FEIGHAN OF FORE

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

FEIGHAN of FORE, or FOWRE (ST.), a parish, in the barony of DEMIFORE, county of WESTMEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 2 ½ miles (E.) from Castle-Pollard, on the road to Kells; containing, with the market-town of Collinstown (which is separately described), 2447 inhabitants, of which number, 119 are in the village. This place, which is situated on Lough Lene and is of great antiquity, was formerly a borough, comprising the parishes of St. Feighan and St. Mary, and appears to have originated in the foundation of a priory for Canons Regular by St. Fechan, about the year 630, in which, while presiding over 3000 monks, he died in 665. From this time till 1169 the priory and the town, which had risen up around it, were repeatedly destroyed by fire; but in 1209, Walter de Lacy re-founded the priory under the invocation of St. Taurin and St. Fechin, for Benedictine monks, and made it a cell to the monastery of that order at Evereux, in Normandy.

The town appears to have acquired all the privileges exercised by other corporate boroughs in Meath. In 1436, Henry VI. granted certain customs upon all merchandise coming to its market, or to any other within three miles of it, for the purpose of enclosing it with a stone wall, as a barrier against the incursions of the Irish, who had thrice destroyed it by fire; and in 1448 he made his farmer of the priory lands, though a layman, prior of the monastery, in reward for the trouble he had taken, and the expense he had incurred, in erecting a strong castle for the defence of the town. After the dissolution, the priory was granted by Queen Elizabeth, in 1588, to Christopher, Baron Delvin, whose successor, Richard, Lord Delvin, obtained for the town the grant of a fair. It appears to have been a borough by prescription, and to have sent two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when it was disfranchised and the £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to Arthur, Marquess of Downshire.

There are still some remains of the ancient abbey and of an anchorite's cell, the latter a small massive building of very ancient character; and the ruins of several square towers, evidently built for defence, round which may be traced the walls of a very considerable town, of which two of the gates are still remaining.

The present village, which is situated at the base of the Ben of Fore, in a fertile valley sheltered by some high hills, separating it from Lough Lene, contains only 20 small houses, and possesses but a few indistinct remains of its ancient importance. The parish extends along the borders of the county of Meath, having on one side the small lake called Lough Glore, and on the other the White Lake, between which is a range of heights terminating in a lofty mountain, called the Ben of Fore. It comprises 6506 statute acres, of which a small portion is mountain land, and the remainder principally under tillage; the soil is light and gravelly. Limestone abounds, but of inferior quality, and there are some quarries of good building stone.

Lough Lene, about half a mile south of the village, is a fine sheet of water, studded with small islands and surrounded by rising grounds; on the south-east a stream issues from it, and passing under the hills emerges close to the village, where it turns a mill, and thence continuing its course, under the name of the Glore, falls into the river Inny; another stream, issuing from the east of the lake, takes an opposite course and falls into Lough Dele. The principal gentlemen's seats are Benison Lodge, that of the Rev. T. Smyth; Lough Park, of N. Evans, Esq.; Barbavilla, of W. B. Smyth, Esq.; Hilltown, of W. Webb, Esq.; and Sallymount, of G. S. Rotheram, Esq. A market, fairs, and petty sessions are held at Collinstown.

It is a curacy, in the diocese of Meath, forming part of the union of Rathgraff, or Castle-Pollard; the rectory is wholly appropriate to the vicars choral of the cathedral of Christ-Church, Dublin. The tithes amount to £390.

In the R. C. divisions it is the head of a union or district comprising also the parishes of St. Mary and Kilcumney, and containing two chapels, situated respectively at Fore and Collinstown.

A school is supported by Mr. Smyth, of Barbavilla, and there are three private schools, in which are about 100 children. On a high hill to the south-west of Lough Lene is a fort, said to have been constructed by Turgesius, the Danish king of Ireland. The family of Nugent, Marquesses of Westmeath, have a burial-place at Fore; and there are some remains of a monastery on one of the islands in Lough Lene, the property of Mr. Smyth. The surrounding country abounds with raths.

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