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Abbeys and Churches

SHRULE – J.F. Quinn’s History

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St. Patrick’s Visit

About the year 440 St. Patrick, on his westward way, wended by the ford across the Black River, where, what was afterwards called the Bloody Bridge of Shrule, spanned the sluggish stream discharging into the lake nearby. The hill, called St. Patrick’s Hill in the Rentals of Cong, drawn up in 1501, marks the saint’s itinerary from Donaghpatrick, and should be marked on the Tochair Phadraig, which it is not. This hill was on the opposite side of the stream to Shrule, and near it was St. Colman’s Church, called in the same rentals Killeen-Colman. Both the church and the hill were then in the parish of Kilkilvery, and now incorporated in Donaghpatrick, and were in mediaeval times ceded to Cong abbey by the de Burgo clansmen.

Churches And Castles

In the parish were three ancient churches. three abbeys and six castles. Shrule is of Patrician origin. In ancient days the name was applied to a deanery, which comprised not less than three baronies, namely, Kilmaine, Ross and Ballinahench,embracing nineteen churches within its limits. The territory within the confines of the present parish was, in the 15th and 16th centuries, parcelled out into three separate parishes, which were then both rectories and vicarages – Shrule, Kinlough and Killeenbrenan. It is, therefore, a composite parish. The names of the two latter have been long off the list of even the very old parishes. The entire area within the parish is very historic, and contains the ruins of three ancient churches and two abbeys. A third is mentioned, but it is doubtful. We also found within its limits the ruins of six castles. There were the churches of Shrule, Kinlough and Killeenbrenan, the abbeys of Killeenbrenan (Moorgagagh, the split church), and Moyne, the one of doubtful origin being Clogvanaba. There were castles at Shrule, Kinlough, Moyne, Ballycurrin, Moycarra and Ballisnahyny.

Pre-Norman Times

In pre-Norman times Shrule was the title of a deanery, and the Edwardine Taxation of 1306 proves that as a deanery it was also co-extensive with the ancient diocese of Cong, and within the ambit of the deanery there were the following nineteen churches: — Struthir, Kenlacha, Moyeculi (Moyne), Killyngymlroynd, (Cill-Mael-Rory), Cunga (Cong), Inismedan, Rodbha, Kilmorosegir (Ballinrobe), Kellyngeglara (Kilmolara), Ross, St. Patrick of Kilmedon, the Apostles of Kilmedon, Kilcolman, Logmesca, Inysredba (Ballinrobe), Margos, Kilkemantuyn (Kilcommon), Ross Claran and Inidaclin. According to Knox these ancient names now represent the modem Shrule, Kinlough, Moyne, Neal, Cong, Inishmaine, Ballinrobe, Killosheen, Kilmolara, Ross, Kilmainemor, Kilmainebeg, Attyrickard, Ballinchalla, Templenalecka, Moorgagagh, Kilcommon, Moyrus and Omey, so that the old deanery stretched beyond Lough Corrib and well into the Co. Galway. It embraced as I have said the present, and not the old barony of Kilmaine, the barony of Ross (then in the Co. Mayo), and that of Ballinahinch in Galway County.

Before Cong

An important ecclesiastical territory before the establishment of Cong, that abbey and bishopric overshadoewd and led to the dismemberment of the historic deanery of Shrule, probably established after the coming of St. Patrick. It is even alleged that Shrule was once a See, but there is no record to pprove it. However, there is ample proof that it was a deanery, comprising no less than three baronies, consequently a place of considerable importance. Even the parochial unit, so designed, after the tightening up by throwing three parishes into one, each of which was also at the time of considerable importance, being both rectories and vicarages, they retained claims of so important a character that they received the attention of the Holy See, as we find reference to them in the Roman records. It is difficult after such a lapse of time to say which was which, but the old churches are definitely defined as Shrule, Kinlough, Moyne and Killeenbrenan. References to Kinlough as a parish we have but they are pretty obscure, and it has not survived even as a retrenched parish – at least.the name does not appear in any of the Government records, which were not disturbed by the redistribution and submerging of parishes for church purposes. Same applies to Killeenbrenan, but we do know this was represented by Moorgagagh as a parish, and Moorgagagh existed as a parish in ancient times, and does so still according to the official records. The townland of Moorgagagh now represents what was Killeenbrenan, and there were a church and an abbey there.

In the old parish of Moorgagagh, in Dalgan electoral division, there are ten townlands, which I have given so that it must have been an extremely small parish. The dimensions of Shrule church were 91 feet 10 inches by 24 feet 4 inches. Moyne of old written Maigen or Maigincula, had around it a substantial cashel, the walls of which were eight feet thick, and in shape it was perfectly oval, measuring 330 feet at its lesser and 380 feet at its greater diameter.. Knox says: “This Moyne is most likely to be the place mentioned in the Martyrologies, which refer to Muichin and Eodusa of Malgen.” The ruins lay a little north of Moyne Castle, on an upland. The gables of Kinlough church are extant, and its dimensions are given as 65 feet by 22 feet 4 inches. Knox says it belongs to the Gothic period. The ancient church of Killeenbrenan is in the townland of Moorgagagh, and the traces of extensive foundations are discernible all round it. In its vicinity, in Kill townland, stand the remains of Moorgagagh abbey, 61 feet by 19 feet in extent. Archdall gives the date of its foundation as 1428, but Shrule, Kinlough and Moyne churches were probably erected at the same time as the castles beside which they stand. We have references to these castles by the Annalists, including this: “Castles were erected in Muintir Murcada (Mag Scola, or the barony of Clare), Conmaicne Cuil (Kilmaine) and Cera (Carra) by the aforesaid Barons in 1228.” Knox remarks. that these churches belong to the period when the gothic style superseded the Romanesque, and this was in the thirteenth century. As we know, in 1306 these ancient churches stood in Shrule, Kinlough and Moyne, called in the Edwardine Taxation Struthir, Kinlacha and Maigencula, so that the parish lacks not in antiquity in that regard.

Rentals Of Cong

The Rentals of Cong, compiled in 1501 by Tadh 0’Duffy, when William Boy 0’Duffy was Abbot, have the following entry:- “Item – the aforesaid clansmen (that is, the de Burgos) gave Segerin (Killosheheen) of the Canons in the town of Robbo to the aforesaid monastery. The same clansmen gave a parcel of land at Rathmoling in the town of Sruthair (Ramolin, Shrule). There is also this entry: “:And thus belongs to the aforesaid monastery Temple Colmain, in the aforesaid town, and the well of the same, and KillinColmain, on the opposite side of the river, and the half-quarter of land of the Hill, which is called St. Patrick’s Hill.” This proves to all the Titular or Patron of Shrule church is St. Colman. Rathmoling is now the townland of Romolin, near Shrule church.

Shrule Alienated From Tuam

This transaction is alleged to have taken place in the year 1501. Archbishop Joyes or Joyce, said to be one of the big Joyces of Connemara (1486-1501), united the rectory and vicarage of Oranmore and the vicarage of Meary, which belonged to Annaghdown, to the wardenship of Galway, and in 1501 he ceded Shrule from Tuam archdiocese. In 1488 he had alienated from the diocese of Annaghdown in the parishes of Rahoon, Moycullen and Shrule. It was on the 15th August, 1501, that Archbishop Joyce united Shrule and Kinlough to the wardenship of Galway. The two incumbents, Meiler and Tomas Mac Seonin, resented this alienation of their parishes,. appealed to Rome, had their claims allowed, and continued to enjoy the fruits, rents and emoluments as was their wont.

400 Years Ago

Worsted by the Mac Seonins, the Bishop went to Kingdom Come with his project unfulfilled, and in 1526 Thomas 0’Mullaly, the. then Metropolitan of Tuam, was troubled with the matter, having been queried from a source he did not like, but what he had to regard as official, in reference to the status of the joint parishes. The warden and vicars of Galway alleged that Meller and Tomas Mac Seonin had obtained the Papal Letters by fraud and misrepresentations, having concealed a previous union of Kinlough and Shrule with Galway. 0’Mullaly evidently verified this version, and in view of the surreptitious process of the two local rectors of the parishes, he cancelled the claims of the Mac Seonins, annulled all their rights, and united the parishes to Galway, or rather reinforced the parish union. Whether this was cannonical or not, considering that the Mac Seonins had been a quarter of a century in possession, based on Apostolic Letters, the union was not subsequently disturbed, and this lasted these four hundred years. An appeal could have been made to the Legatine Court, but no appeal appears to have been lodged, and thus the alienation was complete. Under subsequent diocesan re-arrangements the Metropolitans of Tuam do not appear to have made representations to have it handed back.

Endowments Of Cong

In the grant possessions of Cong Abbey made by the British Government to John King and John Bingley in 1609 among the list of possessions is recorded: “One moiety of the tithes, great and small for the rectories, churches, chapels or parishes, and amongst others are specified those of “Shrule, Kinlough, and Killinbrenin.” King and Bingley, two greedy English adventurers on the rampage for Irish loot, had got tithes from Elizabeth, and were evidently not prepared to recognise the rights of the wardens of Galway, established eighty years previously. They grabbed all the loot from whatever source forthcoming but enjoyed it only for a short time.

The Suppression

Although Cong abbey had been suppressed in 1542, and the last abbot, Aneas MacDonnell, had been expelled, down to 1609 the power of England had not been fully effective in Connaught against the Church, and we find a Vicar, Dermot 0’Myn in Killinabrianin in 1591. In 1558 Dermot 0’Ruain was Vicar of Scruyr, John Og 0’Darcay was vicar of Kynlacha, and John 0’Konayll vicar of Killynbreayn, but the profits of both were usurped by William, son of John de Burgo, and the rectories of both belonged to Cong Abbey. In 1574 Scruer, Kynlagha and Killinbreanen were rectories and vicarages and two abbeys mentioned -Killinbreanyn and Moyne; but there is no reference to Clogvanaha, in Church Park, which must have been an ancient foundation and not functioning in 1574. The other two became extinct about this epoch. In 1591 Sruthir, Killinbranin and Kinlach are again registered as vicarages and rectories, and Dermot 0’Myn is mentioned as vicar of Killinbriain. This shows that the present parish of Shrule was a composite parish, embodying three preReformation vicarages and rectories. In 1833, Killeenbrenan was then called Moorgoger (Moorgagagh) parish in Goverment documents. The name is at present applied only to a townland, signifying cracked or split.

Date Of Old Church

The great parish church of Shrule is attributed to the descendants of the great Turlough 0’Conor as are Ballinrobe (Holyrood) and Burriscarra all built in the Gothic style and 90 feet long. The period assigned is between 1170 and 1230. It was built on. the very same site as that of an earlier one, and on the very ground where St. Patrick planted his crozier. The present parish church is a fine modern structure, and well furnished.

JF Quinn

J.F. Quinn series of articles on Mayo history published in the Western People during the 1930s

History of Mayo

by J. F. Quinn , Brendan Quinn
ISBN 0951928007 (0-9519280-0-7)
Hardcover, Brendan Quinn

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