tranquil village of Gowna in the South West corner of County
Cavan is well known for its beautiful lakeside vistas, and
as an angling haunt of friendly fishermen.
The village and surrounds is bordered by areas of County
Longford. Take the road south from the village skirting
Swan Lake and cross over Scrabby Bridge and youre
in County Longford; travel on, passing lakes to left and
right and you hit the peaceful hamlet of Mullingalaghta
in the same parish as Gowna; a short journey further on
is the charming town of Granard.
On another day make your way south west from Gowna along
by Mulric, and over old Dernnafest Bridge, viewing the lakes,
flora and fauna and evidence of ancient settlements ; youll
arrive in the little village of Aghnacliffe in North County
Longford; further on, stop and see the famous Longford town
Down the years a spirit of neighbourliness and cooperation
has existed between these communities, be it football, commercial
dealings, cultural activities, organisation and support
of Tourist attractions including hotel accommodation and
a variety of quality approved Guesthouses- .
Nil néart go cur le céile, seems
to be, and has always been, the unwritten motto of these
A look at some of the History of some towns, villages and
parishes along the County Cavan and County Longford border
throws up numerous interesting facts.
Mullingalaghta is the same parish as Gowna. In year 2000,
their Naobh Columbas GAA team pulled off the County Longford
Intermediate football championship title, and Gowna won
their sixth County Cavan Senior Championship title. A great
achievement for the whole Parish with one half in County
Cavan and the other in County Longford , not to mention
in different Provinces, Ulster and Leinster!
In the early thirties, to be precise on Sunday, 31st
January, 1932, a Grand Concert and Dramatic Entertainment
with Jimmy ODea, Harry ODonovan, etc was held
in St. Brigids hall, Gowna in aid of Mullinalaghtas
Church Fund; during the same era, Gowna dance band, known
as the Staff Dance Band, gave its services free for many
nights in raising funds for the building of Mullinalaghta
chapel. In the fifties, when Mullingalaghta man, Larry Cunningham
was a member, the band was known as The Grafton Band. In
the 60s the Gowna Drama Group which produced plays
each Lent until 1976, included members from Mullinalaghta
and County Longfords Ballinalee.
Padraic Colum, poet, playwright, novelist and folklorist,
was born at Collumbkille in County Longford. He spent his
early years in Longford and Cavan and was familiar with
the towns, villages and by-ways in the area. His poem The
Drover commences with the lines ---
To Meath of the pastures,
From wet hills by the sea,
Through Leitrim and Longford,
Go my cattle and me
I hear in the darkness
Their slipping and breathing---
I name them the by-ways
Theyre to pass without heeding.
No doubt, Padraic Colum was aware from an old tradition
woven into poetry and printed a few hundred years ago, that
the more ancient name of Granard was Meathus (pronounced
Mahus) meaning fertile land.
Granard; Gránárd, ugly height; or as Dr. OConnor
interprets it, Gréine Árd, hill of the sun.
In the early parts of the last century it was traditionally
told by the oldest men in the parishes of Ballymachugh,
Abbeylara, and Mullahoran that Granard means ugly
height; that the man for whom the Moat was built,
not pleased with it, said:
Is gráná árd - (its an ugly height).
ODonovan says that this is the correct interpretation.
That the word Granard refers to the Moat and the high ground
beyond it, árd meaning high, and not to the town,
the greater part of which is situated in the parish of Rathcronan.
The town of Granard is comparatively speaking, in low ground,
whereas Granard means high ground.
According to the Scribes, strictly speaking it is incorrect
to call the present town by the name Granard. The old town
of Granard, which stood near Granardcille, was the scene
of many a bloody conflict. It was burned by Edward Bruce
in 1315, so that it took centauries to grow to a town of
importance. After the battle of Aughrim 12th July, 1691,
the inhabitants having abandoned it, shifted eastwards and
began to build in the hollow, where now stands the present
town. Its not known why the Moat was called ugly;
for it has been referred to as, a locus amoenus, a charming
spot, commanding an extensive view of the greater part of
Ballinalee was formally called St. Johnstown because; a
monastery erected here at an early period was dedicated
to St. John the Baptist. In 1798, Cornwallis celebrated
his victory at Ballinamuck, in Ballinalee, where he strangled
to death 137men. A mound, known as Bullys acre, marks
their burial place. Murder appears to be their favourite
pastime, wrote Cornwallis of the yeomanry. -----Smyth.
In the war of Independence, right hand man to the General
Sean McKeown (the Blacksmith of Ballinalee), was Gowna man,
John P, Hughes. After independence, Mac Eoin enjoyed a long
and successful political career, being a Dáil deputy
between 1929 and 1965 and holding the offices of Minister
of Justice (1948-51) and Defence (1954-57)
Ballinamuck is just off the road from Longford to Arva in
County Cavan. It lies in an area rich in natural beauty
among peat lands, rolling hills and numerous lakes.
In 1798, Ballinamuck was the scene of one of the last and
bloodiest battles fought on Irish soil by a foreign power.
It was the place of surrender of the combined French and
Irish troops under General Humber to the English troops
under General Cornwallis. The battle was a defining watershed
for politics on this island as it was the last time Catholics
and Protestants fought together for a common cause.
A monument to the United Irishmen of 1798 stands proudly
in the village of Ballinamuck. It depicts a wounded United
Irishman boldly standing with pike at the ready.
Recently, a souterrain (underground chamber) was discovered
in the village. Its thought that these chambers date
back to an era when the catholic faith was frowned upon
and the local monks had these chambers built to hide, and
keep valuables safe. The local Community Development groups
hope that these chambers can be preserved and developed
as an attraction for visitors to the village. Also, if youre
feeling a bit feverish, why not try out the sweathouse in
the townland of Lettergullion. This was where the people
went to sweat out their aches and pains centuries before
the arrival of modern medicine. Its still in good
repair Where three Provinces meet:
A few miles from Arva, which lies on the border of Longford
and Leitrim, is the well known spot where the three provinces
of Ulster, Leinster and Connacht meet. A little further
on is the Hamlet of Moyne, where Co. Longfords famous
Latin School is situated; the school is now a community
centre. A nearby plaque informs the passer-bye that the
school started life in September, 1897 as a two roomed male
secondary school. Here young men who wished to go ahead
for the priesthood were taught Latin and Greek, hence it
was known as the Latin School. Moyne is part of the parish
of Dromard; rumour has it that St. Patrick passed through
the area, now famous for the record number of priests who
have gone from here to missionaries throughout the world.
There were 33 young students in its first year but the school
expanded over the years and the number of teachers increased;
most of them were clergy.
In 1967 it became a mixed school and later in the summer
of 1974 it ceased functioning as a school. All staff and
pupils moved to the Community School half a mile up the
Down the years young lads from surrounding districts in
counties Longford,and Cavan, such as Gowna, Mullinalaghta,
Mullahoran, Smear, Drumlish Ballinamuck, travelled on their
bikes, 8 to 10 miles to the Latin School for their Secondary
education. Education in the classics played an important
role in the record number of priests who went from the School
as missioners throughout the world. The present Parish Priest
of Clonbroney Parish, Fr. Peter Beglan, was a member of
the Schools 1952/53 Leaving Certificate Class; the
class included, two others who went on to be priests, two
became teachers another, an army officer, and another, a
hospital chief executive.
Padraic Colum, native of the area in his travelogue, The
Road Around Ireland (1926), saidthe people hereabouts
have a vigorous and imaginative speech, the talk flows on
in humour and satire-- Did you know such a person?
I asked. Do I know him, do I know him? Do I know my
oul shirt? Aye! I know him as well as I know bread.
A man said to me, He was offered gallons of gold in
Cavan gaol to betray the people. Another said I
could have made monuments with money if I had stayed in
By Brendan Murray