Video of Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, Republic of Ireland
Kilbeggan (Irish: Cill Bheagáin, meaning "The church of Bécán") is a town in County
Westmeath, Ireland. Kilbeggan is situated on the River Brosna, in the south of County
Westmeath. It lies southeast of Lough Ennell, north of the boundary with County Offaly,
about 9 kilometres north of Tullamore. Kilbeggan is surrounded by the gently rolling
Esker Riada, the linear sand hills that stretch across the Irish midlands, which
were left by retreating glaciers at the end of the last ice age. It is famous as
the location of the oldest recorded incidence of a tornado in Europe.
St Bécán, one of the 'Twelve Apostles of Ireland', founded a monastery here in the
6th century, giving rise to the town's Irish name Cill Bheagáin, meaning "the church
of St Bécán". In time the monastery fell into disuse and disrepair. A new monastery
was founded on the site in 1150, by a member of the Mac Coghlan family, the ruins
of the previous one having been rebuilt by the Dalton family. It was subsequently
home to Cistercian monks from Mellifont Abbey. The great priest of Clonmacnois, O'Catharnaigh
(O'Kearney), died at the monastery in 1196 and Hugh O'Malone, Bishop of Clonmacnois,
was buried there in 1236. In 1217 the monastery was involved in the riot of Jerpoint,
and the abbot was punished as a result. Following the Conspiracy of Mellifont, the
monastery was made subject to Buildwas Abbey. After its dissolution in 1539, the
monastery and its extensive lands were granted to the Lambart family. The monastery
church was subsequently rebuilt with an added a bell tower. It served as the parish
church for the reformed Church of Ireland. The church is no longer in use. The tower
survives, in a ruinous state, surrounded by the churchyard, the town's burial ground.
Today, the town serves as a service centre for the local farming community; hosts
some light industry, including sand and gravel extraction in the surrounding area;
and is seen increasingly as a Dublin commuter town, particularly since the improvement
of the N6/M6 and the extension of the M4 motorway west of the city. The canal branch
closed in the 1960s and the basin is now dry. The harbour buildings, however, have
survived and are now in use as offices and workspace.
Although whiskey production ended at Locke's Distillery in the 1950s, the buildings
survived and were reopened as a visitor attraction. Distillation has recently recommenced.
Kilbeggan Racecourse is around 1 kilometre north of the town. It is Ireland's only
all-National Hunt course.