Portrait of Limerick By- Mainchin Seoighe.
Setting out Northward from Dromcolliher we follow for a time the unusually straight road that leads towards Newcastlewest. Passing through the small village of Feohanagh, four miles on, and continuing for another four miles before taking the road to the right, into Castlemahon, a place also known as Mahoonagh.
Michael Scanlon who was born in 1833 emigrated to America with other members of his family in 1848, became deeply involved in the Fenian Movement in the States. He was a prolific-song writer and was also known as the Poet Laurete of Fenianism. One of his early songs tells of his leaving Castlemahon:
"The Valleys never looked so sweet
As on that day
When from my Childhoods blest retreat
I turned away
To breast the Wild and Searching Sheet
The Word Eaglais we are told, derived its name from the old Latin word " "(Ecclesia)" and this church of the monks dates back to the 16th Century. Aglish at this time consisted of 13 arable acres which was owned by Monks, who built their monastery there. The Old Church was seen there now was erected by 1760. It was during 1995 that the "Fine Plaque" Eaglais na Manach was erected to commemorate the Old Church of the Monks", that was in the Sacred place during the 16th and 17th Century.
On Ascension Thursday, 26 May 1960 his Lordship most Rev Dr Murphy laid the Foundation Stone for a new church in Castlemahon. The Old church which it replaced was built over a hundred years ago. The Foundation must have been faulty as in Canon Irwins time, the pins were inserted to keep the walls Straight. One in each transept Canon Irwin died in 1919. Experts who examined the building considered that it was unlikely that it would hold up any more than a few years and they ordered that the transept galleries should be closed and the gallery should be supported by additional props.
The New Church was blessed and opened by the Bishop of Limerick most Rev Dr, Murphy on Sunday 3 September 1961. His Lordship presided at a solemn High Mass and dedicated the New Church to St John the Baptist and to St Nicholas. A former Curate in the Parish, Rev T Culhane Diocesan organiser preached a special sermon.
In the Graveyard are the ruins of an ancient Church. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, persecution of the Catholics continued unchecked and rampant. In 1851 the queens fleet
reached the coast of Ireland and made no delay in perpetuating several revolting atrocities up and down the country.
In 1837 the Church on the site of the school was described as a modern building . According to tradition a thatched building existed in the same site. The Parochial records begin about 1811
The Name Mahoonagh comes from an earlier Magh Tamhnach meaning plain of the tree stumps. Early in the 13th Century it was called Maccaveni while old records dated 1288 shows Moycarenagh. In the Civil Survey of 1654-56 the spelling is Mahownagh, Mahoonagh or Castlemahon as we know it, is the parish in the Glenquin Division of the barony of Upper Connello. It is situated two miles southeast from NewcastleWest. The Parish is intersected by the River Deel on the road from NewcastleWest to Dromcolliher. It comprises 12,263 acres which are in part very good, being chiefly pasture and meadow.
The ruins of a massive square tower about 30 feet high, exist neat Castlemahon and gives the name to the village. Near it is a curious circular building, with a high conical roof of stone. It was a strong fortress erected about 1490 by the Fitzgeralds. At Ballynoe are the remains of an old Castle built by the Knights Templers. The ivy clad ruins of Clonelty Church can still be traced beside the old castle.
Mahoonagh Castle was built by the Fitzgeralds at the end of the 12 or the beginning of the 13th Century. In later years the Castle was owned by the Fitzgibbons. The English occupied it but in 1598 another Fitzgibbon descendant of those who once owned the castle - attacked it and gained possession of it. There is an interesting story of how this Thomas Fitzgibbon-Macgibbon succeeded in taking over the Castle. He had a servant named Casey. Nobody Knows how Casey came to be in the Castle with the English, but on Shrove Tuesday morning he rose early, he Climbed to the top of the tower unobserved by the inmates and whistled. This was a signal to Fitzgibbon and the Irish to get ready. He came down, roused up the porter, Thomas Everard and conned him into letting him out. Escott, who held the castle, Vosias Walker, Daniel Jennings the Local minister, and others to the number of forty, were it is alleged, stripped naked by MacGibbon. Four of them were hanged at the Windmill of Meane near Kilbolane castle while the rest were allowed to retire in safety. The other prisoners were ordered to march to North Cork. As there were more captives than the Irish, Fitzgibbon decided to leave some of them to be hanged along the way. The English got angry at this and Fitzgibbon was forced to set all the prisoners free.
Poultry processing in Castlemahon commenced in the late 1920s and comprised of the gathering of live fowl for both the home market and for export. The business grew to become the leading poultry business in Ireland in the 1960s.
After the amalgamation of the milk business of the co-operative with Golden Vale in the early 1970,s the poultry business continued as a separate Co-operative and embarked on an ambitious growth programme through business acquisitions.
The Castlemahon processing plant was in a position to produce a product which would compare more than favourably with the best in Ireland.
A new company was formed in October 1984 when O Kane Poultry of Ballymena purchased the processing plant from the Liquidator of the Co-operative. Employment has now increased in excess of 280. This compares more than favourably with the employment level of 144 in October 1984. The workforce at Castlemahon has proved to be highly flexible as is required in the fresh food business. As the range of product produced grows, the skill base of the company will be expanded to cater for market requirements. The market for chicken has changed considerably over the past few years. The present day house-wife tends to purchase a variety of products, thus making meal preparations less of a chore than hitherto. Castlemahon is attempting to expand the overall chicken market by providing an alternative chicken meal to the roast chicken, 40% of the annual sales are made over the Christmas period. The significant change in the market is the greater demand for fresh turkey. In order to satisfy this demand a new processing line has been installed in Castlemahon and the first turkey in four years will be processed at the plant this Christmas.(1989 parish annual)
Baptist well situated at Cooliska is widely known for cures affected there during the "Paying of Pounds",especially in the cases of eye disease.
One of the most famous cures was that of Dean O Brien late of NewcastleWest. He suffered from blindness as a child and his brother brought him to the well. She did the rounds with the child on her back, on the completion of the third round the childs sight was restored. Up to this time the childs name was Richard and in thanksgiving his mother called him Richard Baptist from then on. It is told St Patrick passed this way fifteen hundred years ago and for the first time told the story of St John the Baptist and dedicated the well to his memory.
The White Well is the townland in Moanroe. In olden times rounds were paid there and one parishioner is known to have been cured at the well. Legend tells us when a woman washed clothes at the well it moved.
The White Well was taken over by the County Council in 1973. It can supply a half million gallons per day. The well is supplying the parish with water as well as, some of the surrounding county districts.