Mullinasole – A Little History of this Hidden Gem

Mullinasole Co. Donegal
Mullinasole Co. Donegal

From Bernard Egan’s‘History of Drumhome’ printed in 1986 by The Donegal Democrat, Ballyshannon with additions by Michael Dunne, whose mother was born in Mullinasole.

 

Mullinasole Co. Donegal
Mullinasole Co. Donegal

 

Mullinasole

Mullinasole is a sheltered fishing hamlet. It is situated on the tidal estuary of the river Murvagh. At low water, the course of the Murvagh River is clearly seen meandering through the sloblands to enter the sea at the Hassans between Bell’s Isle and Rooney’s Island. The hamlet itself is sheltered by Murvagh Promonontory on the west, Mullinasole Hill on the south and the Rossilly Hills on the east. There is no strand at Mullinasole but it is popular for rowing and boating and the annual regatta is held each September. (don’t know if this last point is still true)

Mullinasole, Mullan na Saile, ie Hilltop of Salt Water, (elsewhere in his book Egan says that Mullinasole means ‘Hill of Light’)  is a centuries old fishing village. It was a hamlet of twenty homesteads until it was devastated in the storm of 6th November 1831. In the wake of the storm twelve homes, the salt pans and the boats lay scattered and destroyed…

When the fishing village was active the public houses operated around the clock to facilitate the fishermen. Hugh Connolly’s public house (the house at the head of the pier) closed in 1927. The Salmon Inn is presently managed by Martin and Margaret Quinn, who took over the operation in 1969… (Previously on the same site stood Willie Likely’s small bar.) Once a good living was to be had from the sea and six twenty-two foot yawls engaged in herring fishing. Salmon fishing was carried out in the channels and a good trade was conducted in mussels, winkles and oysters in the vicinity of Bell’s Isle and Rooney’s Island. 1907 was recorded as the peak year for herring which was shipped to market from a schooner operating from the Hassans. Fishing is still carried out on a small scale. Herring and salmon has declined since trawler netting has over-fished the open sea, but there is optimism that oyster beds can be revived.

The Hassans is the channel in front of the old coastguard station at Ball Hill (Ballyweel), now a youth hostel, one mile west of Donegal Town, where the rivers Eske, Laghey, Bridgetown, Ballintra and Murvagh all enter the sea. It was from here that emigrants boarded the sailing ships bound for America.

The Salmon Inn Mullinasole Donegal
The Salmon Inn Mullinasole Donegal

Originally, Bell’s Isle and Murvagh were part of the Hamilton Estate but were purchased by Arthur A. Foster in the early nineteenth century. Mr. Foster chose it as a site of excellent herring and salmon fishing and erected a mansion on the isle. Hugh Deery, the master builder, oversaw the construction and employed joiners from Scotland to execute the timber work on the roof and interior. He had trees planted around the house, and in 1847 laid the embankment across the slobland as a carriageway linking the Isle to the mainland. Mr. Foster was an extensive farmer who harvested seventy acres of potatoes each year which he shipped to Scotland, and employed many potato diggers in this enterprise from as far away as Breezy. Murvagh sand hills contained a great rabbit warren and four trappers were employed full time to snare the rabbits, which were exported to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. He had his coal imported by sea. Mr. Foster married a daughter of the landlord Hamilton and in 1886 he took up residence on the neighbouring island of St. Ernan’s when the Hamiltons there moved to Coxtown. Christy and James Hendry remained on Bell’s Isle as caretakers. Christy remained as caretaker until his death in 1937. The present owner of Bell’s Isle is Denis Verschoyle of Cape Town, South Africa, a grand-nephew of Arthur Foster. (don’t know if this is still true)

The Hamiltons operated a large mill at Coxtown and, to facilitate the importation of grain, built a pier at Mullinasole in 1840. The pier was constructed from stones obtained at Connolly’s Point and fitted into position with a slight batter, so that the stonework was wider at the base than at the top. The pier was completed with rings and capstans and a grain hoist to facilitate the discharge of cargo. The pier was last used in 1927 when a coater arrived with a cargo of paling staves from the Brownhall Estate bound for Scotland.

Rooney’s Island was once inhabited and the ruins of a house can still be seen there. The Rooneys were a branch of the O’Maoldorys and generations of the family resided there until the end of the 18th century.

Murvagh Strand near Mullinasole, Donegal
Murvagh Strand near Mullinasole, Donegal

Murvagh Strand is a two mile stretch of sand, often referred to as the Back Strands. It offers a safe, comfortable haven for bathers. There are no longer any rabbits in the warren since the myxomatosis epidemic in the 1950s, and it is now the location of an eighteen hole golf course. Entrance to the strand is by way of the Coach Gap, a sandy pass which was opened for use by horse carts drawing rack (seaweed), to be used as fertiliser for growing potatoes.

Bernard Egan was a teacher at Laghey National School and a member of the County Donegal Historical Society.