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.

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    CLONCHA or CLONCA, a parish in the barony of ENNISHOWEN (Innishowen), county of DONEGAL, and province ULSTER, 5 miles (N.) from Carn; containing 6654 inhabitants.

    This parish is bounded on the north by the Atlantic ocean, and on the west by Strabregagh bay (Strabrechy), and comprises according to the Ordnance Survey, 19,643 statute acres. The land is much diversified, but generally cold, wet and barren: the higher grounds form the mountains of Knockamany and Knockbrack, whose summits and sides are covered with heath, coarse herbage and bog. These mountains are principally composed of schist, or clay-slate, but in the lower districts there are considerable deposits of coarse blue limestone, and granite and porphyry are sometimes found in detached masses. Coral jasper, chalcedony, opal, agate and cornelian are sometimes found in small masses on the shores and are called in the neighbourhood "Malin pebbles"; some of them are of considerable value, and are set in seals, rings, necklaces and other ornaments.

    Here is the lough or harbour of Strabregagh, which separates the parish from those of Donagh and Clonmany: it is unfit for vessels that draw much water, though small vessels can find shelter anywhere along the Runevad Point, and is often mistaken for Lough Swilly, which has caused many shipwrecks. The coast on each side of the entrance is very rocky, and the tides rapid. From Strabregagh to Coolort, and from Malin to Glengad, it presents a series of picturesque precipices, among which is Malin Head, the most northern point of the mainland of Ireland, being in N. Lat. 55o 20' 40". Eight miles east of the Head and five from the shore, is the island of Ennistrahahul, on which is a light house, exhibiting a bright revolving light visible only once in two minutes. To the east of the Head, and a mile and a half from the shore, are several small isles called Garves Islands. In the townland of Ballyhillian, at Malin Head, there is an admiralty signal tower; and at Malin Head and Glengad are coast-guard stations. Strabregagh abounds with salmon, and seals are sometimes found in it. At Portmore, near Slieve Ban, a pier and harbour are being constructed, at the expense of Captain Hart, to whom the property of Malin Head belongs.

    The principal seats are Malin Hall, the residence of J. Harvey, jun., Esq., situated in a beautiful demesne embellished with flourishing plantations, which are highly ornamental in this bleak and exposed district; Rockville of the Rev. J. Canning; and Goorey Lodge of J. Harvey, sen. Esq.

    The living is a rectory and vicarage in the diocese of Derry, and in the patronage of the Marquess of Donegal: the tithes amount to £555; the glebe comprises 370 acres, of which 110 are barren. The church is at Malin, and was built in 1827, by aid of a loan of £200 from the late Board of First Fruits, and a gift of £100 each from Bishop Knox and Mr. Harvey, of Malin Hall: it is a neat plain building, with a handsome square tower.

    In the R.C. divisions part of this parish is united to that of Culdaff, forming the union or district of Cloncha; the remaining portions of the two parishes are also united and form the district of Culdaff. There are chapels at Lag and Aughnacloy, in the former district and at Bogan in the latter, all in this parish.

    At Goorey is a large Presbyterian Meeting House connected with the Synod of Ulster, of the third class.

    The parochial schools, which are in the town of Malin, are principally supported by the Harvey family. There is a female working school at Malin, also schools at Keenagh and Tully, both built on the estate of Mr. Harvey, of Malin Hall, who is the principal landed proprietor in the parish; and one near Malin Head. In these schools about 400 boys and 230 girls are educated; and there are also five private schools in which are about 190 children, and three Sunday schools.

    At Larachrill are ten upright and two prostrate stones, about six feet high, so disposed as to form part of a druidical circle of 60 feet in diameter. At Umgal is shewn what is called Ossian's Grave, and near it are places bearing the names of many of the events recorded in his poems. There are likewise traces of a monastery and several churches or cells whose names are unknown. Both history and tradition mention a conventual church at Malin, of which the only vestiges are a heap of stones. Pilgramages are still performed to this place, which terminate by bathing in a small hollow in the rocks at Malin Head, which is filled at every tide and is reputed to possess the power of curing diseases. The old church of Cloncha, which has been disused since 1827 and is falling into ruin, appears to have been an abbey or priory. Near it is a stone pillar, 18 feet high, which was apparently the shaft of a cross, and is ornamented with scrolls and emblems; the upper part is broken off, and lies at some distance. At Ballyahillon is a natural cave in the rocks, of considerable extent: it is here known as "Hell's Hole" and is the subject of many extraordinary tales.