Perhaps one of the greatest treasures from a tourist and historical perspective lies in one of the most popular tourist areas in Donegal town yet by and large, undiscovered by many of our visitors from both home and abroad.
In his new work, Headstones and Heritage, Seamus O’Doherty from Donegal and now living in Dublin uncovers a wealth of stories about the history and heritage which lies on the edge of Donegal Bay.
At his launch on Friday night last in Pier 1, he said; “The story of Donegal Abbey is, in reality, the story of Ireland from the 15th. to the 17th century encompassing many aspects of history; the story of the O’Donnell chieftains; the act of suppression in 1535 by Henry VIII to the destruction of the abbey in 1600.
“During this time the friars continued to receive support from the people of Donegal Town.”
In his research, he discovered that the graveyard at the abbey is one of the oldest graveyards in the country but that there were no records of those who had been buried there even though some of the graves date back to the 15th century.
He noted that this may have been due to the fact that it was an ecumenical graveyard and no one church had taken responsibility for recording the graves.
Headstones and Heritage now bring together the many strands in the history of the Old Abbey from the establishment of the “golden age”, the multitude of characters like Aodh Ruadh, the men and woman who are buried there right up to the present day.
He said: “I first became interested in the abbey not because of its history but because of the beautiful views down Donegal Bay and the islands-it was only later having returned after some years away from that I discovered the real mystery of this inspirational place.”