How Donaghadee got its Name

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter XI (2) - Start of Chapter

“Kerry Dragoons.” This name is given to peasants who, seated on their rough, but sure-footed ponies, with a basket or creel on each side, containing a firkin of butter, gallop fearlessly down the mountain side in a manner calculated to take a stranger’s breath away.

Dingle de Couch is the place “when a man may be arrested for twopence,” but living was so cheap there in bygone times that he ought not to owe the twopence. In the happy days gone by of a hundred years ago, in that favored town, a good house was to be had for £3 to £4 per year. Being close to the Atlantic you could get fish for a song if you had a good voice—potatoes dog cheap and linen for next to nothing. In the North of Ireland when an objectionable person is wished at the greatest distance the island affords, a common saying is “I wish you were at Dingle de Couch,” it being the most westerly town in Ireland.

The Kerry equivalent to this saying is “As far as Tig na Vauria from Donaghadee.” The origin of this saying is given by T. Crofton Croker in his “Killarney Legends,” as follows:—

“There was once a long time ago, a poor man whose name was Donacha Dee, and he lived in a small cabin not far from a forest in the heart of the County Kerry. Donacha was a very poor man and had a scolding wife, so that between his wife and his poverty he scarcely ever got a moment’s peace. One day in the month of May he went out to cut firewood in the forest when he heard a voice calling him, who gave him to understand that it was St. Brendan that was speaking, and informed him that because he was a good Christian and minded his duty, he would be granted two wishes. The problem of what he would wish for so occupied his mind that night began to fall before he thought of going home, so he gathered up a great bundle of firewood, tied it well with his gad and heaving it upon his shoulder, away home with him. Being tired with his day’s work the load soon became too heavy for him, so he was obliged to throw it down. Sitting on his bundle Donacha was in a great botheration, the night was closing fast and he knew what kind of a welcome he’d have before him if he stayed out too late or returned without a full load of firing. ‘Would to heaven,’ says he, in his distress, ‘this brosna would carry me instead of me carrying it.’ Immediately the brosna began to move and carried him to his own door, while he never stopped roaring a thousand murders, he was so vexed at having thrown away one of his wishes so foolishly. His wife Vauria (Mary) was standing at the door looking out for him and ready to give him a good salleting, but she was struck dumb at seeing the pickle Donacha was in. When she came to and Donacha had told his story, it was then she was mad in earnest to think that he should throw away his luck. Donacha, worn out and perplexed, was not able to bear it, and at length he cried out as loud as he could, ‘I wish to heaven, I wish to heaven, you old scold, that’s the plague of my life, I wish to heaven, that Ireland was between us.’

No sooner said than done, for he was whipped up by a whirlwind and dropped at the north-east end where Donaghadee now stands, and Vauria, house and all, was carried, at the same time, to its utmost south-western spot beyond Dingle, and not far from the great Atlantic ocean. The place to this day, is named Tig na Vauria, or Mary’s house, and when people would speak of places wide asunder, it has become a sort of proverb to say, ‘as far as Tig na Vauria from Donaghadee.”