From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
TEMPLECARNE, or TEMPLECOIN, a parish, partly in the barony of LURG, county of FERMANAGH, but chiefly in the barony of TYRHUGH, county of DONEGAL, and province of ULSTER, 4 miles (W.) from Kesh; containing 5461 inhabitants. The parish, which is also called Termoncerin-Magrath, from its having been the residence of Magrath, the first Protestant bishop of Clogher, is bounded on the south by Lough Erne, and comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 45,868 statute acres, of which 7719 are in the county of Fermanagh. Of these, 2140 ½ are in Lough Derg, which is wholly within the parish; 4400 are in Lower Lough Erne, and 1085 ½ are in small loughs.
About three-fourths of the land consist of heathy mountain, affording during the summer only a scanty pasturage to a few black cattle; the remainder, with the exception of a moderate portion of meadow, is principally under tillage. The soil is but indifferent, and the system of agriculture backward; though some improvement has taken place in the low lands, its general progress has been greatly retarded by the want of convenient roads through the mountainous district. Limestone abounds, and is quarried for agricultural uses; there are also large quarries of excellent freestone, of mill-stones of peculiar hardness, and of a coarse kind of dark marble; iron ore is found here, and mines were formerly worked to advantage.
The rivers Pettigoe, Omna, Letter, and Rossharbor, all of which abound with trout, pike, and eels, intersect the parish in various directions and fall into Lough Erne. The principal mountains, among which are some small lakes well stored with fish, are Crocknacunny, Minchifin, Rushen, and Rossharbor. Lough Derg, a noble expanse of water, bordering on the eastern confines of the county of Donegal, is thickly studded with picturesque islands, of which the chief are Saints' Island, called also St. Dabeoc's, or St. Fintan's island, from the supposed founder of a monastery upon it, of which there are some remains; Turres or Station island, so called from its being the resort of pilgrims on penance; Innishtoesk, and Goat, Eagle, Ash, Kelly's, Grouse, Lodge, and the Prior's islands. The shores of the lake are precipitously steep, except in that part where the ferry-boat plies to convey visiters to the several islands; and the scenery of the parish is strikingly diversified. Waterfoot, the residence of Lieutenant-Colonel Barton, is pleasantly situated. Fairs are held on the 25th of every month except December, in which month the fair is held on the Wednesday next before Christmas-day, for cattle, sheep, pigs, and linen yarn. A manorial court and petty sessions are held every other week.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Clogher, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £300. The glebe-house was built in 1813, at an expense of £978. 9. 2 ¾., of which £623. 1. 6 ½. was a loan from the late Board of First Fruits, and the remainder was defrayed by the then incumbent: the glebe comprises 141 acres of good land, valued at £176. 16. 8. per annum. The church, situated at Pettigoe, is a small, old, and dilapidated structure, towards the rebuilding of which Mrs. Leslie (the proprietor of the estate), the rector, and the Protestant parishioners have contributed a large sum; and a subscription has been raised to build a chapel of ease about four miles from the town.
In the R. C. divisions the parish, called also Pettigoe, is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Belleek. There are two chapels in this parish; one at Pettigoe, a large and well-built edifice; and one about four miles from the town, on the Strabane road: there is also a chapel in the parish of Belleek. In the town there is a place of worship for Presbyterians of the Seceding Synod; and near it, though within the verge of the adjoining parish, are two for Wesleyan Methodists.
About 460 children are taught in four public schools, of which the parochial school is supported by the rector, and others by Mrs. Leslie; and there are four private schools, in which are about 250 children, and five Sunday schools.
Near the glebe-house are the ruins of an ancient castle, said to have been the residence of the first Protestant Bishop of Clogher; it was battered by Ireton in the parliamentary war, from the neighbouring hill, on which are still traces of the works thrown up by that officer. There are also several Danish raths and mineral springs in the parish. On Saints' Island, in Lough Derg, are the remains of an Augustinian priory, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, the foundation of which is ascribed to St. Dabeoc, brother of St. Canoe, who flourished towards the close of the fifth century; notwithstanding its celebrity, it was plundered and reduced to ashes by Bratachus O'Boyle and McMahon, in 1207. It was subject to the great abbey of Armagh, and for several ages was celebrated for its miraculous cell, called St. Patrick's purgatory, an invention attributed to a saint of that name who was prior here in the ninth century: this cell was much resorted to by pilgrims from all parts of Europe, who were supposed to suffer in imagination, while lying within its narrow precincts, all the pains endured by the wicked in the purgatory of the Romish church. Its proximity to the shore, with which it was connected by a neck of land, affording too great facility of access, the cave was stopped up, and another opened in a smaller island, now called the Station Island, about half a mile from the shore, to which access is obtained by a ferry boat constantly plying for that purpose.
Such was the reputation this place maintained, that safeguards were frequently granted by the Kings of England to foreigners of distinction who came to visit it; among others to Raymond, Viscount de Perilleux, and Knight of Rhodes, with a train of 20 men and 30 horses, in 1397. This purgatory was repeatedly suppressed by the Popes, and also by the Lords-Justices of Ireland, who banished the friars and broke up the cell; but it was as frequently revived, and is still visited by multitudes of pilgrims, who assemble here during what is called "the station," which commences on the first of June and continues to the 15th of August, during which time the friars are constantly engaged in hearing confessions, enjoining penance, and performing other devotional rites.
The number annually resorting hither during that period exceeds 10,000; each pays the ferryman 6 ½ d. for taking him to the island and bringing him back; and the proprietor of the lake receives £165 per annum for allowing the ferryman to ply. The term of continuance on the island is three, six, or nine days, and each pilgrim spends the last twenty-four hours of his term in the chapel of the purgatory, which receives light only from a small window in one of the angles. About ten years since a boat having eighty pilgrims on board swamped and went to the bottom, and only three of the number were saved; the bodies of the rest were afterwards found and interred on Saints' Island.