The History & Heritage of Rossinver
To support National Heritage Week 2021, we have been working with the Rossinver Heritage Group to bring you an insight into the history of this beautiful area. Here are a few things you may not know of in the area.
1.) The Islands in Lough Melvin
Right through Lough Melvin runs the border with Fermanagh (N.I) and the South of Ireland, but the lough also hosts eight islands. There is very little information on the past or uses for many of the islands but all add to the beauty and wonder of Lough Melvin.
Laying most westerly is the island of Inisheher (Inis Thair) The West Island, covering an area of 20 acres. Following on comes The Middle Island, Inismean at 23 acres the island was once leased to The Feeley Family of Knockanroe. Other islands include Rosskit which was once connected to the main land by a ridge of stones, Gorminish Island, Bilberry Island (so called for the abundance of Bilberries that grow there) and Sally Island (known for the masses of willow that have taken root and thrived).
Church Island or Inis Teampuill (Inistemple) is a land mass of approximately 35 acres, on the island lays the ruins of a church and a house. The house became uninhabited in the middle of the 20th century, the associated church is estimated to have been built in the 14th century and is associated with the McClancy’s. Covering an area of 25ft x 50 ft the church has an alter to the east end. Positioned west of the church near the shore line lays the cemetery. The forms of the graves can still be seen on the north side of the church. Although no headstones are visible no attempt has been made to uncover any which may lie under the over grown shubbery and soil. Church Island was the burial place for the people north of Lough Melvin until the 16th century, those south of Lough Melvin were buried in Rossinver at the graveyard beside the old church of St Mogue. Coming from the North crossing Derryherk bogs and ending in Burke’s Point the remains of an old road can still be seen, this would have been the final road travelled for those buried on Inistemple. The remains were then taken by boat to the island, if the lake was frozen over or deemed unsafe to cross the burials would take place at Burkes Point. The mounds of earth from the burials are still visable, and as a mark of respect to the deceased the land was never tilled or disturbed.
There are Many names for Inis Caoin (Iniskeen), The Beautiful Island, Woody Island, Maguire’s Island. It is said that the McClancy’s had some fortification on the island which was attacked in 1421 by the O’Rourkes. The fortification was burnt down and over 20 boats were destroyed in the attack. This gave the O’Rourkes control of Lough Melvin but the McClancy’s fought back later and regained control going on to appoint the Gallaghers as Guards of the Lake. On the 1909 edition of the OSI map you see “The Friars Garden” marked out. There is no structure to be found but there is a overgrown bank/wall which is set into a small stone cairn. There is a cut-stone base of a pillar nearby. A second cross-slab, a trapeziodal sandstone slab with two nested, roughly eqyal armed crossed with fork ad T-bar terminals and two concentric circles around the crux is now in the National Museum. During penal times friars are said to have taken refuge on the island, with some siad to have been buried in the garden. Under the surface of the water is a ridge of stone connecting the island to the mainland known as “The Friars Pass”. Iniskeen was purchased in the 1800’s by Captain Croft of Finner’s Camp. He planted majority of the island, apart from a field which is known as “The Big Meadow”. The island later changed hands and was brought by an English doctor named Maguire. Dr Maguire imported exotic plants, shrubs and flowers with walkways leading through the island all maintained by his gardener J. Flynn. Dr Maguire also made improvements to the house and buildings on the island. The house became vacant once again to later be used as a safe house by Republicans during the Civil War.
2) The Convent
Until recent times the American order of nuns, the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement had their only convent in Ireland in Rossinver since the 1930’s. When the Franciscans decided to set up the Rossinver convent the then Bishop of Kilmore, Dr Finnegan, gave permission for the order to locate in his diocese as required by canon law. While under construction some stones from the ancient local Franciscan Abbey of St Mogue were included into the walls of the building.
The nuns moved into their new convent in Rossinver on May 15, 1935 and it was blessed in a special opening ceremony on August 8, 1936 by the Papal Nuncio and Dr Finnegan. During the years that followed thrity-nine Leitrim nuns joined in Rossiver, ten of those coming from the local area, the others from many other counties in Ireland. Sadly the link with Rossinver ended in recent times with the sale of the convent due to the decline of those joining the order. When the nuns left the Rossinver Convent many tributes were paid and thanks given to the order that had made such a contribution to the local area and the people in it.
3) Glenaniff Valley
Glenaniff Glen an Dhaimh, Glen of the Poet or Learned Man or Glen of the Ox. It is said that habitation of Glenaniff only happened after “The Battle of the Diamond” in Armagh towards the end of the 18th century. It was a tight self-supportng community with stonemasons, weavers, coopers, carpenters and tailors. It is said that Sir Fredrick Hamilton camped in Meenagraun on his way back from a plundering campaign in Darty. Though the history of the valley comes to life through the writings in the Parish Diary. Here is some information that was taken from the diary to give a short insight.
1840 – Irish was the everyday language in Glenaniff
1862 – Glenaniff Chapel was built by the Glenaniff people themselves for thier convenience and was not sanctioned for some time after it had been completed. Most of the work was done by voluntary labour.
1878 – The lower Glenaniff road was constructed.
1950 – Irish was spoken during recreation by the children in Glenaniff school, though the efort of the teachers
1954 – It was recorded that there were 68 families in Glenaniff, 272 people
1957 – Two motor cars were seen at outside a Sunday Mass. It was also recorded that 17 surnames had died out in the last 50 years, while 2 new surnames had come into the area. The most common names at the time were McGuiness, Connolly, Bredin and Rooney.
4) St Aidan’s Church, Ballaghmeehan
St Aidan’s church was built in 1831 – 1832 to replace the old decaying chapel which had fallen in on the congregation during a Mass in the winter of 1829. The church was a single cell barn type with a door in each gable and the altar in the centre of the back wall. Unlike many of the barn style churches from the 1830’s in Kilmore which were extended and made cruciform by the addition of a nave and a chancel, St Aidans retained its original shape, this is due to the proximity to the river preventing any alteration. In 1894, Fr. John McManus had the church re-roofed, a pitch pine ceiling fitted and a marble alter installed at the gable end. The present seats were made by the Dorrian Brothers i 1905 while Fr. Peter Brady was the parish priest, at this time a new woodenfloor and tiled isle were fitted. In the early 1960’s Fr. Michael Costello replaced the plain glass windows to stained glass and the entrance door was changed to the Garrison gable, along with the ceiling being lowered and access to the gallery changed. A major restoration of the building was completed between April 1996 and December 1997 under Fr. Michael Quinn’s request.
5) Rosclogher Castle
On a crannog in the southwest of Lough Melvin stand the ruins of a three storey house. It was built circ 15th century by the McClancy clan who held power in the Darty region ffrom around 1220 to the 1600’s. It could be they built and used the crannog in previous centuries for habitation but the tower was used as a house until the early 17th century.
On the shore near the crannog are the reminants of a ringfort, ruins of several buildings including a late medieval church and associated embankments and enclosures indicating a later medieval settlement. On the lake floor a large single beam log boat was found during excavation. In 1588 three ships of the Spanish Armada shipwrecked near Streedagh beach in Sligo, 1000 souls were lost to the sea but 100 came ashore. One of the survivors was Captain Francisco de Cuellar. After various hardships and a stay at another castle he found hs way to McClancys tower house in Rosclogher with eight other shipmates. McClancy gave them refuge and they stayed for three months to recover from their ordeal. News arried that the English under Queen Elizabeth I had sent 1700 troops to McClancys country. McClancy responded in a tactical way of those times when facing an overpowering force taking all of his people and livestock and retreating to the mountains where they could use the landscape for suprise attacks if necessary. De Cuellar and his fellow Spaniards decided to stay at the tower house and defend it. They received weapons, boat loads of stones and provisions from McClancy. The English could not get to the tower due to a lack of boats and the weather held against them with high waters and blowing winds. The seige on the tower lasted 17 days, 2 of the Spaniards were captured by the English and hanged as a warning but in the end the English had to retreat as the winter set in they were not equiped for the heavy snow fall and gusting wind and rain. When McClancy returned to the tower he offered his sister in marriage to de Cuellar but his was not to be as de Cuellar knew he wold forever be tied to McClancy. He stole away in the darkness of night to Co Antrim. McClancy was caught and executed in 1590 by the English.
6) St Mogue’s Well
St Maedoc (St Mogue) was born in a place called Port Island Templeport Lough, Co Cavan in the year of 560. He was the patron saint of this district. When he was very young he was sent by his parents to St. Finians school at Clonard the Boyne. After spending years learning at Clonard he crossed to England and is remembered in Wales. He returned t Ireland and was the first Bishop of Ferns Co. Wexford. It is said locally that he had a mysterious cure and that people used to annoy him from morning until night. For this reasonn he left Ferns and went to Drumlane in Co Cavan. Here he fasted for seven years without milk or ale, without flesh or witchen, only taking a little drink of milk every third Sunday o the bare ground or on a hard stone. While in Drumlane he had a vision. He sent in haste for Colmcille to ask him the true meaning of the vision. Colmcille sent an angel to him who told him to go in haste to Rossinver, to occupy it and from there he would rise to meet his Lord. St. Maedoc (Mogue) came to Rossinver, at that time called Port na Finlec, meaning the Bank of the White Flags, and there built himself a strong and ample oratory. He then prepared himself for the resurrection. It is widely agreed that St Maedoc (Mogue) died in Rossinver on the last day of January 632. He built a church in the place whre the Abbey now stands and is said to be buried somewhere on the grounds.