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BALLYORGAN “A Palatine Village

Baile Ui Argáin – The Town of Horgan

The Ballyhouras were formed about 250 million years ago by an earth folding known as an Armorican movement. This folding threw up other mountains in southern Ireland and Europe.

One theory for the origin of Ballyhoura is that it comes from an ancient chieftain named Feabhra; another suggests that it was derived from Bealach Abhraidh meaning “Road of the Brow”.

Ballyorgan graveyard has been digitally surveyed and is viewable if you follow these links:  Ballyorgan (Abbey) Historic Graves, click here  |  Ballyorgan (Kilflynn) Historic Graves, click here


The Ballyhouras are steeped in mythology and legend. In one story, three cows, one white, one red and the third black, rose from the sea at Ballycotton, off east Cork. Walking a short distance inland, they separated and went in different directions. Their routes were said to have become the first roads in Ireland. The white cow crossed the Ballyhoura hills, towards Limerick. Her route is said to have gone as far as Lough Bó (The Cows Lake) on the Ballyhouras. This small lake, which was located on the Molanna River between Ballyorgan and Glenosheen, has since been drained.


Cairn Feardaigh, a hilltop fort on Carron Mountain (448 metres high), is 85 metres in diameter, with walls three metres thick and two metres high. The fort dates to the Iron Age (500BC-400AD). Several battles are recorded as having taken place there. A battle, in 837, was described in an ancient manuscript as a great slaughter of gentiles. On that occasion, Munster was invaded by a hoard of foreigners. They marched into the kingdom where they were defeated at Cairn Feardaigh by the native Gaels.


Around 550AD, Saint Flann founded a church at Kilflyn. This ruined abbey became a Trinitarian monastery when the Geraldines rebuilt it in the late 13th century. The church in Kilflyn Church of Ireland graveyard was built for the Protestant families of Ballyorgan and Glenosheen in 1812. It was last used for public worship at midnight on Christmas Eve 1994. Its interesting chancel window, dating from the middle of the 19th century, has the Oliver-Gascoigne coat of arms. It has some records relating to local Palatine families. Access may be arranged by prior appointment with the Fenton family, who reside nearby. A Kilflyn rector, Rev. Edward Duncan, was also an army chaplain in World War I. In 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was killed a year later whilst attempting to rescue soldiers wounded in a shelling bombardment.


In the year seventeen hundred and nine,

In came the brass-coloured Palatine

From the ancient banks of the Swabian Rhine.

In 1709, about 8,000 Palatines, mostly economic refugees arrived in Britain and Ireland from the Rheinish Palatinate of Germany. Many settled around Rathkeale, County Limerick. Fifty years later, 27 families moved to Ballyorgan, Glenosheen and Kilfinane. Mostly Calvinists and Lutherans, they included Altimes, Barkmanns, Delmeges, Steepes, Schumachers and Jungs. Each family had small hillside holding, which they reclaimed with considerable hard work. Rev. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, frequently preached in Kilfinane between 1765 and 1789. Consequently, most Palatines converted to Methodism but many later joined the Church of Ireland. The Palatine home of the Altons in Glenosheen has been purchased and restored by Limerick County Council.

LOLA MONTEZ (1818-1861)

Maria Dolores Eliza Gilbert was a granddaughter of Charles Silver Oliver of Castle Oliver. She studied dancing in Spain, where she married and assumed the stage name of Lola Montez. As Lola, she enthralled audiences across Europe, and it is claimed that she fascinated the Tsar of Russia! She became a mistress to Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Baroness de Rosenthal and Comtessa de Lansfeld.

After being accused of bigamy, she fled to America, where she appeared on Broadway. By 1855, she was in Australia where she reportedly horsewhipped the editor of the Ballarat Times for casting aspersions on her character. On returning to America in 1858, she became interested in female rights, and before her death in 1861, she frequently visited outcast women in Magdalene Asylums.


In 1850, Clonodfoy Castle was entirely rebuilt around 1850 for Mary and Elizabeth Oliver-Gascoigne (later Mrs FC Trench and Lady Ashtown). Their father, Richard Oliver, had taken the additional surname of Gascoigne when he inherited the Gascoigne estates at Parlington, Yorkshire, in 1812. His daughters changed the name of their family home from Clonodfoy to Castle Oliver.

The new castle was in the Scottish Baronial style. The young Oliver-Gascoigne ladies employed a Yorkshire architect G Fowler Jones to design it for them. It has a massive tower like a keep, and many stepped gables and corbelled oriels. The entrance has a gabled porch-tower over segmental pointed arches to form a porte-cochere. The framework for the high-pitched roofs is of iron, making it very much in advance of its time.

(Castle Oliver is a private residence and not open to the public)


The Joyce brothers, who made an outstanding contribution to Irish scholarship, were born in Ballyorgan and raised at their family home in Glenosheen.

PATRICK WESTON JOYCE (1827-1914)  scholar, historian and music-collector – was educated in hedge schools at Kilfinane and Mitchelstown. He graduated with an MA from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1864. He worked tirelessly for the preservation of antiquities and Irish culture. After his retirement as principal of Marlborough Street Training College, Dublin, in 1893, he became a prolific writer of over 20 books. The best know of these was his three-volume “The Origin and History of Irish Names and Places”. His last publication, “Old Irish Folk Music and Songs” (1909), contained 824 previously unpublished airs.

ROBERT DWYER JOYCE (1830-1883) A physician, poet and Fenian, graduated as a medical doctor from Queens College, Cork, in 1857. He became Professor of English at the Catholic University, Maynooth. In 1866, he left Ireland to practice medicine in Boston and lecture at Harvard medical school. While in America he became a friend of prominent Fenian leaders including John Devoy, Jeremiah O’Donovan-Rossa and John Boyle O’Reilly. He also published several collections of music and poetry. He returned to die in Ireland in 1883.