Lisduff house, a restored C18th farmhouse surrounded by spacious gardens, is run by Mrs Jamie Fox as a welcoming B&B.
Virginia (Co. Cavan / South)
Virginia (pop. 1800), long an agricultural market hub, has retained its farming links, but is nowadays most important for its local industries. It has also become something of a commuter base for larger regional trading centres nearby and even, due to the new M3 extension, for Dublin.
Close to the northern shore of Lough Ramor, the mildly picturesque town is a popular destination for anglers and golf enthusiasts, and has good visitor amenities, accommodation options, pubs and eateries.
Virginia town square and main street. (Photo by Christopher Kirk)
Named in honour of the late Queen Elizabeth I, Virginia was founded during the Plantation of Ulster by an English adventurer named John Ridgeway, granted the Crown patent in August 1612 to build a new town on the Great road between Kells and Cavan town. According to tradition the chosen site was that of a ruined O’Reilly castle described as Aghaler, at a place now known as Aghanure (Achadh an Iúir – “field of the yew”).
Ridgeway’s efforts to introduce English settlers into what was then regarded as a hostile territory were largely unsuccessful, although he did manage to build a few wooden cabins and a corn mill near to the castle. He passed the patent on to Captain Hugh Culme, who already possessed lands about Lough Oughter and had access to timber. Culme persuaded the Plantation Commission to move Virginia to its present location, where he built a number of cabins before giving up, probably for the same reasons as his predecessor.
In November 1622 the Virginia estate came into the possession of Lucas Plunkett, 1st Earl of Fingall, who owned extensive lands around County Meath and agreed to complete the project.
Complaints from Virginia’s inhabitants reached the Commission by 1638, whereupon Christopher Plunkett, 2nd Earl of Fingall, was ordered to build a Protestant church or face forfeiture of his County Cavan lands. William Bedell, the Anglican Bishop of Kilmore, offered to lay out the town in accordance with Commission requirements.
The 1641 Rebellion and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms caused widespread destruction. In the summer of 1642 government forces razed the castle and stocks of hay, corn and turf in order to punish the outlawed Earl of Fingall for supporting an insurgent siege of Drogheda.
Dean Jonathan Swift, during his several excursions to County Cavan, used to frequent an old local wayside Inn operated by one Cornelius Donnellan. Swift penned Gullivers Travels while staying nearby at Quilca, the home of his cleric friend Thomas Sheridan who also kept a classics school and later became headmaster of Cavan’s Royal School.
Sold c. 1750 to pay off the Plunketts’ mounting debts, the Virginia estate was acquired by Sir Thomas Taylor, 3rd Bart, soon to become Lord Headfort and Earl of Bective. He built Headfort House at Kells, and his successors, who acquired the title of Marquess of Headfort, constructed a hunting lodge for vacations on on the shore of Lough Ramor.
Virginia was already a strategic staging and rest point for coaches plying between Dublin and Enniskillen. The Taylor (later Taylour) family turned the unproductive lands around the settlement into profitable farms through land drainage and afforestation of low lying areas, resulting in increases in tenants’ rent. The estate prospered with the establishment of markets and fairs in Virginia, where local produce including flax yarn and linen was traded on the streets. The population doubled between the census years of 1821 to 1841, leading to the rapid construction of the town much as it is today.
The Great Famine of 1845-49 caused extreme hardship for the poorer classes, but the starvation which ravished many parts of the country was averted in Virginia due to the efforts of the local Famine Relief Committee, who made extra rations of Indian meal available in return for hard labour: this included the erection of the local Roman Catholic church in 1845 on lands donated by the Marquess, and women and children breaking stones for making roads.
Virginia experienced renewed prosperity with the introduction of a Butter Market in 1856, followed by the March 1863 opening of the Great Northern (GNR) railway line between Kells and Oldcastle, enabling the exportation of livestock; on the other hand, produce such as beer could be transported from the larger towns into rural areas, which led to the closure of the local malt brewery and several bakeries.
Notable Virginians from the C19th include Thomas Fitzpatrick, a leading London physician, and local mill owner Henry Talbot Rathborne, whose son Joseph went to America and created the world’s biggest lumber mill, the Rathborne Cypress Lumber Company in Louisiana.
Virginia’s importance as a market town gradually declined during the C20th, as rural emigration took its toll. The closure of the Virginia Roads railway station and GNR line in 1958 came about as Ireland’s population fell to its lowest levels: the 1951 census listed just 297 inhabitants for Virginia.
Road transport links to Virginia made significant improvements, and many new houses and commercial business were built with a view to taking advantage of the 2010 opening of the M3 motorway extension linking Virginia with Dublin. The 2011 census showed that the population of the Virginia electoral area (3,939) had risen by 23.2% from 2006.
However, the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy saw both new and old businesses fail and residential property left empty on “ghost estates” (of which Virginia’s Forest Park has been given as a prime example, with 70 uninhabited council houses). As in most of Ireland, emigration has once again become the norm for young people.
In 2012 Virginia reached its landmark 400 years, celebrated with a year-long series of festive events.
The parish church (CoI) for Lurgan (Virginia) was designed by local architect Arthur McLean and erected in 1821 within the townland of Lurgan to replace a much older church, believed to have been built around the C13th, which had served as an Anglican place of worship when English and Scottish settlers first arrived. The Rev John Rowley, who was the incumbent at Virginia when the First Fruits church was built, was a brother of Admiral Sir Josias Rowley, who helped to finance the rebuilding of the church after a major fire destroyed the roof on Christmas night 1830.The church is located on a huge plot of land. (Photo)
The Ramor Theatre, opened in 1999, occupies the former Roman Catholic church, constructed c. 1845 and replaced in the late 1980s by a new structure. The beautifully restored building has been transformed into a venue for the performing arts including Dramas, Concerts (Classical, Traditional & Pop), Musicals, Opera and Ballet.
The Deerpark Forest Walk is a municipal Slí na Sláinte trail on the shores of Lough Ramor.
The lakeside Glanbia (formerly Virginia Milk Products) factory processes milk from local dairy herds to produce skim milk powder and cream for the world renowned brand Baileys Irish Cream liqueur. Other local manufacturers include the Fleetwood brand of paint products.
The Virginia Street Fair, held on the last Sunday of June every year, is a reconstruction of Virginia ‘s original ‘Fairday’ with trading on the street, crafts and entertainment.
The Virginia Agricultural Show, held every August for over sixty years, is one of the biggest and most exciting events of its kind in the Ireland, with over 3000 exhibits of farm animals, home produce, arts, crafts, workshops, demos, children’s amusements.etc. There are over 450 classes for horses, sheep, dogs, poultry, home produce, arts, crafts, photography, dog and pet show. Highlights of the cattle classes include the €9000 Bailey’s Irish Cream Champion Dairy Cow Competition.
Virginia’s Hallowe’en Pumpkin Festival, started in 2007 as the first such event in Ireland, has proved very popular. A weekend filled with live theatre, major music gigs, children’s shows, open air dancing and street entertainment climaxes with a fireworks display over Lough Ramor.
The Lakeside Manor Hotel on the Dublin Rd, attractively set on the shore of Lough Ramor, is popular as a wedding venue and for its nightclub.
The Park Hotel Virginia**** stands on 100 acres of the former demesne of the Marquesses of Headfort on the shore of Lough Ramor. Its principal restaurant is appropriately named The Marquis.
The Riverfront Hotel*** is centrally located and family run. The Bistro is well regarded, as is the late night dancing venue called Club V.
Lisgrey House Pub & Restaurant is a highly rated roadhouse eatery not far from Virginia.
Killinkere & Termon (Co. Cavan / South)
Killinkere (Cillín Chéir – “Little black church”) is a village that gave its name to a large Civil parish.
Killinkere parish church (CoI) was built in 1817; the western end of the parish was catered for by the erection of St Bartholomew’s church in Billis in 1844. In 1972 both churches were amalgamated with Lurgan parish church in Virginia (1821) and Munterconnaught parish church (1831) under one incumbency into the Virginia Group of Parishes in the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh. (Photo by Christopher Kirk)
St Ultan’s church (RC) was completed by Christmas Day 1829 and has been substantially renovated several times.The original church in the townland of Gallon, about 1 kilometre from the present site, was part of a monastic settlement, dating from the C14th and abandoned sometime between 1590 and 1641. During the Penal Law times, Killinkere had no Roman Catholic place of worship until a mud-thatched hut was erected in 1790.
Philip H Sheridan (1831-1888) was officially born in Albany, New York, the third child of John and Mary Meenagh Sheridan from Killinkere (where locals claim he was actually born). He grew up in Somerset, Ohio. Fully grown, he was 1.65 m / 5′ 5″ tall, and nicknamed “Little Phil.” He enjoyed a spectacular military career, rapidly rising to major general during the American Civil War. In 1864, he defeated Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley and his destruction of the economic infrastructure of the Valley, called “The Burning” by residents, was one of the first uses of scorched earth tactics in the war. In 1865, his cavalry pursued Gen. Robert E. Lee and was instrumental in forcing his surrender at Appomattox. Sheridan prosecuted the later years of the Indian Wars of the Great Plains. In 1883 he was appointed general-in-chief of the US Army. He had numerous places name after him.
Killinkere Visitor & Pet Farm, a real traditional working farm in Lisnagirl, grows crops such as potatoes, oats, flax and all sorts of vegetables, and is also home to piglets, goats, hens, rabbits, ponies and other species of animals not normally found on a small farm such as llamas, miniature horses, chinchillas, Guineapigs, deer, rare birds and waterfowl.
St Mary’s church (RC) at Clanaphilip, Termon, shown as a ruin on a map in 1690, was replaced a number of times, first as a mud wall church at Termon Cross in 1785, then a thatched building in 1810, and a barn-type church in 1870. The present church, opened in 1974, incorporates the bell, baptismal font, the 1810 date-stone and the altar bell from the earlier buildings.