BEGINNERS' BLAS 9
Donegal, ‘Dún na nGall’ or Tír
This week we’ll take a look
at Donegal. The county of Donegal has two names in Irish, the easiest
to recognise being Dún na nGall, meaning the fort of the foreigners
or the fort of the strangers. ‘Dún’ means fort and
is found in a lot of place names. It is sometimes anglisiced as ‘down’
such as Condae an Dún, county down and Dún Padraic, Down
Patrick, Patrick’s Fort.
Dún an nGall,
the fort of the strangers, is the name given to Donegal town from which
the county gets it’s name. There is some confusion as to who these
foreigners were, some believe it refers to the Vikings who were reported
to be active in the bay of Donegal in the ninth century. Yet others believe
that the strangers referred to are Scottish mercenaries who were brought
in by the Irish to fight for them in their local and national battles.
Donegal town itself did not grow until after the establishment of a castle
there built by the Ó Domhnaill or O’ Donnell clan in the
The O’Donnell’s were a famous Donegal family who ruled the
North west of the county now known as Donegal and by the late 15th and
early 16th Centuries ruled Fermanagh and parts of North Connaght also.
Another name given
to the County of Donegal is Tír Chonaill, meaning Conall’s
land or territory ‘Tír’ being territory. This name
historically only refered to the west of the county. The Conall in question,
was sometimes refered to as Conall Gulban was a son of Niall of the Nine
Amongst the descendants
of Conall were 41 saints and 10 High Kings, perhaps the most famous of
them being Naomh Colm Cille or Saint Colm Cille, a man who could have
been High King, but opted instead for a life in the church. Conall Gulban
is not to be confused with another Conall, the sixth century saint who
is linked with South West Donegal.
So there you have
it Donegal, ‘Dún na nGall’ The fort of the Strangers
or Tír Chonaill, Conall’s territory.
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