Béal Átha An Ghaorthaidh

This is the text of the first book on the history of Ballingeary. It was written by Fr. Donnchadh Ó Donnchadha and published in 1922

The village of Ballingeary is in the Parish of Uibh Laoire, in the diocese of Cork, and in West Cork half-way between Bantry and Macroom. It is the second village in the Parish. Inchigeela, the other one, is six miles east of it. In ancient times Uibh Flainn Laoi was the name of the whole countryside from Dripsey, which is half-way between Cork and Macroom, to Bhoirneach in Ballyvourney. That clan ruled the country till the clan McCarthy seized Muskerry. And the Learys were an important tribe under the McCarthys. It is from them that the name Uibh Laoire  was given to the Parish from Droichead Na Tuinne in the east to Céim An Fhia in the west and from Cnoc Na Seithe in the south, to The Toon River in the north. They had thirty townlands with no rent to pay except the usual tax (rent) to the overlord, according to law. They came from the south, from Roscarbay, in 1192. After the victory of the Normans they were exiled out of that place with the Donovans and they came from the south to the River Lee. When the McCarthys took control of Muskerry they left the Learys in this district. The  luck of the 0'Learys changed accord­ingly as victory or conquest befell the McCarthys. Finally they were dispersed in 1588, as happened to the whole countryside. There are a lot of 0'Learys in the Parish still.

There are 107 townlands in that part of the Parish that is in the Barony of West Muskerry.  Most of the houses of the village are in Drom An Ailtigh. The rest of them are east of the bridge in Kilmore (Coill Mor). That part of the Parish that goes with the Chapel within Guagán is also called Ballingeary, but there is no townland by that name. There is a small river called the Bun Síleann going through the village and it meets the Lee below it. The Bun Síleann is east of Drom An Ailthigh and there is another steam called the Abha Gharbh in Muing Na Biorraighe or Gort Luachra to the north and it runs down the slope in the direction of the Lee on the west side of Drom An Ailthigh. This is how Séamus Breathnach from Túirín Dubn sang in reference to Muing Na Biorraighe.

I have another trade of living if the potatoes don't come (fail)

The hound and the green, and may it bring a lot with it,

The cock and the partridge dropping down

And the ducks and the drakes on Muing Na Biorraighe.

In the bed of the river there are large stones and high rocks on the banks of the stream. There is a bridge on the Bun Sileann at the head of the village and it is from that that "The Bridge" was the name of the village among the old people. The old road from Macroom to Bantry went this way, thence west across the new road and along the old boreen at the back of the forge. At the place where it struck the bank of the Lee to the west of Drom An Ailthigh there was a crossroads. There was a ford on the Lee there, where the road continued westward to Bantry. Northwards the other road continued about a half-mile, across the stream and westwards over Cnoc An Earbaill in the direction of Guagán.

There was an old thatched chapel in Ballingeary a long time ago and it was presumably this fact  and the high road where two rivers met was probably the reason why houses were built there, and eventually a village developed there. Drom An Ailthigh is a rough and wild townland. There are 328 acres there but scarcely any of the land is economically workable. Potatoes and oats and vegetables are the most cultivated in that sort. In 1766 there were only four houses in the whole townland. The following are the householders and their households, Daniel O'Leary, seven; Matthew Ring, six; William O'Harrihan, five; and another Daniel O'Leary, five.  In the course of years the village grew. In 1821 there were 16 houses in the town, though some of these were farmers' houses that were outside the village.

These are the householders of every house;

Denis O'Leary, laborer, eight; Denis Managan (Manning), blacksmith, five; Cormac Walsh, eight; Andrew Foley, farmer and weaver, seven; Richard Walsh, farmer, six; Michael Lehane, farmer, three; Nora Hurley, widow, four; Denis O'Mahoney, farmer, nine; Timothy Lehane, laborer, eight; Sioban Lehane, widow, two; Patrick Cotter, farmer, eight; Timothy O'Mahoney, farmer, ten; Sean 0'Sullivan, laborer, eight; John O'Leary, laborer, five;  John Ring, farmer, eight; Thomas O'Leary, four.


At this time the village ran along by the old boreen facing south. Then the new road from Macroom to Bantry was built - The Prince of Wales Way as it was called. It was James Barry (I747-l832) - The Big Barry as he was called - from Kilbarry, east of Inchigeela that made the road. He was collector and High Sheriff of the country. Captain Hedge and Lord Bantry had the road made. The bridge on the river was built about 50 yards north of the old ford and the new road crossed the bridge and along the western side of the river till it met the old road. It crossed the old boreen and continued westwards by the Lee in the direction of Bantry.

The new village was built on both sides of the road along the Bun Sileann. But there are a couple of houses and a lot of ruins still along the old boreen westwards where the old village was. About l84O the Canalltons (Cearbhallthánaigh) and Captain Mitchell were the landlords of the town.  They leased to one tenant alone for three lives, that is generations, (99 years) and he in turn leased to 15 tenants. Seven of them later had farms of land, the rest had small houses; 67 pounds rent they got from them. A change of fortune befell the landlords.  The place went before the Count of the Chancellor and the Grehans from Banteer took control of the place.  They had a lawyer, Terry by name.  There were 26 houses in Drom An Ailthigh in 1881.  There were 143 people living in the village.  Then 79 pounds, 5 shillings was the value of the houses and the land that same year.  There are 23 houses

in the village today (1922) with 100 people living in them.  The people of the village pay rent to the farmers on whose land their houses are built.

The old people there now remember when there was only very few houses in the village and both? of them were thatched houses. In 1842 there was only one tavern there. It was at the head of the street facing the bridge and Mrs. Cronin was the owner. Sometime before 1850 William Shorten opened another tavern beside that house on the south side. The Cronins got out of the business a short while before that. The other tavern is still there, Benjamin Shorten being in residence. He is a grandson of old William Shorten and a brother to George Shorten who wrote the song, "Den Capallin Bán". There is reference in the book, ‘The Felon’s Track’ by Michael Doheny to the good treatment received by James Stephens and himself for a couple of nights at the tavern when they were on the run.


There was an old thatched chapel in Ballingeary before l824.  It was in a field at the corner of the Street between the road of the village and the old boreen (behind Forge - Ed.). It is still called "Paircín An Seipéil". There is the track of the gap on the ditch of the old boreen where the people came into the chapel.  There is nothing left of the old chapel except a couple of corner stones. It is hard to make out what size it was, most probably it was 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. The walls were not high; a person stand­ing on the ground beside the chapel could reach the roof with his hand. The door was at the east end and the altar at the west end. Once a fortnight Mass was held there.

When Father Diarmuid 0'Houlihan (1815-1864) came to the Parish he noticed that the chapel was not suitable for the people and he planned to build a new chapel for them. The landlords donated the land to him. Stones and slates were available in the quarry in  Oilean Eidhneach, a townland adjacent to Drom An Ailthigh on the southern side of the Lee.  The chapel was begun in 1824. That was the beginning of the Chapel that is there now. The Chapel is built in the form of a Cross, though in the beginning only the branches were built. It faced south.  It is 72 feet long and 24 feet wide. The door was on the north side and the altar on the south side.  There were six windows, four on each side and a window on each gable.  The south wall was damp and slate was put on it outside for protection against the rain. There was a small house at the back of the sanctuary with a door going to the Altar.

About 30 years after that the south wall was taken down and the middle aisle of the chapel was built along the side of the road.  The old door was closed and three new ones put in, one in each branch on the eastern side and a door in the north side of the middle aisle on the northeast corner. The windows on the old part were closed except those on each gable and three big windows were put in on the new aisle, one in each side and one on the gable. The altar was changed and placed in the center of the west wall of the Chapel. The new part is of the same length and width as the old part.

A gallery was erected at the end of the chapel. There were four pillars under it in a straight line across, behind the door. People went up on the gallery from this door. There were 10 seats in each side of the gallery and though the gallery is not there now some of the seats are at the end of the Chapel. There was a rail surrounding the Altar and from within it one went to the little house at the back of the Chapel. Beside the rail, out­side and on the north side, was situated the Baptismal Font. The Chapel cost £500 pounds. The people paid for it.

When Father Patrick Hurley (1888-1908) came to the Parish he be­gan to make improvements to the Chapel. He built a porch around each door. Each of them is nine feet long, eight feet wide and seventeen feet high. There is a small Gothic window in each porch and a Holy Water Font on the sill of each window. Each window is 1 foot 9" wide and 7'7" high. The Holy Water Font is 1'7" wide and 5" in depth. The letters I.H.S. are on each font. There are two half-doors on each porch and two more going into the Chapel. Besides that the field behind was taken away at the back of the Chapel and the west wall of the Chapel was taken down and the Altar was erected further back inside the new wall of the Chapel. Two small houses were erected outside the Sanctuary on the south side, one within and the other without, with a door to enter them by the altar. Each one of them is 14' long and 12' wide. Three stained glass windows were placed in back of the Altar. On the south window is an image of St. Finbar, the crozier in his hand and the bishop's miter on his head. This is written at the base of the window, "St. Finbar, pray for Sarah Sutherland by whom this window was given. A.D. 1889."  She was the wife of an Irish merchant from Cork. The image of the Sacred Heart- of Jesus in the middle window, with this written at its base, "Jesus have mercy on us; Sacred Heart of Jesus bless the donor, Rev. Cornelius 0'Sullivan". Father Cornelius O’Sullivan was born in the Graig west of Inchigeela. When he was a boy Fr. Diarmuid O'Houlihan took him into his house, the priest noticed how interested the boy was in learning and how holy he was and he placed him in College to become a priest. He was ordained and died as Parish Priest in Enniskeane. The image of the Virgin Mary is in the north window with the following words at its base, "Mary Immaculate, intercede for Martha MacCarthy who gave this window A.D. 1889". This nobel lady is Mrs. Tadhg Scannell,  who is pre­sently mistress of the girls in Ballingeary school.

Besides this Father Patrick Hurley bought new seats for the chapel. He took out the gallery, built a new small room for the Baptismal Font at the end of the Chapel on the southeast corner. There is a nicely ornamented door leading into this room from the Chapel. One of the McCarthys, a carpenter in the village, made the door. The old Font was taken east to the Parish Priest's house. A new rail was placed around the Altar, also. In the middle of the rail a brass plate has this written;

Presented by Stephen Grehan, Esq. of Banteer, who also gave the site of this Church  A.D. 1889.

There is an old vessel in the small house (Sacristy) that was used as the Lavabo Plate in the Chapel. In the middle of the plate there is an image of King William III on horseback; at the base of the image is written, "William III No Surrender". Around the plate, written by the margin is this writing: "This emblem of intolerance was used for many years as a ‘Lavabo’ in Ballingeary Chapel, Co. Cork, A.D. 1890".

The Stations of the Cross are in Gaelic. At each station the colored figures stand out. On 21st Sept. 1890 they were erected and blessed.

A Catholic from England by name Art Brandreth changed the writing. He was born in Barrow. He was not a born Catholic, but converted. He often came to Ballingeary during the time of the College. He had great interest in the music and learning of the Church and in the Sacred Vestments. He used to go all around the country to see Churches and take pictures of them. He had great esteem for the Gothic Vestments and would make samples for his priest-friends. He took great interest in maps and in place-names and out of such interest he presented maps to the College at Ballingeary. It was the Faith that first brought him to Ireland. He used to read the Leader every week and it was this reading that urged him towards the Gaelic. He saw clearly the connection of the language with the Faith. He went in the British Army in the beginning of the Great War (World War I) and though he could have been an officer had he wished he would not take any high authority in the army. He had no love for the army, but that he considered it his duty. He was killed in the war on All Saint’s Day 1916.  This is what a friend of his, Fr. John O'Maher of Liverpool, said about him.


"I think he was received into the Church in 1904.  He was then at Barrow, apprentice engineer at Vickers Shipbuilding works. I fancy he remained there about eighteen months. It was the priest at Ulverston, a small town about nine miles from Barrow, who instructed and received him. In appearance Brandreth was a medium height, of tough-looking build, rather aquiline features, short stubby red hair. He had a jerky, emphatic way of speaking. His humour was of the quiet kind. He was very devout, and his in­terest in Liturgy was not the indulgence of a mere aesethic taste, but the natural expression of a soul whose unconscious motto was •sentire cum Ecclesia1 He was very proud of having so many friends among the clergy secular and regular. He was a great motor-cyclist, and was devoted to his cycle, which he made use of in his pilgrimages to visit Cathedrals and Churches. Looking back now, I would com­pare him to some Damask blade of fine temper; he was usually quiet and reserved -at rest in his scabbard, so to speak; but at the right moment, he would flash forth with a cut and thrust and slash-though there was no cruelty or aggressiveness about him.


 The Chapel was completely finished by Easter 1889. Easter Sunday, April 8th, the Chapel was blessed and placed under the protection of St. Finbars and St. Ronan. About four miles west of Ballingeary is Guagán Barra where St. Finbarr is said to have had his cell long ago. And a little less than a half-mile east of the village and beside the new road in the Cill Mór is the ‘Cillín Leasa Rónáin’ that was under the protection of St. Ronan. Therefore it was fit­ting that the new Chapel be blessed in honor of St. Finbarr and St. Ronan.

There is a beautiful Altar in the Chapel. It is a marble Altar and there is a slat of gray marble on the table of the Altar. There are four supports under the column in the center above the tabernacle. There is an ornamented silver chalice be longing to the Chapel. This inscription is at its base, "Ballingeary Chapel 1883". Besides this there are two silver ciborium there. On one of them which is orna­mented there is written on the edge of the base, "Ora pro anima Conelius O'Leary P.P. qui obiit, 1913, R.I.P.".

On the other one which is not ornamented there is this inscription on the edge of the base, "Ora pro anima Cornelius O'Leary, Parochi, Obiit 1913, R.I.P.".

Father O'Leary was Parish Priest in Uibh Laoire from 1908 to 1913. He left the two silver vessels in a will to the Chapel of Ballin­geary.


New Schools

Together with the Chapel,  the old priest, Fr. Diarmuid 0'Houlihan, built a new school in 1820. The school was built in the Chapel yard, to the south and beside the road of the village. It was 45 feet long and 14 feet wide. The slate was taken from the .quarry in Oileán Eidhneach

. When the Board of Education was established in 1831 they paid 17 pounds a year to the master and the school children paid him some money too. In 1840 there were up to 132 pupils, between boys and girls. The pupils were getting larger in number and the parish priest noticed there was not enough room in the old school and he undertook to build a new one for the boys. He asked the land from an English farmer by name of Williams, who lived in Cill Mhór that time. He refused him. He filled in the bed of the river and it was raised and the school was built opposite the old school on the eastern side of the road of the village (1845). Mr. Healy was the first master. He was a Kerryman. It appears he was from Derrynane. A big kind strong man he was. The year of the famine he went to New England and died there. Mr. Corkery came after him. He was born in Beal Na Marbh. He came to Ballingeary from Inchigeela. He was married to Genny Barry who was a close relation of the Big Barry. He left the teaching in 1880 and Diarmuid Ó Tuathaigh came after him.

The boy's school was taken down and in 1898 a new one was built in the same place. Father Patrick Hurley, a nephew of the old priest, built the school. It is a big school. There is a large room and a small room in it. The girls remained in the old school till a new one was built for them in 1887, east of the bridge at the corner of Cill Mór at the Crossroads. The old school was used as a hall by the people of the district till the Coláiste Na Mumhan was established in 1904.

Before the College was opened, a place for teaching was sought. They found a place. The east wall of the old school was knocked down and 10' were added to the school and a new roof was put on the school. Fr. Hurley directed the work. Doors were placed in the middle of the school inside, dividing the large room into two. There are double doors entering the College from the road of the village and above them is written "Coláiste Múinteórachta Na Mumhan". This school was the College till the new College was built in 1914. The old College is used as a hall now by the people of the place.

Coláiste Na Mumhan

The new College is an iorn-clad building. It is situated about 100 yards west of the village by the side of the new road. There are wooden planks under the steel inside. There is a very large room with a stage at the eastern end and two small houses behind the stage. Two folding doors can be drawn across the room, making three divisions when classes are in progress. There is a door at the west end, another on the east side, and two doors entering the porch on the south side. The windows are on the south and north sides. There is a large door on the porch on the east side and another on the west side and a large window on the south side. At the base of this window outside is the foundation stone on which the following writing appears,

"An tAthair Peadar Ó Laoghaire, Canónach, do chuir A.D. 1914".


 Father Richard Daly, D.D. collected the money to build the new College and Father James O'Leary, P.P. from 1913 to 1920 directed the work. Coláiste Na Mumhan was the first College for the Irish language Colleges esta­blished in Ireland. It was founded to impart methods of teaching Gaelic to teachers. The fame of the College spread all over the country. Many teachers came there to receive their certificates and many others including French, Italians and Danes, from near and far came to the village. Dr. Ó Dálaigh was the first Head-Professor, and Father Gearóid Ó Nualláin  M.E., Gaelic professor at Maynooth,  was the second Head Professor.

The RIC and the last Eviction in Ireland

Up to very lately there was another house in Ballingeary that was the barracks.  The British Police came there in 1894. There was strife concerning a farm of land in Inse An Fhosaidh, a neighboring townland to Drom An Ailthigh, during that year. The police came and stayed. They took the Hotel of John Shorten who lived in the tavern opposite. It was called "The Bungalow Hotel". Here the gentry people traveling the road from Macroom to Bantry used to stay and get a fine meal for themselves and their horses. Here the police settled down. The first man in charge of the barracks was an O'Neill.


In 1906 life was rough for the police. Tuesday, July 24th, the landlord, Grehan, evicted Diarmuid O'Mahony, and put a man named Simpson in charge of the place. Dermot O'Mahony had a neat hospital house on the side of the road at the western end of Drom An Ailthigh on the road from the bridge of Inse An Fhosaigh to the northern road to Guagán. It was the third house on that road. The night he was put out the local  people came and with the help of  those attending the college and they put the “emergency man”, Simpson out and put Dermot 0'Mahony in possession again. Simpson went with the police to the barracks for the night and fled in the morning. On Thurs­day night, the 16th of August, up to 50 police came up from Dunmanway and arrested 9 of the locals and took them to Macoom. After the indictment they were released on bail till the winter sessions to follow.

The police came again, early in the morning a week afterwards and evicted Dermot 0'Mahony again and placed a man named McDavid in charge of the place. They left three policemen, of the Curtain family, in charge to watch over him. On the following Sunday, the 26th of August, a public meeting was called in the field on the south side of the new road, east of the bridge of Inse An Fhosaig, to protest the eviction. There were a lot of people there. It was agreed to attempt to put the watch­men out and to reinstate Dermot 0'Mahony. There were a lot of police there, armed. An attack was made on the house and the battle began. A few were hurt, among them a policeman of the Curtins. The police eentered the house and got their guns and they fired a few shots. This scattered the crowd. Six prisoners were taken after the day. They were brought before the Justice in Macroom and having entered their plea they were remanded on bail to the winter sessions.

The police continued their search for the others of whom they were suspicious and in February they arrested four more. They were brought before the Justice in Macroom and they were remanded on bail for eight days. One of the policemen was sick and that left them free. The other prisoners were put on trail at the winter sessions in Limerick City. They were not jailed. They were remanded on bail except Daniel O'Leary from Bán An Aoil, Conchubhar O'Leary from Cum Dorcha and James Cronin from Inse Idir Dha Faill. They were imprisoned and sentenced to three months hard labor. The ladies of Macroom petitioned the wife of the Viceroy, Lady Aberdeen, on their behalf and six weeks was deducted from their sentences on that account.

During this time other people were arrested. Some of them were fined and some of the women of the place who helped the men were fined also. But shortly, the landlord realized there was no good trying to oppose the people and the other landlords agreed likewise. Father Timothy Murphy was the parish priest in Uibh Laoire that time. He arbitrated between the sides and did so very well. Four other prisoners were taken on the 6th of April 1907 and it appeared to the rest to be the best thing to surrender themselves. All the prisoners were put to trial and they were all released except Diarmuid A’Choitir , the storyteller from Currahy , James Cotter his brother and John Twomey. They were jailed, because they were convicted of attacking the police and they were given a months hard labor. They were imprisoned on the l4th of July and they were released on the l4th of August 1907. That was the end of the conflict but as a result of it the landlord was obliged to allow O'Mahony to return and all the other landlords were constrained to sell the land to the tenants. The people of the place made a good fight and there is much credit due to them for the way they achieved their rights.

Life was good for  the police till 1920. The government had contemplated relinquishing  small barracks. Besides, they feared that if the barracks were attacked, at night when help would be hard to come by, that it would be taken with its contents. Besides, though the previous attack failed there was no guarantee that it would not be taken the next time. On a certain day then, the police departed. That same night the barracks was burned. A man by the name of Appleby was the last man in charge of the barracks.


Father James O'Callaghan who was murdered in Cork was the first curate in Ballingeary. He spent about two years at first assisting the Parish Priest.

Father Conchur O'Leary was the Parish Priest in Uibh Laoire at the time and his health was not too good. When Fr. O'Leary died in 1913, Father O'Callaghan was transferred to Ballingeary to be curate there. He worked zealously for the Faith and for the Country, and on behalf of the language. He was the Local Secretary of Coláiste Na Mumhan. He was transferred to Cork City, January 1917 to be Chaplain to the Convent of the Good Shepard. He boarded at the house of Michael Lucey in Cill Mór when he was attached to Ballingeary. He used to teach in the College during the summer. He was highly esteemed by the people of Uibh Laoire  - May he rest in peace.


Here is the poem Donál Ó Laoire from Inchigeela composed in praise of Coláiste Na Mumhan.


There is a Gaelic College in Ballingeary,

And a holy priest teaches there

A blood brother of Máire Ní Laoghaire

She is the flower and branch of the authors

She composed verses

That the scholars and authors loved to read

And over the seas they desired very strongly

That they might awaken her voice.


Father Daly who came to us from overseas,

I wish you courage and enthusiasm

God be with you, while reading the Passion

And the Kindly Maker direct you

It was the scholars that helped us that day

To chase the bailiffs away,

It is my regret that they did not leave Terry stretched prone

As *Smith was on his belly on the top of *Diuchoill.


In the Parish of Uibh Laoire are the bravest men

Under the sun by all accounts

Put Terry and his followers and strong forces

In every dike, their pulse exhausted.

The bugles were blowing loud in the hillside

And thousands coming to our aid

Let us put the flock at once out of Erin

And drowning of the stormy seas to them.


I have heard it said that the prophets said

That Luthers offspring would fall,

That then fine houses and white walls

Would be under waterfalls, jackdaws and curlews.

That the children of one great hero would yet be important

Hunting in splendor enthusiastically

Dancing in the clean boards with gracious ladies

Drinking punch from the table.


The Milesian Clan have ever been harassed

And the gallows and rope given to them

And it was thought by the powers and by the holy prophets

That their term of life was ended.

The skies will tremble above the ocean

With shooting of bullets and powder

And Ireland will win with the children of Gael

As it was promised by these accounts.


*Dr, Daly is related to Mary Leary, the poetess, Maire Buí she is called. She was of the clan of Leary Buine (Fair O'Learys)

*An English soldier was killed in the Battle of Ceim An Fhia in 1822.  John Smith was his name.

*Diuchoill is near Ceim An Fhia