Sunday, December 2, 2012

Killanny – A Close knit, hard working community

The Killanny Heritage Committee
Last year the Killanny Heritage Committee held a series of talks about the history of the local area. This year the Committee decided to look outside the parish and invite a variety of speakers in to talk about different aspects of the peace process. Former Methodist Moderator Harold Goode who was one of two witnesses to the IRA’s move to put arms beyond use and Fianna Fáil adviser and politician Martin Mansergh have been speakers in this series.

It was my turn last Friday evening. I arrived at Killanny along with local Councillor Pearse McGeough. The two of us had just attended the turning on the of the Christmas lights in Ardee. There was a receptive crowd in the Killanny Community and Sports Centre.
The parish of Killanny straddles the border between counties Monaghan and Louth. It is a beautiful place of rolling drumlin hills interspersed with small lakes. I visited the Killanny Community and Sports Centre some months ago. It is an excellent example of community power in action. Working together over several years the people of Killanny raised the money and participated in the construction of a well-designed, practical two storey building that is at the centre of the local community. Work began in 2005 and took several years but the end result is outstanding.

No one quite knows where the name Killanny comes from. It is thought it might have its origins in the name Coill Fhanaidh (the wood of the slope). Although others argue that it is more likely that it comes from an early Church settlement in the area. In the superb ‘Pictorial History of Killanny’ Terence Dooley of NUJ Maynooth’s History department in his introduction writes; ‘Cill Eanaigh (the Church of the Marsh) is one interpretation but it is more commonly believed that the name derives from Cill Eanna, the Church of St. Enda, who died in 542 and whose feast day is celebrated on March 21st each year.’
The story of Ireland is reflected in the history of Killanny. From the Norman conquest, through the clan wars against the English and the agrarian conflicts. Dooley records that: ‘It was in the spring of 1816 that agitation had manifested itself in a virulent form in Killanny. Secret societies specialised in destroying houses and burning haggard of hay in an attempt to control the local economy, to keep rents at an affordable level and to prevent estate clearances at a time when one local agent believed it would not be profitable to ‘make the best rental of the estate without entirely sweeping off the present population and replacing it by real farmers’ contending that ‘an entire change of system should take place.’

After one particularly brutal attack on a wealthy local land owner in which 8 men, women and children were killed, paid infomrers led to the arrest of over 20 men, 18 of whom were executed following their trial in Dundalk. Dooley writes that ‘at least half were innocent.’
Killanny also suffered from the effect of An Gorta Mór – the great hunger, emigration, economic depression and the Land War. In the early 1870’s the Marquis of Bath attempted to get his tenants to sign a covenant on their lease that would mean that in the event of their eviction they would not be compensated - as was legally required – for an improvement works they had carried out on their holdings. This led to the establishment of the Farney Tenants’ Defence Association in which Killanny tenants were prominent.

A decade later the Gaelic Athletic Association and in 1893 the Gaelic League was created to encourage the Irish language and culture. Both put down roots in Killanny. The Irish National Volunteers also attracted huge support. Killanny played its part during the Tan War and was also affected by the civil war.
Agriculture was and remains the mainstay of the local economy. And Killanny GAA has a proud record of achievement.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Killanny. It is a close knit, hard working community and the people are generous and welcoming. In the course of the year they run a series of festivals and other events and recently opened the Killanny playground which I had the pleasure to try out. Don’t believe me? Look at the photos.

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