St. Eachaidh’s Church

An almost forgotten Clones saint who seems to have wielded a strong influence on the area and who was responsible for the original name of this Border parish was St. Eachaidh.

Text: Sean Slowey Photos: Brian Mc Namee / Sean Slowey

He gets scanty mention in the history books but his memory is best perpetuated by the ruins of his Church which are still to be seen at Drumard about a mile from the town on the lands of a Clones farmer. The ancient church is believed to date back to the fifth century and may once have formed portion of a small monastery. The site is surrounded by a ring of trees and is located on some of the most fertile land in the country convenient to a small lake. At the moment it is almost inaccessible, hidden amongst tall weeds and shrubbery but of late Bord Failte have taken an interest in the place and it is possible it will soon be made more presentable, and pinpointed by a direction sign.

The remains of this church consist of portion of the three feet thick walls, most held in the grasp of thick ivy and at one point a window opening is showing which might help experts to identify the period to which it belongs. In a circle around the church where once a cluster of stone-built cells in which the holy men dwelt, but so far as can be seen none of these is now intact. If a complete job of restoration on this important site is not feasible it is at least deserving of a clean up so that a composite picture of its original design could be presented. Some people believe that it was a second parish in Clones.

St. Eachaidh’s church once stood just on the Monaghan side of the Fermanagh-Monaghan border, “at the pass of Bealaghkilleagha.” Very Rev. P. Canon Mulligan, Enniskillen, points out in the “Clogher Record”, that in 1603 a commission was appointed by James l, met on Devenish Island and with the help of 24 men of Fermanagh, put on record the boundaries of the county and of its baronies and the names of the chief sub-divisions of each barony. The 1603 jury found that Fermanagh bordered on Monaghan “at the pass of Bealaghkilleagha”, which Rev. James Smyth suggests, represents Beal Atha Cille Eachaidh. Fr. Smyth further states that the name also survives in the name Lackey Bridge, also on the border near Clones, and in the name Mac Giolla Eachaidh, McCloghy, McCloy.

Medieval Names. In another issue of the “Clogher Record”, Rev. Joseph Duffy states that an intriguing alternative name for the medieval parish and deanery of Clones occurs four times in records of the fifteenth century as follows:- Clandaedha, Clayndacyga, Cunaci, Clancha. The name underlying the fragmentary spellings, he says, seems to be that of St. Eachaidh, whose church at Drumard may have been a second parish church.

Second Church of Clones (?)