Al Beagan's "Genealogy Notes" of Co. Cavan - History of Cavan Town

Al Beagan's "Genealogy Notes" ©1996

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The Civic History of The Town of Cavan

by T. S. Smith


Chapter I

The name, Cavan is derived from the Gaelic word, Cabán, meaning "a hollow,"' and having reference to the geographical posistion of the town. A favourite legend is that the ancient town of Cavan is beneath the waters of the Green Lake. Be this as it ----- is probable that the town was a place of some importance ----before the commencement of the Christian era. Evidence ------- early habitation is afforded by numerous old forts or raths (dwelling places) in and near the present town. and among those shown on the Ordnance Survey maps are Swellan Fort, Drumgoon ---- and Kinnypottle Fort.

----the tenth century the territory known as Breifny was ------ into two Principalities--East Breifny, or Breifny O Reilly, ------ West Breifny, or Breifny O Rourke--corresponding to Counties Cavan and Leitrim respectively. Of the older or Celtic ------ the O'Rei!!ys of Breifny figure prominently in our local history. The O' Reillys had many castles throughout Breifny. ----- principal fortress was on Tullymongan hill (Fair Green or ----- Hill}, and it may be assumed that from this stronghold the Town of Cavan originated. Giolla Iosa Roe O' Reilly, Prince of Breifny who succeeded to the government of the O'Reilly princeapality on the death of his brother in 1293. built and endowed ------Monastery of Cavan in the year 1300. This Abbey was for centuries occupied by Franciscan friars.

In 1584 East Breny (or Breifny) was formed into the present county of Cavan, and added to Ulster. The following year, 1585, the county returned two members--Philip O'Reyly, Esq., and Edmund O' Reyly, Esq., both of Cavan--to serve in the Irish Parliment. From the middle of the sixteenth century the O'Reilly Clan gradually lost its independence. Some of them opposed the English authorities. Others of the Clan, however, sided with the Crown, and were rewarded for their services in grants of land and titles of honour. One of them who ---oured, Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) was known as the Queen s O'Reilly."

While the O'Reillys governed, it may be taken for granted that they administered public affairs according to the ancient ----- called Brehon Law. The sixteenth century witnessed the ------ subjection of Ireland to the English Crown, but the ancient ------- continued to be generally used until the beginning of the

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seventeenth century. Brehon Law was then abolished by Act of Parliament, and English law extended to the whole of Ireland. Gradually there was introduced the modern order of civilization and government.

At the close of the sixteenth century, Cavan was a typical town of the period. Then a governor styled the "Constable of Cavan" represented the Crown. A State Paper Office map (made about 1593) of "The Towne of The Cavan" depicts "Aurelie's [i.e., O'Reilly's] castell on the hill over the Cavan" There are also shown two principal streets, corresponding to Main Street and Bridge Street of to-day. On the map the bridge over the latter street stands out clearly, there being few houses adjoining it. Off Bridge Street are tile Church and Tower of the Franciscan Monastery, the Tower resembling what it is to-day, In the Main Street are marked the Market Cross and the Bull Ring.

The market Cross, it is believed, stood about the junction of Main Street and Bridge Street. After the Cross itself was removed, the place of its location was still called the "Market Cross," The Bull Ring, it is said, was set in the ground, just opposite the present Head Post Office, Church Street (a continuation of Main Street). Some centuries ago, in most Irish towns, the "sport " of bull-lighting was carried out by tieing the ring in the bull's nose to another ring in the ground and setting the dogs, on the animal "to make the flesh tender," before killing for use.

There was a plot of ground in Bridge Street: {River Street side}, almost opposite Abbey Street (formally called Church Lane), upon which were erected the stocks and triangle for whipping persons sentenced to that punishment. The stocks, which were once common in the British Isles and the United States of America, were a frame with holes, in which the feet and hands of criminals were confined by way of chastisement. This was-as a recognized mode of correction, as will be seen from the following extract from The Gentleman's and Citizen's Almanac, Dublin, 1768:-

The Days on which the Act of Parliament against profane Cursing and Swearing may be read in Churches and Chapels, I viz., Feb. 7, May 8, Aug. 7, and Nov. 6. Penalties, I Shil. for 1 Oath, 2 Sh. for 2 Oaths, and 3 Sh. for 3 Oaths, or to be set in the Stocks. A Child, under The Age of 16, for Swearing, to be whipt by the constable, or by the Parent in the Constable's Presence.

It is probable that the Cavan stocks and triangle were not used after the early years of the nineteenth century. The last person who was in charge of these instruments of punishment was, it is said, a man named Rutherford, who resided in Bridge Street. This person, so it is related, was also the last person to be whipped at the triangle. Briefly stated, it appears that a young man named Brady, front Ballinagh district, decided he would make an