Founding of Mount St Joseph

Mount Saint Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, was founded by the Cistercians of Mount Mellaray Abbey in County Waterford, thirty-one of whose monks came in March 1878. The property known as Mount Heaton Demesne had been purchased for them by Arthur J. Moore MP of Mooresford House near Tipperary town. Moore was a devout and committed Catholic landlord, who was to become a Papal Count. He was well known to the monks at Mount Mellaray and even though he was a very young man, was desirous of establishing another Cistercian monastery in Ireland. The property cost £15,000, £10,000 of which Arthur Moore paid himself. The remainder was raised by mortgage by the new community.

The Mount Heaton Estate was composed mainly of the townland of Ballyskenagh in the territory of Ely O’Carroll. It had been given at one stage by the O’Carrolls to the monks of Monaincha two miles east of Roscrea. Thus it became an island portion of the Parish of Corbally, and it is described as such in the Down Survey of 1654-56. The Survey tells us that “the Soyle thereof is for the most part Arable and pasture with some shaking Bog belonging to it”. Of the Little Brosna which flows through the property a contemporary account informs us that it “Yeeldeth plenty of Pikes and Eales to the Inhabitants”.

Richard Heaton, an English clergyman of the Established Church, became owner of the property in the 1630s, dying there in 1666. He is recognised as the first recording Irish botanist. Two of his botanical finds are among the flora collection of the present-day Irish stamps, the €10 Blue Gentian, which Heaton discovered “in the Mountains twixt Gort and Galloway (Galway) adundantly” and Mountain avens, depicted on the 10c stamp, which he again discovered in the Burren district. It was Richard’s son, Francis, who by 1710 changed the name of Ballyskenagh to Mount Heaton.