Castleblayney (in modern times given the name of Baile na Lorgan in Irish, but onetime alternatively known as Caislean Mathghamhna), is a former market town and, since 1922, a Border town in mid- or south-east County Monaghan, its current population being ca. 3000 people, with another 8000 in the suburban and rural environs. Among the nine counties of the ancient province of Ulster, Monaghan is one of the three that are located in the modern Republic of Ireland. Castleblayney is on the N2 National Primary Route from Dublin to Derry, near the border with Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland
Scene: Town view from Conabury Hill
Date: circa 1910
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Read about Castleblaney below
Castleblayney (in modern times given the name of Baile na Lorgan in Irish, but onetime alternatively known as Caislean Mathghamhna), is a former market town and, since 1922, a Border town in mid- or south-east County Monaghan, its current population being ca. 3000 people, with another 8000 in the suburban and rural environs. Among the nine counties of the ancient province of Ulster, Monaghan is one of the three that are located in the modern Republic of Ireland. Castleblayney is on the N2 National Primary Route from Dublin to Derry, near the border with Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland. The nearest towns are, in Co. Armagh: Keady, Newtownhamilton, and Crossmaglen, and in Co. Monaghan: Carrickmacross and Ballybay.
The town, in the heart of typical Ulster drumlin and lake countryside, lies above the western shore of Lough Muckno, the largest lake in Co. Monaghan, out of which the River Fane flows eastwards to the Irish sea at Dundalk in Co. Louth. As the Irish Gaelic name of the lake might suggest - 'the place where pigs swim' -the area is associated with the 'Black Pig's Dyke', an ancient Iron Age boundary of Ulster. A few miles to the north-east is the highest elevation in Co. Monaghan, 'Mullyash', altitude 317m (1034 feet), associated with folk festivals till modern times that were often disapproved of by the churches. Since the 17th century, markets and fair days were held in the town, but these faded away in recent decades.
Castleblayney is twinned with the town of Nogent-sur-Vernisson in the Loiret Department of France.
The town of 'Castleblayney' originated in the aftermath of the Tudor conquest of Gaelic Ulster following the Nine Years' War, 1583-1601. Forfeited secular lands in the area previously owned by the MacMahon chieftans were granted by ther Crown in 1611 to Sir Edward Blayney from Montgomeryshire in Wales, who became Baron of Monaghan and later, the first Lord Blayney. He had been in the service of Queen Elizabeth I. Appropriated church land (or 'termon') of Muckno Friary (Augustinian) on the northeastern side of the lake in the Churchill area (Mullandoy) had already been granted to him in 1606/7.
Strategically placed at junctions of many routes from all directions, the nucleus of the later town developed around the site of the original Blayney Castle above the western shore overlooking the lough. The old redundant monastic and parish church site fell into disrepair and largely disappeared, though it was used as a graveyard that has seen some recent restoration. Muckno is the also the name given to the Roman Catholic (St.Mary's) and Church of Ireland (Anglican) (St Maeldoid's) parish (diocese of Clogher) covering most of the areas around the lough and town.
During the first hundred years after the establishment of Castleblayney, the 'town' was little more than a vulnerable, besieged fortification due to the widespread instability, insurgency and wars throughout Britain and Ireland for much of the 17th century. Consequently, 'civility' on anyone's terms did not develop. The piecemeal settlement of English and even some French Huguenot incomers, all of the Protestant faith in contrast to the continuing Catholicism of most of the native population, was followed by a significant influx of largely Ulster-Scots settlers after 1690 when greater security prevailed.
This led to the formation of Presbyterian 'meeting-houses' and congregations dissenting from the established state Church of Ireland just outside the original town (1717), originally at Drumillard and then relocating to 'McPhearson's Brae' (1784) past Lakeview as now, two seceding congregations at Frankford (1750) and Garmony's Grove (1818), and finally another mainstream church at Broomfield (1841) (now 'An Eaglais' Heritage Centre); in addition, a commercial school and classical academy or grammar school run by a minister was set up supplementing local 'hedge schools'. By the 1830s, there were in the area 23 public, private, or parochial schools catering for all denominations.
Population displacement and settlement along with gradual urban and commercial development, the crossroads location, the anglicizing National Schools system, the Famine as well as the incorporation of the town into the rail network (1849), all helped hasten the decline of the vernacular Irish Gaelic spoken in the area. However, in rural districts to the south and south-east of the town - particularly Lisdoonan and the barony of Farney as well as parts of neighbouring south Armagh, the language was quite widely spoken among the peasantry and written by local scribes until the mid-19th century. Some naturally native speakers survived into the 20th century.
In 1762, a demonstration occurred in the town accompanied by a threatening military presence. This was connected with the 'Oakboys' movement that was active in the county. The protest was about compulsory work to repair public roads as well as private roads and avenues in gentry demesnes that was exacted from agricultural labourers for no wages,
The modern planned town, reminiscent of Plantation towns with its characteristic very wide main street, and with long, narrow individual gardens to the rear and out of sight, dates from ca. 1830. It was laid out under the direction of the 11th Lord Blayney, Andrew Thomas, who governed the Blayney estates from 1784 until his death in 1832. Educated in France and Germany, Andrew Blayney is famous for his distinguished military career, eventually becoming Colonel, having served the Crown in the West Indies, South America, southern Africa, the Napoleonic Wars as commander of the 89th Foot, popularly known as 'Blayney's Bloodhounds'. He was very active in the suppression of the revolt of the United Irishmen in 1798.
Relatively enlightened, socially progressive, and professedly committed to the welfare and improvement of the people and county of Monaghan, he also provided for the erection in Castleblayney of the current church buildings of the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches, being tolerant in religion if traditionalist in politics and strongly supportive of Empire and the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. He also had a Market House built, on to which the Courthouse was later superimposed in the quasi-centre of the town. It and the former Alms Houses (1876), which were interdenominationally managed, are the only civic buildings of any architectural merit in the town.
As for older domestic dwellings, of fine design and quality (apart from modernized windows)is a row of estate workers' cottages in Church St, possibly of Continental style; some more substantial bourgeois houses in the 'Square' close to the Castle gates have Georgian echoes. The 'Courthouse' will soon undergo major refurbishment and restoration.
In the early 1840s, what is now St Mary's Hospital was erected as a Workhouse for the very poor. In the course of the year 1849 following the dire effects of the Famine, it catered for up to 2000 inmates in an extreme state of destitution and misery - its own graveyard is nearby. In later times, the Workhouse became a 'County Home' for the infirm.
In 1853, Cadwaller Blayney, the 12th Lord and sometime MP for Monaghan in the United Kingdom Parliament, sold the Castle and estate to Henry Thomas Hope from Deepdene in Surrey, a former MP at Westminster. Thereafter the Castle was renamed 'Hope Castle', as it still called. Hope gave the Georgian Castle with its splendid prospect a Victorian makeover that the present prettified building retains, externally at least. 'Castle' has always been a misnomer, since it was more of a 'Big House', mansion or manor house than a castle. After his death in 1862, Hope's wife, Anne, inherited the estate. Soon after 1887, the Castle and demesne fell to the next heir, a grandson of Hope: Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope, otherwise known as 'Lord Francis Hope', famous for having sold the renowned family heirloom, the 'Hope Diamond'.
After 1916, he no longer resided in the Castle nor in Ireland. On becoming the Duke of Newcastle in 1928, he later sold off both the Castle and the estate which became broken up and used in part for local political patronage. During the 'Emergency' (World War II), the old woods on the Black Island in Lough Muckno were comprehensively despoiled by the Irish Free State government, so that for several decades the Island was a wilderness and environmental eyesore. The woods were only reinstated in recent times as a valuable amenity.
1919-1921, during the Anglo-Irish military hostilities over independence, the Castle was used as a barracks by the British Army. Some time afterwards it functioned as a hospital, and from 1943 to 1974, it was occupied by Franciscan nuns who also managed an adjacent guest house. After some years of neglect, the Castle has been used for catering and hotel purposes set in what is now a Leisure Park with golf course, though the location and lough suffer from being in management and conservation limbo.
Notable historical names associated with the town or district
Lord Andrew Blayney (see above)
General Eoin O'Duffy (1892-1944). Born at Caraghdoo, Laragh, near Lough Egish, south of Castleblayney; ex republicanleader and controversial politician in the Irish Free State with links to Franco's Spain, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany. Aggressively nationalist in politics and cultural attitude, he founded the ultra-right wing 'Blueshirts'. Marginalized, he soon faded from local historical memory, though the media revelation in recent times of his sexual orientation revived further controversy surrounding his name.
Clare Sheridan (1885-1970). Renowned sculptress of famous people including Lenin, Trotsky, Churchill and Ghandi, journalist, traveller, romantic adventurer and celebrity. Daughter of an English aristocrat and American mother; had Anglo-Scots-Irish connections, related to the Leslies of Glaslough, Co. Monaghan; first cousin of Sir Winston Churchill; a late convert to Roman Catholicism, from 1960 she resided in retirement for some years at the guest house of the Franciscan Convent in Hope Castle.
Thomas Hughes (1885-1942). Born at Castleblaney, private in the British Army with the Connaught Rangers in the First World War; awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry; lived later in a small hill-farm (bought for him by public subscription) in Aghnafarcon, between Broomfield and Lough Egish. Had little or no local recognition after 1922 until recently.
Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. A son of Queen Victoria, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Ireland 1900-1904, when he also rented Hope Castle in Castleblayney as a residence outside Dublin.
Peadar Livingstone (1932-1987). Born in Castleblayney, teacher, historian and latterly Catholic priest of Broomfield parish (Castleblayney district). Graduate in history from Queen's University Belfast, his scholarly 'Monaghan Story' (1980) is monumental in proportions and is an invaluable, reliable work of reference. His book is preeminently characterized by a highly informed, inclusive approach to the history of Monaghan communities of all political hues and religious persuasions - partly explicable by his own 'mixed' family background.
Samuel Hemphill (died 1741). In a pioneer and frontier context, the first Presbyterian minister of Castleblayney (1718). Originating in either Cavan or Monaghan, he was a graduate of Glasgow University. He made some literary forays into contemporary doctrinal disputes. A traditionalist, he opposed liberal theological views held by Presbyterians of the 'Belfast Society'. Financially often in straits, he seems to have been arrested by the Sheriff of Monaghan, possibly for debt, and then bought out by the minister of Creggan (Freeduff) for ?0, twice Hemphill's annual salary.
John J. Clarke (1879-1961). Highly rated amateur photographer, he was a medical doctor in Castleblayney, like his father before him. Studied medicine in Dublin at the then Royal University of Ireland from 1897-1904. His fame rests on photographs of people and backgrounds of great historical value that he took around central Dublin during that Edwardian era (the Dublin of James Joyce) - a townscape that has largely vanished apart from prestige buildings. At that time, photography was still at the early stages of deveolpment. The National Photographic Archive of the National Library of Ireland holds a 'Clarke Collection' of ca. 200 photographs of not only old Dublin, but other areas of Ireland including some of Castleblayney.
The modern town of Castleblayney is administered by a Town Council consisting of 9 elected members, together with appointed officials. Other administrative functions in the area are carried out by Monaghan County Council. The Castleblayney Area has 5 members on Monaghan County Council.
Castleblayney has a new modern Theatre & Community Resource Centre, called Iontas, which was officially opened by the President of Ireland in December 2005. A