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Private Collections

Private records

Donegal County Archives Service holds a number of significant collections from private sources and has a proactive acquisition policy. The County Archives acquires archival material which reflects Donegal’s political, social, cultural and economic history and development; provides suitable secure and safe accommodation and preservation facilities for acquisitions, and list the acquired material according to its annual plans, thus encouraging use of the acquisitions by researchers of various interests and backgrounds, including genealogists, family and local historians, sociologists, journalists, political scientists, academics and students.
Note: The privately acquired archives described on this website are only the highlights of the collection, for inquiries as to the complete list of private archives, please contact the Archives Service.


Literary collections/papers

  • Cathal Ó Searcaigh: The largest and most significant collection of private papers is the collection of the renowned Irish speaking poet and includes a vast variety of material, such as draft poems, stories, plays and prose, notes, interviews, business and personal correspondence, newspaper articles, speeches, photographs, postcards, casual diaries, collections of works sent by other aspiring and known writers to Mr Ó Searcaigh, etc., 1960 –1990;
  • Patrick MacGill: four letters and one draft poem, one drawing, 1917 – 1935;


Private Collection Patrick McGill

Letter written by Patrcik MacGill‌


  • Poems by other local authors.


Estate papers

  • Horatio Granville Murray Stewart and family, estate papers: 15 items, mainly volumes of rentals with details of tenants and amounts of rent paid and maps, Killybegs, Kilcar, Killaghatee, and other areas of South Donegal, 1749 – 1880.
  • Captain Ernest Cochrane and family, Redcastle, Inishowen, estate papers: items include maps, letters and a journal, 1865 – c.1950.
  • Edward H. Harvey, estate papers: 2 maps and 1 rental, Ballyliffin, Clonmany; and Inch, Inishowen, c. 1900.
  • Sir Arthur Chichester: rental and particulars of Sale of estates held from the Marquis of Donegal, in Moville, Inishowen, 20 Dec 1951.
  • Jane Doherty: Notice to Quit issued by [Richard] and Jane Doherty giving tenants six months notice of eviction, Donagh, Moville, 1866 – 68.
  • Hamiltons, rentals etc of the estate of John and Abraham Hamilton and other members of the family, in Ballinamore and Fintown, 3 items, 1818 – 1849.


Hamiltons of Ballintra

Hamilton Family Photograph‌


  • Groves of Castle Grove House, Letterkenny: included are photograph albums of family members; judicial rent cases; letters including letters from James R. W. Grove while serving in the Indian army during World War One; family recipe books from early 19th century; postcards; booklets; farm account books and other material, c.1820 - 1920.


Castle Grove Recipe

Extract: Castle Grove Recipe Book                                        


Photograph Castlegrove House

From Grove Family Photograph Album


  • Montgomerys and Boytons of Convoy House, acquired in March 2005. Included are farm accounts (1920’s), rentals (1890’s); bundle of files (1920’s); and notebooks, 1890 – 1920’s.
  • Alexander Stewart of Ards: Trustee Account of the will of Alexander Stewart (1873); and Agreement ledger comprising agreements between Stewart and his tenants, 1856- 1896.
  • Captain Humfrey: rental of estate and expenditure account for repairs and work done to Cavanacor House and estate, 1822 – 1835.
  • Lord Leitrim: a small number of items including a copy of a book of maps of Leitrim’s lands in the barony of Kilmacrenan, 1779; a handwritten letter -order- from Lord Leitrim, addressed to two tenants, 1865; a Grant in Perpetuity, 1870; and a map of Lord Leitrim's holdings in Carrigart 1874.


Private organisations/businesses

  • Gweedore Hotel Visitors’ Books. These two bound volume contain detailed entries and comments from guests who stayed at the Gweedore Hotel. Lord George Hill (1801 - 1879) owned the hotel and the visitors’ books have some very detailed descriptions of the landlord, the area and the overall situation in Gweedore from 1842 - 1874. They contain references to subjects such as the local estate and tenants, emigration and the famine. The many notable visitors included: various members of the Downshire family; Thomas Campbell Foster; Sir James Dombrain; Thomas Carlyle; Thomas Emerson Headlam; Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke; and Dr. William Robert Wilde. There were also many visitors from the surrounding counties whose remarks on the changes they had witnessed are perhaps of even greater significance. The bound volumes date from 1842 – 1874. Below are pdf of low resolutions of both bound volumes; they are freely available to view.

Gweedore Hotel Visitors' Book 1

Gweedore Hotel book 2


  • Lough Swilly Hotel Visitors Book, with names of visitors, residence, observations and date of visit. Some comments in 'observations' column but limited. 1890 – 1903.
  • Ballybofey & Stranorlar Co-operative Society, minutes of the meetings of the society, 1917 – 1922.
  • Accounts of the Templecrone Co-operative Agricultural Society Limited, Hosiery Manufacturers, Dungloe. Details names and addresses of clients, quantities of oatmeal, maize and other items sold, and costs. Some written annotations on back of some pages. Entries are not always complete. 1923 – 1945.
  • District Nursing Associations:


Fanad Health Club: collection, c.1930 – 1937, relating to district nursing in Donegal and the Fanad Health Club in particular. Fanad Health Club was set up to allow district nurses operate in the area. Members paid a subscription to avail of its services. Similar Health Clubs were set up around the county. Material in the collection includes:

  • Volume of Correspondence, including: a series of letters from Sean Ó Deagha, County Medical Officer of Health, (who died aged 43 following appendix operation, in 1935) to Miss E. R. C. Hart, Carrablagh, Portsalon (became secretary and later president of the Club), on the setting up of the association, employment of district nurses, nurses' salary, providing accommodation (e.g., building cottages in the area) for each nurse, nurses' performances, subsidies for Club from Dept of Local Government and Public Health, fundraising etc. Also includes letters from Dr Ó Deagha to Public Health Offices, Stranorlar; and letters from the Queen's Institute of District Nursing in Ireland to Miss Hart on matters such as affiliation with the Institute and recommendations regarding nurses' qualifications and salaries and pension needs. Also letters from the Institute's Irish Branch (1930’s);
  • 1935 Annual Report and other correspondence from Donegal County Committee of District Nursing Association and Donegal County Nursing Association;
  • Correspondence from the Benevolent Society of St Patrick, also called the Irish Peasantry Society, regarding grants towards the association (7 July 1932- 3 August 1933);
  • Photographs of nurses and members of the club, including a Jubilee Nurses Reunion photograph of JW Fullerton, Lady Stewart, Miss Hart, Mrs C Kelly, Mrs Boyd, Dr M McGinley, Dr Ó Deagha and Mrs Colhoun and Mrs Magee.
  • Lists of collectors of funds.
  • Posters, sketches, cuttings from newspapers, invitation cards, fliers, tickets, concerning fundraising activities.


Newtowncunningham, Burt & Killea District Nursing Association; 1960 – 1974. This collection includes:

  • Four volumes of minutes of the meetings of the Association, 1945 – 1974;
  • Reports and financial statements presented at the annual meeting of subscribers. Chairmen were Dr. W.K. Bigger (1952 - 1964); Rev. Fr. A. Arnold (1965 - 1967); Rev. J. R. Watt (1968 - 1969); Rev. Fr. P. Muldoon (1970 1972). Reports include statement of accounts, number of visits (including ante-natal visits) by nurses during previous year; collection areas and nurses;
  • Annual Reports of Lady Dudley's Scheme for District Nurses associations. The scheme was established in 1902 by the Countess of Dudley, for poorer parts of Ireland (absorbed into health boards in 1974), "in affiliation with the Queen's Institute of District Nursing in Ireland". Reports give the total number of visits, cases and patients' contribution for the year, treasurer's report, accounts, lists of subscriptions and special collections.
  • Andrews Linen Mills: 31 items relating to the business and its dealings with other companies including flax mills in Donegal and elsewhere. Material includes: volumes of accounts containing invoices and receipts for: flax, yarns, coal, stationary, supplies, machinery, repairs, rail transport on the Belfast and Co. Down Railway Company and Great Northern Railway, poor rate demands and receipts for payment of the poor rates. Includes flax from Carrigans, Stranorlar, Letterkenny, Ardara and Strabane. 1894 – 1955.
  • Jim Watters & Co., Estate Agents, Milford. Collection includes: 15 Auction books, detailing sales, with names of purchasers, townland, article auctioned (e.g., horse, land etc), approximate area (e.g., acre, rood, perch), correct area, price amount in pounds, shillings and pence, fees, date of payment, by whom paid, and account details. The collection also includes correspondence, notes and financial statements. There is one accounts book, dating from 1894 – 1896. The auction books date from 1930 – 1967.
  • Irish Medical Association: (Donegal branch). Minutes of the meeting of the association: Dr Carre was appointed first chairman. Issues discussed include immunisation, payment and improvement of salaries, fees and travelling expenses to medical officers, remuneration of Royal Irish Constabulary medical officers, General Medical Council, accounts, tuberculosis, dispensaries, supporting medical candidate to Senate (1925), leave, insurance certificates, need for an association, mental health certification, etc. Includes inserts, such as a 1919 list of RIC medical officers. 1903 – 1977.
  • Parish of Clonmany manuscript. Manuscript volume with historical and biographical and topographical notes on the history of the parish of Clonmany, County Donegal. Written by J. J. Brady. Quarto ms book, 19th c.
  • Ards Bounty Blanket: Small collection of papers of Protestant charity which distributed blankets to needy people during the winter months. 1871 - 1908.


Individual collections


Photograph Bridget Byrne

Harbison Family Album: Bridget Byrne aged 109 years

  • Father Patrick Gallagher; documents, notes, essays, correspondence, articles, newspaper cuttings and photographs particularly relating to the County Donegal Historical Society. Other subjects include genealogy; the O’Donnell clan, families including the Shiels and Sweeneys of Ballyshannon, the Montgomery estate in Convoy, Hugh Allingham, the Finn Valley; and many other records; c. 1940 – 1980.


Drumboe Castle

Fr. Patrick Gallagher Collection: Drumboe Castle


  • Dr Maureen Wall: Papers mainly relating to the Penal Laws, handwritten and typescript notes.
  • Clarke family, Porthall, Lifford: papers include newspaper cuttings relating to deaths of various members of family, including James Clarke, Deputy Lieutenant of county Donegal, member of Grand Jury and Chairman of Donegal County Council, Andrew Clarke and Charlotte Clarke, and of Captain William Harnett Wagentreiber, Inchenagh, Lifford, principal of firm of John Clarke and Co Ltd, wholesale wine and spirit merchants, Strabane and Ballindrait, 1870 - early c. 20th.
  • Sylvia Boyd, Lifford: postcards, newspaper cuttings, songs and poems, 10 items, c.1930 – 1960.
  • William and Hugh Allingham and Sarah Lipsetts, photographs and diaries; notes relating to the poet and other friends and relations.


William Allingham

William Allingham from Lipsett Family photographs collection


  • Letters from emigrant James Keown of Michigan Bluff, USA. Includes letter, c.1870, from Glencolumbkille Hotel, Carrick, County Donegal.
  • Fr James McFadden, papers relating to a famous nineteenth century Donegal murder case; 1889.


Fr James McFadden Trial Document

‌‌Document relating to trial of Fr James McFadden and others, 1889


  • Daniel Doherty: 107 envelopes containing newspaper clippings, 46 loose newspaper items and 92 letters and telegrams, the majority related to matters of Irish interest or Irish/American activities. The letters are also mainly to and from politicians, including Robert and John F. Kennedy and General Charles de Gaulle.
  • Family letters of Dolan family, Rathglass, Bundoran. Includes letters to a family member on board a British Ship during the First World War.
  • 'A Social and Cultural Study of Crofter Life on the West Donegal Seaboard', original thesis in two volumes written by Patrick O'Neill. Chapters include on physical features, climate, soil, agriculture, transhumance and livestock, rundale, congestion and land tenure, home industries, fishing, curraghs, and housing. The second volume includes hand drawn statistical maps of Donegal, including of structural features of a sea curragh. The thesis also includes a sketch of 'crofter's lime kiln', drawings of spools and a pot for holding yarn and house types along the western seaboard plus older types of 'crofter dwelling'. Black and white photographs include of Upper Finn Valley, and houses and cottages in Knockfola, Traweenagh Bay, Gibbstown, Co Meath, Ballyroarty, Stranocloc (Owenea Valley), Sthraboy, Teelin, Ranafast, Drumeen, Rann na Gille, Bunbeg, and also Norway. 1940.
  • Photograph album of the Royal Irish Rifles at various locations, before and during the First World War, 1910 – 1916. The photographs were mainly taken at Finner Camp, County Donegal. Photographs include Rockport 1910, Ballyferris 1913, Fancy Dress Social, Halloweve, 1913, relay race team, 1914, Tullymore Park, Easter 1914, Bryansford Camp, Easter 1914, Foley bridge, 1914, Orlock Hill, 1914. Includes 12 photographs of Finner Camp 1914-1916. Also includes photograph of 14th battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Randalstown, 1915, 'Scoutmasters having tea at Knockmagory 1916, Easter Camp 1916. Names mentioned include H. Anderson, A. S. Hanna, G. T. McFall, H.E. Keown. Names in Finner include: W. Cameron, Major Gunning, 'officers at Finner', J. Hayes (Randalstown), also 'WC and BB showing equipment, Randalstown 1915'.


Finner Camp, Bundoran

Finner Camp, Bundoran