Coordinates: 52°42′04″N 6°57′25″W / 52.701°N 6.957°W / 52.701; -6.957
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Muine Bheag
Market Square, Bagenalstown (1991)
Market Square, Bagenalstown (1991)
Coat of arms of Bagenalstown
Uimhir gan choisc
"The Irrepressible Number"
Bagenalstown is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°42′04″N 6°57′25″W / 52.701°N 6.957°W / 52.701; -6.957
CountyCounty Carlow
40 m (130 ft)
Time zoneUTC±0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (IST)
Eircode routing key
Telephone area code+353(0)59
Irish Grid ReferenceS683609

Bagenalstown (/ˈbæɡnəlztn/ BAG-nəlz-town), officially named Muine Bheag[2] (Irish: [ˌmˠɪnʲə ˈvʲaɡ]), is a small town on the River Barrow in County Carlow, Ireland.

History and name[edit]

The Market Square in the late 19th century

In the eight century, Saint Lappan reputedly founded a monastic school outside Bagenalstown in the townland of Donore. He is the patron saint of Bagenalstown.[3]

The town grew within the townland of Moneybeg, from Irish Muine Bheag or Muinebheag (meaning "small thicket").[4] In the 18th century there was a small hamlet there. Walter Bagenal decided to build a town on the site, to be named "New Versailles" and modelled after Versailles in France.[5][6] However, shortly after building began, the coach route from Dublin, which had passed the location, was changed so it crossed the River Barrow a few kilometres away, at Leighlinbridge, instead.[5] Bagenal abandoned his plans, having built only a courthouse.[5] It was not until the arrival of the railway in 1846 that the settlement began to grow into a town.[5][7]

In 1911 the town became the first in Ireland to install dual-language street signs, which remain in place today.[8] Following the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the town commissioners chose to drop the English name "Bagenalstown" in favour of the Irish Muine Bheag. Several other places in Ireland were renamed around this time. The decision proved an ineffective one, and "Bagenalstown" remained in common use among locals. In a 1975 plebiscite, 77% of residents who voted opted to change the name back, but the proposal failed due to voter turnout of only around 50%, while the law required 75%.[8]

The motto on the town's coat of arms is "The Irrepressible Number" and its Irish equivalent Uimhir Gan Choisc.

Historic industry and town function[edit]

Bagenalstown's history is strongly associated with the milling industry. Rudkin's Mill marked the start of this industry. It was erected by Henry Rudkin between the end of the 17th century and the start of the 18th century.[9] Shortly after the opening of Rudkin's Mill another mill was opened by Owen Murphy; this would be more commonly known as Lodge Mills.[10]

Rudkin's Mill

In 1792 the Barrow Navigation Company began their plan to link the town and river to the Grand Canal. The construction of the canal allowed boats of up to 40 tonnes to transport goods directly to Dublin. In 1845, record numbers were recorded as 111,225 passengers and 286,601 tonnes of goods were transported along this route. Many of the boats that were used for transporting goods on this canal were owned by corn buyers and maltsters. This allowed them to efficiently transport the goods they needed direct from Rudkin's Mill and Lodge Mill.[10]

Bagenalstown very quickly transitioned into a highly prosperous town, and became recognised as a post, boat, mill and marketplace hub. The tradition of milling was also joined by salt and gas works in the 18th and 19th centuries. The canal route very quickly declined once the railway had been introduced and in 1852, only a small number of trading boats remained on this river. As of 2018, the canal was only used as a tourist attraction.[10]

In 1982 a mile north of Bagenalstown a mechanical excavator was used to dig the foundations of a silo and struck a large granite boulder which proved to be a capstone of a cist burial dated from the Bronze Age.[11]


Bagenalstown is at the junction of the R705 and R724 regional roads and lies on the eastern side of the R448.

The town is served by Muine Bheag railway station on the DublinKilkenny section of the Dublin-Waterford railway line on the Iarnród Éireann network. This connects the town to nearby Carlow, as well as Kilkenny to the southwest. The station was opened on 24 July 1848 as Bagnalstown and was renamed Bagenalstown by April 1910. The station building was designed and constructed using limestone and granite and the design had been attributed to William Deane Butler. It was permanently closed to passengers on 30 March 1963 and for goods traffic on 6 September 1976.[12] The station was reopened and officially renamed "Muine Bheag" in 1988[13] although Bagenalstown is recognised as its common name on the bilingual nameboards, in place since 2015, and on the Iarnród Éireann website.[14] The station to this day remains largely untouched, with its original features still present.[13]

The town is on the River Barrow which was made navigable from the Grand Canal upstream at Athy starting in 1792, all the way to Waterford downstream.[citation needed]

Places of interest[edit]

Bagenalstown railway station

Near Bagenalstown is Ballyloughan Castle, which comprises a twin-towered gatehouse and the hall and foundations of one of the corner towers of a large castle dating from about 1300.[15]

Ballymoon Castle is 3 km (2 mi) east of Bagenalstown, and is thought to date from the 13th century.[16]

One of the best views of Bagenalstown can be seen from the Leighlinbridge road. This view includes the spire of St Andrews Catholic Church and the tower of St Marys Church of Ireland Church. St Andrews church was built in the 1820s on a site provided by the Newton family, successors of the Bagenals.[17]

Community groups[edit]

The 1st Bagenalstown BP Scout Group was set up in 2009 and meets in the McGrath hall. Their activities include hiking, camping, kayaking and games.[18]

Bagenalstown hosts a floral festival every August.


Bagenalstown has had a long tradition in cricket. The Bagenalstown Cricket Club was first formed in 1843 by the local millers, and is still in use. The club's logo is a grinding wheel, which was used in early milling. Muine Bheag is the local GAA club, formed in 2018 after the amalgamation of three former clubs.

There is a river-side outdoor swimming pool on the approach road to the town from Leighlinbridge. The McGrath complex offers sporting facilities such as hurling, cricket, soccer and Gaelic football fields, tennis courts, and pitch-and-putt courses.[19]

The racehorse Danoli, described in 1995 as "the most popular racehorse in Ireland"[20] was trained near the town by Thomas Foley.


Bagenalstown has three primary schools and two secondary schools:

  • Queen of the Universe National School, founded by Bishop Keogh in 1957, is a primary school for boys (junior infants to 1st class) and girls.
  • St Brigid's National School, founded in 1865, is a primary school for boys only from classes 2nd to 6th.
  • St Mary's National School is a co-educational school under Church of Ireland patronage.
  • Presentation De La Salle College is a secondary school, established in 1983. This Catholic College is under the trusteeship of the De La Salle Brothers, the Presentation Sisters and Bagenalstown Parish.
  • Muine Bheag Vocational School is a secondary school, opened in 1963.

International relations[edit]

The town was twinned with the town of Pont-Péan, Brittany in 1999. The twinning charter, which is written in Irish, English and French, commits the two towns to "developing social, economic, cultural, touristic, and sporting links" between the two communities.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sapmap Area - Settlements - Muinebeag (Bagenalstown)". Census 2016. Central Statistics Office Ireland. April 2016. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Muine Bheag". Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  3. ^ "The Parish History". Bagenalstown Parish. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  4. ^ "Why rail is the way to go | Munster Express Online". 14 March 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d Mayse, Shirley. Our Caswell Relatives. University of Wisconsin, 1975. p.343
  6. ^ Darley, Gillian (1975). Villages of vision. London: Architectural Press. pp. 103, 148. ISBN 0-85139-705-0. OCLC 1921555.
  7. ^ "Bagenalstown - Love Carlow". 31 March 2021. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  8. ^ a b "Carloviana" (PDF). Carlow Historical and Archaeological Society. 2004. p. 10.
  9. ^ Feeley, J.M. "Rudkin's Mill. Bagenalstown" (PDF). glasnost.itcarlow. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Carloviana. Carlow: Carlow Historical and Archaeological Society. 2018. pp. 18–29.
  11. ^ Moore, Fionnbarr. "A Bronze Age Burial at Killinane, near Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow" (PDF). Kilkenney Archaeoloical Society: 64.
  12. ^ "Bagenalstown station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
  13. ^ a b "Bagenalstown - Love Carlow". 31 March 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  14. ^ "Muine Bheag (Bagenalstown)". Iarnród Éireann. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  15. ^ "Ballyloughan Castle". Carlow Tourism – Castles. Archived from the original on 11 March 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2007.
  16. ^ "Ballymoon Castle, County Carlow". Irelands Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  17. ^ "Bagenalstown". Carlow Tourism. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  18. ^ "Tuesday, March 29, 2011. Bagenalstown Parish, Co Carlow. Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin".
  19. ^ "Bagenalstown". Carlow Tourism. Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  20. ^ Mallon, Brian (11 April 1995). "Danoli's career still in balance after operation". The Independent. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  21. ^ Donaldson, William Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics: An A-Z of Roguish Britons Through the Ages pp 38–9, Phoenix, London, 2002
  22. ^ "Sheepdog Trials". RTÉ.ie.

External links[edit]