Lady Well, Killyon

The site of Lady Well in Killyon is typical of the sites of holy wells in the Boyne valley. There is a tumulus nearby which shows that the place was of importance in pagan times. The site of Lady Well in Killyon had probably been an important chief's residence at the time of St. Patrick, and was donated to Liadhán, a young kinswoman of the chief, who founded a convent there and built a church. When the Normans came they built their own monastery on the Celtic site. (If it wasn't derelict by that time, they would have simply driven the monks out). The Normans maintained a succession of dwellings, castles and other strong houses there during the Middle Ages.

In Cromwellian times power passed from the Ricards to new settlers who enclosed the demesne and built the manor house. A church of the new religion took the place of an ancient church beside the pagan tumulus, and the successors to the Norman monks crept back to a secluded spot where they hoped to escape the vigour of the Penal Laws. They ministered in secret until the Catholic Church was able to reorganise its parishes in the late eighteenth century. Then the Dominicans of Donore became the first pastors to minister in the thatched chapels of Longwood, Killyon and Ballivor.

There are ruins of an old monas­tery and graveyard at Ladywell where the annual ceremonies take place on 15th August. On a stone in the graveyard an inscription which preserves the memory of the Dominicans of Donore, reads:


To God your dayly homage pay and for the following fathers pray; Rev. Vincent Cusack, died June 5th, 1737, aged 72. Rev, James Dillon, D.D., died May 2nd, 1743, aged 84. Rev. Francis Lynagh, P.P. and P.G. died Nov. 24th, 1750, aged 99. Rev. Michael Wynne, P.G., died May 5th, 1758. Rev. James Flinn, vicar-general of Meath, and parish priest of Rathmolyon, died March 17th, 1775, aged 54. Rev. Thomas Hussey, P.P. and P.G., died Sept. 13th, 1786, aged 97. Requiescant in Pace.

This monument was erected at his own expense in pious remem­brance of the above brethren by the Rev. Michael Fleming, P.P., vicar-forane of Meath, P.G. and prior of Donore, April 17th, 1787.

A religious community which suffered only six deaths in fifty years was a small one. Donore was in fact no more than a house of refuge for the scattered remains of the Dominican Priory of Trim, dispersed at the beginning of the Penal Laws, shortly after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Dean Cogan records that some years later a Protestant gentleman named Ashe granted the Dominicans tenancy of a farm at Donore on which a house was built. He does not say how extensive or sub­stantial it was, but it appears to have been small. Most of the community were working as parish priests in the neighbouring parishes and only returned to Donore to die.

When the Penal Laws were relaxed, the Dominicans of Donore were parish priests of the local parishes, and as they died out they were replaced by secular clergy. The death of Father Shaw in 1833 marked the end of the Dominican connection with the district. The old people in Ballivor in the 1920s and 1930s still knew and were proud of the link with the Friary of Donore. The memory was kept alive by a memorial tablet in the present church which reads in part as follows:

As a tribute of gratitude and respect, this Tablet has been placed by

Garret Robbinson of Kilreaney in memory of THE REV. LAURENCE SHAW, R,C. Pastor of Ballivor for 41 years. Born April 16th, 1751; Died October 27th, 1833.

This tablet is, unfortunately, no longer to be seen in the church which Father Shaw was instrumental in erecting about the year 1820. Up to then he had said mass in the old thatched chapel about fifty perches from the village of Ballivor, on the road to the Hill of Down. So the past gets forgotten, and annual visitors to Ladywell are now only vaguely aware that there is an old graveyard nearby.

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