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Prosperous - A Village of Vision

The English name of Prosperous was given when the village was founded in the late 18th century by Sir Robert Brooke. The village takes its Irish name from the townland lying to the east, Corrchoill or an Chorrchoill (meaning "the smooth forest"), anglicised variously as Corr[y]hill[s], Curr[i]hill[s] and Curryhills. An alternative meaning is "The wood of the small round hill" and this makes sense topographically as there is a low hill immediately to the east of the village. The village extends into the surrounding townlands of Ballinafagh, Killybegs, Curryhills and Downings (north, south, east and west, respectively).

The town of Prosperous owes its origin to the vision and ideals of Sir Robert Brooke (1744-1811) from County Cavan. The late eighteenth century was a time of attempted industrial development in Ireland and the industry upon which Prosperous was founded in 1780 was cotton manufacturing. The name chosen by Brook for his industrial town could only be the product of a confident dream. A close parallel to the development of Prosperous was Stratford-On-Slaney in County Wicklow, founded by Henry Stratford, Earl of Aldeborough in 1785 as a textile centre. Despite huge investment and, in the case of Prosperous, much building and an initial population of 4,000, both industrial ventures were failures. Stratford practically disappeared and Prosperous declined to such an extent as to be described by Lewis in 1837 as ‘little more than a pile of ruins' situated 'in a low marshy spot, surrounded by bogs and without water of importance nor reasonable hope of its revival' and more recently as a ‘straggling village labouring under its resounding name'.

A number of ráths have survived in the Prosperous area, indicating settlement of the place in early Christian times. Time has not been kind to these ancient fortifications although in the case of one, it has been preserved as the centrepiece of a housing development: Rath View. There is a fort, or rath, just outside Prosperous on the eastern side of The Blackstick (R409 road to Caragh).

It is possible that the townland of Downings takes its name from the word "Dún", the Irish for ‘fort', although questionable - given the higher proliferation of raths in many other parts of Ireland. Another explanation is that the local population used to converge at the nearby church on Sunday or in Irish Dé Domhnaigh [ dʲeː ˈd̪ˠaun̪ˠiː ] - a closer phonetic match. Some confusion arises after the late 1990s when a housing development in the village was named The Downings.

Downings graveyard and church ruins, in the townland of Downings North - north of the R403 to Allenwood, mark the place of the first Christian church in the area. Tradition states that the church occupies the site of the cell of St Farnan whose feast is celebrated on the 15th of February. Nearby is the well of St Farnan which is said to have been blessed by the saint, giving it the valuable property that those who drink of its water never after have any relish for intoxicating drink. The old parish in this area was known as Downings. It was joined to the parish of Caragh in the eighteenth century.

There is another ruined church surrounded by a graveyard at Killybegs. The Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem had a Commandery here but very little is known about it. A lease of 1538 refers to the priory and this points to its foundation before that date. The octagonal baptismal font with its carving of an angel, which is now at Prosperous church, came from Killybegs.

During penal times there was a Mass-house in the townland of Goatstown which is north of the Grand Canal. When the town of Prosperous was built, a Catholic church was erected near the cross-roads close to the present Drama Hall. This church was replaced by the present limestone church in 1869.

The Battle of Prosperous is the name given to a military engagement between the forces of the British Crown and the United Irishmen during the 1798 rebellion. Prosperous, County Kildare, a recently founded (1780) cotton-manufacturing village, was attacked shortly after the outbreak of the 1798 rebellion at 2 a.m on 24 May 1798 by a rebel force about 60 strong which targeted the British garrison consisting of Cork militia and a detachment of a Welsh regiment, the " Ancient Britons". 

Thomas Harris (1895 – 18 February 1974) was a prominent Fianna Fáil politician from the town. A native of Cloncurry, near the Meath border, he was raised in Prosperous by his aunt Elizabeth Tierney. As a young man Thomas Harris had joined the Gaelic League while in school in Prosperous and subsequently joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, County Kildare. Harris fought with the Maynooth contingent in 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and was imprisoned in Frongoch, Wales until August 1916. Harris was later Captain of the Prosperous Company in 1917 and later Vice-Commandant North Kildare Battalion of the Irish Republican Army in 1921. A farmer, he represented the constituencies of Kildare from 1927 to 1937, Carlow–Kildare from 1937 to 1948, and Kildare again from 1948 to 1957. He lost his seat at the 1957 general election and retired from politics.

The town lent its name to Christy Moore's 1972 album, Prosperous, which was recorded there.


Caragh GFC 1949

The Caragh GFC 1949 Kildare Junior Football Championship Winning Team. They defeated Ballymore Eustace 4-9 to 2-7.


Rath in Rath Avenue

Prosperous has numerous raths in the area that date over 1000 years ago.


The Battle of Prosperous

The great rebellion of 1798 started in the village of Prosperous. It was also the first of only a few victories nationwide for the United Irishmen.

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