From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Kilkenny | St. Canice's | St. Kiernan's College | Ruins at Kells | Celtic Cross, Kells | Kilkenny Map

NAME.—The city of Kilkenny, which gave name to the county, received its own name from a church founded by St. Canice, which was called Cill-Chainnigh, the church of St. Canice. St. Canice was abbot of Aghaboe in Queen's County, where he had his principal church; he died in the year 598.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Greatest length north and south, from the bend of the Suir at Moonveen, west of Waterford city, to the north angle of the county near the village of Clogh, 45 miles; breadth east and west, from the Barrow, near Graiguenamanagh, to the western boundary, 23 miles; area 796 square miles; population 99,531.

SURFACE: HILLS.—The whole north margin of the county is moderately upland and hilly. The hills that occupy the barony of Fassadinin, and the north of the barony of Gowran, are commonly called the Castlecomer Hills, and sometimes the Slievemargy Hills, from the adjacent barony of Slievemargy in Queens County, into which they extend. But though the elevations in this northern part of the county are sometimes up to 1,000 feet over the sea level, there are few or no conspicuous hills among them, as they slope very gradually, and the plain on which they stand is itself 300 or 400 feet above the sea level. South of the city of Kilkenny, and west of the Nore, extends a great plain diversified with gentle undulations. The eastern part of the county south of the Powerstown River, and also the south part, including the baronies of Iverk and Ida, are also hilly and upland. Near the eastern margin, two miles south of Graiguenamanagh, is Brandon Hill (1,694), the highest elevation in the whole county. The two series of hills covering the north of the barony of Iverk, are commonly called the Booley Hills. All this hilly region is very similar in character to the Castle-comer and Galmoy districts in the north.

RIVERS.—The Nore, coming from Queens County, runs through Kilkenny in a direction generally toward the south-southeast, and passing by Ballyragget, Kilkenny, and Thomastown, joins the Barrow on the east side, 2 miles above New Ross. The Barrow, coming from Carlow, first touches Kilkenny at Duninga; and from that south to where it enters the Suir at Snowhill House (about 36 miles following the windings) it forms the eastern boundary of the county. The Suir, coming from the west, first touches the southern end of the county at the mouth of Lingaun River, a mile below Carrick-on-Suir; and from that to the junction of the Barrow (about 22 miles following the windings), it forms the southern boundary. All the other rivers are tributaries, either immediately or ultimately, to these three.

Tributaries of the Nore beginning on the north: The Owbeg, coming south from Queens County, forms the boundary between Kilkenny and Queens County for the last 3 miles of its course, and joins the Nore 2 miles above Ballyragget, receiving the Glashagal just above the junction. The Dinin, noted for its floods (hence the name, meaning Vehement River), comes south from Queens County, and passing by Castlecomer, joins the Nore 4 miles above Kilkenny. One of the tributaries of the Dinin, coming from Queens County and Carlow on the east, is called by the same name, Dinin; and this Dinin receives from the south the Coolcullen, which forms a part of the eastern boundary. A little lower down there are two other tributaries (of the large Dinin), joining at opposite banks, the Muckalee on the left and the Cloghagh on the right. Two miles above the mouth of the Dinin, the Nore is joined on the other bank by the Nuenna, flowing from the west by Freshford. The King's River, flowing eastward from Tipperary through Callan and Kells, joins the Nore 4 miles above Thomastown: a mile above Callin the King's River is joined from the north by the Munster River, which for the greater part of its course forms the boundary between Kilkenny and Tipperary. A little below Callan the King's River is joined by the Owbeg from the southwest, and near Kells, by the Glory River from the south. A mile above Thomastown the Little Arrigle flows into the Nore from the southwest; and 3 miles below the same town the Arrigle from the south.

The tributaries of the Barrow (beside the Nore) from the Kilkenny side, are the Monefelim and the Powerstown River, both which join the main stream near Gowran. The Kilkenny tributaries of the Suir are the Lingaun, which comes from Tipperary, and forming the boundary for 7 miles, flows into the Suir 2 miles below Carrick; and the Blackwater, which, passing by Mullinavat, joins the Suir a mile above the city of Waterford. The Blackwater is joined near Mullinavat by the Pollanass, from the northeast.

LAKES.—The only lake in the county is the small Lough Cullen, near the southern extremity, 3 miles north from Waterford; which is only remarkable for the numerous legends in connection with it.

TOWNS.—The city of Kilkenny (12,299), on the Nore, the assize town, may be called the inland capital of Ireland. It has been from the earliest times a place of importance, both as regards ecclesiastical and civil affairs, and it is one of the most beautifully-built and one of the most interesting towns in Ireland. It contains a round tower and many other fine ecclesiastical ruins, and also Kilkenny Castle, the seat of the great family of Butler or Ormand, beautifully situated on the margin of the Nore.

Beside Kilkenny, the towns on the Nore are the following: (beginning on the north) Ballyragget (741), which took its rise from the castle built by the Butlers in the 15th century, the ruins of which yet remain. Thomastown (1,067), in a beautiful spot on the convex side of a bend of the river, with several castle and abbey ruins. A mile and a half above the town, near the point of junction of the Arrigle with the Nore, is Jerpoint Abbey, erected in the 12th century by Donogh MacGillapatrick, king of Ossory, one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical ruins in Ireland. About three miles north of Thomastown are the round tower and church ruins of Tullaherin; the tower very well preserved, but without the conical cap. Inistioge (570), is a neat town in a lovely narrow valley along the Nore. Freshford (733), is on the Nuenna.

On the King's River, near the western margin of the county, is Callan (2,340) with its fine abbey ruins; east of Callan, near the village of Kells, is the round tower of Kilree, with an old Celtic cross beside it. At Kells itself are the fine remains of a priory, founded in 1183 by Geoffrey Fitz Robert. Further north on this west margin is Urlingford (847); two miles northeast of this is Johnstown (456), near which is the once celebrated Ballyspellan Spa.

In the north, on the river Dinin, is Castlecomer (1,182). Graiguenamanagh (1,172), at the eastern margin, stands in the midst of hills, in a beautiful situation on the Barrow, with fine abbey and castle ruins. Higher up on the Barrow is the village of Goresbridge (501); three miles west of which is Gowran (618). In the south, Mullinavat (399) stands on the Blackwater; and the barony of Iverk is studded with little villages, the chief of which are Mooncoin (644), and Pilltown (396).

MINERALS.—The great Leinster coal field extends into Kilkenny, and occupies the greater part of the barony of Fassadinin and the north margin of the barony of Gowran. The limestone which occupies the great central plain of the county becomes a fine black marble in the district lying round the city of Kilkenny. This "Kilkenny marble" is richly variegated with fossil shells; it is quarried extensively in great blocks, which are manufactured into chimney pieces, tombstones, and various kinds of architectural ornamental work.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—The greater part of the county Kilkenny was included in the ancient sub-kingdom of Ossory. The old district of Hy Duach was coextensive with the present barony of Fassadinin. The present village of Rosbercon, on the Barrow, retains the name of the old territory or barony of Hy Bercon, which lay west of the Barrow, and comprised a good part of the present barony of Ida; and the southern part of Ida was the old barony of Igrine. The barony of Ida itself represents the old territory of Ui-Deag-haigh; and the barony of Iverk is the ancient district of Hy-Erc.

About two miles below Ballyragget, on the Nore, was situated a wooded district called in ancient times Arget-ros, or Silver-wood. It was here, according to the bardic history, that Enna the Spoiler, one of the very early kings of Ireland, made silver shields, and distributed them among his chiefs. In this district also, on the bank of the Nore, in the parish of Rathbeagh, Eber and Eremon, the two first kings of Ireland of the Milesian colony erected a fort, in which Eremon afterward died. This fort, which was called Rathbeagh or Rathveagh, still remains; it is well known by its old name, and it has given the name of Rathbeagh to the parish.

Description of County Kilkenny | St. Canice's | St. Kiernan's College | Ruins at Kells | Celtic Cross, Kells | Kilkenny Map

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