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Cill na Seanrátha
Killeshandra, Main Street looking north (2011)
Killeshandra, Main Street looking north (2011)
Killeshandra is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 54°00′55″N 7°31′44″W / 54.01523°N 7.52894°W / 54.01523; -7.52894Coordinates: 54°00′55″N 7°31′44″W / 54.01523°N 7.52894°W / 54.01523; -7.52894
Country Ireland
Province Ulster
County County Cavan
Elevation 66 m (217 ft)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Town 1,143
 • Urban 364
Irish Grid Reference H308074

Killeshandra or Killashandra - Irish place name Cill na Seanrátha meaning Church of the Old Rath (ringforts) population 1,143, is a small town in County Cavan, Ireland, 20 km (12 mi) northwest of Cavan town and central to County Cavan's lakeland and geopark region, in the unique Erne catchment environment of rivers, lakes, wetlands and woodland. Together with the Lough Oughter Special Protected Area (SPA), it has been recognised by the EU programme for wildlife Natura 2000 since 2010. Killeshandra is specially noted by Failte Ireland as an Angling Centre of Excellence, as well as a hub for the Cavan Walking Festival which takes place in May each year. There are several looped walking and cycling trails in Killykeen Forest Park.


Killeshandra owes its origins to the Ulster Plantation, when Sir Alexander Hamilton of Innerwick, Scotland was granted lands by the crown in July 1610 to build a castle and create a Protestant community around the barony of Tullyhunco. The 1641 rising and civil war was a particularly difficult period in Killeshandra's history, as the Hamiltons with their neighbours the Craig's were forced out of their settled lands by the O'Reilly's. It was not until after the war and during the Restoration (1660) period that Sir Francis Hamilton regained control of the area and set about building a market town with Scottish planters and migrant Huguenot settlers who were especially noted for their industry and thrift. The new settlers and their families quickly adapted to the local conditions, which included the beginnings of flax growing and linen processing in the Cavan region. The earliest papal records of a church building in the area date from the fourteenth century on the site of a former rath (fort), then a dependency of Drumlane priory referred to then as the Church of the Rath. From the early 17th century the church was reformed for Protestant use and included the glebe lands allocated by the Hamiltons to the Anglican Kilmore diocese, for Scottish Episcopalian worship. Later in the century when peace was restored, the church was remodelled in 1688 (Jacobean Church) as a lasting memorial to departed members of the original Hamilton's (Barons of Castle Hamilton) family. The remains of this church form part of a protected National Monument and can still be seen at the lower end of the town (opposite Lakeland Dairies), display some unusual architectural characteristics, 'T' shaped, with a south facing transept in the Renaissance neo-classical style that is described in the Pevsner guide to South Ulster as: "arguably the finest Restoration building in Ulster, a handsome evocation of the improving architectural eloquence of the age". The east facing window is in the more traditional Gothic style. Hamilton heraldic embellishment is visible on the south gable wall and gate pillars. When a new Anglican church was built (circa 1842) further up the Main street, some of the earlier (Hamilton) family memorials attributed to well known Irish sculptor William Kidwell were brought from the old church and placed inside of the new building and can still be seen there. The graveyard meanwhile continued in "mixed" community use for well over a century after the church was closed and is now also protected as a National Monument. Includes some interesting 19th century mausoleums and heraldic memorials from families dating back to the early 18th century.

Linen production around Killeshandra grew considerably following an incentive in 1760 from the Linen Board, and was later quoted in Pigot's 1824 Directory as: "The greatest linen market in the county, and the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood are principally employed in its manufacture". However, failure to capitalise on industrial methods of linen production when market sales were approaching their peak meant that Killeshandra would inevitably lose out in the race to compete with the bigger linen export producing towns further north, eventually leading to hardship and destitution for many local flax growing linen producers.

Population and Economic Changes[edit]

According to CSO 2011 census statistics, Killeshandra town population stands at 364 persons, a decline of over 11% from the 2006 census. Compare population levels of a century ago (1911) when the town population was 566 persons (35% higher than present levels). However, in the electoral division, which includes the town and surrounding district, a slight increase in population up to 1,143 persons was recorded in 2011, denoting a marked preference for living outside of the urban area. In previous centuries, when there were several thousand people living about Killeshandra, it was local industry and agriculture that sustained the local population. Although the Killeshandra area is today regarded as an ideal place for retirement and leisure activity, away from the hustle and bustle, one has to wonder when will the population rise again, and what are the underlying causes for decline compared with the rest of the county showing an overall increase in urban and rural population. Throughout the twentieth century, Killeshandra looked to its agriculture base to keep the wheels turning, while Killeshandra Creamery became one of Ireland's leading dairy and milk processing co-operatives. This too has seen significant rationalisation over recent years. At one time Killeshandra was the hub of industry in the region, included several flax and corn mills, together with Fletcher's sawmill which was built on the site of an earlier brewery. From the 1860s the town was serviced with a railway line to Crosdoney and Cavan town. However the closure of the railway by 1960 to goods and passengers was the first significant result of population decline throughout the region. The eventual closure of Fletcher's sawmills and the demise of street market trading would also signal the end for Killeshandra's iconic linen market house, built around 1790 by the then landlord Robert H. Southwell. The market house fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in the late 1960s. Since which urban dilapidation and poor access roads are another notable factor affecting Killeshandra's potential for growth.

Today Killeshandra as well being a base for the Lakeland Dairy Company, is noted as a significant County Cavan tourist destination for anglers, walkers and wildlife enthusiasts. The Lough Bawn Hotel is located in the middle of the village and there are several comfortable B&B's located nearby. Killeshandra has an array of shops, two national schools, denominational churches, restaurant facilities and several pubs, most with regular traditional music sessions. A new Community Hall was completed in September 2013 replacing a hall built in the 1970s. The new hall has a large open space for indoor sporting events as well as space for concerts and exhibitions. Killeshandra performs well at around 63% in the national Tidy Towns competition and is litter free in the county anti-litter league.

Public transport[edit]

Bus Éireann route 465 serves the town on Tuesdays providing a link to Cavan (onward connections available) via Arvagh and Ballinagh.[2] It is also served by a number of Cavan Area Rural Transport (CART) routes.[3] Killeshandra was the terminus of a short branch railway line between Cavan and Crossdoney on the Midland Great Western route. Opened in 1886, the Killeshandra branch line, along with the Crossdoney to Cavan line discontinued passenger service in 1947. The line remained open for goods traffic until 1959 and then was itself closed completely in January 1960. Most of the rail infrastructure is now gone, but the station along with a nearby goods shed still remain.

Dairy Industry[edit]

Killeshandra Co-operative Society Ltd was formed in December 1896. The milk from 987 cows had been promised by local farmers and a committee was tentatively decided upon to establish and form a creamery. Thus was the start of an industry which grew to become recognised as a model for the rest of the country to follow and described as being the best creamery of its time, winning prizes for butter and dairy products both at home and abroad. By the time of its centenary year Killeshandra Co-op was handling the milk from over 4,000 farmer suppliers. Today this is transformed through mergers with other dairy companies to form the internationally recognised Lakeland Dairies, to become the second largest dairy co-operative and third largest dairy processor in Ireland. The Co-op operates across 15 counties on a cross border basis processing over 700 million litres of milk annually into a range of value-added products and food ingredients which are exported worldwide, remains a significant employer in the region. One of Lakeland's most significant acquisitions took place in October 2013, the former Ulster Bank premises in Killeshandra town next door to the companies headquarters.


Bernard Conlin. District Inspector RIC, Omagh.Died14 April,1934.

See also[edit]



  • The Ohioan Irish Folk band Brady's Leap has released a CD entitled The Road to Killeshandra. William Greenway, poet and Professor of English at Youngstown State University, sings on the title track.
  • Dominic Behan's song Come Out Ye Black and Tans refers to the "green and lovely lanes of Killeshandra".
  • In the Irish Folk song Cavan Girl the first-person narrator walks "the road from Killeshandra" that runs "twelve long miles around the lake to get to Cavan town".
  • Images and Echoes of Killeshandra 1899-1999. Killeshandra Community Council. 1999. , mostly community photographs spanning twentieth century.
  • Matty Gaffney (2009). Life Recorded.  An excellent pictorial and personal account of a changing Killeshandra from the 1930s onwards.
  • Pevsner Architectural Guide to the Buildings of Ireland - South Ulster - Armagh, Cavan and Monaghan by Kevin V. Mulligan (2013) Includes several references to buildings in and around Killeshandra.
  • An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of County Cavan - published by the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht (2013). Part of the national architectural heritage survey which includes several references to buildings in and around Killeshandra.
  • The Ulster Plantation in Counties of Armagh and Cavan 1608-1641 by R.J. Hunter (2012) Includes several historic references to Killeshandra.
  • Tomas O'Raghallaigh (2010). Turbulence in Tullyhunco.  Book refers to Killeshandra area before, during and after the Ulster Plantation.
  • The Village Institute Killeshandra 1907-1957. Killeshandra Community Council. 2011. 
  • Conservation and Management Plan of Jacobean Church, Killeshandra, Co.Cavan - June 2013 - published by Cavan County Council & The Heritage Council.
  • Killashandra Ree is the main character in the Crystal Singer young-adult science fiction trilogy by Anne McCaffrey. The trilogy comprises: The Crystal Singer (1982), Killashandra (1986) and Crystal Line (1992).

External links[edit]