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CARBURY, PARISH OF - Comerford's "Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin"

           THE present parochial district of this name comprises the ancient parishes of Carbury, Dunfierth, Arkill, and the Fews. Carbury parish has obtained its name from the circumstance of the old parochial Church having its situation in the country called in Irish, Cairbre, which might be supposed to have been co-extensive with the present Barony of Carbury. At a short distance to the north of Carbury village is an old graveyard, with the ruins of a Church, and close to it, to the N.E., stand the extensive ruins of the castle of Carbury, nearly on the extremity of a hill, skirted by Carbury bog. In the north part of Clonkeen townland, in this parish, there is pointed out the site of an old castle. There is an old graveyard in the S.W. part of the townland, called Templedooath. If this Church could be proved to have retained this denomination in a corrupted form, from St. Muadhnat (Virgin), it would establish that the place in which it lies is that called Caille, according to Colgan. Marian adds, that “St Muadhnat was venerated in a place called Caille, in the country of Cairbre.” O’Donovan then proceeds to show the stages through which Temple Muahadnat would become Temple Mhudhat-sounded, “Templewooath,”- which, in the Anglicised form, might easily be written, Templedooth. Sir W. Wilde has no hesitation in fixing this as the true derivation of the name; vide infra.
“We know of no locality so celebrated as the barony and hill of Carbery or Carbury” writes Sir W. Wilde in The Boyne and Blackwater, “ about which there has been so much discussion, and concerning which there is much discrepancy among Irish writers. There are, at least, four districts of the name in Ireland. The investigation carried on by Mr. O’Donovan and his assistants, in connection with the Ordnance Survey, has thrown new light upon the subject, and settled the question of the topography of that Carbury most celebrated in Irish writings, and decided that this barony in Kildare was the Cairbre-na-Ciardha of our most trustworthy historians, and that particularly alluded to by the Irish poets O’Dugan and O’Herrin;- of whom, the former flourished in the latter part of the 14th, and the latter in the beginning of the 15th century;-and gave topographical and historical descriptions of some of our most memorable localities. O’Dugan says that O’Kiery was lord of this territory, and the only chief of the descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages,-King of Ireland in the 5th century,-located in Leinster. The translation of the passage referred to runs thus:-
“O’Kiery, o’er Carbury of the Clergy,
Of the tribes of Niall of the Nine Hostages;-
                         There are but themselves ( i.e., O’Kierys) there to the east,
Of the descendants of Niall in Leinster.”
This locality has many historical recollections connected with it. O’Heerin, the topographical historian and poet, thus alludes to it:-
“Over Carbury, of Leinster, of the plains,
 Rules O’Keary, -of the red-handed swords,-
          The scion of Almhain, without scarcity in the east,
      By whom battles were kindled round Croghan.”
Carbury was named from Cairbre, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, whose descendants, called the Cinel Cairbre, or race of Cairbre, settled here. Carbury hill was previously called Sidh Nechtain, i.e., the Fairy-hill of Nechtain.(1)
Regarding this personage, the Annals of Ireland record that in the year of the age of the world, 5090, Nuadha Neacht, son of Sedna Sithbhaic, after having spent a year in the sovereignty of Ireland, fell in the battle of Cliach, in Ui Drona (Barony of Idrone, Co. Carlow), by Conaire Mor. Trinity Well is at the foot of the hill of Carbury, in which the River Boyne has its source; and relating to which the following legend is told in the Book of Ballymote. We give the graceful parapharase of Sir W. Wilde:-
“There was a celebrated poet and king of Leinster, called Nechtain. Or Nuadha-Neacht, in the first century, who had a secret well in his garden, one of the miraculous virtues of which was, that anyone who approached it, except the monarch and his three cup-bearers, Flesg, Lesg, and Luan, was instantly deprived of sight,- their eyes bursting, as the MSS. describe it. Female curiosity, however, was not to be disappointed, and Boan, the queen, was determined to test the mystical powers of its waters; she, therefore, arrogantly, not only approached the well and defied its terrors to mar her beauty, but passed three times round it to the left, as was customary in several of the ancient incantations. Upon the completion of the third round, the charm was broken, the spring rose, and three enormous waves burst over the helpless lady, mutilating her sadly, and, says the original, breaking one of her eyes. She then fled towards the sea to hide her deformity, but the waters, now loosened from their source, still followed till she reached the Inbher, or present mouth of the river, and was swept on the rushing waters of the Boyne into the sea. Such is the death assigned to queen Boan by Kenneth O’Hartigan, in the Book of Ballymote; and the name of the river is thus derived from hers”- Boyne and Blackwater.
The following are some of the entries in the Annals of Ireland which refer to this locality:-
A.D.458.  “After Laeghaire, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, had been 30 years in the sovereignty of Ireland, he died by the side of Caissi, between Eire and Alba, i.e., two hills which are in Ui-Faelain; and (it was) the sun and the wind that killed him, because he had violated them”- Four Masters. In the Borumha Leagan it is stated that Leaghaire, in two years and a half after swearing by the elements that he would never again demand the Borumha, made an excursion into Leinster and seized a prey of cows at Sidh-Niachtain, where the Boyne has its source; but as he advanced to the side of Caissi, the elements wreaked their vengeance upon him; that is, the air forsook him, the sun burned him, and the earth swallowed him.
The Annals of Tighernach and Ulster state that he met his death at Greallach Gaiffil (or Daphill), in Campo-Life, between the hills of Ere and Alba.
A.D.952. A great slaughter was made of the people of Cairbre and Teathbha, by Ua Ruairc, on which occasion Ua Cairdha, lord of Cairbre, was slain.
A.D.992. Maelruanaidh Ua Ciardha, lord of Cairbre, was slain by the men of Teathbha.
A.D.1012. A great depredation was committed by Ualgharg Ua Ciardha, lord of Cairbre, and the son of Niall O’Ruairc, and the men of Teathbha in Gaileanga (in Meath); but a few good men of the household of Maelseachlainn overtook them, and being at the time intoxicated after drinking, they (imprudently) gave the battle through pride. There were slain in it Donnchadh, son of Maelseachlainn; Dubhtaichligh Ua Maelchallann (Mulholland), lord of Dealbhna Beag; Donnchadh, son of Donnchadh Finn, royal heir of Teamhair (Tara); Cearnachan, son of Flann, lord of Luighne; Seanan Ua Leochain, lord of Gaileanga, and many others along with them. Maelseachlainn afterwards overtook them (with his forces), and the spoils were left behind to him; and Ualharg Ua Ciardha, lord Cairbre, and many others beside him, were slain.
A.D. 1162. A predatory irruption was made by Tighearnan Ua-Ruairc, upon the Carbri-Ua-Ciardha, on which occasion the grandson of Finn- bharr Ua-Gearadhan was slain by the Cairbri……A predatory incursion was made by Maelseachlainn Ua-Ruairc into Cairbre-Ua-Ciardha; but the men of Cairbre defeated him, and he left behind a slaughter of his people.
A.D. 1165. Sitric O’Ruairc, Tanist of Breifne, was killed by O’Keary and the people of Carbury… A great depredation was committed by Rory O’Conor and the people of all the province of Connaught, upon the people of Carbury, in revenge of Sitric
“The Hill of Carbury,” writes Sir W. Wilde, “ which rises to a considerable height above the surrounding plains, forms a conspicuous object from all sides; and the ruins of the ancient castle, which still rest on its north-eastern shoulder, are some of the finest of their kind in Ireland. The elevation, the total want of surrounding wood, and the tall, graceful chimneys and gables of the modern or Elizabethan portion of this edifice, give to it an air at once tasteful and commanding. It is now a complete ruin; the length of the line of the southern wall is, alone, 100 feet; and the general view of the castle, with its chimneys, narrow-pointed gables, and large stone-sashed windows, is that of one of the best specimens of the castellated mansions, of about the time of James I., which we know of in this country, combining lightness, taste, and comfort, with strength and durability. The eastern front, which measures 60 feet, still remains, with several of its mullioned windows, even yet perfect; and upon a gentle slope leading down from its walls, on this side, may still be traced the vestiges of a garden, with a few of its flowers, now wild and neglected, mingling with the rank fiorin-grass with which it is surrounded. In fact, everything about this ruin bears evidence of ladies fair as well as valiant knights having inhabited it. Upon a clearer inspection, and an internal examination, we perceive from the character of the masonry, the massive walls, the deep, stone-roofed donjons, the principal of which runs 85 feet underneath the great keep, from south to north, the manifest antiquity of the entire of the western end, and the general arrangement of the whole, that the present ruin consists of the remains of structures very much older than the early part or middle of the 16th century; indeed some of them would appear to be as old as the 12th century; and there are remains of walls of great thickness, built with rubble masonry, and grouted, extending even beyond the confines of the present ruin to the north-west. The modern additions all exists on the opposite side, and their later date is at once manifest. Four of the chimneys, three of which are in the east front, have sixteen sides, and are like some of the chimneys of English castles built about the year 1530, being beautifully wrought and moulded at top. Owing to the various additions at different ages, the plan of Carbury Castle is very irregular, and its history will, in some measure, account for the various erections manifested in the ruins. This castle was originally built by the family of Bermingham, the descendants of Pierce De Bermingham, one of the early English settlers in Ireland. It suffered greatly at the time of the civil wars in Ireland, particularly during the 15th century, and was constantly the scene of strife in those forays which took place between the English barons within the pale, and the western Irish chieftains. In 1447 “Castle Carbury was re-edified by the lord ffurnival.” In 1466 Meath was the seat of war; and in one of the skirmishes between Teige O’Conor and the Earl of Desmond, the latter was taken prisoner and conveyed by that chieftain, his captor and kinsman, to Castle Carbury, together with several of the English nobles and ecclesiastics. The celebrated Red Hugh O’Donnell, when laying waste Meath and Leinster in 1475, demolished and burned Castle Carbury and the neighbouring castle of Ballymeyler ( Meylerstown ). So late as 1546, we read that ‘the plains of Cairbre and Castle Carbury were plundered and burned by some of the Irish insurgents, particularly the O’Kelly’s the O’Maddens, and O’Conors. The mode in which this outrage was punished by the high legal functionary of the Government, is highly characteristic of the time. ‘When’ says the Annals, ‘the Lord Justice, Anthony St. Leger, heard of this, he came into Offaly, and plundered and burned the country as far as the Togher of Cruoghan.’ And, again, ‘the Lord Justice came a second time into Offaly, and remained fifteen days in the country, plundering and spoiling it, burning Churches and Monasteries, and destroying crops and corn.”
In 1541, Sir William Bermingham was created Baron of Carbury. (2) In 1561, on the death of the younger Walter Bermingham, the castle passed to Sir Robert Preston, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, brother-in-law of Bermingham, and ancestor of Lord Gormanstown. In the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, the castle was in the possession of Sir Henry Colley, or Cowley, the ancestor of the Duke of Wellington, and through several subsequent generations, it was the seat of Sir Henry’s descendents. In April, 1595, as appears from Sir W. Russell’s Journal, “Lieutenant Greemes brought in one Hall, a priest, taken at the Lady Colie’s house; he was committed prisoner to the Castle of Dublin.” In 1747, Anthony Pomeroy, Esq., married Mary, daughter of Henry Colley, and in 1783 and 1791, he was created successively Baron Harberton of Carbury, and Viscount Harberton.
On the hill of Carbury are some pagan remains which seem to have escaped the attention of our modern antiquarians. It appears to have been the Tara of North Leinster, and is well worthy of attention. Upon its top we find a small sepulchral mound, and to the north west of this, two remarkable military forts or raths, both very perfect, and one of considerable extent; they are not marked on the Ordnance map. South of the castle, towards the Edenderry road, we light upon the old church and grave-yard of Temple Doath, or Caille, probably the site of the ancient church of St. Muadnat, Virgin, mentioned by Colgan, ( AA.SS., p. 339; Boyne and Blackwater ).The festival of this Saint, who lived in the 6th century, is set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, at the 6th of January. “ Muadhnat, Virgin. Caille is the name of her place, in Cairbre of Drum Cliabh.” Carbury of Drumcliff is in the county of Sligo, so, unless this entry be erroneous, Sir W.Wilde is mistaken in assigning Carbury, in county of Kildare, as the habitation of this Saint.
The chapel of Carbury of the penal times, which, according to the Return of December, 1731. (see Vol. 1.,p264 ) was built subsequent to the accession of George I., stood not far from the present one, but on the opposite side of the road. A holy-water font belonging to it, still remaining at the parochial house, bears the initial I.D., and the date, 1731. In the present Church of the Blessed Trinity, four previous pastors lie interred, over whose graves appear tablets notifying that they are erected to the memory –(1) Of the Rev. Edward Earl, late Parish Priest of Carbury and Dunfierth, which he governed for 25 years, and died on the 29th September,1846, aged 72 years; (2) The Rev. James Phelan P.P. of Carbury and Dunfierth, died, 25th of May,1857, in the 54th year of his age; (3) The Rev Edward Byrne, P.P. of Carbury and Dunfierth, died, February 18th ,1869, aged 64; (4) The Rev. Henry Dunne, P.P. of Carbury and Dunfierth, died, 16th September,1879, aged 59 years.
This name seems to have taken its first part from a square fort or Dun in the S.W. of Dunfierth townland. (O’D.) The old parochial Church of Dunfierth still exists in ruins surrounded by an extensive burial-ground; it was of considerable dimensions, and has connected with it a second edifice, having a separate entrance, which appears to have been designed as a mortuary chapel of the Bermingham family. A handsomely-sculptured alter-tomb formerly occupied the centre of this chapel, as may be judged from the portions that still remain; and which are found built into the walls of the vault which surrounds the Bermingham tomb, appropriated since 1815 by the family of Frederick Hamilton. The figure which formed the recumbent effigy on the original tomb, is now placed in an upright position within this structure; it represents a knight in a suit of plate armour, having a crucifix on the breast attached round the neck by a chain. The sides of the tomb were carved into Gothic niches, six on each side, and had figures representing the twelve apostles, known to be such by the accompanying emblems, and by having their names in contracted form carved overhead. The head of the tomb had a carved representation of the crucifixion, and at the foot were armorial bearings. The portions which formed the head and sides are now built into the wall of the vault on the outside, and the foot portion is placed over the entrance-door to the chapel.
Within the ruins of this mortuary chapel are monuments with the following inscriptions:-“Rev. James Morrin, Dean of Kildare, departed this life the 25th of March, 1748, aged 55 years.”
“I. H. S. Here lieth the body of the Rev. John Kenny, who lived 14 years rector of this parish, and died the 6th day of January in the year of our Lord 1790, aged 48 years.”
In the townland of Dunfierth there stood an old castle, none of which remains. No patron saint is remembered.
St. Carthach, Bishop, pupil and successor of St. Kieran of Saigir, appears to have preached Christianity in this locality. The Martyrology of Donegal, at 5th of March, has the following record;-“Carthach, Bishop, alumnus of Ciaran of Saighir. One of his places was Druimfertain, and in Cairbre Ua Ciarda is Druim-fertain.”
In the Feilire of Aengus, too, at the same date, we find this passage;-“Unsilently his renown sprang over (the)eastern sea, Carthach, royal, roman.” On which the gloss in Leabhar Breac adds:-“ i.e., descendant of a king of Munster. Ruamach, i.e., to Rome Ciaran sent him for having come into a woman’s company. Carthach, now a pupil of Ciaran of Saigir, and son of Eoghanacht of Caisel, and in Cairpre Hua-Ciarda his place (is), and Druim-Fertain, and Inis-Uachtair on Loch Silenn (are) his also”
The Mart. Donegal connects another Saint with this district, whose feast was observed on the 6th of June :-“ Maelaithghen of Tigh Maelaithghen, in Ua Ciarda;” of whom the Feil. Aeng. says :-“ Moelaithgen, with pure goodness went underground to a shelter.”
The remains of an old Church, consisting of nave and chancel, are here, of which a considerable portion of the north and south walls and east gable are still standing. The window in east end is roundheaded and deeply splayed within; two other narrow windows appear in south wall of chancel. A Gothic doorway is placed in the south wall; a sedilium recess, Gothic also, is in the usual place, and also provision for the cruets, etc.
In the grave-yard of Ticknevin there is a stone having the impress of a human foot; this is said to have been made by St. Brigid. Dr. O’Donovan expresses his belief that this Ticknevin could be identified with that mentioned by Colgan in the Life of St. Fechin. This, according to the author of Loca Patr., p. 113, is the Teach Mic Neecnain, where Aedh Roin, king of Ui-Failghe, was slain, A.D.604.
In the S.E. part of the townland of Ardkill are the ruins of the old Church and of a castle. This name is given in Dr.Rosse MacGeoghegan’s list as Ardchoil, i.e. “the high wood.” Of the Church, the east gable and some portions of the side walls remain; dimensions, interiorly, 40 feet by 19. There is a window 5 feet by 2, in the east gable, and a belfry at top. The wall is 4 feet in thickness. The earliest date of interment visible is March 26th, 1710. There is a field on the south-east part of Collinstown called Churchyard field, from having a church formerly situated on it, of which there is not a vestige now remaining.  Kilcooney Church is shown in the engraved map from Sir W. Petty’s survey, and some old people call the portion of Collinstown south of Kilcooney river, Kilcooney townland. The only feature in this part of the country retaining the denomination of Kilcooney is a stream, the source of which is in the south part of Ardkill townland, about 200 yards S.W. of the old church, flows east, 500 yards, and then north-east. This is the Ecclesia parochialis de Killycogny, mentioned in Dr. MacGeoghegan’s. (Vide Vol. I., p.261.)
This name, which, if it be the same anglicised form of all the Fews in other parts of the country, must, in Irish, sound Feada, i.e., Sylva, -is known in this country by no other name than Fews. Fews is not looked upon as representing a townland; and is said to be the name of the extent of land comprised in Kilpatrick, Ballinakill, Killina, and Drummmona townlands, to which is added part of the lands of Killcaskin. The Fews extend about three miles in length, and in breadth, one mile in one part and two miles in another, lying between the bog of Allen and the Grand Canal. In ecclesiastical documents Fews is considered as a sub-denomination of Ardkill, and not a distinct parish. In the graveyard of Kilpatrick, in townland of the same name, there is no trace of a church remaining; it is said in the locality that this was not at any time the site of a church, but that it was made the substitute for an older place of interment (probably Ticknevin) at the commencement of the 18th century. Amongst the inscriptions, which range from 1715 there is none worthy of note.
Doctor John Dempsey, appointed Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in 1694, appears to have been a native of this Parish, and also to have resided in it. In the Return of Parish Priests, made in 1704, is the following:-“ John Dempsey, residing at Kilmurry, aged 63, P.P. of Kilraney, ordained on Whit Sunday, 1664, at Clonkeene, King’s County, by Anthony Geoghegan, Bishop of Meath; having for his sureties, Robert Daly of Calvesland,Gent., and Colonel John Wogan of Rathcoffy.” This entry most probably refers to the Bishop, (see Vol. I., p. 72 for corresponding dates.)   The Dempseys have continued to reside at Kilmurry up to our own times.
In the return of 1704 is found MICHAEL CORMACK, residing at Dunfierth, aged 55, Parish Priest of Carbury, Ardkill, Dunfierth and Fion; ordained in 1673, at Dublin, by Patrick Plunkett, Bishop of Meath; sureties- Patrick Dempsey of Kilmurry, farmer, and John Halyan of Leixlip, farmer.
A Return dated 10th December, 1731, (see Vol. I., p. 264.), combines the two parishes of Carbury and Balyna, in which three priests then resided, viz: John Delahunty, Lewis Dempsey and Robert Cormack. There are reasons for concluding that JOHN DELAHUNTY was the P.P. of Carbury; his initials, J.D. with the date 1733, appear on an old Holy-Water vat still in existence at Carbury.
JAMES MORRIN was probably the successor to Father Delahunty. At Dunfierth is his grave, with an inscription notifying that he was Dean of Kildare, and that he died on the 25th of March, 1748, aged 55. After his death there is a period of 28 years unaccounted for; it may have been that during this time the P.P. of Balyna had care also of this parish.
JOHN KENNY is the next on record; his tomb at Dunfierth sets forth that he was rector of this parish for 14 years, and died on the 6th of January 1790, aged 48. The I.H.S. at the top of the tomb-stone is the only indication-and it appears to be a satisfactory one-that this was the Catholic Rector of Carbury. 
PATRICK MURPHY was P.P. up to 1794; he is interred at Arles, where the following inscription is found over his grave:- “Here lie interred the remains of the Rev. Patrick Murphy, Parish Priest of Castle Carbury, county Kildare, who departed this life the 2nd March, 1794, aged 52. Requiescat in pace.”
REV. ---KEARNEY is the next P.P. of whom we have an account; if he was the immediate successor of Father Murphy-of which there exists a doubt- he governed the Parish for 27 years, dying in 1821.
REV. EDWARD EARL succeeded; he died on the 29th of September 1846, and had as successor,
REV. JAMES PHELAN. This amiable priest died on the 25th of May 1857.
REV. EDWARD BYRNE succeeded; he died, February 18th, 1869.
REV. HENRY DUNNE succeeded; he died, September 16th 1879, and had as successor the present Pastor,
Page 341 Supplemental Notes.
In the succession of Pastors (P. 97) it is mentioned that Father Kennedy was appointed P.P., in 1794; he died in or before 1809.
Roger Molony succeeded; he erected Trinity Chapel in 1809. In 1816, Father Malony was translated to the parish of Ballinakill, Queen’s County; and was succeeded by,
Maurice Kearney, who was afterwards translated to Clane, where he died, in 1842.
(1)Fantastical spirits are by the Irish called men of the sidh, because the are seen, as it were, to come out of the beautiful hills to infest men; and hence the vulgar believe that they reside in certain subterraneous habitations within these hills; and these habitations, and sometimes the hills themselves, are called by the Irish sidha.-Colgan quoted by Dr.Joyce.
(2) Grant to Sir William Bermingham and the heirs male of his body, of the title and dignity of Baron of Carbury, in the County of Kildare; with a grant of the site of the late priory of Ballybogan and the late abbey of Clonard, with all the messuages adjacent, etc. ( Pat. Roll, 33 Henry VIII., June 17,1542 )

A transcript of Rev. M. Comerford's 1883 History of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, relating to the R.C. Parish of Carbury.

[Compiled by Mario Corrigan; typed by Breid Kelly and Maria O'Reilly; edited by Niamh Mc Cabe]

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