James B Leslie.

History of Kilsaran union of parishes in the County of Louth, being a history of the parishes of Kilsaran, Gernonstown, Stabannon, Manfieldstown, and Dromiskin, with many particulars relating to the parishes of Richardstown, Dromin, and Darver, comprising a large section of mid-Louth online

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Online LibraryJames B LeslieHistory of Kilsaran union of parishes in the County of Louth, being a history of the parishes of Kilsaran, Gernonstown, Stabannon, Manfieldstown, and Dromiskin, with many particulars relating to the parishes of Richardstown, Dromin, and Darver, comprising a large section of mid-Louth → online text (page 2 of 35)
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the churches and monasteries. Kilsaran must have suffered
severely at their hands, as it is believed that they established
one of their camps at the ancient Mote of Greenmount, which
is but a few hundred yards from the old Church of Kilsaran.

Mote of Greenmount. — Indeed, according to the popular
belief, the Mote at Greenmount is a relic of the time of the
Danish invasion. Archaeologists, however, have come to the
conclusion that it is much older, that, like the great mounds
of Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth and Millmount, it belongs
to pagan and prehistoric times.

A reference to Greenmount is found in Isaac Butler's MS.
above referred to, where he says :

" The lands in this neighbourhood are blest with a fine soile,
being a light loomy earth — a mixture of sand and soaft clay.




Section from N. to S. through the Greenmount Tumulus and long chancer,
showing the terminal walls, ai-.d the way it appears to have caved in when
first cleared out, 1830-40
















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Greenmount. 15

" Greenmount, a small village near this Church, blest with a good
soil of light earth and a curious brown sand fitt for founders.
The land is covered with corn of all kinds, flax and hemp. In-
dustry prevails here in every corner.

"There is at this place a large Danish Rath, but it lias been in
part destroyed by the inhabitants who have encroach' d upon it
with their gardens. The men arc at ploughing, and the women a
spinning. This curious vein of land continues to near Dunleire."
Thomas Wright, whose Louthiana first appeared in 1748,
gives a short description of it, accompanying an engraving.
He states that the people who lived near it had a tradition
that here was held the first Parliament in Ireland — which
tradition he, however, believed was an error. Bishop Pococke
mentions it as : —

" A mount on the brow of a rising ground fortified with a fossee,
and there is a heighth in it at the north-west corner. The whole of
irregular figure is about 50 paces each way."
The shape of the mound, which has undergone much alter-
ation since Wright and Pococke saw it, reminds one very
forcibly of the " Tynwald Hill " in the centre of the Isle of
Man, where the Manx laws are annually promulgated. Green-
mount has also been supposed to be the " Aird Cianachta (the
hill of the race of Cian)," where the sons of Cian defeated the
forces of Ulster in a.d. 226. Thus its ancient name was
Drumha, Dromiha, or Drumcatha, i.e., Battle Ridge. This
is the name by which it is known in the Census of 1659-60,
the Hearth Money Rolls, 16O4, and in many older documents.
The name has, it may be noted, no connection with that of the
neighbouring Drumcar (Druim-caradh, the ridge of the weir.
See Joyce, Names of Places, p. 366). The mote is situated
on a rising ground about 150 feet above sea level, and is about
210 feet round. It commands a splendid view over the bay
of Dundalk.

About the year 1830 Rev. Joseph Dullaghan. R.C. Curate
of the Parish, caused some excavations to be made in the
mound, which revealed a stone building or cave in the centre.
Owing to the uuskilfulness of the methods of excavation the
roof of the cave fell in during the following night and in con-

16 Chap. I, — Kilsaran Parish.

sequence the top of the cone, as figured by Wright, subsided,
causing all further operations to be suspended.

In October 1870, however, Major-General (then Major)
Lefroy, K.C.M.G., C.B., whose sister was married to the first
Lord Rathdonnell, reopened the chamber found in 1830.
Before his investigations were completed he had to leave for
foreign service, but Mr. T. A. Hulme continued them for him.
General Lefroy contributed a paper on the results to the
Journal of the Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain
and Ireland, No. 108 (reprinted by the R.H. and A.A.I, in
vol. I., series 4, 1871, pp. 471 et. seq. See also vol. XI. Jour.
R. S.A.I, for a paper on Greenmount by Rev. G. H. Reade).
He found that the tumulus covered an elongated chamber,
5 feet by 3^ feet, running north and south about 18 feet below
the summit. In this chamber he could discover no traces
of human burial, but there were found in it animal bones,
charcoal and burnt earth. Among the debris, however, was
discovered a bronze axe, a bone harp peg bearing traces of
the friction of the harp string, and a bronze plate, with inter-
lacing, on the back of which was a rough runic inscription


which has been translated " Domnal Seal's-head owned this
sword." (See Illustrations.) This runic inscription is specially
interesting as it is the only one that has yet been found in
Ireland. Though the Danes have left traces of their invasion
of Ireland in the names of many places nowhere else have they
left behind them a rune, so that Greenmount is unique in
this respect. The plate is now in the possession of the
Royal Irish Academy. A French authority, M. Vigfusson,
pronounced the letters to be of the eleventh century — pro-
bably they are somewhat earlier.

General Lefroy seems to have thought the mound
Danish and not earlier than 795. The Danes and Norwegians
had however other work to perform — work which was to them
much less unpleasant, and much more after the taste of sea-



Greenmount— Section of Passage.
Found in 1870.



Bone Harp Peg found at Greenmount, 1870
(Bearing traces of marks of the friction of the harp string).

Representing a similar Runic inscription to that found at Greenmount.
Discovered at Maghekilde in Seeland, 1S66.


Chap. I. — Kilsaran Parish.


Bronze Axe found at Greenir.ount, 1870

Greenmount Mote, and its Contents. 19

faring marauders, than the piling up by exhaustive manual
labour of immense structures such as Greenmount, which
must have taken considerable time to complete. The Irish
must have been very indifferent indeed to the doings of the
Danes, if they allowed them day after day peacefully, to con-
struct in their midst a fortress such as this : — but we know
that in this very district the Danes met considerable op-

Those therefore who can think that it was constructed by
men with a sword in one hand and a wheelbarrow in the other
(if we may use an Irish bull) are welcome to their own sup-
positions. Mr. T. J. Westropp, M.R.I. A., F.R.S.A.I., who is
probably the greatest living authority on Irish motes and
mounds, believes that these " forts " generally existed prior
to the Danish invasion ; while he sees evidence in the ex-
istence of the sword plate at Greenmount and in the rings of
earth which surrounded the forts that the Danes did occupy
them as residences.

He holds that Greenmount was undoubtedly residential,
and not (as Seward in his Topographia II Hernial. 1790, and
others regarded it) a burial place of some prehistoric chieftain
(see Journal R.S.A.I., vol. xxxiv., part iv., pp. 319 et seq.
See also Westropp's paper in the Trans. R.I. A., vol. xxxi..
part xiv.). It may, however, have been used for both purposes.
The mote at Greenmount must have been originally con-
structed in rude times by a settled people, and that takes us
back much earlier than the Danish period in Ireland.

The workmen engaged in excavating the mote in 1870
acted like other workmen that we sometimes read of, in Greece,
Egypt and Palestine, and took good care that there should
be a " find " now and again. Among other things therefore
was dug out an apothecary's weight, which certainly was not
ancient, and a pair of elk's horns, which had really been dis-
covered in a neighbouring marsh and placed in the mote over-
night. The latter passed into the possession of the owner
of the laud where they were found, Mr. Arthur Macau, D.L.

20 Chap. I. — Kilsaran Parish.

Two other pairs of elk's horns had previously been found in
the bed of the River Glyde during drainage operations, and
were at the time sent to the Dublin Museum. An exception-
ally fine pair, figured in Louthiana, is still to be seen in the
hall of Barmeath Castle, in this neighbourhood, the residence
of Lord Bellew, Lieutenant of this County.

The Elk's horn carries us back to prehistoric times, when,
in the words of Miss Lawless " the great Irish elk stalking
majestically over the hill looked down with contempt and
scorn on the pigmy Formorians," clad in nature's garb,
skulking in woods and caves.

We find that Greenmount was used, during 1641, as a camp
for the native forces (Inquisitions of Cromwell) ; and again
during the Williamite wars was a rendezvous for part of James'
army (Bellingham Diary). The mound has been scheduled as
a National Monument under the Ancient Monuments Pro-
tection (Ireland) Act, 1892. Mr. Henry Morris wrote a short
but interesting description of the mound for the Louth Archae-
ological Journal, 1905, pp. 21-22.

An ecclesiastical establishment was impossible at Kilsaran,
while the Danes camped at Greenmount, so that we hear
nothing about the church in the Annals until 991, when
" Diarmid, Lecturer of Kilsaran and Abbot of Cluain Edne
[i.e., Clonenagh, in Queen's Co. — the celebrated monastery
of »St. Fintan], died."

Knights Templars and Hospitallers Preceptory. — The next
subject of importance connected with Kilsaran is the Precep-
tory of the Knights Templars, which had been established
there. The Military Order of Knights Templars was originally
founded with the object of protecting pilgrims proceeding to
Jerusalem, but soon developed into a powerful politico-
religious Order. Preceptories, so-called from the Latin words
Praecipimus tibi — (" we enjoin you ") with which invariably
the Orders or Commissions from the Master of the Temple to
the administrators of branch establishments began, were
district establishments for administering the property and
furthering the interests of .the Order.

Preceptory of the Templars. 21

According to Harris's Ware, Kilsaran Preceptory was
founded by Matilda de Lacy in the twelfth century. The ruins
of this preceptory are marked on the later issues of the six
inch Ordnance Survey Map on Kilsaran Farm, the property
of Mrs. R. W. Walsh of Williamstown, near the River Glyde,
as " Site of Abbey." They are now non-existent, having been,
I am told, used for building purposes many years ago. Some
of the cut stones of the Abbey, it is said, were built into the
new Roman Catholic Church at Kilsaran and others were
used in the building of cottages. This preceptory at Kilsaran
is referred to in the Ordnance Survey Letters as follows : —

" The country people say that in Kilsaran Parish there was a
College (called in Irish Cui|ic 0-\n) [perhaps from the white mantles
of the knights] in which there were 700 men helonging to the
Knights Templars, who, it is said, though ecclesiastics, used to
go about at night robbing, and had a pass from their establish-
ment to Ardee, part of which yet remains, running from the River
Glyde nearC. Bellingham for about J a mile towards Bragganstown.
This is a passage about 20 feet wide hanked up on both sides to the
heighth of a man, so that they could not be seen on their passage
[This probably refers to a part of what is called The Narrow Lane].
It is said that they changed their horses shoes every night, in order
that the tracks in the passage might not agree with them."

The presence of the Order was evidently not an unmixed
blessing to the neighbourhood, but it is very probable that
their memory suffers from association with their successors
in the Preceptory. They were certainly very powerful ; and
the Kilsaran Preceptory owned, at one time, the tithes of at
least 17 parishes in Louth, for in the Plea Rolls. 32, Edward I..
(a.d. 1304) " John of Kylsaran was summoned to give in to
the Master of the Templars his accounts whilst receiver of the
tithes in Kylsaran, Gernonstown, Rochestown, Atherde ( Ardee]
Archerstown, Larblester, Cremartyn, Drostrithel [Philips-
town], Kilmaymok [Kildemock], Keppok, Mullanery ( Moy-
lary], Portlyneran [Port], Kyltanelagh. Donany, Mayn-
braddath, Maynath [Mayne], and Drogheda, and he acknow-
ledges he owed 100s." It is very likely therefore that the
Templars were not popular with the farmers generally, nor

22 Chap. I. — Kilsaran Parish.

with the secular clergy. They were, moreover, Anglo-Nor-
mans, and therefore a sort of English garrison in the eyes
of the people — who had not yet forgotten the Danes.* But
these ecclesiastical warriors soon fell on evil times. Their
wealth brought suspicion upon them and their rapacity made
them detested. Early in the fourteenth century the King of
France, with the assent of the Pope, suppressed the Order in
his dominions. Edward II. in England soon followed his
example, and a mandate for the same purpose was sent to
Ireland. This was carried out on 3rd February, 1307. Their
lands were seized ; and many of the chiefs of the Order im-
prisoned in Dublin Castle in 1309. They were brought to
trial, and in 1312 condemned — their chief accusers being
Franciscans and Augustinians, and their judges three Domini-
cans. There is a suspicion that the jealousy of these Orders
had as much to do with their condemnation as their guilt,
which was indeed questionable.

An inventory of the lands, goods, and chattels which the
Order possessed in Ireland exists in the Library of the British
Museum, and a copy will be found in the Reeves MSS., T.C.D.
The late Dr. R. Caulfield published a translation of portion
of the MS. in the R.H. and A. Society's Journal (see vol. xii.,
P- 373)- From this we find that Kilsaran Preceptory possessed
revenues out of the Parishes of " Kylsaran, Gernounston,
Kyldemock, Kylpatrick, Kyltanelagh, Drostroyl [i.e., Philips-
town], Cremartyn, Portlyneran [Port], Molanery [Moylary]."
Kilsaran inventory is one of the fullest. In it " Nicholas of
Drumcath " accounts for tithes which he bought from the
Templars in Kylsaran and Drostroyl, Roger Gernon for the
issues of the Church of Gernounston, Stephen Gernon for the

* Since this was written the Author has read Mr. C. Litton
Falkiner's interesting paper on the Knights Hospitallers (Proc.
R.I.A., vol. xxvi.), and notes that he says, pp. 296-7 : — " It is clear
that the two Orders [Templars and Hospitallers] performed between
them many of the duties of a garrison, and that the Preceptories
. served as so many citadels of Anglo-Norman authority
in the country. . . Normans and strangers to a man,"
neither " seemed to have had the smallest sympathy with the
native Irish."

Goods of the Templars. 23

issues of the Church of Portlyneran, Friar Thomas de Lyndes-
eye for the issues of the Church of Gernonston and the produce
of Kylsaran; Adam, Vicar of Kyldemock, and Robert, Clerk,
for the issues of the Churches of Kyldemock and Kylpatrick,
Walter Douedale [Dowdall], Vicar, " for the issues of the
Churches of the Templars in County Louth," Robert Madowe
(clericus ?) for the issues of the bailiwick of Killsaran, Stephen
Gernon for the issues of the Churches of Molanery, Kyltenaght
and Cremartyn, and Adam Fulshawe and Adam Johannis
[Johnson] for the produce of Kilsaran. A valuation of the
household goods of the Templars in Kilsaran was taken
" In presence of Hugo, guardian of the manor, and two legal men
neighbours in said places, viz. : — Roger Gernoun and Roger,
Clerk, of Maundemleston, on oath before Benedict le Hauberge,
Sheriff of Louth, and the sum of goods, lands and churches and
debts found to be £42 14s. 8jd."
This inventory reminds one of a modern auction list, and is
given below because it throws considerable light on the life
and manners of the Templars. It is interesting to compare
the prices in 1307 and those realised at a recent auction within
the " Manor."
'• In the Chamber of the Guardians of said House : —

1 couch, 1 canvas and 2 linen coverlets. ;i canopy for the couch, i a mark.

2 measures, called wy teles, worth . . . . -/-

I robe made of dyed wool, worth .. .. $ a mark.

1 robe of network, worth .. .. la mark.

1 overtunic of camelyn, worth .. .. 3/-

1 military clonk, worth . . . . C/-

1 pair of coffers, and 5 hoods, furred, each . . 10d.

1 sack made of a hide, with 1 cash and bench, .. 1 a mark.

1 tunic of russet, worth .. .. .. -/-

1 basin, 1 lavatory, .. .. .. I8d.

2 travelling garments, each . . . . 12d.

1 manuel, . . . . . . . . 6d.

2 liueu coverlets, .. .. .. 18d.

2 ells of white Irish cloth, per ell, .. .. 3d.

3 Lambs fleeces. . . . . • • 9d.
In the Hai.i, : —

4 tables with a trestell 1 dish, 4 bacons and a half, S/-
1 care as of beef, . . . . ■ . 3/-
4 carcases of sheop, each .. .. .. 6d.


Chap. I. — Kilsaran Parish.

1 lavatory, . . . . . . . . lOcl.

1 flagon and a half of honey, . . . . 12d.

In the Cellar : —

1 peck of oatmeal, . . . . . . 12d.

1 peck of malt, . . . . . . 6d.

1 peck of oats for brewing, . . . . 9d.
a mazer, . . . . . . . . 3/-

2 goblets, each . . . . . . 6d.

1 travelling cloak, . . . . . . 12d.

3 do. of canvas, .. .. .. 18d.

2 flaketti (?), .. .. .. 12d.

4 joustes or liquid measures, each . . . . Id.

1 handfield (?), .. .. .. ^3/-

2 axes, .. .. .. .. lOd.

4 penetralia, which are called awgers, . . 8d.

1 rock of iron, . . . . . . 3d.

1 hoe, .. .. .. .. Gd.

1 hammer for breaking stones, . . . . 4d.

1 bill for cutting thorns, . . . . 2d.

1 large knife' for cutting bread, .. .. 2d.

1 hamper of hide, bound with iron, . . . . 16d.

1 empty cask . . . . . . 6d.

3 kune (?), .. .. .. .. 2/-

1 chest without the cover, . . . . 6d.

10 pecks oats for brewing, in same chest, . . 2/8

1 harrow . . . . . . . . 2d.

In the Chapel : —

1 gilt chalice, . . . . 1 mark.

3 towels for covering the altar, each . . 6d.

3 pair of vestments, each . . . . 15/-

3 bordures for the vestments, . . . . 9d.

1 ere wet of pewter, . . . . Id.

1 missal, . . . . . . . . 40/-

1 breviary, . . . . . . . . 6 marks.

1 book containing Psalter and Graduate, i a mark.

1 Psalter . . ... . . . . 2/-

A certain part of the 1st book of the written law, 5/-

1 small image of B.V. of Tnero, and 1 great bell, . . 3/-

1 very small bell, . . . . . . Id.

In the inner Chamber near the Chapel : —

1 chest in which are 2 pecks oats for brewing, each 6d.

In the Kitchen : —

3 brasen pots, . . . . . . 10/-, 8/-, 4/-

2 vessels for washing the hands, each . . 12d.
1 dish, 12d. ; 1 dish, 2d. ; 1 gridiron, 6d. ; 1 tripod, 5d.

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(From Wright's Louthiana; reprinted from Co. Louth Archaeological Journal, 1905.)

The Templars and their Successors. 25

In the Bakehouse : —

2 furnaces, each 10/- ; 1 meseune (?) with a trough, 5/-

3 wedges each, 8d. ; 1 bake trough, 1 tub for kneading, 2/-

1 crannock of oats for brewing, . . . . 4/-

In the Grannery : —

8 crannocks of corn in sheaves, each . . 40/

2 horses, Bayard, the palfrey of Guardian . . 20/
Another horse, iron grey . . . . 20/

2 heifers, each . . . . . . 3/

1 pottage dish . . . . . . 12d

19 oxes, each . . . . . . 3/

2 carts with the irons, each . . . . 3/
6 rakes, each
1 two wheeled cart,

2 spades, each
10 cows, each
10 oxen, each



8 score sheep, each . . . . 4d.

44 swine, each . . . . . . . . 6d.

2 bodies for the wagons, each . . . . 3d.

Do. for the cart . . . . . . 3d.

1 press for making cider, which does not act

3 pairs of wheels for the wagon, . . 12d., 18d., 5d.

7 J selions (?) each, 5d. ; 50 acres of corn sowed, at 40d. per acre.

A certificate, dated 5th December, 1326, gives the value of
the possessions as £53 6s. lid., and debts owing to the Temp-
lars at Kylsaran as £62 13s. 4d. (Hore iv., 268).

We may gather from the above that the Order in Kilsaran
did not include more than three priests, that they were not
very studious — having no books but their service books, and
" a part of the 1st book of the written law," probably a part
of the " Canon Law " — that they lived comfortably, and that
farming and brewing were their principal occupations. The
Chaplain's name is given as " John de Egge."

When they were dispossessed of Kilsaran, we find that the
Manor was granted in 1310 to De Burgh, Earl of Ulster, but
it must have passed out of his hands soon after, as it is not
found among his possessions at his death in Inq. 7 Ed. III.
(1323-4.) In the Plea Rolls, 12 Ed. II., m. 98 (1319-20), the
Manor of Kylsaran is said to have passed into the King's
hands with other possessions of the Templars, and Roger


26 Chap. I. — Kilsaran Parish.

Gernoun, jun. and Roger Gernoun, sen., are called to answer
for the cleaning of the Templars mill pool. Certain things
[the roll is here defective] are said to have been found in the
pool when last cleaned and repaired. It is curious that this
mill pool, or, as it is called to-day — " the Monks' fish pond,"
is the only thing that can be pointed out now, as marking the
site of the preceptory. Mr. James Walsh is endeavouring to
trace the site by help of local tradition. Mr. Herbert Wood,
B.A., (to whom the writer has been indebted for much help
in ascertaining the history of this Preceptory) has recently
read a very interesting paper on the Knights Templars in
Ireland before the Royal Irish Academy, which has been
published in the Proceedings of that Society.

The Preceptory, with the Manor attached, and the tithes
of the parishes already mentioned, must have soon passed
with the possessions of the Templars in Ireland to the Knights
Hospitallers, or the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The origin
of this Order dates back to 1023, when the merchants of
Amalfi obtained permission from the Caliph of Egypt to
establish a hospital in Jerusalem for the use " of poor and
sick Latin pilgrims." The Order, as formally instituted and
sanctioned in 1113 by Pope Paschal II., contained Knights of
Justice, Chaplains, and Serving Brethren, holding the triple
vow, and living under the rule of St. Augustine.*

To facilitate the collection of rents — the chief income of

the Templars and Hospitallers — Commanderies — first called

preceptories — were formed, but these gradually acquired the

character of branch establishments where candidates were

received and the same observances practised as in the parent

convent. It is probable that there is some truth in the popular

tradition that a large number of young men received their

education in the preceptory of Kilsaran, which became more

powerful under the Hospitallers than it had been under the


* The Templars wore, as a distinctive dress, a white mantle with a red
cross of 8 points over the left heart. The Hospitallers wore a similar cross,
but white on a black ground, until 1278-9 when they wore a plain, straight
cross upon red when engaged in military duties. In Harris's Ware, and
Archdall'a Monastieon these dresses are shown in engravings.

The Knights Hospitallers. 27

In 1328 the entire bailiwick and commandery was given to
Friar Adam de Mor (possibly a member of the family of More
of Barmeath) at a rent of 24 marks annually, to which was
added in 1331 the church of Cappog. (King's Collectanea.) In
1418 Thos. le Botiller, Prior of Kilmainham, raised an army of
8,000 men in Ireland to fight for King Henry V. at Rouen.
Very probably Kilsaran, one of the largest preceptories in
Ireland, contributed its share by a contingent from Louth.

In 1438 the Manor of Kilsaran, value 100 marks per annum,
was seized into the king's hands and so continued down to
1444, for the liquidation of £300 forfeited, because Thomas
Fitzgerald, Prior of Kilmainham (obit. 1438) broke his recog-

Online LibraryJames B LeslieHistory of Kilsaran union of parishes in the County of Louth, being a history of the parishes of Kilsaran, Gernonstown, Stabannon, Manfieldstown, and Dromiskin, with many particulars relating to the parishes of Richardstown, Dromin, and Darver, comprising a large section of mid-Louth → online text (page 2 of 35)