HISTORY OF KESH
by John B
Kesh began as a ford or crossing place on the Glendarragh
River. In the past Lough Erne came very much closer to the
village than it does today. Before the first great Erne Drainage
in the 1880's the lake was about eight feet higher and
especially in time of flood may almost have reached Kesh. The
rath on Rosscah Hill above the late Joe Robert's house, (a
former rectory of Drumkeeran Parish) indicates original
settlement here probably as far back as the Iron Age c 2000
years ago. There are two raths on this hill but the nearer to
the house is believed to be a decorative feature made at the
time of the construction of the house in the late 1700's. The
large standing stone in Rosculban may be a relic of the Iron Age
After a time the ford was augmented with a wicker bridge for
which the Gaelic word is ceis and hense the village got its
name. The name had been spelt in varying ways but generally as
Kish or Cash until relatively modern times. An ancient saying in
the locality which may refer to basket making and osier working
in the area states that anyone gifted with a big behind,
"had an ass on them like a Kesh creel." John O'Donovan
the famous Irish scholar wrote two letters from Kesh while
helping the Ordnance Survey make the first ever modern maps of
Ireland. The first one was written in his inn on the 31st of
October 1834 and he is obviously having difficulty in
writing in Kesh on Halloween night. He ends, "Excuse hurry
and Holly-Eve night's disturbance in a wild country
According to the O.S. Memoirs of 1834, Kesh had a police
force of one constable and four subconstables and had a recently
established weekly market as well as five fair days per year. It
had a population of 120. A riding post arrived daily from
Enniskillen at 12 o'clock and departed again at 1 p.m. A walking
penny post was established at Kesh for letters to Pettigo.
The greatest impetus ever provided to Kesh was the arrival of
the railway in 1866. It provided employment and a focus for
traffic to and from the station. Hardware shops and shops
providing for the needs of farmers could now carry a greater
variety of goods and stock could be replenished more quickly
than by horse and cart. Cattle and other livestock could also be
transported to distant markets after being bought in local fairs
such as Ederney and Lack itself. Butter and eggs could be
produced in greater quantities and markets in Belfast and Dublin
easily reached by train. Another boon to Kesh was the
establishment of the Creamery there although this was done
against much local opposition.
This information from Slater's directory of 1870 tells
of the economic activity about Kesh at that time.
BAKER. Bernard Kelly.
BLACKSMITH. Alexander Coulter and Henry Irwin.
BOOT AND SHOE MAKERS. Bernard Flynn, Terence Harran, James
Irwin, Samuel Mc Caffrey and William Wherry.
CARPENTERS AND CART MAKERS. William Mc Clintock.
CHINA, GLASS AND EARTHENWARE DEALERS. William Gilmore.
EMIGRATION AGENTS. James Aiken.
GROCERS. James Aiken, Richard Elliott, Adam Eves, William
Gilmore and Bernard Kelly.
GUANO DEALERS AND SEEDSMEN. James Aiken.
HARDWAREMEN. James Aiken and William Gilmore.
LINEN AND WOOLLEN DRAPERS AND HABERDASHERS. James Aiken.
MILLINERS AND DRESSMAKERS. Catherine Doonan.
NAIL MAKERS. William Graham and Joseph Mc Barron.
PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS. Baptist G. Graham, Drumrush, Kesh.
POSTING HOUSES. Adam Eves.
SPIRIT AND PORTER DEALERS. William Aiken, William Campbell and
TAILORS. Patrick Doonan and Edward Johnston.
TIMBER IRON AND COAL MERCHANTS. James Aiken.
KESH RAILWAY STATION. James Connell, Station Master.
CONSTABULARY STATION. Thomas Lewers. Sub-Inspector,
Thomas Kernan, Head Constable.
Among my relations in the above are Kelly and Eves.