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Ráth Domhnaigh
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Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 52°51′19″N7°35′05″W / 52.8554°N 7.5848°W / 52.8554; -7.5848 Coordinates: 52°51′19″N7°35′05″W / 52.8554°N 7.5848°W / 52.8554; -7.5848
Province Leinster
County County Laois
100 m (300 ft)
 (2011) [1]
Irish Grid Reference S279783

Rathdowney or Rathdowny (Irish : Ráth Domhnaigh) is a town in southwest County Laois, Ireland. It lies some 32 km southwest of Portlaoise in the Irish Midlands, at the point where the R433 regional road from Abbeyleix to Templemore is crossed by the R435 from Borris-in-Ossory to Johnstown. The R433 provides access for Rathdowney to the Dublin-Cork M8 motorway, while the R435 links the town to the Dublin-Limerick M7. According to the 2011 census the population stands at 1,208.

Irish language Gaelic language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Celtic languages family, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family. Irish originated in Ireland and was historically spoken by Irish people throughout Ireland. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of habitual but non-traditional speakers across the country.

County Laois County in the Republic of Ireland

County Laois is a county in Ireland. It is located in the south of the Midlands Region and is also located in the province of Leinster, and was formerly known as "Queen's County." The modern county takes its name from Loígis, a medieval kingdom.

Regional road (Ireland) Class of road in Ireland

A regional road in Ireland is a class of road not forming a major route, but nevertheless forming a link in the national route network. There are over 11,600 kilometres of regional roads. Regional roads are numbered with three-digit route numbers, prefixed by "R".



Rathdowney is named after a nearby ringfort, or ráth, which was levelled in 1830. This ráth is mentioned three times in the Annals of the Four Masters:

Ringfort Circular fortified settlements found in Northern Europe

Ringforts, ring forts or ring fortresses are circular fortified settlements that were mostly built during the Bronze age up to about the year 1000. They are found in Northern Europe, especially in Ireland. There are also many in South Wales and in Cornwall, where they are called rounds. Ringforts come in many sizes and may be made of stone or earth. Earthen ringforts would have been marked by a circular rampart, often with a stakewall. Both stone and earthen ringforts would generally have had at least one building inside.

Events from the year 1830 in Ireland.

<i>Annals of the Four Masters</i> chronicles of medieval Irish history

The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland or the Annals of the Four Masters are chronicles of medieval Irish history. The entries span from the Deluge, dated as 2,242 years after creation to AD 1616.

The settlement of Rathdowney has existed since at least the 9th century. Historically it forms part of the Kingdom of Osraige, and today it remains part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ossory, as such Rathdowney is not historically part of Laois. The present-day county of Laois is a modern administrative construct. A half mile southeast of Rathdowney, there stood until 1836, the ruins of a castle called Rathpiper, which most probably took its name from "Pipard", a descendant of Adam de Hereford. [2] This locality of "Pyperath" within Rathdowny parish appears to have been a royal site associated with the medieval Mac Giolla Phádraig dynasty, as documents relating to meeting there in 1558 show. [3]

Roman Catholic Diocese of Ossory diocese of the Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ossory is a Roman Catholic diocese in eastern Ireland. It is one of six suffragan dioceses in the ecclesiastical province of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Dublin. The current Ordinary is the Most Reverend Dermot Farrell, who was appointed by the Holy See on 3 January 2018 and ordained bishop on 11 March 2018.

Mac Giolla Phádraig dynasty

Mac Giolla Phádraig (pronunciation) is a native Irish dynastic surname which translates into English as "Son of the Devotee of (St.) Patrick". In the medieval period, the Mac Giolla Phádraigs were hereditary kings of Osraige; today, the name is commonly translated to "Fitzpatrick".

The Croppy's Grave located in the town's central square is the still visible cobbled grave of a croppy revolutionary hanged and buried there in 1798. The site also contains a recent memorial.


Croppy was a nickname given to Irish rebels fighting for independence from Britain during the 1798 Rising.

The town was raided at least once by anti-treaty forces during the Irish Civil War of 1922 to 1923.

Irish Civil War June 1922 - May 1923 war following the formation of the Irish Free State, between Irish Nationalists and Republicans

The Irish Civil War was a conflict that followed the Irish War of Independence and accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State, an entity independent from the United Kingdom but within the British Empire.

Queen Victoria passed through Rathdowney during her first visit to Ireland in 1849 and in a letter to her maternal sibling Princess Feodora of Leiningen about the visit to Ireland she described passing through a town assumed to be Rathdowney by historians as "a quaint village, surrounded by hills" and went on to describe it as "an idyllic small town".

Panorama of Rathdowney, Co. Laois, Ireland. Church Street on left, Ossory Street centre, Main Street on right. Rathdowney Panorama (Church St, Ossory St, Main St).jpg
Panorama of Rathdowney, Co. Laois, Ireland. Church Street on left, Ossory Street centre, Main Street on right.
View of Main Street,Rathdowney, County Laois, Ireland Rathdowney, Co. Laois, Ireland (View of Main Street).jpg
View of Main Street,Rathdowney, County Laois, Ireland


Saint Andrew's Church of Ireland church, which dominates the square and the town to a lesser degree; stands on the traditional site of an older Roman Catholic church, which was located there from medieval times until the Reformation. A new Catholic church was constructed on Main Street in the 1830s this church served the catholic population of the area for the next 120 years before it too was tumbled; to be replaced by a shrine and carpark. A new larger, modern Catholic church, the Church of the Holy Trinity, was built on the west side of the town and opened in the late 1950s.

Some "mass pits" or outdoor areas used for Catholic masses during penal times are located in the vicinity of the town and are well signposted for those interested.


The Meadow Meats processing plant is part of the Dawn Meats Group and was the largest employer in the town. This factory stands on the old Perry's Brewery site, it was purchased by Lyons Meats in 1968 and converted by them to a meat processing facility, which went into production in 1971. The largest employer currently is Dunnes Store Ltd. Rathdowney is also something of a centre for several out lying villages and is the focal point of a large agricultural hinterland.


See also

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  1. http://cso.ie/en/media/csoie/census/documents/census2011vol1andprofile1/Table%205.pdf
  2. Carrigan, William (1981). The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory. ISBN   9785879206463.
  3. Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth (2004). Royal Inauguration in Gaelic Ireland C. 1100-1600: A Cultural Landscape Study. ISBN   9781843830900.