18 Aug 2022

Coming home to Gathabawn and reel in a few old friends and meet some new ones

Why not come to Gathabawn during the June Bank Holiday weekend and be swept away by a wave of of nostalgia and reminiscences.

Why not come to Gathabawn during the June Bank Holiday weekend and be swept away by a wave of of nostalgia and reminiscences.

Meet old school friends and families and make new friends on Saturday, June 2 and Sunday 3 for The Reeling In The Years festival compete with DVD of years goneby in the village and surrounding countryside. The photographic history of Gathabawn will be on view on in the church and school and as special bookely has been published as well.

Gathabawn is a scenic tranquil agricultural rural area less than three miles from Co. Laois and seven miles from Co Tipperary; covering Balleen, parts of Lisdowney and Glashare and located in the Barony of Galmoy. Gathabawn Rural Area is unique from a geological and topographical characteristic in that it is an out Parish of Lisdowney and part geographical parish of Freshford, Johnstown, Galmoy and Cullahill


Gathabawn Diaspora far and wide, generations back have in recent times contacted community group members and many others in the community researching their genealogical roots. It has been one of the aims of the Gathabawn Rural Development Group since it’s foundation to research and publish all possible local genealogical information when and where possible in hard and soft copy and on which it has built and developed the local heritage and history.

This work has taken many guises during the years from families tracing their ancestors, historic graveyard studies. A committee was formed and Gathabawn Reeling in the Years was born In March 16 people in Gathabawn sat down to research and catalogue the history of the village and surrounding area. 

The Afternoon Club and other community elders learning about life in Gathabawn 50-80 years ago in living memory,” Paddy Fitzpatrick explained.

“The Gathabawn hurling team were interviewed about their exploits 40 years ago and on what they achieved. We researched the RIC Barracks in the village built about 1820 destroyed after the Civil War and now the site of the Millennium Garden.

Gathabawn boasts many castles; forts; a choslel (stone age fort/settlement and one of only known two in Ireland) graveyards, raths, ring forts, lime kilns and fulica fia. All have researched already but it is hoped to gather them all in one collection for the purposes of the project. 

Gathabawn area covers the old civil parishes of Balleen and Coolcashin skirting the Civil Parishes of Fertagh, Garrnamanagh, Glashare, Rathlogan, Clomantagh and, Sheffin all steeped in their own history and heritage.

“We learned about old cures and remedies, 13 families stated they had healing gifts or customs in their families. Tubbernasuil (citing cures from the well of the eyes), Fitzpatrick’s Rosary Beads and Spa well (Ballyspellan) known for its healing properties, recorded in Rhyme by Jonathan Swift. The customs and the cures are widely used today by local residents and patrons from all parts of Ireland and overseas,” Paddy Fitzpatrick said.

“We learned of many old and traditional farming and living practices like horses for sire where farmers walked from town to town every day selling the sire’s services,” OPaddy pointed out.

Gathabawn singing pubs competition in the 1990’s are recalled by many bringing many stories of practice and competition in-which Gathabawn competed for three years. We had Macra na Tuaithe, Foroige clubs, and Macra na Feirme locally with members locally in Johnstown, Freshford, Cullahill and Local and County Officers,” he added.

Horse racing became big news when James and Michael Bowes horses especially Limestone Lad started winning races across Ireland and England.

“We have researched our local graveyards and have them on the internet....

“Coolcashin Graveyard is located within one of the best preserved archaeological sites in the country. The earthworks of an Anglo-Norman village are apparent in the field around the graveyard. “Tifeaghna Graveyard situated to the east of Gathabawn village in the town land of Tifeaghna (Browne) along the river Nuenna Valley. Within the walled enclosure w lies a regular pattern of mostly 19th century grave plots.

“The local community gave us about 1000 photos and hours of video footage to create this show and without their help we would never have compiled the DVD and booklet.

“We have biographies on Sr Grogan, Karen Fitzpatrick (model), Michael Bowe (horse trainer) to name but a few,” he said.


Our walks are built and developed around the local heritage and history; walks leave from outside Mackey’s Bar and Lounge, Gathabawn, take the road by the church, do a road ring of Cullahill Mountain, Gurteen-na-hilla, boreen to top of Binn-na-Nė, with Limestone Lad country to their left as they walk. Allowing one-witness and experience outstanding views of the Irish Midlands, Slieve Blooms, the Devils Bit, Mount Leinster.

On Easter Sunday the newly launched walk the MacGillapatrick Way walks with neighbouring groups in Laois and Kilkenny steeped in Fitzpatrick Heritage and folklore, became a reality; with a return walk Gathabawn to Durrow on October Bank-Holiday weekend.

This particular location boasts spectacular scenery where seven Counties come into view; also at this point a monument bush stands to commemorate the spot where legend has it Brian MacGillapatrick was slain by Cromwell’s men.

The local school (1841 - 1941) was situated in the townland of Creenkillmore, beside the entrance gate to Loughlin Bowe’s farm. It is now used as a cattle shed. It was replaced with a new school in 1942, nearer the village of Gathabawn. Even though the new school is in the townland of Foyle North and is often called Gathabawn School, it is still officially called Creenkill National School.

“We have an old style waltzing band booked for after the show on Saturday night for a barn dance and official launch and the raising of the green flag in Gathabawn National School on Sunday morning with a very big photographic exhibition following the launch.

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