Irish: Baile na Lorgan
Muckno Street in Castleblayney town centre
|Council:||Carrickmacross and Castleblayney|
Castleblayney or Castleblaney is a town in County Monaghan, in the Republic of Ireland, close to the border with the United Kingdom (County Armagh). The town had a population of 3,634 according to the 2011 census.
The town, in the heart of typical South Ulster drumlins and lake countryside, lies above the western shore of Lough Muckno, the largest lake in County Monaghan. The River Fane flows eastwards from the lake to the Irish Sea at Dundalk in County Louth. As the Irish name of the lake, 'the place where pigs swim', suggests, the area is associated with the Black Pig's Dyke, also known locally in parts of Counties Cavan and Monaghan as the Worm Ditch, an ancient Iron Age boundary of Ulster.
A few miles to the north-east is the highest elevation in County Monaghan, 'Mullyash', at 1,034 feet, which until modern times was associated with folk festivals of which the churches often disapproved.
Markets and fair days were held in the town since the 17th century, but these have faded away in recent decades. Beyond the town, there are a variety of proposed natural heritage sites.
The town of Castleblayney originated in the Tudor conquest of Gaelic Ulster in the Nine Years' War, 1583-1601. In 1611 the Crown granted forfeited lands in the area previously owned by the MacMahon chieftains to Sir Edward Blayney of Montgomeryshire for his service to Queen Elizabeth I. He became Baron of Monaghan and later, the first Baron Blayney. The Queen had already granted him appropriated Augustinian church land at Muckno Friary on the northeastern side of the lake in the Churchill area (Mullandoy) in 1606/7.
Muckno is also the name given to the Roman Catholic parish (St. Mary's, Castleblayney and St Patrick's, Oram, just three miles north east of the town) and Church of Ireland parish (St Maeldoid's), of the Diocese of Clogher. These cover most of the areas around the lough and town.
Strategically placed at the junction of many routes from all directions, the nucleus of the town developed around the original Blayney Castle, above the western shore overlooking the lough. The old monastic and parish church site fell into disrepair and largely disappeared, though it was used as a graveyard that has recently seen some restoration. For the first hundred years the 'town' was little more than a vulnerable, besieged fortification due to the widespread instability, insurgency and wars throughout Britain and Ireland for much of the 17th century.
The piecemeal settlement of English and some French Huguenot incomers, all of the Protestant faith in contrast to the continuing Roman religion of most of the native population, was followed by a significant influx of largely Ulster-Scots settlers after 1690 when greater security prevailed.
Population displacement and settlement along with gradual urban and commercial development, the crossroads location, the anglicizing National Schools system, the Famine as well as the incorporation of the town into the rail network (1849), all helped hasten the decline of the vernacular Irish spoken in the area. However, in rural districts to the south and south-east of the town - particularly Lisdoonan and the barony of Farney as well as parts of neighbouring south Armagh, the language was quite widely spoken among country people and written by local scribes until the mid-19th century. Some naturally native speakers survived into the 20th century. Old Irish music and songs have been recovered in recent times.
In 1762, a demonstration occurred in the town accompanied by a threatening military presence. This was connected with the 'Oakboys' movement that was active in the county. The protest was about compulsory work to repair public roads as well as private roads and avenues in gentry demesnes that was exacted from agricultural labourers for no wages.
The modern planned town, reminiscent of Plantation towns with its characteristic very wide main street, and with long, narrow individual gardens to the rear and out of sight, dates from ca. 1830. It was laid out under the direction of the Andrew Blayney, 11th Baron Blayney, who governed the Blayney estates from 1784 until his death in 1832. Educated in France and Germany, Andrew Blayney is famous for his distinguished military career, eventually becoming Colonel, having served the Crown in the West Indies, South America, southern Africa, the Napoleonic Wars as commander of the 89th Foot, popularly known as 'Blayney's Bloodhounds'. He was very active in the suppression of the revolt of the United Irishmen in 1798.
An enlightened landowner, socially progressive, and professedly committed to the welfare and improvement of the people and county of Monaghan, Blayney also provided for the erection in Castleblayney of the current church buildings of the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches, being tolerant in religion if traditionalist in politics and strongly supportive of Empire and the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. He also had a Market House built, on to which the Courthouse was later superimposed in the quasi-centre of the town. It and the former Alms Houses (1876), which were interdenominationally managed, are the only civic buildings of any architectural merit in the town. As for older dwellings, a row of formerly Muckno Estate workers' cottages in Church St, possibly of Continental style, is of fine design and quality (apart from modern PVC windows). Some more substantial bourgeois houses in the square close to the Castle gates have Georgian echoes. The courthouse will soon undergo major refurbishment and restoration. About 40 structures and buildings are designated as being of 'regional or local importance'.
In the early 1840s, what is now St Mary's Hospital was erected as a Workhouse for the very poor. In the course of the year 1849 following the dire effects of the Famine, it catered for up to 2000 inmates in an extreme state of destitution and misery - its own graveyard is nearby. In later times, the Workhouse became a 'County Home' for the infirm.
In 1853, Cadwallader Blayney, 12th Baron Blayney and sometime MP for Monaghan, sold the Castle and estate to Henry Thomas Hope from Deepdene in Surrey, a former MP at Westminster. The Castle was renamed 'Hope Castle', as it still called. Hope gave the Georgian Castle with its splendid prospect a Victorian makeover that the present prettified building retains, externally at least. 'Castle' has always been a misnomer, since it was more of a 'Big House', mansion or manor house than a castle. After his death in 1862, Hope's wife, Anne, inherited the estate. Soon after 1887, the Castle and demesne fell to the next heir, a grandson of Hope: Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope, otherwise known as 'Lord Francis Hope', famous for having sold the renowned family heirloom, the 'Hope Diamond'. After 1916, Hope no longer resided in the Castle nor in Ireland. On becoming the Duke of Newcastle in 1928, he later sold off both the Castle and the estate, which became broken up and used in part for local political patronage. During the 'Emergency' (the Second World War), the old woods on the Black Island in Lough Muckno were comprehensively despoiled by the Irish Free State government, so that for several decades the Island was a wilderness and environmental eyesore. The woods were only reinstated in recent times as a valuable amenity.
In 1919-1921, during the Irish war of independence, the Castle was used as a barracks by the British Army. Some time afterwards it functioned as a hospital, and from 1943 to 1974, it was occupied by Franciscan nuns who also managed an adjacent guest house. After some years of neglect, the Castle has been used for catering and hotel purposes set in what is now a Leisure Park with golf course, though the location and lough suffer from being in management and conservation limbo. The current Castleblayney Golf Club adopted the Blayney family coat of arms, with its three nags' heads. In October 2010, the Castle was burnt down in an arson attack.
Rail services at the town ceased on New Year's Day, 1960. Recent decades have seen some incomers from Eastern Europe and beyond settling permanently or temporarily arising out of European Union obligations. And with increasing all-Ireland harmony, there is increasing natural 'cross-border' mobility that is diminishing the old and sterile 'border town' atmosphere and mentality.
- Castleblayney was one of the first towns in the country and the first in Monaghan to open a Community Enterprise Centre (1987) which provides office and unit workspace for business start-ups. The Centre today offers meeting rooms and fully equipped computer suite. Governed by a voluntary Board of directors and backed up by a staff team the group manage the town Website www.castleblayney.ie and are also responsible for many other activities which include the staging of the towns Muckno Mania Festival www.mucknomania.ie*Castleblayney has a new modern Theatre & Community Resource Centre, called Iontas, which was officially opened by the President of Ireland in December 2005.
- Two shopping centres are Located in the Town. One with SuperValu as its anchor tenant and the other with Centra.
- An 18-hole championship golf course is located at Concra, just outside the town.
Castleblayney is known as the Nashville of Ireland. Top Rank Entertainment managed many of Ireland's musical acts from its headquarters in the town. Castleblayney is steeped in a strong tradition of music, with people like Big Tom and The Mainliners, Paddy Cole, Anna Mc Goldrick, Tommy Fat Sam Toal  who was lead vocalist with Maurice Lynch Showband and sang alongside Paddy Cole and The Regal Showband and was also a pioneer of Local & Community Radio, his stations being Big M and Hometown Radio with his format still in use today by stations up and down the country, and his son Eamonn who proudly represented his hometown at the 2000 Eurovsion Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden, all having enjoyed acclaim over the years. Similarly, Castleblayney amassed a wealth of showbands, too many to mention, who enjoyed success on the musical circuits in Ireland and abroad. These bands included the Maurice Lynch Showband, Paddy Cole All Stars, The Regal Showband, Everglades, Travellers, The Mainliners, The Outlaws, Emmett Ceili Band, Gerry Black and the Seasons, Ginger Morgan Band and the McGuigan céilí Band. And although Castleblayney is known as the Nashville of Ireland it was one of the first towns outside of Dublin to form a rock band when in 1976 Montana was born. The band was hugely popular back in the day and its members were Kieran Brennan, Brendan Farrell, Raymond Lynch, Jimmy Rooney and Paul Toal.
- Gaelic Athletics Association: Castleblayney Faugh's GAC
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- Borderlands: Essays on the History of the Ulster-Leinster Border, ed. by Raymond Gillespie and Harold O'Sullivan (Belfast, 1989).
- Peter Collins & A.P.W. Malcomson, The Blayney of Castleblayney Papers in The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
- Patrick J. Duffy, Landscapes of South Ulster—A Parish Atlas of the Diocese of Clogher (Belfast, 1993).
- Charles Laverty, 'The old name of Castleblayney', in: County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal, vol. I/4 (1907), 29-33.
- Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London, 1837. 1842).
- Peadar Livingstone, The Monaghan Story, Clogher Historical Society (Enniskillen, 1980)
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (on Andrew Blayney, Clare Sheridan, Eoin O'Duffy, and Samuel Hemphill).
- Photographic Memories: a pictorial history of Castleblayney, Castleblayney Heritage Group Millennium Publication (Castleblayney, 1999).
- Evelyn P. Shirley, The History of the County of Monaghan (London 1869). Reprint 1988