ABBEYFEALE (Barony of Glenquin, County Limerick)

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland

ABBEYFEALE, a parish, containing a village of the same name, on the western border of the barony of Glenquin, co. Limerick, Munster.

Area of the rural districts, 18,099 acres; of the village, 51 acres. Pop. of the rural districts in 1831, 3,635; in 1841, 4,793. Houses 724. Pop. of the village in 1831, 607; in 1841, 699. Houses 131.

The village stands on the western verge of the parish, on the left bank of the Feale, and on the mailroad from Limerick to Tralee; 12 miles south-west of Rathkeale, 30 south-west of Limerick, and 124 south-west of Dublin.

The Feale is here spanned by a bridge, and separates the parish from Kerry.

The village is the cynosure of an extensive mountainous district, rich in its upland capacities, replete with interest to the mineralogist and the georgic improver, naturally all but impervious and inaccessible, and only a few years ago laid open by means of government roads.

“It so happened,” says P. Mahone, Esq., before the Select Committee on Public Works in 1835, “that I had not seen the new government roads in the neighbourhood of Abbeyfeale and Castle-island until last September; and having known that district before they were projected, I confess I felt astonished at the extent of the general improvement which the opening of these roads has produced.”

A miniature copy of a picture which Mr. Bryan's ‘Practical View of Ireland,’ gives of “a circle of 20 miles in diameter, having Abbeyfeale for its centre,” will at once fully exhibit the parish, and clearly show the economical importance of the village.

The tract within the circle presents an area of 314 square miles, or 201,062 Irish acres. It forms a main portion of the great group of hills which rise between the Shannon and the Blackwater; and extends 4 miles southward into Cork, 10 eastward into Limerick, and 10 westward into Kerry.

A few towns or villages stand at long intervals near the circumference; but the least remote is 8 miles from Abbeyfeale, and the others are from 10 to 12.

Mansions occupied by proprietors occur nowhere to exert an influence upon the district, except in a few instances near these villages, or below the bases of the hills.

Though less than one fourth of the area has ever been cultivated, the whole affords great natural advantages to the improver, whether his object be agriculture or manufacture.

The hills, tame, uniform, and uninteresting in outline, have an average altitude of about 1,000 feet above sea-level, and are not too high for luxuriant vegetation. They all rest on limestone, which is everywhere found round their bases; they consist chiefly of highly indurated sandstone, and variously hardened black slate clay; and they possess beds of culm, some of which, though dipping at a steep angle, and seldom more than 12 inches thick, have been worked.

A coating of clay, from 3 to 30 feet thick, covers the rock; a stratum of peat, from 6 inches to 3 feet thick, overlies the clay on the summits and the higher acclivities; and a vegetable soil, tolerably productive, and not a little improveable by lime, prevails over all the lower declivities and the valleys.

“If,” says Mr. Bryan, “the light bog were drained and dug up, and some of the clay substratum got up and mixed with it, along with a proper proportion of lime, a very superior vegetable soil may be made on every perch of the whole surface, and acres of barren heath may be made to produce the finest oats, potatoes, or hay. If three-fourths of the district be in a state of nature, the land now waste could, by industry, be made capable of maintaining 452,390 persons, or nearly half-a-million. Here might the labour of emigrants be well directed at home, which is now in active operation clearing the wastes of America, if advantage were taken of resources which our own country possesses. The manufacturers will here find advantages not less interesting: a constant supply of water in the Feale, the Smerla, the Ullahaw, the Clyda, the Brina, and several other rivers, with from 40 to 50 feet of fall, upon an average, on every mile of their length, offering a boundless field for their operations.”

The village of Abbeyfeale is 24 statute miles distant from a point of junction near Askeaton, with the Shannon line of railway, as laid down by the public commissioners.

The dispensary at the village had, in 1840, an income of £207; but is 13 statute miles distant from Newcastle, the seat of the poor-law union to which it belongs, and of the medical attendant's residence. It has branches at Attea and Ardagh.

The abbey, which gave name to the place, was a Cistertian one of some celebrity, founded in 1188, and afterwards made a cell to the abbey of Monasternenagh in Kerry.

Half-a-mile below the village, and overlooking the Feale, are the ruins of Purt-castle; and at 5 miles, well-situated on the Feale, is Riversdale, the seat of David Mahony, Esq.—Abbeyfeale parish is an impropriate vicarage, in the dio. of Limerick.

“Although,” say the Commissioners on Ecclesiastical Revenue, “there is a church in this impropriate parish, it does not appear that there is any provision made by the improprietor for the maintenance of an officiating minister.”

The vicar, who officiates, resides at Rathkeale.

The average attendance at the church is about 15, and, at the Roman Catholic chapel, about 900.

The parishioners were computed, in 1834, to consist of 27 Churchmen and 4,393 Roman Catholics.

The schools, in the same year, were 4 daily schools, all supported by fees, and aggregately attended, on the average, by 255 children. A school, attended by 109, was taken into connection with the National Board in 1840, and salaried with £4.