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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

ATHLEAGUE, a post-town and parish, partly in the barony of KILLIAN, county of GALWAY, but chiefly in that of ATHLONE, county of ROSCOMMON, and in the province of CONNAUGHT, 4.50 miles (S.W.) from Roscommon and 79.25 (w.) from Dublin; containing 5361 inhabitants, of which number, 488 are in the town.

This parish is situated on the river Suck, and on the road from Roscommon to Mount Talbot and Loughrea: it contains 7601 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the state of agriculture is improving. There are large tracts of bog now being reclaimed, but not on an extensive scale; more than half of the Galway portion of the parish consists of this species of land. Limestone and freestone of excellent quality abound; and mines of iron were formerly worked, but were discontinued from the scarcity of fuel. Over the Suck is a long winding causeway bridge of ten arches carried from one islet to another, and forming a communication between the two counties; from one end of it the houses stretch along the right bank of the river, with a street or road ascending the hill at right angles; the number of houses in the town is 1831 was 84.

The principal seats in the parish are

  • Rookwood, the handsome residence of E. Kelly, Esq.;
  • Castle Kelly, the seat of D.H. Kelly Esq., originally built as a castle in the 14th century, and of which the modern portion is castellated and part of the ancient structure still remains;
  • Fortwilliam, the seat of N. J. Ffrench, Esq.;
  • Curranmore of Christopher Balfe, Esq.; and
  • Thornfield of J. Mahon, Esq.

Near the river are some large insulated mills. Fairs are held on July 11th, and Sept 24th.

The living is a vicarage, with the vicarages of Fuerty and Kilbegnet episcopally united in 1809, in the diocese of Elphin and in the patronage of the bishop: the rectory is impropriate in the Incorporated society for Protestant Charter Schools by deed of request from Lord Ranelagh. The tithes amount to £226 3s. 1d., of which £90 9s. 2 1/2d., is payable to the impropriator and the remainder to the vicar: the gross amount of tithes in the union payable to the incumbent is £288. There are two churches in the union: that of Athleague, formerly a domestic chapel of the family of Lystre, is an old building in bad repair. The glebe-house was built by a gift of £400 and a loan of £214 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1815: the glebe annexed to it comprises 23 acres, besides 20 acres in the parish of Fuerty.

The Roman Catholic parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church: the chapel is situated in the town, and is in bad repair.

The parochial school is supported by subscription: there are several hedge schools, on the books of which are 290 boys and 130 girls. Between Castle Kelly and Rookwood is a rath, in which stood an abbey of Grey Friars, where Maylessa O'Hanayn, abbot of Roscommon, died in 1266: and near it was a cell in which, according to tradition, four bishops were interred. In 1819, some labourers digging for gravel under a bog that had been cut away, on the estate of Castle Kelly, found a gold fibula weighing 17.50 oz., now in the possession of the Very Rev. H. R. Dawson, Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin. A chalybeate spring issues from the hill of Mount-Mary.

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