Donaghcumper by William Kirkpatrick (1896)

Donaghcumper by William Kirkpatrick, A Paper delivered during the Excursion to Celbridge by Kildare Archaeological Society September 17 1896

Donaghcomper church in 1900

Donaghcomper church in 1900

THE name of Donacomper signifies “the church at the confluence,” or “the church at the meeting of the waters” from the Irish words “domnach” a church, and “comar” confluence. The Ordnance Survey Letters in the Royal Irish Academy state that there is no confluence nearer than that of the Biver Rye with the Liffey at Leixlip, two and a-half miles from Donacomper; but as there is a stream called the “Shinkeean” which passes under the public road less than 100 yards from the west end of the church, and runs through Donacomper demesne and into the Liffey about three-quarters of a mile off, there is no need to go to Leixlip in search of a confluence, and there can be no doubt that it is this stream and the Liffey which give the name to the place.

Father Hogan, in his Paper on St Wolstan’s, suggests, in the absence, as he believed, of a neighbouring confluence, that the meaning may be ” domnach, a church, and ” comphairtidhe ” (pronounced comfairee), a companion. But all the authorities agree that, if there is a confluence, the other is the natural meaning.

Father Hogan says that Donacomper mast have had a history of its own, even prior to the establishment of St Wolstan’s, becaase from the ” Book of Armagh ” we learn that every church called “Domnach” was founded by St Patrick himself, and there he spent a night. There is a tradition that a market used to be held in old times in front of Donacomper Church; and Father Hogan states that the present town of Celbridge only really commenced its existence with the advent of the Dongan family to Castletown in 1616, and that whatever little importance the place had for some hundreds years before must have been due to its connection with St Wolstan’s and Donacomper. Even so late as 1690, in one of the State papers, James Warren is described as parish priest of Dennycomfert

“Donacomper” seems to have been spelt in a great number of different ways. In the funeral entry of Mary Fleming, daughter of William Baron of Slane, and wife of Sir Thomas Alen, who died 8th November, 1622, and was buried in the church of Donacomper, 3rd December, 1622, it is spelt “Donnacompare;” while in that of Sir Thomas Alen, who died 1626, it is spelt “Donnacompar.”

The funeral entry of Jno. Alen, who died at Bishop’s Court, March, 1636, states that he was interred in ** the Parish churche of Downecumper,“ where his wife also was buried; while a Chancery Inquisition of 1639 says that “Robert Alen was seised in fee-tail of St Wolstan’s and Donacomper; “and the will of Patrick Alen of St Wolstan’s, als. Alenscourt,” dated July 5th, 1720, directed that he was ” to be buried in my ancestors’ tomb in the church of Donaghcomper.”

On the Ordnance Survey maps it is spelt Donaghcomper.

The following description of the church of Donacomper was written for me by the late MH Bloxam, FSA in 1875, when he was paying a visit to Ireland preparatory to the issue of the eleventh and last edition of his well-known work on Gothic architecture: —


“The old church, now in ruins, consists of a nave, chancel, and chapel adjoining the church on the north side. The whole appears to have been constructed in the twelfth century {circa AD1160), but windows of the fourteenth century (circa AD1360) have been inserted. A semicircular arch divides the north chancel from the chancel. This springs from A plain abacus string course, with the under part chamfered. In the east wall of this chapel is a Piscina, an insertion of the fourteenth century, indicative of an altar. These ruins are overgrown with trees and ivy, which probably conceal many details; but in the chapel windows of the fourteenth century have been inserted.

“Matthew H Bloxam,

** September 4th, 1875.”

In a sketch which I have, on an old deed of the year 1770, the church is represented as roofed in, and with a tower at the west end; but of this tower only one wall now remains. Beside the door, on the north side, is a receptacle for holy water. Beneath the side chapel lies the vault of the Alen family. Until about three years ago, the slab which covers it lay fallen in at one comer, and made it possible to get into the vault, which is full of the bones and skulls of the Alens. The top of the vault shows the marks of the osier wattles, which were evidently used to support it when it was being built. The slab, which is very heavy, bears the following inscription, partly defaced: —

(This S)epulchre is The

)Bur)ial Place of The

)Fa)mily of Alens of Alenscourt.

The advowson of the church was made over to Sir John Alen in 1538, the same year in which he received the grant of the lands of St Wolstan’s, Donacomper, and Kildrought; and Lewis’s “Topographical Dictionary of Ireland,” published in 1837, states that up to a few years prior to that date there was a monument to Sir John Alen, with his effigy, in Donacomper Church. It is very much to be regretted that this has disappeared, as it would have been of great interest to us now. Donacomper was the regular burying-place of the Alen family. Sir John Alen’s brother and successor, Thomas Alen, was buried here; and a second brother of his, William Alen of Castletown, Kildrought (i.e., Celbridge), from whom were descended the Alens of Palmerstown, Co. Dublin, was also buried here. His will, dated October 16th, 1558, begins as follows: —

“ In the name of the Father, the Son & Holy Goste. I Willm Alen, of Castleton of Kyldroght, in the Countie of Kyldare, hoole of mynde & in pfecte memory the xvi day of October in the yere of Christen incarnacyon after our computacyon a thowsande fyve hundred with fiftie and eight, doo make my wylle & testament as foloweth — Ffyrste I comende my sowle to almyghtee God the creator of me, & my body to be buryede in the churche of Donaghcomper, where it shall plese my broder Sr John Alen; & to the reparacyon of the sayd churche I give ten shillings sterlinge after Irland rate, & to my paryshe churche of Kildroght other ten shillings. And I ordeyne & constitute of this my last wylle & testament my broder Sr John Alen, Knyght, late lord chancellor of Irland, & my broder Thomas Alen, clerke of the naper (ie the hanaper), my executors,” &c., &c.

John Alen of St Wolstan’s, who succeeded his father, Thomas Alen, by his will, dated February 24th, 1609, says: —

“I will my body to be buried in the church of Donnacomper, where my father was buried.|

His son, Sir Thomas Alen, married, first, Mary Fleming, daughter of William Baron of Slane, and the following extract from the Funeral Entries relates to her funeral: —

“Mary daughter of Fleming Lorde of Slane (sister to Christofer Lorde of Slane), & wife to Sir Thomas Allen, of St Wolstan’a or Allen’s Court, Knight & Baronet, deceased the 8th of November, 1622, & was buried in the church of Donacompare the 3rd of December, 1622, viz: —

The poore.

Sir Thomas Allen’s men.

The Penonne by Mr Nicholas Allen.

Mr Fleming of Glankey and his brother.

Mr Fleming of Creavagh & Mr Robt. Allen.

Mr Allen of Palmerston and Mr Wm. Allen.

Albon Leveret, Athlone Pursuivant of Armes.

Daniel Molyneux, Ulster King of Annes.

Sir Wm. Hill supporting the paall | the corpse | Mr Bamewall of Cryckston supporting the paall

attending the chiefe mourner

The Lord of Slane | Mrs. Katherine Fleming | Fleming.

Foure Gentlewomen 2 and 2 attending the chiefe mourner

one of Sir Thomas Allen’s men

other Gentlewomen 2 and 2

Waytinge Women.”

When the present road from Celhridge to Dublin was made, it was cut right through Donacomper churchyard. The old high-road passed through Castletown along the river bank, and it was probably changed about the time that Castletown House was built (ie in 1726).

Donaghcumper house

Donaghcumper house

In 1703 the rectory of Donacomper was, in pursuance of an Act of 2 William III, assigned to augment the vicarage of Clondalkin, and tithe rent-charge is now payable out of the lands of Donacomper in respect of Clondalkin parish.

The oldest tombstone in the churchyard, of those whose inscription can be deciphered, bears the following inscription: —

Here Lyeth the Body of Nicholas Walsh who dyed Feb. the 11th 1711 being brother to Peter Walsh of Dunaughcomper by whom this stone hath been laid for himself and his posterity. Hero also lyeth the body of the aforesade Peter Walsh, who dyed the 24 daye of Febry 1720 aged — years.”

Another tombstone bears the following inscription: —

Erected by Stephen Coyle

To the memory of his posterity

Here lieth his Father

George Coyle who departed this life May the 18th 1790

aged 75 years

Also his brother Thomas Coyle

who departed May the 21st 1793

aged 36 years

Here lieth his Dear Mother Ann Coyle

who departed this life February the 15th 1797

aged 85 years

Stephen Coyle departed 30th January 1809

aged GO years

Js. Coyle departed 20th February 1818

aged 68 years

Geo. Coyle departed March 4th 1818

aged 64 years

Another stone, which was “ erected by Mrs. Mary Johnson of Celbridge in 1810,” bears the following lines: —

Though not in sight in memory dear

Two affectionate nephews lie buried here.

Another tombstone is inscribed thus: —

Erected by Thomas Talbot

To the memory of his posterity.

Here lieth the remains of his

Father James Talbot departed

March the 20th 1793 aged 54 years.

Also his brother William Talbot ” &c.

Also his mother Catherine Talbot”

(& two of his children).

The inscription on another stone runs thus:—

Memento Mori

This stone was erected by Laughlin Dignam of Celbridge in memory of his beloved son Mr Michael Dignam Timber Merchant late of Bridgefoot St in the City of Dublin who departed this life May the 10th eighteen hundred and twenty-three aged 30 years.

Silence alas beneath this stone decayed

Virtue’s darling the poor man’s friend is laid

His generous heart alive to others’ grief

Still urged his hand to minister relief

He who dried the orphan and widow’s tears

Was snatched away by death in bloom of years

His parents and his loving friends that bear his names

In mourning strains your earnest pity claims

Too good to stay in a fleeting world like this

Oh may his soul enjoy eternal bliss.


For the ground plan of the old church, I am indebted to Mr A. Congreve, who was good enough to make it for me. For the sketch of the interior of the ruin, I am indebted to Miss Stokes, who has most kindly presented the block to the Society; and for the extracts from the wills and funeral entries, I have to thank Lord Walter FitzGerald

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