Barrowhouse, County Laois

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Teach na Bhearbha
Barrowhouse is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°57′46″N 7°00′00″W / 52.9627°N 7.0000°W / 52.9627; -7.0000Coordinates: 52°57′46″N 7°00′00″W / 52.9627°N 7.0000°W / 52.9627; -7.0000
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
County County Laois
Population (2006)
 • Urban 300
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 • Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)
Irish Grid Reference S644885

Barrowhouse (Irish: Theach na Bhearbha) is an area in southeast County Laois in Ireland. Barrowhouse is located close to the County Kildare border and the town of Athy. Barrowhouse has a population of around 300 people and includes the townlands of Barrowhouse, Tankardstown, Shanganaghmore, Shanganabeg, Kilmoroney, Rathbearbha, Garoonagh, Cullenagh, Milford, Dunbrin, Magheragh, Monebrook, Cullenagh, Graigue, Ballybeg and Whitebog. The Barrowhouse area also holds the unusual distinction of being the only part of Laois in the Athy Roman Catholic parish and the Dublin R.C. Diocese. Barrowhouse gets its name as the River Barrow flows at the areas eastern border with Kildare.


Barrowhouse has a Roman Catholic church called St. Marys built in 1831 at the time of the lifting of the penal laws. There is a three teacher primary school which has been in existence since 1830. The school is officially known as Shanganamore National School however locals refer to it as Barrowhouse N.S. Students and teachers were relocated to the current school in 1999 after 169 years in the old school. The old school is now used as a community hall. Barrowhouse gaelic football field is located in Shanganabeg but is not owned by Barrowhouse gaa club, which is in the process of working on a new pitch less than a mile from the church and primary school.

St. Marys Church Barrowhouse[edit]

How Barrowhouse on the west bank of the Gaelic Irish side of the River Barrow in medieval times came to be included in the Dublin diocese is a mystery. The Church of St Mary’s, the only Chapel of Ease within the parish of St Michael’s, Athy, is reputed to have been built in the 1820s on a site donated by a Miss Fennell who lived in a thatched cottage to the left of the church. She would later leave her entire 15-acre holding to the local church.

St Mary’s, built in anticipation of the granting of Catholic emancipation, was the post penal law replacement for a church at Tankardstown which in pre-reformation days served as the local church for the people of Barrowhouse and Tankardstown.

In Tankardstown graveyard today there can still be found some remains of that ancient church.

Shanganamore N.S.[edit]

The first teacher in Barrowhouse is believed to have been a Hugh O’Connell and he was followed in later years by George Carmichael, John Fleming, Mr J Powell and Mr and Mrs J. Boylan, whose son was the eminent scholar and theologian Monsignor Patrick Boylan.

The future Monsignor attended Barrowhouse School, as did another cleric, Rev JJ Malone who spent his priestly life in Australia. Fr Malone was a writer and a poet and one of his better known poems was ‘The Old White Washed Schoolhouse of Shanganamore’ It was included in his book of poems ‘Wild Briar and Wattle Blossoms’ published in Melbourne in 1914 which carried a photograph of the old school.

The old whitewashed schoolhouse was closed by the Department of Education in 1975 and the two teachers, Eileen O’Connor, school principal and Frances Kelly were transferred to the newly opened school at Ballyroe. The proud people of Barrowhouse rallied to save their school and like the people of Dunquin in County Kerry whose school was also closed around the same time they kept the school open, paying the teachers out of their own pockets.

Ignatius Brennan and Bernie Gibbons were employed and paid by the local community to keep Barrowhouse school open. In the face of the community’s commitment the Department of Education decided in 1976 to reopen the Barrowhouse School and Miss O’Connor and Mrs. Kelly were transferred back to their original positions.

When Miss O’Connor retired in 1985 Gerry Mulholland was appointed principal and after many years campaigning a new school was built on a site adjoining the old school.

The new school was opened in October 1998 with 44 pupils on the roll book and two teachers.

Barrowhouse school today has 78 pupils and three teachers, in addition to a special needs assistant, a resource teacher and a learning support teacher.

The increase in pupil numbers has necessitated the building of an extension to the school and Bishop Eamon Walsh blessed and officially opened that extension.

Mrs Pauline Lawlor who was appointed principal last September and Eibhlís Candy and Aoife Brennan and the rest of the Barrowhouse school staff shared in the delight of the local people in reaching yet another important milestone in the proud history of Barrowhouse community.


Barrowhouse, as it is known today, was originally two regions, Fasaghreban and Feranclan-ui-donal. One of the most significant landmarks in the Barrowhouse area is Dunbrin Fort, which is reputed to have been a Danish Station, because of coins found there. On the 16th of May, 1921, two of a group of eight IRA volunteers were shot dead during an ambush on the Black and Tans, who regularly passed through the area going to Ballylynan. Today, the area is marked with a memorial to the deceased, William Connors and James Lacey. Barrowhouse also includes the ruins of Kilmorony House. There was once a horse racing course in Kilmorony but this has been gone for over 100 years. There is also a ruin of a Roman Catholic church and graveyard in Tankardstown. Barrowhouse was one of the last remaining Irish speaking areas in the region with the language dying out 200 years ago.[citation needed]

Kilmoroney House[edit]

Travellers on the R417 Athy to Carlow road will be aware of the gaunt ruin of a house on an eminence above the river Barrow.

This house was once the home of the Weldon family. The Weldons came to Ireland around 1600 and acquired considerable estates in Counties Laois and Kildare. It is through John Weldon of St. John's Bower, Athy, County Kildare that the direct line of the Weldon family in Kildare can be traced. In 1613 he was MP for Athy and in 1624 High Sheriff of County Kildare.

Over the next three centuries, members of the Weldon family played an active and prominent role in the life of County Kildare. The family papers in the National Archives show the family's social contacts in the early years of the 20th century through correspondence with such prominent people as Winston Churchill and Dr. Douglas Hyde. The family was essentially a military one and many members served the British Empire in India, Africa and the Far East. Captain George Anthony Weldon of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was killed at Glencoe in October 1899 during the Boer War. Another member of the family, Major Arthur Stewart Weldon, served in South Africa and the First World War and was killed in action in March 1917. His brother-in-law Colonel Croshaw died of wounds received in the Great War in September 1917. The old British Legion Hall in Naas (Now the Scout Den) was dedicated to their memory. The last of the male line of Weldons to live at Kilmorony was Sir Anthony Arthur Weldon who became the sixth Baronet of Kilmorony on the death of his father in 1900. Sir Anthony died in 1917 as a result of shell shock received while fighting in France.

The main entrance to Kilmorony estate was on the Athy-Carlow road but has been obscured by road widening. The entrance avenue to the house crossed over the Barrow Navigational Canal and the River Barrow. The Canal Bridge is of cut stone and the Barrow Bridge is of a steel construction. Part of this bridge has now collapsed into the river.

Referred to as "Sportland" on the 1783 Taylor map of Kildare, Kilmorony was a fine Georgian house built some time after 1752 (It does no appear on the Noble and Keenan Map of 1752). The main block was of two stories over a basement of five bays and a balustraded roof parapet and a lower two-story wing of four bays. The house was dismantled in the late 1930s. The coach house of Kilmorony has survived and is now a private dwelling.

Kilmorony House is located two miles south-east of Athy on the Carlow road

Barrowhouse Ambush, Irish War of Independence[edit]

The ambush at Barrowhouse on 16 May 1921 was authorised but the eight men who took part were poorly equipped in terms of arms and ammunition. The participants in what would result in the last of the pre-truce casualties involving members of the Carlow Brigade were Captain Joe Maher of Cullenagh, Lieutenant Joe Lacey of Barrowhouse, Paddy Dooley of Kilabbin, Maganey, Mick Maher of Barrowhouse, Jack O’Brien of Barrowhouse, Joe Ryan of Kilmoroney, James Lacey of Barrowhouse and William Connor of Barrowhouse. Jack O’Brien, the last surviving member of the unsuccessful ambush was inter-viewed by Jack McKenna many years ago when O’Brien was living in Kilkenny following his retirement from the Gardaí and he confirmed the names of the eight men involved. They had been members of an eight-man ambush party which planned to attack at Barrowhouse a group of RIC men who were travelling on bicycles from Ballylinan Barracks to nearby Grangemellon Barracks. The IRA men were members of the B. Company 5th Battalion Carlow Brigade. James Lacey and William Connor both were killed and are buried together in the same grave behind Barrowhouse Roman Catholic Church.


Barrowhouse has a Gaelic Athletic Association club also called Barrowhouse. The club has achieved some notable victories since its formation. Soccer is also played in Barrowhouse by St. Marys. Barrowhouse also had an Athletics club but this disbanded in the late seventies/ early eighties. Cricket was played in the area in the 1800s.

Famous people[edit]

Rev. J.J. Malone: Priest and poet born in Dunbrin, became a Roman Catholic priest and spent most of his life in Australia. These two poems below show his yearning to return to Barrowhouse. Among these famous barrowhouse natives there is the infamous Stewie Brennan who is know throughout barrowhouse and the wider area for his involvement in the secret underground movement that is the athy under 15s rugby team to witch he is an active member and captain of .

Donal Kingston: Former Barrowhouse and current Arles-Kileen and Laois Footballer lives in Kilmorony.

Eamon Malone: Malone, who was for a period commandant of the Carlow/Kildare Brigade of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence, was remembered some years ago when a new council housing estate at Woodstock Street in Athy was named ‘Malone Place’ in his honour.

Michael Phelan: Former Barrowhouse and Laois footballer famous for scoring two goals in the 1959 Leinster final against Dublin.

Poetry about Barrowhouse[edit]

The Little Wayside Chapel in a Green Old Irish Lane

In the shade of beech and cypress, at the crossway there

it lies, 'Neath the wondrous lights and shadows of those mystic

Irish skies, Through the haunted air around it viewless spirits seem

to glide, And the sainted dead are sleeping in the graveyard by its

side. No mullioned windows light it, and it boasts no Gothic

spires, For the homely art that built it was the art of rustic

sires ; But the world with all its temples holds for me no holier

fane Than the little wayside chapel in that green old Irish


In the days when faith was vision, and the ministering

angels smiled From the heavens that hung so near it on the pure heart

of the child,

When the world was all transfigured by the glory in its

eyes, And it walked with God in gladness 'midst an earthly

paradise, Through those fragrant fields we lingered on the way to

morning Mass, Whilst the lark sang o'er the meadow and the dew shone

on the grass, And the gates of Heaven opened to the organ's swelling

strain In the little wayside chapel by that green old Irish lane.

All the hills are drenched with sunshine, all the valleys

drunk with dew, Green linnets wake the hedges and grey larks the central

blue, Soft zephyrs steal the perfumes of a thousand flowers

that blow,

And the land owns all the magic of the wistful long ago ; For, though many a hope hath withered, and though

many a dream is gone,

It was always God we trusted, it was faith that led us on ; And its light shines all around me as I tread the path

again To the little wayside chapel in that green old Irish lane.

I can hear the deep bell calling in the tranquil Sabbath

morn, And through pastures green with clover and by fields of

whitening corn,

O'er many a stile, light-thoughted, leap the happy girls and boys,

With the laughter clear and ringing of the heart's spon- taneous joys.

And, oh ! kindly voices whisper by the wayside many a prayer

That they only know in Erin, for the love of God is there,

And the wanderer's heart is breaking that he ever crossed the main

From the little wayside chapel in that green old Irish lane.

The Southern skies are splendid, and the Southern land

is fair, There's a balsam in its forests, there's a witchery in its

air; It is young, and youth is lovely; it has hope, and hope is

grand, Like a hart upon the mountains is that sunny Southern

land. But how many a Gael would barter, as he walks the

crowded street,

All the gold of Australasia for the daisy at my feet, For the home-love of those valleys, and the faith so sure

and plain Of the little wayside chapel in that green old Irish lane.

Not in bread doth man live only, wealth or fame feed not the soul,

And the wine of pleasure sickens ere we drain the

poisoned bowl;

Song is but a fairy's music that our saner manhood scorns, And the flower of wisdom wounds as, whilst we pluck it,

with its thorns. In the dreams of youth I fancied far beyond the

Southern foam Lay the enchanted land Ui Brazil, where romance should

find its home, But I turn for rest and healing, with a weary heart and

brain, To the little wayside chapel in that green old Irish lane.

Brothers, whose adventurous spirits tempt so many a treacherous wave, Dragging grey hairs down in sorrow to so many a lonely

grave, Seek ye fortune, ye may find it wedded with a fierce

unrest, In the forests of the South Land, in the prairies of the

West. Seek ye peace, then stay in Erin, for it breathes in every

gale, Blowing through the flowerful valleys of your own sweet

Innisfail, And the sainted dead have found it where the turf is

fresh with rain, By the little wayside chapel in that green old Irish lane.

The Old Whitewashed Schoolhouse of Shanganamore

Through the bogs of Dunbrin, leaping pool after pool, "Up and follow the leader" 's the law of the school; A plunge at the stile with the risk of a spill, For the best bunch of cowslips on green Cowsey's hill A race for the rath through the long meadow grass, Though the boldest heart quakes at the dread "fairy


A leap for the hazel, a rustling of boughs Hush ! its only the gadfly that's driving the cows. A gallop for life to the wild brake of briar, For the fairies will kidnap the laggards who tire. A fox breaks his cover beneath the furze-thorn, And our hearts leap again at the sound of the horn ; A dive through the hedges away o'er the bogs Ho! the whipper-in holds us as well as his dogs. On, on to the river, he's foiled them at last; So we halt in the furze, but the school-hour is past. And that's how the boy took his pathway of yore To the old whitewashed schoolhouse of Shanganamore.

I sauntered across to the schoolhouse to-day,

Though it's twenty years now since I travelled that way ;

I ploughed through the tussocks, I straddled the stile,

And halted for breath on tall Cowsey awhile.

I strolled through the meadow and into the rath,

Where the cowslips had grown o'er the old fairy path ;

I shook the brown hazel, my pulse was at ease,

But the faintest of music came flying with the breeze;

I crept o'er the mossbanks, where "dead fingers" grow,

And plucked one for sake of the dead long ago;

I stole by the hedge where the blackbird and thrush

Hid their young in the heart of the hawthorn bush;

I walked the high fields where the lambs were at play

And the larks never weary of singing all day,

And passed the cross-road where the apple trees grew

That the bees loved to plunder, and school Arabs, too;

And down the green laneway, and stood at the door

Of the old whitewashed schoolhouse of Shanganamore.

I lingered awhile ere I lifted the latch,

Some breath of the old inspiration to catch ;

I listened the wind shook the green beechen trees,

From within came a sound like the drone of the bees.

How often I faltered in that very place,

Half-fearful the frown of the master to face.

I looked at the chapel the belfry was there,

And the bell that could move to delight or despair.

I peeped through the laurels and saw the flat stones Lie like Druid cromlechs o'er our forefathers' bones. I glanced up the roadway and thought of the fun And the frolic of youth when the school day was done ; The games that we played, and the battles we fought, The loves that we felt, and the things that we thought. Through a gap in the hedge I could see far away, Like a truant by the sallies the silver stream stray Ah ! that stream won our hearts, and we loved it far more Than the old whitewashed schoolhouse of Shanganamore.

Then I lifted the latch you could hear a pin fall ; But I turned from the strangers to look at the wall At the lions and the tigers, the leopards, the bears That we tracked in our dreams to their treacherous lairs ; And the maps of the lands our young fancy would roam When the world that we knew lay 'twixt schoolhouse

and home;

And the letter-chart swung from the bracket below, With its good-natured S and its easy round O ; And the marble-frame, too, where the child wrestled then With the problem of numbering from one unto ten; And the Sphinx of a clock that we grudged to see go Through the play-hour so fast, through the school day

so slow,

Hung and ticked by the fire as it ticked through the tears And the smiles that had chequered the flight of the years.

Then a swift, eager glance at the children I threw, To see in their faces the fathers I knew, And my heart seemed to stop as I stood on the floor Of that old whitewashed schoolhouse of Shanganamore.

I looked up the roll for the playmates of old

Some were lying 'neath the grass in the chapel-yard

mould, Some were tilling the fields where their childhood had


And the roof that had sheltered their sires was their own ; Some had tempted the deep, and afar o'er the foam Eat the bread of the stranger and hungered for home ; Some had followed the flag for the battlefield's joy, And the blare of the trumpet would madden the boy ; Some scrambled to fortune, some climbed unto fame, And pawned their heart's love to the lust of a name. But the dead and the living came back to me there, And the child sat again 'mongst the children 'that were ; And the world of enchantment that swam from my ken, Like a lost planet, rose in its glory again. For memory, the wizard with magical power, Flung around me the past, and I stood at that hour By the well-spring of life and its fountain of lore, In the old whitewashed schoolhouse of Shanganamore.

Ah ! the heart of the child is God's own living lyre. And the "angels who see His face" need but aspire

To interpret its music; the poet cannot reach

To its mystical chords and vibrate them in speech,

Cannot throb to its wonder, its rapture, its pain,

And catch the lark-song of its spirit again.

The May blossoms wither, the June roses die,

And a glory has gone from the earth and the sky.

Pale ghost of the past, put your cold hand on mine ;

We have come but as pilgrims to watch at a shrine,

And must part on the threshold, for far o'er the sea

Stern bugles of battle are calling to me.

But the soft elfland horns blow by valley and hill,

And the "blue flower of romance" 1 is blooming here still.

And oft in the Southland will blend with my dreams

The song of those wild birds, the laugh of those streams.

And some day I'll come back from that South Ocean's

shore To sleep 'neath the shamrocks of Shanganamore.

See also[edit]