manchester market, also a large flour-mill and fulling-mill nearly adjoining.

    Several vessels are engaged in fishing for soles, plaice, and turbot, which are taken off these shores in large quantities and of a superior kind, carried over land to Derry, and sent from that port by steam to Liverpool. Oysters of large size and good flavour are also taken in the lough. The markets are on Tuesday and Saturday, and in the winter season there is a large market on the last Friday in every month. Fairs are held on May 9th, July 27th, Sept. 8th, and Nov. 15th.

    General quarter sessions are held once, and road sessions six times, in the year; and petty sessions are held every alternate week. The court-house, a large and handsome building in the centre of the town, was erected at an expense of £1300 by the late W. Todd, Esq., and presented to the county on this being made a town for holding quarter sessions. A court for the manor of Buncrana is held on the first Monday in every month, for the recovery of debts under 40s. Here is a station of the constabulary police.

    The parochial church, sitauated in the town, is a neat edifice: it was built in 1804, considerably enlarged and improved in 1816, and, being still too small, is again about to be enlarged, for which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £370. 6 shillings and 8 pence.

    There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, and for Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists.

    A large and handsome building for a school was erected by the trustees of Erasmus Smith's charity, by whom and the incumbent the school is supported; and at Cock Hill there is a national school. A dispensary is maintained in the customary manner.
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