A Brief History of Killenard

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Killenard is a small rural area situated on what is widely considered to be one of the Sli Daile, one of the five ancient roads of Ireland. The geographical area encompassed by Killenard consists of the townlands of Ballycarroll, Ballybrittas, Rathmiles and Tierhogar.
Jack AdairIn the 1600s a windmill was built on the highest part of the surrounding area in the townland of Rathmiles. Wheat produced by local farmers was brought there and ground on a commercial basis until its business declined around 1850 due to the advent of steam power. Its ruins still stand about 15 feet high, somewhat reminiscent of a monastic round tower, at the top of the aptly named Windmill Hill.

One of the first large houses recorded in the area, Mount Henry, was built by Edward Skeffington-Smyth in 1820 and it is a wonderful example of Georgian Architecture. The nearby Gardeners cottage with its distinctive stone wall was built in 1830.

In 1829 the Church of Ireland Lea Church was built two hundred metres west of the windmill and services are still held there on a regular basis. The remains of John George Adair, (pictured above) the infamous landlord and owner of Glenveagh Estate in Donegal, are buried here. Jack Adair, as he was better known, also owned two large ranches in America where he was held in high regard by his business associates. Nevertheless the cowboys in his employ were said to be less impressed by his arrogant attitude.

The Catholic church of Cill an Aird was built in 1835 and this was followed in the 1840s by the construction of a small school on its grounds. In the 1880s a larger school was built close to the church entrance and this building is still in use today as part of the Killenard Community Centre.

In times past, people attending mass in Cill an Aird would frequently use the “Mass path”, a right of way that led from the Lea Church through the fields that now comprise the Heritage Resort, and out to the church where the Thatch Public House now stands.

At the beginning of the Mass path stood the remains of an old two story house, commonly referred to as the Fairy House, and several accounts of supernatural events were associated with it. It was eventually demolished in its entirety in the early 1970s.

Further along the mass path were the remains of the home of the Dempsey family, one of whose number became known as Cathir na gCapall, or Charlie of the Horses, a notorious horse thief who was eventually captured in nearby Monestereven and hung for his crimes in Portlaoise, or Maryborough as it was then known, in 1735. Cathir na gCapall and two of his brothers are buried in Ballyadding cemetery in Ballybrittas.

In 1840 the Killenard area was mentioned in the first Ordinance Survey as consisting of four large estate style houses, two churches, a windmill and 30 or so small dwellings.

And so the area of Killenard had become the village of Killenard.
The Long RoadOpposite the gates of the Skeffington-Smyth house on the Killenard road was Church Wood, commonly referred to as the “Private Wood” due to a shrub lined path used by the Skeffington-Smyth family leading to the top of Windmill Hill and emerging at the roadside just below the windmill itself through a stile built into the granite wall.

The road from Mount Henry Crossroads running east towards Jamestown is known as the “Long road.” Heading in the Jamestown direction there is a two story house on the right hand side which was build with public subscription funds to house a Catholic priest. But as it transpired it was never used for this purpose.

The last of the Skeffington-Smyths left their house for London at the outbreak of the First World War and it was briefly left in the hands of its caretaker. By the late 1920s, after several owners, the Skeffington-Smyth house was sold to the Diocese of Kildare and became the residence of Bishop Dr. Cullen who in turn sold it on to the Presentation Sisters in 1933.

The Presentation Sisters renamed the house Mount St. Anne’s and it remains so to the present day.