Saturday, 14 April 2018

The Mystery of the Tunnels in Munday's G.A.A. Field in Ballyshannon

Munday's field on left of Famine Orphan Girls' Memoriala nd the workhouse.
Fr. Tierney Park and Brothers' field on right

Over thirty years ago the Aodh Ruadh club in Ballyshannon purchased Munday’s field in 1987 from a local shop- keeper and farmer, John Munday of West Rock. The field has been transformed into a centre of excellence for Gaelic games. When the local G.A.A club was founded in 1909 their teams played their first hurling and football matches in what was known as the Workhouse Meadow and is today known as Munday's field. The presence of a series of tunnels in the field has given rise to much speculation as to their use. The former owner John Munday, operated market gardening from the field and on occasions part of the tunnels collapsed. His opinion was that the tunnels of brick may have been sewers of some type which probably originated in the nearby workhouse. Some speculation that the tunnels travelled to the Erne at Portnason and were used to bring bodies from the workhouse can be discounted. Records indicate that the remains of Famine victims were brought through the centre of the town, on handcarts, to the Pauper’s grave, for burial in the field next to St. Anne’s Church on Mullaghnashee which has been recently opened to the public.  In later years the coffins were brought by horse and cart. It is possible that the suggestion of tunnels leading from Munday’s field to the Erne is linked in some peoples mind with Portnamara. Portnamara dates to a much earlier period than the Famine and was used to carry remains to the Abbey cemetery in the days before bridges were built. John Munday, at one time, was ploughing and uncovered the outline of tennis courts, near the West Rock gate, which indicated the field being used as a recreation park.
The Tunnels in Munday's field.
An interesting speculation as to the purpose of the tunnels was raised in a survey in 1942. The survey refers to a souterrain in a field at the rear of Dr. Gordon’s house (now Conor Carneys) on West Rock in what is now Munday’s field: Remarkable series of underground passages running in various directions thro’ field covering a couple of acres. Entrance now closed up, but many evidences of subsidence. Dr. Gordon has had several caved-in parts filled up, owing to grazing cattle. We raised sod and stones at one of these holes and saw part of passage, about 6 foot deep and 6 foot wide, roofed by large flat hewn stones. Roof few inches below the sod. Dr. Gordon says passages are built of these stones and also partly with bricks,with timber baulks. No account of origin available. Possibly used by smugglers.Two high mounds, built, one at each end of field, may have been look-outs. (In 1662 Ballyshannon was made landing port for customed goods.) 
The mention of two high mounds recalls that these mounds were visible in the field up to about twenty five years ago when they were levelled. In former times Munday’s field was formerly known as Mc Clelland’s field, as the Mc Clelland family lived in the residence at the entrance to the field, from West Rock.   There is a ghost story connected with a tree in Mc Clelland’s field: It is said that a soldier hung himself on this tree. Every night at 12 o’ clock he rides around the field on a white horse. He stands on the horses back, takes the reins and ties on to a branch. Then he puts the rope around his neck and then he hits the horse a kick. The horse goes to the gate and onto the road. Then the horse goes out the Finner road. Mc Clelland’s Field was also known as the Rock Enclosure and a folklore story of about a hundred years ago tells of a discovery in the field. This story told by Mickie Rooney Bundoran whose family came from the Rock.
"In Mc Clelland’s field, now known as the Rock Enclosure, my father tells me a story when he was a boy thirty years ago. He and some other boys from the West Rock where he was born used to go up to the field to play and they found this cave. They got some candles, lit them and went into the cave and found some old English swords and brought them to their homes. They were told by the aged people who lived on the Rock who owned the swords and that the caves were a place of hiding for our priests and people of long ago from the English soldiers."
1909 Notice of Aodh Ruadh A.G. M. 

Munday’s field will witness generations of football, hurling and camogie players carrying on a proud sporting tradition as they train and play on the ground where Aodh Ruadh played their first match in 1909. Munday's field was officially opened on 29th May 2009 and provides new state of the art  flood lit playing fields. So this field was known in the past  as the Workhouse Meadow, The Rock Enclosure, McClelland's field and for well into the future will be known as Munday's Field.

500 pages of local history for Ballyshannon and surrounding areas plus lots of  photos available in Novel Idea, Ballyshannon Museum, Local Hands and Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town. For postal queries contact

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