Teach Mhici Mac Gabhann

Image of a white thatched cottage with red doors against a blue sky
Teach Mhici Mac Gabhann - Courtesy of Donegal County Heritage Office

Teach Mhici Mac Gabhann is the birth place of Mickey McGowan, the author of Rotha Mor an tSaoil (The Hard Road to Klondike). It is located in Gortahork, County Donegal.

Born in 1865 in Donegal, the eldest of twelve children in a poverty-stricken family, Michael MacGowan left home as a young man to work in Scotland, but soon headed for America and, he hoped, some kind of success. He worked his way across the country as a hobo, working in steel mills and mines in Tennessee and Montana, before embarking on his greatest adventure-the gold rush, in the primitive, harsh, and icy wastes of the Yukon. His saga is filled with vivid recountings of his adventures and experiences-canoeing the Yukon, panning for gold, sheltering with Indians, the long dark winters near the Arctic Circle-and his loyal ""sourdough"" companions.

What was to differentiate Michael from his companions was that he would return to Ireland. On his return to Donegal in 1901, he used his goldmining fortune to purchase a farmhouse in Gortahork which had formerly belonged to the Anglo-Irish gentry and raised a family there. His son-in-law the folklorist Seán Ó hEochaidh (1913-2002) persuaded him to dictate his autobiography in old age, and later edited it with Proinsias Ó Conluain as Rotha Mór an tSaoíl. It was posthumously published in 1959 and translated by Valentine Iremonger as The Hard Road to Klondyke in 1962. MacGowan's highly readable true story of the frontier is one of determination, courage, and spirit.

Today, Teach Mhicí Mhic Gabhann is recognized as an outstanding example of a rural traditional building from west Donegal that demonstrates the work of traditional craftsmen from the area. For visitors to Donegal keen to find out more about the county’s culture and heritage there are guided tours of the cottage available during which a 15 minute film on the history of the building is also screened.

You can watch a short clip of a dramatised version of Rotha Mór an tSaoíl at the following link: