DEVENISH, a parish

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

DEVENISH, a parish, in the barony of MAGHERABOY, county of FERMANAGH, and province of ULSTER, 2 ½ miles (N. W.) from Enniskillen; containing 8219 inhabitants. This parish takes its name, signifying "Ox Island," from the island of Devenish in Lough Erne; and comprises, according to the Ordnance survey (including a detached portion and islands), 32,243 ¼ statute acres, of which 1436 ¼ are in Lower Lough Erne, 193 ¾ in Lough Melvin, and 312 ¾ in small lakes. More than half may be considered good arable land, and the remainder pasture and mountain; the system of agriculture improves very slowly. The river Scillies, rising in the mountains near Church hill, intersects the parish, and proceeding in a southward direction falls into Lough Erne, near Enniskillen; and several inconsiderable lakes are scattered over the parish. Over the Scillies are three bridges, each of three arches, and there is also a bridge over an arm of Lough Erne. The surface is very uneven, and in the centre is a chain of mountains of great breadth, extending four miles, and frequently interspersed with patches of arable and meadow land, the greater part affording pasture only in dry seasons. In that part of the parish near Enniskillen there is a scarcity of bog, but in other parts there is sufficient to supply the inhabitants with fuel. There are excellent quarries of limestone, and on the shore of Lough Erne is some of superior quality, which is quarried for manufacturing into chimney-pieces and for building, and for the conveyance of which the lake affords every facility.

The village of Monea is wholly within the parish, and there are two others, Derrygonnelly and Garrison, of which the former is partly in Innismacsaint, in which also is situated an isolated portion of this parish, constituting the farm of Aughamuldoney. Of the gentlemen's seats, the principal are Ely Lodge, the property of the Marquess of Ely, situated on a picturesque island in Lough Erne, connected with the mainland by a bridge, and commanding an interesting view of wood and water in beautiful combination; Graan, the seat of A. Nixon, Esq.; Castletown, of J. Brien, Esq.; and Hall Craig, the property of J. Weir, Esq., an ancient and spacious mansion beautifully situated on the banks of the Scillies. The manufacture of linen is carried on by most of the farmers, who engage weavers to work at their own looms, and many of the women are employed in spinning flax. The river Scillies abounds with pike, bream, and perch, and salmon is occasionally taken in it; and in Lough Melvin, near the western boundary of the parish, is found the Gillaroo trout. Lough Erne is navigable from Belturbet to Belleek, a distance of 40 miles; and the river Scillies is also partly navigable but is very little used. Fairs are held at Monea on Feb. 7th, Whit-Monday, July 7th, Aug. 26th, Oct. 13th, and Nov. 12th, for cattle of all kinds, yarn, and turner's ware; fairs are also held at Garrison and Derrygonnelly.

The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Clogher, constituting the corps of the prebend of Devenish in the cathedral of Clogher, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £295. 7. 8 ¼. The glebe-house was erected in 1820, by aid of a loan of £843 from the late Board of First Fruits: the glebe comprises 400 acres. The parish church, for the repair of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £205. 10. 10., is an ancient edifice without any remarkable architectural features, situated in the village of Monea. There is a chapel of ease at Garrison, erected by aid of a gift of £900 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1828: it is served by a curate, and divine service is also performed in a farm-house on the mountains. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, called also Derrygonnelly, and comprising also parts of the parishes of Innismacsaint and Bohoe; there are three chapels, one at Monea, one at Derrygonnelly, and one at Garrison, all plain structures. There are places of worship for Wesleyan Methodists, at Derrygonnelly and at Springfield, in each of which divine service is performed on alternate Sundays. Schools are supported by the rector at Monea and Levelly; a school for children of both sexes is supported at Moyglass, by the Marquess of Ely; one at Derrygonnelly, and another at Monea, by Mrs. Brien, of Castletown; and there is a school under the National Board at Knocknashannon, altogether affording gratuitous instruction to 450 children: there are two pay schools, in which are about 50 boys and 50 girls.

The island of Devenish appears to have derived its early importance from the foundation of a religious establishment, in honour of St. Mary, by St. Laserian, called also Molaisse and now Molush, who died in 583, and was succeeded by St. Natalis, son of AEngus, King of Connaught. This establishment was plundered by the Danes in 822, 834, and 961, and appears to have been refounded in 1130, and to have continued till the dissolution. The island, though not in itself very remarkable for picturesque beauty, forms a portion of the most interesting scenery in Lough Erne; it comprises about 70 or 80 Irish acres, and the land is so fertile as to require little or no manure; when viewed from the water, it presents an outline of oval form, but whether from neglect, or from the great value of the land, it is entirely destitute of timber.

Of its ancient religious establishments there are some interesting remains: the lower church, dedicated to St. Molush, is 76 feet long and 21 feet wide, with a large aisle on the north; and near it is an ancient building, 30 feet long and 18 feet wide, with a roof entirely of hewn stone, called St. Molush's house. Near the summit of the hill are the remains of the abbey, of which the ruined church is 94 feet long and 24 feet wide, with a large aisle northward; near the centre is an arch of black marble, resting on four pillars and supporting a belfry tower, with a grand winding staircase leading to the summit, which commands an extensive prospect over the lake and the surrounding country. Within the abbey is a stone, bearing the inscription, in old Saxon characters, "Matheus O'Dubagan hoc opus fecit, Bartholomeo O'Flannagan Priori de Daminis. A. D. 1449."

About 100 paces from the abbey is St. Nicholas' well to which great numbers formerly resorted. Near the church of the abbey is an ancient round tower in excellent preservation: it is 82 feet high and 49 in circumference, and formed of stones accurately hewn to the external and internal curve, and cemented with mortar in quantity so small that the joints of the stones are almost imperceptible; it is covered with a conical roof of hewn stones in diminishing series; under the cornice which encircles it at the top, and which is divided into four equal compartments, each containing a sculptured subject, are four windows facing the cardinal points, above each of which is a carved human head; below there are other windows at different distances, and about seven feet from the base is the entrance doorway, about four feet high. This beautiful monument of antiquity, which was beginning to show symptoms of partial dilapidation, was thoroughly repaired in 1835. There are some remains of an old castle at Monea, and of an ancient family residence at Tullycalter; several Danish forts are scattered over the parish; and in the bogs have been found querns or handmills for grinding corn, the stones of which were about two feet in diameter.—See DERRYGONNELLY and GARRISON.

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