- Killeshin Old Church, School and new church. Co.
- Source: OSI Maps
Killeshin - Land of Saints
Early in the sixth century St.
Diarmuid founded a monastery at Killeshin. His feast was 8
July. St. Comgan who succeeded him as Abbot died before 570.
His feast was 27 February. He was a native of Thomond and a
nephew of the great St. Columcille, the first exile from
Erin and patron of all our Irish exiles. Columcille was
noted for his passionate love of Ireland. As an exile in
Scotland he suffered from an intense heartlonging. "A grey
eye looks back at Eire," he said. "If I should die, it will
be from love of the Gael." St. Nainnidh, whose feast occurs
2 June also lived in Killeshin. St. Mugen, Abbot of
Killeshin in the sixth century was the teacher of St.
Lazerian, founder and first bishop of Leighlin. Lazerian
came to school here. The names of the Abbots of Killeshin
are recorded down to 1082 A.D. In 1041
plundered and its Oratory demolished. In 1077 Killeshin with
its yew trees was burned. The remains of the ancient church
with its beautiful Romanesque doorway probably date from
this period. The days of persecution came and for 300 years
Mass was no longer allowed. Two places in Killeshin are
pointed out where Mass used to be said in secret in penal
days. At the end of the 18th century came the dawn of a
better day when Mass-houses and chapels were allowed to be
built. In 1818 Fr. Michael McDonald the curate and a native
of Ballon parish set about building the church of the Holy
Cross, Killeshin. He was encouraged by Fr. James Doyle
professor at Carlow College and future bishop of the
diocese. In 1823 the feeble old P.P. died. When the new P.P.
was appointed Dr. Doyle detached the district of Sletty from
Arles parish and added it to Killeshin.
Topography of Sliabh Mairge
The barony of Sliabh Mairge in the
extreme south east of Laois contains upwards of 35,500
acres. The eastern district is a rich and beautiful portion
of the valley of the Barrow and the parallel vale of the
Fuiseog rivulet, but the middle and western districts are a
series of uplands so fused into one another as to form a
tumulated tableau of 500 to 1000 feet of elevation above
sea-level. Most of the uplands are of coal formation, and
have seams or beds of coal of such position and thickness as
to be profitably mined in recent times and constitute an
important part of the Leinster coalfield.
From the western
banks of the Barrow, near Graigcullen, the ground slopes
upward rather steeply to Cill Uissean old church close to
which a picturesque cave, covered with thick micaceous grits
is to be seen. In that direction the mountain road ascends
towards the coal district of Tolerton and Newtown. When
viewed from a .distance the general appearance of this
region is that of a very steep ridge of high land running in
a direct line for many miles and rising to an elevation of
800 to 1000 feet above its base, and apparently flat on its
summit. When viewed from the eminence itself it resembles a
great barren table-land rising precipitately above a flat
and highly cultivated country. The Coal Fields of this
elevated district lie chiefly in the south east part, and
extend into Co. Kilkenny. The picturesque cave near the
Romanesque Church and the Blessed Well was the Saints'
Grotto where they lived and prayed.
The views from the
heights above Cill Uissen of the fertile and well-wooded
valley around Carlow, backed by the range of the Wicklow
mountains with their culminating centrepiece Lug Na Coille -
is particularly beautiful. From the northern slopes of the
Sliabh Mairge range, the view over a vast country presents
an enchanting prospect, while its diversity in lines of
walled demesnes and hedgerow enclosures around numerous
farmhouses and cottages is particularly charming. The
distant summits of the Wicklow mountains form a fitting
background to this grand scene of hill and dale, of emerald
fields and rich cornlands; and the winding, fishful, storied
Barrow flows by ruined keep and broken towers and the modern
spires of the ancient town.
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