The History of Timahoe, Co. Laois

Timahoe Heritage Festival.

History of Timahoe.

Acknowledgements. This information below, comes from a Project, which was compiled for the Student Summer Job Scheme in 1998, and was sponsored by the Timahoe G.A.A. Club, under the supervision of Mr. Eamon Comiskey, Secretary. Special mention was made in the transcript for Timahoe Branch Librarian, Mrs. Maureen Scully and the staff of Portlaoise Library without whose help and support, the project would not have been completed. The original posting of the project can be viewed here, and we wish to express our gratitude for the permission to republish.

The Monastic site at Timahoe
The Monastic site at Timahoe

Tiamhoe, from past to present.

The Parish of Fossey has obtained its name from the district in which the old church was situated. It appears that the name fossy was anglicised from fassach meaning wilderness. Today, the surrounding area is adequately populated with a landscape prevalently gradient, which is abundant in limestone and coal, which has been partially worked. The ruined church at fossy was probably built or remodeled at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Unfortunately, no historic record survives in respect to the founder or patron saint. Regarding the fabrication of the building, the church measures approximately 38 feet in length by 18 feet in breadth. A large pointed window reduced to an opening is positioned at he eastern gable while an entrance doorway can be noted at the western gable. In the 9th year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, this district was known as the Prior’s land, from an admirable family living in that country.

Mochua was the patron of the parish and a festival occurs in honour of Mochua Maclonain on 24 December as mentioned in “Martyrology of Tallaght”. Mochua is also registered on the same date in the “Martyrology of Donegal”. Mochua resided in Timahoe for many years but journeyed northward to visit St. Patrick and to find a more peaceful location. His visit to St. Patrick seems contradictory with various other accounts of his life. St. Patrick did not live beyond the close of the fifth century. St. Mochua, it is believed lived in the 6th or 7th century, as Mochua died during the reign of Domhnall, monarch over Ireland.

It is believed that no other religious buildings were constructed at Timahoe until the end of the 9th century. Formerly a church and a monastic establishment were located beside the “pillar-tower” which stands still today. It seems probable that sections of the former religious buildings are traceable. The village of Timahoe is surrounded by mountain ranges of noticeable height on every side with a gurgling stream The Bauteogue descending into the beautiful valley of Timahoe, where the interesting ruins can be found.

The village exhibits a fair green, which is surrounded by many well-built houses. These houses encircle the deteriorated vestiges of its ancient history. The Round Tower of Timahoe still remains in an endurable existence. It rises to a height of 96 feet and measures 57 feet around the base on the outside circumference. No light enters the two first stories. The third story was lighted on the eastern side by the doorway, which is 16 feet from the ground. The remaining 4th, 5th and 6th stories are also lighted by surrounding windows. The original coved roof was completely destroyed and repaired in the 19th century. It now possesses a pyramidically-rounded cone with a mere point at the apex, originally it was not endowed with this shape. The tower was built of freestone, which is not a geological commodity of the area.

The round tower at Timahoe is one of the most remarkable of its class throughout Ireland. For a period, Timahoe was the seat for a monastery and a bishop’s see as recorded in the annals. It is believed that the O’ Moores of Leix erected a religious building in the 10th century, and history tells us that in 919 the oratory of Mochua was burnt down by Norsemen. Many abbots lived and died in Teach Mochua during the 10th and 11th century. During this time according to an annalistic entry, a school existed at Timahoe, in the middle of the tenth century. In the year 1142, Teach Mochua was burnt but was later refounded by the O’ Moores.

In the reign of HenryII, Hugh de Lacy erected a castle at Tachmeho (Timahoe) Leix, which he gave to Meilerius. It has also been mentioned that the Cosby family when in possession of the manor of Timahoe constructed a castle there during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Queen allocated the abbey and land to Sir Thomas Loftus, where he died in 1635 AD. Following on, a battle was fought resolving when an English general monk defeated the Irish in 1642 AD. The ruins are traces of the former castle, which was in possession by Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Loftus, who was married to Francis, son of Richard Cosby. It is believed that friars resided in the abbey at Timahoe until AD. 1650.

On the 2nd July 1827, a young man Daniel Keane, once a sailor, climbed the Round Tower at Timahoe. After safely descending in the presence of a large number of spectators, he received a large sum of money through a wager. Around this time, also, the Rev. Cornelius Dowling P.P. of Stradbally and Timahoe embarked on the construction of the handsome Catholic Church, which he lived to see, accomplished. The Church otherwise known as St. Michael’s Church replaced a thatched house stood in ruins. In the Catholic arrangement, Timahoe and Fossey are united to the Parish of Stradbally.

In the Catholic arrangement, Timahoe and Fossey are united to the Parish of Stradbally.

Timahoe Round Tower & Heritage Centre
Timahoe Round Tower & Heritage Centre