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Killenbrenan (Moorgagagh)

SHRULE – J.F. Quinn’s History

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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.

Moorgagagh Parish

Moorgagagh is mentioned as a See land, or Episcopal land, in 1617. The old taxations show that this little parish contained a half-quarter of episcopal land, and apparently it was donated to the Abbey of or Bishop of Cong. However, there is nothing certain about that, as some authorities hold that a See of Shrule ante-dated that of Cong. Certain it is, however, that in ancient times there was a very important tract of country known as the deanery of Shrule, embracing three baronies, but it was disintegrated even in the time of the wardenship of Galway, reduced even to the status of a parish, subsequently it was even further degraded by separating it from the archdiocese of Tuam, and even from the Co. Mayo by joining it up with Galway. The Mayo parishes attaching to it – those in the barony of Kilmaine – even omitting those in the baronies of Ballinahinch and Ross (Co.. Galway), which it also embraced, constituted an area almost as extensive as one of the existing Irish dioceses, namely Ross, which embraces parts of Cork and Kerry. Apparently some time after the deanery of Cong was set up. My only authority for this is that for some time Cong was regarded as the capital of the deanery – at least the Clerical Conferences, for what is now Ballinrobe deanery were held at Cong, and only very recently transferred to Ballinrobe.

Naturally Cong retained a good deal of importance after that diocese was wound up and merged in Tuam, and it would be only reasonable to expect that the deanery would be so called, but it was backward, and not as central for the clergy as Ballinrobe. Delving deeper into the old records one is also faced with the presumption that these 40 acres of See land were attached not to Cong but to Moorgagagh abbey itself, for unquestionably there was an abbey there, Killeenbrenan been now the name The south wall of Killeenbrenan abbey was split, and had to be buttressed and re-inforced, which may have originated the name, murgacac, which means cracked. but down to this day Moorgagagh survives officially as a parish. The varying forms of the three ancient units comprising the modern parish of Shrule, together with some of the old churches, need to be noted in order to verify the references in the old documents prepared at a time when the Irish names predominated, and of which English officials and others made a sad mess. We have Shrule itself spelled Scurer, Struther, Sruhir, Scruyer in the same document; Kinlough as Kenlacha, Kynlagha, and Kenlach; Killeenbrenan as Kyllynbrenayn, Killinbreanyn, Killinbreanen and Killinabrian, and Moyne as Maigin and sometimes Mayenculi.

Another Old Church

Knox refers to an old church at Kilnamanagh, which is difficult to date. He claimed he found it in an ancient tract, and stated to be in Muintir Murcada. He claimed that it was the parish church of Struithir in Muntercuda (Muintir Cada), and that mentioned in the Taxation. The parish, or at least part of it, merged in that of Donaghpatrick, and the rectory of the whole belonged to the monastery at the time of the suppression. The Four Masters record the death of the abbot of Kilnamanagh in 1438. A Franciscan House had, however, no abbot, and it is supposed the term was used laxly. There are indications to show that the building had been extended, the reconstruction being done in a rough way. Much of the ruin remains. Moorgagagh abbey presents the features of a mediaval monastic church constructed on the site of an earlier Irish church. In the east wall is a small piece of very fine walling of pick-dressed stones with very fine joints, which seems to be a fragment of the east end of a very much older church. Unfortunately the upper part of the east wall is gone. The character of the rest of the building agrees with the date of foundation, 1428, given in Archdall’s “Monasticon.” The south wall began to fall out, and was reinforced by a thickening outside. This work was planned in days when the architects were not as expert as today and is not as artistic, or yet as substantial as the buttresses put to Killala Cathedral some years ago, the work being so well done that they look like part of the original structure. At Moorgagagh the buttressing was defective in that it was not fined down adequately, and had consequently to be covered so high up that the square windows high up in the wall were obscured and blackened. Another too massive construction reinforces the wall at the eastern end. This splitting of the walls is alleged to have given the place its name.

Killeenbrenan was probably the original name, and still obtains on the official maps. Knox, however, was of the opinion, and he knew the ground intimately, that the name might have been applied to the far older church close by, called the Killeen, and in that case the chancel was built simply against the east wall of the old church. The remarkable piece of masonry alluded to would strengthen this opinion. The date has not been fixed, but its dimensions, 61 feel by 19 feet, mark it as a comparatively late construction, and this suggests that Killeenbrenan was the old parish church and that the abbey was raised on the site of another disused ancient church, The Killeen is in Moorgagagh townland, and the abbey in Kill. The Killeen was once a very important religious establishment. The land north, west and south is covered with foundations of walls and buildings that certainly indicate a large settlement- probably a monastery of the early epoch that crumbled to ruin under the more powerful influence of Cong, and possibly the church lands we find later attached to Cong were donated earlier for the support of the monks of this abbey and that of Kilnamanagh. The investigations proceeding may clarify the matter. Particulars of church lands in Shrule I also reserve until I am dealing with Cong.

The See Lands

In the first list we have of See lands in Mayo appears Moorgagagh, the area being half a quarter. In a subsequent return of lands owned by the Archbishop of Tuam, Ross and Moorgagagh parishes are bracketed, With 122 acres in Russina (Rusheen townland, to the south of Rosshill) and 288 acres at Moorgoer (Moorgagagh); Cong and Moorgagagh are also bracketed, with. 1,121 acres at Kiltramadra (Houndswood) and Moorgoer. Under the Edwardine Taxation (1306) we have the following for the deanery of Struther: Struther, £2; Kenlacha (Kenlough), 13/4; Magenculi (Moyne), £l; Killyngmyirrynd (The Neal Old Church) £l; Cunga (Cong) £l; Inismedan (Inishmaine) £2; Rodba, £1 6s. 8d.; Kilcolman (Attyrickard) £4; Laughmescan (Ballinchalla) £2; Inysredba (Templenalecka) £1 6s 8d; Margos (Moorgagagh) £1; Kilkemantuyn (Kilcommon) £1 6s. 8d.; Rossclaran (Moyrus) 13/4; Innisdsclin (Omeyfeneen 16/-, making a total of £31 9s. 4d., the tenth of which (£3 2s. 11d.), went to the King. In Bodkin’s “Visitation” Dermot 0’Ruain is mentioned as Vicar of Scruyr, the profits of which was usurped by William, son of John de Burgo. The rectory was under Cong monastery. John Og 0’Darcay was the vicar of Kynlacha (Kinlough), but the profits were usurped by the same gentleman. This rectory was also under Cong.

In the Division of Connaught (1574) the list of churches, is very confused, but the vicarage and rectory of Killeenbrenan, Sruer and Kynlagha are referred to, also the abbey of Killinbreanyn, and possessed “eyther by Freeres, or Rebells, so as her Majesty hath no commoditie by the same.” Ballycally (Ballinchalla) and Homoheny (Feechin’s Island) are also referred to.

A 1591 list shows that Sruhir was under the College of Galway, the Queen being named as Rector of Killeenbrena and Kinlough, and Conley 0’Keafavin of Ballinchalla. The vicarages of Sruhir and Kinlough were also held by the College of Galway, Dermot 0’Myn being named for Killeenbrenan and Kervall 0’Ceally for Ballinchalla. The old churches and graveyards were Killeenbrenan (Moorgagagh), the old church at Kill, in Moorgagagh parish, and in Shrule, Shrule Abbey, “Clogvanaha” graveyard, north of Dalgan House at Carrowmore, Moyne and Kinlough churches. In the 16th century the rectories, or rather chief churches, in the deanery of Shrule were — in Conmaicne Cuil Tolad (Kilmaine) there were Ballinrobe, Kilmainemore, Shrule, Kilcommon, Kilmainebeg, Cong, Ballinchalla, Kilmolara, Moorgagagh and Ross, the following being in Conmaicne Mara (Connemara), Ballynakill, Omey, Ballindoon and Moyrus, and all except Ballinrobe and Kilmaine were under the abbey of Cong.

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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