Thomas O'Conor has an interesting letter here on the ruins of the church at Kilcolman in south Offaly.
ORDNANCE SURVEY LETTERS KING'S COUNTY
[Letter no. 37 from Thomas O'Conor ]
February 1st 1838.
In Kilcolman Townland in Kilcolman Parish is a Church in ruins and within the Churchyard is also a Chapel of ease in ruins, said to have been built by Col. Oxburgh, who, as tradition says, was brother-in-law to ------- O'Carrol and was Colonel in his army. (Col. Oxburgh was father-in-law of O'Carrol - Lieut. Col. Owen) (Cooke). Col. Oxburgh was beheaded in Dublin and his head was conveyed to England. He resided at Boveen in this Parish; for a more particular account of his (death?) see the work entitled "Picture of Parsonstown" by Mr. Cooke.
There is a stone representing a human head fixed over an entrance in the south sidewall of the old Church. The tradition in the place is that St. Colman founded a monastery here, from whom the Parochial name Kilcolman (ecclesia S. Colmani) is formed. St. Colman's Day is not now celebrated here; there was a well called after him which lay close to the old Roman Catholic Chapel of Kilcolman and is now shut up.
It is said the old Abbey founded by this Saint stood near Mr. Dillon's cottage in Kilcolman Townland, where a road runs by it, and that some of the stones of the building remain on the original site, now composing partly the fence along the roadside. The spot is known to Mr. Dillon, who calls his own cottage by the name of "Insula Vitae", which was, he says, the name given by St. Colman to the place when first he fixed his establishment in it. (There is some unaccountable derangement of Judgment in the application of "Insula Vitae" to this place, as it appears to be a translation of Inis na In Beo, the name of an island which lies in (?) and of which so much is said in Cambrensis Top. Hib.).
Kilcolman signifies "the Church of St. Colman." It appears that the ancient name of this place was Doire Mor, which signifies literally, "the Great Oak Wood", Roboretum Magnum, and is rendered Nemus Magnum by Colgan in the 16th Chapter of the Life of Pulcherius.
Dr. Lanigan, who certainly adhered strictly to the signification of Nemus Magnum, citing the words of Colgan as given in the above mentioned Chapter, translates Doire Mor into "Great Grove." The words of the 16th Chapter relating to Doire Mor are:-
"For (he, St. Colman) was in his own monastery, which is in Irish (Scotice) called Doire Mor, that is, Great Grove, Nemus Magnum, and is situated on the confines of the Momonians and the Lagenians, but it, however, lies in the country of the Momonians, viz., in the district of Eile."
Colgan in his 20th note to the Chapter just referred to, places Doire Mor between Helia and Osseria, and in Note 10th to Chapter 2nd of the Life of St. Natalis, AA. SS. p. 174, says:-
"St. Colmanus, called from his mother Macdarene, that is, the son of Darenia, Bishop of Dore Mor on the confines of Ossoria and Eliza, etc."
According to our present idea of the boundary between Ossory and Ely O'Carroll, Kilcolman lies at least six miles west of any point of it. But it is curious that a part of the Diocese of Ossory, which touches the boundary of the Parish of Kilcolman, is insulated in the Barony of Ballybritt in the Diocese of Killaloe, so that if the ancient Kingdom of Ossory was coextensive with the present Diocese of Ossory, the description of the situation of Doire Mor given by Colgan from the ancient authorities, would agree with the situation of the present Kilcolman. It is probable, however, that by "in confinio Mumuniensium et Lageniensium - inter Heliam, et Ossoriam" - "in confinibus Ossoriae et Eliae", Colgan did not mean exactly on the confines of, but rather in the neighbourhood of, i.e., in one of the districts and in the neighbourhood of the other.
Lanigan, it seems, translated the passage relating to Doire Mor in this sense, when he says:-
"Colman resided in a monastery founded by himself at Doire Mor (Great Grove) in the district of Eile and Province of Munster near the borders of Leinster."
It must, however, be admitted that he translated the words defining the situation according to his knowledge of the locality of the present Kilcolman with respect to the ancient boundary in his idea of Leinster.
He lays down the original of his translation thus:-
"Ipse enim (Colmanus) erat in suo monasterio quod Scotice dicitur Doire Mor, id est nemus magnum, et est positum in Confinio Mumuniensium et Lageniensium, sed tamen positum est in regione Mumuniensium, in regione scilicet Eile." - Life of Pulcherius, Cap. 16.
This writer states that: "The district of Eile or Ely O'Carroll is now comprised in the King's County, and Doire Mor is called Kilcolman, a place in the Barony of Ballybritt and Diocese, not of Meath, as Archdall says, but of Killaloo." - Vol. 2, pages 310, 312.
Doire Mor is here identified with Kilcolman from the circumstance of of the latter name having Colman entering into it, which was the name of the Saint who was founder of Doire Mor Monastery, described as lying in Eile in Munster and from the supposition that the latter name, Kilcolman (i.e., the Church of S. Colman as is said before) has been substituted for the former, as also because Eile in Munster is identified with Ely O'Carrol, a district in which Kilcolman is situated.
There need be no doubt that Doire More is Kilcolman ; the only thing to be lamented is that those who furnished Colgan with a description of the situation of Doire Mor did not define it with more precision as lying immediately at, or at so much distance from, the boundary of one district with another and within some particular district, Country, or Kingdom, etc.
We learn from the Calendar that S. Colman was venerated on the 20th of May:-
"Colman Doire Mhoir, 20th May." - Colman of Doire Mhor.
In the Annals of the Four Masters the death of the Abbot of Doire Mor is recorder at the year 1014, at which it is said that "Conaing, the son of Find, Abbot of Doire Mor, died."
There are remains of a castle in Clonbeg Townland in this Parish, which is said to have belonged to the O'Carrols, and in Rathmore Townland there lies in ruins a castle which belonged to the same family.