Rosenallis & Clonaslee (Co. Laois / Northwest)
Rosenallis and Clonaslee are neighbouring communities in the area north of the Slieve Bloom Mountains long known as Ui Regan / Hy-Regan / Iregan / Dooregan, later aka O’Dunne country and formally as the Barony of Tinnahinch.
Rosenallis / Rosinallis (Ros Fhionnghlaise – “Wood of the clear stream”) (pop. 420) is a photogenic village.
Rosenallis Main Street. (Photo – Sarah777)
The Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem held property locally from the C13th until 1547, when Crown forces under Sir Anthony St Leger spent 15 days “Plundering and spoiling and burning even the churches and monasteries”. Soon afterwards a 21-year lease was granted on “a parcel of the possessions of the late Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Ireland, to Vaughan, William and Greffyth ap David Yeoman.” This land was later held by Maurice FitzThomas FitzGerald of Lackagh, Co. Kildare, and became part of the Capard Estate, owned for many generations by the Piggott family.
Scotsman William Edmundson settled his family locally c.1655. He went on to become the leading Quaker in Ireland, travelling extensivelyaround the country and abroad. He developed a good relationship with the O’Dunnes, who coöperated with the settlers during the troubled times around the outbreak of the Williamite War, when the village was frequently plundered by rapparees and refugee Jacobite soldiers. Edmunson’s farm was burned, his wife was raped and left naked in the snow, and he and his sons were very nearly executed by firing squad, but patiently rebuilt their lives. He died at the age of 85 in 1712, and is interred in the beautiful Society of Friends Burial Ground at Tineel outside the village.
Rosenallis developed in the C18th as a Quaker community and linen-manufacturing centre. It formed part of the CoI / civil parish called [the Union of] Oregan until 1793.
During the Great Famine the Quakers helped the local starving people by running a “soup kitchen” in the 1733 house now known as The Rambler’s Rest, a local pub and grocery, where the large iron stew cauldron with its chains for hauling it up over the fire and the serving ladles are still on display.
St Brigid’s church (CoI) was inaugurated in 1797 on the site traditionally believed to be where Saint Brigid founded a convent in the C5th, of which no trace remains (a ruined church and Round Tower were demolished in 1834 on the orders of Rev. Piggott, the CoI Rector). The magnificent stone tower and spire, added c.1875, are visible from miles around. A sandstone crosss slab and a sheela-na-gig discovered in the churchyard in 1992 are now in the NMI.
The waters of Saint Brigid’s Well in the village were highly recommended by William Bulfin, who wrote “It is a spring more refreshing than the deepest draught of the rarest wine in Europe”.
St, Brigid’s church (RC), a hideous squat redbrick warehouse, was built in 1976 to replace an elegant 1859 edifice that used to stand on nearby Windmill Hill. This was an improvement on the 1820 chapel, which was itself vastly better than the series of furtive Mass Houses that had been resorted to during the previous century under the Penal Laws.
Capard House was long the home of the Piggott family. King William III’s commander, General Ginkel, is said to have quartered his soldiers in Rosenallis village in 1691 while he himself lodged here as a guest of Robert Pigott, described c.1714 as “a kind friend to the Catholics” for allowing his tenants to build a Mass-House of sods thatched with rushes at the height of the Penal Laws. A copy of the dishonoured 1692 Treaty of Limerick, kept here for over two and a half centuries, was presented to the NMI in the 1960s by the then owner Charles de Jenner, who died in 1973 and is buried in the estate grounds. The house has recently been restored.
Other local Big Houses are Summergrove House and Derry House, both said to have very interesting histories.
Glenbarrow is the source of the River Barrow; Glenbarrow Forest and Waterfall are local amenities developed by Coillte.
Glenbarrow Waterfall (Photo by Paddy Brennan)
The Cathole Falls on the Owenass River and the Camphole Falls in the nearby Barrow River Valley are popular swimming spots.
The Ridge of Capard is a good place for a walk, with constantly changing vistas of the Wicklow Mountains, the Blackstairs, the Silvermines and beyond. The “Stoney Man”, a large cairn marking the high point on the ridge of the Slieve Bloom Way, has been described as “the finest viewing point in Ireland”.
Tinnahinch (Tigg-na-hinsse – “house of the island”) was the location of Baun Riaganach, long the principal castle of the O’Dunnes, built in 1475 by Tadhg MacLaighnigh Ui Duinn who ruled the territory. In 1547 Crown forces under Sir Anthony St. Leger built a fortification around Baun-Riaganach in order to oppose the O’Connors and O’Moores. In 1653 it was defended by Charles Dunne against Cromwellian troops under Colonel Hewson, who used a full park of artillery to level the castle. Dr. O’Donovan (1838), stated that “The present ruins of this castle are very trifling, but it was certainly, when perfect, a castle of considerable importance and extent.” What very little trace of it remains can be seen today about one mile south of Tinnahinch Bridge.
Clonaslee (Cluain Na Sli – “Meadow by the Way”) is a picturesque and well-maintained village with five good pubs. The Way referred to in the name was the Slighe Mór Dhala linking Tara and Cashel, which crossed the River Barrow at Tinnahinch.
Saint Manman founded two monasteries in the area in the C7th. The largest was Kilmanman, situated 2.5km northwest of the village. The ruined church visible today was built by Lynagh O’Dunne in the second half of the 15th. All that remains of the second monastery, in the townland of Garyheather, beside the old Cadamstown road, are the ruined walls of the church enclosed within a circular graveyard. An unknown bishop was buried here in the C8th. His grave slab was transferred to the Roman Catholic parish church for safe-keeping.
Teigh O’Dunne, having submitted to the Surrender & Regrant scheme, was unaffected by the 1556 land confiscation decreed by Queen Mary to establish Queen’s County. However, several members of the family later found it politic to convert at least nominally to Protestantism in order to retain their lands over the next 250 years.
St Manman’s church (RC), built in 1813 on land donated by the Dunne family, is oddly tucked in behind other buildings. It has a very fine iron gateway. The episcopal grave slab from the Greyheather site can be seen at the north wall.
The former Church of Ireland edifice (1814), which dominates the village, was built under the direction of General Edward Dunne, and contains the graves of several members of the Dunne family, who were also the sponsors of the Erassmus Smith Charter School named in honour of the General. The church, deconsecrated in 1988, has been renovated by the community as a Heritage Centre.
Kilmanman parish was relatively unaffected by the Great Famine, being one of the very few rural districts in the country that actually increased in population between 1841 and 1851.
Brittas Castle was long the seat of the Dunne family.
Brittas House, a crenellated gothic mansion built by General Francis Plunkett Dunne in 1869 to a design by Francis Curdy, had a thatched roof until it was burned down in 1942. Currently undergoing restoration by a private owner, it has lovely grounds featuring exceptional specimens of trees, shrubs and plants.
Brittas Wood is an attractive amenity area created in the old demesne by the local community with the assistance of Coillte. It centres on Brittas Lake, an artificial reservoir now stocked with fish for anglers.
Killinaparson Estate, long the residence of the Jackson family, is now a Coillte forest plantation.
The Giant’s Grave is the most notable of various prehistoric sites in the area. Although surrounded by folklore and myth, its original purpose is unknown. Next to it is a stone commemorating John Daly, a participant in the 1798 Rebellion who on his return home was flogged in Kinnitty Castle and died of his wounds.
There are some very pleasant walks in the vicinity, especially in Slieve Bloom Forest Park.
Castlecuffe, a Jacobean mansion built in 1620 by Sir Charles Coote, who named it after his wife Dorothea‘s family, was burned down by the Dunne family in the 1641 Rebellion. The ruin gives its name to the local community.