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By William White
- Long before the historians or the peoples
they wrote about, came to the valley in the shadow of the Blackstairs
Mountains, the waters of the sea washed the Irish shore near where the
village of Clonegal now stands.
- A geological upheaval saw the seas roll back
and the range of the Wicklow foot-hills, down to the Gibbet Hill rise
to cover one of the most western Faults in Europe.
- Tremors have been felt along this fault in
the 70’s and 80’s down the coast as far as Enniscorthy. This Fault is
said to run from Norway and Sweden under the North Sea, the Scottish
mountains, the North Channel, Mountains of Mourne, and the Wicklow
mountains, to just north of Enniscorthy.
- What is now the parish of Clonegal comprises
the ancient parishes of Moyacomb and Barragh. Magh-da-chon, “The plain
of the two Hounds” covered the region from the foot of the mountains
(Blackstairs) in the South-east, to Balisland, and northward through
Orchard to Ardattin, then westward to Kilbride and Barragh.
St. Brigid’s Church
St. Brigid’s Church - the present church replaced the old Roman
Catholic church which was built of mud walls and had a thatched roof. It
is a barn type construction, built in 1824 around the old church. When
the new building was completed the old building was taken out through
the doors of the new church.
Meadow of the stranger
- This district is stated in O’Huidrin’s
Topographical Poem as being the ancestral patrimony of O’Neill of
Leinster. The Four Masters also refer to it in their mention of the
“Battle of Rath-Edair, (Hill of Howth), between the men of Munster and
the men of Leinster”. In their account of the battle, they name among
the defeated Leinstermen, “Ua Neill of Magh-da-chon”. This reference
is in A.D. 1087. Earlier we find that, Cernach, Lord of Ui Bairche and
Magh-Da-Con died in 856 A.D.
- The name of the village of Clonegal is
“Cluain na nGall” or meadow of the stranger. Its origin is probably
derived from one of two buildings, which added to the beauty of the
valley, the Abbey of Doune, or as the townland is called to this day
Abbeydown. This was the site of an Augustinian Abbey, said to have
been founded by the Danes, who although they generally set up their
settlements along the coast, sometimes followed the rivers many miles
inland. They were referred to by the native Irish as the Gaul, or
strangers, thus, Meadow of the Stranger.
- Some hold that it could be a misspelling of
the word Gaul for the Irish for Meeting, and that the real meaning is
“Meadow of the Meeting” or where the rivers Slaney and Derry meet.
“Labba na Shee”
- How far back into history we can trace life
in the valley of Clonegal is hard to define but a grave in the
townland of Moylisha is known as “Labba na Shee”, the bed or grave of
the fairies. This is taken to refer to one of the first races of
people, or as they were often spoken of, the fairies of ancient Irish
history, The Tuatha-de-Danaan. The Tuatha-de-Danaan, were a timid
people and, when the more warlike Milesians came to our shores, they
shrank into the deeper forests and eventually went under-ground. It is
said that they were the original fairies, only appearing for fleeting
moments, thus giving rise to the many stories of their strange doings
throughout the pages of Irish folklore.
- Other traces of ancient times are to be
found in the shape of the remains of the oratory of Ard Briton, in the
townland of Orchard, and a place on Newry Hill where the ancient Irish
judges sat to give judgment. It is known as Rath-na-Doran. The Dorans
were the Brehons, the hereditary judges of Leinster.
- Clonegal is situated on the banks of the
River Derry (River of Oak) about one and a half miles from where it
joins the Slaney at “Youngs Bridge”. The district between the
Blackstairs and the Wicklow mountains was a wooded region in the
1500’s. It was also the section of the country in which the clan of
Kavanagh ruled, from the castles of Clohamon, Clonmullen and Clonogan.
Queen Elizabeth’s forces captured three castles in the district in
1588. This region was known as the “Leveroch”, and was given by Royal
Order to the Netterville family, who sold it to the Esmond family
about 1615. Clonogan Castle was just outside Clonegal on the Tullow
Road. The building is known for years as Huntington Castle and now
once more called Clonegal Castle was turned into a fortress in 1625,
taking five years to complete. It was sold to the Leslie family of
Limerick, but was purchased by Alexander Durdin in 1780.
- The Esmond’s had called Huntington after the
town of Huntington in Lincolnshire in England, where the family came
from. The Durdin family later intermarried with the Esmond’s, and a
great-grand-daughter of Alexander Durdin, Helen, married Herbert
Robertson, and their descendants are still in possession. The Castle
is built over a well, 17 feet from crown to bottom, which is still in
use. The well is said to be pre-Christian. The original walls of the
castle are six feet thick at the bottom. On the southern side of the
castle, along the lower lawn runs the “New Walk”. This walk is about
600 years old, and is thought to be part of the cloisters of an
ancient abbey, the ruins of which are in the castle grounds.
Flour and Woolen Mills
- The beauty that is the valley of Clonegal
to-day, with it’s wooded slopes and fertile fields, its well kept
homes and peaceful aspect, its gently flowing rivers, give little
indication of the turbulent past of the village.
- The Northern Pass into Wexford was through
the valley of Clonegal and in the 17th century the village was the
scene of much activity. Business houses, large Cattle and Sheep fairs,
Flour and Woollen Mills, a tanyard and one of the sweetest
distilleries in Leinster gave it an air of importance all it’s own.
- It was into this valley that the Cromwellian
forces marched after the capture of Tullow Castle in 1650. It was in
this valley that the hill clans of the Kavanaghs, the O’Tooles, and
the O’Byrnes determined to make a stand against this tyrant who put
all who crossed his path to the sword. The clans mustered in the
village of Clonegal, and planned to attack the Cromwellian forces,
under Colonels Reynolds and Hewson, in the street of the village. The
clansmen were probably commanded by Donal Kavanagh, the last of the
chiefs of Clonmullen.
Plaque marking the old crossing place.
Photo courtesy of Cara.
- It Reads:
- GATE OF TEARS
GEATA NA nDEOR
- Before the Bridge
and this road existed the River Derry was crossed by
means of a ford located at the end of a lane that
came over Drumderry Hill. Here emigrants
from Clonegal parish had their last view of their
native valley and the Wicklow Hills, here too they
made their final goodbye to their relatives.
Erected by Historic Section,
Clonegal Tidy Towns in conjunction with Carlow County
“Orchard of the Bards”
The forces of Cromwell marched into the valley
by the old road. This was through “Orchard of the Bards”, and over
Monaughrim Hill. The river Derry flows through Clonegal, and where the
bridge now stands was but a ford at the time. This ford was to see the
deaths of many brave clansmen before the day was out. The mountain men
had waited until the enemy were in the street of the village before they
attacked, but the element of surprise was not enough, and they were cut
down by deadly musket fire. Some tried to escape across the ford but
were slaughtered in the water. Others escaped to Kilcarry wood, which
was surrounded, and all who were caught put to the sword.
probably because of this attack that the surrounding castles were
garrisoned so strongly and the name of Kavanagh ordered to be erased
from the valley for all time. The memory of this battle is recalled in a
stanza by Fleming, one of the last of the “Bards of Orchard”.
- The Sun of thy glory forever is set,
- Ill-fated Hibernia in darkness
- With the blood of thy heroes Kilcarry
- Desolation and death roam at large all
- The streams of old Derry which silver
- By the sweet bards of Orchard in
- Are tainted with murders and crimson’d
- Choked up with carnage and stopped in
- Fleming was a teacher of local history as
well as a poet, and had a number of pupils who attended his residence.
The site of his home is still known as “The schoolhouse field”.
- The Kildavin road, as it is called, runs
parallel to the Derry for a little over a mile in a south-westerly
direction from Clonegal. It then crosses the Slaney just south of
where the rivers meet and leads on to Kildavin.
- As one approaches the village we pass the
Spellman Park on the left of the road. This park is named after the
late Cardinal Spellman of New York, whose ancestors came from
Kilbride, and are buried in the grounds of St. Lazernan’s church,
Kildavin. The Cardinal also built the Spellman Hall in Kildavin
- Kildavin, like Clonegal, once was a busy
little village. A mill at Ballypierce, just outside the village, gave
good employment; it also boasted a corn store, wool store, forge, post
office and shops. The R.C. church of St. Lazerian, and the Church of
Ireland church of St. Paul adorn the village with magnificent
- The Derry River with Clonegal Bridge in the
- The Derry River (Irish: An Dioríoch)
rises just south of Hacketstown, County
Carlow. It flows southeast to Tinahely.
- South of Tinahely it turns sharply
and flows southwest through Shillelagh,
briefly forming the border between
County Wicklow and County Wexford,
before becoming the border between
County Wexford and County Carlow.
- It flows under Clonegal Bridge at a
point where it divides Clonegal, County
Carlow to the west from Watch House
Village, County Wexford, to the east. A
few kilometres further downstream it
flows into the River Slaney.
Photo and text
courtesy of www.Wikipedia.org
- Kildavin derives its name from “Cill”
meaning church, and Duban, a priest and pilgrim of the 5th or
beginning of the 6th century. Another version of the name is that it
is from the Irish, “Cill Da Abhainn” or church of the two rivers. It
is strong in sporting activities with the Spellman Park as the hub.
Kildavin boasts a strong G.A.A. club, Camogie club, Basketball and
Tennis clubs. The I.C.A. guild is one of the most efficient in the
county. A Pitch and Putt club was formed some years ago and has a
- From Kildavin, westward along the road to
Myshall stands the ruins of the old church of Barragh. The gable ends
and one side wall are standing to this day. The dimensions of the
church are 78 feet long by 21 feet wide. The name of the church and
the townland are supposed to be of ecclesiastical origin and derived
from St. Barragh who had the church built. A burial- ground is to be
found a short distance from the church.
- The headstones can still be
read with care, and two unmarked stones are said to be those of
priests. One was a Fr. Bryan Cuirick P.P. of Barragh in 1704, and the
other a Fr. Thomas Dempsey. Other inscriptions can be read, and one
such states that “Here lyeth the body of Margaret Neale alias Dempsey,
died on 6 day of February 1727 aged 29 years”. About 1650 Cromwellian
soldiers attacked the church, firing cannon from the Cranemore road.
They then searched the church for valuables but found nothing. The
monks who were aware of the impending attack had escaped with the
Chalices, Monstrance and other valuables, including the Golden
Tabernacle door which they concealed in the vicinity of the church.
They have never been found.
- Barragh church, is supposed to have been
founded by St. Barragh of whom it is hard to find any account except
in the History of St. Finian of Clonard. St. Finian on his return from
a mission in Wales founded a monastery in Aghold, Co. Wicklow. From
there he went to many places including the territory of Barragh over
which the chieftain Dermot ruled. Here he erected his missionary
- Some distance North of the church of Barragh
is a Blessed Well, known as the Cronavane Well. This well is actually
the third of three wells in what was probably the site of a monastery
of Barragh. Like so many other Blessed Wells in Ireland the Cronevane
well was once the place of great devotion. Many years ago a Pattern
used to be held there but has been discontinued since 1798. Efforts
are now being made by some local people to have the well restored.
- This Monastery was once the home of students from other lands who came
to study in the peace and tranquillity that was Barragh. The well is
still visited by those suffering from limb pains and sore eyes.
- Clonmullin Castle
- The castle of Clonmullin,
home of the O’Cavanagh clan, is perhaps better known as the home of
Ellen Kavanagh, the “Aileen Aroon” of the Poet whose romantic story is
told by hartstonge, in “Minstrelsy Of Erin”. This story of romance,
from so long ago, could well be turned into a best seller to-day. The
love, the family opposition, the secret agents, the secret of the
song, the daring of O’Daly, the plan and the final escape and marriage
are the making of a real life drama.
Extract from "The Parish of Clonegal" by Willie White. ( Source:
Clonmullin Castle: The castle of Clonmullin, home of the
O'Cavanagh clan. It was under the leadership of the O'Cavanaghs that the
hill clans mustered in 1650. All traces of the castle have long since
disappeared and nothing now remains to tell us where the home of this
warlike clan who once ruled in splendour was. Despite Cromwell's order
"that the name of Cavanagh should be erased from the valley and never
more be heard of from the Nine Stones to the Wicklow border' the
Kavanaghs are now back stronger than ever from Mount Leinster to the
Wicklow Mountains. A Pat. Roll , June 13th 4 and 5 Philip and Mary,
records the pardon of Arte McMoriertaghe Kavanaghe, otherwise called
Arte Boye of Clanmullen, in the county of Carlow, gent. So the Kavanaghs
are legal holders of their lands once more.
Stronger than ever
- It was under the leadership of the
O’Cavanagh’s that the hill clans mustered in Clonegal in 1650. All
traces of the Castle have long since disappeared and nothing now
remains to tell us where the home of this warlike clan who once ruled
in splendour was. It is said that the stones of Clonmullin went to
build “The Chase” near Bunclody. Despite Cromwell’s order ‘That the
name of Cavanagh should be erased from the valley and never more be
heard from the Nine Stones to the Wicklow border’ the Kavanagh’s are
now back stronger than ever from Mt. Leinster to the Wicklow
- A Pat. Roll, June 13th. 4 & 5 Phillip and
Mary, records the pardon of Arte McMoriertaghe Kavanaghe, otherwise
called Arte Boye, of Clanmullen, in the county of Carlow, gent. So the Kavanagh’s are legal holders of their
lands once more.
The visitor to the Parish of Clonegal will
find much to interest him. Approaching along the main road from Carlow
his first view of this beautiful valley will be from the top of Boggan
Hill in Kilbride. To his right rises the wooded slopes of Sherwood, in
front the long run to the foothills of Mount Leinster and the fertile
fields of Wexford, and to his left, the fall to the Slaney and then
the rise to Monaughrim and the old road from Tullow. It was from this
part of the parish that the ancestors of the late Cardinal Spellman of
New York came.
- Staying with the main road we reach Kildavin
and head on to Bunclody through the lovely Slaney Valley, the
surpassing beauty of which inspired the late Senator Patrick Kehoe to
pen the words of that lovely song “Slaney Valley”. Few indeed are the
beauty spots to match the view of the Slaney as it winds through
Drumderry and enters the county made famous in ‘98, “Wexford, lovely
Wexford, Fairest land of all to me, With the Slaney gently flowing
From Bunclody to the sea”.
- To approach Clonegal from the North-West, or
over the old road from Tullow our first view of the valley is
breath-taking. Away to the left the Wicklow Mountains rise in
magnificent splendour. To the right the purple clad Blackstairs reach
to the sky, and the silver ribbon that is the Slaney weaves it’s way
through the valley and the myriad shades that are equalled no-where
else in Leinster. From here we can see Ballyredmond Wood, said by many
to be the Black Wood referred to in history as the last meeting place
of Ard RI and Diarmuid McMurragh before the latter went to seek the
aid of the Normans.
The Watch House
- The river Derry forms the boundary between
Wexford and Carlow, and divides the village of Clonegal in two. The
part of the village in Wexford is known as The Watch House. The name
comes from the fact that when the 1798 Rising commenced a hut was
built at the Water House cross which was manned by Yeomen or soldiers
day and night. A person bringing an animal to the fair of Carnew had
to get a permit at the Watch House cross, and if he failed to sell he
had to get another permit from the Yeomen in Carnew to bring the
- In the avenue leading from the village to
Huntington Castle stands the tallest Lime tree in Ireland, and in the
field on the left as we approach the castle is a stone known as the
“Wart Stone”. This stone is also pre-Christian.
- The Grapevine in the conservatory at the
castle is said to be taken from the great vine at Hampton Court which
is supposed to have been planted by King Henry VIII.
- Among the original features still surviving
in the castle are the old kitchen fire-place, large enough to roast an
ox, the iron gate at the front door, and probably the door itself.
- Clonegal has many other places and buildings
of interest like the Wool Store and Corn Mill that is now a
Supermarket. The old Rectory where Bid Doolin, better known as Biddy
the Pointer, pointed out the insurgents to John Derenzy and the Yeomen, the Hanging arch. The house in
High St. that was first a convent, then a curate’s residence and now a
beautiful home. The list of the members of the Church of Ireland who
organised and subscribed to the building of the present R.C. St.
Brigid’s Church, (they included John Derenzy), and many other facts
that make Clonegal one of the most interesting villages in the
- In recent times it is better known for it’s
annual Village Fair on the last Sunday of July. It’s sports clubs,
it’s high standing in the Tidy Towns competition, and hospitability to
- To learn the whole story of this village and
parish would take the stranger a long time. We feel it would be time
well spent, for after all Cluain na nGall is
“The Meadow of the
Source: Carloviana 1987/88
of Moyacomb (Clonegal) | Clonegal
Records extracts |
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