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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Mangans 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
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
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