Earliest Times

Fenagh – Earliest Times

The Irish version of Fenagh is Fiodhnach. We have the form Fiodhnacha in the martyrology of Donegal and also the Book of Fenagh, Annals of Loc Ce 1244 mention Fidhnacha. The Irish Fiodhnach means wooded place. It was not always so.

At a very early date Fenagh was known as Dun Baile (Stone Fort of Baile). It was so called because of a fort erected by Baile – a Northern Prince and son of King Buan.

We find that about the year 400 it became the abode of Conaing ll Beag Eaglach (Conaig the Fearless) then high King of Ireland and 65th Monarch in the Irish Regal list. Conaig built a huge stone fortress at Fenagh O Donovan says that when he visited Fenagh in 1836, the outlines of this stone fort were clearly visible for a period of Conaings reign Fenagh was known as Dun Conaing.

However Conaing would only stay 15 years at Fenagh as a great tragedy struck his family. One day his son Cobhthach, with his nurse went bathing at Fenagh Lake. Cobhthach got into difficulties and sadly despite the best efforts of Rian to save him, both were drowned. This particular lake at Fenagh is named Loch Rian after the noble and courageous Rian.

So great was the wailing and lamenting during the search (9 days) for the bodies in the lake that Fenagh or Dun Conaing acquired a new name i.e. Dun Gaire (The Fort of the Shouting). Conaing who was greatly attached to his son departed from Fenagh broken hearted.

For a period during the 4th century Fenagh was known as Berna on Bhraith, the gap of treachery because Conal Gulban was treacherously killed there. The Dolmen in McGovern’s field 300 yards from Fenagh village marks his burial.

However it is thought Dun Baile was the generally given to Fenagh until the arrival of St. Caillin in the 6th century.

It then became known as Fiodhnach Magh-Rien. There are two explanations for the addition of Magh-Rein.

1. Magh-Rein from the rian or tracks mad by the Fomorians when they fled the district (Magh) following a fierce battle with Lughnaidh Lamhfada.

2. The other version is that Magh-Rein is from its association with the drowning of nurse Rian and Prince Cobhthach.

The annals of Ulster record a battle in Fenagh in the year 614, we are given no details except to say that it took place at Lecc-in-Riaddai(the stone of punishment). This place sadly cannot now be identified.

With the arrival of St. Caillin and the founding of the monastic settlement, Fenagh became a great center of learning and study on Christianity. Its monks would spread the faith all over Ireland and also to Europe. It now seemed peace prevailed with no records of battles or wars until centuries later. The period of Fenagh’s prosperity lasted for several hundred years and is frequently alluded to back as a seat of learning and of hospitality in the Annals of the Four Masters.