Parish of Clonenagh & Clonagheen
CHAPTER XV.- THE PARISHES OF CLONENAGH AND CLONAGHEEN.
The very extensive and now united Parishes of Clonenagh and Clonagheen, spread into the baronies of Cullenagh and Maryborough East, but chiefly into the barony of Maryborough West.
The greater part of its surface is boggy or of second-rate quality; it includes some minor elevations of the Slieve Bloom range towards the west. The River Nore in great part flows through it, and a small tributary called the Shannon, on which the town of Mountrath is situated; while the Ownass stream, which joins the River Barrow, describes the northern parochial boundary. The former excellent coach-road from Dublin to Limerick intersects Clonenagh and Clonagheen south-westerly, passing through the town of Mountrath. The public road as also the railroad, from Maryborough to Abbeyleix, runs through the eastern verge of Clonenagh and Clonagheen Parishes; much bog, with poor reclaimed land, and some fir plantations, extending on either side.
During the eighteenth century the village of Clonenagh was the nucleus of a parish so named, in the Barony of Maryborough West, and situated about two miles eastward from the town of Mountrath. It has now dwindled to a few scattered houses and cabins, still standing near the site of its ”Seven Churches,” formerly so celebrated. All these have long since disappeared; however, some ruins remain, and three places for interment. Two of these are yet greatly frequented and used by people living throughout all the adjacent country.
A number of surging hillocks rise here to a considerable elevation over bogs and declivities that surround the site, which forms a very beautiful configuration of ground. Cluain-Aednach or Cluain-Eidhniach is stated to have been in Laoighis or Leix, according to old documents. That it was a place of great importance formerly is known, not only because it was styled the great Cluain-Eadnach, but owing to the historic interest with which it has been invested, and the frequent recurrence of its referential entries in our Irish Annals. We are told, but incorrectly, that Clonenagh was anciently called Cluain-Aitchin. Cluain-Aednach, however, was the former mode for spelling this name; and Cluain-Aitchin-not far from this place-was another form for Clonkeen. Some writers have rendered the denomination of Cluain-Eadnach, in Latin, ”Latibulum Haederosum,” or in English, ”The Ivied Retreat,” but without sufficient warrant. The foundations of various old buildings are yet traceable at this place. However, the ruins of any church, having an antiquity of more than four centuries, are not to be seen there at present.
The great monastery of Clonenagh owed its origin to the celebrated St. Fintan, the son of Gabhran. He was born, it is supposed, at Clonkeen in Leix, not far from Maryborough, according to a local tradition, nor is this opinion disproved by any ancient record. It has been stated, that he and St. Brigid are derived from a common ancestor, both of them descending from Eochaidh Finnfuathairt’s race. The stone whereon Fintan had been baptised was shown, or at least there was a tradition regarding it, in medieval times. From early youth he was distinguished for his remarkable virtues, and his religious training began at Tirdaglas, near Lough Derg, on the River Shannon, where Columba; the son of Crimthann, had founded a celebrated monastery, early in the sixth century. According to Colgan, St. Columba, the son of Crimthann, was the first, Abbot of Clonenagh, and afterwards he became the first Abbot over Tirdaglass, having died A.D. 548. However, it seems quite clear, from the old Life of St. Fintan, son of Gabhran, which Colgan has published, that the former saint was the spiritual director of the latter, whom he counselled to erect his habitation, and in this particular situation. In former times, even dating back to St. Fintan’s, rather inconvenient recourse was had to Clonenagh, by people who disturbed the retirement of its founder. As a consequence he sought a more secluded position among the adjoining recesses of Slieve Bloom, until directed by St. Columba, the son of Crimthain, to seek the place first chosen for his habitation. Thus begun the religious career of the renowned St. Fintan, the son of Gabhran, who was abbot here, and he flourished about the year 560,23 presiding over number of laborious and fervent monks. From its earliest foundation the monastery became remarkable for the austerity of that rule established by St. Fintan; but it was also distinguished for a seminary, which trained St. Comgall, afterwards Abbot of Bangor, and some early fathers of the Irish church, as also several foreigners, who resorted thither from distant countries. As Gaul furnished a considerable contingent, Clonenagh was called the Gallic school. Hospitality was a virtue recommended to the monks of this establishment, although their own manner of living was very strict, and frequent fasts were enjoined. So rigorous were the practices of those inmates, that many aspirants to a recluse life found themselves unable to comply with its rules of living. Still St. Fintan himself never swerved in a single instance from the observances he had instituted. The holy founder of Clonenagh died on the 13th of the calends of March, having served the Almighty in a most perfect state. Immediately before his decease, Fintan appointed another St. Fintan, surnamed Maeldubh, as his successor, to rule over that monastery, already founded at CIonenagh. However, some mistake has occurred in supposing that a St. Fintan, son of Crimthann, and also abbot here, made such an appointment. It has been conjectured, that St. Fintan, son of Gabhran, departed this life before the year 59d, and on the 17th of February. Afterwards, the Abbot St. Fintan, the son of Crimthann, called also Corach, who was bishop of Clonfert, it is thought, ruled over the monastery of Clonenagh. However, it does not seem to be well established, that he could have been more than a simple monk in this place. He is said to have died, according to some accounts, on the 21st; others have it on the 17th of February, in the year 603. At this latter date, Ussher places the death of St. Fintan, Abbot of Clonenagh ; yet he does not seem to distinguish this personage from the first founder of the monastery. It is stated, also, that the Abbot of Clonenagh, Fintan Moelduph, died A.D. 625. From various calendars and lives of Irish saints, Colgan supplies the memorials of holy men and superiors, who were connected with this monastery during the sixth and seventh centuries, nearly in the order we have adopted for their periods. On the 21st of October died St. Munna, the son of Tulchan, who was called Fintan. He was bishop and abbot over Clonenagh monastery. His departure from this life has been assigned to A.D. 634. About the year 639 died St. Gobban, who at first had founded a monastery at Old Leighlin. Having resigned this place to St. Laserian, he chose another habitation at Killamery, in Ui-Caithrenn in the west of Ossory. It is said that he had a thousand monks under his direction. Whether he held jurisdiction over those of Clonenagh or not seems to be unrecorded ; but it is likely he died there, as in it his relics were preserved. St. Aidan, the son of Concrad, was set over Clonenagh. On November 21st, died the abbot, and, as is supposed, some time about the seventh century. About the middle of that century, the Abbot Moasacra, son of Senan, flourished. He is said to have been Abbot of Clonenagh ; while he belonged also to Tegsacra, or Saggart, and Fionmagh in Leinster. His feast occurs at the 3rd of March, when Colgan has some notices regarding him. At the year 685, the Abbot Ossen is incorrectly introduced, as belonging to Clonenagh ; rather he is called Bishop of Mainister where his death is recorded.
The Abbot Maelaithgen next appears on record, and he is venerated as a saint at the 21st of October. The great monastery of Clonehagh, under direction of the saintly Abbot Malathgenius, had enjoyed a high reputation, both for the number and sanctity of its inmates. During the time ,of Maelaithgen’s rule over this house, and about the middle of the eighth century, Aengus, the celebrated son of Oengobhan, more generally known as the Culdee, preferred his suit for admission within its enclosure, and his request was favourably received. But his early noviciate, in the exercise of all virtues, had preceded the care bestowed by that holy abbot, on his youthful disciple. His daily progress in the paths of Christian sanctity, and his advancement in sacred learning, were aided by application and capacity, to such an extraordinary degree, that in a short time he bore the reputation of being one among the most sanctified and erudite men, of whom Ireland could then boast. St.Aengus must have been a disciple of St. Malaithgen before the year 767.(feast of St. Malathgenius was observed on October 21st)
That other Aengus, who wrote his eulogy in elegant metre, has told us, Aengus the Culdee had studied from boyhood in the monastery of Clonenagh. Afterwards, when he had been celebrated for his miracles, he lived in the monastery of Tallaght, before St. Melruan’s death, which occurred A.D. 787. It is supposed therefore to follow, that he studied in the monastery of Clonenagh under St. Malathghen ; and most probably he was a religious there, even after the death of that holy Abbot. From Clonenagh, he went at first to Dysart Enos, as has been supposed- and thence he proceeded to Coolbanagher, not far distant. From this latter place, he went to Tallaght, near Dublin. There he is thought to have laboured, with the holy Abbot, St. Maelruain, (feast day 7th July) in compiling the famous ”Martyrology of Tallaght” which has come down to our time. The distinguished superior Maelaithgen, alias Moetlogan, Abbot of Cluain-Eidhneach, died in the year of our Lord 767. His name is Latinized Maelathgenius. After leaving Tallaght, according to some accounts, the celebrated anchorite St. Aengus retired to his first chosen place, near the Abbey of Clonenagh. From him it afterwards bore the name of Disert Aenguis, or Dysart Enos. Thence he returned to Clonenagh. It is not known at which of these places he wrote the well-known Feilire, or Festilogy. That the writer of this poem was abbot at Clonenagh, as also at Disert-Aengus, is possible; and Colgan observes, that his own hints are even stronger as to the latter place. This matter can easily be settled. As both places lay near each other, within the barony of Maryborough, Aengus might have been connected with both these establishments. Disert-Aengus, which commenced with himself, may be considered simply as a cell to the older and greater monastery at Clonenagh; or most probably it formed one of those earlier missionary stations, when a priest lived in connexion with the church, and ministered to the spiritual necessities and consolations of a rural population. The early Christian pastors of former Irish parishes seem to have lived in a very simple and austere manner. Yet it is possible the spot chosen for his last retreat was Disert Bethech, or Disertbeagh, not far from the River Nore.
Before the commencement of the ninth century, no less than eight Fintans, commemorated as saints, were buried at Clonenagh; while it was found impossible to count other monks who were there interred, as stated in the Litany attributed to St. Aengus the Culdee (written about 798). This holy and learned anchorite died, it has been supposed, on the 11th March, between the years 819 and 830. According to some, his life ended at Clonenagh ; others have it at Disert Bethach, not far from that monastery.
Quoting MacGeoghegan for his authority, Archdall states that the Abbey of Clonenagh was destroyed by the Danes, A.D. 838. Another entry has it, that the foreigners plundered Clonenagh in 840. It seems, that in a double capacity over Clonenagh ruled Aid, a; venerable abbot, who was also the abbot of. Tirdaglass, near Lough Derg, in the County of Tipperary. Having in the year 843 destroyed the fortress of Dunamase, in this country of Leix, the Danes carried him into Munster, and there, on the 8th of July, they crowned him with martyrdom.
The abbot Laichtene, of Clonenagh monastery, died A.D. 866. The abbot Ainbhchellach, son to Fonascach, also styled Ainbeceally MacFonasky, died in the year 872. His name is Latinized Anbhchellachus, filius Fonaschii. The Abbot Colga, son to Caithniadh, also called Colge MacCothnia, died in the year 890. His name is Latinized Colgus filius Cathnice. In the year 898, the abbot Maelcarain, or Moel Kieran, of Clonenagh, departed this life. He also was abbot of Tirdaglass. His name is Latinized as Moel Kieranus Abbas de Cluain-ednech et Tyrdaglas. Tibraide, or Tiopraide, Latinized Tipradius, bishop of Cluain-ednech, departed this life in the year 909.
That bishop, as distinguished from the abbot, usually resided at Clonenagh, is very clearly shown, not only from the circumstance, that at this year and in the same place, another monastic superior departed to another world beyond the grave, but his name even is quite a different one from that borne by the bishop. In the year 909 the abbot of Cluain-eidnech, who is named Litheach, was called away from this life. The monastery was plundered and destroyed, according to Archdall, in both the years 909 and 919, but this appears to be an error, in the first instance due to a typographical inaccuracy in Colgan’s work. In the year 919, the abbey of Cluain-eidneach was plundered, while the oratory of Mochua,and Fearna-mor-Maedhog were burned by the foreigners. In 922 died Duibhlitir, abbot of Cluain-eidhneach. His name is Latinized Dubhlitirius Abbas de Cluain-edhnech.
In the year 927 departed the abbot of Cluain-eidhneach, Tuathal son of Maelcarain, or, as rendered otherwise, Toole MacMaoilciaran. This name is Latinised Tuathalius, filius Moel-Kierani.
In the year 937, Ceallachan, the King of Cashel, assisted by the Danes of Waterford, laid waste the country of Meath as far as Clonard. They pillaged and sacked this monastery of Clonenagh, with that of Killachaidh, making the abbots Conchaur and Muredach prisoners. These are called, likewise, Muireadhach Ua Conchobhair, and Coibhdeanach, son of Beargdha. Owing to the apposition of the Four Masters, we may consider the first-named to have been the Abbot of Clonenagh.Again, Ceallagh, the son of Eporan, Bishop of Clonenagh, died in the year 940. This entry is Latinized as Ceallachus fihus Eporani, Episcopus de Cluain-edhnech. Gormghilla, the son of Ceandubhain, became arch-prior of this abbey. He was barbarously murdered by the neighbouring inhabitants in the year 965. Some of the Ossorians are charged with this murder.Muireadhach Ua Conchobhair, or O’Conor, who was bishop and successor to Finntan of Clualn-eidhneach, died A.D. 970. It seems most probable, that he was the abbot already named, and who had been taken prisoner in the year 937, thus surviving that event thirty-three years. He was probably very old at the time of his death. By Colgan he is called Muredachus Oconchubhair.
We are informed that Diarmit, who had been a lector or professor at Kildare, and a man of uncommon erudition, became abbot over Clonenagh. He is called likewise a scholastic of Kildare, while he was remarkable for his exquisite literary acquirements. His fame and virtues were recorded in an Irish poem, from which the following lines have been translated :-
”Diarmaid, stronghold of noble wisdom, a man of generous fame, of great battle; Pity, O king of the righteous laws, that death has now approached him.”
He died in the year 991. In the year 1007, Tuathal O’Conchobhair, successor to Finntan-most probably of Clonenagh-died. The noble Donghal Ua Coibhdheanaigh, or Donnghal O’Coibhdeany, a priest of Cluain-eidhneach, departed this life in the year I071. By Colgan he is styled Donnghalius Ocorbhdheanaigh, prresbyter de Cluaineidhnech. Thenceforward we find no historic accounts, and we may probably attribute the circumstance to a gradual decline, until a succession of monks had failed to support this ancient establishment.
After the monastery disappeared, Clonenagh was converted into a parish church. A valuable compilation, comprising some historic tracts, and known as the Book of Clonenagh, , had long been preserved, after the solution of the monastery. It is thought to have been written by the monks, nor does it appear to have been completed until after the twelfth century.
When Dr. Geoffry Keating wrote his History of Ireland, early in the seventeenth century, he refers to it as amongst the books ”that are to be seen at this day,” and he quotes many passages from it in the course of his work. The following extract from the Book of Clonenagh, relating to the synod of Kells, is given by Keating :-, ”In the year 1157, from the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, being bissextile, was celebrated in the Spring, a noble council at Ceannannus, in which presided Cardinal John, a priest of St. Laurence; there were present- twenty-two bishops, and five bishops-elect, and very many abbots and priors, on the part of the blessed Peter and Paul, and our apostolic Lord Eugenius. The synod condemned usury and adopted every means to extirpate it, and commanded that tithes be paid by apostolic authority. He delivered four palliums to the four archbishops of Ireland, namely- of Dublin, Tuam, Cashel, and Armagh. Moreover, he constituted, as was proper, the Archbishop of Armagh primate over the rest. As soon as the council was ended, Cardinal John at once set out, and on the ninth of the Kalends of April, crossed the sea.” Then follow the names of the bishops ho took part in the council, amongst whom we find Finn MacTireea’in, bishop of Kildare, and Dungal O’Keilly, bishop of Leighlin.
In the year 1657, a map of Maryborough barony, in the Queen’s County, was ad-measured by Ambrose Yorke. It appears to include the present baronies of Maryborough East and West. The latter seems to have comprised the parish of Clonenagh, with Cloneheene, which latter extended into the barony of Cullenagh. Monerath’s church-now the site for Clonenagh-is marked on the map. Of course the town of Monerath, designated by a few houses on a stream, is now known as Mountrath. Much of the parish of Clonenagh is there represented as forfeited lands.
To the south appear denominations of several townlands. Among these are named Cloanadogas, Roscoltean, Cromoge and its church, Cappabegkinny, Killeany, Scotchrath, where there is a fort, Iron Mill in Dysartbeagh, Tinnekilly, Coulty, with woods and bogs. Knockmey and Clonrusk are also represented as forfeited, on the verge of Burres parish.
The remainder of Clonenagh parish consisted of unforfeited lands. Clonenagh was a parish, and it had preserved an old church, within the diocese of Leighlin, during the eighteenth century. This was used for the purposes of Protestant worship during the earlier years of tile last century, but it was suffered to lapse into decayy, and it was finally unroofed, when another building to replace it had been creatcd in the town of Mountrath. The adjoining grave-yard is used as a place of interment, chiefly for Protestants; on the opposite side of the road, is another cemetery, in which Catholics exclusively are interred. At least three priests lie interred here ; the tomb-stones are so over-run with weeds and grass, that it is very difficult to decipher them.
On the roadside, the well of St. Fintan is pointed out. It does not, it is said, occupy its original site, which was in the adjoining field; the owner of this field contrived to divert the spring to the place it occupies at present. An old tree opposite the well is popularly supposed to be sacredly connected with It. In Some cavities within the trunk, water is said to be at all times found, and to which healing properties are ascribed.
Formerly the Protestant Church was at Clonenagh ; but in 1796, one more commodious was designed and built, chiefly at the expense of the Earl of Mountrath in the town from which his title had been derived. The incumbent has an annual income at present of £575. The town had been founded by the Coote family in 1628. The large bogs of Derrymore and Derrybeg-the names of which indicate a former growth of oak-woods there-extend eastwards from Mountrath. The principle seat near the town is Forest House, in a park similarly named. The living in the patronage of the crown was a rectory in the diocese of Leighlin, and formerly valued at £1,125. The Great Southern and Western Railway passes near Clonenagh, and has the station named Mountrath and Castletown. The town of Mountrath, with its fine-looking, capacious old houses, is of considerable size, and one hundred years ago was a hive of busy industry, especially in the weaving of stuffs and tammies-the latter a mixture of home-grown flax and imported cotton. A monastery of Patrician Monks has long been established here, and they conduct a boarding as well as a day-school for the education of boys. Even previous to this foundation, a convent for Brigidine nuns was provided on the 18th of April, 1809, by three Sisters, who proceeded thither from the mother house in Tullow, County of Carlow. The Catholic history of Mountrath which is the head station-and of the parish of Clonenagh, is fully set forth in the Most Rev. Dr. Comerford’s ”Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin,” vol. III., pp. 291 to 304.
A fine Gothic Catholic Church has been erected in the town by a former Parish Priest, Very Rev. James Dunne ; the architect was Mr. John Butler, Dublin. In 1868, there were five or six chapels and meeting-houses for Presbyterians, Quakers, and Dissenters. There were also nineteen day schools, nine of which were National. In the town are a market-house, mills, a brewery and a police station; also a dispensary, which last is within the Mountmellick Poor-Law Union. Saturday is the market day, and fairs are held on the 17th of February, St. Fintan’s Day, on the 8th of May, on the 20th of June, on the l0th of August, on the 19th of September, and on the 6th of November.
In Kilbrickan townland, south of Mountrath, and on the banks of the River Nore, there is a church in ruins. It is within the ornamental grounds surrounding Kilbrickan House. Near Clonenagh is also the site of the ruins of Red Castle, probably erected in the sixteenth century.
The very ancient church formerly called Cluainchaoin, and now written Clonkeen, was situated a few miles eastward from Clonenagh, and near to Bocluain. The site is still traditionally remembered ; and it is at a place now called Churchfields, where an old burial-ground was still used in the early part of the last century. Another name by which this locality appears to have been recorded, was Cluain-Aitchenn. Anciently it would seem to have been united as a parish with Clonenagh, and most probably after the monastery disappeared at the latter place. In old documents this union is called Clonehine or Clonkeen and Clonenagh. We are told that Cluainchaoin was an ancient monastery, not far distant from Clonenagh. It is not improbable, that, besides a church, some religious establishment there existed in remote times. It is possible, too, that the celebrated St. Fintan, founder and first Abbot of Clonenagh, was born at this Clonkeen. Father Hugh Ward has placed the following saints at Clonkeen ; but as there were other places so called in different parts of Ireland, we may not too hastily conclude that all of those whose names follow belong to this place :-Thus, Aruinus or Aaron, said to have been venerated at the 15th of August, Daghdus, whose feast occurs on the 18th of August; and Dimocus or Modimocus, who was commemorated at the l0th of December, are all styled bishops at Cluain-Caoin. It is evident, however, that the foregoing saints were not all connected with the present locality.
Duald MacFirbis places a bishop named Lugach at Cluain-Aitchenn, in Leix, assigning his festival to the 6th of October. He would, therefore, seem to be identical with a St. Lugech or Lughaidh, mentioned in the Martyrologies of Tallaght and of Donegal, at this same date. The latter martyrology, however, says he was of Cuil Beannchair, and of Rath Muighe Tuiscirt. But we are not able to ascertain the period when these saints flourished. It was, however, most probably at a very early date. It is said a St. Fintan had been venerated here at the 11th of May. He died, it is thought, in the year 860, uncertain if he be the same as Finan of Cluain-Caoin, bishop and anchorite. However, Dr. O’Donovan states, that he belonged to Clonkeen, near Ardee, in the County of Louth. The saint, whose feast is recorded at the 11th of May, is called simply Fionntain, of Cluain-Caoin, by the O’Clerys. By Colgan, he seems confounded with a St. Fionntain, Priest of Cluaoin-Caoin, who is venerated in our Calendars at the 7th of February ; but we deem them to have been distinct personages.
The Church of Clonkeyn is represented here on the old Elizabetllan Map of Leax and Ophaly. In the year 1616, the rectory of Clonehine and Clonenagh was impropriate in one Peter Crosby, who probably lived at Ballyfin. The serving vicar of both places was Dermit Horoghan, an old and infirm man at that time. The value of this living was then £16, which represented more than ten times that amount at the present day. James Waller was then the curate. At this period, too, the Church of Clonehine was found to be ruinous, while the chancel was kept in repair; and the church was furnished with books. We read that Clonena and Clonehine (in Maryborough) hath thirty-eight farms, united and impropriate, in 1640. The union was worth £150, the vicarage £50, the parsonage £100, and then valued at £75 per annum. The patron was Sir K. Crosbie Knt.; but as he was opposed to the Cromwellian party, who afterwards obtained power, his estates in the Queen’s County were forfeited to the Poles, the Coote family ultimately succeeding in possession of that district. Now no trace of the former church at Clonkeen appears, nor even the vestige of a grave, although in a corner of the open field very rank grass still grows over the burial place of multitudes who there lie interred. The parish of Clonkeene in Sir William Petty’s Maps has a representation of Boyly Church, with bog and what may be presumed more profitable land. On another map of Clonenagh and Cloneheene the denominations already set forth on the barony map are repeated, and the ad-measurements of arable, pasture, wood and bog lands are given in acres, roods and perches, A.D. 1657. The edges of this map are burned. The castles, houses and churches are also marked. Knockmay and Clonrusk are marked.
On the northern or left bank of the River Nore, which separates Castletown from it, the townland of Dysartbeagh, southwards from the town of Mountrath, yet preserves the former denomination of old Dysart Bethech. At a very early period, this place seems to have been a dependency on the great monastery at Clonenagh; and probably, a hermitage had been established there for those monks who chose to live in seclusion, yet near the parent house. The site of Castletown on the River Nore has its ruined castle and church presented on Sir William Petty’s Down Survey maps; while on the opposite bank is marked there the exact position of Dysart Bethech. At present, not a single vestige of the former religious house can be traced, as the writer has been informed by people living in that neighbourhood. However, a careful search, with such a recorded clue as remains, might result in the wished-for discovery. Little more than two centuries have elapsed, since it had a local position as a prominent land-mark. On Sir William Petty’s maps a church is represented within the present townland denomination of Dysertbeagh, on the left bank of the River Nore, and near to Castletown, a short distance from Mountrath. Old Disert Betagh may have been somewhere within or near the woods, which grow. at present along the river bank; and even if the walls have disappeared, their foundations, or the relics of an old grave-yard, may still be discovered. If one were not in existence before his time, the celebrated St. Aengus the Culdee may be supposed to have established a hermitage, not far distant from Clonenagh, and at that place called Disert Bethect. After returning from Tallaght to Leix, it has been stated, that he became Abbot over Clonenagh ; but it is possible enough, that previously he occupied the retired place beside the River Nore. Certainly that hermitage had an existence towards the latter part of the eighth century. Moreover it seems to have been inhabited by St. Aengus, about the beginning of the ninth century; and here, too, it is probable, he wrote a considerable portion of his Feilire-at least, from the account succeeding, he finished it at Dysartbeagh.
It would appear, that the poem of St. Aengus had not been issued until after the death of holy Abbot Maelruan, which took place A.D. 792, according to the best computation. This fact appears still more evident, as in the Festilogy, the name of Tallaght’s venerable superior is found recorded, with a suitable eulogy. According to the best accounts, Aengus wrote his poem in or before A.D. 798 ; for, so far as can be ascertained, the name of any saint who died after such date cannot ,be discovered in it. At the head of a large army, Aid or Aideus the Sixth, surnamed Oirdnidhe, undertook his expedition against the Leinster people, A.D. 804, according to the most correct supposition. He had summoned the clergy, as well as the laity, to join this hosting, and twice within a month the monarch devastated Leinster. He marched to this spot, and on the Leix side of the River Nore, the monarch Aid seems to have selected a site for his encampment. This was during the hosting of Dun Cuai into the borders of Meath and Leinster. A very learned man, who appears to have been high in favour with the king, travelled as the monarch’s companion, while engaged on this expedition. This was Fothad or Fothadius, surnamed the Canonist, owing to his special knowledge of Canon Law, or because of the modifications in Irish Church discipline, of which he was the author at that period. The king promised to abide by the award of Fothadh na Canoine, who composed an Irish poem on the subject, and in which his opinion was forcibly expressed, yet in terms of justice and persuasiveness. At this very time, it so happened, that St. Aengus resided at Disert Bethech, and, no doubt, his reputation and position caused him to have had interviews with the Irish monarch. Just then the Culdee had finished his Festilogy. A friendship was here formed between the saint and Fothadh the Canonist, who showed the poem he had composed for Aedh’s decision. Before presenting it to the king, he desired and received the warm approval of his brother poet. Fothadh the Canonist is said to have received a present of the Feilire, which had been first shown to him, from our saint’s hands. Having read it with great delight, Fothadh solemnly approved and recommended it for perusal by the faithful. The Canonist returned this compliment by the bestowal of an her work, of which he was the author. This latter treatise is said to have been the famous Remonstrance he drew up, as addressed to King Aidus. It inveighs against the employment of ecclesiastics in military services. At this time, the clergy had complained of the grievance inflicted on them; because they had been obliged -contrary to the spirit of their calling-to take up arms and to engage in scenes of violence and of bloodshed. Commhach, Archbishop of Armagh, and the northern clergy, were among the chief remonstrants. Aengus Ceile De first published or circulated his Festology that very year, when Aedh Oirdnidhe obtained his full demand from Finsneachta, King of Leinster, who gave him hostages and pledges.
After the commencement of the ninth century, and when he was somewhat advanced in years, St. Aengus Hagiographus died. Whether this event occurred at Dysart Betach, Dysart Enos, or Clonenagh. Is uncertain. Sir James Ware names one or other of the years 819, 824, or 830, conjecturally, as referring to this saint’s death, from the circumstances of the 11th March, falling on the feria sexta, or Friday, at each of these dates. Professor Eugene O’Curry thinks St. Aengus Ceile De must have died about the year 815. Nearly all our writers seem to agree with the account furnished in his Acts by Colgan, that he had been buried at Clonenagh. A scholiast on the Feilire asserts, that he was both educated and buried at Dysart Enos. However it seems very probable, that the latter place has been mistaken for Disert Bethech, and that here he really died. A very ancient Irish poem states, that it was his death-bed, and that here also was his leacht or monument. No doubt, in past ages, it was long the resort of the pious pilgrim; at present, the very cemetery in which it stood is unknown.
In an old Irish poem, this place is called, ”sacred Disert Bethech,” and ”a religious city, by crosses enclosed.” Not one of these can now be found. It was held in such reverence, that it was exempt from plunder, although populous. When its church fell into ruins the site became solitary, and it presents all around at present the features of rural loneliness.
Almost forgotten at present, but yet situated neat the old coach-road between Maryborough and Mountrath, is the former burial-ground of Bocluain. It is surrounded by high hedgerows of hawthorn, with some larger trees of that species now shading the grass-grown graves, and several rude headstones there, are now scarcely visible; yet, in former times, some kind of a church must have been erected on this site. In our Calendars, a St. Fraechan, Bishop of Bochluain, to the east of Clonenagh, in Laoighis, seems to have been venerated on the 20th day of November. The period when he flourished is not known to the writer; but it must have been during or before the eighth century; for he is mentioned in the ” Feilire ” of St. Aengus, at the same date, and assigned to the same place. A scholiast on this passage states, that besides Bochluain in Leix, he was also venerated in Druim Daganda in Dalaradia. According to one tradition, he came from the north, accompanied by a saint called Escon. Others think the latter term is a corruption of the text, and that Epscop should be read, which should simply imply Bishop Froechan. His place is described as having been right before Sliabh Bladhma, now the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
The etymon Bo-Chluain, in Irish, has been translated ”the Cow’s Lawn ” or ”Meadow.” The spot here referred to lies about two miles south-west from Maryborough. It is within the united parishes of Clonenagh and Clonagheen, in the barony of Maryborough East.
The people formerly had a great veneration for this ancient abode of mortality; and the neighbouring inhabitants had their family plates for interment well defined. But, ill the famine years, the old wayside inn and stables for Frederick Bourne’s coach-horses were converted into an auxiliary workhouse. Numbers of paupers died there, or on the roadside; they were buried indiscriminately in Bocluain, and the people of that locality disliked ever afterwards commingling the dust of their relatives with that of strangers. Elsewhere they sought burial-places, and the old cemetery ceased opening its over-crowded loam for the reception of new occupants. It is now quite disused, for even few visitors ever stroll among the lonely graves.
The union of Clonenagh and Clonagheen contains the two chapelries of Ballyfin and Roskelton. The church of Roskelton in the townland so named is a prominent object over a bleak and level landscape. The village of Raheen, containing a good Catholic Church, has but a few houses, most of rather an humble appearance. In the immediate neighbourhood are Raheen House and Tinnekill House, within ornamental grounds. The old Church of Cremogue and an adjoining graveyard are within the union, and about two miles distant from Clonenagh. Beside it is a remarkable well reputed to be ”holy,” and still frequented by pilgrims, who usually carry away one of the pebbles found in the bottom of that clear spring. In addition to some already named, the principal seats within this union are Ballyfin, the beautiful demesne of the Coote, family, Woodbrook, Newpark, Woodbine, Springmount, Shanahoe, Anngrove Abbey and Mount Eagle.