1. Fidhuin – Fiddown, as the word is usually pronounced, means “The Wood of the Moat or Fortress.” The moat from which the name is derived is still to be seen to the north-west of the site where an old monastery stood. Of this monastery itself not the slightest vestige remains. It may be remarked that a very curiously sculpted holy water vase was found on the site of this monastery and that this vase is now used for its old purpose at Piltown.
Midui Mac Midgna is commemorated as Patron of Fidown (Martyrology of Tallagh). His feast is 23rd of March. Momedoc is another Patron whose feastday is May 18th (Martyrology of Donegal). Another is also Dothemnach; feast Oct. 1st.
Sir John Ponsonby, founder of the Bessborough family, is buried in the modern Protestant church of Fiddown. He was born in 1608 and died 1668. There is a monument to Father Denn who died in 1618. The Denns had a castle near the old monastery of Fiddown, of which townsland they were the owners. There is a monument in the church, or rather a slab, with an inscription in raised Gothic letters. The inscription runs thus “Hic sunt monumenta Edmundi Dalton, generosi de Cloncunney et Johana Denn………&c.
2. Tybroughny – Here there is a very ancient church, built in the Cyclopean fashion, having no interior division. Its patron is Modhomnog, whose feast is 13th February. There is also a holy well and the base of a beautifully-sculptured ancient Irish cross, with a stone having what is popularly believed to be the print of the saint’s knees impressed upon it.
3. Kilonerry – in Irish Kyleonessa. The old church and burial ground have totally disappeared. There are, however, a holy well, and a stone hollowed like a dish, which hollow is popularly believed to be the print of St. Patrick’s knees. There is also (according to the same popular belief) the print of one of the saint’s hands. Probably a St. Nessa was the patron, as there are many Irish saints of that name. There is a great cromelagh and cave a few yards to the east of the church. No memory of a ‘Pattern Day’.
4. White Church or TeaumpleGall. There are no vestiges of the ancient church, but a modern one has been built on its site. No old tombs, crosses or the like remain. There is however, a holy well called “Tubber Maura”, that is St. Mary’s well. It is to the west of the site of the old church, which church stood on a mound, and it is remarked that the earth is black in and around the site of it, which peculiarity arises from the fact that great numbers were buried there. The field in which the church stood is called ‘Parc-na-Teaumple’, that is to say ‘Field of the Church.’ A little to the east of this church is a huge cromleach, which St. Patrick is said to have thrown down with his crosier. There is an artificial cave near it, about thirty yards long, running in a zig zag direction.
5. Kilmacoliver. On the summit of Kilmacoliver Hill is a curious burial ground, whether pagan or Christian is hard to say. Near it, on the same hill, are curious figures cut into a large granite block. This block of stones, or rather this stone (for the figures are cut on only one) is looked on with great veneration by the people of the surrounding districts. In the valley under Kilmacoliver Hill stands the old ruined church of Kilkieran. Unfortunately the ruins have been much mutilated by the Osbornes of Kilmacoliver, who have erected on its site a family mausoleum. There are, however, a holy well and three most beautiful old Irish crosses in an almost perfect state. They were taken down at one time and somewhat injured, but they were put up again with great taste and judgement. The restoration was effected at the expense of the late Mrs. Walsh, of Fanningstown, and was superintended by the late good P.P. of Tullaroan, Rev. Matthew Brennan. There are also fragments of other ancient crosses in the old burial ground. The ‘pattern’ day is the Sunday before the feast of St. Michael, September 29th, which makes me think that St. Kieran of Clonmacnoise is the patron, for, according to the old style of dates, his feast would fall on the 21st of September, and his ‘pattern’ therefore would be held on the following Sunday. This corresponds exactly with the tradition amongst the people.
6. Ooning or Owning. There are there a holy well, and a very find old church, with its walls still standing almost uninjured. It was well built, and had a nave and a chancel. The barges of the gable are of cut stone. There are no old monuments; but there is a very ancient yew-tree now almost decayed. The Blessed Virgin is patroness; feast 15th August. Tradition tells that the church derived its name from Ona Walsh who founded it.
7. Kilmanahan. It means the church of St. Manahan, whence too, Kilmainham near Dublin. A parish in the barony of Granycastle, King’s County, is dedicated to this saint and called Lemanahan. His shrine is stil preserved, and was long in possession of a Mr. Cooke, of Birr, who exhibited it in Dublin at the great exhibition in 1853. His feast is on the 24th January. The remains of St. Manahan’s church, and also his well, are in a field about half a mile or so from Ooning. Nothing about the church, except merely its site, can now be known, as it is entirely cleared away. There is a fine old hawthorn near the holy well.
8. Tubbernabrone. There is here a very good well, with a great flow of water from it. Near too there was a moat, afterwards carried off to repair roads; also a holy well called ‘Tubbercailleeheen’ ‘The well of the little nun,’ famous for curing sore eyes. Its water gushed through an opening made in a stone which is fastened like a quern. Two more quern stones were found near it. The name is Irish is ‘well of the mill, or quern stones’
9. Kildalton or ‘Dalton’s Church’ gave name to the townsland now called Bessborough. In the front of the present mansion, to the right from the hall door its site now occupied by stables) stood the church of Kildalton. It was dedicated to St. John the Baptist. A great quantity of human bones was dug up when laying the foundation of the stables. Several fine monuments too were there; one only now remains, having a beautiful floriated cross carved in relief on it, but it is greatly damaged. The inscription runs thus: “Hic jacet Reddemundus……….mensis Febrii et Ellena Butler uxor jus quo………….pateus Sta Phe plora, suum quod eris…..quis quis es…..Thomas Otwae fecit hoc.” The name effaced after Reddeuundus was evidently Dalton. There are two small effigies of men in armour, one bearing the shield of Walsh. In connection with Kildalton, I may remark that Dr. William Dalton, Bishop of Ossory, and Rector of Kilkenny College in the reign of King James the Second, was son of Redmond Dalton, of Kildalton, now called Bessborough. He was forced into exile in 1698 and died in 1711. His sister was abbess of the royal convent of St. Dennis near Paris. He had relations in the French military service. His niece Anne Dalton, died in Thomastown in 1806 in her 80th year, and is buried with her father, Redmond Dalton, of Kildalton. In this connection, too, I may remark that the name Dalton was usually written Daton in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the ‘l’ being mute in Norman-French names. The country people follow the old rule, and always pronounce it ‘Dawton’. Some pronounce it Daton, which appears not correct.
10. Templeorum, rightly Templeoran from Odhran, whose feast is 27th October. This saint is thought to be the patron. There is a holy well somewhat changed out of its original position by a man who was named M’Grath, and who was marked by ill-luck, therefore, it is said. Not a vestige of the ancient church remains; its site is occupied by the modern chapel. There was a ‘pattern day’ celebrated in former times, but th ecustom has long since been given up. Father Lalor – who composed the elegy on Father Kavanagh P.P. of Ballyragget is interred in the graveyard of Templeorum. Just outside the graveyard there stood a castle of the Walshes, concerning which is a curious legend, which I have not space to speak of here.
11. Mullenbeg – a townland adjoining Templeorum – had in it an ancient little church called ‘Teaumple Illan or Illam’. There are two Illaduns or Illans, in the callandars of Tallagh, and the Martyrology of Donegal. One is 10th June; the other 2nd February. People tell that they saw persons buried in this church. The site of the church is now converted to a garden and yields rich cabbage to a farmer named Shea. I forget whether or not there is a holy well.
Near Templeorum, about a mile to the south-east in a lonely spot is the foundation of a chapel, made use of in the time of persecution. It is called ‘Chapel-na-gour’ that is ‘The Chapel of the Goats’ the site of it being much frequented by these animals in former times.
12. Kilmour – the church here has totally disappeared, even its foundation being altogether taken away. There is no account of a patron, or means to determine to which of the Moaedougrs or Moegeues it was dedicated. There is a very beautiful holy well. No traditions.
13. Macullee Old Church dedicated to St. Canice, stands in the townland of Milltown. It was well built, but is now almost entirely ruined. It has a beautiful gothic door of cut stone, now shaken. No old monuments. There is a holy well famous for curing chest complaints, coughs, consumption &c. The pattern or pilgramage began at the moat of Milltown. In the same townland there is another holy well called ‘Tubber-na-Clogeen” or the “well of the little bell”. I cannot say why, but it is famous for curing sore eyes. On a hawthorn are usually seen votive offerings of rags &c., a thing usual in Ireland.
As supplementary to my notes of the ancient church of Piltown parish I will add the following:-
In Glenbower, in a lonely, yet lovely spot, are seen the marks of St. Patrick’s knees, crozier &c., imprinted on a stone. Near it is “Closh-an-affron” the “pit of the Mass” where Mass used to be celebrated in the days of persecution. It is well worth a visit. A very intelligent old man named Carey, saw the walls or part of the old church in Mullenbeg, called Teaumple Illan. He knew two persons named Neil to be buried there. The holy well at Kilnamanahan is called “Tubber-na-Teaumple”.
Fiddown – Among its patrons is reckoned Dotemnach, 1st October. Mialbran, abbot of Fiddown, died 980. Donnegall, abbot of Fiddown died 944. Colman, Bishop and Abbott of Fiddown, died 1073. Coillacassi Osraigheah died an abbot of Fiddown. These dates I take from the Annals of the Four Masters.
In the days of persecution, a Rector of Fiddown, named Shaw, concealed and strove to protect a priest, but was himself hunted to death in his own house.
Dr. M. Cox, Archbishop of Cashel, lived in Castletown house and had Father Lanigan P.P. of Piltown, a fewquent guest at his table. Rev. Mr. Lanigan died in 1770, and is buried in Owning. I give the date from memory, having no note of it. These two facts I think worthy of record.
Note: This description of the ecclesiastical sites of Piltown parish, its customs and some people was written in 1874.
PAROCHIAL PAPERS – By Very. Rev. Canon Moore, P.P.
(1) Thomastown (2) Rosbercon (3) Piltown (4) Johnstown
Published in the Transactions of the Ossory Archaeological Society, 1874, pp. 23-41