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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 10. Ui Toirdhealbhaigh

St. Flannan first bishop of Killaloe; List of the Bishops of Diocese of Killaloe

Nothing is recorded of St. Molua who gave name to this parish, but of St. Flannán, his disciple and successor, it is stated that he was the first bishop of the place, being promoted to that office about the year 639 after his consecration at Rome. He was the son of that Toirdhealbhach from whom the territory was named; in other words, he was of the family from whom was descended Brian Boroimhe.[1] As regards his successors, before the arrival of the English, Sir James Ware admits that he could only find the names of five—namely, Cormacan O’Muilcaishel, who died in 1019; O’Gernidider, who died in 1055; Teige O’Teige, Comarba of Killaloe, who died in 1083 (Four Masters); Teige O’Lonergain, a learned and charitable man who died in 1161; and Donogh O’Brien, fourth in descent from Brian Boroimhe, who died in 1164.[2]The Four Masters (A.D. 1039), record the death of Cosgrach, son of Aingcadh, successor of Flannan and Brennan, after a well-spent life.

Constantine O’Brien was Bishop of Killaloe in the year 1179; he attended the Council of Lateran. His real name was Consadin, from which the family name of Considine is derived. He was fifth in descent from Brian Boroimhe. His death occurred in 1194.[3]
Dermot O’Conaing succeeded, but in 1195 was deprived and banished from his diocese by Matthew O’Heney, Archbishop of Cashel, acting as Legate of the Pope. In the same year he died of grief in the house of O’Brien’s daughter at Cork, and was buried there.[4]
Charles O’Heney succeeded in 1195; in his time part of the see of Iniscathy, and the whole diocese of Roscrea were added to Killaloe.
Godfrey March was bishop in 1213, but nothing further is known of him.[5]
Conor O’Heney assisted at the Council of Lateran in 1215, but died the following year on his way home.[6] After his death, King John appointed the bishop of Ferns bishop of Killaloe also. This man whose name was Robert Travers, was a native of Drogheda. His election was confirmed by the royal assent on the 14th of January, 1216, English style. In 1221, he was deprived by James, Penitentiary to Pope Honorius III. and legate of Ireland, but the reason could never be ascertained by Sir James Ware. No other prelate is mentioned by Ware until he relates the appointment of Donald O’Kennedy in 1231; but in the interval between the removal of Travers and the election of Kennedy, Father Gams states that two bishops occupied the see of Killaloe; one of these was Edmond, bishop of Limerick, who succeeded in 1221, and died in 1222, and another whose name is lost, and the date of whose death is unknown.
Donald O’Kennedy, archdeacon of Killaloe, was elected bishop in 1231. He managed the diocese for twenty-one years, and died in the hot summer of 1253. He was buried in the Dominican convent at Limerick.
Isaac O’Cormacain, who had been dean of Killaloe, was restored to the temporalities of that see on the 5th of April, 1253. In 1267, he resigned his bishopric and retired to the monastery of Holy Cross in the county of Tipperary.

King Henry III. issued a congé d’élire on the 10th of November 1267, and Mahone O’Hogan who had been dean, was elected bishop of Killaloe. He died in August 1281, and was buried in the convent of the Dominicans at Limerick, as appears in an ancient calendar of that place.
Muireadhach O’Hogan, called by Ware, Matthew O’Hogan, chantor of Killaloe, obtained the bishopric at the close of the year 1281, and had his writ of restitution to the temporalities on the 4th of February, 1282. He governed the diocese for upwards of sixteen years, and died in 1298. He was buried in his own church.
David MacMahone, dean of Killaloe, being elected by the chapter, obtained the royal assent, and was restored to the temporalities on the 22nd of April, 1299. He was consecrated by Stephen O’Brogan Archbishop of Cashel. His death occurred in 1316.
Thomas O’Cormacain, archdeacon of Killaloe, succeeded in 1316, by a lawful election of the dean and chapter. He died in July, 1321, and was buried at Killaloe.
Benedict O’Coscry, dean of Killaloe, was elected and consecrated bishop in 1322. He sat only three years.

David M‘Brian, otherwise called David of Emly, from the place of his birth, succeeded by the provision of Pope John XXII. in 1326. He died on the eve of St. Lucia’s day, that is on the 12th of December 1342, according to Jeffrey Hogain in his Annals of Nenagh.
Thomas O’Hogain, canon of Killaloe, was consecrated in 1343, and died on the 30th of October 1354, five days after which he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friars at Nenagh, as may be seen in the Annals of that place.
Thomas O’Cormacain, archdeacon of Killaloe, obtained the see by the Pope’s provision, and was consecrated in 1355. He died in 1387, (in 1382 say the Four Masters), and was buried in his own church, in the common burial-place of the bishops.
Matthew M‘Grath, dean of Killaloe, was advanced to the see by the provision of Pope Nicholas IV., in 1389, but did not obtain restitution of the temporalities until the 1st of September, 1391. (In the meantime the manor of Galroestown, in the county of Dublin, being part of the possessions of this see, was granted during vacancy to John Griffin, bishop of Leighlin, the bishop of Killaloe, M‘Grath being described in the writ of King Richard II. as a mere Irishman, abiding among the Irish enemies and not accountable to law or government.) Bishop M‘Grath sat in this see in 1400, but Sir James Ware knows not how long after. He was buried at Limerick in the church of the Dominicans.
Robert de Mulfield, a native of England, and a Cistercian monk of the abbey of Melsa (Meaux), in Yorkshire, succeeded by the provision of Pope Alexander V., on the 9th of September, 1409.
Donagh M‘Grath was bishop of Killaloe in 1428, and died in 1429. On the resignation of M‘Grath in 1418, Eugene O’Felan was translated from Kilmacduagh. He lived only till 1423.[7]

In 1423, Teige M‘Grath succeeded by the provision of Pope Martin V., and was restored to the temporalities by king Henry VI., on the 1st of September, 1431. He had been abbot of the Augustinian Monastery of SS. Peter and Paul at Clare Abbey, near Ennis.[8]
Ired O’Lonergan is said to have succeeded, and Ware finds no further account of him.
James O’Connellan was bishop of Killaloe in 1441, and this was all Ware could find relating to him.
Turlogh O’Brien succeeded by Papal provision. He was killed by Brian-an-Chobhlaigh (Brian of the Fleet), son of Donogh O’Brien of Clonroad,[9] in 1460.

Teige . . . is said to have succeeded, but Ware cannot discover the date of his death.[10] In the second year of his consecration he renewed and exemplified the foundation charter of the abbey of Kilmoney, or de Forgio (Clare Abbey) within his own diocese in the county of Clare. Some writers entirely omit this prelate in the succession to the bishopric of Killaloe, and place the three following prelates in the see: John M‘Grath, Maurice O’Canasa, Dermot M‘Grath. Of these, beyond their bare names, Sir James Ware has nothing to relate.

Mahone O’Gripha died in 1482, and according to the Four Masters, was buried in the monastery of Canon Island, in the Fergus.

Turlogh O’Brien, who succeeded, was a prelate of great account among his people for his liberality and hospitality. He was, however, much more addicted to martial affairs than became his Episcopal station.[11] He died in 1525.[12] On the 15th of November 1523, Hugh O’Hogan, precentor of Killaloe, as agent of Turlogh the bishop, (that fact being certified before a notary by Donogh O’Flanagan, a priest of the diocese), presented to the Holy See, a gift of one hundred gold florins.[13]

1526. On the nomination of Cardinal Campeggio, James O’Currin, or Coreyn, was nominated bishop in room of Turlogh deceased. O’Currin seems to have held the see till 1542, [14] but it also appears that a coadjutor bishop or administrator existed all that time, for it is stated by Ware that Richard Hogan, a Franciscan friar, and bishop of Killaloe, was translated by Pope Paul III., on the 16th of June, 1538 or 1539, to Clonmacnoise, after presiding over the see of Killaloe for fourteen years. Brady’s account differs slightly from this: he says that on the 16th of June, 1539, Richard Hogan was made bishop of Clonmacnoise and administrator of Killaloe, rendered vacant by the death of Turlogh O’Brien.
1542. James Currin resigned, and Dermot O’Brien, natural son of the King of Thomond, was appointed by the Holy See to manage the diocese as administrator. His age was only twenty-two, and he was to receive the income arising from it till he should attain his twenty-seventh year. A dispensation was granted to him on account of his youth.[15]
On the 25th of June, 1554, upon the recommendation of Cardinal Carpensis, Turlogh O’Brien, dean of Kilmacduagh, was appointed to the see of Killaloe, for some time vacant by the death of Currin, who had been formerly bishop. It is observable that no mention is made in this provision of the name of Cornelius O’Dea, who had been appointed by Henry VIII. in 1546.[16]

The death of Turlogh O’Brien is recorded by the Four Masters under the year 1569; and on the 10th of January, 1570-71, a successor was named in his stead in the person of Malachy O’Molony. His name was put before the Holy See by Cardinal Morono, who represented him as of noble birth, and a priest of the province of Cashel. He governed the diocese for a period of five years only; then he was translated to Kilmacduagh.[17] He was arrested by the English at Gort, and thence conducted on foot as a prisoner to the Castle of Limerick.
He was rescued from the gaol by his cousin-german, and in the garb of a peasant wandered through Clare, performing his episcopal duties. Finally, in 1603, he died at Moynoe, in the house of Conor MacBrody.[18]

On the 22nd of August 1576, upon the recommendation of Cardinal Alciato, Brother Cornelius Ryan, of the Friars Minors, was named bishop of Killaloe, in succession to Malachy O’Molony. He was prohibited from the exercise of episcopal functions in any other diocese, under pain of suspension ipso facto. He was also forbidden to be absent from his see for a longer term than three months in any one year. Frequent mention is made of Bishop Ryan in the English State Papers. On the 30th of March, 1579, Lord Justice Drury encloses to the English Privy Council a statement that Conogher O’Mulrian bishop of Killaloe, and O’Gallagher bishop of Killala, are at Lisbon, with a well appointed ship under command of Stukely, and with 300 soldiers beside. On the 27th of September, 1580, the Commons of Lixnaw sent a despatch to Her Majesty’s Attorney and Recorder at Limerick, announcing the presence of Friar Matheus Oviedo, Commissarius Apostolicus, and of Daniel Ryan’s son, the bishop of Killaloe. In 1582, on the 26th of November, Sir W. Sentleger writes from Cork to inform the Queen that Desmond has sent the bishop of Killaloe and one Purcell, the chanter of Limerick, to Spain to hasten the foreigners over. On the 20th of April 1583, Nicholas Nangle makes a statement at Limerick that Conogher O’Mulrian pretended bishop of Killaloe, and Robert Lacy pretended chancellor of Limerick, are bringing help to Desmond. On the 11th of January, 1584, Dermot M‘Donnell declares that the usurped bishop of Killaloe has another great ship on the west coast. Fenton, alarmed by these tidings, writes from Dublin to Burghley, on the 21st January 1585, telling him to intercept the supposed bishop of Killaloe and William Nugent, who are said to have arrived from Rome.[19] Bishop Ryan was a bitter opponent of Elizabeth, and a frequent correspondent of the Court of Rome. Many of his letters, written in Latin, have been printed from the Vatican archives, and there are several unpublished letters of his, signed Cornelius Laonensis, in the English State Paper Office. He died at Lisbon in 1616, according to O’Sullivan.[20]

1617-1630. Killaloe was under vicars, Malachy Quealy being Vicar Apostolic from 1622 to 1630, when he became archbishop of Tuam.

John O’Molony, first of that name, was appointed to the see of Killaloe on the 12th of August, 1630. He had been a priest of the diocese and also prior of the Benedictine monastery of Arran.

In the November of the previous year Richard Arthur, bishop of Limerick, had written to Rome recommending that Malachy O’Quealy, then Vicar Apostolic of the Diocese of Killaloe, should be appointed to that see on the ground that he was a man eminently fitted for the mitre, that he was a native of the diocese, and a man of high birth. In his letter, Bishop Arthur further advised that the claims of John O’Molony to the vacant bishopric should not be entertained as against O’Quealy, for the reason that O’Molony had untruly represented himself as a blood relation of the late Bishop Malachy O’Molony and of the head of his name, Dermot O’Molony, whereas he was in reality in no way allied by blood to those, being a man of comparatively humble birth. In addition to the recommendation of the bishop of Limerick, another letter had been previously forwarded to Rome, signed by the principal gentlemen of Clare, and urging the claims of O’Quealy to the see of Killaloe. In spite of these and another favourable report from Walsh, archbishop of Cashel, O’Molony was promoted to the government of the diocese. O’Quealy, however, was consoled by having bestowed upon him in the following year the archbishopric of Tuam.[21] In 1642, Bishop O’Molony assisted at the consecration of the bishop of Clonfert.[22] He was amongst the prelates who affixed their signature to the manifesto denouncing Ormond for his treachery to the cause of the Confederated Catholics. He raised a troop of soldiers, and appointed a meeting at Quin. Ormond sent Edward Wogan against them. The party was dispersed, the bishop taken prisoner, and he would have been put to death had not Ormond saved him. On this occasion Ormond laid hands on a sum of money amounting to £1,400, which the bishop had hidden away in sacks of wool.[23] O’Molony was one of the nine Irish bishops who were resident in their sees in 1649,[24] and he died in Ireland after that date.[25] In the topographical part of this work, under the head of the parish of Kilmihill, will be found a reference to this prelate.

1655 to 1671. The see was under Vicars during this period. On the 3rd of August, 1655, the memorial of Donogh Harty to be made Vicar Apostolic was read in the Propaganda. In 1666, John de Burgo appears as Vicar Apostolic of Cashel and Killaloe. In 1668, Donogh Harty again appears as Vicar Apostolic of the last named diocese.[26]

1671. John O’Molony, second of that name, was the second son of John O’Molony of Kiltanon,[27] and was born in the year 1617. He was a Doctor of the Sorbonne, and just before his appointment to the see of Killaloe had been Canon of Rouen in France. He was named bishop by the Propoganda in May 1671, in conformity with the wishes of the people of the diocese, who had, in 1658, supplicated the Pope to make him their bishop, and with the desire of the Council of Dublin to the same effect, as expressed in 1670. His qualifications for the office were set forth in various testimonials from the University of Paris and from several French bishops and archbishops. He was described as the man best qualified for the bishopric, because he owned ecclesiastical benefices sufficient not alone for his own maintenance but also to help the poor. After his nomination he delayed coming over to Ireland on account of his dread of Ormond, and because he was then engaged in the work of founding a college for the education of Irish priests at Paris; he was peremptorily ordered by the papal Nuncio to repair to his diocese at once. Soon afterwards (in 1673), he was deputed by the other Irish bishops to visit France, and endeavour to persuade the French King and his Minister to establish the Irish Ecclesiastical College. He was successful; in a few years after, the seminary was opened, being endowed by the bishop of Killaloe, and he is justly recognised as its founder. It was probably on some errand connected with his college that he had again to visit Paris, since, in 1675, the Propaganda gave him leave of absence for six months to go there on urgent private affairs. From a letter of Dr. Brennan, archbishop of Cashel, dated 12th September 1680, we learn that the bishop of Killaloe “was not then in his own district, being in strict concealment, and justly so, for our enemies bear him great ill-will, and speak violently against him.” He fled to France soon afterwards, as in 1682 he is found acting as coadjutor to the bishop of Rouen. In 1689 he was named bishop of Limerick by Pope Innocent XI., retaining Killaloe in administration. He did not remain long in Limerick, being forced again to fly to France. There, in the Sulpician house at Issy, near Paris, he died on the 3rd of September, 1702, in the 85th year of his age. In the side wall of the Irish College, Paris, is inserted a marble slab, transferred from the Lombards, which bears a Latin inscription setting forth the principal events of his life.[28]

1702 to 1713. The see was under Vicars Apostolic.

1713. By decree of the Propaganda, dated June 30th of this year, Eustace Brown was nominated bishop, and on the 16th of August following was consecrated in Villa Domus Fontis, by Christopher Butler, archbishop of Cashel, assisted by Donogh M‘Carthy, bishop of Cork, and two other dignitaries. On the 4th of October, 1723, the archbishop of Cashel was appointed administrator of Killaloe, Dr. Brown having been suspended from his functions, and having been afterwards imprisoned by the heretics. In 1724, “fù deputato il proprio vescovo,” which must mean that he was again restored to his diocese.

1729. On the 25th of September, Sylvester Lloyd was named bishop. In 1733 he was living at Brussels in very bad health, and was ordered to visit Spa by his medical advisers. In 1739 he was translated to Waterford and Lismore, and, by brief dated 14th August, in the same year, Patrick MacDonogh was named bishop of Killaloe in his stead. The tenure of Dr. MacDonogh was only for four years, as we find that his successor, William O’Meara, was appointed by Papal brief on the 2nd of December, 1743. Dr. O’Meara managed the diocese for nine years.

1752. Patrick O’Naghten was appointed by brief of 12th May 1752, when he was over 56 years of age. He was a native of Connaught, and was recommended for Killaloe by the Papal Nuncio at Brussels. He had presided for sixteen years over the College of Douay, to which he was a liberal benefactor, being a very rich man.[29]
1752. It would appear that O’Naghten refused to accept the bishopric, as we find, that in December of this same year, Nicholas Madgett, D.D., was nominated, by brief, to the see of Killaloe. He had been formerly president of the college of St. Barbara at Paris, and in 1752 had been Vicar-General of Ardfert. He was appointed bishop of Ardfert and Aghadoe on the 23rd of February 1753, and William O’Meara, bishop of that diocese, was transferred, by brief, to Killaloe in his stead.[30]

1765. By brief of the 5th of June, Michael Peter MacMahon, a Dominican Friar, was named prelate of the see of Killaloe. He was a native of the diocese of Limerick, having been born there in the year 1720. His consecration took place on the 4th of August, James Butler archbishop of Cashel being the celebrant, aided by Thomas de Burgo bishop of Ossory, and by Daniel O’Kearney bishop of Limerick. Dr. MacMahon died at Limerick in February, 1807.[31]

1807. James O’Shaughnessy was consecrated coadjutor bishop, with right of succession in 1798, and on the death of Dr. MacMahon he succeeded in this year. His death occurred in 1828.

1829. In 1819, Patrick MacMahon, who had been educated at Nantes, and who had been Vicar-General and Dean of Killaloe, was nominated by the Propaganda, bishop of Fesse in partibus infidelium, and coadjutor bishop of Killaloe, with right of succession. On the death of Dr. O’Shaughnessy in 1828, he assumed the management of the diocese. He died at Wellpark near Quin, on the 7th of June, 1836.

1836. Patrick Kennedy succeeded Dr. MacMahon, and managed the diocese till 1851, in which year he died and was succeeded by Daniel Vaughan, Vicar Capitular and parish priest of Nenagh. He was elected on the 24th of March, and consecrated on the 8th of June, 1851. He died in July, 1859, aged 69 years.

1859. Michael Flannery succeeded. He was born on the 17th May, 1818. He had been professor of Moral Theology at All Hallows College, had been Vicar-General of Killaloe from 1852 to 1859. He was consecrated bishop of Tiberopolis and coadjutor bishop of Killaloe on the 5th of September, 1858. After exercising the functions of a bishop for a few years, he withdrew from his diocese, leaving its management to coadjutor bishops.

1865. On the 24th of April, Nicholas Power, who had been parish priest of Killaloe and Vicar-General, was appointed coadjutor with right of succession, and bishop of Saretta in partibus. He was consecrated on the 25th of June, 1865, and died in 1871, soon after his return home from the General Council of the Vatican.

1871. On the 21st of November of this year, James Ryan, parish priest of Nenagh and Vicar-General, was nominated coadjutor bishop of Killaloe, with the right of succession, and was also named bishop of Echinus in partibus. His consecration took place on the 4th of February, 1872.[32] He died in 1889.

1890. Thomas MacRedmond was consecrated bishop of Killaloe on the 12th day of January of this year. At the time of his appointment he was parish priest of Killaloe, and had been previously, for several years, principal of the Diocesan College at Ennis.