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The original town of Abbeyleix grew up near the River Nore, on the site of an early Christian abbey. The town developed under the protection of a twelfth century Cistercian monastery. In 1562, Queen Elizabeth granted the abbey and associated lands to Thomas, Earl of Ormond. Over the next century, the village grew to contain 52 families.
The great oak forests that once covered ancient Ireland gave Durrow its name, which comes from Daurmagh Ua nDuach, or the Oak Plain of the people known as the Uí Duach.
The Normans adapted that name to Durrow when they founded a borough on the Erkina River in the early 1200s. This small, self-governed settlement was so successful that in 1245, King Henry III granted Geoffrey de Turville, Bishop of Ossory, the right to hold a yearly fair in Durrow, as well as a market every Thursday.
Once known as the Manchester of Ireland, Mountmellick is a town of fine buildings and the home of a uniquely Irish textile art, Mountmellick Work. The foundation of the town was laid by members of the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. In 1659, William Edmundson settled in Mountmellick and started a tannery. Other Quakers set up malting, brewing, spinning and weaving enterprises. Weaving became one of the town’s major industries. By the mid- 1700s, Mountmellick was a leading centre of textile production in Ireland.
In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Portarlington was the Paris of the Midlands, a place where French, rather than Irish or English, was spoken on the streets. French Huguenots, escaping persecution in their native land, shaped the culture and the architecture of this bustling Midlands town.