The parishes of Monaghan and a wee bit of their history

Co. Monaghan forms by far the greater part of the south-eastern half of the Diocese of Clogher and there are currently twenty parishes within the county boundaries, although there were at least three more than this a few decades ago. In a recent Œstream-liningš process, a number of smaller parishes have been amalgamated and this scenario is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. Taking them in alphabetical order, a little bit of their history would read as follows:-

Aughnamullen East:- Once united with Aughnamullen West, this parish is now simply known as Aughnamullen. It was for years one of the most organised industrial areas of the county, with the mills at Creeve and Laragh being quite famous. It still boasts of much industry, with the Lakeland Dairies at Lough Egish being well-known nation-wide and even further afield. One of its most famous sons was Gen. Eoin O’Duffy, born at Cargaghdoo in 1892, he was for many years secretary of the Ulster GAA Council and was also very prominent with the Volunteers during the War of Independence, when he proved himself a superb organiser and a constant thorn in the side of British occupying forces. He later became Garda Commissioner and was also very prominent in Fine Gael. He led the Irish Brigade in Franco’s army during the Spanish Civil War. The Siege of Bellatrain RIC Barracks was one of the most important events during the War of Independence.

Aughnamullen West:- Better known as Latton, it is the resting place of one of Monaghan’s greatest footballers, Vincent O’Duffy. Few realise it, but the popular ballad ‘The Rocks of Bawn’, applies to this parish. Senator Billy Fox, former TD, who was shot here during the ‘Troubles’ is remembered in the Senator Billy Fox Memorial Park. One of its most famous sons was Dr. J.J Drumm, the inventor of the ‘Drumm Battery Train’, which unfortunately only enjoyed a short innings during the 1930s, but it was the forerunner of the Dublin DART. All the schools in the parish were amalgamated into one large central school at Latton some years ago.

Clones:- Famed as St. Tiernach’s Monastic Foundation of the sixth century, its Round Tower and Sarcophagus (St. Tiernach’s Grave) are two of Co. Monaghan’s greatest tourist attractions. Practically ‘ruined’ by the setting up of the Border in the 1920s, it has mushroomed into one of the county's most progressive towns. For years it was the ‘Railway Crossroads’ of Ulster, which, in turn, led to its being chosen as the epicentre of Ulster GAA activity, it has also produced many famous people. The parents of Thomas Lipton, founder of a world ‘tea-empire’, were born here, while one of Ireland’s all-round sportsmen, James Cecil Parke, was also born here. Boxers Barry McGuigan and Kevin McBride are also Clones natives, while the name McCabe is respected in the very highest of Irish Literary circles. ‘Clones Lace’ is listed among Ireland’s most coveted souvenir possessions.

Clontiberet:- One of the Largest parishes in the county, it boasts of three GAA clubs - Clontiberet O’Neills, Cremartin and Doohamlet. Its best known son was General John O’Neill, corn 1834, he emigrated to the USA at an early age and later rose to the rank of Col. in the Union Army during the American civil War. Following the end of hostilities he led the ambitious, if foolhardy, ‘Invasion of Canada’ in 1866, and again in 1870 and 1871. His victory over a British force at Ridgeway in May 1866 proved an inspiration for the Fenian Movement in Ireland in 1867. Gold mining was carried on here in the 19th century and gold deposits are stated to be still in existence. The Annyalla Volunteers was one of the most active insurgent groups during the War of Independence, and the McEneaney Brothers monument in the local grave-yard is a reminder of those troubled days.

Currin-Killeevan-Aghabog:- Originally three separate parishes, Currin and Killeevan were later united as one and, later still, Aghabog was added to the triumvirate. Scotshouse village is the main centre in Currin, a parish that gave Co. Monaghan the Moore family, prominent teachers, historians, writers and footballers. Newbliss is the epicentre of Killeevan and the parents of Irish patriot, revolutionary and 1916 leader, James Connolly, came from this area. The ‘Black Pig’s Dyke’ winds its way through this parish and in recent years some archeological excavations have been carried out. The great McMahon clan once had one of their major strongholds here while, in more recent times, Patrick Whelan led the local ‘1916’ Volunteer Movement’ and also became very prominent in Monaghan and Ulster GAA circles. The Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig is now an artists’ centre.

Donagh:- Emyvale and Glasolough are the population centres in Donagh parish which is also the epicentre of ‘McKenna country’, with McKenna’s 12th Century High Cross and Chieftains’ grave a major tourist attraction in Donagh old grave-yard. The nearby Tully Fort and Crannog was their headquarters from 12th to 17th century. Here also stand the ruins of the fifth century Patrician Foundation. The ‘Prince Edward Island connection’ is also based in this parish as it was a former PP, Canon Patrick Moynagh, who initiated the original ‘organised’ mass emigration from here in 1830. Here too stood ‘Keenan’s Classical school’, where famed Ulster novelist William Carleton received his classical education, 1812-1815. His ‘Fair of Emyvale’ is still also one of Carleton’s most popular novels. The Leslies were the main landlords in the area, with Shane Leslie generally regarded as one of Ireland’s most prolific writers and best known nationalists during the 20th century. St Macartan’s College, built in 1841, is also in Donagh parish.

Donaghmoyne:- Another very extensive parish, stretching as it does from Castleblayney to Carrickmacross, it features “Mannan Castle’, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. It was once the centre of power for the Kings of Oriel, while ‘Mannan’ was also occupied for a period by the Normans. In more recent years it was one of the last outposts of native Irish speakers in Co. Monaghan, while one of its sons, Enri O’Muirgheasa, born 1874, became a schools inspector and one of Ireland’s best known historians, folklorists and writers of the 20th century. Donaghmore also figured in WW2 when German bombers dropped their bombs at Bocks Lower, causing both injury and material damage. Early Donaghmoyne clubs were very prominent in the establishment of the first GAA county board in Monaghan in 1887, while both Donaghmoyne and Toome GAA clubs currently rate very highly in present-day competitions.

Ematris:- Rockcorry is the main population centre of this small parish, which lies on the main road from Monaghan to Cootehill. ‘Buiochar’ is the Irish name for the village, which, although he was born at Shantonagh Junction, is regarded as the ‘native heath’ of John Gregg, the inventor of shorthand Gregg, born in 1867 , emigrated with his parents to Scotland and when he was eighteen he later moved to England. He wrote several books on shorthand and later travelled to America where his system was quickly adopted, and later spread world-wide. He died in New York in 1948. Schoolteacher Peter McKenna has written a magnificent history of this parish.

Errigal Truagh:- This is the most northerly parish of Co. Monaghan, stretching from Emyvale to the Blackwater at Moybridge. The Slieve Beagh mountains, more popularly known as ‘Bragan Mountains’, form the western boundary, separating it from Tyrone. Bragan is also the largest town-land in Co. Monaghan. Patron saint of the parish is St. Mellan (or St. Maudin), the ruins of whose ancient church still stand at Mullanacross, where many beautifully carved old headstones of McKenna interest remain a major tourist attraction. Probably its most famous son was Canon James Edward McKenna, born at Figulliar in 1868, he wrote the magnificent ‘History of the Parishes of Clogher’, a truly monumental work. A superb production, it was published in two volumes, the first of which appeared in 1920. Described as the ‘Pioneer of Monaghan historians’, he died in 1931. The parents of Archbishop John Hughes, the builder of St. Patricks’ Cathedral in New York, were natives of Errigal Truagh parish.

Inniskeen:- When one mentions Inniskeen, one immediately says ‘Patrick Kavanagh’. The great writer and novelist was born at Mucker in this parish in 1905. His ‘Stony grey soil of Monaghan’ has become a by-word throughout Ireland and even further afield, and he is, without question the greatest of all Monaghan writers and one of Ireland’s best known poets. He died in 1967, but the ‘Kavanagh Centre’ in the old church in the village remains to provide testimony to his life and his greatness. St. Daig is the patron saint of Inniskeen and his monastery there was raided on many occasions by the Vikings. The Round Tower, erected c.850, still stands, however, as a reminder of those great but terrible days. The inhabitants of Blackstaff village were turned out on the roads as punishment for being ‘rebels’ during the Rising of 1798 and a monument there recalls those even more terrible times. Part of Inniskeen parish lies in Co. Louth.

Killanny:- Sometimes called ‘the wee parish’, Killanny also runs into Co. Louth, with nineteen of its fifty-one town-lands lying in Leinster territory. The O’Carrolls were once the lords of this area and their bishop was actually based at the abbey in Louth village, but the Normans reversed the O’Carroll expansion. Killanny is also a ‘major entrance’ to Co. Monaghan’, with N2 from Ardee passing through here before weaving its way through the ‘little hills’, of Monaghan. St. Ultan on the southern transept of St. Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan. The name Essexford also recalls the historic meeting place of the Earl of Essex and the Great Hugh o’Neill of Ulster in the 16th century.

Kilmore and Drumsnat:- Threemilehouse is the main centre of population of this parish, and there was once a monastery here, founded by St. Molua at Drumsnat. Drumsnat (Drom Sneachta) means the ‘Ridge of Snow’ and, according to tradition, this hill was covered by a mid summer snowfalls and according to tradition, this hill was covered in midsummer snowfall in answer to the saint’s prayers for a site for a church. The Church of Ireland cemetery also marks the last resting place of Emily and Mary Wilde, the half-sisters of Oscar Wilde, who died tragically following a fire at the nearby Drumaconnor House in 1871 The great McMahon clan originate here in the 11th century and one of their headquarters was on a crannog in Lough Leek. One of Co. Monaghan’s best known rapparees, Parra Glas O’Connolly, captured and executed in 1711, was a native of this parish.

Macharire Rois:- Contains the town of Carrickmacross, the capital of the barony of Farney. It has been the centre of all South-Monaghan history from earliest times. First founded by Essex in the 16th century, it once boasted a strongly fortified castle, section of which is absorbed into the present Convent of St. Louis building. Shirleys and Baths were the major landlords here and their relationship with the native Irish was anything but peaceful down through the years from Plantation Times. The Shirley family, however, produced one of the country’s most illustrious historians in Evelyn Philip Shirley, whose 19th century ‘History of the Co. of Monaghan’ is a masterpiece ‘Carrickmacross Lace’ is internationally known and much sought after, while the first GAA Co. Board was founded in the town in 1887. The centre of much local industry from early times, it is still one of the most thriving and most forward-looking towns in Ulster, and currently boasts a magnificent and very busy ‘industrial estate’. Corduff is also part of this parish.

Magheracloone:- The most southerly parish in the county, it is the only part of Monaghan that borders on Co. Meath. One of the earliest and strongest outposts of the Kingdom of Oriel and of the McMahons, it was the scene of the famous Battle of Bellahoe in 1539, when O’Neill suffered a disastrous defeat. The Earls of Essex planted the parish and the Shirleys then became the principal landlords. A major skirmish was also fought here during the Land Wars and was called the ‘Battle of Mageracloone’. The area’s gypsum rock forms part of the internationally known ‘Kingscourt Gypsum’ industry, while its magnificent red soil is also used widely in the manufacture of bricks, much favoured in the building industry. The beautiful park of Dunaree is close by.

Monaghan and Rackwallace:- parish name for the county capital, it houses the most famous buildings in the county. St. Macartan’s Cathedral took thirty years to build, 1862 - 1892, while the Courthouse stands on the site of the first county jail. The ‘much in recent news’ county hospital was built in the last ‘thirties, while St. Davnet’s Hospital is one of the country’s best known hospitals for the mentally ill, and the Convent of St. Louis is one of the country's most famed girls’ colleges. Charles Gavan Duffy is probably the town’s best known ‘son’, a plaque on a house in Dublin Street marking his birth-place. Thomas Devin Reilly, another of the great Young Ireland figures, was also born here and a street in named after him. A Franciscan Friary established by the McMahons in 1462, once stood here, but the first recorded fort was built by the English in 1601. Recent excavations have unearthed the foundations of the first town walls. A small lake known as ‘Peter Lake’ is an unusual feature of this county capital.

Muckno:- Major centre of population here is Castleblaney, the town which was founded by the county’s first major ‘Planter Family’, the Blayneys, in the early 17th century. Its early monastery had been plundered by the Vikings, while the Normans also showed little mercy at a later stage. The Hanrattys became the major force during the days of ‘clans and chieftains’, while the McMahons also had a lengthy innings. The new town grew up around the shores of the beautiful Lough Muckno, and Hope Castle, also originally built by the Blayneys, is still a major attraction in the town. The man after whom it is named also became famous as the owner of the notorious ‘Hope Diamond’. St. Mary’s Hospital is one of the best known nursing homes in the entire country, while the local GAA club here is the envy of all other Co. Monaghan clubs, having notched up a litany of county championship titles that will never be equalled by any other club in the county. Oram and Blackhill are part of this parish.

Roslea:- More than half of this parish lies in Co. Fermanagh, and Smithboro is the main population centre in the ‘smaller half’ that lies in County Monaghan, although its ‘off-shoot’, Magherarney, seems to be catching up on the ‘mother village’, as far as housing and population are concerned, in recent years. Always an industrious area, the turkey processing business has made it well-known, both nationally and internationally, in recent times. First founded by a ‘Planter’ landlord named Smith, he established a monthly fair here that became very popular right up until well into the 19th century. A crannog on nearby Lough Ooney is one of the best preserved crannogs in the county.

Tullycorbet- Probably better known as Ballybay parish, it takes its name from the Irish, which means ‘The Hill of the Chariot’, the legend being that it was here that St. Patrick’s chariot broke down when he was on his way through Oriel. Following the demise of the McMahon dynasty, these lands went to foreigners, one family of which were the Leslies. Later the town was re-built by the Jacksons, who were extremely liberal and forward-thinking, and established the linen industry. The Market House in Ballybay remains as a tribute to their industrialism. The Presbyterians became very numerous in the parish, but there were divisions and a large number of them emigrated to America in 1764. Ballybay horse fair became one of the most famous horse fairs in the entire country and, while still on horses, one of Ireland’s best known ballads ‘jackson’s Grey Mare’ is based on a Ballybay story. A very comprehensive history of Ballybay and the surrounding areas has recently been published by Ballybay historian, Peadar Murnane.

Tydavnet:- The villages of Scotstown, Tydavnet, Ballindode, Milltown and Knockatallon are the main populations centres in this large parish, stretching from Slieve Beagh to the county capital St. Dympna (or Davnet), the daughter of a King of Oriel and patron saint of the mentally ill, is the patron saint of the parish, and the story of her martyrdom at the hands of her deranged father has resulted in the twinning of Tydavnet with Gheel in Belgium. The ‘Bachall Damhnait’ (Dympna’s Crozier) is a tenth century staff shrine currently on display in the National Museum in Dulblin, but for many years was kept in this parish, its native home. St. Dympna’s Well at Culdavnet was, and still is, a major place of pilgrimage. The parish suffered greatly during the Land Wars when many families were cruelly evicted by greedy and unsympathetic landlords. Hill-walking has become a major tourist attraction in the Slieve Beagh area and the very impressive new Tourist Centre at Knockatallon is also a major centre for weddings and functions of various kinds.

Tyholland:- Tyholland is the smallest parish in the county and borders with Co. Armagh at Middletown. For a period it was united with Donagh parish and later still with Monaghan parish. Monaghan’s sole contribution to the Fenian Rising of 1867 was in Tyholland, where James Blaney Rice was the “Head Centre’ of the organisation in North Monaghan. His grandfather had been in the United Irishmen of 1798 and was involved in the Killyneill ambush of that year. The legendary O’Donovan Rossa was an important visitor to the Rice household and to the parish during the Fenian period. The Rice family have contributed much to the political life of the county, and a large Celtic Cross at Tyholland Parish Church is a commemoration of the work done by that family for their native parish and for Ireland.

Taken from Monaghan's Match
December 2004