Historians tell us that the name Killiney is derived from the anglicisation of the Gaelic, Cill Inion Leinin, which means the Church of the Daughters of Leinin. These were five holy women who, according to the Martyrology of Donegal, were named Druigen, Luigen, Luicell, Macha and Riomhtach.
They are credited with having founded a sixth-century church, later known as Old Abbey Church which, together with the surrounding lands, came into the possession of the Priory of the Holy Trinity before the English conquest. This acquisition was subsequently endorsed by the then Archbishop of Dublin and the Pope.
The ruins are still visible on Killiney Hill and an early Mass Rock may be seen high upon the commons adjacent to the Golf Course.
After the dissolution of the Priory, it became part of the Deanery of Christ Church and appears to have been served in the 16th century by the chaplains of Dalkey. By 1615, however, it had come into the charge of Rev Morris Burne, the Vicar of Bray, but was subsequently run by the same curates as Dalkey, Reverends William Morris Lloyd, John Wilson and James Bishop. It is reported that the tithes which the Dean enjoyed amounted to £24 while the curates had to make do with an annual stipend of £6.
By this stage the church was roofless, as it has since remained, and we are told that not one Protestant existed in the parish. Though Roman Catholics had attempted at the end of the 16th century to build themselves a chapel, they had “service constantly performed in the house of the owner of Loughlinstown, and had a school for their children in which they were taught by one of their faith.”
By the beginning of the 18th century, Killiney had its own parish priest, Rev William Dardis, who lived at Kill-of-the-Grange. It seems that towards the end of that century, owing to the “lethargic condition of the Established Church”, the Methodists held revival meetings in the neighbourhood and a clergyman of their’s, Rev Edward Smyth, took up residence in Killiney in 1782. In the process, according to his wife, he created “a noise and a shaking among the dry bones.”
Killiney Hill stands in the townland of Mount Mapas, or Scalpwilliam. The lands of Scalpwilliam are first mentioned as such, in annals from the beginning of the 17th century. The obelisk, which stands proudly on the summit of the hill, was erected by John Mapas in “a year of scarcity and hardship, when fever and famine devastated Ireland.” It carries the quaint inscription: “Last year being hard with the poor, the wall around these hills and this were erected by John Mapas, Esq. June, 1742.”
At around the same time, a house was built on or near the site of Killiney Castle, containing “considerable accommodation” and with a “sea and land prospect” thought to be the finest in Ireland. The land, surrounded by a stone wall, is estimated to have originally extended to 150 acres and the house was known as Mount Mapas until, in 1755, it became Roxborough.
Meanwhile, between the 16th and 19th centuries, Mass Paths proliferated in the Killiney area. These paths later became known as Rightaways and then as Rights of Way. As it happened, the one on Church Road, known as Chucky Boiler’s Lane, helped to take worshippers from Killiney Village across to what is now the Golf Course through Kilbogget Farm (latterly Watson’s Nurseries) to Mass in Cabinteely.
When the time came for golf on Killiney Hill, the founders were dealing with a kindred spirit. For the land was owned by Richard Wogan, 5th Baron Talbot de Malahide, who happened to be the inaugural president of Malahide GC, which was founded in 1892.