Ardrahan History


Ard Rathain, meaning, according to P W Joyce, “Irish Place Names”, “the Height of the Ferns”, lies in the centre of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh. Extensive in area, the parish was larger until mid-1800s, when the area of Castledaly to Scalp, to Booleyneendorrish was annexed to Kilchreest under Bishop French.

Lord Killanin and Michael Duignan in ‘Shell Guide to Ireland’ tell us that “the surrounding countryside is rich in ancient remains of all periods”. Fr. Fahy in ‘History of Antiquities of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh’ states that “as many as ten old castles are within its limits”.

Christian Heritage

A few hundred yards North by North East of Vinegar Bridge in the townland of Ballybaun are the remains of a 7th century monastic settlement. In the graveyard in Ardrahan village are the ruins of a round tower standing about 10 feet tall in the S.W. wall. It is best seen from the Kinvara road. In the graveyard too are the   ruins of a church immediately inside the gate. This is thought to have been the parish church up to c. 1600 when the church in Cregclare, (Mausoleum) was built within the walls of Caher Cré. The Cregclare church was extended c. 1650 and served as the parish church until 1810 when the church in Labane was erected. Dedicated to St. Teresa of Avila, the 1910 church, aligned North-South, was a low, thatched, cruciform building inadequate for the accommodation of an expanding population;

Population 1841: 596 families (pre famine), 1871: 344 families, 2012: 600 families.

In 1856 the present church, aligned East-West, was erected. Down the years the church has undergone many renovations.

Notable features of the church include the altar of Sicilian marble, recently restored, and the Baldachino which was commissioned by the Martyns of Tullira and designed by Professor William A. Scott of UCD. The sculptured bases and capitals are the work of Michael Shorthall. It is quite unusual for a church of this size to have a Baldachino. The stained glass windows are of historical importance. To quote Lord Killanin and Michael Duignan, (Shell Guide to Ireland), under” Ardrahan,” ‘When Edward Martyn of Tullira Castle wished to commission family windows for the church, he discovered that Continental and English factories had a monopoly of the “art” of the resurgent Catholic Church in Ireland. For Martyn it was self-evident that art is the function of artists and that “the artists in Ireland should decorate the churches”.’

Martyn’s zeal helped to have A.E. Child (1903) appointed teacher of stained glass in the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and stimulated Sarah Purser to found the famous Túr Gloine studio. The Labane windows in question are five single lights: St. Anne, St. Robertus, Naomh Peadar, Naomh Eilís, Naomh Andrís. The first two are undated, the others are 1900; all have a Túr Gloine look. Dr Michael Wynne Ph.D. of The National Gallery says the Naomh Eilís window is the work of A.E. Child, with assistance from Michael Healy, Miss O Brien and Miss Townsend. 

Edward Martyn also established the Palestrina Choir (which is endowed down to our own time). Together with Lady Gregory and Count de Basterot, Martyn sowed the seeds of the Irish Theatre and with WB Yeats, Lady Gregory, George Moore (AE) and George Bernard Shaw began the Irish Literary revival.

In the graveyard of Ard na mBodhrán in the townsland of Manninard are the ruins of an ancient church.

There are many examples of Cillín or Lisheen  graveyards in which were buried unbaptised infants. Examples are Lisheen, Castletaylor and Lisheen Áirne Dearga, Rathanlon.

Parish Priests of Ardrahan

1799 Fr. John Nagle. He was well into his 90s when he died in 1829.

1815 Fr. John Nolan came as a curate. He went to Rome and succeeded Fr. Nagle as P.P. He was associated with Ardrahan from 1815-1833 and was involved with the Tithe struggle. The Holy Water font at the foot of the stairs in the church bears his name and the date 1819.

1833-46 Fr. Patrick Bodkin Quinn, lived in Labane Lodge and died during the Famine.

1847-1848 Fr. Patrick Byrne

1848-50 Fr. Timothy Shannon

1850-52 Fr. Michael Nelly

1852-75 Fr. Daniel Garaghy. This priest built the present church. He had three Administrators during his term as P.P.

1866-68 Fr. Andrew Hanrahan

1868-72 Fr. Patrick McDonagh

1872-76 Fr. Jerome Fahy- the historian, author of History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh

1876-1909 Fr. T.B. Considine.

1909-1910 Fr. Michael Corcoran was Administrator.

1910-1912 Fr. T.E McAlliney was Administrator.

1912-1928 Canon John Carr

1928-1962 Canon John Considine

1962-1977 Archdeacon James O’ Donoghue

1977-1983 Canon James Horan

1983-1997 Canon D. Joseph Kelly

1997-1998 Canon Patrick Carroll

1998-2003 Canon Joseph Keogh

2003-2010 Canon Richard Higgins

2010- Fr. Joseph Roche

Church of Ireland

Built in 1809 the church catered mainly for the local landlord families, i.e. Clanmorris of Cregclare, Shawe-Taylor of Castletaylor, O’ Hara of Raheen, Alexander of Maryville and their servants.

Plaques on the wall of the church commemorate various members of the Taylor/ Shawe -Taylor families and of Bingham (Clanmorris) family. The church also houses an imposing organ presented by Bangor Parish in 1887. The east window, depicting the Ascension and set in the semi-circular altar wall was made in Dublin in 1908 and is a note-worthy feature of the church.

Rectors of the Church of Ireland

Rev. Dwyer 1820s.

Rev. G.A. Heather  in mid 1850s.

Rev William Nugent served 1862-1891

Rev. J.C. Trotter 1891-1926.

Rev Horrace George Warren 1926-1935

Rev. John Owen Evans 1936-1938

Rev. William Ernest Hipwell 1938-1950

Rev. Samuel Richard Jennings 1950-1954

Rev. James Camier 1959-1960

Rev. John Raynham Windsor’Garnett 1960-1962

Rev. John William Falter 1962-1964

Rev. Ivan Ridley Kirkpatrick 1965-1971

Rev. Cyril Bruce Champ 1972-1975

Rev. Edgar White Talbet 1975-1980

Rev. John Luttrell Haworth 1980-1983

Rev. Trevor Sullivan 1984- 2007

Rev. George Flynn 2007- 2014

Rev John Godfrey 2015- present


The main consequences of the penal laws relating to education were the creation of the hedge school system. In many rural areas a hedge school was literally a collection of students and a teacher holding classes in a ditch or hedge-row, with one of the pupils serving as a look-out for law officers.

The curriculum of the hedge schools was generally wide and varied. Some became famous for teaching the classics. Great emphasis was placed on arithmetic. The 3 Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic formed the basis of the curriculum. The Bible was read and some schools added book-keeping, English grammar, algebra, geometry, mensuration and geography as “extras”. The pupils attending hedge schools paid the teachers’ salaries. (See Sr. de Lourdes Fahy’s ‘Education in the Diocese of Kilmacduagh in the Nineteenth Century.’)

Schools of the Bible Societies

Schools were set up by a variety of societies with two main aims- philanthropy and evangelism. The former aim rose from a desire by well- meaning individuals to make education accessible to the poor. The latter arose from a wish of those who supported the societies that Catholics be converted to the Established Church.

The Kildare Place Society was founded in 1811 by a group of Dublin businessmen and Quakers who included among their numbers Samuel Bewley and Arthur Guinness. A report of the commissioners of Irish education 1826 states that a K.P.S. school existed in Ardrahan. 140 Catholic children and 10 Protestant children attended the school.

Five hedge schools existed in Ardrahan in 1835. A school operated in the chapel of Ardrahan where Patrick Connolly taught the 3 Rs and Catechism on a salary of £10 a year. Michael Farrell taught the 3 Rs, book-keeping, English grammar and catechism on £10 a year. John Longhans had a school at Coxtown. Patrick Sheehan taught a hedge school at Ballyinduff and Patrick Connolly kept a school at Moneen.

National Schools

There are three national schools in the parish- Ardrahan N.S. (Labane), Ballyglass N.S. and Kiltiernan N.S. Each has its own website.