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Kilcronaghan parish (part 1)

The parish of Kilcronaghan has a long history, a history that will be summarised in two parts. The first part deals with its origins up until the Plantation of Ulster.

Origins of the parish

Kilcronaghan parish takes its name from the early medieval church that once stood in the townland of Mormeal, claimed to have been built in the 6th century. The ruins of the current old church just outside the Old Rectory are said to be on the site of this church.

The origins of Kilcronaghan parish itself however lie in the reforms of the Irish Celtic Christian church that took place during the 12th century in the decades following the Normans arrival. The intent to bring the Irish church into line with that of Rome and the rest of western Europe.

These reforms saw the introduction of dioceses and parishes to Ireland, replacing the previous system of monasticism. These units would be largely synchronous with the existing political order with dioceses and parishes corresponding to the territories (tuatha) and sub-divisions of which (ballybetaghs) of Gaelic families and Anglo-Norman manors.

In the case of Kilcronaghan, it along with the neighbouring parishes of Ballynascreen and Desertmartin, are stated are forming the ancient Irish tuath of Glenconkeyne. This means that the individual parishes could correspond to ballybetagh sub-divisions of Glenconkeyne and thus possible pre-parish territorial divisions of the area dating beyond the 12th century.

The first mention of Kilcronaghan in history is between the years 1302-06 when it is listed as Kellcruchnathan in a papal taxation, after which it recieves various mentions throughout different documents over the following centuries.

Erenaghs

Another reform was the attempt to end the hereditary system of erenaghs and coarbs used by the Irish church. Erenaghs and coarbs, where families who where charged with the upkeep and maintence of a church and its lands. This reform seems to have failed as there are still families listed as being erenaghs in the 16th century even after the arrival of Protestantism. As such Kilcronaghan had a hereditary erenagh family.

The townlands the erenaghs of Kilcronaghan held are recorded as: Ballintrolla, Derreskerdan, Dirrygrinagh, and Kellynahawla. These names were attempts in 1610 at anglicising the local Irish names of the townlands. Today these four townlands are now known as Granny, Tamnyaskey, Tullyroan, and Mormeal, though it is next to impossible to tell which corresponds to which older name.

With the Protestant Reformation in Ireland, the erenagh land came into possession of the local bishop, and under the conditions of the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century, these lands where to retained by the bishop.

Reformation and Plantation

When the Protestant Reformation reached Ireland in the 16th century, the church in Ireland converted to the Anglican communion and inherited the property and territorial structures of the pre-Reformation church. Whilst there were attempts to rearrange some parish boundaries, such actions were complicated affairs and required permission from the Privy Council in Dublin. Due to the small size of some Church of Ireland congregations, some medieval church and graveyards where abandoned.

In the case of Kilcronaghan it is uncertain but unlikely if its boundaries were changed or affected much in this time as it appears to have had few if any Protestants until the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century. In fact the parish itself seems to have been quite underpopulated.

Kilcronaghan seems to have come under direct control of the Church of Ireland from around 1609. The last recorded Roman Catholic rector of Kilcronaghan is stated as being William McTaggart in 1609, however he appears to have conformed and is the first recorded Church of Ireland rector of Kilcronaghan in 1622.

On 29 March, 1609, a Papal Bull from Pope Paul V gave Hugh O'Neill, former Earl of Tyrone, the "advowson of certain Rectories and Perpetual Vicarages on the dioceses of Armagh and Derry, respectively". Amongst the parishes included in the advowson was Kilcronaghan.

 

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