BvRoute 16.1 Co. Meath // Co. Longford

Lough Kinale & Derragh Lough

Lough Kinale straddles the borders of Counties Westmeath, Cavan and Longford.

Derragh Lough is a much smaller adjacent lake, barely separated from Lough Kinale by a swamp area, and entirely within County Longford.

Both lakes are popular for angling and coarse fishing, with a plentiful supply of trout, tench, bream and pike.

The lakes contain three distinct high cairn crannógs. The one in Derragh Lough is an oval site 30m in diameter and rising to over 2m above the muddy lakebed, The one off the shoreline of Toneymore  is similar in size and height, while the other off the Ballywillan shoreline  is slightly larger and has yielded important artefacts, notably a silver chalice.

The Lough Kinale Book Shrine, an C8th AD casket discovered in a dismantled state on the lake bed in 1986, is now held by the NMI. Due to the anaerobic conditions on the bed of the lake, most of the components were in an excellent state of preservation. However as the metal and organic components could not be treated separately, new conservation methods and techniques had to be devised. Fabricated from oak boards onto which are nailed tinned-bronze sheets and highly decorated mounts of gilt-bronze, embellished with amber studs, it is the earliest and largest example of its kind.


The underlying limestone base of the lakes support a community of calcium-loving plants such as Long-stalked Yellow-sedge and Marsh Pimpernel, as well as other flora such as Water Mint and Marsh Pennywort.

The entire Lough Kinale / Derragh Lough Natural Heritage Area is very important for waterfowl. It sustains nationally important populations of Mute Swan, pochard, Tufted Duck, wigeon, coot, as well as many other species. The adjoining wetland areas provide ideal shelter and feeding for Golden Plover, Lapwing and Curlew species.

Abbeylara (Co. Longford / East)

Abbeylara (Mainistir Leathrátha – “Abbey of the half / little rath”) (pop. 850), a village and parish west of   Lough Kinale &  Derragh Lough, attracts numerous anglers.

Abbeylara was named either for an ancient monastic settlement said to have been founded locally by Saint Patrick (usually identified as Granard) or for the medieval monastery of which a part still stands in ruins on the outskirts of the village.

Lerha Abbey


The Abbey of Lerha was founded in honour of the Blessed Virgin in 1210 by  Risteárd ‘Dubh’ de Tiúit, heir to the Anglo-Norman Lord Chief Justice of Ireland Richard Tuite / Risteárd de Tiúit, (d. 1210 in Athlone) whose part in the Anglo Norman invasion is mentioned in the early C13th French Norman chronicle poem  Chanson de Dermot et du comte Song of Dermot and the Earl, and who Hugh de Lacy had granted extensive lands in the western part of Mide. Father and son are buried in the Abbey.


Cistercian monks from St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin took up residence in Lerha in 1214. For the first two hundred years of its existence the Abbey was an Anglo – Norman house, noted for its hostility to the natives.


Edmond Bruce seized and plundered the Abbey and remained there during the winter of 1315. With the Gaelic Recovery of the C14th the monastery came within the sphere of influence of the O’Farrells, chieftains of Arghaile / Anally. In 1540 Abbot Richard O’Farrell  surrendered the monastery and its lands to King Henry VIII‘s Commissioners and was in turn appointed the Church of Ireland Bishop of Ardagh.


All that remains of the abbey is the central tower and adjacent walls. The tower was remodelled in the C15th or C16th and may have been adapted as a fortified dwelling. (Photo by JohnArmagh).

The Well of the Holy Women (Tobar na mBan Naomh), located near the abbey ruins, may well have been used by a religious community who according to tradition lived in the bordering townland of Kilbride (Cill Bhríde – “Bridget’s church”). The stream was probably the main reason for the siting of the Cistercian monastery.

St Bernard’s church (RC), dedicated to Abbeylara’s patron, the early C12th Abbot of Clairvaux in France who was largely responsible for the rapid expansion of the Cistercian Order, was opened in 1959 to replace an old church of the same name in what is now the parish cemetery.

John Drumgoole (1816 – 1888), born locally, emigrated to New York as a child, and was ordained a priest in 1868. In 1871 he took control of St Vincent’s Home for homeless boys in Lower Manhattan. By 1881 he had raised a ten – story building; 1883 saw a move to new facilities on Staten Island, which at one time catered for twelve hundred waifs.

The Abeylara Siege


The Abeylara Siege took place on 20th April 2000, when John Carthy, a 27-year-old local man who suffered from bipolar depression and had spent several periods in psychiatric care, emerged from his family home  and refused to drop a legally held loaded gun.  He fired 30 shots from his home as police negotiators tried to mediate with him over a 25 hour period. Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) officers discharged four bullets from an Uzi submachine gun and a Sig Sauer pistol into his back and legs, killing him.


The circumstances were subsequently investigated by a Tribunal of Public Inquiry conducted by Mr Justice Robert Barr, whose 740-page report issued in 2006, following four years of investigations involving 169 witnesses at a cost of over €20 million, criticised major shortcomings in the Garda operation, stating that scene commanders had “little training” and “no practical experience” of an armed siege situation.


The most critical mistake, according to the retired High Court judge, was that Gardai were not prepared for an uncontrolled exit by Mr Carthy from his home. He acknowledged that Gardai had been called to deal with a “volatile dangerous situation” where an armed man appeared to be “out of control” and motivated by “acute mental illness”. The report said the problem presented by Mr Carthy was “grave and also unique in Irish police experience“.


Judge Barr concluded that many mistakes had been made at the scene, but found there was insufficient evidence that the shooting was an unlawful act. He recommended a review of Garda command structures and training, “particularly in the context of utilising the ERU in siege and other comparable situations, including those having mental illness as a factor, is a subject which should have urgent attention“.


John Carthy’s mother and sister sued the State for wrongful killing, and their claim was settled out of court in 2009 for about €100,000 in damages.

The Well of the King of Sunday (Tobar Rí an Domhnaigh) is in the townland of Ballyboy, just south of the village. According to tradition when wells in the locality disappeared during a particularly dry summer the people thought they could give water from here to the cattle and use it in washing and boiling potatoes and in making butter, but the cows died and the plague followed.

St Mary’s church (RC) in Carra at the northern end of the parish was founded in 1838 and reconstructed in 1961.

Bully’s Acre, opposite St.Mary’s church, is a burial site where victims of the Great Famine were interred. The majority of those buried here were formerly inmates of Granard Union Workhouse. The inmates themselves dug the graves and in some instances carried the remains in sacks to their final resting place, if a donkey cart could not be procured.

The Black Pig’s Dyke 


The Black Pig’s Dyke (Claí na Muice Duibhe) or Worm’s Ditch (Claí na Péiste) is a series of discontinuous linear earthworks in southwest Ulster and northeast Connacht.


Locally aka Duncla (from Dún-chlaí – “fortified ditch”), a 1okm long stretch running between Lough Gowna and Lough Kinale, passes about 1km north of the village of Abbeylara. The best preserved section passes through the townland of Cartronbore.


Folklore  provides various explanations for the earthworks’ names. One tale says that a giant black boar tore-up the countryside with its huge tusks. Another tells of a black piglet which used to run along the dyke. A third states that the ditches were made by a huge worm.


Excavation of a stretch in County Monaghan revealed that the original construction was of a substantial timber palisade with external ditch. Behind the palisade was a double bank with intervening ditch. The timber structure was radiocarbon dated to 390-370 BC,  so all of the earthworks may date to that period.


Some have put forward the idea that the earthworks marked the ancient border of the kingdom of Ulaid / Ulster. One rather confused website holds that the Brythonic Celts (Picts) of the north built a wall and moat to mark their territory, ‘proof the people of Ulster put a lot of effort into keeping the southern Ibero-Celts [Milesians] out of their homeland, and were in close touch with the situation in Albann, where two such lines were constructed by the Romans for defensive reasons.  It is sometimes called the “Hadrian’s Wall of Ireland“‘.


However, there is no evidence that the  earthworks “collectively constitute one border for one people” – the  various sections may not be contemporary and there are large gaps between them. Similar earthworks can be found throughout the country. They are thought to have been built to prevent cattle raiding, which was very common in ancient Ireland.


Two theories have been put forward to explain the large gaps. One is that the earthworks were simply built across tracks often used by cattle raiders; another is that the gaps were once heavily wooded, and thus no manmade defence was needed.

The townlands of Cloughernal and Cartronbore have fine  Stone Circles.

Abbeylara is

 Toberphelim House, set on 200-acre working farm, is a splendid Georgian farmhouse with great views, reached by a long winding driveway, and currently run by the Smyth family as a friendly B&B.


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