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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

Peace at :ast

Donadea is my local forest park where I go to enjoy ‘the present’ but it is also a mirror image of Ireland’s divisive history.

It is situated on what was called the ‘Sli Mor’, the ‘Great Way’, one the five major roads of Ireland which guided tribute-bearing poet and kings from the West to Royal Tara (and home again).

One of the old annals mentions that St Patrick spent time near Donadea in 455, leaving a church there.

In 1558 that wooded area passed to the Norman Aylmer family who built a castle, part of which remains. They continued to live there until 1931.

Like many of the Norman settlers the Aylmers felt closer to the local Irish than to the distant English monarchy. They were able to maintain a balancing act until the Reformation when Catholics were forbidden to own land. The solution was to send one their heirs to England where he was brought up as a Protestant.

From then on the Aylmers of Donadea sided with British interests while their cousins and neighbours, the Aylmers of Plainstown, continued to support the Irish and Catholic cause.

This came to a head at the nearby ‘Battle of Kilcock’ during the 1798 Rebellion. The rebels were led by William of Plainstown and the opposing Yeomen (militia) led by Fenton of Donadea. Until then all the Aylmers had been buried in the family vault in the old church at Donadea but after 1798 Fenton built a new church beside the old and moved his family mausoleum there.

Today Fenton’s ‘new’ gothic church, with the new Aylmer mausoleum behind it, is still in use. However, the old divisions have faded away and St Patrick can now rest in peace.

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