by Ken MacDermotRoe

Since fhe1300's, the MacDermots Roe have been prominent in religious service, both, as clergy and as lay people. Below are some examples:

Dermot Roe MacDermot, d. 1341

Dermot Roe, the grandson of Dermot Dall ("the blind') MacDermot, died in the Cistercian habit and was buried at Boyle Abbey. Although Dermot Dall was named Dermot Roe before he was blinded by the King of Connacht in 1266, it is said that the MacDermots Roe adopted the surname distinguishing the branch from his grandson Dermot Roe.(1) Boyle Abbey was founded in 1161 on land provided to the Cistercians by the MacDermots and the MacDermots continued to be closely involved with the Abbey until its dissolution.(2)

Since Dermot Roe had a family, one would surmise that he joined the Cistercians late in life after his children were grown and, probably, his wife had died. In ending his years as a monk, Dermot Roe followed the example of his ancestor Conor MacDermot, King of Moylurg, 1186-1197, who died in the novitiate of a monk at Boyle Abbey and, like Dermot Roe, was buried there.(3)

Manus MacDermot Roe, died 1380

Manus was the Abbot of the monastery on Trinity Island on Loch Ce near Boyle. The monastery was founded by the Premonstratensians (reformed Augustinians) in 1215. Loch Ce was, also, the site of the MacDermot stronghold, the Rock. Manus was the son of Dermot Roe MacDermot, d. 1341.(4)

Maelsechlain MacDermot Roe, fl. 1385

According to authorities on the medieval religious establishments in Ireland, the Dominican Priory of the Holy Cross at Cloonshanville was almost certainly founded by the MacDermots Roe in 1385.(5) Based on the MacDermotRoe pedigree, the head of the MacDermots Roe at the time was Maelsechlain MacDermotRoe. Cloonshanville is located in County Roscommon near modern day Frenchpark.

At the time of the establishment of the Priory at Cloonshanville, the MacDermots Roe served as Biatachs General of Connacht, a kingdom covering west central Ireland including Roscommon. As Biatach General, MacDermotRoe was responsible for the welfare of the poor and homeless and for the provision of food and shelter to travelers throughout Connacht.(6) Since religious establishments provided social services such as these in medieval Ireland, the establishment of the Cloonshanville would have been consistent with MacDermot Roe's duties as Biatach.

Cloonshanville Priory fits into the movement for reform which began in the mendicant monasteries in Connacht after the Black Death (1348-1349). The mendicant orders, including Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians, helped the poor, the sick and lepers and provided shelter for pilgrims and travelers.(7)

The Priory's ivy covered bell-tower still stands and some ruined walls may be seen. A tall stone cross with stunted arms is located in a nearby field and may point to the presence of an earlier foundation. An interesting feature is a piscina in the church. The piscina was a basin made from stone and used for washing sacred vessels. It was placed near the altar and a little drain from it led down to the foundation.(8)

The MacDermots Roe had a long association with the Priory at Cloonshanville. Indeed, as noted below, the last Prior of at Cloonshanville was Bernard MacDermotRoe. Although the Priory is located a considerable distance from the MacDermotRoe base in Kilronan Parish, the area around the Priory became the home of a large concentration of MacDermots Roe as shown in the Elphin Census of 1749.(9)

Bernard MacDermot Roe, d. after 1698

Bernard was Prior of the Dominican Priory at Cloonshanville in 1698 when he was forced into exile with the onset of the Penal Laws. He went to live in a Dominican House in the Province of Occitania where he died.(10) Occitania, a linguistic and culturally defined region, is located mostly in southern France.

Ambrose MacDermot Roe, d. 1717

Ambrose was Bishop of Elphin 1708-1717. The diocese of Elphin includes most of County Roscommon, Ireland.(11)

Ambrose was educated at the Dominican monastery at Tulsk in Central Roscommon. He taught theology at the college of Saints Sixtus and Clemente in Rome serving as prior from 1686 to 1689. He later served at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.(12) In April 1707, King James II of England, in exile at Saint Germain-en-Laye, France following his overthrow by William of Orange, recommended Ambrose as bishop of Elphin to Pope Clement XI.(13)

Ambrose's appointment came at the time when England was assiduously enforcing the Penal Laws aimed at suppressing Catholicism in Ireland.(14) His journey to Ireland was interrupted by arrest and imprisonment in England. In a letter to Vatican in 1709, he states that he was living in dreadful conditions in a kind of hut on a hillside. Nonetheless, Ambrose reported in 1714 that he succeeded in ordaining 32 Catholic Priests in the Elphin Diocese. He died at Cloontuskert, County Roscommon in 1717.(15)

Ambrose was probably the son of Sir Terence MacDermot, Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1689. Sir Terence had a son Ambrose and had real estate interests in the vicinity of Tulsk.(16) A prominent Jacobite, Sir Terence followed King James II to France where the king made him captain of a privateer vessel.(17)

Thomas MacDermot Roe, d. 1738

Thomas, the third son of Carolan's patrons, was Bishop of Ardagh.(18) The diocese of Ardagh included the parish of Kilronan. After Thomas's tenure as bishop, Ardagh was combined with the adjacent diocese to form Ardagh and Clonmacnois.(19)

In 1744, Thomas was the titular dean of the diocese of Ardagh and lived at Ballyfarnon, Kilronan Parish where the MacDermot Roe seat Alderford is located. On May 8, 1747, he was appointed bishop of Ardagh. A letter from Cardinal Carsini at the Vatican indicates that Thomas was requested to retain administration of the parish of Kilronan while he was Bishop of Ardagh. Thomas may have administered the last rites to Carolan as he died at Alderford in 1738.(20)

(1) Walsh, Thomas History of the Irish Hierarchy, 1854, p. 625
(2) MacDermot, Dermot, MacDermot of Moylurg , The Story of a Connacht Family, Drumlin Publications, 1994 at pp. 203
(3) MacDermot, Dermot, MacDermot of Moylurg , supra, p. 58
(4) History of the Irish Hierarchy, supra, p. 632
(5) Gwynn, Aubrey and Hadcock, R. Neville, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland , London, 1970, p. 223.
(6) Mattimoe, Cyril, North Roscommon, its people and past, ISBN 0951978209, 1992, p. 74
(7) Cloonshanville Priory, French Family Association, accessed January 27, 2012; See, also, Sweetman, David, An Archaeological Excavation at the Cross of Cloonshanville, Co. Roscommon, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 1981
(8) Ibid.
(9) Legg, Marie Louise, ed., Elphin Census of 1749, ISBN 1874280738, 2004
(10) Walsh, Thomas History of the Irish Hierarchy, 1854, p. 622
(11) GCatholic website, accessed February 18, 2012
(12) MacDermot of Moylurg, pp. 297-298
(13) Calendar of Stuart Papers, Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Volume 1, p. 213, accessed April 15, 2010
(14) Foster, R.F., Modern Ireland, Viking, 1988, pp. 154, 205-207, 211
(15) MacDermot of Moylurg, p. 298
(16) Ibid, p. 312
(17) Calendar of Stuart Papers, p. 213
(18) MacDermot Roe pedigree, GOMs 179
(19) Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois website, accessed April 15, 2010
(20) McNamee, Bishop James J., History of the Diocese of Ardagh, pp. 393-395

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