Brief History of the Area: Newtowncashel is situated on the North Eastern Shore of Lough Ree on the River Shannon. It could be described as an island parish for it boasts of fertile farmland surrounded by bogland to the North and East. This sense of separateness is very apparent in Newtowncashel for it gives people a sense of independence and strength of spirit. Newtowncashel or ‘Cor na Dumhca’ in Irish, is an ancient name meaning the ‘Round Hill of the Cauldron.’ Two important historical sites in the Newtowncashel area are Inis Clothrann or Quakers Island where St Diarmuid founded an abbey in the year 540 AD and Saints’ Island where St Kevin founded a monastery in 544 AD. The ruins of the old parish church, St Catherine’s and the burial grounds are on the side of Cashel Hill overlooking Lough Ree. There is an extensive shoreline along Lough Ree and Barley Harbour is the only public area on the lake.
Culnagore Wood (Wood of the Oak) consists of ancient woodland and covers and area of 90 acres along the edge of Lough Ree. It contains many fine species of woodland flowers and at the northern end there is a colony of Garden warblers, a small secretive bird rarely found or seen in Ireland. The wood is the perfect place for amblers and walkers who can enjoy its peace and tranquility.
Lough Slawn and Meadows
Located just a short distance from the town is the lovely Lough Slawn which is surrounded by meadows and bog lands. This lake provides the local or the visitor the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll around its shore and to discover the richness of the bog plants and flowers.
This state forest of pine and spruce is on the highest hill in the parish. Along its edge is to be found the mass pathway once used by the people of Elfeet and Cashel to go to and from Mass. Larger than Culnagore Wood, this wood also hugs the shore of Lough Ree and provides a wonderful place for long walks or leisurely strolls.
Lady Well and Mass Rock
Lady Well is situated in the townland of Derrydarragh. It is still visited by some people between the two Lady Days of the 15th August and on the 8th September. No one knows how far back the pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Well goes but up to 1887 the 9th of September was a Holy Day of obligation in the parish of Cashel and a famous Pattern Day was frequented by people from near and far.
During the dark days of the Penal Times, the good people of Cashel had neither church nor chapel, but were compelled to assemble for worship under the broad dome of heaven. It is no accident that one of the Mass rocks is situated very close to Lady Well, where it can still be seen in Derrydarragh. At the other end of the parish, in Derryhaun, there is another Mass Rock close to the edge of the bog.
Many fine examples of virgin and cutaway bogs are to be found throughout the parish. Here you will find the Curlew, Snipe, Skylark and Herons in quiet meditation beside small water pools. The otter, fox and hares make their homes here. In mid-
Barley Harbour, a fine cut-
Four groups of islands are part of the parish of Cashel: the Black Islands; Clawinch, Priests’ Island and Inis Clothrann (or Quaker). The largest and most historic island on the River Shannon is Inis Clothrann. The name Clothra was the name of Queen Maeve’s sister and two landmarks on the island are Grianan Meidhbhe and Innod Marfe Meidhbhe. St Diarmuid founded a monastery on this island about the year 540 AD and the well preserved ruins are to be seen in the area known as ‘The Moat’.
On Saint’s Island can been seen the ruins of an Augustinian Monastery that survived up to the time of the suppression of the monasteries in the reign of Henry the VIII. Its most famous son was Augustine McGradion who compiled the Annals of All Saints here in the 15th century. This historic island can now be approached by a causeway.
John Keegan Casey (Leo) 1836 – 1870)
‘Oh then tell me, Sean O’Farrell, tell me why you hurry so?’
‘Hush, a bhuachaill, hush and listen,’ and his cheeks were all a-
‘I bear orders from the Captain, get you ready quick and soon
For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon’.
This poem, ‘The Rising of the Moon’ was written by the boy poet at the age of fifteen years and is known and sung
throughout the English speaking world. ‘Leo’ Casey taught school here at Cleraun and many of his beautiful poems were
written here. They include ‘ A Boating on Lough Ree’ and ‘Maire My Girl’. Tragically, he died at the young age of twenty-
Cashel Commons (The Ranch)
This area is commonage covering approximately 200 acres of pasture and scrubland. It boasts easy walking routes which were formed by the movements of horses and sheep and affords the visitor magnificent views of Lough Ree. A wonderful array of bluebells is to be found here in spring in the Hazel Woods. Two well-
Five castles are recorded in the parish of Cashel – Elfeet, Caltramore, Corool, Portanure and the castle of Baile Nui ( Newtown). The ruins of Elfeet Castle can still be seen. George Calvert, the owner of a small 15th century tower house, became governor of Maryland, USA and founder of the city of Baltimore. Tradition has it that it was from this castle that Forby flung the stone that killed Queen Maeve on Inis Clothrann Island. There are still some remains to be seen of Corool and Portanure Castles.