Allingham: Ballyshannon

Pdf Allingham, Hugh. Ballyshannon: Its history and antiquities. Ballyshannon: Donegal Democrat, 1937.
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Hugh Ailingham's Ballyshannon: It's History And Antiquities was first published in 1937. Ballyshannon or Béal Átha Seanaidh, meaning "The Mouth of Seannach's Ford" straddles the mouth of the River Erne and many claim it is the oldest town in Ireland . Seannach is said to have been a warrior who was slain there in battle sometime around the 5th century AD. The town was an important strategic location in ancient times and the medieval period as a stronghold of the O'Donnell clan of the territory of Tyrconnell .

There are many Neolithic remains in the area and nearby Inismurray Island was inhabited by early Christian monks and attacked by plundering Vikings in the 8th and 9th centuries.

Ballyshannon was built in 1423 by Niall Garbh Ó Domhnaill to control the ford over the River Erne and protect Tyrconnell. In 1522 during a war with Conn Bacach O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, the stronghold was captured and looted. During the Nine Years War, a revolt by the Gaelic Irish during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, an army led by Sir Convers Clifford was defeated by the forces of Hugh Roe O'Donnell after the castle was surrounded for three days in 1597 in what is known as the Battle of Ballyshannon.

In the year 1607 after their defeat at the Battle Of Kinsale, the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell fled Ireland for the Continent. After their downfall, the lands of the O'Donnell clan became the property of Protestant settlers. Ballyshannon Castle itself became the property of Sir Henry Folliot.

Ailingham wrote his book following the Irish Revolutionary period of 1916-1923. Ballyshannon was strategically important because the partition of Ireland into the 26 country Free State and Northern Ireland meant that Donegal was cut off economically and administratively from Londonderry and the major market towns in the north east of Ulster . Donegal borders the rest of the Irish Republic for only a few miles and it is often felt that it is very much isolated from the remainder of the Irish nation.

Beginning in 1948 the Erne was harnessed to generate hydroelectricity by the ESB or Electricity Supply Board as part of a major industrial project by the Irish State . Today Finner Camp, Ballyshannon is an important Irish Defence Forces base close to the border with Northern Ireland .


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