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Diocesan Heritage Project
Kilfinane Parish

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

Brief Parish History & Geographical Location

The town of Kilfinane is situated about 5 miles from the town of Kilmallock on the R517, the road from Kilmallock to Mitchelstown. Kilfinane is in the barony of Coshlea and it is said to be the highest town in Limerick. The present population of the parish is around 1,100.

The parish was the head of the union of the parishes of Kilfinane, Particles and Ardpatrick. The modern day parish of Kilfinane was formed in 1861 when Ardpatrick became a separate parish. In Begley's "History of the Diocese of Limerick" Ballingaddy was named as part of the parish of Kilfinane. However, today it forms part of the parish of Kilmallock.

Kilfinane is translated as Cill Fhionáin, which means the church of St Fionáin. St Fionáin founded his church here in around the 7th century but no one knows where the site of this church is now. It is believed that St Fionáin was Fionáin of Dromhoura, whose feastday is on February 13th or December 8th.

The local market was held on Tuesdays and fairs were held on May 19th, August 9th and October 25th.

Kilfinane is home to the noteworthy moat of Kilfinane. The moat measures 34 feet high and 54 feet in diameter at the base and 20 feet at the top. The view from the top of the moat gives a good view of the surrounding countryside. Opinions differ as to whether the moat was used as living quarters or as a ceremonial mound for the crowning of Kings. It may have been used as a guarding post for the Fermoym, which in former times was a place of great importance. Kilfinane was one of the royal seats of the Kings of Cashel. It is claimed that Brian Boru repaired and strengthened the great fort of Kilfinane.

Gabriel Rosenstock, a native of the parish, wrote the following poem on the Moat in Kilfinane.
I think I understand, Even back then it would outlive us.
That it was more ancient, more permanent than the sweet clash of hurleys.
There were things around us when we were growing up,
That blessed us with sweetness and terror, a Holy Well - do they still visit it?

A Protestant Church choirs were heard in the graveyard in the dead of night.
Did the Moat mute mysterious echo of the forgotten historical pageant.
You had a view from the top of the fertile plains of Limerick
A flighty cloud over a wooded hill.

A miserable old greyhound sunning himself in front of the grotto,
And at night the stars looking down on the moat as though their orphan
It was our own Tara, if the truth be told.
The deep heart of the universe.

A small group of Palatines came to the area around the 1760s. The local landlord of the area Charles Silver Oliver brought these settlers, who had originally come to Ireland from Germany, here. The Palatines helped the locals defeat an attack from the Defenders in 1793.

The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley visited Kilfinane on six occasions during his ministry between 1765 and 1789. Wesley preached in the Market House to the local Palatines in Ballyriggan. He was dismayed on his first visit to the Palatines when he discovered that their lives had descended into "drunkenness, cursing and swearing". Wesley converted the Palatines to Methodism.

In 1897 Kilfinane won the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship for Limerick. In those days, the county champions represented the county in the All Ireland Championship.


The present church in Kilfinane was built during the tenure of Fr Patrick Lee as parish priest in Kilfinane from 1877 until his death in 1892. The church is dedicated to St Andrew.

At the back of the church on the right there is a plaque in memory of Fr Maurice Fitzgibbon, who is buried in the grounds of the church. Inside the door of the church on the left, there is a holy water font, donated by Mary T. Hurley. The people of the parish donated the Stations of the Cross.

Inside the church, on the left-hand side, there is a plaque and stained glass window to Fr Patrick Lee who died on July 23rd 1892. He is buried on the right hand side of the church, in front of the altar. On the right-hand side, there is another stained glass window and a plaque to the memory of Fr Lee. The people of the parish and friends of Fr Lee donated these.

To the left of the altar there is small altar to the Sacred Heart. This altar and the stained glass window behind it are dedicated to a former parish priest of Kilfinane, Fr Maurice Fitzgibbon. On the right hand side of the altar there is a small altar to the Good Mother Mary. The ladies of the parish erected this altar.

Buried in the grounds of the church are:

John B. Kelly C.C.
St. Michael's
Died December 8 1935, aged 33

James Carroll P.P.
Died April 14 1934, aged 62

Maurice Fitzgibbon
Parish Priest of Kilfinane & Ardpatrick
Died December 1 1858, aged 66

John U. Carr P.P.
Died January 16 1945, aged 78

John Dolan
Parish Priest 1945 - 1955
President St. Munchin's College, 1934 - 1944
Aged 65

Michael R. Power
Died July 1 1962, aged 78
A native of the parish

John Sheehy
Died October 24 1844, aged 95

James B. Tobin
Died November 20 1968

John H. O'Keefe
Priest in the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida
Died July 6 1960, aged 65

Canon John Carrick
Parish Priest 1892 - 1915
Died April 19 1915, aged 76

Canon Michael Doody
Parish Priest 1971 - 1979
Aged 77

Canon Patrick O'Dea
Parish Priest 1979 - 1990
Aged 79

Patrick (Patsy) Casey
Parish Clark
Died 1964

The present primary school in Kilfinane is on the site of the previous church in the parish. That church was built in Kilfinane in 1835 by Fr Sheehy, at a cost of £1,000 according to Patrick J. Connor's "Exploring Limerick's Past".

There is a large church ruin in the graveyard across from the present day church. This church was rebuilt in 1760. The ruin itself is covered in bushes. This church once served as a Church of Ireland church.

According to Westropp's "Survey of the Ancient Churches in the County of Limerick" the ruins of a church in Laurencetown appeared on maps of 1840.



The graveyard in Kilfinane is located across the road from the parish church. The graveyard is divided into three different sections. The oldest headstone that we found was from 1808 and was erected by Thomas Sheedy in memory of his father Cornelius and his brother John, who died on January 14th, aged 42. We believe that the date refers only to John's death. However, the script on the headstone was difficult to read.

As the graveyard dates from at least 1760 (judging by the church ruins located there), there are probably older headstones in the graveyard. Unfortunately, due to the passage of time, the writing on some of these headstones is illegible.


Holy Wells

In Kilfinane there are two wells in close proximity in the townland of Thomastown. Both wells are situated within the one field. The first is Toberreendoney or Sunday's Well. This well is said to be the old site of Lady's Well, the other well in the field. Danaher claims that Sunday's Well is a souterrain and sometimes holds water. There is no tradition of any devotions at this well.

Lady's Well is about 50 yards further on from Sunday's Well. A statue was erected at this well in 1999 and the bushes are decorated with rags that were left as offerings. The statue, however, is located deep within the bushes and briars that surround the well, and is difficult to see. According to legend, a blind man was cured at the well and the water is the well will not boil. Local tradition says that a traveller woman washed a baby in the well causing it to move to its present site. In 1999 a congregation lead by Fr O'Connor walked from the church in Kilfinane to Lady's Well.

There was also a well in the townland of Kilfinane called St. Finnane's Well but the exact site of this well is unknown.



There are two shrines in the parish. The Marian Shrine was erected in the Marian Year of 1954. This shrine is located at Mill Hill.

The statue to the Sacred Heart is in the Main Street in Kilfinane.


Famous People

Local man Patrick "Staker" Wallis was a small farmer who joined the United Irishmen and subscribed to the movement's objectives that all Irishmen should be free. Wallis's views began to annoy the local landlord Captain Charles Oliver, who believed that his life was under threat from the middle-aged farmer. Oliver decided to capture Wallis who tried, unsuccessfully, to evade arrest. Despite repeated torturing from Oliver, Wallis never informed on his friends in the United Irishmen. A few days later he was hanged and beheaded. His head was set on a spike above the market house in the square. A monument stands in the Main Street to commemorate his life and death.

St Finnian

St Finnian resided in a small hut beside the River Lubagh at the time of St Patrick's conversion of Ireland. His hut was located close to Tobernane, a little spring. The area was known as Fobar Fionán. St Finnian led a monastic life in this area, praying and meditating daily. Residents in the nearby village became curious as to the purpose of his visit to the area. They observed his actions, and heard his prayers and psalms. Eventually they became converted to his way of thinking. When St Finnian left the area, the local people built a house of worship in his honour, and named it Cill Finnian, the church of Finnian. With the passing of time the surrounding area became known as Kilfinane.



English Name Irish Name Meaning
Ballinanima (Brew) Baile an Anama Town of the soul
Ballinamina (D’Arcy) as above  
Ballinamina (Massy) as above  
Ballincrana Baile an Chranaigh The town of An Cranach
Ballinlyna Lower Baile an Laighnigh The town of An Laighneach
Ballinlyna Upper as above  
Ballygeane Baile Uí Ghéibheannaigh The town of Ó Géibheannaigh
Ballyriggin Baile Roigin The town of Roigin
Ballyroe Lower Baile Róigh The town of An Róch
Ballyroe Upper as above  
Bosnetstown Baile an Bhoscnóidigh The town of An Boscnóideach
Garrynlease Garraí an Léisigh The garden of An Léiseach
Killeen An Cillín The small church
Laurencetown North Baile an Labhrásaigh The town of An Labhrásach
Laurencetown South as above  
Moorestown Baile an Mhóraigh The town of An Mórach
Thomastown Baile Thomáis  



List of Priests

Year Parish Priest Curate(s)
1704 - 1720 John Rahilly  
? - ? Timothy Hayes  
? - 1775 Matthew O’Hea  
c.1764 - 1787 Paul Slattery  
? - 1789 John Glesson  
? – 1798 Edmund O’Donnell  
1798 – 1836 John Sheehy  
1837 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Garret O’Sullivan
1838 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Daniel Kennedy
1839 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Daniel Kennedy
1840 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Daniel Kennedy
1841 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Daniel Kennedy
1842 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Daniel Kennedy
1843 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Daniel Kennedy
1844 John Sheehy John Bourke
    Daniel Kennedy
1845 James O’Moore Patrick Ryan
    Eugene Birmingham
1846 James O’Moore Patrick Ryan
    Eugene Birmingham
1847 James O’Moore Patrick Ryan
    James O’Shea
1848 James O’Moore Patrick Ryan
    James O’Donnell
1849 Maurice Fitzgibbon Patrick Ryan
    Garret O’Sullivan
1850 Maurice Fitzgibbon Garret O’Sullivan
1851 Maurice Fitzgibbon Garret O’Sullivan
1852 Maurice Fitzgibbon James Lee
    J. McCarthy
1853 Maurice Fitzgibbon James Lee
1854 Maurice Fitzgibbon Patrick Lee
1855 Maurice Fitzgibbon Patrick Lee
1856 Maurice Fitzgibbon Patrick Lee
1857 Maurice Fitzgibbon Patrick Lee
1858 Maurice Fitzgibbon Patrick Lee
    M. Fitzgerald
1859 Richard B. O’Brien D.D. Patrick Lee
    M. Fitzgerald
1860 Richard B. O’Brien D.D. Patrick Lee
    Michael Ryan
1861 Richard B. O’Brien D.D. Patrick Lee
    Michael Ryan
1862 John Halpin M. Fitzgerald
1863 John Halpin M. Fitzgerald
1864 John Halpin M. Fitzgerald
1865 John Halpin M. Fitzgerald
1866 John Halpin E. O’Donohoe
1867 John Halpin E. O’Donohoe
1868 John Halpin E. O'Donohoe
1869 John Halpin E. O’Donohoe
1870 John Halpin Denis McCarthy
1871 John Halpin Denis McCarthy
1872 John Halpin C. P. Kenny
1873 John Halpin C. P. Kenny
1874 John Halpin James Glesson
1875 John Halpin James Glesson
1876 John Halpin Michael Canty
1877 John Halpin Michael Canty
1878 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1879 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1880 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1881 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1882 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1883 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1884 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1885 Patrick Lee Michael Canty
1886 Patrick Lee Patrick Lee
1887 Patrick Lee Patrick Lee
1888 Patrick Lee Patrick Lee
1889 Patrick Lee Patrick Lee
1890 Patrick Lee Patrick Lee
1891 Patrick Lee Patrick Lee
    Jeremiah O’Gorman
1892 Patrick Lee Patrick Lee
    Jeremiah O’Gorman
1893 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1894 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1895 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1896 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1897 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1898 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1899 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1900 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1901 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1902 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1903 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1904 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1905 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1906 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1907 John Carrick Patrick Lee
1908 John Carrick C. Mangan
1909 John Carrick C. Mangan
1910 John Carrick C. Mangan
1911 John Carrick C. Mangan
    James Molony
1912 John Carrick C. Mangan
    James Molony
1913 Canon John Carrick C. Mangan
    James Molony
1914 Canon John Carrick C. Mangan
    James Molony
1915 Canon John Carrick C. Mangan
    James Molony
1916 John Lee C. Mangan
1917 John Lee C. Mangan
1918 John Lee C. Mangan
1919 John Lee C. Mangan
1920 John Lee C. Mangan
1921 John Lee Patrick V. Higgins
1922 John Lee Patrick V. Higgins
1923 John Lee Patrick V. Higgins
1924 John Lee Patrick V. Higgins
1925 Canon John Lee D. Riordan
1926 Canon John Lee D. Riordan
1927 James Carroll D. Riordan
1928 James Carroll D. Riordan
1929 James Carroll D. Riordan
1930 James Carroll Patrick Lynch
1931 James Carroll Patrick Lynch
1932 James Carroll Patrick Lynch
1933 James Carroll Patrick Lynch
1934 James Carroll Patrick Lynch
1935 John Carr Patrick Lynch
1936 John Carr Patrick Lynch
1937 John Carr Thomas Cussen
1938 John Carr Thomas Cussen
1939 John Carr Thomas Cussen
1940 John Carr Thomas Cussen
1941 John Carr Thomas Cussen
1942 John Carr Michael Tynan
1943 John Carr Michael Tynan
1944 John Carr David Crowley
1945 John Carr David Crowley
1946 John Dolan David Crowley
1947 John Dolan Joseph Shinnors
1948 John Dolan Joseph Shinnors
1949 John Dolan Thomas O’Donnell
1950 John Dolan Thomas O’Donnell
1951 John Dolan Thomas O’Donnell
1952 John Dolan Thomas O’Donnell
1953 John Dolan Patrick Fitzgerald
1954 John Dolan Patrick Fitzgerald
1955 John Dolan Patrick Fitzgerald
1956 William O’Grady Patrick Howard
1957 William O’Grady Patrick Howard
1958 William O’Grady Patrick Howard
1959 William O’Grady Patrick Howard
1960 William O’Grady Joseph Moran
1961 William O’Grady Joseph Moran
1962 William O’Grady Joseph Moran
1963 William O’Grady Joseph Moran
1964 William O’Grady Joseph Moran
1965 Michael McCarthy Joseph Moran
1966 Michael McCarthy Eamonn Dillane
1967 Michael McCarthy Eamonn Dillane
1968 Michael McCarthy Eamonn Dillane
1969 Michael McCarthy Eamonn Dillane
1970 Michael McCarthy Eamonn Dillane
1971 Michael McCarthy Eamonn Dillane
1972 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1973 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1974 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1975 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1976 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1977 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1978 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1979 Michael Doody Thomas Coughlan
1980 Patrick O’Dea Thomas Coughlan
1981 Patrick O’Dea Thomas Coughlan
1982 Patrick O’Dea Thomas Coughlan
1983 Patrick O’Dea Thomas Coughlan
1984 Patrick O’Dea Patrick O’Sullivan
1985 Patrick O’Dea Patrick O’Sullivan
1986 Patrick O’Dea Patrick O’Sullivan
1987 Canon Patrick O’Dea Patrick O’Sullivan
1988 Canon Patrick O’Dea Patrick O'Sullivan
1989 Canon Patrick O’Dea Patrick O’Sullivan
1990 Canon Patrick O’Dea Patrick O’Sullivan
1991 John Condon Patrick O’Sullivan
1992 David Browne Patrick O’Sullivan
1993 David Browne Patrick O’Sullivan
1994 David Browne Patrick O’Sullivan
1995 David Browne William Doolan
1996 David Browne William Doolan
1997 David Browne William Doolan
1998 David Browne William Doolan
1999 Muiris O’Connor  
2000 Muiris O’Connor  
2001 Muiris O’Connor  
2002 Muiris O’Connor  
2003 Muiris O’Connor  
2004 Muiris O’Connor  
2005 Muiris O’Connor  
2006 Muiris O’Connor  
2007 Michael Hanley  

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 | Shrines | Famous People | Townlands | Priests of the Parish

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