Anthony Cogan.

The diocese of Meath : ancient and modern (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 48)
Online LibraryAnthony CoganThe diocese of Meath : ancient and modern (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook








" Kemember the days of old, think upon every generation : ask thy father, and he will
declare to tkee : thy elders, and they will tell thee. Deut. xxxii. 7.





VOLUME the First of this work was received so favourably
by clergy and laity; the approbations of Archbishops,
Bishops, and other dignitaries were so encouraging ; the
reviews and notices in the Press and periodicals were so
complimentary ; and the private letters of congratulation
from eminent Antiquaries were so numerous and flatter-
ing, that I felt it a point of honour, as well as of duty,
to prosecute my researches, and thus to endeavour, as
well as I was able, to compile a full and complete Eccle-
siastical History of the Diocese of Meath. In order to
accomplish this undertaking satisfactorily, I requested
leave of absence, for a few months, from our late Bishop,
Dr. Cantwell, in July, 1863 ; and, having obtained it, I
went on my pilgrimage to Westmeath, King's County,
and throughout the diocese. I sought every source
whence I could derive information ; consulted the Parish
Priest, the Curate, and the well-informed laity of each
parish ; visited the Crosses, the holy wells, the ruined
churches, the places of refuge, and the secluded spots,
still sacred to memory, where the Holy Sacrifice was


offered up, by stealth, in the days of persecution.
Difficulties, of course, abounded, the greatest and most
tedious of which were to trace the unbroken succession
of Pastors, in each parish, since the year 1690. How-
ever, the Presentation List* of James II., the Registration
List of 170 4-, inscriptions on the pedestals of chalices,
family letters and records, occasional old Registries, lists
of subscribers in old books, parochial commemorations of
the dead, the grave-stones in the church-yard, together
with the Registries of Dr. Plunket, discovered for me the
missing name, and thus enabled me to supply the link
required in the chain of Pastors, in almost every parish
throughout the Diocese of Heath.

If a complete history of the Irish Church is ever to be
written if the holy men who sleep in our grave-yards,
who served God and Ireland faithfully in their genera-
tions, are to be duly honoured amongst us, and their
examples of constancy and fidelity to be held up as
objects of imitation, no tune is to be lost ; for the change
of language, the struggle for life since the famine years,
the barbarous and suicidal expulsion of the people to
make way for cattle, the exodus to the land of the free,
under whose stripes and stars the Irish exiles have inva-
riably found a home all these causes tend to obliterate
from the mind many of the ancient traditions, and hence,

* Diocese of Mcath, vol. i., pp. 405-8.


each succeeding year, to multiply the difficulties of Irish
ecclesiastical research. Dr. Lombard, subsequently Arch-
bishop of Armagh, writing in the year 1600, remarked,
that if the sufferings of the Irish people for the faith were
made known to the world and, said he, in his own good
time God w ill surely make tliem known "it would at
once be seen how our island is not only adorned with the
early glory of its confessors, but is still more decorated
with the heroic fortitude of its martyrs." What Dr.
Lombard wrote of his times can with equal truth be pre-
dicated of subsequent periods ; and even at the present
day, in this boasted age of liberality and progress, the
living God alone can adequately reveal the innumerable
ways in which the poor of Ireland are harassed, oppressed,
persecuted, and ground to the dust, for their devotion to
the Catholic religion.

Much, undoubtedly, has been done, with laudable zeal,
by Protestant as well as by Catholic writers, to preserve
our records and to chronicle the deeds of our forefathers ;
but much still remains to be done ; for, until each diocese
has its separate history (and ample materials abound for
such), the ecclesiastical annals, antiquities, and traditions
of Ireland shall be altogether incomplete.

To remedy such a national grievance, to' make the
Irish people familiar, with the trials, the sufferings, the
constancy and triumphs of their ancestors, to supply our


Church with a history commensurate with her merits and
dignity, there is, thank heaven, still in our midst a
living, a venerable, an all-powerful authority : I mean
the Hierarchy of Ireland, which has only to will it, and
all shall be accomplished which has only to utter words
of commission and encouragement, and forthwith the
names and memories of many of the saints and scholars,
of the martyrs and confessors of holy Ireland, shall be
rescued from oblivion and neglect. In every diocese
there are numbers of Priests, full of ability, learning, and
zeal animated with a chivalrous love of religion and
country who, if they be duly patronised by their Bishops,
will cheerfully and successfully apply themselves to the
meritorious work ; and it need not be added, that their
Lordships, by such an act of praiseworthy and patriotic
encouragement, would justly entitle themselves to the
grateful remembrances and benedictions of the Irish
people, at home and abroad. In compiling this book,
materials so accumulated that I am necessitated to pre-
pare a third volume, in order to include the Abbeys of
Westmeath and King's County, and a variety of other
interesting Diocesan Memoranda ; and as without a Map
the work would be incomplete, I hope in the next to sup-
ply such a requisite.

In conclusion, I beg to thank my numerous correspon-
dents, throughout the diocese and elsewhere, for the


friendly interest they have manifested towards the success
of the " DIOCESE OF MEATH," and to assure the public
that as I have compiled this volume proprio motu, and
on my own responsibility, my errors are my own no
one, unless the Author, is responsible for them.

I have now, as I believe, discharged a most sacred duty
to my beloved country I have, I trust, supplied the
noble and patriotic Diocese of Meath with a History
which, with all its shortcomings, shall, it may be hoped,
stimulate others more competent to cultivate our long-
neglected ecclesiastical literature ; and I shall regard it as
my reward and crown, on this side of the grave, if an
ecclesiastic in each diocese imitate the humble Author,
and give to the world, in language more eloquent, the
" Gesta Dei per Hibemos."




Dr. William'Walsli ......]


1. Vacancy of the See. 2. Persecutions. 3. Failure of the Pro-
testant Reformation in the Diocese of Heath . . 5


I. Dr. Dease. 2. The Insurrection of 16-fl. 3. The Catholic Con-
federation. Death of Dr. Dease . . . . 2?


1. Vacancy of the See Oliver Dease, V.G. 2. Dr. Mageoghegan
The Puritan Persecution. 3. The Remonstrance Death of
Dr. Mageoghegan ...... 59


1. Dr. Patrick Phmket. 2. The Remonstrance. 3. Translation

to Heath Correspondence and Death of Dr. Plunlcet . 96


1. Dr. James Cusaek. 2. Dr. Patrick Tyrrell. The Vacancy of

the See . . ..... 129

1. Dr. Luke Fagan. 2. Dr. Stephen MacEgan . . .153


rllAl'TKI! VIII.


1. Dr. Augustine Chevers. 2. Dr. Eugene Geoghegan . , 163

1. Dr. Patrick Joseph Plunket. 2. Visitations . . .176

1. The Visitation of 1782 . . - . . 186

1. Visitations in 1785. 2. In 1786. 3. In 1787 . . U'<

Visitation of 1788 202

Visitation of 1789 . . . . . . . 10

Visitation of 1790 ... .217

1. Duleek. 2. Johnstown. 3. Rusnaree,orDonore. 4. Stamullen 231


I. Ardbraccan. 2. Carolanstown. 3. Carnaross. 4. Castletown-
Kilpatrick. 5. Clonmellon. 6.Drumcondra. 7. Eniskeen

8. Grange. 9. Kells. 10. Kilberry. 11. Kilbride. 12.
Kilskyre. 13, Moynalty. 14. Nobber. 15. Oldcastle.

16. SyMnn 257


J. Athboy 2. Ballivor. 3. Bective. 4. Dunboyne. 5. Dun-
shaughlin. 6. Kilcloon. 7. Kildalkey. 8. Kilmessan.

9. Longwood. 10. Moymet. 11. Moynalvey. 12. Navan

13. Rathmolyon. 14. Ratoath. 15. Summerhill. 16. Trim 343




1. Castlejordan. 2. Castlepollard. 3. Castletown-Delvin. 4.
Castletown-Geoghegan. 5. Cliurchtown, or Dysart. 6.
Fore. 7. Killucan 8. Kinnegad. 9. Mayne. 10. Mill-
town. 11. Moyvore. 12. Mullingar. 13. Multifernam.
14. Eochfort-Bridge. 15. Sonna. 16. Turin . 395


1. Ballimore. 2. Clara. 3. Drumraney. 4. Eglisli. 5. Frank-
ford. 6. Kilbeggan. 7. Kilkenny-West. 8. Rahin. 9.
Tiibbar. 10. Tullamore . 492



Succeeded 1554. Died 1577.

DR. WILLIAM WALSH, of whom a short notice appeared
in our last volume,* was born, most probably, in Dun-
boyne, County Meath, joined the Cistercian order, and,
by apostolic dispensation, became a member of the Canons
Regular of St. Augustine. He visited Rome, officiated as
chaplain in the palace of Cardinal Pole, professed Theo-
logy, became Prior of Duleek and Colpe, and Rector of
Loxeudy, County Westmeath. At the suggestion of Car-
dinal Pole, he was nominated to the see of Meath/f- and,
by special commission, was associated with the zealous
Primate, Dr. Dowdall, in healing the wounds inflicted on
religion during the disastrous reigns of Henry VIII. and
Edward VI., and in expelling from the sanctuary the false,
impenitent brethren who had shamefully betrayed their
sacred trust. He was consecrated about the close of 1554,
and immediately proceeded in the visitation of his extensive
diocese, denouncing vice, reforming the abuses which had

* The Diocese of Meath, pp. 104-110.

t Meath was regarded as an English see, in consequence of its position
in the Pale ; and the Kings of England had been accustomed to write to
Rome for the appointments of its bishops, as for the prelates of England.
At the time of Dr. Walsh's succession the see was impoverished, as the
Church property had been plundered during the previous reigns. See Dr.
Moran's very valuable work on the Catholic Archbishops of IJublin, vol. i.,
jart i., p. 52.



crept in during the days of schism and heresy, and .ani-
mating all to renewed fervor in the practices of religion.
His remarkable piety and charity, his wonderful zeal and
spotless life, rendered him an object of love and veneration
to the people ; while his great learning, unbending ortho-
doxy, and filial devotion to the Holy See", overwhelmed
with confusion the enemies of the faith. Four years of
unremitting labor, of apostolic zeal and efficiency, had
scarcely passed by, when Elizabeth ascended the throne
of England, set herself up as a ruler and a director
of God's Church, and unsheathed the sword of perse-
cution against all who refused to embrace her novel-
ties. Dr. Walsh, like a faithful bishop, nothing daunted,
preached boldly and fearlessly against these innovations,
and warned his flock to sacrifice everything in this
world, even life itself, rather than renounce one iota of
their faith. For refusing to acknowledge the Queen's
spiritual supremacy, he was imprisoned* by the Lord
Lieutenant; and the new female Pope, the impersonation,
forsooth ! of Scriptural truth and of ecclesiastical freedom,
as a mark of her royal displeasure, ordered him to be kept
under close arrest. Incarceration and penalties having
failed to intimidate the noble confessor, they next pro-
ceeded to depose him as far as these laymen could depose
him and to deprive him of his temporalities that is, of
his means of living as a punishment for his want of pli-
ancy, for his fidelity to his vows. On the 16th of July,
1565, Loftus, Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, one of
the royal commissioners, wrote to Sir William Cecilf that,
on the 13th of that month, by virtue of their commission,
they had put into prison, in Dublin Castle, Dr. Valsh,
late Bishop of Meath, for refusing to take the oath of
supremacy, and to subscribe to the new formularies of

* Ware's Annals place this event in the year 1560. See Diocese of
Meath, p. 108. Two of the head commissioners wrote to the Privy Council
in 1564, that "we thought good that they meddle not with the simpla
multitude for the present, but with one or two boasting Mass-men in every
shire. "- Shirley, p. 140.

f Shirley's Original Letters, p. 219.


religion. He adds that Dr. Walsh protested in open
court, in presence of all the people, against the new doc-
trines, as irreconcilable with conscience, and opposed to
God's word ; that he would never be present at such ser-
vices, or hold communion with those who adopted them ;
and concludes by observing that Dr. Walsh "is one of
great credit amongst his countrymen, and upon whom (as
touching causes of religion) they wholly depend." In a
word, the agents of the Reformation admitted that Dr.
Walsh, by his learning and influence, was one of the most
formidable antagonists to the Queen's novelties, and hence,
that for the diffusion of Protestantism, and the uprooting
of ancient worship, he ought to be put out of the way.
Queen Elizabeth never spared a foe. She hated the
Catholic Church with a fiendish hatred ; she resolved to
extirpate it from her dominions, and she sacrificed all
persons, without distinction of age or sex, who dared to
disobey her edicts. In the pride and plenitude of her
power, she passed laws against the Mass, the invocation of
saints, the venerable authority of the Holy See ; she wel-
comed the right 'of private judgment in order to abrogate
ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but she took care to punish with
fine, imprisonment, and death, all who presumed to judge
otherwise than as she judged herself. Dr. Walsh, of
course, knew well what he had to expect for opposing
such a fanatic ; but he resolved, like St. Thomas of Can-
terbury, even at the peril of his life, to vindicate princi-
ple, to resist all lay encroachment on Church authority,
and to guard his flock, as he was bound^ against the snares
laid for their ruin. As a punishment for his loyalty to
God, and fidelity to his sacred trust, he was arrested in
the Queen's name, and re-conducted to his former prison,
which was a " subterraneous dungeon, damp and noisome
not a ray of light penetrating thither."* Here for thirteen
years he suffered with the constancy of a martyr, until
his persecutors, at length vanquished by his firmness,
connived at his escape. Dr. Moran, from authentic, as

* Archbishops of Dublin, p. 131.

B 2


well as unpublished records, thus describes the close of
our bishop's life, the termination of his sufferings, and his
happy death :*

" During all that time (of his imprisonment in Dublin) his
food was of the coarsest kind ; and, with the exception of rare
intervals, when the intercession of some influential friends ob-
tained a momentary relaxation, he was allowed no occupation
that could cheer the tedium of his imprisonment. In all this
lengthened martyrdom prayer was his resource, and, as he
himself subsequently avowed, he oftentimes passed whole days
and nights overwhelmed with heavenly consolations, so that
his dungeon seemed transformed into a paradise of delights.
To preclude the possibility of idleness, he procured a bed made
of twisted cords, and whensoever his mind was fatigued with
prayer, he applied himself to untie these cords, and often was
he well wearied with the exertion before he could reunite them,
to compose himself to sleep.

" His persecutors, overcome by his constancy, and finding
his fervour in spiritual contemplation a continual reproach to
their own wickedness, at length, about Christmas, 1572, con-
nhi-il at his escape. Sailing from our shores, his only regret
was to abandon the field of his spiritual labours, and to leave
his flock defenceless amidst the many enemies that now com-
passed its destruction. His friends had provided a ship bound
for Bretagne. For sixteen days he was tossed on the waves by
a violent storm, and was at length driven in shipwreck on the
coast of France. Weighed down with the infirmities which
he contracted in prison, and with the burden of more than
sixty years, he was compelled to remain for six months un-
known and abandoned in Nantes. At length, receiving aid
from the Nuncio, he proceeded to Paris, and thence to Spain.

* Dr. Moran consulted the Fasciculus SS. Ord. Cistcrcicn, and Mendo-
oium Ordin. C'istercicn, compiled by Hcnriijuez; also a fragment of an Ita-
lian Martyrology of the Cist-n ians, written in the seventeenth century,
nd preserved in tin- Valicellian archives; and three letters, written by
])]. Walsh, which ho discovered in the archives of the Vatican. See not.-
nn !>! ].;i,'c KMi of the Catholic Archbishops of Dublin. In a fni^menlary
accountof the Irish Church, compiled in 1580, preserved in the Vatican
archives, then- is reference to Dr. Walsh in the following words : " Meath
is vacant by the death of William Walsh, who died in Alcala two years
ago, suffragan of the Archbishop of Toledo." Irish Ecclesiastical Record,
r, 1SOC, p. 14!.


The closing years of his life were spent in Alcala. A noble
Spanish lady received him into her house, and attended him
as though he were an angel from heaven. The sores which
yet remained from his dungeon-chains she kissed as the tro-
phies of his martyrdom ; she would allow none but herself to
wait on him, and on her knees she usually dressed his wounds
and ministered to his wants. From this asylum of charity,
thus providentially prepared for him, he passed to the convent
of the Cistercian fathers in the same city, and there, on the
4th of January, 1577, he happily closed his earthly life, which,
as many attested, he had never sullied by any stain of mortal
sin. His remains were placed in the collegiate church of St.
Secundinus ;* and he is still held in veneration by his Cister-
cian brethren as a holy martyr in the cause of the Catholic

The reader shall find in Dr. Moran's Catholic Arch-
bishops of Dublin (Appendix to Introduction), and in
the various interesting tracts and letters published in the
Ecclesiastical Record, and by Dr. Brady, Rector of Do-
naghpatrick, abundant evidences of the fidelity of the
Irish Episcopacy in the reign of Elizabeth, and a satisfac-
tory refutation of the statements put forward by some
Protestant writers, viz., that in the sixteenth century the
Irish Catholic Church merged into the Reformation.



1. Vacancy of the See.

WE have seen that Queen Elizabeth deposed Dr. Walsh,
as far as she could, deprived him of his temporalities, and
shut him up for thirteen years in a dungeon, for his fide-

* St. Secundinus, or Seachnall, was the first Bishop of Dunshaughlin,
County of Meath. See notices of this saint in Vol. /., pp. 55,50, 367, &c.


lity to the Catholic Church, and for zealously resisting
her heresies. Dr. Walsh, however, was still Bishop of
M<>;itli, with full spiritual powers, was recognised by the
H oly See, by the Catholic world, and was obeyed as such
by the flock committed to his charge. On the 21st of
October, 1563, an apostate named Hugh Brady was in-
truded, by letters patent of Queen Elizabeth ;* but he
was never regarded by the Catholics of Ireland otherwise
than as an alien and an impostor, whose mission was de-
rived from lay usurpation, and not from the legitimate
authority of the Church. As a reward for his pliancy of
conscience, and as a stimulant to advance the cause of the
Reformation, Queen Elizabeth, by letters patent, in virtue
of her assumed spiritual supremacy, united the diocese of
Clonmacnoise to that of Meath, and placed Dr. Brady over
both ; but in this arrangement the Holy See was neither
consulted, nor did it acquiesce.

The Irish Church was at this tune perilously situated,
in consequence of the new penal code, and the spirit of
hostility with which it was enforced. Apostates and aliens
were now thrust upon her, who were pampered with the
temporah' ties of which she was shorn, whose sympathies
were anti-Irish, and who were upheld in their unbridled
power with all the resources of the State. Thus, while
wealth, influence, worldly honor, and promotion, awaited
recreancy and apostacy; fidelity to a sense of duty, devo-
tion and zeal to the Catholic Church, were doomed to
calumny, imprisonment, exile, or death. The Irish sees,
deprived of their bishops, were, however, not abandoned
to the fury and fanaticism of the enemy of the faith. The
watchful eyes of Rome were ever upon them, and the ten-
der solicitude of the Holy Father made provision for their
spiritual necessities even in the worst of times. Thus,
when the see of Dublin could not be filled in consequence
of the persecution that raged, and while Dr. Ridrml
Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, lay manacl'-l in the
Tower of London, imprisoned for the faith, Dr. Walsh

Calendar of the Patent foils, p. 485.


then immured in his dungeon in Dublin, received special
faculties from Rome, not only for his own diocese, but for
the ecclesiastical provinces of Dublin and Armagh.* After
his departure, other surviving prelates were charged with
the custody of the diocese of Meath, were furnished with
all the necessary powers, and, under these bishops, the
vicars appointed to the vacant parishes, absolved from
censures, supervised the clergy, and had the administra-
tion of the diocese. In 1609 we find Rev. Cornelius Staii-
leyf- governing the diocese as Vicar-General, and, after
him, Rev. Dr. James Plunket,* an eminent ecclesiastic,
exercised similar jurisdiction for several years.

2. Persecutions in the Reigns of Henry VIII., Edward
VI., and Elizabeth.

We have seen in Vol. I. that the monasteries and con-
vents of Meath were all plundered and dissolved in the
reigns of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. ; their inmates
expelled ; the gold and silver ornaments of their churches
chalices, ciboriums, crucifixes, images, vestments, jewels,
altar-plate, and altar-linen, were sacrilegiously robbed;
and that their estates, the bequests of the faithful for
pious and charitable objects, were confiscated to the
Crown were sold to fill the coffers of a profligate king,
or were distributed as bribes to stimulate the zeal and
activity of the agents of the Reformation. We have seen
how even the hospitals, alms-houses, parochial churches,
chantries, crosses, and shrines, were not spared ; how the
votive offerings of the faithful were carried off; how all

* This appears in a Registry of Briefs, dated April 8, 1575. See the
Irish Ecclesiastical Record, December, 1866, p. 147.

t Wadding Papers, Home quoted in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, De-
cember, 1866, p. 148. %

J Dr. Moran, when in Rome, discovered in an old Record, dated 1625,
mention made of Dr. James Plunk et, that he governed the see of Meath
for many years as Vicar-General. Many proposed him for the mitre pre-
vious to the appointment of Dr. Dense.

In the Regal Visitation, preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, tlierc is
notice of this Rev. James Plunket : " 1615. James Plunkett, priest,
Y.G. of "Westmeath, living at Killalou, in the house of Lord Killeen."


the monuments of the faith and piety of our forefathers
were subjected to indignity, robbery, and defilement;
how the Catholic feelings of the people were recklt^ly
outraged, and how, as if a horde of Goths or Vandals
swept over the land, nothing remained but dismal ruin
and desolation to mark the progress of the Reformation.
Amongst the many objects of popular veneration at this
time in the diocese, were the images or statues of the
Blessed Virgin in the Abbeys of Navan and Trim,* and
the image of Chiist crucified, in the Abbey of Ballybo-
gan. Pilgrims, rich and poor, from all parts of the island,
periodically resorted to these places of devotion. Miracles
were performed here century after centmy, as our annal-
ists testify ; and great, assuredly, must have been the hor-
ror and indignation of the people when such cheri>ln-<l
objects of reverence, hallowed by so many sacred memo-

Online LibraryAnthony CoganThe diocese of Meath : ancient and modern (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 48)