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Ireland Gazeteer

Athy in 1835

ATHY, a town in the county of Kildare in Ireland, about thirty miles S.W. of Dublin.

It is on both banks of the river Barrow, which, flowing to the southward, unites with the Suir, below Waterford, and, forming the harbour of that city, flows into the sea.

The Grand Canal from Dublin terminates here.

The Barrow is navigable from hence to the sea, so as to form, with the canal, an inland water communication between Waterford and Dublin.

Large quantities of corn are sold here weekly, and sent to Dublin.

Athy is situated in a pleasant country, better suited to agriculture than pasturage, and is close to an ancient ford, which early Irish history mentions as having been the scene of contest in domestic wars.

Two monasteries erected on different sides of the river gave origin to the town.

That on the west side was founded by Richard de St. Michael, lord of Rheban, in the early part of the thirteenth century, under the invocation of St. John or St. Thomas, for crouched friars: and that on the east side was founded in 1253, for Dominicans, by the families of Boisel and Hogan. There are some few remains of both these edifices.

Gerald, earl of Kildare, erected a castle about 1506, at the foot of the bridge over the Barrow at Athy, that it might serve to secure the English pale.

This castle was repaired and enlarged by one William White, about 1575 and obtained from him the name of White's Castle. One tower still remains.

Athy was incorporated by charter of James I, and is governed by a recorder, sovereign, town-clerk, and two bailiffs.

It sent two members to the Irish parliament, and was under the influence of the duke of Leinster.

It is now alternately with Naas the assize-town for the county of Kildare; and the remaining tower of the castle already noticed is used as a prison and is an appendage to the county gaol of Naas.

The population, in 1831, was 4,494.

There is a parish school for about ninety children (boys and girls), supported partly by subscription and partly by the Kildare Place Society; and a catholic free school, in which about 240 children of both sexes are instructed, is supported by subscription.

Athy is in three parishes, Reban or Churchtown, St. Michael, and St. John (the last being a chapelry), which, with others, form an ecclesiastical union in the diocese of Dublin and Glandelagh, and in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin.

The church, which is in the parish of St. Michael, was built about 1740, and is in good repair.

The population of the whole union in 1831 was 6,352.

The county court-house was erected some time after the church, and the barrack about thirty years afterwards.

There are six fairs in the year.

Athy was burnt by the Irish in 1308, and in 1315 plundered by the Scots under Robert Bruce.