About Gort/Kilmacduagh/Kiltartan

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Welcome to the parish of Gort. The Gaelic name  is Gort Inse Guaire – The Field of the Island of Guaire. Guaire became King of Connacht c. 655 A.D. Gort is situated in the barony of Kiltartan in the county of Galway.  The parishes of Kilmacduagh and Kiltartan were amalgamated in 1854 to form the present parish of Gort.  The town is well laid out with wide streets and an imposing Market Square.

Gort has been called “the home of the stranger”. A large percentage of its population is Brazilian and it has been lauded as a model of multiculturalism. 

Past and Present Population

Census 1841 7,729
Census 2011 2,644

The Gort-Kilmacduagh-Kiltartan parish was part of the ancient territory Hy Fiachrach Aidhne, which is co-extensive with the diocese of Kilmacduagh.  It is a parish rich in archaeological and pre-historic sites – including ringforts and megalithic tombs. 

King Guaire was so famous for his generosity that legend records that one of his arms was longer than the other as a result of giving. On a visit to King Guaire in Gort, Seanchan Torpest, the chief poet of Ireland, recited the epic Tain Bo Cuailgne.  Guaire’s kinsman, St Colman Mac Duagh, is the revered patron of our diocese. In the late middle ages, the O’Shaughnessys, kinsmen of St. Colman, were the dominant ruling family.

The many fine castles point to the presence of the Normans, especially the De Burgos.

The seventeenth century witnessed the migration to South Galway of many disposed people – all part of the “To Hell or to Connacht” Cromwellian Plantation.

The eighteenth century saw the demise of the once powerful O’Shaughnessys and the emergence of the Prendergast Smyth Vereker family .  The Catholics in that century felt the full force of the odious Penal Laws. The people resorted to the Hedge Schools, the Mass Rocks and the thatched “mass-houses”. Daniel  O’Connell and  the achievement of Catholic Emancipation gave new hope to a down-trodden people. National Schools were built in every parish and, as a result, the rate of illiteracy fell from 80% in 1841 to 25% in 1901.

The Great Famine of the late 1840s had a devastating effect on this area.  The population was reduced by approx. one third as a result of starvation, disease, eviction and emigration.

The main civic buildings in the town of Gort were planned by the Prendergast Smyths, the last of whom was awarded the title of Lord Gort. Described as “a very poor village” in the 1750s, Gort quickly gained prominence as a market town. Many of the present houses in the town date from that era.

In some cases the relationship between landlord and tenant was one of mutual respect but in many others it was characterised by greedy, absentee landlords and an impoverished  tenantry. The rights of tenants were eloquently defended  in the House of Commons by William Gregory of Coole Park who seems to have been forgiven, at least by his own tenants, for the infamous Gregory Clause of Famine times.  The Land War of the 1880s and 1890s heightened tensions between the two classes and eventually saw the emergence of tenant ownership.

One of the few places, apart from Dublin, that took part in the Easter 1916 Rising, was South Galway. Sadly, the subsequent War of Independence and the Civil War, resulted in some horrific killings.

Our parish played a pivotal role in the history of the GAA – Gaelic Athletic Association. It was one of the strongholds of hurling ever before Michael Cusack, one of the founders of the GAA, came to teach in South Galway.  In fact, the first sliothar, or official hurling ball was designed by Ned Treston of Gort!

Perhaps South Galway’s greatest claim to fame was the fact that it was here that the Irish Literary Revival took place in the 1890s and early twentieth century.  We can proudly state that Lady Gregory and W.B.Yeats were inspired by the beauty and by the folklore of this area to write many of their best works. It is fitting, therefore, that we should celebrate Yeats 2015 with pride and joy.


The town and surrounding townlands:

Ballyhugh, Ballylennan, Gort, Lavally, Glenbrack, Kinincha

Kilmacduagh section of the parish:

Ballybaun, Ballymulfaig, Ballynastaig, Ballysheedy, Ballyvoher, Cappanapisha, Cappavarna, Castlequarter, Cloonafunshin, Cloonteen, Crannagh, Drummin, Drumminacloghaun, Dunnowen, Faunin, Garryland, Gortnacullia, Gortnasteal, Killomoran, Kilmacduagh, Knockauncoura, Lisheen, Newtown Glynn, Newtown Regan, Rockpark, Roo, Sheeaun (Seehan), Tawnagh, Termon, Tierneevin, Turavaghla.

Kiltartan section of the parish:

Ballyaneen, Ballylee, Ballyloughan, Ballymurphy, Ballynamantan, Baunragh, Carrowbaun, Carrownavohanaun, Castletown, Cloonanearla, Coole, Corker, Crannagh, Deerpark, Dromorehill, Kiltartan, Kinincha, Lisheencrannagh, Lisrabirra, Lissatunna, Newhall, Newtown, Rinneen, Rinerush, Srah,.

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Address Gort, County Galway
Parish(es) Gort Kilmacduagh And Kiltartan (Galway)
Category (ies) Heritage/Culture