Ballindoon Priory, Sligo, Ireland

Ballindoon Priory, standing as it does on the edge of a sloping field running down towards Lough Arrow, creates a very impressive aspect upon approach. This Dominican Priory, known as St Mary’s was built in 1507 by a Thomas O’ Farrell under the patronage of the Mc Donagh family who had a castle nearby. The interior of the site is beautiful, with a rare triple vaulted archway on two levels in the centre of the church, these archways form part of the bell tower. The church consists of a nave and chancel with a transept added later. The outer south wall of the structure contains and unusual external staircase. The church and its lands were confiscated during Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monasteries.

The church contains the graveyard of eminent locals, one grave marks the final resting place of Terence McDonagh, who was the only Catholic barrister in Ireland during the religious repression of the penal times. McDonagh defended the catholic families of the O’Connors and the O’Rourkes and helped them hold on to their hereditary possessions and lands. Mc Donagh died in 1717. The grave of the renowned Gaelic scribe Lame David Duigenan, who was the author of one of the surviving independent versions of the Battle of Moytura, he died in 1696 and his grave stands close to Mc Donaghs. On the day of my visit I neglected to search for a holy water font 70 metres to the north of the site named St Dominic’s Stone, whose water was purported as a cure for warts.

Recently I have been volunteering to transcribe copybooks from the Dúchas Schools Irish Folklore Collection on their online database, I transcribed the following two stories relating to Ballindoon Abbey. The first is by a child named Teasy Gallagher from Boyle who was told this story by her grandfather Pat Mac Hugh,
“One day when the monks were saying their prayers an English soldier named Frederick Hamilton tried to force his horse up to the steps to attack and kill everybody inside. They had a rusty gun that was not used for years. Although there was no charge put in it, the Abbot gave it to a monk and told him to fire. A shot went off. Hamilton was killed, his horse tumbled down, and tracks of his shoes are still to be seen in the steps of the stairway.”

The second is from a child named Thomas McDermott from Doon, who was told the next story from his grandmother Mrs Mary McDermott,
“When Ballindoon Abbey was going to be blown up by Cromwell’s men, one man from the district said he would do his best to defend it and took his gun. When he was going up to the Abbey his old mother gave him an advice. This was the advice, she gave him, “When the soldier comes aim at his feet”. When the soldier came he had a steel helmet on his head. When he came to the place from which he was going to fire from he lifted up the helmet to see the spot at which he would fire. The man on the Abbey aimed at his feet and shot him dead and the abbey was defended for that time.

GPS: 54.08283, -8.3233

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