Cavan-Longford borderlines

The 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 you’re 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 ; you’ll arrive in the little village of Aghnacliffe in North County Longford; further on, stop and see the famous Longford town of Ballinalee.

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 adjoining communities.

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 O’Dea, Harry O’Donovan, etc was held in St. Brigid’s hall, Gowna in aid of Mullinalaghta’s 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 60’s the Gowna Drama Group which produced plays each Lent until 1976, included members from Mullinalaghta and County Longford’s 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
They’re 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. O’Connor 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 - (it’s an ugly height). O’Donovan 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. It’s 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 County Longford.

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 Bully’s 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. It’s 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 you’re 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. It’s 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. Longford’s 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 road.

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 School’s 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), said—“the 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 America.”

By Brendan Murray