Bilboa, County Laois

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County Laois
Grid reference: S641720
Location: 52°47’45"N, 7°3’2"W
Local Government

Bilboa is a tiny village in County Laois, formerly a coal-mining village, on the boundaries of the counties of Laois, Carlow and Kilkenny.,[1] in a bleak and beautiful and forgotten part of the Castlecomer plateau that forms an expanse between the three counties.

Without coal there would have been little settlement at Bilboa. It remains but a little cluster of families struggling to maintain its identity and to survive as a distinct localised community. Of the early mining village, only the church remains.[2]

Bilboa's Anglican church[3] is a detached three-bay Tudor Revival Church of Ireland church, built 1846, with crenellated entrance tower and granite dressings including clasping buttresses on octagonal plans having pinnacles and hood mouldings to openings. Interior retains original pews.[4]


The tale about the original of the name 'Bilboa' recorded locally is that it is neither Irish nor English, but Basque. The tale is that one Colonel John Staunton Rochford (1802-1844) returned from fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. He was credited with some act of valour while fighting around the Spanish city of Bilbao, a name then frequently written 'Bilboa'.[5] He became known as 'Rochford of Bilboa', whereas his family before him where the Rochfords of Clogrennene.

However the name is not unique: there is a Bilboa in County Limerick, whose name is from the Irish Béal Átha Bó, meaning 'fordmouth of cattle'.[6] The County Laois village has its name rendered in Irish as Biolbó.[7]

Later members of the Rochford family ensured the building of Bilboa Church in 1850.