Emigration and Education Statistics, 1931, Co. Donegal

Donegal, is a maritime county in the province of Ulster and it is bounded on the north and west by the Atlantic ocean and on the east by Lough Foyle, Counties Londonderry and Tyrone and on the south by counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Leitrim. It’s length from Inishowen Head to Malinmore Head is 84 miles, its breadth from Bloody Foreland to the boundary south of Castlefinn is 41 miles.


The name of the county is derived from the town of Donegal , and means the Fortress of the Galls, or foreigners, the Danes having made a settlement there at an early period. Donegal was the ancient ‘Tirconnell’ and was inhabited by Kinel Connell who was descended from Conall, son of Niall of the nine hostages, who possessed nearly the whole of Donegal. A few miles north west of Derry city is Greenan Ely, te ruins of ‘Aileagh’ the ancient palace of the O’Neills, the King’s of Ulster.


The minerals to be found in the county included very fine marble found at Dunlevy at the base of the Errigal Mountain, and a formation of steatite near Raphoe, a kind of stone, easily carved and most durable.

The mountains of the county, beginning at the north-west are two parallel ranges called Derryveagh and Glendowan. The highest summit of the Derryveagh range is Doolish at 2,147 feet. West of Derryveagh is another irregular range containing Errigal (2,466), the highest mountain in the county. North-east of this is Mucklish (2,107). North-east of Glenties is a group of mountains of which Aghla (1,901) is the centre. In the east of the Barony of Banagh or Croaghgorm is Blaustack (2,219) and west of it are the Slieve League (1,972) and Slieveatooey (1,515) mountains, rising over the sea on the north and south coasts respectively. This range continues to the north-east towards Letterkenny and contains Gaugin (1,865), Boultipatrick (1,415) and Cark (1,205). The Inishowen peninsula is nearly all mountainous, the highest point being Slieve Snaght (2,015). On the Fanad peninsula, west of Lough Swilly is Knockalla (1,203) and Lough Salt Mountain (1,546) rises to the west of Mulroy Bay.

The headlands beginning on the north east are Inishowen and Malin Heads. Dunaff and Fanad Heads enclosing Lough Swilly; Horn Head, west of Sheep Haven; Bloody Foreland; Dawros Head, between Gweebarra Bay and Loughrosmore Bay. Malinmore and Muckross Heads with St. John’s Point and Doorin Point are in Donegal Bay. .

The islands of the county include Tory island, 8 miles from the mainland, which contains the ruins of an ancient abbey and round tower founded by St. Columba in the 7th century; Aran island which rises 750 feet above the sea; and in the same neighbourhood are numerous small islands, the principle of them being Inishsirrer, Gola, Owey, Cruit, Rutland, Inishfree and Roanish. Inch Island in Lough Swilly, culminates in Inch Top (732 feet). Rathlin O’Byrne island is near Malinmore Head. Between Tory Island and Ballyness Bay are Inishbofin, Inishdooey and Inishbeg. Inishtrahull, the most northerly land belonging to Ireland is to the north west of Malin Head.

Loughs Foyle and Swilly are the most important of Donegals bays and harbours, enclosing the Inishowen peninsula. Trawbreaga Bay is south of Malin Head; Mulroy Bay is to the south of the Fanad peninsula and is separated from Sheep Haven by Rossguill peninsula. South of Bloody Foreland are Gweedore and Inishfree Bays, and further south are those of Trawenagh and Gweebarra. Dawros Peninsula separates Gweebarra from the Bays of Loughrosmore and Loughrosbeg.. Glen Bay is in the extreme west, near Glencolumbkille and at the other side of Malinmore Head are Malin, Fintragh, MacSwyne’s and Inver Bays which are all branches of Donegal Bay.

The principal rivers are the Foyle, which separates Donegal from Derry (Londonderry) and which is formed by the rivers Finn and Mourne which join at Lifford. The Deele joins the Foyle north of Lifford. The Eask flows into Donegal Bay at Donegal. The Lowermore flows into Lough Eask, which is the source of the Eask River. Eany Water flows into Inver Bay, teh Bunlackey River into Donegal Bay at Dunkineely and the Glen River into Teelin Bay . The Owenia and Owentocher Rivers flow into Loughrosmore Bay at Ardara; the Gweebarra River flows into Gweebarra Bay and the Gweedore river into Gweedore. A river flows into Sheep Haven which has different names along the course of it’s path, these being: Owenbeagh,Owenarrow and Lackagh. The River Swilly flows into Lough Swilly at Letterkenny; the Erne River flows into Donegal Bay; the Bradogue River enters at Bundoran and the Termon enters Lough Erne.

Lakes: Lough Erne is on the south of the county; Lough Derg; Lough Esk is north-east of Donegal town; Lough Beagh; Glenlough is near Sheep Haven; Dunlewy lake and Lough Nacung are at the foot of the Errigal Mountain on one side and Lough Allen on the other side; Lough Finn is at the foot of Aghla Mountain and Loughs Muck and Barra are close to this mountain.


There were 30,325 families in the county according to the 1926 Census for Ireland, the average number in each family being 4.7. The number of ‘inhabited houses’ was 35,600, with an average of 4.8 persons to each house. The Special Inmates of Public institutions are omitted from these figures.

There were in the county 25,812 ‘Occupiers’ or ‘Heads of Families’ who were in occupation of less than five rooms, this was 85.4% of the total for the whole county. Of these 1,818, or 7% occupied one room; 12,226 or 47.3% occupied two rooms; 7,151 or 27.6%, occupied three rooms; and 4,647 or 18.0% were in occupation of four rooms.

There were 594 tenements in the county, in which the room had only one occupant at that time; 826 cases where the room had two, three or four occupants; 326 cases in which there were five, six or seven occupants and 72 cases where the occupants of one room exceeded 7 in number, including 13 cases where 10 persons occupied the same room; 5 cases where there are 11 and 2 cases with 12 or more persons in the same room.




Total Pop.
1821 120,559 127,711 248,270
1831 141,845 147,304 289,149
1841 145,821 150,672 296,448
1851 124,723 130,435 255,158
1861 115,875 121,520 237,395
1871 106,080 112,254 218,334
1881 100,671 105,364 206,035
1891 91,478 94,157 185,635
1901 86,444 87,278 173,722
1911 84,627 83,910 168,537
1926 78,060 74,451 152,508


In 1911, there were in the county 137,551 people aged 9 years and upwards; of these 102,619 or 74.6% could read and write; 6,586 or 4.8% could read only; and 28,346 or 20.6% were illiterate. As that census was the first for which the age for consideration had been raised from 5 years to 9 years, no comparison can be made with figures from earlier censuses. But – the percentage of those of five years and upwards who were unable to read and write in 1891 was 31.1%. By 1901 this figure was listed as 26% and in 1911 had fallen to 22.6%.

IRISH SPEAKING (1861-1911)

of people
1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911

Irish only
3 1

Irish & English
103 89 273 187 404 1,427

Irish Total
103 89 273 190 405 1,427
% of
0.1 0.1 0.4 0,3 0.7 2.6

RELIGIONS, 1861-1911(% of population)

1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911

0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.51 0.52

Church of Ireland
10.7 10.8 10.8 10.7 10.36 9.71

Roman Catholic
88.3 88.0 88.0 87.7 88.13 88.74

0.5 0.5 0.5 0.8 0.73 0.68

0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.27 0.35

EMIGRATION (1861-1911)

1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911
19,886 9,620 9,090 13,634 4,434 2,542