Brief History of Bantry Parish, Co. Cork, Ireland
This is a Union of the ancient parishes of Inniscuinge and Kilmocomoge.
Inniscuinge – consisting mainly of Rabbit Island and Chapel Island – is included in the 1199 list of churches and it was placed between Durrus and Kilmocomoge. After that date, it became absorbed in these two parishes; earlier it had belonged to the Abbey of Cong in Mayo. Hence its name.
The name Bantry, as applied to the parish, dates from 1764. Derived from the Beanntraighe, descended from Bean, one of Conor MacNessa’s sons.
The early churches of this area fell into Protestant hands in the 16th century; consequently penal sites abound in all sections of the parish. Mass was celebrated in a cave at Scartbaun and there is knowledge of a thatched chapel at Chapel Hill, Ard an tSeip?il, about one mile west of Inchaclough National School. For Kilmocomoge we find Cnocan na hAltorach (the hill of the altar) to the south of the Mealagh River; Clais an Aifrinn (The ravine of the Mass) at Cappabui, near which Pluais a’ tSagairt tells its own tale of furtive living. The altar rock here is a perfect specimen of a penal altar. At times when it was dangerous for the priests to be present, people recited the Rosary at Mass time. Cum a tSagairt was located in Coomleigh. The priest who served here used to be alerted by a bonfire in case of any sick-calls at Cappabui. Then there was the Mass-rock at Colonel. One could go on and on …..
Tobaireen Mhuire, (Mary’s little well) to the south of Kilmocomoge graveyard was a popular venue for ‘Rounds’ on 15 August each year. Another tobairin in Cahirmukee (Cathair-mo-chui) was a resting place for Beara people on their way to Cork. St. Bartholomew’s Well in Gortoe was another popular centre for ‘Rounds’ which in this instance were usually made before dawn. The well at Greenberg had a whitethorn bush nearby on which offerings could be placed. Finally at Ardnaturais (Pilgrim Height?) one knew one’s prayers were heard if an eel popped his head above water!!
Prior to 1795 a thatched chapel was built in Bantry in what is now the garden of the PPs house. This chapel lasted until 1825 when the present church of St. Finbarr was built by Father Thomas Barry PP. It was designed by Michael A. O’Riordan, a Presentation Brother. Subsequent enlargements and renovations have provided us with today’s beautiful church. Bantry Abbey: Little remains today of the 14th century Franciscan Abbey but the connection of the Friars with the parish is preserved in the place-name Ard na mBr thar and the burial ground is called the Abbey Graveyard. The Celtic Cross here was erected to the memory of famine victims.
St. Joseph’s Church, Coomhola, was opened about 1806 and the Church of the Immaculate Conception in nearby Kealkill was opened circa 1840.
[adapted and updated from notes by Sr. Angela Bolster] ? 2004 Diocese of Cork and Ross.