Aghavea - the field of the birch trees

The church at Aghavea is linked in antiquity with the church at Clogher and has St Lasair as its patron saint. Little is known about her, except that she was educated with St Molaise of Devenish, and references to her famous bell which was used for holding water and collecting money. A decorated stone from one of the earlier Aghavea churches, referring to a priest named Dunchad, is now in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

A church is recorded at this site in the 1306 Taxation in which is was called the parish church of Akadynbeychi. The ecclesiastical site is also mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters and the Annals of Ulster. It is included in the 1603 Survey of Ulster and Inquisition of 1609, and it is depicted as roofless on the 1610 Baronial Map. The current church was built in 1800, allegedly using stones from the earlier buildings on the site.

References to Aghavea in the Annals of the Four Masters and the Annals of Ulster:

1458: The church of Achadh-beithe, with many valuable books, was burned on the official, i.e. Niall, son of Magrath Mac Mahon.

1487: Thomas Mag Uidhir, namely the son of Thomas junior, son of another Thomas (namely, the Black Gillie), was taken in Achadh-beithi by Mag Uidhir junior, namely, by John, son of Philip, son of Thomas Mag Uidhir and eight of his people were taken with him there and eight horses were wrested from them - and on the 9th of the Kalends of October [Sep. 23] that was done - and the stone church of Achadh-beithi was burned against the will of Mag Uidhir that day.

1507: The church of Achadh-beithi was burned; and the greater part of the riches of the country were burned within it.

1515: Gilla - Patrick O'Hultachain, Parson of Achadh-beithi, died.

1532: Cormac O'Hultachain, Erenach of Achadh-beithi, died.

Excavations in 2000

The site is located in a green field site opposite Aghavea Church of Ireland church in Co. Fermanagh. This church was built around AD 1800, but lies within an ecclesiastical enclosure of much earlier date. Within the churchyard, the enclosure can be traced from the south-east, through west, to the north, as a low stone and earthen bank, measuring 3 metres in maximum width and up to 0.4 metres in height. The entire enclosure measures around 85 metres by 65 metres.

Plans by the parishioners to build a new church hall opposite the church, and within the extrapolated confines of the church enclosure, necessitated archaeological assessment and subsequent limited excavation. These were carried out by the Environment & Heritage Service, DOE, on behalf of the parish from April to August 2000.

The investigation showed that the site contained significant archaeological deposits and features across the whole area, dating back up to fifteen hundred years to the Early Christian and Medieval periods. Major features encountered included a ditch with internal palisade slot - over which a structure was later built - various enclosure ditches, a metalled roadway leading to the church, areas of industrial activity in the form of bowl furnaces and Early Christian ditches.

Finds included Early Christian pottery (called souterrain ware), lignite and glass beads. Medieval finds included coarse locally-made pottery (called everted-rim ware), metal objects, a fragment of a quernstone - reused as a sharpening stone - and an early 15th century coin.

Family History / Genealogy

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) contains copies of many of the church records from Aghavea, including baptisms 1815-1926; marriages 1815-1907; and burials 1815-1986. The relevant reference numbers in the PRONI archive are MIC583/8; MIC1/229.

Previous Rectors:

2011 - 2017 Gary McMurray
1998 - 2010 Dennis Robinson
1983 - 1996 Joshua McCloughlin
1978 - 1983 Brian Courtney
1945 - 1978 Richard Kingston
1930 - 1945 Robert Farrell
1919 - 1930 Robert Warrington
1901 - 1919 Morris R Davies
1894 - 1901 Thomas W Clinton
1881 - 1894 William H Bradley
1874 - 1881 Alexander M Furlonge
1853 - 1874 Joseph Calwell
1840 - 1853 Butler Brooke
1831 - 1840 Thomas Birney
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