Local History



Early Settlers The Celts Kilcloundowney Fort St. Cataldus The Good Womans Son's Well
Ballynahow Castle Garranroe Church Ruins in the graveyard Moyaliffe House Castle Fogarty
The O' Fogarty Harp Penal Times Farney Castle The Farneybridge Cavalry The Famine
Ballycahill Church   Ballycahill in 1838    


Early Settlers 7000b.p.

The earliest evidence of settlers in Ballycahill comes from the Neolithic Age, possibly as far back as 5,000 years ago. A local farmer discovereed some artifacts and red deer antlers while ploughing one of his fields. The red deer antlers are particularly interesting since red deer usually eat the antlers that they shed in order to provide calcium for the new ones. These people had a very interesting life style.

After finding the best wild seeds, they planted them in a place cleared of weeds and bushes. When the green shoots came up they watched over the crops and in Autumn, when the corn turned golden-brown, they reaped the crop. The seeds were beaten out of the straw and later someone would grind the seeds in a quern.

Animal skins were used as clothes, first they skinned the animal with a piece of flint leftit to dry in the sun and sewed it with a bone needle with strips of skin as thread.


If the people found an area with enough food and water they would settle there and build a hut. The huts were made by tying branches with animal sinews to make a frame and covered it with animal skins, branches and leaves.

At that time animals were plentiful but rather hard to catch. Small animals were killed by throwing sticks and stones. Larger animals had to be driven over a cliff or into a large pit to kill them. This is how our earliest settlers might have lived.

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The Celts 2600b.p.

The oldest traces of human habitation to be seen in our parish landscape are raths or ringforts. Wherever you go in the local area you are sure to find one or two. They are usually called 'Old Forts' or 'Fairy Forts' but the correst name is 'rath' or 'lios'. Superstitions grew up around them and it was regarded as unlucky to tamper withthem. This has helped to preservethem. They are not a burden on our contry side, in fact they add character to the landscape. Because of their great age and historical value they are worth preserving.


These raths or liosanna are usually sited on reasonably good land. Most of them are simple round mounds of earth made by digging a circular trench or dyke, and using upcast earth for a mound. On top of this a high fence was constructed by driving round poles into the circular mound so close together that it was not possible to peer through them. This gave them protectin from their enemies ot wild animals. In the enclosure they built small thatched houses.

The Celts were a fierce warlike people. With loud shouts and roars they raced into battle armed with swords and spears. The enemy had little chance. A bronze sword would not stand a chance with an iron sword. When they first came to this country they drove the Bronze Age people form their land and took it over. Celts had four festivals in the year which started at Samhain: the first of November. They believed that year was a circle which was joined at Samhain and Bealtaine. The joints were weak and spirits could break through at these points. This is why they had fire festivals: in order to frightedn away the evil demons. Two other festivals were held around the first of February (called Imbolc) and at the first of August in honour of the God Lug. This is why August is called Lunasa in Irish.


At one time there were 84 districts in the country called 'tuath' There were five provinces each called a Cúige. The Ard Rí lived at Tara. The Munster Kings lived on the Rock of Cashel. The O' Fogartys were chiefs of our area known as Magh Mosaidh, which stretched from Cashel to the Devil's Bit

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 Kilcloundowney Fort

Kilcloundowney Fort is the largest fort in our parish. This place name has gone out of use for many centuries but is important evidence of St. Patrick's passage through our district. The name means"the meadow wood of St. Patrick's Church". The last part of the name 'Domhnach' was given to churches founded by St. Patrick since he was said to have marked the foundations of new churches on a Sunday and 'An Domhnach' is the Irish for Sunday.

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St. Cataldus

The name Catandum given in old liturgical office as the birth place of St. Cataldus has been identified by some with Ballycahill is written as Baile Cathail in Irish . This means the town of Cataldus . A man skilled in metalwork he founded a school in decorative art at Kildare . In his lifetime travelled to Jerusalem and on his return journey was ordained Archbishop of Taranto in Southern Italy . This happened following his conversation of the town from paganism to Catholicism .Today in the old city of Taranto is the Cathedral dedicated to the man who was known as the Servant of Christ . His memory is said to be as green as the day he died in 529A.D.

and his feast day is happily celebrated on May 10th .The church here in Ballycahill was built in 1819-1820 and shortly afterwards was dedicated to Saint Cataldus. In our school there is a small booklet on the life of St. Cataldus and a copy of his archbishop's cross, that was found on his incorrupt body in the year 1071, when his grave was unearthed in Taranto, in Italy at the site of the cathedral he had built.

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The Good Womans Son's Well

An interesting story is related by Brother Malachy harty who in 1640 began to set down the history of the Abbey of Holycross in the Triumphalia. In this manuscript he tells how a prince of England was sent to Ireland to collect the Peter’s Pence. The names of the king and queen are omitted. However, tradition maintains that the king and queen of the story were Henry II and his wife Eleanor. The storytells that before setting out the queen gave to the prince a gold ring telling him that if he met with any mishap he would send it to her. While the prince was passing through a thick wood about two miles from Holy Cross he was attacked and killed by members of the O’Fogarty Clan who left him half-buried in the place where he was murdered .

Two years later, an old blind monk in Holycross had three visions which instructed him to go to the wood, where he would find a herd of swine among which would be a huge white sow. Here , he would recover something which would bring the abbey great fame and glory.For two

nights he paid no attention to these visions but on the third night he was told he would also regain his sight if he followed the directions of the dream. With the blessing of the abbot and a guide they set out and found the scene as described in the visions. They walked on and found a hand protruding from the ground. On the hand was a gold ring. After hearing of this, the monk regained his sight.

The abbot seeing that the ring bore the royal ring of England, told the monk to travel to the royal court and present it there. The queen seeing the ring knew that some terrible fate had happened to her son and hearing the tale of her son’s murder she flew into a fit of rage and cursed the

O’ Fogarty Clan "that they would grow up and die like bracken for the lack of male heirs". As a sign of gratitude to the monk and wishing to make a gift to the monastery she asked her husband for a portion of the True Cross which he possessed. The taking of the relic outside the kingdom of England would be a capital offence. In the place where the prince was buried a well sprand up and this became known as the Good Womans Son's Well.

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The name O' Fogary comes from the 157th monarch of Ireland who was murderd in 719 A.D. The clan were rulers of Eliogarty. According to the ancient legend of the Good Woman's Son in the reign of Henry II a young prince was murdered by the O' Fogartys in a wood near Holycross monastery. The prince was buried in the monastery and in her gratitude the Queen showerd gifts on the Abbey.


The Queen cursed the O' Fogartys that 'they grow like swine and wither away like bracken for the lack of male heirs'. The last chief of the clan was Teige O' Fogarty who settled in Garrenroe in 1670. Cornelius his son was wealthy and inherited most of the land. The story of Cornelius' harp is told below. Cornelius' grandson James became Sherriff of Co. Tipperary in 1783. James died at sea in 1788. He passed his property to his nephew Tomas Lanigan. Tomas repaired and remodelled the property. The estate then passed on to the Ryan family. The Northampton Regiment was stationed in the castle in 1922 during the Civil War and as soon as they moved out the castle was burned down to preventit ever being used again as a barracks. Today this fine building is in ruins except for the east wing,

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This is Ballynahow Castle.It is one of the few round castles in the country.

It was built by the Purcells around 1550A.D.In its day it served as a place of refuge for the local people when they were under attack. This can clearly be seen from the many features that are built into the castle. The castle has five storeys. The ground floor was used to protect animals. Above the door there is a murder hole which was used to drop things on unwelcome visitors. The 1st floor was used as sleeping accommodation. The second floor was the main living area. At this level there are 3 rooms, a large room with fire place, a small room which was most likely used to store food, and a toilet. The third floor was used as sleeping accommodation. Like the 1st floor the 4th floor again was a living area, also on this level there is a prison, where one to three people could be held. The fifth floor was an attic type. At all levels there are musket holes on each side of the windows. Today the castle is a national monument but only three floors remain-ground, second and fourth. Of the two ceilings that remain one is a flat corbelled ceiling and the other is vaulted.

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Garranroe Church Ruins

Garranroe church ruins is in Castlefogarty estate.Itshows all that is left of the ancient church in the parish.And it is situated just inside the present-day entrance to Castlefogarty.only the west gable of the little Church remains and it has a small carved, shamrock-headed window. The foundations of the remaining walls can still be traced on the ground.Very few people know of the existence of this ruin.The little church was probably built soon after Holy Cross Abbey, and it was one of the churches that was ministered by the monks.Long ago the townland was called Garranroe,a name which was gone out of existence since the name Castlefogarty came into use.According to tradition there was a little road leading from Farney Bridge to this church which was known as Bohirnacrossy.When the old church in Ballycahill Graveyard was built by the Normans and given to Holy Cross Abbey in 1429 the church of Garrenroe probably went out of use.

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I would like to tell you about the history and ruins of Ballycahill Graveyard.Ballycahill was a parish in its own right long before 1429.The church and parish probably existed from the early 1100’s. The little church is fairly well perserved and a good deal of the walls are still standing.Some of the ivy was cleaned off some years ago.The nave is 52ft long and 25ft wide.There are square headed and gothic arches in it. Over the doorway there is a bartizan whitch is an unusal feature for a church.Ballycahill was joined with Holycross in 1429 when the Earl of Ormond gave the village over to the care of the Abbot and monks of the Abbey.



This is one of the finest Manor House in our area. It is Moyaliffe House .

On, or near this site are the remains of different Norman structures. The first thing to be built here was a motte and bailey. The mound is still to be seen at the back of this house. The ruins of a castle built around 1100 A.D

can be seen to the south of this house. The castle was one of a series built by the Butler family to preserve law and order over their vast estates granted by King John of England. In 1500 A.D it was besieged by Turlogh

O’ Brian. He defeated the Normans and left a great number of their men and the sovereign Robert Shee dead in the field.

The lowest wing of the house at one time adjoined the castle . The middle wing being added during early 17th century; While the third addition was probably completed early into the 1800’s. All the walls of the house are of exceptional thickness which accounts for the dryness inside. Behind a panel in the thickness of one of the outside walls is a passage on the first floor. This was a secret closet where a person could hide. In the courtyard there is a deep well, the former water supply; So that in case of attack water was available. To the south of the castle mound is the coach house. It has still the carriage displaying the family crest. In the house too are the uniforms of coach men, footmen and butlers of former times. The area around this fine manor house shows us the type of buildings connected with the Normans. It begins with a motte and bailey , then a castle, a manor house and the big house is still used by the Armstrong family, descendants of the Normans who first lived here.

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 The O' Fogarty Harp

This instrument is not highly ornamented. It belonged to and was used by Cornelius O' Fogarty, a musicina of note and chief of a very ancient family from Ballycahill. He fought in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne on the side of King James II. He also took place in the defence of Likerick during the famous siege. He was a friend of Fr. Cormack, the last Cistercian monk of Holycross. Cornelius died in 1730.


The box of the harp is formed out of a solid block of black willow. The sounding board has six small sound holes. There are 35 string holes, alsmost having the original s 'shoes of the strings'. The shortest string is 2½ inches. The longest string is 3 feet ¼ inches. At the upper end of the pillar four holes mark the place for a plate of gold on which was engraved in Irish, "This is the harp of Cornelius O' Fogarty'. The golden plate is now missing.

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Two Priests In Penal Times

The Penal Laws in Ireland did not allow Catholics to be educated. Students had to go overseas to get primary and secondary schooling. A lot of teaching was done along hedgerows and in small huts, but if landlords were kind enough they might have let them use small penal chapels. We have some knowledge of two students who studied for the priesthood in these difficult times.

One of these was Tim Rahill who was born in our parish in 1737. His first teacher was William Ryan of Holycross. After spending some time moving to different schools he finished his education with Jim Mullane of Farney Bridge. The other young student was John Fogarty. He was born in 1740. Thomas Leacy was his first school teacher and after spending a few years here he also went to Jim Mullane's classical school.

In 1759 these two young men presented themselves to Archbishop Butler as candidates for seminary training, but as there were no seminaries in ireland they had to go overseas for training in philosophy and theology.This shows the lengths people went to in order to practice their religion during Penal times.

Farney Castle

Farney Castle is a typical five storey tower with a nineteenth century extension.The original tower was round,like Ballinahow castle and had the the typical layout of such buildings.This castle was built between 1500 and 1550.We think it’s purpose was to protect the Butlers land in Tipperary.The castle guarded the crossing where ‘’Bealach Achaille’’ i.e. the Rock road crossed the Farney River.The ownership of this castle reflects the history of the Butlers.At one time it was owned by Thomas Boleyn-father of Ann Boleyn.

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Ballycahill in 1838

 In 1838, Ballycahill was described as:

"Ballycahill, a parish in the barony of Eliogarty, county of Tipperary, and province of Munster, 4 miles (W.) from Thurles, on the road from Nenagh to Cashel; containing 1818 inhabitants, of which number 39, are in the hamlet. It comprises 3884 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the lands are principally under tillage; part of the bog of of Ballynahow is within its limits; and there is an abundance of limestone, which is quarried for building and burning. Castle Fogarty, the ancient seat of the O' Fogarty family, from whom it descended to its present propietor, J. Lanigan Esq., is a square castellated mansion, with embattled towers at the angles, and is situated in a fine demesne, comprising 450 statute acres, and richly embellished with wood. Prior Lodge, the property and residence of the Rev. Dr. Prior, is situated in a small but carefully disposed demesne; and Montalt, the property of J. Lanigan Esq., is now in the occupation of William Ryan Esq. The hamlet is a constabulary police station. It is a rectory in the diocese of Cashel, entirely impropiate in Mrs. Carrol and Mr. Fogarty. The tithes amount to £246.6.10½., payable to the impropiators, who allow a stipend of £7 per annum to the curate of Holycross for the performance of the clerical duties. The church is in ruins; the Protestant inhabitants attend divine service at the churches of Holycross and Moyaliffe. In the R.C. divisions it is united with Holycross; the chapel is a neat and spacious structure with a tower. There are three pay schools, in which there are about 150 children. The remains of the castle of Ballynahow consist chiefly of a circular tower"


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