Kilcaskan monastic complex was in Ross Diocese

As well as the parishes of Castletownbere Berehaven, Kilcatherine and Tuosist, there was another Beara parish listed in the Diocese of Kerry 1750 - 1835. That was Bonane which at the time included the Glengarriff and Kilcaskan/Adrigole districts. Adrigole was also known for a time as the parish of Clan Lawerence.

The monastic complex of Kilcaskan, which appears on the Ordnance Survey six inch map as 'Kilcaskan Church (in ruins)', 'graveyard', Tobberatemple' and 'Monumental pillar'. The See of Ross, in which this area is, was founded by St Fachnan about the year 570, but there seems little or no reference to Kilcaskan until much later. The present ruins of the church would appear to date from about 900-1000AD. but the original buildings would have been built of wood, and in the adjoining field to the northeast of the graveyard may be discerned carious mounds and hollows, apparently the foundations of wooden buildings, and indeed it does not take much imagination to visualise the site of a mill here.

In th top northeastern corner of the field is a circular stone enclosure and it is obvious the settlement was quite a large one. It does not appear in the Decretal Letter of Pope Innocent 111, but it does appear in a Taxation Roll of Pope Nicholas (1277-1280), as Ecca de Kylkascan and Drumfegna Imr'. Glengarriff, Adrigole and Bunane, the last named being on the northern side of the road from Glengarriff to Kenmare, are in the parish.

There was a little single-roomed hut at Bunane and the priest used to ride over the mountain on Saturdays, hear confessions and stay overnight in the hut to celebrate Mass on Sunday. A story is told that on one occasion both parish priest and curate went over and after they had retired to bed the priest kicked the curate out of the bed three times and after the third time the curate took the horse and rode him home, leaving the priest to fare for himself as well as he could. It is not recorded what the priest said to the curate when he got back!

At Massmount Cross, Adrigole are the ruins of Massmount Church; this is a post-penal days church, probably successor to the old church of Kilcaskan. It went out of use in the 19th century when it was replaced by the present parish church of Adrigole at Droumlave on the main Glengarriff Castletownbere road.

In Kilcaskan churchyard is an ogham stone and just across the road is a 'holy well', in rock outcrop which bears a rudely cut cross, from this well a line of boulders curve down to a little stream, and it may have been a place of pre-Christian worship. In the field on the north eastern side of the churchyard may be seen traces of house sites and the foundation seems have been a large one.

An authority on local history and folklore, the late Mr Morty Shea NT of Adrigole said, there used to be a stone in this church, about the size of a human skull, 'which the local people rubbed around their forehead to cure headaches.

It is said that "Cuscan" is the Irish Gaelic version of the Scottish Gaelic "Fillan", though some people regard this as doubtful. However, at Dochart Bridge, Killin, Pertshire, Scotland, is a mill known as Dr Fillan's mill and here are kept stones for curing pains in various parts of the body. "First, one for the head, which is large the shape similar to a skull" which is used for curing headaches.

The old parish of Kilcaskan or Adrigole comprised the three churches of Adrigole, Glengarriff, and Bonane, the latter being to the east of the Glengarriff/Kenmare Road. It is said that a priest rode a horse over the mountain from Adrigole to say Mass there.

Kilcaskan, the traditional name of the parish probably derives from the ancient religious site, Cill Chaschain, in Adrigole. This early lios or dun foundation preceded the establishment of the See of Ross by Saint Fachtna, also identified as St Fiachna. It is reasonable to assume that Caschan, the precursor of Fachtna, was the patron of the territory which now forms the parishes of Adrigole and Bonane.

The founder of Ross, St Fachtna, gave his name to the Glengarriff townland of Cappyaughna (Ceapagh Phachna) as well as to Tempall Fiachna at Dromfiachna, Bonane, which in pre-Christian times was a centre of early druidical worship. The legend of the Bullaun Rock, the "petrified dairymaid" and her pats of butter turned to stone, had been interwoven with the transition from the druidical to the Christian tradition.

Some antiquarians maintain, that the finger stones, eight in number, were used as prayer, or in the case of an enemy, as cursing stones by the druids, in the same manner as prayer-wheels were used in Tibetan monasteries, The Druids prayed or cursed while they turned the stones in the hollows of the Ballaun. The Bullaun is know locally also as Cloch na bhPaithni (the wart rock) as the rainwater that gathers in its hollows is a cure for warts. This was one of the many sites in that area visited by members of Beara Historical Society in recent years. A pattern was held at Gurranes during Easter time when rounds were made and the participants drank the waters of Tobar Piachna. There are two wells, one much older than the other. Invalids also visit the wells on 3rd May and 14th September and tradition has it that cures have been effected.

In the old days, the only route between Bonane and Glengarriff was the Esk mountain bridle path, traversed by countless generations. When the Tunnel road between Kenmare and Glengarriff together with Kenmare Suspension Bridge opened in 1842, communication between the two parish areas was transformed and Glengarriff developed rapidly as a tourist centre. "The Alhoir" (Altoir) or Mass Rock which stands near the summit of Esk on the Bonane side, beside the old road, is a reminder of penal times. Inse-an-tSagairt in the Bonane townland of Innisfoyle close by, tells its own story of the hunted priest who met his death at the hands of his pursuers in the glen.

The story of the "Priest's Leap" on the old Kenmare-Bantry Road, some two miles west of Esk, had a happier ending. The priest on horseback rose into the air, leaving his pursurers far behind. The rock on which he alighted bears the horse's hoof marks, to this day and is marked with a commemorative plaque.

Not far from "The Alhoir" at Esk in the townland of Farry more stand the ruins of "An Seana Sheipeal". It served the people in the pre-famine years as did the old church at 'Faill-a-Sheipeil" in Gaerha. These were replaced by the present church in 1888, together, with adjoining presbytery, during Fr John Mangan’s time.

Father Michael Sheehan, PP., 1858-1870, changed residence from Glengarriff to Releagh, Bonane, where he occupied the house built for the engineer in charge of the construction of Kenmare Glengarriff road. He was the last PP., who used Irish as the sole medium of preaching and instruction in the parish. It was subsequent to this charge of residence also that Bonane as the official parish name finally replaced the earlier traditional Kilcaskan.

In the Cork Examiner Saturday, October 4th, 1902 the following appeared: The solemn ceremony of the dedication of the new Church of Glengarriff to the Sacred Heart took place on Sunday, 5th October, 1902. The ceremony was performed by the Venerable Archdeacon Mangan, PP, VG, Kenmare, former Parish Priest of Bonane, Glengarriff and later Bishop of Kerry.

In a letter to the Kerry Sentinel 23rd, September, 1896 a correspondence wrote about the old church as follows: I was surprised to see so many traces of decay and dilapidation in the village church. The timber roofing seems to be rapidly falling into decay, and hears all the evidence of been scarcely able to sustain its weight upon it. There is every indication that ere long it will collapse. The ceiling is in a very bad condition.

Work began on the new Church in May 1901, when the contract was given to Mr Daniel J O'Donovan, Bantry and Denis O'Riordan, Macroom proved to be an exceptional clerk of works. The building which is in the Gothic style was erected from designs supplied by Most Rev John Coffey Bishop of Kerry. Bishop Coffey speaking of Mr Riordan, Clerk of Works, said "The elegant appearance of the facade and the splendid finish of the general work bespeak for Mr Riordan an aptitude in the work he set to perform that could not be excelled".

The following from an account of the opening of the church in The Cork County Eagle and Minister Advertiser, Saturday, October 11th, 1902, gives the following description of the Church: "The new edifice stands in a well selected site on a gentle declivity, within sight of the old building, and sheltered as it is by a fine background of hill and foliage, its simple, though graceful, architecture presents a pleasing appearance which harmonises admirably with its beautiful surroundings. The new church in Glengarriff cost £5,000 approximately. The old Glengarriff church is now the Parochial Hall.

Courtesy of the Southern Star