The ruins of the late medieval Tullaghobegley Church and graveyard lie on a small mound just to the south of Falcarragh. This tulach – or ‘low hill’ or ‘mound’ – was probably used for tribal inauguration ceremonies or other gatherings.
Remains of other ancient monuments can be found nearby including burial grounds, a holy well and the prehistoric Cloghacorr Court Tomb. This suggests that the area was a focus for rituals as far back as c.3000BC.
The parish of Tullaghabegley covers a large area of this northwest corner of Donegal. The area is named after and connected with a local saint – Bigill, Tulcha or Bigill of Tulach. It is possible that this saint and the practice of celebrating his feast day on 1 November, have their origins in pre-Christian pagan belief when the feast of Samain was celebrated on this same day.
The name of the mythical figure of Lug may offer another explanation for the origin of Tullaghobegley. An early name for this mound and its church was Talgalug in Latin or Tulach Logha in Irish which means the ‘mound or assembly place of Lug’.
Locally the saint is also known as Beigbhile or Beaglaoch and is claimed to have been a relative of Colmcille. Beaglaoch appears in the story of how Colmcille came to convert Tory Island by winning a staff-throwing contest – Begley’s staff only made it as far as Tullaghobegley which is why he built his church on this site.
Another story collected locally claims to explain why the church was here:-
Beaglaoch was traveling through the Muckish Gap, wandering ‘with no fixed destination … except that he knew that God was telling him to keep on going.’ He had no possessions, except for a donkey which he had found lost and wandering. The donkey was ‘unbiddable’. As evening came on, the saint sat down to rest, leaving the donkey to range free in the fresh grass. As he sat there, the saint had ‘some sort of vision’ and realized that he had reached his destination.
Wherever the donkey settled himself for the night was the site for the new foundation. So the saint tracked down the donkey, and found him easily enough, settled down for the night on a grassy mound – a place, as it happened, where the local pagans engaged in their heathen practices of celebration and commemoration of their gods. Beaglaoch [St Begley] took possession of the place. He blessed it in the name of the Lord. He expelled the superstitious heathens. And that is how God brought Beaglaoch to the tulach.
(quoted from: Tulach Beaglaoich inné agus inniu. Glór na nGael, An Fál Carrach, agus Cumann Staire is Seanchais Chloich Cheann Fhaola)
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