Clonaslee, Co. Laois (by Rev M Comerford)

Source: Rev M Comerford \”Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin\” Vol. 3 (1886)

The entire Barony of Tinnahinch, which is co-extensive with Hy Regan, (now called Dooregan,) one of the seven cantreds of the kingdom of Ophaley*, was at one time united under the spiritual care of one pastor. In the rent hook of the Earl of Kildare, anno 1518, we find the item \”Of the vicar of Yregane, yerly ii rudders,\” i.e. horned cattle. In the registry of Popish Priests made in 1704, Kedagh Dunne, the then P.P., is set down as \”P.P. of Rossanolis, Rerymore, Castlebrack, and Killmanman, then, and ever since 1678.\”

In 1770, Mountmellick became a distinct parish; in 1793, Clonaslee and Rosenallis were made separate parishes; in 1811, the two last-named were again united, until 1828, when they once more were separated, and continue so to the present time. The existing parish of Clonaslee comprises the whole of the ancient parish of Kilmanman, and a portion of that of Rerymore. The name Clonaslee signifies the Clon of the Pass, or roadway; but the more ancient name of the parish is Kilmanman, which it derives from St. Manman, one of the early Irish Saints, who founded a Church here, sometime in the 7th century. This parish forms the N. W. portion of the territory of Hy Regan and is bounded on the W. and N. by the King\’s County (Offaly); on the E. by the parish of Rerymore; and on the S. by an angle of the same parish, and by that of Offerilan, in Upper Ossory. The old parish Church stands in ruins in the townland of Kilmanrnan, at a distance of about a mile and a half from the village of Clonaslee. It consisted of nave and chancel, whereof the chancel, with a bell turret, and the side walls of the nave remain, clothed with a luxuriant growth of Ivy.

*O\’Heerin, who died in 1420, thus refers to this district, in his topographical poem: –

\’Over the Hy-Regan of the heavy onslaughts,. A vigorous band who rout in battle, Rules O\’Dunne, chief of demolition, Hero of the golden battle-spears.\”

The Liber Regalis Visitations of 1615 states, that two Rectories in the O\’Dunne\’s country are held by Dr. Dunne. He receives the tithes, but has made no provision for the duty. The fruits are, in consequence, sequestrated. A note in the margin indicates the Rectories referred to as Oregan and Rosenallis.

On the western extremity of the parish, and on the confines of the King\’s County, there is an extensive burial-ground called Carrigeen. Lewis, (Top. Dictionary of Ireland), states that St. Manman founded here the Monastery of Lanchoil or Lahoil. An adjoining town-land still bears the name of Lahool. In this graveyard is a rude headstone, with a curiously-carved cross; this is popularly said to mark the last resting-place of a bishop. Near at hand is a tumulus known as the giant\’s grave.

The district Chapel in the penal times was that called the old Chapel of Brittas. It stood just inside the former demesne wall of Brittas, the seat of the O\’Dunnes of Hy Regan, -the old mountain road from Clonaslee passing outside. This Chapel was of considerable size, and was thatched, as was, also, the old manor house of Brittas, adjoining. At a distance of some three hundred yards south of this Chapel, on a rising ground, and also within the precincts of the old demesne, a place is pointed out on which, it is said, a monastery stood in the times of persecution.

In 1771, a Chapel was erected in the village of Clonaslee; it is probable that the apostasy of Squire Francis Dunne, the then head of the family, which took place in that year, rendered the change of the place of Catholic worship necessary. At the same time, there is reason to think that the squire intended to conform only for a while, and with a view to keeping hold of his estate; all his children were baptized Catholics. The old Chapel of Clonaslee, like its predecessor of Brittas, was a humble, unpretentious, thatched edifice. It stood close to the site occupied by the present Catholic Church. It was replaced by the present fine, commodious Church, in the year 1813.

At Clara Hill, about a mile from the village, are the ruins of an old castellated mansion, which was formerly the residence of a younger branch of the Dunne family; and near the east bank of the Barradais or Clodiagh river are the ruins of Ballinakill Castle, built in 1680, by Colonel Dunne. Terence Dunne, of Ballinakill Castle, fought in the battle of Aughrim, in 1691. He was wounded, and fell from his horse, which galloped home to Ballinakill. The wounded man was carried by the O\’Gormans as far as Killoughy, where he expired. He was buried at Killeigh. The ruins of another baronial mansion stand in the townland of Castlecuffe, close to the borders of the King\’s County. Lewis states that it was built by the first Sir Charles Coote: it was destroyed during the wars of 1641. In this parish is Lough Annagh, which is three miles in circumference. In the middle of this lake, where it is most shallow, certain oak framing is still visible; and there is a traditional report, continues Lewis, that in the war of 1641 a party of insurgents had a wooden house erected on this platform, whence they went out at night in a boat and plundered the surrounding country.

It appears, writes O\’Donovan-Ord. Survey Papers-from the Iregan documents, that the territory of the O\’Dunnes, was divided into four parts in the reign of James I. Tradition says that Donnall Oge O\’Duinn, the chief of the family, was implicated in the rebellion of 1641, but that he did not forfeit. Some of them, however, must have forfeited, for General Dunne, the present (1838,) representative of the family, is not possessed of one-fourth the territory of Hy Regan. . . . It is said that he sold out a considerable part of his estate to purchase the commission of General, which rank was of little avail to him, as he refused to go into the battle of Waterloo, for which, it is said, he had to stand his trial in England, where he proved, or attempted to prove, that the letters which ordered him to prepare for the battle, were intercepted by his wife. This, however, is considered not proven; and some suspect the general of the un-Irish attribute of cowardice; and this suspicion is strengthened in the minds of some by the well-known fact that he suffered the rebels of Wicklow, under the conduct of Garrett Byrne, to be fired upon and murdered, on the Curragh, in \’98, after they had laid down their arms; while, about the same time, he received his own rebels of Dooregan to mercy at Tullamore.\” The general was known amongst his neighbours by the uncomplimentary sobriquet of Shun-battle Ned.

Another castellated mansion stood at Coolnamony, built and inhabited by a branch of the O\’Dunnes; of this there are but slight traces remaining.

Although a large portion of the ancient parish of Reary is comprised in the modern parochial district of Clonaslee, yet, as the ruin of the old parish Church of Reary is situate in the present parish of Rosenallis, the particulars regarding it are contained under the latter heading.

This district was formerly covered with timber; in the neighbourhood of Lough Annagh, oak, fir, and yew-trees are found in numbers, lying a few feet below the surface; large trunks and roots of trees are also perceptible in the lake. In the reign of Elizabeth, Captain Leigh received the thanks of that queen, for having valiantly led the English cavalry from Birr to Athy, through the woods and forests of Oregan. -Lewis.

Harris, the editor of Ware, was a native of this locality, where his father, Lieutenant Hopton Harris, took part in an engagement during the Williamite war of 1691, fighting on the side of King William, whose troops were triumphant.

O\’Donovan, in a note to the Four Masters, sub anno, 1448, traces the genealogy of the O\’Dunnes, from which some extracts are subjoined. Their descent from Cathoir More, monarch of Ireland in the second century, is given by Donald MacFirbis, up to Donogh O\’Dunne, who flourished in the 14th century. From that time to the reign of Henry VIII, there is a gap which O\’Donovan was unable to fill up. From a MS. in the Lambeth library (Carew Coll. No. 635), and another in the British Museum, he follows up the succession from the latter period:–

I. Leyny O\’Doyne, chief of Iregan who built Castlebrack. He had a son,
II. Teige O\’Doyne, chief of Iregan: be had two sons, Teige and Turlough; and one daughter, who married Rory Oge O\’More, chief of Leix.
III. Teige O\’Doyne, chief of Iregan. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Piers Fitzgerald, of the County of Kildare, and had four sons, Teige, or Thady Oge O\’Doyne, his son and heir; Cormac; Brian, or Barnaby, ancestor of the Brittas family; and Cahir, or Charles, Dunne, LL.D., T.C.D., \”a good scholar, and a zealous Protestant,\” who died without issue. He had, also, three daughters. This Tiege, No. III, was living, a very old man, and blind, in 1593, when he signed, by his mark, a deed by which he settled Iregan on his sons.
IV. Teige Oge O\’Doyne, son and heir of the foregoing; married first, about the year 1570, Margaret daughter of Shane O\’Neill, Prince of Ulster, and son of Con, first Earl of Tyrone, and had by her, Teige Reagh O\’Dunne, who was 37 years of age in January, 1608. Being afterwards divorced from Margaret, he married a daughter of Redmond FitzGerald of the Barrow\’s side, in the county of Kildare, by whom he had several children, of whose descendants, if they left any, no account has been discovered. In the petition of Dr. Charles Dunne, of Trinity College, Dublin, against the fiant for letters patent to his eldest brother, Thady O\’Doyne, he has the following remarks on Teige Reagh O\’Doyne, son of the Lady Margaret O\’Neill :-\” That the said Thady\’s eldest son, Teige Reagh, son of Margarett, daughter of Shane O\’Neyle, is not a fitt ruler over so strong a countrye and so fitt for rebellion as Iregane is, by reason that for his said alliance with the O\’Neyle\’s and MacGuyers he furthered the drawinge of forces in the last rebellion oute of the Northe to Leinster, to the greate charge of the crowne, and was then in companie with Brian Reaghe at the burninge of his Majestie\’s fort af Phillippstowne, and the next day at the burninge of Kilcullen, in the countie of Kildare, and in companie with the said Brian, when he was kild, and in bonaght with Owny Mac Rorie (O\’More) riflinge the towne of Maryboroughe, and having not since, being now 37 years of age, much bettered or altered his course, will lykelye returne to his wonted practice, if the like times doe happen, and therefore not secure for his Majestie, that any one of so suspiciousse a behaviour should continue alone, the said countrie beinge so stronge and so fitt for rebellion. That the said Margarett, mother to the said Teige Reaghe, and the gentlewoman now kept by the saide Thadye, in his howse, and by whome he hath many sones, beinge both alive, the issue of one of them is illegitimate, yet by vertue of the estate passed unto him and his assignes, by the said Fiant, maie leave the saide landes and chiefferie to his unlawful issue, and soe disinherit his owne heire, your supplicant, his brother, and nephewes, whereas for these many hundred yeares no bastard attained to the chiefrie of Iregane.\” It appears from an Inquisition taken at Maryborough on the 17th of May, 1628, that this Teige Oge O\’Doyne died on the 28th of October, 1637, when it was found that Edward Doyne, aged 18 years and 2 months, was his next relative and heir. From this it would appear that the issue of Teige Reagh, son of Margaret O\’Neill, and of his half-brothers, were set aside by the government; but it has not been proved how this Edward Doyne was related to Teige Oge O\’Doyne. Cormac, second son of Teige O\’Doyne, No. III., had a son, Donnell, who had the remainder of the castle of Roskyne, and 60 acres of land belonging to his grandmother Elizabeth FitzGerald; but there appears to be no account of his descendants. Brian, the third son, had a son, Barnaby, or Brian Oge, who obtained a patent from Charles I., for a considerable estate in the barony of Tinnehinch, to hold in soccage to him and his heirs for ever, provided he should not take the name, style, or title of the Fox, or O\’Doyne, etc. This Brian Oge, who was compelled to reject the O, and style himself Barnaby Dunne, died on the 17th of November, 1661, leaving a son, Charles Dunne, of Brittas, the ancestor of the present family of Brittas. Charles Dunne, LL.D., T.C.D., the fourth son of Teige O\’Doyne, does not appear to have left any issue. He made his last will and testament on the 2nd of April, 1617, and after his death his property in Hy-Regan was claimed by his eldest brother who survived him by many years. In Lynch\’s MS. History of the Irish Bishops, amongst those who are there stated to have been reconciled with the Catholic Church by Father Roche McGeoghegan, afterwards Bishop of Kildare, was his own relative, Richard O\’Doyne, son of the lord of Dooregan, who had been sent for his education to Cambridge, where he attained to the highest honours, but lost his faith. Returning to Ireland, he was appointed Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, but, moved by the exhortations of Father McGeoghegan, he resigned that dignity and was reconciled to the Church. This passage probably refers, not to the Dr. Charles Dunne just named, but to a nephew, one of the sons of his brother Teige, by his second marriage, if marriage it can be called. Murtough, Teighe\’s fifth son, also married, but no account of his descendants, if he left any, has been discovered. The descendants, therefore, of Teige Reagh, son of Lady Margaret O\’Neill, would clearly be the senior branch of the family, if extant; next after them would be the descendants of Cormac, the second son; and if these are extinct, then the Brittas family would be, as they claim to be, head of the O\’Doynes of Hy-Regan. According to the tradition of the country, the late Mr. Joseph Dunne, of Killowen, near the Great Heath of Maryborough, was the lineal descendant of Teige Reagh, son of Margaret O\’Neill. Dr. O\’Donovan states that he often saw him in the year 1833, when he was 89 years old. He was one of the largest men in Europe, and had been an officer in the French service in his youth, but for the last 50 years of his life he had lived on his farm at Killowen, from which he derived a considerable income. He had several sons, remarkable for their great stature, strength, courage, and intelligence, but they all died unmarried.

Treating of tumuli, or grave-mounds, Harris\’s Ware remarks:

\”It appears from an inspection of these mounds that this manner of interring was twofold: First, in large spacious vaults, formed of stone within the mount; and secondly, in coffins made like stone boxes, sufficiently capacious to hold the corpse and not much more. . . . We have met with some instances of the second sort of Repositories. Of these, in the year 1734, one was opened on the lands of Cloneleslieu (Clonaslee), in the Queen\’s County, 5 miles from Mountmellick, and not far from the mansion-house of Mr. Dunne, which I had the opportunity of seeing soon after. The upper stone of this monument was of an enormous size, and an irregular shape, not oblong, as tombstones generally are, but rather like a lozenge in Heraldry, or a diamond on the cards, in length full 8 feet, and 5 feet 4 inches broad, 11 inches thick in some parts, 9½ in others, and a small portion at one end but 7. It was supported by two side-stones and two end-stones, the latter of which, as the rubbish was not cleared away could not be measured; but the side-stones were 5 feet 7 inches long, near 4 feet broad, and from 8 to 10 inches thick. The stones which compose this monument are a gray grit, and appear to have been raised in the neighbouring mountains of Slie-Bloom, nor is there any sign of inscription or date, or the mark of a toole upon it, but all is rough, misshapen, and unhewed. Closed up within this coffin was found the entire skeleton of a middle-sized man, the head placed westward, and the feet to the east, the skull so rotten that it crumbled away with handling, the teeth white and sound, and the rest of the bones entire, though something decayed. It appeared to have been placed upon the surface of the ground and surrounded by a heap of large paving-stones, such as an adjoining river supplies, placed together in a regular and circular form, taking up in compass 180 feet; which circle of stones rose no higher than a little above the upper edge of the monument, and was covered over with a staple of earth about a foot thick, and the entrance into it was at one corner, which was covered with a stone about 2 feet and a half square. This monument was discovered accidentally by a farmer of the ground removing some stones from the mount for domestic uses; and there are two other mounts of the same sort and size, not far distant from this, which, if opened, might afford new discoveries.\”


KEDAGH DUNNE was appointed Parish Priest of Rosenallis, Rerymore, Castlebrack, and Kilmanman, in 1678. He was born on the 3rd of February, 1645, was ordained at Navan, in 1669, by Dr. Patrick Plunkett, Bishop of Meath; resided at Rosainflugh, Cappard; and had for his sureties, Bryan Dunne, of Corbally, barony of Tinnehinch, Gent., and Roger Conrahy, of Skerry, in the same barony, farmer. (Return of P.P8., 1704.) Father Kedagh Dunne died on the 6th of July, 1714, and is buried at Reary churchyard.


After ten years he was translated to Monasterevan, where he died, on the 8th December, 1754, aged 76; and is interred at Harristown, in that parish.

THE REV. JOHN KEENAN became P.P. on the translation of Dr. Dempsey. He resided at Derry, parish of Rosenallis, and died on the 10th of May, 1734, and lies interred at Reary.v
If the inscription over the grave of Father Valentine Dunne be correct, it shows that he got charge of the parish in 1737; this leaves some three years unaccounted for.

THE REV. VALENTINE DUNNE presided over the parish from 1737 to 1780; he was a native of the district, and resided near the Castle of Coolnamoney. He was also Chancellor of the Diocese of Kildare. He died, May 22nd, 1780, aged 78, and is also interred at Reary.

In March, 1770, the parish of Mountmellick was formed, over which the REV. THADY DUANE was appointed P.P.

THE VERY REV. DR. PATRICK DUNNE, V.G., became P.P. on the demise of Fr. Valentine Dunne. He was translated to Kilcock in 1793, and died there in 1796.

On the removal of Dr. Patrick Dunne, the district was divided into two parishes,-those of Clonaslee and Rosenallis.

THE REV. JOHN STAPLETON, D.D., was named P.P. of Clonaslee; he lies interred in the parish Church, and over his grave the following inscription appears: -\” Underneath lie the remains of Rev. John Stapleton, D.D., who departed this life 23rd August, 1810, in the 60th year of his age, being 26 years P.P. of this parish. R.I.P.\” The Epitaph is in error as to the length of his pastorship, which did not exceed 17 years.

A Parish Priest was not appointed until the year following:

Father Patrick Keenan administered the parish in the interval; and the portion of the emoluments that would have belonged to the P.P., was applied by the Bishop to the support of the newly-founded Convent of Mountrath.

In 1811, FATHER THADY DUNNE, who had been P.P. of Rosenallis since 1802, received charge also of the parish of Clonaslee, which were again united. He was a native of the district, and was born about the year 1768. He made his theological studies in the College of the Lombards in Paris; on his return from which he was engaged in missionary duties, first in the diocese of Dublin, and, subsequently, in his native diocese. In 1802 he was appointed P.P. of Ballon, Co. of Carlow; but immediately after, with the consent of the Bishop, exchanged parishes with the Rev. James Conran, then P.P. of Rosenallis. In 1813, two years after Clonaslee was consigned to his pastoral care, he erected the present spacious Church. He died on the 6th of April, 1828, aged 60, and was interred at Reary.

On the death of Father Thady Dunne, the union of the parishes of Clonaslee and Rosenallis was again dissolved. THE REV. MICHAEL GRAHAM, who had been for a long time curate, was appointed P.P. of Clonaslee. He died on the 11th of August, 1840, and was interred in his Church, where an inscription, after recording the date of his demise, mentions that \”by his -will he bequeathed £300 to promote education among the poor of the parish.\”

THE REV. RICHARD CULLEN was the succeeding P.P. He died in March, 1844, and had for his successor-

THE REV. ANDREW PHELAN. Father Phelan departed this life in January, 1847.

THE REV. RICHARD BUGGY was the next P.P. He died in October, 1864, and was succeeded by-

THE REV. MICHAEL KENNY. Father Kenny died, 4th Oct. 1884, and had for successor the REV. THOMAS MOLONY.

At Clonaslee Church a monument bears the following inscription:–

\”This cenotaph has been erected by Wm. Dunne, of Brocca, in memory of his dearly-beloved brother, the Rev. John Dunne, P.P. and V.F. of Saggard, in the archdiocese of Dublin, who departed this life July 16th, 1853, in the 60th year of his age and 30th of his ministry. His remains lie interred in the new R.C. Church of Saggard, which he erected with much toil and solicitude. -A lasting monument of his generous devotion for the glory of God.

\”God of mercy, Jesus blest,

Grant his soul eternal rest. Amen.\”