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Athea Parish

History | Churches | Graveyards | Holy Wells | Mass Rock | Famous People | Townlands | Priests of the Parish

Brief Parish History & Geographical Location

Athea is situated about 4 miles west of the town of Newcastlewest and the village nestles under the hills of the Dromada ridge. Athea was an isolated and under developed area until the 1830s when the road from Glin to Abbeyfeale was built. As the village of Athea grew, so did its prominence.

According to Samuel Lewis, Athea was part of the civil parish of Rathronan, which also contains some of the parish of Ardagh on the eastern side of the division. During the penal times, the Catholic parish took the name of Athea and dropped the medieval name Rathronan.

Rathronan gets its name from Ráth Ronáin, which means "the Rath of Ronan". Athea was sometimes referred to as Templeathea. Athea is translated into Irish as Áth an tSléibhe which means "the fort of the High Moorland".

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The present church was built in 1832 and is dedicated to St Bartholomew. According to a plaque on the left-hand side of the church, it was erected in 1832, reorganised, enlarged and dedicated to God in 1862. A plaque on the right hand side of the church states that it was restored in 1986-1987 by Thomas O'Donnell, PP. Patrick Kelly PP rededicated it on 18th of October 1987. There is a Calvary scene to the right in front of the church, while there is a grotto to Mary to the left.

In July 1999, President McAleese planted a cedar tree in the church grounds in memory of Fr Sean O'Hanlon, who introduced the organisation GROW to the country while he was a curate in the parish from 1971 until 1977. GROW helps people who suffer from depression.

There is a stained glass window in the left transept of the church to the Blessed Virgin. In the right transept of the church, there is a stained glass window to St Patrick. There is a statue to Mary on the left of the altar and on the right is a statue of the Sacred Heart. There is a shrine to the Legion of Mary in the right porch of the church.

There is a stained glass window on the left of the nave of the church, which depicts St Bartholomew and St Ita. This window was donated in memory of Thomas and Catherine McCoy by their daughter Kitty. The stained glass window on the right of the nave depicts a church and a cross, and bears the words 'Faith of Our Fathers'. Beneath the window is a plaque, which reads "Pray for Dr Philip McGrath, his wife Mary and brother Jimmie."

Buried within the church is:

John Ryan
PP Athea
Died 1870
Aged 81

Buried in the grounds of the church are:

Thomas O'Donnell
PP 1983 - 1987
Died 6th May 1987

Thomas Canon Cussen
PP 1965 - 1982
Died 19th December 1982

T. Connolly
PP 1935 - 1949
Died 7th March 1949

C. Moriarty
PP 1949 - 1965
Died January 12th 1965

Maurice R. Woulfe
PP Old Fallings, Wolverhampton 1924-1962
Late of Cratloe, Athea
Died November 24th 1962

W. O'Shea
PP for six years
Died 12th January 1924

W. Fenton
PP for six years
Died 5th August 1930

Sean O'Hanlon M.S.C., C.C.
Athea 1971-1978
Died February 8th 1978

There was also a thatched church in Athea village from 1750 until 1832 when the present church was opened for worship. A plaque was erected at the lane way to the site to signify the area. There is a record from the returns of a W. Blood, who was a Hearth-money collector for 1784 in Rathronan, that there was a Mass House in Athea. It is quite possible that he was referring to the thatched church.

According to Westropp, there was a chapel in Rathronan in 1291 called the Chapel of Maurice, which was part of a dispute between the dioceses of Lismore and Cashel in 1260. The modern Church of Ireland church was built on the site in 1827.

There was also a church at Mount Temple in 1645, the present day townland of Templeathea. The church may have been called "de Monte Maledictionis" and was locally called the "church of the mountain". A graveyard adjoins the church ruin. Locals often refer to it as Templeathea church ruin.

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There are three graveyards in the parish of Athea. The new graveyard in Athea is located near the Con Colbert Memorial Hall.

The oldest graveyard in the parish is beside the old church in Templeathea. This graveyard is still in use and the oldest headstone that we came across is in memory of Timothy McCoy who died on December 9th, 1796 at the age of 65. There are three tombs in the graveyard; two belong to the Woulfe family while the other belongs to the Danaher family. The graveyard is well maintained.

There is a famine graveyard about a mile outside Athea on the road to Listowel. The location of the graveyard can be identified by a clump of furze bushes, which can be seen from the roadside. On Easter Sunday 2000, Fr. O'Leary and Canon Kelly held a mass at the graveyard at 6 o'clock in the morning. Despite this early hour, around 300 people attended the mass. The mass finished just as the sun was rising over the horizon.

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Holy Wells
Danaher mentions two wells in the parish of Rathronan, now in Athea parish. Tobar Mhíchíl is located in the townland of Gortnagross. No devotions are made at the well and presently the well is used to supply Athea with water.

The second well is in Templeathea West, close to the old cemetery, and is called Tobermurry. It is nicely maintained. Rounds are still made here on the 25th of March, 1st of May, 24th of June, 15th and 24th of August. In the past there was a pattern to St. Bartholemew on the 24th of August at this well but this tradition ended in the 1880s. The water is said to cure ailments of all kinds and rags are left as an offering.

Legends about the well are varied and interesting. The well moved when cursed, you would see a trout in the well when your wish was to be granted, and the water in the well would not boil. It is also claimed that the well sprang up on the spot where a woman died during the famine. A blind horse was brought to do the rounds of the well by his owner. The horse was cured and ironically the owner became blind. However, the most interesting legend concerns an unknown treasure that is buried near the well. A phantom bull guards the treasure. A plaque was erected by the women of the parish to three stalwarts of the well, Fr. P. Sampson C.S.S.P, Canon Cregan P.P. and Fr. J. O'Shea C.C. on the 15th of August 1914.

Danaher also mentions a well to St Bartholemew. This well was also in Templeathea West and its location was close to the site of the pre-1830 Mass House in Athea village.


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Mass Rock

There was a Mass Rock in the parish that was used as a place of worship in the time of the Penal laws. A large cross was erected on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1914 and it now marks the site. The cross is on the lands of Tim Costello and overlooks the village of Athea.

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Famous People

In the past Athea has produced athletes of renown. In particular two brothers were of world class standard in the early years of the century. Dan Aherne set a record for the Hop, Step and Jump (now called the Triple Jump) that remained unbeaten for a number of years. His brother Tim was a sprinter and hurdler but it was in the Hop, Step and Jump that he achieved his greatest sporting moment by winning an Olympic Gold Medal in London in 1908.

Before the advent of the educational system that we know of today, hedge schools were the only way that people could get an education. Micheál Óg O'Longáin, whose father was a native of the area returned from his birthplace in Co. Cork to open a hedge school in Athea around the turn of the nineteenth century. The fee for each pupil was sixpence a quarter but Micheál Óg found it hard to receive payment and so in anger wrote a quatrain in Irish about his pupils. This is the English translation of the poem:

Miserable my business and poor and impoverished my calling
Teaching the young, and not well do they pay me
I promise ye, every immature youthful boor in the country
That 'twill be long before my likes comes among them again

The Con Colbert Memorial Hall in Athea is named after one of the leaders who were executed after the Easter Rising of 1916. Colbert was born at Monalena in Castlemahon but was brought up in Galeview House. Con was a member of the I.R.B. (the Irish Republican Brotherhood) and captain of F Company, Fourth Dublin Battalion. During the Rising, he commanded a garrison under the leadership of Eamonn Cennant at Watkin's Brewery, Ardee Street and Jameson's Distillery. For his role in the Rising, he was executed on May 8th 1916. President Erskine Childers opened the Con Colbert Memorial Hall on January 20th, 1974.

On the fringes of the village, there is a large cross that was erected to the memory of Thomas F. Goold. He was the only son of Archdeacon Goold and his wife Caroline. He died in May 1861 at the age of 24. Thomas' grandfather (who was also called Thomas) came to the area from Cork City. In 1817 he bought the Athea estate from Lord Courtenay for £15,000. Thomas Goold died at his daughter's home in Lissedell, Co. Sligo in 1846. His daughter Caroline was married to Sir Ralph Gore Booth. They were the grandparents of Countess Markievicz, who was the Minister for Labour in the first Dáil in 1919. The "sorrowing and grateful tenantry" of the area erected the cross in 1863. The cross was restored in 1979 by the descendants of the Goold family and the local Youth Club.

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English Name Irish Name Meaning
Athea Lower Áth an tSléibhe The fort of the mountain
Athea Upper as above  
Clash North An Chlais The trench
Clash South as above  
Cool East An Chúil The corner
Coole West as above  
Crataloe East An Chreatalach A sallow wood
Cratloe West as above  
Derreen Lower An Doirín The small thicket
Derreen Upper as above  
Dromada Drom Fhada Long ridge
Glashapullagh Glaise an Phollaigh The stream of the place of holes
Glenagower Gleann an Ghabhair The glen of the Goat
Gortnagross Gort na gCros The field of the crosses
Keale North An Caol The narrow feature
Keale South as above  
Knockdown Cnoc Donn Brown hill
Knockfinisk Cnoc Finnisce Hill of bright water
Knocknagornagh Cnoc na gCoirneach The hill of the clerics
Park An Pháirc The field
Rooskagh Rúscach Marshy place
Templeathea East Teampaill an tSléibhe The church of the mountain
Templeathea West as above  
Tooradoo Na Tuara Dubha The black animal enclosures
Tooreendonnell Tuairín Dónaill The small animal enclosure of Dónall


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List of Priests

Year Parish Priest Curate(s)
1704 - ? Cornelius O’Brien  
? - 1763 Maurice Dinneen  
1763 - 1794 Matthew Corbett  
1794 - 1799 Timothy Hallinan  
1799 - 1804 Patrick Ahern  
1804 - 1812 Edmond Hallinan  
1812 - 1818 Edmund O’Halloran  
1818 - 1824 James Cleary  
1824 - 1836 John Ryan  
1837 John Ryan John Hogan
1838 John Ryan Luke Hanrahan
1839 John Ryan  
1840 John Ryan Patrick Scanlan
1841 John Ryan  
1842 John Ryan  
1843 John Ryan Thomas Lynch
1844 John Ryan Thomas Lynch
1845 John Ryan Thomas Lynch
1846 John Ryan Thomas Lynch
1847 John Ryan Thomas Lynch
1848 John Ryan James Walsh
1849 John Ryan James Walsh
1850 John Ryan James McCarthy
1851 John Ryan James Lee
1852 John Ryan Michael Ryan
1853 John Ryan Michael Ryan
1854 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1855 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1856 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1857 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1858 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1859 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1860 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1861 John Ryan Martin Ryan
1862 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
1863 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
1864 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
1865 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
1866 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
1867 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
1868 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
1869 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
    J. Greene D.D.
1870 John Ryan Martin Ryan (Adm.)
    J. Greene D.D.
1871 Martin Ryan J. Greene D.D.
1872 Martin Ryan J. Greene D.D.
1873 Martin Ryan J. Greene D.D.
1874 Martin Ryan J. Greene D.D.
1875 Martin Ryan Stephen Danaher
1876 Martin Ryan Stephen Danaher
1877 Martin Ryan Stephen Danaher
1878 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
1879 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
1880 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
    William Downes (Adm.)
1881 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
    William Downes (Adm.)
1882 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
    William Downes (Adm.)
1883 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
    William Downes (Adm.)
1884 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
    William Downes (Adm.)
1885 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
    William Downes (Adm.)
1886 Martin Ryan Patrick Condon
    William Downes (Adm.)
1887 Martin Ryan William Downes (Adm.)
    Timothy Curtin
1888 Martin Ryan J. Glesson
    John Breen
1889 William Downes John Breen
1890 William Downes John Breen
1891 William Downes John Breen
1892 William Downes John Breen
1893 William Downes John Breen
1894 William Downes John Breen
1895 George Quain John Breen
1896 George Quain John Breen
1897 George Quain John Breen
1898 George Quain Robert Ambrose
1899 George Quain David Hanly
1900 George Quain David Hanly
1901 George Quain David Hanly
1902 George Quain David Hanly
1903 George Quain David Hanly
1904 George Quain David Hanly
1905 George Quain David Hanly
1906 George Quain Patrick Riordan
1907 George Quain Patrick Riordan
1908 James Cregan Patrick Riordan
1909 James Cregan James Carroll
1910 James Cregan James Carroll
1911 James Cregan James Carroll
1912 James Cregan James Carroll
1913 Canon James Cregan Jeremiah O’Shea
1914 Canon James Cregan Jeremiah O’Shea
1915 Canon James Cregan Jeremiah O’Shea
1916 Canon James Cregan Jeremiah O’Shea
1917 Canon James Cregan Jeremiah O’Shea
1918 Canon James Cregan David O’Riordan
1919 William O’Shea David O’Riordan
1920 William O’Shea David O’Riordan
1921 William O’Shea David O’Riordan
1922 William O’Shea David O’Riordan
1923 William O’Shea David O’Riordan
1924 William O’Shea David O’Riordan
1925 William Fenton P. O’Callaghan
1926 William Fenton P. O’Callaghan
1927 William Fenton Patrick Finn
1928 William Fenton Patrick Finn
1929 William Fenton Daniel Costello
1930 William Fenton Daniel Costello
1931 John Rea Daniel Costello
1932 John Rea John McCarthy
1933 John Rea John McCarthy
1934 John Rea John McCarthy
1935 John Rea John McCarthy
1936 Thomas Connolly John McCarthy
1937 Thomas Connolly John Chawke
1938 Thomas Connolly John Chawke
1939 Thomas Connolly Joseph Moran
1940 Thomas Connolly John Connors
1941 Thomas Connolly John Connors
1942 Thomas Connolly John Connors
1943 Thomas Connolly John Connors
1944 Thomas Connolly William O’Connell
1945 Thomas Connolly Joseph O’Beirne
1946 Thomas Connolly Joseph O’Beirne
1947 Thomas Connolly Joseph O’Beirne
1948 Thomas Connolly John Browne
1949 Thomas Connolly John Browne
1950 Charles Moriarty Michael O’Connor
1951 Charles Moriarty Michael O’Connor
1952 Charles Moriarty Michael O’Connor
1953 Charles Moriarty Michael O’Connor
1954 Charles Moriarty Michael O’Connor
1955 Charles Moriarty Michael O’Connor
1956 Charles Moriarty Michael O’Connor
1957 Charles Moriarty Michael Doody
1958 Charles Moriarty Michael Doody
1959 Charles Moriarty Michael Doody
1960 Charles Moriarty Michael Doody
1961 Charles Moriarty Michael Doody
1962 Charles Moriarty Martin Madigan
1963 Charles Moriarty Martin Madigan
1964 Charles Moriarty Martin Madigan
1965   Martin Madigan
1966 Thomas Cussen Martin Madigan
1967 Thomas Cussen Martin Madigan
1968 Thomas Cussen Martin Madigan
1969 Thomas Cussen Dermot McCarthy
1970 Thomas Cussen Dermot McCarthy
1971 Thomas Cussen Dermot McCarthy
1972 Thomas Cussen Seán O’Hanlon
1973 Thomas Cussen Seán O’Hanlon
1974 Thomas Cussen Seán O’Hanlon
1975 Thomas Cussen Seán O’Hanlon
1976 Thomas Cussen Seán O'Hanlon
1977 Thomas Cussen Seán O’Hanlon
1978 Thomas Cussen Seán O’Hanlon
1979 Thomas Cussen Michael Irwin
1980 Thomas Cussen James Costello
1981 Canon Thomas Cussen James Costello
1982 Canon Thomas Cussen James Costello
1983 Canon Thomas Cussen James Costello
1984 Thomas O’Donnell James Costello
1985 Thomas O’Donnell James Costello
1986 Thomas O’Donnell Andrew Keating
1987 Thomas O’Donnell Michael Cussen
1988 Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1989 Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1990 Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1991 Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1992 Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1993 Canon Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1994 Canon Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1995 Canon Patrick Kelly Michael Cussen
1996 Canon Patrick Kelly Timothy O’Leary
1997 Canon Patrick Kelly Timothy O’Leary
1998 Canon Patrick Kelly Timothy O’Leary
1999 Canon Patrick Kelly Timothy O’Leary
2000 Canon Patrick Kelly Timothy O'Leary
2001 Laurence Madden Patrick Kelly, P.E.
2002 Laurence Madden Patrick Kelly, P.E.
2003 Laurence Madden Patrick Kelly, P.E.
2004 Laurence Madden Patrick Canon Kelly, P.E.
2005 Laurence Madden Patrick Canon Kelly, P.E.
2006 Laurence Madden Patrick Canon Kelly, P.E.
2007 Laurence Madden Patrick Canon Kelly, P.E.

The list of Priests from 1704 to 1836 is compiled from information gained in Begley's History of the Diocese of Limerick Vol. III page 598. The remaining years are compiled from the Catholic Directories. Information contained in a directory of any given year refers to what happened the previous year. For example if a priest is recorded in the 1954 directory as being in a particular parish, this would mean that he was actually there in 1953.

History | Churches | Graveyards | Holy Wells | Mass Rock | Famous People | Townlands | Priests of the Parish

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