Clogher Town

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

CLOGHER, an incorporated market and post-town, a parish, and the head of a diocese (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the barony of CLOGHER, county of TYRONE, and province of ULSTER, 7 miles (W.) from Aughnacloy, and 82 ½ (N. W. by N.) from Dublin; containing, with the towns of Augher and Five-mile-town, and the village of Newtown-Saville (all separately described) 17,996 inhabitants, of which number, 523 are in the town. This place is said to have derived its name from a stone covered with gold, which in pagan times is reported to have made oracular responses. The Clogh-or, or "golden stone," was preserved long after the abolition of paganism; for McGuire, canon of Armagh, who wrote a commentary on the registry of Clogher, in 1490, says "that this sacred stone is preserved at Clogher, on the right of the entrance into the church, and that traces of the gold with which it had been formerly covered by the worshippers of the idol called Cermaed Celsetacht are still visible."

There is still a very ancient stone lying on the south side of the cathedral tower, which many believe to be the real Clogh-or. It appears to have some very ancient characters engraved on it, but is evidently nothing more than the shaft of an antique cross of rude workmanship, of which there are several in the ancient cemetery. Clogher is called by Ptolemy Rhigia or Regia; and according to some authors, St. Patrick founded and presided over a monastery here, which he resigned to St. Kertenn when he went to Armagh, to establish his famous abbey there; but according to others, it was built at the command of St. Patrick in the street before the royal palace of Ergal, by St. Macartin, who died in 506, and from its vicinity to this palace both the abbey and the town appear anciently to have been called Uriel or Ergal. In 841, the abbot Moran Mac Inrachty was slain by the Danes. In 1041 the church was rebuilt and dedicated to St. Macartin.

In 1126 the Archdeacon Muireadhach O'Cuillen was killed by the people of Fermanagh. Moelisa O'Carrol, Bishop of Clogher, in 1183, on his translation of the archbishoprick of Armagh, presented to this abbey a priest's vestments and a mitre, and promised a pastoral staff; he also consecrated the abbey church. Bishop Michael Mac Antsair, in 1279, exchanged with the abbot the episcopal residence that had been built near the abbey by Bishop Donat O'Fidabra, between 1218 and 1227, for a piece of land outside the town, called Disert-na-cusiac, on which he erected another episcopal palace. His immediate successor, Matthew Mac Catasaid, erected a chapel over the sepulchre of St. Macartin. In 1361 the plague miserably afflicted Ireland, particularly the city of Clogher, and caused the death of the bishop.

In April 1395, while Bishop Arthur Mac Camaeil was employed in rebuilding the chapel of St. Macartin, the abbey, the cathedral, two chapels, the episcopal residence, and 32 other houses, were destroyed by fire; but the bishop applied himself with unwearied diligence to the rebuilding of his cathedral and palace. In 1504, another plague ravaged Clogher and caused the death of the bishop. James I., in 1610, annexed the abbey and its revenues to the see of Clogher, by which it was made one of the richest in the kingdom. Between 1690 and 1697, Bishop Tennison repaired and beautified the episcopal palace; and his successor, Bishop St. George Ash, expended £900 in repairing and improving the palace and lands, two-thirds of which was repaid by his successor. Bishop Sterne, in 1720, laid out £3000 in building and other improvements of the episcopal residence, £2000 of which was charged on the revenues of the see.

The town is situated on the river Blackwater, the source of which is in the parish, and consists of one row of 90 houses, the northern side only being built upon. Some of the houses are large, handsome, and well built with hewn stone, and slated. The episcopal palace is a large and handsome edifice close to the cathedral, on the south side of the town, and consists of a centre with two wings: the entrance is in the north front by an enclosed portico, supported by lofty fluted columns. It is built throughout of hewn freestone, and standing on elevated ground commands extensive views over a richly planted undulating country. Its erection was commenced by Lord John George Beresford, Primate of Armagh, while Bishop of Clogher, and completed by Lord Robert Tottenham, the present bishop, in 1823.

Attached to the palace is a large and well-planted demesne of 566 acres, encircled by a stone wall; and within it are the remains of the royal dwelling-place of the princes of Ergallia, a lofty earthwork or fortress, protected on the west and south by a deep fosse; beyond this, to the south, is a camp surrounded by a single fosse, and still further southward is a tumulus or cairn, encircled by a raised earthwork. The market is on Saturday; the market-house was built by Bishop Garnett. Fairs for live stock are held on the third Saturday in every month. The market was granted to the bishop by letters patent dated April 20th, 1629: he was also authorised to appoint two fairs and receive the profits of the market and fairs. The old fairs, which are supposed to have been granted by the charter, are held on May 6th and July 26th.

At the solicitation of Bishop Spottiswood, Charles I., in 1629, directed that, "for the better civilizing and strengthening of these remote parts with English and British tenants, and for the better propagation of the true religion, the lord-lieutenant should by letters patent make the town of Clogher a corporation." This was to consist of a portreeve and 12 burgesses, to be at first nominated by the bishop; the portreeve was afterwards to be elected on Michaelmas-day, by and from among the burgesses. No freemen were created, and the bishops appear to have connected a burgess-ship with each of the stalls in the cathedral. Prior to March 29th, 1800, the bishops had nominated the members of parliament for the borough without opposition, and the seneschal of their manor had been the returning officer; but at that time the Irish House of Commons resolved that the limits of the borough were coextensive with the manor, and as the freeholders of the manor had tendered their votes in favour of two candidates, they were declared by the Irish parliament to be duly elected, and the bishop's nominees were unseated.

At the Union, the £15,000 granted as compensation for abolishing the elective franchise was claimed by the bishop, the dean and chapter, and prebendaries of the cathedral, and the Rev. Hugh Nevan, seneschal of the manor; but their claim was disallowed and the money paid to the Board of First Fruits. By the charter a grant was to be made to the corporation by the bishop of 700 Irish acres near the town, for which a rent of 8d. per acre was to be paid. Out of the profits of 200 acres of this land the corporation was, within two years, to erect a school-house and maintain a schoolmaster, with a servant, for a grammar school. English was to be taught by the master, who was always to be appointed by the bishop. The portreeve was to have 200 acres of the grant assigned for his support while holding the office, and for the payment of a steward and Serjeant or bailiff; and the profits of the remaining 300 acres were to be divided among the burgesses. This grant appears not to have been made. The charter granted a civil court of record to the corporation, with a jurisdiction extending to a circle of three miles in every direction round the cathedral, and to the amount of £5 English, with a prison for debtors. Since the death of the last seneschal, about 1823, this court has not been held. Quarter sessions are held here twice a year in the sessions-house, alternately with Dungannon, for the baronies of Dungannon and Clogher; and there is a bridewell.

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