Cuffsborough 1972 – photo David Griffin
The earliest human habitations around Cuffsborough were at least Late Stone Age. Evidence of this was uncovered in 1853 when a tumulus covering a cist grave was found in a field at Cuffesborough :- A chamber measuring about 1 .5m in diameter was found beneath a mound of earth; the chamber is said to have had a corbelled roof of the nature of the celebrated example of New Grange and to have contained the bones of two crouched skeletons (SMR 22, 38)
Thirteen years later there was another discovery. “Permit me to inform you that, in the beginning of the current year (1866), a human skeleton and a kind of vessel composed of clay and powdered granite, were accidentally discovered under a rock on part of the lands of Cuffsborough, in the occupation of a farmer named Sheil, and within a short distance of Gortnaclea (or the Field of the stakes), of historical fame for a battle fought there by the Dalcassians, returning from Clontarf, and the Ossorians. On hearing of it, but a few days past, I thought it strange that such a discovery had been so little spoken of in this neighbourhood, and, accordingly, I went to take a view of the place, and I was informed by Mr. Sheil, that in one of his fields there was an immense mass of rock which he considered an obstruction to his agricultural operations, and consequently he set about moving it by blasting. In doing so he found the rock projecting outwards, and at the base, about ten feet from the top, he met with flags, which he at once concluded had been placed there by human hands, and which, on further search, he found to be the covering of a kind of vault, constructed of such flags, about four feet square, where the skeleton lay, partly in a sitting posture, the vessel at the knees, and all covered with sand and clay mixed, and as fine as if they had been sifted. I saw the flags, which were rough and unwrought, and the fragments of the vessel, but the bones were returned to their former resting-place. In an adjoining townland a similar discovery was made some twenty years back, but this was covered to a considerable height with clay, formed like a round hill ; and also convenient to this village, two skeletons have been discovered in a cave under a pile of rocks, by persons in search of some supposed hidden treasures ; but there is a very strange story (though true), connected with this, and I am of opinion that on further search some interesting discoveries might be made. It appears to me that these monuments of antiquity reveal a good deal about ancient peoples, and customs in olden times ; but for a person of my limited knowledge to pretend to say anything about such matters would only be presumption, and, therefore, hearing that a Society of which you, Sir, are a Member, takes an interest in such things I took the liberty of penning these few lines, not for publication, but for the information of your Society, as I thought such things might be of some public interest.”
During the construction of the M8 a building 17m in diameter with 22 post holes and a central one was found, considered to be a religious site. Nearby is a smaller more oval circle 8.6m x 7,4m. A little closer to Cuffesborough itself is a cluster of smaller circular structures, suggesting a bronze age settlement. It seems to have stretched across the road from Clough to Cuffesborough Cross Roads. There was a well and a fulacht fiadh, and it would appear that the tributary streams of the Erkina, and the probable lake that is where the bog is provided a good supply of fish. Oak charcoal samples from the site have been radiocarbon dated to the early Middle Bronze Age, about 1500 BC (Murphy 2009)
From The Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd (ACS Ltd).
Project: M7/ M8 Portlaoise-Castletown/ Culahill Motorway Scheme
Findings Report Summary
M7/ M8 Motorway Scheme
Recent excavations on the M7/ M8 motorway scheme carried out by ACS Ltd have uncovered 89 previously unrecorded archaeological sites. The road scheme runs from Portlaoise to Castletown (M7) and from Portlaoise to Cullahill (M8) and comprises of 41km of motorway and 11km of single dual carriageway. The excavations were carried out from March 2005 to March 2007 in a series of three different phases. A wide range of different sites from various periods in history and prehistory were uncovered on the scheme, and so this plethora of new information has the potential to significantly add to our current understanding of the past.
Bronze Age settlement: Cuffsborough
A significant amount of Bronze Age settlement activity was uncovered on the road scheme. At least ten (possible habitation) structures uncovered on the road development have been dated to the Bronze Age. A cluster of four structures, two of which definitely date to the Middle Bronze Age, was excavated at Cuffsborough 4. The main structure was unusually large, measuring over 16m in diameter. This structure consisted of twenty-three large postholes which were interconnected by a slot trench. There was evidence for internal features such as a central posthole, an off-centre hearth and possible evidence for internal partitions. Around 20m to the north-east of this structure a smaller oval structure measuring 8.60m E-W x 7.40m N-S was excavated. To the north of the large structure was a small horseshoe-shaped hut measuring 3.40m E-W x 3.30m N-S and just to the north of this hut was a C-shaped cut encompassing eighteen small postholes, most of which were located within the slot trench. This site appears to represent a substantial Middle Bronze Age settlement. Other evidence for Bronze Age settlement activity in the area include the burnt mound activity excavated to the immediate north of the site at Cuffsborough 1 and 3 and possible settlement/ burial activity at Cuffsborough 2. A cist burial and a possible megalithic tomb, presently not located, were also recorded in the townland in the 19th century. These recent discoveries effectively allow for the analysis and study of an entire prehistoric landscape in Cuffsborough.
The nearest obvious Iron age structure is a Tinnaragh ( i.e.. House, or Church of the Rath), to the left of the road from Cuffesborough to Clough. Connected with it is the following tradition told in O’Hanlon’s “History of The Queen’s County” :- A priest, named Father Phelan, after celebrating Mass one Sunday in the Rath, remained behind, after the congregation had departed, to make a short thanksgiving. His prayers over, he emerged from the rath, in the direction of the adjacent road, but scarcely had he done so when he found himself face to face with a band of priest-hunters, who had been sent upon his track. As might be expected, they showed him no mercy. Ere he could turn and fly, the ruffans had emptied their guns in his body, and he fell, riddled with bullets. An aged whitethorn called by some ” the Monument,” by others ” the Priest’s bush,” marks the spot, about midway between the rath and the road, empurpled by the martyred soggarth’s (priest’s) blood. The date of his murder lies somewhere between 1660 and 1700. A man named Delany of Tinnaragh, born in 1756, told his niece, Mrs. Bolger, who still lives in Boherard, that he had often heard a centenarian named Mrs. Fitzpatrick of Court say, that when a child, she was present, with her grandmother, at Father Phelan’s Mass in the Rath of Tinnaragh.
Between the Rath and the bog is a well known as The Bishop’s Well, blessed by an unnamed Bishop who was presumably there to visit the church at Ballygowden of which nothing now remains. It was one of two cells associated with the Dominican Aghaboe Abbey. The one at Ballygowden for men, and the other, for females, on the glebe of Farran Eglish. From the colour of the clothes worn by the nuns, the church adjacent to the cell was called Teampul-na-Cailleaehdnbh, or the church of the Old Black Women . The Ballygowden Church was later called Cuffesborough Graveyard and is marked on 1841 OS map as ‘Church (in ruins)’ and on 1908 OS map as ‘Church (site of)’. No visible surface trace of church, but Michael Nolan’s father Jer remembered the farmer clearing an area of rough land in the middle of the field that had never been ploughed and turning up human bones in the 1970s.
Laois Burial Grounds Survey 2011 Volume 2: Gazetteer of Burial Ground
Burial Ground ID: L049 Name: Cuffsborough Townland: Cuffsborough Dedication: None NGR (E,N): 233590 , 182500 RPS No: N/A National Monument No: N/A RMP No: LA028‐015002
The site is located in a rural area which is surrounded on all sides by fields, which are predominantly used for pasture. The field boundaries are formed by hedgerow and there is a small stream running alongside the western boundary. The site is accessed by a gate at the side of the road. There is no directional or informative signage. The vegetation consists of short grass and weeds. The western side of the graveyard remains visible as a northeast‐southwest flat ridge, which is more pronounced along the western edge. It slopes along the eastern side. This ridge measures about 40m in length and is c. 2m high and c. 5m wide. There is a ditch/dyke running along the western side, which continues southwards past the site of the graveyard. The graveyard may originally have extended into the field in the east The remains of a church are located northwest of the graveyard. They consist of stones located c. 10m apart and they may represent the east and west gables. Reportedly, this part of the field was quite waterlogged in the past. Apparently the church stones were removed to build a sheep‐dip in the river to the west. There are no memorials present at the site. The land was undergoing levelling about 30 years ago when burials were uncovered. The works were stopped and the skeletal remains were reburied with the blessing of the local priest. It is believed that the site may have extended into the field in the east; however this land is flat and it may have also been levelled in the past. Two ditches were also noted running from the site of the graveyard; one towards the west and another towards the south. An associated enclosure is recorded here which may be represented by these ditches. It is believed that this site was associated with the monastery of Aghaboe. Tradition maintains that a tunnel runs from the site to Aghaboe.
There are occasional references to the area in Norman times. On the 28th Dec., 1345, the Irish of Slieve Bloom burned Bordgwyl (Bodwell, pronounced bordle), and slew Robert le Gros and others of the English. By Papal Brief of March 15th, 1481, John de Machostigain, clerk, was appointed to the rectory, church, and parish of St. Canice of Achabo, and to that of St. Furlinus of Borduyl in Ossory. (Carrigan V1 p58)
In a Partition of 1317 Share of Hugh le Despenser and Alianora his wife gave a ¼ share of Balligauenan (Ballygennan) or Ballygeehin to Philip Purcell. Part of the moat and gatehouse of Ballygeehin Castle still stand, where the Roes live, to the left off the road from Ballacolla to Abbeyleix. Until the mid 17th Century Cuffesborough was part of Ballygehin, & was divided off when Rev Maurice Cuffe, as Vicar of Abbeyleix, got it, though we know not how and if it went from being glebe land to personal property
From O’Hanlon – In 1653 Morgan Cashin and Thomas Hovenden forfeited, respectively, Ballygaudenbeg and Ballygaudenmore. The former is now Ballygooden; the latter is Cuffesboro’ (this is located around Aghaboe, County Laois) which is so named from its Cromwellian grantee, Captain Joseph Cuffe.
The de Vesci papers in the NLI contain (MS 38,748/5 1673: 1678: 1681) Declaration of trust by Denny Muschamp concerning the County Laois estate of Joseph Cuffe of Castleinch, County Kilkenny [document damaged],
1697 Draft bonds of indemnity whereby Denny Muschamp and the Rev. Maurice Cuffe of Bonnystown (Bonnetstown?), County Kilkenny, indemnify the Bishop of Leighlin against the cost of any legal proceedings which may arise as a result of Muschamp’s presentation of Cuffe to the living of Clonkeen in opposition to the present incumbent, the Rev. John Shaw (see MS 38,798), and the Bishop of Ossory against the cost of any legal proceedings which may arise from Muschamp’s presentation of Cuffe to the living of Rosconnell and Durrow.
An act for the Attainder of Divers Rebels, and for preserving the Interest of Loyal Subjects, addressed to James II in 1689, on which (as a Williamite sympathiser) the name of Maurice Cuffe of Ballygehin, Queen’s County, gent, appears
The Rev Maurice Cuffe was born in 1656 in Castle Inch in Kilkenny, one of the 21 children of Joseph Cuffe and Martha Muschamp. In about 1695 he married Jane Frend of Caherconlish, Co Limerick, and they had 8 children.
He is described as of Abbeyleix in 1724 Memorial extract — Registry of Deeds Index Project Memorial No: 30212. But in Memorial No: 32263 (leases of lands of Boheraid to the Abrahams, Leech, Child, Honur & Edwards families) 25 Jan 1722 both Joseph jnr and Maurice are of Ballygowdan.
Memorial No: 239238 24 Nov 1746 Joseph is of Ballygowdan (presumably Cuffesborough). In 1749 Joseph Cuffe was High Sherrif of Queens County.
The following year Aug 1747 Anne Wheeler, step daughter of Joseph Cuffe of Cuffesborough was married (Ossory marriage bonds). Joseph’s wife was Martha Baker of Lismacue, Co Tipperary, whose first husband’s brother, Jonah Wheeler, was married to Maurice Cuffe’s daughter Elizabeth.
Joseph and Martha had 3 sons and 4 daughters. The daughter Jane married her cousin John Frend in 1756. Denny married in 1756, two years before his father Joseph Cuffe died at Grove, Queens County (possibly on the Carlow border).
This leaves a question about the 1770 date stone. Cuffsborough does have a date stone beside the front door of 1770, which is odd. The stonework clearly shows that it can’t have been inserted, but we know that Denny Cuffe was living there in the 1747, and probably before that, and that when he married Anne Cuffe in 1756 he came into money. Stylistically the house is more 1750s, and there is no obvious site of an earlier house. All very strange.
Taylor & Skinner’s Road Map of 1778, showing Cuffe at both Ballygeehan & Cuffsborough.
One of the earliest printed references to Cuffesborough is in Richard Pococke’s tour of Ireland. On 29th June 1753 I went by Gortineclea and going on southward passed by Cuffsborough, Mr. Cuf’s, where I observed Trochi and Entrochi in the lime stone which lies loose in the earth all over this country; and at Donoghmore, Mr. Morris, they have great quarries of this stone, which is a coarse black marble, but not used because the Kilkenny is much better
Castle Blunden where Anne Cuffe’s cousin lived
‘The said Denny (Baker Cuffe) married as his second wife, Anne; daughter of (Maurice) Cuffe of Freshford’ (Lodge, John: The Peerage of Ireland (1789) p. 61 in 1766 (Gaughan 143 – Genealogy of the Knights of Glin drawn up by Brian Fitzelle) In fact Lodge has the wrong Denny (of Sandhill) and the wrong year – vide Pue’s Occurences for 24 Feb 1756; It also seems that it was Denny’s first marriage.
Anne, baptized 26 February 1720 and married in March 1740 to Edmond Fitz-Gerald, Esq. Knight of the Glyn (who died February 19th, 1773) In a deed of September 1750, Edmond is referred to as unmarried., so a search of the Acts of Parliament might come up with their divorce in the 1740s.
She married Denny Cuffe in Feb 1756 at the age of 36 – quite late to be having children, so maybe Denny had indeed had his children by an earlier wife. She died 20 years later in October 1776 and is buried in Abbeyleix Old Churchyard, not beneath the tree in front of Cuffesbro as legend maintains. The person buried beneath the tree is probably Denny’s mother.
And now another woman of mystery enters the history of Glin in the form of Anne (‘Nancy’) Cuffe, who becomes for a short time, wife to Edmond, Knight of Glin. Anne (born February 1721)(110) was the second of seven daughters of Maurice Cuffe of St. Albans, otherwise Killaghy, Co. Kilkenny by his first wife Martha, daughter of John Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe, Co. Cork. (111) Maurice was a brother of the 1st Lord Desart and a M.P. and K.C. Anne who has been described as ‘a popular Protestant beauty from Kilkenny’ married the still Catholic Knight of Glin in March 1740. (112) In a letter written sometime after the marriage, by her cousin Lady Theodosia Crosbie to her sister, Lady Mary Tighe (nee Bligh) we read: ‘if Nancy (Anne) is married to the Knight of the Glin as they say, she (Anne’s mother) has disposed of ’em (Anne and her sisters) all very well.’ (113) For some reasons unknown (Edmonds’ mounting debts, perhaps) this marriage was a failure. They went their separate ways thereafter. Edmond vainly tried to regain possession of Glin after Richard’s conversion when he too, turned Protestant in October 1741. (114)
Anne was also the cousin of Lucy Susanna Cuffe who married Sir John Blunden in 1755. Castle Blunden (which has Bindonesque influences) must have been the inspiration for Cuffesboro.
It is interesting to note that Francis Bindon 1690 – 1765 designed the wings for her uncle, The Earl of Desart’s house at Desart Court in about 1744. The brother of Denny’s mother’s first husband, Jonah Wheeler of Lyrath, was married to Elizabeth Cuffe, another of Anne’s cousins, so his step-uncle was his wife’s cousin – the constant intermarriages make genealogical research deeply confusing!
Things were wild enough in those days. In 1776 Jan. 10. The Derby Mercury reported that Last Friday Night a small Party of White Boys assembled between Ballycolla and Cuffborough, in the Queen’s County; from whence they proceeded to a Place near Caftletown, where one William Phelan lived.
Between 1777 and 1782 Jonah Barrington writes that he visited Denny Cuffe –
In 1780, four years after Anne Cuffe’s death, Denny married Anne O’Ryan in Dublin.
On 20 Dec 1783 Denny Baker Cuffe sold to Henry Grattan Ballygeehin, Ballygowdan, & Bordwell in Upper Ossory, baronies of Clarmallagh, Clandonagh, and Upperwoods,
In 1790 Denny died at Sweet Lodge in Kilkenny ( Index to the prerogative wills of Ireland, 1536-1810) and two years later the “amiable widow Cuffe” married Chevalier Thomas O’Gorman of Inchiquin, Co Clare.
Born in Castletown, County Clare, the son of Patrick O’Gorman, the Chevalier’s first language was Irish. He was educated as a Medical Doctor at the Irish College, Paris. He served with the Irish Brigade in the French army, and was created Chevalier by Louis XV. O’Gorman married a daughter of Count d’Eon, and from him inherited vast vineyards, lost in the French Revolution. After this, he retired to Ireland, where he pursued his antiquarian studies; from about 1764 he had corresponded with Charles O’Conor, and had made an impressive collection of Irish manuscripts. He also compiled pedigrees of Irish expatriates, and personally arranged for the Book of Ballymote to be given by the Irish College to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. He died in 1809
Prior to his father’s death John Cuffe, who married Sibella Barrington, sister of Sir Jonah Barrington, in May 1783, seems to have had various financial woes and died at Raheen in 1804. His son William however did very well, marrying the Earl of Harborough’s daughter.
Thomas Sherrard, a land surveyor, made a furvey and deposition in December 1782 concerning the value to be given to 1,700 acres of land that he had surveyed at Cuffsboro. He had the mearings (boundry lines) of Cuffsboro pointed out to him by Thomas Newman, Thomas Mulhall and John Delany, all of Cuffsboro The reference for this, from Horner’s Mapping Laois, is NLI ms 49,694/1/7/3
One wonders if there might be some truth in the story from Dundee Evening Telegraph 28 Nov 1906
On 24 Feb 1784 The Dublin Evening Post Dublin advertised:-
QUEEN’S COUNTY. TO be LET from the 25th day of March next, for three lives, or thirty-one years, the house and lands of CUFFSBOROUGH, including about 291 acres of excellent Land, situate in the barony of Ossory, and Queen’s county. Application in writing will be received by The Rt Hon Henry Grattan, Dublin
Settlement Grattan Papers of 5 Nov 1789 refers to :- Ballygihin, Crowville, Garranbehy, Ballygran, Cloghquilmore, Cloghquilbegg, Coulfin, Ballyogena, Knocktan bane, Ballygowdownbegg, Clanreagh, Carigin, Bordwell, Ballygowdownmore, Bogherard, Chapel-hill, Dairy-hill, Feragh, Rathdowney, Springfield, Croul and Cuffesborough, all in the Barony of Upper Ossory, Queen’s County. Rental attached.
The Prior Palmers at Cuffesborough 1784 – 1870
We don’t at present know where Joseph and Sarah Palmer were living, but by 1784 Joseph was 55 and they had 11 children. The eldest, Humphrey, was 27. The youngest, Joseph, was 9. It is fairly probable that Col F Palmer of the Rathdowney Volunteers who attended the National Convention of 1772 was the same as Col Joseph Palmer who attended the National Convention in 1783. Saunders Newsletter of Oct 8 1779 reports on “a few miles from said town, the Rathdowney Rangers, under the command of John Prior, Esq; and the Rathdowney Independent Volunteers, under the command Joseph Palmer.
There were other Volunteer regiments in the area including The Castle Durrow Light Horse, The Castle Durrow Volunteers, the Ossory True Blues, The Aghavoe Loyals, The Borris in Ossery Rangers and the Rathdowney Carboneers, – 31 July 1784 This Day was published, by W. WATSON, No. 7, Capel Street, THE PATRIOT SOLDIER a Poem. By John Edwards, Efq; Major of the Rathdowney Carbineers;
Sarah Palmer, who would have been 25, may have already been married to Thomas White, of Ballybrophy, a cousin of the Whites of Aghaboe. They lived at Garryduff, on The Heath just outside Portlaoise
Lydia Palmer married Henry Brooke June 28, 1788 in St. Pauls, Dublin, and Catherine Palmer had eloped to Portpatrick in Scotland with Thomas Prior also in 1788. This was of course a significant alliance of all his children as it lead to the Murray Prior family. Thomas was the great grandson of Thomas Prior of Rathdowney who founded the RDS . Thomas and Catherine’s son Thomas Prior was a lieutenant in the Drogheda Light Horse (18th Hussars) at the Battle of Waterloo. He retired on half pay in 1817 after three years of army service.
Humphrey, Charles, Hannah & Paul may not have married, though there is a Portpatrick entry for Humphry Palmer Esqr. of Rathdowny and Miss Frances Maria Palmer of Rathdowny both from the Queen’s County. Paul Palmer a witness, 12 October 1789
On 13 Oct 1791 Francis Palmer of Cuffesborough married James Canter of Ballyvara in the suburbs of Limerick, who may have been an attorney.
On 10 Aug 1796 Rebecca Palmer of Aghaboe married a barrister Samuel Patrick Dickson, almost certainly a son of Samuel Dickson of Ballynaguile, Co Limerick
Joseph Palmer married Maria Sowdon in 1802
Thomas Spunner Palmer m Elizabeth Ormsby otherwise Dodwell of Ballyvenoge in Limerick in 1802, from whom the present Prior-Palmer family are descended.
So by 1802 the 73 year old Joseph Palmer was down to probably about 4 children left at home.
Joseph Palmer was leasing land at Cuffsborough with his son Humphrey in 1793
The next reference to the house is in The Post Chaise Companion 1804
Near five miles from Durrow, on the L. is Cuffsborough, the seat of John Palmer, Esq. At Aghaboe, on the R. is the seat of the Rev. Edward Ledwich, near the church.
The 1814 A Statistical Account, Or Parochial Survey of Ireland states:-
There are no modern, public, or private buildings, deserving a particular description. This will not be wondered at, when we know that not one landed proprietor resides in the parish ; nor is there a house in it, which a man of large fortune would inhabit. There are some plain comfortable houses, as Mr. Robert White’s, at Aghaboe; Mr. Joseph Palmer’s, at Cuffsborough; the late Mr. Drought’s, at Oldglas; Mr.Charles White’s, at Borros Castle ; the late Mr. Carden’s, at Lismore; Mr. Charles White’s, at Ballybrophy, with many snug farm-houses.
Joseph Palmer died at the age of 87 in 1816 (Gentleman’s Magazine p 572) and Sarah followed for years later.
There were instantly family rows – where there’s a will there’s a lawyer. From the Dublin Evening Post of 24 July 1823 we read:-
The Tithe Applotment Survey lists at Cuffsborough:-
Michael Brophy Thomas Brophy
John Brophy Joseph Butler
Thomas Cooney Judith Dalton
John Delaney Lewis Delaney
Anne Doran Anne Doughiny
John Doughiny Dennis Doughiny
John Dowling Denis Fitzpatrick
Patrick Flanigan Thomas Hanlon
William Kays Stephen Keogh
Judith Lawlor Stephen Lawlor
John Lawlor Darby Lawlor
Patrick Loughman John Maher
Martin McEvoy Patrick Minton
Elizabeth Power John Roe
James Sampson Patrick Shiel
Thomas Thompson Robert Wellwood
Dennis Whelan Edward Whelan
Tithe Returns, Parish of Aughaboe, Co. Laois, 1826 from Jane Lyons site www.from-ireland.net
Brien, Daniel; brophy, John; Brophy, Michael; Brophy, Stephen; Brophy, Thomas & Co.; Butler, Joseph, Cooney, Thomas; Dalton, Judith; Delany, John; Delany, John & Lewis; Doran, Anne; Doughiny, Anne; Dowling, John; Fitzpatrick, Denis; Flanigan, Patrick; Hanlon, Thomas; Kays, William; Keogh, Stephen; Lawlor, Darby; Lawlor, John; Lawlor, Judith; Loughman, Patrick; Loughman, John; Mahon, John; McEvoy, Patrick; Minton, Patrick; Mahon, ?Maria: Power, Elizabeth; Roe, John; Sempson, James; Shiel, Patrick; Thompson, Thomas & Co.; Welwood, Robert; Whelan, Denis & Co.; Young, Elizabeth.
Although there are 37 individuals listed that does not mean that there were 37 cottages on the lands at Cuffesboro.
Lewis in 1840 writes:-
AGHABOE, or AUGHAVOE, a parish, in the barony of UPPER OSSORY, QUEEN’S county, and province of LEINSTER, on the road from Dublin to Roscrea; containing, with the post-town of Burros-in-Ossory, 6196 inhabitants. This place, originally called Achadh-Bho, and signifying in the Irish language “the field of an ox,” derived that name from the fertility of its soil and the luxuriance of its pastures. It was celebrated at a very early period as the residence of St. Canice, who, in the 6th century, founded a monastery here for the cultivation of literature and religious discipline; and so great was his reputation for learning and sanctity, that a town was soon formed around it for the reception of his numerous disciples. The town soon afterwards became the seat of a diocese, comprehending the district of Ossory, and the church of the monastery was made the cathedral of the see of Aghaboe. This see continued, under a succession of bishops, to retain its episcopal distinction till near the close of the 12th century, when Felix O’Dullany, the last bishop, was compelled, by the submission of Donchad, Prince of Ossory, to Henry II., to remove the seat of his diocese to Kilkenny.
Various Versions of the local big houses from Lewis and other surveys
The gentlemen’s seats are Ballybrophy, the residence of T. White, Esq.; Old Park, of — Roe, Esq.; Middlemount, of Capt. Moss; Carrick, of — Pilkington, Esq.; and Cuffsborough, of J. Palmer, Esq. Fairs are held at Burros eight times in the year; and petty sessions are held every alternate week there and at Cuffsborough.
The seats near Rathdowney are given as The principal seats are Harristown, the residence of M. H. Drought, Esq.; Beckfield, of T. Roe, Esq.; Johnstown Glebe, of the Rev. M. Monck; and Lackland, of the Rev. R. Young: and in the vicinity of town, though not within the parish, are Ballybrophy, the residence of S. White, Esq.; Old Park, of Robert White, Esq.; Middlemount, of Robert Roe, Esq.; Grantstown, of — Vicars, Esq.; Kilbredy, of James Drought, Esq.; Belmont, of J. Roe, Esq.; Levally, of R. Fitzgerald, Esq.; Knockfin, of Captain Mosse; and Erkendale, of W. Owen, Esq.
The gentlemen’s seats are Cuffs- borough, the residence of J. Palmer, Esq. ; Ballybrophy, of T. White, Esq. ; Old Park, of R. White, Esq. ; Middlemount, of R. Roe, Esq, ; Lismore, of W. White, Esq. ; Knockfinne, of Capt. Mosse; Kilmaseene, of W. Pilkington, Esq. ; the Glebe-house, of the Rev. T. Thacker; Aghaboe House, of J. Banks, Esq.; Gortnaclea, of P. Roe. Esq.; and Ballicolla Cottage, of W. Calbeck, Esq.
Robert Wellwood of Cuffsborough was recorded as having a gun licence in 1832. On the tithe applotment survey he is shown as renting over 50 acres at Cuffesboro.
Maria Sowdon Palmer’s baptism is shown in the parish register of St Mary’s Parish, Reading as the 5 Sep 1783. Research carried out by Paul Marshall, 3rd Great Nephew, on 7 April 1994 at Records Office, Shire Hall, Reading, Berkshire.
She was the eldest daughter of Thomas Sowdon was born in Reading, Berkshire in the year 1783.She married Captain Joseph Palmer of the 7th Hussars and resided at Cuffsborough House, Queens’s County.She was a fine horsewoman and very fond of hunting. She died September 18, 1870 at Cuffsborough aged 87 years leaving several children.
Freeman’s Journal Dublin, Republic of Ireland 26 Jan 1864
Freeman’s Journal Dublin, 12 Jul 1870
Mrs Hawkersworth may have been the Elizabeth Power in the Tithe Returns, Parish of Aughaboe, Co. Laois, 1826 who had 10 acres of 2nd class land.
The Freeman’s Journal letter suggests that Mrs Palmer’s estate had given up the lease quite soon after her death
Freeman’s Journal Dublin, 6 Feb 1877
Joseph Cuffe probably took on the lease about this time.
Joe Cuffe gets a mention or two in James Joyce’s Ulysses, for Leopold Bloom was at one time `a clerk in the employment of Joseph Cuffe of 5 Smithfield for the superintendence of sales in the adjacent Dublin Cattle market on the North Circular road.’
The firm of Laurence Cuffe & Sons, cattle, corn & wool salesmen, is listed at 5 Smithfield in Thom’s Directories of Dublin over many decades. As the business prospered, the Cuffes moved their residence first to Mountjoy Square, Rathmines, Waterloo Road and later to Alma Terrace, Monkstown and other suburbs. His aunt, Sister Clare Dillon, was one of the founders of the Presentation Convent in Kildare. Given his considerable pretensions to grandeur (they are buried at the O’Connell Circle in Glasnevin) it seems unlikely that he ever lived here, otherwise it would have been redecorated. It was probably used as a fattening farm, and the proximity of the train stations was its advantage,
Freeman’s Journal Dublin, 14 Aug 1897
On 20th August, 1897, All his Right, Title, and Interest in and to his superior FEEDING FARM OF CUFFSBORO,’ Containing 180 acres, or thereabouts, held from Mrs Grattan Bellew at the yearly judicial rent of £241, less landlord’s proportion of county cess and poor rate; valuation £250. The fields are nicely divided’ well fenced, sheltered. The public read runs alongside the farm. There is an excellent residence fit for a respectable family, with out offices, comprising large barn, coach. House, shed for feeding 50 head of cattle, four stables. The timber growing on the farm is principally the property of the tenant. We beg to draw particular attention s it is seldom such a really superior farm as this comes on the market. It is well situate, lying midway between Abbeyleix, Mountrath, Rathdowney, and Ballybrophy Railway Stations. Also the purchase-money can remain out for a term of years if required.
It appears that it did not sell as in the 1901 Census the house was unoccupied but Chas. P Cuffe was given as the landlord of two holdings (which should almost certainly be Joe P Cuffe who d in 1908). It shows 9 houses on the townland. The 1911 census shows 11 houses; In 1908 Laurece Cuffe agreed to the sale of the 300 acre estate to the Land Commission. In Mach 1910 Mr W Pratt sold 1,000 trees at Cuffsborough. Leinster Express, Saturday, February 19, 1910;
Pauline Grattan Bellew died in 1908. On the 1911 census the house is occupied by William Pratt and his family, a farmer who on the 1901 census had been resident at Killeen near Callan in Kilkenny, but was born in Laois – there were Pratt families at both Donaghmore and Abbeyleix.
Cuffsborough was then bought by Martin Begadon of Aghmacart for the timber – the beech woods across the front field were felled, except for the tree over Lady Cuffe’s reputed grave, which is of course protected by a great white horse with eyes like lanterns. It was probably during his tenure that Cuffsboro first got its name as a strolling house.
On Aug 4 1914 there was a sale of the furniture, machinery and stock for Mr Martin Begandon, who then offered the house to the council as a sanitorium, an offer that was not taken up.
On the 1919 Land Act purchases William Whelan is shown as having acquired Cuffesboro. I believe this to be a typo for Phelan. The Phelans, known as the Munster Phelans, were three brothers. Jer Nolan told me each was given a farm by their Tipperary born father – Farranville, Ballybrophy House and Cuffsborough. The father, William Phelan, died fom a fall in 1929 at the age of 79.
I think that they were known as the Munster Phelan to differentiate them from the other family who are buried at Ballacolla – Erected to/the memory of/Mrs. Mary Phelan of Seeregh/who died October the 14th 1877/aged 80 years./Also her grandchild/Mary Phelan of Cuffsboro who/died young/also her son John Phelan died /November the 29th 1886 aged 73 /years./Also Thomas Phelan/of Cuffsboro who died Janury (sic)/19th 1904 aged 81 years./RIP
In 1971 Wm. Phelan, had 78 acres at Ballybrophy House and his brother Edward Phelan had 83 acres at Cuffesborough in the possession of the land commission. John Phelan of Farranville, where he had lived with one of their sisters, Hanna Corcoran, died in 1961.
However at this stage the house had already been abandoned, as can be seen by David Griffin’s photographs in the Quarterly Bulletin of The Irish Georgian Society. Vol. XVI, No. 4 (October-December, 1973). Edward Phelan had died in November 1960, four years after his wife Ellen, though she was buried in Durrow and he was buried in Galmoy.
Tuesday, 21 March 1972 it was noted in Dail Eireann that part of the Phelans’s 87 acres at Cuffesboro had been allocated by the land commission, which is when I think when The Nolan family arrived from distant Rathdowney.
The antique dealer Gerry Kenyon remembers acquiring some very wrecked but once grand French ballroom chairs from Cuffsborough at this time (they probably originally came from Ballybrophy House). Ned Phelan was a bachelor and a most upright member of society. It seems that one of his brothers (though we know not which) came to Cuffsboro to distil greyhound embrocation, on the grounds that the Gardaí wold never raid Ned. We found bottles and part of a still in the basement. Cuffesborough was a house where dancing and singing took place on a regular basis, in the front hall. Ger Nolan used the phrase “Strolling House” – Bothántaiocht as Peig Sayers described it, visiting houses for pastime or gossip.
It is remarkable that, despite its many occupants, Cuffesboro has only been redecorated twice since its construction and the hall retains traces of the original faux stone block decoration. The architraves around the doors in the front hall all have a Bindonesque timber keystone to further deceive the eye into believing it to be a cut stone interior. The present drawing room, which was originally painted a dusky pink / old rose colour, has a cupboard for the chamber pot hidden behind the shutters. Most of the chair rail / dado and skirting was destroyed when the house was completely derelict, but some pieces have survived. It is interesting to note that original paint colours have different tones, and sometimes different colours on the horizontal and vertical planes. The ongoing restoration has been greatly assisted by John Lenihan of Kanturk who provided a raised and fielded panelled partition from what was Alexandra College on Leeson Street but was originally the home of Jane Austen’s young love, LCJ Thomas Lefory and came from what was probably his bedroom. John also provided many 18th century raised and fielded panelled doors, mostly from houses that were being demolished on South Frederick Street and Lower Leeson Street, and the straight string staircase to the top floor which comes from a house in South Frederick Street, on the site of College Park House. The wing door comes from Phillipstown House which once stood near Rathdowney and was reduced to rubble in 1980. It is an excellent example of a local style of a panelled front door with a circular central panel. Edward Byrne of The Traditional Lime Company http://www.traditionallime.com provided the slates, roof timbers and oak flooring, as well as constant support, advice and encouragement. Restoration, having faltered over the last 15 years, is under progress once again.