Primary School Artists celebrate St Willibrord’s life

In celebration of the Feast of St Willibrord, Patron Saint of Luxembourg and his Co Carlow connection the Right Reverend Michael Burrows, Bishop of Ossory, Cashel, Ferns, Lismore, Waterford and Leighlin along with the Most Reverend Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin invited 5th and 6th class pupils in primary schools in Co. Carlow to take part in an art competition.

Tuesday last, the winners of the competition gathered in Carlow County Museum, with their proud parents to accept their plaques and a class arts supply voucher from Bishop Burrows, Bishop Nulty and Cllr. Fergal Browne, Chair of Carlow County Museum.

First place went to Hannah Kehoe 6th Class Borris N.S., second place to Zach Cassells 6th Class, Carlow N. S. and joint third place to Kacper Gniedziejko 6th Class, Scoil Molaise and Catelyn James Gibbons 6th Class, St Mary’s N. S.

The winning student’s artwork beat off tough competition from around the county. Their pieces featured aspects of St Willibrord’s life, the life of a monk, the illuminated manuscripts they produced and medieval religious settlements from Co. Carlow.

This presentation comes in the lead up to a joint Diocesan Pilgrimage this June to Echternach, the town in Luxembourg where St Willibrord is buried in the vault of the monastery he established. The pilgrimage will be led by both Bishop Burrows and Nulty and in Echternach both Bishops will accept a Relic of St Willibrord for display in Co. Carlow. It will be taken on a ‘Walk with Willibrord’ on Saturday June 24th from St. Laserian’s Cathedral, Old Leighlin to the Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow town via the Barrow Way. Carlow County Museum will also be hosting a special free exhibition in his honour starting this summer.


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Gallery dedication in honour of the O’Hanrahan Family from Tullow Street

On Saturday 11th March last the Carlow County Museum temporary exhibition gallery has been dedicated in honour of the O’Hanrahan Family/ Uí Annracháin for their contribution to Irish independence. They lived at 90 and 91 Tullow Street in the late 19th and early 20th century. The dedication and plaque unveiling was performed by Pearse O’Hanrahan, great grand nephew of the Richard and Mary O’Hanrahan, and grandnephew of their children Harry, Micheál, Edward, Áine (Ciss), Máire and Eily. Richard was a member of the Fenian’s and 2017 marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of their rebellion in 1867. Pearse was accompanied by his brother Harry and several other O’Hanrahan relations were present including Deirdre Lawlor a grand and great grandniece of the O’Hanrahan’s being honoured.

Present at the unveiling were Cllr. John Murphy, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council; Cllr. Fintan Phelan, Chairperson of the Carlow Ireland 2016 Committee and Cllr. Fergal Browne, Chairperson of the Board of Carlow County Museum.

Image of Pearse O'Hanrahan and Dermot Mulligan, Curator of Carlow County Museum

Pearse O’Hanrahan and Dermot Mulligan, Curator of Carlow County Museum

Speaking at the dedication Pearse O’Hanrahan, who had travelled from Dundalk, said he was very pleased that the entire family were being honoured and he thank both Carlow County Council and the Museum Board for the gesture. To those present at the dedication it was clear that Pearse spoke from the heart when he mentioned all the family members and their roles. They were involved in the many organisations including the Irish Republican Brotherhood, The Irish Volunteers and Cumman na mBan. He gave special mention to the three sister Áine (Ciss), Máire and Eily who were all born in Carlow and that they had a proud and important role in the Rising. He focused on how the family home in Dublin was at the centre of the creation and storing of the arms that would be used in the Rising. Importantly, despite being raided by the British army no arms were ever found in the house and this was something the sisters were very proud of.

Cllr. John Murphy, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council said that the O’Hanrahan’s, ‘during both the 19th century and the 20th century, played their part in the struggle for independence. The O’Hanrahan name is still remembered in the town with O’Hanrahan’s GFC named in honour of Micheál.’ He thanked ‘the O’Hanrahan’s GFC for loaning the ‘O’Hanrahan Cup’ to the Museum for display. This cup was originally presented by the O’Hanrahan sisters to the club in memory of Micheál.’ He also mentioned that Harry and Micheál were founder members of The Workman’s Club, the last such club in the country.

Cllr. Fintan Phelan, Mayor of the Municipal District of Carlow and Chairperson of the Carlow Ireland 2016 Committee said ‘the O’Hanrahan family made a huge contribution to the 1916 Rising and to life here in Carlow. It is therefore very fitting that this gallery is dedicated in honour of them’ and that they lived very close to where the Museum is located today.

Cllr. Fergal Browne, Chairperson of the Board of Carlow County Museum speaking as Gaeilge in honour of Micheál being a founder of the Carlow branch of Conradh na Gaeilge spoke on the importance of Irish culture to the family and the role they played in promoting this and especially the language.

This exhibition gallery, that has been dedicated to the O’Hanrahan family, displays the Museum’s rotating and temporary exhibitions. The current exhibition, The Quiet Revolution, the 70th Anniversary of Rural Electrification will be finishing in the next two weeks and will be replaced by an exhibition on St Willibrord, Patron Saint of Luxembourg and his Co Carlow connection.

Medal Presentation

Presentation of specially commissioned Carlow Ireland 2016 medal to Pearse O’Hanrahan

Following the dedication Pearse along with his brother Harry unveiled the stone plaque confirming the dedication. This was followed by the presenting of a special Carlow County Council 1916 – 2016 medal to Pearse O’Hanrahan jointly by Cllr. John Murphy, Cathaoirleach of Carlow County Council; Cllr. Fintan Phelan, Chairperson of the Carlow Ireland 2016 Committee and Cllr. Fergal Browne, Chairperson of the Board of Carlow County Museum.

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Many thanks to Paul Curran, Carlow County Council for the images in this post.

St Brigid of Kildare

St Brigid of Kildare 451-524


St Brigid as carved in the 20 foot high pulpit on display in Carlow County Museum


Debate over realty

There is debate over whether St Brigid is a real person or not, since St Brigid shares the name of the Pagan Irish goddess associated with Spring, healing and blacksmithing.

The goddess Brigid[i] is celebrated on February 1st [ii} which is the same as St Brigid’s feast day.

This makes some people believe that she is a Christianisation of the god.

Early life

Brigid was born in Faughart, Dundalk in county Louth[iii], her mother was a Scottish slave called Brocca who had been baptized St Patrick.

Her father was a chieftain of Leinster[iv].

Brigid was born a slave and was holy from day one, when a druid tried to feed her she vomited due to his impurity.

A white cow with red ears appeared to sustain her. When she was ten years old she gave away all her mother’s butter stores to the poor. The stores replenished when she prayed.

Her father was annoyed with her charity to people that he took her in a chariot to the king of Leinster[v] to sell her. While he was talking to the king, Brigid gave away his jeweled sword to a beggar to barter it for food to feed his family. The king recognised her holiness and convinced her father to grant his daughter her freedom.


According to tradition, around 480, Brigid founded a monastery[vi] at Kildare on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid, served by a group of young women who tended an eternal flame[vii]. The site was under a large oak tree on the ridge of Drum Criadh.

She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and invited Conleth[viii] (Conláed), a hermit from Old Connell near Newbridge, to help her in Kildare as spiritual pastor of them.

Brigid is also credited with founding a school of art, including metal work and illumination, which Conleth oversaw.


St Conleth, Patron saint of Kildare diocese


When she was a teenager, Brigid was trying to go see Saint Patrick[ix] but was slowed up by the crowd. To get through, she healed people along the way.

The prayers of Saint Brigid were known to still the wind and the rain.

Brigid was known to turn water into milk or beer for the curing of Easter[x].

This piece has been researched and written by David Sherry, Transition Year Student, Presentation College, Carlow as part of his work experience in Carlow County Museum.


[i] Daughter of the great god Dagda, she is the Irish equivalent of the Greek god Athena.

[ii] One of the 4 Celtic “Fire Festivals. Commemorates the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden. Celebrates the first signs of Spring.


[iv] Dubthach, a chieftain who served the king of Leinster, He sold Brigid’s mother to a druid before she gave birth.

[v] No known name is given, though is most likely Crimthann mac Énnai who was king at that time.

[vi] The church was named Cill Dara (the church of the oak), Cill Dara grew into the town of Kildare and also gave the county its name.

[vii] A sacred fire burned in Kildare reaching back into pre-Christian times.

[viii] Patron saint for Kildare diocese, Assistant of St. Brigid in 490 A.D


[ix] Saint Patrick who is the patron saint of Ireland.


[x] A Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Thompsons Engineering

The original company was established in 1878 by Thomas Thompson[i].  The business now has over 120 years of experience and has traded through many economic cycles producing engineering products which have been specified by their customers.  Those have included farm machinery, turbines, haulage wagons, hydroelectric installations, ammunitions, aeroplane parts, peat processing machinery and much more.  First under its founder and afterwards under the late Fred Thompson, the firm expanded to acquire premises and business in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Wexford, Carrick-on-Suir and Ballyellen[ii].

In 1902 the company had expanded substantially and it was moved to a new site in Carlow Town.  The new premises, formerly the Gaol house, was renamed the Hanover Works.  In 1903 Fred Thompson, Thomas’s son took charge of the company.  Thompsons built the Carlow Sugar Factory in 1926[iii].  The first sod was turned on 5th January 1926 and the building was finished in nine months.

The Bristol F.2 Fighter was a British two seat biplane fighter and reconnaissance aircraft of the World War 1 and was developed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company.  Despite being a two-seater, the F.2B proved to be an agile aircraft that could hold its own against opposing single seat fighters.  The designer of the plane was Captain Frank Barnwell.  The main users of the plane were the Royal Flying Corps and the Polish Air Force[iv].  The frame of a Bristol Fighter wing is on display in Carlow County Museum. The frame was manufactured in Thompsons and the wing on display is dated September 1918.


This photograph shows portion of the wing that is displayed in the Museum.


This piece has been researched and written by Seth Heslin, Transition Year Student, Knockbeg College, Carlow as part of his work experience in Carlow County Museum.





[iii]  A History of Farm Mechanism in Ireland 1890-1990 by John Neill-Watson 1993



Celebrating The Feast Of St Willibrord, Patron Saint Of Luxembourg & His Carlow Connection


On Monday the 7th of November at 7.00pm in St Laserian’s Cathedral, Old Leighlin the Feast of St Willibrord, Patron Saint of Luxembourg and his Co Carlow connection will be celebrated with an ecumenical service led by the Right Reverend Michael Burrows, Bishop of Ossory, Cashel, Ferns, Lismore, Waterford and Leighlin along with the Most Reverend Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. This will be followed by a lecture by Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Department Of History, NUI Galway on Clonmelsh, Willibrord, and Carlow’s Contribution to the Anglo-Saxon mission on the continent in the 8th century. All are welcome to attend.

St Willibrord was born near York in England and he is the Patron Saint of Luxembourg. He was trained and ordained at a religious site located in the townland of Garryhundon, Co Carlow commonly referred to as Killogan, Rath Melsigi (Rathmelsh) or Clonmelsh Graveyard. During the seventh and eighth centuries this site was the most important Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical settlement in Ireland. It was here from 678AD to c. 720AD that Willibrord and many other Englishmen were trained for the continental mission. He is buried in the Basilica of Echternach, Luxembourg which is the centre of his monastery.

The evening in St. Laserian’s Cathedral will begin at 7.00pm with ‘Vespers of Saint Willibrord’ an ecumenical service led by the Bishop Michael Burrows, and Bishop Denis Nulty. This will be followed (7.45pm) by a lecture by Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Department of History, NUI Galway on the history and importance of Clonmelsh, Willibrord, and Carlow’s Contribution to the Anglo-Saxon mission on the continent in the 8th century. Since the early 1980s Prof Ó Cróinín has been researching and publishing articles on the connection with Carlow and the continental missions. In 690AD Willibrord led a successful mission from Carlow, made up of Irishmen and Englishmen. As part of his abbey in Echternach he established a very important scriptorium and for a considerable period of time the Abbey produced many of the bibles, psalms and prayerbooks that are to be found today in the great libraries of Europe. It is likely that the first generation of these scribes were from Co. Carlow or had trained here. Many of the earliest Anglo-Saxon manuscripts were written in Irish script either by Irish monks based in Britain or by Anglo-Saxons who were trained by the Irish. From Echternach he continued to co-ordinate missions to the surrounding countries until 739AD, when he died aged 81.

Great devotion and religious festivals are still held to this day in his honour and in particular a hopping procession, a dance that dates back to, if not predates St. Willibrord’s life time. The hopping procession which takes place annually on the Tuesday after Pentecost Sunday sees thousands of people from across Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and Germany descending on Echternach to partake This unique procession coupled with the European importance of the Abbey saw the procession granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010.

In June 2017 both Bishop Burrows and Nulty will lead a joint Diocesan Pilgrimage to Echternach, the town in Luxembourg where St Willibrord is buried in the vault of the monastery he established there. This is one of the highlights of a programme devised for 2017 to celebrate the historical connection between the two areas. The pilgrimage bookings are being coordinated through Tully’s Travel Agents, Carlow Town.

Police in Carlow


Law & Order display in Carlow County Museum.

In 1825, a bill was introduced to reorganise the police system in Ireland. Its purpose was to create one force for the country – outside of Dublin, and replace the Peace Preservation Force established in 1814.  In 1836, on the 20th of May the bill became law and was known as the Constabulary (Ireland) Act, 1936.1

The strength of the constabulary was fixed by the Act at 10,500 men. However this strength was subject to change. In the 1850’s it was almost 13,000 and in the early 1880’s it reached an all time high of 14,000. It was spread over the country in about 1500 police barracks and established on semi military lines. The strength of Dublin Metropolitan Police stood at around 1,200 being divide into seven districts.  Its first recruit, back in 1837 was Constable Delaney, a native of Durrow, Co. Laois. 2

The first police barracks in Carlow town was in Burrin St, opened in 1840 and formerly the Yellow Line Inn. At Forge Cross, Graiguecullen, another police barracks was situated, serving Graiguecullen and the adjoining area. The police moved to the barracks in Tullow St., now occupied by the Gardaí, in 1870. County Carlow was divided into two police districts, that of Carlow and Muinebeag, Carlow town being county and district headquarters combined. 3

In the period 1903-05 the County Inspector in Carlow town was D.I. Samuel Carter who resided at Otterholt, Kilkenny Road and also had residence at the Monavea, Cettyyard, Co. Laois. At the same time the District Inspector in Muinebeag was D.I. Roberts, later Assistant Inspector-General of the R.U.C, in Belfast. 4

The last Head Constable was H.C. James McGlinchey. The Head Constable was actually the member in charge of the Barracks or station. Other Head Constables to serve in Carlow town in the early 1900’s were Head Constables John Reynolds and John McCoy.

A new contingent of the newly formed Gardaí arrived in Carlow in September 1922. The breakdown was three Sergeants and twenty-eight Gardaí. Those were the men charged with policing the county into the future. They were housed in an old R.I.C. Barracks in mid Tullow Street until arrangements were made to deploy them to other stations in the county.5 The military police force of the fledgling free state Army took over the Barracks on the withdrawal of the R.I.C and they now in turn control to the new presence as did also the judge of the Republican Court, Mr. John Foley. The members of the new force was very well received by the people of Carlow and the force were heartened by their welcome.6

On the day of their arrival the Republican Peace Commissioners, Nicholas Roche, Tullow Street and Patrick Donohue of Dublin Street also tendered their resignations. Everybody respected the neutrality of the Gardaí. A tribute must be paid to all those men who served all of us with great charity, common sense, and impartiality down through the years and still do to this day.  7

The last of the R.I.C departed from Carlow in February 1922 and on the 28th September, 1922, the first members of the Garda Force, then known as the Civic Guards arrived in Carlow. This force consisted of a party of three Sergeants and twenty eight Gardaí. The Sergeants were Sergeants Martin Walsh, John McGloin and Patrick Duffy. The Gardaí were:  Gardaí Denis Flynn, Peter Flanagan, John Rodgers, Martin Walsh, Martin Fennessy, and others whose names are unknown. 8

Sergeants in charge in Carlow town. 

1925 Sgt. Phelan

1928 Sgt. Carney

1932 Sgt. M Farrell

1937 Sgt. J Hudson

Ex R.I.C members who enlisted in the Gardaí. 

627- O’Farrell, John

884- Doyle, John

1988- Murphy, Patrick

This piece has been researched and written by Akhimoni Uddin, Transition Year Student, St. Leo’s College, Carlow as part of her work experience in Carlow County Museum. The Transition Year ‘Be Involved Volunteer Programme’ is organised by the Carlow Volunteer Centre.




1 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

2 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

3 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

4 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

5 – ‘A New Law and Order We Bring to You’, Des Nolan, Carloviana 1998 p.62-64

6 – ‘A New Law and Order We Bring to You’, Des Nolan, Carloviana 1998 p.62-64

7 – ‘A New Law and Order We Bring to You’, Des Nolan, Carloviana 1998 p.62-64

8 – ‘The Police in Carlow’, Jim Westman, Carloviana 1978/79 p.7

Printing Press Research


An Albion Printing Press, 1856, currently on display in Carlow County Museum. It was used for decades by local newspapers The Nationalist and the Leinster Times.

How printing started

Printing was not invented by Johannes Gensfleisch Alias Gutenberg instead, it was actually in China that, about 600 years after Christ, the first one sided prints were made. By about 150 years after Christ, the Chinese had also invented paper, the most important medium for printing.

The power of knowledge was, as result of Johannes Gutenberg’s idea, no longer the privilege of only a few. From now on information was not passed as a result of human communication alone. It developed into an asset which was available when needed, could be carried around and was easy to come by. Gutenberg’s idea was to widen the horizons of printing, to become flexible, versatile, and independent. Gutenberg’s “system” was an ideal combination of multiple individual well-thought out inventions, completely equal with modern technical complexes. Letters which could be varied as required, a metal mould, a manual casting device, a special alloy, a press, printing ink with particular properties and a certain kind of paper- only with this combination was success possible.

Printing was called the “black art” in the beginning as people could not understand how someone could produce books so quickly or how they could all be exactly alike, people feared printing and thought it derived from Satan yet despite this the use of printing became very popular and quickly spread all throughout Europe.1

Different types of printing

  1. Letterpress printing- With Letterpress printing, the printing parts are raised. The flat type form is inked with small rollers, then the impression cylinder, which carries the sheet of paper, rolls over the printing surface.
  2. Rotary relief printing- This process is mainly used by daily newspapers. Here, too, the printing parts are raised but the type form is round. The impression cylinder presses the paper against it.
  3. Offset printing- Offset printing is based on the physical law that water and oil repel one another. The printing surface is treated photographically and chemically so that the printing parts absorb ink and all the other parts repel it. In offset printing a zinc aluminium plate bearing the type form is wrapped round a cylinder and first prints onto a rubber cylinder, which then prints onto paper. Because the type form does not come into contact with the paper (hence “off set”) it is possible to produce large numbers of copies.
  4. Rotogravure printing- This is used mainly for producing coloured magazines with a high circulation. The printing parts are carved into the surface of a copper cylinder. After the whole cylinder has been inked, a scraper, or doctor blade, moves across the surface, and only the ink on the engraved parts of the cylinder remains and is taken up by the paper.2

Printing in Ireland

Printing did not arrive in Ireland until 1551 when Humphrey Powell printed The Boke of Common Praier. This first book in Irish type was paid for by Elizabeth I and was probably manufactured in London.

In 1571 an unidentified printer printed Aibidil Gaoidheilge Agus Caiticiosma, the first book using the Irish character.3

In the 1800’s, the newspapers cost sixpence each- quite a lot of money in those days- one penny of which was a special “tax on knowledge” put there to inflate the price so that lower orders would not be able to purchase papers and be influenced by their ideas into anti-government activity. Published weekly, and very rarely bi-weekly, their circulation normally varied from 3,000 upwards.4

Local printing

It is not known exactly when the printing press was established in Carlow… it was early in 1770, when the “Carlow Journal” was founded by William Kinnier, Kinneir or Kinnear, as it was variously spelled.5

The founders of the Nationalist and Leinster Times, Patrick Conlan and his brother John extended the circulation of the newspaper through counties Carlow, Kildare and Laoighs. On the death of Patrick Conlan at an early age of 46 his brother John continued for some time to direct and edit the Nationalist.6


  1. ‘A History of Irish Printing’, National Print Museum,
  2. ‘How the job is done’, Hans-Werner Klien, The Nationalist and Leinster Times 1883-1983 p.13
  3. ‘A History of Irish Printing’, National Print Museum,
  4. ‘Carlow Newspapers 1828-1841’, Brother P.J. Kavanagh, M.A., Carloviana 1975 p.26-28.
  5. ‘Printing In Carlow’, Brian W. Keogh, Carloviana 1994/1995 p.12.
  6. ‘How, where and when they founded: The Nationalist’, William Ellis, The Nationalist and Leinster Times 1883-1983 p.2


This piece has been researched and written by Andrea Istrati, Transition Year Student, St. Leo’s College, Carlow as part of her work experience in Carlow County Museum. The Transition Year ‘Be Involved Volunteer Programme’ is organised by the Carlow Volunteer Centre.


Recently Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland visited the holy wells at Cranavane near Kildavin, Co. Carlow. Here is their blog:

Carnavane/Crann a Bhán (white tree) holy well, is located near the village of Kildavin in Co Carlow a short distance from the Wexford/Carlow border. The well has no patron but it was likely at one time dedicated to St Finian who was born at nearby Myshall. A stone beside the lower holy well is said […]

via Cranavane Holy Well Co Carlow — Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland

St Laserian at Lorum Co Carlow — Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland

I was hoping to have this post ready for the feast day of St Laserian on the 18th of April but better late then never. St Laserian has strong associations with Co Carlow and I have discussed the modern pilgrimage to St Laserian at Old Leighlin Co Carlow in previous posts. The saint is also associated […]

via St Laserian at Lorum Co Carlow — Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland