Seventh Annual O’Leary Clan Gathering. September 2002




Once more, Creedon’s Hotel in Inchigeelagh hosted the seventh annual Gathering of the O’Leary Clan. Round about one hundred members of the Clan turned up from various parts of the World to celebrate over the weekend of September 13/14/15th. and all agreed that it was a very successful reunion.


The Theme this year was a little more general than usual, covering the branches of the family who had settled in the Millstreet and Killarney areas. We visited those areas on the Saturday, and saw much of this beautiful part of North West Cork. The weather was perfect for our tour, which included Drishane, Rathmore and Glenfesk in addition to the two centres mentioned above.


On the Friday evening there was a Reception and welcoming speeches from the Committee. This was followed by Refreshments and an address by Michael Manning, Tourism Manager of Bord Failte who told us what an important part our Clan gatherings play in the overall structure of Tourism in Ireland.


The rest of the evening gave all the attendees a good opportunity to meet and get to know each other and exchange information on Family Trees and Genealogical matters.

On the Saturday morning we first had our Group Photograph, taken this year in the Inchigeelagh Cross, and a copy of which appears alongside this article.


We were then ushered to our bus and set off on our tour of the area. Our first speaker was Dan O’Leary whose family live just outside Millstreet, and who is very knowledgeable of the district. We passed Raleigh House and Carriganimma, reminding us of Art O Laoire and his sad demise in 1773; then Kilmeedy Castle, once occupied by a McCarthy garrison put in by McCarthy of Drishane to guard his Southern flank; then Mount Leader House, once the home of the Leader family. The first stop was at Drishane Castle, the home of that McCarthy who was a side branch of Muskerry McCarthy. This was where old Colonel Donogh macOwen McCarthy had lived with his bride, Juliana O’Leary, the daughter of Daniel O’Leary of Carrignaneela, during the period 1660 to 1715. The tower house itself has been carefully restored and is in magnificent condition. Alongside it are other later buildings, including the mansion built by the Wallis family who succeeded the McCarthys in ownership of this estate. This building was itself extended by the Congregation of the Holy Child of Jesus, a Belgian order of nuns, who set up a girl’s boarding school here in 1917. They also built, in the campus, their convent which is now occupied by asylum seekers. Also a fine old building which was once an Industrial school for the teaching of weaving and other skills. The entire estate is in good condition, and is now owned by the Duggan family. It is rumoured that it may one day become a hotel for which these lovely buildings are ideally suited.


Next we travelled a short distance to Drishane old cemetery, where amongst other items of interest we saw the famous tombstone celebrating the lives of two McCarthys, father and son, who were both centenarians.


Our trip next took us to Boinn Castle of the O’Keeffes, where O’Sullivan Beare on his epic march crossed the Blackwater River at a ford. Then via Millstreet Station back into Millstreet Town where we saw the lodge gates of Coomlagane and the small house occupied by Denis O’Leary at his death in 1788.


A stop in Millstreet Town allowed us a visit to the remains of the front entrance to Coomlagane, and to the Catholic Church which was endowed by the McCarthy-O’Learys, including their side chapel, once a pew for the family, but now a "crying" room to allow families with small children to hear Mass without too much disturbance to the rest of the congregation. There is also a small grave yard here with some interesting tombs including one for the McCarthy-O’Leary family. This church and the adjacent convent and school were also endowed by the McCarthy-O’Leary family, and the church contains a fine Clarke stained glass window.


It was explained to us that during the 19th.c. the town of Millstreet and it’s surrounding lands was entirely owned by three landlord families. The Wallis’s of Drishane, the McCarthy-O’Learys of Coomlagane and the Leaders of Mount Leader. It is puzzling to us today but the Wallis’s and the Leaders were typical Protestant landlord families; the McCarthy-O’Learys were land owners and landlords, but Catholic and of course descended from ancient Gaelic stock. They were also Magistrates and pillars of local society. A strange situation but not unknown in other parts of Ireland or County Cork. All three families have now left the district.


We now returned to our bus and were taken about one mile West of the Town to see the holy well at the foot of Claragh mountain. This has been a holy place for many centuries, and has been tastefully restored and provided with a car park. So abundant is the flow of water from the mountain that the well provides drinking water to the Town of Millstreet.

Dan O’Leary now handed over to Tony Kenny for the rest of the journey, having kept us all absorbed with his wealth of interesting local knowledge.


We next passed through Rathmore where a large numbers of O’Leary families were established, starting with Donal mac Dermod O’Leary of Carrickleven who obtained a tenancy of Kileen from Lord Kenmare in 1637. By the 18th.c. this colony had grown to many families, some of whom moved down the valley and into Killarney Town, where many still remain to this day.


Our call centre in Killarney was to the Muckross estate. Muckross House is now a beautiful house and garden, and well equipped with a good restaurant. Some of us lingered round the house and garden. Others, more adventurous, walked to Muckross "Abbey", the ruins of an old Franciscan Friary, and like most such today, the burying place of large numbers of local people. There are many O’Leary families buried here, and some of us were lucky enough to find graves of interest to us, including our guide, Tony Kenny.

The journey concluded with a run up the beautiful Glen Flesk, where we caught a glimpse of the O’Donoghue castle. Also one or two of the homes of our guide and the Kennys, Flemings and O’Learys who were his ancestors.


The Saturday evening, as usual, was given over to the annual dinner, a gargantuan feast provided by Joe Creedon in his hotel. This was followed by music and entertainment provided again by our ever popular Ger Wolfe in his own inimitable manner.

On Sunday morning we feared the weather was about to break, so joined the parishioners in their normal 11.30 Mass. We then held the annual Clan meeting at which much was discussed, and even a few decisions taken. One of these was to hold next year’s Gathering in August, to fit in with the programme of events celebrating the 400th.anniversary of the march of O’Sullivan Beare from Dunboy to Leitrim. We also agreed to launch a Clan Website during 2003, and money was set aside to further this project.


Altogether a happy and useful meeting, and a good start to what we hope will be a long and fruitful term of office by our new Administrator, Tony Kenny