History Of Laragh Parish
Christianity was brought to the parish of Larah in the fifth or sixth century as to many other places in Breifne. From earlier times there have been an association with St. Brigid and even today the Parish bears her name as Patroness.
It is believed that the earliest Christian Church was located in the townland of Killycrone. It is significant that another townland in the upper part of the parish is called “Knockateggart” or “The Priests Hill”. It is probable that this locality had some Christian association pre the twelfth century though this site has long since been forgotten.
The most important development in the ecclesiastical history of Laragh was the setting up of the Parish in the middle ages – a process begun in Ireland from the 12th Century onwards.
The church was built in the townland of Laragh and from here the parish took its name. It was given the patronage of St. Brigid the patroness of Ireland. Early in the history of the parish two thirds of the tithes were “impropriated” to the Benedictine Abbey of Fore in Co Westmeath. This led to less resources being available to the local vicar in charge of Laragh. Hence in 1390 Bishop John O’ Reilly of Kilmore united the parishes of Laragh and Drung. Pope John confirmed this union in September 1412.
The medieval parish also had a second church located in Clifferna. At this time the church in Clifferna had an officialis, a high ranking church official, who in this instance was a lay man named MacBradaigh.
The period of the Elizabethan wars brought a period of decline and neglect of religion. The church in Laragh was taken over by the Church of Ireland in the early part of the 17th Century as a result of confiscation and plantation. The Church in Clifferna seems to have fallen into complete ruins.
During the period of the penal laws, Catholics attended mass as they could. The first post penal chapel was opened in 1770 in Laragh by Fr Anthony Smith a native of Carrickallen. This chapel was located in Munelta and was used for divine worship for 70 years by the people of Lower Laragh. In the upper end of the parish a church was built in Cormeen in 1796 by Rev Edward McCormack. In 1790 the parish had been divided into Upper and Lower parts. In 1821 a new church or Upper Laragh was built in Clifferna by Parish Priest Fr Peter Lamb. This building continues to be used to this day. The date stone of the old Cormeen church is still preserved in the front of the present day edifice.
In 1839 a new church was provided in Lower Laragh. In this church the apostle of temperance Fr Theobald Mathew, held an appeal sermon on 6th June 1841. It is estimated he administered the pledge to as many as 20,000 people over 2 days. This church served the people of Lower Laragh until it was replaced by the present modern building in 1984.
In 1844 a third centre of worship was provided for the parish when St Patrick’s Church Carrickallen was opened, Bishop Browne having provided the area with his own curate in 1839. This church continues to serve the spiritual needs of the people of Carrickallen.
Laragh continues to be a thriving parish and the living faith sown here in the 5th and 6th centuries continues to flourish. The people of Laragh continue to write new and exciting chapters in their social and ecclesiastical history.
For more detail please consult Rev Dr Terence P Cunningham: The Ecclesiastical History of Larah Parish of which the above is a brief summary.