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Donaghmore-Knockea Parish

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

Brief Parish History & Geographical Location

The parish of Donaghmore/Knockea is made up of the old parishes of Cahernarry (today spelt as Cahernorry), Donaghmore and Caheravahally (or Cahervallagh). The ancient parish of Caheravallagh roughly equates to the Knockea end of the parish according to Thomas Toomey, local historian. There is a townland of Cahervallagh in the parish of Mungret and Crecora, bounding on the townland of Fanningstown in the parish of Donaghmore. Part of the ancient parish of St Nicholas is also in the present day parish. Prior to 1961, the church of Our Lady Queen of Peace was a chapel of ease to Donaghmore. Our Lady Queen of Peace became a separate parish in 1961. The population of the parish is approximately 4,000 people.

Some books spell 'Donaghmore' as 'Donoughmore'. Legend has it that St Patrick founded the church in Donaghmore, which can be translated as Domhnach Mór, meaning 'large church'. The Irish word Domhnach is used to signify that St Patrick built the church. Prior to the visit of Patrick, the area was known as Ard-Chliach. The name Knockea is derived from Cnoc Cae or Cnoc Aodha, which means the hill of Cae.

The hill of Knockea was where Lómán, the King of Uí Fidhgeinte met St Patrick. Lómán ordered a feast to be prepared for Patrick, and Mantán, a deacon in Patrick's group, assisted in preparing the feast. A company of jugglers arrived and asked Patrick for food. Patrick sent them to ask Lómán or Mantán for food but both men refused the jugglers.

Just then a youth named Neassán appeared carrying a cooked ram on his back for the feast. His mother accompanied him. Patrick asked Neassán for the ram and Neassán gave it to Patrick against his mother's wishes. Patrick then gave the ram to the jugglers and instantly the ground opened and swallowed them. Patrick cursed Lómán and Mantán and baptized Neassán, making him a deacon and founded a church for him in Mungret.

It is said that Patrick fasted and prayed for forty days and nights on Knockea hill and that the impression of his knees and thighs are on the rock where he knelt. Patrick then went onto Donaghmore where he baptized the people and built a church. Some of the tribes of the area came to Patrick and he baptized them and blessed their lands to the north from the hill of Finne, which was north-west of Donaghmore.

Knockea hill was excavated by archaeologists in 1960 under the leadership of Professor M. J. O'Kelly. They uncovered ringforts, houses and a burial place that was believed to date from pre-Christian times.

There is a story, related to Cahernorry Hill, about Fionn and the Fianna and their adventure in a strange underworld. They were lost in dense fog when they stumbled across a house. In the house, they found Cuanna, the fairy chief, a grey haired twelve-eyed man, a beautiful young woman, and an old woman with a cloak and a ram. A meal was prepared for them and the ram complained that portions of the food were unfair. The ram ate Fionn's portion and each of the Fianna tried to tie the ram to the wall but was unable to. However, the old man captured the ram without any problem and threw him out of the house.

The old woman threw her cloak over the men from the Fianna and turned them into old men. When the cloak was removed they returned to their normal forms. Cuanna explained to Fionn that the ram signified humanity, the old man represented the world, the old woman represented old age and the young woman could travel faster in a second than a person could in forty years. Cuanna then told Fionn not to worry about this too much.

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St Patrick's church in Donaghmore was built in 1820 at a cost of £600. The church had a thatched roof when it was first built. Fr Michael McCarthy had the church extensively renovated in 1904.

The statue on the left-hand side of the church is to Mary. To the right of the nave there is a plaque to Daniel Clancy from Rathurd who was a benefactor of the church. Mr Clancy died on March 11th 1947.

There is also a stained glass window behind the altar, but neither this nor the other stained glass window carries any details as to the donors of each. In the right transept, there is a statue to St Joseph.

Buried in the grounds of the church are:

Michael Kennedy
Parish Priest 1978-1983
Died January 9 1983

Michael McCarthy
Parish Priest 1901-1919
Died February 22 1919

Charles McCarthy
Parish Priest 1927-1933
Died May 31 1933

There is also a plaque to Fr Joe Clancy S.M.A., who died on October 20 1945, aged 27. He was buried in Nigeria.

Knockea church is in the townland of Drombanna and was built in 1822 while Fr James McNamara was parish priest. It is also dedicated to St Patrick. Fr Tom Kirby P.P renovated it in the 1960s.
Inside the church there are two small shrines, one to St Patrick on the left and the other to the Immaculate Conception on the right. There is also a statue of Mary on the right of the main altar and one of the Sacred Heart on the left. There is a Crucifix in front of the church in Knockea to the memory of Archbishop Dermot O'Hurley.

Buried in the grounds of the church is:

Timothy Halpin
Parish Priest 1879-1900
Died May 14 1900

Bawnmore Church is in the grounds of the Brothers of Charity school for the Mentally Handicapped. The foundation stone for the church was laid by Bishop Jeremiah Newman on November 16 1982. The church was opened in 1983 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Brothers of Charity.
The church is of a modern design.

Inside the church there are four stained glass windows. The altar is circular in shape and a carving of the Last Supper is depicted on the front of the altar. The Tabernacle is free standing and is positioned to the right of the altar. Outside the church there is a grotto to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Friarstown Abbey is situated in a field through which the boundary of the parishes of Donaghmore/Knockea and Fedamore runs. The abbey is situated in the Knockea side of the parish. Clochnamanach abbey was repaired in 1932 and extensive ruins of the abbey remain. Clochnamanach is translated as Cloch na Manach, which means the stone of the Monks.

The original foundation dates from 13th century and the Clan-Gibbons family erected it for the Franciscan Third Order Regular. They were lay brothers and arrived in Friarstown around 1450. However, there is no real documentary proof as to how long the monks stayed in the abbey but it is believed that the abbey was vacant by 1550.

Mass was celebrated at the abbey by Bishop Donal Murray, with concelebrants Fr Oliver Plunkett and Fr Michael Cussen, on May 17th 2000.

Before the present church in Knockea, there was a church on Knockea hill, which was built around 1780. Westropp includes a place called Kilpatrick which is 'on the east border of Donaghmore and distinct from Rathurd and Ardpatrick'. Where this church (if it was a church because Westropp does not specify) was situated is unknown.

Lenihan's "History of Limerick" mentions an old church in Caherivahala. "The Rich Land" by Spellissy & O'Brien, mentions a church in Cahervally, of which only ruins remained in the 1840s. These churches may be one and the same church.

Westropp, in his "Survey of the Ancient Churches in the County of Limerick" says that the church in Cahervally was dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle in 1410. The saint's feastday is on December 21st.

The old church in Cahervally is in Raheen graveyard, in the townland of Raheen. This was the church of St Thomas. Westropp measured it as 60 feet by 21 ½ feet. The walls were 9 feet high and 2 feet 9 inches thick. This was where the monks in Friarstown attended Mass.

Begley measured the church ruin in Donaghmore as 39 ½ feet by 26 feet and the walls as about 11 feet high. According to local tradition, St Patrick founded a church on this site during a visit to the area.

All that remains of the church ruin in Cahernorry is the belfry tower that was part of the church. The church was dedicated to St Nicholas in 1410. In the 18th century, mass was said in a timber church on the site. The church was rebuilt by the Church of Ireland in 1809 and was dismantled and rebuilt in Ballyneety in 1862.

In the belfry tower, there is now a statue to Mary. There is also a plaque that states that the Restoration was carried out in 1993 and that the plaque is to the late Paddy Wade from the volunteer workers.

Rathuaird (now spelt as Rathurd) was an ancient parish that was divided up between the parishes of St Nicholas and Donaghmore. There was a church here and there was also a church in Kilprichane, which was near Rathuaird South. According to "An Antique and Storied Land" by Thomas Toomey and Harry Greensmyth, the ruins of the church were to be seen on the lands of Tom Hickey.

Kyltaroge, which is also mentioned by Westropp, is near Lickadoon. However, he does not specify whether this is a church or a burial ground. Westropp also mentions Maynchro church, which was named with Mungret and Rathurd in 1239.

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Mount St Oliver graveyard is in the parish under the care of Limerick Corporation. This new graveyard was opened due to a lack of space in the city graveyard in Mount St Lawrence. The graveyard, which is multi-denominational, was opened on April 7th 1978 by Bishop Jeremiah Newman and Bishop Edwin Owen.

Donaghmore graveyard is in the grounds of the church ruin. Lewis mentions that in the graveyard in Donaghmore there were tombs to the Roche, Kelly, Connell and Fitzgerald families. There are a number of tombs in the graveyard but the inscriptions are illegible due to the passage of time. The graveyard is very well maintained by members of a FÁS scheme.

There is a tomb inside the church ruin. The oldest headstone that we found, was in memory of Mary Meehan who died on June 4th 1744, aged 4. Fr Thomas Graham, Parish Priest from 1919 to 1926, is buried in the grounds of Donaghmore graveyard.

In Cahernorry graveyard there are a number of large monuments. Three medium sized tombs were to the Shine family, the Russell family and the Vereker family. Towering over the graveyard is a huge monument to John Howley that was erected by himself prior to his death. There is a stone plaque dated 1820 on the wall of the graveyard at the roadside. Part of the inscription on it reads "When name and frame whence came are all forgot, Who raised this obelisk peace be his lot." The Howley name also appears on the plaque. According to local historian, Thomas Toomey, the stone on the wall of the graveyard was the plinthstone from the obelisk that stood on the summit of Cahernorry hill.

The graveyard is in excellent condition and a local committee maintains it. The oldest headstone that we found was in memory of Bridget Quinn, who died on May 17th 1778, aged 16.

Raheen graveyard, in the townland of the same name, is also referred to as Cahervally graveyard. The graveyard is in extremely good condition and there are two large tombs to the Hunt family of Ballysinode.

The oldest headstone that we came across was to James Minihan who died on August 10th 1774, aged 24. However, according to "An Antique and Storied Land" the oldest headstone in Raheen graveyard is in memory of Patrick Purcell, who died on March 17th 1757, aged 70.

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Holy Wells
St Patrick's well is in the townland of Rathurd on the lands of Seamus Ryan. The well is about 200-300 yards south-west from the parochial house. The well has a stone surround. In 1955 Danaher wrote that the well contained clear water but on our visit, the well had dried up. The well was also called the Blessed well. There are no devotions nowadays at the well but locals visited the well on St Patrick's day.

In the old parish of Caheravally, in the townland of Lickadoon, there is a Holy Well called Toberstroke. This well is on the lands of Patrick & Margaret Holmes. The well is surrounded by an ash tree and a whitethorn. A rough stone wall enclosed the well. The water was believed to cure sore eyes and an ailment called 'the stroke'. Rounds were usually made on Saturdays. Rags and medals were left at the whitethorn bush. A legend about the well is that the well moved when clothes were washed in it.
We would like to thank Patrick & Margaret Holmes for the photograph of Toberstroke.

There is a Holy Well in the townland of Cahernorry Kane called St Senan's well. It was a place of pilgrimage in 1840 and was a strong clear spring. The water is now used for domestic use but the location of the well is unknown. According to local tradition, the well moved after a Williamite soldier's wife washed clothes in the well in 1690.

There was also a Holy Well in Monaclione called St Nicholas' Well but it is now covered in. It was in the old parish of St Nicholas according to Danaher. A slab was at the well with the inscription "St Nicholas, pray for us". Rounds were made on a Sunday usually.

Thomas Toomey, local historian, informed us that there was also a blessed well in the townland of Ballynagarde, and that visitation to this well was continued until relatively recent years.


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Mass Rock

According to "An Antique and Storied Land" by Toomey and Greensmyth, there was a mass rock in the townland of Carrigmartin from penal times. This rock was called the Cats Cradle and was allegedly the breeding place for wild cats, hence the name.

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Famous People
In 1519, Dermot O'Hurley was born at Lickadoon Castle, although it is sometimes argued that he was actually born in Emly, and reared in Lickadoon. He studied in Louvain, France and became a Professor in Philosophy in the college in Pedegogium Lilii. He later studied law and became Professor of Law for four years in Rheims.

Around 1570, O'Hurley left for Rome and it was during this time that he studied for the priesthood. In 1581 Pope Gregory XIII appointed him as Archbishop of Cashel. Due to illness O'Hurley did not return to Ireland until August 1583 when he arrived in Skerries. O'Hurley tried to keep his entry into the country secret from the English spies. The lord justices were altered to his arrival and they wanted to arrest O'Hurley as soon as possible.

After a short time in Meath, O'Hurley travelled to Carrick-on-Suir but, during his time there, the Baron of Slane travelled to meet him. The Baron was under pressure from the lord justices to arrest the Archbishop. When O'Hurley met the Baron of Slane, he agreed to go to Dublin, where he was interrogated in March 1584. After the first interrogation, O'Hurley had told the authorities nothing. They decided to torture him by roasting his feet in metal boots filled with oil. He was charged with treason but denied the charge. Archbishop O'Hurley was then condemned to death and hanged in Dublin on June 21st 1584.

In 1984, the then parish priest Fr Denis Browne unveiled a plaque in front of the church in Knockea to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Dr. Dermot O'Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel.


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English Name Irish Name Meaning
Ballynagarde Baile na gCeard The town of the craftsmen
Ballybrennan Baile Uí Bhraonáin The town of Ó Braonáin
Ballyneety Baile an Fhaoitigh The town of An Faoiteach
Ballyogartha Baile Ó gCáirthinn The town of Uí Cháirthinn
Ballysheedy East Baile Shíodha The town of Síoda
Ballysheedy West as above  
Banemore An Bán Mór The big tract of lea-ground
Bohereen An Bóithrín The little road
Boherload Bóthar an Lóid The road of the load
Cahernarry (Cripps) Carn Fhearaígh The cairn of Fearaíoch
Cahernarry (Keane) as above  
Carrigmartin Carraig Mháirtín The rock of Máirtín
Coolreagh An Chúil Riabhach The streaked corner
Crabbsland Fearann na Manach The land of the monks
Crossagalla Na Crosa Geala The bright crosses
Drombanny Drom Bainne Ridge of the milk
Edwardstown Lios Mothláin Beag The enclosure of Mothláin
Flankerhouse Gort na Móinbhíolach The field of Na Móinbhíolaigh
Friarstown Baile na mBráthar The town of the friars
Glen An Gleann The glen
Inchmore An Inse Mhór The big wet meadow
Knockbrien Cnoc Bhriain The hill of Brian
Knockea Cnoc Aodha Cae’s hill
Lickadoon Leic an Dúin The flagstone of the fort
Loughanstown Baile an Locháin The town of the lake
Monaclione Móin an Chlaí Nua The bogland of the new earthen fence
Oatlands Fearann an Choirce  
Parkatotaun Páirc an Tóiteáin The field of the conflagration
Parkroe An Pháirc Rua The red field
Raheen An Ráithín The small rath
Rathurd Ráth Shiuird The rath of Siurd
Routagh Ruaiteach Red bog
Roxborough Baile an Róistigh The town of An Róisteach
Scart An Scairt The thicket
Toberyquin Tobar Uí Chuinn The well of Ó Cuinn
Williamstown Baile Liam The town of Liam


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List of Priests

Year Parish Priest Curate(s)
1704 - 1711 William Fleming  
1711 - 1747 James White  
1747 - 1773 Constantine O’Donnell  
1773 - 1814 Thomas Fitzgerald  
1814 - 1829 James McNamara  
1829 - 1836 Michael Tuohy  
1836 – 1837 James O’Regan  
1837 James O’Regan Tim Shanahan
1838 Robert Bourke Tim Shanahan#
1839 Robert Bourke Denis Madigan#
1840 William (Robert) Bourke (Adm.) Denis Madigan* #
1841 William Bourke (Adm.) Denis Madigan#
1842 William Bourke (Adm.) Denis Madigan
1843 William Bourke (Adm.) Denis Madigan
1844 William Bourke (Adm.) Denis Madigan
1845 William Bourke (Adm.) Denis Madigan
1846 William Bourke (Adm.) Denis Madigan
1847 William Bourke (Adm.) Richard Cooke
1848 William Bourke (Adm.) Richard Cooke
1849 William Bourke (Adm.) Richard Cooke
1850 James Raleigh Ed. O’Donohoe
1851 James Raleigh Patrick Keynon
1852 James Raleigh Patrick Keynon
1853 James Raleigh James Moore
1854 James Raleigh James Moore
1855 James Raleigh James Moore
1856 James Raleigh James Moore
1857 James Raleigh James Moore
1858 James Raleigh James Moore
1859 James Raleigh Tim Shanahan
1860 James Raleigh Thomas Browne
1861 James Hickey  
1862 James Hickey Tom Nolan
1863 James Hickey Tom Nolan
1864 Richard Cooke Stephen Hayes
1865 William Molony Stephen Hayes
1866 William Molony John Reeves
1867 William Molony John Reeves
1868 William Molony John Reeves
1869 William Molony John Reeves
1870 William Molony John Reeves
1871 William Molony John Reeves
1872 William Molony William Carroll
1873 William Molony William Carroll
    Daniel Daly
1874 William Molony James Molony
    Daniel Daly
1875 William Molony James Molony
    Daniel Daly
1876 William Molony James Molony
    Daniel Daly
1877 William Molony James Molony
1878 William Molony Michael Donor
1879 Timothy Halpin M. McCoy
1880 Timothy Halpin M. McCoy
1881 Timothy Halpin M. McCoy
1882 Timothy Halpin Thomas Madden
1883 Timothy Halpin Thomas Madden
1884 Timothy Halpin Thomas Madden
1885 Timothy Halpin Thomas Madden
1886 Timothy Halpin Thomas Madden
1887 Timothy Halpin  
1888 Timothy Halpin John Tierney
1889 Timothy Halpin Daniel Crotty
1890 Timothy Halpin  
1891 Timothy Halpin Daniel Crotty
1892 Timothy Halpin Daniel Crotty
1893 Timothy Halpin Jeremiah O’Gorman
1894 Timothy Halpin Jeremiah O’Gorman
1895 Timothy Halpin Jeremiah O’Gorman
1896 Timothy Halpin Jeremiah O’Gorman
1897 Timothy Halpin Patrick Kenrick
1898 Timothy Halpin Patrick Kenrick
1899 Timothy Halpin Patrick Kenrick
1900 Timothy Halpin Patrick Kenrick
1901 Michael McCarthy John Rea
1902 Michael McCarthy John Rea
1903 Michael McCarthy Daniel Crotty
1904 Michael McCarthy Daniel Crotty
1905 Michael McCarthy Daniel Crotty
1906 Michael McCarthy Daniel Crotty
1907 Michael McCarthy Daniel Crotty
1908 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1909 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1910 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1911 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1912 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1913 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1914 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1915 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1916 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1917 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1918 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1919 Michael McCarthy Daniel Bresnahan
1920 Thomas Graham Daniel Bresnahan
1921 Thomas Graham John J. Lane
1922 Thomas Graham John J. Lane
1923 Thomas Graham James Cowper
1924 Thomas Graham James Cowper DD
1925 Thomas Graham Michael Quinn
1926 Thomas Graham Michael Quinn
1927 Charles McCarthy Joseph O’Regan
1928 Charles McCarthy Patrick Fox
1929 Charles McCarthy Patrick Fox
1930 Charles McCarthy John Halpin
1931 Charles McCarthy Joseph Leonard
1932 Charles McCarthy John White
1933 Charles McCarthy James Lyons
1934 John Wallace James Lyons
1935 John Wallace James Lyons
1936 John Wallace James Lyons
1937 John Wallace James Lyons
1938 Frederick Rice James Lyons
1939 Frederick Rice James Lyons
1940 Frederick Rice James Lyons
1941 Frederick Rice James Lyons
1942 Frederick Rice Edmund O’Dea
1943 Frederick Rice Edmund O’Dea
1944 Frederick Rice Edmund O’Dea
1945 Frederick Rice David Wall
1946 Frederick Rice David Wall
1947 Frederick Rice David Wall
1948 Frederick Rice David Wall
1949 John Brassill David Wall
1950 John Brassill David Wall
1951 John Brassill David Wall
1952 John Brassill David Wall
1953 John Brassill David Wall
1954 John Brassill David Wall
1955 John Brassill David Wall
1956 John Brassill David Wall
1957 John Brassill David Wall
1958 John Brassill Joseph O’Beirne
1959 John Brassill Joseph O’Beirne
1960 John Brassill Joseph O’Beirne
    Patrick Lyons
1961 Thomas Kirby  
1962 Thomas Kirby  
1963 Thomas Kirby  
1964 Thomas Kirby  
1965 Thomas Kirby  
1966 Thomas Kirby  
1967 Thomas Kirby  
1968 Thomas Kirby  
1969 Thomas Kirby  
1970 David Crowley  
1971 David Crowley  
1972 David Crowley  
1973 David Crowley  
1974 David Crowley  
1975 David Crowley  
1976 David Crowley  
1977 David Crowley  
1978 Michael Kennedy  
1979 Michael Kennedy  
1980 Michael Kennedy Thomas Ryan
1981 Michael Kennedy Thomas Ryan
1982 Michael Kennedy Thomas Ryan
1983 Michael Kennedy Thomas Ryan
1984 Denis Browne Thomas Ryan
1985 Denis Browne Thomas Ryan
1986 Denis Browne Thomas Ryan
1987 Denis Browne Thomas Ryan
1988 Denis Browne Thomas Ryan
1989 Denis Browne Thomas Ryan
1990 Thomas Ryan (Adm.) Terence O’Connell
1991 Thomas Ryan (Adm.) Seamus Power
1992 Thomas Ryan Kevin O’Dea
1993 Thomas Ryan Kevin O’Dea
1994 Thomas Ryan Kevin O’Dea
1995 Thomas Ryan Kevin O’Dea
1996 Thomas Ryan William Russell
1997 Thomas Ryan William Russell
1998 Thomas Ryan William Russell
1999 Oliver Plunkett William Russell
2000 Oliver Plunkett  
2001 Oliver Plunkett Thomas Mullahy
2002 Oliver Plunkett Thomas Mullahy
2003 Oliver Plunkett Brendan Fitzgerald (w/e asst.)
2004 Oliver Plunkett Brendan Fitzgerald (w/e asst.)
2005 Oliver Plunkett Brendan Fitzgerald (w/e asst.)
2006 Oliver Plunkett Sean Sweeney
2007 Oliver Plunkett Sean Sweeney



* The Catholic Directory gives the forename as Robert while Begley's History of the Diocese of Limerick gives the name as William.
# The parish was called Cahernorry for these years.

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.

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