Rathkeale Abbey was founded by one Gilbert Hervey for the Augustinian Canons of the Order of Arosia in the year 1280. It was endowed by Elinor Purcell, Herveys niece, with the 10th loaf of every baking, the 10th flagon of every brewing, the 10th pork, the 10th mutton and a large portion of every ox killed in the Manor of Mayer (Croagh).

In 1290 a law suit was carried on between Thomas Le Chapelin, Guardian of the house of St. Senan of Scattery Island, and Benedict, Prior of St. Marys, Rathkeale. In 1307, Hugh, son of Elinor Purcell was sued by the Prior for not fulfilling the grant made by his mother. The law-suit ended in a compromise - Hugh agreeing to give yearly to the Prior, 2 crannogs of bread corn, 3 crannogs of oats on the Feast of St. Michael and 4 porks on the Feast of St. Martin forever.

In 1318 Thomas Purcell was Prior of the Abbey. He was accused of violence at Croagh. In 1463 Pope Pius III addressed a letter to the prior of Rathkeale, containing instructions about conferring the Rectorship of Randbarad, diocese of Ardfert on David Fitzmaurice of the same diocese.

The Monastery " owned the Mill and a great Island (Masseys) and a large part of the water weir. There were six ploughlands and six quarters and it all belonged to the Church with all kinds of tithes. There was great discord between Gerald-n-Cora, head of the Geraldines and the McCarthy Mores who said that the said Geraldines took the best lands of the McCarthys in Glenquin (Clenian) and had given for the same in the Church in Dun Downall, in Connelloe, six days there and six days given by Ridelagh in his own town, Riddlestown" The Geraldines took McCarthys place of sepulchre and gave him instead, right of sepulchre at Glenarold, these ruins are situated adjacent to Rathkeale, and we are all well acquainted with our picturesque River Deel and the lovely wooded island, one of the favourite walks of Rathkeale folk young and old.

In 1513 Thomas Hayes bound himself to the Apostolic Chamber for the first fruits of the Priorship of "The Blessed Virgin, order of St. Augustine, Rathkeale.

From this until the suppression of the monasteries in Ireland there does not seem to be any record that would trace its history. According to an Inquisition held in Elizabeths reign it was in the posession of Gerald Baluff (Balfe). He was killed during the Desmond Rebellion. The Abbey was afterwards granted to Sir H. Wallop. In "Peytons Survey", 1586 the following account of the posession is given:-"it was found that the site of the Monastery - a castle called Cam-ne-Monaster, alias The Castle at the head of the Monastery - together with 20 gardens, one of which was called the Priors Garden, contained three acres; 20 more acres in Temple Trenode in Rathkeale, 8 acres in Ardagh, 8 acres in Callow, 10 acres in Nantenan "very bad land", total 53(?)acres.


O'Dowd says that "The original building must have been destroyed for the present structure is not later than the 16th Century". It was reported many years ago that the bell of the Abbey had been discovered and given to the local bell-man but no more is known of its whereabouts. (Possibly given to Jim Murray, the last bell-man in Rathkeale). The following article appeared some years ago in a local paper:-"An Appeal: There is a very fine window in Rathkeale Abbey. I would appeal to our local learned and energetic member of the County Council,Mr D.J. Madden, and our new member Mr. Richard Magner to save it and the remains of the building from the further ravages of time and weather"

The Pre- Reformation Churches of the Holy Trinity were where the Protestant Church now stands. The present church is the third to be built on the site, the protestant is marked "Holy Trinity" on the Ordnance Sheet. It was built from black marble quarried on the river bank close to the town. It is in the early English style, with a lofty square tower, embattled and crowned, with crocketed pinnacles. O'Dowd says,"It stands on a gentle eminence, west of the river, close to the old site of Castle Southwell". It was built in 1831. All these Protestant churches and rectories were built about that time from a big grant, but the wheel of fortune is always turning and most of these churches are now demolished. The Protestant church at Croagh went to build the stables at the Adare Hotel (Dunraven Arms). The new presbytery at Parteen is built of stones taken from some other Protestant church. The first Chapel to be built in Rathkeale after the Penal days was in Chapel Lane, which runs from the Square to Fair Hill. Parts of the stone piers still remain to this day. It was closed when the Church in Thomas St. was opened. This was on the site of the old Convent School, now the school yard of St Anne's Convent School..

There is a well known story of the then Parish Priest, Father Clarke, who wanted a road built to the new Church as Thomas St. didn't exist then. He applied to the foreman of the grand jury to have this work carried out and was promptly refused, presumably on purely religious grounds. He then appealed to his parishioners to carry out the work themselves,and over a thousand of them, with horses,carts,picks spades and shovels responded to his call and the roadway was ready on the following Sunday.

After thanking them the priest predicted that Thomas St. would be there long after every member of that grand jury and their families had died out. Another priest, a Father Crotty was so well liked by the people that when he was moved, the whole parish walked or rode into Limerick to appeal to the Bishop to allow him to remain in Rathkeale.

Our present church was built by Very Rev. Dr O'Shea P.P.V.G. It was consecrated on the 17th. August 1873. Father Thomas Burke delivered the sermon from the beautiful pulpit, a unique work of art, the gift of the Earl of Dunraven

The church at Cloghanarold was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen and beside it is a well dedicated to St. Molua (Begley)

A document called the "Registry of Clonmacnoise" contains an account of the various lands granted to the monastery by several provincial kings and principle chieftans as a purchace for the right of sepulchre.


This monastery was in the possession of Keynsham Abbey, Somersetshire before 1237 (probably given by Sir Roger Waspail), of which John MacEnery of Castletown MacEnery (Castletown Conyers)- a member of an old Irish Family who had long held sway in that locality- was the leading light. Born in1616 MacEnery joined the Congregation in 1642 and made his vows in 1645. He was Professor of Theology and Director of Studies in the mother house at Paris. He was promoted to the Chair of Theology in the newly-founded College of Genoa, but there fell a victim to the plague that raged in the town

Another great Irishman Daniel O'Connell also died in Genoa, on his way to Rome. St. Vincent spoke of Father MacEnery as a "wise, pious and exemplary man". Tadhg Moloney of Limerick made his vows in 1655 and Patrick Walsh in 1646. Francis White, Dermot O'Brien, George White and William Cart joined the Vincentians about this time. Having so many young Irish priests in the congregation, Vincent de Paul was able to give a favourable reply to a letter from the Congregation of Propaganda, asking him to send some of his Fathers to Ireland to give missions. Vincent sent Fathers O 'Brien, Barry, White and Duggan together with others whose names are not known. When the missionaries reached Ireland they divided themselves into two groups, one going to Thurles and the other to Rathkeale.

Father James Stritch, Parish Priest of Rathkeale, was a son of Thomas Stritch, Mayor of Limerick, who was hanged, drawn and quartered by Ireton who led the siege. He succeeded in reaching St. Malo with his uncle. After landing he wrote to Father O'Brien of the Vincentians, telling him that his grand-mother, mother, brothers and sisters remained on an island called Aughanish (near Askeaton) on the Shannon. His uncle, Patrick, died a few days after landing. He was ordained in 1666 and returned to Limerick where he was made Parish Priest of Rathkeale and Vicar General. He was Parish Priest until 1689 when Dr. John Moloney was appointed by the Holy See on the 24th of January of that year.



A market town and parish in the Barony of Lower Connello, County of Limerick, is 120 miles S.W. from Dublin, 53 miles N.NW. from Cork and 17 miles S.W.by W. from Limerick on the banks of the river Deel. It was once a corporate town of some importance and successfully resisted many assaults during the reign of Elizabeth I

At a very early age an Augustinian Priory was founded here by a certain Gilbert Hervey. The town consists of one long and wide street running East to West with some respectful houses and a few good shops. The Court-House in the Square is a neat stone building and the bridewell a substantial one. Petty Sessions are held on alternate Thursdays and Quarter Sessions in January, April, July and October. AgricultureIs the prevailing occupation of the inhabitants. The trade of the town is based on agriculture. There are two flour mills, one of which is of a large size. The places of worship are the established Church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, erected on a gentle slope at the West end of the town and a Roman Catholic Chapel in Thomas St., both handsome structures, the former has a lofty embattled tower with crocketted pinnacles.

The surrounding country is highly interesting presenting a number of rich and varied prospects embellished with flourishing plantations and many seats of the Gentry.

A prominent object is Matrix Castle which stands on the banks of the river Deel about a mile from the town.It is in a fine situation commanding extensive views of the country including the Shannon river and the Clare and Tipperary mountains. It was besieged by Cromwell but received little injury from his hands and within a few years had been put in a state of complete repair. The markets which are well supplied are held on Thursdays and Saturdays. Fair days are are held on January 6th, February 7th,

March 10th, April 4th, June 19th, July 17th, August 25th, September 18th, October 14th and November 18th.

The population of the Parish in 1841 was 8,293 inclusive of 4,261 inhabitants of the town

The Post Office is on the Main Street and John Hammond is the Postmaster. Letters from Ireland and England arrive from Dublin every morning at eleven and are dispatched every afternoon at twenty past one when the Royal Mail coach from Tralee calls.

Cars and coaches travel from the Kings Arms Hotel every morning(Sundays excepted) at six and seven thirty to NewcastleWest also every evening at seven to Tralee. The Royal Mail calls at the Post Office every morning at eleven.

The following is a list of Gentry and Clergy in Rathkeale in the 19th century.

Bridget Bateman.Main St. Gerald Blennerhasset, Ballinvira

Henery Boucher,Fort Henry Rev. Jas. Boucher, Hy Castle Glebe

Francis Brown, Mount Southwell Henry Brown, Danesfort

Pierce Brown, Brownville William Brown, Wilton Hill

James Condon, Wilton Hill James Condon, Wellmount

Richard Condon, Killscannell Hs. George Creagh, Waterville

Conyers D'arcy, Killscannell Tobias Delmage, Rathkeale Cottage

William J.Evans, Main St. Mrs M.Ferguson, Abbyview

Gerald B.Fitzgerald, Ballinvira Rev. George Gould P.P. Abbyview

Richard Greaves, Farnaglenn Rev.Ed Hayard, MAin St.

John Hewson, Enniscouch Mrs J. Hewson, Main St.

V.Rev. Thomas Hogan P.P. Thomas St. Henry Irwin, Cappagh Hs.

William Leake, Rathkeale Abbey Thomas Leyod, Beech House

Hugh Massey, Stoneville Jas. F. Massey, Glensharrold

George Mansell, Ballywilliam Rev Richard Nunan P.P. Thomas St.

Rev Richard O'Neill,C.C. Thomas St. John Peppard Rockfield Tower

Robert Peppard, Cappagh Hs. Jeremiah Reardon, Rathkeale Commons

John Royce, Ballintridedda Robert Royce,The Square

Robert Royce, Ballinvirick Thomas Roycem, Nantenan Hs.

Vera Royce, Kilcool Richard Smythe, Ballylin

Richard Smythe, Smithfield Hs. Henry Stephenson, Rock View

John Stephenson, Curragheen Jonathan Studdard, Elm Hill

Rev Daniel Synan, C.C. Thomas St. Ven. Archdeacon Warburton, B/William

Academies and Schools

Bridget Butler, Roches Rd. Timothy Conway, Well Lane

John Donovan, The Square Fergus Casey, Thomas St

John Miller, Thomas St. National School, Thomas St.

Rev O'Neill, Thomas St. Eileen O'Neill, Main St

Joseph Casey and Ann Cloyne were Master and Mistress of the National School in Thomas St.


Michael Collins, Main St.

John Fitzgibbon, Main St.

Philip O'Hanlon, Main St.


Julius Delmage, Main St Robert Ferguson, The Square

Mortimer McCoy, Abbey View Daniel Ruttle, Main St.

Charles Smyth, Main St.


Patrick Cagney, Main St. Thomas Culhane, Main St.

Richard Ryan, Main St. JohnSheehy, Main St.


The National Bank of Ireland, Main St.


Thomas Fennell, Main St. Brian McMahon, Pound Lane

Michael McNamara, Main St. George Miller, The Bridge

Patrick O'Shea, Well Lane

Boot and Shoe makers

James Donovan, Main St. Patrick Donovan, New Road

John Hallinan, Main St. John Higgins, Main St.

John Moloney, Main St. Christopher Raynard, Main St.

William Stark, Main St.


James Carey, Main St. John Carey, Main St.

John Cregan, Well Lane John Dillon, Well Lane

John Dore, Main St. Con Kennedy, Main St.

Michael Kennedy, Main St. Michael Reidy, Main St.

James Roche, Main St. John Roche, Main St

Michael Roche, Main St. James Sullivan, Main St

George Whiteacre,Main St.

Public Houses

Michael Madigan, Well Lane George Magee, Main St.

Patrick Magner, Main St. Denis Moran, Main St.

Patrick O'Regan, Main St. Thomas Costelloe,Well Lane

Henry Downes, Main St. Gerald Fitzgibbon, Well Lane

Ellen Gallery, Main St. Roger Green, Main St.

John Keating, Main St. Michael Lyons, Main st.

Saddlers and Collar makers

Daniel Hegarty, Main St. Michael SuryMain St.

Spirit Dealers

Timothy Cowhey, Main St. Maurice Hogan, Main St.

Thomas Mangan, Main St. William Mulcahy, Main St.

Michael O'Donoghue, Main St. James O'Donovan, Main St.

Richard O'Shaughnessy, Main St. John Power, Main St.

Straw Hat makers

Catherine Casey, Main St. Ellen Cummins, Main St.

Catherine Hallinan, Main St. Honora McNamara, Main St.

Catherine O'Neill, Main St.


Terence O'Loughlin, Main St. Charles Patterson M.D., Main St.


James Fitzgerald, Main St. Michael Meehan, Well Lane

Richard Taylor, Main St. Edward White, Pound Lane


James Fitzgibbon, Main St. Robert Fitzgerald, Main St.

John McDonnell, Main St. John Spillane, Main St.

Tallow Candlers

Daniel Fitzgibbon, Main St. John Lynch, Main St.

John McDonnell, Main St.



Patrick Burns, New Rd. Edward Costelloe, Main St.

James Guinna, Main St. Thomas Holland, New Rd.

John Madigan, Main St


John Creagh, Well Lane Patrick Creagh, Well Lane

Christopher Corneil, Thomas St. Margaret Gerons, Main St.

John Fahey, Main St. Fergus Hanrahan, Main St.

John Hall, Well Lane Uriah Lovell, Well Lane

Philip O'Hanlon, Thomas St. Michael O'Neill, Main St.

Richard O'Shaughnessy, Main St. Thomas Peacock, Thomas St.

William Richmond, Main St. George Rone, Thomas St.

Alex Twors, Thomas St.

Places of Worship

Established Church, Church St. R.C. Chapel, Thomas St.

Public Institutions

Constabulary Station, Main St. Thomas Smith, Sub-Inspector

Union Workhouse, Rathkeale William & Martha Bourke

Clerk of the Court John Hall

Cabinet Makers

George Morgan, Main St. Henry Norman, Main St.


Cornelius Dore, Thomas St. Denis Hickey, Main St.

James Johnston, New Rd.

Clothes Dealers

George Russel, Main St. Jacob Warrel, Main St.


James Connors, Main St. James Hayes, Main St.

Daniel O'Connor, Main St. Michael O'Connor, Main St.

Corn Merchants

John Brown, Castlematrix Mills Patrick Brown, Well Lane

William Dartnell, Main St. Timothy Enright, Main St

Charles McCarthy, Main St.

Flour Factories

James Burns, Main St. William Dartnell, Main St.

Timothy Enright, Main St. Cornelius Ives,

John Walsh, Main St.


Timothy Cowhey, Main St. William Fitzgibbon, Main St.

Michael Collins, Main St. John Hall, Main St.

Maurice Hogan, Main St. Denis Madigan, Main St.

Thomas Mangan, Main St. Ellen Moran, Main St.

Matthew Moroney, Main St. William Mulcahy, Main St.

Michael O'Donoghue, Main St. James O'Donovan, Main St.

James O'Shaughnessy, Main St. Richard O'Shaughnessy, Main St.

John Power, Main St. John Stokes, Main St.


The Kings Arms, Main St Lawrence's Hotel, The Square

Ironmongers and hardware dealers

James Bridgeman, Main St. Edward Culhane, Main St.

Maurice O'Flahavan, Main St. Patrick O'Regan, Well Lane

Leather Cutters

Stephen Hayes, Well Lane Matthew Moroney, Main St.

Stephen O'Donnell, Main St.

Linen dealers & Haberdashers

Con Corcoran, Main St. John Costelloe, Main St.

Con Dore, Main St. Ellen Herbert, Main St.

John Moylan, Main St. Thomas O'Connell, Main St.

Martin Quaid, Main St. William Roche, Main St.


John Brown, Castlematrix Timothy Enright, Main St.

Milliners & Dressmakers

Mary Casey, Thomas St. Elija Downes, Thomas St.

Johanna Flaherty, New Rd. Mary Gleeson, Main St.

Celia Ives, Thomas St. Catherine O'Neill, Main St.

Nail Makers

Patrick Griffin, Well Lane Richard Griffin, Well Lane

James Hughes, The Square Richard Hughes, New Rd.

John McDaniel, Main St. William Smyth, Main St.

Oil &Colourmen

Michael Collins, Main St. John Costelloe, Main St.

John Fitzgibbon, Main St. Philip O'Hanlon, Main St.

Painters & Glaziers

George Clampett, Well Lane Edward McDonnell, Main St.

Thomas O'Connell, Thomas St.


Bridget Gill, The Square John Latchford, Main St.

James Ruttle, The Square