ByRoute 18.1 Co. Meath & Co. Cavan

These pages, currently UNDER CONSTRUCTION, should (provisionally) link The Ward on the outskirts of DUBLIN with Cloone Grange (Co. Cavan).


(Not to be confused with the place near Navan)

Two churches stand a mile apart in south-east Meath; the Church of St Patrick at Donaghmore and the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Ashbourne. St Patrick’s Church dates from 1840, while the Church in Ashbourne which replaced a former chapel was officially opened in 1889. The history of these churches is fully recorded in the history of the Diocese of Meath 1860-1993, volume 1 by Olive Curran.

These churches served two district communities in two different parishes. Donaghmore in the parish of Curraha served the townlands of Greenogue, Ballaghaweaery, Macepool, Rath, Newtown, Wooten, Muckerstown, Fleenstown, Bullstown, Donaghmore, Milltown and Archerstown. Ashbourne which was in the parish of Ratoath, catered for Killegland, Race Hill, Cookstown, Hunters Lane, and The Rath, Hammondstown, Deerpark, Hickey’s Lane, Baltrasna and part of Milltown.

The above town lands, in common with most rural Ireland suffered a decline in population in the 19th century. In the 20th century, the population remained static until the Sixties. The Great War (1914-1918), the civil war, the economic war in the thirties and the Second World War (1939-1945), all militated against any recovery in Ireland. Although families were large, emigration was the order of the day and reached its peak in the Fifties. By this time Ashbourne served not much more than 300 people and Donaghmore somewhat less. Yet agriculture and industry began to show distinct signs of improvement in the 1950s.

In the Sixties a few new houses began to appear in the area. By the seventies these things gained considerable momentum with the “Garden City” and other developments. The population began to rise rapidly. The church was very aware of these changes and when Father Fintan Cassidy arrived as the first resident curate in Ashbourne in 1979 (the year the Pope visited Ireland) he had a big task ahead of him.

This was a time of change in the church. With the introduction of the vernacular the laity became more involved in the ceremonies of the Church. Parish comities were started, altar rails were removed and altars were turned to face the congregation. Father Cassidy realised that Ashbourne church would soon be too small for the growing community. He was aided in his deliberation by a parish committee. Indeed they took swift action and by 19th December 1981 a fine large extension to the Church was being completed, and dedicated to our Lady by the Bishop of Meath, Bishop John McCormack. A parish house had also been built of the Church grounds at this time.

Meanwhile the residents of Donaghmore had not been idle. Under Father Gerry O’Reilly, parish priest of Curraha, the Church which was in poor repair was roofed and decorated inside and painted outside. This work was to be later completed and the Church was beautifully restored by George Glynn when Father Burke parish priest. And yes! The statues were moved back, in pale colours and above the eye line, but back nonetheless.
The old school building in Ashbourne

In the late Seventies new minds brought new ideas to Ashbourne and Donaghmore. It was considered that Ashbourne should enjoy the full status of a parish in its own right. Moreover, people of Donaghmore considered that the arrangement of Curraha and Donaghmore with Ashbourne in between was unduly cumbersome and the parish boundaries could be re-jigged to considerable advantage. Father Gerry O’Reilly was administering a spread out parish with a growing population on his own. It seemed to make sense to join Ashbourne and Donaghmore into one unit. These new ideas were aired at parish meetings. Father O’Reilly decided to consult the parishioners in Donaghmore and called a public meeting to be held in the new meeting room which has been built on to the Church by John Commons.

However Father O’Reilly was failing in health at the time and fearing some controversy, he asked a parishioner to chair the meeting which he did not attend himself. One summer’s evening in 1982, the room was packed. Many spoke at the meeting and although there was support for the idea of a new parish some reservations were also forcibly expressed. Would Donaghmore lose its identity in a larger unit? Would the debts of a growing community in Ashbourne be too much for the smaller rural community? Would an older settled community be able to integrate with the new faster moving people of Ashbourne?

It was decided to send a deputation to Bishop John McCormack and while discussing the possibilities of a new parish to also express their reservations. The Bishop received them and later made his decision on the 3rd September 1982. he wrote to Father Gerry as follows:
Dear Father Gerry,
I enclose a copy of the decree setting up the new parish. We have decided to call it Donaghmore out of respect of tradition and the feeling expressed to me. I would hope that the people will loyally understand our pastoral problems.

I would ask you to continue to service Donaghmore for the present. I will be in touch with you when we get back from Lourdes. Father Martin Burke is being appointed, but he will not be in a position to move until the end of the month at least.

With very many thanks,
Yours sincerely,
John McCormack.
In virtual of the decree of the Second Vatican Council, ‘Christus Dominus’ N.32 and of the Motu Proprio, “Ecclesiae Sanctae” of Pope John Paul VI, dated 6th August 1966, I, the undersigned Bishop of Meath, having consulted the Council of priests and other persons, hereby decree:

That the union of the parishes of Curraha and Donaghmore be dissolved.
That the parish of Curraha be erected into an independent parish.
That a new parish be erected, consisting of the territory of the existing townlands of Donaghmore together with the adjoining townlands in the Ashbourne area of the parish Ratoath, viz Killegland, Baltrasna, Cookstown, The Rath, Hammondstown.
That the new parish be known as Donaghmore.
That the remaining townlands of the parish of Ratoath constitute the new parish of Ratoath.
That the establishment of the new parish of Curraha , Donaghmore and Ratoath take effect on and after Sunday 19th September 1982.
The 2nd September 1982.

John McCormack
Bishop of Meath

Father Martin Burke arrived to take up as duties in 19th October 1982 and was to continue as parish priest until 1999. During this time he was assisted by his curates Reverend Fintan Cassidy, Reverend Seamus Mulvaney, Reverend Philip O Connor, Reverend Brendan Ferris and Reverend Michael Meade.

When Father Jim Lynch arrived to take over from Father Martin Burke, Ashbourne and Donaghmore had progressed to be a large thriving parish with nearly 8000 people, with curates, schools, halls, clubs, industries and all the other facilities of a growing community in modern Ireland.

The 19th century churches now stand united in one parish and at the Christmas ceremonies in 1999, both St Patrick’s in Donaghmore and the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Ashbourne were packed to capacity. Older parishioners were heard to say openly, “the best ever”!


Ashbourne (Co. Meath)

Ashbourne (Cill Dhéagláin – “Déaglán’s church”) (p. 8500), historically aka Kildeglan / Killeglan / Killegland, was  rural village until the second half of the C20th, when it grew rapidly into the second largest town in County Meath after Navan, with a large cosmopolitan minority of British, Lithuanian and Polish nationals.

Ashbourne History


Hugh de Lacey and his sons, the first Norman lords of Mide / Meath, divided the land among their retinue, and in 1220 granted  Killeglan to a family called Wafre, who remained powerful locally for 200 years.


Their late C14th Tower House and lands were acquired in 1420 by the Segrave family, who soon became one of the most influential and wealthy non-aristocratic families in Ireland (two members were Chancellors of the Exchequer, while another became Sheriff of Meath)., only to lose their political power and possessions during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.


Oliver Cromwell’s son Henry stayed for a time in Killeglan Castle, which later absentee proprietors called Carter allowed to fall into ruin.


Frederick Bourne owned a coach company and financed road-building, collecting revenue from tolls. In 1820 he financed a ten mile (old Irish miles) section of road from Dublin to Killeglan, and purchased the entire estate in 1840. Having built an inn and established several small businesses near the ten mile tollbooth, he named the development after his favourite tree and himself, i.e. Ash and Bourne.


The village and  lands were inherited in 1844 by Richard Bourne, who initially lived what is now the Ashbourne House Hotel on Frederick Street, and later in a modest house near the last remains of the Wafre / Segrave Tower House, now vanished. His eldest son, Thomas, the last landlord of Ashbourne, went to live in England in 1899, and the land was sold to the tenants.


The Battle of Ashbourne, an incident during the 1916 Easter Rising, began when the local RIC barracks was attacked by a group of about 45 Fingal Volunteers under the command of Thomas Ashe and Richard Mulcahy.  The besieged policemen are said to have raised a white flag when 17 motorcars arrived carrying reinforcements from Slane, who took such heavy fire from the rebels that they were eventually forced to surrender. However, since the uprising in Dublin had been put down, the Fingal volunteers gave themselves up two days later.


Thomas Ashe was sentenced to death for his part in the attack, but this was later commuted to penal servitude for life. Release in 1917 as part of an amnesty, he was soon back in prison, where he died on hunger strike.


The population of Ashbourne was less than 400 until 1970, when a new housing development was constructed on an innovative American open plan scheme rather than with fenced-off gardens.

Tayto Park

Balrath Woods

Somerville House


Castle Dexter (Carrick Castle)

Tankardstown House

Rathkenny, Wilkinstown,

Castletown-Kilpatrick described by Lewis as: “a parish in the Barony of Morgallion, County of Meath, three miles from Nobber on the road from Kells to Ardee.

Mountainstown House, a Queen Anne style residence, was built c. 1720 by a member of the Gibbon family. The Pollock family bought the estate in 1780 and still live there.





Virginia Wood


Mullagh (Co. Cavan / Southeast)

Mullagh (An Mullach –  “The Mound”) is a village (pop. 700)

It contains a heritage centre dedicated to St Kilian, who was born in Mullagh c 640 and was martyred in Würzburg, Germany in circa 689. The centre also has an exhibition related to ogham script and the development of illuminated manuscripts.

The Roman Catholic Church, located 400m from the village on the Virginia Road (R194), is named in memory of its patron Saint Kilian. Ruins of an earlier church “Teampeall Ceallaigh” remain in what is now part of the Church of Ireland grounds located further along the same road, approx 600m.

The village is situated approximately 2 kilometers from the border with County Meath and Leinster which is marked by the River Borora which flows into the Owenroe River at Mullagh bridge.

The environs of the village have witnessed substantial housing and industrial development in recent years. Mullagh’s proximity to the new M3 motorway has had the effect of bringing Mullagh and south County Cavan within commuting distance from Dublin and larger towns in Leinster.

Mullagh Lake seen from Mullagh Hill

Amenities locally include Mullagh Lake and Hill Walk (2 kilometers outside the village on the Virginia Road), Tennis Court and People’s Park on Mullagh Fair Green, Children’s Playground beside the St. Kilian’s Heritage Center. The Edwin Carolan Memorial Park located on the Moynalty Road which includes a full size GAA pitch (open to all sports), a 440 metre track around its perimeter, a multi purpose Sports Centre and Gym. In the winter, the track is lit each night from 7.30 to 10pm or so to facilitate walking and running.

Local community organisations include a vibrant men’s and ladies GAA club, Cúchulainns GFC, Community Games (athletics club), a Drama Society (Millrace Drama Society) a Golf Society, Friendship Club, Parent and Toddler Group, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. Separate committees include the Mullagh Development Committee, Mullagh Tidy Towns and St Kilian’s Housing Association which has recently provided 12 units for the elderly.

Lakeview Gardens overlooking the Mullagh lake, just off the Virginia road.

Mullagh Fair Day

History of Fair: The Mullagh Fair was one of the best and biggest in the North East, its proximity to the Virginia Road railway station ensured that cattle purchased in Mullagh could easily be transported to ports in Dublin and Drogheda. However the opening of the Mullagh mart in 1957 finally brought to a close a long chapter in the history of Mullagh, since the first charters and licences were granted in 1621.

Present Day: The Mullagh Development Committee re-established the Fair Day in 1997 to ensure that the present population kept in touch with their rich historical past. Over the years, it has grown to be one of the largest one day shows in the North East with something for young and old alike. The Fair takes place each year on the 2nd Sunday in September.

Jonathan Swift wrote parts of Gulliver’s Travels and The Tale Of The Tub whilst staying at the country home of his cleric friend Thomas Sheridan at Quilca House, which is close to the historic Mullagh village. Other notable descendants from the (Quilca) Sheridan family are the 18th century playwright Thomas Sheridan and notable writer Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

The original historic village of Mullagh was situated over a kilometer north-west of the present village close to Mullagh lake off the Virginia Road, but there no longer remain any distinguishing features.

Well known TV actor T. P. McKenna (All Creatures Great and Small, Inspector Morse) and film, TV and stage actor Brían F. O’Byrne (Frozen, Intermission, Brooklyn’s Finest, Million Dollar Baby, FlashForward, Prime Suspect(U.S.)) both hail from Mullagh.


One thought on “ByRoute 18.1 Co. Meath & Co. Cavan”

  1. What is the distance between Thomas Sheridan’s country house at Quilca, Co. Cavan, and Kells, then the nearest post town when Swift was staying with his schoolteacher friend? Swift had it as eight miles, but was he thinking of an Irish or an English mile?

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