An 18th Century visitor to Ballyshannon

In 1775 Richard Twiss wrote: ‘The next day I arrived in Ballyshannon and was so pleased by its beautiful situation that I remained there four days. It is a small town situated near the sea with a bridge of fourteen arches, over a river, which a little lower falls down a ridge of rocks, about twelve feet, and at low water forms the most picturesque cascades I ever saw. It is rendered still more singular and interesting being by being the principle Salmon Leap in Ireland”

In 1776 Richard Twiss wrote a book called “A tour of Ireland in 1775” which must be one of the earliest observation and account of Irish life taken from a purely tourist perspective.

Irish Houses or Parliament now the Bank of Ireland building in College Green

His Irish visit took place a year earlier when he arrived in Dublin on the fifth of June 1775 after sailing from Aberystwyth in Wales. Whilst in Dublin he saw the new Irish Houses of Parliament in College Green which he greatly admired and remarks that the building was begun in 1729 and took ten years to complete. After visiting some hospitals and other buildings that took his interest in Dublin he went south to Co Wicklow visiting Powerscourt House and waterfall.

He commented about the predominance of the Irish language been spoken,

“The Irish language is still understood and spoken by most of the common people but by few of the better sort: The books which are printed in it consist only of a few devotional tracts”

He adds a small dictionary of Irish words into his guide that would be useful to the visitor or traveller.

In July of that year he set out north to Drogheda, visiting Armagh, Belfast, Derry and Donegal and many other places, he eventually arrived in Ballyshannon where he was particularly impressed by the falls sited above the island of Inish Saimer remarking that:

Illustration of the Salmon Leap at Ballyshannon in “A Tour of Ireland” by Richard Twiss

The next day I arrived in Ballyshannon and was so pleased by its beautiful situation that I remained there four days. It is a small town situated near the sea with a bridge of fourteen arches, over a river, which a little lower falls down a ridge of rocks, about twelve feet, and at low water forms the most picturesque cascades I ever saw. It is rendered still more singular and interesting being by being the principle Salmon Leap in Ireland”

A view of Ballyshannon showing the fourteen arched bridge by artist Thomas Creswick A.R.A.(1811-1869)

After the four days Richard continued his journey passing through Belleek remarking that the river was a succession of waterfalls and cascades. He travelled onwards to Castlecaldwell where he spent time visiting Sir James and Lady Caldwell where he admired the castle and the wonderful vista overlooking the islands on Lough Erne.

The Salmon Leap photographed in the late 19th or early 20th Century

Richard Twiss was born in Rotterdam in 1747, a son of an English merchant residing in Holland. Being of independent means allowed him to travel extensively, firstly visiting Scotland and then onwards to the countries of continental Europe until 1770 when he published an account of his travels. His travels continued and he visited Spain and Portugal in 1772.

After explaining the life cycle of the salmon and the methods used to catch the salmon on the River Erne, he warned of the dangers of overfishing and remarked that the fisheries on the Erne rented at £600 per annum yet the salmon were sold at only a penny per pound giving us a good idea of the probable number of salmon caught each year at that time!

Richard Twiss was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1774, but withdrew from it in 1794. He died in Somers Town on 5 March 1821.

You can read the full account of his visit to Ireland at:

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ujpIAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Richard+Twiss+visit+to+Ireland&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjE4LrP64zlAhX0lFwKHfxHCWUQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=Richard%20Twiss%20visit%20to%20Ireland&f=false

The Story of Kilbarron Castle Part 2

In this, the second part of the Castle’s story we will cover the second half of the 1200s where the Ui Domhmaills (O’Donnells) will drive the Normans out of the North West of Ireland and establish the Uí Domhnaills as kings of Tír Conaill where they will install the Uí Scingín as Ollamh (Bard) in Kilbarron.

In this, the second part of the Castle’s story we will cover the second half of the 1200s where the Ui Domhmaills (O’Donnells) will drive the Normans out of the North West of Ireland and establish the Uí Domhnaills as kings of Tír Conaill where they will install the Uí Scingín as Ollamh (Bard) in Kilbarron.

Ben Bulben towering over the site of the battle at Creadran Cille. Photo courtesy of Philip Cleary.

In 1257 Goffraidh Uí Domhnaill defeated the Normans led by Maurice FitzGerald at the battle of Creadran Cille near Ros Ceide (Rosses Point) in the territory of Cairbre Drom Cliabh (Drumcliff) in Co Sligo. This defeat of the more powerful and more militarily successful Normans would confirm the Uí Domhnaills in the Kingship of Tír Conaill and inaugurated on the Rock of Doon with the religious ceremony in Kilmacrennan Abbey.

Kilmacrennan Abbey
Kimacrennan Abbey, Co. Donegal

The former Cenél Connaill heartland of Tír Aodh became the mensal land for the ruling Uí Domhnaill kings of Tír Conaill who now moved from their tradition seat at Kilmacrennan to Dún na nGall (Donegal town). Dún na nGall was named after the Norse traders that had built a trading post at the estuary of the River Eske in the 10th Century. The Uí Domhnaills also known as “na Dálaigh” did maintain their link with their ancestral territory by keeping their inaugural site at the Rock of Doon right up until the early 17th Century.

They invited refugees from the advancing Norman conquest of Uladh in eastern Ulster, people with now familiar Donegal names as, Mc Nulty (Mac an Ultach) Son of the Ulster man and the former kings of Uladh Donlevys (Mac Dun Sléibhte) the latter would become the physicians to the Uí Domhnaills. They and other families serving the ruling Clan were offered lands in Tír Aodh in payment for services given.

Lough Key in Co Roscommon.

From Magh Luirg near Lough Key in modern day Co Roscommon, the Uí Domhnaills brought the Uí Scingíns, a family of Ollamhs, who in modern terms were public relations people –the Uí Domhnaills wanted to cement their rule in Tír Conaill and the work of the Uí Scingíns and others would help to this end.

Annals of Connacht

Eventually the Uí Domhnaills would claim that they were of the Cenél Conaill and true successors to the Kingship of Tír Conaill, no doubt helped by the work of people such as Matha Uí Scingín, who wrote many poems in praise of the Uí Domhnaills and whose death is recorded in the Annals of Connacht in 1289. a It can be supposed that he was granted Kilbarron as his home sometime before this date.

Uí Scingín

The Uí Scingín clan came to Tír Conaill in the 13th Century as Ollamhs to the Uí Domhnaills. They came from Ard Carne, an area  north of Lough Key known as the territory of “Maigh Lurg”. This area is now part of the modern County Roscommon.

Only one family named “Skinnion” which might be the direct anglicised form of the name, is recorded in the 1901 census living in Castlefore, Co Leitrim but apart from that occurrence the name is lost. However it is noted that the name was transcribed from the Gaelic to the name “Hyde” or De La Hyde as the English translation of the word Skin to Hide or Hyde. (See: Rev Patrick Wolfe Irish Surnames 1923)

Douglas Hyde (1860- 1949)

Perhaps Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League and later first President of Ireland (1938- 1945), family’s name was originally “Uí Scingín” He was born in Frenchpark Co Roscommon in 1860 where his father was the Church of Ireland rector.