23 April 2012
A new rector in Castlecomer
After a long working weekend, I went down to Co Kilkenny this evening for the institution of the Revd Patrick Burke as the new Rector of Castlecomer.
Despite the rain on the way down, there were full rainbows in the skies above the Co Kildare and Co Laois countryside on occasions, and the fields were rich in spring green and yellow.
We took a detour to Ballinakill, to photograph the old parish church, which is still without electricity, and then returned to Castlecomer, about 16 km (10 miles) north of Kilkenny.
This small town has a population of 1,531, and an elegant square graced with Georgian houses and lined with lime trees. It is said to take its name from a mediaeval castle that stood at the confluence of three rivers" are Deen, Brocagh and Clohogue while the mediaeval castle once stood on the mound opposite the gates of Castlecomer Demesne.
Saint Mary’s Church stands on the site of the ancient parish Church of the Holy Cross in Castlecomer. In 1374 Alexander, Bishop of Ossory, confirmed the Church of Castlecomer to the Prior and Canons of Saint John’s Abbey, Kilkenny.
In the early 15th century, the Revd Walter Comys was excommunicated by the Bishop of Ossory in 1428 when he held on to the church and refused to hand it over to William Stakboll, Prior of Saint John’s Abbey.
When Saint John’s Abbey was suppressed at the Reformation in 1540 and its possessions, including the Rectory of Castlecomer, were granted to the Corporation of Kilkenny.
In 1637, when Brennan territory in this part of north Co Kilkenny came into the hands of the Wandesford family, Christopher Wandesford, who built an elegant town near the old castle: “Sir Christopher Wandesford built for the new town, a very handsome church ... And endowed it with lands worth £300 a year. Princely Magnificence! He also built a stately house for the minister and gave it to an able and goodly man ...” The ancient church was probably taken down at this time, and no traces of it remain.
The ancient church was probably taken down at this time, and no traces of it remain.
The town was destroyed in the 1798 rebellion and afterwards Lady Anne Ormonde offered incentives for rebuilding Castlecomer and restored Saint Mary’s Church, which celebrated its bicentenary a few years ago.
There are monuments to Wandesford, Butler and Price families throughout the church, and later we went back to the Wandesford Hall for a reception hosted by the parish.