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Taken from the Parish of Rathgormack and Mothel

Both Rathgormack and Mothel (Clonea) were ancient parishes impropriate in the Abbey of Mothel; this means that the Abbot of Mothel had appointment of the Parish Priest in both cases. The present Clonea is the equivalent to the ancient Mothel. At Mothel, or rather at Ballynevin in its vicinity, St. Brogan, whose identity and history are disputed questions, founded in the golden sixth century a religious house, in the government of which he was succeeded by St. Coan.

The site of this early establishment was close to the present Holy Well of Mothell. Out of this primitive foundation grew in the course of centuries the Augustinian Priory of Mothell on the site marked by the present graveyard. Here one of the ancient termon or boundary stones survives to show the former importance of the place. The surviving termon stone is still, by the way, called Cloc an Comairghe, i.e., Stone of Sanctuary.

Clonea church, a beautiful and spacious structure in Gothic style, is one of the finest churches in the diocese. This was erected in 1860 by the Rev. Timothy Dowley, P.P., from the plans by McCarthy, and at a cost of ᆪ6,000. As the original contractor failed to carry the work through the building was completed under Father Dowley's own supervision. The date of erection of Rathgormack church is unknown. From its general character it seems to date from early in the 18th century, (The church referred to here no longer exists after being in use until some time in the 1950s when a new church dedicated to the Sacred Heart was erected in the vicinity of the graveyard in 1957 c).

In the parish are five National schools, scil.:- two each (male and female) at Clonea and Rathgormack and a mixed school at Coolnahorna. The Coolnahorna school was erected in 1844, the Clonea schools in 1870, and the Rathgormack schools in 1910. The total population of the parish is about two thousand four hundred, exclusively Catholic.

The patrons of Clonea are SS. Brogan and Coan, whose feast on the 6th of July is celebrated by the Stations at the Holy Well and by indulgenced religious ceremonies and exercises in the church. Some years ago the pattern at Mothel had degenerated into a scene of drunkenness, faction fighting and general lawlessness, but the vigorous denunciation of these abuses by the Parish Priests have led to their abatement. Rathgormack parish is under the patronage of the Holy Cross (Exaltation). There is no pattern but the feast is celebrated in the church by Confessions, Mass and Holy Communion. Both Mothel and Rathgormack were parishes of great extent, and the present parish, formed of them, is perhaps the largest in the diocese.


Morris English, residing at Monerlargey, was registered Parish Priest of Mothell and Kilbarry in 1704. On the same day Thomas English, probably a brother of Morris, was registered as pastor of Rathgormuck and Lisnekill and as residing at Glenstown which was not within his alleged parish. It was not by any means clear why Kilbarry should be, as it is here, united with Mothel which it does not adjoin, or why Lisnakill should be in union with Rathgormack from which it lies separated by the width of two parishes.

Rev. Edward Morris was Parochus in 1724, as appears from the testimony of a chalice with the inscription, preserved in the parish.

Father John Murray, probably an Augustinian - almost certainly a regular of some order - died Parish Priest of Mothel, April 18th, 1768, aged eighty-three years, and is buried at Mothel.

Rev. Thomas Hearn, a brilliant ecclesiastic, just returned from Louvain, succeeded, but four years later he was translated to Holy Trinity Parish, Waterford.

Rev. Edward Prendergast (with Rev. John Bourke as curate) was Parish Priest in 1801.

Rev. William O'Meara was Parish Priest in 1818 and was most probably the successor of Father Prendergast.

Rev. Patrick Wall was translated from Carrickbeg to Clonea in 1825 and again from Clonea to Stradbally in 1829. From Father Wall's time the successor is clearer.

1830 - Rev. John Condon. He resigned in 1849.

1849 - Rev. Edward Meagher. He was killed near Rathgormack in 1852 by a miscreant whose evil doing he had publicly denounced. The wretch did not probably intend murder, but flung a stone which struck the priest on the head, fracturing his skull. Rathgormack was noted at the time for its faction fights, general lawlessness and savagery.

1852 - Rev. Timothy Dowley, translated from Carrickbeg. He is interred within the church which he had built at Clonea. Between Father Dowley's pastorate and the accession of Father O'Connell, Rev. John Power was Administrator for a period of about twelve months.

1886 - Rev. Timothy O'Connell, whose term of office was only a month or two. He was translated to St. Mary's, Clonmel.

1886 - Rev. Maurice Flynn, translated in the following year to Passage.

1887 - Rev. Richard Phelan. He erected the present curates' residence at Feddins and secured the parochial use of the present Parish Priest's house at Mothel; he was transferred to Clogheen in 1897.

1897 - Rev. Paul Power. He was created a Canon in 1904. During his term of office he erected new schools at Rathgormack and teachers' residences at both Rathgormack and Clonea. In his death his people lost a singularly energetic, zealous and earnest pastor.

1912 - Rev. James Wall.


The most important item under this heading is the ruin of Mothel priory. This was an Augustinian foundation, to which were subject the churches of Mothel, Rathgormack and Ballylaneen. Some time subsequent to the suppression, scil.:- during the early 17th century, the Cistercians succeeded somehow in getting possession and Brother Thomas (otherwise, John) Madan of Waterford, a member of the Order, was consecrated Abbot in St. John's Church, Waterford, on Trinity Sunday, 1625.

In 1629 however, Patrick (De Angelis) Comerford, an Augustinian, became Bishop of Waterford, and the following year he contested the claims of the Cistercians to Mothel, into which, he contended, they had intruded themselves. In a letter to Propaganda (printed by Moran, Spicillegium Ossoriense, vol. i, p. 167) the Bishop urges that the Cistercians have usurped possession of three Augustinian monasteries (including Mothel) and that they illegally claim jurisdiction over the parishes attached to the abbey. In support of his contention that Mothel was an Augustinian house, he appeals to the apostolic taxation books, to the ancient records of the abbey and to venerable and authentic documents in the diocesan archives. The remains at Mothel are practically confined to a piece of the south side wall of the monastic church together with a portion of the west gable and fragment of what appears to have been a south transept.

At Rathgormack the ecclesiastical remains consist of the west gable and portion of the north side wall of what must have been a large and strongly built church, to which a small central tower, narrow window openings and stout thick walls lend to a fortress like aspect. A stairway from the nave seems to have given access to the tower over the church arch.

There are no other church remains within the parish, but the number of early church sites is unusually large; they total fifteen at least and the list is probably not exhaustive, scil.:- Ballynafina (on Walsh's farm), Ballynevin, Bishopstown (Cill an Easpoig), Coolnahorna (Mahony's), Glenaphuca, Glenpatrick, Killballyquilty, Kilbrack, Kilclooney, Joanstown (now in Carrickbeg Par.) Kincanavee, Knockaturney (Barra Maid�n), Park, Rathgormack (on Terry's), and Ross (on Whelan's). The listed Rathgormack early church is to be distinguished from the ruined church of the same name already described.

There are two Holy Wells - of which far the more celebrated is Tobar Chuain on Ballynevin, the scene of the pattern of Mothel. The other is on the townland of Park beside the cill�n or early church site and is known as St. John the Baptist's.

Amongst the alter plate of the parish may be specially mentioned two silver chalices of moderate size - one, inscribed: Edwardi Morris Parochiae Moyhiliensis Donum po die Jan. 1724, and the other, bearing round its base the following legend:- Rev. Guls O'Meara me fieri fecit pro parochia Rathcormick anno, 1818. To the forgoing may be added, as also of antiquarian interest, a bronze crucifix (in use over the high alter at Clonea), which is situated to have been dug up in the neighbourhood of Rathgormack church ruin.


Parish(es) Mothell (Kilkenny)
Category (ies) Heritage/Culture Tourist Attraction