ABBEY, or KNOCKMOY, or ABBEYKNOCKMOY (Barony of Tyaquin)

From The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, 1844

ABBEY, or KNOCKMOY, or ABBEYKNOCKMOY, a parish, 7 miles south-east of Tuam, and partly in the barony of Clare, but chiefly in that of Tyaquin, co. Galway, Connaught. Length 6 miles; breadth 3: area of the whole, 12,386 acres; of the Tyaquin section, 10,913 acres. Pop. of the whole, in 1831, 2,866; in 1841, 3,846; of the Tyaquin section in 1841, 3,533. Houses in the whole, 704; in the Tyaquin section, 642. The surface of the parish is drained by the river Moyne; and consists, in a general view, of light sheep pasture-ground, with a large interspersion of bog. What the Commissioners on bogs in Ireland call distinctively the bog of Abbeyknockmoy, comprehends 1,137 English acres, and was pronounced reclaimable at the cost of £1,579 10s. It lies 121 feet above sea-level, has a mean depth of 16 feet, and is a firm black bog, superincumbent on marl and gravel. On the north is very high ground, whose soil is chiefly the debris of limestone; and on the south is a high hill called Knockrua, washed along its base by the Moyne. Other bog-lands of the parish are reported on jointly with those of Abbert and Windfield: see MOYNE. Much of the district immediately upon the river is pleasant in contour, and rich in the dress of cultivation.--The name 'Knockmoy' signifies 'the hill of the plain;' and the abbey which shares with it in the designation of the parish, was anciently called 'Monasterium de colle victoriae.' The establishment is said to have been founded and endowed in 1180, by Cathal O'Connor, monarch of Ireland, in commemoration of a victory obtained by him at its site over Almericus de St. Lawrence. Considerable ruins of the edifice, which still exist, contain some frescoes, which, though rude in design, and faded in colour, possess uncommon interest for the antiquary, as the most authentic memorials anywhere to be found of ancient Irish costumes. These paintings occur on the north side of the chancel, and owe their conservation to the circumstance of that part of the fabric being vaulted with stone; but they are now waning rapidly into decay. The figures are somewhat larger than life, and are arranged in an upper line of six kings, and a lower line representing a youth naked, tied to a tree, and transfixed with arrows shot by two archers, while the brehon or judge, who had pronounced sentence, sits by with a roll of laws in his hand. Three of the kings appear as crowned skeletons, and are usually conjectured to be the most distinguished regal ancestors of the house of O'Connor, but seem, from the highly antique character of their crowns, a character much known in the latter ages of the Roman empire, to be patriot monarchs of very early Irish times. The other three kings are painted as in life, and represented each with the accompaniment of a fighting bird, in the same manner as the Anglo-Norman kings on their seals, and Harold the Norman king in the Bayeux tapestries; and they seem, from the form of their crowns, to have belonged to the 12th or 13th century, and been among the distinguished native princes who defended their country against the aggressions of adventurers. The opinion respecting them which has hitherto been copied by almost every compiler, and which has the high apology of being sanctioned by Dr. Ledwich, is that "the centre one is Roderick O'Connor, who was monarch of Ireland at the period of the English introduction, supported by two vassal kings, one his grand falconer, the other his grand marshal." But Dr. Ledwich mistakes a bird in the hand of the central figure for a trefoil or shamrock, and employs his blunder as a chief argument for his opinion; he gives in his Antiquities an utterly incorrect engraving of the frescoes; and he destroys all confidence in his judgment by venturing the grossly improbable conjecture, that the paintings were the work of the confederate Roman Catholics of the 17th century.

The lower line of figures represents the death of the young son of Dermod M'Murrough, for that ambitious man's perfidy in calling over the English. The youth was delivered to Roderick O'Connor as a hostage for his father's fidelity; and, according to Cambrensis, was abandoned by the inhuman parent to his fate. The figure of the brehon is now nearly destroyed by the oozing of rain from an opening in the roof.--The villages or hamlets in the parish, with their respective pop. in 1831, are Abbey, 352; Ballinamona, 157; Newtown, 216; and Poullavarla, 204.--This parish is a rectory in the dio. of Tuam, and forms part of the benefice of KILLERERAN: which see. Its Roman Catholic chapel has an average attendance of 1,500. Its inhabitants, in 1834, were computed to amount to 3,094; all of whom, with the exception of 22 Churchmen, were Roman Catholics. A school at Briarfield, attended by 70 boys and 43 girls, is in connection with the National Board of Education, and receives from it £14 a-year.