Ballingeary College

By Rev. Patrick Hurley, P.P.


This interesting newspaper article from around 1905 was written by the then Uibh Laoire parish priest Rev Patrick Hurley. It gives an account of the setting up of Coláiste Na Mumhan.

The parish of Inchigeela or as known by its tribal name, Iveleary or Uibh Laoire, country of the O’Learys, is remote, and it is even, in the seclusion of the mountains, cut away from the rest of the world. Until a comparatively recent period there were no means of communication. The principal road from Macroom to Bantry was made about the year 1828. This isolation had the effect of preserving intact the language and traditions of the inhabitants, themselves a fine manly race, pure Celts and keen to learn.

On my taking pastoral charge of this parish in 1888, I applied myself to develop the materials at my disposal: a very extensive territory, charming mountain and lake scenery, Gougane Barra, Valley Desmond, and Keimaneigh, with Allua’s Lake between Ballingeary and Inchigeela. Here, before the City of Cork was founded, St. Finbar had his retreat in lonely Gougane, and here also he had his disciples united in study and prayer. Tradition has it that so great was their number that on the saint’s journey to the future scene of his labour, Cork, that forgetting a book midway, word was sent to Gougane. The last person had not yet left there, who handed on the book, which the saint received at Cork.



By a curious combination of circumstances, many years ago I was the instrument to secure Gougane Barra for the Diocese of Cork. On my appointment as Parish Priest, I was in possession of the Island. I found the language on the point of going. The old people, themselves unable to speak English, would prevent their children from speaking Irish. I discouraged this, and in the schools, and from the altar I impressed on them the beauty of their own language, and the glorious part Ireland had played in the past: the land of saints and scholars.

I promoted the industrial revival and opened up the country by inducing the Tourist Development Company to run coaches to Glengariffe and Killarney, via Macroom, and put in repair the ancient ruins of Gougane Barra, and by the generous help of a wealthy American, native of the parish, erected a neat Celtic oratory on the Island.



Encouraging the Irish language in the schools, hearing the language spoken in its purity, I was fortunate in meeting the Rev. Richard O’Daly, D.D., priest of the diocese, Goulbourne, Australia, who made his studies at the College of Propaganda, Rome. He had an opportunity there of studying languages from his contacts with students from all nations, and subsequently traveled through Europe, where he acquired a perfect knowledge of nearly every European language. Born of Australia, but of parents from about here, he wished to learn the Irish language. He began at the Gaelic League classes in London, where for a short time he did missionary work. Coming here, he perfected his knowledge of Irish, and I was fortunate in securing his services to serve the Pilgrims coming to pray at the Oratory, Gougane Barra.



In the summer of 1903 he got around him scholars from several parts of Ireland and also the country around. This was the start of the College. Mass every morning, prayers in Irish after the Rosary in Irish. The Angelus also. After breakfast in the large dining hall of Cronin’s Hotel came a class. Then the students went in knots to visit and converse with the people around. They had their evening meetings, and Irish sermon on Sundays. Everyone was pleased with their time. In the autumn of that year, at a "Feis" at Ballingeary, a village four miles from Gougane Barra, Father Goulding, of New Zealand, offered an annual subscription towards an Irish College at Gougane Barra. The London Gaelic League and the Dublin branches also subscribed liberally, and many subscriptions flowed in. It was found the accommodation at Gougane Barra was too limited, and it was arranged to have the College opened in Ballingeary, where there was a good hall for lectures, excellent schools where the children were Irish-speaking, and places where lodgings could be had all in a circle




The college opened for two sessions, July and August last year. Mr. Dermot Foley had charge, assisted by Rev. Dr. O’Daly and Mr. T. A. Scannell, lessons were given in the method of teaching Irish phonetics and metrics of Irish poetry; special classes in text books for National teachers: conventional lessons: also lectures were given in Irish history. The language of the school was as much as possible Irish; the country around is full of antiquities, Pagan and Christian. The beauty of the scenery and the healthfulness of the plan made it all to be desired. Over seventy students attended each session, several priests from all parts of Ireland, professors in colleges, National teachers, Gaelic League organizers formed the attendance. All were pleased with their time, and left with regret, many hoping to return the next session.



There is scarce a part of Ireland where the scholars of the College are not doing a good work. It is admitted on all hands that the Irish language revival owes much to it, and the children of this parish are engaged all over the country in teaching the old language. Preparations are being made to improve on last year. Lecturers are also promised, accommodation is being provided. The Archbishop of Cashel with the Bishop of Cork and the other Bishops of Munster, have become patrons of the college. They have helped it by donations, so there is every hope of a great future, and perhaps means may come, and this college may eventually be housed on the ancient site near Gougane Barra.



St. Finbarr’s, Inchigeela,