DONERAILE, a market and post-town, and a parish (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the barony of FERMOY, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 21 miles (N. by W.) from Cork, and 132 (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 6940 inhabitants, of which number, 2652 are in the town. Sir William St. Leger, who was Lord-President of Munster in the reign of Chas. I., held his court here. He purchased the Doneraile estate of Sir Walter Welmond and John Spenser (son of the poet), which purchase was subsequently confirmed by the crown, and the estate created a manor. In the civil war of 1641, Sir William, both as a statesman and soldier, rendered important services; but his infirm health did not enable him long to sustain the hardships to which he was then exposed, and he died in the following year. In 1645, the Irish under Lord Castlehaven took the castle of Doneraile, and burned the greater part of the town.
It is pleasantly situated on the river Awbeg (the "Gentle Mulla" of Spenser), which is here crossed by a neat stone bridge of 3 arches, and on the mail road from Mallow to Mitchelstown; it consists chiefly of one wide main street, and a smaller one called Buttevant lane, and contains about 390 houses. The vicinity is extremely pleasing, the roads being shaded by fine fir and other trees, and the country studded with gentlemen's seats. By a charter of the 15th of Chas. I. (1639), constituting Sir William St. Leger lord of the manor, power was given to the seneschal to hold a court leet and court baron, with jurisdiction in personal actions to the amount of 40s.; also a market on Thursday, and two fairs annually on the feast of St. Magdalene and All Souls. The market is, however, now held on Saturday for provisions, but on account of its proximity to Mallow, it is but thinly attended; the fairs, which are held on the 12th of Aug. and Nov., have also much declined; and although the seneschal's court is still occasionally held, with the view of preserving the right, no business has been transacted in it for the last seven years. The market and courthouse, a convenient building, is situated in the main street. Near the bridge is the extensive flour-mill of Messrs. Creagh & Stawell, and at Park is that of Messrs. Norcott & Co. This is a chief constabulary police station, and a small military force is also quartered in the town. By a second charter, granted in the 31st of Chas. II. (1660), the borough was empowered to return two members to the Irish parliament, and the elective franchise was vested in the freeholders made by the lord of the manor; but no corporation was created: the seneschal was the returning officer. From this period until the Union it continued to send two burgesses to parliament, when it was disfranchised and the compensation of £15,000 paid to the heirs of Hayes, Viscount Doneraile. His descendant, Hayes St. Leger, the third and present Viscount Doneraile, is lord of the manor, which extends over parts of this parish and that of Templeroan.
The parish, which extends to the Galtee mountains, on the confines of the county of Limerick, and includes the ancient subdivisions of Rossagh and Kilcoleman, contains 20,797 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £9367 per annum. About 8800 acres are coarse mountain pasture: the arable land is in general good, and the state of agriculture is gradually improving, a considerable portion of the land being in the occupation of the resident gentry. Limestone abounds, and some good specimens of marble are occasionally obtained. Among the numerous seats, Doneraile Park, that of Viscount Doneraile, is distinguished for its extent and beauty: it is intersected by the river Awbeg, over which, and within the demesne are several neat stone and rustic bridges, The mansion is a handsome and substantial building, to which has been added, within the last few years, a large conservatory stored with the choicest plants; it is situated on an eminence gently sloping to the winding vale of the Awbeg. The other seats are Creagh Castle, that of G. W. B. Creagh, Esq.; Laurentinum, of the same family; Kilbrack, of Mrs. Stawell; Byblox, of Major Crone; all of which are on the Awbeg: and in the parish are also Donnybrook, the seat of W. Hill, Esq., Old Court, of J. Stawell, Esq.; Carker House, of N. G. Evans, Esq.; Lissa, of Capt. Croker; Hermitage, of J. Norcott, Esq.; Crobeg, of G. Stawell, Esq.; Cromore, of R. Campion, Esq. Park House, of A. Norcott, Esq.; Cottage, of J. Norcott, Esq., M. D.; Stream Hill, of G. Crofts, Esq.; Kilbrack Cottage, of the Very Rev. P. Sheehan, P.P.; and, in the town, the newly erected mansion of A. G. Creagh, Esq. The parish is in the diocese of Cloyne, and is a perpetual curacy, forming part of the union of Templeroan, or Doneraile, in the patronage of the Bishop; the rectory is impropriate in Edward Giles, Esq., of Park, near Youghal. The tithes (including Rossagh and Kilcoleman) amount to £1173. 7. 1., the whole of which is payable to the impropriator, subject to an allowance of £13. 6. 8., (late currency) to the officiating minister. The church, at the north end of the town, is a neat and commodious edifice with a tower, formerly surmounted by a spire which was blown down about 12 years since. It was erected in 1816, by aid of a loan of £2000 from the late Board of First Fruits, and contains an ancient font, and a mural monument to several members of the St. Leger family. The evening church service is performed in the courthouse during the winter, and the Methodists also assemble there on alternate Fridays. Rossagh and Kilcoleman, which are said to have been formerly distinct parishes, have merged into this both for civil and ecclesiastical purposes. In the R. C. divisions the parish is united to those of Cahirduggan and Templeroan. The chapel is a handsome and spacious edifice, erected by subscription in 1821: it consists of a nave lighted on each side by lofty windows and surmounted by a cupola: the altar and other internal decorations correspond with its exterior. The site was given by Lord Doneraile, who also contributed £50 towards its erection. A convent for nuns of the order of the presentation has been established here for many years, and liberally endowed by Miss Goold. The chapel attached to it is open to the public on Sunday mornings, and the chaplaincy is endowed with £82 per ann., by Miss Goold, who has also appropriated £28 per ann. for clothing the children educated at the convent school, where about 400 girls are gratuitously instructed, and taught both plain and ornamental needlework. The parochial school of 25 children is aided by £10 per ann. from the incumbent, and a school at Ballinvonare of 110 children is aided by £12 per ann. from Harold Barry, Esq., who also provides the school-house. The Lancasterian free school of 300 boys is within the demesne of Lord Doneraile, by whom it is entirely supported, and a school of about 20 girls is supported by Lady Doneraile, who also pays a writing-master for attending it. A dispensary is supported here in the customary manner. At Ballyandree is a chalybeate spring, stated to be of much efficacy in complaints of the liver.
Of the remains of antiquity, Kilcoleman castle is the most interesting, from having been once the residence of the poet Spenser. It was originally a structure of some magnitude, the property of the Desmond family, and on their forfeiture was, with about 3000 acres of land, granted by Queen Elizabeth, in 1586, to Edmund Spenser, who resided here for about 12 years, during which period he composed his "Faery Queen." The ruins, situated on the margin of a small lake, have a very picturesque appearance, being richly clothed with ivy; the tower-staircase and the kitchen are still nearly entire, and one small closet and window in the tower quite perfect. The castle at Creagh is in good preservation, and about to be fitted up as an appendage to the family mansion. The ruins of Castle Pook still remain, but of Doneraile castle, which stood near the bridge, and in which Sir William St. Leger held his court of presidency, there is not a vestige. Doneraile gives the titles of Viscount and Baron to the family of St. Leger.