by jdurney on May 5, 2011

Leinster Leader October 16 1971


Within this year 1971 falls the one hundredth anniversary of the coming of the Christian Brothers to Naas. For all its modern appearances the town can boast a proud past. Earliest tales relate that it was founded by Lugh, a celebrated philosopher and king of the Tuatha De Danann. Hence it was called Lios Lugha. This Lugh was also a warrior of renown and holds a prominent place in the story of the famous Battle of Magh Tuireadh, in which the Tuath De Danann defeated the Fir Bolg. It is frequently mentioned in Irish records as the royal residence of the Kings of Leinster for well nigh 1600 years.
The great moat at the upper end of the town now remains as a poor memorial of the regal grandeur that once adorned the site. St. Patrick, crossing the Liffey by the celebrated Ford of Clane, went to Naas which was only five miles distant. The tripartite life of Patrick says; “The site of his tent is in the green of the dun to the east of the road, and to the north of the road is his well.”
The green of the dun was the fair-green of the modern town. The site of the ancient royal rath was just outside the fair-green to the east of the road. The holy well was to the north of the road, just inside the demesne wall which bounded the road by which Patrick came from Clane to Naas. The newly converted Christians showed extraordinary zeal in the faith brought to them by Patrick. Many of the leading men among them offered their services thinking it an honour to be employed in the erection of churches.
Kilossy, near Naas commemorates the name of a companion of Patrick. This was St. Auxilius whom he had known in Auxerre. The Saint appointed him Bishop of this place which now bears his name.

The word Naas means an assembly and thus it became the name of the royal fort. It continued to be a royal residence down to the year 904 when King Cearbhall Mac Muireagan was slain and “Naas is without a King ever since.” After the Norman invasion it was granted to William Fitzgerald or Fitzmaurice, son-in-law of Strongbow and passed successively to the families of the De Lourdes and De Prestons. From its central position within the Pale it rose to be a place of importance. To protect it from hostile Gaels outside the Pale a wall was built around the town and some places of military strength were erected inside the town.
A priory of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, founded in the town in the twelfth century, flourished until 1316 when it was sacked by the Scots under Bruce. In 1355 Fitzmaurice founded a Convent of Dominican Friars in Naas and in 1484 another Convent of Augustines was founded there. In the 26th year of Elizabeth’s reign this convent with a hundred and twenty acres of land was granted to Nicholas Aylmer for a term of fifty years.
In 1641 the Reverend Peter O’Higgins O.P., Prior of Naas, was taken prisoner and put to death. The town was the scene of many conflicts after its occupation by the English. 1534 it was taken from Silken Thomas by Skeffington. In 1650 it was captured for Cromwell.
The town is pleasantly situated in a fine tract of fertile country, gently undulating and enriched with woods and beautifully contrasted on the south-east by the varied outline of the Wicklow Mountains. A writer tells us in 1897 that the streets are neither paved nor lighted but the inhabitants had a good supply of water from wells. An official report in 1833 says; “The streets are in a bad state of repair although they form part of the country roads and should be kept in order by trustees of the turnpikes. They are not cleaned by the authorities, who at the same time, prevent the inhabitants from doing so, as one of the portreeves claims the sweepings which are valuable for manure. To such a length has this been carried that persons have been fined for removing heaps of filth which had remained for days opposite their houses.”
A census of the parish in 1834 shows that there were then in the Parish 600 Protestants and 5,000 Catholics. There were fourteen day schools attended by 300 boys and 157 girls. In 1833 the Catholic Church was erected. It is a spacious handsome edifice in the early English style. Adjoining it is the Mercy Convent and Schools. The Parish Priest at the time was the Reverend Gerald Doyle. He was instrumental in bringing the Sisters of Mercy to the town. The old Christian Brothers’ School was formerly known as the Moat School. It had originally been known as the Catholic “Chapel,” the word “Church” being reserved for places of Protestant worship, and had been leased by the Landlord in 1786 at five shillings a year. When the new church was built the wretched building functioned as a school – the “Moat School” – so called from the great circular mound which adjoins it.
The first Community of three Christian Brothers settled into their poor residence in the upper storey of the school building on August 22nd 1871. The residence was small and frail. A most economic plan had been adopted – sods of turf were used instead of bricks to build up partitions. These frail ‘walls’ were neatly papered and had the recommendation of being very dry. When a Brother arrived in the house for the first time a vigilant Superior warned him “not to lean against the wall, for if he did it would fall.” The corridor in this unique residence was so narrow that two persons could not pass easily in it. The bedrooms were like the corridor, narrow and small, while the dining room was so small, that all had to sit on one side of the table. When the first Community arrived they brought the furniture for the house with them. Among other articles considered necessary were three mattresses, one for each Brother. When Dean Hughes, Parish Priest at the time, saw the mattresses he told the Brothers to cover them up at once, as the people thought the Brothers never slept in a bed, and they would be disedified. To provide shelter from the draughts the old Church Windows had ill-fitting shutters attached to them; but even with these candles were frequently blown out.


An article from the Leinster Leader of October 16 1971 telling of the arrival of the Christian Brothers 100 years before.

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