Rathkeale Online


Augusitinan Abbey (St. Mary's Priory)

Rathkeale Abbey was founded by one Gilbert Hervey for the Augustinian Canons of the Order of Arosia in the year 1280. It was endowed by Elinor Purcell, Herveys niece, with the 10th loaf of every baking, the 10th flagon of every brewing, the 10th pork, the 10th mutton and a large portion of every ox killed in the Manor of Mayer (Croagh).

In 1290 a law suit was carried on between Thomas Le Chapelin, Guardian of the house of St. Senan of Scattery Island, and Benedict, Prior of St. Marys, Rathkeale. In 1307, Hugh, son of Elinor Purcell was sued by the Prior for not fulfilling the grant made by his mother. The law-suit ended in a compromise - Hugh agreeing to give yearly to the Prior, 2 crannogs of bread corn, 3 crannogs of oats on the Feast of St. Michael and 4 porks on the Feast of St. Martin forever.

In 1318 Thomas Purcell was Prior of the Abbey. He was accused of violence at Croagh. In 1463 Pope Pius III addressed a letter to the prior of Rathkeale, containing instructions about conferring the Rectorship of Randbarad, diocese of Ardfert on David Fitzmaurice of the same diocese.

The Monastery " owned the Mill and a great Island (Masseys) and a large part of the water weir. There were six ploughlands and six quarters and it all belonged to the Church with all kinds of tithes. There was great discord between Gerald-n-Cora, head of the Geraldines and the McCarthy Mores who said that the said Geraldines took the best lands of the McCarthys in Glenquin (Clenian) and had given for the same in the Church in Dun Downall, in Connelloe, six days there and six days given by Ridelagh in his own town, Riddlestown" The Geraldines took McCarthys place of sepulchre and gave him instead, right of sepulchre at Glenarold, these ruins are situated adjacent to Rathkeale, and we are all well acquainted with our picturesque River Deel and the lovely wooded island, one of the favourite walks of Rathkeale folk young and old.

In 1513 Thomas Hayes bound himself to the Apostolic Chamber for the first fruits of the Priorship of "The Blessed Virgin, order of St. Augustine, Rathkeale.

From this until the suppression of the monasteries in Ireland there does not seem to be any record that would trace its history. According to an Inquisition held in Elizabeths reign it was in the posession of Gerald Baluff (Balfe). He was killed during the Desmond Rebellion. The Abbey was afterwards granted to Sir H. Wallop. In "Peytons Survey", 1586 the following account of the posession is given:-"it was found that the site of the Monastery - a castle called Cam-ne-Monaster, alias The Castle at the head of the Monastery - together with 20 gardens, one of which was called the Priors Garden, contained three acres; 20 more acres in Temple Trenode in Rathkeale, 8 acres in Ardagh, 8 acres in Callow, 10 acres in Nantenan "very bad land", total 53(?)acres.

O'Dowd says that "The original building must have been destroyed for the present structure is not later than the 16th Century". It was reported many years ago that the bell of the Abbey had been discovered and given to the local bell-man but no more is known of its whereabouts. (Possibly given to Jim Murray, the last bell-man in Rathkeale). The following article appeared some years ago in a local paper:-"An Appeal: There is a very fine window in Rathkeale Abbey. I would appeal to our local learned and energetic member of the County Council,Mr D.J. Madden, and our new member Mr. Richard Magner to save it and the remains of the building from the further ravages of time and weather"

In recent years the ruin has been perserved and the surrounding grounds landscaped and developed as the town's park.

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