Mac Sweeney Castles
"Dungloe Castle was built by the Mac Sweeney Family at the end of the fourteenth century ..... in the townland of Cloughglass near Burtonport. The castle consisted of single tower three or four stories high ....."
The above assertion, posted on the web, is untenable for reasons given below.
1. Dr. Harold Leask, M. Arch., M.R.I.A I., M.R.I.A, Inspector of Monuments in Ireland, states that the fourteenth century in Ireland was not a period of castle building activity. Castles were repaired, and doubtless altered, but no major work can be assigned to the years from 1320 to the end of the century. However, from 1440 onwards there was a great building revival and Irish Chieftains and others began to build (for themselves) for the next one hundred and fifty years. It is to this period that the tower house castles of the Mac Sweeneys belong.
2. It's highly unlikely that the Mac Sweeneys would have built a castle in O Boyle territory in the Rosses, or anywhere else in Donegal, nearly 100 years before the O Donnells (overlords of Tírconnell/ Donegal) built their castle, Donegal Castle, in 1474.
3. It's inconceivable that the Mac Sweeneys of Doe would have built a castle at Cloughglass near Burtonport (in O Boyle territory in the Rosses) almost 150 years before they built their own castle, Doe Castle, on the shore of Sheephaven Bay, c. 1525.
4. It's highly improbable that the O Donnell's would have acquiesced to the Mac Sweeneys, who had expelled the O Boyles from Doe soon after 1360, encroaching upon O Boyle territory again in the fourteenth century.
The essay also states:
(a) that "Dungloe Castle" was occupied by Owen Mac Sweeney who "helped sailors from two unnamed (sic) Armada ships to return to Spain (sic)". (Note. The Armada vessel Gerona, crammed with survivors, sailed from Killybegs but foundered in a storm off the Antrim coast and never reached Spain.)
(b) that "Owen Mac Sweeney lost control of both the castle (of Dungloe) and his titles around the time of the plantation in 1609". (However, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, compiled by a team of historians between 1632 and 1636, Owen Mac Sweeney died, January 26, 1596. Cf. Home Page - this web site.)
In May 1600 an English invasion force, commanded by Sir Henry Dowcra, sailed into Lough Foyle and landed near Derry. The invasion force consisted of 37 ships, 4000-foot and 200-cavalry. Dowcra planned to establish a base at Derry and then to send by sea a detachment of his soldiers and most of his cavalry to disembark near Donegal town in south Donegal. By doing so, Dowcra believed he would trap Red Hugh O Donnell's forces inside Donegal. However, Dowcra's plan went awry when Red Hugh O Donnell, in collusion with Maolmhuire/ Sir Myles Mac Sweeney, Chief of Doe, captured 160 of Dowcra's cavalry horses near Derry, July 1600. Faced with the loss of most of his cavalry, Dowcra had to abandon the landing he had planned for 1600 near Donegal town. Cf. "Myles Swim to Freedom" on www.sweeneydoeclan.com.
During the months following, the English stepped up their surveillance of Irish castles and forts in Donegal, by land and sea, and on April 12, 1601 Sir Robert Cecil (Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth) endorsed a report entitled "The description of Lough Foyle and the country adjacent." The report listed and gave the location of every Irish stronghold in Donegal. Comments, in the report, re Mac Sweeney castles are given below with marginal notes in Italics.
FANAD. "McSwyne Fanat's country, over against O Dogherty's country, on the west side of Lough Swilly. From the entry of the Lough, until you come to a point of land a little short of Ench (= Inch Island), there is neither castle or fort, but there upon a point of land there is a castle and an abbey called Ramollan (= Rathmullan). McSwyne Fanat's chief country house."
BANAGH. "Seven miles from O Boyle's chief house (on Donegal Bay) to the seaward is a castle, called McSwyne Banat's Tower. McSwyne Banat's chief house. From this place to the haven of Killibeggs is three miles. Four miles from thence stands the castle of Bromoyle (= Drumnafionnagoile near Kilcar?) in the lower end of the country. Here dwells Hugh Boy, McSwyne Banat's brother. From thence, four miles is a small haven called Cornteelan (= Teelin Bay). This haven divides McSwyne Banat's country and O'Boyles."
DOE. "At the lower end of O'Boyle's country is a castle called Kilmirrish. Here dwells the Bishop of O'Boyle. Next to that castle is the haven of Bonebber (= Bunbeg). This haven parteth O'Boyle's country and McSwyne Ne Doe's. And next to that is the haven of Conogarhen (= Cuan na gCaorach/ Sheephaven), with a castle so called. This is McSwyne Ne Doe's chief house."
FANAD. "The next haven to this is Red Haven (= Mulroy Bay), which parts McSwyne Ne Doe's country and McSwyne Fanat's. By the side of this haven is the castle of Mewryce (= Morass Castle), a castle of McSwyne Fanat's. Here dwells Alexander McDonologhe. Small boats may come from the Red Haven to the castle."
Comment. These are the only Mac Sweeney castles recorded in the report endorsed by Sir Robert Cecil, April 1601. It is interesting that the English reconnaissance teams failed to find a castle in the townland of Cloughglass near Burtonport. END.
April 9, 2004.