ByRoute 8.1 Co. Kildare & Co. Laois

Ballyadams & Tankardstown (Co. Laois / East)

Ballyadams, formerly aka Kilmakedy, is a district with a violent history.

First recorded as Kylemehyde, it was the site of a late C12th Norman castle, taken in 1346 by the O’ Mores, O’ Connors and O’ Dempseys and destroyed in retaliation by the Justiciar of Ireland Sir John D’Arcy de Knayth and Thomas FitzJohn FitzGerald, 2nd Earl of Kildare.

Ballyadams Castle

 

Ballyadams Castle is believed to have been built around the end of the C15th by one Adam O’More, after whom the district was subsequently named. (Photo by Mike Searle)

 

In 1546 the O’ Mores and O’ Connors burned the town of Athy. A large army headed by the Lord Deputy, Sir William Brabazon, and the Earl of Desmond marched into Leix and took Ballyadams Castle.

 

In 1549 a Welshman was appointed constable of Ballyadams. John Thomas ap Owen, later called John Thomas Bowen (d.1569), was famous for his cruelty, and was known as “Shane-a-pika” or John of the Pike, because he always carried such a weapon when he ventured out.

 

He was succeeded by his son Robert, who notoriously participated in the Mullagmast Massacre of 1577, became Sheriff of Queens County in 1579 and died in 1621. The monument in the old church of Ballyadams was erected to his memory in 1631.

 

Robert’s son, Sir John Bowen, was knighted in 1629 and was Provost Marshal of Leinster and Meath.

 

In 1643, when the Kilkenny Confederates were attacking castle at Ballylinan, their commander Lord Castlehaven “went with a party of horse to Ballyadams, a Castle about a mile distant belonging to Sir John Bowen, Provost Marshal an old soldier, and my long acquaintance. I went to speak with him and after some kind expressions, told him I must put a garrison into his Castle. He flatly denied me and calling for his wife and two very fair daughters, he had desired only one favour, that in case I was resolved to use violence, I would show him where I intended to plant my guns and make my breach. I satisfied his curiosity and asked him what he meant by this question. Because saith he swearing with some warmth, I will cover that, or any other your Lordhship shoots at, by hanging out both my daughters in chairs. ’tis true the place was not of much importance, however this conceit saved it.” This incident inspired a popular poem.

 

The remains of the five storey castle has two tall rounded towers, the highest measuring 75ft; both date from around the late C15th and are the oldest part of the present structure. The tower on the left contains a winding stone stair-case that leads right up to the turret, which is approx. 65ft high; the one on the right contains many small rooms. The wing on the right appears to be the oldest and was built towards the end of the C17th by the Bowen family. The one on the left was built at a later date by the Butler family, who abandoned  the castle after the 1798 Rebellion.

Two ancient Holy Wells near the castle were supposedly blessed by Saint Patrick.

Lewis (1837) mentions Cobler’s Castle, a hlltop folly built as a famine relief work project.

Ballyadams is on the Slieve Margy Way.

Ballyadams is close to Stradbally & Ballintubbert on ByRoute 9.

Tankardstown is located on a scenic stretch of the River Barrow.

Tankardstown Castle became the seat of the Hovenden family in 1550, and remained in their ownership for many years.

Barrowhouse is the location of Dunbrin Fort, a Viking construction where ancient coins were once found.

In 1921 eight IRA men mounted an ambush here on the Black and Tans. Two volunteers, William Connors and James Lacey, were shot dead, and have a memorial dedicated to them.

Tankardstown is not far from Ballickmoyler on ByRoute 7.

Ballylinan (Co. Laois / East)

Ballylinan / Ballylynan (Baile Uí Laigheanáin – “Linan’s Town”, though who Linan was is not known) (pop. 800), formerly a rural district, has a rapidly growing commuter community.  The local GAA club is renowned for its prowess at Gaelic Football.

The single street village has five pubs, the most famous being The Horse And Coach. (Photo by William MuldowneyBallylinan on the Brennan Family History website)

Ballylynan’s location on the Athy – Castlecomer road provided access to the local coalmines. The district saw Rockite (“Whitefoot”) disturbances and government repression in the 1820s.

Ballylinan Gentry

 

The Weldon family arrived during the reign of King James I and remained as principal local landlords until the 1920s. Their main residence was Rahin, described by Lewis (1837) as “a handsome mansion surrounded by thriving plantations”.

 

Another Big House in the vicinity was Gracefield Lodge, seat of the Grace family, “whose old mansion has been taken down and replaced by an elegant villa in the later English style, from a design by Mr. Nash, completed in 1817; the grounds have been tastefully embellished” and had “luxuriant woods”.

 

This was the birthplace of William Russell Grace (1832-1904), who made a fortune harvesting guano in Peru, founded the chemical conglomerate WR Grace & Co. and became the first Roman Catholic mayor of New York.

 

Both Rahin and Gracefield are now modern housing estates.

Ballylynan Castle was said to belong to the O’More clan, but “it fell to the Grimes or Grahams after the Battle of Agharoe (the field of blood)“. Lord Castlehaven‘s Confederacy troops successfully laid siege to it in 1643.

In the village are the ruins of an old church, near which it is claimed that ‘an earthen-ware urn was found in 1786 containing a great number of silver coins dating from 862 to 870 AD inscribed “O’Laghis King” (the O‘Mores) and “Dunamaise”.’

St Anne’s church, built as a Roman Catholic place of worship c.1830, has been replaced by a modern church, and is now used as a community hall. (Photo by Thadeus Breen)

Lewis (1837) also writes of a nearby “extensive earthwork consisting of a vast mound, the summit of which is 130 yards in diameter, enclosed by a high bank …..occupied by a party of the insurgents in 1798“, called Dundrom.

Comerford (1886) wrote “In the townland of Clonpierce, adjoining Ballylinan, an extensive ruin exists, called in the neighbourhood, the Abbey of Shanecourt, or Old Court [referred to] in the Annals of the family of Grace, as a monastery stated to have been built by the O’Mores, …….. It was an Episcopal Residence of the Bishops of Leighlin,” Other C19th authorities also mention the ruin as an abbey.

Ballylehane Castle, about a mile from Ballylinan village, was one of several taken by the O’More, O’Connor and O’Dempsey clans in 1346, 31 years after 300 O’Mores were killed locally in a “great slaughter” by Crown forces.  The castle came into the possession of the Hovenden family in the mid C16thJohn Hovenden was the landlord in 1829 when the building was attacked by Rockite (“Whitefoot”) activists searching for arms. The castle is now in ruins.

Ballylinan hosts the annual Day of Darkness Heavy Metal rock music weekend festival every July.

Ballylinan is not far from Arles on ByRoute 7.

Luggacurren (Co. Laois / East)

Luggacurren / Luggacurran/ Luggaghcurran is a charming little C19th estate village with a singular identity, and regularly wins prizes in the Tidy Towns competition. It is proud of its surviving Victorian architecture, including attractive 1870s houses,  lichen-covered walls made from local stone, water pumps, a Millennium horse trough, and an intriguing bridge over a stone-banked stream, rather oddly featuring gateposts.

Luggacullen’s old forge. (Photo – www.laois.ie)

The former churchwarden’s house is now a community centre.

The church of the Most Holy Rosary (RC), striking positioned at the edge of village, has lovely mature lime trees along one wall and pollarded Horse Chestnuts at the gate.

The Luggacurran Estate, owned by successive Marquesses of Lansdowne and run during the second part of the C19th by their agents William Steuart Trench and John Townsend Trench, was the scene of extensive Land League agitation from 1886 onwards, playing an important role in their Plan of Campaignwhen tenants on the Kenmare sister estate had their rents reduced but locals did not. This led to the notoious Luggacurren Evictions of 82 tenants, rightly or wrongly an international cause celebre.

Luggacurren saw Republican activity during the Troubles, including the torching of the school in 1921.

Lewis (187) wrote  “in the vicinity are the remains of a cromlech, consisting of five upright pillars, about 4 1/2 feet igh, and a table stone 8 1/2 feet long, 7 wide, and 2 1/2 feet in thickness“.

Lugacurren is .