The teachers at Meentinadea:



Pre - 1850       Thomas Colin McGinley

1876-1914          Master John O’Gallagher

1915-1922          Master John J. Cassidy

1922-1929     Master P.J. McGill

1929-1934     Master Joseph Sweeney

1934-1951     Master P.S. Mac a’Ghoill

1951–1959        Master Christy O’Byrne

1959-2000          Master Eamonn Ó Domhnaill 



1908-1910       Miss Josephine O’Gallagher

1913-1919        Miss Annie Theresa O’Gallagher

1919-1936       Miss Bridie J. Cassidy

1937-1952       Mairéad Bean Mhic Chraith

1952-1968       Miss Mai K. Melley

1968-1974       Miss Peggy Dorrian

1974-2000       Máire, Bean Uí Dhomhnaill

1997                        Neansaí, Bean Uí hEigheartaigh



The term “ Master” is used as a reference to Schoolmaster. 





‘Meentinadea’ - in Gaelic, ‘Mín Tine Dé’, means ‘The Plain of God’s fire’.  It derives its name from the phosphorescence, ‘willow the wisp’, which glows in the adjacent bogs on windy nights. 


Meentinadea is 3 miles from Ardara Town, County Donegal.  Meentinadea, in times past, had close connections with landlordism.  The absentee landlords of the area were the Murray Stewarts of Broughton, in Ayrshire, Scotland.  Their agents managed the estate.  In the mid-nineteenth century the Murray Stewart’s ‘reforms’ at Meentinadea were both negative and positive.  The former ‘reform’  resulted in the clearance of the tenants from Meentinadea townland.  This mass eviction to Glendoan, a neighbouring townland, occurred in 1846, during the Great Famine.  The agent wrote in his estate journal that the townland was ‘in hand’, (i.e. his plans to reduce the number of tenants had occurred and the farm was to be reorganised).  The Tithe Applotment list of 1834, records those heads of each household as tenants in Meentinadea:


Charles Breshlin

John Brishlin

Daniel Brishlin

Thomas Brishlin

Patrick Breshlin

Francis Sweeney

Owen Breshlin


In May 1848, the Gallagher family was brought to Meentinadea.  In 1849 John & Teague Gallagher are recorded as landholders.  This family was the sole and often dominant name in the townland for the remainder of the nineteenth century, and into the dawn of the twentieth century.   In the 1901 Census the Gallagher, Watters, and Master O’Gallagher families are recorded. 


The Murray Stewart estate map of 1813-14 shows the proposed road construction through Meentinadea and Altnagapple onto Meenlacarry.  The road through Crucknagapple wasn’t commenced until 1842, when the landlord began building his residence in Meentinadea.  The work on his residence was never completed, as the landlord was killed when he fell from his horse, in Scotland.  Majestic cut stone buildings, farm buildings, stables, and barracks-like buildings, an old bridge and mill wheel, along with ruins of houses remain.  The Meentinadea Mill, the iron wheel still remains, was built in 1835, and ground part of the 5,000 stone of oats grown in Meentinadea during the Great Famine. 


A positive ‘reform’ at Meentinadea was the establishment of a school in the mid nineteenth century.    Along with a school house the landlord built a house for the incumbent Principal teacher.  ‘The Derry Journal’ newspaper records a concert held at Meentinadea on St. Patrick’s Night, 1886:

 ‘A few evenings ago a concert under the patronage of Mr. Arthur Brooke, Killybegs, was held in the schoolhouse, at Meentinadea, for the purpose of supplying some needed apparatus to the school, and although only a few days’ notice had been given, at eight o’clock, the hour at which the concert was announced to begin, there were over two hundred persons assembled.  Mr. Brooke contributed largely to the success of the evening by the interest he manifested in sending his men from Killybegs some days previous to execute a number of repairs to the school, which added much to the good appearance of the schoolroom. A number of young ladies and gentlemen selected from those present by Mr. O’Gallagher, principal of the school, having volunteered their vocal services in addition to those who had previously promised to attend for that purpose, a very respectable orchestra had been formed, and Mr. J.D. Cassidy opened the concert by his personation of the ‘Quack Doctor’.  In this Mr. Cassidy was extremely happy, as he brought the whole house with him in fits of laughter.  Being encored, he sang the ‘Hurdy-Gurdy Lad’.  Mr. R. Evans’ song, ‘In the Gloaming’, was rendered by this young gentleman in excellent style.  Being loudly encored, he sang, ‘They like it don’t you know’.  Mr. Sheerin’s song, ‘My mother’s grave’, was well received, and, being encored, he bowed and retired.  A duet, ‘My Erin O’, by Miss Mary Ward and Miss Sarah Ward, was rendered in good taste, and much ability.  Being loudly encored, they gave ‘Blanche Alpin’, with great effect.  A serio-comic, by Mr.Cooke, gave very great satisfaction, and in response to an encore, he gave another comic.  Dialogue, ‘School-master’, by Messrs. McCafferty and Brennan, elicited much laughter.  Duet, ‘Molly Darling’, by Miss Gildea and Miss McGuire, had a very pleasing effect, and being encored, they bowed and retired.  Song, ‘Gathering Shells’, by Mr. R. Evans, was given with his usual ability and loudly encored, he gave ‘Ella lee’, in good taste.  Song, ‘Things I don’t like to see’, by Mr.Breslin, created much merriment.  Song, ‘Ballyporeen’ by Mr. Gavigan, was much applauded.  This concluded the first part of the programme.  The Christy Minstrel troupe, under the ble guidance of Mr. J.J. Evans, Ardara, who was also master of ceremonies during the evening opened the second part of the programme.  The performance of this troupe, as amateurs, could scarcely be excelled, and for upwards of an hour kept the house in one continuous roar of laughter, the merriment created arriving at its climax in that portion of the performance in which a nigger woman danced an Irish jig with her affectionate partner.  Thus ended the evening’s amusements, and all quietly dispersed and highly pleased.’…        


Even under the British administration, the Irish language was taught in the school.  Mr. Henry Morris, the author and Gaelic scholar, visited the school in the 1908-1913 period.  He inspected and reported on the progress of the language in the school.  During the early twentieth century inspectors visited the school reporting on the progress in the teaching of needlework, knitting, cooking, and music.  These additional educational elements were part of the advances in education during the early twentieth century.    



The present Meentinadea National School, which is situated several paces from the site of the old schoolhouse, was built in 1935.  It was a one-roomed building.  The school was subsequently renovated  in 1955. 




Interesting connections with the school              

The Gallagher family who came to Meentinadea townland in 1848 provide a fascinating historical aspect to the area.  John Gallagher’s wife was Anne McDevitt of Glenties, a sister of Bishop James McDevitt of Raphoe (author 0f the book ‘The Donegal Highlands’ (1866)).  Her other brothers were Father John McDevitt, a professor in All Hallows College, Dublin; Edward O’Donnell McDevitt, eminent barrister, was Attorney General of Oueensland, Australia in the 1860s, and was a representative of the Queensland Legislative Assembly; Charles, Dan, and Hugh were wealthy merchants in Glenties and had business interests in Scotland and South America. 


John Gallagher and Anne McDevitt were the parents of Attorney Patrick M. Gallagher (1851-1927), who was born at Meentinadea, and schooled in the old schoolhouse.  He became a solicitor in 1873, and held a practice in Dublin and Donegal Town.  Attorney Gallagher was the sole solicitor in Donegal Town from 1877-1887.  His most famous legal case, concerned the defence of the Gaelic language.  In 1905, Niall MacGiolla Bhride, a Gaelic poet from Cresslough, was prosecuted for displaying a sign on his cart which had his name in “illegible” letters- in Gaelic script.  The fine of 2 shillings invoked the anger of the Gaelic League.  They subsequently employed Attorney Gallagher to defend him.  The case was brought before the Court of the King’s Bench in Dublin.  The barrister was Patrick Pearse.  This was Pearse’s one and only legal case.  The case was lost, but in the light of subsequent events, it became historic. 


Attorney Gallagher bequeathed a large sum of money for the purpose of commemorating the Four Masters who wrote the ‘Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, at the Monastery of Donegal.  An obelisk in the centre of Donegal Town marks these great Irishmen.  


Anglo- Boer War Connection

Another famous pupil of the school, was Joseph O’Donnell (1864-1919), son of James O’Donnell and Isabella McCoy of Tullintain (about 2 miles from the school.).  Joseph was taught by Master O’Gallagher.  He became a schoolmaster, but subsequently emigrated to South Africa, then part of the British Empire.  When War broke out between the Boers and the English, Joseph joined the Kitchener Fighting Scouts.  He spent over a year in the K.F.S.  For his bravery, leadership and courage at Modder Spruit and Spits Kop, in Transvaal, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major.  He took discharge instead.  He was subsequently awarded the King’s medals. 

He returned to Tullintain in the later stages of his life.  He died there in March 1919.  


President of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, U.S.A.                   

A famous connection with the school area is that of Father Charles Leo O’Donnell (1884-1934), President of the University of Notre Dame 1928-1934.  Father Charles Leo was born in Greenfield, Indiana.  His father, Neil O’Donnell was born in Altnagapple, (2 miles from the school), and his mother was Mary O’Donnell, from Cullion, Killybegs.  Neil and Mary emigrated to the U.S. , where their family were born.  Father Charles Leo was the author of several publications.  He was involved in the fundraising and promotion of the University at home and abroad.  He was responsible for many of the major building programmes on the campus, especially the football stadium of 1930, at Notre Dame.   On his return from a trip to Rome in 1923, he visited his ancestral home at Altnagapple, and said Mass.  His uncle, Charlie Mhící O’Donnell, and relatives were present.  


Father Charles Leo composed the anthem for the University of Notre Dame.       



Master John O’Gallagher’s retirement, Meentinadea N.S. 21-1-1914.

Included in the photo is Master O’Gallagher’s daughter, Annie Theresa O’Gallagher, who acted as Assistant (1913-1919).   Master O’Gallagher was appointed to Meentinadea in 1876.  His wife, Mary O’Donnell of Kilraine, was a first cousin of Bishop Patrick O’Donnell of Raphoe (later Cardinal).  Some of the pupils in this photo are: (start front row, left to right) Pat Doherty, James Kenny, Mickey O'D’nnell, Wee Joe Herron, Anthony Brennan, Con Sweeney, Bridie Battles, Alice McNelis, Katie Keeney, Sarah Ward, Annie Battles, Maggie Ellen Keeney, Veronica Keeney, Mary Mick Breslin, John Joe Phelim, Agnes Hughie Breslin, Catherine Breslin, Patrick Hughie Breslin (Glendoan), Phil Ward, Sonny Keeney, John Kelly, Peter Brennan. 


As Principal of Meentinadea, he resided in the Master’s House, a charming stone cut building which was built by the landlord for the incumbent Principal. This house which is roofless, yet still standing, is 200 metres south of the school.    This type of dwelling is unique to the parish of Ardara, and indeed to the county of Donegal.   The last Principal to reside in the Master’s old house was P.S. Mac a’Ghoill, and his wife Nan.  Master o’Gallagher planted the deciduous trees which surround the old house. After his retirement, Master O’Gallagher resided at Brookhill House, Killybegs, and subsequently Rathgar, Dublin.