CISTERCIAN ABBEY (Original Site)
C.1188 – C.1580
LOCATION – THE SQUARE, ABBEYFEALE
A Heritage Plaque identifies the entrance to the site of the original Cistercian Abbey which was founded in 1188 by Donal O’Brien, King of Limerick, King of Thomond and King of Munster. A drawing showing the ruins of the Abbey was sketched in 1655 as part of the Down Survey and shows a multi-story Tower next to the Abbey which had direct line-of-sight to the Earl of Desmond owned Purt Castle further down the River Feale.
The Abbey along with other buildings were destroyed by Sir William Pelham and his Army in March 1580 as part of the Desmond Wars 1579-1583.
Stones from the ruined Abbey were later used to build a Thatched Chapel on the same site around mid-1700’s in which a famous meeting took place in 1840 to discuss the destitute plight of 600 men, women and children in the Parish. A small section of ruins from that Chapel still exists today.
The site of the original Abbey and subsequent Chapel is today part of one of the oldest Graveyards in the region, stretching back over 800 years to when the first Monks arrived.
Research & Design by Maurice O’Connell 2017
via Visit Abbeyfeale Heritage Trail – Cistercian Abbey
THOMAS FITZGERALD – 5th Earl of Desmond
c.1386 – 1420
LOCATION – ABBEYFEALE
Thomas FitzGerald, 5th Earl of Desmond was forcibly dispossessed of all his lands and his Title in 1418, by his uncle James FitzGerald, after Thomas fell in love with and married Catherine MacCormac of Abbeyfeale, a daughter of one of Thomas’s dependents – William “The Monk of Feale” MacCormac. The marriage did not comply with the “Statutes of Kilkenny” – a series of laws which banned marriages between native English and native Irish, the fostering or adopting of Irish children by English, use of Irish names and dress by English, along with several other Acts which severely and forcibly restricted relationships between those of Norman descent and those of Gaelic descent.
Thomas and Catherine’s love for each other and subsequent marriage broke “every law in the book” and cost them their fortune. They were forced to flee to France where Thomas died two years later. He was so highly regarded that both the King of England and King of France attended his funeral in Paris.
The poet Thomas Moore wrote a love ballad entitled “Desmond’s Song” which began; By the Feal’s wave benighted, No star in the skies, To thy door by Love lighted, I first saw those eyes. Some voice whisper’d o’er me, As the threshold I cross’d, There was ruin before me, If I loved, I was lost.
Research & Design Maurice O’Connell 2017
via Abbeyfeale Heritage Trail 8 – Thomas Fitzgerald, 5th Earl of Desmond
c.1400s – c.1583
LOCATION – GREAT SOUTHERN GREENWAY, ABBEYFEALE
A Heritage Plaque identifies the site of Purt Castle on the Great Southern Greenway – a short walk from Abbeyfeale’s Old Railway Station. Originally known as “Caisleán Phort Trí Namhad” (Port Castle of The Three Enemies), and later as “Portrinard Castle”, today it is known simply as Purt Castle. It is estimated to have been built in the early-mid 1400’s by the powerful Earls of Desmond. Originally built as a round wooden fortress and later rebuilt as a stronger square stone fortress of which some of its ruins remain today.
On 16th March 1580, Sir William Pelham and his Army acting on behalf of The Queen camped at Purt Castle in their search for the Earl of Desmond. Unable to find him and locals not knowing where he was, Pelham and his Army destroyed both Purt Castle and the Old Abbey in Abbeyfeale.
Three years later and with 30,000 people dead throughout Munster, the last Earl of Desmond – Gerald FitzGerald – wrote to the Queen looking for a truce in the war. It was signed; Abbeyfeale, 15th April 1583, Garrot Desmond
The Queen did not acknowledge and Gerald was killed a few months later on 11th November 1583 between Ballymacelligott and Tralee in Co Kerry.
Research & Design Maurice O’Connell 2017
via Abbeyfeale Heritage Trail 7 – Purt Castle
St. Mary’s Church / Rev William Casey
1846 – 1968 / 1844 – 1907
LOCATION – CHURCH STREET, ABBEYFEALE
A Heritage Plaque identifies the site on Church Street of the original St Mary’s Church. Known local as “The Famine Church”, it was built largely from donations by parishioners just prior to the Great Famine. Some of the stones used came from an earlier Chapel located at the Old Abbey Site in the Square. A newer Church was built further up the town in 1968 and St Marys was eventually knocked to make way for St Mary’s Boys National School.
The same Heritage Plaque commemorates the life of Rev William Casey who first arrived in Abbeyfeale in 1869. While on horseback he rescued four young men from drowning during floods in the River Feale. He was an active member of the United Irish League in the fight for Tenants rights. He founded the Abbeyfeale Temperance Society, the Abbeyfeale Brass Band, the Abbeyfeale branch of The Land League, Fever Hospitals – during the 1883 fever epidemic, the Abbeyfeale Football Team – prior to the GAA setup of 1884, along with being very active in Limerick County Council and many other Organisations and Committees.
Rev William Casey died on 29th Dec 1907. An imposing Bronze Statue on a magnificent carved Granite Pedestal stands in the Square in his honour.
Research & Design Maurice O’Connell 2017
via Abbeyfeale Heritage Trail 6 – The Famine Church and Rev. William Casey
In folk tradition Ita’s church was associated with a ringfort located four miles south-west of Kileedy, on the northern slope of a hill called Seeconglass near Mount Collins. The ringfort was referred to as Boolaveeda or ‘Ita’s dairy; (Killanin & Duignan 1967, 389). It was said that all the milk that was used in the convent was brought everyday from the dairy to the nuns at Kileedy by the little donkey.
One day, as the poor beast was passing through the town of Tournafulla with his accustomed burden, a cruel hearted native attacked him with dogs. The donkey, flying from his pursuers, jumped across the river that flows by the townland, leaving the impress of his hoofs on a ledge of rock which is still pointed out. When St. Ita saw the donkey on his arrival, all torn and bleeding, in her anger she cursed the place where the outrage was committed (Begley 1906, 55).
There are a number of variations on this tale, in one account the saint was visiting Tournafulla and left her donkey unattended when some local boys frightened the donkey causing it to run away. Ita became very angry and when she retrieved her donkey she cursed the boys and their locality. Tournafulla/Toornafulla or Tuar na Fola in Irish , tuar means paddock, (cultivated) field, pasture Fola means blood (http://www.logainm.ie/en/1414152?s=Toornafulla)
According to Begley this tale may have very old origins as the taxation rolls of 1306, record the presence of a chapel called De Monte Maledictionis, or the ” Chapel of the Mountain of the Curse,” mentioned as belonging to the church of Killeedy. Begley recalled that in the townland of Tournafulla, the site of an old church was still pointed out in 1905, evidently the place where the above chapel was built, as there is no other locality in that part of the country having such a tradition (Begley 1906, 55).
In another story the donkey’s caused a miraculous alteration to a plant. In the story Ita was out riding her donkey when it’s leg became lame. The saint then removed a thorn from the donkey’s hoof. The thorn grew into a tree whose thorns turned downwards and were therefore innocuous (Ó hÓgáin 1991, 259).
One day she was riding on her donkey and he was lame. When she looked at his she found a thorn. She pulled it out and stuck it in the ground, and a bush grew up and all its thorns grew down (NFCS Dromcollagher, 497:051).
There is another fascinating story about St Ita and a beetle which I really want to share with you. As well as running a monastery for nuns Ita was also the foster mother to many Irish saints including St Brendan and St Mochaomhóg, who was her nephew. They along with other saints came to study at the school attached to Kileedy (Gwynn & Hadcock 1988, 392; Ó’Riain 2011, 377).
Ita followed a very strict and devote lifestyle and the ninth century Martyrology of Oengus tells that Ita engaged in sever fasting and ‘she succoured great grievous disease’.
via How Folk Tradition of St Ita and her Donkey has shaped the Placenames of West Limerick
“No person knows better than you do that the domination of England is the sole and blighting curse of this country. It is the incubus that sits on our energies, stops the pulsation of the nation’s heart and leaves to Ireland not gay vitality but horrid the convulsions of a troubled dream.” –Daniel O’Connell
In the House of Commons, Daniel O’Connell warns about the dangers of The Great Hunger. ‘It was certain that there was a fearful prospect of a most calamitous season before the people of Ireland. The extent of that calamity had been disputed, and there had been a time when there was a prospect of some portion of it being possibly averted… The calamity was pressing, was imminent—more pressing, more imminent, and more fearful than that House was aware of. In order to understand it, it was right that the House should be made aware of the state of Ireland before the calamity, had impended.’
The level of poverty in Ireland was evidenced by further comments from O’Connell, ‘The last Population Returns of 1841 showed that, out of the whole rural population of Ireland, 46 per cent lived in a single room; the entire human family and the pigs occupied the same apartment together. The next fact was, that of the civil population — that is, of the inhabitants of towns — 36 per cent lived in a single room, and that two or three families sometimes occupied the same room.’
via #OTD in 1846 – Daniel O’Connell speaks about The Great Hunger in The House of Commons.