In the present day church organisation this parish comes under the Roman Catholic parishes of Clough and Ballacolla.
The name is generally to be found spelled as Aghaboe or Aughavoe in literature Saint Canice is the patron saint of this parish because of his connection to the Abbey in Aghaboe. During the 18th century, the festival of St. Canice was still celebrated in the area, on the V. of the Ides – corresponding with the 11th of October, believed to have been the date of the death of St. Canice. On that day, crowds of people came from all the neigbouring parishes to celebrate his memory; but, owing to the abuses which prevailed at these patrons (as they have been called) their meetings were discountenanced by the Catholic Bishop and priests. The pedlars used to go to the well (St. Canice’s) which was located in the orchard of the best known Rector of this parish (Rev. Dr. Ledwich). About a quarter of a mile from the town was a group of thorn bushes, where the poor people performed their devotions; but the Rector in his writings assumes, that these were heathen practices, derived from the earliest ages. There are local legends relating to St. Canice, the Abbey and Grantstown Lough (or Lake).
Aghaboe itself is a small village, but it is once believed to have been a city, centered on the Abbey. The remains of streets are said to have been found locally, while in the 1700’s it was made up of about 20 houses and cabins. The number of parishioners of Dr. Edward Ledwich (Rector -1770’s) was about 3,000 and mainly Roman Catholics. In 1831 the population of this parish was 6,198, and it had increased to 6,310 by 1841.
The civil parish of Aghaboe almost touches on county Tipperary and it is said that in ancient times it spread into what is now known as county Kilkenny. The towns and villages in this parish are at first sight small, centred on a main street, though some do spread out from that point. The main towns in the parish are Borris in Ossory on the Mountrath (Co. Laois) to Roscrea (Co. Tipperary) road (about 4 miles from each) and Ballycolla (known locally as Ballacolla, and spelled as such) which is on the main road from Abbeyleix to Rathdowney (both in county Laois).
The Parish is bordered by the following civil parishes: Kyle, Skeirk, Donaghmore, Rathdowney, Kildellig, Bordwell, Killeshin, Abbeyleix, Clonenagh and Clonagheen, and Offerlane. It is found listed as being in the Barony of Upper Ossory in older documents but was then included part in the Barony of Clandonagh and part in the Barony of Clarmallagh when these were created . The Baronies of Upper Woods, Maryborough West and Cullenagh border on the parish of Aghaboe.
The land of Aghaboe has been described as fertile, including a large tract of bog (which was not good enough to provide fuel for the parishioners – Lewis 1838) and some moor land. Aghaboe translates as ‘Ox’s Field’ and it is said to have been good pastureland for cattle, there were some lands near the church of Aghaboe which claimed exemption from tithes and ewes were brought there to yean as a means of avoiding payment of these taxes.
Aghaboe is located at the base of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Laois, and currently the most well known physical feature of this parish is Grantstown Lake (or Lough) and the Woods associated with it. This is an Area of Scientific Interest, conservation and a Natural Reserve today. The woods themselves are beautiful, canopied and surround the lake, the lake itself is a haven for the ornithologist, the fisherman, or anyone who appreciates nature or peace. A number of walks (14 in all) have been developed over a variety of landscapes, through the woods and hinterland The woodland walk is five kilometres and encompasses a full circuit of Grantstown woods visiting an abandoned village en route. The country walk takes in eight kilometres and leaves the woods traversing fields and lanes. All walks are well marked. As an Area of Scientific interest and conservation no shooting is allowed on this land, while fishing is encouraged the fish must be returned to the lake.
According to Lewis (1837) there were several quarries in the parish; at Knockaruad (?Knockrea) a brown slate was found; and at Carrig and Carrigeen (?Carrick) there was granite.
On the current Discovery Series Ordnance Survey maps are marked a number of Ecclesiastical sites which would be of interest to genealogical researchers in this parish. In the town of Borris-in-Ossory, there is an old Protestant church and a Catholic church. In Knockseera is found the site of a church which was associated with St. Kieran of Ossory, here there are headstones which post-date 1700. In Lismore, there is a ruined church which was dedicated to St. Canice and known as Kilkennybeg, ‘ the little church of St. Canice’, the headstones in the surrounding graveyard post-date 1700. There is a church in Knockaroe (Knockaroo) with a graveyard and the earliest stone recorded here is 1833. In Aghaboe is found the remains of the Abbey which has been preserved and also a protestant church which stands on the site of an earlier Augustinian church, there is a graveyard surrounding this church and while there is a graveslab dated 1675, and a few slabs which pre-date 1700, the majority of the gravestones post date 1800. In Kildellig townland is found the site of a church dedicated to St. Ernan or Senan who was the patron saint of Kildellig, stones from this church were used in the construction of the surrounding graveyard wall in 1862. A ruined church is to be found at Farraneglish Glebe (pre-1600), there is supposed to have been a graveyard in a local field known as the ‘Church Field’. A burial ground is marked near the townland of Kilminfoyle – there is no record of this as Kilminfoyle in the Laois Archaeological Survey. Another church found close to Ballacolla -and here there is also graveyard. There is finally a church in Ballacolla village and a graveyard associated with this. Stones there post-date 1800.
To the north of the church associated with Aghaboe Abbey there is an artificially – formed mound of a flattened cone shape, surrounded by a fosse, and encircled with remains of a wall on the top. At some distance from this is the Rath of Lara or the Moat of Monacoghlan mentioned by Lewis in his Topographical Directory of Ireland (1837).
On Coolkerry townland there are remains of a ruined church and in a field close to the church remains there is an overgrown graveyard. There are also the ruins of a castle in Coolkerry and in Gortnaclea. The ruins of the Fitzpatrick castle are to be seen on the road from Borris in Ossory to Mountrath
Half the town of Aghaboe, and half the cantred in which it was situated, were given by King Henry II. to Adam de Hereford; and the lands lying between Aghaboe and Leighlin were given to John de Clahull the Mareschal of Leinster. There is no evidence that they were able to take possession of their royal grants. About the end of King Henry II’s reign, the Bishop of Ossory, who was then Felix O’Dubhlain, or O’Dullany, and formerly a Cistercian Monk, moved the see of Ossory from Aghaboe to Kilkenny.
The lands annexed to the Abbey, such as those of Aghaboe, with the Cross and Friars’ land, were large, and of the best quality. On the 8th of October, 1537, Brian Fitzpatrick, took an oath of allegiance to King Henry VIII.; and, as a reward for this submission, he became Baron of Upper Ossory on the 11th of June, 1541. He married Margaret Butler, daughter of Peter, Earl of Ormond,who was Lord Deputy to Ireland at the time and his father’s great enemy and oppressor. Their first son, Sir Barnaby Fitzpatrick, was second Baron of Upper Ossory, and he died without a son to carry the title, which then passed to Florence his brother – the third Baron of Upper Ossory. Florence married Catherine, the daughter of Patrick O’Moore, of Abbeyleix, in county Laois/Queen’s County. They had five sons, Thaddeus, the first was successor to Florence and the fourth Baron of Upper Ossory; John of Castletown; Galfrid of Ballyraghin; Barnaby or Brian of Watercastle; and Edmund of Castle Fleming. At the dissolution of Irish Monasteries, the Anglicised Fitzpatricks (Mac Giolla Phadraig)were not forgotten. By an Act of Parliament, passed in the 33rd year of Henry Vlll.’s reign, commissioners were appointed to assign lands and tithes for vicars nominated by the Crown, out of those formerly belonging to dissolved abbeys. Thus, the Baron of Upper Ossory had the patronage of Aghaboe in 1581, when he bequeathed to his brother Florence, among other things, all the furniture of his castles of Borreidge and Killinye, with all his tithes in Ossory, excepting those of Aghaboe, which were left to his wife. On the 10th of April, and in the forty-third year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, this Monastery of Aghaboe, with its appurtenances, and the advowson of the rectory of St. Kennie of Aghaboe, were granted to Florence Fitzpatrick, at the annual rent Of £5 18s. The concession was dated 21st of July, 1600, according to Harris and Lodge. Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, the first son of Florence married Joanna, who was niece to James Butler, ninth Earl of Ormond. Their four sons were Brian or Barnaby, Dermit or Dermoid, Terdelac or,.Tirlagh, and John. Brian or Barnaby became the fifth Baron of Upper Ossory, and he married Margaret Butler, daughter to Walter, eleventh Earl of Ormond. Their sons were Brian or Barnaby, Edward and Dermit.
The Survey of Sir William Petty in 1655, shows the parish in 46 numbered plots – Coolkerry townland was separated at some distance from the bulk of the lands, yet forming a part of Aghaboe Parish. There is an Index to each number which sets forth the names of the proprietors in 1640, the denominations, the quality of the land and the number of acres:
Aghavoe in Upper Ossory was worth, in 1640, £150.per annum.
In 1640, in this parish the Duke of Buckingham was proprietor of the following denominations: viz.-
1. Shanbogh, arable, pasture and shrub, 264 a., a bog.
2. Burris, arable and pasture, 660 a.
3. Derreenishanagh, arable, pasture and moor, 254 a.0r. 4p.
4 . Municultipenan, arable, pasture and moor, 223 a.
5. Dermeslough, arable, pasture and moor, 64 a.
6. Ballydeemodery, arable, pasture and moor, 63 a. 0 r. 20 p.
7. Rood, arable and pasture, 37 a. 3 r. 0p.
8. Derryborgin, arable and pasture, 100 a. 3 r. 20p.
9. Bardnasallogh, arable, pasture and shrub, 80 a.
10. Balluorgin, arable and pasture, 80a. 2 r. 2 p.
11. Ballykeran, arable, pasture and shrub, 71 a. 2 r. 0p.
12. Cappagh, arable, pasture and shrub, 114 a.
13. Kilbeg, arable, pasture and shrub, 171 a.
14. Knockroe, arable and pasture, 49 a.
15 Mrs. Pigott, Magherinstart, arable, pasture and moor, I24 a. 1r. 29 p.
The next in order,
16, is Terence FitzPatrick, Lismore, arable and pasture, 692 a., a bog, 892 a.2 r. 0p.
17. The Duke of Buckingham, Ardnarny, arable and pasture, 31 a. 3 r. 0 p.
18. The same, Grancemore, arable and pasture, 280 a., a bog, 118 a. 0 r. 0 p.
19. Mrs. Pigott, Grangebeg, arable and pasture, 325 a.
20. Duke of Buckingham, Ballybrogy, arable, pasture and shrub, 304 a., a bog.
21. The same, Kilrottom, arable, pasture, moor and shrub, 219 a. 1r. 2 p.
22. Morgan Cashin, Carran, arable and pasture, 689 a.
23. Parson of Aghboe, Keallagh, arable and/pasture, 1,571 a.
24. Mr. Carpenter, Aghaboe, arable, pasture and moor, 295 a.
25. F. Fitzpatrick and Ant. Cashin, Knockmullen, arable and pasture; 96 a.
26. Barnaby Fitzpatrick, Gurtnebooke, arable, pasture, wood, moor and meadow, 487 a.
27. Parson of Aghaboe, Farranagh, arable and pasture, 69a 2r. 10p. Half the Chapter.
28. Anthony Cashin, Cross, arable and pasture, 147 a.
29. Mr. Carpenter, part, Friar’s Land, arable and pasture, 50 a.
30. Thomas Hovenden, Boherard, arable, pasture, moor and shrub, 341 a.
3I. Morgan Cashin, Coolbally, arable pasture, moor and shrub, 260 a.
32. Sir Charles Coote, Palmer’s Hill, arable and pasture, 113 a., a bog.
33. Theobald Butler, Billiegiebane, arable, pasture, moor and shrub, 135 a.
34. Florence FitzPatrick Towrooe, arable, pasture, moor and shrub, 12 a.
35. Morgan Cashen, Ballygoudanbeg, arable, pasture and moor, 50 a.
36. Thomas Hovenden Ballygoudanmore, arable, pasture, moor and shrub, 88 a.
37. Geoffry FitzPatrick, Kilmulfoyle, arable and pasture, 266 a.
38. John FitzPatrick, Ballygihen, arable, pasture, wood, moor and meadow, 1,430a.
39. Morgan Cashen, Larah, arable and pasture, 124 a. a bog, 11 a. 2 r. 0p
40. Daniel FitzPatrick was proprietor of Knockfin, arable, pasture, moor and wood, 250 a.
41. Kileneseare, arable, pasture, wood, and moor, 246 a., a bog 25 a. 0 r. 0 P.
42. The same, a wood.
43. The same, Clonkinahanbeg, arable, pasture and moor, 29 a., a bog, 19a. 0r. 0p
44. Florence FitzPatrick, Clonkinahamore, arable, pasture and moor, 129 a. 3 r. 0 p.
45. The same, Kileteloga, arable, pasture and moor, 182 a.
46. The same, Oldglass, arable, pasture, moor and shrub, 303 a.
In 1657, Aghavoe was set for the use of the Commonwealth at £60 per annum. There was a church , at the time, but there was no minister
The incumbents of Aghaboe:
1663, John Cull; 1670, Thomas Hill; the vicar of Aghaboe, in 1674, was Benjamin Parry;
in 1675, the vicar was John Pooley; the incumbent of Aghaboe, in 1686, was William Whitehead. The next in -order, after William Whitehead, appears to have been a rector named Wilson, but no date is assigned for his incumbency. Immediately after him appears the name Arthur Lewellin, without a date ; the vicar of Aghaboe, in 1744, was Thomas Carr. In 1841 George Carr.
In I756, the Rev. Dominican Father and Brother James Williams was titular Prior there, in the fortieth year of his religious profession, and in the sixty-ninth year of his age. Towards the close of the Penal Days, only a single Dominican friar, who had been transferred from the convent of Burrishoole, in the County of Mayo, lurked in the neighbourhood of the deserted friary at Aghavoe.
Edward Ledwich, was incumbent of Aghaboe, in 1772, and he was the most famous of the rectors belonging to that church, because of his writings. He was a man who was interested in his parishioners, the majority of whom were Roman Catholic farmers, artisans or labourers. He promoted industrial and economic advantages for them as best he could, building an improved lime-kiln and encouraging tillage amongst his three thousand parishioners.
He was very well respected by his parishioners and lived with them on friendly terms. Dr. Drought of Ballygihen and the Rev. Dr. Edward Lewich gave over 400 woolen or flax wheels and reels at different times, to the wives and daughters of the cottagers. They believed that to encourage people to make money by their own industry was a much better way of helping them than by simply donating money or clothes. In this respect they were men far ahead of their time.
When Dr. Ledwich was in Aghaboe, there were ten wool-combers, ten stuff weavers, twelve linen weavers, and forty-eight spinners, within his parish; all carried on their operations contemporaneously, while most of their manufactures were used by the parishioners, yet there was an overplus of woollen yarn spun by the young women, who frequently wanted work. Dr. Ledwich complains of the decay of local manufactures and he tells us, that the town of Borris-in-Ossory, as indeed the whole parish, had been filled with combers, spinners and weavers, before the prohibition of exporting wool and woollens to the continent by English Acts of Parliament, in the reigns of Henry VIII, of Queen Elizabeth, and later still in William III’s time. The English House of Commons addressed the Crown on this subject, in 1698 ; Acts were passed, and the exportation of Irish wools was prohibited.
On obtaining the vicarage, the Rev. Dr. Ledwich in lieu of his tithes, proposed to the parishioners his acceptance of one shilling an acre, which would have lessened his income ; but, he believed that he would be compensated by the respect and regard of the people. He also believed that this would be a way for securing harmony between himself and those who were legally bound to pay the tithes. The small and middling farmers, he said, were quite willing to submit to such an arrangement; but the more opulent, who had considerable tracts under dry cattle, and who were protected by the law of agistment, passed in the Irish Parliament, refused the offer made by him.
By an Act passed in the Irish Parliament, in the 11th and 12th years of George III’s reign, permission was given to establish Corporations for the relief of the poor in each county in Ireland, with power to punish vagabonds and sturdy beggars, while houses of industry might be built, when grand juries granted sums of money for that purpose. Rev. Dean Coote procured a house of industry to be erected at Maryborough (Portlaois) , and besides the county presentments, he solicited subscriptions for its support. The Rev. Edward Ledwich, helped him in this endeavour. The newly formed Queen’s County Corporation adopted the idea, and sent circular letters to the different parishes, requiring returns of two descriptions of the poor; the one class of persons, who was owing to age disabled from working, and the other, who was willing to work had it the means.
On the 22nd May, 1775,,the Rev. Edward Ledwich convened a vestry, and appointed a committee, consisting of sixteen respectable parishioners, to inquire into the state of the poor in their respective districts. Two of those were to form a quorum. They prepared reports at another vestry, held on the 1st of June, 1775. Their reports were consolidated and forwarded to the Corporation in Maryborough. The following return is regarded as their report on the poor:
“Parish Church of Aghaboe, June 1st, 1775.
“At a vestry held this day, to receive and examine the reports of the parochial committees, the following appeared to be the state of the poor in this parish: – First class, consisting of those who through age and infirmities are unable to contribute to their own support, and are therefore objects of charitable benvolence, viz: John Austin and fifteen more; second class who though aged and sickly are willing to work had they the means and materials, viz., John Dillon and seven more. The committee beg leave to observe that alarmed at the enquiries on foot, many sturdy beggars who incumbered the parish and intercepted charity from real objects, have either withdrawn to other parts or taken themselves to labour, as they find both the Corporation and the parishioners are determined to enforce the statute. The committee further remark that, since stocks have been erected in Aghaboe, and a resolution made public of punishing strange and sturdy beggars, not one has appeared for some time; so that the most sanguine hopes are entertained that if the Corporation of the county proceed as they have begun, honesty and industry will be established in the place of pilfering and idleness and the execution of the statute will prove a blessing to this parish as well as to the county.
Edward Ledwich – Vicar
Daniel Lawlor – Church Warden
William Connor – Church Warden.
In 1776, the Rev. Dr. Ledwich,-far in advance of the social and economic ideas of his day-prepared a small pamphlet, as the first annual Report of the Corporation, and it was printed in Kilkenny. In this, he detailed provisions of the statute under which the Corporation acted, and gave an account of their proceedings. He also glanced in it at the state of the poor in Ireland from the reign of King Henry VIII. to subsequent periods. The Grand jury of the Queen’s County, learning that England was already heavily burdened by its annual poor-rates, feared to countenance a project which might 1ead to the introduction of poor laws for Ireland. They declined supporting the House of Industry,-although admirably devised to encourage work, and to suppress pauperism- so that the institution soon ceased to exist, and thus were frustrated the benevolent desires of the projector.
The vicar of Aghaboe, in 1797, was John Morris, and the denominations of the townlands, with their respective number of acres and the names of their proprietors, as these stood in 1796, were contained in the Vestry Book of the parish:
The following townlands belonged to the Chandos (Duke of Buckingham) family:
2. Borros (Borris) 600a
3. DerMonesat, 237a
4. Curraghmore, 81
5. Barnasallagh, 80a
6. Cappagh, 123a
7. Kilebeg and Derreen Oliver, 171a
8. Knockaroe, 49a
9. Ardvarney, 34a
10. Grangemore, 111a
11. Grangebeg and two Ballyrilies, 270a
12. Ballybrophy, 276a
13. Kilcotton, 219a
14. Knockamullen, 96a
15. Derreensollogh, 60a
The following townlands belonged to Lord Upper Ossory:
1. Knockamullen, 96a
2. Kilmunfoyle, 103a
3. Oldglass and Clonkinahanmore, 250a
4. Park, 50a
5. Ballycolla, 50a
6. Newtown, 57a
7. Ballyhenode, 50a
8. Kiletelague, 160a
The following townland belonged to Richard Grace, Esq.,
The following townlands : Carran and Carroreigh: 680a
Belonged to: Thomas Carr Esq. : Carran
Robert Stubber Esq.: Carroreig
Vicar of Aghaboe: Keilagh Glebe, 157a
The following townlands belonged to Thomas Carr Esq.:
Aghaboe and Friar’s Land, 445a
The following belonged to Lord Mountmorres
Gurtnaclea and its members, 487a
The following belonged, Part to the Dean of Ossory and Part to the Vicar:
Farran-Eglish Glebe, 65a
The following belonged to John Rotton Esq:
The following belonged (MISSING END OF PAGE!!)
The following belonged to Lord Mountrath
Palmer’s Hill, 106a
The following belonged to Robert Stubber Esq.
The following belonged to Peter La Touche, Esq.:
Tooreigh and Tereragh, 37a
The following belonged to Henry Grattan Esq.,
The following belonged part to Henry Grattan Esq., Part to Dr. Draoght,
Ballygihen and its Members, 1,430a
The following belonged to ?? Despard Esq.,
The following belonged to Lord Portarlington
The following belonged to Gerald FitzGerald Esq.
Kileneseer and Clonkinhanbeg, 249a
There is a railway line which passes through this parish and formerly known as The Great Southern and Western Railway, having a station at Ballybrophy. Weekly markets were held in the village of Borris- in-Ossory,. There was a court-house, a police station and a dispensary in the Borris in Ossory, while Quarter and Petty Sessions were held their weekly . Fairs were held here on the 25th of January, the 21st of March, the 31st of May, the 24th of June, the 15th of August, the 11th of October, the 21st of November and the 20th of December About 1818 the church was enlarged or partly rebuilt, and the Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £500 for that purpose. The same board gave £100 to build the glebe-house, and a loan of £1,350. There were two glebes–comprising altogether 185 acres-in this parish, and belonging to the vicarage. In 1837 the tithes of this parish amounted to £789 4s. 7d., of which amount £526 3s. 1d. was payable to the dean and the remainder to the vicar. The vicarial tithe composition in 1846 was £263 1s. 6 1/2 d., glebe, £277 4s. 4d.; the gross income was £540 5s. 10 1/2 d. nett, £461 18s. 5 1/2 d.-the patron being the Rev. George Carr.
Lewis (1837) states that the parish church was in the Chancel of the old Catherdral and that divine services were also held in Burros (Borris in Ossory). In the Roman Catholic divisions Aghaboe was head of a union or district, which comprised also the parishes of Killermagh (Killermoe) and Boardwell (Bordwell), and parts of Kildellig (Kylledellig) and Coolkerry and that it contained four chapels which were at Knockrea (Knockaroo?), Ballincolla (Ballacolla) and Burris in Ossory (Borris in Ossory).
There were two schools in the parish in 1837 (Lewis); the one in Cuffsborough was supported by James Grant Esq., these two schools were attended by about 80 boys and 50 girls. There were also 8 private schools in the parish and about 260 boys and 130 girls attended these. There was also a Sunday School.