Moate & Mount Temple (Co. Westmeath / West)
Moate (An Móta) (pop. 2000), an important market town in the centre of a rich cattle raising area, is an attractive place with a number of old-fashioned shop fronts, a reasonable range of amenities and good accommodation options. (Photo by Joseph Mischyshyn)
Historically aka Moate-a-Grenogue, the town’s name derives from the Moategranoge mound, sometimes called the Mota Grainne Oige, and said to have been the residence of an O’Melaghlin / MacLoughlin chieftain and his wife Grace / Grainne Óg, a Milesian princess who took upon herself the office of Brehon or judge, adjudicating on causes and delivering oral laws to the people. Less romantic historians believe the hillock, visible behind a row of buildings on the Main Street, to be the remaining earthwork of a Norman motte-and-bailey fortification.
Moate was long best known for its Main Street (one of the widest in Ireland) lined with pubs, a serious traffic bottleneck on the old Dublin/Galway road, now bypassed by the M6 Motorway; the local interchange features a splendid bronze and stainless steel sculpture by Anne Meldon Hugh representing Grainne Óg, with cuts in her clothing evocative of the surrounding esker landscape.
During the Williamite War a large party of Jacobite supporters harrassed by General Ginkel’s troops attempted to entrench themselves here, but were put to flight with the loss of 300 men, several officers, most of their baggage and 500 horses. The remainder reached Athlone, only to have the town gates closed against them for fear of admitting their pursuers, and were forced to find shelter in the boglands; many perished in the River Shannon.
Like several significant Midlands towns, Moate owes its modern origins to Quakers who settled locally at the end of the C17thand started industries such as cotton and linen manufacture, breweries and distilleries. There are several extant examples of Quaker houses on the Main Street, and the remains of a Society of Friends Meetinghouse and cemetery can still be seen.
The Bargain, a wooden sculpture erected on the old village green in 1989, commemorates Moate’s history as a market town. The weekly market, held every Thursday, was once one of the most important in Ireland for oats, and several annual fairs were also held.
Moate Museum, housed in the former bridewell attached to the currently derelict old courthouse, has over 1,000 artefacts found in the area, dating from the Stone Age through to the modern era, with particular attention to covering the folk history of the town in the C18th and C19th.
Moate Castle, a Tower House erected in 1550 by the O’Melaghlin family, was acquired in 1659 by Captain John Clibborn, whose descendants remained in residence for some two centuries, adding wings in 1720 and 1760 and other alterations over the years. (Photo – www.buildingsofireland.ie)
The oldest part features pointed-arch stone window surrounds, perhaps taken from an earlier church, and a Sheela-na-gig. Extensive outbuildings, many in ruins, also show signs of older origin.
The castle, still a private residence, occupies a raised site on mature grounds set back from Main Street, forming a prominent central landmark.
St Mary’s church (CoI), constructed c.1782 and altered c.1819 and c.1835, has an unusually slender crennelated tower and an interesting graveyard set in neatly walled grounds.
St Patrick’s church (RC) an Early English Gothic style edifice with an impressive steeple, was designed by John Bourke and William F Caldbeck; completed in 1868, it has recently been renovated. It is unusually centrally located for a C19th Roman Catholic church.
Tuar Ard, Moate’s arts centre, formerly a national school, contains a 200-seat theatre that hosts plays, classical music and rock concerts, an Art Gallery and a Conference Centre used for seminars, presentations, etc.
Patrick Kelly Memorial Park, opened in December 2008, is named after the only Irish soldier to die in combat on home soil since the Civil War. On 16th December 1983, Moate native Patrick Kelly was killed along with Garda recruit Gary Sheehan in a shoot-out with Provisional IRA gunmen at Derrada Woods, Ballinamore, County Leitrim while attempting to rescue kidnap victim Don Tidey, an American businessman.
Moate Community School caters for about 1000 secondary pupils and incorporates Moate Business College, which provides courses including performance arts and information technology.
The town has a long established Gaelic Football club known as the Moate All Whites (the team plays in white strip). The club’s name and colour are based on the colour of the religious habits worn by the Carmelite White Friars, whose presence in Moate dates back to 1770.
Moate Agricultural Show, held annually on the last weekend of August since 1839, is oneof the oldest in the country, and attracts exhibitors from all over Ireland
Parts of The First Great Train Robbery (1979), starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, were filmed locally; The English railway station of Ashford is played by Moate train station (1851 – 1987) opened by the Midland Great Western Railway on the now disused old Dublin / Galway line running through the town.
Moate has a strong musical tradition, with several pubs hosting regular live sessions and many young bands emerging from the town. There is also a recording studio.
Dún na Sí Heritage Park & Cultural Centre
Dún na Sí (“the fairy fort”), opened on the west side of town by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in 1985, features a number of interesting reconstructions, from a Portal Dolmen and Ring Fort to a Fisherman’s Cottage and traditional Farmhouse, with displays of horsedrawn agricultural machinery.
Regular performances by musicians and dancers include evening seisuns and weekend ceilis.
The complex also includes County Westmeath’s genealogy centre and a restaurant.
Famous people from / associated with Moate include
Mount Temple (An Grianán), historically aka Ballyloughloe, is nowadays probably best known for a scenically set but smug golf club (est. 1991) that boasts that it was “built by god (sic), polished by man“. and currently charges €500 per year for “male membership”.
An Grianán is thought to have been an elevated area surrounding a hillfort that is still preserved today on the golf course. The toponym Ballyloughloe is thought to derive from Loch Luatha, a lakelet near the golf club. Luatha is reputed to have been a Gaelic queen who bled to death at the lakeside. An unsuccessful political campaign was undertaken in the late 1960s to revert the name of the village to Ballyloughloe.
Mount Temple History
Anciently part of the the tuath / kingdom of Teathbha / Teffia, ruled by the Ard Rí of Uisneach at Killare, and known as Calraighre an Chalaidh, or Caulry, the area was granted c.400 BC by Niall of the Nine Hostages to his son Maine and ruled for the next 1200 years by his descendants, the MacAmhalgaidhe / Magawley / McAuley clan, referred to in old manuscripts as the Lords of Carlee, whose chieftain was inaugurated on a coronation site known as Tullymagawley, in the townland of Ballymurray.
Tradition records that Saint Patrick was given a hostile reception when he visited the area in the C5th, but escaped to Annagh and continued on to Ballykeeran, where he reputedly placed a curse on the people of Caulry. Saint Ciarán has strong associations with the area, having founded a church called Iseal Chiarán in Baylin. The Baylin / Bealin High Cross (c. 800 AD) originates from this site.
Normans led by the Tuites arrived in 1180, and constructed a motte and bailey on top of the Garbh Esker that runs from the east to the village, but failed to conquer the area from the Magawleys, who had regained control by 1362 and strengthened their position by building five castles, all in ruins today.
A Franciscan Abbey and a St Clare’s Nunnery were located in the townland of Monksland, but they were abandoned following King Henry VIII’s 1540 Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The Barony of Clonlonan, which includes Mount Temple & Moate, was incorporated into Westmeath in 1600, when the Gaelic clans of Melaghlin and Magawley finally submitted to English law. After the Cromwellian campaign throughout Ireland, the last clan chieftain, Henry Magawley, was transplanted with his wife Margaret, mother Jane, and manyother Caulry natives to Connacht in 1656, eventually resettling in Kilcormac, County Offaly.
(Some Magawleys were fortunate to remain in the area, but many more Magawleys went onto join the Wild Geese into service of other European nations. One such descendant was Philip Magawley. who served as Field Marshal in the Army of Emperor Charles IV and as Governor of Prague in 1740. Another was Philip Francis Magawley, 3rd Count Magawley-Cerati de Calry, appointed by Pope Pius VIII as Papal Ambassador of to Napoleon in 1814, later served as Prime Minister to Empress Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, and died in 1835. Christopher Henry Magawley was a Governor of Riga and a Knight of the Russian Empire).
Robert Temple purchased much of the lands of the area in 1684, and the village became officially known as Mount Temple, although it was a long time before this was universally accepted; many locals continued to call the area Caulry, which remained the name of the RC parish for many years. Robert’s daughter Elizabeth Temple, who famously rode her horse up the Norman motte, married Gustavus Handcock of Waterstown Estate, Glasson in 1725. Both are buried at St Mary’s Church, Athlone.
Five Mile House was the scene of fighting in 1795 between locals and yeomanry attempting to enforce the ballot for the militia.
The Motte & Bailey Restaurant attached to Egan’s pub is well-reviewed on the Internet.
The Bealin Cross
The Bealin / Baylin/ Twyford High Cross, thought to date from c.800 AD, was originally located in Baylin / Bealin, and is now to be found in Twyford Demesne.
On the east face are three animals above one another with bird-like heads, and a lion at the bottom. On the north face is a horseman with a staff, and above him a dog bites a deer’s leg. There are also interlacing and geometric patterns on the cross. On the bottom of the west side there is an inscription to the effect that the cross was erected by one Tuathgail.
Dunegan Castle was occupied by the Homans until 1825, when it was maliciously burnt down. Two brothers called Curley were convicted of arson and hanged at Dunegan, although many locals believed that they were innocent.
Moydrum Castle was acquired during the Cromwellian plantations by the Handcock family from Devon, who became one of the most prominent landowning dynasties in the area.
In 1800 William Handcock, MP for Athlone, voted in favour of the Act of Union and in 1812 was duly created 1st Baron Castlemaine (he had no connection with King Charles II‘s mistress, the Countess of Castlemaine). He asked architect Richard Morrison to remodel and enlarge the family residence.
The resulting gothic-revival castle, completed in 1814, was described by Samuel Lewis (1837) as “a solid castellated mansion with square turrets at each angle, beautifully situated by a small lake, and surrounded by an extensive and richly wooded demesne“.
In 1921, during the War of Independence, British forces burned several homes in south Westmeath, and in reprisal local IRA members chose Moydrum Castle “as the seat of a member of the British House of Lords“. The 5th Baron Castlemaine, who sat as an Irish Representative Peer, was away on the night of 3rd July 1921, but his wife and daughter, together with several servants, were woken from their sleep and given time to gather together a few valuable belongings before the building was set alight. The blaze destroyed the castle.
The ruin famously appeared on the cover of U2’s fourth studio album The Unforgettable Fire (1984) in a controversial photograph that was virtually identical to the picture on the cover of a Simon Marsden`s 1980 book In Ruins: The Once Great Houses of Ireland, for which the rock band had to pay compensation.
Moydrum Castle gives its name to a famous pedigree herds of cattle owned by the Gaffey family, who operate a working farm and the Athlone Equitation Centre on the former estate, where the Athlone Agri-Show is held in late June every year
Corpus Christi church (RC), serving the parish of Moate, Mount Temple and Castledaly, is a Romanesque style edifice designed by TF McNamara & Sons, Dublin, and modelled on the church of St Teresa in Avila, Spain. It was built in 1932 on the site of the earlier church of the Holy Trinity, serving the then parish of Kilcleagh & Ballyloughloe. Pope Pius XI blessed the original plans and presented the parish priest, Monsignor Langan, with a rich mosaic crucifix and a jewelled monstrance for use in the new church. The original marble altar rails were a gift of Count John McCormack, Archbishop Curley and Monsignor Langan.