With the establishment of the Irish Free State, Clones went into decline as it was completely surrounded by the Border and suffered economically. The demise of the railways in 1957 brought even more decline, but Clones has recovered and the proposed re-opening of the Ulster Canal will be a welcome boost to the town and the wider area.
The Old Market House - An Sean-Teach Margaidh
The tour starts outside the town’s old Market House which served until recently as the headquarters of Monaghan County Library. The original market house was built in 1746 at a time when the linen trade had started to take off in Clones. That building was replaced by the current edifice in 1843. The date can be seen with the local landlord’s initials TBL (Thomas Barrett Lennard) in the wrought iron work on the building. The size and scale of the buildings on the Diamond, the majority of which date from the 19th Century, indicate the commercial importance of Clones as a central market place for South Ulster at that time.
The High Cross - An Chros Mhaol
The High Cross belongs to the Ulster group of Scripture Crosses. It is a composite cross and comprises of at least two crosses, the shaft dating from the 9th or 10th century and the head from a later date. The cross shows scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. One side depicts Adam, the Tree and the Serpent, Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The reverse side illustrates The Multiplication of the Loaves, the Miracle at Cana and the Adoration of the Magi.
St Tighernach’s Church of Ireland Church - Eaglais Thighernaigh (Eaglais na hÉireann)
The Church holds a commanding position overlooking the Diamond. The present building was built in or around the 1820s, replacing an earlier church. In fact, the site has been occupied from early Christian times.
Motte & Bailey Fort - Móla agus Bábhún
This Norman fort was built on top of a pre-Christian ring fort which is the earliest man made structure in the town and was the residence of local chieftains. In 1212 the Normans built the Motte & Bailey fort here with the intention of establishing a garrison both here in Clones and at the far end of the Erne at Belleek in order to curtail the activities of the Ulster clans. The fort was a series of ditches but the largely wooden structure was attacked by the Irish chieftains after only one year and burned down. The Methodist preacher, John Wesley, preached from here on three occasions – once in 1775, when he addressed his largest audience in Ireland and again in 1778 and 1779.
St. Tighernach’s Graveyard - Reilig Thighearnaigh
On the way in to the graveyard we pass a magnificent Round Tower. It is som 23 metres high and a legacy of the town’s monastic treasures and to provide a place of refuge in times of danger. The tower originally had five storeys and a conical cap. In the graveyard is a sandstone sarcophagus which is thought to mark the grave of St. Tighernach. It is a unique monument and is a solid block of stone with a carved animal heads on the western end. The graveyard also contains many distinctive headstones with mortality symbols and Coats of Arms of gaelic families - carvings which are unique to this area.
The Wee Abbey - Mainistir Pheadair is Phóil
This building is St. Peter and Paul’s Abbey but is referred to locally as the ‘Wee Abbey’ and dates from the 12th Century. The church is Romanesque in style and is evidence of the Roman church in Clones. The Protestant Reformation led to the suppression of the monasteries in the 16th century and the monastic settlement at Clones was destroyed. By the 17th century the Abbey was a ruin but solitary monks continued to live in the locality through the 17th and 18th centuries. An English garrison was established within the ruins of the Wee Abbey in the early 17th century.
The Cassandra Hand Centre - Ionad Cassandra Hand
Famine Relief Schemes were set up throughout the country during the Great Famine and one of them in Clones gave rise to the world renowned Clones Lace. In 1847, Rev Thomas Hand and his wife Cassandra arrived in Clones from Surrey and were so horrified by the devastation caused by the famine that Cassandra set up the lace/crochet making as a relief scheme. By 1851, almost every family in Clones was involved in the crochet industry. Profits from the lace industry were used by Cassandra Hand to construct a school to educate girls. The building was recently restored and is now an active community run facility.
The Canal Stores - Stóras na Canálach
The Ulster Canal connected Belfast via Lough Neagh with the Shannon Erne Waterway using the Ballyconnell Canal. It was opened into Lough Erne in 1842 and closed finally in 1931. It was originally planned as an important section of a great waterway which was to cross Ireland from east to west, from Belfast to Limerick. A poor water supply, inappropriately sized locks and the arrival of rail and road transport meant that the anticipated traffic failed to develop. The Canal Stores was the distribution centre for goods coming via the Ulster Canal. The restored building now incorporates a Clones Lace Exhibition, Tea Shop and Tourism information facility which is run by the local community. Lace and local crafts are available for sale here.