Things to See & Do in Longford.
St. Mel’s Cathedral
St. Mel’s Cathedral was erected in the 19th century. The foundation stone was laid by Dr. Higgins, the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois on 19th May 1840 and completed on 29th September 1856 by the Right Rev. John Kilduff, his successor. The roof is supported by 24 columns of cut stone from the limestone quarries of Newtowncashel. The complete cost was £70,000, which included the organ and high altar.
St. Mel’s College
Most Rev. Dr. Kilduff issued the first appeal on 11th November 1861, for funds to build a Diocesan seminary, not merely for clerical students but also for all who desired a secondary education for the secular career to which they might choose to devote themselves. This was the first mention of St. Mel’s College which was completed and officially opened to students in 1865. The college is still functioning as a secondary level boys school in the town.
The Methodist Church.
This church was opened to worship in 1895, also a Baronite meeting-house with a national school for each persuasion, also a Presbyterian church. The present Methodist Church was built in 1895. It replaced an earlier Baronite Meeting House and school in use in Richmond Street and prior to 1895, it was visited by Methodist founder John Wesley. The school was situated on lower Richmond Street, while the church was a portion of an adjoining premesis.
The Market Square.
A far back as the 1800s traders brought corn, potatoes and pigs etc here for sale. An old market house, now demolished, was used to store these goods. The square is still used as a market with a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables sold from stalls. At the front of the square is a Celtic Cross memorial dedicated to the men who died in the First World War.
Walking Tour of Longford.
Longford town is situated in the heart of Ireland, and like so many towns, it has sprung up along the banks of a river, in this case the river Camlin. It is one of the main towns situated on the Dublin to Sligo road. It is a vibrant town of traditional and modern commercial activities. The town hosts many fine buildings and places of historic and scenic interest. We hope that with the aid of this walking tour you will enjoy the many attractions which Longford has to offer. This walking tour was compiled by the TY Students ‘03, Scoil Mhuire in conjunction with Tourism Studies and Longford Co. Library.
1. St. Mel’s Cathedral: Situated just off Dublin St. this landmark building of 19th century Renaissance style is built of grey limestone. The stone taken from the original cathedral of St. Mel’s of Ardagh was laid by Bishop O’Higgins in 1840. The main body of the cathedral is Romanesque and was designed by John Benjamin Keane. It has wonderful mosaic floors and arched baroque ceilings. The limestone baptismal font is separate from the main body of the cathedral, to the left, due to its removal earlier in the century. It is available to see by appointment. Among the notable events of the Cathedral was the nmarriage of General Seán Mac Eoin to Alice Cooney, which was attended by General Micheal Collins and Arthur Griffith in 1921. Its two hundred foot high tower is visible all over Longford.
2. Courthouse. This is the oldest building in Longford, it was constructed in 1793 replacing the former courthouse situated on the Market Square. Recently renovated, it is a fine building and in its time was one of the first to be slated in Longford. The building is the main courthouse for Co. Longford and had a deep history which included an underground tunnell to the jail on the Battery Road on which prisoners were take on their way to be hung.
3. The Gentleman’s Club This building was once a gentleman’s club and is now used as a business premises (Groarke’s Solicitors). The club, also known as the Co. Longford Club, was founded in the 1890’s and it operated until the 1920’s when it was reconstituted. Its members were made up mainly of successful local shop traders and members of the legal profession. It was established to afford its members “good social intercourse and rational recreation”. Many of its members went on to play a part in founding the local golf club.
4. The Camlin Bridge. The Camlin Bridge is situated at the upper end of Longford town. It is built of grey limestone and was erected in 1718, rebuilt in 1819 and widened in 1993. The town expands north and south of the bridge. The river Camlin, as the starting point of the town, was of great importance. It provided the townsfolk with water for cooking and cleaning and it was a vital means of transport. The Bridge is dedicated to P.M. Farrell who was a local and very popular solicitor and County Councillor.
5. St. John’s Church. On the corner of the Battery road and Church Street stands St. John’s Church of Ireland. The present building, gothic in design, dates back to the 1700’s. However, in 1812, the church was reconstructed. A list of the rectors of the parish since the late 18th century can be found in the vestry. Silver chalices, donated by the first Earl of Longford in 1699, are still in constant use. Joseph Ward is interred in the graveyard - born in Kinsale, he was one of the first to be awarded the Victoria Cross for distinguished bravery for his part in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny.
6. The Mall. The Mall is a beautifully landscaped park on the banks of the River Camlin. Beautiful trees surround the park and a stream filled with fish flows through the heart of the park. This provides an ideal fishing location. Close to the town centre, the mall is a perfect venue for leisurely walks, picnics or sporting activities. The mall boosts an indoor multi-purpose hall and gym, swimming pool, outdoor basketball courts, and an outdoor soccer pitch. A new playground also provides local children with a new amenity. In the grounds of the mall, you will find beautifully crafted millennium stones. These stone structures were erected to commemorate the millennium. Local artist, Gary Robinson designed them and they are well worth a visit. The state of the art new swimming pool and all-weather pitches are also very popular for recreational activities.
7. St. Mel’s College. Between St. Mel’s Road and the Ballinalee Road lies St. Mel’s College. It opened in September 1868 with 48 boarders and 25 dayboys. It was a major seminary where students pursued courses in philosophy and theology. The avenue of trees was planted during the presidency of Fr. Hoare. He established a system of scholarships of half burses, which increased the student number to 78 in 1897 and later became bishop in 1898. The college was raided by crown forces during the War of Independence and General Seán Mac Eoin was fêted at a banquet held in the College. Over the years, there have been numerous changes have been to the college such as stain glass windows, a new wing, refectory, assembly hall, classrooms and sports hall. In 2000 a €3.5m extension was started and the gymnasium completed. In 2002 the last boarding students departed, ending a tradition which began in 1865.
8. Padraic Colum and the Old Famine Workhouse. Today St. Joseph’s Hospital stands in the site of what used to be Longford’s Old Famine Workhouse. The workhouse was opened in 1842. It was a home for the homeless downtrodden people. It was here that Longford’s famous poet Padraic Colum was born on the 8th of December 1881. In his poem “The Drover” he talks of Longford “ To Meath of pastures, From wet hills by the sea, through Leitrim and Longford, go my cattle and me”. The workhouse was demolished in 1968 and St. Joseph’s Hospital was built. Today you can see a memorial that was erected to commemorate the people who died in the workhouse and are buried in the famine graveyard.