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Manister Parish

History | Churches | Graveyards | Holy Wells | The Three Hail Mary Stones | Townlands | Priests of the Parish

Brief Parish History & Geographical Location

Manister is mainly in the barony of Small County, but also in Coshma and Pubblebrien. Manister parish is located beside the parish of Croom. The river Camoge, a tributary of the Maigue runs through the parish. The population of the parish is approximately 800.

In ancient times, Manister was known as Kilmargy. According to the civil survey of 1654, Clochnamanagh (now in the neighbouring parish of Fedamore) was at that stage part of Manister, while Kilonehan was still a separate parish. Today Kilonehan is part of Manister parish.

In 1704 Bruff had part of the parish of Manister, Tullybracky. Manister formed part of the union of parishes of Bruff and Fedamore until the mid nineteenth century. The parishes of Fedamore and Manister were united at the beginning of the 18th century. They were separated to become individual parishes in 1858. The name Manister comes from the Irish An Mhainister meaning 'the abbey'. According to a local history written by David Cantwell, native of the parish, the monastic lands, which belonged to Monasteranenagh, were to form the parish of Manister, much as it is in area and boundaries today.

The Colleen Bawn grew up in her uncle's house in Manister. Her real name was Eileen Hanley. She was lured away by Lieutenant John Scanlan of the Royal Navy. A mock marriage took place in 1819. Soon after, she was drowned in the Shannon River in Glin. Scanlan and Stephen O'Sullivan, a Glin man, were hanged for her murder.



The parish church in Manister is dedicated to Archangel Michael. A plaque of dedication reads "Church of Michael Archangel, Opened 13th January 1991, in the presence of apostolic Nuncio Emmanuel Gerada Bishop Jeremiah Newman, James Costello, P.P."

The last mass in the old church was celebrated on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11th February 1990. The first mass in the new church was offered on the vigil of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, 7th December 1990.

There is a graveyard to the front and to the back of the church. A water font on the right hand side of the church reads "John Hanrahan, Doctor of Sorbonne, got this made in 1756, Pray for him".

There is a shrine to the front left of the church in Manister. A wall from the old church, which dates from 1825, is preserved in front of the church together with a cross from the old mass house, dating from the early 1700's according to local tradition.
The church of St Michael was built in 1825. This church was unusual in that it had a loft, which was used as a schoolhouse for children of the parish. It is the remains of the wall of this church that can now be seen in the churchyard of the present day parish church.

Parishioners donated the Stations of the Cross. Inside the door, on the right is a statue to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, which was erected in memory of Kathleen (Cregan) Lyons, Cregane, Charleville, who died May 20th, 1932. Her husband and daughter erected the statue. A statue to the Sacred Heart is on the left.

A plaque on the left of the altar states that Patrick Hayes, P.P., VF, Burnie, Tasmania, Australia erected it in memory of his father and mother, Patrick and Anne Hayes.

John Barry and his wife Mary of Kildonnell, Manister, donated the stained glass windows on the right of the altar, in memory of their parents.

Buried in the church grounds are:

Jeremiah O'Gorman
Parish Priest
Died 22nd December 1916
Aged 55

John G. Fitzgerald
Parish Priest for 24 years
Died 27th April 1914
Aged 74

Michael McCormack
17 years as C.C.
33 years as Parish Priest
Died 9th June 1885
Aged 85

There were two churches in Killanahan, called Cill Onchon Mór and Cill Onchon Beag, Cill Onchon meaning the church of St Onchu, a saint from the sixth or seventh century. At one time, Killanahan had been a separate parish before being joined to Manister. However, no trace of either church remains.

A list of churches was bestowed on the abbey in 1185, and it mentioned churches in Kilcurley, Kildonnell and Killeenoughty. Westropp relates an interesting story about the church at Killeenoughty. He says that this church was called Cill Fhionshneachta, meaning the church of the wine-red snow. According to the legend a saint was slain at the door of the church when the ground was covered with snow. The blood of the saint coloured the snow wine-red. Westropp says that this church was also known as Cill Fhionnachta, the church of Saint Fionnachta, and as Teampull na Sceach, the church of the thorn bushes. Locals remember this area as 'Cealltar', a graveyard.

Before the abbey was built, there was reputedly a church in Ballycahane. This church together with its lands became part of the abbey lands. No trace of this church remains.

Westropp claims he came across another church in 1876 in Knockgromassell. He also records the ruins of a church in Knocknagranshy.

There was a mass house in Manister during the penal years, in Caherduff. The house was located across from Gerry O'Connor's house. Two bumps in the ground at this location are said to be the burial places of two priests.


Monasteranenagh Cistercian Abbey derives its name from Manister an Aonaigh, the monastery of the fair, after a fair that was held here in ancient times. Mass was celebrated here on New Year's Eve 1999, and the Abbey was lit up in honour of the new Millennium.

The ruins consist of a church, which dates from about 1170 to 1220, and an early Gothic chapter house. The remains of what was probably the abbey's guesthouse are a short distance away. Stillborn children were once buried within the ruins of the Abbey's guesthouse.

The ruins are quite extensive, and are in good repair. The main window frame of the church is still intact. The roof collapsed in 1874. The tower fell in 1806. Only walls and gables remain of the church. The interior of the abbey was used as a burial ground until the 1970's. The oldest headstone that we found within the abbey was in memory of Mary Duiry(?) who died in November 1782, aged 58 years. Fr James Ryan, who died 30th April 1795, aged 67 years, is also buried here.

Turlough O'Brien, King of Munster, founded a monastery of Cistercian monks here in 1148 dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Manister was a daughter house of Mellifont Abbey in Co. Louth and Manister itself had daughter houses established in Abbeydorney (1154), Middleton (1180) and Holy Cross (1181). Manister was a pre-Norman monastery, sometimes called Monasternenagh. It is believed that there were up to 1,500 monks here by the fourteenth century. In the 15th century, there were three chapels in each arm of the transept.

In 1228 the Irish monks with the help of the O'Brien's, the Kings of Thomond, drove out the abbot and the non-Irish monks, who were mainly of Norman descent. They were excommunicated for revolting against their ecclesiastical superiors. Using armed force Hubert de Burgo, the bishop of Limerick, recaptured the abbey, and reinstalled the monks who had been driven out.

In 1307 Gerald, Earl of Desmond, was visiting the abbot when captured by O'Brien of Thomond. In 1540 the monastery at Manister was dissolved, although the monks were left in possession of the abbey.

In 1579 Sir William Malby led the English in a battle against the Irish and Spaniards. Sir John of Desmond led the Irish. The Spanish and Irish soldiers took shelter in Monasternenagh. The abbot helped in a battle against Malby but they lost. Malby burned the abbey. Locals were also killed at the abbey by Malby's soldiers. The Earl of Desmond saw the battle from Tory Hill. The English fired at Irish and Spanish soldiers who were sheltered in the abbey causing great damage to the building.

However, the monastery was not destroyed until 1585, when it became the property of Sir Henry Wallop. He plundered and robbed all of its valuables, before destroying the monastery.



The graveyard in Manister is to the front and to the back of the present parish church.

Killanahan, also known as Kilonehan, was a parish in its own right. The cemetery at Killanahan is difficult to access, and is mostly overgrown. There was once a church here also, although no trace of this now remains. There are several Palatine graves here, as well as a tomb.

Famine victims were buried in a graveyard called Cealltar. Today, this graveyard is only accessible through the lands of the Skelley family. A wall surrounds it on all sides. The graveyard is very overgrown but there are plans to clean up the site. Within the walls of the graveyard, there also appears to be the walls of a church. There are a number of headstones in the graveyard but due to the difficult terrain, we were unable to venture throughout the graveyard and discover the oldest headstone. Many of the headstones have fallen over or illegible; a number of them are believed to date from the 1700s. A headstone of mention is located besides the stile. It is a large Celtic cross in memory of Mrs Cornelius O'Dea and her son William, whose religious name was Br Jerome. Mrs. O'Dea died on March 7th 1868, at the age of 62, while Br Jerome died on October 1st 1875 aged 27.

There was supposed to have been a Kyle in Dromlohan. Both Catholics and Protestants are buried in the Protestant graveyard.


Holy Wells

Danaher records the presence of a well, in the townland of Knocknagranshee, called Toberlaghteen. This well is on the lands of Martin Molony. No devotions have taken place here in a number of years and the well has dried up. Devotions were held on March 19th in the past. The well was enclosed with a wall and roof over it. Danaher states that he found an inscription on the wall that read "This was erected by James Keating in ye year of our Lord 1791 that lived in Grangehill. Pray for him".

This well reputedly cured eye ailments, and rags were hung on the trees as offerings. According to legend the well moved when profaned. The well has been dry since 1955, although a spring sometimes breaks out beside the cupola in a pool. The waters of this well were once so powerful that they were harnessed to work a horizontal mill. The well was partly overgrown when we visited the site. An ash tree overhung the well when Danaher visited the well in 1955. Rags were tied to the tree as an offering.

St Senan's well was a Holy Well beside the church site of Cill Onchon Mór. However, devotions are no longer held here, and the exact location of the well is no longer known.


The Three Hail Mary Stones

Three stones are set side by side in the grass margin by the road, midway between Manister village and Lacka cross, in the townland of Cahirduff. According to legend, they were used as weighing scales by the abbot to show that a simple prayer was more efficacious than a large material gift. The following poem, written by Ned O'Donnell, is taken from a booklet on the Parish of Manister.

Three ancient stones near Manister
An ancient tale can tell,
Of a saintly Parish Priest and a
Saxon infidel;
In racking days in Ireland the
Priest was saying Mass,
When a Cromwellian captain by
His church door happe'd to pass;
No heed paid Father Toomey
When the captain to him spoke,
But the grace of three Hail Marys
On his soul he did invoke.

The Captain much offended by
The inattentive priest,
Sought an explanation after
Ite missa est;
"By rule", said Father Toomey
"I cannot every break
The continuity of may Mass no
Matter what's at stake;
But I offered three Hail Marys to
My Maker for your soul,
They're all powerful and may yet
Your barren heart console".

More angry grew the Captain,
He cursed the priest and prayer,
"But yet, if you can prove their worth,
Your Papish neck I'll spare."
"Oh, Blessed Mary, help me,"
Said the priest within his heart,
"Implore your Son to guide me
And I will do my part".
Then turning to the Captain
Still uttering a curse
He vowed the three Hail Marys
Would weigh him and his horse.
Scales were there erected and
Three Aves on a sheet,
Outweighed the burly soldier
Mounted on his steed.

By the road that leads to Manister
By workmen every year,
Three massive stones embedded
In the margin are kept clear.
Used in the erection of Father Toomey's scales,
They're revered in the parish and known around for miles.
And often in the morning a
Traveller may be seen,
His prayers at home forgotten, kneeling at the scene,
With a Pater and an Ave his
Omission he atones,
While wings are softly beating
'bove the three Hail Mary Stones.



English Name Irish Name Meaning
Ballycahane Lower Baile Uí Chatháin The town of Ó Catháin
Ballycahane Middle as above  
Ballycahane Upper as above  
Ballygriffin Baile Uí Ghríofa The town of Ó Gríofa
Ballymacsradeen East Baile Mic Shráidín The town of Mac Sráidín
Ballymacsradeen West as above  
Ballymartin Baile Mháritín The town of Máirtín
Ballyregan Baile Uí Riagáin The town of Ó Riagain
Ballylusky An Baile Loiscthe The burnt town
Cahirduff An Chathair Dhubh The black stone fort
Dromlohan North Drom Lócháin Ridge of the chaff
Dromlohan South as above  
Fearoe Fia Rua Red uncultivated land
Garrane An Garrán The grove
Kilcurly Cill Choireallaigh The church of Coireallach
Kildonnell Cill Dónaill The church of Dónall
Killeenoghty Cill Fhíonnachta The church of Fíonnachta
Killanahan Cill Onchon The church of Onchú
Killonahan as above  
Lacka An Leaca The hillside
Monaster North An Mhainistir The monastery
Monaster South as above  
Parkaree Páirc an Rí The field of the king
Rathmore North An Ráth Mhór The big rath
Rathmore South as above  
Skehanagh An Sceachánach The place of the hawthorns
Springlodge An Garrán Beag The small grove



List of Priests

Year Parish Priest Curate(s)
1861 Michael McCormack  
1862 Michael McCormack Michael Connery
1863 Michael McCormack Michael Connery
1864 Michael McCormack William Tuomy
1865 Michael McCormack William Tuomy
1866 Michael McCormack John Mulcahy
1867 Michael McCormack  
1868 Michael McCormack P. Graham
1869 Michael McCormack T. Cantwell
1870 Michael McCormack William Casey
1871 Michael McCormack William Casey
1872 Michael McCormack John Walsh
1873 Michael McCormack John Walsh
1874 Michael McCormack Edward Russell
1875 Michael McCormack Edward Russell
1876 Michael McCormack Edward Russell
1877 Michael McCormack Daniel Daly
1878 Michael McCormack Daniel Daly
1879 Michael McCormack Daniel Daly
1880 Michael McCormack Michael McNamara
1881 Michael McCormack Robert Ambrose
1882 Michael McCormack John Conway
1883 Michael McCormack John Conway
1884 Michael McCormack John Conway
1885 Michael McCormack John Conway
1886 John Glesson Daniel Brosnahan
1887 John Glesson  
1888 John Glesson  
1889 John Glesson  
1890 John Glesson Daniel Crotty
1891 John Glesson E. Russell
1892 John Glesson  
1893 John Fitzgerald  
1894 John Fitzgerald James Liston
1895 John Fitzgerald  
1896 John Fitzgerald  
1897 John Fitzgerald Daniel Brosnahan
1898 John Fitzgerald William Dwane
1899 John Fitzgerald William Dwane
1900 John Fitzgerald John Rea
1901 John Fitzgerald  
1902 John Fitzgerald John Conway
1903 John Fitzgerald John Tierney
1904 John Fitzgerald John Wallace
1905 John Fitzgerald  
1906 John Fitzgerald  
1907 John Fitzgerald Patrick Higgins
1908 John Fitzgerald John Molony
1909 John Fitzgerald  
1910 John Fitzgerald James Molony
1911 John Fitzgerald  
1912 John Fitzgerald  
1913 John Fitzgerald  
1914 John Fitzgerald  
1915 Jeremiah O’Gorman  
1916 Jeremiah O’Gorman  
1917 Jeremiah O’Gorman James Hayes
1918 J. J. Fitzgerald  
1919 J. J. Fitzgerald  
1920 J. J. Fitzgerald  
1921 J. J. Fitzgerald  
1922 J. J. Fitzgerald  
1923 J. J. Fitzgerald  
1924 J. J. Fitzgerald Patrick Ruddle
1925 John Carr  
1926 John Carr  
1927 John Carr  
1928 John Carr  
1929 John Carr  
1930 John Carr Thomas Cussen
1931 John Carr  
1932 John Carr T. Kirby
1933 John Carr T. Kirby
1934 John Carr T. Kirby
1935 David Riordan John Godfrey
1936 David Riordan John Godfrey
1937 David Riordan  
1938 David Riordan  
1939 David Riordan  
1940 David Riordan  
1941 David Riordan  
1942 Patrick Finn  
1943 Patrick Finn  
1944 Patrick Finn  
1945 Patrick Finn  
1946 Patrick Finn  
1947 Patrick Finn  
1948 Patrick Finn  
1949 James Kelly  
1950 James Kelly  
1951 James Kelly  
1952 James Kelly  
1953 James Kelly  
1954 James Kelly  
1955 James Kelly  
1956 James Kelly  
1957 James Kelly  
1958 James Kelly  
1959 James Kelly  
1960 Thomas Cussen  
1961 Thomas Cussen  
1962 Thomas Cussen  
1963 Thomas Cussen  
1964 Thomas Cussen  
1965 Thomas Cussen  
1966 Gerard Ryan  
1967 Gerard Ryan  
1968 Gerard Ryan  
1969 Gerard Ryan  
1970 Gerard Ryan  
1971 Gerard Ryan  
1972 Gerard Ryan  
1973 Gerard Ryan  
1974 Gerard Ryan  
1975 John Sheehy  
1976 John Sheehy  
1977 John Sheehy  
1978 John Sheehy  
1979 John Sheehy  
1980 John Sheehy  
1981 John Sheehy  
1982 John Sheehy  
1983 John Sheehy  
1984 John Sheehy  
1985 John Sheehy  
1986 James Costello  
1987 James Costello  
1988 James Costello  
1989 James Costello  
1990 James Costello  
1991 James Costello  
1992 James Costello  
1993 James Costello  
1994 Garrett Bluett  
1995 Garrett Bluett  
1996 Garrett Bluett  
1997 Garrett Bluett  
1998 Garrett Bluett  
1999 Garrett Bluett  
2000 Garrett Bluett  
2001 Garrett Bluett  
2002 Garrett Bluett  
2003 Garrett Bluett  
2004 Garrett Bluett  
2005 Garrett Bluett  
2006 Garrett Bluett  
2007 Garrett Bluett  

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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