Co. Kildare - Donadea School - Bardic & Hedge Schools
A neat school-house has been built of stone, at an expense of £340, of which £170 was granted from the lord-lieutenant's school fund, and the remainder raised by subscription and by the Kildare-Place Society; three acres of land were granted at a nominal rent by Sir G. G. Aylmer, on lease renewable for ever, and vested in the rector and churchwardens, for the master; the school is further supported by the Trustees of Erasmus Smith's charity; 30 boys and girls are educated in it. Nearby was a Post Office and a dispensary.
Donadea Old School
Extracts taken from Schools in Kildare & Leighlin A.D. 1775-1835
Written by Rev Martin Brennan M.A. B.D. Ph.D. Published by M H Gill & Son Ltd 1935
These extracts are based on unpublished documents, which were held in Maynooth College and give a vivid picture of the state of popular education in the Catholic Diocese during the closing years of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The book also contains reports on a selection of State Schools (Protestant) by town land. A copy of the above is available in Wicklow County Library Bray Co. Wicklow and was kindly loaned for this project by the Librarian Michael Kelleher
P. 125 Proselytism in action.
Some specific examples may now be given of the proselytising activities such as: London Hibernian Society, Baptist Church and the Kildare Place Society.
Article on Donadea Castle School (Protestant).
It is a parish school, built with the aid of the Lord Lieutenant’s School fund and of Kildare Place Society. The local Landlord (Lord Aylmer) has granted a site of 2 acres forever for the School, His wife Lady Aylmer has appointed the Protestant teachers, and his family superintends the school with the assistance of the Parish Minister. Moreover, the school is in connection with the Erasmus Smith Trust, which pays the salaries of the teachers, and the Kildare Place Society, which supplies books and probably gratuities to the teachers. In 1823 when the school opened, scholars flocked in to number 174, mostly Catholics.
By 1824 the scholars numbered only 46, only 2 were Catholics.
The Parish Priest explains: ‘I was led to understand that the School of Donadea was established for the indiscriminate education of Catholic and Protestant without religious distinction, and under this impression I permitted children of my parish to frequent the school. In a few days the number of Catholic children amounted to about 170, the number of Protestants to about 5 or half a dozen.’
‘Feeling it my duty to watch over the education of the children, I did not omit to make enquiries as to the System adopted by the school, and regretted to find that it was such that it could not receive my sanction. The Catholic children were every day obliged to read a portion of the Protestant Bible, or heard it read. The Catholic Catechism was excluded from the School. The Master and Mistress were Protestants, and the school was exclusively superintended by individuals, whose ardent spirit of proselytism was not calculated to receive my confidence or diminish my alarm. Remonstrance with the foundress of the school I deemed quite nugatory, and was thus reduced to the necessity of withdrawing the children from a school, the obvious tendency of which was proselytism. The school was thus reduced to about half a dozen after it existed for about three weeks.’
‘One Catholic was compelled by his unhappy father to resist my prohibition. The father who is a poor aged dependant of Lord Aylmer, has declared to my Curate with tears that had reason to dread the loss of his little means of subsidence were he to withdraw his child from a school, where his conscience told him he should not send him. The poor child has called on me on several times, and declared his determination to resist the mandate of his father rather than sacrifice his religion. My alarm for the faith of boy, and indeed of all of the children that frequent that school, was much increased by the fact that Lady Aylmer’s gatekeeper, though nominally a Catholic; has suffered his children to be educated at the school as Protestants: yielding in part to religious indifference and principally to temporal interest’.
‘Thus it will be seen that I have withdrawn the children, I did it because I felt convinced that education was intended as the barter of religion, and I cannot but deplore that spirit of little less than active persecution which has assumed the semblance of religious zeal, is calculated to excite discontent in every part of this unfortunate country which its influence can reach, and tends to unsettle religious belief and subvert the very foundation of morality, by substituting temporal views for conscience convictions’.
‘With regard to the average number in the above school, I beg to observe that it is taken from May last, whereas the school existed for nearly twelve months before on a much smaller scale. The motive of this means of deciding the average number must be obvious. I have also to observe that children have been brought from Dublin to the school and I have been credibly informed has thus increase of 34 within the last six or eight weeks. I cannot therefore subscribe to the average furnished by the Schoolmaster’
Little commentary is needed on this effective exposure of the Proselytising School. The real danger to the Faith (Catholic) of the people lay in co-operation of the land-lords with the Education Societies: for unless the improvised tenantry complied with the Landlord’s wishes by sending their children to Schools of his choice, they faced inevitable eviction and starvation. The Protestant School, financed by one or more of the Education Societies, and patronized by the Landlord and his family, was the usual type of proselytising agency.
Page 220 lists the details of Donadea School, which included the Teachers, Patrick Legatt aged 26 and Mary Legatt aged 23.
The Donadea School was opened 5th May 1823 and held through the year, Sunday excepted.
Protestants appointed by Lady Aylmer as teachers on 15th April 1823.
Well conducted, the Master was educated at Raphoe, and Mrs at the Seminary in Baggot Street Dublin.
Teaching covers, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Needlework.
The Masters salary is £30 per annum and Mrs £20 and is paid from the fund of the late Erasmus Smith.
Rich farmers pay £1 per annum for each child, for which they are found in stationary and instructed, the Poor 1s and 5p and other 1p.
The Patrons and Superintendents Lady Aylmer, Miss Aylmer and Rev Whitelaw since 5th May 1823.
Average attendance Summer 1824, was Males 26, Females 20
Protestants 44, Roman Catholics 2.
Last Winter 32, Summer (1823) 174
15 in 20 can read: 12 months.
Books available: Bible, version of the Established Church, Kildare Street Society and Deighan’s Arithmetic.
Pages 254-5 Report on Kilcock Protestant School. Similar to Donadea.
School 1, Teacher Robert Boney and Jane Bonynge, and School 2 Letita Goodwin.
Many other Protestant schools were similarly reported on, but this was not the case in many other Protestant schools throughout Ireland at that time.
Hedge Schools in Ireland.
Extracts from The Hedge Schools of Ireland by P J Dowling M.A. P H. D.
The Hedge School entered the stage after the exit of then Bardic Schools, which were the ancient professional schools of Ireland. The Bardic Schools survived until the Beginnings of the Troubles of 1641. This was the time of Cromwellian regime. These schools closed down for good only when their patrons had become landless homeless and or exiles.
The Hedge Schools owe their origins to the suppression of all ordinary legitimate means of education, first during the Cromwellian regime and then under the Penal Code introduced in the reign of William III and operated until 1782.
The Bardic School
The Bardic Schools on the other hand, had represented a highly developed system providing, up to nearly the middle of the seventeenth century, the nearest approach to what might be called a university education, and as such could have nothing in common with the Hedge Schools as regards either content or method of education. It may have happened that the disbanded students of the Bardic Schools took up teaching either in the interest of learning or through economic necessity. The Bardic Schools were purely secular institutions. The method of instruction was the native tongue, and the Irish language and literature, Irish history, and Brehon laws.
In 1537 Henry VIII was declared by Act of Parliament head of the Church in Ireland.
In 1539 the suppression of the monasteries began. Monks were expelled, building destroyed. He wanted the English language, tongue and behaviour to be followed. The then laws forbade schoolteachers to teach. In many parts of the country parents wanted their children educated in the Catholic method, so they paid the former Baltic students and former teachers to teach their children in out of the way sites, under hedges, in old barns, sheds, temporary structures All very rough and ready crudely made. Usually in out of the way places away from prying eyes. A member of the school usually acted as a look out and if any stranger or local came new the school was abandoned and the children scattered back to their homes. If caught the teachers would get very rough treatment from the courts, and also the families were prosecuted. Many Protestant families have sent their children to these Hedge Schools, as they were better than the new systems. Many hedge schools were run by Protestants with Catholic children attending them.
Hortland by Des O’Leary
Map of North Kildare
Ballysculloge, the original name for this area in North Kildare, was later anglicised to Scullogestown. In 1745 it was acquired by Revd Josiah Hort and renamed Hortland, a name still in use today.
(‘Town of the small farmer’) rises from the Bog of Allen in the south to the higher, more arable lands in the northeast. In medieval times it was one of the four parishes, which formed the barony of Oughterany, the other three being Cloncurry, Donadea and Drumurraghill. It is clear from the evidence that the area was inhabited from the earliest times. In 1958 a stone axe-head was found in a field bank in Hortland. In the same town land are the remains of an old Celtic rath, and in 1973 a crannog, which could date from early Christian times, was discovered at the back entrance to Knockanally.
Shortly after the Norman invasion in 1169 most of North Kildare area became the property of Adam de Hereford. In order to protect their lands and possessions from the unconquered Irish to the west of Ballyscullogue, the de Herefords constructed the earthen motte, in the town land, basically the same as it stands today, although the wooden castle on top has long since disappeared.
The next landlords associated with Ballyscullogue are the de Flatesburys. In 1286 Robert de Flatesbury was seneschal of the county palatine of Kildare and in 1288 Lord of the Manor of Ballyscullogue in Co. Kildare. In 1305 Robert’s son, Symon, sued the Abbey of St Thomas for the advowson of Ballymascoloch. i.e. right to appoint a clergyman.
Symon’s son. Robert, was appointed collector of the King’s Revenue in the Barony of Offelan, and held the manor of Ballymascolloch at the date of his death in 1367. Robert’s son Patrick became sheriff of Kildare in 1394 and in 1425 was still in possession of Ballymascolloch. Patrick’s eldest son, James, married Eleanor Wogan of Rathcoffey, they had two daughters. The eldest daughter, Margaret married John Fitzjohn Fitzgerald who became proprietor of Ballyscullogue. In 1442 one John Duff sold his holdings in the area to the Fitzgeralds, including parcels of land in Le Carnagh, Ardkepagh, Gurtin, Baghall, Gurtindoon and Lana, all town lands within the parish of Ballyscullogue.
The most famous member of the Flatesbury family was Philip Flatsbury of Johnstown who is credited with writing The Earl of Kildare’s Red Book, a section of which has been translated by Mr Tadgh Hayden, and is available in Newbridge Library.
In 1588 over 100 years after the Fitzgeralds had first acquired parts of Ballyscullogue, Thomas, Earl of Ormond, made a grant of the Barony of Oughternay, sometimes known as the Cloncurry grant, to Richard Aylmer of Lyons. This grant did not include the parish of Ballyscullogue. In the Civil Survey of 1654 the area is referred to as Skulloghstown and the proprietor was given as Maurice Fitzgerald of Osberstown, with a reference as follows:
The Town and Parish of Skulloghstown afore said lyeth Eastward of the river called Blackwater. Westward of George Aylmer of Hartwell his lands at Fenagh. Northwards of Sir Andrew Aylmer his lands of Ovedstown. There is upon ye aforesaid lands at Skulloghstown one stone house, which is value to be worth twenty pounds. There is also upon the said lands one quarry of stone.
The stone house identified above may be what O’Keeffe referred to in the Ordnance survey Letters as an ‘old castle beside the moat (motte)’, which formerly belonged to the Fitzgeralds. The civil survey makes no reference to any other town land in the parish. It says , ‘The great and small tithes were in the year 1640 possessed by Christopher Colborne Clerke. According to an old land lease the original village of Scullogstown was located along the old road adjacent to the pond. Fairs were held in the village on 2nd May and 9th December.
There is no reference to any church or any association with an early Christian saint connected with the area prior to the Norman invasion. The first reference to a church in Scullogstown was a transaction early in the thirteenth century, when the church was given by Roger de Hereford to St Thomas Abbey Dublin. In 1336, a clergyman named William was described as vicar of Ballysculloge. The paternal feast of the parish of Scullogstown is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. In the early 1700s William Balfe is described as being the Parish Priest of Scullogstown, he was ordained in 1698 in Cork by Dr John Sleyne, Bishop of Cork; sureties were Simon MacEvey of Graigesallagh, and Peter Walsh of Donecomfort, farmer.
Thomas Boyle, Vicar of Kilcock, reported to the Protestant Archbishop in 1731: Ballyscullogue had no Chapel of Mass house, nunnery or Friary, but public mass is said on Sundays by Andrew Egen at the house of Mr John Fitzgerald in Ballynafagh.
There is within the confines of the graveyard the octagonal head of an ancient limestone font. One of the earliest recorded burials was that of Bryan McDonal who died 1745.
In the established church of Ireland register of 1807 Scullogstown is described as being part of the Benefice of Kilcock Cloncurry and Ballinafagh, but there was no reference to a church in Scullogstown. It is likely that the church was in decline from the reformation period.
In 1666 Edward Sutton leased the town and lands of Scullogstown from Maurice Fitzgerald for 41 years. Over the next number of years the lease of lands of Scullogstown changed hands on numerous occasions while remaining in the hands of the Fitzgeralds. In 1710 a George Brehaold sub-let 700 acres (284 ha) to Charles Armstrong of Mount Armstrong, Donadea.
When dealing with old land documents and leases it is not always clear if the title referred to is that of overlordship, or of a subordinate degree.
Reference is made in 1715 to other town lands in the parish when the said Charles Armstrong purchased the lands of Newtown-Monyluggagh, Ballyteigh, Achacka, LinnKeile.
In 1723 the Fitzgeralds sold the lands of Knockanally to Joseph Leeson, later Earl of Milltown.
In 1742 James FitzGerald let part of the hill of Scullogstown as well as foxes holdings and two parks behind James Magavins house to Charles Fitzgerald of Clonshambo. This agreement was witnessed by Denis Kanavan, and contained 120 acres. Two years later James Fitzgerald let 35 acres to a Robert Daly of Dublin; also included was a house and garden lately held by Patrick Germon and Marks Dooney.
In 1745 the Fitzgeralds seemed to have redeemed the remaining leases of Scullogstown. They sold the manor, containing 868 acres, including a watermill to Revd Josiah Hort, Bishop of Tuam, for the sum of £5,373. Hort’s purchase did not include the town land of Knockanally (seat of the Coats family for some time) Ballyteige, Achacka, LinnKeile, and Newtown-Monyluggagh. The Fitzgeralds continued to lease the lands at Scullogstown until 1766.
Hortland House in 1913 (LSDK) Source: K.A.S. Jn., vii p 208.
Hortland House designed by Richard Castle, architect Date: 1748
Nature: Attr. to RC by Knight of Glin. For Archbishop Hort. Demolished
Refs: The Knight of Glin, 'Richard Castle, architect, his biography and works' in BIGS 7, no. 1 (Jan - Mar 1964), 32-38
Mass-paths in Hortland Co. Kildare
In the absence of a church in Hortland people from the area walked through the fields to hear Mass in Newtown Church. These well-trodden Mass-paths as they were called were also used by schoolchildren to attend school in Newtown. One Mass-path started close to the graveyard and followed the route, which was the old back entrance to Hortland House. It exited at the gate, which is now at the top of Barry’s boureen. A second path from Ballyteige exited near Tom O’Brien’s gate and recommenced at the gate into Dillon’s field where it linked up with a Mass-path from Tiermohan and continued to Kilbride. Both groups they converged on the road leading into Newtown.
A local committee formed in the early 1990’s for the purpose on maintaining the graveyard has since disbanded. Kildare County Council will give small grants to local groups to maintain graveyards. A small extension was added to the west side of the graveyard when Timothy Houlihan was interred in 1979. Since Seamus Cullen and Des O’Leary transcribed the headstones in 1995, the remains of three local families have been interred in Hortland, Mrs Annie Yallop, was interred on 11th July 1995. Mrs Christine Fennell, on 10th January 1998, and later in the same year her son Dinny. David Houlihan was interred on 15th August 1998.
The topography of Hortland graveyard and its adjoining motte revealed more physical evidence, which suggests a rich, and ancient history. With scant documentary evidence especially from the medieval period, a certain reliance on the physical evidence is inevitable. Although situated in a somewhat remote rural area its clear Hortland was part of most of the major events in Irish history.
G. V. Hamilton ‘The names of the Baronies and Parishes in County Kildare in J.K.A.S. v. 8 (Dublin 1917) p, 252
Revd. Comerford, Collection relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin (part Carlow) – Second Series Diocese of Kildare (Dublin n. d.) p, 155
Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (Dublin) 1837.
Hamilton. J. K. A. S. v8 p, 251
J. T. Gilbert, Register of the Abbey of St. Thomas the Martyer, (London) (1889), p 97, 340-341.
Des O’Leary, ‘Hortland’, in Oughterany v11, no 1 (Kildare, 1999), p58.
Margaret C. Griffith, Calendar of Inquisition H, viii 116/126 (Dublin 1991), p 63
Comerford, Collection, pp 163-165.
Patrick J. Corish, The Catholic Community in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Dublin, 1981) p 22
Robert C. Simington, The Civil Survey A.D. 1654-56, v9 (Dublin, 1952), p203
Corish, The Catholic Community, p 22
Report on the State of Popery in Ireland 1731 in Archivium Hibernicum v.4 (Dublin 1915).
Comerford, Collection, v.i pp 272-273
Library of the Church of Ireland Representative Body, Churchtown, Dublin.
Comerford, Collection, p 162.
Ordinance Survey Letters – 1837 , (Dublin, 1930), p 32
Comerford, Collection, p 163
Michael Crowley and Seamus O’Conchubhair, A History of Kilcock and Newtown (Kildare198?) p, 35
Interview with Tom and Nan O’Brien, July 1999
Interview with Eileen Mulligan July 1999
Kevin Lynch, ‘1798 in Folklore and Local Tradition’ in Seamus Cullen and Hermann Geissel (eds.) Fugitive Warfare: 1798 in North Kildare, (Clane 1998), p 197.
Walter Fitzgerald ‘The Sepulchral Moat and Churchyard at Hortland’ in J.K.A.S.v6 (Dublin 1911), pp 356-357
O’Leary, Hortland, p 61, 64,
The Applotment Books, N.I. Film 46
Teresa Brayton, ‘Jerry Conors Forge’ in Songs of Down and the Irish Ditties (New York, 1913).
Fitzgerald. J.K.A.S. v6, pp 356-357.
O.P.W.. 004-/15/5, St Stephens Green Dublin.
Corish, The Catholic Community, p 35
Interview with Tom and Nan O’Brien, July 1999 O’Leary, Hortland, p 61, 64, 66-68
The Ecclesiastical History of Hortland Graveyard by Olive Morris
Hortland Graveyard is situated c. two miles northwest of Newtown. Formerly called Ballysculloge alias Scullogestown, it was one of eight parishes in the Barony of Ikeathy and Oughterany. The present parish of Kilcock and Newtown now contains the former ‘ancient ecclesiastical divisions of Kilcock, Newtown, Cloncurry, Scullogestown and Clonshambo’.
According to Samuel Lewis in 1837 Hortland is bounded on the south by the Bog of Allen and contains the seat of Josiah W. Hort and W. Coats Esq. of Knockanally.
In the Church of Ireland parochial divisions Hortland was a vicarage in the diocese of Kildare, which formed part of the Union of Kilcock, and the rectory was impropriate in Lord Cloncurry.
In Roman Catholic divisions it also formed part of the Union or district of Kilcock. The town lands in the parish were Hortland, Ballyteigue, Knockanally, Newtown-Hortland and Newtownmoneenluggagh. The Blackwater River runs close to the west of the graveyard to the immediate southwest.
The parish of Scullogestown contains 2,468 acres. The older Irish Ballysculloge or Baile Mac Sculoig came eventually to mean the town of the ‘small farmer’. Originally according to Joyce ‘scoil’ meaning school was associated with young monks or scholars who carried out the farm work for the monastery and so the term came to mean a small farmer who worked the land.
The first reference to a church in Scullogestown was in the early thirteenth century when Roger de Hereford gave the church to St. Thomas Abbey Dublin’. Later that century Galfridus de Hereford and St Thomas Abbey settled a lawsuit between them concerning the right of patronage of the church of ‘Balimascoloe’. On the 25th June 1245 Galfridus dropped his claims and the convent ex gratia agreed to give Galfridus and his heirs the right to appoint vicars. A clergyman named William was named as vicar on Ballysculloge in 1336.
Maurice O’Doghyrde was presented to the benefices of ‘Balimascoloe’ by Walter Wellesley last bishop of Kildare before the Reformation. The disturbed and confused state of the catholic clergy probably explained why on the 23rd May 1538, although described as vicar of Balmascolloke, he was included in a list of absentee clergymen holding benefices. Dr Roche Mac Geoghegan who was Bishop of Kildare from 1629 -1644 had a list drawn up of the sites of ancient parish churches and chapels in the Diocese of Kildare. Scullogestown is listed as Ecclesia de BallynaScolloigy. In the early 1700s William Balfe is described as the Parish Priest of Scullogestown. He was ordained in 1698 by Dr. John Sleyne Bishop of Cork.
The effects of the Reformation, Penal laws and Plantations, which started in the sixteenth century and continued into the eighteenth century, had devastating effects on the catholic population. Impropriated parishes were deemed monastic property, hence they passed to the crown and soon laymen who collected the tithes from a reluctant population controlled much of the area. Church buildings had been poorly maintained even before the Reformation and by the end of the disturbed sixteenth century many were in ruins.
In the Civil survey of 1654-56 Morrice FitzGerald of Osberstown, an Irish Papist is the proprietor of the town and lands of Scullogestown. He is in possession of 420 acres whose letting value in 1640 was estimated to be £160.00. On the land is a stone house worth £20.00 also a quarry of stone. An indication of the dispersion of the catholic population is made evident by the entry: The great and small tithes of the aforesaid parish of Skullogstowne were in the years 1640 possessed by Gabriel Goldborne Clerke, but how the same were then set or worth to be set cannot be found out by reason yet most of the inhabitants of the aforesaid Barony of Keathy and Oughterreny are either dead or transplanted into Connaught.
The glebe land of the Parish of Scullogstowne in 1640 was in possession of Lieut. Wainman. It was estimated to be four acres and its letting value to be 15 shillings.
In post-Reformation Ireland the Mass was at the centre of organized religion. Its pervasiveness was an indication of the failure to enforce the Act of Uniformity. If a Catholic had property, Mass was often said in his house, where plantation was extensive Mass was said in sheds or in open air on makeshift alters. Sometimes Catholics managed to build their own places of worship. They were called ‘chapels’ as the word ‘church’ was reserved for Protestant buildings. The Protestants used the more derogatory term ‘mass-house’ and both terms were used. In the Report on the State of Popery in Ireland 1731 Thomas Baylie Vicar of Kilcock reported that: Balliscullogue hath no chappell or mass house, Nunnery or Friary or popeish Schoolmaster, but publick mass is said on Sundays by Andrew Egan… at ye house of Mr John Fitzgerald.
The Rev. Shem Thompson, Vicar of Kilcock recorder the religious population of his own and surrounding parishes. On the 3rd April 1766 he reported that the Parish of Scullogstown had:3 Protestant families, 32 Popish do. The two popish priests who officiate in Kilcock officiate also in Cloncurry and Scullogstown.
In 1745 Revd. Josiah Hort, Archbishop of Tuam, purchased 868 acres in Scullogestown from the Fitzgeralds. He changed the name of the area to Hortland, although in Church of Ireland parish records it continued to be known as Scullogestown up to the latter part of the nineteenth century. In 1748 he built a mansion using the stone from the old church, which explains why not a trace of the old church remains. In the Ordinance Survey Letters in 1837 P. O, Keeffe reported that: in Hortland Town land there is an old graveyard in which my informant said he saw the ruins of an old church but of which not a vestige now remains. Beside the graveyard is a moat. In the Town land there was an old castle (beside the Moat) which formerly belonged to the Fitzgeralds, but which they sold to Mr Hort. None of it remains at present.
There is no saint associated with Scullogestown, but the patronal feast of the parish of Scullogestown was the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin or as it appears in the parochial register Parochia Natae Virginis de Scullogestown. Patronal continuity was maintained in the parish when the first Newtown church was built in 1860s was confirmed with the same dedication. The Archbishop Hort, died in 1751 and it is unlikely that he ever lived in his mansion.
The first Hort to actually live in Hortland was Sir Josiah William Hort the 2nd Baronet who succeeded his father in 1807. He represented the county in Parliament in 1831-32. Sir William carried out certain changes to his estate. He resettled some of his tenants and workmen away from his house to a new settlement known as the Street of Hortland. It is probable too that it was he who enclosed the graveyard with a railing and a small gate.
According to local tradition the graveyard formerly covered a larger area, but was reduced when enclosed by the railing. In common with all old graveyards there are many unmarked graves,and several families from the Derry area would have buried their dead in Hortland.
After the Battle of Ovidstown in the 1798 Rebellion some bodies were taken back by mules and buried just inside the gate, which is also unmarked.
The earliest headstone inscription in Hortland belongs to Bryan McDonaugh who died on 24th February 1745 aged 95 years.
The only physical evidence of a church in Hortland, which now remains, is a baptismal font. Walter Fitzgerald a noted antiquarian described it as an octagonal head of limestone font perforated in the centre. Its outer circumference is 72 inches, diameter 24 inches, and height 13 inches.
By an Act of Parliament in 1823 the method of collecting tithes was to be streamlined and paid in money rather than crops. Liability was calculated according to the fertility of the land occupied, e.g. arable land was valued at 40 shillings (£2) per acre, wet moorey at 10 shillings (20 shillings in £) and improved bog at 7 shillings 6 pence per acre (12 pence in 1 shilling). The results of this survey are contained in what is known as the Tithe Applotment Books which can be seen in the National Archives Dublin.
Articles taken from Kildare History and Society.
Reports from Griffith Valuations 1852, In Hortland townland the 31 residents of small houses, with miniscule land holdings attached, probably provided labour for the Hort estate.
Sir Josiah William Hort, Baronet resident of Merrion Square Dublin in 1876 had 1847 acres in the townland of Hortland and contiguous townlands. P 558
In Trees and Houses from Taylors map of 1783, demesne plantations of trees was fairly extensive in Hortland and Knockanally, p 31.
In Chapter 6 page 159, on The Medieval Parish Churchs of County Kildare, is the following: Oftentimes the exercise of patronage that went with the right of advowson caused disputes between the manorial holders and the church in the second and subsequent generations after the Anglo-Norman invasion. Scullogestown ‘Balimascoloc’ church was, for example, early in the thirteenth century, given to Roger de Hereford to St Thomas Abbey, Dublin. On the 25th July 1245 the Abbot and Convent of St Thomas and Galfridus de Hereford arrived at a settlement of a lawsuit between them, concerning the right of presenting the vicar thereto. At the end of the Medieval period almost the same tactic was used to dissolve the monasteries: the clergy who theoretically had only a life interest in their institutions and were pensioned off.
On page 188 reference is made to ‘The Inquisition’ which recommended: ‘That there should be 25 churches erected and maintained in the County of Kildare for the inhabitants to resort unto to hear the Word of God taught, and for Preaching Ministers to live upon the same; In the Barony of Ikethy and Oughterney 2 churches namely Scullockstown (different spelling) and Kilcock.
On pages 262-3 a list of the key property owners from the 1640s is shown, which includes the Aylmers of Donadea and the Fitzgeralds. Maurice Fitzgerald of Osbertown was the 4th most significant proprietor in Kildare with rental amounting to £273 coming from lands in Sculloguestown, Old Connell, Clane and Killybeggs.
Sculloguestown was subject to a mortgage of £100 made by Charles Clarke Esq., who claimed that he had a lease on Sculloguestown dating from 1635 for the yearly rent of £160.
(Details of Stewarts paying Tithes are listed on the Valuations Page).
The total tithable area of the parish of Scullogestown was 543 acres 3 roods and 5 perches. Only William Hort and John Fitzpatrick possessed arable land, most of the rest had what was classified as improved bog, and the majority of holdings were between one and five acres.
In 1833 the survey for the parish of Scullogestown was carried out by Joseph Wyrant and amounted to £58 18s 11p. Which was to be paid to Rev. Charles Caulfield. Although Kildare as a county did not suffer as severely as other counties in the Famine, this area with its impoverished land and smallholdings were badly affected.
Teresa Brayton’s phrase ‘where bog and uplands meet’ encapsulates the physical significance of this area. It probably explains why the Normans choose this strategically advantageous location to build their castle, church and possibly monastery. On the edge of this fertile upland they also built a motte, which served as a lookout over the bog of Hortland. The disposed native Irish consigned to the verge of bogland posed a constant threat.
Lord Walter Fitzgerald described the motte in the early part of this century as a: Sepulchral moat or tumulas, not as large as most, but with a peculiar feature in being terraced. One terrace encircles the base, and another narrow terrace is about halfway up. He did not recall seeing a similar one anywhere else. The motte is approximately seven meters in height and is surrounded at the base by a small fosse.
An unusual feature of the church and graveyard at Hortland is that they are enclosed. Churches are not normally sited within Norman enclosures or baileys. To the west of the graveyard, facing the bog of Hortland is a deep ditch, which could be considered a bailey. It peters out as it runs to the south. This possible defence mechanism was situated to the side of the most likely attack. There is also the possibility that the enclosure predates the Norman period and could be an early Christian enclosure. However, although there is no documentary evidence of early Christian history, there is the tentative link to the existence of a monastery from the place name (Baile na Scolog). As the Irish traditionally sought monastic cemeteries as their burial-places, it is probable that the enclosure boundary was the outer limits of a larger burial ground. This may have been the case in Hortland and is supported by local tradition that the burial ground eventually extended from the area surrounding the Church to the boundary of the ‘bailey’.
Kildare Townlands of Staplestown, the Hill of Allen, The Pale,
Kildare's History & Rebellion
No image of the former church available.
The Parish Hall
The Parish Hall was until recent times the ruin of the old schoolhouse. Through parish funds and voluntary effort the schoolhouse was refurbished and is now a valuable community facility.
The Church adjoining the hall is dedicated to St Benignus and dates from 1750. Local tradition tells us that the church replaced a Mass House which was located nearby. The chapel was burned by Yeomen in 1798 but repaired soon after. The school adjacent was built in 1929 and refurbished in 2006 replacing the old school (beside church) which dates from 1829.
The Pale Published in Oughterany, 1993
The Pale had its origin in the 15th century with the construction of a boundary enclosing an area surrounding Dublin. This boundary could be described as England’s version of Hadrian’s Wall. In 1453 the counties of Kildare, Dublin, Meath and Louth were identified as ‘the four obedient counties’ and the largest section of the country that was regarded as true English land. Similar areas also existed in districts surrounding isolated towns and also an area of the south-east which later became known as the Wexford Pale. The word Pale comes from the Latin Palus—a stake.
The name Pale came from an earthen fortification built at that time around Calais, England’s last French possession. The English colony in Ireland had shrunk considerably throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. By the 15th century the Norman colonists, brought to the north west area of Kildare in the period after the Norman invasion, had by in large fused with the native Irish who had remained as serfs and to a lesser extent as tenants. The Irish language had not gone out of use in the great boglands to the west where the population was of pure Gaelic origin. The colonists in this area had abandoned their language Norman-French, and now spoke Irish. The area between the Irish held areas and the English colony was called the marches and adhered to laws called ‘March Law’.
These laws were a mixture of Common Law (English Law) and Brehon Law. The Anglo-Norman or English colonists at this time, who lived inside the Pale, spoke English and adhered to English laws and customs. One of the most alarming developments at the time was the continued spread of the Irish customs and the Gaelic Brehon laws into North Kildare. An earlier Pale type line of defence had been constructed locally in North Kildare, extending from North to South. This defence system consisted of three Motte and Bailey castles at Cloncurry, Hortland and Mainham. Its purpose was to safe guard the area from raids by native Irish including the O’Connors who had established a safe haven in the boglands. By the 14th century the Motte and Bailey Castles had been replaced by strong stone castles at Cloncurry, Donadea and Clongoweswood. It is known that a strong stone Castle were in existence at Donadea in the mid-14th century when Sir John Birmingham was lord of the area and this had replaced Hortland as the main fortification for the area.
However, by the 1490s the area found itself in the ‘March lands’ just outside the Pale. Mainham which had suffered greatly from plagues and attacks by the O’Connor’s also found itself replaced as the main fortification by the Castle at Clongoweswood. The ordinary inhabitants outside the Pale lived in clahans and villages. A clahan is a group of dwelling houses and out houses clustered together in a small area. Sometimes they belonged to people who were related or who were of the same family. The name Bally which appears in numerous town lands may have come from small clahan communities. The dwellings were one and two roomed mud walled cabins which had a hearth in the middle of the floor and a hole in the roof to let the smoke out. The dwellings of the ordinary people inside the Pale were more modern at this time and chimneys were becoming fashionable.
The most powerful figure in the country at this time was the Viceroy Garret Mór FitzGerald the Earl of Kildare.As Viceroy he controlled Dublin City and ‘the four obedient counties’. Within this area he held extensive lands mainly in County Kildare and also exerted substantial influence throughout the country. However, he was a supporter of the Yorkest pretenders to the throne and the King, Henry VII, was from the Lancastrian party. Between 1487 and 1491 Garret Mór was implicated in two plots to replace Henry VII by Yorkest pretenders. The King could not allow the continuance of the threat that his Viceroy presented. In 1494 Garret Mór was replaced as Viceroy by Sir Edward Poynings. An uneasy peace that had existed between the native Irish and the Crown broke down and a campaign of raids against the ‘Crown lands’ took place.
One of the most prominent Chieftains involved was Brian O’Connor of Offaly, who was one of Garret Mór’s allies, and he carried off great numbers of cattle and plunder. The raiders used the bogs and wastelands as hideouts and the section of the Bog of Allen at Timahoe which was the nearest bog to the Pale, was probably used in this manner. The new Viceroy, Poynings took immediate action and summoned a Parliament to meet at Drogheda. One of the Acts of this Parliament, provided for the security of the four obedient counties by the erection of a Pale boundary. The limits of the Pale had been defined by an earlier Parliamentary Act of 1788, but the 1494 Parliament provided for a rampart to be built. It was constructed as a line of defence around Dublin to protect the Pale dwellers from attack and plunder from English rebels and Irish enemies, and also to prevent cattle being driven from the Pale to Irish areas. The boundary consisted of a double ditch with a six foot high earthen wall and at some places this structure was topped with a palisade. Parts of the Pale ‘double ditch’ have survived in an area north of Rathcoffey at Graiguepottle and in two areas on either side of Clongowes wood. Possible sections may also have survived at Baltracey and Painstown.
The Pale north of Rathcoffey Co. Kildare
The reason the Graiguepottle to Baltracey section survived may be due to the fact that is was used as a road which was in use until the end of the 18th century. This section was the dividing line between the two medieval parishes of Clonshanbo and Balraheen and a continuation in a southerly direction of that parochial boundary shows signs of is a double ditch and high banks which we can assume is a continuation of the Pale. In medieval times a bog or moorland extended from the southern area of Clonshanbo to parts of Hodgestown and on to Moortown. This area is between the Graiguepottle section of the Pale and the Clongoweswood section and is in the direct line that the Pale boundary would have to extend across.
So as there was at the time a natural boundary in this area it was unlikely that a continuous Pale ditch was constructed across the latter town land. However, there was one area of arable land at Painstown which was also between the two previous mentioned sections of the Pale. It appears that Painstown Castle formed another link in the chain of Castles guarding the Pale. There are banks and earth-works in its environs which survived as a section of a road and it is highly likely that this earthwork is also a portion of the Pale. Clongoweswood Castle one and a half miles south of Painstown Castle was strategically sited as it guarded the pass between the lake at Loughbollard and the Moorland at Moortown. The most southerly section of the Clongoweswood Pale ends close to the town land of Loughbollard. The area of land between this section and the Town of Clane was part of an ancient lake and it is unlikely that the Pale was constructed here as it formed a natural boundary. With the river Liffey serving as a natural boundary from Clane upstream to Ballymore Eustace, it is also unlikely that the Pale ditch was constructed through the centre of Country Kildare. The Bishops and Sheriffs of the four counties were to act as Commissioners with the power to call on the inhabitants of the area through which the Pale was to be built, to assist in its construction.
As a reward, their overlords were to grant them fixed rents for one year. Furthermore as long as they or others occupied that land they were responsible for the repair and upkeep of the rampart. Failure to comply would result in a fine of forty shillings. The land through which the Pale was to be constructed from Kilcock to the Eustace possession at Clongoweswood was held by Sir William Wogan of Rathcoffey. Sir William was appointed High Sheriff of Kildare in 1502 and his duties would have included collecting taxes, arresting criminals and seeing to the defence of the county. Therefore he would have a very important role to pay in defending the Pale boundary in Kildare, particularly the section through his own lands between Kilcock and Rathcoffey. It is almost certain that he was responsible for constructing the Pale in this area. The money raised for these fortifications was also channelled into the strengthening and construction of castles and tower-houses. In some areas the land owners used the money to rebuild and repair castles; this is borne out by the fact that only a few actual lengths of the Pale ditch were constructed as intended while there appears to have been several tower-houses built. As early as 1429 the King offered a £10 grant to subjects who built a tower-house according to his specifications in the four counties later to be referred to as the Pale. Tower-houses subsequently sprang up all along the line of the Pale and two probable examples of these are at Painstown and Richardstown. Records from 1515 show the Pale running along the same boundary as it did in 1494. However, an inner limit of a Common Law area, where English Law was practiced was defined by Justice Luttrell in 1537 and this indicated the Pale had shrunk to its lowest point to within ten miles of Dublin where St Wolstans and Leixlip marked its western boundary.
The Pale defence system was more than likely intended as an inner line of defence to defend Dublin. It would have been impossible to construct a defence system which included the entire area of the four obedient counties which stretched as far west as Mullingar and as far south as Carlow. This may account for why the Pale extended through the middle of the Wogan and Eustace lands in North Kildare leaving large sections outside the Pale. While Hadrians wall was a limited success the ‘Pale’ as a defensive system was almost a complete failure. It did not prevent the attacks or cattle raids by the native Irish and many medieval settlements in North Kildare did not survive. Of the five principal villages in the central area of north Kildare, the two inside the Pale, Kilcock and Clane continued in existence, while the three outside the Pale, at Cloncurry, Skullogstown and Mainham eventually declined and disappeared. However, the Pale did provide the launching pad for the Tudor re-conquest of the country in the 16th century. After the fall of the house of Kildare and the re-conquest of Leinster the term ‘inhabitants of the Pale’ or ‘those inside the Pale’ was used by nobility such as the Aylmer’s of Donadea, the Wogan’s of Rathcoffey and the Eustace’s of Clongoweswood to reflect a superior social order.
The nobility living in the four obedient counties regarded themselves as ‘Pale dwellers’ up until the mid-17th century until the coming of Cromwell who showed no distinction between the old English of the Pale and the native Irish who dwelled outside the Pale. However, a class culture where Lords or Gentry of the Pale regarded themselves as superior continued into the modern period and the term ‘outside the Pale’ has persisted to this day as a derogatory term for inhabitants who live outside the greater Dublin area.
The Hill of Allen
The Hill of Allen is situated four miles to the north-west of The Curragh. Also known as the Hill of Almhuin "the Great Neck". The hill rises 676ft in height and is surrounded by the Bog of Allen. The Hill has had many associations with the legendary Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fianna. It is supposed to have been the site of their camp, and the surrounding area was their training ground.
Hill of Allen Tower
In 1859 Sir Gerald Aylmer of Donadea Castle, began building a tower on the summit of the hill. The tower was circular and had an internal staircase which lead to a glass-domed platform at the top. There were Latin inscriptions in the tower and the names of those who helped construct the tower were engraved on the steps of the staircase. While the tower was being built, giant human bones were discovered, and were said to be those of Fionn MacCumhaill. Sir Gerald ordered that they be re-interred in a hollow space under a rock. The tower of Allen was completed in 1863. Since then much of the westside of the hill of Allen has being removed by quarrying. However, the intention of Messrs. Roadstone was to leave the hill intact. They also made provisions for restoration work to carry out on the Tower.
The following Article and Photographs on The Hill of Allen are used with the kind permisasion of Ed Mooney and cannot be reproduced without his permission.
Ed Mooney Photography~ The home of Kildare based Photographer, Blogger and self proclaimed Ruinhunter.
The Ancient Hill of Allen 18ThursdayJun 2015
Posted by edmooneyphotography in Diary of a Ruinhunter,Photography, Places of Interest: Allen, Ancient, Aylmers Folly, Fianna, Fionn MacCumhaill, Ireland,Kildare, Mythology,photographer,Photography,Roadstone, Travel
So last Saturday morning, I got up at the crack of dawn, to hit the road and get back on the Ruinhunting trail once again. With permission granted by the landowner, my mission was to finally explore one of the long outstanding ruins from my Bucket list, the ancient Hill of Allen and Aylmer’s folly which resides on the summit. I had planned to do this last year but for a number of reasons I just never got around to doing so. But thankfully I was able to point out my good friend and fellow blogger Ali Isaac in the right direction and she wrote a great piece on the subject along with her own unique way of writing, which I could only dream of achieving. She is an accomplished author, with a number of fantastic novels based on Irish Mythology.
After a short 15 minute drive in the car, I eventually arrived at my destination. The Hill of Allen or Almu, (Cnoc Almain in old Gaelic), is a former volcanic hill located on the eastern edge of the Bog of Allen in west Kildare. There is also a small village known as Allen nearby and I’ll tell you more about that in a later post. So once I had the hill in sight, it took a few minutes to locate the entrance, which I eventually found. There once was a rough ground car park for visitors, but this is now blocked off by three large boulders, but there is just enough space to park one car off the road at these boulders. The hill is currently part-owned by Roadstone whom have quarried away much of the west side of the hill, but I shall explain this towards the end. On the opposite side of the car park there is a long winding uphill trail, any local traffic is drowned out by the sound of birds whom seemed to be singing a welcoming song to this ancient site. Much of the trail is fenced off in parts and there is an abundance of warning signs, but if you stick to the trail, it’s perfectly safe.
The hill is steeped in a rich folklore and according to the Annála Na gCeithre Máistrí (Annals of the Four Masters) the Hill of Allen was the summer residence of the Legendary Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his band of warriors, the Fianna. Fionn had a fortress on the summit of the hill and the vast surrounding plains were used by the Fianna for hunting and training when they weren’t off kicking ass somewhere else. At the summit when you look around it’s quite easy to imagine Fionn standing on top of his fort, watching over his men during these summer months. A popular local tale suggests that Fionn’s final resting place was in a mound on the top of the hill, the mound is known as Suidh-Fionn, pronounced (She-Finn) or Fionn’s Chair. This mound is said to have been the highest point of the hill. It’s kind of hard to make out the actual location of the mound as much of the summit is quite flat, but if you take the tower as a central reference point which was built on the centre of the mound, you can kind of take and educated guess. The mound in my mind would have replaced the hill fort and is said to have been surrounded by a defensive trench, although there are no visible signs of this anymore. However about half way up the hill I came across what I believe may be a fosse, (long narrow ditch), with rows of trees on its banks. With the quarry taking away almost half of the hill it’s hard to say for sure but this seemingly natural trench may well have been part of Fionn’s hill fort defences. Almu is believed to have been one of a number of Hill Forts which served as an outer ring of defence for the Royal city of Tara, home to the Ard Ri (High Kings) of Ireland. There is another Hill Fort nearby on the bog of Allen not far from the present Lullymore heritage centre. These forts would have been able to communicate with each other quite effectively in a fashion similar to the lighting of the Beacons of Gondor from the Lord off the Rings movie.
Back in 722 AD there was a famous battle which occurred nearby between Fergal Mac Máele Dúin the Ard Ri, (High King) of Ireland and Murchad mac Brain, the King of Leinster. Not the first time this has happened. It would seem that the provincial Kings of Leinster were commonly fighting with their Ard Ri, at various times throughout our history. Moving on to the year 1859 when Gerald Aylmer the 9th Baronet of Donadea, (you can read all about Donadea Castle in a previous article) began the construction of a circular tower on the top of the hill which is now known as Aylmer’s Folly. Whilst we can say for sure what its purpose was, many believe that it was a relief project begun to give employment to the local tenants. It was finally completed in 1863, and the reason it took so long to finish was due to the fact that the hill was far too exposed during the harsh winter, so construction could only be done during the summer months. Bearing in mind that back then there was none of the machinery used in construction today so it would have been no mean feat to get the materials required for the construction up to the top of the hill.
When they began digging the foundations for the tower, a nine foot deep cavern was uncovered which contained a wooden box. After opening the box they found the remains of a rather large human skeleton. Many believe these bones were in fact the remains of Fionn Mac Cumhaill himself. The story goes that the workers put the remains back where they found them and continued with the construction. Instead of forking out a big wad of cash on engineers to oversee the project, Aylmer is noted to have told his masons Lawrence and William Gorry that he would rather spend the money creating employment for his local tenants than pay engineers. And so Aylmer put the Gorry brothers in charge and kept a close eye on the work himself. As a reward, Each one of the 83 steps within the tower has the name of one of the workers engraved into it, a nice touch, don’t you think. William Gorry and his brother completed their work by placing a copper-framed glass dome on the tower, and a railing around the building.
The tower itself is about sixty feet in height with a diameter of nine feet with its base reported to be 676 feet above sea level. The Tower was constructed using limestone taken from a quarry in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, and the granite used in the coping, steps and pedestal at the top of the tower came from Ballyknockan in Wicklow. This was all transported via canal down to the nearby town of Robertstown. It would then have been carted up the hill by Aylmer’s tenants. One local story tells how the wheels from one of the canons which were once located at Donadea Castle, were borrowed to assist the carting of stone to the top of the hill. There was once a bug rusty door which prevented people from entering the tower, but this has been removed and now rests just inside the doorway to the left of the staircase. A circular staircase winds its way around the central apex up to the viewing platform at the top. The tower was completed with a copper framed glass dome, presumably to afford people protection from the elements as it can get quite windy when you are standing 736 feet above sea level.
On the outside of the tower there are a number of inscriptions both on the tower and the surrounding flagstones. The most visable being the year construction began, 1859 AD carved into the lintel above the door. If you look up to the windows you will see a number of Latin inscriptions which I will need to investigate further. Then if you move around the tower to the left you will notice some further inscriptions on the flagstones, some have been more affected by the weather than others but I could make one out, which relates to a visit by the then prince of Wales, whom was stationed in the nearby Curragh Camp in 1861 and later went on to become Edward VII. The inscription reads ‘September 16 A.D. 1861 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales ascended this Tower’. Now considering that by 1861, the construction of the tower had not been completed until 1863, I wouldn’t say that the young prince got very far.
Once you reach to top you will notice that there is another inscription carved into the masonry. Some of it is quite faint, but I have learned from previous experience to always carry some tracing paper and a stick of charcoal or crayon with me for such times. So I was quickly able to make out the full inscription, which reads as follows; ‘In thankful remembrance of God’s mercies, many and great- Built by Sir Gerald George Aylmer, Baronet, AD 1860’. Further inscriptions at the landing relate to the stone mason brothers ‘Lawrence and William Gorry, Bros., Masons’. Then on the top steps are the words “assisted by” and the names of the tenants are given on the steps as follows: –
Lawrence Behan, Grangeclare:
Thomas Baker, Allenwood,
James Brennan, Grangeclare:
Patrick Callan, Derrymullen:
James Carroll, Barnecrow:
James Carter, Grangeclare:
Joseph Carter, Grangeclare:
Thomas Carter, Coolagh:
Thomas Carter, Grangeclare:
Michael Connor, Grangeclare:
John Cribben, Grangeclare:
Lawrence Cribbin, Lowtown:
Marcella Cribbin, Lowtown:
Peter Cribbin, Drimshree:
Thomas Culleton, Allenwood:
William Curtis, Kilmeague:
James Doogan, Carrick:
James Dowling, Allenwood:
James Dowling, Dunburne:
Francis Dowling, Barnecrow:
Francis Dowling, Baronstown:
James Doyle, Ballyteague:
Patrick Dunn, Dunburne:
Denis Dunny, Pluckerstown:
John Dunny, Pluckerstown:
John Fitzpatrick, Grangeclare:
Thomas Flood, Carrick:
William Flynn, Allenwood:
Michael Gannon, Allenwood:
Stephenson Haslam, Kilmeague:
Thomas Harbert, Derrymullen:
Anne Healy, Allenwood:
Catherine Healy, Russellstown:
Christ. Healy, Ballyteague:
Denis Healy, Ballentine:
John Healy, Kilmeague:
Peter Healy, Ballyteague:
Peter Healy, Russellstown.
Edmond Hegarty, Ballyteague:
James Hennigan, Ballyteague:
Christopher Hickey, Grangeclare:
Patrick Hickey, Rathernan:
Thomas Hynes, Cloncumber:
Hugh Kelly, Dunburne:
Richard Kelly, Rathernan:
Elizabeth Knowles, Carrick:
Matthew Knowles, Pluckerstown:
John Lazenby, Grangeclare:
Matthew Lazenby, Kilmeague:
William Lazenby, Ballentine:
Patrick Lennon, Cloncumber:
Patrick Logan, Allenwood,
George Low, Baronstown:
Patrick Moran, Ballyteague:
Bridget Mulhall, Derrymullen:
Joseph Nevitt, Grangeclare:
James Norton, Grangeclare:
Ed. Nowlan, Grangehiggin:
Matthew Nowlan, Grangehiggin:
Peter Noylan, Kilmeague:
William Ormsby, Grangeclare:
Edward Payne, Ballyteague:
Joseph Payne, Drimshree:
George Price, Grangeclare:
William Price, Grangeclare:
Christopher Quinn, Littleton:
John Rochford, Coolagh:
Charles Ryan, Dunburne:
Mel Somers, Ballyteague:
Joseph Strong, Coolagh:
Robert Strong, Coolagh:
Samuel Strong, Dunburne:
Wilson Symonds, Allenwood,
John Thornton, Ballyteague:
Michael Thorpe, Drimshree:
John Tiernan, Allenwood:
John Tiernan, Ballentine:
William Tyrell, Grangeclare:
James Walsh, Allenwood:
James Walsh, Carrick:
William Wilson, Dunburne:
George Wilson, Carrick:
The top of the tower has had a rather unusual glass conservatory installed, but as luck would have it, there is a window, which can be opened. Thankfully my recent lifestyle change and fitness regime has seem me lose a bit of weight and I was able to squeeze out through the window and stand in the gap between the crenelations and the glass. The surrounding view is thoroughly amazing; with clear skies I was able to survey all around me from the Hill of Croghan rising out of the bogland below to the Curragh plains and the Slieve Bloom Mountains. As I was making my way back towards the trail, I suddenly became aware of a very strong and sweet scent. For a moment I turned around and was temporarily overcome with an unusual sense of peace. So I stopped to savour the moment. It is not very often that I come across a place that emits such a strong vibration or presence that it stops you in your tracks like this, and on a number of occasions, especially last year these occurrences where quite negative, which means that it’s time to leave. Thankfully this was not the case here; I guess the best way to describe the experience was a very strong sense of welcome. This will be one place that I shall be returning to again and again; maybe I might see you up there someday?
As mentioned earlier there is unfortunate downside to the Hill, back in 2008 most of the hill or if you believe Kildare County Council, the entire hill is owned by Roadstone Dublin Ltd. This would explain why the heritage officials advised me to contact Roadstone in order to get permission to visit the site. As with many important heritage sites around the country there are no road signs or information boards to tell you of the hills importance. Whilst the heritage officials are quite helpful in my experience, I got the impression that there was something more sinister going on. For starters why the hell would the Kildare county council give away the rights to such an important landmark to a private company, whom have almost quarried away the entire west side of the hill. In Roadstone defence, although they have quarried almost right up to the mound, I found them most helpful when I was seeking permission to gain access to the site. Even though the car park is blocked off, which I personally believe to be the work of the council, there is a nice clear trail which leads you right up to the summit, much of which is heavily signposted and fenced off in the more dangerous parts. This does not seem like the work of someone whom has something to hide. Now I might dirty my bib for writing this but, it would seem to me that the council have some serious questions to answer. Don’t get me wrong there are many great people working in the heritage departments, but I do think there is a major cover up going on in relation to the Hill of Allen. It would seem that contrary to the advice I received from Kildare County Council, The Hill and Folly are actually open to the public. During the course of the two hours I spent on the hill I met a number of locals whom say that they regularly use the hill for walking. What really needs to be done here is to have the quarry filled in and let nature restore the hill to its former beauty. Any monies coming from the activities of the quarry could easily be replaced with a properly run Heritage/Tourism plan.
My Irish Books
Irish History Books by Art Kavanagh
Leinster Leader – December 2004
The Great Potato Famine of 1845-1849
The eastern part of the county may have escaped the serious deprivation experienced elsewhere in the county. With half of the potato crop unfit for human consumption The Clane area suffered a population decrease of 20.36% during this period. Other areas at best had a 1.19% increase whilst others had from –8% - 27.93%
The True Story of Victorian Super Spy. Extracts from Delusions by Peter Edwards.
Thomas Billis Beach 1841-1894; He infiltrated the Irish revolutionary movement in North America for a quarter of a century under the name Henri Le Caron and was known in Canada, America and British Intelligence Services by a series of aliases that included, Informant B, Thomas, Mr McKay, and Dr Howard. He was the first super spy for the Dominion of Canada, and operated mainly out of Braidwood Illinois, a small mining community on the outskirts of Chicago. Irish nationalist John Devoy grudgingly called him ‘The champion spy of the century’. Henri Le Caron kept the information flowing to the three governments on the activities of the Fenian movement in America who wanted to annex Canada and then use this as a bargaining tool with the British on the basis that if they left Ireland they would get Canada back, a similar situation was being mooted in Australia, neither of which came to anything.
Revolutionary Movements: Clan-na-Gael
The goals of the secret Irish brotherhood were to attack English politicians and landmarks to force Irish Home Rule. In Irish the name means ‘Clan or Family of the Gaels’ or Irish Kinfolk. The group worked closely with the United Brotherhood of Ireland. Clan-na-Gael was founded in 1868 by Irish-Americans who wanted a change from Fenianism, which was wracked by factionalism. Its founders included New York Herald scientific editor Jerome Collins, who died in 1880 exploring the Artic.
This organization pre-dates Clan-na-Gael, and sought to forcibly separate Ireland from England. Leaders of its North American arm hoped to take over Canada, and then swap it with Great Britain for Ireland. Its name was taken from an old Irish Legend about an army called the Fianna who protected Ireland from foreign invaders.
A short-lived, particularly extreme terrorist group responsible for the 1882 murder of two English politicians in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. The killings horrified Irish party Leader Charles Stewart Parnell.
After the Famine two-thirds of the Lands of Kildare were devoted to outdoor stock fattening and half of the remainder producing hay for winter-feeding. There was little tillage with the Athy area in the south of the county significant in grain. The Land League was a passive resistance movement in Ireland in the 1880’s aimed at breaking the landlord’s grip over farmland.
Michael Davitt’s 1846-1906 anti-landlords movement. The Irish Land League was strongest among urban communities. Land agitation including intimidation of landlords and agrarian crime, became the norm.
The Irish nationalist movement was created in 1878 by Michael Davitt and John Devoy in an attempt to wed the revolutionary spirit of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish-American Clan-na-Gael with the parliamentary actions of Charles Stewart Parnell’s Irish Party, in a united call for land rights. Its proponents felt the need to accomplish something beyond bloodshed or, as John Devoy bluntly said ‘We must come out of the rat hole of conspiracy’.
This was a particular secretive Irish revolutionary leadership group in the United States, which was made up of three Clan-na-Gael members led by Chicago lawyer Alexander Sullivan.
Leading journalists, lawyers, historians, and poets were radicalised by the Great Potato Famine of 1845-1848 made up this nationalist movement. They felt betrayed by England as millions starved, while Irish grown produce that could have saved them was exported to England for profit. They argued that force was justified, if necessary, and sought a separate Parliament for the Irish, based in Ireland. Many were transported to Australia, or fled to America, where some of them joined forces with the Fenian Independence movement.
Ancient History of Kildare
An inland town on Ptolemy’s map of Ireland of 100 AD may be Rheban on the Barrow river, the only written records from pre-Christian County Kildare. The estimated date for the abandonment of the sacred pre-Christian site of Knockaulin/ Dún Áilinne is 400 AD, the traditional date for foundation of the monastery at Cill Dara is 490 AD, the date for the death of first Bishop Conlaed ua hEimri, (St Conleth) is 520 AD and the estimated date for the death of foundress Naomh Bríd/ St Brigid, is 524 AD (also dated 521 and 526, traditionally February 1). The rise of Kildare sept the Uí Dúnlainge after 633AD helped promote the cult of Naomh Bríd, giving her status as one of three ‘national saints’ of Ireland and increase the status of the two monasteries where they had influence, Kildare and Glendalough.
The first biography of Naomh Bríd, Vita Brigitae, already containing familiar wonder tales such as the story of how her cloak expanded to cover the area now known as the Curragh of Kildare, was compiled in 650AD by Cogitosus for Faolán mac Colmáin the first of the Uí Dúnlainge kings of Leinster. In 799 a reliquary in gold and silver was created for relics of Conlaed (St Conleth). Further south the death of Diarmait (St Diarmuid), anchorite scholar and founder of Castledermot created a second major monastic site in the county. There were also about 50 local saints associated with pattern days and wells in the county. Kildare is home to five surviving round towers at Kildare town, Castledermot, Old Kilcullen, Taghadoe near Maynooth and Oughter Ard near Ardclough.
Kings of Leinster
The Uí Dúnlainge claimed descent from Dúnlaing, son of Enna Nia. Their positions as Kings of Leinster were unopposed following the death of Aed mac Colggan in the Battle of Ballyshannon, on 19 August 738. The dynasty then divided into three kindreds, amongst which the kingship rotated from c.750 until 1050. This is unusual in early Irish history, according to Professor Francis John Byrne of University College Dublin, for it was the equivalent of “keeping three oranges in the air.” 14 Uí Meiredaig kings (later to become the O'Tooles) were based at Mullaghmast/Máistín 9 Uí Faelain kings (later the O'Byrnes) were based at Naas/ Nás na Ríogh and 10 Uí Dúnchada kings (later the Hiberno-Norman FitzDermots) were based at Lyons Hill/ Líamhain. The influence of the family helped secure place-myths for prominent Kildare landmarks in the heroic and romantic literature such as the Dindeanchas, Dinnshenchas Érenn as one of the “assemblies and noted places in Ireland”
In 833 Vikings raided Kildare monastery for first of sixteen times, the second and most destructive raid following three years after, and the power of the Uí Dúnlainge waned after the battles of Gleann Mama, beside Lyons Hill in the north of the county in 999 and Clontarf in 1014. After the death of the last Kildare-based King of Laighin, Murchad Mac Dunlainge, in 1042, the Kingship of Leinster reverted to the Uí Cheinnselaig sept based in the south east.
In the Gaelic-era "Triads of Ireland", Kildare was described at line 4 as: "The heart of Ireland".
End of the Abbacy
In 1132 Kildare monastery was destroyed by Diarmait Mac Murchada /Diarmait MacMurrough, King of Laighin, when he forced the abbess to marry one of his followers and installed his niece as abbess. It was the end of the only major Irish church office open to women, in 1152 the Synod of Kells deprived the Abbess of Kildare of traditional precedence over bishops and when the last abbess of Kildare, Sadb ingen Gluniarainn Meic Murchada, (niece of Diarmait Mac Murchada), died in 1171 the Norman invasion of Ireland brought the famous abbacy to an end. Gerald of Wales/ Giraldus Cambrensis visited Kildare in 1186 and described the (later lost) Book of Kildare as the “dictation of an angel.” He also recorded the sacred fire of Kildare, the pagan nature of which was subject of iconoclastic suspicion as early as 1220 when it was extinguished by Henry de Londres, archbishop of Dublin. According to folklore, it was rekindled and continued to burn until the Protestant Reformation in 1541.
Boundaries---Origins as Diocese
The first attempt to define the borders of Kildare was in 1111 when a sphere of influence for Kildare diocese was defined by the synod of Raith Bressail. For a short time Kilcullen was also a diocese.
Initial Norman structures
Reginal Tower Waterford Ardee Castle Co Louth
After the Cambro-Norman invasion removed the Uí Dúnlainge dynasty from power in 1170, Diarmait Mac Murcada’s Norman allies led by Strongbow divided Kildare amongst themselves: the Barony of Carbury to Meyler FitzHenry, Naas Offalia to Maurice Fitzgerald, Norragh to Robert FitzHereford and Salt (Saltus salmonus – Salmon Leap) to Adam FitzHereford. In 1210 Kildare became one of original twelve Norman counties of Ireland, originally known as the “Liberty of Kildare”. The Normans introduced the feudal system which was the usual landholding system in Western Europe at the time.
In 1247 the estate of Anselm Marshall was subdivided; Kildare was assigned to Sybilla (fourth daughter of William Marshall and Isabella, heiress to Strongbow and Aoife). Sybilla was already dead so the “Liberty of Kildare”, including what is now counties Laois and Offaly, passed to her daughter Agnes and husband William de Vesci. In 1278 the “Liberty” (later County) of Kildare was restored to Anges de Vesci. On her death in 1290 her son William succeeded to the Lordship of Kildare.
Beginning of the County of Kildare
In 1297 William de Vesci surrendered the “Liberty of Kildare” to the English crown. “County Kildare” came into being and was defined as such by an Act of Edward I.
Shortly afterwards De Vesci fled to France, leaving the FitzGeralds of Maynooth to become the pre-eminent family in the county. John FitzThomas FitzGerald, 5th Baron of Offaly, was created first Earl of Kildare on May 14, 1316.
The Norman settlers also had their own literature. In 1200-25 the "Song of Dermot and the Earl" was drafted in Norman-French, and mentioned parts of Kildare. Soon after 1300 the "Kildare Poems" were written in medieval English.
Changes in Boundaries
The 1297 boundaries of County Kildare included much of the present counties Offaly and Laois. These were shired as King’s and Queen’s Counties in 1556.
County Kildare assumed its current borders in 1836 when it was reassigned three detached sections of County Dublin (including Ballymore Eustace) and one detached district of Kings County (the western Harristown and Kilbracken), while a detached district of Kildare, around Castlerickard, was reassigned to County Meath.
The establishment of a Cistercian Abbey at Monasterevan by the O’Dempsey’s in 1189 and an Augustinian priory in Naas in 1200 brought a new monastic tradition to Kildare. In 1202 Great Connell Priory Augustinian priory, set to become one of the finest in medieval Ireland, was founded by Meyler FitzHenry. In 1223 the last Gaelic bishop of Kildare, Cornelius MacFaelain, was succeeded by Ralph of Bristol and control of the church remained in Norman hands. In 1253 a Dominican friary was established at Athy and in 1302 a Franciscan abbey at Castledermot. In the early 14th century, the Kildare Poems, comprising some of the earliest written documents of English in Ireland, are thought to have been composed by Franciscan monks from Kildare.
In the years leading to the ascendancy of the FitzGerald family (1470–1535) Kildare came virtual capital of Ireland. The Irish Parliament sat in Naas on twenty occasions between 1255 and 1484, and there were also sittings in Kildare in 1266-67 and 1310, 12 in Castledermot between 1264 and 1509, Ballymore Eustace in 1390 and Great Connell Priory in 1478. English King Richard II took the submission of Irish chiefs at Great Connell Priory Augustinian Priory in 1395. in 1481, Gerald FitzGerald, Gearóid Mór, eighth earl of Kildare, was appointed English King’s Deputy in Ireland by Edward IV. The principles of the county, Edmond Lane, Bishop of Kildare, the Prior of Great Connell Priory and Gearóid Mór all assisted in coronation of Yorkist pretender Lambert Simnel in Dublin but were pardoned by the new king Henry VIII after Simnel’s defeat.
In 1488 Gearóid Mór became one of first to use guns in Ireland, importing six handguns from Germany for his personal guard and using cannon to destroy Balrath Castle in County Westmeath. When he was established in 1496 as Lord Deputy of Ireland, English King Henry VIII’s man in Ireland, the king allegedly said “if all Ireland cannot rule this man, let him rule all Ireland.” In 1504 Gearóid Mór defeated Clanricard and O Bríain in Knockdoe, Co Galway, the most important battle of his career. Gearóid Mór built Athy castle to secure his southern frontier in 1506 but died in Athy in 1513 from gunshot wounds received in an engagement with O’Mores and was succeeded by Gearóid Óg. Gearóid Óg established Ireland’s first University at Maynooth in 1518.
Even at the supposed height of their power, accusations by rivals that the family was plotting against Henry VIII bedeviled the FitzGerald dynasty. Gearóid Mór spent two years and Gearóid Óg 11 years in all as the King’s prisoner in the Tower of London. In 1534 Gearóid Óg was recalled to London once more (February), leaving his 20-year-old son Silken Thomas in charge. Thomas declared rebellion (11 June) on false information that his father had been executed. In 1535 Maynooth Castle, stronghold of Silken Thomas, was bombarded by cannon for 18 days and taken by William Brereton. Rathangan castle was also taken before Thomas submitted in October. Despite a guarantee of personal safety, Silken Thomas and five uncles were executed in the Tower of London in 1537. Thomas’s younger brother Gearóid was smuggled to Tuscany. The FitzGerald lands were confiscated and the biggest share-out of Kildare land since the Cambro-Norman conquest took place. In 1552 Gearóid the only survivor of FitzGerald family, was restored to his ancestral title and possessions.
After King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1533 after his decision to remarry, the Pope appointed Franciscan Dónall O Bóacháin bishop of Kildare. When he died Thady Reynolds was appointed and initially recognised by Henry VIII. Reynolds refused to break with Rome in common with most Irish bishops and while he continued to minister Henry VIII appointed William Miagh in opposition as the first Protestant bishop of Kildare. Some later documents refer to his 1550 successor Thomas Lancaster as the first Protestant bishop, partly because he was Kildare’s first married bishop and partly because Henry VIII also disliked Lutherans until his death in 1547. By 1550 Edward VI was formulating a more Lutheran state religion.
When the English crown turned back to Catholicism under Queen Mary in 1555-58, Thomas Leverous became the first native Kildare bishop in 400 years, being of Norman descent. From 1558 the new Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne and as he refused to take the Oath of Allegiance he was deprived of his see. In 1570 the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis finally declared Elizabeth to be an illegitimate heretic, and from this point on it became harder for Kildare's landed families, most of whom were Catholic, to be simultaneously loyal to the queen and also to be observant Catholics. Kildare's numerous Norman families became known as Old English, to distinguish them from newer arrivals conformed to the state religion.
Queen Elizabeth 1
Queen Elizabeth I granted charters to Naas in 1568 and Athy in 1613. In 1576 the earliest record of grazing rights on the Curragh named Robert Bathe as the beneficiary. In 1580, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, 200 Spaniards who had arrived in Smerwick in the Dingle Peninsula as part of the 1579 Papal invasion force and marched to Naas were massacred by the English crown forces at Fód Spáinigh. In 1581 Catholic martyrs Fr James Eustace and Fr Nicholas FitzGerald were executed in Naas.
Wars of the 1640s---See also: Irish Confederate Wars
Kildare suffered greatly in the civil wars of the 1640s that ravaged both Ireland and Britain -see Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
Lord Deputy Thomas Wentworth came to reside at the uncompleted Jigginstown House in Naas, Ireland’s first royal palace, in 1637. When he was recalled and executed in 1641 it remains unfinished and today only the basement is still standing. (See The Coollattin Estate pages on this web site).
The wars began in Ireland with the Irish Rebellion of 1641 that broke out in October of that year. The early fighting in Kildare saw small bands of Irish Catholic rebels attacking English troops and Protestant settlers, followed by a punitive English expedition led by the Earl of Ormonde. In early 1642 Ormonde led out his royalist forces to subdue Kildare; burned the town of Lyons Hill, gave up Naas to his soldiers to plunder, reduced Kildare cathedral to ruins through cannon-fire and sent parties to burn Kilcullen, Castlemartin, and “the entire county for 17 miles in length and 25 in breadth”. Butler garrisoned Naas and then defeated the Confederate Irish forces under Lord Mountgarret in the Battle of Kilrush (April 15). When Father Peter Higgins of Naas was hanged, he became the county’s third famous Catholic martyr.
In May 1642, the landed Catholic rebels set up their own government at Kilkenny known as Confederate Ireland. Most of the Kildare landowners participated in this assembly. The English position was weakened by the outbreak of the English Civil War, the recall of many of their troops and the split of the remaining forces between Royalists and Parliamentarians.
The Parliamentarians were the more hostile faction to the Confederates and a truce known as the first Ormonde Peace, a ceasefire between Royalists and Irish Confederates, was signed at Jigginstown House in Naas (Sept 15). The ceasefire broke down in May 1646 and Confederate forces marched through Kildare to besiege Dublin. The Royalists then handed the capital over to Parliamentarian troops in 1647 and the Confederate armies tried to eliminate this hostile force. Owen Roe O'Neill took Woodstock Castle in Athy briefly in 1647. Thomas Preston also took Maynooth castle in that year and hanged its garrison. However, Preston's Leinster army was destroyed, losing 3000 killed at the battle of Dungans Hill, on the road between Maynooth and Trim in August 1647, crippling Confederate power in the area. Kildare landowner and Confederate cavalry officer Garret Cron Fitzgerald was killed early in the battle. In 1648 Owen Roe O'Neill refused to ally his army with Ormonde's royalists and the moderate Confederates, and engaged in a brief war with them which fatally weakened the Confederate cause.
In 1649, Oliver Cromwell landed in Dublin with over 10,000 Parliamentarian troops and began a thorough re-conquest of Ireland. In 1650 Naas and Kildare surrendered to Cromwellian forces. Cromwell’s Dublin-based commander John Hewson took Ballisonan Castle by force. Athy and Castledermot were captured without opposition.
The first major map of Kildare, The Down Survey was completed in 1656. It served as the basis of more redistribution of land confiscated after the Cromwellian conquest, in line with the Adventurers Act (see also Plantations of Ireland). After the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, further estates in Kildare forfeited included those of Talbot, Dongan, Tyrrel, Eustace, Trant and Lawless who continued to support the losing Jacobite cause. The best known buyer of land from the new grantees was the Donegal-born lawyer and estate agent, William Conolly, who built what was then the largest private house in Ireland at Castletown House, Celbridge in 1722-28.
Diocese of Kildare
The Catholic diocese of Kildare first united with Leighlin Diocese to the south in 1676 when Mark Forstall, bishop of Kildare, was also appointed administrator of Leighlin by St Oliver Plunkett. He was arrested in 1678 and again in 1681 for ‘having exercised papal jurisdiction.’ The union was formalised in 1694 when John Dempsey was appointed bishop of Kildare and administrator of Leighlin, despite penal laws. The last Catholic bishop to reside in Kildare was James Gallagher, much of it in hiding near the Bog of Allen. His Sixteen Irish Sermons (1736) is the major Irish language theological work of the age and has gone through 14 editions by 1820. The Anglican/Episcopalian Diocese of Kildare merged with Dublin in 1846 after the death of the last Church of Ireland bishop of Kildare, Charles Dalrymple Lindsay. In 1976 the Church of Ireland diocese of Kildare separated from Dublin and joined to Meath.
Kildare enjoyed prosperity during the 18th century, as the focus of economic life turned to the large landed estates and market towns.
The Earl of Kildare purchased and started reconstruction of Carton House near Maynooth in 1739. Henry Boyle Carter purchased and started reconstruction of Castlemartin near Kilcullen in 1730. The running of horse races on the Curragh, well established for centuries, was formalized in 1717 when the duties of the Ranger of the Curragh were extended to supervising “the proper conduct of the King's Plate”. Maps of the county compiled by Noble & Keenan in 1753 and Alexander Taylor in 1783 show the advent of arterial drainage and the boglands of the north west of the county being reclaimed for agriculture.
Turnpike (toll) roads were laid from the 1730s, largely in line with today's main roads. In the late 1700s the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal passed through the county on the way from Dublin to the Shannon. The county was run by landowners on the grand jury system. While much of Ireland had a problem with absentee landlords living and spending their rents mostly in Dublin or London, most Kildare landlords lived on their land and reinvested more of their income locally.
In the Parliament of Ireland (1297-1800), by 1684 Kildare was represented by two men for Kildare County, and two each for the boroughs of Naas, Kildare, Athy and Harristown. Therefore the county had 10 seats in the 300-seat Irish House of Commons.
In the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801-1918) Kildare became the single constituency of Kildare in 1801-1885, returning 2 members; two constituencies of North Kildare and South Kildare, returning one member each;
In 1918 both elections were won by members who sat in the First Dáil
From the 1921 election and the creation of the Irish Free State the county has been merged with other constituencies, or has been divided: Kildare–Wicklow 1921-22 Kildare 1923-37 Carlow–Kildare 1937-48 Kildare 1948-97 Kildare North 1997- Kildare South 1997-
Industrial projects were started by largely Quaker families at Ballitore by Abraham Shackleton in 1726 while Robert Brooke was assisted by a £25,000 grant from the Irish Parliament in building a cotton mill and town of 200 houses at the newly named town of Prosperous in the 1780s. Turnpike roads were built from the 1730s. John Wynn Baker opened Kildare’s earliest factory, manufacturing agricultural instruments at Loughlinstown, Celbridge in 1764. John Cassidy established a distillery in Monasterevan in 1784. In 1729 Ireland’s first turnpike road was created from Dublin to Kilcullen. In 1756 the year that construction work on the Grand Canal commenced in the north of the county a 31-year-old Celbridge-born brewer Arthur Guinness leased a brewery at Leixlip in 1755 and bought a second brewery at St James's Gate in Dublin. In the 1790s the Royal Canal was dug from Dublin along the north of the county and the first railways were laid in the 1840s.
Early estimates of Kildare’s population include GP Bushe’s 1788 return of the number of households in Kildare at 11,272 (population afterwards estimated at 71,570) and DA Beaufort’s household returns of 11,205 in 1790, and estimated population at 56,000. Mason’s Statistical Survey of 1813 calculated the number of households at 14,564, and the population at 85,000 with figures for towns: Athy 3,192, Naas 2,018, Maynooth 1,468, Kildare 1,299. The first census in 1821 recorded a population of 99,065 (Athy 3,693, Naas 3,073, Kildare 1,516, Maynooth 1,364).
Historical populations Year Population. %±
1653 11,983 —1659 13,825 15.4% 1788 71,570 417.7% 1813 85,000 18.8% 1821 99,065 16.5% 1831 108,424 9.4% 1841 114,488 5.6% 1851 95,723 -16.4% 1861 90,946 -5.0% 1871 83,614 -8.1% 1881 75,804 -9.3% 1891 70,206 -7.4% 1901 63,566 -9.5% 1911 66,627 4.8% 1926 58,028 -12.9% 1936 57,892 -0.2% 1946 64,849 12.0% 1951 66,437 2.4% 1956 65,915 -0.8% 1961 64,420 -2.3% 1966 66,404 3.1% 1971 71,977 8.4% 1979 97,185 35.0% 1981 104,122 7.1% 1986 116,247 11.6% 1991 122,656 5.5% 1996 134,992 10.1% 2002 163,944 21.4% 2006 186,335 13.7%
Maynooth, which had been the site of Ireland’s first 'college' in 1518, was re-established by the government as a seminary for Catholic lay and ecclesiastical students in 1795, with Kildare-born Fr John Chetwode Eustace among first professors. In 1817 Maynooth's lay college closed and it functioned solely as a Catholic seminary for 150 years. In 1910 it became a constituent college of the National University of Ireland and reopened for lay students in 1967. Nobel Peace prize winner John Hume is among its alumni. In 1812 Clongowes Wood College near Clane was founded by the Jesuit order as a centre for second-level education. James Joyce and three Taoisigh of the Republic are among its alumni.
What is not generally know, is that when the Chuch of Ireland was dis-established and most of its lands were confiscated by the State, as a result of the sale of these lands a substantial sum of money was given to the creation of Maynooth College. The English realised that they could not beat Catholism or Irish out of the Irish so they decided to set up a mirror image University similar to Trinity College Dublin, which was Maynooth College.
Grand Canal Sallins Co Kildare Canal Barge
Work on the Grand Canal began in 1756 and it reached the Kildare border in 1763. In 1779 the first section of Grand Canal was opened to goods traffic, from Dublin to Ballyhealy, near Celbridge and in 1780 to passenger boats. Ten years later the Naas branch of the Grand Canal completed. The canal reached Tullamore in 1784, and a southern branch known as the Barrow navigation reached Athy in 1791.
Traffic on the Grand Canal peaked at 120,615 passengers in 1846 and 379,045 tons of cargo in 1865. The canal was motorized in 1911-24 and closed for commercial traffic in 1960. The Grand Canal remains open for pleasure boats and restoration of the Royal Canal was completed in 2006. Both were seriously affected by the advent of railways in Kildare from the 1840s.
Royal Canal at Kilcock.
Work began on the Royal Canal in 1789 and it reached Kilcock in 1796, but this more northerly line was never a commercial success.
1798 Rebellion and Emmet Rebellion of 1803---See also Irish Rebellion of 1798
Support in Kildare for the United Irishmen’s revolutionary democratic movement at the time of the 1798 rebellion has been estimated at 10,000. It has also been suggested that Valentine Lawless who inherited Lyons near Ardclough was a prominent member of the government in waiting should the rebellion succeed. United Irish leader and later informer Thomas Reynolds lived at Kilkea, Lord Edward Fitzgerald returned to Maynooth in 1796 to organise the United Irishmen and Theobald Wolfe Tone was buried at his godfather’s family plot at Bodenstown. In the years leading up to the rebellion there were anti-militia riots in riots in Kilcullen and Ballitore. Lawrence O'Connor was executed in Naas for plotting against the English administration in 1795. In December 1797, 1,500 guns and 3,000 bayonets were captured on a boat on the canal at Athy.
The first shots of the 1798 rebellion were fired in Kildare. On May 23, the signal for rebellion was given when mail coaches were seized at Johnstown and Maynooth. Kildare rebels attacked Kilcullen and Prosperous by Sir William Griffiths of Millicent, they were repulsed at Naas and Clane, and a force under William Aylmer was eventually defeated at the battle of Ovidstown on June 18. 350 surrendering prisoners were slaughtered in the Gibbet Rath massacre at the Curragh despite an initially successful effort by General Dundas to defuse the rising with a policy of mass pardons. In turn, the two loyalist garrisons at Rathangan were also slaughtered after surrendering. The fighting in Kildare did not end until the surrender of William Aylmer in mid-July.
In 1803 Kildare-men recruited by Michael Quigly participated in a brief United Irish uprising organised by Robert Emmet. Maynooth was the only town successfully seized by the rebels (July 23–25) and Kildare troops under Nicholas Gray marched to Thomas Street in Dublin to participate in the ill-fated rebellion. Emmett’s uniform was later found at Rathcoffey. The most prominent victim of the Emmet rebellion, Arthur Wolfe, Lord Kilwarden, was buried at Oughterard in Ardclough.
Traffic on the Grand Canal peaked at 120,615 passengers in 1846 and 379,045 tons of cargo in 1865. The canal was motorized in 1911-24 and closed for commercial traffic in 1960. The Grand Canal remains open for pleasure boats and restoration of the Royal Canal was completed in 2006. Both were seriously affected by the advent of railways in Kildare from the 1840s.
One outcome of the rebellion was the establishment of a temporary military encampment at the Curragh in 1805. In 1816 a new town came into being with the building of a military barracks near a bridge over the Liffey – it was to be called Newbridge. In 1855 a permanent encampment was built for 10,000 infantry on the Curragh.
Kildare had ten parliamentary representatives in old Irish House of Commons - two for the Kildare County and two members each from Athy, Harristown, Kildare Borough and Naas. Two of the most powerful figures in 18th century politics resided in the county, Speakers of the house William Conolly at Castletown House near Celbridge and John Ponsonby at Bishopscourt near Kill. The post-1801 Act of Union Kildare county constituency had two seats in the British House of Commons. The La Touche and Fitzgerald families controlled local politics through the first half of the 19th century until challenged by Balyna-born Richard More O'Ferrall. Naas Corporation, controlled by the Bourke family, was dissolved in 1840. In 1898 Stephen J Brown was elected first chairman of the first Kildare County Council to be directly elected. With the rise of the Home Rule movement and the establishment of a nationalist newspaper, the Leinster Leader in Naas in 1884, William Cogan and Otho Fitzgerald were succeeded by Home Rule Members of Parliament Charles Henry Meldon, James Leahy and James Carew, owner of the Leinster Leader and founder of the Irish Independent newspaper.
Sallins county Kildare Station
The first sod on the new railway line from Dublin to Cork was turned at Adamstown near the Dublin-Kildare border in January 1846. By June the line had been completed to Sallins. The first train ran to Carlow in 1846 and to Cork in 1850. The third worst rail accident in Irish history occurred at Straffan Station in 1853, when a goods train ran into the back of a stationary passenger train killing 18 people, including a nephew of Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell. As rail traffic declined Straffan Station was closed in 1947 and Hazelhatch and Sallins stations in 1963. Kildare was also served by the Tullow Extension, running south from Naas, through Harristown (for that area and Kilcullen) and on to Tullow in County Carlow. Main article: Dublin Suburban Rail
In 1995 a section of the line was opened for a new Dublin area commuter service, the Arrow, and Sallins and Hazlehatch stations reopened as part of the "Southwestern Commuter" line. Another reopened line runs westwards, serving Leixlip, Maynooth and Kilcock, continuing towards Enfield, County Meath.
Horse Racing at the Curragh 1944
The Turf Club was founded at the Curragh horse racing circuit in 1790 to regulate the racing of horses, but attempts to establish an Irish 1000 guineas in 1815 and an “O'Darby Stakes” in 1817 were unsuccessful until the most important flat race in the country, the Irish Derby was established on an annual basis from 1866 on. The Turf Club regulated to famous bare knuckle contests involving Dublin prize fighter Dan Donnelly against Tom Hall in 1814 and George Cooper in 1815, drawing estimated crowds of 20,000 to the Curragh. In 1846 the first railway excursion organised for a sporting event worldwide ran on the new Great Southern and Western Railway line to Curragh races. The first annual ball of the Kildare hunt was held in 1860, soon to become the social event of the year in the county. Punchestown Races were reorganised and reconstituted as 'Kildare and National Hunt Steeplechases' in 1861. The first day of the 1868 meeting attracted an estimated 150,000 spectators.
Athletes and Horses
Cricket clubs were established from the 1850s.
Curragh Golf Course
Ireland’s first golf course laid out on the Curragh in 1852 by Musselburgh club member David Ritchie. In 1871 County Kildare Cricket Club was formed “for the promotion of cricket, football, archery, pigeon shooting, lawn tennis and, if possible, polo. Kildare men were winning sporting fame in the USA included Clane-born Jack Kelly, alias Jack (Nonpareil) Dempsey who won the world middleweight boxing title in 1884 in Great Kills, New York, held the title for seven years and inspired a later heavyweight boxer to borrow his name. In 1893 Clane born Tommy Conneff ran a new world mile record of 4 minutes 17.8 seconds, a record that was to stand for 20 years.
In 1903 the fourth Gordon Bennett Cup Motor Race staged in Athy, setting new speed records of over 60 MPH. The GAA was established in the county in 1887 and Kildare GAA helped establish Gaelic football as a major sport meeting Kerry three times in 1903 GAA All Ireland “home” final attracting attendances of 12,000, 18,000 and 20,000. In 1995 the annual staging of the European Open golf tournament was moved to Straffan from Birmingham and the course staged the Ryder Cup in September 2006. Kildare was designated the “Thoroughbred County” by its county council in recognition of its equine tradition. In 2000 Kildare-trained racehorses won the leading races in England and Ireland over jumps and on the flat, Ted Walsh from Greenhills, Kill won the Irish (Comanche Court) and English (Papillon) Grand Nationals while Sindaar, trained by John Oxx on the Curragh, won the Irish and English Derbies. Kildare’s reputation as a stud capital was undamaged by the high profile kidnap of English derby winner Shergar in 1983.
Car Racing at the Curragh
A New State
Kildare did not participate in the Fenian rebellion of 1867, though John Devoy was born at Kill. Incidents in the Land War such as the Clongorey evictions politicised the largely agricultural county and one of the first politicians elected to the new Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann in 1922, Hugh Colohan, was a veteran of the Clongorey campaign. Several Kildare politicians have held high rank since independence including Dónal Ó Buachalla, last Governor General of the Irish Free State, who had led a column of volunteers from Maynooth to participate in the 1916 Easter Rising, Art O'Connor, appointed Minister for Agriculture by the first Dáil in 1919 and briefly leader of Sinn Féin after Eamon de Valera founded Fianna Fáil in 1926 before he, too, joined Fianna Fáil, William Norton leader of the Irish Labour Party 1932-60 and Tánaiste 1948-51 and 1954–57, Alan Dukes leader of Fine Gael 1987-90 and Minister for Finance 1982-86, Gerry Sweetman Minister for Finance 1954-57, Charlie McCreevy Minister for Finance 1997-2004 and later EU commissioner, and Paddy Power Minister for Forestry and Fisheries 1979-81 and Defence 1982.
Towns and Trends
Kildare’s population plunged to a low of 57,892 in 1936. Athy, Kildare’s most populous town since records began, was briefly overtaken by Naas as Kildare’s largest in 1901 (Naas 3,836, Athy 3,599) but regained its position by a small margin in 1926. By 1956 Newbridge was the largest town with a population of 4,157, (Athy 3,948, Naas 3,915). In 1986 Leixlip became the largest town, and Celbridge was recorded as the fastest growing town in Ireland. Naas was the largest town in 1996 only to be overtaken by Newbridge again in 2002 when the census recorded a highest ever population of 163,995 for the county, a 21.5pc increase on 1996. Infrastructural projects helped change the demographics of the county. The Kildare leg of the dual carriageway to Naas opened in 1963 and was followed by Ireland’s first section of motorway, the Naas Bypass in 1983, the Newbridge bypass (1993), Kildare bypass (2003) and Monasterevan bypass (2004) on the M7, the Maynooth bypass (1994) and Kilcock- Kinnegad bypass (2005) on the M4.
Coats of Arms and Genealogical Notes
Arms connected in some way to the county, as taken from the Irish Book of Arms. The original listings provide specific locations for families, and clues for future research. Among those in this section with rough sketches of coats of arms are Joshua Allen; Aylmer of Kilcock; Borrowes of Gilltown; Bourke of Naas; Burdett of Ballymany; Clements of Killadoon; O'Coonor Henchy of Stonebrook; Cooke Trench of Millicent; Anne Crofton of the line of Croker of Backwestern; De Burgh of Oldtown; De Courcy of Robertstown House; Eustace of Kilcock; Finny of Leixlip; James Fitzgerald of Carton; Margaretta Foster; Greem of Millbrook; Dr. George Lewis Jones of Kildare; Kennedy of Baronrath; Lawless of Cloncurry; Mansfield of Morristown Lattin; Palmer of Rahan; Wogan-Browne of Castle Brown; Arthur Wolfe; Joseph Leeson; Alice Howard of Wicklow; John Henniker; John Stratford of Baltinglass; Richard Wingfield; Bayly of Ballyarthur; Somerville of Clermont; Spedding; Stoney of the Downs; Deane of Glendaragh; Tynte of Tynte Park; Warren of Ballydonarea; Henry Maynard, Baron; Bagenal of Carlow; Burton of Burton Hall; Delany of Bagnalstown; John Dawson, Baron Dawson; Kavanagh of Borris; Robertson of Huntington Castle; Vigors of Burgage; Philip Wharton; and Wolseley of Mt. Wolseley.
Estate maps Estate maps of Kildare, Maynooth, and Carton House dating from the 18th and 19thcentury survive in the National Library of Ireland, in the Irish Architectural Archive and in repositories outside the state such as Cambridge University Library, with a small selection reproduced (Andrews 1986 & Horner 1995). Notable estate maps include:
“A survey of the town of Kildare belonging to his excellency James, Earl of Kildare”. Kildare, 1757, John Rocque, National Library of Ireland, MS 22004 (5)
“A survey of the town of Maynooth”. Kildare, 1757, John Rocque, Cambridge, University Library, MS Plans x.4.
“Maynooth, 1781”, by Thomas Sherrard, Cambridge, University Library, MS Plans x.4. “Proposed Redevelopment of Maynooth”, c. 1757, Cambridge, University Library, MS Plans x.4.
“Maynooth, 1773” by Bernard Scalé, (Carton)
“A survey of the town of Kildare, the estate of his grace the duke of Leinster”, Kildare, 1798, by Thomas Sherrard, National Library of Ireland, MS 22004 (6)
“Kildare”, 1817 by Sherrard, Brassington and Greene, National Library of Ireland, MS 22004 (7)
“Survey of the town and town-parks of Maynooth …“, c. 1821, by Sherrard, Brassington and Greene, National Library of Ireland, MS 22004 (12)
1655 French maps Copies of a series of nine maps from 1655 reproduced from the originals held in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris at a scale of 80 to 160 perches to an inch and including the baronies of Kilcullin, Carbury, Claine Great Connel Kilcah, Norrogh & Rabane, Ikeathy & Oughterany, Naas and Salt. Copies are available for consultation at the Local Studies Library.
Noble and Keenan Map of the County of Kildare, 1752. Copies are available for consultation at the Local Studies Library, and the Map Library, Trinity College Dublin.
National Library of Ireland Surnames (Part I of II)
The following is a listing of surnames for which there are manuscripts, periodicals or information of some kind at the National Library of Ireland. This list will be updated on a regular basis, however, what you see is what you get: I'm afraid that I am unable to provide more information than what is listed here. Sorry, folks. Aylmer (2)
(1). "Burke's Colonial Gentry", see p 754. (Balrath, Meath).
(2). Kildare Journal, vol. III, p 178. (Donadea
This page covers the following topics: the Aristocracy of Kildare by Turtle Bunbury, Between the Covers by Henry Bauress, Famous Fitzgeralds gathering at Maynooth Castle by Henry Bauress.
New book tell of the Aristocracy of Kildare
Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, was an, if not the, appropriate venue for launch of a new book on the history of Kildare. The house once owned by one of Ireland’s richest men, Speaker Connolly, hosted the publication of a book the aristocracy of Co. Kildare. Historian and traveller, Turtle Bunbury, has provided plenty of detail about the life and times of eighteen of the county’s most influential “big house families,” include the Connolly family.
“The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare,” was launched with the support of Kildare Kitchens and Tindal Wines. A large gathering, including members of some of the families portrayed, turned up on 8 December for a first look at the book which covers more than a thousand years of Irish history. Families include the Aylmer, Barton, de Burgh (singer, Chris, is related), Clements, Connolly, Guinness, Henry, Fennell, Fitzgerald, Latten, La Touche, Mansfield, Maunsell, Medlicott, More O’Ferrall, Moore, de Roebeck and Wolfe. Mr. Bunbury, who is also working on a travel book on Sri Lanka, has provided much detail about the lives of these often eccentric families, who had their share of failure as well as success. The book, published by Irish Family Names, describes itself as a short potted history but is a neat and comprehensive overview of its field.
Leinster Leader, January 2005 Con Costello – Looking Back
The families of de Burgh and Clements are each devoted a chapter in Turtle Bunbury’s well researched “The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare”, in a series published by Irish Family Names. The Clements family is descended from a 17th century English wine merchant, while the de Burghs claim Charlemange as an ancestor. Settled at Oldtown, Naas, since the late 17th century the family has produced many celebrated soldiers, including General Sir Eric de Burgh, who was a President of the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society, and his grandson Chris de Burgh, the popular singer who has sold more than 40 million albums and performed over 2,500 concerts worldwide.
Acknowledging that Guinness is undoubtedly one of the most famous names associated with Ireland amongst the international community, the first identifiable member of the family is Richard Guinness who was born about 1690. Now the best know member of the dynasty is Desmond who, with his late wife Mariga, established the Irish Georgian Society which awakened interest in historic houses, and especially ensured the preservation of Castletown House at Celbridge. Their son, Patrick, initiated a DNA test which confirmed their bloodline’s genetic affiliation with the Gaelic sept of Magennis of Co. Down.
Families which have disappeared from the county in modern times include those of Aylmer of Donadea, Wolfe of Forenaghts, More O’Ferrall of Balyna and Kildangan, Mansfield of Morristown Lattin, La Touche of Harristown, Barton of Straffan, and of course the Fitzgeralds. Bunbury concludes that “It will not be long before the last of the tweed-clad, Spaniel toting gentlemen vanishes in his entirety, taking with him a remarkable chapter in Irish history.” Leinster Leader, January 2005
Between the Covers with Henry Bauress
A look at Kildare’s most influential families. Historian and traveller, Turtle Bunbury, has provided plenty of detail about the life and times of eighteen of the Kildare’s most influential families. In “The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare,” he has provided fascinating details about eighteen families whose names pepper the history of not only Kildare but Ireland it one time legal power centre, London. The Aylmer, Barton, de Burgh (singer, Chris, is related), Clements, Connolly, Guinness, Henry, Fennell, Fitzgerald, Latten, La Touche, Mansfield, Maunsell, Medlicott, More O’Ferrall, Moore, de Roebeck and Wolfe families are among a network of around four hundred families who governed Ireland for more than 200 years after King William’s victory over the Jacobite forces at the Boyne in 1689. These families from the Protestant gentry and aristocracy – the Anglo Irish ascendancy – held great power up until the end of the 1900’s. Turtle Bunbury and Art Kavanagh have brought together an entertaining overview of the stories of these families, whose role in Irish history will no doubt continue to be debated.
Where did they come from? Some descended from old Irish chieftains. Others came via the Norman invasion 800 years ago and other arrived from England in the 1650’s. Yet others, like the La Touche and de Robeck, were the modern equivalent of asylum seekers on the run from religious and political turmoil on the European mainland. Whatever about their origin, Turtle Bunbury says they were the privileged elite and Kildare’s proximity to Dublin brought it to the forefront during those the aforementioned two hundred year period. The lot of the gentry, while apparently privileged, has not always been a bed or roses. There have been thorns on the rosebushes. One of the Clement family, Nat, was the architect and designer of the Aras an Uachtarain and is credited with the design of Newberry Hall and Williamstown in Carbury, Lodge Park in Straffan and Colganstown in Newcastle, Co. Dublin. But other members of that family found themselves on the wrong side of the status quo on occasions. A female member was arrested for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in the United States. Much later, another was a prominent IRA supporter in the 1930’s and was interned in the Curragh during the World War 11 period. The one time richest man in Ireland, Speaker Connolly, did not have aristocratic blood in him.
The son of a Protestant inn-keeper from Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, went to study law and began collecting land in voluminous amounts at very cheap rates. All above board? One of his friends who aided his development was the London banker, Sir Alexander Cairns, whom Jonathan Swift described as “a shuffling scoundrel.” Two of Dublin’s best known streets, Henry Street and Moore Street, are named after the Moore family of Monasterevin. The widow of one of the Earls married the Restoration dramatist, William Wycherly. She died before him and the playwright lost a lot of money fighting the will. One result was he spent seven years in Fleet Prison in London. The Wolfe family of Forenaughts in Naas, whose home is now part of the Smurfit thoroughbred operation, suffered during the Emmet Rebellion in 1803 when two of them were dragged from their carriage in Dublin and murdered. Another, Richard, died in the Sudan when his army unit was sent to relieve Gordon garrison in Khartoum in 1885. A member of the Henry family, Michael Charles Henry, the last of his family to live at Straffan House and Lodge Park, was a Commander in charge of the Port Crew on board the first Polaris submarine, Resolution. Turtle, who is also working on a travel book on Sri Lanka, has provided much detail about the lives of these often eccentric families who had their share of failure as well as success.
What of the author himself, whose surname appears in the index of the book? One of the Lennon sisters, Sarah, who featured in Stella Tillyards book, “Aristocrats,” married the Suffolk racing magnate, Sir Charles Bunbury. She divorced him and later, in 1787, Oakley Park near Celbridge, became her home and that of her husband Colonel George Napier. If it was not death, gambling also took its toll on the aristocracy. One of the Fitzgeralds lost Carton House in Maynooth as a result. Turtle’s family are from Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, and came to Ireland 300 years ago. One of his ancestors, a Norman knight at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, got land in Cheshire near a place called Bunbury. One of the family lost almost everything when he supported Charles 1 and hopped it to Ireland. The family were settled into Carlow by the 1660’s. There are five or six explanations as to how he was Christian named Turtle. One is because he was a third son and the Latin for that is Tertius. Another, he said, is that his grandmother gave him three turtles when he was a baby. “There are others but we will leave them aside,” he said in an interview with the Leader. He went to school in Dublin, at Castle Park in Dalkey until he was thirteen and then headed to Perthshire in the Scottish highlands for his secondary education. He loved it there. Back to Trinity where he started law but changed to history finishing there in 1996. A three year spell in Hong Kong in the magazine/ media area followed but he returned to Ireland and got stuck into the history business where he is now working with publisher, Art Kavanagh.
The Kildare book is part of a series and there could be another Kildare related book by the 32 year old Dublin-based historian. In between researching the gentry he has been doing a book on Sri Lanka with James Fennell of Athy and that, “Living in Sri Lanka,” will be out next year. Part of that project includes a three month spell in the country.
During his history period in Trinity, Turtle specialised in Irish history from the 17th to 19th centuries. He started work on the Kildare book in April of this year in conjunction with others such as Enneclan.ie. As far as the author is concerned, entry to the world of the aristocracy was not impossible. Speaker Connolly did it but, he said, Speaker played by the rules of that group of people, which contained both heroes and villains. Many of those big families are gone. If Kildare had about fifty of them in their heyday, less than half of them remain intact. He found the families he wrote about “very helpful.” Publisher, Art Kavanagh, has produced a number of county based books on such families, including Wexford, Tipperary, Kilkenny and now Kildare. Others are due to come on stream this year. The book describes itself as a short potted history but is a neat and comprehensive overview of its field. Every school and library should have one. Leinster Leader, October 2005
Famous Fitzgeralds gather at Maynooth Castle by Henry Bauress
Former Taoiseach, Dr. Garrett Fitzgerald was in Kildare this week to discuss some family linen in public and the gathering at Maynooth Castle revealed a very mixed bag. Accompanied by leading Irish harpists, Anne Marie O’Farrell and Cormac de Barra, the thoroughly modern Garrett spoke about Garrett Mor Fitzgerald, the 8th Earl and Lord Deputy of Ireland in the 15th century. Also on hand to dish up yarns on other members of the dynasty was his namesake, Desmond Fitzgerald, the Knight of Glin and Renagh Holohan, author of ‘The Irish Chateaux – In search of the Descendants of the Wild Geese.” The Fitzgeralds were one of the most powerful families but as Turtle Bunbury and Art Kavanagh highlighted in their recently published history of Kildare’s landed gentry and aristocracy, there were ups and downs and even offs, in the case of a head or two.
In the latter case, those of you who like loyalty in their fellow humans, may be consoled by the fate of Christopher Parese who had his head removed after selling out Maynooth Castle in 1534. Dr. Garrett told us that when Gearoid Og (Young Garrett), 9th Earl of Kildare, was summoned to London to answer charges against him – the Crown thought its middle management were running away with themselves and perhaps more – he beefed up his stronghold at Maynooth Castle and left his son, best known as Silken Thomas, in charge. But soon afterwards, Silken or Thomas Fitzgerald, Lord Offaly, hearing a false account that his dad had been executed in England, led his followers in rebellion. Unwisely, as we now know, he marched to Connaught to get support and left his foster brother, Christy Parese, in charge of the homestead. Silken thought its defence was so strong that no one could take it over. That would have been all right if Christy and his security team did the business. But when on 14 March 1535, the Lord Deputy, Skeffington, attacked the Castle, a month or so after burning the town, he got an offer which made the Castle take over easy. Parese shot out a letter – it probably arrived faster than many of our e-mails today – offering to facilitate the takeover in return for a sum of money and a “competent stay during his life.” The corrupt bribe taker arranged it so that when Skeffington’s army arrived resistance was faint from a team which “snorted at the night like grunting hogs.” Parese, expecting knighthood if not sainthood, met the Lord Deputy himself later in the afternoon.
According to Holinshed’s Chronicles of 1570, when the pair met, the Deputy “very coldly and half sternly” casting an eye towards him, said, “Parese, I am to thank thee on my master the King his behalf. And because I may be the better instructed how to reward thee during my government, I would gladly learn what thy lord and master bestowed on thee.” Parese thinking the Deputy would better the Fitzgerald largesse, told him of all the good they had given him and done for him. The Lord Deputy replied: “Why, Parese, couldst thou find in thy heart to betray his castle who has been so good a lord to thee? Truly thou are so hollow to him, wilt never be true to us.” The Lord Deputy ordered Parese be given his promised money on the surrender of the Castle “and after to chop off his head, declaring thereby that although he embraced the benefit of the treason, he could not digest the treachery of the traitor.” None of yer auld Tribunal with free barristers for Mr. Parese”.
Another Fitzgerald ancestor was luckier. John Fitzthomas, created the 1st Earl of Kildare in 1316 had an early escape. As a baby, he was supposedly rescued from a fire by a pet ape, thus giving the family its crest. Another, Garret Mor, the 8th Earl of Kildare, known as the Great Earl, was described in the Annals of the Four Masters as a “mighty man of stature, full of honour and courage.” But he did have a hot temper, “not so sharp as short.”
The family were often in trouble with the Crown. In 1552, Maynooth Castle, which had been taken from it as a result of the Silken Thomas rebellion, was returned to Gerald, Silken’s half-brother and he was restored to the title as 11th Earl of Kildare. But in 1580, he was arrested on suspicion of treachery, and his Countess, Mabel, had to humbly beseech her Majesty for mercy and crave favours. She appears to have aided the 11th Earl in his hours of need. Not all the women appeared so supportive. In 1759, the Knight of Glin told us, Gerald Fitzgerald, the 15th Earl of Desmond was proclaimed a rebel. His wife, Eleanor Butler, Countess of Desmond, told the Privy Council that he was driven to rebel by Government provocation and his “wicked brother John’s” plotting. But she was also anxious to secure her own livelihood and went as far as to offer to divorce her husband in order “to have some livelihood to live upon.” The family faced further tough times in the 1806-1825 period and Ms. Holohan provided extracts from the diaries of Lady Isabella Fitzgerald, niece of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, recalling her days at Carton, Leinster House and Blackrock. As they left Carton after the 1798 rising, they were stopped and obliged to get a passport at Leixlip where they were “shocked at the sight of a dead body erected by the soldiers against a cart and covered in derision with green ribbons.” Isabella left for France and when she returned in 1812 she went to see the family home, Leinster House, now hosting the Houses of the Oireachtas. It had been, she said, “quite neglected and was now more like a convent than a nobleman's hotel"