2023 Summer School

The 2023 Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School took place from Friday 5th May until Sunday 7th May in the Friary Hall (situated at the back of the Friary) Rossnowlagh, Co. Donegal.

The theme of the 2023 Summer School was, “Feast- Food- Famine / Féasta – Bia- Ganntanas” and the various talks explored the hardships of day-to-day life in post medieval Ireland in the period from 1500 to 1800 where seasons good or bad could determine the life expectancy of men, women and children.

Friday 5th May

Opening of the 2023 Summer School

The young musicians of the Comhaltas Ceoltóri Béal Átha Seanaidh entertained the gathering people attending the first evening of the Summer School. The first evening of the weekend is our arts section and we encourage the younger generation in the performance arts through music and drawing and painting.

The young musicians of the Comhaltas Ceoltóri Béal Átha Seanaidh entertaining the people on Friday evening

After opening remarks by the Chairperson of the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School , Tony Lenihan, the school was oficially opened by Donegal Municipal Councillor Barry Sweeney, Chairperson of the Donegal Heritage Forum. Councillor Sweeney reminded those attending of the importance of local initiative in providing cultural events and the fact that we are only getting back to normal after the various lockdowns and isolating of the past few years. he wished the Summer School weekend well and hoped it would go from strength to strength.

Councillor Barry Sweeney speaking at the launch of the 2023 Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School

Primary Schools Art Competition

Prizewinners from the Junior & Senior Infants classes
Prizewinners from the First & Second Classes
Prizewinners Third & Fourth Classes
Prizewinners Fifth & Sixth Classes

Seen here admiring the winning Primary Schools’ artwork on display at the Summer School. This year eight local primary schools took part in the competition. These were Creevy, Kilbarron, Holy Family, Four Masters, St. Macartan’s, St. Ernan’s, Scoil Chaitríona & Rockfield National Schools.

There were four categories: Junior & Senior Infant;, First & Second Classes; Third & Fourth Classes and Fith & Sixth Classe

Saturday 6th May

Aims and Objectives of the 2023 Mícheál Ó Cleirigh Summer School

Professor John McCafferty

Professor John Mc Cafferty

Professor John McCafferty, Head of the Mícheál Uí Cléirigh Institute UCD set out the aims and objectives of the 2023 Summer School.

He spoke of the fact that food is our basic need and it or the lack of it has driven major political upheavals through history from the barbarian hordes sacking Rome in the 5th Century to the French Revolution of the 18th Century, to the present day migration of people from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe in the present time due to disaterous drought and war leading to the destuction of crops and livestock.

He was educated in UCD where he did VIIIb ‘pure’ History. Following the award of a First Class Honours degree, he embarked on an edition of the only surviving ecclesiastical 16th century ‘Act Book’ for Ireland. After that he spent some years in Cambridge first as a benefactor’s scholar and then as a fellow of St. John’s College. Speaking about his work he said,

My research at the time was about the Church of Ireland in the 1630s. Since returning to UCD in the mid-1990s my work has increasingly focused on church history and the history of belief in Ireland in the period from 1500-1700. As Director of the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute I work in a unique partnership with the Irish Franciscans whose transfer of manuscripts and rare books has been one of the most significant donations ever made to an Irish university. Since 2017 I have been Chair of the Irish Manuscripts Commission, a body founded in 1928. Its membership consists of academic historians, archivists and genealogists from the whole

Audience Saturday

Food, beautiful food and very nice if you can get it.

John Cunningham

John Cunningham

The first talk of the day set the scene by describing how people used the shellfish during times of want. A particularly poignnant point made by John Cunningham when he related the story of a woman from west Donegal, relating in a television interview, how people ate shellfish found on the seashore to suppliment their diets during times of famine. She was castigated by her neighbours for telling the outside world that the people survived eating “poor mans’ food” It seems that folk memory tries to forget such traumatic times by sometimes guilt as to why they survived wheras other family and friends did not.

John Cunningham was born in Ballyshannon, eldest son of Brian Cunningham N.T. a native of Donaghmoyne, Co., Monaghan and Mae Eves, Ederney. Attended Lettercran N.S., near Pettigo where he was taught by his father who was headmaster. Attended St. Michael’s College, Enniskillen and St. Joseph’s Training College, Belfast and became a school teacher. Retired as Headmaster of St. Davog’s P.S. Belleek in 1996 John has several published books including: In1980. Castle Caldwell and Its Families; in 1993. The Letters of John O’ Donovan from Fermanagh in 1834 (A unique glimpse into pre-Famine Ireland and in 2000. Monasteries and Early Church Sites of the River Erne (Over 1000 years of monastic and church history in Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal.) Illustrated)

John Cunningham speaking

Eating and the Franciscan Life: friars and fish in 18th century Ireland

Dr Dorothy Cashman

Dr Dorothy Cashman

Dr Dr Dorothy Cashman gave a talk on the diet of the Franciscans in the 17th Century. Dr. Cashman has extensively researched the culinary habits of the the Irish from Medieval times. Her works include ‘The dough must be neither dauked nor opened on the side as is the custom in Ireland’. » in Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, Maynooth University ‘Indoors and Outdoors, Public and Private: Women 2015″ “That delicate sweetmeat, the Irish plum’. The culinary world of Maria Edgeworth” » in ‘Tickling the Palate’: Gastronomy in Irish Literature and Culture. Vol 57

Dorothy Cashman is an independent researcher in culinary history with a PhD from the Dublin Institute of Technology, now the Technological University of Dublin.

‘Anatomies of Death’

Elizabethan tactics of forced famine to defeat the Irish.

Professor Hiram Morgan

Professor Hiram Morgan speaking at the 2023 Summer School

Professor Hiram Morgan was born in Belfast and studied at Our Lady’s and St Patrick’s College. Knock, Belfast and at St Catherine’s College Cambridge and now lectures at University College, Cork.

In his talk Hiram Morgan spoke about the Desmond Wars of the 1580s where famine became a consequence of the war whilst after 1598 and the replacement of the disgraced Earl of Essex by Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy it became the policy to deliberatly destroy crops, cull livestock and kill men women and children Lord Mountjoy and his Lieutenants, Arthur Chicheste,r George Carew and Henry Dowcra destroyed as they progressed through Ulster. Famine followed weakening the resolve of the Gaelic lords to continue their efforts.

He held various research fellowships and posts from 1988 to 1996 and has been lecturing in history at UCC since 1996. He has authored Tyrone’s Rebellion, published by the Royal Historical Society (1993) and edited Political Ideology in Ireland (1999), Information and Media Through the Ages (2001) and the Battle of Kinsale (2004). He co-authored with John Barry Great Deeds in Ireland (2013 and worked with Dorothy Convery on Ireland 1518 (2015). He has contributed many peer-reviewed articles and was co-founder of History Ireland, Ireland’s popular history magazine. He has been a principal investigator on several local, national and international
projects and is currently head of CELT, the world’s largest website for Irish Studies which is hosted by the School of History at Cork.

Eating in a Plantation Castle

Professor Danielle Clarke

Professor Danielle Clarke,Head Of School, UCD School of English, Drama and Film

The culinary records maintained by members of the Parson family from the 1650s onwards has given a rare insight into the food eaten by the gentry of that time. In addition to food recipes there are hundreds of medical recipes using herbs and even recipes that have somewhat of a crossover with bread being used to make poultices for application to wounds and other injuries.

Professor Danielle Clarke, Professor at University College Dublin, School of English, Drama and Film, Dublin, Ireland was educated in London and Oxford before coming to UCD in 1994. Most of her publications deal with writing by early modern women, their engagement with mainstream literary culture in particular. Other areas in which she has published include sexuality, literary theory,translation in the Renaissance, and textual criticism. Professor Clarke is currently working on a number of projects – a monograph on Gender and Cultural Reproduction 1500-1700; work on Irish recipe books from the 17th and early 18th centuries. She is also the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Women’s Writing.

Professors John McCafferty & Danielle Clarke in discussion with Tony Lenihan Chairperson of the 2023 Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School

Summer School Dinner Sandhouse Hotel

After a very interesting morning and afternoon of talks many of the attendees came along to the nearby Sandhouse Hotel where they partook in a three course dinner and were entertained by a  recently formed Ukrainian Choir of five members, refugees from the war in their country, who are being housed in La Verna, sited close to the Franciscan Friary in Rossnowlagh

Ukrainian singers
Ukrainian singers

Speakers enjoying the evening dinner and entertainment
Speakers enjoying the evening dinner and entertainment

Sunday 7th May

Four Masters tour of Local Historical sites

Four Masters Monument Mullinaleck Bridge

It was designed by Irish sculptor, James McKenna. He was born in Dublin on the 21st June 1933. Growing up in Co. Wicklow, James was educated at Kilcool National School, Bray Technical School and the National College of Art and Design, (now the NCAD) in Dublin from 1950 – 1955. He qualified with a Diploma in Sculpture and won a scholarship to Florence. He was responsible for many public art works including Couple at Ballyrahan Cross, 1798 bronze 1969, Famine Village 1998 and Warriors of Banba in 1999. He died in 2000.

The monument was commissioned by the Leitrim – Dublin Four Masters Memorial Committee and unveiled on 10th August 1975. The inscription reads

“Do chum glóireDé agus onóra nahÉreann…. Brátar Mícheál”

‘For the glory and honour of Ireland———– Br. Michael’

Along the banks of this River Drowse in the house of the friars of Donegal  1632-36 Brother Mícheáll Ó Cléirigh ofm with his lay associates Peregrine Ó Duignan, Leitrim, Peregrine Ó Cléirigh, Donegal and Fearfeasa Ó Mulconry, Roscommon compiled the  Annals of the Four Masters. Whichrecords the history of Ireland down to AD 1616.

Nochtaithe 10-8-75 do Choiste cuimhneachain na gCeithre Maistri Laitriom – Baile Átha Cliath

Members of the group chatting on Mullinaleck bridge
Enjoying the view of the Drowes

Kinlough/ Ceann Locha

Kinlough House

The village takes its name from the Irish word “Ceann” Head and “Locha” meaning head of the lough and in this case meaning Lough Melvin. The village was built around the residence of the Johnson family who were the local landlords.  The land here belonged to the McClancys and was confiscated after the 1641 rebellion and granted to Francis Hamilton who may have been a relative of Gustavus Hamilton who built the castle at Manorhamilton. The Johnston family from Fermanagh purchased this land in Leitrim in the early 18th century.

The old ruin of Kinlough House the former seat of the Johnson family in the early 18th Century, now stands somewhat incongruously next to a modern housing development. Originally known as Oakfield House, it was remodelled by Robert Johnson in the 1820s and renamed Kinlough House.

 In the 1870s William Johnston of Kinlough owned 10,633 acres in county Leitrim while his brother St George Johnston, who lived at Rathcline House, Lanesborough, county Longford, owned 1,139 acres in county Galway and 217 acres in county Leitrim. In the Belfast and Provincial Directory of 1897 a James Johnston JP DL is listed as the owner of Kinlough House.

Rossclogher Castle /Ros Clochair

Rossclogher Castle

On the southern shore of Lough Melvin are the ruins of Rossclogher Castle and Church. Their ruins stand side by side  on a rocky circular  crannog  about forty feet in diameter and less than thirty yards from the shore.

The ancient territory of Dartry corresponds with the present barony of Rossclogher. Its hereditary chiefs were the Mac Clancy’s. The castle, is part of a larger settlement on the adjacent shore and  not designed for living in but to be used in troubled times as a place of security. There are outlines of what was once a fairly large settlement on the lake shore but the only actual building now remaining is a ruined church. This was built about the same time as the castle.

Duncarbery Castle/ Dun Cáirbre

It was built by the McClancy clan in or around 1500 The AFM record that in 1538 that  Cahir the son of Feradach the son of William McClancy died at Dun Cairbre. The McClancys were the chiefs of Dartry which pretty much correspond to the barony of Rossaclogher and were subject to the O’Rourkes.

There are very little remains to be seen today.

Tullaghan/ An Tulachán

 Whilst the exact origins of the Tullaghan Cross are unknown, local folklore tells the story that the Cross was discovered on the foreshore of Donegal Bay after being exposed by a storm. Whilst others believe that the Cross originally belonged to a monastic settlement near the seashore.

Plaque at the entrance to the new park area where the cross is sited

The Cross was erected as a market cross by Major Thomas Dickson on a small hillock in Tullaghan village in 1778. Major Dickson’s reputed reason for erecting the cross was to attract attention to the market in Tullaghan which was at the time in competition with the more popular Ballyshannon market. Historically the right to hold a regular fair or market was granted by a monarch, bishop or baron going back to 7th century England where elaborate carved stones, crosses, spires or ornate wooden structures were erected in the market square.

Tour group standing beside Tullaghan Cross

Light refreshments in McGarrigle’s, Bundoran

Bundoran/ Bun Dobhráin

A recitation given by one of the group about the execution and death of Brian O’ Rourke

The first official mention of Bundoran was in 1777 when Viscount Enniskillen built Bundoran Lodge, his summer residence. This building still exists to this day and is now known as Homefield House. The Viscount seems to have started a trend amongst his contemporaries as more and more of them discovered Bundoran and visited it to enjoy the seaside location and the associated health benefits. Indeed such was its popularity that Bundoran became known as the Brighton of Ireland. Two distinct settlements grew up Bundoran west of the Bradoge river  and single street east of the river. The two merged with the coming of the railway in 1866 and eventually merged. The west end was the more affluent end whilst Single street was made up of small cottages.

Bundoran Railway station

With the advances in travel, in particular the railway, Bundoran’s popularity spread across the class barriers. With the opening of the railway link to Belfast and onto Dublin more and more people from the east coast of Ireland discovered the appeal of Bundoran and returned year after year.

It was during this period that Bundoran emerged as one of Ireland’s most popular seaside resorts. Hotels and lodging houses started to spring up around the town. The best-known hotel and indeed one of Bundoran’s best landmarks the Great Northern Hotel was constructed by the Great Northern Railway Company during this period.

Welcome to the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School

Fáilte chuig Scoil Samhraidh Mhíchíl Uí Chléirigh

A Summer School for remembering, for learning, for enjoyment.  We remember a great local man, Mícheál Ó Cléirigh.  We learn from scholars about his story and his times.  We begin to understand what this means for us today.  And we enjoy ourselves. 

We travel to local historic sites.  We visit Mícheál’s birthplace.  We walk the beautiful Rossnowlagh beach.  We  talk late into the evening in the local hostelries. Welcome to the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School to a family distinguished by scholarship. His older brother, Maolmhuire (Fr Bernadine) was ordained in Salamanca, Spain, later moving to Louvain, Belgium in 1619 and Michael joined him a few years later. As a lay brother Michael was able to concentrate on historical research and transcription rather than on priestly duties. 

In 1626 he was dispatched by a fellow Donegal man, Hugh Ward to Ireland to collect the lives of the Irish saints.  This he did.  But he also did more. For 10 years, Michael travelled the length and breadth of Ireland gathering the ancient manuscripts and histories wherever he could find them.  He and his collaborators transcribed the material into Annála Ríochta na hÉireann (the Annals of the Four Masters). They left us with an incomparable record of the history of Ireland.

The Mícheál Ó Cléirigh School has been set up by a partnership of:

Local Organising Committee

Some Members of the 2022-2023 Committee

Local people from Ballyshannon, Creevy and Rossnowlagh area in Co. Donegal who wish to preserve the memory of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, a local hero who did so much to preserve the ancient and medieval period of Irish History. The committee begin work in September each year planning the upcoming Summer School


Franciscan Community Rossnowlagh

The Franciscan Friars who established a Friary on Donegal Bay 1474 and played such  an important part in Irish writing and scholarship from their monasteries in Ireland and Louvain.

Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute UCD

The Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute at University College Dublin repository of an unparalleled archive of  historical documents and the centre of voluminous research on Irish medieval history since its inception in the year 2000. See: www.ucd.ie/mocleirigh


The Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School Rossnowlagh, Co. Donegal



The inaugural programme of the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh School took place on Saturday 17th May, 2014. with the theme  “Mícheál Ó Cléirigh” The main events were held in the Ó’Cléirigh Hall beside the Franciscan Friary at Rossnowlagh, close by the birthplace of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh on lands that belonged to the Ó Cléirigh clan, prior to 1610. The venue was an appropriate one, as it was built by the Franciscan Friars who returned to Donegal in 1946. They were, of course, influenced by the association of the area with some of the renowned members of their Irish fraternity, such as  Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, John Colgan and Hugh Ward.


The Second Mícheál Ó Cléirigh School took place at Rossnowlagh on the weekend of 15th  – 17th May, 2015. The theme was “Saints and Scholars” “Naomh agus Scoláirí ” The original purpose of Mícheál Uí Cléirigh’s return to Ireland was to collect information on the many Irish Saints and to record their information.


The Third Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School was held over the weekend of Friday 27th May to Sunday 29th May 2016. The theme was “Refugees and Strangers” “Dídeanaithe agus Strainséirí ” This examined the exodus of many of the Gaelic nobility who left Ireland for European countries and how they coped by being refugees far from their native land.


The Fourth Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School was held over the weekend of Friday 12th May to Sunday 14th May 2017. The theme was “Irish and European” “Gaelach agus Eorpach” The weekend events looked at the relationship between Ireland and European countries in the 16th and 17th Centuries and how this has continued to the present time.


The Fifth Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School was held over the weekend of Friday 11th May to Sunday 13th May 2018. The theme was “Annals and Earls” “Annála agus Iarlaí ” This looked at the way the Ulster Earls were described in the Annals of the Four Masters and did they have a particular O’Donnell favouritism in their recording of the events of the late 16th and Early 17th Centuries.


The Sixth Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Summer School was held over the weekend of Friday 10th May to Sunday 12th May 2019. The theme was “Migration and Plantation” “Imirce agus Plandáil” The Ulster Plantation had a tremendous effect on the lives of the Gaelic Scholars and they found that their skills and learning was no longer required.


Due to Covid 19 health restrictions the 2020 Summer School was cancelled.


A Virtual Summer School was held from Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th of May. The theme was “Women in Turbulent Times- Mná in Aimshir Chorraithe 1551- 1651” This virtual school looked at the way women of the period recorded events in letters sent to their parents husbands and siblings and how they wrote about the things that mattered to their lives and families.


The 2022 Summernt was held School was held over the weekend of May 7th to 9th, The event was held in the Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh and the theme was Bloodshed and Retribution Doirteadh Fola agus Díoltas in the period 1530 to 1700. It looked at the changes from the Gaelic system of Brehon Law to the new system of English Common Law and how it differed from that of other parts of England Wales and Scotland.