ByRoute 17.2 Co. Longford // Co. Sligo

Rooskey (Co. Roscommon/ East)

Rooskey / Roosky (Rúscaigh – “swamp / bog”) (pop. 700) is an attractive village on a southern peninsula in Lough Bofin on the River Shannon, near the meeting point of Counties Roscommon, Leitrim, and Longford.

The Rooskey / Georgia Bridge across the River Shannon was the scene of conflict during the Civil War in 1922 and was also an important focal point for the National Farmers Association strike in 1967. (Photo – www.tuesdaynightclub.co.uk)

The river was first made navigable here via a lock on a canal to the west, built c. 1765. The Shannon Commissioners constructed the present river lock in c. 1843, along with the weir and road bridge. The original opening span of the bridge was replaced in recent years by a lifting section operated by the very fit lock keeper, who has to cycle madly between the two installations along the lovely riverside path.

An important boating harbour with many attractive mooring places between the bridge and the lock, Rooskey is a favourite stopping point for Cruiser traffic due to the range of good shopping facilities, jolly pubs and quality restaurants both in the village itself and at the eastern end of the bridge in the townland of Georgia (Co. Leitrim). These also attract land-based travellers, who can choose from a number of accommodation options.

Locals recall that a Protestant church in the centre of the village was attacked  in the late C18th, as was a ‘Pleasure House’ with a man-made beach on the lajeshore that was only accessible to people from the Anglican ascendancy class, which was burned down.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel church (RC)  was built in 1844.

RIC Constable Michael Dennehy of Ruskey disappeared in late November 1920, during the War of Independence. The is some confusion about how and whenor even if he died. Having left the Barracks and proceeded to Knockhall, County Roscommon, at about 8.30pm on 24th he was kidnapped by unknown armed men. Government records show that Michael Dennehy was arrested and charged by the IRA with espionage, court martialled by a duly authorised authority, found guilty, and executed on the same night. There are several versions on how and when Michael Dennehy died and some even state he was not killed at all but fled to America.

regatta takes place in Rooskey every other year, usually over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

There are some lovely walks in the area, plus facilities for various watersports, horse riding, pony trekking, tennis and golf.

Rooskey is an excellent angling centre, partly due to its location on Lough Bofin and the River Shannon but especially because of its proximity to  a maze of tributary streams, rivers and lakes of all shapes and sizes such as Lough Acrick, Kilglass Lough(s), Grange Lake, Lough Nablahy, Lake Cloonahee and Lough Nahincha, many stocked with coarse fish such as roach, perch and bream.

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The Silver Eel, an elegant C2oth edifice overlooking Grange Lake, where the eponymous fish is among the most elusive and prized prey,  is run by the Hanly family as a friendly Guesthouse / pub.  Their restaurant is popular with anglers, river boaters and Sunday lunchers.

Cloonahee was the birthplace of Fearfasa / Fergus O’Mulconry, one of the Four Masters whose Annals are such a rich source of historical information.

Hillstreet was  the birthplace of Luke O’Connor (1831 – 1915), a sergeant whose valour in the face of the enemy at the 1854 Battle of Alma during the Crimean War made him the first ever soldier to win the Victoria Cross. He also fought during the “Indian Mutiny” and the Third Anglo-Ashanti War. One of the most decorated servicemen ever to have served in the British Army, he was also knighted, and retired with the rank of Major General. (See Picture)

Hillstreet is close to Carrick-on-Shannon on ByRoute 18.

Elphin (Co. Roscommon/ North)

Elphin / Elfin (Ail Finn) (pop.1200), a major historical diocesan centre and market town, is still a venue for regular mart sales of cattle, sheep and pigs.

Elphin’s Main Street is lined with busy shops, businesses and services, and there are several good pubs and food outlets in and around the town.

Saint Patrick is believed to have visited the area c. 435 AD and met a noble Druid named Ono, chief of the Corcoghlan tuath, who gave him land and his  fort to erect a church and monastery.

Originally called Emlagh-Ono (a derivation of its owners name), the place was renamed Ail Finn (white stone” / “rock of the clear spring”) for a boulder lifted by Saint Patrick to allow a copious stream of crystal water to flow. (The large white obelisk beside the local Holy Well fell down in 1675, and the spring dried up soon afterwards).

Saint Patrick duly founded one of the first monasteries in Ireland, built a church, soon called Tempull Phadruig, and made it an Episcopal See when he ordained its first bishop, Saint Assicus, said to have been his silversmith, who in turn established a school of metalwork later credited with such masterpieces as the Ardagh Chalice and the Cross of Cong.

Elphinium” became a religious centre of international significance, as evidenced by its appearance on a number of pan-European maps in the Middle Ages. Its Diocesan status was confirmed and increased by the 1111 Synod of Rathbreasail. The Annals of the Four Masters refer to its Cathedral as the “Great Church“, and mention the bishop’s court in 1258, when it is known to have had a dean and chapter. By the late medieval period, the town was host to a large number of religious orders.

After the Reformation Elphin continued as the seat of an Anglican bishopric until 1841, when it was merged into the current Church of Ireland Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the title of Bishop of Elphin has been held by successive clerics to this day.  In 1874 the then holder, Laurence Gillooly, decided to establish the episcopal seat in the new  Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo, consecrated in 1898.

Elphin Cathedral (CoI), destroyed during the 1641 Rebellion, was replaced a quarter of  a century later by Bishop John Parker and (re)named  St Mary’s. This modest building, no bigger than a small parish church, with a tall square clock tower at its west end, had an apse added in the early C19th. Although left without a resident bishop in 1841, the  cathedral continued to be used for services until it was badly damaged by a storm in February 1957 and finally abandoned in 1961 in favour of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Sligo. The edifice was demolished a few years later, but its partially restored ruins can still be seen.

The Bishop’s Palace, a splendid episcopal residence built in 1685 with money bequeathed by Bishop Hudson, and ltered in the mid-C18th, remained as the bishop’s home until 1845. It was later occupied by Arthur O’Conor, younger brother of Denis O’Conor of Mount Druid, and was the victim of  an accidental fire in 1911. The central block was destroyed and subsequently demolished, but the ruins of the flanking pavilions survive together with the curtain walls that linked them to the main house.

Elphin Diocesan School, popularly known as ‘The Latin School’, had several notable students, including Oliver Goldsmith (who may have been born at his mother’s family home, Smith Hill, just outside of the town, and spent much of his childhood at nearby Ballyoughter) and the eye surgeon and leading Irish antiquarian  Sir William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde. The school was closed c. 1863.

St Patrick’s church (RC), built on Chapel Street in 1894, is of particular architectural interest for its splendid tower and many embellishments.

The Elphin Windmill

 

The Elphin Windmill, built in 1720 just outside the town, was probably have commissioned by the then Bishop of Elphin, Edward Synge, and operated for over a century.

 

Restored in 1996, it is now the only windmill still in full working condition  in the West, and the oldest of its kind in Ireland. Unusual features are its thatched revolving roof and four sails that are turned into the wind by using a tailpole attached to a cartwheel on a circular track. Regular demonstrations are given, wind permitting.

 

The Mill Cottage Agricultural Museum houses a threshing machine, a winnower and other machinery associated with the harvesting of grain.

According to legend, the mythological hero Oisin fell from his horse upon his return from Tir na nOg (The Land of Eternal Youth) close to Elphin.

Elphin was  the birthplace of Arthur Murphy (1727–1805), playwright and biographer of Samuel Johnson, Henry Fielding and David Garrick; Jeremiah Fallon (1815-1864), American pioneer, co-founder of Dublin, California; and Roderick Flanagan (1828–1862), Irish-Australian journalist, historian and anthropologist.

Roscommon IRA Monument

 

A huge IRA Memorial was erected at Shankill Cross in 1963 by veterans of the War of Independence (“the Black and Tan War”) and the Civil War (“the Free State War”).

 

The impressive 20 ft high pyramidal plinth bears three massive Soviet Realist style statues depicting combatants in dramatic / solemn poses. Beside it is a list of the names of 41 men comprising the Co. Roscommon IRA Roll of Honour (including a few from other counties), who ‘gave their lives for the 32-County Republic which has yet to be attained‘. Another memorial to the right honours Pádraig Pearse.  The site has been vandalised  several times.

 

A Parade to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising still culminates with a decade of the Rosary at the monument every spring. The rest of the year the loneliness of the isolated location, often swept by biting winds and freezing rain or sleet, is weirdly compounded by floodlighting at night.

The local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann has hosted the County Roscommon Fleadh Cheoil in Elphin on many occasions.

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