History of the Parish of Kiltullagh
Kiltullagh is named after the first church of the parish that was built on a hill – and known as Kiltullagh (Cill Tulach – Church on the hill)
Archaeological digs have discovered that there was Christian activity on Kiltullagh as far back as the fifth century AD. Before that is is probable that the hill was a pagan worship or burial site – evidence of pagan burials have also been found.
More detailed information of the excavations can be found here – Excavations.ie
The existing ruin is thought to date from 1441 and to have been destroyed by Cromwellian forces in the mid-17th century. It was probably forces led by a man called Henry Ireton – who was responsible for most of the destruction of religious sites in Ireland at that time.
Recent surveys have led to the theory that there was an earlier wooden structure close to the site of the stone church.
Article by Gerry Glennon of Mid West Radio fame (A Granlahan native)
Kiltullagh parish occupies that part of Roscommon which juts in a long spur
between Mayo and Galway. Kiltullagh along with Moore are the only two parishes in Co Roscommon in the Archdiocese of Tuam.
Most historical texts suggest that Kiltullagh parish was founded by Saint Patrick when he
established a Church on a very prominent hill about a mile from the present Granlahan Church, while he was on his way to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, however there are some who believe that Saint Medbu may also have had something to do with establishing an early Church on the same site as well.
Little more is known about the area for almost a thousand years until 1441 when it can be established that a Franciscan Monastery was built in the area – more than likely in the old part of the present cemetery in Granlahan. There are also suggestions that several other Churches were built in various parts of the parish round about this time too, including Milltown, Ballykilleen
The ruined Church presently located on Kiltullagh was erected in 1432 and was destroyed by Cromwellian troops in 1645, who were incidentally on a journey from Dunmore to the Augustinian Abbey in Ballyhaunis to burn it as well, but found the hill in Cloonfad too much of a
climb for their horses and weaponry, so diverted to Kiltullagh and from
there went on to Ballintubber Abbey in County Mayo.
Mention should be made of a Mr Kenny who ran a classical school in Carrick
near Ballinlough round the middle of the 19th century.
The said Mr Kenny was an unrivalled Greek scholar who taught dozens of students the ancient
classics, thereby laying the foundation stone in many to study for the priesthood , in fact the parish of Kiltullagh at the time was unbeaten for the number of men who went on to be priests both in the Archdiocese and on the missions, and also two Bishops, Dr Feeney who was
Bishop of Killala from 1839 to 1847 and Dr Regan who was Bishop of Chicago.
The present parish of Kiltullagh has three Churches in Ballinlough, Granlahan and Cloonfad.
The parish Church (the Church of the Immaculate Conception) is now located in Ballinlough and is situated on a site donated by one of the landed gentry at the time Sanford Wills. The building was started in 1891 and was completed in late 1894 using all local materials except for the timber that made up the roof trusses and purlines, which came
from a shipwreck off Achill in County Mayo. Fire almost destroyed the building in 1913 except for the vigilance of a parishioner named Bailey from Bargarive who spotted the fire and began ringing the Church bell to alert all the townspeople of the impending disaster, thankfully the Church was saved and further improvements were carried out in 1954 and 1966 and again
in 1993 when major improvement works were carried out to coincide with the centenary celebrations for the Church.
The Franciscan Friary which was built in the present cemetery in Granlahan about 1441 would have been the first place of worship in the village, and it seems that one way or another this Monastery was maintained until about 1814 when it was decided to build a Church in the present site, very little is known about this project except that the Church served its purpose until a major overhaul was carried out in 1958 at a cost of £7,000. Since then the
Church (St. Patrick’s) has received many facelifts and improvements, the most recent in the late 1990s when a new roof and a major repainting contract was carried out.
The earliest record of a Church in Cloonfad goes back to the mid 1820s when land was donated by a local landlord by the name of Kirwan for such a purpose. Even though it has to be said there is very good evidence to show that Churches also existed in Ballykilleen, Kiltobar and somewhere between Cloonarkin and Derrylahan to the east of the village. The Church built in about 1825 was located where the present presbytery is now and was added to in about 1866 and that served the people until about 1928 when the Church authorities came into possession of some land owned by a Mr Patrick Lavin, a local teacher. Fr. Malachy Concannon, then curate, started collecting funds in the United States to start building a new Church. In December 1932 the foundation stone was laid for the present Church and on the 12th of August 1934 Archbishop Gilmartin solemnly dedicated the Church to Saint Patrick.
Some minor alterations were carried out during Fr Horans and Fr Cannys time, and again the Church had major renovations carried out in 1997.
A history of this parish would not be complete without making reference to the Franciscan order of Monks who resided in Granlahan from 1851 to 1972. The monks came in response to a request from the then Archbishop of Tuam John McHale to view a site that had been offered by a local landlord Charles Lynch of Lowbery for the purpose of building a Monastery and School. After the famine there was practically no form of Catholic education in the area and the people were generally at a very low ebb, so it was in response to these needs that Br Jerome Collins and a small group of Brothers began the work of establishing a Monastery in Granlahan. At one point there were 280 pupils on the rolls at the Monastery School and a wide variety of subjects
were taught including Irish which in 1885 was very new to the curriculum.
The Brothers were also expert farmers and freely dispensed of their agricultural knowledge to the farming community across the entire region.
The brothers stayed on in Granlahan teaching and farming until a lack of vocations forced them to close their doors on the 28th July 1972.