May 02, 2006


Chapter 15 of the An Tostal Programme of 1953 features a description of a chance meeting bewteen an English traveller, Topham Bowden, and Fr. Nolan, P.P. of Kildare, on the Curragh in 1790.
IN 1790
TOPHAM Bowden, an Englishman who travelled Ireland in 1790 thus writes: “The Curragh of Kildare is unquestionably the most beautiful plain in Europe. The day I crossed it happened to be remarkably fine, which added much to the picturesque appearance of this charming scene. It is about twenty miles in circumference and I do suppose every square perch of it contained a sheep. The verdure and the inequality of the surface, its slopes and eminences mottled with sheep, presented a delightful view.
“While I remained on this heavenly lawn, I had reason to bless my good genius that I had a sound carriage and a safe driver; for though the road was very fine, no less than three carriages broke down in my view; two of these carriages happened to be empty; in the third was a Mr. Nowlan, Parish Priest of Kildare, who had a most fortunate escape. I was happy in accommodating him with a seat in my carriage to Kildare. On the way he informed me he had been visiting an old parishioner of his, then confined for debt in Naas, and that he had given his horse to a gentleman to ride back to Kildare, as he had an opportunity of riding in a post carriage. From such post carriages, good Lord deliver me.
“As Mr. Nowlan received not the least injury, I rejoiced in the accident that introduced him to my acquaintance. He is really a sensible and well-informed man. He pressed me to dine with him; he said he was to have a few friends with him that day; and as I had no acquaintance in the town I readily consented. Among his guests were a Mr. Bergin and his family of that town, a Mr. Kelly and a Mr. Higgins. Mr. Bergin has a good knowledge of the world and his wife is a very genteel woman. In the course of conversation I learned that his Grace of Leinster, to his honour be it recorded, had given a few acres of land adjoin­ing the chapel to the Parish Priest and his successors for ever at a moderate rent; and Mr. Bergin proposed to the company to build on this ground a house for their priest. This, I remarked, would be convincing his Grace that they entertained a proper sense of the obligation he conferred on them. In this opinion they all coincided, and they resolved on erecting the house immediately.
“The town of Kildare stands on a great eminence, about half a mile from the Curragh, and commands a very exten­sive prospect to the East, South and West. Though inconsiderable at present, it contains many relicsof [relics of - sic]ancient magnificence, a circular road with twelve roads leading to it, the ruins of a castle, three monasteries of friars of different orders, a convent of the nuns of St. Clair, a parish church and a very large cathedral, the greatest part of which was destroyed by Cromwell to gratify the fanaticism of his soldiery.
“On the north side of the cathedral stands a round tower’ similar to that at Clondalkin but much higher . . . The door is fourteen feet from the foundation and the summit one hundred and thirty. Near this is a small oratory of St. Brigid . . . The ruins of the citadel or castle of the Earls of Kildare prove it to have been of uncommon extent.
            “Few people …… come …… since it was deserted by the Leinster family, except during the Curragh meetings, and then it swarms with gentlemen, sharpers and beggars. To the north of the town is a range of hills of moderate height and easy ascent, called the Red Hills, from the redness of the earth I suppose. There is a copper mine here said to be very rich, which is working these three years past, not with that spirit however which can only render undertakings of the kind of public importance.”

Chapter 15 of the An Tostal Programme of 1953 features a description of a chance meeting bewteen an English traveller, Topham Bowden, and Fr. Nolan, P.P. of Kildare, on the Curragh in 1790.

Posted by mariocorrigan at May 2, 2006 11:43 PM