According to archaeological evidence there have been settlements in the Ramelton area since the early Stone Age and there is evidence of a Viking settlement from the 10th century.
With its location at the mouth of the river Lennon and the surrounding fertile land Ramelton enjoyed a strategic importance in Donegal in the mid 18th century. This resulted in a prosperous time for local leading families such as the Watts and the Stewarts – Sir William Stewart had been granted 1000 acres following the Flight of the Earls in 1607. The 18th century saw the town prospering and growing with the quays being used for the busy linen industry that was flourishing in Ulster at that time
In the 19th century the linen industry gradually fell into decline. Nevertheless it left a rich legacy in the fine Georgian houses which stretch along the Mall facing onto the River Lennon. The Grand Jury, (forerunner to the County Council), had its sitting in Ramelton during that period – effectively making Ramelton the capital of Donegal. At the start of the 20th century Ramelton had seven churches and was known as the ‘Holy City’ in recognition of its religious diversity.
Ramelton lays claim to many notable figures of historical importance –
- Francis Makemie (1657-1708), the founder of American Presbyterianism;
- Dave Gallaher (1873-1917), Captain of the first New Zealand All-Blacks
- James Buchanan (1791-1869), the 15th President of the United State of America.
- Nurse Catherine Black (Blackie) was the private nurse of King George V of England.
- Patsy Gallagher (1891 – 1953) footballer, played for Celtic and Ireland in the 1940s and 50s
A great way to discover the history of Ramelton is to do the Walking Tour of the town conducted by Donegal Heritages Trails during the summer months