Attanagh

 

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Attanagh takes its name from the Irish Ath Thanaide which means the shallow or narrow ford.  The name is not given to any townland. It is applied to the general area of Attanagh village. A very old name for the place was Rathanna which is still occasionally heard. It is found in the tenth century Book of Leinster and is one of the oldest names in this part of the country.  Records for the place go back to about 1200AD when the Norman overlord William St. Leger granted the lands of Attanagh to the Abbot of St. Thomas Abbey in Dublin for all time.

Attanagh monastery remained the property of the monks until the suppression of religious houses in the middle of the sixteenth century. The ancient parish church, of which no trace remains, was dedicated to St. Bridget. It is said to have stood on the site of the present Church of Ireland. Attanagh as a village dates back to about two hundred years. An almanac entry for the 1850’s states that it is a post town of the Queen’s County with a church, vicarage and parish school. There is a corn mill and constabulary barrack, three small businesses and a couple of tradesmen.

It was the arrival of the railway in the 1860’s that really put Attanagh on the map. The Kilkenny Junction Railway Company built their line from Kilkenny to (then Maryborough) Portlaoise. The station was opened here in 1867 and served the area to its closure in 1962.  “An entire generation of people have now grown up without ever hearing the whistle of a railway engine or the clang of the buffers of a shunting goods. This generation has never known the thrill or excitement that travelling by steam train produces nor have they endured the hardship of loading a wagon of beet on a sleety winter’s day, for such things were part of the ‘railway’ which was almost a law unto itself.” – The Chapel District of Ballyouskill by  Dermot Dorgan.

In addition to the corn mill, Attanagh also had a brickworks which in the early 1900’s employed up to eighty people. The Attanagh Rectory was occupied by the rectors from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid 1930’s. The most remarkable of the clergymen who served here was the renowned historian Canon Mervyn Archdall (1758 – 1786). The Reverend James Wills (1860 – 1869) was a well known poet and writer. His grandson, Reverend P.H. Wills (1898 – 1936) was the last rector of Attanagh.

Attanagh’s greatest claim to sporting fame was its race meetings in the 1870’s and 1880’s run in conjunction with the nearby Talbot Racing Stables and stud farm at Grennan House. In the 1920’s and 1930’s the Attanagh hurling team was well known and one of its greatest  exponents was Kieran Holland of Fermoyle House who was recognised as one of the great hurlers of his day.

In modern times Attanagh has seen many improvements including the Group Water Scheme inaugurated in the 1970’s which has been a great benefit prompting the building of many new houses. The village has a shop and Post Office and a small factory Grennatta Plastics and a number of small businesses and tradesmen. The village also uniquely boasts the Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum which is the only museum of its kind in Ireland. The museum has an extensive collection of artefacts on display which illustrate fishing, shooting and other countryside activities.

The FAS Schemes over the past twenty years have resulted in the enhancement of the general environment and over the same period Attanagh’s participation in the Tidy Towns competition has consistently gained marks. In recent times the committee have concentrated on the development of the more permanent features such as flower beds, floral tubs, green areas etc. and endeavour to maintain the visual charm of the village. Attanagh may not be the biggest place in Laois but the people who live here are rightly proud of their village.