Achonry (Co. Sligo)
Achonry (Achadh Conaire – “Conaire’s field”) is a small village of some importance in terms of ecclesiastical history.
St Crumnathy’s Cathedral (CoI), which some locals claim as the smallest cathedral in Europe, was erected in 1822 and deconsecrated in 1998. Since then it has been renovated with Heritage Council funds and is used occasionally for ecumenical events such as carol services etc. The churchyard contains some interesting graves and is still in use for burials.
Saint Nathy / Naithí, possibly a member of the O’Hara clan, was a C6th AD holy man and disciple of Saint Finnian of Clonard (d.552 AD), who helped him establish a monastery here that became a school of piety and learning, with several eminent students, most notably Saint Fechin, (who founded Fore Abbey c. 610 AD). Nathy is commonly referred to in the writings as Crumther Nathy / Cromnathy (from Cruimhthir – priest). This raises the question of whether Nathy was ever a bishop, as to which there is no agreement. He seems to have lived for over 90 years.
Later superiors of the monastery were styled abbots or bishops of Achad Cain or Achad Conaire, and in some of the Annals they were called bishops of Luighne. The diocese was not established at the 1111 Synod of Rathbreasail, but Máel Ruanaid Ua Ruadáin signed as “Bishop of Luighne” at the Synod of Kells in 1152. The episcopal seat was the Cathedral Church of St Crumnathy in Achonry.
During the Reformation, the bishops changed their allegiance back and forth between the Pope and the Crown. (One Bishop of Achonry, Bishop Eugene O’Hart, who was one of the three Irish bishops to attend the Council of Trent and who died in 1603 aged 100. Another was the notorious Miler Magrath, Archbishop of Cashel since 1571, who also held the bishopric of Achonry “in commendam” from 1613 until his death in 1622)
In 1622 the Church of Ireland See of Achonry combined with Killala to form the united bishopric of Killala and Achonry, which was united to the Archdiocese of Tuam in 1834. On the death of Archbishop Trench of Tuam in 1839, the Province of Tuam was united to the Province of Armagh and the see ceased to be an archbishopric and became a bishopric. The modern Anglican ecclesiastical unit is called the Diocese / United Dioceses of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, covering County Mayo and parts of counties Galway and Sligo.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Achonry remains a separate bishopric, one of the five suffragan sees of the Archdiocese of Tuam. Since 1860 the episcopal seat has been the Cathedral church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Nathy in Ballaghaderreen (Co. Roscommon).
Lavagh (Co. Sligo)
Lavagh is a rural village and district with several sites of archaeological / historical interest.
Court Abbey, drawn by Francis Grose in 1792. (Other romantic drawings of the crumbling buildings were made c.1779 by Angelo Maria Bigari and in 1878 by FJ Wakeman). The complex, actually a Friary founded c.1450 by the O’Hara chieftains of Leyre, appears to have housed an unusual joint community of brothers and sisters of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. The main surviving feature is the partially overgrown ruin of a rectangular stone church with a tall square central tower. The site, long used as a cemetery, makes for a great view from the top of Knocknashee – see here.
Knocknashee (Cnoc na Sí – “Hill of the fairies”), long known as the site of two cairns, was discovered during a 1988 aerial survey of the county to be a huge enclosed hill fort with limestone ramparts containing cairns, burial chambers and hut sites. The fort is 700m long and 320m wide, covering an area of 53 acres on a table-top plateau with tremendous views of the Connacht plains. (Private property; visitors should ask for permission to ascend). Experts suggest that the majority of tombs in the area point towards it or Knocknarea, near Strandhill.
A nearby early field system was also revealed by the 1988 survey.
Woodlands Equestrian Centre at Loughill is an AIRE approved establishment with a highly qualified trainer, owner Simone Hession, who provides tuition in dressage and showjumping at all levels, plus hacking on the mountain, through farmland and country roads. Woodlands includes ‘Beezies Stud’, breeding and producing performance Connemara ponies.
Lavagh is connected by a pleasant rural road that passes Carrownaskeagh Forest to Skreen on ByRoute 1.
Cabaragh Wedge Tomb is situated on a level tract of rocky reclaimed pasture below the steeper southern slopes of the Ox Mountains. The site has excellent views to the south with Knocknashee being the most prominent hill. The structure is well preserved, although the front part of the gallery no longer has a roof. It consists of a gallery, 7.7m long, surrounded by a straight sided outer wall. Other well preserved wedge tombs can be found in the vicinity, notably at Gortakeeran.
Coolaney – Rockfield (Co. Sligo)
Coolaney (Cúil Áine – “Áine’s Corner”) (pop. 860), near the foot of the Ox Mountains, has won numerous Tidy Town awards.
Situated on the Owen Beg River, spanned by an attractive bridge constructed in 1833 with stones from a ruined O’Hara Tower House, Coolaney has a charmingly landscaped riparian walk taking in the remains of an old mill where the former sluices and outfalls are still visible.
Coolaney Railway Station stands on the old Sligo / Claremorris railway line, no longer in use. There is talk of restoring it as part of the Western Railway Corridor. (Photo by Zxcode)
Coolaney’s broad tree lined main street, featuring an ornamental fountain, old fashioned shop fronts and several good pubs, forks at a monument to a local man killed in the Civil War.
The church of the Sacred Heart & St Joseph (RC), an early C20th neo-classical edifice, is located in nearby Rockfield, as is the modern National School.
Coolaney’s Summer Festival is an annual social highlight.
Mullagh Lough NW of Coolaney village is a fishing amenity currently somewhat lacking in fish.
Rathbarron church (CoI), built in 1766, is a handsome edifice surrounded by a large atmospheric burial ground.
Moymlough Castle (pronounced ‘Meemlach’), a Tower House built by the O’Hara Buidhe lords of Leyney in the C15th to replace an older stronghold, is now an ivy-clad 3-storey ruin, but was probably higher originally. Features which can clearly be seen from the road are the intramural staircase and the distinct ‘batter’ to the lower two metres of the outer walls. Part of a garderobe is also visible.