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Elphin - Roscommon - Main St

circa 1905

Elphin (Irish: Ail Finn) is a village in north County Roscommon, Ireland. It forms the southern tip of a triangle with Boyle 18km (11mi) and Carrick-on-Shannon 14km (9mi) to the north west and north east respectively. It is located at the junction of the R368 and R369 regional roads. Knock International Airport [1] is 50km (31mi) west of Elphin - approximately 40 minutes by road.

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Photo Details

  • County: Roscommon
  • Town: Elphin
  • Scene: Main St
  • Date: circa 1910

Specification

  • Digitally remastered
  • 10' x 8' printed on quality photo paper, also available in larger sizes
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  • Read about Elphin below

Elphin

Elphin (Irish: Ail Finn) is a village in north County Roscommon, Ireland.

It forms the southern tip of a triangle with Boyle 18km (11mi) and Carrick-on-Shannon 14km (9mi) to the north west and north east respectively. It is located at the junction of the R368 and R369 regional roads. Knock International Airport [1] is 50km (31mi) west of Elphin - approximately 40 minutes by road.

History

Elphin has historically been an important market town and the diocesan centre for the Diocese of Elphin. St Patrick is believed to have visited Elphin, consecrated its first church and ordained its first bishop, Asicus (subsequently the patron saint of Elphin). Information supporting the visitation of St Patrick is to be found in two important memorials of early Irish hagiography, the Vita Tripartita of St Patrick, and the "Patrician Documents" in the Book of Armagh. On his missionary tour through Connacht in 434 or 435, St Patrick came to the territory of Corcoghlan, present day Elphin.

The chief of that territory, a noble Druid named Ono, gave land and afterwards his castle or fort to St Patrick to found a church and monastery. The place, which had hitherto been called Emlagh-Ono (a derivation of its owners name) received the designation of Ail Finn, which means "rock of the clear spring". This nomenclature was adopted on the basis of a large stone raised by St Patrick from a well opened by him in the land of Ono and placed on its margin. A copious stream of crystal water flowed from the well and continues to flow through Elphin to this day. St Patrick built a church called Tempull Phadruig (Patrick's church) and established an Episcopal See in Elphin.

St Asicus remained as bishop of Elphin. St Patrick also founded an episcopal monastery or college at Elphin, believed to be one of the first monasteries founded by him. In pre-Reformation times, Elphin was host to a large number of religious orders and was a religious centre of international significance. This is supported by the appearance of Elphin in a number of pan-European maps in the middle ages.

After the Reformation Elphin continued as the centre of a bishopric. A new bishop's residence was built in the 1720s to the central block and flanking pavilions plan that is very common in Irish country houses of this period. The main block of the bishop's house was destroyed by fire early in the 20th Century and was subsequently demolished, but the ruins of the pavilions survive together with the curtain walls that linked them to the main house.

The cathedral was also rebuilt in the eighteenth century. It was a modest building no bigger than a small parish church with a tall square clock tower at its west end. An apse was added in the 19th century. The cathedral was used for worship up to the early 1960s. It was badly damaged in a storm in 1962 and was demolished a few years later, but its partially restored ruins can still be seen.

Associated with the cathedral was Elphin Diocesan School, popularly known as 'The Latin School'. Its most famous students were Oliver Goldsmith and the eye surgeon Sir William Wilde the father of Oscar Wilde. The school was closed in the 1860s when the seat of the bishopric was moved to Kilmore, County Cavan.

According to legend, it was close to Elphin that the mythological figure of Oisin fell from his horse upon his return from Tir na nOg (The Land of Eternal Youth). Within 6 km of Elphin is Cruachan (otherwise Rathcroghan), the famous palace of Queen Meave (she of the Táin Bó Cúailnge and a prominent figure in Irish mythology, notably the Ulster Cycle) and the Connacht kings. The well of Ogulla (otherwise the Virgin Monument), scene of the famous conversion and baptism of Aithnea (Eithne) and Fidelm, the daughters of Leoghari, monarch of Ireland in the time of St Patrick, is also situate near Elphin. It is reputed that the gold and riches of Ned Kelly are buried in foothills just outside of Elphin.

Percy French, the performer, poet, and water colour artist was born at Cloonyquin, approximately three miles outside of Elphin as was his kinsman Arthur Murphy (1727-1805) the lawyer, playwright and biographer of Samuel Johnson, Henry Fielding and David Garrick. Murphy's better known contemporary Oliver Goldsmith spent much of his childhood at Ballyoughter, approximately one mile to the south of Elphin and may have been born at his mother's family home, Smith Hill, just outside of the village of Elphin. Fergus O'Mulconry, one of the authors of the Annals of the Four Masters was born at Cloonahee about two miles from Elphin. Elphin is also the birthplace of Roderick Flanagan (1828-1862) the Australian-Irish journalist, historian and anthropologist.

Sport and culture

Elphin is home to the Orchard Park, a Gaelic Athletic Association ground. The local club has produced many GAA figures of significance over the years both in playing and administrative capacities, the most notable being Dr Donal Keenan, a former President of the Association. Elphin has a proud tradition in gaelic games and continues to produce many successful under-age and senior Gaelic football teams.

Elphin has an active branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and has hosted the County Roscommon Fleadh Cheoil on many occasions. Members of the Elphin branch have enjoyed success at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in recent years. The town also has a fully restored and operational eighteenth century windmill, one of the oldest of its kind in Ireland.

Trivia

Elphin is also the given name of a Polish Irish dancing troupe.