ByRoute 15.2 Co. Longford (W) // Co. Mayo (N)


Abbeyderg (Mainistir Dearg – “the Red Monastery”) is said to have been a monastic site since shortly after the time of Saint Patrick. The ruin visible today is the shell of the church of an Augustinian priory founded c.1215 by Gormgall O’Quinn and dedicated to St Peter.


Members of the  MacMurtagh and O’Donegan families seem to have held the abbacy on several occasions during the C15th. The last abbot appears to have been John O’Ferral, who was still in residence in 1548. The monastery was destroyed in 1567. In 1582 the lands, valued at £2, were granted to Sir Nicholas Aylmer.


The main attraction of Abbeyderg is the cemetery, with gravestones dating back to the mid-C18th jumbled among the rocks and overgrowth of grass. Near the southern edge is a roughly shaped circular stone, perhaps originally intended as a millstone but damaged during carving. Why it has been preserved in the graveyard, and what its later function may have been, is open to speculation. A Holy Well is situated nearby.

Moydow (Co. Longford / South)

Moydow (Maigh Dumha – “the plain of the burial mound”) is the name of a small village and minor barony.

Moydow was once part of a territory known as Tethba. C19th antiquaries recorded the ancient name of the district as Kilmodhain / Kilmacdhumha, called after Saint Modan / Modhain / Modhint / Modiud / Moduid the Simple, credited with founding Kilmliodain Abbey Moydow Priory, before becoming bishop of Carnfurbuidhe in 591 AD, the year of his death. Others claim that the monastery was one of the oldest priories in Ireland, and that one Breclaus, a disciple of Saint Patrick, was one of the first presbyters. The church was destroyed by fire in 1155, and no trace survives.

Castlerea / Moydow / Moydumha Castle, a Tower House erected in 1260 by John de Verdon and sacked in 1295 by Sefraid O Fergail (who levelled Barry and Camagh Castles around the same time), was again occupied during the C14th and C16th. The ruin, long owned by the Higgins family of the adjacent Castlerea House, has a splendid murder hole.  Legend has it that a cow once wandered up the spiral staircase, and that the large aperture visible in the second level stone floor was punched to lower the distressed animal to the ground.

Bawn House, now derelict, was the home of the Monfort family for most of the C18th and was then occupied by Capt Caleb Barnes Harman, a land agent on the vast Harman estate, who was shot dead during a Whiteboy attack on the house in January 1796. “The military authorities hearing of the attack, turned out next day from Longford and captured a dozen of men, of whom several were hanged on the evidence of an informer, who did not receive any of the money taken from Barnes, and turned king’s evidence on that account.” (History Of County Longford Illustrated, by James P Farrell, 1891)

In 1827 a “most dreadful murder was committed ….. on the road between Ballymahon, and the town of Longford. It appears, that a young man named Thomas Needham, son to the Clerk of the Parish of Moydow, being on his way home, fell in company with some persons who were drinking in an unlicensed whiskey house, no quarrel whatever seems to have occurred there, but soon after leaving that place, the unfortunate Needham was murdered in the most barbarous manner – his skull was beaten all to pieces with stones, his eyes knocked into the head, and his face altogether so contused, as to render it quite frightful to behold. The body was dragged through hedges and ditches nearly half a mile, and then deposited in a boghole, where it was found next day nearly naked. Needham was robbed of clothes and money, as well as deprived of life. There being no Coroner in the County, the neighbouring Magistrates, viz: Sir George Fetherston, Major O’Donoghue, Mr. Kingston of Mosstown, and the Rev. James Moffett, have been during the last two days holding an Inquest, which was not concluded when our Correspondent closed his letter. Through the extreme activity of the Constabulary, the whole of the persons implicated in this atrocious affair, have been taken into custody, and there is little doubt, we are happy to say, but that the guilty will be shortly brought to condign punishment. Rather a singular circumstance is concerned with this murderous transaction – exactly three years from the evening on which Needham met his shocking fate, he, while engaged with some youthful companions, threw a small stone at one of them, which missing the object aimed at, struck on the head of a woman who happened to be passing, a fracture was the consequence, and death in some time ensued, although the misfortune was purely accidental, vengeance was denounced by the relatives of the deceased – Catholic blood was spilt by the hand of an Heretic, and accident was considered as no sufficient excuse – The Parish Clerk’s sons were afterwards assaulted wherever they appeared – some, to avoid persecution, found it necessary to enlist as soldiers, while the ill-fated subject of the present article, had to seek for service in distant places, from whence he was returning to visit his family, when cruelly butchered by his relentless foes.” (Westmeath Journal, February 15th 1827)

Mount Jessop was the home of the Jessop family, who according to local lore came by the estate in a curious way. A discharged Cromwellian soldier “asked to be shown certain portions of land in Moydow which he was after being granted for his services to the Parliament. The man that met him was a butler in the local inn in Longford, who was possessed of some money ; and he volunteered to show the discharged trooper the lands. He conducted him up to the top of Castlerea, or Slieve Gauldry Mountain, and pointed out to him the bleakest and most uninviting portions of that sterile hill. The man was much disgusted with the prospect before him, and said if he saw any man who would give him £5 and a horse to carry him to Dublin, he would sell him his right to the lands. The butler took him at his word, handed him out the money, and got him a horse, and in return received the title-deeds of a property which he converted into the Mount Jessop Estate, being the first of its owners himself. ”  (History Of County Longford Illustrated, by James P Farrell, 1891). The young Francis Jessop committed suicide whilst High Sheriff of County Longford in 1836. The last owner risked the property on a game of cards at a ball in the Military Barracks of Longford, and lost all the land, as well as every penny he possessed, in one night. The house was later demolished, but some old outbuildings survive.

Moydow church (CoI), built c. 1765 on the site of an earlier church and altered c. 1825, c. 1831 and c. 1860, has not been used for worship since 1987.  Although now derelict, it retains many attractive features including an ashlar limestone bellcote, timber tracery and leaded glass. The churchyard contains the burial plot of the Jessop family of nearby Mount Jessop and a fine collection of recumbent, upstanding, table and box-type memorials, including those of a number of clergymen who resided at the nearby rectory and several Roman Catholic and Methodist families. The earliest legible grave marker, dated 1640, commemorates Morgan and Rose Ferrall. A fragment of a late medieval window sill was also reused as a gravestone.

St Mary’s church (RC) was erected in 1838. Moydow is now part of the same parish as Ardagh, where the main diocesan parish church is located.

The former National School (date stone 1880) located beside the church closed in the 1960s and is currently used as a community centre.

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Killashee (Co. Longford / South)

Killashee (Cill na Sidhe – ‘The church of the Fairy Mound / Wood of the Fairies”) is a crossroads community. The picturesque village visible today is built around an irregular square bounded on one side by a three-storey Georgian block and on the other by two-storey C19th dwellings.

The earliest references to Killashee are in the  of the C13th and C14th Roman Annates, where the parish Killashee is referred to as Killacythe, Kylnascyth, Kilnasichigi and under the names indicative of the titular of the church – Kilfegalen, Kilfylan and Kilfulan.

The Clonmore Double Ringfort, a particularly well-preserved example of its kind, is one of a number of ancient forts and mounds in the area, possibly the inspiration for the toponym.

Ballinakill graveyard contains the ruins of the Grey Friars monastery reputedly founded by Saint Ernan in the  C6th AD, making it almost as old as Clonmacnoise. The Bishop’s Grave is very likely that of Flann Mulvihill. Like the waters of the adjacent Holy Well, the soil is locallybelieved to possess curing properties for various ailments.

In 1302 Domhnal O Farrell, chieftain of Annaly, founded the convent of St John the Baptist at Middletown.

Ballyclare Castle was built in 1430 by O’Farrell Buí, who was conferred in the same year by O’Neill with ‘full sway over the County of Annaly’. The castle and lands were given over to English and Scottish planters during the reign of King James I.

The Royal Canal, opened in Longford in 1826, crosses the Fallow River via the aqueduct at Gorteenboy and enters the River Shannon at Richmond Harbour, Cloondara. During and after the Great Famine, many people who were forced to emigrate began their long difficult journeys via this canal.

St Patrick’s church (RC) , dated 1829, was erected on a site donated by the Royal Canal Company by Rev. Richard Farrell, who also built the church at nearby Cloondara, and retains its simple unadorned form, typical of early post-Emancipation Roman Catholic churches in Ireland. The interior is notable for its decorative spiral staircase and cast-iron railings to gallery with quatrefoil motifs.

St Paul’s church (CoI), a handsome Board of First Fruits edifice probably designed by James Welland and erected c.1836 (on the site of an earlier church?), has well-maintained grounds and an adjacent rectory.

Lewis (1837) mentions “a subteranneous stream and a large cave” in the vicinity.

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