: Ardagh & Clonmacnois – Footprints
of Mel and Ciaran.
In the parish traditionally called Kiltoghert,
Carrick is short for the County town of the region. Carrick
(Carraig, a rock) is really a misnomer if we accept
the current Cora/caradh Droma Ruisc (Weir of the Hill
of the Marsh). Kiltoghert until well into the 18th century
included Murhaun or Drumshambo. Even as it stands today Kiltoghert
is territorially the largest parish in Ardagh diocese.
Prior to 1800 and the Act of Union four members
were returned to Parliament, 2 from Carrick, 2 from the Borough
of Jamestown. This walled town and castle was built by Sir
Charles Coote at a strategic point on the Shannon in 1621
and named after the Stuart King James at the time of the Leitrim
Plantation. About 20 years later a Franciscan friary was established.
It was short lived but its lay brothers took charge of a school
founded at a cost of £600 by Francis O’Beirne,
which Bishop MacNamee describes as the oldest school then
in the diocese.
The four churches of this parish were built
within a span of about 15 years. St Mary of the Assumption,
Carrick 1879, St Joseph’s Leitrim 1886, Sacred Heart,
Jamestown 1887 and St Patrick’s, Gowel in 1892. Jamestown
was a renovation job on a church built by a local landlord
1843 and closed for 21 years. The tower of Carrick was a later
addition built with the strong support of Bishop Joseph Hoare
who had been parish priest her 1887-95.
What an amazing achievement; the energy that
must have been around, the leadership given, the sacrifices
made and the pride and confidence it must have engendered
in the Catholic community of the day. Just think of the capital
investment a similar project would require today.
Canon Thomas Fitzgerald of Cartrongeragh,
Longford, was selected to be the priest to see to it that
Carrick would have a fine new church. He was a bit of a specialist
when it came to church building. He had already St Mary’s
Newtownforbes to his credit. He had already St Mary’s
Newtownforbes to his credit. Started in 1873 the work was
nearing completion when on 19 January 1875 disaster struck.
A storm, the like of which was not heard of since the Night
of the Big Wind, virtually wrecked the building. Like Sisyphus
he resumed his task and, undeterred by any superstition about
dates, he had it ready to be solemnly dedicated by the new
bishop, Bartholomew Woodlock, on 19 October 1879.
By comparison with the modern era Kiltoghert’s
earlier history seems so so. It was the Magh Nisi part of
Muintir Eoluis where the Mag Ranall versus Mulvey rivalry
was played out. In 1492 when Columbus was rigging out the
Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, O’Rourke had nothing better
to occupy him that burn the church in Kiltoghert and sixteen
souls perished in the flames. Kiltoghert was sometimes one
of the seven parish churches that made up the rectory of Muintir
MacNamee writes of the priests of Carrick
in glowing terms. Dr Dawson, a Granard man, was by bishop
O’Higgins’ side in the stormy times of the Tithe
War and Catholic Emancipation, and was put forward for bishop
on two occasions. Dean Monahan who wrote the first history
of the Diocese, was in charge of seven parishes in his time,
but lasted only one year in Carrick; John McKeon who attended
an execution in Carrick Jail in 1817 and many more besides.