Donegal Live is taking another jaunt around East Inishowen in the company of Redcastle’s Peter Mullan.
Peter recently obtained his Fáilte Ireland approved ‘Local, Regional and National Tour Guide’ qualification from the LyIT School of Tourism, Killybegs, and as he said himself: “This summer is the perfect time to discover the treasures on our own doorstep here in Inishowen.”
With evident enthusiasm Peter added: “There is so much to see, do and learn in Inishowen and that is not even mentioning our dolmens and our standing rocks, which represent early humanity, pre-Christianity.
“A lot of people would debate why standing stones were where they were. There are standing stones not only in Inishowen, but also throughout Ireland and Europe.
“Some people say Standing stones are associated with rituals or burial rites. However, I tend to think that it might be something more practical, for instance, so people would know times of the year and when to move their herds or when to plant crops or when to harvest crops.
“The Romans obviously brought in the January, February March calendar and the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday week we know today and can measure time by, but in pre-Roman times, I believe we had very learned people who could watch the stars and the skies and could tell by the location of certain stars what time of the year it was.
“Whenever you look at these standing stones, for examples in Culdaff, which although they are on private land, can be seen from the road, they are located along the axis of north, south, east, and west and in alignment with certain stars. They all seem to be in the same alignment.
“There are a lot of exciting things to know and to learn in our own peninsula. There is so much to look at, why would anybody go anywhere else? This is the perfect year to discover what is in our own backyard.
“We are all very good at going away and seeing what everybody else’s culture is like. However, there is just so much here for us to discover ourselves and the information is out there, we just have to open a book or a website and plan our journey.
“The scenery is breath-taking and Inishowen has some of the friendliest people in the world. I found myself recently driving up around the viewing point at Five Finger Strand and I met a number of farmers out working and tending their fences and whatever, not knowing them from Adam but a wave and a smile was something that you get. Inishowen people are happy people.
“That viewing point down unto Five Finger Strand is absolutely fabulous, looking out unto Doagh Island, seeing Doagh Castle, and Glashedy Island there at Ballyliffin. I could go on for hours about the amount of things there are to see.
The name ‘Drung’ obviously means a meeting place. Initially, it would have got its name because of some sort of dominant feature in the landscape. It could have been a crossroads, it could have been a rock. I believe in Quigley’s Point case it was because of the waterfall, an easily identifiable place where people who weren’t familiar with the area could have identified as a meeting place. I think the waterfall is quite ancient but is also on private land and should not be approached.
“There are examples of cromlechs or druids’ alters, where, unfortunately, a human or more often, an animal, could be sacrificed, and standing stones around Drung, so obviously it pre-dates Christianity, as a meeting place.
“The ancients would have watched the run of blood of the stone and they would have been able to tell the future. By today’s standards it is quite cruel and grotesque.
“So, people would have gathered in Drung. There is no evidence of a Christian Church there pre-1829. There is lots of talk of the local priest appealing to people post 1829 to build a shelter because it is quite exposed up there. Eventually there was a small church built there.
“It was not occupied that long until it was partially demolished, and the stone used for the new Church, was subsequently built there following the repeal of the Penal Laws.
“Then there were the Cary family, who were the landlords of Redcastle. They would have built a number of houses. They had a famous relative that wrote a lot of books, which were made into films. His name was Joyce Cary. There is a townland called Castlecary, which was named after the Cary family.
“There was a Castlecary House halfway between Redcastle and Moville. All that is left of it now at the minute is foundations. It was demolished because with the demise in the family’s fortunes due to the Relief of Ownership of Land and payment of rates and back payment and the family could not afford to keep the house, so they knocked it down. Seemingly, it was a fabulous house.
“The footprint, the foundations of the house are still there today. However, it is also on Private land and should not be trespassed upon.
“The Collins family bought Redcastle and then Doherty’s who were descendant from the original O’Doherty’s.
“They had one daughter, who married a Captain Cochrane, the youngest son of the very, very famous Admiral Thomas Cochrane, about whom the film ‘Master and Commander’ was made, starring Russell Crowe.
“Captain Cochrane maintained his loyalty to the Established Church and his wife, and his children were Catholic. So, what you have is a beautiful monument to Captain Cochrane in the Church of Ireland Church in Redcastle, which has been abandoned for years. And when you go to the Catholic Church in Drung and at the base of the old Chapel, you have his wife and all his children buried within the confines of that building.
“That situation depicts the division that there was even within landlord families in the area. Captain Cochrane was the last landlord of Redcastle.
“The Cochrane family were related to the famous Scottish Conqueror, Robert the Bruce, whose brother Edward is buried outside Armagh. The last of their family was a lady who lived in the family home who married into the Cochranes. So you can trace the Bruce’s into the Cochranes.
“Inishowen is bursting at the seams with history,” concluded Peter Mullan.
If you fancy a tour of Inishowen, Peter Mullan can be contacted at: 0872521441 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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