Inchigeela Cottage

By Patrick McCaffrey, California, USA


In the 1870’s, Jim and Johanna Barry and their children were living in a house that some now refer to as Inchigeela Cottage. The cottage was between the main street and the bridge over the river Lee in the village of Inchigeela, Co. Cork next to what is now Creedon’s Hotel. Jim’s father Jack had owned it since around 1815. Before that he lived with his family in Derrin, a townland just outside the village to the north-west.


Jack and Nelly Barry

Jack Barry was my great great grandfather. He came from Castletown-Kenneigh to Inchigeela around 1815 . He would have been 21 years old. He and Nelly (nee Mullins) lived in Derrin but apparently owned the house in Inchigeela. He gave Father Holland permission to use his cottage as a church every Sunday and when otherwise needed from 1817 through 1821 when Inchigeela’s first "real’ Catholic Church was built. Mass was said on an altar set up in front of the fireplace and people congregated in the kitchen and in room behind it which opened to the kitchen.


Early in the 20th Century a man named Jeremiah Cotter lived there. According to my aunt, Eileen (Quill) Corbin, Jeremiah said his prayers every night in front of the fireplace because he felt that it was a sacred place. According to Eileen there were three small bedrooms in a loft over the kitchen. Later, the Creedon family used the cottage as a storehouse until it burned down around 1971.


Jack and Nelly had two children, Jim born in 1842, was my great grandfather and Ellen born in 1845. After Jim got married, his parents, Jack and Nelly lived with him and his wife Johanna (nee O’Leary)


Jim and Johanna Barry

Johanna was an O’Leary Riabhac from Derryvane, Inchigeela. Jim died at age 33, around 1875. He had been ill for some months with consumption, now known as tuberculosis. Jim, unlike his father Jack, was not a tailor. I have no information about what he did for a living. His mother Nelly Mullins had married Jim Barry even though he was Catholic and she Protestant. An interesting story about Jim’s death has been passed down by word of mouth.


According to my mother, Johanna (Quill) McCaffrey, her grandfather, Jim, had been working outside on a particularly cold, wet day when he became very weak and developed a high fever. The local doctor was sent for but by the time he got there Jim was without vital signs. The doctor pronounced him dead and plans were made for the wake. As was customary at the time the children were sent off to school and the wake held in the cottage. All of the neighbours came to pay their respects.


Since Jim died at such an early age the wake was not at all festive. The Rosary was said and just as the fifth decade was over Jim sat up in the bed in his brown habit with Rosary beads entwined between his fingers. Most of his friends and neighbours fled the house, but after a short time they returned. He asked to see his children. They were brought from the school and into the room in which he was laid out. He then told them and the others in the house about an incredible experience that he had. He said that he had seen heaven and met the Blessed Virgin Mary who told him that he had to return for a short time with a message for his mother. The message was that she should become a Catholic. He spoke for about an hour and then said that it was time for him to say goodbye to his family. He said good bye to his wife, mother and each of his children. Maire, his youngest, aged seven, asked "Daddy, why aren’t you saying goodbye to me?" He said "Mo Mhaire Ban a Cheanna, I’m not saying goodbye to you because you will be joining me in Heaven"

Several days later Maire came running into the house from the garden saying that she had seen her Daddy in the trees and that he was calling her. Later that night she became ill and was running a high fever. The local doctor was away and so they had to send someone outside the area for a doctor. When he arrived he examined her and could find nothing wrong. He was annoyed that he had come such a long way on horseback for nothing and spoke harshly to the family. The next day he was in Inchigeela at the dispensary and feeling some guilt about the way he treated the Barrys, he asked, "how is the little girl?" He was told that she had died one hour after he had left the previous evening.


I only found out about the TB recently from my aunt, Eileen (nee Quill) Corbin who lives in Boston. I have always wondered about Jim telling Maire that she would be going with him, but the thought occurred to me that perhaps she had TB also and he knew that she would be going to die soon. Although Jim died at age 33, Jack Barry, his father, lived on until 1907. He was 113 years old. According to my mother, who was born that same year, he was senile for the last year of his life. He liked to wear my grandmother’s shoes (he was a small man), but mainly went about barefoot. He habitually walked across the dusty road to the river where he washed his feet. Upon returning to the house he would say "Jaysus, me auld feet are dirty" and proceed back across the road to endlessly repeat the cycle.


Ellen and Jim Quill

My grandmother Ellen Barry was born in the Cottage and married Jim Quill from Direes, Ballyvourney in Inchigeela in 1906. Jim was a blacksmith in Inchigeela and later in Kilnadur. (Jim's father, Denis had married Johanna Lehane from Ballingeary, in Inchigeela in 1864.)


Johanna and Alexander McCaffrey

My mother, Johanna Quill met my father Alexander McCaffrey while he was stationed as a Garda in Inchigeela in the late 1920's. He was originally from Strokestown, Co. Roscommon. She had been working in the Post Office next to what is now Creedon's Hotel since 1921 when she was fourteen. Her parents and her brother, Christy and sister Nelly had moved to Kilnadur in 1918 after they inherited a farm there. Christy and Nelly (Eileen) went to the States in the mid 1920's.


After several duty stations, including Tarelton, and Bothar Bui, my parents moved to Killavullen in 1937. My brother, Noel and I were born there. The entire family moved to Boston in 1958 after my father retired. I was 17 and Noel 15. We completed our education in the States. We now live and work in Chico, California. Noel is a special education teacher at Chico Junior High school and I'm a professor at California State University. I have a 25 year old daughter, Kelly and a 13 year old son, Alexander. Noel has a 12-year-old daughter, Madeline.


This is my family’s story. From Jack and Nelly Barry to Jim and Johanna Barry to Ellen and Jim Quill to my parents Johanna and Alexander McCaffrey and on to my children.


 The big wheel of life keeps on turning.