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Parish History

'Our Parish, our history.'


St. Mary’s parish, Athlone, in the county of Westmeath, occupies the North Eastern corner of the Diocese of Clonmacnois and touches on one side the Diocese of Meath, and on the other the Diocese of Elphin. The parish is co-extensive with the barony of Brawney, the district in Westmeath ruled over by the ancient family of the O’Briens, descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages.

For a long time the name was preserved only in the townland of Carrick O’Brien, but more recently a new estate has been built in the parish with the name Brawney.The parish itself only came into existence in its present form in the mid-1400s, with the division of the previous parish of Ballyloughloe into the parishes of Athlone, Kilcleagh and Ballyloghloe.

St. Mary’s parish takes up an area of some 10,070 acres on the east bank of the Shannon, and the 1986 diocesan census recorded a population of 13,273 Catholics, and some 357 non-Catholics (The population of the parish in 1950 was 5,896, which had risen in 1955 to 6,297).

Given that the population of Westmeath increased by 10% between 2002 and 2006, and observing the amount of building in the area, it is probable that the present population of the parish is considerably larger.

It is hard to extrapolate anything close to exact figures, however, and it is important to remember that the population of Athlone town is split between this parish and that of St. Peter and Paul, on the western side of the Shannon.