Ballymore-Eustace - the RC parish in 1791

In 1791 by the parish priest of Ballymore-Eustace and Hollywood, Fr Devoy, wrote a reply to a questionnaire from the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr. Troy, concerning the state of the parish.  Fr Devoy's reply set out the dedications and patron days of the old churches in the parish; the location, extent and boundaries of the union; as well as some religious and educational statistics.


The Journal of West Wicklow Historical Society (Number 1, 1983-4) carried an article by William Hawkes that included the text of Fr Devoy's reply, which had been published in Reportium Novum, 1957-58 Vol. 11 No. 1. 


Hawkes' 1983 article included his own explanatory notes, set out below.

The original 1791 document is now in the Troy papers in the Archives of the RC Diocese of Dublin.



The text of Fr Devoy's letter of 1791

My Lord,
Pursuant to your Graces request addressed to the different Pastors of this Deanery : The following shall furnish your Graces demand with respect to the Union of Baltymore-Eustace and Holywood.

[Query] 1. To what Saints were the old Churches in each union dedicated? and how many of these in each union; and what is their Patron day?
1. The Parish Church of Baltymore-Eustace dedicated to the Assumption of the blessed Virgin.  The 15th of August Patron day.
2. Parish Church of Cochlanstown : or otherwise Cothlanstown dedicated to St. James.  The 25th of July Patron day.  At said place is a famous well on the banks of the Liffy dedicated to the above.
3. Balybocht, idest, Villa pauperum : The Church whereof is dedicated to St. John Baptist : 24th June Patron day.
4. Burgage, Hybernice Burgeis, idest : Praedium.  The Church dedicated to St. Mathew.  Here stands the very curious stone Cross, so much admired by every denomination : and here also is a celebrated Well dedicated as above.
5. Baltyboys.  Hybernice BaiItebuighe, idest : Pagiflavi : The Parish Church dedicated to St. Patrick.  The 17th of March Patron day.  Here is in like manner a well and a very thronged place of burial for the inhabitants of the adjacent country.
6. Holywood, Hollywood rather, Sylva ilicea. Hybernice Cill Chaoin.  Cella Kevini.  The Church of St. Kevin, the third of June Patron day.  Here is a well dedicated to St. Kevin, a Cave and a Chair cut out of a solid Rock.
7. Dunbuaic, idest : Arx Herois, dedicated to St. Kevin.  The Parish Church with all its appurtenances was made over by the bishop of Gleandaloch (William) to the Prioress and Nunnery of Timotin and confirmed to them by Henry Arch Bishop of Dublin in 1220 : together with that of Holywood : Saving a perpetual Vicarage in said Church of Holywood, for a fit and proper Vicar.  The 3rd of June Patron day.
8. And last Tobar Kevin corrupte Tipper Kevin, Fons seu puteus Kevini.  One of the Prebends of the Chapter and in the established Church occupied by Doctor Brawdshaw.  3rd June Patron day.


The above answers the 2nd query. How many of these in each union?

3. Query. What is the entire extent of each union, how situated, and what the boundaries?
The extent of the union of Ballymore and Hollywood on a moderate calculation is 9 by 7 [miles].  Situated on each side of the Liffy, in the Counties of Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare.  Bounded on the South by the Parish of Dowmhnachmor : on the west by Killcullen : on the North by part of Twomile House and by part of Blessington on the East by the Kings River or by Parish of Blackditches.

As to the 4 Query, there have been no Monasteries or Nunnerys in this union.

5 [Query].  How many Catholick families, how many Protestants?
  720 Catholick & 60 Protestants and 5 Quakers [See note 6 above, by John Hussey].

6 [Query].  How many Baptisms and Marriages?
  155 Baps. 40 Marria.

7 [Query].  How many Communicants and non?
  18,000 Comm. and about 50 non.

8 [Query].  How many Converts?



[9 Query].  How many Catholick Schoolmasters? 

No Protestant.  So much the better.
Onera mea male se jam habent.

I have the honor of being your Graces most obedient, humble servant.  

M. Devoy


October 24, 1791.



Background note by John Hussey

The letter/report of 1791 is significant because Fr. Devoy's references to the history and topography of the district are almost half a century earlier than those recorded in the letters of the Ordnance Survey investigator, Thomas O'Conor.  They ought, therefore, to represent a somewhat more lively tradition than that which obtained fifty years later when John O'Donovan deplored so much the lack of it throughout Co. Kildare.

The website of the Dublin RC Diocese ( states that ‘Thomas Troy was born at Annefield House, Porterstown, Co. Dublin, in 1739.  He came from a ‘well to do’ family with his father owning lands in Porterstown and Kellystown.  He was the eldest of four boys and three girls.  At a young age he went to live at the family townhouse in Smithfield and attended school on Liffey Street.  At the age of sixteen he joined the Dominican Order in Dublin.  Six months later he was sent to study at San Clemente, Rome.  He remained there for twenty-one years. 

Troy was archbishop of Dublin from 1786 until his death in 1823.  In 1788 he undertook a full visitation of the diocese.  In addition to this, the clergy were obliged to send in regular accounts of their parishes [of which the 1791 report on Ballymore is one].  These mainly focused on the number of Catholic and Protestant families living there, estimates of communicants and converts, recorded baptisms and marriages and any information regarding education.  He issued pastoral instructions in relation to the behaviour of clergy and religious practices.  Times of worship were regulated, midnight mass was forbidden and priests were instructed not to attend concerts, hunts or the races.  Priests were also obliged to attend regular meetings and one day seminars, absence from which meant the imposition of a fine.  For the ordinary people, he oversaw the development of Confraternities and by the time of his death, each parish had at least one.’

In 1791 the Catholic parish of Ballymore-Eustace extended east of the River Liffey into County Wicklow and included the townlands of Baltyboys and Tulfarris, Co Wicklow, extending beyond the River Liffey as far as the Kings River.  The Catholic parish-boundaries were redrawn in 1830 so that the River Liffey became the eastern boundary of the parish and Baltyboys and Tulfarris became parts of Blackditches (Valleymount) parish. 

Fr. Michael Devoy’s report of 1791 noted that there were five Quaker families in Ballymore-Eustace parish at that time.  Cross-referencing this with my own researches on the local Quaker community, as published by the Society of Friends, titled The Quakers of Baltyboys, County Wicklow, Ireland  - 1678 to 1800s (Dublin 2017), the Quaker families referred to by Fr Devoy in 1791 were most likely:-

  • Williams - John Williams and his family remained at Baltyboys until close to 1810.
  • Wills - John Wills, senior, died at Baltyboys in 1800, aged 82.
  • Thacker - there were Thackers, still children, in Baltyboys as late as 1876.
  • Eves - Ann Eves was buried in the Quaker graveyard at Baltyboys in 1809 and this was the last burial to take place there.  Anne and Anna Eves of Baltyboys were disowned by the Quakers in 1825.
  • Butler - in 1762, an Ann Eves of Baltyboys was married by a priest to a man named Butler and was disowned.  The Butlers must have subsequently joined the Quakers because in 1826 James Butler, aged 45, was baptised at St. Mary’s, Blessington, and the Parish Register contains a note stating - ‘Parents Quakers’.



Hawke's notes in the JWWHS, 1983-4

Fr. Devoy enumerates eight church foundations with their titulars within his parish, and gives the patron-days of seven.  He could say with truth that his parish included territory in three counties, Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare, since a great part of three older parishes, Tipperkevin, Ballymore-Eustace and Ballybough, still formed an isolated portion of the barony of Uppercross, Co. Dublin, and became attached to Co. Kildare only in the early nineteenth century [1836].

1. Ballymore Eustace Parish
1181-89 Balimor.  1182 Baltymore (Magna Villa).  1198 Batlimore. 

1220 Bellamor.  1227 Ballimore.  1234 Balymore.

1257-63 Balimor, Baltimore, Ballymore.  1518 Ballymore, Co. Dublin. 

c.1530 Ballamor, Bellamor. Balymour. 

1654 Ballymore Eustace : Baile Mór na nIustasach.

The dedication of the parish church under the title of the Assumption of Our Lady is as old at least as 1234 (Creda Mihi, ed. J. T. Gilbert (Dublin, 1897)).  Since the first half of the thirteenth century the benefice was attached to the Treasurership of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

The site was on a hill east of the town where there is now a mixed burial ground in which stands a medieval high cross and a modern Protestant church. The Catholic penal-day chapel was located at Broadleas, south-east of the town, until the building of the present church of the Immaculate Conception in the town itself.

2 Coghlanstown Parish
1172-76 Bativcutlane.  1192 Baliucutiane.  1198 Baleucudlane
1284-94 Ballycutlane.  1487-88  Ballycutlane.  1524 Ballycutlan. 
1530 Baliycutlayn. Ballycutlane.  1531 Ballycutland.  1630  Cottlanstown. 
1654 Cotlandstowne. 
1791 Cothlanstown, Cochlanstown.

The older title may have come from a sept name, Baile Ua Cathluain, or the like.  The site is along the Liffey, west of Ballymore and is marked by a cemetery, the ruins of a substantial late medieval church (54ft  x  21ft  x 18ft), the pedestal of a small memorial cross blazoned with the arms of ‘Eustace, Lord Portlester, 1462’, and the base of a larger cross the shaft of which now stands beside the roadway some distance nearer Ballymore Eustace.  The church was assigned to the nuns of Graney, Co. Kildare before 1272, and was held by them until the suppression of their priory in 1535.  It was the only church in the district reported as still in good repair in 1630.  St. James became in Norman times the titular also of the old church of Domnach Mór Ua n-Aithecda, three quarters of a mile away on the western side of the Liffey but now in the parish of Kilcullen.
Influenced by the fame of the Apostles Spanish (Galician) shrine at Santiago de Compostela, the older name gave way to Iago, now corrupted to Gaganstown, but is still numbered among the prebends of the Dublin chapter as Yago. The same saint is titular of Castledermot further south, and a well dedicated to him is found within the walls of the Franciscan abbey ruins in the town.  Here at Coghlanstown his well, referred to as ‘famous' in Fr. Devoy’s report, is one of a number of springs at the toot of the mound on the west side of the church. It is still visited, and offerings of medals, rosaries and small statues mark its location.

3. Ballybought Parish.
1256-71 Battyboght.  1326 Ballyboghe, Ballybough.  1531 Ballyboght.
Villa Pauperum appears to be Fr. Devoy's own latinisation of the Irish ‘Baile Bocht’.  The church was mensal to the Archbishopric, and the lands formed part of the Archiepiscopal manor at Baliymore.  The site, like some others in the district, is enclosed by a circular fosse and ditch.  There is a small cemetery surrounding a medieval church (about 40ft x 16ft) of which only a few feet of the walls remain.  The east gable, showing a tail, narrow, round-arched window, fell flat down in 1937.  Three hundred yards north-west of the church site is St. John's well, and the dedication to St. John the Baptist on the 24 June is confirmed by Fr. Devoy's report.  Like the well of St. James at Coghlanstown, this spring tends to become choked by the slipping of the bank overhead, but, unlike it, this is not mentioned in the report and it does not seem to be visited nowadays. Other wells dedicated to St. John at this end of the diocese include those at Scurlocks, parish of Blessington; at Dun Aillinne, parish of Kilcullen; at Catverstown, parish of Narraghmore; and at Castledermot, opposite the thirteenth-century priory and hospital of the Crouched Friars.

4. Burgage Parish.
c.1530 Burgage, Burgess.  1547 Burgage.  1662 Burgage.  

It derives from the L.L. borgagium, burgus (whence O.F. burgeis; Ir. burgaire; E. burgess).  Fr. Devoy equates it with the classical Latin word praedium.
Since the sixteenth century the name Burgage has supplanted the older Irish title of the church and parish.  This was: c.800 Domnach Imlech.  1192 Dunachimelagh.  1216 Douenachimelaghe.  c.1530 Donachymelache.

Under this title the ancient church here is associated both in the Book of Armagh and in the Martyrology of Tallaght with St. Molomma (19 June).  In the Notulae to the former book he appears to be given a Patrician association along with Auxilius of Killashee and Mactail of Kilcullen.  As late as the fifteenth century he was still honoured in the calandars of two Dublin antiphonaries, (MSS BI 3, BI 4, TCD) and his name is also preserved in the title of the townland Kitmalum (Cell Molomma) adjoining Burgage.  It is, however, Domnach Imleach rather than Kilmalum which is noticed in the medieval record.  Here on a gravel mound overlooking the Liffey the newer domnach was built at an early period, and around it in time grew the cemetery in which two tail crosses, Irish style but with unpierced heads, were erected.  In late medieval times a square, tower-like building, known in modern times as the ‘priest's house’, was built on the east side of the church.  On the question of the medieval dedication of the church and crosses the evidence is contradictory.  In preparing the first Ordnance Survey the tall cross was entitled ‘St. Mark's Stone Cross’ in the Name-Books, and as such was marked on the maps. Thomas O'Conor who, at the beginning of 1839, covered the area for the same survey, writes that both the cross and the well were known locally as St Boaoithin’s, and remarks on the contradiction with the entry in the Name-Book. Lord Walter Fitzgerald also thought that the title St. Mark’s Cross on the maps was erroneous since 'the Blessed Well which lies on the opposite side of the public road to the cross and near the small bridge (dated 1788) at the foot of the hill to the south-west is called ‘St. Mathus's Well’, (Jnl. Kild. Archeol. Soc., 1914)
The writer of these notes, who first visited Burgage in 1937, was informed locally that the well in the marshy hollow close to the bridge was called ‘Matthew’s Well’ and that its waters were used in the treatment of stomach complaints, but that a second well at the foot of the tail cross standing outside the boundary-wall of the churchyard was known as ‘Mark's Well’.  Usually dry in summer, it was active in winter, and its waters were taken for head and tooth ache.  Fr. Devoy's report of 1791 on the dedication of the church and well have the advantage of being an earlier record of whatever tradition there was.
The possibility, however, of St. Baoithin (of Ennisboyne, East Wicklow) having an early association with the place cannot be ruled out.  His church is mentioned in connection with early missionary activity in West Wicklow and East Kildare and, like St. Molomma, his name appears in some Dublin calendars as late as the fifteenth century (See article ‘The Liturgy in Dublin’ in this issue).
For a period of fully six hundred years Domnach Imleach finds frequent mention in the records.  At the coming of the Normans it was a church in the diocese of Glendalough and was confirmed to Bishop Malchus by Pope Alexander III in 1179.  When, after the death of Malchus, Glendalough became united with Dublin, Domnach Imleach was one of a number of churches assigned by Archbishop Cumin in 1192 to the community of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Both the union and the allocation of churches received papal confirmation only in 1216.
Later it became a prebend attached to the precentorship of the cathedral, and the chapels of Comenstown (now Blessington) and Tulfarris are recorded as being attached to it as to a mother church. By 1630 the church, then in Protestant hands, was in a ruinous condition, and, with one exception, the parishioners were recusants.
The position of the site created a problem in the planning of the Pollaphuca hydro-electric scheme (1937-49).  As an alternative to encasing the entire mound in concrete, it was decided, after consultation with the ecclesiastical authorities, to move the cemetery to new ground but as near as possible to the old site.  This was effected in 1940, leaving behind only ‘the priest's house’ and the remains of the old church.  Although now surrounded by water, these have not been submerged.  On the side nearest the river there has been some erosion, and one corner of the priest's house has been undermined.  The tail cross and its mutilated companion have been moved to the new site.  The former, 15' 4" in height, including a 2' pedestal, still lacks its capstone, while the remains of the second have been set to advantage in the former plinth.

5. Baltyboys Parish.
1531 Baltyboy alias Boyeston.  1553 Ballybwye. 1630 Boyestowne.

1760 Baltiboys. 
The alternative to Baltyboys is still the anglicised form Boystown, and, although the 1553 form supports Fr. Devoy's interpretation ‘the yellow townland(s),’ yet the weight of the evidence favours rather the association of the baile x townland with the family name Boyes or Boys.  The church-site and cemetery are on the hill overlooking Valleymount and the new Liffey reservoir from the north-west.  The old church had already disappeared by 1839 (O.S. Letters).
The dedication to St. Patrick as recorded in the report is of special interest.  While the early records distinguish between the churches of Tulachfergus (Tulfarris) and Kilpatrick, the position of the more recently named Baltyboys is not made clear.  Its identification with the older but now obsolete Kilpatrick by Mr. Liam Price, is supported by the evidence of Fr. Devoy's report.
In 1830, Baltiboys and Tullogh Fergus were separated from the parish of Ballymore-Eustace and joined to Blackditches, thus making the Liffey. instead of the King’s river the north-eastern boundary of Ballymore. The arrangement still stands.

6. Hollywood Parish.
c.1192 Sanctum Nemus.  1200 Seinbois.  1234 Sanctus Boscus. 
c.1220 ecclesia de Sancto Bosco.  1305 Holywood.  c.1530 Holywood, Hollywood. 
Obviously, the correct form is Holywood, and, although the ilex is not an uncommon tree in the district, Hollywood is clearly a corruption of the original.  Mr. Liam Price has suggested that we may have the Irish form in the long-obsolete Kilnee which is found in a late twelfth-century document.
The traditional association of Hollywood with St. Kevin is remembered in the church, well, bed, and chair, features which reproduce some of those connected with the saint in his later and more famous foundation at Glendatough on the other side of the mountains.  At or near Hollywood was a place called Killenkeyvin (Cillin Caoimhghin) in 1192 and a reference from a sixteenth source equates the name with Hollywood.
Fr. Devoy himself in the registers refers to Hollywood as an Chillín.

7. Dunboyke Parish.
LL., etc. Date?  Dún Buaici, Dún Buchad (Buchet, Buicead).  1172-76 Dunbuoci.
1192 Dunboki.  c.1530 Dunboke.  1610 Dunboyke.  1721 Dunboick.
Although there are many more references in the records, the derivation of the name is uncertain.  Fr. Devoy's equation of dún with the Latin arx is correct, but his herois is very doubtful.  Although the word buadhach or buaidheach (victorious) is frequently used in Irish as an epithet of heroes and kings, the second element here is, more probably, a personal name.  The local pronunciation is Dunbwyke.  The site is in the townland of the same name and on the hill-slope immediately south-east of Hollywood, in the vicinity is a dún-like fortification, and below it is the great stone-circle at Athgreany.  Within the enclosure are the remains of the walls of a small church (27ft x  16ft 8ins) with chancel (8½ft x 5½ft).  The cemetery is now rarely used.
In the late twelfth century the church was assigned to the prior and nuns of Tachmolinbeg (Timolin), and, in the confirmation of the grant by Archbishop Henry between the years 1219-28, it is styled the church of St. Kevin.  Three hundred years later, after the dissolution of the convent, it is noted by Archbishop Alen as a prebend and a parish.  (Calendar of Archb. Alen's Reg. ed. C. McNeill (Dublin, 1950))

8. Tipperkevin Parish.
1181-99 Tiperkevyne.  1216 Tiperkeuine.  c.1250 Tipperkevyn. 

1264 Typerkevyne. 1303 Tipperkevin.  1316 Tipperkevin. 

1361 Typperkevin.  1523 Tipperkevin.  c.1530 Tipperkewyn, Tipper-kewyne. 

1630 Tipperkevin.  1654 Tubber Cavan. 1839 Tobercavan (local pronunciation). 
1958 Tubbercavan (local pronuncaition). Tiobraid (Tobar) Caoimhghin (Caomhghan).
Due to the publication of so much new material during the last century and a half, students of place-names have now a far easier task than that which confronted investigators of Fr. Devoy's day.
St. Kevin's well may be seen in the open space adjoining the road and the old graveyard. Only traces of the church remain.
The first element of the place-name is repeated in Tipper, the title of another church dedicated to the same saint in the adjoining parish of Rathmore (Eadestown).  Tipper, formerly known as Kilkevin, was, in fact, the first in the chain of churches so dedicated along the pilgrim way which led from Naas of the Kings to the Seven Churches (Glendalough).
The second was Tipperkevin, the third Hollywood (Kilteenkevin), while Dunboyke marked the fourth and last stage as pilgrims entered on St. Kevin's Road across the mountains to the Wicklow Gap and the city of St. Kevin.
Since 1303, when Archbishop Richard de Ferings first gave the church a prebendal status, Tipperkevin has continued to give its name to two subdiaconal prebends in the cathedral chapter of the diocese.
Fr. Devoy's report makes no mention of three primitive church-sites in his parish. One is Kilmalum west of Burgage where there are traces of a circular bank enclosing what is now called a religín.  Another is Killerk, north of Hollywood, where there is a very ancient cross on a slight mound formerly referred to also as a religín. (J.R.S.A.I., 1938).  The third is Lechohan, otherwise Kilnewis or Ballybren, where is ‘Ie wight leys [Whiteleas] and the water called Glaschegyn’ and again ‘juxta rivulum qui vocatur Sigin in extremitate campi magni.’  Apart from Whiteleas, these names are long since obsolete, but the conjunction in one record of Ballybought and Lechohan, as well as the statement that the tithes were at one period in dispute between the rectors of Ballymore, Ballybought and Hollywood would support the evidence of Archbishop Alen that the chapel was located in Whiteleas.  By 1532 the chapel was entirety in ruins and the archbishop, who had walked over the ground, records that tillage operations had even then encroached on the cemetery. (Registrum Alani and Reportorium Viride.)  In 1938 a reiligín was pointed out to the writer in the corner of a field near Whiteleas house.  The association of some stone memorial (lec, leac) with a particular saint is not unusual in Irish place-names, and Lochan has given his name to at least two other churches in the diocese, Killsaintlucan a few miles away across the border of Rathmore (Eadestown) parish and locally known as Killshillochan or Kelsh, and another Killohan further north in south Co. Dublin.




This page was created by John Hussey 3 October 2017

The Author













John Hussey is a historical-geography.  His studies focus on human settlement and industry in north-west of County Wicklow - the area extending from Blessington into the upper Liffey valley and the Kings River valley.


He has researched and written on the region's Granite Quarrying Industry, its Weaving Industry and its Quaker community.


His most recent research has focused on the Woolpack Road, along which the region's wool and cloth was transported to Dublin. 


His book on the Quaker community of Baltyboys was published by the Irish Society of Friends (Quakers) in July 2017.