An Irish ‘Way of St James’

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2017), Letters, Volume 25

Sir,—I was very interested in Damien McLellan’s ‘Reclaiming an Irish “Way of St James”’ (HI 24.3, May/June 2016), and especially in his listing of possible stops on the route that Irish pilgrims might have followed between Dublin and Waterford. In particular, his listing of Ballymore Eustace, Co. Kildare, as one potential stop rang some bells and sent me in search of a reference that I vaguely remembered from many years ago in relation to this. In vol. XVI, no. 2, of the Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society (1980), Patricia Jackson published an article on ‘The holy wells of County Kildare’. Although the article is primarily about holy wells, it also contained material in relation to churches in whose vicinity such wells were often found. Dealing with the well of ‘St James’ at Coughlanstown—which is significant in itself—she also cites a letter written in 1786 by the parish priest of Ballymore Eustace, Fr Devoy, to the archbishop of Dublin, which refers to the ‘monastry’ [recte medieval church] at Coughlanstown. It goes on to say that the local tradition was that the ‘monastry’ was ‘founded by monks from Santiago de Compostella in Spain’ and that they were supposed to have given the name to the nearby townland of Yago. While there was never a monastery, as such, at Coughlanstown, I don’t think there can be any doubt that the oral tradition preserves a memory of the church there being associated, in some way, with the famous pilgimage route. Another piece of evidence for Damien’s interesting proposition?—Yours etc.,

BRIAN McCABE
Johnstown
Naas

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