RAPHOE, a market-town and post-town, a parish, and the seat of a diocese, in the barony of RAPHOE, county of DONEGAL, and province of ULSTER, 5 miles (N. W.) from Lifford, and 113¾ (N. by W.) from Dublin, on the road from Strabane to Stranorlar; containing 6227 inhabitants, of which number, 1408 are in the town.
This place, anciently called Rathboth, appears to have derived both its early and present importance from the foundation of an extensive monastery here by St. Columb, which, after its restoration by St. Adamnanus, who died in 703, continued to flourish and was soon after made the seat of a bishoprick. The town consists chiefly of three small streets branching off from a market- place of triangular form, and contains 288 houses, which are neatly built. An agricultural society has been established, which holds its meetings here. The whole of the surrounding scenery is agreeably diversified, and in the neighbourhood are some interesting views. The market is on Saturday, chiefly for meal and potatoes, and occasionally for linen yarn; besides which large markets are held on the first Saturday in Jan., Feb., March, April, and December; and fairs are held on May 1st, June 22nd, Aug. 27th, and Nov-. 4th. The market-house is a neat building and well-arranged.
The town is the head-quarters of the constabulary police for the county, and the residence of the sub-inspector; and petty sessions are held on alternate Saturdays.
The parish, which is situated in the centre of the champaign district of the county, comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 13,224½ statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the land is generally of good quality and in a state of profitable cultivation.
The only seat, exclusively of the Episcopal palace and Deanery, is Green Hills, the residence of W. Fenwick, Esq.
The SEE appears to have originated during the abbacy of St. Eunan, who converted the church of the monastery into a cathedral, and became the first bishop, but at what date cannot be precisely ascertained; nor is any thing more recorded of his successors prior to the English invasion than the mere names of one or two prelates, of whom the last, Aengus, died in 957. Gilbert O'Laran, who was consecrated in 1160, was a subscribing witness to a charter of confirRAP mation granted by Maurice McLoughlin, King of Ireland, to the abbey of Newry, and is in that deed described as Bishop of Tirconnel, from the name of the territory in which the church of Raphoe is situated. During the prelacy of Carbrac O'Scoba, who succeeded in 1266, part of the diocese was forcibly taken away by German O'Cherballen, Bishop of Derry, and added to that see; and in 1360, Patrick Magonail erected episcopal palaces in three manors belonging to the see. The last R. C.
bishop, previously to the Reformation, was Donat Magonail, who assisted at the Council of Trent in 1563; and the first Protestant bishop was George Montgomery, a native of Scotland, who was Dean of Norwich and Chaplain of Jas. I., and was consecrated to this see in 1605. Robert Huntington, celebrated for his extensive attainments in oriental literature and his assiduity in collecting, during 12 years residence at Aleppo, a valuable series of oriental manuscripts, of which many are in the Bodleian library at Oxford, and who had, while provost of Dublin University, been instrumental in printing the Old Testament in the Irish language, was appointed Bishop of Raphoe in 1701, but lived only 12 days after his consecration. John Pooley, who succeeded in 1702, repaired the palace and enlarged the cathedral by the addition of a north and south transept, rendering it perfectly cruciform. Since 1605 the see had been held as a separate diocese till the passing of the Church Temporalities act of the 3rd of Wm. IV., by which it was enacted that, on the next avoidance, it should be united to the see of Derry, which union, on the decease of the late W. Bisset, D. D., in 1835, was carried into effect and the temporalities became vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It is one of the ten suffragan bishopricks that constitute the ecclesiastical province of Armagh; and comprehends the greater part of the county of Donegal, extending for 55 miles in length and 40 miles in breadth, and comprising an estimated superficies of 515,250 statute acres. The lands belonging to the see comprise 1392 acres of profitable land, consisting of the town parks; and the gross annual revenue, on an average of three years ending on Jan. 1st, 1832, amounted to £5787. 8. 2. The chapter consists of a dean, archdeacon, and the four prebendaries of Drumholm, Killymard, Inver, and Clondehorky.
The consistorial court is held at Raphoe, and consists of a vicar-general, two surrogates, a registrar, deputy-registrar, and two proctors. The registrar is keeper of the records, which are of modern date; all prior to 1691 are supposed to have been destroyed when the castle was taken by Cromwell, or when it was afterwards plundered and burned by the soldiers of Jas. II.
The total number of parishes is 34, of which 5 are district parishes, comprehended in 34 single benefices, of which 5 are perpetual curacies; of these, 5 are in the patronage of the Crown, 15 in that of the Bishop, 2 in the patronage of incumbents, and the remainder in lay and corporation patronage: there are 34 churches and 28 glebe-houses. The cathedral, which is also the parochial church, and to the repair of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £1005, is a plain, ancient, cruciform structure with a square tower, which was added to it by Bishop Forster in 1737, as appears by that date on a stone over the door: there is no economy fund. The Episcopal palace, formerly a strong castle, is about a quarter of a mile from the town: it is a handsome and spacious castellated building, pleasantly situated in tastefully disposed grounds.
The deanery-house, which is also the glebe-house of the parish, was built in 1739, at an expense of £1680, and has been subsequently enlarged and improved from their own funds by various successive incumbents; it is pleasantly situated about a mile from the town. In the R. C. divisions the diocese is co-extensive with that of the Protestant see; it comprehends 24 benefices, containing 36 chapels, which are served by 50 clergymen, of whom 24 are parish priests, and 26 are coadjutors or curates; the bishop's parishes are Conwal and Aughnish; the cathedral is at Letterkenny where is also the bishop's residence.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Raphoe, formerly united to the rectories of Stranorlar, Leek, and Killygarvan, and the chapelry of Lettermacaward, from which, by act of council in 1835, it was separated, and now solely constitutes the corps of the deanery. The tithes amount to £900; and the glebe comprises 150 acres, valued at £150 per ann.; the other lands belonging to the deanery comprise 2701½ statute acres, extending over several parishes, which, with the rents and renewal fines, produce £426. 5. 10.
per ann., making the gross annual revenue of the deanery £1476. 5. 10. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, including also the parish of Conwal, in which is a chapel. There is a place of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the second class. The Royal free grammar school was founded by Chas. I., who endowed it with lands in the western part of the county, comprising from 5000 to 6000 acres, of which 1400 are profitable, and the remainder bog and mountain, producing together an annual income of £550: the school-house was rebuilt in 1737, and enlarged in 1830, and is a spacious and handsome building; attached to it is a valuable library, containing more than 3000 volumes, founded by Bishop Forster and Dr. Hall for the use of the clergy of the diocese.
In this and in three other public schools, of which the parochial school is partly supported by annual donations from Col. Robertson's fund, about 280 children are taught; an infants' school and a female working school are also supported by the Dean, and there are six private schools, in which are about 200 children, and four Sunday schools. An asylum for four poor clergymen's widows was founded by Bishop Forster, who endowed it with lands now producing to each £50 per ann.; the house, which is spacious and well adapted for the purpose, was purchased by the founder during his lifetime, and is situated in the town: there is also a dispensary.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.