St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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Mongavlin Castle Article

Less than two miles from St Johnston along the River Foyle brings you to Mongavlin Castle. This ancient building is little more than ruins now but it still has the power to command curiosity about its past.  

It is interesting that the Four Masters wrote Mongavlin as Maghgaibhlin. In their Irish, it stood for the plain land of the tiny fork river. Joyce wrote that Mongavlin should have been Moygavlin to fit its Gaelic origin better.

The castle was built in accordance to how it was done in Scotland. It was built by Sir John Stewart and hails from 1619.

A Scottish princess, An Inghean Dubh (that is the Black Haired Daughter) lived in the castle. It was her chief home. She had raven black hair which is why she was called Dubh, black in Gaeilige. She was the wife of Lord Hugh Roe O Donnell, Lord of Tir Chonaill. Donegal was Tir Chonaill then.

She had hailed from Scotland and was a member of the MacDonnell clan. She chose 100 of the best soldiers she could find in Scotland to guard her and her castle. About 80 of these men were Crawford.

A bloodcurdling murder took place at the castle in 1588 on the orders of the vengeful Inghean Dubh. This evil was rooted in 1586 when her brother Alasdrann MacDonnell was murdered by Aodh Mac an Deccanaigh O Gallagher. She got her revenge by having Aodh murdered in turn at the Castle in 1588.

The famous Red Hugh O Donnell was the son of Hugh O Donnell and this Inghean Dubh. Red Hugh was their first child but it was his father Hugh's second marriage. There were children from this first marriage but Inghean ensured that nothing would stand in the way of her ambitions to make Red Hugh the apple of his father's eye and the heir to everything.

In 1591 Domhnall who was Hugh O Donnell's son but not by Inghean making him her stepson was slain in battle by her family and their army. She was desperate to promote her son Red Hugh as best she could and seems to have even resorted to spreading supernatural prophecies about how his destiny was to succeed and become a very powerful man. She certainly managed to keep him motivated in his attempts to win power!

Due to clan dissension among the O Donnells, the castle fell into a state of neglect.
After the Plantation of Ulster, the castle was owned by the Second Earl of Abercorn.
Once there was an inscription on a stone in the wall of the castle dedicated to the Hon Elizabeth Hamilton which dated from 1704.

Patrick Gormley

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