Be a History Detective in your Donegal townland!

Buildings we passed by before without a second thought may have ignited our curiosity

Be a History Detective in your Donegal townland!

Drumnahoul National school

For Heritage Week 2020, 15th to 23rd August Drumhome Heritage Society is asking people of all ages to go out in their own locality, find an old building or ruin of interest and be a history detective in your own area. 
Every rock, stream, ivy clad wall or crumbling ruin holds hidden secrets to our past. Nature has moved in where families once lived. An unassuming heap of stones could be all that remains of a life once lived. 
In the light of current events our local environment has perhaps comes into sharper focus. Buildings we passed by before without a second thought may have ignited our curiosity and twigged that question; “I wonder who lived there?” 
There are many ways of finding information; search free on line Griffith Valuation dated circa 1856, 
here you will find maps, names attached to properties and landlords connected to the properties. Search Irish Census 1901, and 1911 as well as Duchas Schools Folklore collection. 

Go to your local library, check on-line Church Records, and visit Graveyards. You can use any information found or discovered from local knowledge, even ask your Grandparents to help build a picture or profile of the type of building/home it was, it’s inhabitants and the lives they lived.

Well now you can be part of saving a segment of history in your own area in this perfect time to be curious.
Get out and take some photos of an old ruin near you and use the free “on line” records mentioned above to find some local history. We would love to hear what you find, and to share your stories, photos and records on our Drumhome Heritage Society Facebook page during Heritage Week 15th to 23rd August 2020. Send your findings to us at  or through Messenger on our Facebook page before the 12th August. Best of luck with the Detective work and Happy Investigating.

Below I have attached an example of a small bit of research recorded in the month of May this year and was posted on Drumhome Heritage Society Facebook page
“I walked a very old lane next to my house in Cully during lock-down. It had been overgrown for years and was inaccessible so I was delighted when a neighbouring farmer cleared the old track. Its funny how somewhere so close to home can feel like a whole new hidden world to explore with ancient trees filled with bird’s song, wild bluebells, May flower and old stone ditches clothed in moss and lichens of all colours. After a wander I found the old house which I had heard was there but had never seen. I could see it must have been quite a small house with some sheds sitting in a beautiful setting looking over the hills.

I started to do a little searching for more information. It was said that a woman called Kitty Stewart lived there so that is where I started. I searched the Census of Ireland 1911 and 1901 and Griffiths Valuation which was carried out between 1848 and 1864.”

 In Griffiths Valuation dated 1857; a house and plot of land was rented from the landlord James Johnston of Tullybrook House by a man called William Little.

William Little's House at Cully recorded in Griffith Valuation dated 1857 

In the 1901 Census - Residents of house 6 Cuilly, Tullynaught, were Joseph Little aged 60 (head of the household) occupation farmer, Religion- Protestant Episcopal and Margaret Stewart aged 80, sister of Joseph Little.

 In the 1911 Census Residents of house then referred to as 11 on the same plot;

Joseph Little aged 82 – Farmer – head of household – Church of Ireland

Kate Stewart age 53 – Niece of farmer – Church of Ireland – both single.


Number of outhouses stated 2. One stable; one cow house.

Walls of the house were of stone and it had a thatched roof. It had only two rooms in the dwelling with just one window. A tax would have been payable on each window in a house so fewer windows was the norm. It was rated a 3rd class house on the document, which may sound a poor house but there was worse around at the time, which was only after the famine, houses existed which were made of mud, or wattle as it was called, with no windows and only one room with a thatched roof.

I could not find any death records for Kate Stewart or the Little Family named but I certainly was pleased I found some information.

Coincidentally following a search in the Dùchas National Schools Folklore Collections, I came across a funny wee Fairy story; about a man called Little, collected from a student who attended the long closed Drumnahoul National School, (which is located around 4.5kilomters from Donegal Town) Annie Bustard aged about 12, recorded this story from her father William J.Bustard, Cully in 1937.


“Long long ago there lived in Cully a man named Little. The people called him “Whistling Joe. He was a very rich man and had plenty of cattle.

 He owned a little alt and it was overgrown with little thorn bushes. He uprooted all these bushes. The neighbours told him not to uproot them but he would not listen to them so he ploughed it and sowed it with corn.

One morning he went into the field and he saw all the little lumps were gathered in little piles so from that time onward his cattle went wrong. They would gather together in this field and roar.

One night one of the cows calved and the calf was taken away so he looked for it for days but he could not find it. Three weeks after it had been taken away he was going into the field one morning and he saw the calf standing at the foot of a tree. He took the calf home and from that time forward his cattle died and he died a poor man himself.”


If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email To contact Donegal Post, email To contact Inish Times, email

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