Donegal to the Scottish Islands

Image of Scottish Island from Donegal

It is well documented that our Donegal diaspora is located in every corner of the world, and the team behind this project are constantly amazed at the far-flung and exotic locations where people contact us from. However, Donegal people have been travelling for many centuries and have established connections somewhat closer to home. These connections are what have shaped our county and her diaspora in so many ways.

Writer and broadcaster Aidan O’Hara has had an interest in the diaspora for many years, working on seminal TV programmes Radharc for the national broadcaster RTE in the 70s and 80s.  Hailing from Inishowen, Aiden always had a particular interest in the links between Donegal and Scotland and in particular, the Hebrides.  As a small boy his older sister would point out the Paps of Jura peeping above the horizon. Enthralled, as he looked out to sea, he was fascinated by what might lie in store in that land across the waves.

Most people know about St. Columba (Colmcille), the Donegal man born in 521 who played a leading role in spreading Christianity in Scotland and founded the important abbey on Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region. To find out more about St. Colmcille visit And many Inishowen people are aware that they and their Scottish Gaelic cousins have a shared heritage of history and culture.

Aidan was asked by the Islands Books Trust, based in the Isle of Lewis & Harris aims to further the understanding of the Celtic and Nordic connections with the Islands. In 2013 they invited Aidan to give a presentation on the shared links, and it was then that he realised that there is an untold story about this hugely important Donegal connection which more people deserve to know.  Hence, he wrote the wonderful, Atlantic Gaels:Donegal Links with the Hebrides, which allows us to fully appreciate the depth of the relationship between Donegal and Scotland dating back to ancient times.

This fascinating read tells us of many of the links. For instance, two of the most notable Lewis clans are the Mac Leods and the Morrisons. What few people know however is that the Morrisons were not originally an islands clan but a family from Clonmany in Inishowen!  The monks of Iona produced what is known as the Iona Chronicle which was the foundation on which all the later Irish annals were based. And we also learn of the sad fate of some 3,000 men, women and children of Clanranald who sailed into Lough Foyle one summer’s day in 1586, hoping to make a new life for themselves in Ireland, and were tragically never heard from again.

To find out more about these and much more, click on the link below: