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Archive for the ‘18th Century’ Category

Charles Topham Bowden embarked on a tour through Ireland in 1791 and like so many of his contemporaries he visited the county of Kilkenny. One small paragraph is devoted to a stop he made while travelling from Carlow to Gowran and on to Kilkenny. The passage reads[1]:

A gibbet was a gallow that an executed criminal was displayed from to deter further criminal activity. You can read more on caves in Kellymount and the Kellymount gang.


[1] Topham Bowden, Charles. 1791. A tour through Ireland. Dublin: W.Corbett

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Many areas of the world have historical stories about gangs of bandits and robbers. Depending on the evidence consulted, they can be ruthless killers or Robin Hood type folk heroes. Ireland is no different and there are many examples of Tories[1], highway men and rapparees[2]. One of the most well known bands of outlaws was the Kellymount gang. This group of men committed many robberies in the late 1730s before being captures in 1740.

In the fifth volume of his tome on Irish history, Ireland and Her People, Thomas W.H. Fitzgerald refers to the year 1740 as the year of the “Kellymount gang outrages”.[3] The leader of the gang was a man by the name of Brenan. This name is synonymous with the north Kilkenny area.[4] An unflattering account is given of him in Reilly’s Dublin Newsletter of 1740: “Brenan is said to be a man of very mean appearance, has a freehold of nine pounds per year, near the coal pits, but, renting one of the coal pits, and not succeeding, he started this gang”.[5] From 1738-1740 the gang was said to number about thirty men[6] and roamed areas of counties Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly and as far west as Galway[7].

A more sympathetic view of the gang is given in a 1902 anti-establishment publication: “Their head-quarters seem to have been Coolcullen Wood, about seven miles from Kilkenny……..They were so formidable that a strong military force had to be sent against them. This gang committed no murders, disdained to take anything but money, horses, and sheep; sometimes divided their plunder with the starving people; and had in the outset pledged their honour not to rob any of the gentlemen of the County Kilkenny.”[8]

While the gang members seem to have come from many areas of north Kilkenny, their association with Kellymount most likely comes from them frequenting the area. Just eight years after the demise of the gang a travel writer wrote about visiting an inn in Kellymount that the gang used to regularly frequent.[9] Later in the century, a traveler in Ireland reported in 1791 that he was shown a cave in Kellymount that the gang used as a meeting place.[10]

Eventually, Brenan, and other gang members were captured in Galway and this led to their demise. He was taken to a jail at Nenagh, Tipperary and then onto another jail at Clonmel, Tipperary. Here, in September 1740, he died of the wounds that he sustained during his capture.[11] Darcy, another gang member, was tried in Carlow and hanged with his head fixed on the courthouse.[12]



[1] From the Irish word tóraidhe. Generally meaning a man who is pursued, it was given to soldiers who fought for the Confederacy against Cromwell’s forces and then became outlaws and highwaymen.

[2] From the Irish word ropairí. They were originally Irishmen who fought in the Williamite Wars in the 1690s and were known for fighting with pikes. Subsequently, the term was used for highwaymen

[3] Fitzgerald, Thomas W.H. 1909. Ireland and her people; a library of Irish biography, together with a popular history of ancient and modern Erin, to which is added an appendix of copious notes and useful tables; supplemented with a dictionary of proper names in Irish mythology, geography, genealogy, etc. Volume 5. Chicago: Fitzgerald Book Company. p.786.

[4] MacLysaght, Edward. 1985. The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

[5] Madden, Richard Robert. 1867. The History of Irish Periodical Literature form the end of the 17th Century to the middle of the 19th Century. London: T.C. Newby. p.277

[6] Connolly, Sean. 2008. Divided Kingdom: Ireland 1630-1800. Oxford: OUP. p.321.

[7] O’Rourke, John. 1902 (3rd ed, republished in 2008). The History of the Great Famine of 1847. Middlesex: The Echo Library, p.29

[8] Ibid.

[9] Chetwood, W. R., 1748. A Tour through Ireland in Several Entertaining Letters: Wherein the Present State of That Kingdom Is Consider’d … Interspersed with Observations on the Manners, Customs, Antiquities, Curiosities, and Natural History of That Country … London: Printed for J. Roberts

[10] Topham Bowden, Charles. 1791. A tour through Ireland. Dublin: W.Corbett

[11] Madden, Richard Robert. 1867. The History of Irish Periodical Literature from the end of the 17th Century to the middle of the 19th Century. London: T.C. Newby, p.279.

[12] Ibid., p.280

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There are a number of articles in various local Australian newspapers about the life of Thomas O’Rourke. He was born in Paulstown on 8 September 1844[1] and emigrated to Australia with his mother, father and sister about December 1867.[2] His three brothers had emigrated before the rest of the family. He lived until he was 95 years of age and died on 24 August 1940.[3]

Some of the articles refer to his life before he moved to Australia. He talked about how he worked as a farm labourer in Paulstown and that the wage of the time was 4d (pence). The landowner that he worked for used to feed his workers and they were given “stir about” to eat.[4] This was a dish of coarse meal that was well boiled and eaten with milk. They were given this three times a day and got potatoes now and then. O’Rourke only ate meat once in his life before moving to Australia, stating that “I only tasted meat on one occasion and that was when my father and I were in Paulstown one day – we had a chop between us”. [5]

O’Rourke even had links to people in Paulstown who were born in the late 1700s. He outlined in one interview that when he was a boy an 80 year old man used to visit their house and tell them “tales of the early days”.[6]


[1] Author Unknown, Mr. T O’Rourke Celebrates 94th Birthday in The Longreach Leader, 10 September 1938, p.19; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[2] Author Unknown, A Race for Life in The Longreach Leader, 1 December 1937, p.16; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[3] Author Unknown, Death of Mr. T O’Rourke at Longreach in Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 26 August 1940, p.8; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[4] Ibid.

[5] Author Unknown, Mr. Thomas O’Rourke Celebrated 95th Birthday in Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 13 September 1939, p.9; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

[6] Author Unknown, Mr. T O’Rourke Celebrates 94th Birthday in The Longreach Leader, 10 September 1938, p.19; digital image, National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 1 April 2011

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In the grounds of Shankill Castle there are the ruins of an old church and graveyard. This church would be quite old as it is shown in ruins on the Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland from the 1830s-1840s period.

Towards the end of the 19th century an organization called the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead was formed in Ireland. Members of this group spent their spare time visiting graveyards and transcribing the information on headstones, vaults and tombs. Many of these graveyards are in a total state of disrepair today and that makes the journal published by the association very valuable.

In the journal for the year 1900, a Mr. C.J. Hobson writes about how he visited this church and graveyard and transcribed what he could.[1]The relevant genealogical information from his transcriptions are reproduced below.

Elizabeth Ayleward, alias Butler, died 21 October 1708.  She had two daughters. Monument erected by her husband Peter Aylward in 1719.

John Gorges Hely Mulhallen of Malcolmville, Carlow died 1 April 1860 age 66. Erected by Frances.

Mary Cody, alias Purcell, died 31 February 1782, age 51 years.

Dennis Ryan, died 9 May 1800, age 70 years.

Erected by Michael Cooke in the memory of his father Thomas Cooke, late of Kellymount, died 16 December 1801, age 70 years. Headstone carved by John Brennan, stone-cutter, Royal Oak

Gregory Murphy, died 29 April 1768, age 21 years.

Michael Murphy, died 26 January 1771, age 60 years. Erected by his son Michael. Also, son Joseph died 26 December 1787, age 45 years.


[1] Hobson, C.J. 1900. Shankill or St. Kill Parish in Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead. Vol.4 No.3 Part 1, pp.432-434.

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During the 19th and 20th centuries the parish priest was a dominant personality and the enforcer of morality in the parishes, villages and towns of Ireland. The list below gives the names of all those who have served as the priest in the parish of Paulstown. The parish of Paulstown and Goresbridge was created circa 1822 with an entry in the Graiguenamanagh parish registers stating that “1822 – About this time Goresbridge was taken from this parish and with Paulstown, made a separate parish.[1] Today, according to the website of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, the parish is called Paulstown.[2]

The list of priests from Michael Brennan (1833-1851) to the current priest, Fr. Laurence Malone, is to be found in chapter fourteen of Paulstown Schools Past and Present.[3] To supplement this list, I have added examples from other sources where their names were also found. I have also found some examples of priests who served in Paulstown from before the time of Michael Brennan.

1618                        Sir Edmund Seix, listed as someone who says mass and sometime stays with Sir Richard Butler of Pawlestown[4]

1704                       Anthony Forstall, listed as PP of Graiguenamanagh and Paulstown[5]

1704                       William Walsh[6]

1731                       William Walshe,listed as PP of St. Kill and Kilmacahill[7]

1733                       William Walshe[8]

1741                       Dr. Walter Jacob[9]

1766-1783           Paul Cullen, listed as PP of Leighlin, Wells, Shankill and Kilmacahill.[10] He could have served as priest before 1766 as this year is the first time he is mentioned in documents as the priest of this area

1796                       William Cullen[11]

1824-1829            Daniel Nolan[12]

1830-1833            James Maher[13]

1833-1851            Michael Brennan[14]

1851-1870            Bernard Kinsella[15]

1870-1901            Patrick Joseph Mulhall[16][17][18]

1901-1934            Richard O’Brien[19] (See footnote)

1934-1948            Mark Walshe

1948-1950            James Breen

1950-1962            Cornelius Brennan

1962-1977            James Kavanagh[20]

1977-1978            Pierce Kavanagh

1978-1996            Sean O’Laoghaire

1996-2000            James O’Connell

2000-2004            Tom McDonnell

2004-2011            Laurence Malone

2011-Current        John McEvoy


[1] Comerford, Michael. 1886. Collections Relating to the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin Vol 3. Dublin:J Duffy and Sons. p.336.

[2] Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. 2011. Parishes. Available at: http://www.kandle.ie/parishes/paulstown/ : accessed 28 February 2011.

[3] Paulstown History and Education Society. 2007. Paulstown Schools Past and Present. Kilkenny: Grange Silvia Publications. p.101

[4] Comerford, Michael. 1886. p.335.

[5] Carraigan, Canon William . 1905. History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory Vol 3. Dublin: Sealey, Bryers and Walker p.412

[6] Ibid. p.281. Walsh could have taken over from Forstall in this year or it could be a mistake on the part of Carrigan to list two different priests in the same year.

[7] Comerford, Michael. 1886. p.335

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid. p.336

[11] His name is on a tablet in the current Roman Catholic Church as the serving priest when the church was built in 1796.

[12] Catholic Record Society of Ireland. 1984. Archivium Hibernicum. Unknown vol but between 39-44

[13] Boase, Fredrick. 1897. Modern English Biography. Truro: Netherton and Worth. p.1622.

[14] House of Commons. 1836. House of Commons Papers: Report from Commissioners, Poor Law Ireland Col XXXI.  p.72

[15] Kavanagh, James. 1865. Catholic Directory, Almanac and Registry for Ireland, England and Scotland. Dublin: John Mullany. p.189

[16] Keogh, Canon. 1872. The Irish Catholic Directory, Almanac and Registry. Dublin: John Mullany.

[17] Bassett, George Henry. 1884. Kilkenny City and County Guide and Directory. Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker. p.318

[18] The National Archives of Ireland, 1901 Census of Ireland, County Kilkenny, DED Paulstown, Townland/Street Kellymount, Form A, Number on Form B 1 (stamped), house 1, Patrick Mulhall; digitial image, The National Archives http://census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1901/Kilkenny/Shankill/Kellymount/1449156/ : accessed 21 February 2011: original manuscript not cited.

[19] In the 1911 Census of Ireland Richard O’Brien is listed as a curate and living in Goresbridge. Peter Kavanagh is listed as a priest and living in Paulstown.

The National Archives of Ireland, 1901 Census of Ireland, County Kilkenny, DED Paulstown, Townland/Street Paulstown, Form A, Number on Form B 1 (stamped), house 12, Peter Kavanagh; digitial image, The National Archives  http://census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1911/Kilkenny/Paulstown/Paulstown_Town__part_of_/567547/ : accessed 21 February 2011: original manuscript not cited.

[20] Duffy, J. 1968. The Irish Catholic Directory. p.164

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Topographica Hibernica or the Topography of Ireland Ancient and Modern…..was written by William Wenman Seward and published in 1797. The book gives an account of many different area in Ireland including the townland of Kellymount.   The relevant section discusses the Kellymount Gang and a battle fought between the inhabitants of Carlow and Kilkenny over the boundary between the two counties. I am currently not aware of what battle the article refers to.

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The extracts below are from the whimsically titled A Tour Through Ireland in Several Entertaining Letters written in 1748 by W.R Chetwood.[1] On his journeys Chetwood travels from Cork to Dublin.  Over three pages he discusses what seems to be the areas around Paulstown.  The passage from the book comes after he has left Kilkenny and before he comes to modern day Bagenalstown and Leighlinbridge in county Carlow.

He refers to the ‘seats’ of two men, but for some reason does not spell their name in full. However, A —–D and F—D  would correspond with Aylward and Flood, the two principal land owning families in the Paulstown area at the time. The description he gives of the house in which A —– D lives also corresponds with Shankill Castle, where the Aylward family lived.

He then gives a detailed account of stopping at an inn where the Kellymount Gang are known to frequent. Kellymount is a townland which forms part of Paulstown village. He describes in detail how they became so notorious that “the whole country trembled at this name.”

The extracts below are from pages 205-207 of the publication. For a better understanding of some words, the ‘f’ shaped letter should be replaced with the letter s.


[1] Chetwood, W. R., A Tour through Ireland in Several Entertaining Letters: Wherein the Present State of That Kingdom Is Consider’d … Interspersed with Observations on the Manners, Customs, Antiquities, Curiosities, and Natural History of That Country … London: Printed for J. Roberts …, 1748. Print.

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