Durrow County Offaly.
Reprinted from Lewis' Topographicla Directory of Ireland 1837
Durrow, a parish, partly in the barony of MOYCASHEL, county of WESTMEATH, but chiefly in that of BALLYCOWAN, KINGS county (Offaly), and province of LEINSTER, 2¾ miles (N.) from Tullamore, on the road to Kilbeggan ; containing 5192 inhabitants.
This parish, which is also called Dervagh, was distinguished at a very early period for its sumptuous monastery, founded by St. Columb, in 546, and also for an abbey of Augustine Canons, which was subsequently founded and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. Columb. The latter establishment, which had been endowed with the town of Durrow, by Aed McBrenaynn, King of Teaffia, who died in 585, was plundered in 832, by Fethlemid, son of Crimthan, who slew the monks and burned the town ; and after having been repeatedly destroyed by fire, was, in 1175, plundered by the English, who laid waste the adjacent country.
In 1186, Hugh de Lacy, while superintending the erection of a castle on the ruins of the monastery founded by St. Columb, was killed by one of the labourers, who, indignant at the profanation of the sacred spot, struck off his head with an axe while he was stooping down to give directions.
In 1557, Simon Clifford built here the castle of Rahan O'Swaney, and also granted an annuity of 40s. to the abbey, which continued to flourish till the dissolution, when it was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Nicholas Herbert, who made it his residence, and from whose family (which took the name of Stepney) it passed to that of the Earl of Norbury its present proprietor.
The parish comprises 688 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. The soil is fertile, and the system of agriculture improving; there is only a small portion of bog, and the only waste land consists of sand hills. Limestone abounds and is quarried extensively for agricultural and other uses.
The principal seats are Durrow Abbey, that of the Earl of Norbury, situated in an ample and highly improved demesne, in which his lordship is erecting a spacious mansion in the ancient style ; Kilclare, of John Armstrong, Esq. ; Coolrain, of R. B. Slater, Esq.; Ballynamona, of R. Belton, Esq., and Rostella, of Dr. Naghten.
The linen manufacture was carried on here; and there was an extensive bleach-green, the property of Mr. Armstrong, in which about 50 persons were employed. The river Brosna, which bounds the parish on the north and east, and the Silver river, which bounds it on the south and west, afford facilities for trade ; on the latter a flourishing distillery has been lately established.
The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Meath, and in the patronage of the Earl of Norbury, in whom, and in H. Kemmis and J. Armstrong, Esqrs., the rectory is impropriate. The tithes amount to £223. 14s. 1½d., of which £146.0s.7½d., is payable to Lord Norbury, £60. 8s. 10d., to Mr. Kemmis, and £17. 4s. 8d., to Mr. Armstrong; the stipend of the perpetual curate is £80, payable by Lord Norbury.
The glebe-house is a neat residence, and the glebe comprises 25 acres, subject to a rent of £17. 10s. The church, a venerable and ancient structure, was repaired in 1802, by a gift of £450, and a loan of £50 from the late Board of First Fruits, and contains monuments to the Stepney and Armstrong families. In the churchyard is an ancient cross curiously sculptured with scriptural devices, which is supposed to have been brought from Scotland by St. Columb ; it is of a different kind of stone to any in the neighbourhood.
In the Roman Catholic divisions the parish is in the union of Tullamore ; the chapel is a very handsome edifice, in the later English style. There are three private schools, in which are about 200 children. Near the church is a holy well, dedicated to St. Columb. There are the remains of several towers, and also a large rath in the parish.
Read about Durrow Abbey.