The SEE of TUAM, as before noticed, was founded in the early part of the 6th century by St. Jarlath, of whose successors, who for some years after his death were styled comorbans, bishops, or archbishops of Connaught, but little is recorded, with the exception of Muredach O' Dubhai, who in 1143 convened a great synod of 12 bishops and 500 priests at this place, to devise the best means of ransoming Rory O'Conor, son of Tirdelvac, King of Ireland, who had been taken prisoner by Tiernan O'Rourk. That prelate was succeeded, in 1500, by Edan O'Hoisin, who, at the synod held in 1152 by Cardinal Paparo, was invested with the pall, and the see of Tuam became one of the four archbishopricks of Ireland. The bishopricks of Mayo, Killala, Roscommon, Clonfert, Achonry, Cluan, and Duach were at that time made suffragan to it, to which was afterwards united the see of Mayo, and in 1252 that of Enaghdune, on petition of Florence Mac Flin to Henry III.; it was, however, frequently held separately, but, after many contests, became finally part of the see of Tuam in 1421.

Edward Singe, who became archbishop in 1716, obtained an act in the first meeting of parliament after his succession, by which the quarta pars of the dues of the officiating clergy was settled upon such rectors, vicars and curates within his see as should personally discharge their respective cures. Dr. Hort, who was translated to the archbishoprick in 1742, was permitted to retain the see of Ardagh, in the province of Armagh, which he held in commendam, in lieu of the see of Kilfenora, which had been previously held with Tuam, and his successors have ever since continued to hold it; the Archbishop of Tuam is, therefore, as Bishop of Ardagh, suffragan to the Lord-Primate of all Ireland.

The Archbishoprick or Ecclesiastical Province of Tuam comprehends the six dioceses of Tuam, Elphin, Clonfert, Kilmacduagh, Killala, and Achonry, comprising an estimated superficies of 2,356,750 acres, and with the exception of the county of Leitrim and small portions of the counties of Sligo, Roscommon, and Galway, includes the whole of the civil province of Connaught, and a small part of King's county in the province of Leinster. Under the provisions of the Church Temporalities act, the sees of Tuam, Killala, and Achonry have been united; those of Clonfert and Kilmacduagh have also been united and are held with Killaloe, the diocese of Elphin being still held separately; consequently, two bishops only preside over the dioceses of the province, and are suffragan to the Archbishop of Tuam. Under the same act all archiepiscopal jurisdiction will cease on the next avoidance of the archbishoprick; Tuam, with the united diocese of Ardagh and Kilmore, in the province of Armagh, will be constituted one bishoprick, and with the other dioceses of the province of Tuam, become suffragan to the Archbishop of Armagh.

The diocese of Tuam is the most extensive in Ireland: it is 77 miles in length and 63 in breadth, and comprises an estimated superficies of 1,135,650 acres, of which 675,250 are in the county of Galway, 424,700 in Mayo, and 35,700 in the county of Roscommon. The lands belonging to the archiepiscopal see, or the united dioceses of Tuam and Ardagh, comprise 86,800 ¾ statute acres, of which 39,531 ½, are profitable land; and the gross annual revenue, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1831, is returned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as amounting to £8206. 13. 9. The chapter consists of a dean, a provost, an archdeacon, and the eight prebendaries of Kilmeen, Killabeggs, Teighsasson, Kilmoylan, Kilmainmore, Ballagh, Faldown, and Laccagh. There is one vicar choral, whose office is a corporation in itself, endowed with several plots of ground and houses in the town, with portions of the tithes of the parishes of Kilconly and Kilbannon, and with 56 acres of land, altogether producing £200. 17. per annum.

The economy fund of the cathedral arises from several parcels of land in the parish, let on lease at a yearly rental of £76. 5. 8 ½. The diocese comprises 34 benefices, of which 19 are unions of two or more parishes, and 15 are single parishes; of these, two are in the patronage of the Crown, one in that of the corporation of Galway, one in alternate patronage, and the remainder in the patronage of the archbishop or the incumbents. The total number of parishes is 90, of which 86 are rectories and the remainder perpetual curacies; there are 31 churches and 18 other buildings in which divine service is performed, and 21 glebe-houses. The cathedral, which is also the parochial church, appears to be only a portion of the original building: it has some remains of Norman character, and the arch at the entrance of the porch is of a kind of red gritty stone not found in any part of the county; it was repaired in 1688, and about 50 years since was considerably damaged by an accidental fire.

The R. C. archbishop's province comprises the diocese of Tuam, with the bishopricks of Clonfert, Achonry, Elphin, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, Killala, and Galway: the diocese of Kilfenora is alternately suffragan to the archbishopricks of Tuam and Cashel; and on the dissolution of the R. C. wardenship of Galway, in 1831, that portion of the diocese of Tuam was formed into a separate see, the remainder constituting the diocese of Tuam, which comprises 52 parochial unions, and contains 103 chapels served by 52 parish priests and 57 coadjutors or curates. The parochial benefices of Tuam and Kilmina, each served by an administrator and several curates, constitute the mensal of the archbishop.

The R. C. cathedral is a handsome cruciform structure of hewn stone, in the later English style, with a lofty western tower, and six square turrets at the angles and other parts of the building, each rising above the open parapets in an octangular form and terminating in eight octangular minarets richly crocketed; the walls are strengthened with panelled buttresses of several stages, terminating in richly crocketed pinnacles rising above the parapet, which is enriched with open tracery: the principal entrance is under the western tower through a richly moulded and gracefully pointed arch, and the entrances to the aisles are of similar design; the eastern end of the building is ornamented with a lofty oriel window of elegant design, and the whole has a very magnificent appearance. The interior is finely arranged; the ceiling is tastefully enriched with stucco and pannelled in compartments; the east window is embellished with scriptural subjects in stained glass, and the windows of the transepts and aisle are enriched with flowing tracery; the high altar of variegated marble, the tabernacle, and canopy, which were brought from Rome, are exquisitely wrought; the whole is one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical edifices in the country. Nearly £12000, raised by subscription, has been expended in its erection, and a considerable sum will be required for its completion.

The parish comprises 13,913 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the land is generally of good quality and in a state of profitable cultivation.

The principal seats are Birmingham, the property of the Earl of Louth, at present uninhabited; Gardenfield, the residence of J. Kirwan, Esq.; Queensfort, of S. Leonard, Esq.; Wilfort, of W. Lindsay, Esq.; Tullinadaly, of James Kirwan, Esq.; Kilclooney, of J. T. Bodkin, Esq.; and Ballygaddy, of Mr. J. Daly. The living of Tuam is a rectory and vicarage, the rectory partly appropriate to the provost and partly to the vicar choral, and partly united to parts of the rectories of Clonbern,; .Liskeevy, Addergoole, Belclare-Tuam, Templetogher, Crossboyne, and Dunmore, and to the rectory of Boyanagh, together constituting the corps of the deanery of Tuam, in the patronage of the Crown. The lands belonging to the deanery comprise 1629 statute acres, of which 67 are in the parish of Tuam; the whole are let at a rent of £127. 9. 1., with annual renewal fines amounting to £45. 12. 3 ¾.; the gross value of the deanery is £680. 15. 2 ½. per annum. The vicarage, by act of council in 1789, was united to the vicarages of Belclare-Tuam, Kilbennan, Kilconla, Liskeevy, and Addergoole, and is in the patronage of the Archbishop.

The tithes amount to £547. 7. 3., of which £195 is payable to the appropriators, and £379. 4. 7 ½. to the vicar. The glebe-house was built in 1792, at an expense of £584, and in 1813 £784 British was expended in its improvement by the then incumbent. The glebe lands of the union comprise 39 acres, valued at £63 per ann.; and the gross value of the benefice, including tithe and glebe, amounts to £741. 16. 2 ½.

The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church: the parishioners attend divine service at the cathedral. A college for the instruction of young men for the R. C. priesthood, and also for general education, was founded here by the late Dr. Kelly, archbishop of the diocese, in 1814: it is supported partly by contributions of £2 per ann. from each parish priest in the diocese, and by the payments of lay boarders; it is under the superintendence of three ecclesiastical and two lay professors, and has a very extensive library: the premises, being inadequate to accommodate the number of pupils, are about to be rebuilt. A Presentation convent was erected here under the will of the late W. Burke, Esq., who bequeathed his house and a large sum of money for that purpose: there are at present only five sisters in the establishment, which was opened in 1835; attached to the building is a spacious school-room, in which poor girls are taught by the ladies of the convent.

About 570 children are taught in three public schools, of which a model school under the Diocesan Society is supported by the archbishop, who contributes £35 annually and gives a house rent-free and fuel; and there are 23 private schools, in which are about 770 children, and a dispensary. Of the seven churches formerly in this parish, the only one now remaining is the cathedral church of St. Mary; but vestiges of the other six may still be traced in various parts of the town; they were "the Church of the Shrine," of the abbey of the Holy Trinity, of St. John, St. Bridget, St. Jarlath, and the old parish church, the burial-ground of which is still a favourite place of interment for the R. C. parishioners. There are also some slight remains of the ancient castle, which consisted of a strong keep, with a large court-yard defended by lofty massive walls with towers at the angles and at the gateway entrance, and was surrounded by a deep fosse, into which the waters of the adjacent river were diverted.

Search Topographical Dictionary of Ireland »