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16/10/2021

The Kilkenny Archaeological Society invites you to ‘take the plunge' this Sunday

The Kilkenny Archaeological Society invites you to ‘take the plunge' this Sunday

The Canal Walk in Kilkenny

A special day is to celebrate water, and our connection with it is happening this Sunday, to mark the final day of Heritage Week 2021.

The Kilkenny Archaeological Society invites you to ‘take the plunge’…into articles about water on their website.

Several back issues of The Old Kilkenny Review are accessible online as a result of a recent digitisation project. How our natural features such as rivers were named is one area covered well in Owen O’Kelly’s piece on placenames in Co. Kilkenny from The Old Kilkenny Review (OKR) of 1948. Did you know that the Dinan which flows into the Nore at ThreeCastles comes from ‘An Deineen’, which translates as ‘the little noisy vehement river’? 

Find out about how rivers were harnessed as a source of power in the past in an account of the Merino Factory on the King’s River in Ennisnag from the 1949 OKR. Have you ever strolled along the Canal Walk and wondered about the canal that was never finished? An article in the 1954 OKR tells its story.

Readers of Jane Austen are familiar with ‘taking the waters’ at Bath, but did you know we had our own special ‘Spa’ in Ballyspellen near Johnstown? This was a thriving attraction in the 18th century.  The mineral waters were believed to cure illnesses ranging from blotches in the skin to obstructions of the liver. According to an article from the 1953 OKR, not only could you benefit from drinking the waters there back in 1742; you could also enjoy ‘very good fox hunting, horse racing, dancing and hurling’. 

A famous ballad was written about Ballyspellan by Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738), grandfather of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Here is the first verse:

All you who would refine your blood, 

As fair as famed Llewellyn,

 By waters clear, come every year

 To drink at Ballyspellan.


Dean Swift decided to poke fun at how his friend found words to rhyme with ‘Ballyspellan’. He wrote ‘An Answer to the Ballyspellan Ballad’ in fifteen verses, each time finding a new word to rhyme with ‘Ballyspellan’. Here is one verse:

Lewellin! Why? As well may I

Name honest Doctor Pelling 

So hard sometimes 

You tug for rhymes 

To bring in Ballyspellan.


All of the articles quoted so far are currently online. The Kilkenny Archaeological Society is looking forward to sharing the next two decades (1960s and 1970s) of The Old Kilkenny Review on their website in September. The ‘water theme’ continues in 1960 with an article about St Canice’s Well or ‘Kenny’s Well’.  In 1967 the Dinan features again in an article about the Jenkinstown Bridges. Placenames again shed light on the history of our locality. The bridge crossing the river at Jenkinstown is known as the ‘Tower Bridge’ on account of a tower lodge that used to be nearby at the entrance into the Jenkinstown demesne. 

The addition of over 200 articles to the website will appeal to anyone interested in local history, but Kilkenny Archaeological Society is particularly keen that history students in post-primary schools should avail of this resource. There are ideal topics for projects, from colourful figures such as Edmond O’Donovan (son of John O’Donovan of the Ordnance Survey) to linen weaving to famous local families such as the Smithwicks and Sullivans.

The society has received funding from The Heritage Council for its digitisation project.

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