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Recommended Books about Donegal and Books by Donegal authors

The Donegal Woman by John Throne

The Donegal Woman by John Throne
In 19th and 20th century Donegal, young people barely into adolescence, were hired out at hiring fairs where they were inspected like cattle and employed as farm labourers. The hirelings were housed in outhouses and worked to the bone, never seeing their families from one end of the year to the next.
In 'The Donegal Woman' John Throne relates the story of his grandmother who, in the early 20th century, was hired out at the age of 12 and treated as cruelly as one can imagine, suffering sexual and physical abuse which continued after she was married off to a stranger when she fell pregnant to the farmer who employed her.
This is a story of lost innocence and one woman's struggle to survive. It is a story which deserves to be read by everyone with an interest in Donegal, in Irish history and in the struggle of the underdog everywhere.
If your ancestors came from Donegal this book will enlighten you as to the conditions that prevailed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, conditions which made the emigrant boat so very preferable to staying at home.
This best selling novel is an often disturbing read but it is written with compassion and a rare understanding of both the Irish past and female fortitude.

Ordnance Survey Letters: Donegal 1835 by John O'Donovan
edited by Michael Herity with a preface by Brian Friel.
This book vividly describes the County in the late 1830's when its author, John O'Donovan, traversed the roads of Donegal translating the Townland names from Irish to English and noting the antiquities and characters he met along the way.

A Guide to Tracing Your Donegal Ancestors by Godfrey F. Duffy
Donegal families are an interesting mixture of native Irish and "Ulster-Scots" who came to Donegal in the 17th Century Plantation. This book lists the records available for researching Donegal families, including church records, civil and land records, censuses, newspapers, commercial directories, school records and others. It also details where these records can be accessed, and how they can be most effectively used tracing Donegal families.

Donegal: History & Society Interdisciplinary essays on the History of an Irish County edited by William Nolan, Liam Ronayne & Mairead Dunleavy

Twenty-seven interdisciplinary essays on Donegal by archaeologists, medievalists, musicians, poets, geographers, place name scholars and historians of economics, culture and politics. Recommended
Lough Derg by Joseph McGuinness
The tradition of pilgrimage to the island on Lough Derg dates back to the earliest days of Christianity and is increasingly popular today. This book outlines the island's history since medieval times and its relevance to the modern pilgrim.

The Druid Stone by Nancy Monaghan
One of a series of Celtic mysteries/historical fiction for children and young adults by Nancy Monaghan, a 'Daughter of Donegal'.
This volume contains two stories - 'The Spirit Stone', set in Pettigo, which tells the story of the Monaghan family and a druidic tale 'The Isle Of Mist' set on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
This book is dedicated to the memory of Nancy's Donegal ancestors and 'all the other courageous emigrants who sacrificed to provide us with a better life than they had'.

The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt by Mary Russell In this book Donegal resident and world acclaimed travel writer, Mary Russell, recounts the exploits of women travellers over several centuries. Journeys of a Lifetime by Mary Russell Includes travels in Donegal.

Legacy of Learning Cover

A Legacy of Learning by James Harvey
Donegal native James Harvey finds himself in the middle of the American school reform wars. Democrats like Roy Romer, ex- chairman of the Democratic National Committee, join Secretary of State Colin Powell and former President George Bush in support of A Legacy of Learning.
The book was co-authored by David Kearns, former president of The Xerox Corporation. Harvey and Kearns argue that American primary schools are among the best in the world, while American secondary schools are among the worst. (Irish teenagers rank in the middle of the pack, behind students in Asia but ahead of those in America.)

Red Hugh : Prince of Donegal by Robert Reilly
This children's book relates the story of the 16th century heroic leader of the O'Donnell's, Red Hugh O'Donnell, a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages. A good introduction to history for the young reader.
Last Years of the Wee Donegal by Robert Robotham
This is the story of the County Donegal Railway, from its beginnings in the 1890's and its role in facilitating emigration from Donegal through to its demise in the 1950's. It was the largest narrow gauge system in the British Isles and this book will appeal to steam enthusiasts, narrow gauge enthusiasts and all with an interest in the railways of County Donegal.

John Hamilton of Donegal 1800-1884:
This Recklessly Generous Landlord
by Dermot James
This is a fascinating biography about an unusual and benevolent Landlord in South West Donegal who devoted his money to saving the peasants on his estate during the Great Famine, so much so that he was able to boast that not a single of his tenants died in those terrible years.

Donegal Highlands by Liam Ronayne & Pat Cowley
This beautiful book contains stories about Donegal by County Librarian, Liam Ronayne, and reproductions of colour paintings of well known scenes in North West Donegal by Pat Crowley. An excellent present for anyone interested in Donegal.

Tory Island Images by Martine Franck
These photographs are very natural, illustrating the ease with which this world famous photographer integrated into Tory life. Recommended.

No News At Throat Lake by Lawrence Donegan
Lawrence Donegan left the security of a Fleet Street job with The Guardian newspaper to work with The Tirconaill Tribune in Creeslough. This book charts the often humourous episodes encountered by the adopted Donegal hack, from Meryl Streep's visit to Glenties to ructions in the County Council. Recommended.
Fr. Francis McAteer
Fr. Francis McAteer by Martine Franck ©

Ballyshannon poet William Allingham's epic about the fight for tenants' rights in the 19th century Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland, (1869) has recently been reprinted.

Ballyshannon, Belcoo, Bertincourt by William James Canning
This book charts the History of the Royal Innishilling Fusiliers who recruited in Ballyshannon during World War I. Essential reading for those with an interest in the history of Donegal and War in the last century.

Patrick McGill during the First World War
Patrick McGill during the First World War

For those interested in the history of Donegal's emigrants at the turn of the century The Navvy Poet: The Collected Works of Patrick McGill is essential reading while Peadar O'Donnell's Proud Island relates life on Gola Island in the same period.
Charles McGlinchey's The Last of the Name is an extraordinary narrative, illustrating a remote and now lost way of life in an Inishowen Gaeltacht in the late 19th century.
Donegal based Brian Friel has set many of his famous plays in Donegal. Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa, Fathers and Sons, Making History, Wonderful Tennessee and Molly Sweeney, all have a Donegal component and give a good insight into the playwright's milieu in one volume.
Frank McGuinness' play Dolly West's Kitchen is set in Buncrana during World War II and centres on a family struggling to come to terms not only with the effects of war but also with their own inability to respond to one another as situations and they themselves change. As the characters talk of love, sex, war, the English, de Valera, and the Yanks, Dolly West's Kitchen becomes a deeply moving evocation of the fantasy and the reality that was Ireland in the forties.
McGuinness' screen adaptation of Brian Friel's play Dancing at Lughnasa is worth reading for its authentic Donegal speech.

Donegal based poet Francis Harvey's Making Space: New and Selected Poems illustrates his style while Donegal's most prominent poet is Cathal O'Searcaigh and the bi-lingual version of his Out in the Open is a good introduction to his work.
Irish Language Books & Tapes - Check out these Irish language books and learn Irish before your next visit to Donegal!
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