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Ardagh, Longford

Historical Description

ARDAGH, a parish, partly in the barony of MOYDOW, but chiefly in that of ARDAGH, county of LONGFORD, and province of LEINSTER, 4 miles (W. S. W.) from Edgeworthstown; containing 4980 inhabitants, of which number, 142 are in the village, which comprises 25 houses and is wholly in the latter barony. This ancient place derives its name from its elevated situation, and its origin may at the latest be ascribed to the middle of the fifth century, when its church was founded. Subsequently here was a friary of the third order of St. Francis, founded at Ballynesaggard by the family of O'Ferrall, and reformed in 1521 by the friars of the Strict Observance. The parish is situated on the nearest road from Mullingar to Longford over Ballicorkey bridge, but the coach road is through Edgeworthstown, from which there is a penny post. It comprises 10,063 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £8073 per annum; there is a moderate extent of bog, but no waste land. The land is good, and is principally under tillage, and the system of agriculture, though still very backward, has considerably improved. Ardagh House is the seat of Sir G. R. Fetherston, Bart.; Richfort, of J. A. Richardson, Esq.; Oldtown, of Thornton Gregg, Esq.; and Drumbawn, of Peyton Johnston, Esq. Fairs are held on April 5th and Aug. 26th. Petty sessions are held every Thursday; and here is a constabulary police station.

The DIOCESE of ARDAGH appears to have been founded either by St. Patrick or by his disciple and nephew, St. Mell, a Briton, who became bishop and abbot of Ardagh before the year 454. Of his successors until the arrival of the English, in the reign of Hen. II., little with certainty is known, and nothing remarkable is recorded of any. Near the close of the fifteenth century the bishoprick was held by William O'Ferrall, who was also dynast of the surrounding territory; and Richard O'Ferrall combined these two dignities from 1541 to 1553. It was held jointly with the diocese of Kilmore by royal patent from 1603 till 1633, when it was voluntarily resigned by William Bedell, Bishop of Kilmore; and John Richardson, D.D., Archdeacon of Derry, and a native of Chester, was advanced to the see of Ardagh. This prelate, apprehensive of the insurrection which broke out towards the close of 1641, withdrew with all his substance into England in the summer of that year; and having a short time before his departure recovered some lands in his diocese from one Teigue O'Roddy, the latter applied for relief to the British House of Commons, and a summons was sent to the bishop requiring his appearance on a certain day; but on application to the Irish House of Lords, the lord-chancellor was ordered to write to the Speaker of the English House, asserting their privileges, and refusing to permit the bishop's compliance; and on a motion of the Bishop of Clonfert an order was resolved on to prevent such grievances in future. After his death, in 1653 or 1654, the see continued vacant and its revenues sequestrated until the Restoration of Chas. II., when the dioceses were again united and so continued until the deprivation of Bishop Sheridan, in 1692. Ulysses Burgh, D.D., was then promoted to Ardagh; and dying in the same year the union was restored, but was ultimately dissolved in 1742, on the translation of Bishop Hart to the archiepiscopal see of Tuam, with which Ardagh has been since held in commendam, the archbishop being suffragan to the Lord Primate for this see. Under the provisions of the Church Temporalities Act (3rd of Wm. IV.) this diocese, on the death of the present Archbishop of Tuam, will be again permanently united to that of Kilmore. It is one of the ten which constitute the ecclesiastical province of Armagh, and comprehends part of the counties of Sligo, Roscommon, and Leitrim, in the civil province of Connaught; part of Cavan, in Ulster; and part of Westmeath and nearly the whole of Longford, in Leinster. It comprises, by estimation, 233,650 acres, of which 4400 are in Sligo, 8700 in Roscommon, 71,200 in Leitrim, 10,600 in Cavan, 8900 in Westmeath, and 129,850 in Longford. A dean and an archdeacon are the only dignitaries, but have no official duties to perform, and the latter has no emoluments: there is no chapter, but in cases of necessity a majority of the beneficed clergymen of the diocese represent that body; the parochial church of Ardagh serves as the cathedral. It was divided into four rural deaneries prior to the year 1819, when the diocesan dispensed with the services of the rural deans and has since discharged their duties himself. The diocese comprises 38 parishes, of which 20 are rectories or united rectories and vicarages, 17 vicarages, and 1 impropriate cure: the total number of benefices is 26, of which 8 are unions consisting of 20 parishes, and the remainder consist of single parishes, and of which 1 is in the gift of the crown, 22 in that of the diocesan, and 3 are in lay patronage; the number of churches is 33, and of glebe-houses 22. The see lands comprise 22,216 statute acres, of which 13,194 are profitable land, and 9022 are unprofitable; and the gross annual revenue payable to the archbishop is, on an average, £3186. 2. 6¾. In the R. C. divisions this diocese and a few parishes in Meath constitute the see, which is suffragan to Armagh; it contains 65 chapels, served by 42 parish priests and 42 coadjutors and curates. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ardagh, and constituting the corps of the deanery, which is in the patronage of the Crown. The tithes amount to £482. 11. 5½.: and the mensal and other lands of the deanery, exclusively of several houses, tolls of fairs, a plot of nearly two acres on which the deanery-house is built, a farm of 13a. lr. lOp., and a large bog, comprise 714a. 2r. 35p., (statute measure) producing, with the annual renewal fines, a rental of £292. 11. 2. per annum. The church is a plain commodious building with a square tower, for the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £900, in 1812, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have lately granted £301 for its repair. The deanery-house was built in 1823, by a gift of £100 and a loan of £1200 from the same Board. In the R. C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, which includes also the adjoining parish of Moydow, in each of which is a chapel; that of Ardagh is situated near the village. The parochial school for boys is principally supported by a grant of £40 per ann. from Dr. Murray, the present dean, who also contributes annually £15. towards the support of the girls' school, which is further aided by an annual grant of £5 from the Ardagh Diocesan Society: the school-house is a good slated building of two stories, with apartments for the master and mistress, erected by Dr. Murray at an expense of £400, and attached to it is an acre of land. There are 40 boys and 30 girls in this school, and in the private pay schools are about 290 boys and 110 girls: there is also a Sunday school for boys and girls. Some remains of the old cathedral church, a small edifice rudely built of fragments of rock of a large size, are still visible; it was superseded by another church, now also in ruins, and the present edifice was erected near its site. St. Mell was interred here, and his festival is annually celebrated on Feb. 6th. The comedy of the "Mistakes of a Night," written by Dr. Goldsmith, derives its plot from an incident that occurred at this village to the author, who, on passing through it, having inquired for the "head inn," was directed by a humorous individual to the residence of the proprietor of the place, Mr. Fetherston, who perceiving the delusion, nevertheless indulged it, and hospitably entertained his guest; and it was not until next morning that, on finishing his breakfast and calling for the bill, the poet discovered his mistake.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840 by Samuel Lewis

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Land and Property

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