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Cratloe-Sixmilebridge Parish

History | Churches | Graveyards | Holy Wells | Grotto | Mass Rock | Famous People | Townlands | Priests of the Parish

Brief Parish History & Geographical Location

The village of Cratloe is situated just off the N 18, the road from Limerick to Galway. Although the parish of Cratloe is in the Diocese of Limerick, it is actually in the neighbouring county of Clare. Cratloe Hills divide the dioceses of Limerick and Killaloe. Sixmilebridge is located on the R 462 between Cratloe and Tulla. The population of the parish is approximately 2,000.

The Irish for Cratloe is Creat Shaileóg, which means 'the rough land of the sallow trees'. However, the original name is sometimes given as Croit Shliabh, which means a 'humped back mountain'.

The original parish name was Kilfintinan before it became known as Cratloe. There is no Irish saint listed as Fintinan and so it is believed that the parish name is derived from Cill Fionn tSeanain, which means 'the church of the fair Senan'. Due to the shortage of clergy in the mid-18th century, the priests in Kilfintinan took over part of the neighbouring parish of Killeely.

Oak from Cratloe Woods was used to roof the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and the Royal Palace at Amsterdam.

In the parish there is a number of castles, namely Cratloe Moyle, Cratloe More, Ballintlea (also known as Castle Quarter), Castle Donnell and Cratloe Keel. The MacNamara family built these castles between the 15th and 17th centuries. Cratloe Moyle has the largest ruin, but the ruins of Cratloekeel, Castle Donnell and Ballintlea castle are still in existence.

Bunratty Castle is a 15th Century castle which was a stronghold of the Earls of Thomond.

Limerick was under the rule of the Confederate troops at this time. The castle was under the control of Admiral Penn, father of the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn. Admiral Penn surrendered after a long and bloody siege and sailed away to Kinsale. Bunratty Castle is now a popular tourist attraction and there is also a Folk Park on the site.

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Cratloe Church is one of three remaining barn churches in the country. The church is dedicated to St John. Near the door of the church in the main aisle in Cratloe Church there is an inscription "VIMFC 1791" which commemorates the date of the building of the church. This church was originally built in 1791 by Fr James Ward P.P.

Fr Ward was responsible for building the chancel and nave of the church. In 1806 further work was carried on the church when Fr Jeremiah Cronin built the transepts of the church. In the right transept of the church there is a medieval doorway. The doorway is believed to come from either Craughaun Church or Kilfintinan Church.

The church was re-roofed in the 1950s and the original slates were put back on the roof. Fr Micheál Liston carried out recently more work on the church in 1990.

St John's Church is a very popular church for weddings. In fact, the door in the left transept is popularly called the bridal door as the bride enters the church by this door.

There is also a plaque to the poet Donnachadh Ruadh Mac Conmara on the back wall of the church.

Daniel O'Connell made a speech in 1828 outside Cratloe Church.

In the left transept there is a plaque to Fr Henry O'Farrell who was the parish priest from 1864 until 1886. Fr O'Farrell was a priest who worked hard for the poor and the sick. As the church is small, the altar appears quite large in the church. To the left of the altar there is a statue of Mary and to the right there is a statue of St Joseph and the Child Jesus. There is a shrine to St Theresa on the right hand side of the nave. There are three galleries in the church.

Buried in the grounds of the church are:

James O'Shea
Parish Priest 1909-1913
Died December 16 1913

William P. McNamara
Died January 21 1922

John Joseph Lane
Parish Priest 1933-1938
Died July 3 1938

Fr John Bourke built the little church in Sixmilebridge in 1857/8. This church is unique in the Diocese of Limerick because it does not have a patron saint. It was renovated in the 1970s. Fr Ronald Costello P.P also renovated the church in 1986. According to a plaque inside the door of the church, Bishop Jeremiah Newman rededicated the church in December 1986.

At this time, 12 new stained glass windows were installed in the church, which were donated by various people. As you enter the church porch, there is a stained glass window that depicts the parable of the farmer sowing seed on the land. Anne Hogan (nee Quinn) donated this window in memory of her father and mother, Thomas and Margaret Quinn of Ballintlea.

There are two stained glass windows over the door at the back of the church, which depict Our Lady of Fatima. Bishop Newman and Fr Costello P.P donated this window.

The front of the altar bears an impressive carving depicting Jesus falling with the Cross on the way to Calvary. In front of the altar on the left there is a plaque to Fr James O'Shea who is buried in the grounds of Cratloe Church. On the right of the altar there is a plaque to FitzJames-Kelly.

Behind the altar on the left there is a statue to the Mother and Child and on the right there is a statue to the Sacred Heart. There is also a decorative reredos behind the altar. A new set of Stations of the Cross was erected in the church during the renovations. The church was re-roofed in August 1988.

The church in Sixmilebridge was not always a chapel of ease. A chalice in the church was stolen by British soldiers but it was later recovered. Since then, the Blessed Sacrament has not been kept in this church and so to this day, it is a chapel of ease.

Prior to the building of the present church in Sixmilebridge, there was a thatched church on the same site, which was built in 1779.

There are church ruins at Craughaun, which was called 'the church of the little hall' in Brickhill. The church was a single cell church and was rectangular in shape. Craughaun Church was the parish church by 1418. Only one wall remains of the church and that is now partly covered by ivy.

Prior to the building of the parish church in Craughaun, the parish church was St Thomas's chapel and it was located on the mountain at Ballybroughan, near Cratloe. This chapel may have actually been the church in Kilfintinan.

St Fintinan had a church dedicated to him in Ballybroughan. This church was in the old parish of Kilfintinan but no trace remains of it today. It is possible that the ruins of the church were incorporated into the wall of the Kilfintinan graveyard.

St John's chapel was situated next to Cratloe Moyle castle. This chapel was not a parish church but it was an oratory. The chapel building still stands but is now covered over by briars and trees and from a distance, all that can be seen is a clump of trees.

According to James Frost's "The History and Topography of the County of Clare" from 1893 there was the ruin of a Friary that was removed by Augustus Stafford O'Brien MP around 1860 or so. O'Brien's reason for removing the ruin was that it was interfering with his view from his windows in Cratloe Hall. It is not know which order of friars lived in the Friary.

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In the graveyard in Craughaun, there was a wedge tomb called the Ballinphunta dolmen. Due to the extension of the graveyard, the tomb was excavated in 1990 by a group led by Brian Hodkinson. However, they only found pieces of modern pottery. FÁS workers erected a replica of this tomb in the new section of the graveyard.

There is a vault to the Blood family in the graveyard dating from 1738. Robert Maghlin was buried in the vault in this year. The ruins of the old church are also in the graveyard. Fr Frost was buried in the church in 1768. Inside the church there is a tomb to the Carmody family that is dated 1739. This tomb was reconstructed in 1843.

Before the 15th century, the MacNamara clan was buried here. According to James Frost's "History & Topographical of the County of Clare", there was a headstone dated 1705 to the memory of Joannes Orent. We found no trace of this headstone.

Killeen graveyard is just outside the village of Sixmilebridge on the road to Cratloe. This graveyard is also known as Killavoher. The oldest headstone that we found was from the 1920s but on further investigation, we uncovered a number of older flagstones in the ground between the more recent graves. These flagstones were weather beaten and quite difficult to read. Several were almost completely overgrown. The oldest flagstone we came across was in memory of John McNamara who died on July 3rd 1729/89 at the age of 38.

Kilfintinan graveyard is a small graveyard situated on the roadside on the way to Gallows Hill. The graveyard is kept in good condition. The graveyard was also the burial place of children and strangers

There were a number of other graveyards that we came across in our research. Kilcredaunnadober, in the townland of Cratloe Mór, was a burial place for unbaptised children.

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Holy Wells

In the parish of Cratloe there is a Holy Well called St John the Baptist's well. This well is about ¼ of a mile from the ruin of Cratloe Moyle castle. Traditionally at the well, rounds consist of 5 rounds of the well while saying the rosary. The last round of the well is to be completed while on your bare knees. Various offerings were left at the well.

The well is rarely visited nowadays and it is believed that the curative powers of the well are lost. According to local tradition, the owner, a Mr Frost wanted to improve the well. He got workmen to drain the well while working on it. The water in the well never really came back.

When we visited the well, the water level was very low and there was no sign of any offerings left at the well. The well is accessible from the STS factory. There is a story about a man who cut down one of the trees at the well. He took the timber to a mill in Limerick to cut it and he got caught in the machinery and died.

There is also the story about the landowner who wanted to stop people walking on his land. He tried to empty the well so people would stop visiting it. He failed and spent the rest of his life being thirsty. The owner's name is unknown.

There is another well in the townland of Carrowmore called St Michael's well. The well is named after the Archangel Michael. The well lies in a rock and the water was believed to cure sore or weak eyes and warts. If you were looking for a cure, the water was rubbed to the affected area on three occasions and no water was taken away. Devotions ceased at the well in the 1940s. We found no evidence of this well in the parish.

There is also believed to have been a Holy Well at Heathmount. It is remembered locally as having been situated behind Coughlan's old house and near Kilfintinane Church.

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The grotto in Cratloe was opened in 1932. It was built on the initiative of Fr John Wallace, P.P. Construction began in May 1932. A site of six acres was cleared and a stone wall built around the site. Today, the Crucifixion scene, which towers above the grotto, can be clearly seen from the parish church, at the foot of the hill.

The grotto was designed as a replica of the grotto at Lourdes. Despite difficulties with the rock, (the roof was built using reinforced concrete) the cave was constructed. On top of this cave there is a snow-white Calvary scene. The view from the top of the Grotto is very impressive and you can see the Shannon Estuary and the surrounding countryside in the distance.

Due to the height of the cave (100 feet above the road), a number of terraces were built. Along these seven terraces, there are statues of the Sacred Heart, St Joseph, St Patrick, St Brigid and St Michael the Archangel.

The sculptor of the statue of Our Lady was Mr Bernardi of Cork. This statue was placed in the right-hand side of the cave. The people of the parish did the work voluntarily at the Grotto. They would arrange the work according to townlands and each townland worked at the grotto for one day a week.

In the cave there is an altar that was once the property of Sir Vincent Nash of Limerick. There is an angel on either side of the altar. Around the cave, there are a number of cypress trees. In 1948, Dr. O'Neill, Bishop of Limerick, solemnly consecrated the Grotto. In 1955, the Stations of the Cross were donated by Fr Wallace.

When Fr John Halpin became parish priest in 1957, he set about cleaning up the Grotto with the help of his parishioners. The grotto was renovated again in 1995 and in 1997, a plaque was unveiled at the Grotto.

During July 2000, the area leading up to and around the grotto was cleaned up. The railings, entrance gate and statues were painted. This was in preparation for the Jubilee Celebration of the Eucharist on 15th August 2000, the Feast of the Assumption.

Over 650 people from Cratloe and the surrounding parishes attended the open air Mass. Some of the older people present were heard to say that it was the largest crowd at the grotto since Fr Halpin's time.

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Mass Rock

There was a mass rock in the townland of Brickhill West and the site is claimed to be located behind the remains of a house in the briars. However we did not find this mass rock on our visit to the parish.

There was another mass rock in Heathmount near the Holy Well in the same townland.

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Famous People

In the world famous "Guinness Book of Records", there are two records credited to Cratloe man, Mick Quain. Mick was a referee for the GAA for 50 years without a break. The first match that he refereed was between O'Callaghans Mills and Tulla when the original referee was involved in an accident and could not officiate. This was in 1944.

His second mention in the record books was that at the age of 80, Mick refereed 13 matches. The record-breaking match was between Ahascragh and Tuam. The commentator Mícheál O'Mhuirtcherataigh was at the match and later wrote that Mick could move faster backwards than some of the players could move going forwards!

In total Mick Quain refereed around 5,500 games during his 50 years as a referee.

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English Name Irish Name Meaning
Ballinphunta Baile an Púnta The town of pound
Ballintlea North Baile an t-Sléibe The townland on the mountain side
Ballintlea South as above  
Ballybroughan Baile Brughachán The land on the face of the hill
Ballyliddan East Baile Uí Liodáin The town of Liddanes
Ballyliddan West as above  
Ballyvoughallan Baile an Bhuachallain O’Rohallan’s town
Ballymorris Baile Mhuirgheasa The town of Morris
Brickhill East Cnoc na bríce The hill of the Badgers
Brickhill West as above  
Bunnabinna North Both na Binne The milk place on the mountain
Bunnabinna South as above  
Calluragh   Burial ground
Carrowmore An Cheathrú Mhór The big quarter of land
Carrownerribul   The tail of the quarter
Castlequarter Ceathrú an Chaisleáin The quarterland of the castle
Cratloe Creath Saileág The rough place where the sallies grow
Cratloe Keel as above A narrow strip
Cratloe Moyle as above The portion on the hill
Gallowshill Cnoc na Croice The hill of the gallows
Garryncurra Garadha an Corraig The garden in the soft swamp
Gortnanool Gort na n-Abhall The orchard
Island An Oileán The island
Knockroe An Cnoc Rua The red hill
Laghile Leamchoill Elm wood
Moyhill Maethail The marshy land
Portdrine Port Droighean The bank of the blackthorns


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List of Priests

Year Parish Priest Curate(s)
1704 - 1719 Simon Shinnors  
1719 - 1722 Bartholomew MacNamara  
1722 - 1734 Richard Keating  
1734 - 1790 John Herbet  
1790 - 1802 James Ward  
1802 - 1807 Jeremiah Cronin  
1807 - 1817 William Cronin  
1817 - 1825 James Ryan  
1825 - 1832 David Fitzgerald  
1832 – 1837 Michael Malone  
1837 Michael Malone C. O’Donohoe
1838 Michael Malone C. O'Donoghoe
1839 Michael Malone Solomon Frost
1840 Michael Malone Solomon Frost
1841 Michael Malone Patrick Reeves
1842 Michael Malone Patrick Reeves
1843 Michael Malone Patrick Reeves
1844 Michael Malone Patrick Reeves
1845 John Bourke  
1846 John Bourke James Stoakes
1847 John Bourke John Clarke
1848 John Bourke Joseph Darrac
1849 John Bourke James Halpin
1850 John Bourke  
1851 John Bourke  
1852 John Bourke  
1853 John Bourke  
1854 John Bourke  
1855 John Bourke  
1856 John Bourke M. Conway
1857 John Bourke Patrick Duhigg
1858 John Bourke William Toumy
1859 John Bourke William Toumy
1860 John Bourke William Toumy
1861 John Bourke William Toumy
1862 John Bourke Denis Madigan
1863 John Bourke Denis Madigan
1864 John Bourke Denis Madigan
1865 Henry O’Farrell Denis Madigan
1866 Henry O’Farrell Thomas Nealon
1867 Henry O’Farrell Thomas Head
1868 Henry O'Farrell T. Cantwell
1869 Henry O’Farrell J. Wallace
1870 Henry O’Farrell William Carroll
1871 Henry O’Farrell John Mulcahy
1872 Henry O’Farrell John Mulcahy
1873 Henry O’Farrell John Sheahan
1874 Henry O’Farrell Patrick Condon
1875 Henry O’Farrell Daniel Crotty
1876 Henry O’Farrell Daniel Crotty
1877 Henry O’Farrell Daniel Crotty
1878 Henry O’Farrell Daniel Crotty
1879 Henry O’Farrell Michael Mulcahy
1880 Henry O’Farrell Laurence Curtin
1881 Henry O’Farrell John Ryan
1882 Henry O'Farrell Timothy Curtin
1883 Henry O’Farrell J. Burke (Adm.)
1884 Henry O’Farrell J. Burke (Adm.)
1885 Henry O’Farrell J. Burke (Adm.)
1886 Henry O’Farrell J. Burke (Adm.)
1887 Henry O’Farrell T. Graham (Adm.)
1888 Henry O’Farrell T. Graham (Adm.)
1889 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1890 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1891 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1892 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1893 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1894 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1895 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1896 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1897 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1898 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1899 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1900 Thomas Graham Maurice Leahy
1901 Lawrence Curtin Maurice Leahy
1902 Lawrence Curtin Maurice Leahy
1903 Lawrence Curtin Maurice Leahy
1904 Lawrence Curtin Maurice Leahy
1905 Lawrence Curtin Maurice Leahy
1906 Lawrence Curtin  
1907 Lawrence Curtin  
1908 Lawrence Curtin  
1909 Lawrence Curtin James Carroll
1910 James O’Shea James Carroll
1911 James O’Shea James Carroll
1912 James O’Shea James Carroll
1913 James O’Shea James Carroll
1914 James O’Shea James Carroll
1915 John Reeves Edward Punch
1916 John Reeves Edward Punch
1917 George Culhane Edward Punch
1918 George Culhane John J. Lane
1919 George Culhane James Madden
1920 George Culhane James Madden
1921 George Culhane  
1922 George Culhane Daniel O’Callaghan
1923 George Culhane Daniel O’Callaghan
1924 Charles McCarthy Daniel O’Callaghan
1925 Charles McCarthy  
1926 Charles McCarthy  
1927 John Wallace  
1928 John Wallace  
1929 John Wallace  
1930 John Wallace  
1931 John Wallace  
1932 John Wallace  
1933 John Wallace  
1934 Joseph Lane  
1935 Joseph Lane  
1936 Joseph Lane  
1937 Joseph Lane  
1938 Joseph Lane  
1939 Cornelius O’Sullivan  
1940 Cornelius O’Sullivan  
1941 Cornelius O’Sullivan  
1942 Cornelius O’Sullivan  
1943 Cornelius O’Sullivan  
1944 Cornelius O’Sullivan  
1945 Michael Quinlan  
1946 Michael Quinlan  
1947 Michael Quinlan  
1948 Michael Quinlan  
1949 Michael Quinlan  
1950 Michael Quinlan  
1951 Michael Quinlan  
1952 Michael Quinlan  
1953 Michael Quinlan  
1954 Michael Quinlan  
1955 Michael Quinlan  
1956 Michael Quinlan  
1957 Michael Quinlan  
1958 John Halpin  
1959 John Halpin  
1960 John Halpin  
1961 John Halpin  
1962 John Halpin  
1963 John Halpin  
1964 John Halpin  
1965 John Halpin  
1966 Joseph Moran  
1967 Joseph Moran  
1968 Joseph Moran  
1969 Joseph Moran  
1970 Joseph Moran  
1971 Joseph Moran  
1972 Joseph Moran  
1973 Joseph Moran  
1974 Joseph Moran  
1975 Joseph Moran  
1976 Joseph Moran  
1977 Michael O’Connor  
1978 Michael O’Connor  
1979 Michael O’Connor  
1980 Michael O’Connor  
1981 Michael O’Connor  
1982 Michael O’Connor  
1983 Michael O’Connor  
1984 Michael O’Connor  
1985 Michael O’Connor  
1986 Ronald Costello  
1987 Ronald Costello  
1988 Ronald Costello  
1989 Ronald Costello  
1990 Michéal Liston  
1991 Michéal Liston  
1992 Michéal Liston  
1993 Michéal Liston  
1994 Michéal Liston  
1995 Michéal Liston  
1996 Michéal Liston  
1997 Michéal Liston  
1998 Liam Enright  
1999 Liam Enright  
2000 Liam Enright  
2001 Liam Enright Austin MacNamara (w/e asst.)*
    Michael Culhane (w/e asst.)*
2002 Liam Enright Austin MacNamara (w/e asst.)*
    Michael Culhane (w/e asst.)*
2003 Liam Enright Austin MacNamara (w/e asst.)*
2004 Liam Enright Austin MacNamara (w/e asst.)*
2005 Liam Enright  
2006 Liam Enright  
2007 Liam Enright  

*w/e asst. = weekend assistant

The list of Priests from 1704 to 1836 is compiled from information gained in Begley's History of the Diocese of Limerick Vol. III page 598. The remaining years are compiled from the Catholic Directories. Information contained in a directory of any given year refers to what happened the previous year. For example if a priest is recorded in the 1954 directory as being in a particular parish, this would mean that he was actually there in 1953.

History | Churches | Graveyards | Holy Wells | Grotto | Mass Rock | Famous People | Townlands | Priests of the Parish

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