Donagh Cross




N 54° 18' 43.44"   W 006° 55' 06.42"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

H 70378 40910

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Friday 31 May 2019

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The old Donagh graveyard seen from the entrance. The cross is the foreground, though distant. Under the tall tress are the ruins of the church.

The Donagh graveyard lies on the site of an earlier church that was built along the route of St. Patrick to Armagh. It is possible that the religious site was connected with Muadan, a disciple of St. Patrick and patron of the nearby parish of Errigal Truagh.

In the 15th century the church of Donagh grew to include the entire Treanor estate that later became the demesne of the McKenna family.
After the Reformation, the old church of Donagh was an important landmark for the local Catholics, and it is said that Oliver Plunkett used to confirm the children from Donagh and the surrounding parishes in a wood next to the graveyard.

Today the church is in total ruins, with just some segments of walls still standing up and not at their full height. Trees and ivy have taken over the ruins.

The most interesting items in the graveyard are a very old cross and two cross bases.
The cross is aligned east-west (80°-260°). Its dating is unsure. On the east face there's a crucifixion, with Christ's legs and feet depicted in profile, more of a Greek style than Roman. On the top panel of the cross it seems there is a date, 1606 or 1636, thus dating this cross to the early 17th century.
The west face is plain, as the minor sides.
This cross is also known with the name of "McKenna Cross", and according to a tradition it was the inuaguration site of the McKenna chieftains of Truagh.
It seems that the cross had been buried in the bog to hide it from the English. It was dug up in 1820 by a certain O'Callaghan and four of his sons to erect it on their own family grave.
Anyway the cross now stands on the spot where it was found buried in 1911 by the amateur archaeologist Francis Joseph Bigger.
The cross stands on a modern base which is 78 centimetres high. The cross itself is 1.43 metres tall, 44 centimetres wide at the shaft base and 90 centimetres wide at the arms. It's 25 centimetres thick.

Near the north wall of the church is a cross base about 50 centimetres high. This was found by Séamus McAree built into the church wall and then moved to its current position.

Another cross base is on the other side of the church, near the southeast corner of the ruinous building and close to the grave of Phelemy Makkenna. This cross base is also known as the Warty Well. It is said that the water collected into the socket of the base never dries up. According to the tradition, people used to leave a coin in the water and then place that coin on their warts. Or they would go to this well with a coin, then they would ask the well to cure the wart and then they would put that coin on the wart. The procedure had to be repeated three times.

In the graveyard there are several magnificent grave slabs with the typical coat of arms of the MacKenna family. Similar slabs can be seen in the Errigal Truagh graveyard, which is about 11 km northwest from here.

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