Róise Nic Comhghaill (1871–1936) of Loch Chathair, Crolly, Co Donegal

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According to the information recorded on the Doegen speaker questionnaire in September 1931, Róise Nic Comhghaill was born at Srath an Arbhair — a settlement in the townland of Mín Corrbhaic, in the parish of Gaoth Dobhair — and was aged 60 at the time of recording. Her father was a farmer, and both parents were natives of Gaoth Dobhair. In response to questions, she stated that she lived in Srath an Arbhair until the age of 15, and then spent about ten years in Co Tyrone, before returning and settling in the adjacent townland of Loch Chathair. She had attended primary school at Torr. Her occupation is stated as farmer's wife. Irish was her mother language, and she could also speak English. She could not read or write. The recording team noted "clear musical voice".

Róise Nic Phóil was registered as born on 01/04/1871 at Mín Corrbhaic to Peter [sic] McPaul and Catherine Sweeney. Patrick McPaul and Catherine Sweeny had married at Gaoth Dobhair on 04/03/1865; the groom was a bachelor, the son of Bryan McPaul of Srath Mhic Giolla Mhartáin, while the bride was a spinster, daughter of James Sweeny of Mín Corrbhaic. Their children were, with civilly-registered dates and places of birth:
      Magey, born 28/05/1866 (family, 26/05/1866), Mín Corrbhaic
      John, born 15/07/1868, Mín Corrbhaic
      Rose, born 01/04/1871, Mín Corrbhaic, the present speaker
      Fanny, born 25/02/1873, Mín Corrbhaic
      Barney, born 19/02/1875 (family, 29/01/1875), Mín Corrbhaic
      Hugh, born 27/07/1877, Mín Corrbhaic
      Mary, born 08/08/1879, Mín Corrbhaic
      James, born 1881
Patrick McPaul may have died in 1883 at the age of 56.

In 1901, Kate McPaul was a widow aged 42 in Mín Corrbhaic, with eight unmarried children: Maggie 29, John 27, Rose 25, Fanny 23, Barney 21, Hugh 19, Mary 17, James 15. Also in the household was Kate's mother (recte, mother-in-law?) Maggie McPaul 80, a widow, and deaf. Kate and her mother(-in-law) spoke Irish only; the others were bilingual. In the Gaoth Dobhair evictions of August 1886, the widow Margaret McPaul had been evicted in Srath an Arbhair, along with her widowed daughter-in-law and eight children (Derry Journal 13/08/1886 p 8). It appears they may have been allowed to reoccupy the partially-demolished house. It was around this time that Róise went to Tyrone.

In 1911, Róise 43 was now married in Loch Chathair to John McCole 48, with family Kate 6, Hugh 4 and Madgey 1. They had been married for 10 years, and all 4 children were living. All the household over the age of 3 were bilingual. In 1911 also, at Mín Corrbhaic, Kate McPaul was a widow aged 71, living with two of her children, both now married: Madge McPaul [sic], 47, married 5 years with no children; and Barney McPaul, 38, married 1 year with no children. There was also a grandson, James McCole 7, the fourth of Róise's children. Kate had Irish only; the others were bilingual. Kate's marriage had taken place 48 years before, and all 8 children were still living.

The marriage of Róise Nic Phóil to John McCole was registered as taking place on 18/04/1901 at Doirí Beaga. John was a bachelor from Loch Chathair, and his parents were James McCole, a farmer, and Madgey O'Donnell; Róise was from Mín Corrbhaic, a spinster, and her father was Patritius McPaul. The children were:
      James, born at Loch Chathair on 30/01/1904; died in 1916.
      Kate, born at Loch Chathair on 12/05/1905; married John Ward (1905–1993) from Mín Beannaid at Dunfermline on 21/06/1930; and died on 09/07/1970 at Cowdenbeath. There were 8 children.
      Hugh, born at Loch Chathair on 12/12/1906; married Helen Sweeney (1911–1999) at North Berwick on 08/12/1934; and died on 10/05/1985 at Edinburgh. There were 4 children.
      Madge, born at Loch Chathair on 08/02/1910; married Thomas Patrick Gallagher (1905–1987) at Blairgowrie on 05/02/1935; and died on 05/10/1945. There were 2 children.
      Margaret, born at Loch Chathair on 18/09/1912 (also registered born 16/09/1912); married John Joyce (1909–1983) at Manor Lee, Lewisham on 02/01/1940; and died at Perth on 23/10/1975. There were 3 children.
John McCole, Róise's husband, died in 1919.

When Alf Sommerfelt made his linguistic study of the Irish of the Torr district in 1915–16, Róise was one of his informants. He says (page 3) "Róise Nic Cóil, late Nic Phóill, 46 years of age, was born in Meencorwick Íochtarach and is still living there. She is a fine singer and has given me many songs." In his texts from Torr in 1965, Sommerfelt published some of those songs.

Róise Nic Comhghaill — known locally as "Róise John" — died at Loch Chathair on 27/03/1936, aged 65, and is buried in Dungloe main cemetery. The death was registered by her daughter Maggie. Séamus Ennis visited the district several times between 1942 and 1946, to collect Gaelic songs for the Irish Folklore Commission, but did not consult anyone there named McPaul or McCole.

Recent references to Róise Nic Comhghaill include:
      Alf Sommerfelt, The dialect of Torr, Co. Donegal, 1922, p 3.
      Alf Sommerfelt, "Phonetic texts from the dialect of Torr, Co Donegal" in Lochlann 3 (1965) pp 375–403 @ 397–403
      Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic Voices, 2010, pp 82–3, 192–5.

Thanks are due to the Ward family for assistance with the family details.



Reilig an Chlocháin Léith (Photograph © Irish Graveyard Surveyors).

Speaker's recordings Ulster Doegen index


Ciarán Ó Duibhín
2014/04/12
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