Kildare Archaeological Society Journal for 2016/2017 was published recently. The Journal which has now reached Part I of Volume 21 has developed over the last 25 years under the editorship of Professor Raymond Gillespie of Maynooth University to become one of the finest journals of its type in Ireland.
The Archaeological Society was founded at a meeting in Palmerstown House on Saturday 25th April 1891. The Society’s purpose was ‘the promotion of study and knowledge of the antiquities and objects of interest in the county of Kildare and surrounding districts.’ In its first year the Society organised what was described as its ‘first annual excursion meeting’ which took place on Thursday, 3rd September 1891. A subsequent report of that meeting recounted how ‘the town of Naas was rendered lively in the morning by the constant stream of vehicles passing through on their way to Killashee where the members assembled at 11.30a.m.’
An inspection of the subterranean passages in Killashee grounds guided by Rev. Denis Murphy was followed by a talk by the same learned Jesuit in the nearby Killashee Church. The Society members then returned to Naas where another cleric, this time Archdeacon de Burgh, gave a guided tour of St. David’s Church and the nearby rectory. The Town Hall in Naas was the venue for lunch and afterwards visits to the nearby north Moat and finally to Jigginstown Castle completed the day’s outing. A note in the subsequent reports of the outing recorded that the railway company issued return tickets to members at single fares and of course those members in 1891 were able to disembark at the railway station in Naas town.
The rules of the Society adapted at the initial meeting in April 1891 stipulated that ‘a journal of the society be published annually’. The first journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society was published in 1892 and it continued to be published continuously over the following 125 years. That first journal comprising 44 pages included a number of notes by Lord Walter Fitzgerald of Kilkea Castle who for the remaining 31 years of his life would play an important role in antiquarian research with particular reference to County Kildare.
The second issue of the journal came to 154 pages and included a number of articles relating to Athy, as well as a report on the Society’s second annual excursion to Athy on 15th September 1892. Rev. J. Carroll, previously a curate in Athy, brought the visitors to St. Michael’s medieval Church where he delivered a talk on the 14th century ruin. From there the Society members and friends walked to Whites Castle where Dr. Comerford, Coadjutor Bishop of Kildare and Loughlin, gave a talk on the history of Athy. The Chairman of Athy Town Commissioners had arranged a display of records relating to Athy Borough Council which was abolished in 1840 following which the visitors proceeded to Woodstock Castle where Fr. Carroll gave a talk on its history. The Journal reported, ‘the company then made the first real use of the brakes and carriages which the society had provided ….. and betook themselves in a long stream of vehicles to the charming residence of Lord and Lady Seaton at Bert.’ There lunch was provided for 150 guests and afterwards Rheban Castle was visited. Some of the Society members travelled to the Castle by coach across Milltown Bridge, while others walked to the banks of the River Barrow where large boats were ready to bring them to the other side. There Lord Walter Fitzgerald read a paper on Rheban Castle, following which a majority of the visitors had to return to Athy railway station to catch the ‘evening up train’.
Some sixty of the Society members and friends continued to Grangemellon where they were received by Sir Anthony and Lady Weldon who had invited them to tea at Kilmoroney. The members were particularly interested in what was described as the ‘wonderful military bridge’ built across the River Barrow by Colonel Weldon. Sir Anthony Weldon also displayed some of his family treasures including a pair of small tankards presented to Captain William Weldon by the Irish Parliament in 1631 and a watch which once belonged to King Charles I and which came into the Weldon family possession through Bishop William Juxon. The one-time Bishop of London served as the King’s Chaplain and ministered to Charles I on the scaffold prior to the King’s execution in January 1649.
The current Journal has a wide range of interesting articles, including contributions by Castledermot residents Eamon Kane and Dr. Sharon Greene, who was recently appointed editor of ‘Archaeology Ireland’. Incidentally the objectives of the Archaeological Society have been broadened since its 1891 foundation to include ‘The promotion and knowledge of history, archaeology and antiquities of the county and the surrounding countryside.’ Membership is open to all and persons wishing to join the Society should contact Greg Connelly at Newington House, Christianstown, Co. Kildare.