Here and There in Kilbrin

The parish of Kilbrin, once an independent parish, but now joined to the parish of Ballyclough, derives its name from an early church site or monastery namely Cill Bhrain, i.e. the church of St. Bran. This church site and Kilbrin cemetery which still occupy a part of the ancient monastic territory are both situated in the townland of Knockballymartin. The road from Greenhall to Kilbrin separates the graveyard from a field called the Glebe, but always referred to locally in gaelic as the Gleib. This gives ample proof that the church lands extended beyond the perimeter of the present graveyard. Kilbrin, "where the men are buried," is a place of definite historical significance, and is of interest to lovers of local history and to anyone wishing to put together the "Mosaic of the past".

A visitor who passed this way about a century and a half ago referred to Kilbrin as a poor hamlet, but had much to say about the graveyard. A certain Matthew Horgan writing in 1839 had this to say about Kilbrin. " It was on the 12th of June, I happened to pass through the fine demesne of Castlecor, near which I passed by the old cemetery of Kilbrin which was walled on the south side, and an earthen fence protected it on the North. There were a great many headstones with inscriptions facing the east and some vestiges of the ancient building as yet existing and for the time it appeared to be built was rather extensive which was about the beginning of the 15th century. The walls were three and a half feet thick, and about ten feet high, but the ground was much raised about it from the long accumulation of earth and bones. One side door remains as yet perfect, the jambs are well carved and the arch equilateral, protected and relieved by a counter one. The entire graveyard is overspread with wrought stones probably taken from this ruin".

Lewis writing in 1837 states that ruins of the old church had vanished, but according to the 1841 field book there was a portion of one of the walls still standing. This lends weight to Mr. Horgans observation in 1839, but his statement that the church was built at the beginning of the 15th century is at variance with the opinions of two experts on early Christian Ireland namely - Professor McAllister and Professor Power. To the right of the main entrance gate to the cemetery a female head is inserted in the wall. This head according to tradition was removed from the Church, probably when the main wall collapsed. The head must have been used to decorate the archway over the main door. This use of the human head motif is according to Professor McAllister characteristic of an architectural style called Hiberno Romanesque. Professor Power in his book "Early Christian Ireland" also mentions the head (human) motif as being frequent in pre-Norman monastic architecture peculiar to Ireland.

Rounds were paid to this head and it was the custom to rub the face with small stones, which were then placed on the head. The constant rubbing has worn away the carving a little, thus rendering it less prominent.

Local tradition states that there was once a graveyard in Ballyhest for unbaptised infants called a cealurach. A man is supposed to have buried his dead infant child in Kilbrin by mistake. From then on Kilbrin became the principal cemetery for the parish and indeed the neighbouring parishes . The Church, as its name implies, was dedicated to St. Bran. This St. Bran who was a nephew of St. Colmcille, is buried in the graveyard attached to the long Tower Church in Doire Colmcille. It may seem strange that a Church so far South should have an Ulster Saint as its patron. This is only one example of the influence of Armagh, the Primatial See, on ecclesiastical matters throughout the length and breadth of the whole country. Col. Grove White in his "Historical and Topographical Notes" mentions the inscriptions on certain headstones in Kilbrin cemetery.

One of them reads as follows - "Here lies ye body of Darby Savage of Knockalohert who died X ber ye 26th 1784 aged 30 years" The Savage family must have been an important family in the parish because three local topographical sites have the same name Savage (1) Savage's Glen (2) Savage's Wood (3) Savage's Rock.

The glen situated in Knockalohert covered 90 acres. Many glacial boulders or erratics were deposited here following the end of the Ice Age. A couple can still be seen but the glen has a new face today, thanks to the J.C.B., the rotavator and other inventions of the machine age. Gone is the scrub and indeed most of the wood. These have given way to lush green pastures. The glen has lost its ruggedness and mystery. One member of the Savage family was a priest who celebrated Mass secretly during the Penal Days giving his name to Savage's Rock in Marybrook.

As mentioned earlier the graveyard is situated in the townland of Knockballymartin — Cnoc Baile Mhairtín, sometimes referred to in the shorter form of Cnoc. This townland is called after Martin Russell. Two families between them owned a lot of land in Kilbrin especially in the townlands of Ballygraddy, Knockballymartin and Gurrane McGarrett. They were the Roches and the Russells. They were also intermarried. Garret the eldest son of Pierce Fitzpierce Roche was married to Johanna Russell. Garrett their eldest son gave his name to Gurrane Mac Garrett while Pierce another son was granted the townland of Baile Mac Pierce called after his grandfather Pierce Fitzpierce Roche. There is a field in Knockballymartin called Martin's Field. Col. Grove White says that this field was called after a jester who resided with the Freeman family in the nearby "Big House" at Castlecor Demesne, but perhaps the Martin mentioned could be the Martin Russell who gave his name to the whole townland. Once seven majestic elms grew in Martin's Field - "the field of the seven elms". The storms of two hundred years or more have taken their toll helped by that terrible scourge of the elms, the dreaded Dutch disease. Four sick elms now guard the grassy slopes of Martin's Field.

In Knockballymartin also , there is a well called "Tober Eamonn" a gift from Edward Freeman to the residents of Knockballymartin. there are numerous holy wells in Duhallow, some of them with a tradition for cures for various ailments, while others have strange happenings attached to them. Very often there was a church near the well and also a graveyard. The whole area was a place of definite ecclesiastic importance, and some of the wells got their names from a local Saint. This leads to the conclusion that they were Characteristic of the early Christian Monastic settlements. After Lord Broghills dastardly deed at Carrigadrohid Castle when he had the saintly, scholarly Beotius Mac Egan hanged by his own bridle reins from a tree near the castle, some loyal followers of the Bishop Ross cut down his body and buried it in the nearby graveyard of Aghina. A few Franciscan Friars then left for Curass, birthplace of the Bishop, and situated to the North-West of the parish of Kilbrin with the news. When they reached Kanturk they hid in a well less than a mile from Kanturk on the road to Kilbrin. This well is known as Tobar na MBráthar i.e. The Friars Well, a reminder of other days when war, with it's terrible consequences, prevailed in Duhallow,


The Barony of Duhallow is subdivided into 562 Townlands. Archaelogical remains of the Neolithic and Bronze periods, some more important than others, are scattered through-out these townlands. These remains include Fulachtai Fia, Forts, Dallans, or Gallans, Dolmens and stone alignments. The Fulachtai Fia were ancient cooking places or cooking pits. The clinkered beds of these ancient cooking places are very numerous. They are usually associated with the Fianna. "B'ioma sin Fualacht Fia idir muir agus tir". There is no townland without some Historical significance, but some hold the historian's interest more than others. One of these is the Townland of Ballyheen, once famous for its annual Point-to-Point race meeting. This townland is subdivided into Ballyheen North, Ballyheen Middle, Ballyheen South. On the road from Buttevant to Kanturk, and about three miles from the latter, the passing traveller must surely notice two piers, 20 feet high and 88 yards apart on the left hand side of the road. These are the much talked about Ballyheen Piers. On the top of each pier was a stone globe. They were built as the outer piers of an entrance to Rockfield House about 1750. Edward Badham Thornhill, Landlord of Ballyheen, had arranged to build a residence for his daughter at Ballyheen. His daughter had other ideas. She fell in love with the coachman, and after a run-away marriage lost all rights to the Ballyheen Estate. The mansion was never built.

The derivation of the place name, Ballyheen is not too clear. The subdivision of the townland into North, Middle and South, with the Fairfield in Ballyheen North: the earth church site and Burial- ground, and also a tan—yard in Ballyheen Middle, and the site of a castle in Ballyheen South show that Ballyheen was a townland of great important. It is also known that Ballyheen was a thickly populated area and this gives evidence to the opinion that there was a hamlet or Baile Beag in each of the subdivisions.


The townland of Subulter now situated in the Parish of Castlemagner was once a separate Parish. Before being included in the Parish of Castlemagner it was according to the Down Survey, a part of the Parish of Kilbrin. It contained three townlands, Knocknanuss, Lackaleigh, and Subulter. It was a very small Parish consisting only of 750 acres (approx). It is mentioned more than once in the early church records. The remains of a church and burial ground can still be seen in Subulter. The inside measurements of the church were 39' feet long and 19' feet wide. The name of Subulter is derived by scholars as Sobaltoir (Sopaltair) -a pagan burial place: or could it be Sub Altare (under the Altar)?


The most accepted translation of Cnoc na nOs is "Hill of the Sighs" or Cnoc na nDos - "Hill of the drone of bagpipes" These two translations seem to refer to the day of the battle or the aftermath. The sighs refer to the moaning and weeping of the wives of the confederate soldiers searching for their loved ones - "Gol na mBan' san Ar" "The cry of the women in the slaughter". There is a tradition that the wife of Sir Alexander Colcitto McDonnell, second in command to Lord Taaffe, and who was killed in battle, walked through the field of battle: Clár or Clais an Chogaidh searching for her distinguished husband and hero. As she moved here and there through the strewn bodies speaking in gaelic muttering"Ca Bhfuil Sé"? - "An e seo é? ri"; and eventually not succeeding in her search she was heard to say "Muna gcaoinfead é, rincfead e", a reference to a funeral dance. The other translation - "Hill of the drone of the bagpipes" refers to the Scottish pipers who always travelled with the famous Scottish soldiers, the Redshankers.


Castlecor sometimes mentioned in historical documents as Castle Corith or Caislean na Cora, the castle of the weir, was a place of importance from early Norman times. It was at one time Barry property. Philip de Barry who came to Ireland with his uncle Robert Fitzstephen seized extensive lands in Munster and erected on them castle, which many believed were pallisaded earth works of the usual early Norman pattern. His grandson David Og, who built castles of a more durable type and founded monasteries at Ballybeg and Buttevant was probably the founder of an Augustinian Monastery and the builder of a castle at Castlecor circa 1250 A.D. Castlecor was only one of a line of castles, Liscarroll being the largest, built by David Og de Barry or one of his descendants during the period of the Norman take-over in North Cork. In Pipe Rolls of Cloyne dated 1366, 1370 and 1371 mention is made of the Augustinian Monastery of Castle Corith. In 1366 a McCarthy is mentioned as Over Lord of Castle cor, but, it is still Barry property. In 1641 at the start of the Confederate War Dermot MCarthy was the Over Lord, but the defeat of the Confederates brought the Demesne under the control of the new planters. John Chinnery undertaker for the plantation of Munster got a grant of Castlecor in 1666. His grandson John who died unmarried sold the Property to his cousin William Freeman of Kilbarry and Ballinguile circa 1700. The successive owners were as follows: Edward Deare Freeman, later to become High Sheriff of Cork, and his grandson of the same name, who was the owner when Thomas Croke lived at Dromin. The residence of the Freeman's is now demolished, an empty ruin, a reminder of the days when the Manor House lorded it over the tenants and workers. Sic Transit gloria mundi.

"Castle Cor, Kanturk, Co. Cork (DEANE FREEMAN, sub DEANE/LGI1912; BARRY/LGI1958; MURRAY, sub WRIXON- BECHER, Bt/PB). A late C17 or early C18 house consisting of a 2 storey 7 bay block with 2 storey 1 bay pyramidical-roofed corner towers. 3 bay pedimented breakfront; doorcase with scroll pediment. High-pitched roof with dormered attic. Built by the Freemans, on the site of an old castle. Enlarged at the beginning of the C19 by Edward Deane Freeman the addition of a higher 2 storey wing at one end, running from the front of the house to the back, extending both the entrance and garden fronts by 1 bay, and with a 4 bay side elevation. The intention was to have a balancing wing at the other end of the house, but this was never built. At some period , a 3 storey curved bow was built into the garden front. In the space between the main block, the new wing and the 2 corner towers at this side, an impressive top-lit staircase hall was formed; with a graceful wooden staircase. This hall, and the large and lofty drawing room and dining room in the new wing, provided a pleasant contrast to the smaller and lower rooms in the main block. Sold post 1840 by a subsequent Edward Deane Freeman to Richard Barry, Adelaide (née Wrixon-Becher), widow of W.N. Barry, who lived at Castle Cor until her death at a very great age 1959, was for many years the oldest member of Duhallow Hunt; a legendary figure and a fearless rider to hounds when she was well up in her 80s. Castle Cor was inherited by her nephew, Mr. Hope Murray, who sold it ca 1960; it was subsequently demolished."

(From “A Guide to Irish Country Houses", Mark Bence-Jones)

Other placenames around Kilbrin include:

Lackeel (Leamhchoill), meaning "Elmwood"

Knockalohert (Cnoc a' Luibhghoirt), meaning "The Hill of The Herb Plot or Garden"

Mahanagh (Meathanach), meaning "A place of the Sieve Slits". The general tradition in these places is that sieve-makers lived there.

Coolmahane (Cuil Meathan), meaning "The Corner of the Oak-Slits for Sieves".

Ballyheen (Baile Aghaidh Chaoin), meaning "Townland of the Beautiful/Smooth Surface".

Ballyhest (Baile Sheis), meaning "The Townland of The Ses or Broom".

Ballyrusheen (Baile Roisin), meaning "The Townland of the Little Wood".

Rathnagard (Rath Na gCard), meaning "The Fort of the Artisans".

Corbally (Corr Bhaile), meaning "The Odd Townland".

Dromin (Dromin), also Dromineen (Droiminin), meaning "Little Ridge".

GarraneMcGarrett, meaning "McGarrett's Shrubbery".


Pádraig A. O'Riain

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