Spirit of         Chilldamhnait
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Background to the area

Chilldamhnait or Kildownet is situated in the southern part of the island. It runs along the scenic route of the Atlantic drive. The area comprises of the villages of Ashleam, Dooega, Meelaun, Derreens, Bleanaskill and Cloughmore. 

The name Chilldamhnait itself means the Church of Dymphna. Dymphna came from the ancient Kingdom of Oriel (Louth). Her father reigned there as king. He wanted her to reign as queen and so she fled to Achill. She founded the church in the 7th century. It was at this church she helped the sick. St Dymhna died in Geel in Belgium. The church was remodeled in the 17th century to what it is today.

Achill Island

The history of Grace O Malley

The castle which is located next to the church and graveyard is said to have been built by the ancestors of Grace O Malley. This castle was used as a look out tower. This meant that Clew Bay was secure from intruders. Grace o malley lived on Clare Island and was married to Iron Dick. Teige Roe was one of her seven sons. He was a rebel and was imprisoned in the tower of London Grace o Malley went to see Elizabeth the first, in order that her son could be  released. It is not known when Grace O' Malley was born, but it is thought in and around 1530. Her father was Dubhdaire. Dubhdaire married into the O' Malley chlann on Clare island. Margaret Ní Mháile was her mother she was the daughter of a chieftain. Grace O' Malley secured much land around the coast through her marriages. She married Dónal Cogaidh ó Flatherty with whom she had two sons Eoghain and Tibbert Na Long. The word "na long" is the Irish word for ship. Tibbert was born at sea. The priate queen spent her final days a convent in Clare island. It is not known where she is buried.


The lost village of Ailse

Nearing the graveyard located on the right hand side of the road is what is now referred to as the quarry. It was there that the village of Ailse once stood. It was once boasted that ailse was one of the biggest villages in Achill. In the year 1854 the village was burnt to the ground. There are two stories connected to Ailse. One story is told of how the local landlord was riding in the vicinity with friends. The dogs of the village came down and started barking, the landlord was not impressed.Christmas eve in 1854 while people were celebrating with their families the village caught fire.The second story is told where the local landlord gave the people of the village a Notice of Eviction in September 1854.They were to be evicted in November of that year. The village no longer exists. Many of these families scattered to all the corners of the island.

The Funeral paths

Funerals were taken across the mountains and in  Chilldamhnait it was no different. The graveyard and church were one of two on the island. The other was located in Dookinella. People would travel the long route across the mountains from Dooega. They rested the coffins on stones called leactai. Clay pipes were buried with the dead. People believed that the longest journey to the graveyard was the shortest journey home.


The church of St Dymphna
 The church of St Dymphna

Chilldamhnait Cemetery

The church which is located on the left hand side of the road was founded by Saint Dymphna in the 7th century. On both the left hand and right hand side of the road lie the bodies of the tragedies which would cast an everlasting impression of shear sadness on Achill's history.In 1894 thirty two people lost their lives when the boat they were sailing on capsized. They had left Darbys point and were making their way to Scotland for the first time to work in the potato fields.Migration had been nothing new to Achill as people had been traveling to Scotland for many years,leaving in June and returning in September. Some would stay on until the late potatoes in November. The first train to the Island carried the bodies of the 1894 disaster.In 1937 ten young men were burnt to death while they slept in their beds. They to were working as potato pickers. The last train to Achill would carry their bodies. Displayed on the gable of the church is the history of the graveyard.

Last updated:   © 2004 Noírín Gannon. All rights reserved.