St Mary’s Abbey

Cavan is unusual historically as it was founded by the local Gaelic chiefs the O’Reillys and is one of the few (perhaps the only) Gaelic town in Irish history.

St Mary's Abbey-0284
CAVAN ABBEY
Founded in 1300 by Giolla Iosa Rua O’Reilly as a Dominican abbey. In 1393 the Dominicans were expelled, and replaced by the Franciscans. The abbey was burned in 1451, 1468 and 1576. Owen Roe O’Neill was buried there in 1649. There are no remains of the medieval abbey although an 18th century tower survives on the site.

The plaque was unveiled in 1949 by President of Ireland, Sean T O’Kelly.

The death of Owen Roe was a colossal blow to the Irish people at large and particularly the Irish of Ulster. The country was cast into deep mourning. Now that Charles the First of England was dead the threat of Cromwell and his Roundheads hung over the country and Owen Roe was their sole protector against him. As the poet most succinctly put it

“Did they dare, did they dare, to slay Owen Roe O’Neill?
Yes, they slew with poison him they had feared to meet with steel.
Had he lived – had he lived – our dear country had been free;
But he’s dead – but he’s dead – and ’tis slaves we’ll ever be.

Sagest in the council was he, kindest in the Hall:
Sure we never won a battle – ’twas Owen won them all.
Soft as woman’s was your voice, O’Neill; bright was your eye,
Oh! Why did you leave us, Owen? Why did you die?

Your troubles are all over, you’re at rest with God on high;
But we’re slaves, and we’re orphans, Owen! – why did you die?
We’re sheep without a Shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky-
Oh! why did you leave us, Owen? Why did you die?”

Thanks to Jim Hannon’s article. More photos here

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