The History of Clane

An edited version of this paper complete with illustrations is published in ‘Clane the Village We Knew’ (eds.) Bryan Sammon, Liam Burke and Paddy Behan, 2006

Place Name

Clane is situated in the centre of North Kildare on the west bank of the river Liffey. The name is derived from the English translation of a number of similar Irish names. The most likely form is Claonadh, which translates as ‘a sloping place’. This may refer to several sloping areas surrounding Clane including the Main Street which falls off steeply on both sides. Two other similar Irish names have been linked to the placename. Firstly, ‘Cluain’ which translates as a field or meadow. Ancient records give this name in two forms, Cluain Damh, ‘the field of the oxen’ and Cluain Ath. ‘the field of the ford’.1 Secondly, ‘Cluaine’ is a another form which translates as a sanctuary or holy place.

Pre History Period

Archaeological evidence shows that Clane has an ancient past with human activity dating from the fourth millennium BC. This came to light following the discovery of a stone age fragment during excavations on the Sallins road close to the Butterstream.2 Discovery of pit burials in Loughbollard confirm that there was continued human presence in the Bronze Age.3

Ford-Roads

The History of Clane, however, begins with the ford across the river Liffey which was the reason that a settlement emerged close to the site. One account suggests the ford was located just upstream from the weir where a narrow laneway leading from the Millicent road extends to the Liffey.4 In the pre history period the principal road linking Nas Na Riogh the seat of the Kingdom of Leinster and Tara the seat of the High Kings of Ireland crossed the river Liffey at Clane. Military activity between the High Kings and the Kings of Leinster very often occurred close to the ford at Clane. One such encounter gave rise to the famous pre-historic saga of King Mesgegra and his wife Queen Buan. According to the ancient legend a famous duel between King Mesgegra and Conall Cernach champion of Ulster took place close to the Bullaun stone, which is situated at the Butterstream almost opposite the entrance into the Abbey Cemetery. Conall immerged victorious from the duel and beheaded Mesgegra on the Bullan stone. Mesgedra was reportedly buried under the Moate at Clane and his wife Queen Buan who died on seeing the severed head of her husband was buried under the Moate at Mainham.5

Early Christian period

A monastery was founded in Clane in the early period following the coming of Christianity to the Ireland. There were at least two reasons why Clane was chosen for a Christian foundation at this time firstly, due to the strategic importance of the ford. Secondly, it is likely that pre-Christian religious activity was practiced in Clane and centred at the Moate and the Bullaun stone.

Accounts from the early Christian period suggest that St. Patrick visited Dunmurrighil close to Donadea and then made his way to Naas. On this journey he most likely crossed the river Liffey at the Ford of Clane. Close to the Ford and adjacent to the Moat is Sundays Well. Most wells bearing that name have some associations with the early Christian period and indeed St. Patrick himself. It is possible that this well may have had some association with our patron saint before the establishment of the monastery in Clane.

The monastery was founded by St. Ailbhe of Emily circa 520 AD, on a site now identified as the burial ground surrounding the Community Centre. This site has all the characteristics of an early Christian foundation. All early Christian ecclesiastical establishments were built on either a circular or oval shaped mainly raised landscape structure measuring approximately 45 meters diameter. After the monastery was established St. Ailbhe decided to leave Clane and he appointed St. Sinchell one of his followers as the first Abbot. St. Ailbhe moved to Emily where he died in 527. St. Sinchell having served for a period as Abbot moved to Killeigh, where he died in 549.6

In the period after St. Ailbhe and St. Sinchell the monastery flourished and grew in importance as Christianity became dominant throughout the country. However conflicts between warring factions continued with many battles talking place close to Clane due to its strategic position. The Annals of the four masters record two battles at Clane in the eighth century. The first in 702 was fought between Ceallach Cuallan and Fogartach Ua Cearnaigh and the second in 732 was fought around the monastery at Clane.7 Other detail from this period records the death in 782 of Banbhan Abbot of Clane.8

Viking Plunder in 1035

The monastery of Clane survived virtually intact during the period of the Viking raids in the 9th and 10th centuries. Although the threat posed by the Vikings abated following the Battle of Clontarf 1014, raids on Monasteries continued on a small scale. In 1035 a Viking raiding party from Dublin burned the small religious foundation of Dunmurrighill at Donadea and then preceded to Clane where they captured and plundered the monastery. This was almost certainly one of the greatest setbacks the monastery had experienced in the five and a half centuries of its existence. The Viking party were pursued by an army led by the son of Dnnchadh, son of Domhnall, which included many from the Clane area. They eventually over took the Vikings and defeated then with great slaughter. The plunder of Clane and Dunmurrighill appears to be one of the last Vikings raids on Christian settlements as they subsequently settled down to a more peaceful co-existence with their Celtic neighbours.9

Synod of 1162

The monastery of Clane soon recovered from the Viking raid and one again established itself as an important ecclesiastical centre. It continued grow in importance throughout the 11th and 12th centuries at a time when reforms aimed at brining the Church in Ireland closer to the rules of laid down by the Papacy were taking place. A number of synods were convened at this time to carry out the reforms. In 1162, Archbishop Gelasius of Armagh convened as synod in the monastery of Clane. It was attended by 26 of the diocesan bishops, who were now introduced in place of the old tribal and monastic bishops. One of the bishops present was St. Laurence O’Toole Archbishop of Dublin. Also attending were many Abbots of leading monasteries. The matter of the Primacy of Armagh was debated and the Synod passed a decree that no one should be admitted a Professor of divinity in Ireland who had not graduated from the college of Armagh. This firmly settled the unresolved issue of the primacy of Armagh.10

Norman Conquest of Clane

Following the Norman invasion, Strongbow conquered the Kingdom of Leinster. Clane at the time was in the Celtic tuatha of Otomy. Strongbow divided the spoils among his followers and granted much of North Kildare including Otomy to Adam de Hereford, one of his principal followers. This Norman lord then re-granted Otomy including Clane to his brother Richard de Hereford. The first step the Normans took in establishing themselves in an area was to build a fortification close to an important Christian foundation with the aim of controlling the local church. A manor was then established and settlers were brought in. Richard de Hereford created a Barony from the old Celtic district of Otomy and centred it at Clane where he established a manor. He enlarged the pre-historic Mesgedra Tumulus [Moat at Cois Abhainn] overlooking the ford and remodelled it as a Norman Mott with a Bailey adjoining. With the Celtic nobility driven into the Mountains and bogs, settlers initially from Wales, were then introduced into the area. A mill was then built which was close to the site of the present disused mill and eventually the Norman settlement of Clane emerged.

Norman Town of Clane

By the following century the new Norman settlement of Clane had obtained borough status.11 The administration of the borough was in the hands of local officials known as the Provost, Bailiffs and Commonality of Clane. The Provost was the leading official in the town and had a role similar to that of a present day Mayor.

A document from 1391 issued by the King granted the Provost, Bailiffs and Commonality of the town Clane a right to obtain a tax for seven years on goods coming into the town in order to build a new bridge over the river Liffey. This bridge consisted of six arches and lasted until 1862 when it was demolished to make way for Alexander Bridge.12

The original site of the Norman Town of Clane has not been positively identified. Medieval references indicates that the bridge formed part of the town and since the present road running from it passes the Moate and extends to the site of the monastery [now the Community centre] it is quiet possible that it follows the medieval street line. According to detail from aerial photographs another road extended from the south-west corner of the Friary to the bridge and this may also represent the original street of the town.13 Although the area in question is liable to constant flooding, this may have not been the case in the medieval period due to different climatic conditions and before the era of 18th century drainage, which allowed floodwater to reach the Liffey more rapidly.

There is strong indication that the borough of Clane was deserted before the close of the Middle Ages. A reference to ‘Newtown of Clane’ in 1582 may indicate that the borough had been relocated to the area of the present ‘Main Street’.

One site of medieval importance that most likely remained in its original location during this period was the market place usually identified as the sub-triangular space in front of the Community centre and known locally as ‘the Green’.14

Franciscan Friary

The Church in the period following the invasion was almost completely taken over by Anglo-Norman clerics and many monasteries were replaced by Friaries run by religious orders. In 1258, Gerald FitzMaurice FitzGerald the 4th Baron of Offaly who held extensive lands in the Clane area founded a Franciscan Friary in the town. It was located on a slightly elevated site approximately half way between the monastery and the river Liffey. The site of this Friary now corresponds to the Abbey cemetery and some surrounding land.

Gerald FitzGerald died in 1287 and historical documents differ as to where he was buried. Although one account suggests he was buried in the Abbey at Kildare other evidence suggests he was laid to rest in his foundation at Clane where an effigy in his likeness remained on a marble monument up to the early 1700s. Today a fragment of this monument survives.15

Within a century of its establishment the Friary had attained considerable importance and had sufficient room to accommodate large gatherings or assemblies. In the year 1345 a general chapter of the Franciscans was held at the Friary in Clane and in the following year a provincial chapter of the order was also held there.16

By the early 1400s after almost two centuries in existence it appears serious rebuilding was needed in the Friary. Accounts from 1433 indicate that an indulgence was granted as the Friary was in need of repair. According to archaeological evidence extensive repairs carried out and new buildings were added at this time.17

Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen

Several records suggest that there was a Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen in Clane in the late medieval period.18 The Magdalen hospitals were originally for sufferers of Leprosy and as such were isolated from towns. They usually consisted of an infirmary hall incorporating a chapel. The Magdalen chapel of Clane is recorded in a list of chapels from 1640. The site of the hospital is unknown, however, detail from Noble and Keenan’s map of 1752 includes the place-name Maudlins south west of Clane. The word Maudlin is derived from Magdalen.

The Pale

By the late 1400s, Clane had become a frontier town of the Pale which was a military defence system enclosing the shrinking crown lands in the eastern part of the country. With the Liffey south of Clane serving as the Pale boundary in the central region of County Kildare, a permanent man-made fortification was built just to the north of the town in 1494. It consisted of a double ditch with an earthen wall in the middle and a palisade on top. This section extended on either sides of Clongowes Wood Castle between the lake at Loughbollard and the moor-land at Moortown.

Reformation

Following the reformation in the late 1530s the monasteries, friaries and Abbeys were suppressed in areas held by the crown. The Friary of Clane was dissolved in 1540 and the lands confiscated by the Crown. Many of the buildings were demolished; one document from the period states that the ‘Church, Chancel and part of the dormitory [of the Friary] were destroyed by order of the Lord Deputy for the purpose of repairing the castle of Maynooth’. In 1541 the lands of the Friary were leased to many well-known members of the local nobility.19

William Wogan

The Church on the site of the ancient Celtic Monastery now the Community Centre continued in use as the local Protestant Church following the Reformation. The Wogan family from nearby Rathcoffey Castle who held considerable property in and around Clane had remained Catholic following the reformation and continued to use the family burial ground adjoining the Church. In 1582 William Wogan of Rathcoffey supported a rebellion within the Pale aimed at restoring Catholism. Following the collapse of the rebellion a number of leading lords including Wogan were executed. It is likely that he was buried in the family burial plot in Clane where a monument to the family marks the spot. In recent years William Wogan has been granted martyr status and moves are afoot to have him beatified.

Clane in 1641

Clane and the surrounding area had a very strong defensive system in the 1640s with many of the leading Lords from the general area holding property in the town. They included the Wogan’s, Sarsfield’s, Sutton’s, Luttrell’s and Eustace’s. There were four Castles in the Town. Two of them, with Halls adjoining and were owned by Thomas FitzGearld of Clane; another was held by George FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare and the remaining Castle was held by John Dongon who was the largest landowner in the town.

This Castle may have been the Black Castle of Earl of Kildare that is mentioned in a document from 1541. Following the Silken Thomas Rebellion the Castle passed into the possession of the Crown. It may have been the Castle held by Nicholas Eustace in 1582, which, later passed to Walter Dongon in 1611.20 There were also two mills on the Liffey, one owned by William Sarsfield and the other owned by Nicholas Wogan. In addition to the Castles in Clane, the town was also defended by a circular string of five Castles within two miles of the town. They were located at Ballinagappagh, Clongowes Wood, Richardstown, Blackhall and Millicent. The people of the town at the time enjoyed certain rights to property, which included the use of 100 acres of pasture that was held in common.21

In 1642, during the Confederate Wars, Clongowes Wood Castle was attacked and captured by Crown forces. The victors executed the garrison and blew up the Castle. Also during the wars Blackhall Castle was also badly damaged during a siege. Despite the Wars of the period the town of Clane seems to have escaped much of the destructing experienced by other areas. A survey from 1654 shows that the four Castles in the town were still intact. The two Mills in Clane, however were destroyed. In the area outside Clane, two of the Castles, Clongowes Wood and Ballinagappagh had been destroyed with Blackhall described as undergoing repairs.22

Charles Caviller Wogan

Despite the religious upheavals of the 17th century a number of powerful Catholic gentry continued to hold property in the Clane area. The senior Wogan Family from Rathcoffey and the Richardstown Wogan’s retained possession of their property in the local area. Charles Caviller Wogan born in Richardstown in 1685 became one of the most famous Wild Geese officers on the Continent due to his activities in support of the Jacobite cause. Another prominent Catholic family living in the area was the Browne’s who held extensive property in Clongowes Wood area.

Emergence of Clane Catholic Parish

The Civil parish of Clane emerged in the late Middle Ages from the Manor of Clane. It was smaller than the present Catholic or Church of Ireland parishes, which are made up of a number of ancient civil parishes grouped together.

Clane parish at the time merely extended from Betaghstown in the north to Millicent in the south. In 1704 Fr John Porter was the Parish Priest of Clane and also of Mainham, whivh was a separate parish that included the surrounding townlands. Fr. Kedagh Molloy was living in Donadea as Parish Priest of a number of small parishes in that area, which corresponds to the present parish of Staplestown/Cooleragh. Surviving records from 1731 show considerable alterations in parochial boundaries. Fr. Molloy who was still Parish Priest of the Donadea parishes had succeeded Fr Porter as pastor of Clane and Mainham. This created a new united parish. It is likely Fr. Molloy had enjoyed the financial support of the Aylmer family of Donadea in the first decade of the 18th century. However by 1731 this branch of the Aylmer’s had conformed to the Established Church and Fr. Molloy had relocated to Clane.

During this period, Fr. Francis Dillon was Parish Priest of Balraheen, which included Rathcoffey. By the 1738, Fr. Andrew Ennis was the Parish Priest of Clane and he gained the additional parish of Balraheen, probably following the death of Fr. Dillon.23 This amalgamated parish survived unaltered until Staplestown/Cooleragh was formed in 1972.

Clane Mass House

In the period following the first decade of the 18th century, Mass-houses and Catholic chapels were established in the Clane area. The first recorded Mass house in the locality was Rathcoffey Chapel which dates from 1710 and is still in existence. Separate Mass-houses at Clane and Mainham date from 1715. Tradition suggests that there was a thatched Chapel on the site of the Londis Supermarket on the Main Street in Clane and this may be one of the Mass-houses in question. The Chapel at Mainham was located adjacent to Dunne’s forge on ‘Mainham Green’ A report from 1731 indicates that between ten and twelve mainly visiting priests officiated in Mainham Mass-house on solemn occasions. The parish priest at this time did not always live at Clane. A report from 1766 indicates that he resided in Mainham and was assisted by a curate. It appears the leading Catholic family the Wogan-Brownes were giving some assistance to the local priests at this time.24

In 1766 Rev William Daniels the Vicar of Clane, compiled an account giving the number of families living in the Clane and Mainham areas. According to the report 182 Catholic families and 10 Protestant families resided in Clane civil parish with 69 Catholic and one Protestant families living in Mainham civil parish.25

The 1798 Rebellion in Clane

The United Irishmen was founded in 1791 and two of the principal leaders throughout the early years of the movement had connections with Clane. Wolfe Tone who was instrumental in founding the Dublin United Irish Society owned a cottage in Blackhall. This cottage which he referred to in writings as Chateau Bou was his principal residence before his enforced exile in 1795. Archibald Hamilton Rowan the best known of the early United Irish leaders lived with his family in Rathcoffey House until his arrest and eventual exile in 1794.

During the late 1790s the United Irishmen had become very strong in Clane and local area slowly drifted into rebellion. However a strong contingent of Yeomen led by Richard Griffith of Millicent House was formed to oppose them. Unknown to the authorities many local United Irishmen infiltrated the Yeomen including, Dr. John Esmond who acted as Griffith’s second in command.

The rising was planned for the night of 23rd–24th May 1798 and took the authorities in Clane by surprise. With Dr. Esmond appointed as the Rebel Colonel in charge of the Barony of Clane, the local rebels in the town elected James Tierney another serving member of the Yeomanry as their Captain and leader of the local contingent. On the night of the rising, a unit of Armagh Militia numbering about 50 and commanded by Captain Jepson were billeted in Clane. There were also 20 yeomen in the town who were commanded by Lt Thomas Coates from Staplestown. According to rebel sources, James Tierney delayed ordering the rebel attack on Clane that night and as a result the garrison had some prior knowledge of the attack. When the attack occurred heavy hand to hand fighting took place in the main street in which the rebels were beaten back with heavy losses. Richard Griffith having been informed by this time of the rebel attack on the town arrived and took command. Expecting another rebel attack he decided to make a stand with his cavalry in an advantageous position. The position chosen was known locally at the time as ‘Coiseanna Hill’ which is situated on elevated land in the area at the back of the Woods Centre.26 There the mounted Yeomanry were attacked by the local rebels who were reinforced by colleagues fresh from their success at Prosperous. The rebels however, armed mainly with pikes were no match for trained Cavalry armed with fixed bayonets and swords who charged down the hill cutting down the rebels as they advanced. After suffering heavy casualties the rebels retreated in disorder with many dropping their weapons as they fled. Some of them took refuge in cabins in the nearby [Capdoo] commons. The Cavalry pursued them and burned many of the houses. Six prisoners were taken by the military; one was immediately executed while others were to meet the same fate the following day. As dawn approached Griffith feared that there would be yet another rebel attack as he had received intelligence describing the full horror of the rebel capture of Prosperous with the loss of nearly the entire garrison. However, at this time he received a message from his superiors ordering him to abandon Clane and defend Naas, which was also under rebel attack at the time. As he drew up his men in lines at the ‘Green’ in Clane before moving out to Naas, other Yeomen began joining the unit. One of them Philip Might informed Griffith privately that his second in command Dr. Esmond was secretly the rebel leader and had earlier been present in Prosperous. Seconds later to the surprise of Griffith, Esmond arrived in uniform and reported for duty. Also reporting for duty that morning was Thomas Tierney who had earlier led the Clane rebels. At this early stage of the conflict the two rebel leaders were not prepared to be publicly identified as rebels and they were apparently playing both sides. When the Clane garrison arrived in Naas, Griffith ordered the arrest of Esmond. He was not however, aware of Tiernans role in the attack on Clane. Tiernan having witnessed the arrest of Esmond, deserted the yeoman and rejoined the Clane rebels.27 Dr. Esmond was later put on trial and eventually executed. The Clane rebels joined the North Kildare rebels and fled to the bogs around Timahoe where they held out under the command of William Aylmer for three months until favourable surrender terms were negotiated.28

Clane in 1803

With the ending of the rising an uneasy peace followed. In 1803 a new conspiracy led by Robert Emmet, conscripted an active group from Clane headed by Matthew Donnellan, who was one of the wealthiest individuals in the town. Following the collapse of the Emmet conspiracy a number of men from Clane including Donnellan were arrested and briefly imprisoned. James Tiernan returned from exile and offered his services to Emmet. This offer was rejected but in the aftermath of the rising he was also arrested and imprisoned briefly.29

Clane from 1805

In 1805 Fr. John Robinson the PP built a new Catholic chapel in Clane. This building had a slated roof and was situated in the area between the entrance to the present Parish Church and the Main Street.30 The building was described in Lewis Topographical Survey of 1837 as ‘ a plain cruciform building in good repair’.

Clongowes Wood College

In 1812 Thomas Wogan Browne died at ‘Castlebrown’ and the property passed to his brother General Michael Wogan Browne who was a famous military officer on the continent. The following year he sold ‘Castlebrown’ to the Jesuits who established a college in the building. The Jesuits restored the building to its original name of Clongowes Wood and appointed Fr. Kenny as the first rector. The college opened in 1814 as a boarding school for boys from mainly well to do Catholic families. It brought considerable benefits to the area both commercially and in the area of employment.

Ministry of Fr. Kearney PP 1824–42

Fr. Maurice Kearney was appointed parish Priest of Clane in 1824. In order to supplement the income of the parish Fr. Kearney decided to engage in Cattle dealing. He leased a substantial division of land in the townland of Moortown and used the farmhouse as his residence. Fr. Kearney was very successful at Cattle dealing and made substantial sums of money. Despite this he did not neglect his parochial duties and in the late 1820s he renovated the three Chapels in his parish. Both Rathcoffey and Staplestown Chapels were enlarged while improvements were carried out to the comparatively new Parish Chapel in Clane. Schools in his parish were also improved and in 1839 a new school building was built on the Main Street in Clane. He also had a role in assisting the Nuns in establishing the convent in the late 1830s. It is likely some of the payments for the building projects came from income generated from his farming activities.

He died in 1842 and was interred in the parish chapel. In his will he left in excess of 10,000 an enormous sum of money at that time. The bulk of the money 8,000 was left to Carlow College with substantial sums going to the Chapels and Schools of the parish the Presentation Convent, and the poor of the parish.31

Schools

Records show that there were private Catholic schools in both Clane and Mainham in 1731.32 More details survive of a Catholic school in Clane from 1796. It was a mixed school with 60 pupils on the roll. The school-house was a mud-walled thatched building with a sizable classroom measuring 38 feet by 13 feet. In 1819 a new Catholic school was built in Clane for 300 and was described as a stone walled building with a slated roof. It had spacious classrooms and was also a mixed school with 80 pupils on the roll. Records of schools from 1823 indicate that a small private Catholic girls school operated in Clane and there were several private schools in the surrounding area including two in Firmount. It is known that a number of hedge-schools operated in the Firmount area at the time with some remaining in existence until the mid 19th century.33

Presentation Convent Established

The Presentation convent was founded in Clane in April 1839 by Mother Teresa Brennan. The new convent was built at the back of a school, which had been in use from 1831. The establishment of separate boys and girls primary schools also dates from this time. Initially there was a community of eight nuns and in the years after their arrival a substantial advancement in education took place in the locality.34 It was to be the beginning of an era, which led to Clane becoming the hub of education in the general area.

Business life in the 1830s

By the 1830s, Clane had lost its status as a market town. The market that used to be held in the town had fallen into disuse due to its proximity to Naas. However, fairs mainly for the sale of Cattle, Sheep and Pigs, continued to be held four times a year in March, April, July and October.

With the establishment of the Irish Constabulary at this time a new Police barracks was opened in Clane. Close to the barracks was the local Courthouse where petty sessions were held every second Saturday.35

Famine and Poverty in the Late 19th Century

The Great Famine brought about major changes in society in Clane. The most significant being the decline in population. In 1837 the town of Clane consisted of 225 neatly built houses and had a population of 1037. However, between 1841 and 1851, Clane Barony experienced a twenty per-cent fall in population. Before the famine in the years from 1841 to 1845, there were an average of 26 marriages annually in Clane, Catholic parish, while in 1850 only 11 marriages were recorded.36 At the height of the Famine, various relief measures were introduced locally including a soup kitchen operated by Thomas Trench of Millicent House.37 The famine led to great poverty in the area and a decline in the fortunes in the town, which didn’t recover until the second half of the twenty century.

Clane Church of Ireland

In 1880 the Church of Ireland parishioners in Clane decided to abandon the Old Protestant Church and build a new one on a different site. Local landowner Thomas Cook-Trench offered a site for the new Church on his lands at Millicent also offered to contributed much of the cost of the new building. The offer was accepted and work began in 1881. The Church took over two years to build and was designed by M.J. Fuller It was consecrated in 1883 and dedicated to St. Michael and All Angles.38

The previous year the local Church of Ireland relocated Hewetson School from Betaghstown to Millicent. At the time the school had both boarders and day pupils.39

Catholic Church in Clane

In the early 1880s a new Catholic Parish Church was built in Clane mainly through the efforts of the parish priest Fr. Patrick Turner and his parishioners. The site chosen was at the back of the Parish Chapel, which was to be demolished when the new church was built. Preparation work on the site commenced in 1875 and the foundation stone was laid the following year. It was designed by Mr William Hague and cost of 7,0000 to build. There was a spiral included in the plans but unfortunately it was never built. The Church was completed in 1884 and dedicated to St. Patrick and St. Bridget.40

The GAA and Sport

The GAA was founded in November 1884. The previous June a highly successful sports meeting took place in Clane. The organisers held another event in May of the following year and out of this meeting evolved the establishment of Clane Gaelic football club.

That meeting also marked the beginning of the highly successful athletic career of local man Tommy Conneff an early member of the club. During his outstanding career he broke several world records. He broke the 4-mile world record in August 1887 at Ballsbridge; in 1893 he broke the world mile record in Boston; two years later he again broke the world mile record, which stood for 16 years. Later that year he broke the three quarter mile world record and this record stood for 38 years. The establishment of the Gaelic Football Club in Clane had a tremendous effect on society and life in general in Clane. Within a short time success came to the Clane Gaelic football club. From 1887 sporting events in Clane took place on Sundays and this was possible through the support of the Parish Priest Fr. Turner. Organised meetings and games took place on a regular bases and this increased interest of the revival of nationalism that was taking place in the country at the time.41

1916–23 Period in Clane

Following the 1916 rising and during the anti-conscription campaign there was an upsurge in support for the Irish Volunteers. Dissident political activity became widespread in the Clane area. In 1918, at an after Mass meeting in Clane, the manifesto of the Irish Volunteers was read by Mick Sammon, who was arrested and served six months in prison. Throughout the war of Independence most of the young people in the Clane area were members of the IRA (Old IRA). There were two companies in the area; the local company in Clane was headed by Jack Greene and the Mainham company was led by Pat Dunne.42 On 4 April 1920 the RIC barracks in the Main Street was burned by the local IRA Company. Later in the year there was a local connection with Bloody Sunday. On that tragic day, the inter-county football game was referred by Mick Sammon from Clane.

Following the departure of the British security forces, Clane suffered from ‘a wave of crime and lawlessness’. It was not until September 1922 that the first Gardai took up duty in Clane under Sergeant Finn.43 However, they had to contend with hostility from the anti-treaty irregulars who were engaged in the civil war. One serious incident between the unarmed Gardai and armed irregulars took place in March 1923 and resulted in the partial burning of the Garda Station.

Clane Post Independence

The new Irish government brought no overnight transformation in the fortunes of the area and throughout the 1920s Clane suffered from a severe recession. There were no factories or major centres of employment and many of young people seeking work were forced to leave the area. The only real employment in the locality throughout the period was in Clongowes Wood College. However by 1929 the recession seems to have abated and the long road to recovery began which would ultimately lead to a period of excessive growth and prosperity.

  1. See various Le Cheile; Clane GAA, A Century, p 19; Shady Roads to Clane, p 110.
  2. Oughterany, Vol II, p 21–2. The stone age fragment dates from the Mesolithic period.
  3. Kildare Archaeological Journal, Vol XVI, p 108–11. Clane pit burials dates from the Neolithic period 4000–2500 BC.
  4. Ibid, Vol 6, p 302.
  5. Comerford Collections, Vol 2, pp 98–99; Shady Roads pp 32–3.
  6. Comerford, Vol 2, p 99.
  7. Kildare Journal, Vol 3, p 104.
  8. Ibid, Vol 4, p 36.
  9. Kildare Journal, Vol 7, pp 125–6.
  10. Comerford, Vol 2, p 100; Shady Roads, p 63.
  11. Office of Public Works, Report on Clane.
  12. Kildare Journal, Vol 6, p 303.
  13. OPW file
  14. Ibid.
  15. According to Burkes Peerage, Gerald FitzGerald, had a nickname, ‘Roth Faly Aght’; ‘The Red Man of Offaly’.
  16. Kildare Journal, Vol 3, p 105.
  17. Kildare Journal, Vol XIX, p 346; OPW file.
  18. OPW file.
  19. Kildare Journal, Vol XIX, pp 346–7.
  20. OPW files; Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary 1837, noted the presence of a Castle long been in ruins.
  21. Civil Survey of Co. Kildare 1654–56, p 149.
  22. Ibid.
  23. For details of Penal priests see Comerford, Vol 2, pp 112–3.
  24. Comerford, Vol 1, p 263.
  25. Details from Comerford, Vol 1, p 274.
  26. For details of ‘Coiseanna Hill’ see, Various Le Cheile; Shady Roads, p 49.
  27. Rebellion Papers, 620/14/187/7.
  28. Fugitive Warfare, pp 23–30, 163–173; Emmet Rising, p 34; Clane Commemorates 1798, pp 2–16.
  29. Emmet Rising in Kildare, pp 171–4.
  30. For details of a date stone from this chapel see, Centenary of the Church of St. Patrick and Bridget Clane 1884–1984, p 33; Fr. Robinson also built the present Church at Nurney after he was appointed PP in Monasterivan between 1810–20.
  31. Last Will and Testament of Rev M. Kearney of Moortown 1842.
  32. Comerfords, Vol 1, p 263.
  33. Clane GAA, p 17.
  34. Ibid, p 233.
  35. Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary.
  36. Least We Forget, Kildare and the Great Famine, p 14.
  37. Church of St. Michaels and All Angels Clane, 5.
  38. Ibid.
  39. GAA Book, p 414.
  40. Centenary of Clane Parish Church.
  41. GAA book, p 27.
  42. GAA Book, p 134.
  43. Ibid, p 29–41. Gardai in Clane on 5 March 1923 named as Seargeant Finn; Gardai, Lee, Coleman, O’Shea and Kennedy.