( Monastery at Mohill )
by Michael Whelan

There is very little historical information about the monastery of St Manachan at Mohill, but we do know that there was a monastery founded by Manachan at Mohill as early as 500 AD., for we are told in the Annals of Tighernach that Manachan died in 538 A.D. This Manachan is not to be confused with another Manachan who had a monastery at Lemanaghan in the parish of Ballinahown in Co Offaly, and whose shrine is still kept in the Catholic church of Boher in that same parish. The feast day of Manachan of Mohill has always been given as Feb 14th but when one adds 11 days as must be done according to the Gregorian calendar, adopted in England in 1752 AD., this feast-day falls on Feb 25th, the date everyone knows as Monaghan Day, the great fair-day of Mohill. About the year 1216. the monastery and the lands attached for its upkeep, Lisdadnan, Coolabawn, Cappagh, Tullybradan, Drumcroy, Gortfada and Drumkilla, were taken over by the Canons Regular of St Augustine, a religious order that was brought to Ireland by Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh in order to infuse new zeal into the church in Ireland. It was called St Mary's. Altogether we can count 81 such Augustinian houses that made their appearance in Ireland at this period, most of which lasted until the dissolution of the monasteries in the time of Henry VIII (1509 -1547). The title Canons Regular means that the monks adhered to the Rule of St Augustine (regula is the latin for rule). However, the order differs somewhat from the Augustinian Order of today (OSA), although one could say that they are "ecclesiastical first cousins". The Augustinian Priory of Mohill was a dependency of the monastery of Abbeyderg, Abbeyshrule, Co Longford.
The Annals of the Four Masters, which is a year-by-year history of Ireland from pre-Celtic times until 1616 AD., mentions Mohill monastery a number of times.
1330 AD. The coarb of (St) Caillin, Gilla-na-naev Mac Celie, died in the monastery of Maothail.
1486 AD. The Prior of Maethail, Farrell, the son of Robert Mac Rannall, died.
An interesting privilege that belonged to the monastery of Mohill was the right of sanctuary to a fugitive fleeing from his enemies as is stated in the Annals of the Four Masters under the year 1430 A.D.
Brian, the son of Tiernan Og O'Rourke, was slain by the sons of Melaghlin Mac Rannall, at Maethail-Mhanchain; and Donough Mac Tiernan was driven into the monastery of Maethail. Donough, however, came out of his own accord, for the sake of his people, on Mac Rannall's guarantee; and made peace between them; and an eric (compensation) was given to O'Rourke for the death of Brian.
In 1475 A.D. the Priory of St Mary at Mohill was stated to be 'conventual' and independent. On the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century the possessions included seven carucates or cartrons of land (about 560 acres). In 1590 A.D. the monastic possessions amounted to a church, two stone buildings and a cemetery of half an acre in area and three cartrons of land (about 240 acres). In the plantation of Leitrim under King James I the monastery and its possessions were granted to Henry Crofton. The Church of Ireland now stands on the site of Manachan's monastery and is also called St Mary's.
( The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance given him by Rev David Kelly DSA (Augustinian Provincial Archivist),
St Augustine's, Taylor's Lane, Ballyboden, Dublin 16 ).