This essay first appeared in The Rindoon Journal Volume 1.

Some historical notes on Kilmore House in St. John's Parish, Roscommon.
by Liam Byrne, (© St. John's Parish Heritage Group).

The extensive remains of the 17th. Century Kilmore House lie within the
townland of Carrowphadeen in the parish of St. John's in South Roscommon. The name Kilmore, from the Irish Cill - a church or as in this case, Coill - a wood, is a popular one with at least seven of the name Kilmore or Killmore in Co. Roscommon alone. The big wood (Coill Mór) to which the name refers once stretched all the way from Roscommon to Athlone but now only a small remnant of this mighty forest remains at St. John's Wood about two miles north of Kilmore House.

Little is known about the history of the site. The house was built of blue
Roscommon limestone by Sir. Arthur Shaen (later spelled Shane, McShane or O'Shane)1, sometime in the 1600's. The Shaen's ancestors were O'Farrells from Annaly in Co. Longford. These O' Fearghail of Muintir Anghaile were very active in this area from at least the early 1300's. Their plundering was such that in 1305 the Justiciar of Connaught had to put a thirty-two oared galley on Lough Ree "which shall constantly remain at Randon for the defence of the castles of Athlon and Randon if it shall be necessary" 2 But by the time of Elizabeth the First things had changed. Francis Farrell or Sir Francis Shaen as he became was knighted by the Queen for services to the crown. His chief residence was at Granard, Co. Longford where he was described by Haynes for the year 1598 as having "free (fee) farms & leases of religious lands". 3 He later rebelled against the crown although both his son and grandson were again active officials during the reigns of Charles I and Charles II.

His house, or mansion as it was by then, at Kilmore was still in the family when
upon the death of the great-grandson of Sir Francis and last male heir in 1730 the house and lands were put up for rent. In "Pue's Occurrences" for 1731 we find the following advertisement, "the house and lands of Kilmore, containing 620 acres, near Athlone, on the Shannon... There are 12 acres of gardens and orchards, stabling for 40 horses, with large malt-house, brew-house and barns, to be let during the minority of the Miss Shaens" 4

By 1744 the house may have been in the possession of the Earl of Clanrickard, as
he gives his address as Kilmore, Athlone. An advertisement the local press on 3rd. January that year saw him looking for the hire or purchase of a "good milk ass". 5

By the time of the census of 1749 it was the home of one Robert Waller Esquire who shared the house with 6 children under 14, ten male servants and twelve female servants. 6 In 1778, when Taylor and Skinner were publishing their map of the main roads of Ireland, Kilmore House is listed as still in the possession of this family, a Major Waller being noted living there. 7

The late 18th. Century was a time of serious agrarian unrest in Co. Roscommon
and elsewhere. Whether it was this turmoil, or by fire, or for some other reason, sometime between 1778 and the next reference we have to Kilmore in the early 1830's, the house was completely turned to ruin. Isaac Weld wrote in 1832 that "the remains of an old mansion house stand conspicuous on an eminence near the bay of Kilmore". He continues, "they contain numerous chimneys and gable ends, all firmly built and the windows give indication of the apartments having been large and extensive. The place must in it's day, have been one of consequence".8 By the 1830's however all was bleak with only some poor cabins resting amongst the ruins.

The general area became quite populated during the middle of the 19th. Century.
Carrowphadeen was one of the few townlands in Roscommon to show a rise in population between 1841 and 1851 (i.e. during the Famine). The population of the townland doubled from 58 persons to 124 and the houses from 13 to 26. 9 The availability of fishing on Lough Ree may have been an element in this as the locals would have been able to supplement their diet of potato with rich pickings from the lake.

The last owners of the once majestic Kilmore House were the Pierce family who
had possession for about the last 100 years or so. With the passing of the late Joe Pierce however this famous landmark on the Shannon is once more on the market. Though reduced somewhat in size and grandeur, the splendour of this once fine mansion, with it's extensive views over Lough Ree, is still plain for all to see. If history alone were an asset, then the value must be priceless.
Sources: 1. "History of the Ferralls" by R.B.Ferrall. Privately Published. USA 1981. 2. "Journal of the Old Athlone Society" Vol. 1 No. 1. (1969) p.49. 3. "History of the Ferralls" op. cit. p.45. 4. "Athlone, The Shannon & Lough Ree" by Prof. G.T. Stokes. (1897). 5. "Maps of the Roads of Ireland" by Taylor & Skinner. (1778) p.242. 6. Journal of the County Roscommon Family History Society. 7. "A household account from County Roscommon 1733 - 4" by William Gacquin, in "Irish Fairs & Markets - Studies in Local History". Four Courts Press 2001. 8. "Statistical Survey of the County of Roscommon" by Isaac Weld. (1832). 9. "The Census of Ireland for the year 1851 - Part 1. Co. of Roscommon". Stationary Office. (1852).