BALYNA, PARISH OF – Comerford’s “Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin”

by niamh mccabe on June 28, 2006

        THE name of this Parish is said to be derived from Bel-an-atha, “the mouth of the ford;” it comprises a union of the old parishes of Cadamstown, Carrick, Mylerstown, Ballynadrimna, Nurney, and Kilreny.
Some portions of the walls of the old Parochial Church still remain, but they present no architectural features calling for description. An extensive burial-ground is attached, in which several priests lie interred. The following Epitaphs are found there:-
1.      “Here lieth Lewis Dempsy, Parish Priest of Cadamstown, Kilreiny,       Carrick, etc., and Vicar-General of the Diocese of Kildare, aged 77 years. Ruled his flock 47 years, and died the 5th day of May, 1704. Requiescat in Pace.”
      “Here also lieth Dominick Dempsey.”
2.“To the memory of the Revd. Philip Farrell, Parish Priest of Balyna, and Vicar-General of the Diocese of Kildare.”
3.“Hic jacet pulvis in pulverem reversus, R.D. Michaelis Kennedy, Parochi Parochiae Ballynae, charactere et virtute venerabilis, nomen regiis ex proceribus ad eum descendit, Sacerdotali cum dignitate et honore decessit, Anno aetatis suae sexagesimo septimo, sui sacerdotii quadragesimo quarto, Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Milesimo octingentesimo decimo septimo, Martii die vigesimo, descendit at suos, cum eis requiescat in pace.”
 Here also is the place of sepulture of the More O’ Ferrall family; the late Right Hon. Richard More O’ Ferrall erected a mausoleum, tablets on the side panels of which contain records of various members of the family.
The O’ Mores of Leix had strenuously resisted the attempts to bring their territory under the control of the Government of Dublin, through statutes passed towards the middle of the 16th century, authorizing the Crown to dispose of Leix, and to convert it into a shire under the name of the Queen’s County. Against the military occupation which followed these enactments, the O’ Mores rose in arms 19 times successively, and members of that family were amongst the most prominent leaders in the wars of Elizabeth. The Plantation of Leix was not finally effected till the reign of James I., when numbers of the O’ Mores and the other septs of the district, were deported to Kerry, Clare, and Connaught. A memoir by one of these exiles in June, 1610, written in Kerry and in the Irish language, is extant in MS., in the Royal Irish Academy. In it he records that the banishment and extirpation of all the survivors, men, women and children, of Leix, was then finished; that the Governor and the Sheriff of Leix had been occupied during a week, in destroying the people, seizing their cattle and all they possessed in their own land; and that an order had been made to hang everyone of them found there. Calvagh, the father of Roger and Lisagh O’ More, had previously acquired in the County of Kildare the castle and town of Balyna with various adjacent lands, previously the property of the Delahoids. These possessions were inherited by his eldest son Roger or Rory, who married a daughter of Sir Patrick Barnewall. (Gilbert) Rory O’ More was the chief military leader of the Confederate Catholics in the reign of Charles I. T. D’Arcy McGee remarks of him that “he was the heir of a line of brave ancestors, whose father and grandfather had both died in defence of their Church and country. Carried into Spain when a child, he returned soon after Charles’s accession. Educated in all the science of that age, with the son of Hugh O’ Neill as his friend and fellow-student, he grew up in patriotism as in years. His favourite project was to unite the Milesian and Anglo-Norman Catholics in one brotherhood. To this end he gave up his natural right to the land of Leix, and with his brother Lysagh [or Lewis], made a home at Ballyna, near the Boyne. He rode from castle to castle reasoning and exhorting with men of various minds. So clearly did the people understand his labours that this was their watchword:-“Our trust is in God, and our Lady, and Rory O’ More.” (Attempts to establish the Prot. Reformation in Ireland, p.182) Sir H. Parnell (Penal Laws, p. 113) says-“Roger O’ More possessed all the qualities of the heroic-character, talents, promptitude, courage, and love of country; his person was remarkably graceful, his aspect dignified, his manners courteous.” The Lords Justices at Dublin, in Feb. 1641-2, by proclamation, denounced Roger, alias Rory O’ More of Ballyna, as one of the first actors in the Rebellion, and offered a free pardon and £400 to anyone who would kill or cause him to be killed, and bring his head to them; they further offered £300 to anyone who could give evidence of having slain him, but without being able to produce his head. After the battle of Kilrush (in Co. Kildare), on the 15th April, 1642, in which the Confederate Army was unsuccessful, O’ More retired on his own district, and died at Kilkenny during the ensuing winter. His daughter, Anna, was mother of Patrick Sarsfield. The daughter of James, the last O’ More, who died in 1779, married Richard O’ Ferrall, of Ballinree, County Longford, of whom the present direct descendants, (freat-great-grandsons,) are Ambrose More O’Ferrall, Esq., of Balyna; Edward More O’ Ferrall, Esq., of Lisard, County Longford, and Dominick More O’ Ferrall, Esq., of Kildangan Castle, Monasterevan. The residence of the O’ Mores was a place of refuge for the Bishops and priests, in times of persecution. We see (Vol. I., p.41), that Dr. Forstall, Bishop of Kildare, ordained priests at Balyna, in 1678, 1679, and 1680.
The Parochial Church of Carrick, a considerable portion of the walls of which remain, dates back probably to the 13th century. It was about 60 feet long by 25 broad. Two small windows, both Gothic, but of different styles and seemingly of different periods, exist in the southern wall. The door appears to have been in the northern wall, and a small, narrow window, now built up, a little out of the centre, remains in the western gable, which latter rises into a still perfect belfry. This ruin stands in a burial-ground in which the Rev. Andrew Duggan, who died of fever at Carlow in 1837, lies interred with his relatives.
Adjoining the Churchyard is the ruinous Castle of Carrick-Oris, formerly belonging, as its name indicates, to the Berminghams. “It was,” writes Sir W. Wilde, Boyne and Blackwater, “originally a tall, oblong square tower or keep, a portion of the southern end of which is still perfect, measuring about 32 feet in length. From the extent of the ruins upon the northern side, it must have been nearly 90 feet long; the walls are upwards of 4 feet thick. This was the court of Pierce Bermingham in 1305,and consequently the seat of the treacherous Baron, so bitterly complained of by O’Neill and the other Irish Chieftains in their remonstrance to Pope John XXII.” The following, from the Four Masters, shows how richly this Sir Pierce Bermingham merited the opprobrious epithet applied to him:- “A.D. 1305. O’ Conor Faly (Mortough), Maelmora, his kinsman, and Calvagh O’ Conor, with twenty-nine of the chiefs of his people, were slain by Sir Pierce McFeorais (Bermingham), in MacFeorais’s own castle, by means of treachery and deceit.” According to Grace’s Annals, the massacre was perpetrated by Jordan Comin and his comrades, at the court of Peter Bermingham at Carrick in Carbria. In the Remonstrance sent by the Irish Chieftains to the Pope in 1315, it is referred to as an instance of the treachery of the English to their Irish neighbours. It is stated in this document that Peter, who is called the treacherous Baron, invited Mauritius and his brother Calvacus, to an entertainment on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and that, the instant they stood up from table, he cruelly massacred them with twenty four of their followers, and sold their heads at a dear price to their enemies; and that, when he was arraigned before the King of England, no justice could be obtained against such a nefarious and treacherous offender. (Note to Four MM.) The Hill of Carrick, (Carraig, “a rock,”) derives its name, according to Sir W. Wilde, from a large block of trap rock, called the Witch’s Stone, which stands upon its northern brow just over the great lime-stone quarry. With due deference to Sir W. Wilde’s opinion, it is much more likely that the name refers to the hill itself, which is an immense mass of limestone. This stone, Sir W. Wilde remarks, is evidently the same kind of stone as the large mass of trap which is to be found about 10 miles off, near Philipstown, to the south-west of this hill; but whether it is a boulder and was carried to this spot by natural means, or was transported her by art for some sacred purpose in Pagan times, as we know was frequently the case, it is difficult to say. The legend is, that a witch cast this stone from the hill of Croughan, at some of our early Saints, and that it lighted here. Some mischievous quarryman split the Witch’s Stone by blasting it, some years ago. For this wanton act he was obliged to leave that part of the country. Near the summit of the hill is pointed out the mule’s leap, when running off with a Saint from the Church of Carrick. Eight holes, marking, it is said, the places of the mule’s feet and showing a distance of about 10 yards between the place from which it sprung and where it lighted, are still to be seen, and it is said that no grass ever grows upon these footprints. The locality is worth observing, not for the nonsensical story of the mule, but because there is evidence of some masonry-probably the foundation of an ancient oratory-existing between the two sets of foot-marks….. The peasantry used to show here a large stone with some indentations in it resembling the print of a hand, which they said was lifted by St. Columbkill.

 A few hundred yards below the ruins on the hill of Carrick, in the angle formed by the junction of the roads leading to Edenderry and Carbury, we find the Holy Well of Tober-cro, or Tober-crogh-neeve, “The Well of the Holy Cross,” a beautiful spring shaded with flowering briars and wild white-roses. Although it is now totally neglected and its site scarcely known, it was once highly venerated and its healing virtues greatly esteemed……..At a place called Glyn, where the roads meet, in an open space shaded by trees, we find Lady’s Well (the Well of our B. Lady), a memorable spot in days gone by. It immediately adjoins the road and is shaded by a splendid sycamore tree. A fair and Patron are held here in August. Holy Wells abound in this locality-Trinity Well, Lady’s Well, Toberaulin (the beautiful well), Tobercro; and not far from the point where the Yellow river pours its waters into the Boyne, we have, on the Kildare side, the Well of Tobernakill. (Boyne and Blackwater.)
At Kinnefad (Ceann-atha-fada, “the head of the ford,”) in this parish is another Stronghold, in ruins, of the Berminghams, thus referred to by Sir W. Wilde:-“Kinnefad is a large square block of building, measuring 47 feet by 39, on the outside, the external walls being quite perfect. It appears, from its few and narrow windows, as well as its general design, to have belonged to an earlier era than the modern part of the Castle of Carbury, when strength influenced the builder more than attention to comfort. Kinnefad Castle stands beside a shallow in the river which the local traditions say was often the scene of fierce conflict. Lord Downshire’s agent at Edenderry has in his possession several weapons of great antiquity, dug up near this place, celts, sword-blades, spear-heads, etc. About a mile from Kinnefad Castle, and half-a-mile from the Boyne, the road passes by the Castle of Grange, a fortalice of a somewhat later age than that just described, part of which is still inhabited by one of the Tyrrells, a family of repute in the ancient kingdom of Meath. We have not been able to discover any references to either of these two buildings in the historic annals.”
The site of the old parish Church is marked by the present burial-ground. This place appears in Dr. MacGeoghegan’s list of parochial Churches as Ballyamoyler. A Castle stood here, of which some remains are visible; it is referred to in the Annals of the Four Masters, at the year 1475;-“A circuitous hosting was made by O’ Donnell, i.e., Hugh Roe, the son of Niall Gaw, . . . . . He remained for some time in Offaly, plundering and ravaging Meath on each side of him. He demolished and burned Castle Carbury and Ballymayler,” etc.
This is another of the ancient parishes which make up the present parish of Balyna, and which, it appears probable, gives its name, in a contracted form, to the union. In the townland of Ballynadrimna, or Ballynadrimney, as it is frequently spelled, there is a small portion of the ruins of the old Church, in a burial ground which is still used. In the Royal Oak townland there is a well called Bride’s Well, but which, remarks Dr. O’ Donovan, is not remembered as a holy well. The people say there was a castle in Royal Oak townland, but none of it now remains.

 The fine Church of Broadford has been build by the present respected pastor, the Rev. Felix Tracy, in substitution for the humble Chapel that previously stood here.
Is the site of an old Church, no portion of which has survived. In the burial-ground, which now marks the site, the only noteworthy epitaph appears to be the following:-“This monument was erected by John Commins, in memory of the Rev. James Commins, Parish Priest of Castle-Town, in the County of Westmeath, who departed this life July 18th, 1791, aged 52 years. God be merciful to his soul!”
(An Urnaedh, “the Oratory”) old parish forms the portion of the present parochial district called Clogherinkoe. This latter appellation is derived, according to some authorities, from Clogharrinceadh, “the dancing-stone;” others have it to come from Clogha-Rointe, “the stone (or Castle) of the divisions.” Here, too, a fine Gothic Church, erected by Father Tracy, takes the place of the old Chapel which may be seen hard-by. This old Chapel was either build or enlarged in 1749, as we learn from an inscription over the doorway:-“D.D. P.P. 1749.” The initials are those of Dominick Dempsey, the then P.P., who is interred in the same grave with Lewis Dempsey his predecessor, and, very probably, his near relative, at Cadamstown. It was enlarged in 1808 by Rev. M. Kennedy, P.P., as is commemorated by another tablet. It is very likely that one of the six Mass-houses, stated to have been built subsequent to 1714, in the parishes of Carbury and Balyna, stood here. See Return of 1731, Vol. I., p. 364.
At the village of that name stands the parish Church, a fine building in the Gothic style, erected by the late Parish Priest, the Very Rev. Michael Flanagan, V.G. A tablet placed over the grave of the founder within the Church bears the following inscription:-“This monument is erected by the parishioners of Johnstown, Broadford, and Clocrincoe, as a tribute to the many virtues of their late lamented pastor, the Very Reverend Michael Flanagan, Vicar-General of Kildare and Leighlin. He exercised the ministry of Jesus Christ amongst them with untiring zeal for forty-eight years. His grave is made, as he wished it, in this Church of his own erection. Here he prayed and sacrificed for his people, and here he hoped not to be forgotten by them or their children. He died on the 2nd of August, 1855, in the 73rd year of his age. May he rest in peace. Amen.” Another monumental inscription in this Church touchingly tells its own tale; it is the composition of the present revered Bishop, to whom Father Butler was singularly endeared:-“Beneath are deposited the mortal remains of the Rev. James Butler, Admr. of Carlow. Died the 13th of April, 1860, aged 37 years. His meekmess, zeal for education, and tender sympathy for the afflicted, were eminent amongst the many virtues which adorned his character. This monument reveals the affectionate remembrance of him in this Parish, where his first years in the holy ministry were zealously spent. A memorial window in the Cathedral of Carlow attests the reverential affection which his flock justly entertained for this beloved Pastor. In a short space he fulfilled a long time. His memory shall be in perennial benediction. May he rest in peace.”
Was the site of an old Church-dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, as its name implies-regarding which nothing seems to be handed down to us. The surrounding ground was formerly, but is no longer, used for interments.
There was a Chapel situated in the townland of this name, dedicated to Saint Fynan, and served by a resident community of priests, but whether regulars or seculars does not appear. This religious house was in being in the year 1396. About that time the priests belonging thereto procured for themselves and their successors certain lands in perpetuity, without having obtained the King’s consent, and contrary to the Statute of Mortmain.-Monast. Hib. This was a burial-place of note; and in war-time the circumjacent inhabitants were exempt from the customary burdens of the country. In 1571 and 1578 large grants of land, in this and the neighbouring counties, were made to John Lye, amongst which was the site of this religious establishment. In the centre of the enclosure was a stone cross and two yew-trees, from one of which hung a bell. John Lye levelled the tenements, bounds and limits of the said religious house; threw down and destroyed the cross and trees, and erected a small castle, in which he took up his residence. We find him writing from “Clonagh Castle, in Kildare,” in1587, petitioning for a grant of Rathbride, in which he succeeded. By an inquisition taken at Naas, in 1613, it appears that John Lye, was seized of certain tenements and some 300 acres of land in Tichnevin, Ballybrack, Ballynakill, Kilpatrick, Kilcaskin, and Kilmorebrannagh. “And the said John Lye was also seized of 20 acres, along with common pasturage in the Townland of Clonagh, held of Thomas Birmingham, and a Chapel called The Chapel of St. Finnan, in the Townland of Clonagh, together with 9 messuages, 2 enclosures, and an orchard belonging to the said Chapel. . . . . .The said John Lye died on the 7th of May, 1612. John Lye, junior, his son and heir, was then aged 9 years.” This purloiner of Church property lies buried at Kildare, where the inscription on his tomb piously requests prayers for the repose of his soul. Further information will be found in the Paper on Kildare.
DAVID DE LA HOIDE was a native of the Barony of Carbury: his family having held the property there afterwards assigned to O’ More, of Leix. Holinshed, his contemporary, thus refers to him: “David Delahide, an exquisite and a profound clerke, sometime fellow of Merton College, in Oxford, verie well seene in the Latine and Greeke toongs; expert in the mathematicals, a proper antiquarie, and an exact divine; whereby I gather that his pen hath not been lazie, but is daily breeding of such learned books as shall be available to his posteritie. I have seene a proper oration of his in the praise of Master Heywood being Christmas lord (of Misrule) in Merton College, entituled –‘De ligno et foena.’ (This title was in allusion to the name Heywood); also Schemata rhetorica in tabulam contracta.” From Harris’s Ware we learn that Delahoide was admitted a Probationer of Merton College, anno 1549, and in 1553 took his degree of Master of Arts. But he was expelled Oxford in 1560 for denying the Queen’s supremacy, and from thence retired to his native country.

THE VERY REV. LEWIS DEMPSEY, V.G., was appointed P.P. in 1657. He died the 5th of May, 1704, aged 77, having had charge of the parish for 47 years, and was interred at Cadamstown.
RICHARD HALDER succeeded. He appears in the Registry of 1704 as residing at Garisker, aged 62, P.P. of Cadamstown, Carrick, Mylerstown, and Ballynadrimna; received Holy Orders in 1675, at Ghent, from Nicholas French, Bishop of Ghent, and his sureties were James Cullen, of Clonegath (in the Parish of Monasterevan), Gent., and Captain Richard Archbold of Birr-town. Dr. French, above referred to, was the exiled Bishop of Ferns. He became coadjutor to the Bishop of Ghent about the year 1666, and died in that city on the 23rd of August, 1678, aged 74. Further details and copy of the inscription on his tomb, may be seen in Brady’s Episcopal Succession, Vol. I. P. 378. When Father Halder died has not been ascertained, except that it occurred previous to the year 1731.
LEWIS DEMPSEY was probably the next in succession. He is named in the Return of 1731. (See Vol. I. p.264.) The time of his death is also uncertain, except that it took place before 1749.
DOMINICK DEMPSEY succeeded. The inscription at Clogherinkoe old Chapel shows that he was P.P. in 1749. He lies interred at Cadamstown, in the same grave with the first Lewis Dempsey; the inscription on the tomb gives no particulars respecting him.
EDWARD DEMPSEY was P.P., and probably the immediate successor of Dominick Dempsey. In the graveyard at Harristown, Parish of Monasterevan, a tombstone is placed to the memory of Lewis Dempsey, aged 94. The year, unfortunately, is illegible, but appears to be 1777. At the bottom is added-“Edvardus Dempsey, parochus de Cadamstowne me fieri fecit.”
PHILIP FARRELL, V.G., either immediately succeeded or immediately preceded Edward Dempsey. He is interred at Cadamstown.
MICHAEL CORCORAN was the next P.P. From the inscription on his tomb at Tullow (see Vol. I., p. 92,) we learn that previous to his appointment to the pastoral charge of Balyna, he had served on the Mission in Dublin;-he is also stated to have displayed great prudence in guiding his flock at Balyna during the troubled times of 1798. Father Kearns, though a native of Wexford, had acted as assistant Priest in Balyna previous to the Rebellion, in which he took an active part, and for which he suffered death at Edenderry. He endeavoured to arouse the people of this parish to take the field, but only partially succeeded, owing to the dissuasions of Dr. Corcoran. On the death of Father Terence Nolan, P.P. of Kildare, circa 1802, Dr. Corcoran was translated to that parish, and continued there until he was chose Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in March, 1815. He died at Tullow, 22nd of February, 1819.
MICHAEL KENNEDY succeeded Dr. Corcoran as P.P. of Balyna. He died on the 20th of March, 1817, in the 67th year of his age, and 44th of his priesthood, and was interred at Cadamstown.
MICHAEL FLANAGAN, V.G., was the next Pastor. He died, 2nd August, 1855, aged 73, and rests at Johnstown.
THE REV. FELIX TRACY, the present respected Parish Priest, succeeded Dr. Flanagan.

A transcript of Rev. M. Comerford’s 1883 History of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, relating to the R.C. Parish of Balyna.

[Compiled by Mario Corrigan; typed by Breid Kelly and Maria O’Reilly; edited by Niamh Mc Cabe]

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