Rochfortbridge Community Website

Welcome to Rochfortbridge Community Website
Rochfortbridge, Co.Westmeath, Ireland.

Interactive website for the community of Rochfortbridge.

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Brief History of Rochfortbridge.

The village of Rochfortbridge lies on the “Slí Mór” on the northern side of Esker Riada, midway between Tara in Meath and Uisneach in Westmeath. The pass of Kilbride as it was then known was heavily guarded in medieval times as the land on both sides of the village was impassable. The first crossing of what is now the river Derry was beside the castle at Castlelost. This crossing was a Ford crossing with no bridge. Now don’t get confused by the word “Ford” it has nothing to do with the name of the village.
The romantic fable that a dead beggar man was found at the crossing with enough money to build a bridge on his person etc. is just that, a fable that was told to newcomers to romanticise the village. There is absolutely no record of such a happening in any historical records. This story has been altered through time and the fact is that a beggar was employed by Robert Rochfort as he was the only qualified architect to be found in the area and his circumstances had demoted him to begging for a living, the "beggar" designed and oversaw the construction of the new bridge financed by Robert Rochfort, MP. The fable may have been altered from a beggar man being paid handsomely to build the bridge to a beggar man having enough money to build the bridge through the passage of time and the making of a better story. There are also romantic ramblings in some media that Robert Rochfort 1st Earl of Belvedere renamed the village from Beggars Bridge to Rochfortbridge in his own honour. Again untrue. The village was created by Robert Rochfort OK but it was the grandfather of the 1st Earl of Belvedere.
Birth of Rochfortbridge
The Village was set out in the year 1700 by Robert Rochfort, (1651 – 1727) MP for Westmeath. See the history of the Rochfort family to fill in the rest of his life. The wooden bridge (already in place but in bad repair) was replaced. The "new" bridge was called beggars bridge, not the village (as there was no village as yet) and it was called thus as it was indeed designed and built by a beggar and the fact that it was also a toll bridge, with a toll of one farthing to cross either way imposed by Robert Rochfort. The town land of Farthingstown was the location of the first crossing and the town land of Oldtown was the location of the first “transit” settlement. The bridge was named “Beggars Bridge” as beggars often gathered there to beg from the wealthy. (It was only the wealthy that used the bridge as the peasants crossed through the river with their wears in their bare feet.) and the fact that it was disigned and built by a beggar man, possibly discovered at that spot by Robert Rochfort, MP.
Bear in mind that the river Derry didn’t flow on its present course in those days as it was not until 1846/7 that Lady Cooper of Dunboden re-routed the river and built the road from the village to Kilbride, all as famine relief work.
Rochfortbridge Today
At present the village has a growing young population with new housing developments bringing new residents out of the cities. The majority of the new housing estates are built to standard "Housing Estate" design. The Parish of Rochfortbridge consists of all the village of Rochfortbridge and its hinterland, The Village of MilltownPass and part of its hinterland and the Hamlet of Dalystown and the surrounding area. The Parish Roman Catholic Church is the Church of The Sacred Heart, Meedin, the village of Rochfortbridge and the village of MilltownPass each have a Roman Catholic Church. There are no other religious denonination churches/places of worship in use in the parish. The postal address for the village is Rochfortbridge, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. The geographical address is, Village of Rochfortbridge in the town land of Rahanine/Castlelost in the barony of Fartullagh in the county Westmeath. The nearest major towns are Mullingar, Moate, Killbeggan, Tullamore(Offaly) and Edenderry (Offaly). The Village of Rochfortbridge has two national schools and one second level(secondary) school, MilltownPass has one national school and Dalystown has one national school, giving the parish a total of four national and one secondary schools. The villages of Rochfortbridge and MilltownPass are on the N6 while Dalystown is on the R400.
Rochfortbridge village is one of the "newest" villages in the county, being pre-dated by its neighbours Tyrrellspass and Milltownpass, the village was established by Robert Rochfort MP., around a eighteenth century river crossing.

Don't Forget the "Flight of the Earls" 1607 - 2007
For centuries the native Irish had struggled to preserve the Gaelic way of life, with its distinct laws and customs. Through inter-marriage many of the Norman conquerors had become 'more Irish than the Irish', until the King of England's rule had been confined to a small area around Dublin known as the Pale. During the sixteenth century, successive Tudor monarchs tried to extend their authority, but there was always strong resistance form the Northern Province of Ulster. Religion became a factor in the struggle. Soon after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth came to the English throne in 1558, an Irish parliament passed an Act of Supremacy confirming her as head of the Irish Church, and requiring office-holders in church and state to swear allegiance to her. The Gaels and their "Old English" allies remained staunchly loyal to the Roman Catholic Church. In September 1607 a French ship sailed from the northern harbour of Rathmullan in Lough Swilly. On board were Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and Rory O'Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell, together with more than ninety of their family and followers. The ship was bound for Spain, but fierce storms forced them to disembark in France in early October. Thereafter they made their way to Rome, where they remained in voluntary exile, and where O'Neill died in 1616. As a boy, Hugh O'Neill had been taken into the care of Elizabeth's viceroy, Sir Henry Sidney, and raised as an English nobleman. After returning to his native County Tyrone, he had shown his loyalty by helping to suppress the Desmond rebellion in Munster. In 1587 he was recognised as Earl of Tyrone, and was granted extensive territory under the Crown. A year later, however, he ignored a government order to execute survivors of the Spanish armada who landed in Ireland, and in Dublin there were increasing doubts about O'Neill's loyalty. The doubts were justified. O'Neill was allowed to keep 600 men in arms at the Queen's expense, and by regularly changing them he was able to train a substantial army. Lead to roof his new castle at Dungannon was turned into bullets. In Ulster there were no English settlers or garrisons west of Lough Neagh. With its mountains, lakes and forests, the region was eminently defensible, and O'Neill found a vigorous ally in Red Hugh O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, who had escaped from imprisonment in Dublin. In 1593, O'Neill took the now illegal Gaelic title of "The O'Neill" and prepared to lead the Ulster chiefs in defence of territory and religion. O'Neill was a skillful commander, and his troops exploited the difficult terrain to harry the English columns. In 1595, he won a handsome victory at Clontibret, near Monaghan, over an army commanded by his brother-in-law, Sir Henry Bagenal. Bagenal was to lose his life during the Battle of the Yellow Ford, on the River Backwater, in 1598. This was O'Neill's greatest triumph. In 1601 he made the mistake of marching to the southern port of Kinsale to join an invading Spanish army, and the Irish were routed in unfamiliar country O'Neill returned to Tyrone. In 1603 he submitted to the Queen's representative, Lord Mountjoy, as O'Donnell's brother Rory had earlier done. However, despite a generous settlement in which he retained his earldom, O'Neill found English rule unacceptable. When the flight of the earls denuded Ulster of its Gaelic aristocracy in 1607, the government took the opportunity to confiscate six of the nine Ulster counties. The subsequent plantation of Ulster, introducing Protestant settlers from England and Scotland, laid the foundation of today's divided island

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