Worship, War and Eviction at Cahereenard, Castleisland

Cill Fionáin, otherwise Kilfinnaun, the ancient church of St Finian was located at Cahereenard in the townland of Kealgorm, Castleisland.[1]  Little of it remains but an account of its origins is contained in The Schools’ Collection, which suggests its founder, St Finian, was a disciple of St Brendan the Navigator:


St Brendan lived on Croc Bréanainn and kept an order of Monks there.  St. Finean built the first church in Castleisland at a place called Cahirinard. When people went to that church they had to cross a bridge called Droiceabh Naomh Fionnán. One day as they were going to Mass they saw that the church was in halves and in two different parts of the river. It was moved back again the next day. The ruins are still to be seen. It was the same saint who built the monastery on Innisfallen Island in Killarney.[2]


Cahereenard from the Ordnance Survey map and (centre) St Finian’s Church Cahernard illustrated by Peter Robin Hill in Divane’s Calendar, 1995, inscribed ‘Castleisland’s oldest Catholic relic where a thousand years ago our ancestors worshipped. The gable, now rapidly decaying, has a handsome window with a cut stone pointed arch, still intact. The ruins of this pre-Norman church still stand at Cahernard.’ Reproduced with kind permission of Denis Divane, Divane Volkswagen Castleisland


A historic house, Cahereenard, once stood in the vicinity of the old church.  In the early nineteenth century the house was associated with parish priest Father Maurice Fitzgerald.  Castleisland historian T M Donovan recalled, ‘The late Father Shine, one time parish priest of Fossa, used to say that the ‘bad times,’ the famine years of the eighteen-forties, drove many well-connected and one-time prosperous families into Pound Lane.  I myself remember one such family, that of ‘Black’ Maurice Fitzgerald, who at one time owned Cahir-in-Ard farm, which was left to him by his uncle, Father Maurice Fitzgerald, a parish priest for this town for over fifty years.’[3]  Church records show that Father Maurice Fitzgerald, born in 1746, ministered in Castleisland from 1781, including the period of Whiteboyism, until his death on 11 February 1830:


Died lately at his residence, near Castleisland, at a very advanced age, the Rev Maurice FitzGerald, for upwards of half a century the exemplary and esteemed Roman Catholic Clergyman of that district.[4]


In 1855, Cahereenard House formed part of the estate of Richard Meredith Esq when the lands were up for sale in lots.[5]


The Castleisland Railway Company was formed in 1872, at which time the lands appear to have been part of the estate of Henry Arthur Herbert (1840-1901) and later, Henry Arthur Edward Keane Herbert (1867-1931), James Hope, Archibald Robert Craufurd (or Crawford) Pitman (Writer to the Signet, Edinburgh) and Spencer Campbell Thomson (1842-1931), Edinburgh.[6]


’The Object of the Railway’: The Castleisland Railway Company advised that ‘The Landowners, through whose Estates the Line will run have promised to take their purchase money in shares of the Company’


Patrick H Leahy, a member of the Castleisland Dispensary Committee, had a farm at ‘Cahirnard.’ In 1872 he applied for £50 compensation for a dairy house burned there and Edmund Prenderville applied for £4 for hay consumed in the flames.  In 1908, spinsters Johanna and Catherine Murphy of Cahereens, relatives of Mr Leahy, addressed a letter to the Editor of the Kerry Evening Star (16 March) about their eviction from there:


Ventry Estate.  Dear Sir, I desire to return you my most sincere thanks for Monsignor O’Leary, Fr O’Keane, Mr J O’Connor, Brosna, and Mr Maurice Murphy for assisting me.  I got a few acres of land and a house left me by my uncle, the late Mr P H Leahy, tenant on the Ventry estate himself and his ancestors for over 100 years.  For some reason I was evicted and some of my land given away.  I was let in as caretaker on the 11 months system.  I went to Burnham House, Dingle to see Lord Ventry.  He received me most kindly and caused my house to be rebuilt.  It was levelled to the ground on my first eviction.  I was again evicted recently and six cows taken to Tralee Pound, although we have a pound in Castleisland.  Mr Mce Murphy drove to Tralee with me and settled for £15 out of £26 and costs £19 entirely.  I appealed to Lord Ventry to let me my land same as to all his tenants, and let me sell my interest.  My sister and myself are old and feeble.  Again I thank those that assisted me.  They only did now what they are doing all their life, taking cows out of the pound, and helping to keep people in their houses.  May God bless them is the prayer of Johanna and Catherine Murphy.[7]


In the 1880s, Cahereenard House was the residence of Protestant rector Rev William Ruby Heffernan (or Hiffernan).  Rev Heffernan died on 31 July 1909 aged 86 and in September, the residence, ‘a quarter of a mile from the town of Castleisland,’ was up for lease, with ‘views of Killarney Lakes, Mangerton, McGillicuddy and Gap Mountains, good fishing and shooting.’[8]


In 1910, Miss Katherine O’Sullivan, Rev Heffernan’s former housekeeper, claimed compensation from Dr James Chute, personal representative of Rev Heffernan, under the Workmen’s Compensation Act for a broken leg.


The case highlights the fate of private papers in the residence:


After Mr Heffernan died Dr Chute asked Miss Sullivan to stay on in the house and she consented.  She collected a lot of old papers that were in the house, put them in a heap at the back of the house and set fire to them in the evening.[9]


On 8 May 1921, the house was burned by Black and Tans.[10]  The Griffin family purchased the property and built a new house where they continue to farm.


[1] https://www.logainm.ie/en/24468  https://www.logainm.ie/en/24457  Other spellings include Caherianard, Cahirianard, Cahereen, Cahereenard, Cahirnard, Cahernard, Cahirinard, Cahareen. 

[2] The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0447, pp131-132.  A short account of St Brendan the Navigator, whose Feast Day is celebrated on 16 May, is given with illustrations in Celtic Heritage Saints (1998) by Marian Keaney, pp21-23.  Castleisland District Heritage Collection Ref: IE CDH 175.  The following note about St Brendan’s baptism is taken from the Kerry Champion, 28 December 1929, citing a translation by Dr Stokes: ‘On the night that Brendan was born, Bishop Erc saw Alltraigh Cailli under one marvellous blaze such as he never saw before and a wondrous ministering of angels in bright, shining garments, through all the country about.  Very early on the morrow, Bishop Erc arose and came to the house of Finnlogha [Brendan’s father] and took the infant in his arms and said to him, ‘O man of God take me to thee as thy loyal votary; and a multitude it is that shall greatly rejoice for thy birth, even as now do greatly rejoice my heart and my soul.’  Thus spake Bishop Erc.  Afterwards he knelt down and worshipped before him and shed many tears for joy, and gave Mobhi to him as name at the first, from his parents.’

[3] Kerryman, 13 October 2000.

[4] Kerry Evening Post, 20 February 1830.

[5] In the Incumbered Estates Court of 1855, Lot No 1, Cahereen East, contained ‘valuable houses with rents reserved by leases’ built by tenants, purchased by George Raymond (in trust) for £800; Lot No 2, Cahereen West, consisted of town-fields immediately adjoining the town of Castleisland, purchased by Francis Crump MD for £3,825.  In 1868, Francis Crumpe Esq MD recovered lands from Joseph Barry at Cahereens, by Civil Bill Decree, which he subsequently advertised for lease in the same year (Kerry Evening Post, 11 July 1868).

[6] See also proceedings in the matter of the Castleisland Railway Company and the Castleisland Railway Act 1872 heard in the High Court of Justice (Chancery) in July 1915 regarding land in this area utilised by the railway (General Advertiser for Dublin, 10 July 1915).

[7] In 1886, P D Kenny of the Tralee Board of Guardians, in a discussion about labourers’ cottages, remarked as follows: ‘There were six cottages to be erected on Mr Leahy’s farm at Kealgorm, near Castleisland.  They were put on that place to relieve the state of Pound Road, where there were no less than three thousand human beings’ (Kerry Evening Post, 12 June 1886).

Patrick H Leahy died on 1 March 1890 aged 72 and was buried at Abbeyfeale.  He was married to a daughter of Maurice Roche.  See obituary in the Kerry Evening Post, 8 March 1890.  The funeral was attended by Maurice P Leahy, solicitor, Newcastle West and his brothers, Mr D D Leahy, merchant, Abbeyfeale; Mr D D Leahy, solicitor Abbeyfeale.

[8] Kerry News, 13 September 1909. ‘Apply John P Griffin, Castleisland, Co Kerry’. Rev Heffernan of Cahernard, Castleisland was executor of the will of farmer William Fitzgerald of Knockrour, Co Kerry who died on or about 5th November 1893 (Kerry Evening Post, 13 January 1894).

[9] Kerry Evening Post, 12 February 1910.  ‘Later she went out to see the fire and it was burning very bright, she became anxious about it as there were haysheds quite adjacent.  She got a boy to scatter the fire and went to get a bucket to throw water on the fire and while going in for the bucket she fell into a drain and broke her leg.’

In 1893, Rev Heffernan sought a lost marriage settlement dated 20 January 1863 between him and Miss Melicent Agnes Collis.  A reward was offered for its recovery.

[10] http://www.odonohoearchive.com/profile-of-castleisland-entrepreneur-w-h-oconnor/#_ftnref20