Celebrating 100 years Church of Our Lady of Lourdes Dangan, Summerhill

Centenary Celebrations of the laying of the foundation stone – 8 October 1911

Foreword by Most Reverend Michael Smith DCL, Bishop of Meath

The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the building of the Church at Dangan, Summerhill should evoke much though and reflection.  Admiring the beautiful Church that was constructed one has to wonder at the courage of Fr Flanagan and those involved with him in the project.  One has also to admire the extraordinary commitment and generosity of the parishioners in funding such a fine Church.  In the later years of the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th most of the finest Churches we have in the Diocese were built – Delvin, St Mary’s Drogheda, Oldcastle, Trim, Kinnegad, Tullamore (the Church sadly destroyed in 1983 by fire) and many others.  With care and proper management all will be here in 200 years time.  Those involved in their construction built well and built for the future.  They were patient and trusted that it would be funded over many years even if money was very scarce in those decades.  It was a profound affirmation of faith, the faith to which we are heirs.  They have much to teach us as we reflect on their courage, their faith and generosity of all involved in the building of this Church.

+Michael Smith

List of Curates

1899-01 ­­­­­ Rev. John Dermody.

1901-02  Rev. John Corcoran.

1902-02  Rev. John Murphy.

1902-07  Rev. Thomas Shaw.

1907-07  Rev. John O’Connor.

1907-12  Rev. Edward Kellaghan.

1912-14  Rev. Michael Moore.

1914-16  Rev. Joseph Fagan.

1916-20  Rev. Patrick Forde.

1920-25  Rev. Anthony O’Neill.

1925-29  Rev. Patrick Flynn.

1929-32  Rev. Peter Lennon.

1932-37  Rev. Eamonn Flanagan.

1937-37  Rev. James Carey.

1937-39  Rev. Patrick Brady.

1939-41  Rev. Patrick Stewart.

1940-43  Rev. Patrick Menton.

1943-51  Rev. Joseph Paul Mooney.

1951-56  Rev. James Carty.

1956-69  Rev. Andrew Rispin.

1970-72  Rev. John Conlon.

1972-80  Rev. William Behan.

1980-89  Rev. Patrick Flynn

1989-      Rev. Michael Whittaker.


This booklet has been written to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Dangan, Summerhill on8 October 1911.

Thank you to all those who provided material for the booklet. Thank you to Fr. Gavin P.P., Sean Mahon, Patrick Shannon, Meath Chronicle, Meath County Library, the Young family, the Gray family, Irish Architectural Archives and others.

(Photo) Foundation Stone

Bishop of Meath lays Foundation Stone.

Sermon by The Very Rev. Father Woods.

(Photo) Architect’s Drawing of the Church

On Sunday, the presence of a very large assemblage of the people of Summerhill and the neighbouring parishes the foundation stone of the new Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Summerhill, was laid by the Most Rev. Dr. Gaughran, Bishop of Meath.

The site selected for the new edifice, which will replace the little church, in which the venerated parish priest, Father P. Flanagan, has officiated, is a noble one, near the crest of a hill that commands a wide view of the rich, well-wooded plains of South Meath. The church will stand about a mile on the Athboy side of the village, near the crumbling gates of the once proud Dangan, where the first Duke of Wellington was born, and not far from the seat of Lord Langford, who, as Father Flanagan said, has given some appreciated service to the project of a new church for the district.

The church, which is of the Romanesque style of architecture, comprises nave, opsidal, sanctuary, aransepts side chapels, two sacristies, a heating chamber, also porches on either side of the transepts, and a tower at the front. The length of the nave will be 88 feet, and the width 32 feet; sanctuary, 18 feet by 22; the transepts each 28 by 18. The height from the floor to the apex of the ceiling will be 56 feet, and the height of the tower and spire from the ground 110 feet. The church will be built of rubble masonry and faced with ashlar. The transepts and the windows, doors, etc., will be of limestone. The roof will be an open one, sheeted with pitch pine, and the sheeting divided into panels by moulding ribs. The material for the masonry work and facing has been got from Lord Langford’s quarries in the neighbourhood, which was given to Father Flanagan free. The limestone dressings are provided by the Ross quarries in the County Cavan. The work is being carried out under the superintendence and from the designs of Messrs. W. H Byrne and Sons, Suffolk St., Dublin, by Mr. Patrick Nolan, of Monaghan.

The weather and all the circumstances attending the solemn ceremony were auspicious. Previous to the ceremony at the new site a large congregation attended High Mass which was celebrated in the old Church, the celebrant being the Very Rev. C. Mulcahy, Maynooth College; the deacon, Rev. J. Gill, C.M., Castleknock, and sub-deacon, Rev. J. Ryan, C.M., Castleknock. Very Rev. Paul Cullen, C.M., officiated as master of ceremonies.

The sacred music was most devotionally rendered, by the Choir, under the direction of Miss Downes.

The following clergy were present: Very Rev. Dr. Coffey, Maynooth College; Very Rev. Dr. Macrory, Maynooth College; Very Rev. Dr. Dooley P. P. V. G. Kells; Rev. P. Flanagan P.P. Summerhill; Rev. D. Morrissey P.P. Kilmessan; Rev. P. Fitzsimons P.P. Kilcloon; Rev. T Gilsenan P.P. Enfield; Rev. H. M’Grath P.P. Moynalvy; Rev. M. O’Beirne C.C. do; Rev. P. Casey C.C. Trim; Rev. P. Kelly, C.C. do; Rev. Father Swan C.C. Kilcloon; Rev. F. M’Carthy C.C. Kilmessan; Rev. E. Kellaghan C.C. Summerhill, Rev. E. Conway C.C. Enfield; Rev. M. Byrne C.C., etc.

Very Rev. M. Woods. P.P., V.F., Trim, preached the sermon. He took for his text Ezekeil xxxvii., 9:

“I was in the midst of the captives by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened and I saw the vision of God. And the hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me forth in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of a plain which was full of bones, and he said to me, ‘Son of Man, does thou think these dry bones can live?’ and I answered, ‘Oh, Lord God., Thou knowest’; and He said to me: ‘Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them, Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God to these bones. Behold I will send spirit into you, and you shall live, and I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to grow on you, and will cover you with skin, and I will give you spirit, and you shall live.’ And as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a commotion, and the bones came together, and each one to its joint. And I saw: and behold the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin was stretched out over them. And He said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, O, Son of Man, and say to the spirit; Thus saith the Lord God: Come spirit from the four winds, and blow upon these slain, and let them live again.’ And I prophesied, and the spirit came into them, and they lived; and they stood up upon their feet an exceeding great army. And he said to me; ‘Son of Man, all these bones are the house of Israel.’

The primary fulfilment of the wondrous prophecy was, the preacher said, accomplished, when the captive children of Israel by the waters of Babylon were restored to their native land. The walls of Jerusalem were built up again, and the Temple itself was reconstructed, inferior, no doubt, in worldly splendour to the temple of Solomon, but filled with far greater glory by receiving within its walls the Saviour of the world. But the words of the Seer had a wider application than that. The whole history of the Church had been a fulfilment of the prophesy. Not only new nations, but old nations apparently dead and lost to the Church, had been revived, and once more filled with the spirit of God. In the history of our own poor, unfortunate country a striking illustration of the fulfilment of the prophecy contained in this vision was to be found. In the whole of the Christian world there never was a brighter gem in the crown of the Church than our little island set in the western sea. For nearly a thousand years, with slight interruptions, the splendour of the Church in Ireland outshone that of any Church in the entire world. But the day of trouble came. Dark clouds descended upon our faithful and beloved land. As the glory of its Church surpassed that of others so did also its wrongs and the intensity of its sufferings. The persecutions of the Catholics of Ireland had no parallel in the history of the Church, save perhaps those of the early Christians in the Catacombs of Rome. Edicts were sent forth before which those of Nero might be said to pale into insignificance the edicts of Elizabeth and Cromwell, for example. It was, of course, an oft-told tale, beginning with the time of Henry VIII. That King speaking generally, was satisfied with taking the lands and possessions of the Church. But those who came after him were not satisfied with that; they would take the Faith of the people as well, and in a short time the Catholic religion had apparently been crushed in the Island of Saints. Its professors were outlawed; no Catholic worship was allowed; the  priest was hunted with a price upon his head the same as a wolf; every church in the land was closed or levelled to the ground except some of the rich and noble edifices, which were reserved for the still worse fate of the desecration of heretical worship. The priests spent the day in caves and came out at night to minister. The Mass bell was no longer heard. “Dost Thou think these dry bones can live? Lord, Thou knowest” They knew what the answer was. Had He not said that the gates of hell should not prevail against the church? Saint Patrick had prayed, “ Lord grant that I may never lose this people that I have acquired at the ends of the earth.” And the designs of God must prevail. There was the great genius of Napoleon. When he laid his hand upon the patrimony of St. Peter, and the Pope had spoken, the great soldier said, “What can the words of an old man do to-day? Can they cause the guns to fall from the arms of my soldiers?” He little thought he was then the prophet of his own fall. Not many years afterwards, amidst the snows of Russia the arms actually fell from the hands of his legions, and the debacle commenced which begun before Moscow ended at Waterloo. Napoleon died in the prison of St. Helena and the Pope was carried back amongst the acclamations of the Catholic world and placed again upon the seat of St. Peter’s in Rome. In our own island the indomitable of the Irish race and its undying devotion to the faith of St. Patrick had combined with the providence of God to work out its appointed national destiny. Millions of our Catholic people had been driven beyond the seas and had planted the faith in the land of their adoption. As soon as Ireland succeeded in obtaining any of its rights and liberties hand in hand with the possession of those Liberties came the renaissance of the Irish Church. As the Irish people regain slowly their national rights they build up again churches and monasteries and restore the ancient glories of the Irish Church. On this auspicious festival, the festival of the dedication of the Irish churches they were given the privilege of taking part in this restoration of the Irish Church. It was a happy omen that the Church was to be dedicated in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom the Irish were always tenderly devoted. The great abbey of Bective was under the invocation of Our Blessed Lady. The ruins of Dangan were crumbling into dust but there almost upon their foundations the bishop would bless the site of the new church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dangan. They, Irish Catholics, were proud of the traditions of their church. They were children of the saints. They had been nursed at the breast of the holiest Mother of all mothers. They were a persecuted ever faithful people. Their forefathers slept in martyred graves. They themselves had fallen upon better times. They were called upon to do their own part not to mount the scaffold but to work for the faith. In a short time, please God. The Bishop would return to bless that church founded that day under such happy auspice – a Church which would stand as a glorious memorial to the piety of the people of the district, erected to the glory of God and in honour of His Immaculate Mother.

A collection was then taken up after which Father Flanagan addressed the congregation. He returned thanks to his Lordship the Bishop who not withstanding many calls from various parts of the diocese came there to encourage by his presence and by his magnificent gift this work which they had undertaken. He also returned thanks to Father Woods for his eloquent and beautiful sermon. Whenever there was a question of any charity, or of helping any of the priests of the diocese, Father Woods was always to the front. He returned thanks also to the celebrant, Father Mulcahy and to Father Callery for his great generosity to the new church. On the previous morning he had had a letter from a lady in Dublin who wrote that she would be present if she could but that in the event of her not coming she was prepared to erect a Virgins Altar and that of course in a church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes would be a magnificent offer indeed. He should not omit to mention his heartfelt gratitude to the priests of the diocese of Meath. Their generosity was wonderful. He could never hope to be out of their debt, but at all events during his life time be that long or short he should do his little best to show that he was not unmindful of their generosity and kindness. He also mentioned the generosity of Lord Langford, who when they had found it almost impossible to obtain it, had given the stone for the church as a free gift. He had most courteously offered it and as the quarry was in the heart of his demesne had allowed the boundary wall to be broken down so as to facilitate the transit of the stone from the quarry to the site of the church. It would, he thought, amaze his hearers to learn that in connection with this ceremony, and in the last few days he had received no less a sum than £900, and expected before the end of the present week to receive further donations which would bring the amount to around £1000.

Later his Lordship the bishop accompanied by the clergy and the congregation proceeded in procession to the site of the new church where the foundation stone was duly laid.

After the ceremony the people knelt and received the solemn benediction of the Bishop.

A silver trowel was presented to the Bishop by the architects, the inscription being “Presented to the Most Rev. Dr. Gaughran, Lord Bishop of Meath on the occasion of his laying the foundation stone of the new Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Summerhill, County Meath.”

Amongst those present were: Mr. Mrs. and Miss Barry, R. Carr, Miss Barrington, J. Boggan Co. C, Mrs. Plunkett Clondoogan, Mr. Wm. Ryan, P. Boylan, P. Garry, J. McEleer Dundalk, Mr. Mrs. and Miss R. Reynolds, Dangan; James Austin, Miss Austin Clondoogan; Mr. R. Byrne do., the Misses Down Summerhill, Miss Sweeney Dangan; F. Cullen, R. Greene, T. Plunkett, J. Hope, Mrs. Hope, L. Murray, James Greville, P. Mulligan, R.P Fitzsimons, O. J. Shannon, J.P. D.C., Thos. Hewitt D.C; D. J. Reilly U.D.C, J. F, O’Reilly U.D.C., T. Byrne D.C., W.H. Byrne, Francis Kelly Summerhill; Mrs. Kelly do, Francis Kelly junr., Misses Sweeney Galtrim, – McCormack Clonmahon, Mr and Mrs McArdle Breemount, T. Murray, B. Holmes, J. Greville, P. Mulligan, Mr and Mrs Barry Larchill, M. Beaucannon, M. Coffey, J. Connelly, C. Enis DC; T. Fagan Co. C., Miss Downes N.T. etc etc etc.

From Meath Chronicle 14 October 1911

Photo: Dangan Church which closed in 1914

Summerhill Parish 1900 -1911

In July 1904 Rev. John Fay, P.P of Summerhill and Coole, died at the Parochial House, Summerhill. He had been in failing health for a year and Dr. F.J. O’Reilly J.P and Dr. Arthur O’Reilly, Trim had been attending to him.  Fr. Fay had been appointed to the parish in 1899 and had begun a church renewal fund.  The existing church at Dangan had been erected about 1793 with contributions for Mr. Rowley, Lord Bective and Mr. Winter. Fr. Fay was a strong Parnelllite and spent a month in Mountjoy for contempt of court during the hearing of the South Meath petition of 1892. A force of over 50 police made the arrest and escorted him to the railway at Ferrans Lock. A procession of more than one hundred cars accompanied the prisoner. Very Rev. Michael Woods, P.P. V.F. Trim presided at Fr. Fay’s Funeral Mass in Coole which was celebrated by Rev. Thomas Shaw, C.C. Summerhill. Most of the Meath clergy could not attend as they were on retreat with the bishop in Navan. For the Month’s Memory Mass in August Bishop Gaffney and many clergy attended.

Fr. Thomas McCormick became parish priest of Summerhill. A short three years later in September 1907 Rev. Thomas McCormick, P.P. Summerhill died at the Parochial House, after an illness of rather brief duration. Fr. McCormick bequeathed £800 in his will for a new church at Dangan. Also in September 1907 Michael Quinn N.T. Dangan died and was buried at Newtown, Trim.

Fr. Patrick Flanagan was appointed parish priest. He inherited a church renewal fund of almost £2000 which he set aside for the erection of a new church. In May 1909 Rev. Patrick Flanagan P.P. addressed his congregation and outlined the necessity for the building of a new church in the parish. Neighbouring parishes had new churches and the old church was rapidly falling into decay. As the year was the Golden Jubilee year of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, Fr. Flanagan suggested that this was a fitting title for the new church.  He appealed to his parishioners, their family and friends in Ireland and abroad for donations.

In April 1909 a dramatic entertainment took place at Dangan on Easter Sunday night in aid of the new church. The drama, “Robert Emmett” was preceded by a children’s concert. Mr. C. Dunne of Enfield took the lead part and was teacher to the group. At the conclusion Rev. Father Flanagan addressed the audience and expressed his surprise and satisfaction at the excellence of the children’s singing and dancing.

In autumn 1910 the site for the new church was purchased for £45. The contract was signed with Patrick Nolan of Monaghan in early 1911 at a total cost of £7,519.  On 8 October 1911 the foundation stone was laid by Rev. Laurence Gaughran, Bishop of Meath.

Bequest for new church

“In the name of God, Amen, I, Margaret Mary Ball nee Shannon of Baymore, Drogheda in the County of Meath widow of the late William Ball……… To the Very Revd. Philip Callary P.P. Trim or other the Parish Priest of the Roman Catholic Parish of Trim for the time being at the time of my death the sum of £100 which I give and  bequeath towards the completion furnishing or embellishment of the new Church of Saint Patrick now in course of erection in Trim. To pay the sum of £100 to the Revd. Joseph Fay P.P. Summerhill Co. Meath or other the Parish Priest for the time being of the Roman Catholic Parish of Summerhill at the time of my death which I bequeath to him to be applied by him towards the erection of the New Church proposed to be erected at Dangan,  County Meath.”

Dated this 19th day of January 1899.

This will was proved and registered in the Principal Registry and Administration granted on the 15th day of January 1900. Margaret Mary Ball died on or about the 29th day of December 1899.

Oliver J Shannon of Spring Valley House was her nephew and executor of above will.

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes

The church is cruciform shape with rock-faced limestone. Fr. Flanagan approached Lord Langford, a Protestant, who allowed the parish to quarry rock from his land and gave it free of charge for the erection of the church. The stone was used to construct the main walls of the church with the dressings of the doors and windows coming from Ross quarry, Co. Cavan. The columns supporting the arches are of Aberdeen granite. The altar rails and steps to the altar are of Carrara marble supplied and erected by the Sharpe firm of Brunswick Street, Dublin. The mosaics on the floor of the sanctuary, the walls in the apse, the side chapels and the figure of Our Lady of Lourdes were laid by Messrs. Oppenheimer, Manchester. The gates of the communal rails, baptism gates and cover of the baptism font were supplied by Messrs. McLoughlin, Brunswick Street, Dublin. The central heating was installed by Messrs. Musgrave and Co., Belfast. The entrance gates of the old church were re-erected for the entrance to the new church.

The dimensions of the church are 110ft. long, 32 ft. wide and the spire 115ft. high.

On Rosary Sunday, 4 October 1914 the church was consecrated by Bishop Gaughran. Rev. Paul Cullen was the preacher. The high altar was erected by Rev. Philip Callary P.P., V.G., in memory of his class-fellow, Fr. McCormack. Admission was by ticket only.

The stone used in the construction was found to be unable to withstand the pressure exerted on it and a decision was made in the 1940s to replace the stone. This work was completed one wall at a time with the church remaining in use throughout the work.

A new parochial house was constructed across the road from the church in 1979, replacing the old parochial house in Moy.

Rev. Fr. Patrick Flanagan – Parish Priest

Rev. Fr. Patrick Flanagan P.P.

Patrick Flanagan was born in Cloughtany, Ballycumber Co. Offaly in 1857. He was one of nine children born to John and Mary Flanagan. He had two sisters who became nuns: Sr. Aloysius, Presentation Convent, Mullingar who died at the early age of 28 years in 1897 in the sixth of her religious profession and Sr. De Pazzi, Convent of Mercy, Tullamore, who died in 1940.

Patrick studied at St. Finian’s College, Navan, and entered Maynooth in September 1879. He spent a year as prefect of studies in St. Finian’s and was ordained 20th June 1886.

Fr. Flanagan served in Ballynacargy, Clonmellon, Mullingar and Drumraney. In autumn 1901 he joined the Vincentian Fathers, a long held aspiration. Bishop Gaffney said of him at his departure “to this diocese you are a great loss and the Vincentians a great gain” but after a few months he returned to the diocese as curate at Kilcormac. He became administrator of Navan in February 1903. Fr Flanagan was appointed to Summerhill parish on 21 October 1907. He was Parish Priest of Summerhill for 17 years.

Fr. Patrick Flanagan had a devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. He was among the first pilgrims who went on the First National Irish Pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1913 and again on second Irish National Irish Pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1924. A Celtic Cross at the foot of the High Stations in Lourdes marks this first Pilgrimage. This devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes found expression in the magnificent church erected by him in honour of our Lady of Lourdes at Dangan, Summerhill. The foundation stone was laid in October 11th 1911 and the church dedicated in 1914.

Fr. Flanagan, acted as Secretary to the Meath section in the National Pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1924 and travelled with the invalids, aboard the SS Chicago. In his 67th year Fr Flanagan died 15th December 1924 after 38 years of priesthood. He retired to bed in his usual good health and apparently becoming unwell, he was partly dressed when the fatal seizure occurred. He had a lighted candle in his hand at the time which fell and charred the carpet. His body was found next morning beside his bed with a candle in his hand. His death was due to cardiac failure accelerated by asphyxia.

He rests within the shadow of his church erected in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes and a fine monument has been erected to his memory by his devoted parishioners.

W.H. Byrne – The Architect

The architect for the new church was William Henry Byrne who was born in 1844. William was the sixth child and the third son of Peter Byrne of Peafield House, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. He trained as an architect under James Joseph McCarthy. About 1869 he set up practice with John O’Neill of Belfast and Byrne opened a branch in Dublin. In the early 1880s Byrne started to practise independently and worked on his own until 1902 when he took his son, Ralph Henry, into partnership. From 1887 the firm has been based at Suffolk Street, where the firm continues to operate. About 1913 he became blind, just as Our Lady of Lourdes church was being finished. He died in 1917 at his home on Ailesbury Road, Dublin and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery.

William Henry Byrne is particularly associated with Catholic church architecture and was architect for the dioceses of Killala, Ossory, Tuam and Achonry.  Byrne was also architect to the Sisters of Charity who ran the Mater, St. Vincent’s and Temple Street hospitals in Dublin. In 1903 Byrne was assessor in a competition for a new public library in Drogheda.

His Meath works include: Mason’s work at Moyvalley, additions and alterations to Piltown House, Bettystown; works at Ratoath church, the high altar at St. Patrick’s Church, Trim and a design for a high altar at Donnymore Church.

Byrne was the architect for St. Dympna’s Church, Kildalkey. The work began in 1890 and the church was opened 1 May 1898 at a cost of £3,690. The church at Kilmainhamwood was constructed under the direction of Byrne from 1898 to 1899. The Church of St. Oliver Plunkett at Oldcastle was constructed from 1899 to 1904. The foundation stone was laid 15 October 1899 and the church was dedicated in 1904.  The Church of the Nativity at Moynalvey was finished and dedicated at the end of 1901.

Summerhill Parish Priests

Rev. John Fay 1890-1904

Rev. Thomas McCormack 1904-1907

Rev. Patrick Flanagan 1907-1924

Rev. Michael Farrelly 1925-1928

Rev. Patrick Smyth 1928-1940

Rev. Martin Moore 1940-1969

Rev. Joseph Abbott 1969-1991

Rev. Aidan Walsh 1991 – 1998

Rev. Thomas P. Gavin 1999 – to present  


(Photo) George Young, sacristan, receives Bene Meronti medal

from Fr. Joseph Abbott P.P.

George Young died 20 August 1980

(Photo) Kathleen Gray 1944-2011

Kathleen was born in 1944 to Patrick and Mary Keena Ballymacallen, Ballymore, Co. Westmeath.  She went to London in 1963 where she worked for the National Provincial bank.  In London she met her husband, Michael, and they were married in 1967 in Ballymore.  They lived in London until 1969.  In 1971 they moved to their present home in Dangan – 5 minutes away from Our Lady of Lourdes church, Dangan.  Shortly after she moved, Fr. Joseph Abbott asked her to assist with some of the duties in the sacristy.  She got on well with Fr. Abbott and gradually took on more duties. She was delighted to do this because as a young girl she helped the sacristan in Ballymore and her wish was to live close to a church.  She learned much from Fr. Abbott.  She opened and closed the church; set up the altar for Mass and all church services – weddings, baptisms and funerals; did the flowers and decorated the sanctuary for Christmas and Easter.  She did this on a voluntary basis while she looked after her husband and her four children, Steven, Paul, Helen and John.  All her family helped with the work.  She would always say only the best is good enough for the Lord so she ensured the sanctuary in Dangan looked the best – time, expense were not counted.  Together with Fr. Aidan Walsh & Fr. Michael Whittaker she set up the rota for Special Ministers of Word and Eucharist, delivering the rotas and readings.  She also set up weekly Adoration.

Kathleen served as Sacristan to Fr. Joseph Abbott, Fr. Aidan Walsh and Fr. T. P. Gavin and was awarded the Bene Merenti medal in late 2010 and her husband Michael received the medal on the day of her month’s memory Mass 10 April 2011.  Kathleen loved life, loved her family, loved the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Dangan and loved the Church as the people of God. The attendance at her removal and funeral showed how much she was appreciated. 

Michael Gray receiving the Bene Merenti medal from Fr. T.P. Gavin P.P.

Who was living in Summerhill area in 1911?

The names of families and individuals living in each townland, taken from the 1911 census.

Adamstown: Bourke, Dowd, Gilsenan, Murtagh, Reilly.

Agher: Buchanan, Blakeney, Buddock, Caldwell, Carlow, Chandler, Connor, Cubbin, Duncan, Earls, Elliott, Ennis, Fangate, Forbes, Gardiner, Graham, Gogarty, Grehan, Greville, Halligan, Healy, Henshall, Hussey, Kearney, Naugle, McCann, McMullen, Melia, Morgan, Morteshed, Mullagher, Murphy, Murray, Murrin, Pratt, Reilly, Richardson, Rock, Ryan, Sealy, Stuart, Thompson, Winter.

Ardrums Great: Brilly, Butler, Cunningham, Day, Donegan, Gallagher, Hard, Lynch, Lynam, Minor, Mullagher, Purdon, Reilly, Reynolds, Smith, Smyth, Tully, White.

Ardrums Little: Clavin.

Ballinrig: Allen, Brien,  Halligan, Kennedy, McNally, Reynolds, Watson.

Ballintoghee:  Byrne, Kelroy, Reilly.

Ballygortagh:  Murray, Neville, Thornton.

Clarkstown: Monahan, Neill, Reid.

Clondoogan: Archer, Allen, Ashe, Austin, Beglin, Briston, Butler, Byrne, Cahill, Canning, Clarke, Comey, Connor, Courtney, Daniel, Donnolly, Dowd, Elliott, Fagan, Feeney, Fitzsimons, Flynn, Gorman, Gough, Gragan, Grehan, Gurray, Higgins, Hughes,  Jinkians, Keogan, King, Payne, Plunkett, McKeon, Maguire, Malone, Manning,  Martin, Melia, Molloy, Murray, O’Shaughnessy, Picken, Rattigan, Reilly, Smyth, Walker, White.

In 1891 there were 324 people living in the townland, in 1911 there were 245 people in the townland.

Clonmahon: Allen, Byrne, Connolly, Fitzsimons, Heaps, Higgins, Hughes, Keeffe, Keogh, Kevlin, McCormack, McHugh, Manning, Melia, Murray, Murrin, Reilly.

In 1891 there were 69 people living in the townland, in 1911 there were 63 people in the townland.

Curraghtown: Gelsinan, Walsh.

Dangan: Allen, Bannon, Barlow, Blake, Brien, Comey, Connolly, Corr, Dowd, Hughes, Monahan, Murphy, Neill, Power, Quinn, Rattigan, Reilly, Reynolds, Ryan, Shields, Sweeney, Tormey, Young.

Drumlargan: Bell, Burke, Byrne, Clynch, Dunne, Larkin, McArdle, McGawley, McNally, Malone, Mullagher, Murrin, Orme, Walker, White.

Ferrans: Byrne, Hogge, Kavanagh, Richardson, Teolin.

Freffans Great: Commons, Horan, Law, Murphy, Peakin, Porter, Ryan.

Freffans Little: Barr, Byrne, Duff, Duffy, English,  Freely, Hope Johnstone, Horan, Malone, Murray, Newman, Regan, Reilly, Ryan, Sheridan, Sherry, Stone, Tevlin.

Gallow: Anderson, Byrne, Chandler, Connor, Early, Hughes, Manning, Reilly, White.

Ginnetts Great: Barry, Bradley, Clewry, Perle, Poland, Regan, Rooney, Sherrock, Tibbs, Tyrrell, Waters.

Ginnetts Little: Corby, Farrell, Kelly, Martin, Waters.

Isaacstown: Brady, Brennan, Caffrey, Chandler, Chanley, Clarke, Cummins, Doran, Douglas, Duffey, Dwyer, Evans, Fagan, Fitzsimons, Flynn, Fox, Gannon, Geoghegan, Gray, Greville, Hannon, Hastings, Heapes, Jiles, Kevlin, King, Lynch, McGrath, McKay, McLoughlin, Matthews, Nevin, O’Neill, Rattigan, Roe, Rooney, Smyth, Watson, White.

Laracor: Donnelly, Lehy, Martin, Moran, Morgan, Smyth, Tevlin.

Moy: Burke, Byrne, Connolly, Cowley, Farrell, Flanagan, Gaughran, Gogarty, Kellaghan, Kelly, Keogh, McGrath, McKay, McNamara, Malone, Melia, Mooney, Nelson, Sheerin, Young.

In 1891 there were 68 people living in the townland, in 1911 there were 58 people in the townland.

Oldtown: Boggin, Byrne, Connell, Conroy, Fitzsimons, Flynn, Gaffney, Harnan, Holmes, Minor, Mulligan, Reynolds.

Readstown: Brien, Doran, Murray, Nelson. 

Springvalley: Blackbourne, Creighton, Farrell, Grogan, McEntyre, Moore, Shannon, Sherrock.

In 1891 there were 27 people living in the townland, in 1911 there were 26 people in the townland.

Stokestown: Gogarty, Keeffe, Kinneelly, MacArthur, McCann, Quinn, Roe.

Summerhill: Fleming, Gogarty, Nelson, Pekin, Ryan, Yourell.

In 1891 there were 35 people living in the townland, in 1911 there were 29 people in the townland.

Summerhill Demesne: Barnard, Best, Caffrey, Costello, Coyle, Cox, Davidson, Gollagher, Graham, Grey, Johnston, Langford, Lauder, McBean, Martin, Neill, Nixon, O’Sullivan.

In 1891 there were 42 people living in the townland, in 1911 there were 45 people in the townland.

Summerhill Town: Allen, Austin, Brennan, Buttler, Coffey, Connolly, Cox, Derwin, Doyle, Duffy, Farrell, Gelsinan, Grehan, Hearty, Higgins, Holmes, Horan, Hynes, Kelly, Kenry, Keogh, Kevlin, Kiernan, Loughlin, Malone, Melia, McDonagh, McLoughlin, McNally, Murray, Nolan, O’Neill, Reynolds, Ronaldson, Ryan, Shaw, Sweeting, Tallon, Tiernan, Trotter, Walsh, White, Wiggins.

In 1891 there were 144 people living in the townland, in 1911 there were 124 people in the townland.

Umberstown Great: Byrne, Connor, Halligan, Mahon, Malone, McLeer, Mulvey, Murrin, Reilly, Sweeney.

Umberstown Little: Allen, Connolly, Doran, Dowd, Dunne, Lynch, McCann, Quinn, Shiels,

Main Occupations in Summerhill taken from 1911 Census

Agricultural/Farm Labourer: 157

Farmer: 120

General Labourer: 62

Domestic servant/cook: 58

Herd/Shepherd: 21

Farmer’s son and housekeeper would be major categories. Other occupations include: Dressmaker, Rural Postman, Game Keeper, Post Master, Nursery builder, Magistrate, Clergyman, Housekeeper, Footman, Dairy Maid, Groom, Land steward, Gardener, Shopkeeper, National Teacher, Carpenter, Tailor, Shoemaker, Dealer, Blacksmith, Milliner, Pig dealer, Station Master, Lock keeper, Parlour Maid, Parish Priest.

Mary Ann Cosgrove – Mother Mary Patrick

(Mother Mary Patrick

A woman born in Summerhill went on to play a major role in the education field in southern Africa. Born Mary Ann Cosgrave she took the name Mary Patrick when she joined the Dominican nuns.

Mary Ann Cosgrove was born in Summerhill in 1863, the daughter of a policeman. Her mother died when she was ten years old of tuberculosis and her father died shortly afterwards. Mary Anne and her sisters were despatched to her father’s cousin in Wexford and Mary Anne was educated at the Loreto convent in Enniscorthy.

At the age 15 she began working in a drapery shop in Wexford. In 1880 the Bishop of Grahamstown, South Africa, Very Rev. Dr. Richards, arrived in Wexford and made a call for priests and postulants.  At the age of sixteen Mary Anne took the opportunity to join the Dominicans and soon afterwards sailed for Cape Town.

In 1881 she entered the Dominican Order at the Sisters’ mother house in King William’s Town; she made her religious profession there in 1882. She taught at the convent school there and in East London and Potchefstroom.

Pope Leo XIII was anxious to start a mission in the African interior. In 1889 while at Potchefstroom Sister Patrick heard of the appeal for volunteer nurses to go north with the pioneers on their march. The Pioneer column was a force raised by Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa company in an effort to annex the territory of Mashonland, before the Germans or Portuguese.  Mashonland later became part of Southern Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe.

At the age of twenty six Sister Patrick was selected as mother superior of a group of five nuns chosen to accompany the march. The commander of the column was Colonel Edward Pennefather, a native of Wexford. On their way north to Mashonaland the nuns received in-service training from the doctors in charge of the particular camps.

After stopping at Macloutsie and Fort Tuli where they nursed the men stricken by dysentery and malaria the Sisters reached Fort Salisbury (Harare) on 27 July 1891, ten months after the arrival of the pioneer column which had gone ahead, having covered more than 1200 km since their departure from South Africa.

In Salisbury Sister Patrick set up the first hospital, located in a collection of grass huts and tents, until these were replaced by a permanent purpose-built building in 1895. In October 1892 she opened the Salisbury convent, the first school for Europeans. Mother Patrick founded the Dominican Convent High School in Harare in 1892. Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 2007 is a former pupil of the Dominican Convent School at Harare.

In 1894 Mother Mary Patrick founded a hospital and convent school, St George’s College for Boys, in Bulawayo. By the end of 1897 the total number of nuns had risen to about thirty. Mother Patrick was elected prioress of the independent community in Rhodesia, despite initially opposing the creation of the new community. In 1898 Mother Patrick and another nun travelled to Dublin to complete a nursing qualification. Six new postulants accompanied Mother Patrick on her return journey to Salisbury in November 1898.

Mother Patrick died of tuberculosis in July 1900 aged thirty seven. A seven foot high Celtic cross was erected over her grave and an annual pilgrimage took place to her grave on St. Patrick’s Day for many years.  Mother Patrick is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of White Rhodesians.”

In 1970 the Rhodesian government issued a stamp to commemorate the Irish Dominican nursing sister, Mother Mary Patrick Cosgrave.

Meath in October 1911

The Cunard Line was advertising passage to America and Canada aboard the ships: Lusitania, Mauretania, Campania, Ivernia, and Franconia. The Lusitania and Mauretania were the fastest vessels in the world. Sailings took place from Liverpool via Queenstown (Cobh). The local agent for tickets was Mrs. Moore, Trim.

Meath County Committee of Agriculture was offering premiums of £5 to persons who would keep eggs of purebred hens and ducks for distribution and a premium of £2 for those prepared to distribute purebred geese eggs.

Patrick Reilly of no fixed abode was charged at Trim Court of stealing 40 Catholic Truth Society booklets from Ardcath Church and 21 scapulars from Curraha church. The prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. A Kilmessan farmer claimed £18 for the malicious burning of 6 tons of hay. His Honour awarded the full amount, to be levied off the county at large.

At the Longwood Court a man was summonsed for using a cart without a light at 10 p.m. when lighting up time was 7.15. Mr. Reilly, solicitor for the defendants, said the train had been delayed and so his client had not expected to be so late. The defendant was fined 1s. At the Ballivor court a farmer was fined 1s for allowing a bullock to wander on the public road. The farmer said the bullock wanted to cross the road to get into the house.

The Meath Coursing Club held a meet at its preserves adjacent to the Hill of Tara.

Messrs Patrick Smith and Son of Navan sold a small farm of 5 Irish acres at Athlumney for £185. Two dwelling houses and gardens at Brewshill, Navan, were sold for £100.

The Meath Farmers Association were attempting to negotiate special rates for their members with insurance firms and coal merchants.

There was a large political meeting of nationalists in Trim with the purpose of re-iterating the demand for National Self–Government. Mr. John Dillon M.P. said he was not worried about opposition in Ulster even though Edward Carson was threatening to march from Belfast to Cork. Mr. Dillon was received at the Central Hotel, Trim and presented with addresses from Meath County Council, Trim Urban Council and other bodies. National self-government or Home Rule was passed in 1912 but delayed for two years and then by World War I. The parish priest of Trim, Very Rev. M. Woods, could not attend the meeting as he was otherwise engaged – in attending the laying of the foundation stone for the new church at Dangan. He wrote a letter offering his support to the meeting.

An old woman made an application to Trim Board of Guardians for relief. She had no fixed abode and was nearly blind and could not work. Mr. Shannon proposed giving her 2s 6d. One of the officers said she would spend it on drink and so the woman’s request was turned down. A woman with 8 children whose husband was in hospital in Dublin as given 10s. a week for a month.  She was described as a very deserving case. Electricity was to be installed in the workhouse. (now St. Joseph’s Hosptial)

A Meath football team easily defeated the Hibernian Knights team from Dublin at Bohermeen. Longwood faced Killyon at Trim in hurling. Summerhill faced Dunboyne in the Junior Football League at Ratoath. Rathmolyon were allowed to affiliate a Hurling Club but Enfield had been suspended for playing at an unauthorised tournament. A grant of £1 was given to a player of the Navan Young Irelands injured in a hurling match.

Trim Rural District offered tenders for sinking a new well and erecting pumpstick at Knightsbrook and repairs to Labourers Cottages in Summerhill Rent Collection area.

A fair was held at Skryne. There was a large supply of stock but except in the horse section trade was dull. One good hunter was sold for £80 while working horses were sold for £20 to £40. At Navan Fair cattle sold well but there was no improvement in the unsatisfactory price of stores.

What was happening in the world in 1911?

Ronald Regan. Born 1911.

In July 1911 King George V spent six days on a Royal visit to Dublin. The next Royal visit takes place a hundred years later, that of Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year. In February 1911 Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, fifth president of Ireland was born in February. Kerry won the football All Ireland. The Titanic was under construction in Belfast, the ship left Belfast for fitting out on April 2. The first photo from a plane is taken in San Diego. The first landing of a plane on a ship took place, also in the U.S. The first airmail service was initiated by the British Post Office.  There was a failed assassination attempt on the French prime minister. The first Monte Carlo motor rally took place in January 1911. In March there was a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. Nearly 146 workers died, mostly immigrant women. Many were trapped because of locked exits.  Tennessee Williams, American author, was born in March. A non-stop London-Paris flight took 3 hours 56 minutes.

Large demonstrations held in New York, demanding women’s right to vote. Iceland gives the vote to women. Vincent Price, American film actor, was born in May 1911. Maureen O’Sullivan, Irish actress, was born in May. In June King George V of England was crowned. Georges Pompidou, French statesman, was born in July 1911. Edward Shackleton, explorer and Ginger Rogers, American film actress/dancer were also born in July. Hiram Bingham re-discovered Machu Picchu in Peru. The Mona Lisa was stolen from Louvre. Lucille Ball was born in August.

Libya was in the news one hundred years ago. In September Italy declares war on Turkey over who owned Tripoli, Libya. The first aerial bombing takes place. In October Amundsen sets out on race to South Pole. In the same month Robert Scott’s expedition left Cape Evans for South Pole. Flann O’Brien, Irish humourist, was born in October. In December Roald Amundsen and his expedition of four companions, are the first to reach the South Pole and return safely. The birth of Rev. Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans took place in November 1911.

Big Houses in the Area


In Trim civil parish Adamstown was described as an excellent house and offices of a handsome appearance and the residence of Mrs. Morgan in 1835. It was the property of Thomas R. Disney. Richard Nassau Bolton was in residence at Adamstown in the 1840s. In 1846 he supported the construction of a railway from Dublin to Trim and Athboy.

Breemount House

(James O’Connell Murphy

Breemount House is located in the townland of Strokestown, on the southside of Bray Hill on the road from Trim to Summerhill. Sometimes called Braymount the house was erected prior to 1830. A large stable and a farm building complex was added in the later nineteenth century. There was supposed to be a locked room which contained a ghostly spirit. The original building was demolished and replaced by a new house.

Breemount was sold by public auction in 1906 by Joseph Lowry, Auctioneer, Kells. The property consisted of a gentleman’s residence and 362 acres of land. The dwelling house was described as well constructed and commodious, having three reception rooms, study, six bedrooms, servant’s rooms, trunk room, large lobby, kitchen, pantries and all usual modern conveniences. The out offices and stables were extensive accommodation for winter feeding over 100 cattle. The stables could accommodate 30 horses. A walled garden contained two acres with a large greenhouse. The avenue was lined with fine beech trees.

The Murphy family were established at Breemount. In 1802 John Locker leased lands at Breemount to James Murphy. In 1805 Bishop Plunkett of Meath spent the day with his cousin, Mr. James Murphy of Breemount on his visitation of the parishes of Meath and again in 1810, 1813, 1815 and 1816. James Murphy attended and spoke at the Monster Meeting held by Daniel O’Connell on Tara in 1843.

In 1835 Braemount was described as the handsome residence of Mr. G. Murphy situated on the eastern brow of the large hill called Bray Hill. George married Elizabeth Loughran. George Murphy leased lands at Grange, Derrypatrick from Mr. Hopkins, Athboy.

In 1868 L. O’Connell Murphy signed a petition calling for equal treatment for Roman Catholics. At the time the Protestant church was still the State church. A year later a bill was passed removing the state recognition of the Church of Ireland. O’Connell Murphy bred Shorthorn cattle and won a number of prizes for the cattle. In 1876 O’Connell S. Murphy of Braymount held 372 acres in County Meath.

James O’Connell Murphy was a noted horse breeder and Breemount Oak, Hill of Bree and Moyfenrath were among his successful horses. Oak Leaf was bred by O’Connell Murphy around 1858. In 1890 a descendant, Ilex, won the Grand National.  Another one of his horses, Roman Oak, ran in the Grand National twice, in 1891 and 1893. In 1897 Breemount Pride won the Irish Grand National. James O’Connell Murphy married firstly Judith Cullen and following her death in 1893, he married her sister, Ellen. These Cullen sisters were relatives of Cardinal Cullen who visited Breemount. James O’Connell Murphy died 15 September 1900. He had four sons and three daughters by his first wife. In 1901 Ellen, his widow, and her three nephews and three nieces were living at Breemount. A receiver, Oliver J. Shannon, was appointed to wind up the estate. The house was sold in 1906 and went through a number of various owners. George Murphy, son of James, was killed in the First World War.

The Macarthur family lived at Breemount in the middle of the twentieth century.  Daniel Macarthur died in 1971 and the house was sold in 1972. In 1982, Malcolm Macarthur, the only child of Daniel and Irene Macarthur of Breemount House, killed nurse, Bridie Gargan, in the Phoenix Park and Donal Dunne in Edenderry.

Dangan Castle

Dangan Castle

Dangan castle, the family home of the Duke of Wellington, has been in ruins with over two hundred years. The shell of the house stands in parkland to the north of Summerhill village. During the 1740s the old house at Dangan burned down and was replaced by a new house of plain design. The house had a large hall where music, dancing, shuttlecock, draughts and prayers took their turn. The chapel and library at Dangan were attributed to Francis Johnson. In the 1730 and 40’s canals and gardens were created.  The canals were replaced by a lake.

In 1739 the grounds had twenty five obelisks, a fort with a cannon and a lake with three ships. The obelisks at Dangan are attributed to the design of Richard Castle. Only two brick obelisk now survive from the extensive gardens. The farmyard, stable block and a number of bridges survive today.

The lands at Dangan belonged to the Cusack family in medieval times. In the fifteenth century the property came into the hands of the Wellesley family.

Garrett Wesley was portreeve (mayor) of Trim in 1694 and M.P. for Trim, Athboy and Meath. He died childless in 1728 to be succeeded by his cousin, Richard Colley of Carbury, Co. Kildare. Richard took the name, Wesley, in order to inherit the estate. He developed the demesne erecting obelisks, canals and lakes.  The house was re-built after a fire in 1748. Richard Colley Wesley was a musician and played the violin.

His son, Garret, was elected the first Professor of Music of Trinity College in 1764. A number of his tunes still survive. He represented Trim in parliament in 1757-8. In 1760 he was created Viscount Wellesley, of Dangan Castle and Earl of Mornington. He married Anne Hill-Trevor, eldest daughter of the banker Arthur Hill-Trevor, 1st Lord Dungannon. They had a number of distinguished children with four sons being created peers. The eldest Richard became viceroy of India and 1st Marquess Wellesley. William took the additional name Pole in order to inherit lands and became 1st Baron Maryborough. Henry became 1st Baron Cowley. The second eldest son, Arthur, died in early childhood and in 1769 when a son was born he too was named Arthur. There has been a lot of discussion over the years as to where and when Arthur was born because he went on to be the Duke of Wellington. One of his reputed saying was “To be born in a stable does not make one a horse” but would an Irishman say anything derogatory about a horse.

Arthur was raised in Dangan, Dublin and London. Arthur managed to be elected at an early age to the Irish House of Commons for the family seat of Trim but waited two years before he made his maiden speech. He publicly declared his opposition to the Corporation of Trim’s decision to confer the freedom of the town upon Henry Grattan, the Irish patriot.

Richard mortgaged the family’s estates in Meath on their father’s death. In 1793 the house and 900 acres of lands were sold to Captain Thomas Burrowes M.P. who added two wings containing a chapel and library. 

In 1799 Burrowes leased Dangan to Roger O’Connor, a native of Dunmanway, Co. Cork. O’Connor, a United Irishman, had been made an honorary general by Napoleon. He is said to have had planned to entertain Napoleon at the house. By 1807 the house was dilapidated, trees cut down. The Duke of Wellington did consider purchasing the estate at one stage. The house was burned in a fire in 1809. The library and chapel were torn down. The chapel window was installed in Agher church.  In 1796 Roger O’Connor was charged with high treason and imprisoned. Following this imprisonment he had to sell off his property in Cork and moved to Dangan Castle. In 1813 when O’Connor paid the rent to the agent of Burrowes the agent was robbed of the rent money within minutes of leaving O’Connor at Dangan.  In 1817 he was implicated by two convicted criminals in the 1812 robbery of the Galway mail coach. Some of the mail bags were discovered at Dangan. The trial began in Trim in August 1817. It was alleged that O’Conner had planned and supplied the weapons for the robbery. One of the informants admitted that he had committed more robberies than he could remember. O’Connor was found not guilty. In 1822 O’Connor published a two volume work on the history of Ireland from “original manuscripts in the Phoenician dialect of the Scythian language.”

In the 1830s the house was still then property of Colonel Burrowes but was now a ruin. The occupier of the house, Peter Allen, showed visitors the room in which the Duke of Wellington was born. The fine timber which had formerly beautified the place had all been cut down.

(Dangan Castle in 1840

Freffans house

Freffans House is about two miles southeast of Trim, in Little Freffans townland and the parish of Laracor. Freffans is a two storey over basement house. The four bedroom house also has a two bedroomed lodge and a courtyard of outbuildings. Erected by the Battersby family about 1823 the house was described as an excellent dwelling in the 1830s. The grounds were nicely planted and ornamented.

William Battersby was born in 1764, the son of John Battersby of Lakefield. He married Frances Preston of Swainstown and settled at Freffans. Their four eldest sons died unmarried and without heirs. Their fifth son, Arthur Henry, had a son and a daughter. Their daughter, Anna Henrietta, married Lambert Disney of Rock Lodge, the neighbouring property. William died in 1848. In 1852 Arthur Henry Battersby was living at Freffans. In 1854 Fanny Battersby was living at Freffans.

In 1901 William Watson, an estate agent, his wife and family were living at Freffans. In 1911 Anne Evelyn Hope Johnstone, a widow, was living at Freffans with her family. The house had sixteen rooms, thirteen windows to the front and fifteen outbuildings.

Freffans was purchased by William Potterton in 1912 and remained in the hands of his son and grandson for most of the twentieth century. Henry Norman Potterton became heir when his elder brother, William Hubert, was killed at the battle of the Somme in 1916. Henry Norman died in 1980 and his son, Scott Potterton, held the house for about ten years before selling it about 1990.

Gallow House

Gallow Hill House was located near Gallow Graveyard on the Summerhill-Kilcock road. In 1794 Mr. Flanagan lived at Gallow. In 1835 Mr. W. Maher lived in Gallow House, a two storey slated building. Mr. Bomford was the owner of the land and the property was leased to Mr. Maher. In 1854 Patrick Maher was leasing a house and 377 acres at Gallow from Rev. John Potterton and a house and 451 acres from Isaac N. Bomford. The first house may have been Clarkestown and the second Gallow. The house was in ruins by 1900. A complex of farm buildings now stand on its site.

Rock Lodge

Rock Lodge was in Laracor Parish and is on the Rock Road. Just the outbuildings remain.  

In 1835 Rock Lodge was described as the newly built handsome residence of Mr. Thomas Disney in Little Freffans townland. The house was erected about 1823. There was a school house at the rear entrance and a nursery across the road from the rear entrance in 1830s

Thomas Disney, third son of Brabazon Disney, Professor of Divinity at Trinity College, served as an army officer in Canada, before taking up a position as the registrar for the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham; a retirement home and hospital for maimed soldiers. In 1791 he married Anne Purdon and then became agent to Lord Langford’s estate at Summerhill.  The couple had fifteen children, fourteen of which survived to adulthood. The eldest son, Brabazon, fought at Waterloo. Thomas, third son became land agent to the Earl of Darnley of Athboy. Another son, Lambert, was also land steward for the Earl of Darnley and resided at Clifton Lodge. Lambert married Anna Henrietta Battersby of Freffans. Shortly before he died in 1851 Thomas Disney senior was forced to sell Rock Lodge and the estate under the Encumbered Estates Act. Brabazon Disney, son of Brabazon Disney, was rector of Slane from 1815 to his death in 1831.  The Disney’s moved to Finglas, Co. Dublin. Thomas Disney was a good friend of the astronomer and famous mathematician, Rowan Hamilton. A branch of the family had a house called Rock Lodge in Killiney.

Spring Valley House

Spring Valley House

Spring Valley House is located just outside Summerhill village on the road to Kilcock. Spring Valley House was erected about 1770. It once functioned as the dower house for Summerhill House. It is a two storey over basement house. The house may have been constructed in different periods and was altered on a number of occasions. The outbuildings are arranged around a courtyard and include a pigeon loft. In the 1830s there was extensive planting to the east and sides of the house.

Springvalley townland was the property of Lord Langford. In 1835 the townland was divided into two farms, one containing 200 acres was held by Mr. Robert Butler Bryan. On his farm there was handsome house and offices and an apple orchard comprising about thirty acres. The Bryan’s had been in residence since at least 1800. In 1800 Elizabeth Bryan of Spring Valley was buried in Agher churchyard. Mr. Bryan, Spring Valley, attended and spoke at the Monster Meeting held by Daniel O’Connell on the hill of Tara in 1843.

The Shannon family moved to Spring Valley in the 1840s and in 1854 Patrick J. Shannon was leasing Spring Valley House and 129 acres from Lord Langford. Patrick was the son of Oliver Shannon of Dublin who had married Mary Anne Theresa Murphy of Breemount. Patrick married Maria Chamberlain in 1852 but she died ten years later at the age of 28. Their son, Oliver Joseph Shannon, was the owner of the house in 1901 and was in residence with his sister, Florence. Oliver married Alice Murphy from Breemount House about 1907. In 1911 he and his family were living at Spring Valley. The house had fourteen rooms, fourteen windows to the front and fourteen outbuildings. Mr. Shannon was a member of the Trim Rural District Council and the local magistrate.  Mr. Shannon was a friend of Bishop Fogarty of Killaloe who visited Spring Valley on a number of occasions. A keen huntsman Shannon was a member of the Meaths and Ward Union hunts. He died in 1940 aged 88. His son, Edward, succeeded at Spring Valley.  The Shannons were related to the Murphys of Breemount.

Summerhill House

Summerhill House

Summerhill house was considered to be one of the most dramatic of the Irish Palladian houses. Crowning a hill to the south of Summerhill village, the house consisted of a main block with curved wings ending in a tower and pavilion. Summerhill house was designed by Edward Lovett Pearce and completed by Richard Castle, two of the greatest architects working in Ireland in the eighteenth century. Two of the ceilings were attributed to the La Franchini brothers. Summerhill house, described by Mulligan as a ‘great palatial mansion,’ was erected about 1730 for Hercules Rowley. Bence–Jones described Summerhill as “the most dramatic of the great Irish Palladian houses”. The house was burned accidentally about 1800, remodelled in the nineteenth century and burned again in 1921. The ruins were demolished in the middle of the twentieth century and some of the stones from the ruins were used at Dalgan Park, Navan to construct a loggia. To the north of the house site stands Lynch’s castle which was converted to a folly on the estate. Near the house stood the family mausoleum.

A mile long avenue to the south of the house was planned. The architect asked to design the gate houses was also working on two gate lodges for a military barracks in India and the two plans became mixed up. Those intended for India arrived in Summerhill and were erected. The houses because of their unusual roofs became known as the “Balloon Houses”. The avenue was never completed as the last third of it stood on public road and so the gate houses were not even part of the demesne.

Though Summerhill House has been demolished, the entrance and tree-lined avenue are reminders of the demesne. The curved wall and gate piers were clearly executed by skilled masons. The entrance acts as a focal point within the village of Summerhill. The village of Summerhill is based on a classical layout, associated with the development of the Summerhill House and demesne. The village consists of a long wide street with a narrow tree-lined green running down the centre. The village green, laid out c.1830 includes a medieval cross.

The ancient seat of the Lynch family had been granted to Henry Jones, Bishop of Meath, for his services provided as Scoutmaster General to Cromwell’s Army. In 1661 Bishop Jones sold the lands to Sir Hercules Langford. The name was changed from Lynch’s Knock to Summerhill.

Sir Hercules Langford died in 1683 leaving a son, Arthur, and a daughter, Mary. He died in 1716.  Arthur died without an heir and the estate went to his sister Mary who had married Sir John Rowley in 1671. Sir John Rowley was one of the biggest landowners in County Londonderry. 

Sir John was succeeded by his son, Hercules Rowley, MP for Co. Londonderry 1703-42 and heir to Sir Hercules Langford of Summerhill. Hercules Rowley commissioned Sir Edward Lovett Pearce in collaboration with Richard Castle to build one of the greatest and most dramatic of all the Irish Georgian houses in 1731. The house was probably erected in preparation for his marriage in 1732 to Elizabeth Upton. Hercules Rowley died in 1742 when he was succeeded by his son.

Sir Hercules Langford Rowley was M.P. for Co. Londonderry 1743-1760 and for Co. Meath 1761-94.  He was a founder member of the Dublin Society in 1731, later the RDS. He was High Sheriff of Meath in 1738. In 1766 Hercules Langford Rowley was elevated to the peerage as Lord Summerhill. Hercules Langford Rowley was known as ‘the incorruptible representative for the County of Meath.’ He served in the Irish parliament for a period of fifty-one years. In 1787 he was appointed as one of the commissioners for the making of a canal from Drogheda to Trim. Johnston-Liik recorded that he died in 1794 having been an MP for over 50 years. In 1776 his wife was made Viscountess Langford and Baroness of Summerhill in her own right. Their eldest son, Hercules Rowley, became 2nd Viscount Langford in 1791 on the death of his mother. When he died unmarried about 1795 the estate went to his grand nephew, Hon. Clothsworthy Taylour who was M.P. for Trim 1791-5 and for Co. Meath 1795-1800 He was created Baron Langford in 1800 having assumed the name Rowley in 1796 in order to inherit Summerhill. While he was M.P. for Trim the other M.P. for Trim was Arthur Wesley, the future Duke of Wellington. Clothsworthy voted against the Union in 1799 and for it in 1800 – the title might have had something to do with the change of mind, according to one commentator – ‘he had got his price.’

Baron Langford died in 1825 and his grandson, Clothworthy Wellington William Robert, became third Baron Langford. His son, Hercules Edward, became fourth baron in 1854 when he was just six years old. Educated at Eton he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the army. He leased Summerhill to the Empress of Austria for hunting in 1879 and 1880 and was her guest for these periods.

In 1883 Lord Langford held 2231 acres in Meath, 3659 in Dublin and 3855 in Limerick giving a total estate of 9745 acres.

Memorial plaque in Agher Church to George Cecil Rowley who died in World War I

Hercules Edward, fourth baron, oversaw the disposal of the Summerhill estate.  He died on 29th October 1919 and was interred in Agher cemetery. He lost his son and heir in the First World War and his second son was mentally unstable. His brother, William Chambre, took charge of the estate during his last years and after his death. William became 6th baron when his nephew died in 1922.

In 1921 the house was burned to prevent it falling into the hands of the Black and Tans. Beryl Moore recorded that a large four side clock was the only thing left undamaged and it was donated to Kilmessan Church of Ireland church. On the 4th February 1921 Summerhill House was set on fire by the IRA and completely destroyed. Colonel and Mrs Rowley were away. The five servants who lived in the house were sitting together in the kitchen when they heard a knock on the back door. The English butler did not open the door and some minutes later a whistle was blown and the back door battered in. The servants escaped through a door into the basement and made there way out into the darkness. As they walked down the avenue the house was dowsed in petrol and the fire started in a number of places.

In 1922 Colonel Rowley, the 6th Baron Langford, sought compensation from the Free State Government and after three years of negotiation with the Compensation Board a sum of £43,500 was paid to the Colonel, approximately one third of the value of the house and contents destroyed in the fire. Colonel Rowley invested the money in gilt-edged stocks and moved to Middlesex, England.

In the early twenty first century the eighth holder of the title was constable of Rhuddlan castle and lord of Rhuddlan, Wales. The family reside at Bodrhyddan Hall.

Visit to Summerhill by Empress of Austria

Empress Elizabeth of Austria

Born on Christmas Eve 1837, Elizabeth, the daughter of the Duke of Bavaria, was known from an early age as ‘Sisi’. At the age of fifteen Elizabeth was introduced to the Austrian emperor, Franz Joseph, who immediately fell in love with her and married her a year later. Elizabeth was absolutely miserable at court, she felt like a circus freak with people looking at her. Eventually she had a mental breakdown. When she recovered Elizabeth became more assertive and followed her interests in hunting, horses and her beauty treatments. Empress Elizabeth took up the cause of the Hungarians in the empire and a compromise was agreed where Hungary gained limited self-rule but remained under the control of the Emperor. This would later serve as model for the demands of Arthur Griffith and Sinn Féin.  An ancestor of Princess Diana’s, Earl Spencer, had been impressed by the hunting in Ireland when he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and he encouraged the Empress to go to Ireland.

Hercules Edward ‘Paddy’ Langford, fourth Baron Langford, leased Summerhill House to the Empress of Austria as a hunting lodge in 1879 and 1880 and was her guest for these periods. Langford rarely used Summerhill. It was not an official royal visit and there were no welcomes from the authorities. In fact the authorities resented the presence of the Empress. Elizabeth wrote to Queen Victoria from Summerhill telling her of the private visit. The Empress arrived by train with snow still on the ground. She was welcomed by the local people and an arch was constructed over the road way where she crossed from Kildare into Meath. “Welcome to Royal Meath”. proclaimed the arch.  A room was converted as a private chapel, another as a gymnasium and a direct telegraph line installed to Europe. Her horses were not suitable for the Meath obstacles and she was given the loan a horse by Leonard Morragh, Master of the Hounds. The Ward Union Hunt met at Batterstown on 24th February 1879. At 1.00 am the hunt assembled at Batterstown Station to meet a special train from Dublin which carried forty members and guests and their horses. The Empress was driven in a closed carriage to Parsontown Manor where she dressed for the hunt.  Her dressing delayed the start of the hunt. Upwards of 150 followers of the chase awaited the word to go. Jem Brindley was the huntsman at the time.

A stag was released and the hunt began. The stag raced southward through Moyglare and through a gap into the Maynooth Seminary with the hounds and the Empress in pursuit. The stag was captured and the President, Dr Walsh, came out to meet the group. The Empress of Austria complained of the cold and asked for a shawl. Dr. Walsh lent her his gown, invited them in for refreshment and she promised to return. The Empress attended Mass there the following Sunday. She managed to hunt nearly every day, hunting with the Ward, the Royal Meath Fox Hounds Club and the Kildare Fox Hunt. The many dangerous obstacles provided her with excellent challenges to her riding. The Empress presented a riding crop to the master of the Meath Hunt, Captain Robert Fowler of Rahinstown House. The riding crop which she presented to Fowler was sold at auction in 2010 for €28,000.

Vestments presented to Maynoooth by the Empress

In the early spring of 1880 the Empress again visited Ireland, going straight to Summerhill. On the first Sunday she went to Mass at the seminary in Maynooth and presented a gift of a three foot high model of St George slaying the dragon. She was unaware that St George was the patron saint of England and when she was told of its significance she ordered a fresh present, shamrock covered vestments from Dublin. St. George is also the patron of horses and the hunt, so she may have had this in her mind when she commissioned the statue. The Empress presented small present to the people she encountered. As Empress she was meant to use things like shoes and handkerchiefs just the once and then discard them. After she had used her lace handkerchief once to wipe away the sweat she dropped them on the hunting field and a number of these were preserved in local homes. The Empress left Ireland intending to return. However the unsettled political situation and the disapproval of Queen Victoria resulted in the Empress never returning to Ireland. The Empress was assassinated in 1897 by an anarchist in Geneva having dismissed her police guard.

There are many parallels between the Empress and Princess Diana including marriage at a young age, being known for their beauty, trapped in unhappy marriages and death as a result of dismissing their police protection.

Sources and Further Reading

Meath Chronicle

1901 and 1911 Census

Irish Architectural Archives

Anthony Cogan, The Diocese of Meath ancient and modern (Dublin 1862)

John Brady, A short history of the diocese of Meath 1867-1937 (Navan, 1937)

Olive C. Curran, History of the Diocese of Meath 1860-1993 (Mullingar, 1995)

Mark Bence-Jones, Burkes guide to country houses (1978)

Alastair Rowan and Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster (1993)

Kevin V. Mulligan, Buildings of Meath (2001)

Landowners in Ireland in 1876. (1988)

John Bateman, The great landowners of Great Britain and Ireland 1883 (1970) 

Brigitte Hamann, The Reluctant Empress: A biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1986)

Interior of church