1837- Follistown, or Fonlistown,  a parish, in the barony of Skreen, county of Meath, and province of Leinster, 2 ½ miles (S.E.) from Navan, near the road to Duleek; containing, with the parish of Staffordstown, 137 inhabitants. It is a rectory, in the diocese of Meath, entirely impropriate in F. Murphy, Esq., of Kilcarn, to whom the tithes, amounting to £36 are payable. The clerical duties are performed gratuitously by the incumbent of Skreen.

1844- Follistown, or Fonlystown, a parish in the barony of Skreen, 2 1/2 miles south east of Navan, co. Meath, Leinster. Area, 651 acres. Population in 1831, 137; in 1841, 138. Houses 27. This parish is an entirely impropriate rectory, in the diocese of Meath; and its occasional duties are performed by the incumbent of Skreen. In 1834, the Protestants amounted to 4, and the Roman Catholics to 137.

Follistown Church

Map 1833

Situated on a sight NW-SE ridge in a fairly level landscape. A church at the ‘vill of Folevile’ is listed in the ecclesiastical taxation (1302-06) of Pope Nicholas IV (Cal. doc. Ire. 5, 255). Ussher (1622) describes the church and chancel of Follestowne as in reasonable repair (Erlington 1847-64, 1, lxxvii). According to Dopping’s Visitation (1682-5) the church and chancel were in ruins since 1641, and it was not enclosed (Ellison 1972, 7-8). The parish church of Follistown is visible as the foundations of an undivided rectangular building (int. dims 11.15m E-W; 5.15m N-S) in a neglected D-shaped graveyard (dims c. 50m E-W; c. 30m N-S) defined by masonry walls. There are gaps on the N and S walls of the church towards the W end, which may represent doorways.

The first church of which we have a record at Follistown was founded in the 12th century by the Norman baron of Skryne, Adam de Phepoe, for his knight, Walter de Foleville, who established the manor of Follistown and gave his name to the parish. His church was a chapel-of-ease of the mother church of Skryne. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and its temporalities were given into the charge of the Cistercian monks of St. Mary’s Abbey in Dublin. This means that the monks collected the tithes and other offerings in the parish. In return they supplied the priests to minister to the parish and the vestments, altar-plate and other necessary furnishings for the chancel.

In the 13th century Walter de Foleville’s descendant, Sir William de Foleville, wished to endow a chantry chapel within his church and wished to appoint his own chaplain. An argument arose as to this endowment between Sir William and the Abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey which went to Rome to be decided. The Pope delegated the case to an ecclesiastical court in Dublin which in a Solomon-like judgment ruled that the monks should assign to the church the chaplain whom Sir William should appoint; that this chaplain should have onethird of the profits accruing from the monks’ land at Follistown; that Sir William should pay any extra expenses incurred on behalf of the chantry, and that Sir William should give the monks of St. Mary’s three acres of land and a dwellinghouse on his manor.

The court added an interesting stipulation when giving judgment and I quote:-“William himself and his heirs, together with all their households as well as all their men who live with them in the same manor, shall visit their mother-church of Scrin three times in the year, that is to say, at Christmas, Easter and the festival of the church itself. This they shall do with their own offerings, according to the custom of the English churches, without being hindered by the rights of the aforesaid chapel regarding offerings and other things that belong to it from the aforesaid persons.”

Sir William, his family and retainers, three times each year rode up the hill from Follistown, followed by his farmers and his workmen, to attend the service at St. Colmcille’s Church presumably to meet the other knights of the Barony and their followers and to make the appropriate offerings in the mother church. All the above information charters of St. Mary’s Abbey transcribed by J.T. Gilbert. St. Mary’s Abbey held the church of Follistown and also “the mansion of the rectory,” until the dissolution of the monastery in 1540. Fortunately, their chartulary survived.

Follistown Church was held by the Cistercian monks until 1540. Bishop Dopping, in his visitation of Meath at the end of the 17th century, transcribed by Canon Ellison, tells us that both the church and chancel were ruined since the troubles of 1641. The fact that he mentions both church (nave) and chancel would suggest that the church was much larger than the remains which can be seen today.

In 1704 we find Rev. Charles Reily registered as “Popish Priest of Mountown, Dowdstown, Killcarne, Kilkearin, and Follistown.” He was ordained at Fraine, County Meath, in 1684, by Dr. Tyrrell, then Bishop of Clogher, was 50 years of age at the time of the Registration, and lived on the townland of Brenanstown.

Aerial Photo 2016

Cogan about 1867 –Follistown: This old church is situated on a rising ground, which commands an extensive view, and measures, internally, thirty-three feet four inches by fourteen feet five inches, In the south wall, near, the east end, there is a stone shaped externally like a font, the bowl of which is circular, with an incision, which conducts the water into the centre of the wall, where a space was left to allow it to sink into the earth. This was the lavatory of the church. The patron of Follistown was the Blessed Virgin, under the festival of her Nativity, and there is a holy well on the adjoining townland of Little Follistown, which used to be frequented There is an air of desolation about this deserted sanctuary, heightened by the loneliness of its position, the appearance of its grey walls, and the flocks and herds that browse over the graves of the dead. The old baptismal font was removed by the writer, when curate in this parish, in 1852, to the present chapel of Johnstown.

In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded a well named Tobar Muire, thirty perches north of the ruined church at Follistown. 

Follistown Font The undecorated sandstone font was moved to Johnstown Roman Catholic church (ME025-041001-), c. 3km to the W, in 1852 (Cogan 1862 70, 2, 238) where it is set up outside the door. It is octagonal (ext. dim. 0.65-0.67m; H 0.5m) with a circular basin (diam. 0.51m; D 0.2m) and chamfered under-panels. The font sits uncomfortably on an octagonal stem (H 0.38m) that narrows slightly at the waist where there is a horizontal moulded rib (Wth 0.05m). The stem is limestone and might not belong with the basin (Roe 1968, 119 21). Of this font Miss Helen Roe, in her book, “The Medieval Fonts of Meath,” says:- “The font is a well-cut octagonal vessel with chamfered under-panels”; she does not suggest an actual date; however, its eight-sided shape and uncarved panels might well suggest a date in the mid-14th century. Dean Cogan, in “The Diocese of Meath,” writes that in 1852, when he was curate of the parish, he had the Follistown font removed to the church of Johnstown.  

Follistown Land Ownership

In the 12th century the Norman baron of Skryne, Adam de Phepoe, granted his knight, Walter de Foleville, the lands at Follistown. At some time in the 14th century the manor and townland of Follistown pased to the Cusacks of Gerrardstown. Col. H. Galwey, in his genealogy of the Cusack family, tells us that in 1343 Sir John Cusack of Gerardstown and Catherine, his wife, made a settlement of the lands of Gerrardstown and Follistown, entailing them on their male heirs. These lands the Cusacks held until the 17th century. We do not know the family name of Sir John’s wife, Catherine, but it may well be she was a de Foleville heiress who brought Follistown to the Cusacks and it may have been about this time that the Follistown font was made for the church, which was the parish church of a parish comprising the townlands of Follistown and Gerrardstown. There was never a church at Gerrardstown.

Patrick Cusack, Irish Catholic held the lands at Follistowne in 1641.

There is  a local folklore story relating to Follistown. Murphy’s brewery, Academy Street, Navan, where the council yard is now. This brewery was knocked down about 1910. The railway bridge was built where the brewery was. It was Murphy’s who sent the whiskey to Dublin so the Croppies on Tara would get drunk in 1798 and so lost the battle of Tara. One of the family had an estate in Follistown  and they sold it to the Duke of  Wellington who lost it in a games of cards with George III.

There was a hedge school in Follistown near the house now occupied by Mr. Michael Daly. The masters name was Clarke. The pupils used to him corn and potatoes for payment.

There was once coal mined in Folistown It must have been about 1830 or so. A named Mangan of Rathaldron (now dead) related that as a boy he was lowered down the mine shaft to rescue a heifer that had fallen in and came to light on a ledge. Miners tools of all kinds – picks shovels buckets barrows etc lay scattered around. As far as he could ascertain he was only half way down the pit. The bog of Follistown is the only swampy place in Realthogue district. There is a fox covert near it and the huntsmen and hounds frequently visit it.

In 1833 Francis Murphy held lands in Follistown.

In 1854/5 the Earl of Mayo and Francis Murphy were the land owners of Follistown. Occupiers: 1854/5 Griffith’s Valuation: John Andrews, Patrick Bradley, Mary Byrne, Michael Clarke, Brian Coyle, Patrick Daly, Richard Daly, Michael Farrell, Lawrence Finnegan, James Gibney, Walter Healy, John Heeny, Lawrence Lawless, Edward Logan, Matthew McCabe, Bartholomew McDonagh, James McGrath, Richard McGrath, James, McNally, Mary McNally, Anne Martin, John Meehan, Robert Morgan, Francis Murphy, Edward Sheridan, Catherine Sherlock, Margaret Smith, Simon Sully, Margaret Sully, Lawrence Tully.

1901 Census: Families living in Follistown: Brien, Clarke, Craven, Daly, Gogarty, McGrath, McNally, Logan, Mangan, O’Neill, Smith, Smyth, Sully. 

1911 Census: Families living in Follistown:  Clarke, Doran, Duly, Gogarty, Logan, McNally, Mangan, O’Neill, Smyth, Sully, Weldon.