Athboy – Baile Atha Bui. Book and additional information below.
Town of Yellow Ford. – yellow mud in the river. Said to be used as a ford by travellers on their way to Tara
Athboy’s original street led from the region occupied by the Fairgreen now, over the Yellow Ford (which gave its name to the town), through the churchyard, along Church Lane, across the present street and so out into the west country via Bunboggan Lane.
Hill of Ward and Tlachtga first local site – Halloween. It was also there that Hugh de Lacy lost his head. In the mid-twelfth century Tigernán Ua Ruairc, chief of Breffni, had been granted east Meath by the High King and was not prepared to give this up to Hugh de Lacy who had arrived with the Norman English in the early 1170s. A meeting on Tlachtga was arranged between the two men. Both were to come alone and unarmed to discuss the limits of their territories. Two men went up the Hill to negotiate but only one came back down – Hugh de Lacy. On one side it is asserted that Ua Ruairc produced a battle axe from beneath his robe and attacked de Lacy while on the other side it is alleged that Ua Ruairc was treacherously killed and beheaded. His headless body was sent to Dublin and gibbeted with the feet upwards on the northern side of the city with his head erected over the door of the fortress.
Athboy got a charter in 1497. Carmelite order came about 1300.
Town captured by Eoghan Roe O’Neill in the 1640s.
John Bligh got the land from Cromwell and a planned town.
Athboy had a number of castles – about 7 I think and there was one here on the street where the old street north south ran.
Old Darnley Lodge Hotel
Arriving in Ireland in 1649 it is alleged that Cromwell camped on the Hill of Ward. One story is that Cromwell had his cannon turned on the Plunkett family as they approached the Hill of Ward to discuss truce terms. All the Plunkett family were killed in an instant. Lady Plunkett who was watching from the tower of Rathmore Castle saw what happened and was so shocked that she fell to her death. There is tradition that John Bligh received Rathmore Castle and estate from Cromwell on the Hill of Ward. It was believed that Bligh was granted all the land he could see from the top of the hill. He could see Rathmore, Athboy, Ballivor and Kildalkey, 28,000 acres in all and his descendants held the lands until 1908.
John Bligh an adventurer. In 1694, the town’s ‘lands and commons’ and several other denominations of land were erected into a manor and granted to Thomas Bligh. His son, John, was created Earl of Darnley in 1725 and the Blighs (Earls of Darnley) were landlords of all but six of the 27 townlands in the parish of Athboy throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
The 3rd Earl of Darnley, an eccentric bachelor, who suffered from the delusion that he was a teapot. In 1766, when he was nearly fifty and had held the family title and estates for nearly twenty years, Lord Darnley suddenly and unexpectedly married; and between 1766 and his death in 1781 he fathered at least seven children, in spite of his initial alarm that his spout would come off in the night.
Ivo Bligh, the eighth earl of Darnely, was captain of the England cricket team in 1882 and made the throwaway remark joking that he had come “to regain the ashes”.
Darnleys sold the town of Athboy in 1909. Estate offices up until 1948.
Connaught St. – Said to derive its name from the people who were fleeing from Cromwell’s soldiers after siege of Drogheda – passing through Athboy on their way “to Connacht or Hell”
St. James Church RC Constructed in 1845
Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh statue. Born 1863 at Ballyfallon, Athboy. Died 1899 Los Angeles California. Irish priest and scholar.
Irish language had almost disappeared when O’Growney was young but he took an interest in it and studied it. He edited the Gaelic Journal (Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge), He was ordained priest in 1888. He was appointed in the re-established Chair of Irish at Maynooth in 1891. His Simple Lessons in Irish, first published in the newspaper the Weekly Freeman, proved so popular that they were published in booklet form. There were five books in the series.
He was a founding member of the Gaelic League, which was created in Dublin in 1893 “for the purpose of keeping the Irish language spoken in Ireland”, and later became its vice-president.
In 1894, failing health caused him to go to Arizona and California, where he died. Some years after, with the aid of Irish sympathisers in the United States, his body was brought back to Ireland. He is buried in the cemetery attached to St. Patrick’s College Maynooth.
Statue by Liam de Paor unveiled in 1956 by President of Ireland Sean T. O’Kelly.
Frankville House -Frankville House was erected on the western end of Athboy town on the Delvin road. A two storey three bay house of late Georgian appearance with Wyatt windows and an enclosed porch the seat of the Walsh family before becoming a Convent for the Sisters of Mercy.
The house was originally called Greenville but its name was changed to Frankville. The Earl of Darnley was the owner of the property and the house was used to accommodate his land agents. The Coggle family resided in the house for a period. The manager of the Athboy branch of Ulster Bank resided in the house until the 1940s when the premises was acquired by the Sisters of Mercy who ran a secondary school in the building and then erected a school in the grounds. This school became a community school and the Sisters disposed of the house in 1998.
Alms Houses – where McIlhenneys Ladies shop was. Alms Houses 1790s. No social welfare. Wretchedly built – Inhabited by 12 widows in the 1830s In Trim Mr. Briddock left money for clothes for the poor of the parish. In Athboy Mr. Cusack left a sum of money to train apprentices. This was in the 1700s. The last grant given in the 1920s to a young lady learning the new art of typewriting.
Thomas Charlton lived at Mount Charlton estate, Curraghtown not far from Navan in the 1700s. He lived with two spinster sisters. Around 1780 at the age of 75 Thomas decided to marry, thus depriving his sisters of his estate. On the night before the wedding the two sisters did something to Thomas so that he could never be a father.
Charlton vowed that his sisters would not get a penny out of his estate so in his will he set up a Trust to administer his estate. The interest from the money which was recieved for his land was to be divided between the sons and daughters of day labourers in Meath and Longford who married in that year.
The Charlton Fund is still in operation over 200 years after it commenced. There are separate Protestant and Roman Catholic committees. The husband must be over 21 years of age and under 40. The wife must be over 18 and under 40. Thomas Charlton, the founder of the Charlton fund, is buried in the graveyard at Ardbraccan.
This was the church sexton’s house and was converted to a library in 1985.
St James Church of Ireland
James a Norman Saint – Santiago de Compostella. St. Jamers’ day was 25th July and the saint was used in areas where the worship of Lugh was common in pagan times. Lughanasa was early August a festival of the harvest when people went lunatic. Dancing at Lughansa. Lugh of course gives his name to London, Lyon and Leiden.
St. James’s Well
St. James’s Well is located south of the Church of Ireland church, on the boundary of the townlands of Glebe and Town Parks. The well was said to have been opened during a time of plague and its waters were found to be of great efficacy in relieving the stricken people. Some say that the well arose in 1575 when the Annals of the Four Masters recorded a drought, in which no rain fell ‘from Bealtaine to Lammas’, which resulted in disease and plague. The saint’s feast day is 25 July. People went to the well on the saint’s day to obtain water. If the water was rubbed on sore limbs the pains went away.
Frederick Harvey, the son of the clergyman. Alfred T. Harvey served as rector of Athboy from 1885 until 1898. Harvey played rugby for both Wander’s and Ireland. Harvey emigrated to Canada in 1908 and worked as a surveyor. In 1915 he joined the Canadian Mounted Rifles. Harvey was posted to the Western Front in 1916. He was awarded the Victoria Cross following an incident in March 1917 at the village of Guyencourt. During an attack by his regiment on the village, a party of the enemy ran forward to a wired trench just in front of the village, and opened rapid fire and machine-gun fire at a very close range, causing heavy casualties in the leading troop. At this critical moment, when the enemy showed no intention whatever of retiring, and fire was still intense, Lt. Harvey, who was in command of the leading troops, ran forward well ahead of his men and dashed at the trench, jumped the wire, shot the machine-gunner and captured the gun. His most courageous act undoubtedly had a decisive effect on the success of the operations. Harvey was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Order but this was later upgraded to a VC. For an action in1918 Harvey was awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre. After the war Harvey remained on with the Canadian Army, reaching the rank of Brigadier General in 1939. He died in Calgary, Alberta in 1980 aged 91. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Military Museums, Calgary. It is the only V.C. currently on display in the world that shows both sides of the medal.
Town Walls of Athboy.
The tower was part of the Carmelite monastery founded here about 1300. This monastery was erected in honour of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, and, in 1317 land was given by William de Loundres to the monks.
Stranger’s Corner – North side of the tower. A Celtic stone head of a man with his mouth open apparently shouting is built into the North side of this tower about 15 ft above ground level. There is a legend that as the devil was once an angel he can’t be entirely excluded from Christian places of worship or graveyards; but he is only allowed the North side, so men and boys were employed in olden days to go up into the tower and shout and make a lot of noise so as to drive him away.
Vault in graveyard to The Cusack-Lutwidge high altar tomb – now in church. The date is thought to be most likely the end of the 15th century. The tomb was very fractured and pieces of it were found in different places but were all put together most successfully
The Archbishop of Armagh was rector of the church of St. James, Athboy.
Underground passage from Doctor’s House under the graveyard to the Danescourt. Used for body snatching for young doctors. Watch huts in the graveyard to prevent grave robbing. Bodies had to be fresh and there was no refrigeration so fresh bodies were required. To prevent body snatching iron coffins were used also used were grave slabs or spiked grave surrounds. The body snatchers would dig at the head of a grave with a wooden spade – a metal one would cause more noise. When they reached the coffin they broke through and attached a rope around the corpse under the arms and pulled the body from the grave. Or else attached a hook. The police guarding the graveyard were doing the graveyard shift. Bodysnatching was a grave matter.
The Edinburgh resurrectionists including Burke and Hare changed their tactics from grave-robbing to murder, as they were paid more for very fresh corpses. The Anatomy Act of 1832 allowed human corpses to be used for learning purposes. This allowed unclaimed bodies and those donated by relatives to be used for the study of anatomy, and required the licensing of anatomy teachers, which essentially ended the body snatching trade.
Souperism – The Rev Edward Nangle (1799-1883) was born in Kildalkey, Co.Meath. He was a clergyman of Evangelical tasted. Educated at the University of Dublin (TCD) he was rector of Athboy and at Arvagh in Cavan. He had poor health. He was Secretary of the Sunday School Society of Ireland and acted for a Printer of Religious Tracts. He is most famous for his work on the Achill Mission, founded by him in 1831. Achill was a protestant proselytising ministry, operating from a colony that included a Church, hospital and a school. The buildings still stand at Dugort. Needless to say the Roman Catholic hierarchy was alarmed by his work – particularly after it had some initial success in attracting converts, through an Irish Language Ministry. Archbishop John McHale thundered against it. During the Great Famine (1845-49) the accusation of ‘Souperism’ was made and stuck. The mission was accused of using food as an enticement to convert. In 1854 he published a useful introduction to the Irish Language. By the year 1879 his opponents had beaten him down and intimidated many of his followers. A remnant of protestant faithful remained at Achill but many emigrated.
The Jap – The demesne of the Darnley Estate at Clifton Lodge just outside the town was sold in 1909 to Welsh explorer Mordecai Jones.
A Japanese valet named Konishi, in the employ of Mrs Jones of Clifton Lodge, Athboy, Co. Meath, was killed, it is alleged, by the Lodge gardener, Peter Farrell. Konishi had been employed for ten years by the recently deceased husband of Mrs Jones, and on his death she had moved to England leaving the Lodge under the care of the valet. It was reported in a preliminary court hearing yesterday that Konishi and Farrell had been heard arguing over what should be done about a stray cat, and that the dispute had ended in a scuffle between the valet and the gardener. The three adult sons of Farrell had also joined in the attack on the valet.
Three days later Konishi had disappeared, and his body was later found in woods surrounding the property. He had been shot, and Farrell has been charged with his murder. A number of witnesses were called, including a parlour maid and an under-house maid, and all recalled seeing the two men arguing and hearing Farrell threaten that he would kill Konishi. None of the witnesses had seen the fatal attack on Konishi, but all recalled hearing gunshots. Mr Olphert, RM, remanded Mr Farrell and his three sons for a week to allow further investigations. Not long after Jones’ death in 1913 his Japanese manservant Sanotic Koniste was found murdered in a field not far from Clifton Lodge. Both Jones and Koniste are buried in the graveyard of St. James’ Church.
Danescourt had a room if locked at night would be open in the morning.
Danescourt House is located off the Main Street of Athboy, to the south of the town. The house is known by various names including Danson’s court, Dunstan’s court and Dnacescourt. The two storey house was erected about 1770 and has a double height hall addition to the east and an older block set perpendicularly to the west. In 1901 the house had seventeen rooms, twelve windows at the front and ten outbuildings. Athboy Cricket club had its grounds in Danescourt demesne.
Danes court was erected on the site of the Carmelite monastery of Athboy. The Carmelites came to Ireland about 1260, and one of their four chief houses was in Athboy. The monastery included an hospital and a house of hospitality. In 1540, the Abbot of Athboy was forced to surrender the property, which boasted a church and belfry, a cloister, a stone tower, a mansion, eight messuages (houses) and four acres of meadow at Adenstown called Friars’ Meadow. In 1543, the monastery was granted to Thomas Casey and it was later turned into a horse mill.
In the 1830s Danescourt was described as a good two storey house. In the 1850s John Webb was leasing Danescourt from Mrs. Warner.
In the 1870s Thomas Willet Donaldson lived at Danescourt. His daughter Rosalie Mary married James Brunton Stephen’s, a Scotsman who achieved fame in Australia for his humorous poems.
In 1901 Ivon Price, district inspector, R.I.C. and his family were living at Danescourt and owned the property. In 1911 the house was the property of Catherine Moore and was lived in by Archibald Rutherford.
Metal Footbridge – Original street of Athboy ran north south and crossed the river here.
Athboy Railway Station The Athboy Railway Line started in 1858 but the landowners were looking for too much money so the rail company worked on another line but the landowners came to an agreement and the line opened on 1864, at the end of a branch from Kilmessan via Trim. The Midland and Great Western Railways were green and purple in colour – very distinctive. The station suffered severe damage from a bomb blast during the Civil War in 1923.
It closed to passengers on 27 January 1947 and to goods traffic on 1947, but the branch remained open for livestock trains until final closure on 1954. The station building, and the nearby engine shed, are now private residences.
Fair Green – Last Saturday of the Month. Possibly first site of town or sports area or area of assembly at bottom of hill for Samhain festivals. Fairs finished in 1955 and the Green developed as a public park in 1999.
The Mall – Soup distributed during the Famine
Athboy Lodge – Now demolished, Athboy Lodge, stood on the edge of Athboy town on the road to Kells. The old Vocational school now stands on the site of the house. Still surviving from the house are the stables, the walls of the walled garden and a tunnel which was possibly used as an ice house.
The house was probably constructed about 1800. The house was probably constructed by the Hopkins family. The Dyas family came to Athboy from the Kilbeg area where they also held lands. In the 1850s the lands at Fosterfields were held by John Dyas.
Nathaniel’s brother, Harry Dyas, came into possession of Athboy Lodge. Harry lived at Boltown, Kilskyre. There are many tales told locally about his strictness with workers. He once shot an egg out of an eggcup sitting on his steward’s head. When asked the steward said he was going to be shot at whither he had an egg on his head or not. A solicitor and farmer Harry Dyas bred the horse, Manifesto, which won the Grand National in 1897. Dyas sold the horse in 1898 and the horse came back strong to win the 1899 Grand National for his new owner. The favourite that year was “Gentle Ida”, another horse that had been owned by Harry Dyas and was still kept in his stable. After Manifesto’s death his skeleton was donated to a veterinary college in Liverpool and is still there to this day.
A technical school was established in Athboy in 1935, initially in the rented Civic Hall, until Athboy Lodge could be adapted as a school. Athboy Technical School was officially opened on 1938. Meath VEC decided to proceed with the erection of new technical school at Athboy on 28 June 1952. The gardens of Athboy Lodge became the site for Athboy Co-op Creamery while the stables became a pig mart for a short period. Tennis grounds were also constructed. Athboy Co-op is the reason I came to Meath in 1980 and I well remember exploring the tunnel under the garden.
Bridge dates to the 1400s
Mill House – Detached three-bay two-storey house, built c.1820, with lean-to outbuilding to east gable.
Mill – Newman’s Mill 1836 – An extensive flour mill in the town obtains its supplied of corn from the surrounding farmers and from Navan. Another of Athboy’s biggest businesses in 1916 was Newman’s Mill located on Bridge Street. A mill had been in existence here since at least the late 1700s but in 1878, the business was in severe financial difficulties, under the stewardship of the Cassidy brothers. The mill was bought by the Newman Family in 1878 and the business thrived under the management of Thomas A Newman until his death in 1939 at the age of 82. The mill was then run by his son, Michael. With its associated Grocery and Provisions shop, Newman’s Mill was a big employer in the Athboy area, not only directly but also in indirect employment, for over 100 years. The mill was sold to Waterford Foods in 1996 with the site eventually given over to housing development in the early 2000s.
McCann and Byrnes – Probably the biggest employer in the Athboy area in 1916 was Kirkpatrick Sawmills in Bridge Street. The Athboy sawmill was one of four mills run by Mr William Kirkpatrick.
Macra Hall– formerly courthouse haunted – footsteps heard but no one would be there.
The last time the banshee was heard in Athboy was in the 1920s when a Mr. O’Reilly died. The Banshee cried for the three nights before he died.
Bank of Ireland – RIC Barracks
Cellars – smugglers and wreckers off north Dublin coast wine silk and brandy . Cellars used to get Spanish Wine from Galway into the Pale. Athboy had trade links with Galway.
Athboy School – Fine Stone building dating to 1885. Closed in 1949 and then used by the Mercy Nuns as a secondary school for 13 years.
Ulster Bank. – the only bank in Athboy was a branch of the Ulster Bank. Located in Lower Bridge Street in what is now the present day Garda Station, the Ulster Bank moved in 1922 to a new purpose built premises in Main Street, a position it occupied until its closure in 2015.
Market House – McElhinney’s Bridal Boutique – where weekly markets were held on a Thursday.