The Fintra Estate was for seven generations the property of the Hamilton family, which came to this area during the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century.
From the references in local history, the family appear to have been God-fearing, practical people, determined to contribute to the betterment of the Killybegs area and the wider County of Donegal. The Hamilton’s were involved in the leasing of houses and property, fixing the roof of the Protestant Church, building roads and bridges. In the mid-18the century, James Hamilton was one of the men entrusted with the building of the arch, which gives Bridge Street in Killybegs its names. The cost of the work was £9 sterling.
In the 1795, the Select Vestry in Killybegs Parish nominated James Hamilton of Fintra to receive £37. 16s. 0d to be assessed and levied off the Parish “for the expense of providing for six Militia Men” to protect local Protestants against the activities of the United Irishmen.
A century later, in 1878, the Hamilton’s of Fintra were involved with a number of other worthies in a scheme which might have seen Killybegs developed as a trans-Atlantic port with the building of a broad-gauge railway connection to the town. Due to the intransigence of one landowner who would not give his co-operation, however, the scheme fell through and only a narrow gauge connection was built to Killybegs, severely restricting its usefulness as a port.
During the Great Famine of the 1840s, the Fintra Hamilton’s were to the fore in donating money and organising practical assistance to the stricken population. With other small landlords in the area, the sacrifices they made were acknowledged by local Catholic Parish Priest, Fr. William Drummond, who said in a letter to the relief commissioners in July 1848: “The greater part of the locality is in the hands of smaller proprietors whose means are entirely inadequate to meeting the extent of the distress, particularly as most of them, Mr. Hamilton of Fintra, Captain Nesbitt, Mr. Montgomery and others not having pressed for nor received their November rents, their income from land must have, therefore, suffered considerable diminution.”
In an 1872 Guide Book of Donegal it was described as:
“…Fintra the residence of Mrs. Hamilton which forms an exceedingly pretty picture in the landscape. Fintra House is well protected from the northern gale by a thick plantation of firs and the dark mountain range of Cronrad which rises up behind it to the height of 1400 feet Whilst in front is the rabbit warren which comes up to the very door and the sandy beach stretching out till it meets the Atlantic which is always breaking ..”