he district of Piltown - Mary O'Shea.
For the purposes of this article, the district of Piltown is taken to mean the geographical entity that is more commonly known as Piltown Catholic parish or Piltown parish; which along with adjoining Owning and Templeorum Catholic parishes forms a three part geographical entity known as the parish of Templeorum. In other words Piltown Catholic parish is an entity within the overall Catholic parish of Templeorum. In statute acres Piltown Catholic parish comprises 5,253 acres, 29 roods and 905 perches.
Previous to 1720 the entire entity that is today the Catholic parish of Templeorum was known variously as the Union of Fiddown or the Union of Templeorum and Owning in British government records, such as one document which gives the name and number of registered Catholic priests in the County of Kilkenny in 1704. The word union was not used to describe Catholic parishes by the Catholic church, the word union applied to Protestant parishes. So the parish had no a fixed name, being loosely called Templeorum parish or Fiddown parish until 1720.
In 1720 the principal mass-house of the entire district was the thatched chapel that stood on the height to the right, going in the main entrance to the present 1810-14 Catholic church of Templeorum. It was called Templeorum chapel, it seemed to have served people from adjoining areas of the three districts, hence the derivation of the name - the parish of Templeorum. The present Catholic church at Piltown which celebrates its centenary this year 1999 is not the parish church, though it is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title of the Assumption, as are Templeorum and Owning. It is the present church at Templeorum which is the Parish church of the parish of Templeorum. Piltown Catholic church serves the largest population base in the entire parish, nearly half the population of the entire parish, its size and impressive decor make it among the most beautiful churches in the diocese of Ossory.
This article on the Piltown district is a celebration of the centenary of the opening of Piltown Catholic church. In the article I aim to give a broad historical sketch of the district, from roughly the Anglo-Norman period to the present day and in so doing to put its rich history into the broader historical context of the County of Kilkenny. The history of the district spans from pre-Christian times to the modern day, which is a massive canvas stretching back over 6,000 years. It is not possible to deal in detail with every era, or to include every era in this article, apart from any consideration of space, every area has not been researched in enough detail yet.
I have been fortunate enough to have come by much original material which has not been published before. Thanks to the memories of many old people I have salvaged some oral history that would have otherwise been lost, especially some of the reconstruction of the 19th village and later 20th century changes. I would to thank the following who assisted me in my research, Pat Fitzpatrick formerly of Oldcourt who shared with me the fruits of his researches on the Dalton and Ponsonby families, to Dr. Patrick C. Power for his help, to the President of St. Kieran's College Kilkenny, Msgr. James Cassin and Dr. Canon James Brennan for giving me access to Carrigan's notebooks, to no. 34, to the Rev. Superior of the Oblate Fathers, Inchacore, Dublin, for information on the Oblates' connection with Kildalton and to the staff of Kilkenny and Waterford County libraries.
Piltown Catholic parish comprises the following townlands, Tybroughney, Turkstown, Gorthrush, Fiddown, (including Fiddown village), Corloughlan, Ballyglassoon, Sandpits, Kildalton, Brenar, Belline and Rogerstown, Banagher, Ardclone, part of Tobernabrone, part of Tinnakilly; the village of Piltown with its adjoining modern housing estates of Hillcrest Avenue, Orchard Estate and Banagher Place.
The barony is Iverk, a barony which comprises 41, 369 statute acres, with 114 townlands, taken from the Catholic parishes of Templeorum, Mooncoin, Mullinavat, and Kilmacow, and includes within it 14 civil parishes. All of Piltown parish except for the townland of Tybroughney belongs to the civil parish of Fiddown. Tybroughney, named after St. Fachtna, is the name of an early Christian monastic site and is a civil parish comprising only itself. It contains the decorative "Tybroughney Stone" with its spiral motiff and zoommorphic designs dating from the 8th or 9th century. This stone, along with the High Crosses at Kilkieran in Owning, those at Ahennny in nearby South Tipperary, the cross at Dunnamaggin, at Kilree, and at Killamery also in the County of Kilkenny, form part of a series known historically as "The High Crosses of Western Ossory." The motif of seven triple spiral coils turned in both C- and S- curves, the cords terminating in swans heads, gaping duck-heads, the birds having long bills with which each grips another's neck, is a motif of extreme rarity.
Fiddown which is named after the "moat" or "dun," an ancient homestead by the stand at Fiddown, contains the site of another early Christian monastery, whose patron saint is St. Momhaedhóg, a 7th century saint. It was a large monastery whose order of monks went into decline in the 12th century. After the Protestant Reformation it became the property of the Church of Ireland. Inside the small Protestant church are beautifully excuted marble monuments to the Ponsonby and Briscoe families, designed by William Atkinson.
Piltown itself is the name of a place, not a townland. The area around the modern creamery shop and stores of Avonmore, now Glanbia, by edge of the river Pill, is Piltown. In Government records of the 16th century it was known as Ballifoile and Ballinfoile. Baile on Phóill, the town built on the river Pill is the modern meaning of the name. The 19th century village of Piltown is built on the conjunction of four townlands - Ardclone, Kildalton, Belline and Rogerstown and Banagher, the larger portion of the village lies in Banagher townland.
Piltown Catholic parish seems to have only acquired a curate for itself in about 1804, Rev. John Guider, it is difficult to give a precise date. The parish as a whole was served by two priests, a P.P. and a curate who resided in Owning or in Templeorum up to about 1804. It is unlikely that the curate lived in the big house, the former P.P.'s house across the road from the present church. Reading through the Griffith Valuation of 1850/51, for the townland of Ardclone, Rev. John Moore C.C. is living in a house valued at only £2 14s, this would be a low valuation for a large house like the former P.P.'s house. So he may have lived in a smaller house down the Ardclone road from the old church. Rev. James Shortall C.C. appears to have been the last curate of Piltown, from 1878 to May 11th 1883. The Parish Priest lived at Ballypatrick House, near the Mountain Grove, in the Templeorum end of the parish until around 1883 when Canon John Purcell moved to Piltown and took up residence in the big house, rented from Lord Bessborough. It is he who built the present Catholic church of Piltown.
The district of Piltown, as are its adjoining parish districts of Owning and Templeorum, is located in the South of the County of Kilkenny. The South and South-eastern part of the County of Kilkenny within the tidal reaches of the rivers Suir, Nore and Barrow show a combination of very special conditions which permited social order and settlement structures to interface with and to assimulate the new forces of Ango-Norman invasion and later that of the Cromwellian invasion which resulted in the landlord system coming into being, without too much trauma or displacement. South Kilkenny and especially the barony of Iverk, is distinctive historically and culturally from the middle and the North of the County of Kilkenny.
Prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans to the Suir valley in 1185, Piltown district was a Gaeilic society, governed by a body of customary laws, the Brehon laws, a familial based society whose lives revolved around a pastoral type of subsistence agriculture. The strong farmers lived in raths, such as the one that existed in Rathmore, near Fiddown village. A soutterain, which was an underground chamber for the storage of perishable foodstuffs such as butter and meat, was discovered in nearby Kildalton in 1960 when Nick Kenneally was building an extension to his dwelling, souterrains were commonly attached to raths. Raths were lived in by a farmer and his family up to and beyond the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. The labourers/slaves lived in huts outside the raths we presume, no remains of their dwellings have survived.
It must be remembered that the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland which began in 1169 was not a clean sweep colonization of the entire country, the degree of colonisation varied from place to place. North Kilkenny, and the areas neaner to Kilkenny city were heavily colonised. Thus the displacement of the older Gaelic society was greater than it was in the South of Kilkenny. In the rural areas the Anglo-Norman structures were much more haphzard than in the cities and towns. The Gaelic way of life continued with not too much disruption in the hiller areas. Anglo- Norman settlers graduated towards the better farming land.
Both cultures lived in relative harmony, the Anglo-Normans did become more Irish than the Irish themselves, by means of intermarriage. Intermarriage and marrying within the close-knit local community was a feature of South Kilkenny and especially of the Mooncoin district up to relatively recent times. An old saying goes as follows: "There is a fool and an uinseach in every house in Mooncoin." This in turn lead to a contained society and ensured continuity especially in the survival of an oral culture which included the Irish language, which was spoken by pockets of people into the early decades of the 20th century.
Prince John arrived with an army into Waterford, and via the river Suir to Tybroughney in 1185. There the Anglo-Normans built a motte-and-bailey, a defensive homestead. Prince John, a son of King Henry II of England, later became King of England himself. He is also attributed with building the Anglo-Norman castle at Tybroughney, this is unlikely as stone castles or tower houses were not built in Ireland until the 15th and 16th centuries.
There is a tradition of a battle having been fought at Tybroughney in around 1185 when Donald O'Brien, King of Limerick, led his Dalcassins to Tybroughney, where ensued great slaughter when they met Prince John's army. Two of his chieftains, O'Grady and O'Conaing, were among those slain. In the Irish Annals there is a reference to the said battle. The battle was especially fierce according to tradition around Richard O'Shea's "church field," where quantities of human bones, old horseshoes and swords were found from time to time. Tybroughney Castle belonged to the Mountgarret Butlers of Ormonde in the 17th century, in 1653 they handed it over to the Cromwellian soldier Sir Algernon May. It was occupied in the 18th century by the Briscoes and by the Rivers family in the 19th century.
A stone visible at low tide in the centre of the river Suir, marks the boundary of three counties, Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary. Canon Carrigan in his History and Antiquities of Ossory, Vol. 4. (Dublin 1905) says that there was at Tybroughney in ancient times "a town well inhabited and in high repute, particularly on the arrival of the English." The "English" referred to here are the Anglo-Normans. In common with many early Christian monastic foundations, Tybroughney grew and developed around the monastery. A monastic type settlement in which there was the parish church, graveyrad monastery, monks' huts, forge, perhaps a mill and farmland. Those who worked the land and gave service generally were the monks, many of them lay men.
It must be remembered that the Gaelic Irish, whom the Anglo-Normans colonized in the 12th and 13th centuries, lived in settlements of dispersed farmholdings, the farmer's house being within the rath with labourer's huts outside the rath, there was often a holy well nearby. With the coming of Christianity in the 5th century AD, the church and or monastery became a focus, there would have been ancient trackways for journeying from one place to another. There were no villages as such, either farming villages or any other type of village in rural Ireland before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans as far as we know.
In the barony of Iverk, there are two types of farm villages, most dating from the Anglo-Norman's arrival, from the 12th and 13th Centuries onwards. A cluster of farmsteads often at either side of a road ( "street" is Anglo-Norman in origin), commonly known as a hamlet with no parish church or necessarily a holy well as a focus. A good example is the village of Garryduff in Owning district, where there was a well of St. Mark's a good distance away from the village, adjoining Mullinbeg. The village is not built around the well. Lickawn village, in Templeorum district, is even a better example, there is no holy well close to it.
Secondly the village with the Anglo-Norman castle as its focus, with surrouding farm and out-dwellings, labourers' cottages, forge, mill and parish church and graveyard at one end. A good example would be that of Jamestown and Kildalton. The church in both cases was early Christian in origin, in the case of Kildalton it was rededicated a more well known saint, St. John the Baptist, as distinct from the original St. Modailbh, whose feast day is the 3rd of October. In Kildalton as is common, we have an earlier settlement with an early Christian church and small monastery, taken over by the Anglo-Normans, then becoming an Anglo-Norman village. Tybroughney suffered a similar change of settlement. In Anglo-Norman times townlands were often divided by a double-ditch.
A break in the above pattern of village settlement is Turkstown, which was built under the auspices of the Bessborough land-agent at Belline House, Peter Walsh in the late 18th century. The three sided square layout of dwelling in centre, with outhouses at either side is maintained from the Anglo-Norman influence. It was difficult to persuade the farmer not to keep his dung-heap out of view of the front door of his dwelling, which was an old custom. With the landlord system there developed the dispersed single farmsteads. Turkstown is an actual farm village, probably built on a more ancient settlement.
South Kilkenny is noted for its farm villages, 36 of which still exist to this present day in the barony of Iverk, 19 in the barony of Knocktopher and 31 in the barony of Ida. Prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion and for a time thereafter the barony of Iverk and Ida were one. The greater concentration of farm villages or hamlets exist in the Mooncoin parish, villages such as Luffany, Dournane and Lickedstown make South Kilkenny distinctive culturally and historically. An indication that the landlord system with its demesnes had not as dramatic an effect on landscape and settlement in South Kilkenny as it had in middle and North Kilkenny, which in turn helped to preserve the oral culture.
Hay making was brought to Ireland by the Anglo-Normans, so was a greater concentration on corn growing, also the three year rotation system of pasture, followed by tillage and then lea. The monastic foundations of the 12th and 13th centuries, such as the Cistercians and Augustinians brought with them from the Continent many of these agricultural innovations. A more intensive and commercial type of farming came into being with market days and fairs, towns such as that of Callan came into being.
The Battle of Piltown.
In 1462, Piltown was the setting for a fierce battle known in history as "The Battle of Piltown," a battle with more than local significance. It involved two prominent Anglo-Norman ruling families, the Ormonde Butlers and the earls of Desmond or Fitzgeralds. James Butler was Governor of Ireland, he spent much of his time away in England on King's business, during his absence the Desmonds began to attach Ormonde territory. In the War of the Roses, in England, which centred on control of the British monarchy, James Butler was on the losing side, the Lancastrians. He was beheaded aged 40, leaving two brothers attainted. In 1462 Edmund MacRichard Butler of Paulstown in the County of Kilkenny, was appointed deputy principal governor of Ormonde possessions by John Butler, heir of James. This was the 30th of January 1462.
John Butler de jure arrived into Waterford where he captured the son of the earl of Desmond and imprisoned him. The earl of Desmond arrived in the Suir Valley on his way to Waterford city, at Piltown he was confronted by Edmund MacRichard Butler. A bloody battle ensued, beginning at the site of the present Tower at the entrance to the village of Piltown, continuing in a southerly direction to Tybroughney, ending at Ardclone, where the belfry of the 1798 Catholic church stands in the old graveyard. The Butlers were defeated, one of the manuscripts taken from Edmund MacRichard was Psalter of Cashel, which is a copy of a work by Cormac mac Cullenan, King Bishop of Cashel, which he had copied for Edmund MacRichard. It contained genealogies, the Calandar of Aengus and Cormac's Glossary, which was the first comparative dictionary written in Europe. It is known to scholars as Laud 610.
The Datons of Kildalton.
The D'Altons, Datons or Daltons, arrived in Britain after the Battle of Hastings (1066). Walter Dalton, who secretly married the daughter of the French King, Louis VII, was the immediate ancestor of the family as established in England and Ireland. Dalton comes from the Scandinavian Dalfton. Following the Norman invasion of 1066, there were communication difficulties between Normans who knew no English and Englishmen who were ignorant of French. Each had to learn a little of the other's language. The name Dalfton in Norman French became Dalston in old English, the "f" was substituted by the "s". To overcome the problem in the end, the name Dalton was the replacement and the place name, Dalton-in-Furness became a map entry. Dalton is the name of a townland situated on the coast in North-west England. The name Dalfton was widely used throughout the nearby Cumbria and Westmoreland up to the founding of the market town of Dalton in the 19th century.
Walter Dalton acquired extensive properties in Westmeath under Hugh de Lacy after 1169. He was one of de Lacy's principal barons. Mount Dalton in the barony of Rathconrath was where he built his principal castle.
When the Daltons settled in the County of Kilkenny is unclear. According to Carrigan, the name appears in Kilkenny records as early as 1382, the year in which a Walter Dalton and others were appointed Keepers of the Peace in the County. Canon William Healy in his History and Antiquities of County Kilkenny (Kilkenny 1893) thinks that they may have settled in Kilkenny circa 1500s, when a William Dalton settled in the County. In the 1400s a Redmond Dalton was a tenant of the Butler manor of Carrick, living in a townland outside the town, so some branches of the Daltons were in the Suir valley before the 1500s.
In 1562-3, Milo Dalton, son of John Dalton, of Rathskeagh, County Westmeath, had extensive properties under the lordship of the earl of Kildare, Margaret the second daught
er of the 8th earl of Kildare, was married to Pierce Butler, 8th earl of Ormonde. She is known as "Countess Granny" and lived at Granny Castle, four miles from Waterford city. The Daltons of Westmeath, were probably introduced to the Ormondes by their feudal lords, the Kildares, between whom and the Ormondes martimonial ties existed. It is possible therefore that in the reign of Henry VIII, (1509-47) or shortly afterwards, a William Dalton, who died in 1591, settled at Kildalton, having been introduced there by the Ormondes at the recommendation of Kildare. In fact the Daltons were Ormonde tenants, beholden to the Butler manor at Granny.
From the end of the medieval period onwards circa 1350, counties Kilkenny and Tipperary came to be dominated by the Ormonde Butler families, headed by the earl of Ormonde who at different times had ruled from Nenagh, from Carrick-On-Suir in the County of Tipperary and most especially from Kilkenny city.
The Walshs of the Walsh Mountain, the districts of Templeorum, Owning and Mullinvat forming part of their extensive territory, became tenants of the Ormonde Butlers. Ormonde Butlers directly ruled over 50,000 plantation acres from the castle at Kilkenny and indirectly exerted great power throughout the County. In 1640 the complex hierarchical territories of the Walsh family, extended right across the South of County Kilkenny, from Tybroughney in the west, to near Rosbercon in the east. Here Robert Walsh alone held 10,000 plantation acres or Irish acres. Other key centres in this upland region were ruled by members of the extended king group of Walshs, revealing the interweaving of Gaelic and feudal methods of land management and social control. The remaining land in the South is dominated by long established families like Edmund Dalton at Kildalton with 2,179 plantation acres and the Dens of Grenan in Thomastown and of Fiddown.
In 1607 Sir Nicholas Walsh, Knight, is a tenant of Edmund Dalton, leasing the townland of Corloughlan, which in turn is beholden to the manor at Granny, by Thomas earl of Ormonde. Nicholas Walsh also leases part of Fiddown which is beholden to the earl of Ormonde, Viscount Mountgarret, who controls the manor or castle at Fiddown. The earliest occupant of the castle at Fiddown was the Anglo-Norman Foulk Den. Edmund Dalton of Kildalton was married to his sister, Joanna Den. Walter Dalton is granted Fiddown by Theobald Den in 1636, Walter is son of the above Edmund Dalton. Walter Dalton is married to Ellice Butler, fifth daughter of Vicount Mountgarret. Walter's son Edmund was the last Dalton to own Kildalton until 1653. In 1659 Fiddown castle was occupied by the Cromwellian Robert Frispe or Fripps.
The origin of the name Den is not clear cut. They may have had a remote connection with Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. Denne Hill was their principal seat, de Denne is the old medieval spelling of the name which suggests a Norman origin. A member of the family did accompany the Anglo-Norman invasion to Ireland in 1189. There was a Den castle in the barony of Barygy in the County of Wexford. A Thomas Den held lands in the barony of Iverk in 1314. After his death the lands were given to Fulk de la Frene until Thomas' eldest son came of age. The Dens of Grenan in Thomastown were the most conspicuous of the name in the County of Kilkenny. At Raheen, Dunamaggin Thomas Den had lands in mortgage from Edmund Walsh Fitz-James of Dunamaggin worth £80 in 1623, the burgess of Dunmaggin later passed to Patrick Denn Fitz Foulke of Fiddown for a time.
An old castle stood on Malone's land at Rodgerstown, its owners were the Strongs. Peter Strong or Strange forfeited Rogerstown and Belline under Cromwell in 1653. The remains of it were on Malone's land until the 1970s when it was levelled for safety reasons.
South Kilkenny in the 1500s and 1600s was a society characterised by intermarriage and kingship alliance under the benign overlordship of the Ormonde Butlers. It was a relatively peaceful society, a close knit world of landed families and their associated property units, which was significant in preserving a distinctive Gaelic/Anglo-Norman way of life. Prior to 1641 the County of Kilkenny formed one of the richest, most developed parts of Ireland.
A branch of the Daltons of Kildalton lived at Jamestown in the Templeorum district, where there stood a castle, church and an Anglo-Norman village on either side of the road opposite Jamestown cross. The Daltons of Kildalton owned the following townlands - Kildalton, Ballynametagh, Jamestown, Dowling, Lickawn village, Tobernabrone, seven acres in Whitechurch, an acre in Fiddown, Ballyinacrony in Owning district, Cloncunny and Killaspick in Mooncoin district.
The arrival of Cromwell heralds a new order.
In 1649 Oliver Cromwell arrives in Ireland, at Dublin on the 15th August. His troops take Drogheda in September, Wexford and New Ross in October, and by May 1650 the conquest of the Country is complete. Cromwell's name is synonymous with anti-Irish hatred and bloodshed. Some of this is exaggerated. He was a man of his time, a Protestant Puritan who sought to crusade against what he saw as priest-ridden, drunken, barbarous vicious bunches of men. Catholic priests and religious were his prime targets. His soldiers were forbidden to wrong country people, as his army needed their hospitality wherever they went, for shelter and food. The bloody warfare displayed at Drogheda was in line with the standards of the time where a garrison refused to surrender. Back in England, the establishment were fully behind his campaign and had an equally ill-informed view of the Irish who in their view needed a good dose of Puritan religious rectitude. In tandem with the religious aim was the political one of a final and complete conquest of Ireland.
By the late autumn of 1650 Cromwell had attacked all the sea-port towns on the east coast. Next came the blocking of the Limerick - Waterford corridor before going into winter quarters. This was achieved by capturing Carrick-On-Suir which is a central location en route to Limerick and Waterford. Cromwell sent ahead of him on the 17th November a strong force of dragoons led by Commissary - General Reynolds who had been promised Ormonde Castle and Deerpark when the land was divided. Carrick was captured without too much difficulty. Colonel John Ponsonby and his brother Henry were with General Reynolds when he came to Carrick.
Colonel John Ponsonby had been a Royalist, in that he had been a supporter of the monarchy in the English Civil War against the Parliamentary forces who aimed to overthrow the monarchy. The Ponsonby home was Haile Hall in Cumberland, they were neighbours of the Daltons. For advancement purposes John Ponsonby changed sides to back Cromwell and the Parliamentary forces when Cromwell appeared to be winning. Ponsonby was a shrewd and ambitious man and a soldier par excellence. He raised an army of one hundred foot soldiers, a quantity of horse soldiers and some officers at his own cost to fight the Irish campaign.
Dorothy Briscoe was Colonel John Ponsonby's first wife. She was the daughter of John Briscoe of Crofton in Cumberland. The Briscoes were large land owners in the area. Some mystery surrounds the fate of Dorothy Briscoe. There is no date given for her death, only the description of her as first wife.
John Ponsonby born 1608. M.P. for Kilkenny 1661. First wife Dorothy Briscoe. Elizabeth Ffliott second wife of son, Sir John Ponsonby.
There is a contradiction in the inscriptions on the above monument at Fiddown. On the monument to Colonel John Ponsonby Elizabeth Ffliott is given as second wife of his son, Sir John Ponsonby. This is his son by Dorothy Briscoe, who inherited the Cumberland estate. On the wall there is another inscription to John Ponsonby senior.
Here lies the body of Sir John Ponsonby of Bessborough who departed this life A.D. 1668 in the 60th year of his age.
The contradiction, innocent or otherwise is not referred to in a book written by a John Ponsonby in 1929 entitled: A History of the Ponsonby Family. It is accepted as being fact that Elizabeth Ffliott was Colonel or Sir John Ponsonby senior's second wife by whom he had two sons, Henry and William and a daughter Elizabeth. Was Dorothy Briscoe set aside in order to marry the wealthy Elizabeth or Bess Ffliott? Did Dorothy Briscoe lose her senses? Or is there an innocent explanation now lost in the fog of time? The date of Sir Ponsonby senior's death is given as 1678, in the above book, if this is correct he would be 70 not sixty or else he was born in 1618 not 1608. Perhaps there is a genuine confusion relating to these facts.
It is said that Colonel Ponsonby was initially granted the Butler estate at Ballragget in North Kilkenny, and a Colonel Axtell was granted the Dalton estate in 1653. Axtell was very displeased at the wild and unkempt nature of the Dalton estate so he made an exchange with Ponsonby for Ballyragget. Whether this is accurate or not we cannot know for certain. Edmund Dalton did forfeit his estate in 1653.
Kilmodally is the Gaelic name for the townland of Kildalton. When the Daltons came here in the 1500s the name changed to Kildalton, the church of Dalton. According to tradition mainly, Sir John Ponsonby allowed Edmund Dalton and his daughter to live on in the castle for a period with a pension of £40 a year. The Daltons were moved to Jamestown, in the late 1600s, where they became gentlemen farmers and lived in the large Georgian type farmhouse on the narrow road to Kilmanahin from Jamestown. In the 19th century and into the 20th century there were two related families of Dalton living in Jamestown, the second, the last of whom was Richard Dalton, lived in a farmhouse at the end of the lane where Jamestown House stands, the former Georgian residence of James Aylward and later George Morris, gentleman farmer and Justice of the Peace. A cluster of tombstones on the south side of Templeorum churchyard mark the burial place of the Daltons from the 1600s.
There is a legend, the word legend needs to be emphasised perhaps, which tells of how Sir John Ponsonby got on so well with old Edmund Dalton and his daughter Winifred that they thought he would make her his wife. On a fine April day a gay cavalcade of gentlemen rode up the main avenue leading to the castle, and then proceeded to introduce the lady to the Daltons as his newly wed bride. Winifred Dalton collapsed, she never again regained her sanity. Her father died soon afterwards. She would dress up in a white dress, wander daily in the garden, climb up the boughs of an old thorn tree, sit there in content, clipping the buds with a scissors. This tree is know as "The White Lady's Tree." On the demesne is a bridge known as "The Lady's Bridge," which is said to be haunted by her.
The manifestation of a ghost as a lady in white or wearing a white dress is in common in folklore, a thorn tree is sacred having fairy connotations. Which or whether the one salient fact being that the Daltons lost their estates, were reduced to gentlemen farmers at Jamestown and another branch remained for a time at Ballynacrony in Owning district. A common occurance in the aftermath of the Cromwellian conquest and settlement was the reduction of former large Gaelic or Anglo-Norman landowners to landed gentry.
For instance Robert Walsh of Castlehale and Inchcarran, former Lord of the Mountain regained 2,600 acres of his 14,000 acre estate in 1665. He was a favourite of the Duke of Ormonde. Most of the Walsh estate had been assigned to the Duke of Ormonde. Robert Walsh paid an annual rent of £5 to Ormonde. Many of the Gaelic and or Anglo-Norman former large estate holders became middle landlords or mini-landlords, meaning they rented a townland or more from the main landlord, paid a rent, and sub-let the land in parcels of say 20 to a 100 acres to tenant farmers. The number of Kilkenny Gaelic or Anglo-Norman land owners transported to Connaught after Cromwell has been over estimated, in all about 37, most stayed on as gentlemen farmers. A fact which aided in no small way the surivial of the oral tradition in South Kilkenny.
In 1662 under the Act of Settlement two grants of land were confirmed to Sir John Ponsonby, the Dalton and Walsh estates. Colonel William Ponsonby, son of Sir John and Elizabeth Ffliott acquired in 1668 a further 1,200 acres in Iverk from forfeited estates. Sir John Ponsonby renamed Kildalton estate Bessborough after his second wife Elizabeth or Bess Ffliott. In 1744 he had built Bessborough House, whose designed is attributed to the renowned architect Francis Blindon who also designed Woodstock House at Inistioge in the County of Kilkenny.
Bessborough estate stretched from Kilionerry and Whitechurch in the west, to Garrygaug and Listrolin in the east, to the north the estate extended to Ballygown and Newchurch, southwards to the Suir at Clonmore, Turkstown, Fiddown and Ardclone. The total area was 27,729 statute acres. Rents were paid twice yearly, May and November. Most people had a year to year lease, only a small number had long term leases. In agreement with the landlord each tenant had the right to cultivate the land but was not allowed to prune or loop trees on it. Neither had a tenant a right to repair new or existing fences or open drains or water-courses. Tenant farmers were forbidden to make or sell poteen. It was the land agent who granted permission for tenants to marry. He also had to be informed if a tenant was going to give lodging to a visitor even for one night. The latter rule was hardly strictly observed.
The landlord system which began in the late 1600s changed the landscape quite considerably, it spelled the end of commonly farmed land. Each field was now enclosed and parcels of land let out to tenant farmers. The labourers were pushed further to the margins. Labourers who were now known as cottiers rented a plot with a cabin on it from a tenant farmer, to whom he paid rent in money and labour. The demesne required workmen such as carpenters stonemasons, gamekeepers, and lodges were built for these employees. Within the Piltown area there are many of these lodges standing to this day. The late Tom O'Meara of Ballygown who died at over eighty years of age in 1976 was trained in carpentry at the Bessborough demesne, the Templeorum national school principal John Cahill's father worked as tradesman on the demesne. A man named Morris was known as "the big mason" he is said to have built many of the farmhouses at lower Raheen and at the Avenue in the 18th century. Related to the Morris family who own Morris Oil at Fiddown, originally from Bangorn in Wales. A headstone in the churchyard at Fiddown bearing the name Morris gives Bangorn as the native place.
The Earls of Bessborough.
The eldest son of Colonel Sir John Ponsonby and Elizabeth Ffliott is William Ponsonby who was born in 1657, he inherited the Irish estates on his father's death. In Genealogical Memoirs of the Members of Parliament for the County and City of Kilkenny (Dublin 1888), by George Burchaell, William is given as younger and only surviving son of Sir John Ponsonby and Bess Fliott, whereas in John Ponsonby's history of the Ponsonby family written in 1929 he is given as the eldest son. He also inherited the estates of his brother, Sir Henry, who died childless. William was a stern Puritan, he raised a regiment to defend Protestants in the South at the time of the James II and William of Orange conflict over succession to the English throne. James II was a Catholic, William, his son-in-law was a Protestant. Colonel William Ponsonby marched with his regiment to Londonderry. He was very successful in guarding the garrison for the Protestants, eventually the siege was lifted, his role was a pivotal one in the siege of Londonderry.
Colonel William Ponsonby was subsequently elected Member of Parilament for Kilkenny, in 1692-93, 1695-99 and 1703-13. In 1721 as a reward for his leading role at the siege of Londonderry, he was created Baron Bessborough in the County of Kilkenny, and in the following year he was advanced to the dignity of Viscount Duncannon. He married the only daughter of the Hon. Randal Moore of Ardee, Mary Randal. Colonel William died 17th November 1724.
The above William Ponsonby was succeeded by his son, Brabazon Ponsonby, who married Mrs. Colvill, a grand-daughter of Archbishop Margetson. In 1739 he became earl of Besborough, as well as holding the two other titles of Baron of Bessborough and of Viscount Duncannon. Therefore in 1739 the earldom of Bessborough was created. Brabazon died on the 4th July 1758 and is interred in Fiddown church.
The above Brabazon Ponsonby, first earl of Bessborough was succeeded by his second son, William, the 2nd earl of Bessborough, born in 1704 and married in 1739. His wife was Lady Caroline Cavendish. Their daughter Caroline who married Lord Melbourne, the British Prime Minister, was notorious in her time. She had a much publicised affair with the eccentric poet Lord Byron. Tradition says that she went insane, and was kept for a time in the Coach-house on the way into Belline House.
Frederick Ponsonby, son of above William, became 3rd earl of Bessborough. Frederick was born on 24th January 1758. He married Catherine Aubrey in 1783, and he died on the 11th March 1793.
The three foregoing earls of Bessborough were all absentees, in that they lived most of their time in London and spent some of the summer months living in Bessborough House on their Irish estate.
The 4th earl of Bessborough, John William, was the exception, in that he lived more or less full time at Kildalton. He was born on 31st August 1781, he married Lady Maria Fane, daughter of 10th earl of Westmoreland, on 16th November 1805. They had fourteen children, three of whom lived. In 1843 John William succeed as 4th earl. He was a very progressive and compassionate man who sought to improve the lot of his tenants under a system which was not ideal. In Parliament he was a Whig supporter, and a supporter of Catholic Emancipation. During the Famine, in the year 1846 he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, during his time in this position he did his best to ensure that proper relief was given to the most needy. The Public Relief Works were one of his priorities, providing work for labourers so as they could afford to buy food for their families. On his estate he gave work to labourers let go by farmers who were finding it difficult to pay them, building walls around his demesne. The miles of high wall around the Bessborough demesne date mainly from this period, Lord Waterford provided similar work for labours at Curraghmore. John William died on the 16th May 1847 during the blackest year of the Famine.
In the Templeorum, Owning and Piltown districts the Famine of 1845-51 did not result in mass starvation or outright potato failure. The cottiers were most at risk as they were at the lower end of the economic scale. Piltown had a soup kitchen during the famine. The fever of 1847 did hit those vulnerable people. Economically things had changed, the end of the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s meant a lower demand for agricultural exports, for grain in particular. There was a shift to more cattle production which lessened the need for the labour or cottiers.
John George Brabazon Ponsonby, son of the above John Willam, was the 5th earl of Bessborough. He was born on14th October 1809, on 8th September 1835 he married Lady Francis Charlotte Lambton, daughter of John George, 1st earl of Durham, she died 18th December 1810, he married secondly on the 4th of October Lady Caroline Amelia Lennox, daughter of Charles, Duke of Richmond. John George was lord lieutenant and custos rotulorum in County Carlow. He died 28th January 1880, when he was succeeded by his brother.
Frederick George, brother of the 5th earl John George, became the 6th earl of Bessborough. A barrister-at-law, he was born on the 11th September 1815 and died on the 11th March 1895, unmarried.
The 6th earl was succeeded by his brother Walter William Brabazon Ponsonby who became the 7th earl of Bessborough. He was an Anglican clergyman, who was awarded an MA from Cambridge University. Walter was born on the 13th August 1821. On the 15th January 1850 he married Lady Susan Cornwallis Elliott, only daughter of Edward Granville. He died on the 24th February 1906.
The 8th earl of Besborough, Edward Ponsonby, was son of the above Walter William. In 1935 the earl of Besborough relinquished his Irish estates. During the Irish Civil War 1922-23 Bessborough House was burned by the Republicans or anti-Treaty supporters. The earl rebuilt the house, the valuable paintings had been in safe keeping in London. The Ponsonby town house in London was at 17 Cavendish Square.
The Village of Piltown.
The modern village of Piltown was built in the late 18th/early 19th century by the earls of Bessborough, whose demesne adjoins it to the south and east. Lewis' Topographical Dictionary (Dublin 1837) describes it as a market and post-town, nine miles from Waterford city, containing 624 inhabitants. Piltown village is located between Carrick-On-Suir in South County Tipperary and Waterford city, it is four miles the town of Carrick-On-Suir. The street is about a quarter of a mile in length and in 1831 it contained 102 houses of modern erection with neat gardens in front interspersed with old trees. East of the village is a hotel run by Anthonys, nowadays Anthony's Inn or pub. Bianconni's coaches used Anthony's yard as a stopover to rest, feed and change their horses, delivering post from Clonmel, 18 mile away. Traditionally it bore the name "The Model Village" as the earl of Bessborough meant it to be the model for all landlord estate villages, Piltown being the largest of his estate villages and adjoining his demesne.
The mid-19th century village of Piltown contained the following: Anthony's Hotel already mentioned, which housed a museum of rare artefacts and paintings in 1838, collected by Redmond Anthony, a post-office nearby, a courthouse and market-house, which was housed in the present Garda barracks, an R.I.C. barracks, two national schools, male and female housed in the one building, including a male agricultural section, opened on 12th June 1826, the average attendance at the national school as a whole in 1856 was 46 males and 46 females, education was not compulsory in the 1850s, a dispensary, a pound, and two forges, one owned by a man named Gollan. Flats for destitute widows were established by the 4th earl of Bessborough John William Ponsonby, known also as Lord Duncannon in the building opposite Anthony's hall, later it was used as a girls' Protestant national school which closed the 1960s, afterwards becoming a Church of Ireland hall as it still is today.
Lord Duncannon, the 4th earl developed the quay behind the courthouse, (now the Garda Barracks), 126 vessels off-loaded there every year. A brisk business was carried on between Waterford and Carrick-On-Suir in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s.
The chief occupation in Piltown district in the 1800s was agriculture, many holding large farms, the cottiers and labourers lived entirely on potatoes and milk and in general they had large families yet their children were neat and strong. A loan fund was established to relieve the poor in 1806 amounting to £150 which was loaned out in small sums of 1 guinea to 4 to the poorest interest free and was repaid weekly at a rate of 6d.
Lime was used as manure, which was sold at 25s per scone barrels. Crops were rotated, between potatoes, wheat and oats. Pigs were reared for export at Waterford port especially in Turkstown, Baile na Tiorach, town of the pigs. Dairy cows were kept, being the chief type of cattle, there were very few sheep in the lowlands of Piltown district, these being confined to the hiller areas of Templeorum and Owning. The best land in the parish set for £6 per acre, middling for £2 an acre, and poor for 10s an acre. A common practice in the parish was to sell the tithes to the occupying tenants, the middle-landlord of a townland or of a number of townlands had them collected on his behalf from the tenants by a proctor. Wheat was charged at 12s an acre, barley at 10s an acre and meadow at 8s an acre, the amount like the rent was paid twice yearly in November and May. There were four fairs held at Fiddown, on the 25th April, 10th June, 29th September and the 30th November. Alongside the mainstay of agriculture there were shoemakers, smiths, coopers and carpenters. For instance Tom O'Shea of main street, the funeral undertaker, his father was a smith and coach builder whose main source of business was servicing the Besborough demesne. The Bessborough demesne farm also had their own forge for the work horses and carts.
Here follows are some population figures for selected townlands contained in the Rev. Joseph Sandys' Statistical Account, collated 29th January 1808 for the Church of Ireland Union of Fiddown, Tubrid, Tibberaghny and Owning: Kildalton which includes here, Gorthrush and Ballyglassoon adjoining it, has 135 people, Brenar 74, Fiddown and Turkstown combined 465, Rogerstown and Piltown combined 382, Corloughlan 125 and Tybroughney 354. The last figure is interesting as Tybroughney is the most densely populated townland, many of those living there would have been cottiers, who disappeared post famine 1845-51.
If we look at the period 1841 to 1891 for the village of Piltown, the following population figures occur, they do indicate the less than dramatic effect of the Famine on Piltown and testify to a relatively prosperous community bolstered by employment from the Bessborough demesne and the river trade. The Dwan brothers of Turkstown were boat builders, Paddy , Jack and Gerry built a boat called "The Wonder" which sank with them on board on Good Friday 1851.
In 1841 Piltown village has 701 people, in 1851, 606, in 1861, 495, in 1871, 436, in 1881, 396, and in 1891, 380. A decrease of only 45.2% since the peak of 1841. The population of Ireland exploded in the decade before the Famine, there is a reflection of this trend in the above figures for Piltown village. In 1841 the figure is 701 people, even a jump of 77 since 1837.
St. Paul's Church of Ireland church, only a few hundred yards from the present Catholic church of Piltown, was built in around 1870, it replaced the one at Fiddown and Graigavine.
In the 1600s until the end of the 1700s the Catholics of Piltown district had no centrally located church building. At Curloughlan, a townland bordering Mooncoin Catholic parish, not far from Cloncunny and Graigavine church and graveyard (where both Catholics and Protestants are buried), stood two mass-houses serving at different times during the 1600s. One was sited on May's land, near their house, in a field called Moon-vourahawn, Morahan's field. Moon-vourahawn is a subdivision of the townland of Curloughlan. A second mass-house not far from Teneslee cross, stood in a field called the Crawns, belonging to William Meade. It was burned down between 1650 and 1668 by Sir John Ponsonby's footman without his master's knowledge or approval. On hearing of the event, Sir John Ponsonby had him sent packing back to England. Afterwards it was repaired enough to enable open air mass to be said there in the 18th century. Some traces of the walls remained down to 1825. As the parish of Templeorum was joined with part of Mooncoin parish in the 1600s down to about 1692, this chapel served both parishes.
Piltown people living nearer to Owning and Templeorum attended mass at thatched chapels in Owning, at Ballyinacrony and in Templeorum district at upper Raheen, Goat's chapel and at the thatched chapel in Templeorum churchyard built in 1720. Weather permitting mass was sometimes offered up at a lime kiln in the Corrigeens, in Ardclone, to the rear of the present church and at other times in the village in a barn owned by the Anthonys or in a barn loaned to them by a Protestant man named Hatchet, whose well is a few hundred yards below the present Foyle's garage, and is sign-posted at the other side of the street. William Hatchet was an R.I.C. man attached to Piltown station, at the Battle of Carrickshock, near the village of Hugginstown, in December 1831 during the Tithe War, he sustained a broken jaw when a pitchfork was driven into his cheek and leg by a peasant. A fellow R.I.C. man John Cleary of Piltown was stabbed in the shoulder and had his head cut by blows of stones hurled at him.
Funds were raised in the late 1700s to build the chapel, only the belfry of which remains, in the old graveyard across from the present one. It was not roofed until 1798 but may have been in use before then. The last mass was offered up here on September 24th 1899. In design it was similar to the old church in Hugginstown village and typical of the Catholic churches built at that time , including that of Owning. A holy water stone, found by a man named Norris while ploughing the field between Fiddown castle and the road, was inserted at the south side of the door in about 1810.
In the 1920s this church was converted into a parish hall. Some controversy attended this as it was claimed by some that it had not been deconsecreted and was therefore still sanctified. However it served as a parish hall up until about 1964 when it was demolished, leaving only the belfry standing. Concerts were held there regularly, for instance in 1949 in October, the Thomas Davis Players from Waterford, presented a variety show in St. Columba's hall as it was known then. The reasons given for demolishing it were ones of structural safety and moreso the use by some of tombstones as urinals as there was no toilet available. With the exception of the small hall attached to Anthony's pub and the Protestant hall opposite, Piltown had no parish hall until the Community Centre was opened in October 1978 by Gene Fitzgerald, a minister in the Fianna Fail Government of the time.
Building of the present Catholic church began in 1889, it took ten years to complete, being opened for use on the first Sunday of October 1899. Much voluntary labour went into the building. Locals with horses and carts drew the stones from the limestone quarry in Ardclone below the church, the stone masons and carpenters had to be paid. It is one of the finest churches in the diocese of Ossory. The earl of Bessborough Frederick Geroge Ponsonby leased the ground to Canon John Purcell for 999 years for a rental of 1s a year. The total cost of the building was £6,738, a considerable sum in 1899. In 1923 the land and lease were handed over for a small sum to Canon Phelan and the diocesan trustees. Canon John Purcell was an obstinate and authoritarian man, a man of his time in many ways. He was offered the land across the road from the church for a new graveyard, which he refused as he considered it wrong to take land taken forcibly from Catholics by Cromwell, where innocent blood had been spilled. His successor, Canon Phelan had a different attitude and gratefully took the present of the land from the earl of Bessborough.
The church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title of Assumption. Subscriptions were being collected in 1917 by Canon Phelan to erect a memorial to the late Canon John Purcell P.P., farmers were to make a contribution of 1s in the £ valuation. A gold plaque is to be seen to his memory at the right hand side of the present church, over the altar rails. It reads as follows: "In memory of the Very Rev. Canon John Purcell, Parish Priest 1885-1916, who built this church and who is interred here, opened for public worship 1st Oct. 1899." The first baby to be baptised in the church on the 14/10/1899 was Mary Mansfield of the Sweep, Fanningstown, Owning, her father was a blacksmith. Their forge stands disused opposite the Sweep cross.
In 1923 Canon Phelan had the decorative marble baptismal area to the right as you enter constructed, the mural depicts Jesus being baptised by John in the Jordan river. The font was removed to the front of the church inside the altar in the 1980s, in line with Vatican II changes, baptisms are now performed at the front of the church near the altar. In the 1940s approaching the church's golden jubilee in 1949, Italian artists were brought over at great expense to do the beautiful mural behind the main altar which depicts the Assumption and reception of the Virgin Mary into heaven where she is met by Joseph and Jesus. Canon Woods lovingly restored this mural in the 1980s when undertaking renovations to the church. He repainted the inside, carpeted the sanctuary, put soft kneelers on the seats, erected outside toilets and made a safer entrance from the Ardclone road as the main road is dangerous to cross for children and old people. In keeping with the Vatican II era of worship only the side altar rails remain.
Here follows is a list of curates who served in Piltown from 1804 to the last curate in about 1883. These dates are not absolute, curates shifted between Owning or Piltown as the need arose.
Rev. John Guider 1804 to 1805.
Rev. Nicholas Carroll 3rd December 1806 to 28th March 1808.
Rev. William Grant 3rd April 1808 to 28th April 1810.
Rev. Richard Butler 9th May 1810 to March 1812.
Rev. Edmund Cody 23rd July 1815 to 15th June 1817.. Pierce Marum 1st June to 10th August 1817.
Rev. Patrick Walsh 10th August 1817 to 6th November 1819.
Rev. Edward Lynch 6th November 1819 to 13th January 1821.
Rev. Joseph Butler 13th January 1821 to July 1819.
Rev. Thomas Brennan 3rd August 1829 to 2nd February 1831.
Rev. Edward Feehan August 1831 to June 1836 or October 1837. He is buried at Killeamery, Windgap, County Kilkenny. The horizontal tombstone reads as follows: "Here lieth the mortal remains of Rev. Edmund Feehan who departed this life Feb. 2nd 1838 AD in the 42nd year of his age and the 17th of his missionary labours to the people of Owning and Templeorum in the diocese of Ossory." While serving in Piltown he lived at Tybroughney with his family, as he hailed from there. Mrs. James Feehan Tybroughney donated one of the Stations of the Cross to the present Catholic church of Piltown.
Rev. Edward Rice 27th June 1836 to 1st April 1840.
Rev. Michael Nolan 9th May 1840 to 3rd January 1844.
Rev. Patrick Dunne 12th January 1844 to 25th June 1847.
Rev. Joseph Moore 18th December 1847 to 15th November 1851.
Rev. Thomas Walsh 16th November 1851 to 27th September 1854.
Rev. William Martin 5th October 1854 to 7th August 1856.
Rev. Philip Moore 28th August 1856 to 31st May 1861.
Rev. John Fitzpatrick 19th June 1861 to 31st May 1878.
Rev. Patrick Walsh 22nd May/14th June 1878.
Rev. James Shortall 1st July 1878 to 1883, last curate of Piltown.
Here follows is the list of Parish Priests of the Parish of Templeorum who resided in Piltown since about 1883.
Rev. John Purcell 1885 to 1916. He was born in Gaulstown, Kilmacow on 20th August 1839. His brother was also a priest. He studied at Kierans and in the Irish college in Rome. On the 15th April 1865 he was ordained to the priesthood. He was curate to St. Canice's from August 1865 to April 1870, St. John's from April 1870 to May 1873. He was appointed administrator of the parish of Seir Kieran on 31st May 1873 and from there he was promoted to the parish of Templeorum as P.P. on the 13th June 1885. He died on the 15th August 1916 aged 77 after a long illness.
Administrator Rev. Charles Cavanagh served in the parish from the 18th February 1912 to 29th September 1916 while Canon Purcell was ill.
Rev. Thomas Phelan 1916 to 1935. He was born at Rushall, Castletown, County Laois. He was educated at Mountrath and Ballyfin by the Patrician Brothers and at St. Kierans. Ordained on the 31st July 1882. He served as professor in St. Kieran's from August 1882 to May 1883, curate to Clogh from May 1883 to June 1885, St. Mary's June 1885 to to September 1885, Aghaboe August 1886 to May 1892, Administrator St. Kieran's May 1892 to October 1916, when he was transferred to the parish of Templeorum. He died on 4th February 1935 aged 76 and is buried in the new cemetery in Piltown where there is a monument to his name.
Rev. Martin Kealy 1935 to 1942. He was born at Lisdowney, County Laois and educated at St. Kieran's college, Kilkenny. He was ordained in May 1902. Served on the mission in Hexham and Newcastle for eight years. Also served in Camross, County Laois, professor at St. Kieran's 1911 to 1926. Appointed parish priest of Templeorum on 7th March 1935. He died on the 25th April 1942 aged 64 and is buried in the new cemetery in Piltown where there is a monument to his name.
Rev. Philip Comerford 1942 to 1963. He was born in Garine in Urlingford, educated at St. Kieran's, ordained on the 4th March 1900. He served as curate in Conahy, Castletown, Castlecomer, Kilmacow and Balyragget. He was appointed parish priest of Clara on the 24th September 1928, transferred to Templeorum on the 30th May 1942. He died on the 15th February 1964 aged 91 and is buried in the new cemetery in Piltown where there is a monument to his name.
Rev. Francis Teehan 1964 to 1975. He was born in Tullaroan and educated at Maynooth. He was ordained on the 21st June 1931. He served on the mission in Liverpool 1931 to 1933. Curate at Rathdowney, County laois, Borris-in-Ossory, and Durrow. Administrator Seir Kieran from 1960 to 1964. In March 1964 he was appointed Parish Priest of Templeorum. He died on the 27th July 1975 and is buried in the new cemetery in Piltown where there is a headstone to his name.
Rev. Cornelius Sherin 1975 to 1978. He was born in High Street Kilkenny city on the 20th May 1910. Educated at St. Kieran's and Maynooth. Served there as Director of Sacred music from 1934 to 1964 when he became Administrator of St. Mary's. In 1967 he was appointed parish priest of Clara, he transferred to Templeorum on the 23rd August 1975 and served until May 1978 when he retired due to ill-health. He died on the 13th October 1995.
Rev. John Woods, 1978 to 1994. He was born in Thomastown, County Kilkenny on the 20th October 1918. Educated at St. Kieran's and ordained on the 7th June 1942. On loan to Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, 1942 to 1949. Curate Rathdowney 1949 to 1968, Spiritual Director De La Salle College, Castletown 1968 to 1973, curate Muckalee 19th March 1973 to 10th June 1978. Appointed parish priest of Templeorum on the 10th June 1978 and retired on the 14th July 1994. He served as a curate in Owning from July 1994 until April 1996, when he fully retired. In 1996 the parish of Templeorum was reduced to two priests, a curate resident in Templeorum and a P.P. residing in Owning. Canon Woods died on the 6th May 1998 and is buried in the new cemetery in Piltown where there is a headstone to his name.
Rev. Paschal Moore became Parish Priest of the parish of Templeorum on the 14th of July 1994. He served as curate in Owning from August 1992 to July 1994. The son of Patrick Moore, Portlaoise, County Laois and Elizabeth Cassin, County Kilkenny. He was educated at C.B.S. Kilkenny and Catholic University School, Lesson St. Dublin. He attended St. Kieran's Seminary, 1964 to 1970. Ordained on the 7th June 1970. Served as curate to Ferrybank from the 1st August 1970 to the 18th August 1982 and Chaplain to Belmont Hospital and Slieverue Vocational School in same period. Curate to Rosbercon from 18th 1982 August to 15th August 1992 when he was made curate of Owning, currently Parish Priest of Templeorum.
Piltown district in the 20th century - some changes.
The 20th century began with the setting up in 1900 of the co-operative creamery, Piltown Agricultural and Dairy Society. Previous to the co-operative creamery there was a private one which stood where Foyle's garage now stands. It was in operation between 1870-90, founded by Ned Blackmore who lived in the farm manager's house, the red bricked house opposite Anthony's pub, which later became a grocery shop of Anthonys and later a dispensary. Ned Blackmore had a dispute with Bessborough which lead to his eviction and the closure of the creamery. James Hawe of Kilmoganny was instrumental in setting up the co-operative creamery in 1900. There was an old water mill on the site by the river Pill. A few years ago the building was demolished, only a part of its gable end wall now remains across the road from the Glanbia Home and Farm shop. Initially the creamery was worked by a steam engine. Shares varied from £10 to £5 to £1 for farmers who wished to become members of the co-op.
A new national school was opened in 1915, above the older 1826 one, the two buildings still stand. The 1915 one was closed in 1942 when the present school on the Banagher road into Piltown was opened. Both of the old school buildings are private houses in modern times.
The Credit Union building was built on the site of the old dispensary. Foyle's garage was set up by "Bunty" or James Foyle in the 1960s. His father had a small garage in Tybroughney. His father came to work for James Walsh of Templeorum as a mechanic, originally he came from the North of Ireland. A grocery shop of Lizzy Ruck's stood to the left of the garage in the 1920s/30s. Between the garage and present dispensary was a forge of John Ryan's and a forge owned by a man named Roche existed above the R.I.C. barracks. The post-office of Wards closed in 1995, when it was transferred to O'Keefe's Centra Supermarket. Previous to the setting up by James O'Keefe of his supermarket in 1963, there was a grocery shop of Kerrs there. Minogues had a bakery which closed in the early 1980s. James Walsh of Templeorum, who had several shops, had one in Piltown, where Mundy's shop stands. John Tobin had a grocery shop a few doors above Mundy's until the late 1980s. Iverk Produce, a vegetable wholesale business set up by the O'Shea brothers of Ardclone had a vegetable shop four doors above O'Keefe's Centra supermarket from the mid-1970s to 1992. The late Peter Aylward ran a butcher's shop adjoining it from 1987 to 1994 when John Maher of Oldcourt took over the running of it until 1998 when it closed. The premises is now being converted into the new dispensary/health centre for Piltown. In the 1920s in the vicinty of Nick Falvey's garage a man named Harris had a forge, the last blacksmith in the village of Piltown. Nick Falvey's first garage was further down the street, opposite Ward's post-office, which he opened in the 1970s. On the road leading down to the creamery, by Mundy's shop, on the right, is a ruin which was for a brief time in the 1940s a butcher's shop run by Pat Fitzgerald.
The village has grown enormously in modern times, a growth which began in the 1960s with industrial jobs being readily available in Waterford, especially in the Paper Mills, Clover Meats and Waterford Crystal, so the decline in agriculture was cushioned unlike the almost entirely rural district of Templeorum and the upland areas of Owning district which continued to suffer from agricultural decline into the 1960s and continue to do so to this day. In the 1960s the County Council housing estate of Hillcrest was built, Banagher Place beside it was built in 1997, the private housing development of Orchard estate was built in the 1970s, it has been extended further by the builder Billy Norris from Piltown in the 1990s, and Power's Villas was built by Kilkenny County Council in 1990. It is named after the renowned Piltown hurler of the early 1900s, John Power, on whose land it is built. Iverk Produce are the principal local employers, their first store was built in the 1970s adjacent to the Community Centre, the later one, a partnership with Ffyees was built in the late 1990s a few hundred yards down the main road. The approximate population of Piltown village in 1991 was 717 people.
There are besides Bessborough House, four other big houses in the environs of the village. Wilmount House, a residence of George Briscoe in the 1850s is nearest to the village on the Tybroughney road. Rathmore House in Fiddown was built in the 19th century for Charles Gregory, an uncle of Lady Gregory, who was a patron of the poet W.B. yeats and one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The Glebe House at Fiddown built in the early 1800s, was the Church of Ireland rector's residence, a family named Hopkins and later Bowers lived there. Finally there is the Georgian Neo-Classial Box type house of the Bessboough estate agent, Peter Walsh, at Belline. Belline House was built in approximately 1785. It was occupied by the Bessborough estate agent until 1935.
Subsequent to 1935 the Irish Free State government under the auspices of the Land Commission took over the Bessborough demesne containing 797 statute acres. Roughly 300 hundred acres of this was divided into holdings of 30 acres each among deserving farmers, a dwelling and some out-houses were provided in exchange for a yearly rent, a cheap form of loan. It was the mid-1940s before these parcels of land with buildings were ready for occupation. Other farmers who already had small holdings, had their holdings enlarged by being granted at a yearly rent say 10 or twenty acres of divided land. Unlike today with the emphasis on factory farming and economies of scale, De Valera thought in terms of small to medium sized farms so as to give as many people as possible an opportunity to own some land. He or anyone else at the time could not have foreseen the dramatic changes post entry to the Common Market in 1972.
On April 22nd 1935 the Compulsory Purchase Order for the Purposes of the Labourers' Acts 1893-1931, Kilkenny County Council Health District No. 1 Order 1935 was published in "The Munster Express" newspaper. The earl of Bessborough gave the land at Banagher as fee simple without rent to the Land Commission, 9 cottages were to be built at Banagher, opposite the main gates or Grand Gates of the entrance to Besborough House and demesne. It was well into the 1940s before they were all completed and ready to be occupied. Mrs. Keane and Louis Dowley had also to give a portion of their lands at Banagher, for which they were paid the going Land Commission rate for the building of cottages, about £40 a cottage plot.
In 1935 piped water was extended to Piltown from Fiddown, at a cost of £375. A year later in 1936 the reservoir was built in the bog near the Mountain Grove wood, in Templeorum district. The tower at Piltown, erected by the earl of Bessborough in the 1820s/30s as a monument to a member of the family thought lost in the French and English wars, was cconverted into a storage tank for water, its height had to be extended and a steel ladder erected on it in order to gain access to the top.
The story of Besborough House and the demesne lands around it subsequent to 1935 is a fascinating one and a story which few people know. As with the division of the land, the Land Commission on behalf of the Irish Free State had charge of its future. Sadly, their plans for the house are rather shocking in this more enlightened age over seventy years after the Civil War of 1922-23. It was sold to a man named Davey Frawe who intended to demolish it for its lead content, during the Second World War lead was a very valuable commodity. A miracle saved this fine house from demolition.
The Bishop of Ossory at the time, Dr. Collier heard of the plan. He knew through his brother Fr. Dan Collier O.M.I. that the Oblate Fathers were looking for a larger residence to house and train their seminarians, they were put in touch with Davey Frawe who agreeded to sell the house to the Oblates. The Government at the time were not in favour of giving lands to religious orders so an exchange had to be made through the offices of the Land Commission, whereby the Oblates agreed to hand over their house and lands at Daingean, County Offaly in exchange for the lands surrounding Bessborough House. The Oblates purchased a further 40 acres of an adjoining farm.
On the eve of St. Gregory, March 11th 1940, with the permission of Bishop Collier, Fr. Fitzsimons and Fr. Lynch along with others established the first Oblate Community in Bessborough House - Our Lady's Scholasticate, Piltown, County Kilkenny. In subsequent years they built on the two side wings at either side of Besborough House as well as affecting some changes to the interior of the house itself. In 1940 there were 16 seminarians, four of whom went to Transvaal and 1 to Texas after ordination. The average number down the 31 years was 5 to 10, going to places such as Natal in South Africa, Brazil in South America, Australia, Yukon, and Poland after ordination. In 1971 there was only one seminarian, a reflection of the trend of declining vocations in the wider Catholic church, this was the year the Oblate Fathers vacated Bessborough House and the area of Piltown. Subsequently the house and lands were acquired by the Irish State, Kildalton became an agricultural training college as it is today under Teagasc.
Opposite the main gates of Bessborough House was a shop of Kanes, which later became Walshs, it closed in the early 1990s. The G.A.A. complex up the road was built in the 1980s and opened in June 1988. It provides leisure activities such as basket ball, pitch-and-put and table tennis for people of the area.