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The Three coins sculpture, Lifford
The Three coins sculpture, Lifford
Lifford is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54°50′02″N 7°29′10″W / 54.834°N 7.486°W / 54.834; -7.486Coordinates: 54°50′02″N 7°29′10″W / 54.834°N 7.486°W / 54.834; -7.486
CountyCounty Donegal
BaronyRaphoe North[1][2][3]
Dáil ÉireannDonegal
6 m (20 ft)
 • Total1,626
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing key
Telephone area code+353(0)74
Irish Grid ReferenceH330984

Lifford (Irish: Leifear, historically anglicised as Liffer)[5] is the county town of County Donegal, Ireland, the administrative centre of the county and the seat of Donegal County Council, although the town of Letterkenny is often mistaken as holding this role.

Lifford lies in the Finn Valley area of East Donegal where the River Finn meets the River Mourne to create the River Foyle. The Burn Dale (also spelled as the Burn Deele), which flows through Ballindrait, flows into the River Foyle on the northern outskirts of Lifford.


The Main Street in Lifford.

The town grew up around a castle built there by Manghus Ó Domhnaill, ruler of Tír Chonaill (mostly modern County Donegal), in the 16th century. It later became a British Army garrison town until most of Ireland won independence as a dominion called the Irish Free State in early December 1922. It lies across the River Foyle from Strabane (in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland) and is linked to that town by Lifford Bridge. Manus O'Donnell began building the castle in 1527[6] on the Wednesday after St. Brendan's Day (Saint Brendan's feast day is celebrated on 16 May). He completed the masonry and woodwork by the end of that summer even though the O’Neill’s of Tír Eoghain were at war with him. In 1543 the castle of Leithbher was given to Cahir (the son of Donnell Balbh) O'Gallagher to be guarded for the O’Donnell clan. He then proceeded to banish the people loyal to the O’Donnell’s from the castle so that he could keep it for himself. In 1544 Calvagh went to the English Lord Justice, and brought back English soldiers with him to Tirconnell, the olden name for County Donegal. O'Donnell, Calvagh, and these men went with ‘ordnance and engines for taking towns’ to the castle of Lifford to take it back from the descendants of the O'Gallaghers.

Cahir, the son of Tuathal Balbh & Turlough, the son of Felim Fin O'Gallagher, who had been taken hostage earlier, was brought to the castle to see if the O’Gallagher’s would surrender. Which they wouldn’t. As the English attacked one was killed instantly so they killed Cahir, the son of Tuathal on the spot. The castle was then surrendered to O’Donnell to spare the life of Turlough, the son of Felim Fin and another son of Tuathal Balbh.

St. Lugadius Church of Ireland Church in Lifford.

Lifford Castle is no longer standing but there is a poem[7] from the late 16th century about the castle, which describes the owners and surroundings at the time.

"A beloved dwelling is the castle of Lifford, homestead of a wealth abounding encampment; forge of hospitality for the men of Ulster, a dwelling it is hard to leave.
Beloved are the two who keep that house without excess, without lack; the ward of the stout, even-surfaced tower are the supporting pillars of the province.
Short is the day, no matter what its length, in the company of the royal warrior of Conchobhar's Plain; fleet are the long days from the lady of bright-walled Tara.
The daughter of noble Shane O'Neill, and the son of O'Donnell of Dún Iomgháin—they are in the ancient, comely dwelling as entertainers of guests.
Dear the hostel in which these are wont to be, dear the folk who dwell in the hostel; the people of the house and the house of that people happy is any who shall get honor such as theirs.
Beloved the delightful, lofty building, its tables, its coverlets, its cupboards; its wondrous, handsome, firm walls, its smooth marble arches.
Beloved is the castle in which we used to spend a while at chess-playing, a while with the daughters of the men of Bregia, a while with the fair books of the poets.
The fortress of smooth-lawned Lifford no one in the world can leave it once it is found; that dwelling is the Durlas of the north.
Or else it is Eamhain which used to vary in form, or Croghan of the children of Mágha, or Tara of the race of Cobhthach—this bright castle, rich in trees and horses.
Or it is Naas, the fortress of Leinster, as it was first fashioned; or the fertile, ancient abode of the children of Corc, green, conspicuous Cashel.
Or it is fair Lifford itself—hardly is any of these castles better—which hath of yore assumed those shapes ye are wont to hold dear".

The Battle of Lifford was fought in 1600 during Tyrone's Rebellion.

Following the defeat of O'Doherty's Rebellion at the Battle of Kilmacrennan in 1608, a number of captured rebels were brought to Lifford where they were tried by Irish civilian courts and executed. The most notable rebel to be executed was Phelim Reagh MacDavitt.


Lifford achieved national recognition in the 2008 Tidy Towns Awards [11] as the best newcomer to the competition in Category 'C'.


Ogham stone in the Diamond, Lifford.

National government[edit]

Lifford was once a constituency that elected two M.P.s (Members of Parliament) from the area to the Irish House of Commons from the years 1692 until 1800. More information on who represented the area can be found here at Lifford (Parliament of Ireland constituency).

Lifford is now part of the county-wide five-seat Donegal constituency. Prior to that, it was in the Dáil constituency of Donegal South-West. It had formerly been in Donegal North-East, but due to the population shift within the county, an electoral boundary review in 2008 moved the town and environs to Donegal Southwest. The town also moved from the Letterkenny Electoral Area to the Stranorlar Electoral Area as part of that boundary review.[12] In the 2016 General Election, the constituency returned Charlie McConalogue (Fianna Fáil), Pearse Doherty (Sinn Féin), Pat "the Cope" Gallagher (Fianna Fáil), Joe McHugh (Fine Gael) and Thomas Pringle (Independent).

Local government[edit]

The town is part of the Lifford-Stranorlar Municipal District for the purposes of elections to Donegal County Council. As of 2016, there were two local residents who are councillors with Donegal County Council, namely Gerry Crawford (Fianna Fáil) and Gary Doherty (Sinn Féin).[13]


Lifford Town has a population of 1,626 as of 2016 census,[4] an increase of 178 on the 2006 census.[14] Of the 1,626 residents 794 were male and 832 female.[4]

Lifford is part of the Civil Parish of Clonleigh; with a population of 3,547, the parish is subdivided for electoral purposes into two separate Electoral Districts: Clonleigh North and Clonleigh South, which are mainly separated by the Burn Dale.[15][16] In 2016, the population of Clonleigh North was 1,374 (711 male and 663 female)[17] and in Clonleigh South the 2016 population was 2,173 (1,078 male and 1,095 female).[18]


Lifford is served by several schools, all of which are primary ("National") schools. For second level education students must travel elsewhere, with Raphoe or Stranorlar, or Strabane in Northern Ireland, being popular options.

Primary schools in Lifford are:

  • St. Patrick’s (Murlog National School). In 2012/13 Enrolment was: Boys: 99, Girls: 63. (Total pupils 162)[19] and in the 2020/21 school year the enrolment numbers had increased to: 96 Boys and 83 Girls (Total pupils 179).[20]
  • Scoil Mhuire gan Smal (Lifford National School). in 2012/13 Enrolment was: Boys: 52, Girls: 50 (Total pupils 102).[21] and in the 2020/21 school year the enrolment numbers had a slight increase to Boys 57 and Girls 50 (Total pupils 107).[22]
  • Scoil Cholmcille Naofa (Ballylast National School). In 2012/13 Enrolment was: Boys: 34, Girls: 34 (Total pupils 68).[23] and in the 2020/21 school year the enrolment numbers had decreased to: 18 Boys and 18 Girls (Total pupils 36).[24]
  • Scoil Bhrighde (Boyagh National School). Enrolment in the 2012/13 school year was Boys: 17 and Girls: 18 (Total pupils 35).[25] Boyagh National School closed permanently in March 2018.[26]
  • Scoil Cholmcille (Cloughfin National School). In 2012/13 Enrolment was: Boys: 11, Girls: 21. (Total pupils 32)[27] and in the 2020/21 school year the enrolment was 12 boys and 20 girls (Total pupils 32).[28]

There were other primary schools in the parish but these are long since closed, namely Blackrock National School and Ballindrait National School.[29] The Prior Endowed School and The Hansard Grammar School were fee-paying schools in Lifford and are now also closed.

Historical buildings and places of interest[edit]

Old Courthouse, Lifford.

Lifford Courthouse[edit]

Lifford Courthouse is now a restaurant and heritage centre and is located across from the County House, the HQ of Donegal County Council, in The Diamond area of the town. The courthouse was designed by Michael Priestly of Dublin and built in 1746. The museum houses a permanent display of O'Donnell clan documents and artefacts, as well as minute books from various institutes in County Donegal. It also houses some of the original cells belonging to the Courthouse.

Lifford Gaol was formerly the County Gaol for County Donegal. It was located on the north-eastern side of The Diamond. The old gaol was demolished in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Cavanacor House[edit]

Cavanacor House is located just off the N14 on the outskirts of the town - which one ancestral home of the 11th President of the United States of America, James Knox Polk. His great, great, great grandmother (Magdelene Tasker) was born here[30] in 1634, she later married Capt. Robert Bruce Pollock and emigrated to the US. King James II & VII dined at Cavanacor House on his way to the Siege of Derry in 1689.[30]

Prior Endowed School[edit]

The school was built in 1880 to cater for local Protestant children with monies bequeathed by Miss Eleanor Prior from nearby Ballindrait. The Prior School closed in 1972, being amalgamated with The Royal School in Raphoe to create The Royal & Prior Comprehensive School.[31] The school and grounds were first taken over by the then Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs, and later (from 1974) by the Irish Defence Forces for use as a military barracks. The Barracks has since closed along with Rockhill House Military Post in Letterkenny, on 31 January 2009.

St. Lugadius's Church[edit]

St. Lugadius's, also known as Clonleigh (Church of Ireland) Parish Church, was built in 1621. Sir Richard Hansard who had been granted land at Lifford directed in his will that a church be built in Lifford. There is a monument to Sir Richard and his wife Dame Anne inside the church with a plaque on the wall detailing his wishes and who the executors of his will were. In the graveyard George Gardiner is buried, he won a Victoria Cross during the Crimean War in 1855.

St. Patrick's Church[edit]

St. Patrick's Church at Murlog, Lifford

St. Patrick’s Church, usually known locally as Murlog Chapel, is the second Catholic church on the present site. The first church was built here at Murlog in the 18th century after the Earl of Erne saw Catholic worshippers praying in the open. The church was later demolished to make way for the new church which was built in 1963. A three-stage gothic tower dating from about 1820 was attached to the old church and was saved by the parish; it is still standing next to the new church. The church is in the parish of Clonleigh, formerly Clonleigh and Camus until it was established as an independent parish in 1974.

Lifford Community Hospital[edit]

The hospital was once the County Hospital catering for all of County Donegal. It is located on the banks of the River Foyle just before the bridge into County Tyrone. Although this is not the first location of the County Hospital, It was originally in the diamond area of the town in a place called the Barrack yard. The Hospital first opened in this location in 1773. The first surgeon was a man called Mr. William Hamilton from nearby Strabane. In 1780 it was proposed to move to new premises with the Cavalry Barracks and stables in the town being sought, it was not until 1799 that the premises were renovated and ready to be occupied. In the early 1900s the hospital was operating at full strength with the Maternity and Surgical wards treating on average 400 patients and carrying out around 350 operations annually.[32] The hospital today caters for long and short term residents by providing a convalescent and respite service. Physiotherapy and chiropody services are also provided in the hospital for the in-patients and out-patients from the greater East Donegal area.[33]

Hansard's Grammar School[edit]

The will of Sir Richard Hansard in 1619, endowed a private school,[34] in Lifford. The will provided for 30 pounds sterling a year for a master, and 20 pounds sterling a year for an usher. The school was intended to cater for classical studies. All children of Clonleigh parish were to be entitled to attend for free education. Hansards' Grammar School commenced operations in 1697. In 1791, the Commissioners of Education reported that there were no free scholars in the school out of an attendance of 18, of whom 6 were boarders. The Commissioners of 1807–1812 reported the school as being in a very unsatisfactory condition. While the headmaster and usher were being paid salaries according to the endowment, the teaching had been handed off to a third person on a wage of 6 pounds sterling a year. Furthermore, classical subjects were not being taught, only arithmetic. The school continued in decline until 1840, until an inspection by the Commissioners precipitated the resignation of the master, who was accused of major neglect. Attendance which had been as low as three pupils rapidly increased under a new classical teacher. Sometime before 1856, the Earl Erne (whose family, the Creightons / Crichtons, had originally settled in Ulster at Lifford before moving south to County Fermanagh), on behalf of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, converted the school into an English-style school, and hired a master and mistress. Both were dismissed in 1856. At this time there was a dwelling house attached to the school, lived in by a previous master. In 1857, the school was reopened as an English school under the management of the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe.



Lifford is known as the "Gateway to Donegal"; this is because it is the first town in County Donegal encountered when travelling from Dublin on the N2 (A5/A38 through County Tyrone). Drivers cross Lifford Bridge as they enter Lifford. Two national primary routes, the N15 to Sligo via Stranorlar, Donegal Town and Ballyshannon and also the N14 to Letterkenny, take travellers to all parts in the County. There is also the R265/R236/A40 national secondary route to Derry City. Lifford has several daily bus services operated by Bus Éireann to Dublin Airport / Dublin City Centre (Busáras). They also serve Letterkenny and Ballybofey, where connections can be had for travelling onwards to Sligo with its railway station and bus station. Lifford is also very close to Strabane Bus Depot, located on Bradley Way in Strabane. From here, Ulsterbus operate services to Derry, Belfast, Omagh and other places in Northern Ireland.


City of Derry Airport is the nearest airport to Lifford, located about 20 miles (32 km) away.


Lifford Halt railway station opened on 1 January 1909 and finally closed on 1 January 1960.[35] Lifford was a stop on the Strabane to Letterkenny narrow gauge rail line. It was run by the CDR, as it was known at the time or County Donegal Railways Joint Committee. This line also stopped at Ballindrait, Raphoe and Convoy en route to Letterkenny.

The nearest railway station is Waterside Station in Derry. This station is operated by Northern Ireland Railways (N.I.R.) and runs from Derry, via Coleraine, to Central Station and Great Victoria Street Station in Belfast. The strategically important Belfast-Derry railway line is to be upgraded to facilitate more frequent trains and improvements to the permanent way, such as track and signalling, to enable faster services.


Lifford Greyhound Stadium

Lifford is home to a number of sporting clubs, including:

  • Naomh Pádraig GAA Club,[36] was founded in 1953 as Lifford GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) Club. In 1992 the club was renamed Naomh Padraig, Leifear. The club play in the Donegal Football League Division 5,[37] they play their home games at McDermott Park in the Roughan.
  • Soccer clubs in the area include Lifford Celtic Football Club, which plays in Division One (Second Tier) of the Donegal Junior Football League.[38] Their home ground is at Greenbrae Park and the club won the Donegal League Premier Division in the 2012/2013 season.[citation needed] Deele Harps Football Club plays in the Division Two (Third Tier) of the Donegal Junior Football League.[39]
  • Lifford Strabane Athletic Club[40] train at their athletic track[41] and grounds in the Roughan.
  • St. Patrick's (Clonleigh) Bowling Club play in the Donegal Indoor Bowling League Division Two.[42]

Voluntary organisations[edit]

Voluntary organisations in the area include Strabane/Lifford Rotary Club, a non-political, non-religious charitable organisation which is a member of Rotary International.[citation needed]

Lifford Youthreach is part of Donegal Education and Training Board, and provides training and education for early school leavers from the area. The Youthreach programme began in the town in May 2000, and started as an outreach from the Letterkenny Youthreach centre and then operated as an independent centre from 2001. Its premises are in the Diamond in the town centre. Various training programmes offered are up to FETAC Level 4.[43]

Lifford Scout Group, also known as the 19th Donegal (Lifford) Scout Group,[44] was formed in 1985. Lifford Scouts are members of Errigal Scout County and part of Scouting Ireland.[citation needed]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lifford Townland, Co. Donegal. Archived 6 August 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Town Parks Townland, Co. Donegal. Archived 1 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Barony of Raphoe North, Co. Donegal. Archived 11 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c "Sapmap Area - Settlements - Lifford". Census 2016. CSO. 2016. Archived from the original on 17 January 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  5. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland Archived 21 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine (see archival records)
  6. ^ "(p665)". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  7. ^ "The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn (1550–1591)" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts. Retrieved 16 May 2013
  8. ^ Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command - Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons - Google Books. Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  9. ^ The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, Page 547
  10. ^ "Lifford Bridge". Sabre. Retrieved 29 November 2019.[circular reference]
  11. ^ "Welcome to TidyTowns Ireland". Archived from the original on 18 September 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  12. ^ Electoral Area Committees – Home Page Archived 1 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Donegal County Council". Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  14. ^ Beyond 20/20 WDS - Table View Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Clonleigh North Electoral Division, Co. Donegal. Archived 11 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Clonleigh South Electoral Division, Co. Donegal.
  17. ^ "Sapmap Area - Settlements - Clonleigh North". Census 2016. CSO. 2016. Archived from the original on 12 February 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Sapmap Area - Settlements - Clonleigh South". Census 2016. CSO. 2016. Archived from the original on 12 February 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  19. ^ St Patricks National School, Donegal Archived 15 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine. on (3 February 2014). Retrieved on 2014-02-03.
  20. ^ St Patricks National School, Donegal Archived 3 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine on Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  21. ^ Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál, Donegal Archived 15 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. on (3 February 2014). Retrieved on 2014-02-03.
  22. ^ Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál, Donegal Archived 15 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. on Retrieved 2021-05-03
  23. ^ Scoil Cholmcille Naofa, Donegal Archived 15 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. on (3 February 2014). Retrieved on 2014-02-03.
  24. ^ Scoil Cholmcille Naofa, Donegal Archived 15 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. on Retrieved on 2021-05-03.
  25. ^ Scoil Bhrighde, Donegal Archived 15 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. on (3 February 2014). Retrieved on 2014-02-03.
  26. ^ Scoil Bhrighde, Donegal Archived 3 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine. on Retrieved 2021-05-03
  27. ^ Scoil Cholmcille / Cloughfin National School, Donegal Archived 15 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine. on (3 February 2014). Retrieved on 2014-02-03.
  28. ^ Scoil Cholmcille / Cloughfin National School, Donegal Archived 3 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine on Retrieved 2021-05-03
  29. ^ "0000061.JPG (1200x687 pixels)". Archived from the original on 10 July 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  30. ^ a b © "Donegal & Dún na - Cavanacor House". Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  31. ^ "Royal and Prior Comprehensive School, Raphoe". Archived from the original on 30 January 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  32. ^ "History Links Project. Accessed 08 July 2013". Archived from the original on 6 November 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  33. ^ "my Home from Home". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  34. ^ Report of Her Majesty's Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the Endowments, Funds and Actual Condition of all Schools Endowed for the Purposes of Education in Ireland, 1858
  35. ^ "Lifford Halt station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 March 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  36. ^ Official Website of Naomh Padraig Lifford Archived 3 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ "CLG Dhún na nGall | Fixtures & Results". Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  38. ^ "Temple Domestic Appliances Division One". Donegal Junior League. Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  39. ^ "Donegal Physiotherapy & Performance Centre Division Two". Donegal Junior League. Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  40. ^ "Lifford Strabane AC". Retrieved 7 April 2018 – via Facebook.[better source needed]
  41. ^ Lifford Athletic Club and Gym Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ "League Tables". Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2013. Donegal Bowling League
  43. ^ Lifford Youthreach Centre | VEC Archived 19 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine. (1 October 2012). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  44. ^ 19th Donegal (Lifford) Scout Group Archived 24 September 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Facebook. Retrieved on 23 July 2013[better source needed]
  45. ^ Friends of the Metropolitan Archives Archived 13 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. (26 July 2005). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  46. ^ Football Association of Ireland Archived 2 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2021-05-02
  47. ^ Home of football statistics and history Archived 10 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Archived 6 December 2018 at Retrieved 2021-05-02
  48. ^ Horse Music. Bloodaxe Books. 2013. p. 96.

External links[edit]