FORMER DRUM MONASTIC SITE
Standing lordly on a high rise embankment within the Monastic enclosure this now magnificently restored ruins of the Romanesque Abbey captures the immediate attention of visitors. Known to locals as “The Monastery”, the Abbey appears to have been the place of worship for a Community of Patrician Monks whose living quarters (still extant) are located to the rear of the Abbey building. The Monastic site also contains the ruins of a Medieval Church and the remains of at least four small buildings believed to have been one-time solitary penitent places of prayer, in addition to three hundred and fifty memorials to the dead. The oldest memorial in the Abbey ruins is inscribed in Latin to Fr Hugh Thomas Gaffey who was a Parish Priest holding the Degree of Doctor of Divinity. He died in February 1703 just one year before the imposition of the Penal Laws in Ireland. On the Ordnance Survey Maps of 1837 and 1916 the former monastery boundary or tearmon shows an almost complete circle encompassing five acres of land which gives one reason to believe that a fairly large settlement either Pagan or Christian existed here at an early period. Following the restoration of the Medieval Church ruins, a limestone altar was erected on its original location. This church was vacated in 1874 when a new Church also dedicated to St Brigid was constructed on a nearby site. The complete restoration of the Monastic Site was carried out by a voluntary work group organised by Drum Heritage Committee in 1987-1989. Since the restoration was completed an Annual Concelebrated Open –Air Mass is held on the site during the month of June each year.
ST BRIGID'S HOLY WELL
Re-opened and restored in 1990, the Holy Well has been acclaimed by many visitors to have been the showpiece of the overall restoration programme at Drum. A white marble motif of St Brigid’s Cross is laid on the surrounding floor of the well. A life-size statue of St Brigid was introduced in 2010, with an over-head raised pediment constructed on the surrounding wall. Since the restoration was completed in 1991 a Rosary Procession takes place each year from the Well before the Celebration of the Eucharist. This solemn expression of faith in Drum replicates the more than one hundred year old known tradition of a station being held at St Brigid’s Well, at which time its waters were reputed to contain healing powers for various skin diseases. In recent years two known cures have been attributed to people who made three separate visits to the well and having in each case used the water while praying to St Brigid for a deliverance from their affliction. In recent times many people are taking water from the Well especially to take to their home wherever a family member is suffering from ill health.
THE JAMES TORMEY MEMORIAL AT CORNAFULLA
During the height of the War of Independence (1920-1921), a military style ambush took place at Cornafulla between the Crown Forces (Black and Tans) and members of a local Republican brigade comprising of four volunteers who intercepted a convey of twenty military and police and who were there-upon then engaged in a half hour long battle which resulted in one volunteer, James Tormey being killed. Just a short few years afterwards his comrades in arms erected a memorial on the actual spot where he was fatally injured. Due to a time span of over seventy years the memorial had suffered serious decay but after restoration in 1992 it was restored to its former glory by the members of Drum Heritage Voluntary Work force. Thesite is now signposted on the old Athlone/Ballinasloe Roadway R446.
A MEMORIAL TO THE FORMER DRUM MASS PATHS
The once much used Mass Paths leading to Drum should now be remembered as Pilgrim Paths, particularly in light of the known tradition that so many generations of people walked across fields, always using the same pathway to get to Sunday Mass. In 1993 the paths were traced and recorded by the Drum Heritage Group members. During the survey many of the time-worn stiles were cleared of shrubbery and photographed. The fruits of their labours are now shown in a large Display Case in the Heritage Centre. In addition one large information panel highlights a number of oral recordings collected from people who used the Mass Paths Mass Paths in their lifetime. Some of the stories told by the path users relate to people carrying oil lanterns as they crossed the bogs before sunrise intent to be on time for the first of three Christmas morning Masses at the time celebrated at 8am,10am and 11am at St Brigid’s Church, Drum It is handed down that some of the Mass Path users recited decade after decade of the rosary as they walked along the pathways. Age made no difference both young and old would be on time for the two usual Sunday Masses. All females attending Mass at this time had to wear hats and it is known that some of the ladies returning along one particular Mass Path in Drum would hand their hats to other ladies whom they met on their way to the second Mass. The Drum Heritage Group are now recognised to have been the Only such organisation in Ireland to have traced former Mass Paths. On the right Fr Ray Milton blesses a Mass Path style at Curraghaleen.
THE ANCIENT FUNERAL ROUTE TO CLONMACNOISE
The first attempts to trace and record a traditionally known ancient funeral route from Ardkeenan to Clonmacnoise were undertaken in 1995.This early survey formed the nucleus for the preparations and organising of three successive walks in the years that followed. Recorded in the traditions and folk history of Drum, all memories of the ancient funeral route, had almost passed into oblivion until retraced and brought to attention by the members of the Drum Heritage Group. Ardkeenan (Hill of the Cry) is locally known as the vantage point from where in early Christian times the members of funeral corteges got their first sighting of Clonmacnoise. It was also the spot where the mourners rested whilst the local keening women gathered to lament the passing of the deceased. The members of the Drum Heritage Group took the task in their stride and spent several Sundays out surveying the ancient funeral route, now contained in a large display case in Drum Heritage Centre.
PICTORIAL SURVEY ON OLD HOMESTEADS
In 1993 the Heritage members took on board the compilation of a Pictorial Survey of many of the remaining ruins of old stone-built homesteads in the Drum area, a number of which date back to the pre-famine period. Some of the selected photographs taken at the time are now on display in three Wall cases in the Heritage Centre and are captioned by the names, occupations and martial status of the people who lived in the old dwellings as recorded on the household forms on the 1901 Census of Ireland. The Wall Cases provide a valuable source of information for returned emigrants anxious to find the actual location of their ancestral homesteads in Drum and surrounding areas. Sadly, since the survey was conducted a number of the old buildings have since been demolished.
DRUM HERITAGE REMEMBERS THE GREAT FAMINE 1846-1847
As part of nationwide commemorations to mark the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine, the Drum Heritage Committee in 1996 & 1997 organised two separate events to mark the greatest human tragedy that ever befell the people of Ireland. Following the 1996 Open-Air Concelebrated Mass a limestone Famine Memorial plinth was placed within the ruins of the Medieval Church to commemorate the memory of 430 parishioners (October 1846-1847) who succumbed to the ravages of the great disaster. Many of those who died at this time would have come in earlier to worship in this same Drum Church. To mark Black 47 another special commemoration was staged following the 1997 Annual Open-Air Mass at which time the sowing of ridges of potatoes called ‘the lumpers’ took place in the adjoining priest’s field. A singing and musical session followed with numerous renderings of songs attributed to the hardships endured by people during the great potato famine in Ireland.
THOMASTOWN CEMETERY / ANCIENT CHURCH & MAUSOLEUM
This cemetery and the very fine Naghten mausoleum were both restored in 1997-1999 by the members of the Drum Heritage Group, as was the early Christian Church known locally as the Blind Church (no windows). The interior wall of the church carries a limestone plinth to the memory of the Forgotten Dead many of whose remains were interred within the surrounding one acre cemetery site (as shown on Sir Richard Griffith’s Valuation of Lands c 1855). O’Donavan’s Ordnance Survey Notes c-1837 point to the area outside of the railed-in Naghten family burial enclosure as being the oldest cemetery in Drum but that no burials had taken place there for a long number of years. A large painting of the Thomastown Park House now stands within the railed-in enclosure, it depicts a painting of the large family mansion with scrolls that include passages from recorded histories of prominent members of the once powerful O’Neachtain family, afterwards known as Naghten. Thomastown Park House for several generations was the seat of the Naghten family who were owners of 5,000 acres of land in Drum right up to the early years of the twentieth century. The one hundred acre lawn that fronted the big house once provided an excellent race track for the Naghten family members whose interest in equine sports continued for several generations during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The old demesne house is now demolished and all of the lands has been divided amongst the local farmers formerly tenants on the Naghten Estate.
REMEMBRANCE PARK AND WAKE HOUSE
The folk history of the area relates that a cabin once stood in a field at Nure known to the present day as “The Caoinna Marbh” (crying of the dead); it was frequently used in early Christian times when funeral corteges passed through Nure on their way to Clonmacnoise. Taken as a Millennium project The Drum Heritage Group created a Remembrance Park and a reconstructed Wake House in this same field. The interior is furnished with a limestone funeral bearer intended to replicate the recumbent coffin position. An outside information panel depicts the practices and customs of old time wakes in rural Ireland when snuff and clay pipes were much used during the waking period. Outside an old-time draw-well and an artistic painting of the ancient timber bridge that at one-time crossed the Shannon at Coolumper to Clonmacnoise now stands within the precincts of the Remembrance Park. The site for the Remembrance Park/Wake House was donated by local land owner Jackie McManus of Nure who also performed the official opening ceremony on the day of the Great Millennium Walk on 17th September 2000. The site is signposted at Cornafulla by an Illustrated Information Panel on the Old Athlone/Ballinasloe Road R446.
SEAN O’NEACHTAIN - 18TH CENTURY POET AND WRITER
One of Ireland’s great literary scholars and writer of Prose and poetry was born in a medium sized thatched-roof farmhouse at Clonellan, Drum, (1640-1650). It is not clearly known where he received his early education, (possibly in one of the surviving Bardiac Schools of the time) but his legacy of 5,000 lines of Gaelic prose and poetry is a clear indication that he was a man of great intelligence and above all a prolific scholar who was capable of conversing in a number of languages including Latin. During the early years of the nineteenth century he and his son Tadgh opened a Gaelic School of learning in the Liberties area of old Dublin. As a special feature of National Heritage Week in September 2004 a descriptive limestone plaque was placed by Drum Heritage Group against the front wall of the old dwelling where Sean was born. The wall mural now attracts many visitors anxious to view the birthplace of our great 17th century literary scholar. The majority of Sean’s Gaelic writings are presently housed in the Royal Irish Academy Dublin.
THE BRIDLE PATH - LEADING TO 3500 B.C DOLMEN
The 300 metre long Bridle Pathway at Meehambee, Drum leading to Drum’s most prestigious pre-historic monument - the 3500 BC megalithic burial tomb, because of non usage in recent years had fallen into a serious state of decay and had become completely inaccessible to visitors. In 2005 the Drum Heritage Group voluntary workforce took on the task of clearing fallen trees and re-building side walls along the scenic walkway. Four separate information panels are presently in place at different locations along the pathway. The site of Lios na Dreoilin (Fort of Wrens) has now become a Bird Watchers Paradise and its peaceful surroundings attracts walkers to stop at the Wayside Sign and listen to the singing birds who have made their nests in the branches of the trees within the sheltered glade. To mark the culmination of the re-opening of the Bridle Path a Cross Country Heritage Walk took place in September 2005. Over 200 walkers took part, travelling all the way to Creagh village a distance of two and half miles. A temporary bailey bridge had to be constructed to allow walkers to cross over the Cragginalavin River a tributary of the Crannagh Cross River which once powered two corn mills, the first located near the Monastic Site in Drum and the second operated at Ballincassa, close to Bealnamullia Village. The garlic patch when in full bloom over the Summer months provides walkers with a sweet scented aroma. The descriptive information panel offers walkers a look back in time when garlic was extensively used for cures in humans and animals alike.
DANIEL O’CONNELL MEMORIAL AT SUMMERHILL
On the 18th June 1843, Daniel O’Connell MP known at the time as the great Liberator came to Summerhill in Drum to address a crowd of 150,000 people and impressed on his listeners the need to have the Repeal of the Unionwith England withdrawn. It was one of several MonsterRepeal meetings held in different parts of Ireland in that year. In all over two million people attended themeetings. The final meeting that was scheduled to be held at Tara, Co Meath had to be cancelled because of it being proscribed by the British authorities. Even so O’Connell with a number of the repeal movement leaders was arrested and served a Jail sentence of several months on charges of treason. In August/September 2006 the Drum Heritag Committee placed a limestone plinth on the actual site on the lawn at Summerhill where O’Connell spoke. It was placed here to perpetuate the memory of the famous Repeal Meeting that had almost passed into oblivion. On the day of the unveiling of the monument the Drum Heritage Group also re-enacted a Heritage walk from Athlone to Summerhill with over one hundred and fifty people taking part. Following the celebrations the Heritage Committee and walkers were supplied with refreshments courtesy of the Management and Staff of Summerhill College. Many of the walkers who took part expressed delight and gave reminiscences of their school days at Summerhill Girls School.
THE CURRAGHALEEN HEDGE SCHOOL
Not many ruins of Hedge Schools are to be found today in rural Ireland. However, in Curraghaleen, Drum a significant ruins that had shown one small section of a wall of the old school remained in place over the years. Due to the generosity of the then owner and former Committee Member, the late Paddy Murray who willing donated the old school site to the Drum Heritage Group and it is now a cultural feature of the many restored heritage sites in Drum. When the Committee started its restoration work, they undertook to have it completed for reopening during Heritage Week on 2nd September 2007. The restored hedge school was officially opened by ninety year old Mrs Kathleen Grenham(nee Cunningham). She and her late husband John were born natives of Curraghaleen as were several of their earlier generations whom we can now say without hesitation, they were all pupils of the Curraghaleen Hedge-School. Described as a wretched cabin on the 1826 Survey of Schools, the records state Curraghaleen Hedge school had an attendance of 12 males and 4 females and the Hedge School Master was a Patrick Hawkins. The interior of the refurbished one-room school now contains sixteen life-size models of barefooted pupils attired in time worn dress of the period. The stern faced School Master is seated across from his class where he points to an old-time griddle which he uses as a blackboard. The Gaelic translation of the town-land points to Curraghaleen being originally known as the low-land of linen. Therefore flax growing and homespun linen making appears to have been a large scale farming activity, carried on in Curraghaleen during the 16th-17th Centuries. The interior of the restored old school-house also contains a number of Information Wall Panels depicting photos of the laborious task involved in flax growing and the tedious work of later converting the crop for the making of linen. To this day some households in the area retain their now priceless possession of linen sheets and table clothes woven from flax grown in this area in bygone times.