a parish, in the county of the city of LIMERICK, and province of MUNSTER, 2 ½ miles (S. E.) from Limerick; containing 729 inhabitants. This parish is situated on the road from Limerick to Bruff, and comprises 821 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and about 97 acres of bog mostly cut out and reclaimed. The land is generally good, but, though so near the city of Limerick, the system of agriculture is in a very unimproved state; some of the land is depastured by milch cows and the produce sent daily to Limerick. There are several handsome residences in the neighbourhood, of which the principal are Ballyseeda, that of T. G. Fitzgibbon, Esq.; South Hill, of S. Evans, Esq.; and Clonlong, of J. Norris, Esq.; and there are several substantial houses, the occasional residences of some of the Limerick merchants, who have farms in the parish. Donoughmore is a prebend in the cathedral of Limerick, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £92. 6. 1 ½. There is neither church, glebe-house, nor glebe. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Cahirnarryand Cahirnavalla; the chapel is a small thatched building nearly in the centre of the parish. There is a pay school of about 100 children. The ruins of the ancient parish church are extensive and venerably picturesque, consisting of the walls and gables, which are tolerably entire and covered with ivy; within the area are the tombs and monuments of the ancient families of Roche, Kelly, Connell, and Fitzgerald.
Brief Parish History & Geographical Location
The parish of Donaghmore/Knockea is made up of the old parishes of Cahernarry (today spelt as Cahernorry), Donaghmore and Caheravahally (or Cahervallagh). The ancient parish of Caheravallagh roughly equates to the Knockea end of the parish according to Thomas Toomey, local historian. There is a townland of Cahervallagh in the parish of Mungret and Crecora, bounding on the townland of Fanningstown in the parish of Donaghmore. Part of the ancient parish of St Nicholas is also in the present day parish. Prior to 1961, the church of Our Lady Queen of Peace was a chapel of ease to Donaghmore. Our Lady Queen of Peace became a separate parish in 1961. The population of the parish is approximately 4,000 people.
Some books spell ‘Donaghmore’ as ‘Donoughmore’. Legend has it that St Patrick founded the church in Donaghmore, which can be translated as Domhnach Mar, meaning ‘large church’. The Irish word Domhnach is used to signify that St Patrick built the church. Prior to the visit of Patrick, the area was known as Ard-Chliach. The name Knockea is derived from Cnoc Cae or Cnoc Aodha, which means the hill of Cae.
The hill of Knockea was where Lámáin, the King of Ui Fidhgeinte met St Patrick. Lámáin ordered a feast to be prepared for Patrick, and Mantáin, a deacon in Patrick’s group, assisted in preparing the feast. A company of jugglers arrived and asked Patrick for food. Patrick sent them to ask Lámáin or Mantáin for food but both men refused the jugglers.
Just then a youth named Neassáin appeared carrying a cooked ram on his back for the feast. His mother accompanied him. Patrick asked Neassáin for the ram and Neassáin gave it to Patrick against his mother’s wishes. Patrick then gave the ram to the jugglers and instantly the ground opened and swallowed them. Patrick cursed Lámáin and Mantáin and baptized Neassáin, making him a deacon and founded a church for him in Mungret.
It is said that Patrick fasted and prayed for forty days and nights on Knockea hill and that the impression of his knees and thighs are on the rock where he knelt. Patrick then went onto Donaghmore where he baptized the people and built a church. Some of the tribes of the area came to Patrick and he baptized them and blessed their lands to the north from the hill of Finne, which was north-west of Donaghmore.
Knockea hill was excavated by archaeologists in 1960 under the leadership of Professor M. J. O’Kelly. They uncovered ringforts, houses and a burial place that was believed to date from pre-Christian times.
There is a story, related to Cahernorry Hill, about Fionn and the Fianna and their adventure in a strange underworld. They were lost in dense fog when they stumbled across a house. In the house, they found Cuanna, the fairy chief, a grey haired twelve-eyed man, a beautiful young woman, and an old woman with a cloak and a ram. A meal was prepared for them and the ram complained that portions of the food were unfair. The ram ate Fionn’s portion and each of the Fianna tried to tie the ram to the wall but was unable to. However, the old man captured the ram without any problem and threw him out of the house.
The old woman threw her cloak over the men from the Fianna and turned them into old men. When the cloak was removed they returned to their normal forms. Cuanna explained to Fionn that the ram signified humanity, the old man represented the world, the old woman represented old age and the young woman could travel faster in a second than a person could in forty years. Cuanna then told Fionn not to worry about this too much.
Mount St Oliver graveyard is in the parish under the care of Limerick Corporation. This new graveyard was opened due to a lack of space in the city graveyard in Mount St Lawrence. The graveyard, which is multi-denominational, was opened on April 7th 1978 by Bishop Jeremiah Newman and Bishop Edwin Owen.
Donaghmore graveyard is in the grounds of the church ruin. Lewis mentions that in the graveyard in Donaghmore there were tombs to the Roche, Kelly, Connell and Fitzgerald families. There are a number of tombs in the graveyard but the inscriptions are illegible due to the passage of time. The graveyard is very well maintained by members of a Fás scheme.
There is a tomb inside the church ruin. The oldest headstone that we found, was in memory of Mary Meehan who died on June 4th 1744, aged 4. Fr Thomas Graham, Parish Priest from 1919 to 1926, is buried in the grounds of Donaghmore graveyard.
In Cahernorry graveyard there are a number of large monuments. Three medium sized tombs were to the Shine family, the Russell family and the Vereker family. Towering over the graveyard is a huge monument to John Howley that was erected by himself prior to his death. There is a stone plaque dated 1820 on the wall of the graveyard at the roadside. Part of the inscription on it reads “When name and frame whence came are all forgot, Who raised this obelisk peace be his lot.”The Howley name also appears on the plaque. According to local historian, Thomas Toomey, the stone on the wall of the graveyard was the plinthstone from the obelisk that stood on the summit of Cahernorry hill.
The graveyard is in excellent condition and a local committee maintains it. The oldest headstone that we found was in memory of Bridget Quinn, who died on May 17th 1778, aged 16.
Raheen graveyard, in the townland of the same name, is also referred to as Cahervally graveyard. The graveyard is in extremely good condition and there are two large tombs to the Hunt family of Ballysinode.
The oldest headstone that we came across was to James Minihan who died on August 10th 1774, aged 24. However, according to “An Antique and Storied Land” the oldest headstone in Raheen graveyard is in memory of Patrick Purcell, who died on March 17th 1757, aged 70.
Donaghmore graveyard has 240 memorials, each of which can be looked up via this link: Donaghmore Historic Grave