Athleague in the 1830s

1837
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From Lewis' Topographical Dictionary

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 ½ miles (S. W.) from Roscommon, and 79 ¼ (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 a hill at right angles; the number of houses in the town, in 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 modem portion is castellated and part of the ancient structure still remains;
  • Fortwilliam, the seats of N. J. Ffrench, Esq.;
  • Curramore, 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. 3. 1., of which £90. 9. 2 ½. 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 R. C. 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; and 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 Maylesa 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 ½ 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.