History of Mooncoin

Early History (1100 - 1650s)
Counter-Reformation (1700+)
1821 Census & Genealogy
Carrigans History of Mooncoin
Sinnott's Cross Ambush
The Rose of Mooncoin/Watt Mur
Old Schools
Mass Bush

(Click on your choice from the above index)

Eamon De Valera in Mooncoin
Eamon de Valera outside the Church gates in Mooncoin, in June 1922. The worried look on his face can be attributed to fact that he was trying to stop the country slipping into Civil War. The aim of his speech in Mooncoin was to attempt to get the people to support 'the pact' candidates in upcoming election, the agreement was with his then friend, Michael Collins. The idea of the pact was to form some kind of 'power sharing' between people who supported the Treaty and those that did not. The resulting election did not go this way, and civil war broke out a few weeks after De Valera had been in Mooncoin. Eamon De Valera had previously come to Mooncoin in March 1918 with Arthur Griffith for a meeting after the Waterford by-election. At that time De Valera was president of Sinn Fein and they were running candidates in all by-elections with the aim of making headway as a political party following the wave of public support that followed the 1916 Rebellion.


Early History (1100-1650s)

History begins with the earliest written records related to the area. However, it is worth remembering that there is unwritten history in the landscape. For example, the 'fairyforts' in the parish e.g. in Tubrid, were early farming houses, dating from cir 400AD. So these people would have built up a mound of earth, fortified it and built a dwelling house, of which usually only some of the mound remains in the landscape. They usually were on elevated ground so the inhabitants had a good view of the area. There is estimated to be around 45k 'fairyforts' in Ireland. However, as there has been no excavations on these prehistoric farms in the locality, we need to start with the written history.

One of the earliest recorded pieces of information in relation to Mooncoin is in the 'Catalogue Of the Bishops of Ossory' (British Museum - London). It states that in circa 1240, the Bishop of Ossory (De Turville) 'acquired a wood near Clonmore'. We now believe that this wood is where Kilnaspic is currently, and subsequently where 'Kilnaspic' got its name i.e.Coill-na-Easpag - 'the Bishops Wood'. Ironically, the name is nothing to do with a church, which was built there much later. 'Kill' is usually the anglicised version of the Irish word for church. The Bishop of Ossory owned a lot of land in Clonmore also, and this is the reason we have these records. The church owned these lands for many centuries and in 1460 Bishop Hackett built a mansion in Clonmore along the banks of the Suir. It was more or less a holiday home he could retire to from Kilkenny City during the summer months, most likely by taking a boat down the Nore and back up the Suir (it was on the site of Clonmore House - 'Morris's').

The current parish of Mooncoin is generally referred to as the 'Burgagery of Rathkieran' in these early Ossory records of cir 1200 (in many records right up until the 1800s, what we now know as the parish of Mooncoin is actually referred to as the 'Parish of Rathkieran'). This was because the main parish church was in Rathkieran for hundreds of years. In fact, there is a record of Donnail O' Fogertach, then Bishop of Ossory, being buried there on the 8th May 1178 (this early church has long since disappeared and there seems to be a number of churches built on the site). The church ruins currently in Rathkieran are of the Protestant church rebuilt and re-roofed in 1727 (this church was knocked around 1880 with just an arch now remaining) - however this church is recorded as being nearly identical to the previous Catholic church. There is also evidence that pre 1118, Rathkieran was its own holy sea, that is, it was its own sub-diocese and was absorbed into Ossory after this date. About 200 yards north east of Rathkieran, near Ashgrove, there is a Rath or hill/mound called 'the Corrig'. This is where the monks attached to Rathkieran church were said to have had their residence nearly 1000 years ago.

It is worth remembering that any church that existed in the parish at the time of the Reformation of the 1540s, would have been reconsecrated as Protestant churches (Anglican/Church of Ireland) quite literally overnight. Church of Ireland became the official state church. There followed the building of multiple churches in the parish to encourage the locals to join the new state religion. Conversion rates, however, were very low in Ireland. In fact, what is now Mooncoin Catholic parish, was made up of five separate sub parishes, with a church in each of these sub-parishes (also known as civil parishes). These were; Rathkieran (the main church), Aglish/Portnascully, Tubrid, Polerone, Ballytarsney and Clonmore. Ardera was later its own Civil parish. There was also a private church, likely built by the Bowers family, known as 'Kilaspy' (not to be confused with Kilnaspic) - although there is evidence that a church existed on this site in medieval times also. The ruins of this church are located in a field in Grange near Silverspring. Also, Polerone Church ruins can still be seen near the River Suir (Church of Ireland); some church ruins and graveyard are still in existence in Rathkieran (Church of Ireland); some foundation ruins and headstones of Tubrid can be accessed through a field (Church of Ireland); Aglish (Church of Ireland) is mostly gone but the later Portnascully church still is visible.The most recent Church of Ireland church built was Graigavine church near Cloncunny/Emil, which was in Clonmore civil parish. It served members of the Church of Ireland faith from 1818 to 1906 after the other five Church of Ireland churches had closed down. Surprisingly, considering there were at one stage between 5 and 6 Church of Ireland churches in Mooncoin, there are none currently remaining. Graigavine lasted less than ninety years, with the Church of Ireland parishioners then having to worship in Piltown (the roof and walls of Graigavine were mostly removed in the 1960s).

There was some slight differences between the Roman Catholic parish used today (made up of Kilnaspic, Mooncoin and Carrigeen) and the civil parishes; in that, some don't overlap as you would expect. For example, the townland of Cashel is in the current Roman Catholic parish of Mooncoin, but the Civil parish of Fiddown (now in Templeorum Parish). Likewise, some parts of the current Kilmacow parish were under Rathkieran civil parish.

Outside of church history, we know the main landowners in the area from cir 1400 were the Butlers of Grannagh (Granny) Castle - (who were a branch of the Butler family based in Kilkenny Castle). In later years, the Earl of Bessborough based in Kildalton, Piltown, was the main landowner in the Barony of Iverk. The Barony of Iverk took in the modern parishes of Mooncoin, Kilmacow, Piltown and Fiddown. The barony originally consisted of 41,369 acres and got its name, 'Uibh Eire', the 'descendants of Ere' from an ancient sept/family. Originally the main seat of power for Iverk was Granagh castle and later Bessborough in Piltown (the Bessborough estate still owned cir 25,000 acres by 1875).

Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland

There is also detailed information surviving in relation to Mooncoin from the 1650s when Oliver Cromwell and his army conquered Ireland and subsequently made official records when locals were transplanted. In fact, Oliver Cromwell passed close to Mooncoin after taking control of Wexford Town and New Ross. He came over the Walsh mountains and on looking down on Mooncoin and the surrounding area is reputed to have said; "This is land worth fighting for".

Firstly, some background to Cromwell's 'conquest' of Ireland. There was a rebellion in Ireland, mainly in Ulster, in 1641 were many Protestants planters were killed by the local Irish (cir 5000 killed). There was roughly the same number of Catholics killed in retaliation. The tabloid news-sheets in London went into overdrive in the years proceeding this, greatly exaggerating the number of Protestant settlers killed. Cromwell saw his invasion in 1649 as revenge against the 'barbarous Irish wretches' for these acts committed in 1641. He also needed to regain control of the country as there was a Confederation (type of government) in Kilkenny City which was governing most of the country. The Confederation of Kilkenny was made up of a mixture of Catholic and Protestant members loyal to the King of England (Charles I) whom Cromwell had arrested and eventually executed. Cromwell sided with the Parliament at Westminster instead. When Cromwell sailed for Ireland, it was his first time ever leaving England and he arrived (with severe seasickness) in Ringsend, Dublin in August 1649.

Cromwell is most infamous in Ireland for the genocide he committed in Drogheda, Co Louth, where 3000 men, women and children were massacred (this occurred on Sept 11, 1649, their own '9/11'). The dead were mostly Catholic. Even at the time it was considered shocking, as women, children and the elderly were usually spared in 17th century warfare. He was also accused of not giving 'quarter'. This is when people surrender, they are meant to be spared and taken prisoner. Cromwell felt however he was doing God's work, and that God was on his side. If things worked out for him, which they often did (weather etc), it was God guiding him to victory. The only town that gained any success was Clonmel. Here Cromwell lost around 2,000 men.

Soon after Cromwell's conquest of Ireland he started a policy of 'transplantation'. This involved moving the native landowners, who had not sided with him, to western counties (where the land was poorer; "to hell or to Connaught"). This was decided under the 'Act of Settlement'. To pay the wage bill of Cromwell's army who were in Ireland since 1649, it was decided to pay them with land from the conquered Irish, as opposed to actual money which was scarce. At one stage the leaders in Dublin and London were pushing to remove all catholics to Connaught. However, it was then decided to move just land owning catholics and give them a third to two thirds in value, of their conquered land, in Connaught. Poorer catholics and labourers stayed put, so to work the land for their new landlords. Protestants already based in Connaught had the option of exchanging their land for better land in Leinster or Munster. All catholic priests were also told to leave the country. A man who had supplied thousands of horses for Cromwell was given vast tracks of lands in south Kilkenny, Tipperary and Carlow for his payment. He was known as Ponsonby, but the family later received the title the 'Earls of Bessborough'.

Here is an extract from the official documentation in London dated April 1653:

They (Catholic landowners) have until 1st of May 1654 to remove and transplant themselves into the province of Connaught and the county of Clare, or one of them there to inhabit and abide.

In January 1654, in Grocers Hall, London, representatives of adventures and soldiers met to draw lots on which land they would take in Ireland. A kind of a lucky dip depending on rank etc.

When families were to be transplanted, the man of the family had firstly to go to Loughrea, Co Galway. Loughrea was the centre of administration for the transplantation. Here he had to register and stake provisional claim and throw up a shack while leaving the family to look after crops and animals. He then returned for his family and 'cattels' (mainly 'black cattle and horses'). However many families could not meet the 1st of May 1654 deadline and so applied for extensions. Some were granted, which allowed the women and children to stay behind in Kilkenny in the summer of 1654 to harvest crops. However, they had to give a lot of these crops to the new landowners as compensation. All of the native Irish outside their own locality had to carry identity cards to facilitate the upheaval.

Mooncoin did not escape this transplantation plan. It is worth noting that 58% of the land in County Kilkenny was confiscated and given to the Cromwellian/parliamentarian soldiers. Some evidence of this upheaval is still on the Mooncoin landscape today with the ruins of Corluddy castle and Grange castle which were abandoned in 1653, with their owners, the Grants and the Walshs respectively, moving to Connaught. It is hard to imagine the trauma these people went through at this time. Many would have been old and had to make the hard journey to Galway on foot, or horse if lucky, never to see Mooncoin or their old homes again. Just a few years before, Kilkenny City had been prosperous and the 'capital' of Ireland, with the local economy doing extremely well. Closer to home, just five years previously, the Walsh family that lived in Grange Castle had hosted the Papal Nuncio from Rome which was a huge privilege. The Papal Nuncio would have been one of the most powerful and influential people in Europe at the time. Now the family of seven were on their way to Connaught.

Here is an extract from certificates granted to the native Mooncoin people transplanted from the Mooncoin area (1653-1655) - Cromwellian soldiers would have taken over their land in Mooncoin, perhaps subleased from Ponsonby. Note: the different families with the name of 'Grant' were all related in some way. So they were all 'tarred with the one brush'. 'Glengrant' got its name from this family. Also note: place spelling is how it was written at the time:

Number of People
Donnagh Brenane Ardragh 9 persons in all
Walter Dalton Rathcurby 20 persons in all
David Egnott (Synott) Aghlish 7 persons in all
Edmond Grant Polroane (Castle) 14 persons in all
David Grant Corlodie (Castle) 21 persons in all
Edmond Grant Dunguoly 15 persons in all
Ellen Grant Ballynabouly 14 persons in all
Thomas Grant Ballynabouly 6 persons in all(Forfeit Caste)
Thomas Purcell Ballysallagh 16 persons in all
Helias Shea Clonmore 5 persons in all
Oliver Wailsh Grange (Castle) 7 persons in all
Rich Wailsh Killcragganstown 6 persons in all
Thomas Wailsh Ardry 25 persons in all
William Wailsh Barribahine 8 persons in all
Pierce Dalton Ballynecrony 12 persons in all
Philip Henbury Fanningstown 6 persons in all
Philip Kelly Jamestown 15 persons in all
Ellen Sweetman Ballyferrickle 11 persons in all
Piers Wailsh Ballyferrickle 3 persons in all
Robert Wailsh Unnige 10 persons in all
Edward Wailsh Listorline 7 persons in all
James Wailsh Corbehy 11 persons in all
Edmond Wall Bananagh 9 persons in all
Patrick Waldon Killdarton 13 persons in all


Back to Index

Counter-Reformation 1700s+

The Protestant churches in the parish found it very hard to survive as the population of the Protestant community continued to be very low. After the Reformation, the idea was that the Catholic population would decline and the Protestant population would increase as people converted to avoid the harsh penalties. Thus, after a few generations the Catholics would be in the decline. Conversion figures in England and Wales were high but they failed to take into account Irish peoples perseverance (/stubbornness)! Even after the most stringent anti-Catholic laws were introduced - the Penal Laws which came into being between 1690 and 1710 - the Catholic inhabitants of Mooncoin still refused to convert. Where a Catholic priest could be found, Mass was usually celebrated outdoors at a 'Mass bush' or 'Mass rock'. For example, there was a Mass rock near Polerone, and Mass trees in Tubrid and Ardera. Religious service was infrequent then for Catholics, with just baptisms, marriages and funerals the only contact with priests. When a Catholic died, they usually got permission from the local vicar to be buried in the Protestant church grounds (usually Rathkieran). Records show that in 1776 - just as the Penal laws began to be relaxed (or ignored) - the Vicar in Portnascully parish only had three members in his congregation, compared to 433 Catholics who lived in that parish. But it is possible some Catholics attended service in Protestant churches as they had no church of their own. So it would be considered a 'grey' area with many of the local vicars turning a 'blind eye' to the Catholics attending their service.

There was no physical Catholic places of worship in the parish until 1752, when the Catholic Church started to reemerge. Then we have a record that a 'Mass house' was built in Kilnaspic. Catholics were not allowed to have 'churches' per se, so a thatched house was used to circumvent the law. First thing that comes to mind is how remote the location was. It was on the far side of a hill and certainly quite hidden and not in peoples face (it was located just down the hill from the current church in Kilnaspic - at the end of the current graveyard). Secondly, the land where the Mass house was built was owned by the Earl of Bessborough, so he obviously was agreeable to it.

The father of the modern day parish - if you excuse the pun - was Father James Purcell who was the first Catholic priest to base himself wholly in the parish since the Reformation. He arrived in 1748 and was responsible for not just Mooncoin parish but also most of Kilmacow parish. Fr Purcell rented a house and 40 acres in Middlequarter close to the home - described as a mansion - of the Church of Ireland vicar for the parish who lived in Polerone. Fr Purcell was from Kilkenny City and born in 1707. He moved his brother and parents down to Mooncoin to live with him and work on the farm. His parents died just two years later in 1750, within four months of each other, and were buried in Rathkieran churchyard (of course then still controlled by the Church of Ireland which shows the relationship between the two religions was quite amicable at local level).

There were three Catholics churches/Mass houses in use from the late 1700s. It is perhaps not coincidental that the three Catholic divisions in the parish - Mooncoin, Carrigeen and Kilnaspic - did not take any of the names of the older civil/Church of Ireland parishes (such as Tubrid, Rathkieran etc.). Thus, their could be no confusion or mix up between the Church of Ireland and Catholic parishes. Their was a Catholic Mass house (later a church) built in Ballytarsney. Then from the early 1800s, after the Penal Laws were relaxed even further, churches were built in the three parishes with an adjoining parish school in each. A new church was built in 1802 in Mooncoin and was located in what we know as the 'old graveyard' on Chapel street (hence where that name came from). This replaced the Ballytarsney church. In general in Mooncoin, there is not much evidence of conflict between the differing believers through the centuries. Many Catholics attended Mass (and as stated were buried), in Protestant churches as they had no church of their own until the 1700s.

Here are some Extracts from the Ossory records from 1837 which reference the Church of Ireland churches in the area:

(* note; 'Glebe house' is the local Rectors house)


"Moncoin", Mount-Coin, or [Mooncoin], a village and extra-parochial place, locally in the parish of Poleroan, barony of Iverk; containing 102 houses and 495 inhabitants. In the R. C. divisions this place is the head of a union or district, comprising the parishes of Rathkyran, Aglishmartin, Portnescully, Poleroan, Clonmore, Ballytarsna, Tubrid, and part of Burnchurch, in which union are three chapels.
[From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837)]
Church Records
Civil Parish: RC Parish: Mooncoin
Earliest Records: births. Dec 1797; marriages. Jan 1772.


"Polerone", or Poleroan, a parish, in the barony of Iverk, county of Kilkenny, and on the north-eastern bank of the river Suir; containing 1245 inhabitants. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, united by act of council, in 1680, to the vicarages of Potnescully and Illud, together consituting the union of Poleroan, in the gift of the Corporation of Waterford, in who the rectory is impropriate. There is a glebe-house [vicar's home] with a glebe of 4 1/4 acres. About 60 children are educated in a private school.


"Rathkieran", or Rathkyran, a parish, in the barony of Iverk, county of Kilkenny; containing 1408 inhabitants, of which number, 120 are in the village. The parish comprises 4197 statute acres, and the village contains 22 houses. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, and in the patronage of the Vicars Choral of the cathedral of Kilkenny; the rectory is appropriate to the dean and chapter. At Moncoin is a school under the superintendence of the nuns, in which are about 250 girls; and in a private school are about 200 boys; there is also a Sunday school.


"Aglish", or Aglishmartin, a parish, in the barony of Iverk, county of Kilkenny, on the river Suir, and on the road from Waterford to Carrick-on-Suir; containing 401 inhabitants, of which number, 142 are in the village. It comprises 2414 statute acres, and is a rectory, in the diocese of Ossory, and in the patronage of the Crown: the tithes amount to £96.18.5 1/2. There is neither church nor glebe-house; the glebe consists of 2 1/2 acres.


"Ballytarsney", a parish, in the barony of Iverk, county of Kilkenny; the population is returned with the parish of Poleroan. The parish is situated on the road from Waterford to Limerick, and is about five British furlongs in length and breadth, comprising 1116 statute acres. It is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, and forms part of the union of Clonmore.


"Clonmore", a parish, in the barony of Iverk, county of Kilkenny, and province of Leinster, 2 1/2 miles (S. S. E.) from Piltown, on the mail coach road from Limerick To wateford. Containing 702 inhabitants. The principal seats are Silverspring and Cloncunny. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, united to those of Ballytarsney, and in the patronage of the Bishop. The glebe-house [vicars house] was built in 1817: the glebe comprises 11 acres. The church was erected in 1818 [Graigavine], In the R. C. divisions this parish is in the union or district of Mooncoin.


"Portnascully", or Portnescully, a parish, in the barony of Iverk, county of Kilkenny; containing 1084 inhabitants. It is a vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, forming part of the union of Poleroan; the rectory is impropriate in the corporation of Waterford. contains the chapel of Carrigeen. About 240 boys are educated in two private schools; there is also a Sunday school.


"Tubbrid", or Tubrid, a parish, in the barony of Iverk, county of Kilkenny; containing 213 inhabitants and comprising 980 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. It is a rectory, in the diocese of Ossory, forming part of the union of Fiddown. In the R. C. divisions it is part of the union or district of Mooncoin. A day school, in which about 100 children are taught [beside Kilnaspic Church], is aided by contributions from the parish priest; and a Sunday school is held in the R.C. chapel.

Historical Geography
Townlands (1851)

Tubbrid Barnacole 120 Ossory
Tubbrid Barrabehy 539 Ossory
Tubbrid Tubbrid 344 Ossory

Back to Index

1821 Census and Genealogy

As many people with an interest in genealogy would know, the earliest complete census return in Ireland is the 1901 census. This census is freely available on the Irish National Archives website (the Tithe Applotment books which list the heads of most households in Mooncoin cir 1830 are available freely there also -Tithes were a tax on all people for the upkeep of the state Protestant Church at the time - it was later considered an unfair tax considering over 85% of the population were Catholic).

Mooncoin parish, however, has been staggeringly luckily in relation to information recovered from earlier censuses. Firstly, the background to the completion of censuses in Ireland; censuses were taken every 10 years from 1821 (1821 being the first official census by the British government who ruled Ireland at the time). Many people then ask; so what happened to all the census records from 1821-1891? The 1861 and 1871 censuses were purposely destroyed by the government shortly after all the data had been analysed. The 1881 and 1891 censuses were ‘pulped’ by the British government during World War I because of a paper shortage at the time. The vast majority of the remaining censuses extracts were destroyed during the Irish Civil War in June 1922 when the Four Courts in Dublin was burned. The Irish records office was located in the same complex and over 1000 years of history was burned also at the time.

As stated, Mooncoin parish has been very fortunate (in comparison to many areas of Ireland), in relation to the what survived from the earlier censuses;

1841/1851: The only transcripts in relation to the whole of County Kilkenny to survive from the 1841/51 censuses are the townlands of Aglish and Portnahully (viewable in the national genealogy centre, Kildare St, Dublin 2).

1831: The only transcripts in relation to the whole of County Kilkenny to survive from the 1831 census are the townlands Aglish, Clonmore, Kilmacow, Pol(e)rone, Rathkieran and Tybroughney (viewable in the National Library, Kildare St, Dublin 2).

1821: For the 1821 census, there survives a full complete transcript of the census for the Parish of Mooncoin. Again, Mooncoin is very fortunate, as a man by the name of Edmond Walsh Kelly (who's family came from Glengrant and Licketstown (Carrigeen)) , who had an interest in genealogy, transcribed the original 1821 census for the local area before it was destroyed in 1922, around 1918 (he was also responsible for the other census transcripts mentioned above). The Census transcripts were later copied by his niece Kathleen Kelly (Tramore) in 1976, who made them available for publication. These transcripts are all stored in the National Library of Ireland and are known as the 'Walsh-Kelly notebooks' (GO MS 684). This census was first published in the book 'Mooncoin - 1650-1977'.
As the 1821 census was the first of its kind, the information would have been less detailed than it is today. The transcripts of the 1821 census are available to view below. Just click on the specific townland to open the return. Note: the person listed is son or daughter of the head of the household unless otherwise stated.

Mooncoin Parish Census 1821


Licketstown - Moonveen
Luffany - Ballygorey
Mooncoin Village
Mountneill - Ballyslough
Silverspring - Afaddy

Family Roots / Mooncoin Genealogy

Many people have emigrated from Mooncoin parish over the years. Here is some advice when trying to locate ancestors;

-Gather as much solid information as possible, this is vital e.g. roughly the dates when you ancestors left Mooncoin. Likewise, the townland the person is from is very important. Its not enough to know that your ancestor came from Kilkenny(!) or even Mooncoin. The specific townland is very important (e.g. Dournane). This is especially vital if your ancestor had a very common name like Walsh, Delahunty or Mackey, which are very popular in the area. Also, the tradition in Ireland was to the name the first son after the paternal grandfather and the first daughter after the paternal mother. The second son/daughter was then named from the maternal side. So if a grandfather had a large family, many of his grandchildren could have the same name as himself! This is why dates are very important. It is also, for example, why there as been so many Michael, Patrick, John and Richard Walsh's from Mooncoin over the years! It helps also, when we don't know exactly the name of further back generations, we can make a guess when researching by comparing the names of the oldest grandchildren.
Also, be careful of spelling changes in names over the years. Many people that emigrated to America could not read or write, so officials on the American side often spelt the name phonetically. This was compounded probably by the accents of the Irish! For example, Henebery, which is still a popular name in the area, has had many variations through the years; Henneberry, Henebery, Henebry and also an American version Hanabery (which was probably corrupted as defined above). The same can be said for the local townlands, they have changed spelling considerably (mostly abbreviated) over the years e.g. Polerone was Polleroan. Kilnaspic was Killinaspic (so try a number of combinations when searching).

-One of the best, and freely available sources of information is the 1901 and 1911 censuses of Ireland (from the national achieves of Ireland website). Also, on this Mooncoin website, the census of 1821 for the parish is published (above), which we are very fortunate to have surviving.

-Civil records; the vast majority of Births, Deaths and Marriages were recorded in Ireland from 1864 for Catholics and 1844 for peoples of the Church of Ireland faith. These are available from; www.irishgenealogy.ie.

-Catholic Church records; these are very important as they predate the civil records. In Mooncoin's case, genealogists are very lucky once again, as most marriages and births from 1779 onwards are recorded (Mooncoin was ahead of its time as many parishes did not do this for many years after). These are available from the National Library of Ireland website.

-Other sources include Griffiths Valuation (cir 1850) which is freely available online. This was a land survey but recorded the head of each landowning household in the parish. Likewise, many genealogy websites have records (for a fee) of ship passengers who emigrated from Ireland. These would include the address where the person was travelling from and going to.

Back to Index

The Rev. Carrigan's history of Mooncoin

A number of volume of books called "The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory" (1905) by the Rev William Carrigan (d 1924), has become the de facto reference when completing any type of research or study about Kilkenny. The books (in four volumes) were the result of fives years work by a local priest William Carrigan who was born in Ballyfoyle Co Kilkenny and have a thorough breakdown of the history of Kilkenny villages.

The books are no longer in print but are available in local libraries. Also, priests ordinated in the diocese of Ossory received the books as a gift on their ordination.

Click the link below to read extracts from "The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory" that are specific to Mooncoin;

Mooncoin Extracts from Carrigans Book (volume 4)

Carrigan Pg 1 Carrigan Pg 13
Carrigan Pg 2 Carrigan Pg 14
Carrigan Pg 3 Carrigan Pg 15
Carrigan Pg 4 Carrigan Pg 16
Carrigan Pg 5 Carrigan Pg 17
Carrigan Pg 6 Carrigan Pg 18
Carrigan Pg 7 Carrigan Pg 19
Carrigan Pg 8 Carrigan Pg 20
Carrigan Pg 9 Carrigan Pg 21
Carrigan Pg 10 Carrigan Pg 22
Carrigan Pg 11 Carrigan Pg 23
Carrigan Pg 12 Carrigan Pg 24

Back to Index

Sinnott's Cross Ambush

A Black and Tan ambush occurred at Sinnott's Cross, Tubrid (at the Piltown end of Clogga) during the Irish war of independence(1919-1921), on the 18th June 1921. At this time Ireland was under the control of the British Empire and many of the people of Ireland rebelled against their control to try and gain Independence. Michael Collins (nationalist icon from Cork), along with Richard Mulcahy, were the main driving forces behind the Irish Independence movement after 1918. Michael Collins was the IRA Director of Intelligence and was actively involved in providing funds and arms to the IRA units that needed them. In early 1921 Michael Collins sent a dictate to the commanders in Kilkenny City ordering them to proceed with ambushes and other activities in County Kilkenny. The reason for Michael Collins anguish was the fact that a lot of the British army resources, including the Black and Tans, were being focused on Cork, Tipperary and Dublin. So Collins needed the Crown Forces to start spreading their resources more widely, so to take the pressure off other areas. In this vicinity, most of the activities during the War of Independence were focused in west Kilkenny (with the 7th Kilkenny Battalion in Callan being the most active). In light of this order by Collins and others in high command in Kilkenny, an ambush occurred near Sinnott's Cross, Mooncoin, in June 1921.

It is with great credit to these Mooncoin men that they actually proceeded with an ambush. It would have been easy and less dangerous to do nothing and wait for others to do the 'dirty work'. But these local men felt it was right and the most just thing to do. They had nothing to gain in the short term, but perhaps had a lot to lose. These losses could have included their farms, their jobs, their freedom or their own lives. This was because Marshall law was running in Kilkenny at this time in 1921 which meant they could be executed without trial. In fairness to these Mooncoin men, they were quite ordinary people. They did want war or killing. Sometimes its hard for people to understand the need for this by looking through the lens of the Ireland today. But it was because of their sacrifice that we now live in a thriving Republic with its own parliament, culture and identity.

Now just to set the national scene as it was in June 1921 when the Sinnott's Cross ambush occurred. The country was in turmoil for nearly two years at this stage due to the 'Tan War' as it was called, or what we now call the Irish War of Independence. People in Mooncoin would have been glued to the daily newspapers. And in general, the tide of sympathy was turning towards the Irish revolutionaries even from people that would previous have had moderate views. If we flash back just 8 months before the Sinnott's Cross ambush, the world was following with bated breath to Terence MacSwinney's hunger strike in England. His subsequent death was an international sensation reaching the front pages in the U.K. and America. Then just a few weeks later (7 months before Sinnott's Cross), the Croke Park Massacre occurred. This was a response to Michael Collins's assassination of British detectives. Then to make matters worse, the Black and Tans burnt down Cork city centre, just 6 months before Sinnott's Cross. As a quick summary, the Black and Tans were a mercenary force setup by the British. They basically had a licence to 'do what they liked' with no repercussions from their superiors. History would show that this backfired badly on the British, as the majority of people that were affected by the Black and Tans were law abiding, innocent people. The Black and Tans enemy was basically all Irish people which is why they burned down creameries and farmhouses or killed innocent people without trial. This ironically was beneficial to Michael Collins and the leaders as people really started backing them. That was their downfall.

To provoke the Black and Tans to come to Clogga the local IRA men broke into and stole objects from the local landlord who lived near the mill. The Landlord reported this and this caused the Black and Tans to come to Clogga. Also, the previous year (1920), Piltown Courthouse was burnt down. Pat 'the fox' Walsh (Richtén Walsh's later Swithin Walshs) of Clogga was the leader that day.

At a turn on the road, very near Sinnott's Cross, the local IRA members waited and then ambushed the Black and Tans killing one and injuring another. The Black and Tans did not know who committed the attack and vowed to "burn every house in Clogga to the ground". But thanks to the local miller, this did not happen. The miller at the time, Mennell, was from England and told the Black and Tans that it was an outside unit of the IRA. The Black and Tans trusted him and so did not harm anyone in Clogga.

It is important to highlight the fact that all men that took part that day were from the Mooncoin area. They came from all different walks of life, big and small farmers,labourers, shop keepers etc. They put their own life's and their families lives at risk to fight for a cause in which they truly believed in. There was no financial or other rewards, but the sacrifices could have been huge. It would have been a lot easier not have taken part but they obviously believed strongly enough to do so.

ambush turn
ambush turn
2008 sinnotts cross monument
sinnotts cross
Pat the Fox Walsh
james Walsh
Ambush Turn. Site of the purposed Sinnotts Cross Monument (2004)and work to date (2008)
Sinnotts Cross
Pat'the fox' and James Walsh who took part in the Ambush
Sinnotts Cross Monument
Sinnotts Cross Feb 2009
Sinnotts Cross Feb 2009
Sinnotts Cross Feb 2009
The sculptor of the monument, Ruairí Carroll, adjudicates on the final placement of his piece of art on the plinth (Feb 2009).
Sinnotts Cross Monument 2009

At the end of 2003 it was decided to erect a monument at the site of the ambush for all men and women who fought for the freedom of Ireland. For the full story of the ambush Click here.

Here is an account from Martin Murphy of Grange who was involved in the ambush:

"The Clogga ambush occurred shortly after the failed attack on the Mullinavat Police Barracks. We gathered near Sinnott's Cross about 3pm. We got a signal the Tans were coming. We rushed into our positions. The Tans came along the road cycling. We fired at the Tans mostly with shotguns. One of them fell dead. We captured his rifle. Another Tan was wounded but he managed to get away. Ted Moore was one of those in charge. We all got away. This ambush happened in June 1921."

Thesis on War of Independence in Kilkenny

Watt Murphy, Tithes & The Rose of Mooncoin

Mooncoin has been made famous by a love song called the "Rose of Mooncoin". It was written by Watt Murphy in around 1850. It has now been adopted as the Kilkenny county anthem (thanks to Paddy Grace, Dicksboro - former county chairman) and it is sung to represent the Kilkenny hurling team when victorious.

Watt's father came to Mooncoin and set up a school near Carrigeen in the early 1780s where he was principal. Watt was their only child, born on 21st or 22nd April 1790, and the family lived in Rathkieran.

Watt Murphy's baptism registration in the Mooncoin Parish register. "Walter Murphy, Rathkyran ['inst'/current month - April 1790] 22nd, Bapi Walter son to [John/Patk?] Murphy and Eleanor Walsh his wife. Sponsor Walter Walsh and Elizabeth Comerford"

Watt was educated at his father's school and eventually he himself started teaching there. Then, in the 1820s, he established his own school in Chapel Street, Mooncoin. The school was located roughly where the 'Mews' houses on Chapel Street are currently, and people who could afford it would send their children their. Watt was a brilliant teacher by all accounts, having picked up so much skills and knowledge from his father from a young age.

The "Tithe Act" was still in use at this time where the people had to struggle to meet payments. In October 1832, Mooncoin made the national headlines for all the wrong reasons following a tithe altercation. Police on horseback were erecting posters in all the civil parishes in Mooncoin, stating that the Tithes were now due by the locals. A large crowd started following them shouting and jeering the police to protest against the tithes. Near Carrigeen church the police opened fire at the crowd with muskets. Catherine Foley, who was in her 20s, died instantly, the bullet having passed through her spine. Joseph Sinnott, who was 19 years old, died the following morning, the bullet having passed through his body from the back and through the intestine. He died in Edmond Quinn's house who was then the Carrigeen school principal and who had aided Sinnott after the attack. The inquest into the deaths of Joseph and Catherine was held in Comerford's pub on Main Street over the following weeks. The inquest heard the testimony of Joseph Sinnott who gave an account of what happened before he died. He said; 'I pelted no stones at the police, I had no stick, pike, fire arms or stone when the police fired; no person pelted a stone in my view; i was running away when i was shot in the back - i did not advise any person to pelt or not to pelt; when i was stretched near the ditch, the police caught me by the breast, opened my eyes and said "the rascal is not dead yet"'.

Watt was deeply affected by this which became known as the 'Carrigeen Affray'. He wrote a poem disgracing the establishment authorities. The temperature in the parish was at boiling point after the police officer in charge, Captain Burke, was left go even after been found guilty of killing the two people at the inquest. The local Church of Ireland minister, Reverand Newport, who called on the authorites to enforce the tithe collection in Mooncoin, quickly requested a transfer from his home in Polerone, in fear of his safety. Watt was severely reprimanded by the authorities for his poetry, who also stopped his income as school principal. This gained him the nick-name "the Rebel poet". He was reinstated though sometime later. He also wrote a famous prose about the 'Battle of Carrickshock' which happened a year before the Carrigeen incident in 1831. His school became a parochial school in 1833 which guaranteed him an income of £10 per year. In 1839 three parochial schools in Mooncoin, namely Chapel Street (Watt's School), Carrigeen and Kilnaspic became state schools, although still owned by the church (the covent school was run by the nuns independently but was already state sponsored at this stage). So, the only private schools left were on the New Road in Mooncoin and one in Cussana (the New Road Boy's School came under state control in 1855 with 169 boys on the roll with an average attendance of 88). The state taking over the schools were positive in one way for the Church as the state now paid the wages of the teachers. Watt got a pay rise and also a second teacher, Richard Walsh. He needed him, as by 1844 there were 170 pupils on the roll in the school with an average attendance of 140 pupils (70 each!). There would be less pupils attending on wet days, or during harvest etc, or sometimes family member used to take turns on who would go to school and who were required to stay home. The state takeover was bad in another way, as there were inspections by the state authorities quite frequently to check the calibre of the teachers. Watt received two official warnings from the authorities via the local parish priest for his attacks on the government and the politics of the time. The state schools were meant to portray a positive image of the monarchy and empire. Eventually the parish priest was required to sack Watt from the school which occurred in 1846. It must have been difficult for him as he had originally founded the school off his own bat. An inspection report from December 1946 was quite honest about the morale dropping after his absence, stating that 'a great cloud hangs over the school since the teacher [Watt] was dismissed'. Over the next few years, all the parish schools were struck off the state register at one stage or other following disagreements with the inspector.

However, maybe Watt's sacking was a blessing in disguise. The local rector had just become his new neighbour in Polerone; the Rector's house (Glebe) was located beside Polerone Church. The new Reverand, James Wills and his family of three sons and one daughter (his oldest child) arrived in Polerone in 1846. They had lived in Rathkieran before this and the Reverand took over the titles of Vicar of Polerone and Curate of Rathkieran. All the children were highly educated just like their father had been.

Watt became infatuated with the Rector's daughter, Elizabeth, also called Molly. They were both intellectual and would walk the banks of the Suir along Polerone reciting and writing poetry. It is said that Watt became a permentant fixture at the front porch/terrace at 'Suirville House', the rector's house in Polerone, which faced onto the River Suir. It is said they loved watching the comings and goings on Polerone Quay, looking at the fisherman and the boats that commuted up and down the River Suir from Carrick to Waterford with deliveries. One of Watt's famous poems was titled; 'Polerone Graveyard'. The Rector was not pleased to hear that both Elizabeth and Watt were in love, especially given the age difference (Watt was in his 50s and Molly was just 20). He had initially thought it was just a student/teacher interest. He also didn't approve of Watt's rebel tendencies. So he sent his daughter to England in 1848 and the rest of his family moved to Kilmacow after he requested a transfer. Watt was heartbroken as a result of Elizabeth leaving Mooncoin. So as he walked the banks of the Suir, now on his own, he composed the famous Rose of Mooncoin in her memory. He died just 10 years afterwards and is buried in Rathkieran cemetery.

rose picClick here to listen to the rose of Mooncoin

The Rose of Mooncoin

How sweet 'tis to roam by the sunny Suir stream
And hear the dove's coo'neath the morning's sunbeam
Where the thrush and the robin their sweet notes combine
On the banks of the Suir that flows down by Mooncoin.

Flow on, lovely river, flow gently along
By your waters, so sweet sounds the lark's merry song
On your green bank's I'll wander where first I did join
With you, lovely Molly, the Rose of Mooncoin.

Oh Molly, dear Molly, has the time come at last
When from you, dear Molly, from you I must part
But I'll think of you, Molly, while the Summer sun shines
On the banks of the Suir that flows down by Mooncoin.

She has sailed far away o'er the dark rolling foam
Far away from the hills of her dear Irish home
Where the fishermen play with their boats, net and line
On the banks of the Suir that flows down by Mooncoin.

Then here's to the Suir with its valley so fair
Where oft times we rambled in the morning's pure air
Where the lilies do bloom and the roses entwine
On the banks of the Suir that flows down by Mooncoin

Back to Index


There has been different schools in Mooncoin over the years. When the landlords first took control of the lands they set up schools where a select few were given the privilege of attending. The landlord paid for these schools. Private schools were set up in the late 1700s, some run by the Catholic church, others fully private. At one stage there was Watt Murphy's school in Chapel Street, a parochial school on the New Road and a convent school for girls on the main street (not including the parocial schools in Carrigeen and Kilnaspic, and a private school in Cussana)

During the 18th century, only the better off could afford to send their children to school. Families that could afford to pay, paid for their childrens education, but families that couldn't afford to send their children to school, were sometimes paid for by the Parish priest. As the Catholics gained more rights (after 1782 and subsequently Catholic Emancipation in 1829), the Catholic church set up schools or took over schools around the parish, though from 1833 some of these schools were financed by the state. Watt Murphy's school on Chapel Street then came under the patronage of the church along with schools in Kilnaspic (just beside the present church where the ramp is located today) and in Carrigeen village. In 1830, the parish priest invited the Presentation sisters in Kilkenny City to set up a school for girls in the village of Mooncoin (his philosophy was 'educate a boy and you educate the individual, educate the girl and you educate a family'). The convent was then located on Main Street, Mooncoin, in the house that's roughly opposite the car park of Centra supermarket currently, often called 'Doctor Dwan's House' (Main st, Mooncoin, was actually called Convent Street at the time). The syllabus in all schools was concentrated around the main R's. Religion made up a big part of the daily study. So from 1832, nearly all children up the age of 10 got a chance to at least read and write. In this regard, Mooncoin was lucky as many parts of Kilkenny and Ireland did not have this opportunity until many years later. This is highlighted in the 1901 census, as the majority of people in Mooncoin could read and write which is not reflected in Ireland as a whole.

In the late 1800s many schools opened around the parish. There was a separate boys school built in Mooncoin which replaced the school on Chapel st and another school which was open around the same time on the New Road. In addition there was the Presentation nuns run school. In Carrigeen, there were separate boys and girls school. Clogga national school and Clonmore national school were open on the same day in September 1888 (and closed on the same day in 1969). There had been two schools in Clonmore during the century previously, established by the local protestant minister based in Clonmore House. Clogga school replaced the old Kilnaspic school which had closed down some years before.

A technical school was opened in Mooncoin in 1935 where the present day furniture store is located. It then became a Vocational school. A new building was opened in 1993 and was renamed Cóláiste Cóis Súire in 2001.

Seamus Doran:
It should also be noted that Mooncoin is the birth place of the national organisation Fóroige (first meeting held in mooncoin technical school in 1952) and had the first branch of Macra na Feirme. These organisations which are spread throughout Ireland now, were inspired by a teacher named Seamus Doran who taught in the technical school from 1939 and was principal up until the 1990s (died in 2007). He was honoured in the school by President Mary McAleese to celebrate 50 years of Foroige in 2002.

Back to Index

Mass Bush

In late 1600s the penal laws where introduced by the British government who controlled Ireland at the time(after Protestant King William of Orange's victory over Catholic King James II of England). They prohibited the practice of the Catholic religion which most of the Irish people had as their faith at the time. The main purpose was to wipe out the Catholic faith within a generation or two. This policy actually worked well in England, at present just 10% of the population is Catholic.

The people now had to practice their Catholic faith in secrecy. The Mass bush is where the people met to celebrate Mass with a priest (if one could be found). With the Penal laws, Catholics were also prohibited from buying land and from entering the forces or the law. Catholics could no longer run for elected office or own property (such as horses) valued at more than 5 pounds. In the early years of the 18th century the ruling Protestants in Ireland passed these laws designed to strip the "backwards" Catholic population of remaining land, positions of influence, and civil rights. This inflicted massive oppression and poverty on the Catholics for generations.

The main Mass bush in the parish of Mooncoin is located at the top of Tubrid beside Knockanure (there were a few Mass bushes at different times). There is a good view around the valley, this was to ensure that the people could keep a look out. It is possible to see four counties (Kilkenny, Waterford, Tipperary & Wexford) from that position. There was also a Mass bush at the crossroads in Ardera and a 'priests trench' on the road between Dournane and Polerone where the priest could say Mass.

Mass Bush

Back to Index