Parish of Raheen
Source: Rev M Comerford "Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin" Vol. 3 (1886)
RAHEEN, which means "the little Fort," is the name of very many districts throughout the country. The present Parish of Raheen constituted a portion of the extensive parochial district of Clonenagh until the year 1820. Its history, therefore, has been already substantially told in the chapter on Mountrath.
This name is probably derived from Crioch-Maedhoc, i.e. "Mogue's district," but how this name came to be applied to this place does not appear. It may be that the St. Mogue, from whom Timogue, in the Parish of Stradbally, is named, was also identified with this locality. About three miles from Clonenagh, in the present Parish of Raheen, are the ruins of this old church, said to have been formerly dedicated to St. Fintan. It measures 40 feet in length, by 18 in width. There is a small east window, a round-headed door in the west gable, and a Gothic-shaped aperture, seemingly a passage into the tower, higher up. The square tower, placed at the west end, is evidently of much more modern date than the church itself. From traces of plaster on the interior, it appears that this church had been in use, probably for Protestant service, at no distant date. St. Fintan is said to have resided at this place previous to his settling at Clonenagh. St. Fintans Well is hard by, a fine, clear spring, and accounted holy. The penitential rounds used to be performed here on the festival of the saint, and at the present time, pebbles taken from the bottom of this well are eagerly sought for and treasured up, as preservatives against shipwreck or accidental death. An old stone causeway is said to have formerly extended between Cremogue and Clonenagh, portions of which may still be traced. In the graveyard connected with this church are interred the remains of two former pastors of Clonenagh. The head-stones marking their graves bear the following inscriptions:- "The Rev. Father Edmund Corcoran departed this life December the 8th, 1747, aged 79 years. Who lived 35 years priest of this parish." "Here lyeth the body of Rev. John Lalor, Rector of Clonenagh, who departed this lyfe February the 15th, 1770, aged 62 years. Requiescat in Pace."
The date of the erection of the old thatched chapel of Raheen was 1729; the site was granted by a Protestant family named Baldwin, who then owned the property. It is stated that the circumstance which led to this favour was, that Mr. Baldwin was near meeting with an accident in consequence of his horse starting with him when on his return from church, at the sight of the poor Catholics assembled at Mass in a deep pit, near this place, which is called The Mass Pit even to the present time. "The poorer sort of Irish natives," writes an English tourist, in 1746, "are Roman Catholics, who make no scruple to assemble in the open fields. As we passed yesterday in a by-road, we saw a priest under a tree, with a large assembly about him, celebrating Mass in his proper habit; and though at a great distance from him, we heard him distinctly. These sort of people seem to be very solemn and sincere in their religion." - Chetwood's Tour through Ireland, p. 163. This very humble chapel continued in use up to some 28 years ago, when the present fine church was built, but on a more elevated position; the grave-yard in the village marks the site of the old structure.
This, which signifies "the old church," was the name of an ancient parish now incorporated in that of Raheen. The ruins of the old church are still to be seen in the present townland of Boley, surrounded by an ancient burial-ground. In the old Taxation of the Diocese of Leighlin (See Vol. I., p. 239), the Vicarage de Shankyll is valued at £3 6s. Sd., one of the most highly valued in the list. In this district, and at the distance of a mile-and-half from the old ruin, stands the Chapel of Shanahoe, the chapel-of-ease, erected by Father Braughall, the pilgrim (See Vol. 1., p. 287) whilst acting as curate in this parish. The date of its erection was about the year 1816; the site was obtained, along with a liberal contribution towards the work, from a Mr. Bourden, who resided then at Springmount, where he died about the year 1818.
This is the site of a disused cemetery, and, probably, also of an ancient church. As has been already stated, in chapter on Parish of Mountrath, St. Fintan most probably was born at Clonkeen in Leix. There is another and more remarkable place of this name, with ancient ecclesiastical ruins, in Parish of Ballinakill; each of these places may reasonably lay claim to the honour of being the birth-place of the "head of the monks of Erin; "it appears impossible to decide in favour of one more than the other. St. Fintan's Clonkeen, was the site of an ancient monastery, for particulars regarding which see chapter on Parish of Ballinakill. The site of this ancient church may be reached through an intricate old roadway, which debouches from the Dublin and Limerick great road on the south side, between Maryborough and Mountrath. A curious and very ancient hollow way leads immediately to the spot, on the verge of a very extensive bog stretching to the south and east. Several fine and fertile arable, meadow, and pasture fields, lying low, however, surround it to the north and west. The place is designated Churchfield, which proves that a church formerly stood here, on the site of the obliterated cemetery. Within the memory of persons living, corpses were here interred; but of late years, the land having been occupied by a farmer, and the graveyard having been opened for a sheep range, was deserted. The headstones have been removed, and not even the trace of a grave now remains. - (Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of Irish Saints., Vol. 11, p. 576.)
In this immediate neighbourhood, but within the parish of Ballyfin, is Buchlone, a place with which is connected one, if not two, of our early Irish saints. In referring to this place in chapter on Ballyfin, the following curious extract was omitted: it is from the Feilire of Aengus, at 20 Nov:- "Beseech Esconn and Froechan, before strong (Slieve) Bloom." To which the gloss in Leab. Breac adds: "i.e. pray Bishop Fraecan in Bochluain in Leix, to the east of Cluain Eidnech, or (it is) episcop Froechan that is here ut alii putant, escon, i.e. thirty years was he without baptism et ideo dicitur scon, impure, sed non verum. But Guid episcop Fraechain (is the true reading), i.e. Froechan was his name, and a bishop was he, and in Bochluain he is, i.e. in Leix, and in Druim Daganda in Dalaradia. He is called Escon, because he slew a King of Leinster, i.e. by the dipping with his staff which he made at him while he (the saint) was at Bo-chluain and the king in a bathing-tub at Naas, i.esca ideo dicitur quia aquam baptismatis infudit." Dr. Whitley Stokes remarks in a note, that the meaning of this last passage obviously is that esconn is a vessel used for distributing water, and that the saint was so called because he baptized many.
At Clonadd there is a graveyard, which lies on the side of the road from Abbeyleix to Maryborough. There does not, however, appear to be anything to record regarding it.
SUCCESSION OF PASTORS
The succession of pastors, up to the year 1820, is identical with that of Mountrath. The P.P. of the undivided Parish of Clonenagh named in the Registry of 1704, James Dwigin, resided, as is therein stated, at Downe (Doon) in the W. division of Maryborough Barony. This place is within the present Parish of Raheen, and was far from being a convenient position for a priest having singly to discharge the duties of so vast a district. The explanation may perhaps be that Doon was the property of the Baldwin family, who have always maintained a character for liberality and kindness, It is not unlikely therefore that the priest chose this place for his abode in order to be protected from persecution through their influence.
REV. MATTHEW FANNING, who had been previously
Administrator of Kildare, received pastoral charge of the new Parish of
Raheen in 1820; he died on the 27th of December, 1837, and was succeeded
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