The Irish in America


DAY 26: Johnstown, County Kildare

SJJ 14

Photo by Regan McCormack

There are other Johnstowns in Ireland, but I am talking about Johnstown in County Kildare. I would love this village even if I had no connection to it. The picturesque ruins of the medieval St. John’s Church (above) are one reason the village is so appealing.

Annie Hill

Annie Hill

Another reason is the village’s sense of history. Several years ago I met Brian McCabe – Johnstown’s local historian – when I was researching my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan. Annie was born near Johnstown, and her sister lived in the village. When we visited in 2009,  Brian was a wonderful guide, telling us what Johnstown would have been like in the late nineteenth century when Annie knew it, before she left for America.

Brian shared the rich history of Johnstown. Since  the village is just 25 miles from Dublin, it is popular with people who commute to work in the city, with several large housing estates and new construction. But Brian is very knowledgeable about Johnstown’s past and place in history. He told us all about Palmerstown House and the Earls of Mayo. And of course, he covered the 6th Earl of Mayo who died in India in 1872 and is buried in the churchyard. He is known as the “Pickled Earl” since his body was preserved in a vat of rum on the long journey back to Ireland following his assassination.

Monument to the 6th Earl of Mayo

Monument to the 6th Earl of Mayo (photo by Regan McCormack)

Johnstown is a lovely, peaceful village in the midst of motorways and urban sprawl. The community values its history, and it shows with the beautifully maintained public areas and the handy signs marking buildings of interest. I am always impressed when people are truly dedicated to preserving their history, and when it happens to be a bit of my personal history, all the better!

Annie's sister Katie + family in Johnstown

Annie’s sister Katie + family in Johnstown