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Some years after the Plantation of Ulster, in
the aftermath of Cromwell, possession of the rich land of
the Finn Valley was the top priority for Scots and English
settlers in Donegal. Their first task was to build their castle-type
houses, provide manor houses and build stone bridges across
the River Finn, where only crude wooden structures had previously
existed (and they but few).
Before touching on the bridges of the Finn however,
let's take a brief look back in history, to some of the events
which have shaped our modern-day towns.
Being on the fringe of the rich valley of the
Finn, it was inevitable that Stranorlar would be chosen as
a frontier post in the Plantation. On the division of O'Donnell
lands, the Manor of Stranorlar consisted of the northern portion
of the present parish together with a large chunk of Sessiaghoneill.
It also included Teevickmoy, Dunmoyle, Tirecallen, Garvine,
parts of Newna, Teadenmore and Knockgarron (locals will easily
identify these place names, despite their spellings).
In 1610, this princely concession of stolen
territory was bestowed upon a particular favourite of James
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Henry Clare of Norfolk, who was further granted a knighthood
the following year, something to which he no doubt had as
just a claim as he had to Irish ownership. Having gained this
exalted title, he had no intention of ever leaving Court and
cashed in on his share of O'Donnell's lands by selling them
in 1616 to an ex London builder named Peter Benson.Benson
had already made a fortune in Ireland out of contracts such
as building the Walls of Derry. By 1618, he had become an
estated gentleman and Pynnar describes his circumstances like
so: Stranorlar was the seat of a Yeomanry corps in the 18th
and early19th centuries. The Band Field where their musicians
played to entertain the residents still exists to this day.
The town was also an administration centre, having the military,
the revenue police, the courthouse/gaol, the schools and the
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