St Michaels Kill
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The Church of St. Michael, Kill


St Michael's Church, KillSt Michael's Church, Kill

Kill is the abbreviated form of Killballyporter, which according to the Ordnance Survey Field Name Book of 1835/1836 means Coill a Bhealaigh and translates to The wood of the way or the pass.[1]  It is interesting to note that Kill in this case is not taken to mean Cill as in church but Coill meaning wood, and so it seems clear that Killballyporter was not an ancient Christian site.  Most probably, the presence of a chapel in the townland dates from the early eighteenth century.


It is not known exactly when the church, known to one and all as Kill Chapel, was built but according to local tradition, it was originally a thatched mud wall barn with a clay floor and did not appear to be a church at all, as it lacked seats and had sheaves of corn stacked around its sides.  Local people recall hearing stories, that in times of trouble for the Church, the sacred vessels were hidden among the sheaves.  Folklore suggests that it was known as Hanbury’s barn and that the owner made it available to the priest and got his workmen to leave it ready for Mass.  This original barn, it is believed, later formed the section of the church known as the women’s aisle.


In 1703, a local man, Francis Cusack of Killballyporter bequeathed twenty pounds to the Roman Catholic poor of the parish and fifteen pounds to the Roman Catholic clergy, to pray for his soul and his executors.[2]


In 1733, the Protestant Bishop of Meath, Welbore Ellis recorded that there was a priest and a Mass house serving four hundred Popish families in the Rathmolyon area.[3]


The Roman Catholic Bishop of Meath, Dr. Patrick J. Plunkett visited the parish on many occasions between 1780 and 1820 and recorded in his diaries, observations on these visitations.  On his first visit, he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to thirteen children in the parish.[4]   In the vast majority of his comments he referred to the parish as Rathmullian but in 1782, he identified it as Kill.[5]   It seems likely that this chapel at Kill was the one always visited by him, as the old Roman Catholic Church in Rathmolyon village had been out of use for centuries.  There is neither record nor folklore to suggest that another church existed anywhere else in the Rathmolyon area, and so it may be presumed that the chapel in use at the time was the one at Kill and that this was the same Mass house site, identified by Bishop Ellis in 1733. 


Quite clearly over the years, the chapel had deteriorated into poor condition, but on August 6, 1788, Dr. Plunkett noted that it had been repaired.[6]   On his visitation on June 17, 1800, he complimented the people on further improvements.[7]  His note on his visit on May 26, 1801 was:

The flock complimented on a change for the better; on the decent condition of the chapel; and on the singing introduced since last visitation.[8]


It has been interpreted by some that William Larkin’s map of 1812 shows a T-shaped church at Killballyporter.[9]  This interpretation may be incorrect, as the legends that explain the symbols used on the map do not identify the building in question as a church at all and furthermore, the symbol is not in the correct position on the map in order to represent Kill Chapel.  This may have been an error on the part of the surveyor or cartographer or it may be that the symbol has been wrongly interpreted.  A 1798 Fowler Estate map shows that Kill Chapel was a rectangular building situated on thirty-three perches.[10]