Kill, County Kildare

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Irish: an Chill
County Kildare
Grid reference: N939225
Location: 53°14’59"N, 6°35’19"W
Population: 3,348  (2016)
Local Government
Council: County Kildare

Kill is a village in County Kildare, near the county's border with Dublin beside the N7. Its population is 3,348 according to the 2016 Census.

The name of the village s from the Irish an Chill, meaning 'the church'.

Kill is the birthplace of the Fenian John Devoy as well as home to two holders of the most senior ministry in the Irish government, the most powerful family in the 18th century Irish House of Commons and the birthplace of a leader of the opposition in the British House of Commons. The village won the European Entente Florale horticultural competition in 1987.


Excavations for the widening of the N7 in 2004 unearthed evidence of early habitation, including a late Bronze Age/early Iron Age hill fort and three small ring barrows. Kill (Cill Corbáin) was reputedly the burial place of the nine Ui Faeláin kings (later to become the O’Byrnes) who were based at Naas (Nás na Ríogh), the last of whom, Cerball mac Muirecáin, was buried in 909. The 'motte' of John de Hereford's castle, probably dating from the 12th century, still survives on the outskirts of the village.[1] A commandery for Knights Hospitallers was founded at Kilhill in the 13th century, by Maurice Fitzgerald, and chapters of the order were held here in 1326, 1332–34; it existed until the Reformation, when it was granted to John Alan.[2]

The Whiteboys were active in Kill parish in 1775. The stopping of the mail coach in Kill in 1798 incited rebellion in the county. Kill Hill was the name used for the town in 18th century maps, which mark a commons which was enclosed by act of parliament in 1811.

During the Irish War of Independence, two Royal Irish Constabulary men were shot dead at Greenhills on 21 August 1920. Broughal's pub was attacked by British forces, and the vacated RIC barracks were later burned down.[3]

Turnpiking and the N7

Kill’s prominence through its history stems from its situation on the main road from Dublin to the south and south west. The village was a staging post on the old toll road to Kilcullen, the first turnpike to be built (1729). It was here that horses were changed on the three-hour mail coach journey from Dublin to Kilcullen. The Old House, a turnpike inn, was originally built in 1794 and then rebuilt in 1943. Traffic increased dramatically on the road, (designated the T5 in 1926 and the N7 in 1977) in the middle years of the 20th century (2,000 a day in 1948, 3,800 in 1954, 4,500 in 1956, and 6,900 in 1962[4]). Proposals to bypass the village, first published in 1952, were contested by the population, but Kill was the first of the three villages on the Dublin-Naas road to be by-passed when a single carriageway road, 28 feet wide, through the fields of the Old Glebe House to the north of the town, was opened by Gerard Sweetman on 15 June 1956.

The name of the town proved ironic as the deadly impact of the road was quickly felt. The road claimed its first casualty, Straffan resident Margaret Hanafin even before its official opening on 1 June 1956, and four people died in the first major collision on the newly constructed bypass on 31 July. The Irish Times motoring correspondent described the road as:

”...the most modern piece of road engineering in the country. The criticism had been made that the bypass was crossed by a local road, running from Kill to Straffan, about which the only warning on the main road was one small sign.”[5]

The accident rate was a factor in the postponement of the entire Naas road scheme by the Fine Gael led coalition government in August 1956,[6][7][8] leaving both the Johnstown and Rathcoole sections of the road in a semi-finished state for years.

The single carriageway by-pass was eventually replaced by a dual carriageway, opened in 1963, the first section of the Dublin-Naas road to be increased to four lanes. The local service station in Beaufort, owned by the Goosen family, became famous for its "open 24½ hours daily" sign. This road was poorly designed with broadside crossings of insufficient length to accommodate even a small motor car. Kill's new dual carriageway claimed 18 lives in its first three years of operation to 1966[9] and a total of 57 lives in all. Even after traffic lights were eventually installed at the Kill junction in November 1980 eleven more lives were lost before a proper graded fly-over crossing was completed on 14 August 2006.

Economic life

Rabbit Falls at Hartwell, Arthurstown, Thornberry and Brookstown were first quarried in 1945 when Tom Roche set up the Castle Sand Company, later to become Roadstone,[10] and in turn CRH Holdings, to become Ireland's largest multinational corporation with a turnover of €17bn (2010).[11] The local quarries and offices of the company were major employers until they closed in 1982.

The economic transformation of Kill over this 30-year period was described by Ardclough schoolteacher Brigid Maguire in an Irish Press article previewing the opening of Goff's Horse Sales auditorium in 1975:

“A decade or so ago the village of Kill, now by-passed by the dual carriageway from Naas to Dublin was small and insignificant. A few houses, a couple of pubs, two churches, a post office. An old low-ceilinged schoolhouse was dismally clamouring for demolition. Then, gravel was discovered and a company was formed. The Castle Sand Company, later to become Roadstone, sent dumpers and trucks along to ruffle the quiet of the village. Houses to hold workers and a new school were built, the chapel under the wing of the popular sagart pharóiste was built doubling its floor space. A posh hotel was built. Now, a further addition – a project to set up a new bloodstock sales emporium strikes the imagination as being the right thing in the right place.”[12]

By the late 1970s, Kill was becoming a commuter town with over 70% of the population travelling to Dublin daily to work.

Politicians and generals

Bishopscourt (53°15’54"N, 6°34’42"W) was home to:

  • John Ponsonby, speaker of the Irish House of Commons (1753–61),
  • William Ponsonby, leader of the Irish Whigs (1789–1803),
and birthplace of:
  • George Ponsonby (1755–1817) William's brother and leader of the Whig Party in the House of Commons at Westminster,
  • Major-General Sir William Ponsonby (1772–1815), William's and George's uncle, whose inept charge at the Battle of Waterloo resulted in his death at the hands of the Polish Lancers and which was studied as an example of failed battle strategy for generations afterwards
  • Mary Ponsonby, Sir William's sister and wife of Charles Grey, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830–34, later Earl Grey. Lady Ponsonby was mentioned in the Saul Dibb film, The Duchess.
Ponsonby descendants include:
  • Sir Alec Douglas-Home (British Prime Minister, 1963–64),
  • Nicky Haslam, and
  • Princess Diana.

Fenian leader John Devoy was born near Kill on 3 September 1842. Two Irish Ministers for Finance had local connections: Gerard Sweetman (Minister for Finance, 1954–57) lived in Killeen House and Charlie McCreevy, Irish Minister for Finance (1997–2004) and EU Commissioner for Internal Trade (2004-), attended the primary school in Kill. George Wolfe of nearby Forenaughts was a member of Dáil Éireann from 1923-32. Patrick Malone, Fine Gael TD for Kildare (1970–77) lived in Brookstown House, a mile outside the village.


The village is the birthplace of the world-renowned Uilleann piper Liam O'Flynn and Heidi Talbot, a solo artist and the voice of Irish-American group Cherish the Ladies. The local "Kill Singers" choral group has had many successes in recent years in competitions in Ireland and overseas.


  • Church of Ireland: St John's
  • Roman Catholic: St Brigid's

St John's contains an unusual organ, on which the normal colour of the keys is reversed, donated by the Bourke (Earls of Mayo) family, who were the landlords based in Palmerstown House in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a rare "half door" at the entrance to the building, outside of which is an early stone font.

St Brigid's Well in Hartwell (probably an earlier site of worship) was a place of pilgrimage until the 19th century and a sally tree covered with votive rags was recorded here in the 1890s. There are ruins of another 14th-century church in Kerdiffstown (53°14’35"N, 6°37’47"W.[13])

Social activities and clubs

Branches of Muintir na Tíre (1954) and Macra na Feirme (1955) were established in the village. There is an active branch of the Irish Countrywomens Association.

The Kill History Group, which meets in the Parish Meeting Room on the fourth Monday of the month, discusses topics of local interest.[14]


  • Football: Kill Celtic FC, founded in 1999
  • Gaelic sports: Kill GAA

Kill was the location of the Irish Masters in snooker from 1979–2000, at Goffs sales ring.

Outside links


  1. Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society, Volume I, pp. 17, 36, 298.
  2. Lewis Topography, 1837.
  3. James Dorney. On the One Road (2002)
  4. Public enquiry into Naas road widening, 5 February 1964
  5. Irish Times, 4 September 1956
  6. ”Contempt for the pedestrian” Editorial in Irish Independent, pp. 6, 31 August 1956.
  7. Government and public opinion, Editorial in Irish Independent, p. 6; 4 September 1956
  8. Oireachtas Debates: The taking of £500,000 from the Road Fund, 20 June 1956
  9. Boland report in Naas Road, October 1967
  10. Dates of Roadstone's quarries were Kill (1945), Hill of Allen (1949), Blessington (1953), Kilternan (1954), Tallaght (1955), Slane (1955), Kilquade (1958), Knocktopher (1958), Castleblayney (1959), Arva (1959), Athlone (1960). Source: Roadstone Prospectus 1961.
  11. "Stockbroking - Redmayne Bentley". 
  12. Brigid Maguire. "By-passed but Kill looks to future", Irish Press, 1 April 1975
  13. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named GR1
  14. Carr, Tony. Time to Kill: Memories of Kill Village (2004)
  • Carr, Tony. 'Time to Kill: Memories of Kill Village' (2004)
  • Corry, Eugene and Jim Tancred: 'The Annals of Ardclough' (2004)
  • Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society
    Volume I: pp. 17, 36, 298.
    Volume II: pp 181–185.
    Volume III: p. 456.
    Volume VI: pp. 93, 474.
    Volume XII: pp 340, 432