A Glorious Decade

On September 1974, whilst holidaying in Sienna, Italy, with the late Fr. Michael Condon C.C., Donoughmore I learned from Sr. Carmel Burns, a teaching sister in Florence, when I phoned her to travel there the following day, she had news from her brother, Fr. Christy Burns C.C. Kilworth, that I was changed to Kilbrin from Araglen. Naturally, I was really excited and concerned when I heard of my transfer to Kilbrin. I wondered what the place was like, especially when I had never visited it.

Following my return from Italy, my parishioners informed me of the change. Work was put in train to pack all my belongings, etc, and I set out for Kilbrin with a cavalcade of willing parishioners for my future home. We drove through Kilworth, Fermoy, Mallow like travellers and eventually, arrived in Kilbrin. I had thought that there would be a crowd to greet our arrival but, low and behold , it was not to be. We unpacked, surveyed the surrounds and settled down in the presbytery near the church. When I appeared on the altar on Sunday morning, the speculation was, no doubt, what is the new priest like. Naturally, I was worried how they would accept me and how I could be able to lead them closer to God on the road of life.

I was not long amongst them when I could see and detect that they had a great sense of faith and a great love of God in the community. This I attributed, in no small way, to my illustrious predecessor, Fr. Patrick Murnane. They had a great sense of the spiritual values and pride in their church and native parish. It was obvious that this was so, because they had embarked on a major renovation programme of the church under the leadership of Fr. Murnane. Many of the parishioners praised the great work he had done and wished me well. It was obvious to me that Fr. Murnane had put great thought into his work, and so, we ended up with a beautiful church and sanctuary, most conducive to prayer and worship.

After a short time I began to spread my wings and move around to parish, met the people and learned of the various activities and happenings both sporting and cultural etc. One of my earliest memories of one of my parishoners was that of John O'Riordan. I can well remember when he called to see me one day. He had noticed my cow, that was grazing alongside the priest's house. He said to me, "Father that cow of yours will die of hunger under those trees and you must do something about it". I said "What will I do, because I was thinking of using the long acre when the grass ran out". He said "Father, you would not do that, because you would shame us here in Kilbrin and what would the people say". He, then, went on to say, "Bring her back to my place and I will give you all the milk you want". Naturally, I took him up on the generous offer and the milk and calves flowed and I was delighted and eternally grateful. The generosity of this man was further typified, when he gave us the use of the best field in his land as a sportsfield until we would provide one for ourselves. His conditions were that we could use it free of charge until we had our own. I spent two years playing and training in that pitch, getting to know the players and all their friends. It ended up in the successful culmination of winning the Duhallow B. Championship in 1976.

During all this period I was thinking, where I could provide a permanent pitch. I can, now, tell you that it should be on the main road and as close to the school as possible. Naturally, I made enquiries as to who was the owner of the land in this area. I was ascertained that it belonged to a young married couple, Con and Sile Cronin. It took me ages and ages to summon up courage to approach them, but, I persisted by walking up and down the road outside their house on a number of occasions. I didn't know if I was observed or not and, if I was, would the impression given, be that of one being half simple. Eventually, I achieved sufficient courage and I approached them. I can, now, truthfully say, that I got a wonderful welcome and a tremendous reception. When I said I was looking for six acres of land for a sportsfield for the young and old of the parish, I was amazed at their deep sense of community spirit. He wanted to know, where was the best place. First, it was in front of the school and then we moved to where it is now. If one bears in mind, that, this was a prime site on the main road to Kanturk and very suitable for housing, so we can form the opinion that Con and Sile were far more concerned to provide a sportsfield for the parish than any money value. They predicted that this field would provide more enjoyment and friendship among the people of the parish than one could imagine and, in hindsight, how right they were. I must say that the acquisition of this site was one of the highlights of my stay in Kilbrin.

From the site grew the playing field, the first in Duhallow, if not in the Country. The Community Centre, Squash Courts, etc. It, also, provided facilities for threshing, carnivals, open air concerts etc. It would be impossible for me to quantify the enjoyment that the use of these facilities provided for so many locals and visitors alike. Think of the "Tops of the Parish" which brought so much fun and healthy rivalry. Think of the Concerts, socials, etc, and their related activities. These were happy years and full of memories for me and, I am sure, for many others as well. Think of the confrontation with the Cork County Council and the rates saga. This led to a crescendo, when I had to appear in court and the resultant decision, that the property would be confiscated for non payment of rates. The pealing of the church bell was to signal the entry of the County Sheriff`. He was to be met with stern opposition by all and sundry in defence of their property and hard earned facilities. These were hectic days and full of drama, which was highlighted by the Kilbrin Community, that had taken such pride in their place. Luckily, the Council saw reason and wisdom prevailed. The council became aware that here was an active and vibrant community, that strove night and day, by way of voluntary labour, voluntary contributions, etc. to build up such awe inspiring and magnificent facilities, which were to be used for the betterment and enjoyment of the community. They saw that the imposition of this task was iniquitous and they decided enough was enough and they levied a rate, which was more appropriate and just, in the light of such valiant endeavour.

The exploits of both hurling and football teams in the playing fields were most memorable and the efforts put in both in training, organisations, etc. were rewarded, when the club brought off the league and championship double in 1978. This, too, was a highlight for me to see the joy, the friendship and bond of unity in the memorable celebrations after the championship success.

There were many, many other memorable occasions throughout my stay in Kilbrin far too numerous to mention. These are just but a few of the many and lasting ones and which will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was, indeed, a very great privilege for me to have been afforded the opportunity of spending those few precious year of my life amongst you and I acknowledge your generosity, kindness, courtesy, concerns and respect for me during that period. It was indeed an enjoyable sojourn with you. Yours is a proud tradition, both spiritual and temporal. The name of Kilbrin is synonymous with the G.A.A. throughout the length and breath of Ireland and beyond, in that it is the birth place of Archbishop Croke, its Patron.

Kilbrin have suitably commemorated this fact by the erection of the Dr. Croke memorial in the church grounds, unveiled and blessed in 1984 by Dr. Croke's successor Archbishop Morris.

I hope and pray that I have been some little bit of inspiration to you both spiritually and temporally. It was with deep regret and a sense of shock that the news of my transfer to Inniscarra came to me. I remained in a state of shock for several weeks afterwards, and, I believed at the time, that I could not sustain the sense of such great loss of so loyal spiritual and faithful people.

I will always remember and have fond memories of your generosity, which knows no bounds. The last public occasion, namely the presentation banquet will have a special place in my memory. Your generousity was tangible and evident when you presented me with so great a gift. I still have it in my possession and it has afforded me the opportunity of travelling many happy and enjoyable miles since I left Kilbrin.

Finally, the national school activities, the 1st Holy Communion, Confirmation with the children and the most dedicated, professional, loyal and courteous teachers. It was a joy to call to the school and talk to the children and spend the lunch break training them in the skills of football and hurling. Your children were most exemplary and courteous and reflect great credit on their parents.

I would say well done and keep up the good work and long may you continue to enjoy your wonderful place. May the Lord bless, strengthen and direct you in your prayer, work and play.


Fr. Finbarr Kelleher

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