History Recalled: A Tipperary Parish by Micheal MacCartaigh


A major event in the parish of Knockavilla-Donaskeigh took place in July with the publication of Micheal MacCarthaigh's book 'A Tipperary Parish: A History of Knockavilla Donaskeigh'. Michael MacCarthaigh, who was born in Kilmore in the parish in 1911, was a national school teacher and retired as principal of Knockavilla N.S. in 1977. He had been working on this book for a long time but, unfortunately, did not live to see its publication, having died in April 1985.

Soon after his death his friends in the parish suggested to the family that his book should be published. His niece, Siobhan Moran, undertook the task of editing and structuring the work for publication. A committee was formed in the parish as a back-up to her work and to organise the financing of the venture.

The committee also undertook the task of acquiring photographs and maps. Finally they made all the arrangements for the very successful launch of the book in the Golden Vale lounge, Dundrum on July 10.

The fact that over two hundred people attended the launching was a tribute to the standing of Michael MacCarthaigh in the parish of Knockavilla-Donaskeigh. Prior to the launching a special Sean O'Riada Mass was celebrated by Very Rev. Dean C. Lee, P.P,- Cashel. Among' the distinguished gathering were His Grace, the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Rev. David Woodworth, the Curch of Ireland Dean of Cashel, members of the author'sf amily, former friends and colleagues, Senator Willie Ryan, Chairman of the Tipp. S.R. County Council and Cllr. Jack Crowe, M.C.C. A most capable and efficient M.C. for the evening was Danny Morrissey, Principal Knockavilla N.S.

A Local History

The blurb on the dust-cover of this book states that the author 'brings national events to life by showing their effects on the people and landscape of his own locality. 'The personalities of landlord, priest and rebel stand out in a land where despite their wretched circumstances the people remain courageous and fun-loving.'

The author begins in the dim distant past with St. Patrick and his connection with the parish. Tradition has it that he crossed the Multeen river at Aughnagrosse. He mentions other connection.s between the parish ad the Golden Age which are recalled in the place names, old church names and the names of holy wells. He includes Lackenbredy, Kilshenane, Teampall Mhic Duach, Tobar Mhic Duach and Tobar Lacktin. One of the strongest points throughout this book is the author's thorough knowledge of placenames and their significance.

The O'Dwyers

The writer progresses through Gaelic and Norman times to a chapter on the most famous family in the parish the O'Dwyers of Kilnamanagh. A most interesting chapter on the early parishes follows: "The old parishes of Ballygriffin, Ballintemple, Oughterleague, Kilmore and Rathlynin are known to have existed as far back as the end ofthe 13th Century. They are mentioned in the Papal tax papers for the years 1291 and 1302.'

Another chapter deals with the castles in the parish, at Ballynahinch, Ballygrffin, Ballinaclogh, Grantstown and Killenure. The author tells us: "Ballinahinch castle was the strongest bastion of them all. It was built near the ford on the Suir. It belonged to the Burkes as late as the middle of the Sixteenth Century ..... and it was a Butler possession from the 1580s forward.'

The Civil Survey

The book gives us a list of the landowners in the" parish in 1640 according to the Civil Survey. There's an extraordinary number of O'Dwyers. From the Book of Distribution he gives the names of the landowners after the Comwellian Plantation, including Robert Maude, Randal Clayton, Mary Cotton, Thomas Shilburne, Richard le Hunt, Joshua Alien, Thomas Gower and others.

Fr. William O'Dwyer was registered in 1704 as parish priest of Balllntemple, Oughterleague, Rathlynn and Kilfeacle. He seems to have been succeeded by Fr. Philip O'Dwyer, about whom little is known. His successor was Fr. Timothy McCarthy who was present in the parish from 1752-76.

Fr. Matt Ryan

The book traces the lives of other priests up to the end of the 19th Century when one of the most famous of parish priests, Fr. Matt Ryan b­came parish priest in Knockavilla. Born in 1844 he came to Knockavilla in 1897 and the first thing he did was to build it church in Donaskeigh because 'in the old one at Ruane there were holes in the earthen floor and swallows flying in and out through the holes in the roof.'

Fr. Matt had been in prison on two occasions before he came to the parish and was already ori the way to being a national figure. He said on one occasion that he would 'never be loyal to what I think is wrong' and he found the whole landlord system totally wrong.

A teacher Edward Cussen, began teaching Irish in Knockavilla Boys' School, early in this century and Fr, Matt began studying, the language himself and became an enthusiast. He put his whole heart into the revival movement. He was determined that Irish would be taught in all the six schools in the parish and from that time forward no new teacher was appointed but one who was able and willing to teach Irish. One such apointee was Cormac Breathnach from South'Kerry who did not remain permanently. In time he became President of the I.N.T.O. and later of the Gaelic League.

In time he became President of the I.N.T.O. and later of the Gaelic League. He was elected T. D. and became Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Fr. Matt was responsible for organising the first feis in Co. Tipperary in 1904. A distinguished visitor to one of these feiseanna was Dr. Douglas Hyde. The author reveals a tremendous empathy with Fr. Matt and his aims. Michael MacCarthaigh carried on these aims himself at a later stage.

General History

The book continues down to 1923 and there are brief mentions of hurling and athletic activity in the parish. We learn that on the County Tipperary team that won the first cross-country championship of Ireland, both the team and the individual events, were two men from· the parish, Tim Crowe of Bishopswood and John J. Howard of Ballintemple. The pity is that the story did not continue beyond 1923 and that more of the stirring events of the twentieth century are not treated.

Although this is a history of the parish of Knockavilla-Donaskeigh the author places that history in the context of the wider scene of national history. Every chapter is prefaced by a resume of contemporary national events. While the idea was excellent the actual result is not a very happy one. Much too much of the book is devoted to an account of Irish history which could have been easily gleaned from a general history of the country. The book cried out for greater emphasis on the local. The chapter on Sinn Fein is an illustration. It contains very little inforfmation on what was happening in Knock;avilla-Donaskeigh and too much on natiorial events. Another example is

the Famine period. Where did the peole go? What areas of the parish were worst hit? Surely there must have been interesting letters in the parish from heart-torn emigrants that would have given the chapter some local flavour. Again, what impact did the coming of the railway have on the parish? What did it do for employment? Did it bring in new amilies? Did it change the life-style of the people? These questions are neither asked or answered. Surely more on the history of the schools in the parish would have been helpful. One hundred and ninety-four pages of the book are devoted to the period up to the Famine but only one hundred to the time since then that would b of so much more immediate interest to the parishioners.

But readers will probably regard this as mere carping criticism. And, perhaps it is unfair to the work of a man who dedicated his life to a love of his native parish. In this book he gave expression, on that love and the picture he paints is one at a fine and noble place. The book will be a monument to Michael MacCarthaigh's love of his own place. It will also be treasured by the people of the parish. Already they have expressed that appreciation by buying up virtually the complete edition of one thousand copies.



Post Advertiser, Sept. 25, 1986, Vol 2 No 8