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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

The Women of Ardclough

Some may know Ardclough because Arthur Guinness (the original) is buried there.

In a nearby field Daniel O’Connell fought a duel and killed a man, an event he regretted to the end of his life.

Before that one of the greatest battles of the Viking Age was fought at neighbouring Glenmama, enabling Brian Boru to capture Dublin City on New Year’s Day 1000.

Five hundred years previous to that a group of women founded a monastic community on Ardclough Hill. Their leader, Briga, was not the famous Brigid of Kildare but a confidant of her’s. Like Derchairthinn, who succeeded her as prioress, the details of their background are limited beyond stressing their noble heritage.

Looking for more information on prominent women in early Irish history I searched for Christina Harrington’s ‘Women in a Celtic Church’ but have not been able to get my hands on a copy.

However I have become more conscious of the number of ‘Kils’ (cells or churches) in Ireland associated with women. Four in particular are often mentioned: Brigid in Kildare, Ita in Killeedy, Moninna in Killevy and Bronagh in Clonbroney but obviously there were many others, each with her own personality, practices and story.

Back in Ardclough, a ruined church-castle with a barrel roof remains from a post-Briga era. You can climb up the ‘leaning tower’ stairs to stand on the roof and get a better view of both the site and the sweeping plain of Kildare. There is also a round tower, missing its top. Its presence indicates the importance of the site.

Ardclough is best remembered today because of its Arthur Guinness connection. After visiting there, if and when you head off to taste his modern product, don’t forget to raise a glass to the early pioneers, the women of Ardclough.

Photo: On the left in the third photo is Arthur’s tomb.


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