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Mahoonagh Parish

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

Brief Parish History & Geographical Location

The village of Mahoonagh is two miles south east of the town of Newcastlewest. Feohanagh village is situated approximately five miles further away, on the R522. The parish has two main centres, Castlemahon village and Feohanagh village.

The present day name of Mahoonagh comes from the Irish 'Maigh Tamhnach', which means 'the plain of the tree stumps' or 'the plain of the clearings'. The village of Mahoonagh is more commonly known as Castlemahon village, although Mainchín Seoighe tells us that the origin of this placename is unclear, there being neither parish nor townland of that name.

There is no exact known date for the founding of the parish. In the sixteenth century, Mahoonagh was divided up into three parts called Trean Tawnaghe, Treanmeane and Treanfaltaghe.

Cormac MacCarthaigh became the King of Munster in 1123 when his brother Tadhg died. According to Mainchín Seoighe, Cormac was known as Cormac Muighe Thamhnach because he had his residence in Mahoonagh. Cormac was a violent leader and led an expedition against the O'Connor's of Connacht. However, he was displaced as King in 1127 and was killed in 1138 in his house in Maigh Thamhnach by the O'Briens. Previously, it was recorded that Cellachan, the King of Cashel was killed at Mahoonagh in 954.


There are two churches in the parish of Mahoonagh, the first at Castlemahon and the second at Feohanagh. On Ascension Thursday, the 26th of May 1960, Bishop Murphy laid the foundation stone to the present Castlemahon church. Bishop Murphy opened the new church the following year in 1961. The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist. Mr Michael Raleigh gave the site. The architect was Chevalier P. J. Sheahan and the contractor was Mr. J. McCormack. The cost of the new church was £26,000.

Outside the church there is a mosaic of Jesus the shepherd which is to the memory of Bertie O'Gorman who died on December 16 1959. Further left of this mosaic is the foundation stone of the church. At the back of Castlemahon church, there is a statue of St Joseph on the right, while on the left there is a statue to Mary. To the left of the altar is the tabernacle and on the right there is an altar to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Buried in the grounds of the church is:

Canon Michael Quinn
P.P. 1959-1972
Died July 28 1972, aged 75

The present day Castlemahon church replaced St Nicholas' church, which had been built by Fr Michael Sheehan in the 1830s. In the early 1900s, Canon Irwin discovered that the foundations were faulty and pins had to be inserted to keep the walls straight. The national school in Castlemahon was built on the site of this church.

The Castlemahon History Group recently erected a plaque in memory of all the priests who were buried in the parish and it was placed on the site of the old church in Castlemahon. The inscription on this plaque reads:

In Memory of Mahoonagh Parish
Priests Buried Here In This Cemetery

Rev. Fr Thomas Enright, PP, (1836-1839)
Rev. Fr Thomas Malone PP, (1844-1847)
Rev. Fr Mortimar Murnane CC, (1847-1850)
Rev. Fr Maurice Aherne PP (1850-1862)
Rev. Fr Luke Hanrahan PP (1862-1875)
Rev. Fr James Moran PP (1875-1879)
Rev. Canon Michael Irwin PP (1879-1919)
Rev. Fr John Doody CC (Aged 34 years)
Rev. Fr Patrick Hartigan PP (1929-1937)
Rev. Fr Ml. O'Brien PP (1937-1959)

Ar Dheis Dé Go Raibh A nAnamacha
Erected by Castlemahon History Society Group February 1999
Unveiled by President Mary McAleese on June 9th 1999

The present church at Feohanagh was built in 1833. According to an inscription on the foundation stone, the church was built by public subscription in 1833 with the leadership of Fr R. M. Sheahan PP and Fr R.P.B. Benson CC., the parish priest and curate at the time.

Lord Muskerry of Springfield gave the site for the church and much of the necessary building material. The church was built mainly by voluntary labour. The tiled floor was not laid until 1890. The present roof was put on in 1938 and further renovated in 1978 by Fr Michael Kelly. The church bell in Feohanagh was originally destined for Castlemahon church but it was brought to Feohanagh by mistake.

Over the main door of the church there is a stained glass window of the Blessed Virgin. This window was donated to the memory of Fr Con Gilbourne from Ballygulleen. Fr Gilbourne was a priest in the Diocese of Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia.

There is a crucifix over the marble altar. In the left transept there is a statue of Mary. The baptismal font is situated in the right transept.

The ruins of the abbey are situated in the graveyard. It is believed that the abbey was built in or around 1499. This abbey, which is also known as St Nicholas' church, was founded by the Augustinians.

The church of St Nicholas was attacked in 1579 during the persecution of Catholics under the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Attempting to avoid the Queen's troops, the retreating forces of the Earl of Desmond (on their way to Mayne) mistakenly believed they would be safe in the abbey, as it was holy ground. Over forty people were killed by the Queen's troops. Twenty-four monks were killed in the raid. A plaque was recently erected in memory of those who died in the raid. The inscription on the plaque reads:
420th anniversary (1579-1999)
In commemoration of the Martyrdom of Monks and Civilians by English Soldiers in 1579 here at Castlemahon Augustinians Old Abbey, The Church of St Nicholas.
Go ndeanna Dia Trocaire Orthu
Erected by Castlemahon History Society Group February 1999
Unveiled by President Mary McAleese on June 9th 1999

A third church was built in 1836 on the roadside between Newcastle and Drumcollogher, which cost £600. No one knows where the site of the church is but, due to the road improvements over the years, it is believed that the site is no longer on the roadside.

In the late eighteenth century, there was a mass house in Feohanagh called O'Riordan's house. It is possible that the third church was actually the mass house.

In the thirteenth century, there is a record of a church in the townland of Appletown.

There was also a church about two miles from Feohanagh village at a place called Culhane's Cross. The land is now owned by Pat Frawley but no trace of the church building remains.

There are reputedly ecclesiastical ruins at Mayne but this is unproven, as it could have been a military building.

There was a monastery at Aglish. This monastery dated from the sixteenth century and was on a 13-acre site. According to local historian Margaret Doody Scully, the monastery began to decline with the death of the Earl of Desmond in 1583 when the Normans took charge of the area. Today, a graveyard is situated on the site of the former monastery.

According to Westropp, Cromman chapel may have existed here from about 1278 as in that year Thomas de Clare is listed as its patron. The church was restored in 1410 and rededicated to St John the Baptist.



Mahoonagh graveyard is located in the grounds of the abbey ruin. The oldest headstones in this graveyard are located closest to the abbey ruin. The graveyard was extended in the late 1960's.

Aglish graveyard is on the site of the former monastery. This graveyard is still in use and the oldest headstone in the graveyard is reputed to be from 1760. The oldest headstone that we came across was from 1788 in memory of Thomas Fitzgerald. One of the oldest headstones that we came across was this one from 1795, in memory of Edmond Power.

It is possible that there are older graves in the cemetery, as many of the graves were marked with marker stones, which do not bear inscriptions. Indeed the practice of using headstones to mark individual graves did not become popular until the eighteenth century.

Some of the headstones face the field and not the road, which could indicate that the monastery was further away from the road.

The graveyard was cleaned up in 1949 by Muintir na Tíre. It took three months of hard work to clear the graveyard of trees and to lay the cement paths. All of the work was done voluntarily. Today, the graveyard is in good condition.

There is a Famine graveyard in Boithre na Cealla (road to the church) at Clooncourivane about a mile from the roadside. This site is also called Gurrane. A commemorative plaque was recently erected to mark the site. The inscription on the plaque reads:

Ní Hé Dia a cheap Riamh an Obair Seo

In Memory of All the People who were buried here in
Boithre na Cealla Cemetery
During and after the Famine years (1845-1849)

Daoine Bochta cur le Fuacht is le Fah

Erected by Castlemahon History Society Group February 1999
Unveiled by President Mary McAleese on June 9th 1999

There was also a burial place for unbaptized children as the site is sometimes called Killeen. Small straight stone markers indicated the graves. Approximately 200 people are believed to be buried here. The ruins of a monastery (believed to be Augustinian) were present up to twenty years ago when the stones were removed. This site may have been situated at Killila Bridge.

There is a second Famine graveyard at Ballinakill in a place called Donoghue's field, which is now owned by Padraig Cagney. There are approximately 50 people buried here in a mass grave. The cause of their deaths was yellow fever. Although the people buried here did not die from famine, it is remembered locally as a famine graveyard because the deaths occurred around this time. There was believed to be a mass rock on or near the site.


Holy Wells

Tobaroanbastia well is situated at Cooliska and is known for curing eye diseases. The well is a clear pool of bubbling water. There is a statue of St John the Baptist at the well, and a path has been laid around the well. The statue was imported from France in 1951. On the feast day of St. John the Baptist, the 29th of August, the rosary is recited here. A pattern with sports and horse racing was held on the feast day up to the 1850s. There used to be an old ash tree overhanging the well but this has been removed. It was claimed that you could see the print of St John's knees on the trunk of the tree. The old ash tree was rumoured to be 1,500 years old and wood from it could not burn. Rags are tied to the new tree as a sign of an offering at the well.

A girl by the name of Flanagan from Knockaderry was cured at the well from blindness after saying three decades of the rosary. The child also claimed to have seen three trout in the well. According to tradition, if you should see a fish in the well, your disease will be cured. When Dean Richard O'Brien was a child, he was cured from blindness at the well. In honour of this, his mother named him Richard Baptist O'Brien.

According to legend, the well appeared when St Patrick struck the rock and water sprang up out of it. The water from the well will not boil. Danaher also documents that a tramp once washed his feet in well. After this event, the well moved from its position at the roadside to the field nearby.

According to Danaher, there are two other wells in the parish, Toberreendoney (Well of the King of the Sabbath) and Tobar Mhuire (Virgin Mary's Well), both of which are in the townland of Ahawilk. Both wells were celebrated for curing blindness and rheumatism. One of these wells is known locally as the Blessed Well, according to Danaher, but he does not specify which one. Local historian Pat Normoyle says that the Blessed Well was Tobar Mhuire, and a native of the parish in his eighties remembers going to the well as a child with his father, in his bare feet. The well is situated on the left-hand side of the road from Newcastlewest to Feohanagh on Con Doody's land. Devotions are no longer held at these wells.

Another well in the parish was the White Well (Tobar Gal) at Moanroe but this has been taken over by Limerick County Council and is now used to supply water to the district. Danaher states that it was formerly known as a Holy Well, although locals do not remember it as such.

There was reputedly a well at Mayne called St Brigid's Well (Tobarbreedia) but devotions have not been held there for at least 25 years.


Mass Rock

There was a mass rock in the parish, which was situated in a fort adjacent to Donoghue's field in Ballinakill. The Castlemahon History Group is currently planning to erect a plaque to mark the site of the mass rock for future generations.


Famous People

Michael Scanlan was born in Castlemahon in 1833 and died in 1917. During the Great Famine, when Michael was fifteen years old, he left with his family for America. Scanlan worked in a number of different jobs in America before joining the State Department in Washington, where he became the Chief of the Bureau of Statistics.

Together with other Irish emigrates, he founded a paper called "The Irish Republic" in 1867. This paper was the mouthpiece of the Fenian organisation. Michael was a renowned writer and poet. He wrote the following poem, which Limerick historian Mainchín Seoighe described as 'the great anthem of the [Fenian] movement' in his book "County Limerick - its people and places".

See who came over the red-blossomed heather,
Their green banners kissing the pure mountain air;
Heads erect, eyes to front, stepping proudly together,
Sure Freedom sits throned on each proud spirit there.
Down the hills twining
Their blessed steel shining.
Like rivers of beauty that flow from each glen,
From mountain and valley
Tis Liberty's rally -
Out and make way for the bold Fenian men!

One of the leaders in the 1916 Rising, Con Colbert was born in Monalena in Castlemahon.

Feohanagh is known throughout the country for their skills on the hurling field. One family in particular deserves recognition - the Quaids. An earlier generation of the Quaids, Jim and Jack played for the county team. Their sons carried on the tradition and presently Joe Quaid (son of Jim) is the goalkeeper of the senior team. Before Joe took over the No.1 jersey, his cousin the late Tommy Quaid (son of Jack) was the county goalkeeper for 18 years. During this time, Tommy won many honours in the game including an All-Star Award in 1992.

Now in Sydney, Bishop David Cremin is originally from the townland of Ballydoorty in the parish of Mahoonagh. Bishop Cremin is the Auxilary Bishop to his Eminence Cardinal Sir James Freeman, Archbishop of Sydney.



English Name Irish Name Meaning
Ahawik Áth an Mhoilc The ford of the throng
Appletown Drom Cromáin Ridge of the bending feature
Balliniska Baile an Uisce The town of the water
Ballinvullin Baile an Mhuilaigh The town of the summit
Ballydonnell Baile Uí Dhónhaill The town of Ó Dónaill
Ballydoorty Baile Uí Dhúrtaigh The town of Ó Dúrtaigh
Ballinakillbeg Baile na Coille Beag The town of the wood
Ballinakillmore Baile na Coille Mór as above
Ballygullen Baile Uí Ghoillín The town of Ó Goillín
Ballynoe An Baile Nua The new town
Ballyregan Baile Uí Riagáin The town of Ó Riagáin
Cloonmore An Chluain Mhór The big meadow
Clooncooravane North Cluain Cúrabháin Meaning uncertain
Clooncooravane South as above  
Clounsherrick Cluain Séaraic The meadow of Séaraic
Cooliska An Chúil Loiscthe The burnt corner
Coolygorman Cúil Uí Ghormain O’Gorman’s corner
Coolyroe Cúil an Rua The corner of the red feature
Curragh An Currach The wet land
Danganbeg An Daingean Beag The small fort
Fawnlehane Fán Liatháin The slope of Liathán
Farran Fearann Land
Feohanagh An Fheothanach The place of thistles
Garbally East An Gearrbhaile The short town
Garrane An Garrán The grove
Garryduff An Garraí Dubh The black garden
Gortmore An Gort Mór The big field
Gortskagh Gort Scátha The field of briars
Iniskeen Inis Caoin Pleasant island
Kilready Cill an Riadaigh The church of An Riadach
Mahoonagh Beg Maigh Thamhnach Plain of clearings
Mahoonagh More as above  
Mayne Méin Meaning uncertain
Moanroe Beg An Mhóin Rua The red bogland
Moanlena Móin Léana Bogland of wet meadows
Rathpalatine Ráth na bPalaitíneach The rath of the Palatines
Shanrath An tSeanráth The old rath
Walshestown Baile na Bhreatnaigh The town of An Breatnach



List of Priests

Year Parish Priest Curate(s)
1632 - ? Robert Rudel  
1704 - ? John MacEnery  
? - 1755 William Hourigan  
1755 - 1764 John Lyons  
1764 - 1774 Andrew Ryan  
1774 - 1782 Nicholas Liston  
1782 - ? William O’Brien  
? - 1798 James Mann  
1798 - 1802 Daniel O’Sullivan  
1802 - 1836 Michael Sheehan  
1836 – 1839 Thomas Enright  
1837 Thomas Enright James Hogan
1838 Thomas Enright James Hogan
1839 Thomas Enright J. O'Flannagan
1840 Jeremiah Halpin John Madigan
1841 Jeremiah Halpin John Madigan
1842 Jeremiah Halpin John Madigan
1843 Jeremiah Halpin John Madigan
1844 Jeremiah Halpin Maurice Ahern
1845 Michael Malone Maurice Halpin
    Jeremiah Halpin
1846 Michael Malone Maurice Ahern
    Jeremiah Halpin
1847 Michael Malone Maurice Ahern
    Thomas McIniry
1848 Mortimer Murrane Thomas McIniry
1849 Mortimer Murrane Thomas Lynch
1850 Mortimer Murrane Maurice Ahern
1851 Maurice Ahern Philip Cleary
1852 Maurice Ahern Philip Cleary
1853 Maurice Ahern Philip Cleary
1854 Maurice Ahern Philip Cleary
1855 Maurice Ahern Philip Cleary
1856 Maurice Ahern William O’Donnell
1857 Maurice Ahern William O’Donnell
1858 Maurice Ahern William O’Donnell
1859 Maurice Ahern William O’Donnell
1860 Maurice Ahern William O’Donnell
1861 Maurice Ahern William O’Donnell
1862 Maurice Ahern John Kelly
1863 Luke Hanrahan John Kelly
1864 Luke Hanrahan Richard Power
1865 Luke Hanrahan  
1866 Luke Hanrahan James Moran
1867 Luke Hanrahan James Moran
1868 Luke Hanrahan James Moran
1869 Luke Hanrahan Stephen Hayes
1870 Luke Hanrahan Stephen Hayes
1871 Luke Hanrahan Stephen Hayes
1872 Luke Hanrahan Stephen Hayes
1873 Luke Hanrahan Stephen Hayes
1874 Luke Hanrahan Timothy Kelly
1875 Luke Hanrahan William Downs
    Robert Kirby
1876 James Moran William Downs
1877 James Moran Timothy Kelly
1878 James Moran Michael Irwin
1879 James Moran Michael Irwin
1880 James Moran Michael Irwin
1881 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1882 Michael Irwin Denis O'Keeffe
1883 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1884 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1885 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1886 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1887 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1888 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1889 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1890 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1891 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1892 Michael Irwin Denis O’Keeffe
1893 Michael Irwin Martin Carroll
1894 Michael Irwin Martin Carroll
1895 Michael Irwin G. O’Connor
1896 Michael Irwin William O’Shea
1897 Michael Irwin William O’Shea
1898 Michael Irwin William O’Shea
1899 Michael Irwin William O’Shea
1900 Michael Irwin William O’Shea
1901 Michael Irwin William O’Shea
1902 Michael Irwin Stephen Connolly
1903 Michael Irwin Stephen Connolly
1904 Michael Irwin Stephen Connolly
1905 Michael Irwin James Liston
1906 Michael Irwin James Liston
1907 Michael Irwin James Liston
1908 Michael Irwin James Liston
1909 Michael Irwin James Liston
1910 Michael Irwin James Liston
1911 Michael Irwin James Liston
1912 Michael Irwin James Liston
    Patrick Carroll
1913 Canon Michael Irwin James Liston
    Frederick Rice
1914 Canon Michael Irwin James Liston
    Frederick Rice
1915 Canon Michael Irwin Frederick Rice
    Patrick Hartigan
1916 Canon Michael Irwin Frederick Rice
    Patrick Hartigan
1917 Canon Michael Irwin Frederick Rice
    Patrick Hartigan
1918 Canon Michael Irwin Frederick Rice
    Patrick Hartigan
1919 Canon Michael Irwin Patrick Hartigan
    William P. Harty
1920 John Conway John Moloney
1921 John Conway John Moloney
1922 John Conway Patrick Casey
1923 John Conway Patrick Casey
1924 John Conway Patrick Casey
1925 John Conway Patrick Casey
1926 John Conway Patrick Casey
1927 John Conway Patrick Casey
1928 John Conway Patrick Casey
1929 John Conway  
1930 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
1931 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
1932 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
1933 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
1934 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
1935 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
1936 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
1937 Patrick Hartigan Daniel O’Callaghan
    Daniel O’Keeffe
1938 Michael O’Brien Daniel O’Callaghan
1939 Michael O’Brien Daniel O’Callaghan
1940 Michael O’Brien John Halpin
1941 Michael O’Brien John Halpin
1942 Michael O’Brien John Halpin
1943 Michael O’Brien John Halpin
1944 Michael O’Brien John Casey D.D.
1945 Michael O’Brien John Casey D.D.
1946 Michael O’Brien John Casey D.D.
1947 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1948 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1949 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1950 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1951 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1952 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1953 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1954 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1955 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1956 Michael O’Brien T. Culhane
1957 Michael O’Brien Timothy Greene
1958 Michael O’Brien Timothy Greene
1959 Michael O’Brien Timothy Greene
1960 Michael Quinn Timothy Greene
1961 Michael Quinn Timothy Greene
1962 Michael Quinn Timothy Greene
1963 Michael Quinn Timothy Greene
1964 Michael Quinn Timothy Greene
1965 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1966 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1967 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1968 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1969 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1970 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1971 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1972 Canon Michael Quinn James Hudner
1973 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1974 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1975 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1976 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1977 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1978 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1979 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1980 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1981 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1982 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1983 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1984 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1985 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1986 Michael Kelly James Hudner
1987 Canon Michael Kelly James Hudner
1988 Canon Michael Kelly James Hudner
1989 Canon Michael Kelly James Hudner
1990 Canon Michael Kelly James Hudner
1991 Canon Michael Kelly James Hudner
1992 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
1993 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
1994 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
1995 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
1996 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
1997 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
1998 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
1999 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
2000 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
2001 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
2002 Dean Michael Kelly James Hudner
2003 John Duggan James Hudner
2004 John Duggan  
2005 John Duggan  
2006 John Duggan  
2007 John Duggan  

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.

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