The Communities involved in the Knockmealdown Active initiative are Ballyporeen, Clogheen, Goatenbridge, Ardfinnan and Newcastle.
Here are some brief introductions to the areas involved:
Ballyporeen is the furthest west of the villages running along the northern slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains. It lies in what is known as the Galtee-Vee Valley with the Galtee Mountains to the north and the Knockmealdowns to the south. The River Duag a tributary of the river Suir runs through the village. It is located on the R665 regional road. The nearest large towns are Mitchelstown and Cahir, which are 12 kilometers and 21 kilometers respectively. Also nearby Is the town of Clogeen to the south
The origins of the name are not definitive; the most accepted Gaelic translation is the “Ford Mouth of the Round Stones”. Those stones may have been river deposits or dye stones left there by inhabitants from a cloth dyeing process.
The exact date of Ballyporeen as a settlement is unknown, up until the 18th Century, Carrigvisteal (approx 1.5 km north of the village) was the main settlement node in the area.
Ballyporeen’s subsequent growth may be attributed to several of factors. In the 1700’s the town was on the main coach route between Cork and Dublin, which would have led to passing trade and a need for the provision of boarding houses and inns for travellers. There was also a mill at lower Main Street, known as Kingston’s Mills and would have provided employment opportunities, it was operational up until at least 1811.
The biggest single factor for the development and expansion of the village, was the involvement of the Earls of Kingston, the main landlord in the area, they owned the market rights on the estate and by 1810 (at the latest), large open air markets were held in the village three times a year. The fact the mill also bore their name indicates they were also probably influential in its creation.
Robert the 2nd Earl is most likely responsible for the village’s planned street design, he initiated a massive building programme across the estate in the late 1700s. Rents were kept low in the village to attract shopkeepers and tradespeople. The first edition Ordnance Survey maps (circa 1840) show the basic layout of the village as it is today encompassing the wide straight main street.
Lewis’ survey of 1837 notes the village as being located in the barony of Iffa and Offa West and reported that there were 113 houses and 513 inhabitants.
Ballyporeen is best-known for being the ancestral home of United States President Ronald Reagan. His great-grandfather, Michael Regan (who changed later the spelling of his name ), was baptised in the village in 1829 and lived there until his emigration to London not later than 1851 and ultimately the United States in 1857. President Reagan visited the village on the 3rd of June, 1984 and delivered a speech to its residents, during which he discussed his ancestry and what he called the “Irish-American tradition”.
There was some opposition to Reagan’s visit to Ireland. Authorities kept approximately 600 protesters behind barriers on the outskirts of the village on that day, they were not permitted inside until the presidential party had departed. The main focus of the protesters was toward the Reagan administration’s foreign policy, in particular its support of the Contras in Nicaragua.
Ballyporeen was previously home to The Ronald Reagan Pub. While the building still stands, the pub closed in 2004 and the following year its fittings and external signage were transferred to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Pat O’Brien, an American actor who gained Hollywood fame in the 1930s also had ancestral connections to the area.
Ballyporeen is home to the singer/songwriter Gemma Hayes whose hits include ‘Hanging Around’ from her debut album ‘Night on my Side’ which was released to critical acclaim and was nominated for the 2002 Mercury Music Prize.
The town of Clogheen rests at the base of the Knockmealdown Mountains, closest to the mountain crossing at the Vee, and just a few miles across the valley from Galteemore. Clogheen or in Gaelic Cloichin an Mhargaid (Little Market Stone) dates from the late medieval period. Numerous references to the town have been found in Cromwellian records. Back in the 1640’s Cromwellian officers directed that the markets and fairs of Clogheen should be transferred to the stronghold of Castlegrace a few miles to the east, where the remains of an ancient castle can still be seen on the land of the Grubb family.
The town had always held an important strategic position because of its location at the foot of the mountains which lies directly beneath the pass that connects the County of Tipperary to County Waterford. Another key feature that gave it importance was its positioning on the banks of two rivers – The Tar and the Duag – which led in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to Clogheen becoming a busy market and milling town.
Here also, the centre for the Union of Clogheen came into being in 1840, a Poor Law Union that encompassed all of the area between the Galtee and Knockmealdown mountains including the towns and villages of Cahir, Clogheen, Newcastle, Ardfinnan, Goatenbridge, Ballyporeen, Ballylooby, Skeheenarinky and, for a period of time, parts of Kilbehenny in County Limerick. The Poor Law Unions had been established to cater for the ever increasing number of paupers in the country just prior to the Great Famine. Being the centre of the Union, it was in Clogheen that the Union workhouse was constructed and opened in 1842. The remains of which can be seen on the grounds of the current day hospital.
Clogheens most famous resident was Fr. Nicholas Sheehy who was wrongly accused of murdering John Bridge and supporting the white boys. On 15 March 1766, he was hanged, drawn and quartered. Father Sheehy was hanged on a scaffold in Clonmel opposite St. Peters and Paul’s Church, where there was a plaque to commemorate his death. His head was severed and stuck on a spike over Clonmel Gaol as a warning against agrarian violence. His head remained above the porch at Clonmel jail for twenty years. His sister Catherine regularly visited the jail and was eventually given the head. She took it home in a bag under her arm and had it buried with the rest of his body beside the ruins of the old church of Shanrahan. To this day, Father Sheehy is regarded as a martyr. In the late 19th century and early 20th century there was an effort to have him canonized. People visiting his grave at Shanrahan cemetery near Clogheen take a hand full of clay from a small metal door on the left hand side of the grave, because it is rumoured to have healing powers. It is claimed that out of respect, birds didn’t peck his head for the twenty years it was left on the spike.
Today many people come to the town to visit Parson’s Green Pet Farm and caravan camping site, The Old Convent Restaurant, The Hermitage House Restaurant, the Mitchelstown Caves, the Vee, Baylough, Grubbs Monument and Shanranan Cemetery and also because of its central location, as a base for exploring the surrounding areas and Counties.
In Irish: Ard Fhíonáin, meaning “Fíonáin’s height” from an eminence on which its castle was built, and from St. Finian the Leper, who flourished in the latter part of the sixth century, and founded here an abbey of Regular Canons, to which, about the year 903, Cormac Mac Cuillenan, the celebrated monarch and archbishop of Munster, bequeathed one ounce of gold and one of silver, with his horse and arms: it was plundered and burnt by the English forces, in 1178. Prior to which time it was called in the Irish Annals “Druim-abhradh.” Here was also at an early period a monastery for Conventual Franciscans, concerning which there are no particulars on record. Ardfinnan is a small village in the barony of Iffa and Offa West, South Tipperary in Ireland. It is situated on the River Suir which is here crossed by a bridge of fourteen arches, and R665 regional road. The parish of Ardfinnan is made up of three areas: Ardfinnan, Ballybacon, and Grange. The village is located 14 kilometres from the town of Clonmel and six miles from the town of Cahir via the R670 road. The population of the village is approximately 1000 people.
Ardfinnan is the most distant of the villages from the Knockmealdown Mountains, but it does have access to one impressive amenity – a fine stretch of the River Suir. Anglers have cover of approximately 15 km of river bank on the river. Brown trout and Salmon can be caught in these waters. The river banks are maintained annually by club members who perform the work voluntarily before the season kicks off. Most parts of the river banks have plenty of room for Fly Fishing. The stretch of river has some shallow runs but the majority of the river is deep and would not be suitable for wading.
The most prominent feature of the village is Ardfinnan Castle which was built by King John Earl of Morton around 1186 to guard the river. It was a large rectangular pile strengthened by square towers at the corners, and belonged to the Knights Templars, on the suppression of which order it was granted to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and subsequently to the Bishop of Waterford.The Bridge was started soon after the castle was completed. Afterwards King John, of infamous memory, of whom it has been remarked that he achieved nothing during his sojourn in Ireland, but the construction of this and two other castles, namely, Lismore and Tibraghny. A large amount of judgment and military skill were exhibited in the selection of Ardfinnan as the site of a fortress, as it commanded one of the principal passes into South Munster. From public records it appears that this place had anciently a corporation: in 1311, 4th o. of Edw. II., a grant of “pontage for three years” was made to “the Bailiffs and good men of Ardfynan,” at the request of the Bishop of Limerick. In 1399, John, Earl of Desmond, was drowned in crossing the ford here with his followers, on returning from an incursion into the territory of the Earl of Ormonde.As its ruins still sufficiently show, its general form was that of a parallelogram, strengthened by square towers at the corners, and having a strong entrance gateway. It was preserved as a military stronghold until the year 1649, when it was dismantled by that inveterate castle-destroyer, Oliver Cromwell. The village of Ardfinnan itself was once a place of great importance, and appears to have had a corporation, as it is on record that in the reign of Edward II. a grant of “pontage for three years” was made to “the bailiffs and good men of Ardfynan.” The banks of the Suir, beneath the Castle, are connected by a bridge of fourteen arches, said to be coeval with the erection of the fortress.Within half a mile above the bridge, according to McCurtin’s annals, Terlogh O’Brien, King of Munster, routed Terlogh O’Connor, Monarch of Ireland, in 1150, when O’Hyne, Prince of Fiachra, and O’Fflahertie, Prince of West Connaught, were slain, with the greater part of the monarch’s army. The castle has a long and varied history of owners, and is inhabited to the present, but it is not open to the public.
(From the Illustrated Dublin Journal, No. 6, October 12, 1861)
Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis, 1837
Goatenbridge is the smallest of the villages along the northern slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains on the Tipperary side. Consisting of just a pub, GAA hall and a few houses, it is serviced by Ballybacon Church a few miles along the road toward Ardfinnan. It is also the location of the Kildanogue Duck Ponds, a wonderful amenity for locals and tourists alike.
Just above the village, in the Knockmealdown Mountains, is the Liam Lynch monument, which marks the area in which General Liam Lynch was shot during the Irish Civil War.
Newcastle is the furthest east of the five villages along the Knockmealdown Mountains. It is the start and finish point for the annual Knock ME Down Challenge & Knock ME Down MÓR events held in early September.
The River Suir runs along the side of the village which is a fantastic amenity for the region. It is also host to a mountain crossing point along with being the bridge village between the Knockmealdown and Comeragh mountain ranges.
The remains of an Anglo-Norman castle (tower house) and medieval church are located close by.