PARISH OF ALLEN
THE Parish, now known as that of Allen, comprises the old parochial divisions of Kilmaoge, Rathernon, Feighcullen, and Pollardstown.
The district of Allen was a place of note in the remote pre-Christian past. Its chief topographical feature is the Hill from which it takes its name, Almhuin, ie., “the great neck.” This Hill, which commands an extensive view of the Mountains of Wicklow, Carlow, and Slewmargy, as also of the plains of Magh-Ailbhe, Magh-Liffei, and Magh-Breagh, is chiefly remarkable as having been the site of the royal residence of the renowned Fionn MacCool. There are now but faint and uncertain traces to indicate the existence of this royal palace; the Hill having been cultivated to its very summit, will account for the disappearance, to a great extent, of its former earth-works. A small mound, called Suidh-Fin, or Fin’s chair, occupies the highest point of the Hill. Fionn was, according to Duald M’Firbis, the great-great-grandson of the Lagenian monarch, Nuada Neacht. His father was Cumhail, and his mother Muirn, of the fair neck, daughter of Teige, otherwise called Siogmond. Finn was married to Ailbhe, daughter of King Cormac-Mac-Airt, who commenced to reign in A.D. 227, and was the commander of the Fenians, or standing army, of his royal father-in-law. He was born in the third year of the reign of Conn of the hundred battles, and was killed in the last month of the reign of Fiacha Sraintine, or as some state, before the death of Cairbre Deffechair, King of Ireland, which took place in the year 284. The Four Masters thus record this event:- “A.D. 283. The sixteenth year of Cairbre, Finn, grandson of Baisgne, fell by Aichleach, son of Duibh-Dreann, etc., at Ath-Brea upon the Boinn (Boyne).” Besides his palace at Allen, Finn had another at Magh-Elle, now Moyally, in the King’s County. The celebrated Finian poems, on which MacPherson founded his forgery, are ascribed to the two sons of Finn, Oisin and Fergus, and his kinsman, Caeilte, as well as to himself. Some of the real poems are still extant in the Book of Leinster.(1)
Almha (Allen) came into the possession of Finn by right of his mother. In an Irish poem called Oisin’s Buile, or Rhapsody, published by Miss Brooke, p.94, Almhuin, or Allen, is described as a splendid palace:-
“I saw in my time
With Fionn, for all sorts of drinking,
Ten hundred goblets and fleasgs
With cneasaib of gold,
There were twelve Breans,
Great was the number in one Dun,
In the possession of the son of Teige’s daughter,
Of Almhuin of noble Fenians.
There were twice six fires
Exactly in each house,
And one man and one hundred
At each of these fires.”
“The life of Colum(cille) c.11, states that the celebrated prophet Finn Mac Cumhaill foretold him, when he let the celebrated hound, Bran, after the wild stag, and he followed him to the river Sen-Ghlean Choluim Cille, but he did not follow him over across the river; it was then Finn foretold the birth of Colum Cille, from whom that valley should be named, and that he would bless many places in Erin and Albhain. And Bealach-damhain (the path of the stag) is the name of that place from that forth.” (Mart. Donegal)
A.D. 526. The Battle of Almhuin was fought by Moreartach Mac-Erc, as were also the battles of Moy-alve and Cinn-Eich (now Kineach, near Castledermot). (Four MM.)
A.D. 718. After Fearghal, son Maelduin, son of Maelfithrigh, had been ten years in sovereignty over Ireland, he was slain in the Battle of Almhuin by Dunchadh, son of Murchadh, and Aedh, son of Colgan, an heir presumptive to the sovereignty. The number which the race of Conn brought to this battle was 21,000, and the number brought by the Leinstermen was 9,000. Of the death of Fearghal was said:- “Dunchadh, son of Murchadh the Noble, Aedh, son of Colgan of the Red Swords, slew Fearghal of valiant fight, in the victorious battle of Almhuin.” (Here follows a long list of the chiefs who fell with Fearghal.) “Seven thousand was the number that fell on both sides.” (Four MM.)
The Annals of Clonmacnoise notice this battle under the year 720-“Before King Fohartagh began his reign, the battle of Allone was fought, wherein King Ferrall was slain be the Lynstermen, on Friday, the 3rd of the Ides of December, in the year of our Lord 720. King Ferrall had in his army 21,000 men well armed, and the Lynstermen, 9.000. These were they that were slain on the king’s side, first, King Ferrall himself with 160 of his guard, etc. There were nine that flyed in the ayre, as if they were winged fowle, and so saved their lives.”
The following details of this battle are given in Fragments of Irish Annals, copied by Duald McFirbis, and translated with notes by Dr. O’Donovan:- “Long indeed was this muster of forces being carried on, for each man of Leth-Chuinn, which means the north half of Ireland, to whom the order came, used to say-‘If Donnbo come on the hosting I will.’ Now Donnbo was a widow’s son of the Fera-Ros (2), and he never went away from his mother’s house for one day or one night, and there was not one in all Ireland of fairer countenance, or of better figure, form, or symmetry than he; there was not in all Ireland one more pleasant or entertaining, or one in the world who could repeat more amusing or royal stories than he; he was the best to harness horses, to set spears, to plait hair, and he was a man of royal intelligence in his countenance, of whom was said:-
‘Fairer than sons was Donnbo,
Sweeter his poems than all that mouths rehearse,
Pleasanter than the youths of Inis-Fail,
The brilliancy of his example took the multitude.’
His mother did not permit Donnbo to go with Ferghal until Mael-mic-Failbhe (3) was pledged for his return alive, and until he pledged Colum-Cille for himself that Donnbo would return safe to his own house from the province of Leinster. King Ferghal proceeded on his way. Guides went before him, but the guidance they afforded him was not good, through the narrowness of each road, and the ruggedness of each pass, until they reached Cluain-Dobhail, at Almhain. And Aedhan the Leper, of Cluain-Dobhail (4), was there before them. The hosts ill-treated him; they killed his only cow, and roasted it on spits before his face; and they unroofed his house and burned it; and the Leper said that the vengeance which God would wreak on the Ui-Neill, on his account, would be an eternal vengeance; and the Leper came forward to the tent of Ferghal, where the Kings of Leth-Chuinn were before him. The Leper complained of the injuries done him in their presence; but the heart of none of them was moved towards him except the heart of Cubretan, son of the King of Fera-Ros; and for this Cubretan had no reason to be sorry, for of all the kings who were in the tent, none escaped from the battle except Cubretan alone. Then Ferghal said to Donnbo, ‘Show amusement for us, O Donnbo, for thou art the best minstrel in Ireland at pipes, and trumpets, and harps, at the poems, and legends, and royal tales of Erin; for on tomorrow morning we shall give battle to the Leinster-men.” “No,” said Donnbo, ‘I am not able to amuse thee to-night, and I am not about to exhibit any one of these feats to-night; but wherever thou shalt be to-morrow, if I be alive, I shall show amusement to thee. But let the royal clown, Ua-Maighleine, amuse thee this night.’
“With respect to the Leinster-men, they repaired to Cruachan Claentha (the round hill of Clane), for the Leinster-men would not be defeated if they should hold their council there, and proceed from thence to battle. They proceeded thence to Din-Canainn (Duncannon, between Clane and the hill of Allen), and thence to the battle.
“On the following morning, the battalions on both sides met. The valorous deeds of the heroes of Leinster and Leth-chuinn are very much spoken of. It is said that Brigid was seen over the Leinster-men; Colum-Cille was seen over the Ui-Neill. The battle was gained by Murchadh, son of the King of Leinster. Fergal himself was killed in it; and it was Aedh Menn and Donnchadh that slew Fergal himself, and Bile, son of Buan of Albain (Scotland), from whom Corrbile at Almhain is named (5). Aedh Menn was also the person who slew Donnbo. 160 soldiers were killed on the occasion. The Leinster-men killed an equal number of Leth-Chuinn in this battle; i.e., 9009 of them ran mad, and 100 kings. The hill of Ferghal is at the place. The clown was taken prisoner, and he was asked to give a clown’s shout, and he did so. Loud and melodious was that shout, so that the shout of Ua-Maighleine has remained with the clowns of Erin from that day forth….The clown’s head was struck off. The reverberation of the clown’s shout remained in the air for three days and three nights, from which comes the saying: ‘The shout of Ua-Maighleine chasing the men in the bog’.
It was at Condail (Old Connell, in County Kildare) of the Kings, the Leinster-men were that night, drinking wine and mead, merrily, and in high spirits after gaining the battle; and each of them was describing his prowess, and they were jolly and right merry. Then Murchadh, son of Bran (the King of Leinster,) said- ‘I would give a chariot of (the value of) four cumhals, and my steed, and battle-dress, to the hero who would go to the field of slaughter, and would bring us a token from it.’ ‘I will go said,’ Baethgalach, a hero of Munster. He put on his dress of battle and combat, and arrived at the spot where the body of King Ferghal was…The young warrior then heard the most delightful and entrancing piping and music in the bunch of rushes next to him. ‘I ask who art thou,’ said the young warrior. ‘I am the head of Donnbo,’ said the head; ‘and I made a compact last night that I would amuse the king to-night, and do not annoy me,’ ‘Which is the body of Ferghal here?’ said the young warrior. ‘Thou mayest observe it yonder,’ said the head. ‘Shall I take thee away,’ said the young warrior, ‘thou art the dearest to me.’ ‘Bring me,’ said the head; ‘but may the grace of God be on thy head if thou bring me to my body again.’ ‘I will, indeed,’ said the young warrior. And the young warrior returned with the head to Condail the same night, and he found the Leinster-men drinking there on his arrival. ‘Hast thou brought a token with thee?’ said Murchadh. ‘I have,’ replied the young warrior, ‘the head of Donnbo.’ ‘Place it on yonder post,’ said Murchadh, and the whole host knew it to be the head of Donnbo, and they all said, ‘Pity that this fate awaited thee, O Donnbo! fair was thy countenance; amuse us to-night as thou didst thy lord last night.’ His face was turned, and he raised a most piteous strain in their presence, so that they were all wailing and lamenting! The same warrior conveyed the head to its body, as he had promised, and he fixed it on the neck (to which it instantly adhered), and Donnbo started into life. In a word, Donnbo reached the house of his mother. The three wonders of this battle were-The coming of Donnbo home to his house alive, in consequence of the pledged word of Colum Cille, and the shout of the clown, which remained reverberating three days and three nights in the air, and nine thousand prevailing over twenty-one thousand.”….One hundred and eighty died of sickness and cold after the Battle of Almhain.
A.D. 727. This Dunchadh was King of Leinster for one year, at the close of which he fell in battle at Allen, by the sword of his brother Faelan, the ancestor of the Ui-Faelan or O’ Byrnes. Cellach, son of Dunchadh, gave Tallaght, County Dublin, to St. Maelruain, to found a monastery “in honour of God and St. Michael,” about the year 769. He died in 771, and was buried at that Church. (Loca, Patr. 258; note 2)
A.D. 942. The Irish totally destroyed the Danish city of Dublin. (Four Masters.) In a poem, commemorating this event, Braen, King of Leinster, is said to have marched his warriors from the Hill of Allen:-
“Braen, of Carman, to the destructive battle,
From the Hill of Almhain passed with his hosts.”
Dr. O’ Donovan, in a letter, dated Kildare, 28 Nov. 1837, (Ord. Survey Papers, R.I.A.), from which some of the facts here introduced have been taken, relates the following anecdote:- “
“About two years ago, an old man of the name of Donnelly dreamed, or pretended to have dreamed, that Fionn MacCool’s treasure was buried in a cave near the south-west extremity of this hill, and communicated his vision to the people in the neighbourhood. He told them that in order to make his way to the treasury, it would be necessary to blast some rocks which stopped the mouth of the cave, for which purpose it was necessary to collect some money. A sum was collected; the landlord, who wanted to have some stones quarried, consented; the work went on, while Donnelly was present with a loaded gun to shoot Finn MacCool’s enchanted dog, Bran, which was watching the treasury, as soon as they should penetrate as far as it. People went out from Naas to see the operation, and lent money to have it carried into execution, but after a long and laborious effort, no cave or treasury could be found. Donnelly, however, declared that the fates might have sported with his imagination on the present occasion, as to the exact spot where the treasure lies, but he expects a second revelation, in which the prognostics will be more distinct and vivid.”
In the townland of Carrick, into which the south-west extremity of this hill extends, there is a holy well called after St. Colman, which was visited by pilgrims on SS. Peter’s and Paul’s day. Over it there grow several old trees and bushes, and near it stands a large rock with a cave, from which the townland received its name. Dr. O’ Donovan thinks that this is the Carric Clumain mentioned in the Dinnseanchus of Tara, where it says that “the Cross of the Holy Pilgrim Fergus who had been in Carric
Clumain, lies near the Sheskin of Tara (6).” He believes that Clumain was the saint who first lived in the rock, and gave it and the well his name, and that the pilgrim Ferugs might have succeeded him. There is little doubt that this rock was anciently called Carric Clumain. The family of O’Clumain in Sligo, now anglicise their name to Coleman. In a field adjoining, there is a second well, accounted Blessed, to which pilgrims resorted for cures, especially of diseases of the eyes, up to a few years ago.
The present Tower on Allen Hill, stands in the centre of an old raised mound. When digging the foundations the workmen came upon a cist-vaen, at the depth of nine feet from the surface, in which was found a human skeleton, which they put back into its place. The summit of the Hill is very level and was formerly surrounded by earth entrenchments, which have been levelled in recent times. According to Kilcolgan, the name of the Dun which crowned the hill was Dun-mor-na-thian. There are two other circular duns, one on each side of the hill; the one in Dunbyrne, which gives its name to the townland, is of extensive dimensions, and the entrenchments noteworthy, even in their present condition; the other dun, which is on the Feighcullen side, is nearly effaced. The Tower, already referred to, was erected in 1859, by Sir Gerald Aylmer of Dunadea, aided by the tenantry; the purpose for which it was erected, does not clearly appear. Numerous trite inscriptions are scattered over its sides as for example:- “Astra Castra; Numen Lumen; Omne Bonum Dei Donum; Quid tibi, id Alteri; Nisi Quia Dominus; Sine Cruce Sine Luce; Lux venit ab alto; Qualis vita finis ita; Si Deus Quis contra?” etc., etc. A brass plate has “G. G. A. 1860. Exegi monumentum oere perennius;” and another records that on “Sept. 16th, 1861, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales ascended this Tower.
The death of King Laeghaire (A.D. 463) is recorded to have taken place between the hills of Eire and Albha; the latter is the Hill of Allen. It had been predicted that he should die between Ireland and Scotland, and, to escape the fulfilment of that prophecy, he never went on foreign hostings; but the prophecy was fulfilled by his dying in the place above-named, the names signifying Ireland and Scotland, respectively.
What makes this locality especially interesting is, that it was, during a lengthened period of the penal times, the place of refuge for the successive prelates who governed the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin. The great J.K.L. touchingly refers to this circumstance in a letter dated Allen, 6th of May, 1823: “I am here placed in the centre of an immense bog, which takes its name from a small hill under whose declivity the chapel and house are built, where I now write. What perhaps interests me most in the wide and vast expanse of the Bog of Allen is, that it afforded, for nearly two centuries, a place of refuge to the apostolic men who have gone before me in preaching the faith, and administering the sacraments to a people in every respect worthy of such pastors. The haunts and retreats frequented by the Bishops of Kildare in the times of persecution are still pointed out by aged inhabitants of these marshes with a sort of pride mingled with piety; and they say-‘There he administered Confirmation; here he held an assembly of the clergy; on that hill he ordained some young priests, whom he sent to France to Spain, to Italy; and we remember, or we heard, how he lived in yonder old walls in common with the young priests whom he prepared for the mission. He sometimes left us with a staff in his hand, and being absent months, we feared he would never return; but he always came back, until he closed his days amongst us. Oh! If you saw him; he was like St. Patrick himself.’ What think you, my dear friend, must be my reflections on hearing of the danger, and labours, and virtues of these good men, and what a reproach to my own sloth, and sensuality, and pride! They of whom the world was not worthy, and who went about in fens and morasses, in nakedness, and thirst, and hunger, and watching, and terror, will be witnesses against me for not using to the best advantage the blessings which their merits have obtained from God for their children. Their spirit, indeed, seems to dwell here, and in those remote and uncultivated districts there are found a purity and simplicity of morals truly surprising. From five to six o’ clock this morning the roads and fields were covered with poor people, young and old, healthy and infirm, hurrying to see the Bishop, and assist at his Mass, and hear his instructions. They thought he should be like those saints whom they had seen or heard of to have gone before him”-(For continuation of this beautiful letter, see Dr. Fitzpatrick’s Life of Dr. Doyle, Vol. 1, p.239, New Edn.) Dr. Doyle, in an unpublished MS., thus refers to Dr. Gallagher; who was Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin from 1737 to 1751. “For some years previous to his death, he resided for part of each year in a small hut of mud walls, thatched with straw or rushes, near the Bog of Allen, to which he might fly when sought after by the myrmidons of the ruling faction. The remains of this cabin still exist on the road from Allen to Robertstown; they form a sort of ill-shaped mound or mounds, on the right hand as you proceed, and are separated by a ditch from the highway, as it passes over a small eminence which looks down on the vast moor or bog expanded just below.”
The place where Dr. Gallagher’s humble residence stood has been ascertained to be in a field immediately outside the village of Killmeoge, to the right of the road to Robertstown. Its mud walls were standing, within the memory of persons still living.
Dr. Mark Forstall, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, writing on the 5th June, 1680, describes a hut which he had erected for himself in terms strikingly similar to those employed by Dr. Doyle, and which would lead to the conclusion that the same locality, if not the very same structure, is referred to by both:- “We are here in a worse plight than before-hardly can we subsist even amongst friends, who are terrified even more than they need by our presence. On this account I have constructed for myself a hut or thatched hovel, in a marshy wood; there I took up my abode, but was attacked by agonizing pains that brought me almost to the point of death. Sick though I was, I have abandoned the place, for I could no longer endure my sufferings there.”
In a Government Return made on the 27th of November, 1731, it is stated that-“In the parish of Kilmaogue there is a Mass-house, built since the first year of King George I., one officiating Popish Priest in the Wood of Allen, in the said parish, and a Friary of three or four Friars.” The so-called Friary was most probably the little community composed of the Bishop and those ecclesiastics whom he was preparing for the future duties of the mission. The Mass-house referred to in this Return stood in the Townland of Grange-higgin; it is found marked on an old map of the County of Kildare, published in 1752. It was a structure of the humblest kind, and was thatched.
The Church which succeeded it was built in 1783, as an inscription on the west gable testifies-“This Chapel was built in the year of our Redeemer, 1783, the Revd. Will. Lawler, Parish Priest. The prayers of this congregation are to be offered for ever for all those who gave their charitable help towards it, the parishioners who honestly paid their contributions, and the Priest who gave fifty pounds of his own.” This Chapel continued in use up to Easter Sunday, 1872, when Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new Church, erected at a cost of about £4,000, and dedicated to the service of God under the title of the Most Holy Trinity.
In the burial-ground attached to the former Chapel are interred the Rev. William Lawler, P.P., the Rev. John Lawler, P.P., the Rev. Denis Dunne, P.P., and the Rev. John Moore, over whose remains are placed the following inscriptions:-
“Reliquiae Revdi. Gulielmi Lawler, Parochi de Allen, Dioecesis Kildarensis Decani, publicis parochiae impensis, hic tumulantur. Obiit die 11 Decembris, anno 1802, aetatis anno, 75.”
“Et etiam reliquiae Revdi. Johannis Lawler, qui vices hujusce parochiae per viginti octo annos gerebat, et qui, scientia et morum simplicitate omnibus charus, e saeculo migravit die 12mo. Julii, A.D. 1830, aetatis suae 75. Req. in Pace.”
“To the memory of the Rev. Denis Dunne, P.P. of Allen and Milltown, who, after a protracted illness which he bore with Christian Resignation, departed this life the 31st August, 1839, in the 47th year of his age, and the 23rd of his missionary labours. Requiescat in Pace.”
Four pewter chalices have been found in this locality, one much more ancient than the rest, and are preserved as memorials of the times of persecution.
Cill Maedhoc, i.e., “the Church of St. Maedhoc,” or Mogue. It has not been ascertained to which saint of that name the old Church of this place was dedicated. The present Protestant Church is built upon the site of the Catholic Church of the olden time. The adjoining burial-ground continued to be used by Catholics until very recently. In building the range of houses opposite the Church, large quantities of human bones were found, proving either that the burial-ground extended formerly in that direction, or that this was the scene of a battle.
A few perches from the village of Kilmeague, to the east, a castle, erected and occupied by the Fitzgeralds of Allone, a branch of the Geraldines, formerly stood; some small portions of it still remain. This was a place of considerable strength and importance; in 1649 it made a stout and, for some time, a successful resistance to the Parliamentary forces. General Hewson, writing to Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons, under date the 3rd of March, 1649 (50), says:-“About the latter end of December I marched with a party of 1,000 men horse and foot, into the Island of Allan, and summoned Killmaog therein, but finding it not feazable to storm without guns, I marched to Rathbride and Ponsers Grange, and took them, and placed two strong garrisons there, which did give me good footing in the County of Kildare….I marched upon Tuesday, the 26th of February, with a party of 2,000 foot and 1,000 Horse towards the County of Kildare, and took with me one culverin, and one semi-culverin, and one mortar piece; the enemy fired their garrisons of Fort Lease, Blackreath, and the forementioned Castle of Killmaog, in the Island of Allan; but I shall easily make it tenable againe, it being very useful for your service”-Contemp. Hist. of Affairs in Ireland-1641-52, Vol.3, p.369.
(Fiodh Chuilinn, i.e., “Cullen’s Wood.”) – This was the site of an ancient Church, the ruins of which existed within the memory of some still living. They were pulled down on the occasion of the erection of the present Protestant Church. In the Martyrology of Tallaght we find one of the early Irish saints identified with this locality:-“Beoain Mac Nessain, i Fidh Cullen.” His feast was celebrated on the 8th of August. The rude Baptismal trough used at this Church in primitive Christian times, is now preserved at Allen. In a field adjoining the Church, the foundation of an extensive building can be traced, regarding which, however, history and tradition are silent. In Patent Roll, 1st August, 5 and 6 Philip and Mary, we find Rodolph Rowley presented to the Vicarage of St. Keny of Feycullen, in the Diocese of Kildare, vacant by the decease of Donald O’Doyn, the last incumbent, and in the presentation of the Crown, in full right.-Morrin. And again, on April 22nd, 5th of Elizabeth, the presentation of Oliver Fitzgerald to the Vicarage of Fecullen, in the Diocese of Kildare, in the donation of the Crown pleno jure.-Idem. In the year A.D. 956, a great battle was fought here, which is thus recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters-“A victory was gained over the Ui-Dunchadha, the Ui-Failghe, and the Clann-Ceallaigh, at Fidh-Chuilinn, namely, over Domhnal, son of Lorchan, and Domhnal, son of Maelmordha, by the Ui-Faelain, namely, by Murchadh, son of Finn,”etc.
This is also the site of a Church, chosen as such probably by St. Patrick himself. The foundation of an old Church may still be traced here. The place is much used as a burial ground. As it is close to Allen it very probably contains the ashes of Dr. Gallagher, and perhaps also is the last resting-place of some of his immediate predecessors in the Episcopate of Kildare. The following inscription appears there on a tombstone:-“I.H.S. There lyeth ye body of Rev. James Reyley, who departed this life ye 9th Jan., 1729. Erected by Maurice Fitzgerald.” Local tradition states that there are four priests buried at Crosspatrick, three of them having been interred in one grave. Four slabs of red granite, each having a Celtic Cross in relievo, have been lately discovered here. It appears probable that they are of ancient date.
Ruin of a Church, 34 feet in length by 26 feet in breadth. The greater portions of the E. and W. gables remain. In the W. Gable is a triple lancet window, 6 feet long by 6 inches wide on outside-splayed within. A similar window appears to have existed in the E. end. There is a recess in the S. wall beside the place where the altar stood. A portion of a stone vessel, probably a Baptismal font, remains; it is 1 ½ feet square, and is pierced in centre. The adjoining ground is used as a place of interment. On a headstone the following curious inscription appears:-“I.H.S. Connell baptized by St. Patrick in ye 5th cent., King Laeogarius of Tara, Conall of Domnach Patrick Cairbre, the three sons of King Niall of the fourth century. Here lies the body of Patrick Conall, of Airther North, who departed this life 1710, aged 50 years, and his wife also, Margaret Geoghegan, of Ballinagore, Westmeath, departed this life in the 78th year of her age, she being of the family of Jamestown. Wm. Conall Maguire, aged 73, and his wife, Bridget Terens. May Patrick, Bridget, Collumkill, pray for the souls of these families. This erected by Patrick Conally, of Old Connal.” At top, the name Gobaun O’ Neill is inscribed.
The only indications of the Church which formerly stood here, are detached portions of masonry lying about. But few interments now take place here. The dates range from 1758 downwards. At Rathbride is a well, esteemed holy. It was formerly named from St. Brigid, but is now generally known as Father Moore’s well. Father Moore was a curate of this parish, and resided at Rathbride; he died on the 12th March, 1826, aged 47 years, as the inscription over his grave at Allen testifies. There is a stone crucifix, three feet high, placed beside the well under a bush; four wooden crosses stand at some distance from each other around the well-and a number of ex voto crutches, etc., have been left by pilgrims, as memorials of favours supposed to have been obtained. This place is still much resorted to. A paragraph appeared in a popular series some years ago relating to this locality; the writer states amongst other things, that the former name of the well was the Black Well-“It is traditionally stated,” he continues, “that Mass used to be celebrated in the Dark Grove in this townland, between the years 1580 and 1598. The place now known as the Cemetery of Rathbride, was first used as a place of interment for Catholics at the period alluded to. Upon the accession of James I., the Catholics built a small Chapel in the cemetery, but, in 1605, it was razed to the ground by an armed force, at the instigation of Bishop Pillsworth, who, however, on his death-bed, gave expression to feelings of sincere regret for the part he took in that proceeding.”
About a mile from Crosspatrick, in the direction of Carbury, on the left, is Grangeclare. This name is included in a list of church sites drawn up in 1640 by Dr. Ross MacGeoghegan, then Bishop of Kildare. The foundations of an extensive building are still traceable, but whether the building was of a sacred or secular character does not appear. A curiously-wrought oak door, was found here some thirty years since; it was purchased and sent to England for exhibition. Three hand-bells of a peculiar shape, and apparently of ancient date, judging from the description given of them, were also found at this place.
A modern chapel of ease was erected here in “1817, by the Rev. John Lawler, P.P., and the subscriptions of the faithful,” as an inserted tablet testifies. Two priests lie here interred-the Rev. Patrick Kelly, who died on the 22nd June, 1837, aged 26; and the Rev. Joseph Fitzgerald, deceased the 22nd February, 1853, aged 29. A portion of the east gable of an old Chapel of the penal times still stands near to the modern Chapel. At a short distance, the foundations are clearly traceable of the old Church of Milltown, the Ballymuillen mentioned in Dr. MacGeoghegan’s list of Churches.
A small portion of the west gable of the old Church is still standing, showing a window and a bell-ope. It is stated that the walls of this Church, as also that which stood at Crosspatrick, were deliberately pulled down to supply building materials for the village of Kilmeague. Few interments now take place here.
The site of a disused burial-ground is here pointed out. This is in the neighbourhood of Derrymullen, and most probably is the church-site indicated by Dr. MacGeoghegan as “Insula S. Baruchani juxta Dyre-an-mullyn.” A holy well, which was here in former times, has become dried up, or, as some say, has moved away half-a-mile further, in consequence of some act of desecration.
In the townland of Ballytigue North, in the centre of the bog, a spot is pointed out, called “the priest’s corner,” where Mass used to be celebrated in penal times.
The following return of the state of Popery in this district was made in April, 1766-In Pollardstown, 1 Protestant family, 13 Popish, do. In Kilmaoge and Rathernon, 45 Protestant individuals, 1,159 Popish. Signed, Jn. Jackson, minister of said parishes.
SUCCESSION OF PASTORS.
The P.P. of this place, registered in 1704, was NICHOLAS EUSTACE, residing at Raharaine (Rathernon), aged 52, P.P. of Raharaine, Killmage, Facullen, and part of Tully, and part of Morristown, ordained in 1677, at Abula, in Spain, by the Bishop of Abula; and his two sureties were Captain Cornelius Coonan, of Kilcock, and Maurice Eustace, of Lipstown, Gent. There does not appear to be any evidence to show when Father Eustace died. It is very probable that the Rev. James Reyley, interred at Crosspatrick, who died on the 9th of January, 1729, was the succeeding P.P. The succession after his death is also uncertain. Local tradition preserves the names of two Priests who officiated in the parish about this period, and who are said to be interred at Crosspatrick, viz., Father Vicars and Father Netterville. Most likely these discharged the duties of pastors until the appointment of FATHER WILLIAM LALOR. The inscription on his tomb at Allen omits to mention the time of his appointment, but it was antecedent to April 21, 1766, as we find him mentioned in an official return of that date as P.P. of this parish. He was Dean of Kildare; he died on the 11th of December, 1802, aged 75.
THE REV. JOHN LAWLOR SUCCEEDED. He continued in the government of the parish up to the period of his death, which took place on the 12th of July, 1830, being then 75 years of age. Dr. Doyle, in his letter from Allen, already quoted, makes the following reference to this simple and holy priest-“This Superior of mine is quite an antique character; he is past 70 years, of a robust, active, and athletic frame, and rude and simple in his manners, like those we read of in olden times. He has spent nearly 40 years in the ministry in this neighbourhood, and has retained his first fervour and piety unimpaired.
His books of piety are literally worn out with use, while the rest of his library is eaten with the moths, or has been removed by some of his literary friends, who supposed they did him no injury by depriving him of what he seldom used. He counts himself the last of his brethren, and discovers merit in everyone except himself. He sometimes rails at his people, who return him the compliment; but he never inflicts a wound which he does not run to bind up and heal. I saw him to-day at Mass, the most humble and devout of all who surrounded him, kneeling amongst the children upon the ground. How cheerfully could I obey such a man till death should separate us.” Father Lawler sometimes even attempted versification. There is at Harristown graveyard, in the Parish of Monasterevan, of which district he was a native, a head-stone erected by him in 1786, bearing a rhyming inscription, to the memory of his parents and other relatives there interred.
THE REV. DENIS DUNNE was the next P.P. He died on the 31st August, 1839, in the 47th year of his age, and the 23rd of his missionary labours, and was succeeded by the REV. EUGENE O’ REILLY, translated from the Parish of Myshall. Father O’ Reilly died, June 21st, 1871, and was buried in the new Church, at the Gospel side of the High Altar. To Father O’ Reilly succeeded the present estimable pastor, REV. JOHN FARRELL.
(1) On Ben-Edar, the ancient name of the Hill of Howth, Criffan, Monarch of Ireland, had his residence in the first century; the level plateau on the top of the Hill is called “Old Bailey (Baile, i.e., fortress) Green.” It was the Faitche or Campus Martius of the ancient fortress; on it was marshalled the Fenian Militia, who here under their Chief, Fin-MacComhal, kept watch and ward, to repel the Roman invaders, then expected to our shores. For a century before this period, there was a “Mac-Murrogh” lurking in the Roman camp in Britain, and telling the masters of the world that with one legion they could enslave his own countrymen, an advice which they seem to have kept in mind, awaiting only a more favourable time to act upon it: “Ex-pulsum seditione domestica, unum ex regulis gentis exceperar, ac, specie amicitiae in occationem retinebat-Saepe ex eo audivi, legione una ex modicis auxiliis debellari obtinerique Hiberniam poss.”-Tacit, Vita Agric. C. 24.; I.E.R., Jan., 1870, p.163; Moore’s Hist. Ireland, Vol. I.,P.118.
(2) A tribe inhabiting the district round the present town of Carrickmacross
(3) Tenth Abbot of Hy, in succession to St. Columbkill.
(4) 2 June. Aedhan of Cluain Domhail, at Almain, (vivens A.D. 718). He is of the race of Corbmac Cas, son of Oilioll Oluim. (Martyrology of Donegal).
(5) Corbille, i.e., “Bile’s Pit.” This would now be anglicised Corbilly. There is a place of this name in the neighbouring parish of Newbridge.
(6) The Fergus referred to in the Dinnseanchus was the poet of that name, who was one of St. Patrick’s first converts, and who, together with Dubhtach, assisted the Saint in the revision and reformation of the Seanchus Mor.
A transcript of Rev. M. Comerford's 1883 History of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, relating to the R.C. Parish of Allen.
[Compiled by Mario Corrigan; typed by Breid Kelly and Maria O'Reilly; edited by Niamh Mc Cabe]