Cluain Con Maicne, the fertile meadow of the Con Maicne, was the headquarters of the hardy, warlike Con Maicne tribe. It is described in ancient accounts as a peaceful, fertile slope, ringed in on all sides by hills, bearing the name “Sunnagh”, or fortification and it made an ideal and easily-defended headquarters for these early settlers.
Though the diocese of Ardagh was pre-eminently the domain of the Conmaicne people in early Christian times, Cluain Conmaicne is the only place within its borders that still to this day preserves the name of this ancient race. To go back to the shrouded mists of unrecorded time, Cloone was known as Cluain Chollaing up to the beginning of the 1st century. Only the physical remains of old monuments and burial grounds bear evidence to former inhabitants. Within the townland of Corduff there is an area known as the Skeeogues, which refers to a ring of very old whitethorns. Scattered among these are a multitude of flat and upright tombstones inscribed with rather strange markings, probably dating from the Bronze Age. Here and there among the large rocks scattered along the slopes of a hill in the townlands of Mount Ida and Sunnaghmore are a number of megalithic chamber graves. One in particular in Mount Ida consists of two flat stones leaning towards each other with a third stone forming a sort of gable stone at one end. It is locally known as Diarmuid and Grainne’s bed one of the many so called hideouts of ill- fated runaway lovers scattered throughout the country. Another ancient monument in the same townland known as the Giant’s grave is a rough rectangular chamber measuring about 20 ft long and 9ft wide.
As far as it can be ascertained the Con Maicne came to this district sometime during the first and second centuries and they easily dislodged the previous settlers. Mythology would have us believe that Conn, son of Maeve, the great queen of Connacht, suffered from some form of foot disability. Maeve who preferred to have strong, fit men around her, banished the unfortunate sibling to Cluain where he founded his own dynasty. The Conmaicne as a race survived well into the 6th century, still retaining their warlike attributes. It is not to be wondered at then that St. Patrick failed to convert them!
The Saint on his way from Tara to either Maigh Sleacht or Cruachan would have to pass through Cluain. We know this from the line of Tobar Padraig which marks his journey more accurately then any written testimony. He failed to convert the Con Maicne but he did, however, succeed in converting Fraoch, a young prince who indirectly was to lead his tribe into the light of faith. Leaving his family, Fraoch retired to a stone hut in the townland of Drumharkin where he led a life of penance and prayer. A holy well dedicated to his honour still exists there to this day. Annual patterns or pilgrimages to its site were customary up to 50 years ago and were held on Garland Sunday. The fact that the well is a shallow hole with no water probably means that it was desecrated at some stage through the centuries.
Clog na Fola
St. Patrick is reputed to have left Fraoch a bell, which was brought from Rome, The bell later became known as Clog na Fola, the Bell of Blood. The custodians of the bell used it for measuring gold, corn and other commodities. They were said to have removed the tongue of the bell and they kept for themselves the extra gold which the bell then held. When Fraoch discovered this dishonesty, he was said to have cursed them and said they would always be poor. He also said that the desecrated bell would always be the cause of much discord and bloodshed. In later years the bell fell into undesirable hands. It was used to test the truthfulness of witnesses in court trials and was supposed to ring if a witness told a lie even though it had no tongue. It was used therefore to convict innocent people and it became a cause of discord and trouble among the people. So great a nuisance had it become that a travelling friar was supposed to have buried it secretly somewhere in Aughavas. So Clog na Fola had indeed fulfilled Fraoch’s prophecy.
A monastery was founded by Cruimther Fraoch, (Presbyter Fraoch) at Cloone, at the site where the tower of the former St. James’ Church stands today. St. Fraoch, no more than St. Patrick, made little headway in converting the Con Maicne and the task was only achieved by his nephew St. Barry. The great St. Barry was born in the townland of Gortnalougher just outside Cluain. The story is told that one night as Fiaoch stood outside his rough stone cell in Drumharkin Glebe, he saw a brilliant light over his sister’s house in Gortnalougher. He told his attendants to go to that house and they would find a new born baby boy and to bring the baby to him immediately. It is said that he reared the boy himself on goat’s milk and foretold that he would be the God sent saviour of his tribe. He taught him at the monastery in Cloone. After imbibing the rudiments of learning from his devoted uncle, St. Barry later became a disciple of St. Kevin of Glendalough, before establishing a monastic settlement at Kilibarry in Co. Roscommon.
St. Colmcille in Cloone
It is believed that St. Colmcille visited St. Fraoch at the monastery in Cloone, before embarking on his exile to the Island of lona after the battle of Cul Dreimhne. He sought advice from Fraoch. After listening to his story, St. Fraoch was said to admonish him and advise him to take his punishment. Colmcille was one of many holy men said to have visited Cluain, for Fraoch was renowned for his wisdom and piety.
Difficult as the Conmaicne tribe were to convert, they clung tenaciously to their faith once they received it. The monastery at Cloone flourished during Faoch’s lifetime. Nothing more is known except that he died sometime around 570 and his feast day is celebrated on the 20th of December. The history of the monastery is practically blank after his death, although it would appear to have been a serious rival to the neighbouring monastery at Fenagh. Present day refurbishment and recent development on the graveyard which surrounds the site of the old monastery has brought to light the fact that a high cross once stood, there with the unearthing of various cross fragments and sculpted figures with a substantial cross base known locally as the wart well. The monastery would appear to have been in existence up to the beginning of the 12th century. From the Annals of the Four Masters we learn that Muirgeas Ua Muireadhaigh, airchinneach died there in 1101 on his way to Clonmacnoise.
In 1251 there is a record of a battle being fought somewhere in the area of Cloone between the O’Connor and Reynolds clans in which a large party of the latter were slain. Later in the Middle Ages the Annals would appear to show that Cloone had ceased to be a monastic settlement. As late as 1519 we read that the coarb of Cluain Conmaicne died. Cloone is mentioned 4 times in the Annals of Lough Key and 5 times in the Annals of Connacht, again in regard to the death of coarbs. Coarbs or presbyters of Cloone from 1400 up to the time of the Reformation would all appear to have the same name, Mc Thedheadain, modernised Keegan.
In 1522 Pope Adrian II conferred the rectory of Cloone on a canon of Ardagh, Aodh Mac Conmidhe. In the following century we find Bernard Duignan set down as pastor of Cloone. He was one of the learned family of the O’Duignans of Castlefore who gave us the Four Masters.
Bishop Thomas Flynn
In 1704 the parish of Cloone was in the charge of Rev. Thomas Flynn. Born in 1652 at Errew in Gortlettragh he was consecrated Bishop of Ardagh 1718. This was just at the time when the enforcement of the Penal Laws and the prosecuting zeal of the British government were at their strongest. Priests registered under the Act of Registration in the parish of Cloone were named as Thomas Flynn, Errèw, Daniel Gaffney, Tooma, who incidentally was ordained by St. Oliver Plunkett and Hugh Cannon of Drumdarkin. Unregistered clergy were named as James Mc Tiernan a recently ordained priest and a friar, Francis Moran. Dr. Flynn remained on the run during his 12 years as bishop. He was forced to administer Confirmation in the most distressing of circumstances, often by night in the fastnesses of bogs and mountains. The Bishop’s field in Gortletteragh was possibly one of his main refuges, because it was almost inaccessible, being surrounded by bogs and a river. Present day Mass rocks can be identified in the townlands of Drumlegga and Drumgowna. Dr. Flynn died in 1730 and his remains were interred in Cloone. The original headstone was defaced but a new one was erected and consecrated to his memory in 1975. Tradition has it that up to 80 years ago all coffins being brought for burial were laid briefly on his grave before internment.
The French in Cloone
On the evening of the 7th of September 1798 General Humbert arrived in the village of Cloone at the head of an exhausted bedraggled army of 844 French soldiers and 1500 Irish insurgents. Having fended off an attack earlier in the day led by the English colonel, Robert Crawford at Fenagh, Humbert took his men through the townlands of Drumroosk, Cornagher and Cornulla up to Edergole and eventually into Cloone. The steep climb up Graffy Hill along the way took its toll on the tired troops. This route is still referred to as the French Road to this day. Cloone’s parish priest at the time was Fr. Charles Redehan and his curate Fr. Anthony Dunne a Franciscan friar, residing in Aughavas. This same friar was in later years to become tutor to a youthful William O’Higgins, a future bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois and founder of St. Mel’s Cathedral. Fr. Redehan and Friar Dunne were entertained with the French officers at the house of William West in the centre of the town. He is said to have done this out of gratitude that his home was spared destruction through Fr. Dunne’s intercession with Humbert. Fr. Dunne was a fluent French speaker and is reputed to have endeavoured to persuade Humbert and his officers of the hopelessness of their enterprise with the knowledge that an English army of 30,000 was closing in. While the French elite were wined and dined by William West, the soldiers and insurgents feasted on 6 bullocks roasted over gates taken from the Protestant graveyard. They then rested up in what is known to this day as the Camp field. A local blacksmith named Mulryan made hundreds of pikes for the croppies and in turn fought himself at Ballinamuck. He was one of the few Irish rebels to survive the slaughter.
Having rested overnight in Cloone, the French and Irish were roused early next morning with news that the English Army were close behind. In the subsequent panic, the chains used to pull the heavy canon guns could not be found. The truth of where the French gun chains disappeared to will never really be known. Some will say that West had them thrown into a deep well in the courtyard. Then again did the French mislay the chains themselves, or did West have his daughters convey them to his brother’s house at Drumdarkin, for fear they would be found anywhere near his home. It is reputed that some years later when the Dundas family who bought Drumdarkin House from the Wests, were auctioning off their own effects in preparation for their own departure, some of the French chains resurfaced and were sold to a blacksmith from Mohill named Devine. Again it is difficult to judge the truth of this claim. The house in turn was sold to the Duggan family. Incidentally the table at which Humbert and his officers dined at, in William West’s house in Cloone was also sold for a few shillings at the same auction. However to return to Humbert’s departure from Cloone, on the morning of the 8th of September 1798, he and his army were given a resounding send off by the inhabitants. They were well supplied with provisions, sheets and ropes to pull the artillery and guns in lieu of the missing chains but with less volunteers then Humbert would have hoped for. Later that day over 100 pikemen from Ballinamore and North Leitrim converged on Cloone but Fr. Dunne sent them home.
Somewhere around Keeldra lake, the ropes hauling the guns and ammunition wagons gave way owing to the ever increasing up-hill strain. Despite folklore that guns and cannons were dumped into the lake it is more likely that a large quantity of cannon balls and gunpowder were disposed of a loss that was one of the deciding factors on the day for the French surrender. The armoury and wagons were pulled by the Irish insurgents for the rest of the journey to Ballinamuck. When Humbert surrendered to the English general, George Lake with little or no resistance that fateful morning on Shanmullagh Hill, the slaughter of the Irish rebels began. The killing started at around 9am and by 12 noon over 500 lay dead. Many more including Irish officers were summarily hanged after staged court martials. Rank and file French soldiers returned to Cloone under guard as prisoners of war that evening, and were brought to Carrick-on-Shannon the following morning on the first stage of their return to France.
The Broad Road
The main road from Mohill by-passing Cloone to Carrigallen is known as the “Broad Road.” Construction of this road was carried out under the direction of a Church of Ireland minister named James Eager who had acquired some engineering skills. He lived at Druminchin, Glebe, Carrigallen and built Druminchin House sometime around 1819. However to the disadvantage of Cloone, the Rev. Eager had some difference of opinion with the landlord in Cloone, William West, so the new road was directed away from the village, thus leaving it at some disadvantage in relation to passing trade and travelling journeymen.
St. James Church
St. James’ Church, Cloone, was built in 1822 at a cost of £1,384. A former church on the site had several portions of the old abbey incorporated into its structure but it was removed to make way for the new building. The rector at the time was the Honourable William Beresford. The parish originally extended as far as Lurga in Mohill. Described in newspapers as a plain edifice in the old English style, it was noted for its celebration services. The Rev. Dr. Digges formerly known as the “Beeman” conducted services there. Rev. Louis Cloak, whose wife is buried in the graveyard was rector here from 1888 to 1910. Successive rectors from his time were Rev. Andrew Graham, Rev. Henry Crampton, Rev. Richard Fergusson, Rev. Richard Gregg. The last rector was Canon Ferguson.
On entering the church there was a stairway in the hallway that led up to the Bell Tower, with a doorway on route that led out into the gallery. The gallery was the full width of the back of the Church.
There was the usual church furniture- a pulpit, single and double pews, facing a font and a reading desk. We know of two plaques that hung on the walls, one was to the memory of Thomas Lloyd J.P.D.L., Annaghloyd, and another to the Rev. Cloak’s wife. There was a grate fireplace close to the pulpit. The choir stood nearby. Oil lamps provided the lighting.
Worshippers in the past would have included most of the local landed gentry, the Whytes of the Grange, the Wests of Cloone and Drumdarkin, the Dundas, the Lloyds and the Hustons.
A little enclosure at the side of the church was used in the past to stable the rector’s horse, while the larger building on the lane leading down to the village was the caretakers residence. The graveyard surrounding the church is one of the oldest in the county where there is a mixture of Catholic and Protestant graves, the top half around the tower being Church of Ireland. There is a low stone building in the main body of the graveyard known as the Coffin house. It would appear to be an old vault but there is no record of who it belonged to. St. James’ Church closed its doors for the last time in 1932. The Church bell was sold to the Parish Church in Cleenish, Co. Fermanagh. Coincidentally the first baby to be baptised in the new church was Henry Huston and the last Lily Mee, a sister of Mrs. Annie Huston of Drumbore. The rectors lived at Drumharkin Glebe. It was partially burned down maliciously in 1836. The new Glebe House was built in 1843. There were large picnics held annually on the lawn for members of the Church in Cloone and surrounding parishes.
In later years Fr. Peter Conefrey P.P of Cloone bought it as the curate’s house in 1938 for £700.
19th Century Cloone
In a report on hedge schools dated 1826, five are recorded in and around the village of Cloone. A Roman Catholic schoolmaster Owen Mc Mahon held classes in his own house, it was known as the Latin school. An English school is described as being built of clay and straw and the master in residence was Patrick Mitchell. A third school had no designated base and the teacher here was Bernard Hammal, all were designated as pay schools. Hedge schools outside the village were situated at Sonnaghmore, Drumgowla and Rocullion. Elizabeth Elliot was mistress of a Protestant school, located at her cottage at Streamstown. A later description of the parish states that there were three Roman Catholic churches in the parish of Cloone, one each at Aughavas, Gortletteragh and Cloone. The old church in Cloone was built some years previous to St. James, on the present day site of the old R.C cemetery. Old stiles and Mass passes through which worshippers travelled can still be identified today. This report also outlines that there were six public schools one of which was supported by the Rector and two by S. White where 300 boys and 200 girls were instructed. Then there were 25 pay schools in which 1440 children attend and two Sunday schools.
From Lewis Topographical Dictionary of 1837 we learn that the land is chiefly under tillage, limestone is quarried, lead ore had been found near Aughavas but not worked to any extent. Eight fairs are held at intervals throughout the year. Petty sessions were held every alternate Wednesday at the courthouse which was situated at the back of the RIC barracks. It stood on the site where St. Mary’s Church is now located. In a letter to the Leitrim Advertiser of October 1881, an unnamed correspondent describes Cloone as follows, it contains a police barracks, a Roman Catholic chapel and a Protestant church, a school, a few public houses and one or two drugstores. It contains the usual compliment of very humble dwellings, the houses of small tenants and labourers.
In the year 1832 the population of Cloone is given as 19,000. In that same year there is a record of a request by the local gentry to the Central Board of Health for Ireland to secure and advance on a grant to provide for a medical attendant and a hospital to control a severe outbreak of cholera. Worse was to follow in 1846 when the Great Famine struck and repeated itself for the next four years. The population of townlands within the parish of Cloone fell by 1/3 due to death from fever, starvation and emigration. Between 1846 and 1851 destitute starving people roamed the countryside surviving on grass and herbs, even the nettles on family graves were preserved for that family’s use only. There are a significant number of lone bushes throughout the parish, the only burial monuments remaining to the lost generations of the Great Famine. Two holly bushes at Drumgowna reputedly mark the spot where two men died on their way to a mill at Keeldra. In the county of Leitrim, it is recorded that many died of fever and were buried in ditches which were covered in, unknown to anyone. Among the upper classes the percentage of those who caught fever and died was high in the counties of Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo. The reason probably was that the constant occurrence of fever cases had brought the poor Irish some degree of immunity. No legal register of deaths exists for that time. Major Halliday, Inspecting Officer for Leitrim, thought the population of the county had been reduced by a quarter. Markings and mounds at what was assumed to be a graveyard at Caldra within the townland of Annaghmaconway are remembered by some of the parishes older generation. Some would say it was a famine graveyard, while others maintain it was a burial ground for unbaptised children. Two benefactors on behalf of the people were the local parish Priest Rev. James McTiernan and the Rev Andrew Hogg, the local vicar. The latter wrote ceaselessly to the Dublin based Famine Relief Commission seeking funds plus consignments of meal and biscuits to avert a total disaster. Cloone Soup Shop was set up at Drumharkin Glebe. It was run on funds donated by those who could afford to give a little to help in someway to feed those who had nothing. The local landlords West and White also subscribed to its upkeep. There was a stirabout boiler at White’s house at the Grange. Relief schemes such as road-making were more then likely a feature in the area. The wall encircling what was once the orchard at the Grange was built under the terms of this scheme.
The Land Wars
Post Famine years brought subtle changes in fanning methods. The price of farm produce such as oats and barley fell and landlords turned to cattle production. Rents were high and coupled with the desire by landlords to enlarge their estates, evictions were widespread. This in turn led to agitation by tenant farmers and an increase in secret societies such as the ‘Peep O’Day Boys’, the ‘Molly Maguires’ and ‘Captain Moonlight.” Members were all bound by an oath and formed from local people to deal with injustices meted out by the landlords and their agents especially a group known as emergency men. They were particularly unpopular because in most cases they were landlords allies who took possession of evictees homes and farms. “Outrages” was the general term used to describe the attacks of members of these secret societies on people, their possessions and livestock. Such an outrage was described in the Roscommon Leitrim Gazette of June 1852 where an attempt was made to murder an inoffensive man by five Molly Maguires dressed in women’s attire, while in the discharge of his duties at Cloone House. The article outlines that the victim was severely beaten. It continues that this outrage was only one of many that has disgraced the parish of Cloone. Illegal meetings under the denomination of a dance are held once a week where resolutions are entered into and instructions given for the carrying out of such. Again from the same paper we read that in consequence of private information received of an intended row of a desperate nature, a large body of police were in evidence at Cloone’s May fair. The Resident magistrate and local Justices of the Peace, Messrs.West, Lawder and O’Brien also attended at the fair and only for such a strong demonstration of force, more serious outrages would have occurred. Overall Cloone differed little from the rest of rural Ireland, with small tenant families struggling under the burden of high rents, bad harvests and barely able to survive, while the landlords lived in considerable comfort, with the result that there was majority support within the parish for the Irish National Land League which was founded in 1879. In the Leitrim Advertiser again of June 1881 we note that Mohill Union was requested to provide accommodation for families about to be evicted where White was the plaintiff. Again in the same paper there is an account of a man named Carney, a bailiff to White who was shot at by two men, he escaped injury. In October 23rd of 1890 we discover that famine once again threatens. Extensive distress is imminent in the townlands of Corduff, Drumdarkin and Adoon among other townlands in the Mohill and Ballinamore areas. It further states that although families were not dependent upon the potato crop they would be subject to great privation by the Spring. It was imperative to look for employment in anyway which would help them earn a living. It was proposed at a meeting held at Ballinamore Courthouse by the parish priest Dominic McBrien and the rector the Rev. Clark that a submission be forwarded to the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary for the Treasury and The Right Hon. the Earl of Kingston, Chairman of the Cavan, Leitrim and Roscommon Railway Company requesting that some form of relief works was necessary. The recommendation outlined that the best form of relief would be the institution of works for an extension to the Cavan, Leitrim and Roscommon Light Railway to Strokestown and Roscommon. Such works would not only encourage the habits of the industry but would provide labour of a reproductive nature and not only benefit the districts it passed through but also areas where such work would be relieving destitution and preventing loss of life. But the proposal never came to fruition. With the passing of the Wyndham Act in 1903 a substantial sum of money was made available to allow tenants buy out their holdings and by the end of the decade the transfer from the landlordism was almost complete.
The Cavan Leitrim Railway or the Narrow Guage as it was familiarly known was opened in 1888. Steam driven trains operated the line which ran between Dromod and Belturbet. Technically the station at Adoon was classified as a shelter with a platform on the “up”side. The haltkeepers house was built on the Dromod side of the gates but it was not possible to have a platform there on account of the gradient. Initially haltkeepers earned one shilling per week. They also got 5% commission on receipts and a free house where the ticket office was located. The service was invaluable at a time when the bicycle or more likely the horse drawn cart were the only means of distance transport to the ordinary individual. Farmers walked their cattle to fairs in Mohill but the train was the only way that dealers could transport livestock out of the area. Groceries and agricultural needs were collected at Mohill or Dromod station and carted from there to shops further a field. Towards the end of the 1800’s through to the 1920’s Mohill station would have seen the tearful! farewells of many emigrants from the Cloone. In most cases it was a matter of a last farewell to parents and friends because the return of an emigrant was a rare event in those days. The Narrow Gauge closed in 1959, but many nostalgic memories of journeys taken, events happy and unhappy remain with the older generation of the parish.
If time travel were to become a reality and not the stuff of science fiction, one wonders what a typical Cloone native, from the start of the 1900’s would make of things in this, the 2nd year of the 3rd millennium. The transformation of the county as a whole with a total transition from a way of life that existed for centuries before, would make Cloone a very alien place to this time traveller in political, social, and economic terms. The initial decades of the last century indicated the direction and scale of things to come. In 1914 John Redmond urged the Irish Volunteers to enlist in the British Army, the majority mainly from urban areas and known as the National Volunteers responded to his call. William Albert Mc Neill of Cloone, Co. Leitrim is registered on the Roll of Honour for the Great War. The only particulars given are that he entered Wilson’s Hospital in Multyfarnam in Septemer of 1906 aged 10 and a half and was provided for by his parents until 1911. In 1914 he is described as being in business in Liverpool. In 1915 he enlisted with the Lancashire Fusiliers and he survived the war.
The Rising of 1916 made little impression on the rest of the country outside Dublin. It was the execution of it’s leaders that caused a certain outrage and an understanding of what it was about. The Cloone Company of Volunteers was founded in 1918. Arms were in short supply so hurley sticks were substituted for training and drilling sessions, Sunnaghmore was one of the designated training locations. The R.I.C. transferred from Cloone barracks to Mohill in 1920. Nevertheless it was burned almost immediately after their departure. The road between Mohill and Cloone was constantly being cut by local activists to impede the movements of the British soldiers and the Black and Tans. During the Civil War a Freestate soldier named Keane, whose mother was a native of Cloone was mistakenly shot dead. While the years of the Great War was a time of certain prosperity for Irish farmers, the leaner years of the late 1920’s and the Economic War of the 1930’s brought them to their knees. A decision by the Government of the day not to repay loans to Britain that facilitated Irish tenants to buy out their properties resulted in Britain responding by slapping a 20% tax on all Irish produce. This lead to rampant unemployment, poor prices for produce and livestock and hardship all round. Road-making was one form of employment available at the time. Large stones were quarried and broken up by hand with sledge and hammer and spread as road cover. Earlier under the Grand Jury system of local government the road contractors as they were known at the time were hired to repair or upgrade roads in certain areas, farmers were able to supplement their income by hiring out their horse and cart for the purpose of carting stones and taking the load to where it was needed. When Co. Councils were introduced in 1899 it took charge of road making but the same method remained, roads were still rough and stoney. Tarring of roads as we know them did not start until the 1960’s. In 1932 Cloone Co-Operative Store was opened with the support of some local farmers. Originally it was located at the Grange but moved to its present premises soon after opening. It was a thriving centre for agricultural needs up to the time it closed in 1960. At that time the main retail outlets in the village were Pope’s hardware and grocery, O’Carrolls and Mc Garry’s drapers. There were four public houses Creegan’s, Brady’s, Mc Namee’s and Popes. Fairs were still a feature of the village and were held on the Fairgreen, which was situated where the Community Centre is today. What was known as fair customs tolls were collected at Mitchell’s on one side of the village and at Creegan’s hill on the other side. These tolls were a type of tax imposed on those who sold at the fair. In former times monies collected were paid as rent to the landlord. Tradesmen of all kinds abounded in the area, blacksmiths, cartmakers, shoemakers, tailors. The limekiln at Tullyoran was the main outlet for making lime. Corn mills within the parish were located at Killaveha, Harte’s mill and Murphy’s at Cloonsarn in Aughavas. Another very old mill was situated at Keeldra and probably belong to the landlord William West. James Taigue and Michael Donaghue were bone setters of some note, and resided in Aughnaglace. In the days when group water schemes were non-existent, a pump at the priests house supplied some of the needs of the village while what was called the best water in Ireland was drawn from Scott’s well again down near Mitchell’s and another at Esker. Amazingly there were five travelling shops operating at various times in the area. Tommy Kelly was the last of these to retire, the others being Pat Foy, Jack McBrien and John Dillon. Cloone Fife and Drum band started up around 1935 and was always the focus of attention at the many ceremonial occasions they were invited to. Dances under the auspices of Sinn Fein were held at Pope’s Hall during the Troubles. however later on dances held at Doherty’s and Foys dancehalls were very popular. “The Hut” was situated where the Community Centre is situated today. The building was Fr. Conefreys brainchild, a centre for Irish music and dance, music sessions and concerts.
In 1933 Fr. Peter Conefrey became pastor of Cloone, replacing Fr. Denniston who died the previous year. Refered to as the “Prince of Cloone.” He was born in Mohill but the family moved to Drumgowna where he received his primary education. He went on to study at St. Mel’s and finally Maynooth College. He developed an intense love for the Gaelic way of life. Music sessions were held at the parochial house and musicians from all over were invited to take part, incidentally the house was once owned by William West. This was the nucleus for the founding of the Cloone Ceili Band. On March 17th 1935 the band broadcast over Radio Eireann and again in 1937 from Ballinamore and finally in January of 1939. Fr. Conefrey worked unceasingly to revive the language and music of Ireland. At the great Cloone Feis in 1936 he gathered together musicians, dancers, storytellers and ceili bands from all over the county. Local spinners, weavers and knitters displayed their art to all attending, a tribute to Fr. Peter’s philosophy that households should be self-sufficient in all things. Cloone became the boxty capital of Ireland, something he was very proud of and it is still synonymous with the village even today. Fr. Conefrey died suddenly on the 24th April 1939. He was buried in a paupers coffin, by his own request at Farnaught graveyard. On a memorial now situated outside the Old Cemetery in Cloone there is the following inscription “This patriot priest throughout his life laboured unceasingly to reconstruct the Irish nation by promoting all aspects of Irish Culture, he equally worked for the economic betterment of rural Ireland by fostering the cottage industrial system in preference to the factory system”. A plaque on St Mary’s Church reads “by his charity, piety and zeal, he lives in the affections of his people”.
St Mary’s Church Cloone. The Old Catholic Church in Cloone was an old stone building which was hid from view due. To only the outlines of the Old Church remain. The Church and its surrounds are used today as a cemetery. A new modern Church and presbytery was build on the site of the old Parochial House and R.I.C. Barracks in 1970. It was officially blessed and dedicated by Most Rev Cathal B. Daly on 16th June 1971. St Mary’s Church is a testimony to the faith and dedication of the people of Cloone. The money was raised locally and from Cloone emigrants and from fundraising the length and breadth of Ireland. The Church was designed by Robinsons, Keith and Devan. The builders were McGarry’s Ballinamore. The Artist was Ray Carroll. The Sanctuary was designed with the reforms of Vat. II in mind, its hexagonal in shape, creating an intimate atmosphere and giving everyone an excellent view of the Altar.
Cloone & the G.A.A.
Cloone are second in the Roll of honour with eleven Senior Football Championship titles. When the older generation speak of football in Leitrim they remember the great tussles in the Grange. The Grange was home to Cloone footballer until 1980. On the 22nd May 1980 St Mary’s, Park Cloone was officially opened. There ground includes Changing rooms, Press box, covered area for supporters and an excellent playing surface. An electronic score board is a recent addition. Such is the quality of the pitch and facilities that its Leitrim second County venue and has hosted many county games. It’s a credit to those who of foresight and dedication who have created a worthy successor to the famous grange. Today its facilities are enjoyed by Cloone teams male and female from under age to senior. Indeed the Cloone ladies have also tasted senior football success.
Cloone Community Centre opened on 26th April 1987. Its a large purpose built building next to the local national School. This building was built with the help of Anco and through the voluntary efforts of the local community. The building is large and spacious and serves the needs of the Community. It is used for Bingo and for meetings of various organisations. Recently gym equipment has been installed for use by the local community and by the local football teams. During the day the Centre acts as a Playschool for pre-school children from Cloone and Aughavas. Its also used by Children from the local national School for indoor recreation and for their Annual Christmas Concert.
Rev James Keegan was born in Cloone on 6 February 1859. He was ordained in St Patrick’s College Carlow for the Diocese of St Louis. He died at the age of 35 in Ireland. He is regarded as a devoted priest, patriot, scholar and poet. Efforts have been made to see if there is a family connection with the poet Keegan Casey. A book on Fr Keegan is due to be published shortly in the U.S. (Also see the Latin School page 220)
Cloone High Cross.
Cloone has probably the only High Cross in Leitrim. The Base of it is still to be found in the Old cemetery and is locally referred to as the wart well. There were fragments which are located in the graveyard which are thought to be part of this high Cross.
(Thanks to Mrs Evelyn Kelly, Annaghmaconway for permission to use the above material)
Adoon/Cloone Group Water Scheme
In the year 1968, a public-health inspector employed by the Leitrim County Council visited Cloone Village to inspect the water supply to the village and catchments areas. His name was Terence McHugh RIP. He discovered that the only water supply was from local wells, namely: Scots well on the Ballinamore road, and McCabe's well Esker. There was also a hand pumped well in Popes yard, and another at the parish priest house, but these were of poor drinking quality water. People got their domestic water supply from rooftops, distributed into barrels and concrete tanks.
This heath inspector was adamant that a Group water scheme could be established in the parish of Cloone. He set about testing water in various lakes in the surrounding districts. He discovered a lake within the drumlin hills of Adoon and Gorvagh, 3 and 1/2 miles from Cloone village with a very high quality of drinking water. There were very little residents or farm activity in the vicinity of this lake. So effluent or contamination would not be a problem. Working from his office in Carrick on Shannon he discovered that one hill a quarter-mile from the lake would-be an ideal place for a reservoir and by checking the levels, this reservoir would have sufficient height to supply most of the parish of Cloone with a first-class water system.
He approached Peter Charles, then a Leitrim County Counselor with this proposition. Both were aware that a good Government and local Government grant was available. He made numerous trips to Cloone in an effort to get this project started. Peter Charles agreed to form a committee of people interested in this project. This committee would involve many people whose consent had to be sought for the erection of reservoir and construction of pump house and access to lake and main road. After numerous meetings with the inspector, who outlined his plans and homework done—he assured the people attending the meeting that this scheme would work.
The following committee was formed: Peter Charles, Gabriel Moran, John Kelly, P Joe Heeran RIP, Paddy Beirne RIP, Mike Joe Brennan RIP, Paddy Quinn RIP, Patsy McGowan RIP, and Sean Dillon RIP. The Chairman elected was: Paddy Beirne. Secretary and joint Treasures: Peter Charles, P Joe Heeran and Paddy Quinn. Those men worked in harmony with one another, and were instrumental in getting this scheme functioning for the benefit of all Cloone people within the specified area.
The Local Government appointed an engineer to oversee this project.
The engineer's name was, Trevor MacDonald RIP. He visited Cloone each week to inspect that all work was carried out to the specified plans.
The wheels were now set in motion. P Joe Heeran consented to the reservoir being erected on his land and access to the pump house and roadway. Another man: Thomas McKeon, RIP, Adoon, also give permission for the pipeline to cross through his lands. A pump house was erected close to the Lake. And 4 ft. from the lake shore, one could look down, 12 ft. into clear, blue, still, spring, drinking water. A sight to behold! The reservoir was erected by: Mercers Solon, Precast Construction Ltd, Mullingar. Its total capacity was 100,000 gal. A, 3 in. pipeline was installed, complete with electric cable from the pump house to the reservoir. A float switch on the inside of the reservoir determined when the pump would cut in or out. Everything worked perfectly.
Here, I would like to play tribute to the voluntary workers who give their time and labour free. So that all materials be transported to the reservoir. Some have passed on: "May they rest in peace." There are two people who must be complemented, for their voluntary work and permission given for access to lake and reservoir. They are the Mitchell Brothers: Owen & Sean.
It was now time to lay the water mains. Wavin Plastic, Balbriggan, Dublin, were the suppliers of the specified plastic pipeline and other necessary commodities. The plastic pipes were in 20 ft. lengths and joined together by a simple plastic collar with two rubber O rings sealing the joint. The life expectancy of this equipment was guaranteed for 20 years. The contractor of the excavating and laying of the mains pipeline was: Andy McGovern, Cloone. He had one workman with him: John McKiernan. Work started in the month of November, 1969. The first 3 in. mains, pipes were laid. By Christmas of that year, the mains, pipeline was complete to the village of Cloone. Mike Joe Brennan, and Patsy McGowan, was responsible for all house connections. A charge of £40 per household was agreed by the committee, this included a half-inch water tap to each kitchen and a ceramic sink was supplied. Some people vouched for the more modern stainless steel sink and installed them at their own cost. Ironically, in the 2000s the ceramic sink become more fashionable, and was a much sought-after commodity in the new kitchens of the now modern Ireland.
John McKiernan resigned at Christmas, 1969, due to other commitments. William McLoughlin RIP now became the contractor's sole workman and continued until the project was completed. There were many extensions from the original planned scheme. One was the continuation of the water scheme to Annaghmacullen. Here Micheal Kelleher, Pee Rourke RIP and Pat Frank Lyons RIP, were the instigators of this 2 and 1/2-mile extension. Micheal Kelleher was Chairman and promoter and indeed had to entice household living in proximity of this extension to partake of the scheme. Explaining to them - that a council water supply would not come that way for years. How right that advice proved!
In the year 1972—20 mi. of water mains, was completed. 90 homes were connected. There was no charge or restrictions on water use. This proved to be an error of judgment. Water waste was rampant, taps left running and bursts pipes and leaks not reported. The pump was working full-time and soon had to be replaced. 20 years on the water in the lake was retested and found to be contaminated. The Council agreed to supply a connection to the reservoir from their mains pipeline on the Mohill Ballinamore Road. This solved the problem for a time. Soon the Council discovered that they could not keep up the supply of water that was in demand. A meeting was held.
And it was agreed that water meters would have to be installed to every house connection. Each house would be allocated a specified amount of gallons of water free. But if that amount was breached, a charge would be applied. This gesture worked magnificently. All house connections were checked and repaired and recipients, even checked their own lines in case they would-be charged for any wastewater. The scheme is now working effectively. Much praise and credit is due to the three members, who report, repair and keep a watchful eye. They insure that there is no wastewater or abuse of the scheme today. They are: Micheal Kelleher, Gabriel Moran and John Kelly. Another man who must be complemented for his great work in repairing damaged pipes, and water leaks, over the years: Packie Joe McGarry!
It is amazing how this water scheme has survived for 41 years, with a little rubber. O ring holding back the pressure every 20 ft. of mains pipeline? Today as I write in the year 2010: - 186 households are now connected to this scheme. I'm sure, over the years housewives have become frustrated and angry at times, when going to the tap and discovering that the water was off? But how many of those householders has spared a thought or a prayer for the gallant group of men, who had the foresight, vision and courage to start this water scheme 41 years ago, so that the people of Cloone would no longer have to tug buckets, pails or utensils of water from lakes, rivers or spring wells?
To the deceased members of the committee: May God rest you! Death may have taken you away, but you're great works, it cannot take. To the few surviving committee members: Take a bow, you're good deeds will never be forgotten. "You never miss the water until the well runs dry" (An old proverb.)
Adoon-Cloone Group Water Scheme Section Written by Andy McGovern.