Kilcrohane church

Buried Faced West

By James O’Mahony, Farmer, whose hard work made the Sheep’s Head Way
“I dug the grave for Jackie Tobin. And on the western side of the church, the south-western corner, we had gone down to the bottom of a grave that had been there before. I said Jackie would like to do the job right and make it deep, and we said we’d sink it more, and the earth was a bit soft underneath, and we sunk it, and we got into another burial deeper than that. We found a skull that was in under the wall about two feet, and strange enough, I thought that he was buried faced west. That would be wrong
unless he was a priest.”

The Church In Ruins

By Jack Sheehan, Farmer and Local Historian, Ardahill, Kilcrohane “Carew’s soldiers knocked the church, anyway, the locals built it up again (early 17th century). You can see that still; there are different stones on the western side. And it was handed over to the Protestants, and the Protestant religion became the established religion of the country. And the story I heard was that the minister came here on three different occasions for service and nobody turned up. So he packed up and it went back again to the Catholics.

Smith said the church was in ruins in 1639; Smith wrote the “History of Cork” for the Queen. He made sure he didn’t insult the Queen, because he said the churches were in ruins, but he didn’t say why they were in ruins. Something made ruins of the churches, but he didn’t say what at all.”

There are several old tombs inside the graveyard - to the west is O’Dalys’, which has an “O’D” inscribed on a flagstone over it. To the east are two tombs of the O’Donovans.

After returning to where you left the Walk’s route, you will be taking in reverse the traditional funeral path which local people still use today to go from the church in the village to the graveyard of the old church. On your way to the village look for a pair of standing stones in a field just to your
right. These date from the Bronze Age (c. 1,000 BC), and are roughly aligned NE/SW, with the SW stone the smaller of the two, as is the case in the other pairs in Cork and Kerry. They are thought to have had a ceremonial role, something like that of a stone circle.

When you arrive in the village TURN RIGHT and walk through the village, and a short distance on the other side TURN RIGHT again, cross a field (stay to the edge please), and you head for Farranamanagh (“land of the monks”) Lake. This beautiful spot is reminiscent of Gougane Barra, where St. Finbar
founded an island hermitage by a lake; did Finbar’s monks come here too?

As you start to walk along the shores of the lake, to your left (north) atop a low ridge are the ruins of the O’Daly bardic clan castle. After you cross the stone bridge and walk above the seashore, the walk moves up to your left, and eventually you come by a group of ruined houses overlooking Dunmanus Bay. These are part of a bardic school run by the O’Dalys, chief poets (“ollamh” in Irish) to the O’Mahonys. The school flourished here in medieval times (from the 10th century onwards), and legend has it that the King of Spain sent two sons here who accidentally drowned in Farranmanagh Lake.

Robin Flower in “The Tradition” gives a good description of how these bardic schools operated.

“… poetry was an hereditary profession, and the students gathered in some remote place far from the resort of people, and worked in a large structure divided up into cubicles each furnished with a bed, lying upon which in complete darkness they composed their poems on themes set by the master. The poem composed, lights were brought and they wrote it down and presented it to the master for criticism in the main place of assembly.

For weekends and holidays they were entertained by the gentlemen and rich farmers of the neighbourhood, who also provided the provisions for the subsistence of the school. They worked only from Michaelmas to the first of March and the full course lasted six or seven years….So between November and March the poetic scholars pursued their mysterious task, mastering the poetic language, the management of complicated metres, and the seanchus, the accumulated lore of Irish history and legend.”“Irish glimpses as we get of them (the poets) show them wandering about the country and haunting the courts of kings, attended by a band of followers with a panegyric in one hand and a satire in the other, mercenaries of the God of Poetry as the fianna, the roving warrior bands, were
mercenaries of the God of War.”

One of the most infamous of the Kilcrohane O’Daly poets was Aonghus who wrote the satire “The Tribes of Ireland”. This poem, perhaps commissioned by Carew or Mountjoy, describes the insulting hospitality afforded to the poet on his trip through Ireland. Some of the verses are:

To Roche’s country of the clear roads
I came (and that was my mistake)
Just as well for me I don’t like butter
For if I did, I didn’t get it.

Dunboy of the sour old wines
That the fool’s of Ireland praise;
Than that of Dunboy, I bet you,
Hell is a hundred times better.

Three reasons why I skipped
The country of Bantry and Beara,
Soft tasteless lumps of dumpling
Long-divisioned out of milk and water.

Easter I spent in the house of Mac Donough,
A friend indeed, my belt he tightened;
His people and feasts were as mean
As if Easter were another Good Friday.

The old rags of O’Keeffe of Clarach
Are no shelter against the wind,
Although there is a grey head on his shoulders
There is no shortage of lice in his clothing.

Little robin, there on the bush

Though little enough food would do you,
If you spent one night in O’Keeffe’s house
Your chest would meet your back.

A large fire in the house of Meagher,
Men and meat beside it;
A large cauldron of fermented winegrapes
Under which is O’Meagher’s cow, calving.

A servant of O’Meagher stood up and said that Aonghus should never satirize any Meagher and with that he made a fierce thrust of a knife in the neck of the poet so that Aonghus began to throw up his heart’s blood; but before he died he said:

All the false judgements I have passed
Upon the chiefs of Munster I forgive;
The poor servant of the grey Meagher
Has passed this false judgement on me.

(Translated by Uilliam O’Dalaigh).

Aonghus was killed in Tipperary in 1617, but his house can still be seen in Cora, two miles west of Kilcrohane.

The Walk then goes past two farmhouses, and on the gable of the western one can be seen a medieval square-headed window that dates from the time of the Bardic School.

And You Know The Land Is Great Security

By Jimmy Coakley, Storyteller and Local Historian, born Tooreen, 1915

“That time on the peninsula the farmers tilled every inch of land, up to the very ditch, they couldn’t afford to leave anything untilled, God help us how they managed it, I don’t know. But anyway, every one kept about thirty hens and on one day of the week they brought the hand basket away, and in the
summertime they wouldn’t go if they didn’t have ten dozen eggs to sell.

There was a girl living near here; she was about 35 years of age, and at that time, 1922, she was considered a young girl. Danny was a bachelor nearby, and he’d be watching her, and on this particular day she arrived and she put her handbasket of eggs up on the ditch . Danny’d come down to her, and he came inside and he put his foot up on a ol’ lump of earth to reach over and give her a kiss. And when he did and leaned over, the bit of earth gave from under his shoe, and the result was he fell and his elbow went into the basket of eggs. And, of course, he got no kiss, but only a slap across the face. She went off very vexed with herself and all her eggs destroyed, ready to kill him.

She then met this young fella coming along on a motorbike. And a motorbike at that time, you’d take more interest in it than if it was a jumbo jet coming along here today. He was a young sergeant in the Guards, he came to Kilcrohane when the barracks there was opened in 1922, with the
rank of sergant because he had a bit of education. He was Dublin boy, and he was mad for information, very busy.

When he saw her he stopped the motorbike and started talking to her and asked her name and all that. He asked her was she married and she said no, and he said why? The she said she didn’t know, she was only 35 years of age. So he said, have you anyone in mind?

She said I have, I’ve a farmer in mind but nothing serious though. Come here, he said, would you marry me? And of course she was taking it as genuine and he only acting the smart guy.

She said, I don’t know. You don’t know? Look, I’ll ask my mother. A girl of 35 years has to ask her mother? You know who I am? She said I do, I know you to see. You’re the sergeant in Kilcrohane.

That’s right and my name is Hardiman. Be sure when you go home and ask your mother and tell her I asked you to marry me, and I’ll meet you again.

God help us, she took it as being sincere. And of course, who’d blame her, at 35 years maybe she had been in Bantry once, and if she was she walked it. To make long story short, she went home and told the mother, who would be about 80 at this time, and she took it very serious, and she was giving itfierce consideration.

And the next thing she said, well, mother, what do you think? Well, she said, I’ll tell you the way I look at it. After all Danny have 30 acres of land, and you know the land is great security. It’s hard to beat it. Now, she said, of course the sergeant of the Guards, he has it every Friday, and God knows when you
come to think of it, for a young girl getting married, ‘tis hard to beat the standing thing.”

The Walk then goes down the main road, TURNS LEFT, then a quick RIGHT, and through some fields, past the Poet’s Well (Tobar na n-Duanairidhe), and onto the old Kilcrohane to Ahakista road. Along this road is a fine example of a traditional dry stone wall.

Alternative Route: Slí Bhrán

This Path goes from the Sheep’s Head Way at Rosskerrig on the south side, uphill to the top, crossing Brán Mountain and the Windy Gap, east of Seefin, and then descends north to Gortnakilly on the Goat’s Path Road.

This is steep, tough climbing. Not for the inexperienced or in bad weather conditions. From Rosskerrig to the top of the hill about 1.30 hours, and from the Four Corner Stone to Gortnakilly about 1 hour descending.

The Walk then goes by some houses, continues past a B & B and just before it comes to the main road again, TURNS LEFT and up a path to the stone circle in Gorteanish (“field of Aonghus” - the O’Daly poet).

By Paul Walsh, Ordnance Survey, Archaeologist

“It would appear to have originally consisted of eleven stones, most of which are now fallen. The occurrence of a boulder burial immediately outside the circle to the south is very significant. Usually these monuments are found within stone circles. There are only two other known instances
where they stand in close proximity to multiple stone circles; at Bohonagh, Co. Cork and Uragh, Co. Kerry. It is possible that the other boulder within the circle is also one of these but in the absence of further information it is impossible to be certain.

Multiple stone circles usually have two tall “entrance” stones in the northeast sector of the monument with an opposing axial stone in the south-wet sector.”

There also appears to be a huge 17 foot fallen standing stone to the east of the stone circle, and there are other stones near the circle which may relate to this monument. Stone circles are from the late Bronze Age, about 3000 years ago; they are thought to have been places of ritual, where some kind
of ceremony was performed. These types of multiple stone circles occur only in Cork and Kerry.

Some archaeologists feel that there is line from the entrance stone to the axial stone that looking west will point to the sunset of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. That same line, looking east, will point to the sunrise of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Birth, death,
and the renewal of the sun and of life in general may have been symbolically important to these people, and/or the solstices could have been important for the planting of crops.

It could also be that the copper mined from the nearby sometime before these stone circles, mixed with imported tin produced the “wealth” of bronze, which allowed for the time and leisure for the construction of these monuments.

Looking at the distribution map of these monuments in Cork and Kerry one is struck by how often they occur near the sea or on a waterway leading to the sea. Many of these sites also have a commanding view of the sea. Did these people come from the sea? How important to them were the events
that unfold in the sky during the length of the calendar year. Again, make up your own mind.

The Walk then crosses some rough land and onto a county council road, where you TURN RIGHT and after a few hundred yards TURN LEFT and onto the hill again. Along here are lovely views of Dunmanus Bay, and below you (to your right, south) you will pass Rossnacaheragh (“promontory of the
stone fort”) school and church. Nearby is a ringfort.

The Walk then comes onto a county council road where you TURN RIGHT, which winds its way to a larger road where at a T-junction you TURN LEFT. Just before coming to this larger road you may notice, in the rock to your right, a large foot-print. This is the Giant’s Footprint (and there is another
one further up the hill) which was formed when two Giant’s were having a battle. One Giant threw a stone at the other, who ducked, and the stone flew past him and landed past Roaring Water Bay, and it is known as the Fastnet Rock today.

You then take your FIRST LEFT and head up north for about half a mile where you TURN RIGHT and cross some boggy ground where you meet an old Board of Works road. TURN LEFT and onto the “green” road and follow it to the end near a lake.

The Walk goes north again to a county council road where you TURN RIGHT and walk for over a mile, where you TURN LEFT at a farmer’s boreen, and cross a field. You then follow some paths through a farm, cross some more fields and a stream, and then through some rough land in Rossmore (“large

When you get to the boreen TURN RIGHT, and follow this down to the county council road, where you TURN LEFT. This road may have been part of the original military road that went as far as the Signal Tower in Tooreen. Follow the county council road for about a half mile, where it runs down to the right, you stay STRAIGHT. You are on an old path that leads you behind Durrus Court, a Georgian house and now a B & B, and Cul na Long (“nook of the ships”) castle.

A New Type Of House

By Francis Humphreys, Durrus: A Parish History

The Old Court was a building of considerable historical significance. It was built between 1610-1640, that is after the Battle of Kinsale and before the 1641 rebellion, by Teige na Muclach of the McCarthys. It was built in the traditional Irish-Jacobean style of which Coppingers Court near Rosscarbery is a prime example. There is extensive correspondence in the Paddy O’Keeffe papers (in the Cork Archives), a well-known local historian, describing his attempts to have Cul na Long taken over by the Monuments
Commission and thus preserved for posterity.

It’s importance, as he describes it, was that it was built by craftsmen of a tradition, who knew of no other kind of Big House except the castle or the monastery and so transferred the castle-monastic ornamentation to the new house type. The previous McCarthy residence had been nearby Rossmore
Castle, a much simpler building. The Monuments Commission rejected the application and both building continue to decay.

Teige “of the Pig” was so named because he “Maintained a large herd of swine which foraged for food in the well-wooded hills of Muintir Bháire”.

T.J.Walsh, An Irish Rural Parish, Past and Present: Muintir Bháire Just after passing the castle note the fine four arched bridge you cross; move a few yards south, to your right, to get a better view. Note also the width of the old road the Walk uses to leave Durrus Court; this is the original road begun in 1792 by Richard White of Bantry House. He must have used this road in 1796 when he went out to Sheep’s Head to look for the French fleet.

When you get to the council road TURN LEFT and down a hill and across a bridge, then TURN RIGHT and pass through the lovely grounds of St. James, Church of Ireland. The chancel and tower were built in 1792. The disused grain store across the water is reported to have been used as a refuge for children during the Famine.

We then TURN LEFT and through the village of Durrus (“black headland or wood”). After you pass through the village take the fork to the RIGHT, past Wiseman’s shop and the local creamery. Carry on for approximately 1.5 miles where you TURN RIGHT in Ballycommane (“place of the little crooked recess
or hill-back”).

Take this road up a hill to a T-junction where you carry on for a few yards and TURN LEFT. Here you cross a stile, TURN RIGHT, and through some fields; you are headed for a gap between two forestry plantations to the south. As you go up the tractor road, look to your left for a fine view of a ringfort. The Walk then goes up the hill and through this gap and down the other side of the hill, where you TURN LEFT and into the forestry plantation. (Remember to please not light fires near Coillte lands.)

Take the forestry road to the T-junction, TURN RIGHT, and take the main forestry road to the end, where you TURN LEFT on the county council road.

You take the council road to the junction of the N71, the main Ballydehob- Bantry road. Cross the N71 and go up a small hill - you will be walking a path, wettish in places, just outside the plantation. In the distance to your right (south), note (from west to east) the Fastnet Rock, Cape Clear Island and Sherkin Island.

This path meets the old road to Ballydehob where you TURN LEFT. It is said that Donal Cam O’Sullivan camped here on his way to the Battle of Kinsale in 1602. The old road meets a county council road and you carry on STRAIGHT, over an old footbridge to the main Bantry-Cork road. You cross this, staying
STRAIGHT, and on the council road up to Vaughan’s Pass, and down through a series of small council roads back into Bantry. (There is a fine panoramic view of Bantry town and harbour here.)

When you come to the entrance of the IDA Centre take a small diversion to see the Kilnaruane pillar stone. Instead of turning right into the IDA Centre, carry on STRAIGHT and TURN LEFT at the sign.

Archaeological Inventory of County Cork, Vol.1, West Cork.: “NW face divided into four panels; uppermost, two pieces of ribbon interlace; second panel, praying figure; third, Greek cross; lowest, St. Paul and St. Anthony seated at a pedestal table holding bread. SE face divided into three panels: topmost, remains of spiral interface; second, two pairs of four-legged animals; third, boat with four oarsmen and fifth figure steering in stern, rowing through a sea of crosses. Two incisions on top of the pillar indicate attachment of an original further element. Adjacent are four deeply grooved boulders which may have functioned as hinge/corner-stones in structure.”

Going back to the IDA Centre, take a quick LEFT TURN after going through the main entrance, and you are on the grounds of Bantry House. Follow the path down to a junction where you TURN RIGHT and follow another path.

Descend the beautiful staircase behind Bantry House, TURN RIGHT and out of the main gates, then down the road, TURN RIGHT at the main entrance, and the Walk ends, where it began, at Wolfe Tone Square.