By Jim Regan

Several years ago, I began a journey to learn more about my Irish ancestors, and along the way I met three special women from Ballyhaught, Effin Parish, County Limerick. This meeting was not in person but rather through the warm letters and reflections of people who came in contact with my great-aunt Catherine and her daughters Mona and Ciss Fitzgibbon over the years: their friends, neighbours, and others who visited their public house at the crossroads in Ballyhaught known as Fitzgibbon’s Cross, or as some referred to it, “J-Cross.”

My family and I will be forever grateful to those who took the time and effort to respond to a letter I sent addressed to “Editor of the Local Newspaper.” It was through their letters that we learned a great deal about the Fitzgibbons’ lives and, most importantly, about how my great-aunt and her daughters touched the lives of those who met them.

Catherine O’Regan Fitzgibbon and her siblings Joseph, Ellen, and Mary were born in Brooklyn, the children of John O’Regan and Mary Grimes. In 1895, Mary Grimes O’Regan died while giving birth to a son named James. He only lived a few months. My great-grandfather John O’Regan, being unable to properly care for his young children on his own, looked to his family in Kilfinane for help. His family worked as coopers, making butter boxes and churns for the local dairy farmers and creameries. According to the Land Valuation Office of Ireland and other records, the O’Regan family had a farm and was the local coopers in Kilfinane since at least the 1830s. John O’Regan had ten siblings living in the Kilfinane area. One of them, his sister Bridget O’Regan Cudmore, and her husband John brought the motherless O’Regan children into their home on High Street in Kilfinane and cared for them. After John remarried, Joseph, Ellen, and Mary returned to their father in Brooklyn, sailing to New York aboard the ship Umbria in 1899.

Catherine, however, being very fond of her aunt Bridget and her life in Kilfinane, chose to remain in Ireland. Although the Cudmores did not have children of their own, Catherine was never at a loss for companionship. Her many aunts and uncles and their families all lived in the nearby communities. Other than knowing that Catherine O’Regan attended the Faithful Companions of Jesus School in Bruff, much about her childhood years in Kilfinane still remains to be uncovered. Her story picks up with her marriage in 1915 to Jeremiah Fitzgibbon. Jerry, as he was known, was the nephew of Johnny Fitzgibbon who opened Johnny’s Pub in 1884 at J-Cross in Ballyhaught. As the years passed, Catherine and Jerry took over the operation of the uncle’s pub/grocery store, renaming it Jerry’s. When her husband died in 1947, Catherine renamed it Fitzgibbon’s.

Catherine and Jerry Fitzgibbon had five children: Mona [Bridget Theresa], Ciss [Margaret Mary], Creina [Nora Patricia], Mammie [Mary Ellen], and John. As children, they spent their summer holidays visiting their aunt Nell (Ellen Fitzgibbon) Fox, who had a farm in Ballyshane. Seventy years later one of their childhood friends fondly remembered first meeting Ciss and Mona and playing with them during their visits to the farm.

One lifelong friend and neighbour recalls his father telling the story of “being sent off in the horse and trap to bring the midwife” to Catherine’s home the night in 1923 that Ciss was born. Many of the letters I received shared memories of visits to Fitzgibbon’s over the years. During the day it served as a shop and in the evening, it was a pub. Prior to electricity being made available to the Kilfinane area, the shop maintained a small tank of paraffin oil to service the community’s oil lamps and stoves. Visits to the shop were not just shopping trips but social events as well. With Catherine, Ciss, and Mona, one could always discuss the comings and goings of life, its joys and sorrows. They always made sure to take time to have a chat with their customers and to make them feel welcome.

Since Ciss and Mona had no children of their own, it was said they welcomed visits from the neighbourhood children, for it was the youngsters who kept them young at heart. Some recalled going to the shop as children and being given a packet of penny sweets or a bar of chocolate “on the house.” One wrote that when she was a child, she and her sister would walk to Fitzgibbon’s for treats and remembered that Ciss and Mona always took the time to chat with them. She recalled waiting patiently at her uncle’s cottage down the road from the shop for Ciss and Mona’s dog Tina to make her appearance outside the shop. That was the sign that the shop was open for the day. At night, their neighbours would not only stop at the pub for a “drop of whiskey or a few pints” but also to chat with friends and neighbours and share life’s experiences with Catherine, Ciss, and Mona. In addition to its proprietors being able to pour a perfect pint, the pub was well known for its musical sessions, a tradition that still lives on at the establishment, now called Norman’s Bar.

One neighbour recalls stopping by for a pint one night to find Ciss and Mona sound asleep in the kitchen in the rear of the shop. Knowing the women had been working since the early morning; he simply stepped behind the bar and poured himself a pint. When he finished, he left the money and went on his way, leaving the sisters slumbering. In addition to running Fitzgibbon’s, Catherine and her daughters were also involved in the activities of Effin Parish, often participating in its feasts and festivals. Ciss was a member of the Muinter Na Tíre (“People of the Land or Countryside”) Guild that promoted the building of the Canon Hayes Memorial Hall in Effin in the 1950s. From its founding in 1931, the guild’s main purpose was to improve the social, cultural, economic, and environmental status of the people.

Catherine is remembered as a “very well-kept lady,” who always turned herself out impeccably and kept her dignity and pride to the last. Her death in 1978 was a great loss to the community, as well as to her loving family. Her daughters shared her love of life and her warm, friendly demeanor. Ciss and Mona have been described as “two of life’s most honest, lovely and gentle people.” They insisted on adding up all of their customers’ purchases by hand, even after they had acquired an electronic cash register so that they could be sure their customers were charged correctly. Ciss was described as a graceful, soft-spoken woman with a whimsical smile and her grey hair always tied back in a bun. Her sister Mona, a trained beautician, ran a business in Kilfinane and nearby Charleville. She also worked as a beautician in London for a while, but in the 1960s returned to help her mother and sister operate the pub. There she remained until her death in 1997. Described as a fair-haired lady with an ever-smiling face, she was well-liked by all who visited Fitzgibbon’s. One longtime neighbour recalls her cousin being in love with Mona, and she remembers carrying his love notes to Mona. According to one neighbour, Ciss’s death in 1999 marked the end of an era. “The likes of these three special women will not pass by us again.” Another remarked after Ciss died, “Thus ended the lives and times of the Jerry’s [i.e., Fitzgibbon’s], a gentle, well respected and kindly remembered family—may they all rest in peace.”

While my family and I regret never meeting Catherine, Ciss, and Mona in person, we did get to visit the Fitzgibbon family gravesite at Kilquane Cemetery in Effin Parish. There we thanked each of these special women for bringing so much joy to those who had the privilege of knowing them.

Shanahan Family, Killeedy to Effin

A brief history of our ancestors

Our ancestors were exiled to the Sliabh Luachra area in the late 17th century after their farms were lost
to the Adventurers Act and the Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652. Earlier migrations of people to
this region happened after the Desmond Rebellions of the late 16th century. Killeedy is on the outer
edges of Sliabh Luachra. It was a wet, marshy, brushy mountain area not ideal for farming; it would take
a lot of work to reclaim the land. I remember my grandfather, Jim Shanahan, recounting the accounts of
moving up to the mountain; the process was very gradual, as a lot of work had to be done first.

The first account of a Shanahan in Ballagh was of Edward Shanahan in 1714, but in all likelihood the
Shanahan’s presence in the area predated Edward. The Shanahans were part of the Dál gCais, who were
part of the Déisi Muman, a powerful tribe in Munster. Brian Bóruma is perhaps the best‐known king
from the dynasty and was in large parts responsible for carving out their future fortunes. Brian Boru’s
grandmother was a Shanahan.

Glenquin Castle was taken by the Uí Briain (O’Briens), and during the Desmond Rebellions (1569) it fell to
the Geraldines, until the Crown confiscated their lands in 1571. Two very consequential battles, the Battles of Knocknanuss in 1647 and Knockbrack in 1651, caused mass migrations to this area. “Allistrims Jig” and several other songs and poems were composed for the battle by contemporary Sliabh Luachra poets and musicians. “Allstrim” was really Allister McDonnell, one of the leaders of the Confederate army who was killed by Parliment Forces at the battle of Knocknanuss. The survivors of the defeated Confederate armies from both battles took refuge in the Sliabh Luachra area.

This region remained undisturbed and almost unaccounted for until the agrarian disturbances of the
Rockite Movement, which began in West Limerick in the summer of 1821. Our ancestors originally lived in Waterford before being driven west. “To hell or to Connaught” was the order given by Cromwell to the Gaelic Irish. After leaving Waterford, and before they arrived in Killeedy, the Shanahans lived in several places. According to oral accounts the first of these was Ogonnelloe in east County Clare. Once the resettlement act started to fall apart, they moved to the North Kerry area around Castleisland and Ballmacelligot. Even when they lived in North Kerry, they spent time in Killeedy preparing the lands to be able to support a family. The nearby bog gave them a fuel source, and the land would feed them. According to my great grandfather, Michael, eight generations had lived there until his time. The original home was almost invisible from the other side of ditch, and they also had a view of any approaching danger. None of this was an accident; the location of the homestead was very strategic.

A lot of work needed to be done before moving up to Ballagh. The land wasn’t ready for farming right
away as there was poor drainage and too many trees. Land needed to be cleared and drained and
ditches needed to be dug.

Once the Shanahans settled in Ballagh, they made their living in a few different ways that were all tied
to agriculture. Some of our ancestors were blacksmiths and farmers. Another large source of income
was from producing butter. The butter was packed into firkins and loaded onto horses and taken to
Rockchapel area for transportation to the Cork butter market, where it was exported. In 1830, it was
reported by the office of the revenue that Irish farmers sent 30,000 firkins valued at £52,000, with much
of it passing through the Rockchapel mountain path. As a result of this report, many roads were built in
the area, including the road from Castleisland to Clonbanin, and from Ballydesmond to Newmarket.

People in this region had the highest life expectancy in Ireland. Irish culture was alive and well here, in defiance of the penal laws. When I moved to Ireland in 1973, it was immediately apparent to me that Killeedy had an Irish dancing and music tradition that everyone took part in; everyone knew the set dances and old songs. Twenty‐five miles away in the Charleville area where I went to school, these traditions weren’t nearly as strong. I think it’s safe to say that people like our ancestors were responsible for keeping the old Gaelic ways alive. The cattle market day in Newcastle West was a big day. I remember my Dad telling me stories of how he would help his father guide cattle along the 7 mile journey on foot to sell them at the market.

The Jacobite/Williamite wars of the late 17th century ended any hope of getting any properties back that
were lost during the resettlements that happened during the mid‐17th century. Once the 15,000 Jacobite soldiers left after the Siege of Limerick in 1691, the people of Munster were left vulnerable.
One of the “Wild Geese” was Peter Lacy from Killeedy. Lacy, later known as Prince Eugene of Muscovy, is someone our family would have been very familiar with. His family fought in the Jacobite Army and joined the “Flight of the Wild Geese” after the defeats at Aughrim and the Siege of Limerick. The name James is very common in our family, leaving little doubt that they were on the side of James II and the Catholic House of Stuart. Lacy was born in Killeedy in 1678. The name Lacy is still common in the area. James became popular name with supporters of the house of Stuart and James II. Inversely, the name William doesn’t appear in our line.

Our family name was O’Seanacain from the time of Brian Boru when surnames were first used in
Ireland. Like most people in Ireland during the penal times, the O’, Mc, or Mac would have been
dropped to avoid the persecution carried out by crown forces. One of the O’Shanahans from Waterford
emigrated to Spain at this time. In 1720 a young man by the name of Diego O’Shanahan left Ireland for
Gran Canaria. His name in Ireland was James, but in Spain he was called Diego. His father’s name was
Maurice O’Shanahan, and his mother was Maria Barbara (Valois) O’ Shanahan. The O’Shanahans had ties
to Waterford and Limerick, as did our branch of the family then. The Name Maurice is also common to
both families. Are they related to us? I don’t know for certain. I do know that their story is a fascinating

It turns out that quite a few Irish made their way to Gran Canaria around that time, and today there is a sizeable Irish presence there. Maria Barbara Valois, was more than likely part of the French Huguenot
group that came to Ireland in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. I have researched the name and
have confirmed that “Valois” was indeed a Huguenot name. The O’Shanahans are very prominent in
Gran Canaria to this day. I have spoken with a few of them and learned a lot about their history.

The Penal Laws were enacted in Ireland in 1695 and being an Irish Catholic Nationalist was considered a
crime. It was during the penal times that the Mass Rock and Hedge Schools emerged. The Catholic faith,
Irish music, dance, and poetry were kept alive then in remote hilly regions like the Sliabh Luachra.
Bounties were put on the head of priests caught carrying out sacraments during this time, and very little
church records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths were kept. If a priest was caught with any record of
carrying out a sacrament, deportation or hanging was the punishment. The records I found for the late
18th century were from the parish of Monagea where my GGGG Grandparents Maurice Shanahan and
Margaret Quirke were married in 1793, around the time the Penal Laws began to be dismantled by
various legislation; the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 put an end to the remaining Penal Laws.

According to the 1823 Connaught Journal, there was a Blacksmith in Killeedy around that time by the
name of James Shanahan. The family of Lord Courtenay (Earl of Devon) had owned the land in the area
since 1591. The infamous “Captain Rock” (the leader of the Rockites) was a blacksmith too, and he
worked for the Courtaneys in Newcastle West. Apparently, the Rockites formed in West Limerick in 1821
because of harsh treatment from the Courtenays and other landlords. According to records, a Protestant
church was burned in Killeedy in 1821 and Courtenay’s son, Thomas Hoskins, was assassinated by
“Captain Rock” and his local group of Rockites. James was arrested for participation, and was convicted
at the Limerick Assizes and sentenced to 9 years in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). He was released in 1929. I remember hearing stories how he danced a hornpipe while being led onto the prison ship
Mangles‐ defiant to the last!

During my research, I discovered family names that had been in the area for centuries. A lot of them
died off over the years. The Pickleys seem to have been close with the various Shanahan families in
Killeedy through the years. Killeedy had 11 Shanahan families in 1852. Monegay had 10. Most of them were probably related. The name David Shanahan (Coolaleen) was prominent until 1885, when the last David Shanahan married a Margaret Reidy, who was from Chicago. They lived in Killeedy for a while before moving to Chicago. The name “Jim Pickley” also pops up quite a bit in church records, usually as godparents to children in my direct line, as well as the “David Shanahan” line. My Dad recalls hearing Grandad speak of “Jim Pickley.” The Pickleys were close friends of the Shanahans for generations. Cremins, Wards, and Gibbons are other surnames that appear quite a bit in records also.

The 19th century brought quite a bit of hardship and tragedy to our ancestors. Once the Napoleonic Wars were over in 1815, it was safe to sail to the Americas; it was hazardous up until then as ships were routinely attacked. Catholics weren’t all that welcome in the mostly Protestant America then, but the overwhelming need for labor on infrastructure projects on the Erie and Wabash Canals created an opportunity for people in Ireland who wanted a better life. Several expeditions were organized, one of them being the Peter Robinson Expedition. I don’t think the Shanahans were necessarily part of an expedition, but they did follow the same path as those expeditions, sailing from Cobh to Canada. It was cheaper then to sail to Canada than to America.

Some of the Shanahans stayed in Canada, but most went south to the US. My GGG Grand Uncle Maurice and his wife Mary, bought a farm in Canada that they later sold when they
bought another farm in Michigan in 1850. This is the same Maurice Shanahan who is listed in the 1832 Church of Ireland Tithe Applotment records. He remained a farmer until his death in 1889. Three of Maurice and Mary’s sons went on to hold senior management positions in the Bissell Vacuum Company in Michigan. John Shanahan, one of Maurice’s sons, holds several vacuum design patents with the US Patents Office. My great grandfather Michael worked at Bissell for a while with his cousins and uncles during the 1890s. When Maurice and Mary made the voyage to Canada in 1846 they tragically lost 3 of their daughters on the journey while at sea‐ Bridget, Ellen, and Catherine. A family member remembered Mary as being despondent over the loss for the rest of her life, saying, “I lost half of my family coming here”.

Michael Colbert Shanahan (born 4 Mar. 1843 in Ballagh) was another of the Shanahans who ended up in Michigan. He is pictured here with his wife Anna Murphy, who he met when he moved to NY in 1861. It was taken on their wedding day in July of 1861; Michael was 19 and Anna was 17. Anna died in 1876 at age 30, and Michael remarried sometime after. Michael was a brother to our GG Grandfather James, who was born in 1830. Michael died in Grayling, Michigan on 8 Mar According to the 1904 census, Michael and Anna’s son, Maurice, was living in St Louis and was working as a conductor. This is the same job my G Grandfather Michael also had when he lived in St Louis. Maurice died in Los Angeles in 1959.

The Shanahans history in the Syracuse area goes back to the construction of the Erie Canal, starting in Most of the Shanahans who left Killeedy for North America starting in 1815 and up to the 1850s, followed the same path to Canada, and then Orleans County in New York, which is not far from Rochester. Quite a few Shanahans were born in the village of Holley before branching out to places like Western PA, Michigan, and Syracuse, NY. The attraction then to the upstate New York and Michigan areas was due to
construction of the Erie and Wabash Canals, and the various opportunities that arose due to the construction of these canals. There’s even a “Shanahan Lough” on the Wabash that would have been named after one of our cousins from Ballymacelligot, County Kerry. The “Ballymac Shanahans” were
related to the Shanahans in Charleville and Effin. The first FBI agent killed in the line of duty was Edwin Shanahan, in 1925. His people came from the North Kerry area where our ancestors lived before moving to Killeedy. My Grandfather emigrated to America with his brothers Pat and Maurice, and his sister Catherine. Maurice and Pat stayed in Syracuse. My Grandparents met in Syracuse and were married there in 1930. Michael and Anna on their wedding day.

They had two children in America before returning home to Killeedy to take over the farm. To this day
there are still quite a few Shanahans in that area. America wasn’t the only destination for our ancestors who left home. Quite a few Shanahans went to England. My own parents met there at a dance in 1959. We lived in London for the first 10 years of my life before moving to Effin, County Limerick in 1973, on the day that Limerick beat Kilkenny in the All‐ Ireland Hurling Final‐ I’d like to think we brought them some good luck. My parents emigrated to London in the late 1950s. Work was plentiful and the cost of owning a home and affording a decent standard of living was attainable.

My Grand Uncle Michael went to England after WWII as cities needed to be rebuilt after the German bombing raids during the war. When my dad went to London in 1958, he stayed with Michael and his wife Eileen for a while before finding a place of his own. It was common then for young people to go and stay with a relative. This kind of migration is known as “stem migration. “ It was based on kinship and reciprocity, features that were characteristic of life in rural Ireland. It was this kindness that was the foundation of all our journeys. If we didn’t have a family member willing to put us up, we wouldn’t have had a place to go. I am very grateful to my aunt Betty, and my cousin Eileen for doing this for me (although I was too young and selfish to properly appreciate it at the time).

In closing…this is just a brief snapshot of our family history. There are so many stories that I could fill a
book. I have a complete family tree on – just email me at I can
send a free link for anyone who wants to view it. Thanks to anyone who took the time to read.
That’s all for now…

Effin – where did the name come from?

Many questions have been asked about the name Effin. Where did it come from? There have been numerous spellings and variations on the spelling until we reached the current name. listed the following variations for Effin –

  • Eimhin – Joyce III 345 (Cilleimhin in Allod)
  • Eifing De Bal
  • Eifinn – NMAJ 1945p.158
  • Effyne – CS 232.20
  • Effin – DS ex Goblet 19
  • Effin C
  • Effyng (1240 A.D. Black Book of pg 111, 112
  • Effyn (1328 A.D.
  • Effin (1410 A.D.) G.Mack sp NMDJ 1945/158
  • There is no apparent justification fo assuming this the be the name of a st. NMAJ. 1945 p158 (Mac Spealain)
  • Eifin, St Effins Chruch, local par. B. Effin or Elfin, D.S. Effin an chuid eile)
  • the old church in ruins is called Teampall Eifinn (O.S. Latt II. 340
  • The Irish name is Eifinn, which, as it is the name of a Saint was, it is very likely, preceded by Teampall or Cill, or some such prefix formerly O.S. Lett II 335
  • Effyng – Arch Hib X 115 (Annates 1421 – 1519)
  • apud Effyn – Red Book of Kildare 137 (1381)
  • Burgagio de Effyn – ib 140 (1372)
  • Apud Effyn – ib (1372)
  • ecclesie de Effyn – ib (1372)
  • More research to come…

Mount Blakeney

Associated Families


”Burke’s Irish Family Records” states that this family claim descent from the Blakeneys of Norfolk. William Blakeney was granted lands at Thomastown, parish of Kilbreedy Minor, barony of Coshma, county Limerick by patent of Charles II in 1666/7. His son William Blakeney of Mount Blakeney and Thomastown married Elizabeth Bowerman of Cooliney, county Cork and their eldest son was created 1st [and only] Baron Blakeney in 1756. The Baron’s younger brother Robert Blakeney married Deborah daughter of Grice Smyth of Ballynatray, county Waterford in 1729.

Although Robert had a number of sons it was the descendants of his daughter Gertrude who succeeded to the Mount Blakeney estate. In 1752 she married her cousin Colonel Robert Blakeney of Abbert, county Galway and their daughter married Thomas Lyon of Watercastle, Queen’s County (Laois). Gertrude Blakeney Lyon married Robert Uniacke Fitzgerald of Corkbeg, county Cork and at the time of Griffith’s Valuation she is recorded as the immediate lessor of Mount Blakeney (562 acres) and Thomastown (952 acres).

Robert and Gertrude Fitzgerald did not have children and the property passed to a niece of Robert U. Fitzgerald’s, Anne Stewart and her husband Thomas Stewart who took the additional names of Blakeney and Lyon.

In the 1870s Thomas B. Stewart of Whitegate House, Midleton, county Cork, owned 1,510 acres in county Limerick and 199 acres in county Tyrone. His wife Anne owned 80 acres in county Cork. She was a daughter of James Penrose of Woodhill, county Cork, He was the fourth son of Henry Stewart (died 1840) of Tyrcallen, county Donegal and of the land agency firm of Stewart and Kincaid and a grandson of William Stewart of Killymoon, county Tyrone. Stewart and Kincaid were agents for the Fitzgerald of Mount Blakeney estate in county Limerick and Norton writes that Thomas Stewart succeeded to the Mount Blakeney estate in 1855. His wife Anne Penrose was a niece of Robert Uniake Fitzgerald who was married to Gertrude Blakeney Lyon. Thomas Stewart assumed the additional names of Blakeney Lyon before Stewart and died in 1874. He was succeeded by his brother James Robert Stewart .



House Name / DescriptionTownlandCivil ParishPLUDEDBaronyCountyMap Ref
Mount Blakeney (H4929)
Mount Blakeney is south west of the town of Kilmallock and very close to the border between counties Limerick and Cork. No large house is marked in the townlands of Mount Blakeney or Thomastown on the first Ordnance Survey map (Sheet 47) but a castle is marked in the townland of Mount Blakeney on the Discovery map No 73. In 1786 Wilson refers to Mount Blakeney as the seat of Mr. Blakeney. At the time of Griffith’s Valuation the townlands were in the possession of Mrs. Blakeney Fitzgerald. [Grid Reference is approximate].
Mountblakeney  Kilbreedy Minor  Kilmallock   Coshma  Limerick  Lat/Lon: 52.37994

OSI Ref:
R635255 Discovery map #73. OS Sheet #47.

Archival sources

  • Public Record Office, Northern Ireland: Stewart of Tyrcallen Papers: Letters and papers about the estates of Mrs Gertrude FitzGerald, née Lyon (Watercastle, Queen’s County, and Mount Blakeney, Co. Limerick) 1764-1882. D3319/5

Contemporary printed sources

Many of these resources are now available online. For a list with Web links please see the Online Printed Sources Links

Modern printed sources

Audio Recording of Opening of Hall in Effin 1958

Recently a 60 yr old audio reel recording of the opening of the Hall in 1958 came to light thanks to John Upton who found a collection of audio recordings of Fr. Browne. Digitised by Michael Mulcahy for the collection holder John Upton.

John Upton found this blog on the hall in Effin and contacted me to get some photos to use in the video included in link below.

Follow this link to listen to that night,  sadly many of those voices have now passed on to their eternal reward.

This 55 minute long recording captures long lost voices of a county Limerick community.

Read more about the building of the hall  Muinter na Tire in practice and concrete –

Effin, its Landscape and History

Map of Parish of EffinThe Modern Parish of Effin combines three older religious parishes of Effin, Kilquane and Kilbreedy Minor.

To understand the local history of Effin, we need to examine these old parishes which today form the civil and religious parish of Effin.

As part of the course on local history I conducted some research on the Effin’s, boundaries physical, administrative, artifical and religious. 



For the purposes of this essay a study of the parish of Effin, Co. Limerick, will demonstrate how the parish today is comprised of different boundaries, both administrative and artificial. Gillespie[1][2] claimed that ‘local history is the study of people in a particular place over time’. However, in order to understand the particular place the researcher has to look outside the local area to understand what external influences impact on local history.  On examination of the literature available on Effin there is a lot of evidence to support the theory that local history cannot be confined to artificial or administrative boundaries.  

Effin is a rural parish located between the towns of Charleville in north Cork and Kilmallock in south Limerick It combines three old parishes Effin[3], Kilquane[4] and Kilbreedy Minor[5].  Lewis description of Effin describes the different boundaries both administrative and religious, “Effin a parish partly in the barony of Costlea, but chiefly in that of Cosma, County of Limerick and Province of Muster, 1 3/4 mile (s.s.w) from Kilmallock, on the road to Charleville, containing 2090 and 8281 statue acres of which 5138 are applotted under the tithe act…. in the R.C divisions it is united with those of Kilbreedy-minor and Kilquane….”. [6] 

To understand the local history of Effin, we need to examine these old parishes which today form the civil and religious parish of Effin. The evidence of early boundaries in Effin called ‘tuath’ were Kilquane Parish [7] mentioned in The Ancient Territory Book of Fermoy  “Cell Chuáin (Kilquane) out of which are the Hí Fhiadhain—or I Iain—and the Hí Laegairi are its chieftains”  the ancient boundaries were described local landmarks.” boundary of the two triucha; even as flows the stream of Muilenn Mairteil in Sliabh Caín and Loch Luigni through An Machaire (the plain) and Glen na nDíbergach (the glend of the reavers) through Móin Mór.”[8]   In medieval times this area was part of a larger boundary.  Begley[9] claims that the tuath originally ment a tribe of people but its meaning had changed to signify a place where people lived.  He cites that the tuaths were districts for political and legal administration ant that the large track of land was the tuath mor and the smaller sub divisions were to become parishes.  He claims that the present Diocese of Limerick and the parishes represented this form of boundaries. Effin and Kilquane evidence as being part of a tuath (Fig1)  “churches of Kilbegly, Kilconegan (Kilquane), and Effin, which incidently discloses that the manor was at least co-extensive with the present parish of Effin and that the old tuath of Desibeg extended to the confines of the County Cork”.   

Figure 1 Map showing the ancient tuaths

Earliest Settlements

The earliest form of physical evidence of settlement and boundaries in Effin are what remains of ringforts, there are approximately 30 ringforts documented in the Ordinance Survey Maps of the Parish. Ring forts were fortified settlements which would have occupied by septs or families, or their cattle, the areas around their ringforts would have been their boundaries and their land may have been marked out by standing stones or other markers. Some evidence exists that ringforts were in use by families up to the 12th Century. In O’Donovan’s Ordanance Survey in 1837[10] he identified and named many of ringforts in Effin  for example Caher Fort, Regans Moat, and Finneasys Fort.  Early boundaries would have been marked by a stream or a natural markers.   Later townlands were marked out by stone banks or “ditches”.

 Manors and Castles

In the Thirteenth century the Manor of Tiberneyum (Tobbernea)[11] was an important castle at the time holding a weekly market and yearly fair.[12] It was given to Gerard de Prendergast as a part dowry from Richard De Burgh in 1240.

Its size and boundaries were defined in 1251 as[13] “7 fees, 7 carucates and 59 ½ acres”   Some of this land was sub-let as part payment for knights fees.  There is evidence of serfdom[14] in this manor and the native Irish had given up their freedom and some rights in order to be protected by the local lord. They could not move out of their area without the permission of their lord. The serfs in Tobernea Manor held 3 carucates for 3 marks a year,  “…the natives here as elsewhere where treated as serfs by the Norman, though it is pleasant to find that some of them occupied a more elevated position in the organisation of this manor than is usually allotted to them”[15].  The serfs boundaries would have been defined a boundary of by the area of the manor they were attached to which may have been in operation in other castles in Effin,  like Ballymacshaneboy Castle[16] and Brickfield Castle[17].

 Religious Boundaries

The Celtic Church was primarily based around monastic settlements, it is a local tradition that the first church at Effin was named after St. Eimhin17. He was son of Eoghan McMurchad of Munster.  He formed a church in Effin, and later it is believed he moved to Co. Kildare to form a monastery and as a result the town of Monasterevin was formed.  In the 12th century, the Irish Church adopted the parish form of boundary moved towards a parish form of boundary and, and following restructuring 1152, thirty-eight dioceses, were approved which comprised of the Catholic parishes of Effin, Kilquane and Kilbreedy-Minor.  In 1287, Effin became the prebend[18] of the Church of Limerick, the religious boundaries were defined and when Queen Elizabeth I changed the Catholic

Church into the Protestant Church of Ireland in the 1560’s the old parish of Effin, Kilquane and Kilbreedy-Minor now became protestant parishes and upon these the civil parishes were based. Edmund Spencer the famous Elizabethan poet has been mentioned as being a prebend of Effin parish   “Collection of the arrearages of first fruits. These contain the names of many of the clergy of the time, amongst others . Edmondus Spenser, prebendary of Effin.”[19]

 First Official Boundaries

The first official boundaries and maps in existence for Effin whish is spread across Baronies of Coshlea[20] and Coshma[21] (Fig2) is in the Down Survey, with which was known as the Civil Survey. An extensive mapping of Ireland was carried out by William Petty in 1655 and 1656.  After the Cromwellian Conquest the government had to pay many of the adventurers and soldiers for their support in the wars in Ireland, They were to be repaid using the confiscated lands and in order to discover the size and quality of land. He listed parishes under their barony boundaries.  The Civil Survey lists Parish of Effyne,  as being owned by George Earl of Kildare, English Interest and The Manor of Tobernea, it describes the land and defines the boundaries and some of the townlands within his ownership.[22]  In the 17th Centaury 331 Baronies and counties became established in the government land surveys.

Figure 2 Map of Baronies in Co. Limerick


 In the 1830’s a detailed mapping of townlands was required to make the tax system more equitable as local taxes were based on the valuation of the townland units. On examining the 6” Ordinance Survey Maps of 1820 for Effin and Kilquane parishes (Fig 3), they illustrate very detailed mapping of local features such as ringforts, location of castles, churches, graveyards, large houses, large farms, and smaller holdingsTownlands were traditionally less than acre and up to several thousand acres, depending on type and quality of land. Richard Griffin was appointed in 1825 to lead a new boundary department.   He began compiling a list townlands and began to define the boundaries of each townland by using local ‘meresmen’ to show the OS officers along the boundaries.   In the 1840’s  John O’Donovan regularised the spelling of townlands and places which are still in use today  his “Book of Field Names”, which is an invaluable source for local historians  The Tithe Applotment Census[23] records for the Effin Civil Parish in 1828, locals are listed under their Surnames, and Townland. Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland in 1851 used the townland system of land division for valuation purposes.

Figure 3 Sample of the 6″ Ordinance Survey map of Effin Parish

Link to OSI Maps on line

Poor Law Union

In 1838, a system of Poor Law was introduced into Ireland which saw the establishment of a workhouse system.  Effin is included in the Poor Law Union of Kilmallock whose workhouse was built in 1839-40.  Poor Law Unions were made up of other parishes in the region. 

District Electoral Division

In 1911 census The District Electoral Division (DED) administrative boundaries were used to organise data. Effin parish is in the District Electoral Divisions of Tobernea and Ballyshonakin.  Examining the ‘House and Building return form B’ the census of the townland of Ballyshonakin[24] in the parish of Effin lists the civil districts under the headings: County, Parliamentary Division, The Poor Law

Union; District Electoral Division, Townland, Barony, and Parish. 


On examining the above literature and source materials on the parish of Effin it was beneficial to look at external influences to understand what was happening at a local level.  It has also been presented from the above material how its landscape and history evolved from the ancient boundaries of Tuath of Desibeg, Manors, Baronies, and effects that colonisation in Ireland and Down Survey had locally.  Effin is a rural area that is linked historically, economically, politically administratively to local towns, cities, counties and nationally and internationally The evidence above demonstrates how these external influences outside of the Parish of Effin have to be considered when researching its local history therefore agreeing with the argument that local history should not be confined to artificial or administrative boundaries. 


[1] Raymond Gillespie and Myrtle Hill, Doing  Irish local history: pursuit and practice (Belfast,

[2] ), p.13




[6] Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Limerick City and County (D-K),


[7] J.G. O’Keeffe, The ancient territory of Fermoy in Ériu. Volume 10, Dublin, Royal Irish

Academy (1926-28) page 170–189, p182

[8] J.G. O’Keeffe, The ancient territory of Fermoy in Ériu. Volume 10, Dublin, Royal Irish

Academy (1926-28) p177 page 170–189

[9] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p3

[10] Ordinance Survey of Ireland 1839 – 1840, Field Name Books of the County and City of Limerick  with the Place Names, English and Irish, as explained and Fixed by John O’Donovan. 

Parish of Kilquane, Barony of Coshlea p1180

[11] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p174  

[12] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p 176

[13] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p 175

[14] serfdom.” The Oxford Companion to Irish History. 2007. 31 Oct. 2010 <>

[15] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaevial (1906) p176

[16] Michael J Carroll, Castles of Limerick (Bantry Studio Publications 2005) p88

[17] Michael J Carroll, Castles of Limerick (Bantry Studio Publications 2005) p106 17 Cullen, John. “St Eimhin. “The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 26 Oct 2010 <;

[18] “Prebend.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 31 Oct. 2010 <;.

[19] Spenser in Ireland  Frederic Ives Carpenter Modern Philology

Vol. 19, No. 4 (May, 1922), pp. 405-419  Published by: The University of Chicago Press, p 406

Stable URL:

[20] The barony of Coshma in the county of Limerick (1650’s?) Scale 160 perches in an inch

Published at the Ordnance Survey office Southampton 1908, reproduced by permission of the French government from the original in the Bibliotheque Nationale Paris, Map No 20, Limerick Local Studies Library.

[21] The barony of Coshlea in the county of Limerick (1657?). Scale 320 perches in an inch

Published at the Ordnance Survey office Southampton 1908, reproduced by permission of the

French government from the original in the Bibliotheque Nationale Paris. Map No 21 Limerick Local Studies Library  

[22] Robert C. Simington, The Civil Survey 1654-1656 County of Limerick, Vol IV, (Stationery Office, Dublin 1938) p128

[23] The Effin CP Tithe Applotment transcribed for the LDS film #0256608.



Religious Sites in Effin

Religious Sites in Effin

Effin Parish has two Churches still in use today, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Effin, and St Patricks in Garrienderk, but one time it had up 3 or 4 churches and a couple of graveyards.

According to Lewis in 1937, when Effin was united with the parish of Kilquane and Kilbreedy Minor, there were two small chapels in the parish; one at Effin, the other at Kilbreedy. Prior to that Effin had a church in Kilbreedy-Minor, a church in Ballymacshaneboy (This was a wooden church and can be seen on the 1846 Maps) and a church in Effin.

A new church was built in Effin 1835-6 and the church in Ballymacshaneboy closed. the Church in Effin was modernised in the late 1960s and rededicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace. Garrienderk Church was built in the 19th Century and called St Patricks Church.

Photos 1:   Our Lady Queen of Peace, Effin        Photo 2: St Patricks Church, Garrienderk

KILBREEDY-MINOR, a parish, in the barony of COSHMA, county of LIMERICK, and province of MUNSTER, 2 miles (N. W. by N.) from Kilmallock, and on the road from that place to Charleville; containing 600 inhabitants. It comprises 2087 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the soil is very good, but only about one-fifth of it is under tillage, the remainder being meadow or pasture land. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Limerick, and in the gift of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £130. In the R. C. divisions, the parish forms part of the union or district of Effin. Near the south bank of the structure are the ruins of the old church. Kilbreedy Minor church was badly ruined by the late 1830s. Only the middle and side walls of the choir remained.  The last known burial was in this graveyard in the 1950s.


Kilquane church was a brown sandstone church erected at the foot of Cahir Hill. By 1840, little remained of this ancient structure. Another church, Kilbigly church, had disappeared by 1840.  The parish of Kilquane had its own chapel up to the 1830s when a new chapel was erected in Effin. A few years before its closure, up to 600 people were attending mass there every Sunday. It was a thatched chapel located in Ballymacshaneboy,  Sadly it no longer remains the site of it can be seen in the 1846 Ordnance Survey maps. The last part of it standing was the sacristy and this remained up to and around 1910 when it was occupied by the local shoemaker, a man by the name of Casey. The boundary wall still remains and the entrance can be seen it is on the right-hand side before you come to the Harp Bar.


There are three Graveyards in the parish, Effin and Kilquane still in use but Kilbreedy Minor (Thomastown) is hard to access as it is through a couple of fields is no longer in use. The site of Kilbreedy graveyard is located near the north-west corner of a large pasture field about one mile west of the main Cork-Limerick road, and 2 ½ miles west of Bruree. The field, locally known as ‘Church Field’, is in the townland of Kilbreedy. It is probable that there was once a church dedicated to St Brigid in this townland. The site was later used as a Children’s graveyard. This site is shown as a circle of dots in the 1840 edition of the Ordnance Survey Map. All that remains now is a mound 2 feet high and measuring approximately 36 feet north-south and 18 feet east-west. There is a slight depression on the outside all around

Both Effin and Kilquane graveyards are now digitally mapped and can be found on the Historic Graves website.

The following article was written in the 1840s from the O’Donovans survey of Limerick. describes the old ruined church which can be still seen in the old Graveyard in Effin, and describes some of the holy wells in the area which I’ve talked about in another post.


The ruins of an old church are situated in Effin Townland. It consisted of two apartments (nave and choir); the east and west gables, the north wall of the nave and twenty two feet in length of the south wall of it at the west end are razed all to the foundation. About fifeen feet in  height of the middle gable yet remains. The choir was thirty feet and twenty two feet eight inches. The nave measured fifty three feet and was equal with the choir in breadth. At the distance of three feet ten inches from the east gable, there is placed on the south wall a quadrangular window which measures three and a half feet by two and a half feet on the inside. It measures on the outside two feet five and a. half inches in height and seven inches at the top and eight inches it the bottom in breadth. The quadrangular is its form on both sides, lamely inside and outside. It is built with chiselled brown stones.

There is a door placed on the middle gable, which is pointed and built with chiselled brown stones, measuring six and a half feet in height and four feet three inches in breadth on the choir side, the height being five feet nine inches and breadth three and a half feet on the nave side. The choir seems to have been in use at a later period than the nave.

Distant six feet ten inches from this gable there is, on the remaining part of the south side wall belonging to the nave, a quadrangular window which measures three and a half feet by two feet one inch inside and two feet four inches by seven inches on the outside. It is built with chiselled brownstones. The side walls are about ten feet high and three feet thick. The materials of the building are fieldstones (not lime ones) mostly of round form, and cement of gravelly sand and lime mortar. There is here a large graveyard much in use. The locality is level ground. About half a furlong to the northwest of this place is Our Lady’s Well, at which stations were formerly performed. Another Holy Well called Tober a Cran is situated west of Gortacrank Townland.

Effin During the 1840’s and Famine Times


I  came across this very interesting piece last week written by Desmond Norton who go access to various papers from the Steward and Kincaid Collection while doing some research on Effin, called; 

Distress and Benevolence on Gertrude Fitzgerald’s Limerick Estate in the 1840s, WP02/14, April 2002 – A Record of Mount Blakney Estate and Tenants during Famine Times (Norton, 2006).

This paper is well worth reading and gives a fascinating insight into social and economic conditions in Effin particularly around Mount Blakney/Thomastown area in the 1840s and during the Famine times.

Read Norton’s Paper: HERE

It contains extracts of letters written by tenants and land agents of Gertrude Blakney Fitzgerald who was the landlord in Mount Blakeney at the time. Gertrude Blakney had no children and the estate was left to her niece Anne Steward and her husband Thomas Stewart in 1855. Steward and Kincad were a land agency firm and agents for Mount Blakeny Estate.

The letters originally came from the archives of a firm of Dublin solicitors, Stewart and Kincaid, who acted as landlords’ agents on a large scale. The letters are from landlords’ agents and sublandlords nationwide, concerning the collection of rent.  

On 27 September 1844 Murnane informed SK that;

“the potatoes are very bad with most of the tenants”.

The Keeffes were not the only tenants who petitioned Mrs Fitzgerald in October 1844. On 30 October she wrote to Kincaid:

I enclose a Letter which I received … from Maurice Foley …. I hope you will excuse my troubling you with it, as I am persuaded you will both act impartially, and allow the Tenants any reasonable indulgence you may think them entitled to. Since I wrote the above I received the accompanying Petition from John and James Keefe … which I leave to your better judgement”.

It would be interesting to see what happened the families that emigrated and are there any descendants still in the parish today.

These letters were put up for sale with Adams Auction House in the 2010 but fortunately were withdrawn as there was some question as to their ownership. Thankfully they were not sold off but remain as a special collection.  I am  trying to locate their current whereabouts and where they are stored as they may contain more important information about Effin during that time.

Norton’s Stewart and Kincaid, Irish Land Agents in the 1840s” also includes some some further information and insight in his other article.

Effin Hurling Team – Songs

Effin has always had great pride in its hurling teams and often songs where written about their feats on the playing pitch. One of the first songs is about the 1937 South Winning Team right up to the last winning team in 2011.

1937 South Winning Team

(Composed by Dan O’Brien, Ballymack and remembered by Bertie O’Brien, Tobernea)

You may boast about your hurling teams,
Kilkenny, Cork & Clare
But wind your way to Effin
Better hurlers you’ll find there,
You will see young John Fitzgibbon a fine athletic youth
With Paddy Ryan & Johnny & Tommy Francis Bluett.

You’ll see Gilbert, Hayes & earthy,
on them, you may depend,
No flying ball will pass them
For their gap, they will defend
You’ll see Gallant Michael Carroll
With Fitz from Maiden Hall,
And Willy Jack Fitzgerald to forward out the ball,

They crossed hurleys with the Stakers
and played with fourteen men,
In the fair field of Kilmallock
and sight gloriously did win.
They were drawn against Kilmallock
Old Friendships to renew
And they played against that sturdy team
In the place, they call Glenroe

They marched into the hurling field
and stood there in a line
And there they waited for orders
From their captain Paddy Ryan
The cheers rang out and echoes far
and pierced the blue hill thro;
We got a great reception
That day in famed Glenroe


The next song I’ve come accross is this one written about the Minor Hurlers from 1959 by unknown author.

minor team 1959

The Effin Minor Hurlers 1959

(Composer Unknown)

The South Championship of Limerick, the Minor Hurling Grade,
When Effin beat the Croom boys as the evening sun did fade.
We have Christy Conway in the gap, as good as can be seen,
With Carroll John outside him, a giant of seventeen.

Continue reading “Effin Hurling Team – Songs”