KILLYBEGS, a sea-port, market, and post-town, and a parish, (formerly a parliamentary borough), partly in the barony of BOYLAGH, but chiefly in that of BANNAGH, county of DONEGAL, and province of ULSTER, 38 miles (S. W.) from Lifford, and 127 miles (N. W.) from Dublin, on the road from Ballyshannon and Donegal to Rutland; containing 4287 inhabitants, of which number, 724 are in the town. This place, which is situated on the north-west coast, was at a very early period one of the principal sea-ports in this part of the country, and formed a portion of the territories of the chiefs of Tyrconnell. The emissary of Philip II., King of Spain, landed here in 1596, and in April of the following year, a vessel from that country, laden with supplies for O'Donnell, and having some confidential agents on board, arrived for the purpose of conferring with that chieftain. In 1600, another vessel from Spain, with supplies for O'Donnell and O'Nial, landed here, and brought also a large sum of money, in order to promote the object they had in contemplation.
On the plantation of Ulster, 200 acres of land were granted by Jas. I. to Roger Jones, Esq., on condition of his laying out the site of a town, building 20 houses with lands for burgesses, and assigning convenient spots for market-places, a church and churchyard, a public school and playground, and 30 acres of common.
The town is situated at the head of a beautiful and safe harbour, to which it gives name, and at the base of a vast mountainous tract extending north- ward; and consists of 126 houses. It is the head of a coast-guard district, comprising the stations of Dooran, Tribane, Tiellen-East, Tiellen-West, Mallinbeg, Daurus Port Noo, and Neptune Tower, with a force of four officers and 56 men, under the control of a resident inspecting commander. A constabulary police force is also stationed here. The market is on Tuesday, and fairs are held on Jan. 15th, Easter-Monday, May 6th, June 21st, Aug. 12th, Sept. 15th, and Nov. 12th, for general farming stock. The harbour is nearly circular in form, well sheltered, and accessible to ships of considerable burden; vessels not drawing more than ten feet of water may anchor near the town, but the best anchorage is in 8½ fathoms near the west side At sea the harbour is known by the remarkably sharp pointed summit of Cruanard Hill, which is higher than any other in the neighbourhood, and to the south of which is the entrance. By charter of Jas. I., in the 13th year of his reign, the inhabitants were incorporated by the designation of the "Provost, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Calebegg." The corporation consisted of a provost (elected annually) and twelve free burgesses appointed for life, who had the power of admitting freemen; and under their charter the portreeve and free burgesses continued to return two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to Henry, Earl of Conyngham. A court of record, with jurisdiction extending to £2, was also held every third Thursday; but it has been discontinued for many years, and the corporation has become altogether extinct. Petty sessions are held irregularly.
The parish, from which a portion has been separated to form the district parish of Ardara, is for civil purposes distinguished into Upper and Lower Killybegs. It comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 30,962¼ statute acres, of which 4304¼ are in that part of Lower Killybegs, which is in the barony of Boylagh; 11,074¼, including a detached portion, and 51 covered with water, are in the other part, in the barony of Bannagh; and 15,583¾, including 41¾ covered with water, are in Upper Killybegs, in the barony of Bannagh: 30,160 statute acres are applotted under the tithe act, of which about two-thirds are mountain and uncultivated land: agriculture is in a very unimproved state. The principal seats are Wood Hill, the residence of Major Nesbitt; and Fintra, of J. Hamilton, Esq. The living is a consolidated rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Raphoe, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the tithes amount to £300.
The church, a neat small edifice, was built on rising ground to the east of the town in 1829, at an expense of £1000. The glebe-house is of recent erection, and the glebe comprehends six townlands, comprising together 2000 Irish acres. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Killaghtee; the chapel here is a spacious and neat building, and there is also a chapel in Killaghtee. About 250 children are taught in two public schools, of which the parochial school is supported by an annual donation from Col. Robertson's fund, and the other by - Murray, Esq., of Broughton; there are also three private schools, in which are about 140 children, and a Sunday school. A small Franciscan friary was founded here by Mac Swiny Bannig, but there are no remains. Some ruins of the ancient castle of St. Catherine yet exist.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.