Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Co. Galway

Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary comprises of several counties, cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland. Here are From-Ireland.net’s records for Co. Galway.

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    CLONFERT, a parish, and the seat of a diocese, in the barony of LONGFORD, county of GALWAY, and province of CONNAUGHT, 3 miles (N. N. E.) from Eyrecourt ; containing 5915 inhabitants.

    This place, in the Irish language "Cluain-Fearth", signifying it "a retired spot," owes its origin and early importance to St. Brendan, son of Finloga, who, in 558, founded here an abbey, which afterwards became the cathedral church of the see of Clonfert. In 744 this place was destroyed by fire, and four years after again suffered a similar calamity ; in 839 the Danes burned the abbey and killed the abbot, and, in 841, entirely reduced the place to ashes. Four years after it was again destroyed by fire, and in 949 the abbey was plundered ; in 1031 the town was plundered by O'Ruark, and in 1045 it was again destroyed by fire. In 1065 Hugh O'Ruark, King of Breifne, and Thady O'Kelly, King of Maine, plundered the abbey but on the day following they were defeated by Hugh O'Connor, King of Connaught, who overthrew their armies and sank or dispersed their fleet in the Shannon.

    The subsequent history of this place is little more than a repetition of similar disasters, notwithstanding which it continued to nourish as the head of the diocese. During the prelacy of Bishop John, the cathedral was enlarged and beautified; the episcopal palace was rebuilt by Bishop Dawson ; and in the reign of Chas. II. The Cathedral, which had suffered from violence and dilapidation, was wholly restored. The ancient monastery existed independently of the bishoprick till the Reformation, when Hen. VIII., in the 35th of his reign, united it to the prelacy.

    The parish is situated on the road from Eyrecourt to Ballinasloe ; it is bounded on the east by the river Shannon, and is intersected by the Grand Canal, in cutting for which through the bog an ancient wooden causeway was discovered, that, soon after exposure to the air, crumbled to dust. It comprises 12,335 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, a very large portion of which is bog; the remainder is good arable and pasture or meadow land, of which last there are large tracts bordering on the river. There are two constabulary police stations in the parish, one at Clonfert and the other at Clonfert bridge. It also contains the village of Asker or Esker.

    The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Clonfert,, and the head of a union, including also Clontuskert and Kilmalinoge, in the patronage of the Bishop ; the rectory is appropriate to the see, the deanery, the prebends of Kilconnell, Kilteskill, Lenore, and Annacalla, and to the sacristy of Clonfert. The tithes of the parish amount to £309. 4s., and of the benefice to £367 10s. The glebe lands of the union comprise 55.75 acres. The church, which is both capitular and parochial, is an ancient and spacious structure, to which a gift of £500 was made in 1793, and a like sum in 1813, by the late Board of First Fruits ; the service is performed in the chancel, which is too small for the accommodation of the parishioners ; the nave, which is very spacious, is therefore about to be adapted to their use, for which purpose, and for general repairs, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £484. 15s. The episcopal palace is situated very near the church. The glebe-house was built in 1817, by aid of a gift of £400 and a loan of £400 from the late Board of First Fruits. There is also a church at Clontuskert a neat and substantial edifice.

    In the Roman Catholic divisions this parish is partly in the union or district of Kiltormer, but chiefly the head of a union, including also the parishes of Dononaughta and Meelick, and called also the union of Eyrecourt, in which are three chapels, situated respectively at Brackloon in this parish, a large slated building, at Eyrecourt, in the parish of Dononaughta, and at Meelick.

    There are two free schools in which are about 80 boys and 70 girls ; and there are also five pay schools, in which are about 200 children, and a Sunday school.

    At Brackloon are the ruins of an old castle; and between Clonfert and Laurencetown is a chalybeate spring, the water of which is efficacious in complaints of the liver.