HISTORY Of BALLYMORE EUSTACE
An Octogenarian Ex-Teacher
Sealy Bryers and Walker
Crow Street, Dublin
HISTORY of BALLYMORE – EUSTACE
The earth, our own dear native earth
Has charms all hearts may own;
They cling around us from our birth,
More loved as longer known.
The town of Ballymore-Eustace in the barony of South Naas, county of Kildare, is most picturesquely situated on the right bank of the River Liffey, which is crossed by a bridge of six arches built by the Irish Parliament in the year 1784. This is the third stone bridge erected here. The two former were a little further down the river. The scenery of the surrounding country is exceedingly beautiful. The best view is obtained from the high ground on the Coughlinstown road. Looking up the river it forms an extensive panorama, including the town, the winding river, the woods, and in the background the Wicklow hills. An American tourist, who admired it, compared it to West Point, on the Hudson. An indication of the importance of this town is the fact that nine roads lead into it from all parts of the country. Its healthy position is due to its sloping southern aspect, its good drainage and splendid water supply from Bishopland, about half a mile away, and which is distributed by four street fountains. Besides, if these fail, there are several springs around the town, to take their places. Near the town, in Mountcashel Demesne, there is a holy well called Tober-na-gras. Formerly a stream of water from the spring at “The Seasons” about half a mile outside the town was brought under-ground through the middle of the main street to supply fresh water to the Brewery at the Liffey bridge, but this was considerably more than 100 years ago. There is now little trace of this ancient Brewery except the walled-in site.
There were then no footpaths in the streets, but instead, the space was occupied by flowers paled in, in front of each house. Nearly every house has a plot of land at the back of it. When the bull-fighting was in fashion, the Bull Ring or enclosure was in the middle of the Market Square. The only industry of this town is that afforded by the Woollen Mills. They consist of large four-storeyed buildings beside the Liffey, with a great and unfailing water power. All kinds of woollen stuffs are manufactured here. It is to be regretted that the walls of the old corn mill still stand unroofed on the same premises. If this mill were now in working order it would be kept running all the year round on account of the extension of tillage. They were all erected by the Drumgoole Family and finished in 1802. From the Factory Gate on one side of the main street 24 cottages called “Weavers’ Row " were built for the mill workers.
Ballymore-Eustace has all the usual accessories which constitute a town, namely, Churches, Schools, Court House, Post Office, Concert Hall, Dispensary, Hotels, and a weekly market (now temporarily suspended). It has also a monthly fair. There are six public houses for the sale of drink and groceries in this town of 500 inhabitants. Two of these are also Hotels.
The Catholic Church, a large plain structure, standing in the main street, was built shortly before Catholic Emancipation (1829). It contains 3 marble altars, one of which is in memory of Dr. Dunne, some fine stained glass window, and a very large painting of the Crucifixion. This picture was painted by an artist named Meade, a friend of Mr. Drumgoole, in whose possession it was at the time of the insurrection of 1798. The notorious Major Sirr in one of his marauding expeditions appropriated it and brought it away to Dublin. After some time he was compelled to bring it back, where it was kept until the new Catholic Church was built. This Church is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. There is an Oratory attached to it built in 1865. This is the first Catholic Church allowed to be built in the town since the Protestant religion was established in Ireland by English Law, more than 300 years ago. The Catholic Church of that time was forcibly taken possession of by the Protestants, who removed the altar and all objects of piety. The English Prayer Book (Protestant) was translated into Irish and distributed among the Catholics, on whom fines were imposed for not attending the Protestant worship. The Catholics had to pay tithes (a tax taken up at the point of the bayonet) to support the Protestant Church and its Ministers, in whose creed they did not believe. In 1838 an Act was passed to abolish the direct payment of tithes by the tenants, as many lives were lost in conflict with the people. The tax was added to the rent under the name of Rent Charge, and collected by the landlords. This relieved the parson from the odium of collecting the tithes.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, to make oppression still worse, the Penal Laws most severe and most degrading, were put in force, taking from the Irish all civil and religious liberty (1691). No Catholic to sit in the Irish Parliament, nor hold any office, civil, military or ecclesiastical. It was against the law for Catholics to practise law or medicine, to have a Church, a School, a Monastery, a Convent, a Priest or a Schoolmaster, or to possess a horse of greater value than five pounds. The son of a Catholic by turning Protestant could evict the father and take possession of his property.
The Protestant Church, in the middle of the cemetery, occupies the ancient site of the Catholic Church. It was built in 1820. It is in a fine commanding position overlooking the town. Its belfry tower is a prominent object in the landscape. This Church contains beautiful memorials in marble and in stained glass, also a very large ancient Baptismal Font made of granite.
The Schools, in a large house of two storeys, built by public subscription in the year 1835, are situated outside the town at a short distance from the Liffey Bridge. They are well kept and fully equipped for educational purposes. The Concert Hall, built in 1907, is large, up to date, and used as a Band Room.
About one-fourth of this town is built on freehold property. The Castle stood a short distance outside the town on the right of the road leading to Hollywood. Its site is marked by two ancient yew trees. On 23rd May, 1798, this town was attacked and captured from the English garrison by the United Irishmen.
Ballymore-Eustace was formerly one of the five great walled towns of the English Pale; it and the surrounding district were in the County Dublin until the year 1839. For centuries no Irishman was allowed to live in this frontier town. On the south-east side adjoining the town is the Garrison Hill – the site of the former Military Barracks and Fortifications – commanding all the roads approaching the town. The handsome residence of the Parish Priest is now the only building on it. On the opposite side is Close (enclosed) Hill – the place of execution—where many a "mere Irishman" suffered the death penalty. It was connected by an underground passage with the Garrison Hill.
The following extracts from Dalton’s "History of the County Dublin" show the varying fortunes of this town and the strained relations that existed between the English Garrison and the “Irish Enemie” around it.
The English Prince, John, who landed in Dublin in 1185, gave this town and the lands now called Bishopland and Bishophill to the Archbishop of Dublin.
1n 1234 King Henry confirmed the Archbishop’s right of holding an 8-day Fair, not in the town, but on Bishopland, overlooking the Liffey, in the field on the south side of the field known as the Church Field. It was to commence on the eve of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
In 1320 Moriarty McMurrough, Wm. McComin and other notorious felons were received in the Camp of the Archbishop of Dublin at Ballymore, and transmitted in safe custody to the Castle of Dublin.
In 1355 a strong guard was placed here to guard the marches from the O’Byrnes.
In 1419 O’Toole took 400 cows belonging unto Ballymore.
In 1537 Robert Crowly, writing to Lord Cromwell, says Ballymore and Tallagh ‘longing to the Archbishop of Dublin standeth most for the defence of the Counties of Dublin and Kildare against the O’Tooles and O’Brynes, be it therefore ordered that the Commissioners shall see such farmers or tenants there as shall be hardy Marchers able to defend the Marches.
In 1578 Rory Oge O’Moore burned this town which was then accounted amongst the " walled and good towns " of this country.
In 1604 John Hoey, Esq., His Majesty’s Sarjeant-at-Arms, had a grant of the town of Ballymore with a thatched castle and 100 acres, as also common of pasture in the Braddle and Bishophill in Ballymore, parcel of the estate of James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, to hold for 45 years subject to a chief rent.
In 1608 the King revived in favour of Thomas, Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, the rights of holding fairs and markets here.
In the confiscations of 1641 Richard Belling forfeited Ballybought and Whiteleas, near Ballymore, containing 200 acres, as well as Newtown, 190 acres, near Rathcoole, and 18 acres more in the Parish of Ballymore, which he held from the Archbishop of Dublin, while Walter Eustace forfeited the Castle and 60 acres which he held from that Prelate.
This sketch would be incomplete without a further notice of the great and noble family whose name is permanently linked with this town.
The Eustaces are said to have derived their origin from the Roman Martyr, St. Eustachius, a descendant of whom passed into England in the time of the Saxon Kings. Its Irish branch may be traced to that adventurer, Maurice FitzGerald, to whom Henry II gave the Barony of Naas. His relative, Eustace, the founder of this line, inherited the southern parts thereof with part of the barony of Kilcullen; and a descendant of his, Richard Fitz-Eustace, was Baron of Castlemartin in 1200, while others became Barons of Harristown and Portlester.
Sir Rowland Eustace (son of Sir Edward of Harristown) was created Baron of Portlester, Co. Meath, with the Manor annexed in tail male, and afterwards Lord Chancellor and Treasurer of Ireland. In 1486 he founded the Franciscan Abbey, Kilcullen, that is, New Abbey, to distinguish it from the Old Abbey at the Round Tower in the Co. Kildare; and also the beautiful structure called from him Portlester Chapel, within the precincts of St. Audoen’s Parish Church, Dublin. The inscription on the shaft of a cross in Coughlinstown Churchyard is as follows :- "Eustace. Lord Portlester, 1462" although he is not buried there.
The following is the translation of an extract in Latin from the "Annales Minorum" of Father Luke Wadding, published in 1625.
“Roland Eustace, Judge, Chancellor, and Treasurer of Ireland, built a Monastery for the Friars Minor near the bridge of Kilcullen on the road by which one travels into Munster (from Dublin). And in this Monastery, he himself, his successors and many noble families chose to be buried. He was buried in the Sanctuary of the principal Chapel along with his wife, Margaret Janico. The place was very holy, but as the buildings were destroyed by heretics there remained only the Church with its Chapels, the ornamentations of which were obliterated by dirt and the inclemency of the weather. An English heretic occupied part of the building for about 80 years, and the monks did not dare to return to it. When they were expelled they took care to take away the best furniture and hid the bells under ground in a place not altogether unknown to those who followed them."
In 1580 the Eustaces took part with the oppressed O’Tooles and O’Byrnes, and joined them in resisting the wild expedition of Lord Gray into the romantic valley of Glenmalure. The English forces ware completely routed, but the Irish were unable to resist the confiscations which followed.
The Viscount Baltinglass (Eustace) was by inquisition dispossessed of one Castle, one Messuage, 50 acres arable, 2 acres underwood, and 8 acres pasture, as was also Maurice Eustace of Maurice-town-Moynagh, Thomas Eustace of Cardiffstown, James Eustace of Galmorestown, John Eustace of Flemingtown and Stephenstown, and Thomas Eustace of Mullacash and Moone.
In 1689 the Irish House of Commons elected Mr. Serjeant Maurice Eustace their Speaker, "a wise, learned and discreet man, and of great integrity."
A remarkable inquisition of 1690 states that Francis and Oliver Eustace had been in actual rebellion in 1689; and after the battle, in English called the "Battle of the Boyne" departed with Richard, Earl of Tyrconnell, William, Earl of Limerick, and other traitors and malefactors then in rebellion to other rebels and traitors beyond the river, in English called the River Shannon, and there continued, &c., and the jury thereupon found their possessions as the consequent right of King William.
Father James Eustace was Parish Priest of Old Connell in 1704, at the same time that Father Nicholas Eustace was Parish Priest of Raharaine, both in the County Kildare.
The most celebrated of the name in modem times was the Rev. John Chetwood Eustace, a Roman Catholic Clergyman, the well-known author of the "Classical Tour through Italy" and who died of fever at Naples.
Coming down to still later times, the names of those who, at home or in the land of the stranger, have risen to distinction, should not be forgotten.
Father Daniel Byrne, Parish Priest of Rathfarnham, who died in 1868 of small-pox, which he contracted while attending a patient. He was a very popular and zealous Priest. Father Arthur Doran, Parish Priest of Skerries, died in 1881.
John Hanlon, Head Master of Limerick Model School from 1855 to 1863, when he became Inspector at National Schools, which office he held in Newcastle West until 1969, and in Carlow district until 1873, when he died.
Patrick Poland, a prosperous and extensive merchant of Cincinnati, Ohio.
John Love emigrated to the United States in 1865 and became a very wealthy and respected citizen of Webster, Massachusetts.
Father John Purcell of Sandymount who died in1903, venerated and beloved by the people to whose spiritual wants he ministered for 24 years. They erected three memorials of him, namely, a beautiful stained glass window and a mural tablet (portrait bust) in the Star of the Sea Church, as well as a Celtic Cross over his grave in Glasnevin.
Father Daniel Purcell, of Sandyford, who died in 1912, was a younger brother of Father John. He was remarkable for his gentle and kindly disposition and devotion to his sacred duties.
Dr. William P. Dunne, who died in 1918, at an early age—a martyr to duty in attending his patients. He was stricken down during the epidemic of influenza. His medical skill combined with his good qualities of heart and mind endeared him to all who knew him.
Richard Hines died in 1918. He was highly gifted, as a natural genius; he excelled as a mechanic, an artist, and a musician who could play any instrument. He leaves a void in the life of the town which cannot be filled. He was instructor of the band and organiser of plays and concerts as a labour of love. There is a large stained glass window erected over the high altar of the Church to his memory.
Of the souls of all those whose names I have mentioned let us say "May they rest in peace.”
In conclusion Ballymore-Eustace may be described as a district once the most unhappily situated of any in Ireland; its unfortunate inhabitants having been too obviously devoted to the ravages of the Irish tribes, or crushed by the tyranny of the English, compelled by the one party into confederacies, in which they had fain not participated, yet denied by the other the benefits of protection and legislation.
It is to be hoped, not as a pious wish, but as a reality, that the time is not far distant when the strong will not be allowed to oppress and systematically rob the weak; and that future history will have better things to record than what occured under alien rule.
The most important townland in the parish of Ballymore-Eustace is that of Broadleas, formerly called The Braddle (common), situated south of the town. Its shape is nearly triangular, one of its apexes reaching half way on the Liffey Bridge.
This townland formed part of the County Dublin until the year 1839. Those of the natives who were forty shilling freeholders had to go to Kilmainham near Dublin to cast their votes. It is bounded on the east for a mile by the River Liffey, thence by Silver Hills; on the south by Whiteleas; on the west by Longstone townland and Mountcashel forty-acre field. The River Sigin (GaeIic) pronounced Sheen, meaning sign or mark, hence a boundary, a steam flowing westward to the Liffey from the Co. Wicklow, forms a natural boundary on the south of Broadleas. In my early days it was called by the old people Jean Brook, which is only a slight corruption of the Irish name. It crosses under the rood at Carman’s Ford. This was formerly the main road from Dublin to Baltinglass. According to the Ordinance Survey of 1837 its area in Statute measure is 465 acres 2 roods and 14 perches including 10acres 2 roods and 19 perches of water (half the Liffey for a mile). With the exception of the valley of the Liffey its surface is flat or slightly undulating. The land is owned by peasant proprietors consequently there are no landlords – no evictions. When the land is disposed of it is sold out entirely in fee simple. Its soil is fertile and suitable for growing any crop; it is exceedingly well suited for the potato. The fields are small but well fenced and well cultivated. It is traversed by four roads, two running north and south, two east and west. The telegraph line from the town is laid along the Hollywood road. There are two letter boxes attached to telegraph poles, one at Broadleas Cross Roads and. the other adjoining Whiteleas. Near the junction of the Hollywood and Crihelp roads there is a Cataract on the Liffey called Golden Water, probably a corruption of Gooleen-a-wautha Gaelic (Gabhailin-a-bhaidhte) meaning the "little river-fork of the drowning”, but 70 years ago the old people called it Oilean-na-Gabar pronounced Uilawn -na-Gower, that is the Goat’s Island. Up to 120 years ago this townland was an open plain; it was used as a race course. The Stand, and the Winning Post were at the Piper’s Stones, Knock-Shee was used as a natural Stand from which the whole course could be seen.
For centuries this townland was the battle-ground of the English Garrison at Ballymore-Eustace, and the O’Tooles and O’Byrnes of Wicklow. In consequence, no one could live on it, it was neutral ground – no man’s land. In 1775 an enclosure of 12 acres was made by the people, near Whiteleas, for the use of the Parish Priest who built a house on it.
Shortly after the Insurrection of 1798, people, mostly outlaws, or those who fought in the Rebellion, came and took possession of the outskirts of it. They built rude cabins but they were always in dread of being evicted by the Government. About 110 years ago, an attempt was made to survey and map it by engineers protected by the military. The women of the place sallied out with stones in their stockings, beat the surveyors and broke their instruments, while the men stood by ready to fight in case the military interfered; but the officer in command did not want bloodshed and withdrew the troops. No further attempt was made by the Government to take possession of it.
The pagan antiquities consist of the Piper’s Stones (Cromlech), Knockshee and the Longstone. This cromlech situated west of the Hollywood road near Whiteleas was made of large boulders of granite, many tons in weight, brought from the Wicklow mountains and placed in a circle of 31 yds. diameter. They are now but 29 in number, leaving gaps between them, but formerly all the stones were placed close together. The gaps in the stones show where in times past many have been broken up and carted away for building purposes.
Though these stone circles are by some thought to be connected with druidical worship they are probably sepulchral monuments, though they may have served both purposes. The name "Piper’s Stones" so often applied to this class of monument must have had its origin in some now forgotten legend. The only explanation the old people gave for the name is that bag-pipe music played by the “good people” or fairies, is occasionally heard at the spot.
There is a Lane leading from the Pipers Stones to Knockshee (Gaelic, Fairy Height) a sepulchral Moat where the pagans buried the bodies of their dead. There was a slab-lined chamber capable of holding one body at a time in the middle of the Moat. Unfortunately but little is now left as some three-fourths of it appear to have been demolished long ago probably for top-dressing.
The Longstone, a monolith of Granite is now prostrate on the western boundary of Broadleas on its highest point adjoining the Narrow Lane. It measures 131/2 feet in length, is cylindrical in shape and 10 feet in circumference at the butt. About the year 1836 when it stood upright in the middle of a rath-like enclosure it was under-mined by parties looking for treasure. They found none; and when the stone fell, 3 feet 4 inches was broken off the top. These long stones were sepulchral monuments, though at the same time they may have been objects of pagan worship. There is an extensive view in every direction from the Longstone. The National Schools in a fine large building are situated on Broadleas on the south side and adjacent to the Liffey Bridge. There are 38 Dwelling Houses on Broadleas, 5 of which are Labourers Cottages belonging to the County Council. The present population (1923) is 144.
The Castle of the Eustaces was on Broadleas; its site is marked by two ancient yew trees, a quarter of a mile from the Liffey Bridge and a few perches west of the Hollywood Road. There is now no trace of the building.
The ancient Church of Lechoban (Gaelic), meaning the place of the flag stones, was also on Broadleas. It was situated at the junction of the Narrow Lane and the Priest’s Lane about 100 yards south of the Longstone. There is a well near this point. The Priest’s Lane is the name given to the road extending from this point to Ardenode Cross. It was the way the priest came in the penal days from Newbridge or the Bog of Allen (where he sought refuge from the Priest-Hunters and English Soldiers) to minister to the spiritual wants of the people of this parish. This Church was recorded by Archbishop Alen in his pre-reformation Register Book among his List of Churches of the Deanery of Ballymore-Eustace. There was an ancient Cemetery attached to this Church between it and the Longstone. The graves were lined with flag-stones at the sides and on the top probably to prevent the wolves from molesting the bodies of the dead. They are about 3 feet under the surface. There are no headstones.
Broadleas, Ballymore Eustace