Statistical Account of Cahircorney

A statistical account or parochial survey of Ireland – William Shaw MASON c1815–20

No. V
Parish of Cahircorney,
(Diocese of Emly, county of Limerick)
By the Rev. Patrick FITZGERALD, Vicar

I. The Name of the Parish, Situation, Extent, &c.

Cahircorney is the ancient and present name of the parish. It is situated in the county of Limerick, barony of Small County, and diocese of Emly. It was united by authotity of the diocesan, in the year 1795, to the small parish of Kilkellane. The union thus formed is bounded by the parish Aney on the south-east: on the west by Grange; by Carireeely on the east; and by Rochestown on the north. Its contents may be estimated at sixteen thousand acres.

The parish of Cahircorney is divided into the townlands of Balingoola, Raleighstown, and Cahircorney. It contains 1000 acres, and is the estate of Edward CROKER of Ballinguard, Esq. The river Comogue, or Crooked River, which runs through the parish, takes its rise near the ancient cathedral of Emly, and after a direction nearly westerly, umites with the Maigue, near Croom. A small stream that joins the Comogue within a few yards of the Glebe of Balingoola, divides the diocese of Cashel from that of Limerick on the south-west.

Two-thirds of the aprish are meadow and pasture lands. A chain of the most beautiful and verdant hills, consisting of limestone soiul, runs through it. There is a natural fall for springs and rain from these hills into the Comogue, on the the opposite side of which river, and parallel to it, is another range of hils,m consisting of very rich pasture. The immediate space is a level plain consisting of corcasss lands1, covered with water for nearly six months in the year; caused by the overflowing of the Comogue. The consequence is, that the air is very cold, and the houses and furniture very damp; and in the spring time, when the quantity of stagnant water thus collected is drying up and exhaling by the sun'sheat, the inhabitants are very subject to colds, coughsand sore throats. The sinking and widening of the river would in great measure prove a remedy to this evil,and could be effected by lowering the bed of the streamfive or six feet, for about sixty yards near LongfordBridge, and also at the Glebe of Balingoola. At present the river is on a level with these two place, so that cutting drains to convey the water from them into it is of no use.

The parish has adjoining it on the west, Lough Gun, which is four miles in circumference, surrounded by lofty hills, some rocky, others covered with a thick and beautiful herbage. In the lake are three islands, one of which, called knock-a-doom, or the Fortress, is a beautiful hill of about 60 acres; the approach to it on the side nearest the land, was defended by a castle. This lake, together with the adjoining estates containing 4000 acres of very richland, belongs to the Count de Salis.

II. Mines, Minerals, &c.

Under this head very little can be noticed, as there are no indications of mines or minerals of any kind,unless indeed limestone be excepted, of which there are some bery fine quarries. It forms the substratum of the hills already described.

III. Modern Buildings &c.

The parish does not contain any public buildings, such as workhouses or infirmaries. An excellent slate house near the church has been lately buitl for the parish clertk, by general subscription of the gentlemen of the country, as a reward to him for shooting the leader of a banditti, which disturbed this neighbourhood in the year 1800. They assembled in large parties at night, mounted on horseback, and severely flogged those obnoxious to them, making farmers around comply with certain injunctions, and obliging them to have horses ready bridled and saddled at a certain hour everynight. These they abused very much by riding them constantly till morning. The captain of one of these parties named HOARD, coming one night to the house of FLOOD the clerk, demanded entrance, which FLOOD refused, remonstrating strongly at the same time, on the impropriety of such conduct. But as HOWARD persisted in his determination, FLOOD shot him dead on the spot; on which his party went off, leaving behind the dead body of their leader. In consequence of this, the country has never since been disturbed. FLOOD also received one hundred pounds from the Government, for his spirited conduct.

The high road from Limerick to Hospital, (famous for its horse fairs,) passes through Herbertstown, a long village consisting of thatched houses.

About a quarter of a mile to the west of the Glebe-house, but on the opposite side of the Comogue, and near the high road between Cork and Limerick, is the very beautiful and highly improved seat of Standish O'GRADY, Esq. And about a mile north of this, is Balinnaguard, the fine and extensive demise of Edward CROKER, Esq. It is highly ornamented with extensive plantations of aged oak, ash, beech, and elm.

IV. Ancient Buildings, &c.

On the opposite bank of the river, near the glebe-house of Balingoola, are the remains of a small abbey, called Little Friarstown. About four miles to the west of this, on the banks of the same river, are the ruins of a very large and magnificent building, called in Irish, Monister-a-Nenagh, or Monastery of the Friars. Mr ARCHDALL, in his Monasticon Hibernicum, gives a fine description of it, and says, there were two great battles fought near it, in one of which the Irish were totally defeated by the then Lord Deputy commanding the English forces, but in the second the Irish were victorious, and many English officers and soldiers were slain. A gentleman who lived near this abbey, on making a trench in onee of the fields adjoining, found a vast quantity of human bones promiscuously thrown together, which probably were the remains of those slain in these battles.

Near Balinguard is Rockstown Castle, built on a hill within two miles of Balingoola; at a short distance gfrom which place, are also the castles of Cahireely, Ballybricken, Skule, Williamstown, Rathmore, Glenogna, Kilpeacon, Lic-a-doon, Ballygrennan, Knockany, and Baggotstown. In the church is abeautiful monument belonging to the CROKER family, with the following inscription.

"This burying place and monument were both made and erected at the charges of Edward CROKER, Esq. For him and his to be deposited in, till the resurrection of the dead, in the year of our Lord 1723, and in the 70th year of his age, being blessed with a numerous issue of his children's children, and an honest handsome provision for them.

Which being done, it may be truly said
he did provide for living and for dead;
For which, to God be thanks and praise due,
And the meet help he gave me so to doe

Edward CROKER"

In Ralieghstown are the remains of an ancient building, defended at its four angles by four small square towers. It is not known by whom it was erected, but from the window frames and flankers, its date seems to be about the reign of Elizabeth or James I.

On the summit of the hills, mentioned in Sec. I are the remains of a kind of fortress or watch tower, from which stone walls seem to have extended in different directions, they have been connected by other walls, and these again fortified by small triangular buildings. They extend four or five miles, and seem to have been a strongly fortified Danish settlement.

In one of the islands of Lough-Gun, on the side nearest the land, stands a strong castle nearly perfect; on another side, at the termination of a causway, are the fine ruins of what the inhabitants call Black Castle. A small island in the middle of the lake was also strongly fortified, and the English troops were much annoyed from it at a different period of time, on their march between Cork and Limerick, as the old road between these places passes near it. These castles, if the tradition deserves credit, were built by the Lords of Desmond, one of whom, as related by the Abbé MC GEORGHEGAN in his history of Ireland, fought a desparate battle with the BUTLER family, but being defeated, he fled to his fortress in the lake of Gun, in the county of Limerick.

Near the lake are three stone circles, whether Druidical places of worship, or Scythian, introduced by the Danes, is doubtful. On the top of one of the highest hills adjoiniing the lake, called Knockfennel, is a Danish mound, and also a Cromleach. In one side of this hill which I very steep, and near the su,,it, is a deep cave called the foxes' den, to which some persons implicated in the rebellion of 1798, retired every night for fear of being arrested, if they slept in their own houses. Nearly opposite to this, in the island of Knock-a-doon, is a very large and deep cave, called red celler.

On the top of a very steep and craggy hill, called Carrigfeagh, or the Reven's Rock, about a mile from Balingoola, are the remains of a very strong circular stone building, around which are many raths or moats.2 A report being prevalent, that there was near this a stone on which is delineated some ancient characters, on examonation it is found to be a large rudely shaped rock, on one side of which were raiesed some lines scarcely discernible, crossing each other at right angles, somewhat like the old Irish Ogham, which are to be seen in VALLANCEY's Irish Grammar3.

In the parish of Kilellane, are the walls of an old church; and also a handsome house, built by the BOUCHIER family. At a place called Doon, about five miles distant, is buried the famous Irish outlaw Emun-a-knock, or Edmund of the hill, whose song of "Cool ahandas," so much admired and sung by the Irish, is beautifully translated by Miss BROOKE, in her Reliques of Irish poetry, into "Bright her locks of beauty grew."

V. Present & former State of Population, Food, Fuel &c.

The number of houses in Cahircorney is 65; in Kilkellane, 55; and in that part of Herbertstown which lies within the parish of Kilkellane, 78; making a total of 198. The number of inhabitants in the union, therefore at an average of six a house, is 1188; an increase of more that two to one in the last tweny years. The middling classes of people are comfortable and well dressed; but the lower orders are in general very poor. Their usual food is potatoes and milk. They pay £8. Per acre for a small cabin and garden, while their daily hire is on shilling without food. Those who chance to have a house and garden without being obliged to pay for them by task-work, live more more cleanly and comfortably; they receive more wages, and are more at home to improve their cabins and gardens. Fuel is vary scarce in the parish of Cahircorney, as there is no bog attached to it. It is with much difficulty, and at a great expense, they can procure any from the neighbouring parishes. They cut what is called slane turf4 in March and April; this can be done by a few hands, and on dry ground. To make hand turf many men are necessary. This work is put off till June or July, for two reasons; first, because the people are generally employed during the former months, in cultivating their corn and potatoes; and next, because they could not without great danger stand in the cold water from morning to night, until the warm weather sets in. The siseases pecular to this district, and the causes are generally those mentioned in Sec. I. In February 1813 died in the parish of Kilkellane, John RYAN, aged 105; until a few days before his edeath he enjoyed the best health, and the use of all his faculties; he never wore spectales, and bled those who applied to him as skilfully as a regularly bred surgeon. Dennis HAYES lived in the parish of Cahircorney till the last four years; he is now 107 years old, goes regularly every Sunday to his place of worship, walks occasionally from his own house, a distance of 12 miles, and back again the same day, and is still healthy, lively, and intelligent. Potatoes and milk are his usual food.

VI. Genius & Disposition of the Poorer Classes, &c.

The middling classes speak English; the lower classes generally Irish. They are attentive and friendly to each other when sober. Their place of worship is at Herbertstown, at which they regularly attend both on Sundays and Holydays. After prayers many of them betake themselves to the different houses that retail spirrtis and beer, several of which the vilage contains; here they regale themselves and their friends, often continuingingg in them till night, and they seldom separate without fighting. They constantly fight at fairs, hurling matches, and race-courses; nay, oftentimes at their chapels,though their clergy do all in their power to prevent it, both by exhortation and ecclesiastical censures.

In this parish, and indeed in all those around it, assemblages are held on the tops of the highest hillson every St. John's eve, when they light up clears, which are bundles of straw tied on long poles, and as all the most elevated places for forty miles around appear one blase of fire, the effect is very brilliant. It is a pagan custom, and is conjectured to have been a mode of worship paid to the heathen diety Baal, as the irish at this day call the 1st of May "La Baal tine," that is, "the day of Baal's fire."

VII. The Education and Employment of Children, &c.

The inhabitants of these parishes have a great wish to have their children instructed, and pay from two shillings to half-a-guinea a quarter for their tuition. There are two Roman catholic schools in Herbertstown, one for the instruction in classics, the other for aritmetic, &c. Neither of these is endowed. The average number of pupils in each school may be calculated at seventy, fofty of which are boys. They attend about nine months in the year. The younger people, both male and female, with very few exceptions, know how to read and write. Many of the old men know the Irish language, and have some Irish manuscripts on various subjects of very old date; these are so black with smoke, and tattered and old, that it is often impossible to know the title, date, or subject of them.5

There are no nativemendicants in the parish; those that beg here are from other parts of the country.

VII. State of Religious Establishments, Tythes, &c.

This parish, as has already said, is united to the small parish of Kilkellane: the ancestors of Lord Kenmare presented it, but since the revolution, it has been the gift of the Government. The glebe-house was built by one of the CROKER family, who gave it together with eight acres of land to the church; at an annual rent of £14 sterling.

The impropriate tythes belong to Edward CROKER of Balinnaguard, Esq. The tythe has not encreased much in this parish, in consequence of a penalty of £10 for every acre turned up, over and above a certain number allowed by lease. For the tythe of potatoes, flax, wheat, and barly, the farmers pay on an average of ten shillings per acre, for meadows six, and for oats eight: the tythe for sheep is seldom demanded. Eight guineas per acre was paid by the present incumbent, for some meadow in this parish, which he had occasioned to take. For the tythe of these meadows the ususl price was paid, which is the one thirtieth part instead of the tenth. The farmers made thirty pounds per acre by their wheat last year, clear of all expenses. They paid as usual ten shillings per acre tythe, which is but one sixtieth:here therefore is no extraction in the collection. This is the node not only for Cahircorney, but also in sixteen parishes around it, with all of which the writer is well acquainted. The tythe is never asked for, nor paid in kind.

IX. Modes of Agriculture, Crops, &c.

The farmers generally meadow the low ground in this parish. They cultivate all kinds of grain, flax and potatoes. About the village of Herbertstown in particular, they raise a large quantity of flax, which when dressed they carry to the counties Kilkenny and Waterfordto sell. For the ground on which they raies it, they pay twelve guineas per acre, for which they take two crops, first of potatoes, the second of flax.

The lands have been leased for the last ten years on an average of five pounds per acre. The old takes are set at very moderate rents. The parish is divided into farms, containing from 100 to 10 acres. The land is extremely rich. The first crop is potatoes; the second wheat or flax;then barley or oats: of the latter they can raise many crops, and this without any manure. A large field in this parish had been turned up for potatoes, which gave a crop of very fine flax the following year; they then let it run into heart three years, then turned it up for potatoes and flax again, never putting any kind of manure during the whole time.

X. Trade, Manufactures, Commerce, &c.

As this is an inland country, little can be said with respect to commerce or navigation; nor is there any domestic spinning or weaving carried out in the parish.

X1. Natural Curiosities, remarkable Ocurrences, &c.

Whatever relates to any of these heads has been alc\ready taken notice of in the preceding sections.

List of Incumbents, from the First Fruits' Records.

Ecclin. De Carkorney, rect. impropriat. Vic. Ibm. Donaldus MC FEIG.

Richus MAYNE admiss. 29o, Junii 1638, per presentat. Johannis BROWNE, mil. Ad vicar. De Cahircorney et Kilkellan, 3l. 13s.2d.

Georgius BRICE admiss. Fuit 17o, die April, 1661, ad vicar, de Ballynord, Kilfrush, Kilkillan, Cahircorney, Any, Ballymonamore, Ballynloghy, et Dunmoore, als Knocklong, com Tipperary, et Dioc. Predict.

Constantin. KIEFFE, cler. Admiss. Fuit 12o, die Julii, 1681, ad vicarias de Cahircorney, et Kilcullane dioc. Imolacen. et com. Limerick.

Alphonsus CULLEN, collat. Fuit 20o, die Julii, 1681, ad vicariam de Cahircorney et Killcullane, com Limerick.

Henry BAYLY, A.M. Vicar Cahircorney and Kilkellane, 27 Jan. 1758, co. Limerick.

Thomas RYAN, V Cahircorney et Kilkelane 9 Aug. 1769, Limerick.

Patrick FITZGERALD, collated and instituted 8th October, 1807, V. Cahircorney et Kilkellane, vice Thomas RYAN, who eld from 9th of August 1769, and vacated by death, 10th June, 1807.

XII. Suggestions for Improvement, and Means for meliorating the Condition of the People

The people are improving rapidly in manners and dress; their houses are in general comfortable and clean; their farms well stocked and cultivated. There are few prone to drink; none to disaffection. They are much attached to their own clergy and religion, yet highly respectful and attantive to those of the established church, and greatly gratifiied when they walk with or talk familiarly to them.

Their greta fault is their propensity to fighting; but time will do away with this, as the people are becoming more sober and industrious, the magistrates more active, and the clergy more instructive. The parish of Cahircorney has many advantages; there is a large and fine mill at Ballingoola, where all the oats raised in this and the adjoining parishes are readily brought up. It is intersected by excellent roads, and is within eight miles of Limerick, and four of the market town of Bruff; yet its want of fuel is a great check on the encrease of its population, and the penalty already mentioned on that of its agriculture. The latter of these could be removed by the liberality of the landlord. The use of coal, which could behad on easy terms from Limerick, (particularly if the river Maigue were rendered navigable, which might be done,) would do away the impediment to the former.


Townlands of Cahircorney

Name Probable Derivation
Ballingoola 'Baile,' town. Cool, geul.' Back, 'awa,' river or perhaps 'gual.' Coal, which may merit atention
Raleighstown Of obvious signification
Mobawn 'Moee or Magh,' a field, 'bawn,' white.
Broughaugh 'Bruach,' border or margin, 'aha or fatha,' field.
Kilkellane 'Leile,' a church, 'quoillawn,' a small wood
Herbertstown Of obvious signification

Kilkellane parish is the estate of the present Chief Baron O'GRADY —

Cahircorney that of Edward CROKER of Ballinaguard, Esq.

Annual produce for 1813.

  Cahircorney Kilkellane
Oats 33 50
Bere and Flax
140 46
Meadow 180  
Stock in 1813
Cows 200 186
Sheep 80 100

1 This term is applied to designate low marshy ground, covered with water during part of the year.

2 Lord Lyttleton, in his history of Henry II, hs remarked that raths are generally found situated in low or wet ground. One near the glebe of Balingoola, is surrounded by a very large and deep quagmire. The like has been observed by the writer of this account on the estate of the late Mr FITZGERALD of Balinand, near Herbertstown, and in the parish of Glenogara, the estates of the Count De Salis, in the deepest and wettest grounds. There are also to be seen in the west of the county of Clare, on the driest and most elevated points over the Atlantic, many of these not more than two feet high, and perfectly circular. These low raths have not been noticed either by BOATE or MOLYNEUX in the natural history of Ireland: whether they were places of meeting or of retreat and safety, it is now for the antiquarians to decide. About siz miles from this parish, at a place called Dun-a-man, near Croom, there is a round tower, of which no account is to be found in Rd LEDWICH's catalogue of Irish antiquities. This is so very narrow and confined at ist summit, that it is impossible a bell placed within it, (for which use the Doctor supposes them to have been erected) could be heard at any distance.If they were intended for a certain set of Anchorites called Inclisi, as Dr. MILNER thinks, the poor anchorite could scarcely incline his head, or help himself to food in this. It also gives such indications of Christian times and founders, an is at such a distance from the coast, that it does away VALLANCEY's opinion, that they were built by the Phenicians in their commercial visits to Ireland as Pyratheia or fire-altars. Many of the Irish from the fifth to the ninth century, built monastaries and abbeys on the continent of Europe; may it not be supposed that they built the like in Ireland, and also round towers, both for ornament and use? They are always found near old churches, or the site of old churches, composed many of them of the same kind of stone, and seemingly of the same antiquity. If the number of these places of worship were only in proportion to the number of round towers now extant, was it not very necessary to point out their situations by something of this kind, in the then state of the country, thickly covered by wwoods. Lighted lamps, it is said, were hauled up occasionally at night, and the light cround by means of the four apertures at the top , to pilgrims and travellers, and such of the inhabitants adjacent as chose to assemble at the place of worship next day.

3 Since this account was written the stone has been reexamined by the writer, with great accuracy, but nothinmg was discernable that could throw more light on its origin or purpose.

4 Turf cut in the form of a brick, by means of a sharp edged instrument called a slane.

5 We are told that the Saracens under Caliph Omar destroyed the famous Egyptian library. The Goths and Vandals, according to ROBERTSON, in the 1st volume of his history of Charles V. Destroyed all the works of science, taste, and grandeur in the Roman empire during their incursions into it. If the danes, as Mr WARNER observes, burnt the libraries of the ancient Irish, and such monastries and places of antiquity as came in their way, and what they spared, or what was afterwards compiled went to wreck when the English took possession of the island, where are we to look for the proper documents to illustrate the ancient history of the Irish people? Certainly not in the mouldering manuscripts that now remain in Ireland, but in those deposited in the libraries of Lourain, the Sorbonne, and the Vatican.