Published in the Ossory Archaeological Society, Thomastown. In the Roman Catholic Parish of Thomastown there are very many ruins of ancient churches, &c., which well deserve the attention of the antiquarian.
1.- The most remarkable remnant of antiquity in the parish is, of course, the Abbey of Jerpoint. As its history is well known, we shall say very little about it. It was founded for Cistercians in 1180, by Donald, Prince of Ossory. The founder and Felix O’Dullany, bishop of Ossory, were interred in this Abbey. It did not escape the illiberal enactments of the English during the fourteenth century. In 1380 it was ordained that no mere Irishman should be permitted to make his profession there. The Abbot of Jerpoint was a lord of Parliament. The building is still in a good state of preservation.
2.-The old Gothic church of Thomastown is likewise too well known to need much description. There is a fine old Irish cross at the right side of the entrance. There are also some very old tombs in the grave yard. Among them there is one which bears the following inscription : –“Here lies the body of Patrick Lincoln, who died the 16th of December, 1666, and of Mary Dobbyn, his wife, who ordered this monument. She died the 11th day of May, 1709.” The tomb is elaborately worked, having emblems of the Passion, &e. It has also a shield empaling the arms of Lincoln and Dobbyn. Prior to the date first mentioned a fine silver chalice was presented to the chapel of Thomastown by a Mary Dobbyn – the same person, we presume, whose name is on the monument. It has the following inscription :-“Orate pro anima Mariae Dobbyn quae me fieri fecit, 1687.” Translation – “Pray for the soul of Mary Dobbyn, who caused me to be made, 1687”. In reference to this lady, we may also mention that there is in the chapel of Thomastown a. beautifully carved oaken statue of the Virgin and Child to which she presented crowns of silver in 1705.
3. – Near Thomastown, to the North-West of the town, is a church, or rather the ruins of a church, called “Modaleen.” (We write it as it is pronounced). It is evidently a very old Irish church, probably of far earlier date than the fine Anglo-Norman ruin of which we have just spoken. There are no traditions regarding it. Some suppose it to have been called after St. Mary Magdelan, its patron. We do not believe such to be the case.
4.- Church Jerpoint, as it is called, is apparently an Anglo-Norman erection. It is divided into nave and choir. It has a strongly-built tower at the west-end. Near the church is a tomb having the figure of a priest clad in vestments. There are no traditions or legends regarding it.
5.-Tho Priory of Dysert, about a mile-and-a-half S. E. of Thomastown, is beautifully situated on the Nore. The Anglo-Norman tower at the west end of the church is still perfect; but the church itself is almost wholly in ruins. It was turned to private uses by the family of Berkley – ancestors of the famous bishop Berkley of Cloyne. His father is said to have kept a school or academy there, and is said to have been buried on the top of the tower under a large slab, commonly called “the minister’s flag.” The Berkleys threw all the tombstones in and around the church into the Nore. Dysert is said to have been held as a house of novices, dependant on the Augustinian Priory of Kells.
6.-Columbkill Church was about 60 feet long by 20 wide. The walls wore nearly three feet thick, but badly built. There are no remains of windows, of font, or of anything else of the kind, save a little gable cross now marking a grave. The opening of the southern or south-eastern door also remains. Near this place is a holy well elegantly surrounded by Masonry. Up to a late period crowds used to assemble here on the Patron day, which was the Sunday after the 9th of .June.
7.- Kilcullen old church is about two-and-a-half miles east of Thomastown. It is about 25 feet long and 10 feet wide, and is very rudely built. It is in a mountainous locality, but commands a prospect of great extent and beauty. No traditions, no Patron day.
8. – Killeen, in Mountjuliet demesne, lies about two-and-a-half miles west of Thomastown. It has now totally disappeared, and its site is occupied by the monuments of the family of the Earls of Carrick. The name may signify the little church, or the place may have been called after Killian the martyr. No traditions, no memory of a Patron day. Near the site of this old church is a beautiful holy well.
9.- Killarney, “The church of the sloes,” (Joyce). It has not a stone upon a stone, nor any other vestige left. Captain Myhill, an officer of Cromwell, who lived in the townland of Killarney, was buried here. His sword, with a portion of the scabbard, was found in 1835. “Rogers, London, makers,” was marked on it.
10.–Teaumple Tehawn (we write it as it is pronounced) is a small church to the east of Thomastown, and on an elevation near Castle Grenan. It is a very ancient church, and appears to have been re-modelled by the Dens, Castellans of Grenan. There is a St. Tian; Feast 23rd Feb., Mart. Donegal. There is a tradition that on the occasion of the first Protesant being buried here, a commotion was created among the dead, who cried out to have his body removed from the holy place.
11.- Blessington, in Irish Lisnamanagh. The Lis i.e. “the house or fort of the monks”, is still extant. It is a circular rath of considerable extent, and is situated in a romantic locality. There are indistinct traditions of monks having been here. It is looked upon as a wonder that there are some hawthorns in the lis on which no thorns over grow. Some relics were found here about the year 1830. . I
12.- Kilmurry, i.e., Mary’s Church, was situated about one mile north of Thomastown. Not a vestige of it now remains. Even its site is not well known, although some very old people undertake to point it out. In the demesne of Kilmurry is a. field which is still called “the church field.” The mansion was at one time the residence of Chief Justice Bushe. •
13.- Tullaherin, with its fine round tower and fine old church, is too well known to need description. In the graveyard is a stone bearing an “Ogham description.” Patron, Saint Kieran ; Feast, 5th March. On the 5th March, 1800, there were seventy-five tents erected at Tullaherin, as we have heard from a, man who was there on that day.
14.- Kilfane, called from St. Phaan; Feast, 1st January, Mart. Donegal To the south of Kilfane House is a well with a very ancient cross. To the north is the Anglo-Norman Chureh of Kilfane, probably built by the Cantwells, owners of the land, the walls of this church are very strong, and an Anglo-Norman tower is built at the south side of the nave. Inside the church is an effigy in chain armour, elegantly sculptured, and in excellent preservation. The legs are crosswise, which shows that. the warrior was a Crusader. On the left arm is a shield bearing the arms of Cantvell. All the walls of the church are standing. It was used as a Protestant place of worship till 1835.
15 – Kilbline. Near the castle of that name is a ruined little church. It may have been dedicated St. Blaan, bishop, 10th August, Mart. Donegal. No legends or traditions.
16 – Skebul Brunnagh, now Brown’s Barn, is a very ancient, but greatly injured ruin. It is beautifully situated on the Nore, about two and a-half miles east of Thomastown. There is a St. Bran, 8th June, near Donegal, near Tallaght. No traditions.
17 – Kilmonage, near Kilminock, is very ancient. It was of a very small extent, and is now almost totally destroyed. Its patron may be presumed to have been St. Mohenog, the ‘h’ being mute, as is very common in Irish. We remember to have seen the above written Kilmohenog in some old parish register. This little ruin is situated about four miles south-east of Thomastown.
18-Poerswood is so called from a family of De La Poers, who lived in the townland. It is called in Irish Kilcornan. There is a St. Cornan, Jan. 6, near Donegal. This little church may have been a, private place of worship for the Castellans of Poerswood, as it is only a short distance from the place where their castle stood.