CLONARD, a post-town and parish

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

CLONARD, a post-town and parish, in the barony of Upper MOYFENRAGH, county of MEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 11 ½ miles (W.) from Kilcock, and 26 (W. by N.) from Dublin; containing 4353 inhabitants, of which number, 66 are in the town or village. A religious establishment was founded here about the year 520, by St. Finian, and became the seat of a small diocese, to which, before 1152, were added the bishopricks of Trim, Ardbraccan, Dunshaughlin, and Slane, and their common see was fixed at Clonard. St. Finian, the first bishop, was tutor to St. Columbkill, and many other eminent scholars and saints; he died of the plague about 548. On the death of Ethri O'Miadachain, in 1174, his successor, Eugene, substituted the title of Meath for that of Clonard; but the bishop's see remained at the latter place till 1206, when Simon Rochfort, an Englishman, forsaking the old cathedral of Clonard, made the abbey at Newtown near Trim his cathedral. A great part of the abbey erected by St. Finian was burnt in 764; and the abbey was destroyed and its clergy put to the sword by the Danes in 838. In 939, Ceallachan, King of Cashel, assisted by the Danes of Waterford, plundered the abbey. In 947, King Congalagh exempted the abbey from payment of cess, &c. In 970, Donell, son of Murcha, pillaged and burnt Clonard. Sitric, the son of Ablaoimh, with the Danes of Dublin, in 1016, pillaged and destroyed the abbey. In 1045, the town, together with its churches, was wholly consumed, being thrice set on fire in one week.

In 1085, Engus O'Candelbain, prince of Hy Loegaire, while a monk in this abbey, was killed by Mac Coirthen O'Muobruain, Lord of Delbna. The abbey was twice plundered in 1131, by the people of Carbrey and Teaffia. In 1113, Connor, King of Munster, plundered Meath and forcibly carried off the riches of the whole province, which had been lodged for safety in the abbey church. In 1136, the inhabitants of the Brenny, now Leitrim and Cavan, plundered and sacked the town, maltreated Constantine O'Daly, then chief poet of Ireland, and took from the abbey a sword which had belonged to St. Finian. The town and abbey were plundered and burnt by Mac Murcha and Earl Strongbow, in 1170, but both were rebuilt by the inhabitants; they were, however, again destroyed in 1175. Besides the calamities above enumerated, the town and abbey were frequently burnt or pillaged in the 11th and 12th centuries. About 1175, Walter, son of Hugh de Lacy, erected, probably on the ruins of the ancient abbey, an Augustinian monastery. In 1200, the English of Clonard slew Mathghamhain, the son of Fitzpatrick O'Ciardha, who in revenge burnt the town. Prior to the arrival of the English, O'Melaghlin, King of Meath, had founded a nunnery here, which afterwards became a cell to that of St. Bridget of Odder. In the war of 1641, this place acquired considerable celebrity from the gallant defence of the castle of Tycroghan, made by Lady Fitzgerald. During the disturbances of 1798, a party of 3000 insurgents, under the command of William Aylmer, marched to this place, but met with so obstinate a resistance from Lieutenant Tyrrell with 27 yeomanry, in a fortified house, that they were detained till succours arrived from Kinnegad and Mullingar, and were then obliged to retire.

This place, which was formerly called Cluainioraid, and more anciently Rossfinnchuill, is situated on the river Boyne, and on the mail coach road from Dublin to Galway. The town, or village, contains only 10 houses; it is a constabulary police station. The parish comprises 10,584 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, nearly the whole of which is arable or pasture land; the soil is generally light and tolerably productive; besides bog, there are several hundred acres rendered useless for half the year by the overflowing of the Boyne and five small rivers which fall into it. The Royal Canal enters the parish from the county of Kildare by a noble aqueduct over the Boyne, and, after passing through it for four miles, enters Westmeath. The great western road also enters from Kildare by Leinster bridge, which was erected in 1831, and is very handsome.

The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Meath, united by act of council, in 1782, to the vicarage of Killyon or Killeighlan, together forming the union of Clonard, in the patronage of the Bishop: the rectory is impropriate in Joseph Ash, Esq., of Drogheda. The tithes amount to £484. 12. 3 ¼., of which £323. 1. 6 ¼. is payable to the impropriator, and the remainder to the vicar: the gross value of the benefice, including tithes and glebe, is £327.13. 10 ½. The church, which stands about half a mile from the village, is in the early English style of architecture, with a lofty square tower, and was built on the site of the former edifice by aid of a loan of £400, in 1810, from the late Board of First Fruits. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £222. 13. 10. for its repair. The glebe-house, near the church, is large and convenient, and is situated on a very good glebe of 40 acres, valued at £120 per annum. In the R. C. divisions the parish is partly in the union or district of Kinnegad, and partly the head of a union or district called Longwood, and comprising part of Clonard and the whole of Killyon, in which union are two chapels, one at Longwood, the other at Killyon; the chapel in the town of Clonard, which is a large plain edifice, belongs to the union of Kinnegad. The parochial school is aided by donations from Lord Sherborne and the rector, and a bequest by the late Lady Jane Loftus; and there is also a national school, in which together are about 100 boys and 80 girls, and about 120 more are educated in three hedge schools. Among the vestiges of antiquity is a rath near the church, with a very fine conical mound, the summit of which is crowned with a flourishing ash tree; and at the distance of 500 paces is a spacious square fort. Many spears, celts, querns, and other relics have been dug up near the banks of the Blind river, in the neighbourhood of this rath and fort. Near the former have been found great quantities of scoriae and charcoal, being the refuse of ancient and extensive iron works. The castle of Tycroghan has been taken down, and its materials used in the erection of modern houses on its site. In the vicinity is a part of the walls of an ancient friary, or church, in a burial-ground. In the church is a very old baptismal font, ornamented with figures in high relief.

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