The villages of Killucan (Irish: Cill Lucaine, Church of Lucan) and Rathwire (Irish: Ráth Guaire, Fort of Guaire) nestle closely together in gentle, rolling countryside in the east of the County Westmeath, Ireland. They have a combined population of 1,682 according to the 2011 census. Killucan is on the R156 road about 15 km (9.3 mi) from Mullingar and 60 km (37 mi) from Dublin.
The villages have prospered throughout their history due to their excellent land and transport links to Dublin. The Royal Canal and the Sligo-Dublin railway line pass through the area although neither is used as a mode of transport any more. The canal is impractical while the railway station (called Killucan Station and located nearby at Riverstown) closed many years ago (although the line remains in use). Killucan and its neighbouring village of Rathwire have recently prospered due to their proximity to the M4 motorway to Dublin which means it is less than an hour's drive away, well within Dublin's ever expanding commuter belt. This has led to the construction of many new housing estates in recent years as the Celtic Tiger has led to many new houses being needed within reach of Dublin. Killucan/Rathwire was well suited to this rapid expansion as it had many of the facilities needed for an increased population, unlike many other of the small towns in Ireland which have rapidly grown recently. There are three primary schools and one secondary school in the area as well as ample sport facilities (such as a free golf course and fishing lake), a library and many other amenities. The majority of its inhabitants work in Dublin or nearby Mullingar. The only large employer in the area is Shay Murtagh's Quarry and concrete production.
History of Rathwire
Both Killucan and Rathwire have ancient origins, as indicated by the ancient "Fairy Fort" in Rathwire. According to legend this was built by the Chieftain Guaire who gave Rathwire its name. The ruins of the hillfort remain on the western end of the village. Legend has it that Guaire is buried in the ruins and is guarded by a savage dog who does not want the remains disturbed. Subsequently the Norman Lord Hugh de Lacy built his Motte alongside the remains of Guaire's Fort. In 1210 the notorious King John came to Rathwire to subdue the De Lacys when he fought and won the Battle of Killucan. While here he also received the Gaelic King of Connacht, Cathal Crobderg O'Connor, who travelled to make his submission.
History of Killucan
The origins of the name Killucan are uncertain but it probably comes from the Irish Cill Lucaine (Church of Lucan). Lucan was a 6th century abbot who is believed to have founded a church in the area. The church however did not survive to the Middle Ages and no trace of it remains today. Some believe that Lucaine is in fact a corruption of Etchén, who was bishop of the nearby Clonfad monastery. Whichever version is correct, the present day church in Killucan is St. Etchén's. There has been a church on this site since the time of the Normans (the De Lacys). The present church on the site dates from 1802. Inside this church is a 13th-century chalice. On the east end of the site are the remains of a 15th-century medieval tomb. Although the site was initially used as a Catholic Church] church, it was changed to a Protestant (Anglican) one during the Cromwellian Plantation.
After the Penal Laws persecuting Catholics were reformed in the 19th century, a new Catholic church, St Joseph's, was built in Rathwire. St. Joseph's Church was built in the neo-Gothic style at the end of the 1830s, being completed around 1840. It was constructed under the orders of The Rev. Fr. Eugene O'Rourke, the Parish Priest of the area at that time. Fr. O'Rourke also had the rather incongruous Italianate belfry added almost thirty years later, in the late 1860s.
The parish of Killucan is one of the largest in Westmeath (by area). It includes both Killucan and Rathwire as well as the countryside around them. The village of Raharney about 4 km (2.5 mi) to the east of Killucan is also part of Killucan parish. St. Joseph's Church is in Rathwire while St. Mary's is in Raharney. The parish priest's house (parochial house) is in Rathwire.
There are 3 primary schools in the parish and a secondary school located in Killucan. St.Patrick's NS, Edmonton, Killucan [www.edmontonns.scoilnet.ie] St.Joseph's NS Rathwire St.Mary's NS, Raharney Columba College, Killucan
The Royal Canal
The twin villages reached the height of their prosperity during the 18th and 19th centuries due to the arrival of first the Royal Canal in 1805 and later the Midland Great Western Railway. The canal was built between 1790 and 1817, reaching Killucan from Dublin in 1805. It grew in importance transporting people and goods until the mid-19th century. After this the advent of rail and road travel in Ireland led to its slow decline and it formally closed in 1961. It was abandoned and became unusable for many years. Nowadays thanks to the Royal Canal Amenity Group it has been restored for leisure boats from Dublin to Abbeyshrule in Co. Longford. The remaining section from Abbeyshrule to Cloondara was due to open in 2006. It is to walk the entire length using the Royal Canal Way. The Canal is a particularly important amenity in Killucan, being used for fishing, walks, boating and even canoeing. The Harbour at Thomastown (1 kilometer South of Killucan) was recently expanded to cater for the growing number of tourists who rent barges from there. The canal through Killucan passes through the Killucan Flight, a stretch of eight locks over 2 km (1.2 mi). East of the flight there are no further locks for 27 km (17 mi) while there are no further locks to the west until past Mullingar, the highest point on the Canal.
The Midland Great Western Railway reached the town in 1848, when their railway line was extended from Hill of Down to Mullingar. The station, officially called Killucan Station and located at Riverstown, closed in 1963. The signal cabin remained open until 2005 when automated signaling was introduced. Recently there has been talk of the train station being reopened, although Iarnród Éireann, the state-owned railway company, have rejected the suggestion.
Killucan have a Gaelic football team at senior club level. They recently (2005) won the intermediate championship and have remained at senior level since, reaching the county semi-final in 2006 (losing to eventual champions Tyrellspass) & 2010.