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“This is Cloonagh calling!” So would go the greeting of my late grandfather, Raymond McGrath

RIP, to his late sister, Mrs. Delia Connolly (nee McGrath) RIP of Boston, U.S.A. whenever he

spoke with her by telephone. Perhaps therefore, it is an appropriate title for this personal

collection of information gathered by and relayed to me, by previous and present residents of

Cloonagh, to whom I am very grateful. It offers some glimpse into the history associated with

the place I call home, namely Cloonagh. Cloonagh, Milltown that is, lest there be any confusion

between it and nearby, - Cloonagh, Dunmore. Cloonaghgarve is of course, its correct townland

name, although the name Cloonagh is properly recognised also, deriving its roots from ‘the heart’

of the village. Cloonaghgarve would be regarded locally as the broader townland area. Many

readers of this article will have their own memories associated with Cloonagh, holding as it did,

close links with the general Garrafrauns area. Some readers may recall families from previous

Cloonagh generations, attending Mass in Garrafrauns and perhaps frequenting Garrafrauns for

grocery provisions and/or social occasions etc.

Comprising of 191 acres, 2 roods and 18 perches in imperial measurement, that’s 77.3 hectares,

(although other sources state 191 acres and 26 perches), it included, according to available online

references from the 1850’s, about 38 acres of bog and 25 acres of rough, pasture land. This

bogland, would have existed as a large cross section, moving east to west, from Lurgan, through

south Cloonaghgarve and onwards into Rosmearan. Other field boundaries towards the north of

the townland came into being much later and indeed have seen various changes since then.

Cloonaghgarve is bounded on the north by the Sinking River which flows westwards, to the east

are the townlands of Carrowntomush and Carrowntootagh and to the west, Russelstown. On the

south, are Rosmearan and a small part of Lurgan (West). There is a children’s burial ground

located in Cloonaghgarve on a small hill at the north eastern side of the townland - (Nicholson’s

field) and there is part of a double banked, probable pathway to this, running east to west along

fields, ‘the bottoms’ from Carrowntootagh.

The name Cloonaghgarve comes from the Irish, ‘cluain - each - garbh’ meaning, ‘meadow of the

wild horse/(steed)’ or, ‘clunach - garbh’ meaning ‘rough lawn’ or ‘rough meadow’. It was once

the property of the landlord Mr. Richard Skerritt Golding or (Goulding), of Shrule, Co. Mayo.

He also owned in the vicinity, the neighbouring townlands of Lurgan and Rosmearan and this

land ‘parcel’ formed just part of his vast estate. Another branch of the same Goulding family

lived at Carnaun, Tuam. With just a few people and very little housing once existing in

Cloonaghgarve, (only two families), Goulding is reputed to have used Cloonaghgarve as an

outlying ‘farm’ for horse grazing as the demand for older equines especially for use in British

wars was greater then. This indeed may in part be the reason of how Cloonaghgarve got its


According to information gathered for this article, once, only one house existed in

Cloonaghgarve. It was located at the rear of ‘the poursh’ that currently leads into the farms of

Mrs. Maureen Steed and Raymond McGrath. The outer structure is still in existence. Two

families are believed to have lived in this house, their names unfortunately, unknown.

Subsequently, it became the residence of the Flaherty family. According to Maureen Steed, her

father was Peter (‘Sin’) Flaherty and his father was Patrick (‘Datch’) Flaherty. Patrick’s wife

was Honor (Nell) Healy from Russelstown and she was an aunt of Mrs. Ellen Coen, Rosmearan.

Ellen Coen was the wife of Pat Coen, the appointed ‘herdsman’ of Goulding. This description

of family lineage, may explain in part, the close connection between Rosmearan and

Cloonaghgarve townlands and the one single original house that existed.

The landlord, Richard Goulding appointed Mr. Pat Coen from Mountbellew into a ‘herd’s

cottage’ in Rosmearan, as his overseeing ‘agent’ for the immediate area (Rosmearan,

Cloonaghgarve and Lurgan). Wanting to gain further from his actions, Goulding, via Pat Coen

‘planted’ existing residents of the area, especially from Rosmearan, into this ‘new village’ of

Cloonagh (within Cloonaghgarve townland). Over time, other families from elsewhere made the

townland their new home. As most of these newly ‘planted’ individuals were unable to read and

write in those times, and communicating primarily through the Irish language, an interesting,

albeit harsh practice, occurred them concerning rent payments. If unable to directly pay the rent

to Goulding via Pat Coen, they would instead, be obliged to pay by means of extra physical

labour, such as road making and digging of drains. Sometimes, they would get a can of oaten

meal for their labour. The men and women would have to show a record of their manual work by

the wearing of pieces of small timber sticks around their necks. For each day worked in lieu of

the payment due, a notch would be cut into the stick indicating to themselves, that part of the

overall payment was now complete. When the correct number of notches was complied with,

they would then present their sticks at Coen’s house to indicate that the full ‘payment’ had now

been made by way of all their strenuous efforts. The total value of Cloonaghgarve in the 1850’s

when Goulding was still in ownership, is stated as 71 pounds, 10 schillings and 4 pence! As the

years progressed, the tenant farmers gradually gained full title on different ‘parcels of land’. It is

understood from available resources online, that this process began in about 1905. Many men

from Cloonagh were involved in the discovery and transportation to Milltown railway station of

the famous Lurgan Log-boat, discovered during draining work/road building in 1901.

According to the 1901 Census of Ireland, Cloonaghgarve is listed as having 22 occupied houses,

a slight increase in the 1835 figure of 18. Upwards of 24 or 25 houses however, once stood in

Cloonaghgarve with population figures (as given) for the year 1851 showing 139 individuals! In

light of the fact that these were the years of the Great Famine in Ireland, it would seem that

Cloonaghgarve fared more favourably than other areas, in terms of hunger, disease and

population decrease.