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The very rugged north coast of the island
The very rugged north coast of the island
Waters Atlantic Ocean
Archipelago British Islands
Geographical location 55 ° 16 ′  N , 8 ° 13 ′  W Coordinates: 55 ° 16 ′  N , 8 ° 13 ′  W
Toraigh (Ireland)
length 4.3 kmdep1
width 1.5 kmdep1
surface 3.18 km²dep1
Highest elevation Dún Bhaloir
83  m
Residents 142 (2006)
main place To Baile Thiar
Official map of the island from 1835
Official map of the island from 1835

Toraigh ( Irish also Oileán Thoraí , English Tory Island ) is an island with 144 inhabitants located 10.5 km off the coast of Donegal in northwest Ireland (as of 2011). It is connected to the main Irish island by ferry services from Magheroarty and Bunbeg . Patsy Dan Rodgers was King of Toraigh until his death in 2018 .


There are divided views on the meaning of the name. On the one hand, it is obvious to infer the Irish word túr from Toraigh , which means tower. Deidre Flanagan and Laurence Flanagan, the authors of a standard work on the meaning of Irish place names, therefore translate the name as Island of Towers . The towers could refer to the tower-like cliffs in the northeast of the island. Cóilin MacLochlainn has another hypothesis in his work on Toraigh, which assumes that the name is derived from either túr rí ("tower of the king") or tor rí ("rock of the king"), which terms could refer to Kings from Celtic mythology such as Conan or Balor .


The island is 6.5 miles from the Dooey Peninsula of Ireland's main island and is separated from it by the Tory Sound. The closest island is the small island of Inishbeg , just 5.8 km away . Other islands near the coast between Toraigh and the main Irish island are Inishdooey and Inishbofin . Toraigh is about four kilometers long in an east-west direction and about one kilometer wide. In the northeast, the island is very rugged with many deep bays around the highest point on the island, the Dún Bhaloir with a height of 83 meters. According to the distribution of the usable agricultural land, there are two settlements on the island: Baile Thiar (English: West Town) is located on the southern harbor bay, roughly in the middle of the island. At the eastern end of the island is Baile Thoir (East Town) . On the western tip of the island is a lighthouse. There are several smaller freshwater lakes on the island. Two of the lakes, Loch Ó Thuaidh, which is close to the lighthouse, and Loch Ó Thoir, which is south of Baile Thoir, serve as drinking water reservoirs. In the south of the western part of the island which lies lagoon hole Ó DHEAS, which has no connection to the sea even at high tide.

Traditionally, the island forms one of 88 townlands of the Civil Parish Tullaghobegly ( Tulacha Beigile ) of the Barony Kilmacrenan ( Cill Mhic Réanáin ).


It remains unknown exactly when Toraigh was first settled. Due to a megalithic complex a little east of Baile Thiar, it can be assumed that the island has been inhabited for 5,500 years, although longer interruptions cannot be ruled out. Unfortunately, the grave is no longer preserved because it was demolished at the end of the 19th century and the stones were used to build the lighthouse. Only a description of Edmund Getty (1799-1857), a Belfast antiquarian who visited Toraigh in the 1840s, survived.

In the Iron Age , especially in the third and second centuries BC In Ireland many fortifications were built on promontories that could only be reached via a narrow headland or steep cliffs. On Toraigh, Dún Bhaloir, which is surrounded on three sides by a good 80 meter high cliffs, was ideal for this. Tradition has it that this is associated with the legendary King Balor, who, according to legend, raided the coast of Ireland from Toraigh until he was defeated by the Túatha Dé Danann .

According to the tradition from the manuscript Leabhar Breac , Columban traveled from Iona starting from Assaroe (Irish: Ess Rúaid) to Donegal and founded numerous churches. Towards the end of his journey, Columban came to Toraigh to establish a monastery there, which he placed under the supervision of Ernaine, one of his older students. The exact year of foundation is not known, but the information from Leabhar Breac suggests that the foundation took place before Columban's crossing to Iona in 562.

In 615 the monastery was attacked by a Viking fleet, which killed many people and destroyed the entire monastery complex; it was not rebuilt until six years later. The community suffered another desecration of the church in 734 when Dungal , king of Dalriada , attacked Toraigh.

Like many other early Christian monasteries in Ireland, Toraigh also served as a school. The annals of the four masters record Soerghus' death as the teacher and administrator of Toraigh in 1041. Another traditional administrator is Maelcolum O'Bronan, who died in 1202.

Houses in Baile Thoir overlooking the islands of Inishbeg, Inishdooey, Inishbofin and the north Donegal coast

After the Reformation and the bloody enforcement of English law in Ireland, the remote Toraigh became an important refuge. The islanders took in some survivors of the Spanish Armada and granted refugees from the bloody war in County Tyrone 1593-1603 asylum. That was probably the motivation for George Oge Bingham, son of the Governor of Connacht in Sligo , to raid, loot and devastate Toraigh in 1595. Notwithstanding this, the survivors of the Battle of Kilmacrennan who had lost their resistance against the Plantation were accepted as refugees. The refuge was betrayed, however, and in 1608, halfway between Baile Thoir and Baile Thiar, there was a massacre of the 60 survivors on Toraigh by English troops led by Sir Henry Foillot, Sir Ralph Bingley and Captain Gore.

As a result, the island was annexed by the English king in 1609. In 1653 a garrison was built on Toraigh by order of Oliver Cromwell and one of the officers, Captain John Stafford, received the island as possession. Although tradition says that the monastery was finally destroyed, it can be assumed that not much was left after the previous raids. An inspection in the years 1654–56 reported that five churches had largely become ruins, only one was still usable.

Toraigh became an agricultural settlement that was able to feed a much larger population, especially through the cultivation of potatoes beginning in the early 18th century. According to a census from 1841, 399 residents lived on Toraigh at that time.

The sustainable supply of many people in a confined space with limited resources was only possible with a sophisticated system from Scotland ( rundale and clachan ) for shared use. With this system, small collections of houses ( clachan ) were created with intensively cultivated small, walled gardens, which were surrounded by long, narrow open fields that extended from the center to the edge of the area. While each family had their own garden protected by a wall, the strip-shaped fields were regularly re-assigned to the families so that a fair distribution of these resources was possible. For the fertilization of the gardens and on the beach Dung was won seaweed used. This settlement and field structure, which emerged in the 19th century, has been preserved on Toraigh to this day. Baile Thiar and Baile Thoir are examples of collections of houses that form a village with a school and a church.

Toraigh was not directly affected by the great famine in Ireland as the spores of the Phytophthora infestans did not penetrate the island. Nevertheless, the Rundale system reached its limits, as the individual proportions became smaller with the increasing population. The amendment of inheritance law, which provided for the loss of inheritance in the event of emigration or a reduction in the inheritance share in the case of marriages, brought some relief. In line with the policy of the time to replace the old public service systems with land division, land owner John Oban Woodhouse attempted to divide the land into 34 shares in the 1840s and forced the relocation of over 100 residents to the main Irish island. The new division was ignored by the residents and the proven Rundale system was continued.

In 1861 Benjamin Joule, a Manchester businessman , bought the island. However, the receipts remained far below his expectations and from 1872 onwards all payments were made. In order to collect the payments or to drive the unwilling to pay from the island, the British gunboat HMS Wasp was sent from Westport to Toraigh in 1884 , but it ran aground on the cliffs of the western tip of the island, so that 52 sailors lost their lives and only six survived. Thereafter, there were no further attempts to collect taxes from the islanders.

In the course of the 20th century, the population declined continuously due to emigration and became more and more dependent on the main island. This prompted County Donegal to seek relocation of all Toraigh residents in the 1970s. This was done by offering houses on the main island to those willing to move and by reducing public funds for the island. However, the residents organized themselves in a cooperative , the Comharchumann Thoraí, and took care of the road construction, water and electricity supply themselves, and withstood the pressure. In addition, there was a promotion of one's own identity through the establishment of a school for local artists by Patsaí Dan Mac Ruaidhrí (Patsy Dan Rodgers), who was elected king on the island based on old traditions. The main economic focus was tourism, made possible by a hotel opened in 1994, a number of guest rooms and a ferry line that has been running regularly since 1995.

King of Toraigh

The position has been vacant since the death of the last King of Toraigh , Patsy Dan Rodgers, in 2018. As a king, Radgers had a representative function and welcomed tourists arriving regularly.


Tau cross

Visitors coming from the sea can expect a T-shaped high cross (so-called tau cross) that is around 1.9 m high, 0.4 m wide and around 15 cm thick. To the southwest of the Tau Cross (An Chros Tau), in a walled cemetery, there is an altar dedicated to St. John, which contains, among other things, two fragments of a cross stele from the 12th century. Further in a south-westerly direction is the 12.8 m high round tower with a circumference of 15.7 m, which was previously used as a bell tower. At the west end of Baile Thoir are the remains of one of the medieval churches of Toraigh, right on the road.


  • Betha Choluim Chille from the manuscript Leabhar Breac , translated into English by Whitley Stokes, entitled On the Life of St. Columba . The text itself was probably written in the 11th century and is probably based on more detailed versions of Columban's biography from the 9th or 10th century. The text explicitly names Columban as the founder of the Toraigh monastery.
  • Annals of the four masters with the entries M612.4, M616.3, M1041.3, M1130.8, M1202.2, M1517.2, M1551.3 and M1595.10.
  • Annals of Ulster with entries U617.1, U733.1 and U1203.1.
  • Annals of Tigernach with the entries T616.1, T621.5, T733.1 and T1130.1.

Secondary literature

Web links

Commons : Toraigh  - collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. THE IreAtlas Townland Data Base Townland: Tory Island (area information 785 acres )
  2. ^ A b Ordnance Survey of Ireland (Ed.): Discovery Series 1 . Dublin 1993, ISBN 0-904996-45-X .
  3. Page no longer available , search in web archives: Central Statistics Office Ireland, Census 2006@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  4. a b 'King of Tory Island' Patsy Dan Rodgers dies aged 74 . The Irish Times . October 20, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  5. THE IreAtlas Town Country Data Base Town Country: Tory Iceland
  6. [1]