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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

St. Mary's College


St Mary's College Knockbeg

At the restoration of Charles II Knockbeg and the Sletty estate were granted to George Almeny or Almony who subsequently assigned the lands to a Mr. Best.1 Though Robert Best of Knockbeg who died in 1729 had a son also named Robert, the properly passed at his death to a daughter Elizabeth who married Edward Madden of Dublin. Through the marriage about I790 of Jane Madden, granddaughter of Edward above to Joseph Carruthers the lands came into the possession of the Carruthers family. In May 1847, the house and Farm of Knockbeg were offered for sale. They were purchased by Dr. James Taylor, president of Carlow College. The transfer was effected at Dublin 2th June 1847.2 in the following September St. Mary’s College was opened as a preparatory school to Carlow College

The Bests and The Carruthers

Knockbeg in 1798

Thomas Finn in the Irish Magazine refers three times to Mr B.....3 and also to the Best Man in Carlow. He writes:

"Then it was that Satan himself took human form and in the character of an Orange trumpeter, committed crimes as novel as they were enormous,5 then in fine it was that Crothers who was trumpeter to the ninth Dragoons . . . walked in procession surrounded by his fellow-friends with a large beads and wooden a crucifix suspended from his bayonet, exclaiming 'Behold the wooden Jesus' Behold the God of the papists!'

Robert Ben of Knockbeg who died in 1729 is buried in the graveyard in St. Mary's Church. Carlow under a flat stone.6 In the same graveyard is a flat stone to the memory of Jane, widow of Captain of the 43rd Light Infantry who died 13th Feb. 1853 aged 53. Memorials of the Dead 1.480, 142.

The Front Wing

The Old Co Bridewell now Gillespies' Mill, stands at the end of what was formerly Bridewell Lane.8 Most of the United Irishmen were imprisoned in it in 1798. The first part of a new jail to replace the old one was completed in 1800. The original entrance to the new jail was in Barrack Street, almost opposite the Military Barracks, now the Sacred Heart Home. The wide spacious square in front of the present entrance did not exist before 1840. By 1897 the jail was no longer in use and on 9th February of that year it was offered for sale. Robert Bell was the auctioneer. There was a large attendance.9 Michael Molloy, T.C. started the bidding at £100. Mr. Carbery, Athy and Frank Murphy, Carlow went up to £200. Fred Thompson joined in at £600, Bidding then was between Molloy and Thompson. When £1,150 was reached, Molloy asked the auctioneer to suspend the sale for fifteen minutes until he consulted his colleagues. On the resumption, the bidding went to £1,200 and Michael Molloy was declared the purchaser. Possibly Michael Molloy was acting on behalf of Bishop Foley. Some of the buildings inside were levelled and the materials used to build the new wing of Knockbeg College. In 1901 the premises were taken over by T. Thompson and Son and the name changed to Hanover Works. It is said Bishop Foley retained some title to the premises and Thompson had to pay him a shilling a year. It was stipulated that the place would not be used for proselytising purposes. It is said also that Fred Thompson once saw Bishop Foley on the railway platform at Carlow. He walked up to the Bishop and said: "I think I owe you two years' rent, my Lord," and he handed the Bishop two shillings. This was the new jail, now Hanover Works.

The College Monstrance
was owned by Dean Staunton,
First President of Carlow College

Outline History of the College

by Thomas Wall, M.A. Ph.D.

Founded by Bishop O’Keeffe m 1782 to be a house of prayer and of learning, a house wherein would be educated successors to himself and his fellow labourers in the vineyard of Christ. Carlow College from its opening in 1793 had provision for lay boys as well as for ecclesiastical student. It prepared boys for the ordinary civil life as well as for the Church, and Carlow Lay College, being the first Catholic College after the penal days, became the Alma Mater of many distinguished students. In June its president, Dr. James Taylor, acquired a mansion at Knockbeg, about three miles from Carlow, on the ancient termon lands of Sletty, hallowed by the footsteps of St. Patrick and the labours of St. Fiacc. It was a fine old place pleasantly situated overlooking the Barrow; it had been the residence of the Carruther family and further back of the Bests. In 1848 it was opened in connection with Carlow Lay College as a preparatory school and called by the sweet name of Mary, St. Mary's Preparatory Institute. From 16 to 18 boys were kept here during the opening years, all under 12 years of age and unconfirmed.


1. Knockbeg Centenary Book 112
2. Ibid 1 13
3. Op. cit. 174-5
4. I bid 448
5. Ibid 79
6. Knockbeg Centenary Book 113
7. Memorials of the Dead 1. 480 142
8. See article on the Old Gaol by Miss Teresa M. Kelly in Carloviana 1960 p. 38
9. Ibid 39

Source: The Parish of KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. by P.MacSuibhne. 1972.
Transcriber: M. Brennan c2008

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