The Eighteenth Century

The penal laws which followed (unlike the earlier penal code, which merely forbade the clergy the exercise of their office) now included all the people. The whole Catholic population was crushed by the government party to an extent hitherto unknown. Only by lying low did the few Catholic landowners in the neighbourhood survive. The sixty or seventy years which followed were years of bitter persecution, which only eased off gradually towards 1760. Although the Trench family were the most powerful upholders of the new regime in this area there is little indication that they were harsh in the enforcement of the penal code during the century. On the contrary the presence of a Mass site within view of their mansion seems to suggest that they turned the blind eye to the activities of the Catholic priests. Old Garbally retainers will tell you that there were strict orders from Clancarty that the tree in the mass field marking the old mass site was not to be interfered with. It may be added that up to the eighteenth century when the Charter Schools were established there was no official attempt to make converts to Protestantism. That was a nineteenth century departure. The government minority were content to enjoy the fruits of conquest and establishment and keep the Catholic population in subjection by the enforcement of the penal laws.

We have no records of the church in Ballinasloe during that century. The law compelling the parish priests to register in 1704 provides the names of two priests at the beginning of the century. They were (1) Teige Kelly, parish priest of Kilclooney, who lived at Killeen near Perssepark and was then about fifty years of age, being ordained in 1681 in Creggin or Marblehill by Bishop Teige Keogh; (2) Thady Kelly, who lived in Corhine, also aged fifty and ordained at Creggin by Bishop Keogh in 1681. his sureties for good behaviour are given as Redmond Fallone of Ballynehane, and Thady Naughton of Athlone. These two priests were apparently descendants of Sean na Maighe O' Kelly and lived quietly with their families at the two O'Kelly homes of Killeen and Corheen.

Towards the seventeen-sixties the enforcement of the penal laws was gradually relaxed. A more liberal spirit grew up and Grattan's Parliament recognised the right of the Catholics to live even if they denied them a share in the government of the country. In Kilclooney a Catholic Church had been built at Ardnagreena, probably in 1729. The remains of it are still in Mr. Ward's yard there. This church probably continued in use until about the end of the century when another church was built in Ballinasloe town and on the site of the present St. Michael's. This could not have come about without the permission of the Trenches who owned the property. It was a thatched chapel to which later a slated addition was added making it cruciform. Galleries were put in. This church was certainly in existence in 1818, being shown on the Grand Jury Map of County Galway. The old church in Creagh was in existence before1767 when Anthony and Catherine Brabazon erected the altar there, which was later transformed to a newer church built in 1824 and now also unroofed.

The only other priest of that century whose name survives was the Rev. Thomas Kennedy who died on May 7th 1782. His tombstone lies before the site of the high altar in the old church in Creagh. He was succeeded by the Rev. Garrett Lorcan. Creagh and Kilclooney had become a joint parish at some time during that century with the parish priest residing in Creagh.

previousPrevious - The Church in the Seventeenth Century
Next - The Earls of Clancartynext