The Cork Heritage Book Series

How do you set about exploring your local heritage? If you’re lucky enough to live in Cork, you have some marvellous resources at your fingertips. Today I want to focus on a set of books that are a comprehensive, affordable, richly illustrated, engagingly written compendium of our fascinating history – the Heritage Series.

Dunlough Castle, also known as Three Castle Head, is an unusual example of a fortified curtain wall dating to the 15th century. It’s also, as you can see, incredibly beautiful – it’s written up in the Castles book.

County Cork has a Heritage Office and a County Heritage Officer, Conor Nelligan. He’s a Tour de Force of Heritage, indefatigable, knowledgeable, and committed to communication and consultation. He pens a regular newsletter to local history associations and interested individuals alerting us all to upcoming events, grants schemes, talks, festivals, and articles of interest. Typically, when a new volume in the heritage series is contemplated, he will send out a call for submissions and contributions.

Glanworth Bridge: “Typical of medieval bridges the arch spans are appealingly irregular, increasing in width towards the centre.” It is purported to be “the narrowest and oldest public bridge still in everyday use in Europe.”

The result is a rich collection of photographs, local information, stories and legends, expert analysis and historical detail. What’s amazing is that each volume only costs ten euro! They are available in all the local bookstores, but if you don’t live in Cork you can buy them online from the Skibbereen Heritage Centre.

This is the extraordinary Church of the Ascension in Timoleague. I first found out about it from the Heritage Churches book and wrote about it in two parts, Mosaics and Maharajas Part 1 and Part 2. The Christ the King window is by Clayton and Bell and dates to about 1900

Each book has either a lead author or an authorial team, benefitting greatly from the expertise of the overseers and the one-off contributors. Conor and his colleagues Mona Hallinan, Cork’s Conservation Officer, and Mary Sleeman, the County Archaeologist, steer each project through to completion. The result rather than piecemeal is seamless, with the volumes following a pattern for the most part of an introductory historical and architectural context followed by ‘exemplars’ of castles, or bridges, or whatever the focus of that book. 

Heritage houses come in all sizes, from  traditional thatched cottage glimpsed in North Cork, to Bantry House bathed in evening sunlight

This layout gives it the convenience of a guidebook – wherever you are in Cork you can decide what to see and read up on it – while not sacrificing the the social and political background in which the buildings were constructed. They are our constant companions while out and about or when planning an expedition.

The oldest church in Cork, I think, Labbamolaga. Robert wrote about this wonderful site in Molaga of the Bees

And talking of expeditions, we want to see more of those bridges! I’ve been browsing through the bridge book, learning about abutments and piers and cutwaters, not to mention different kinds of arches, and I am dying to see more of those exemplars. So look out, Dear Readers, for a future post on heritage bridges.

A picturesque clapper bridge near Ballyvourney . Is this the same bridge that Robert Gibbings engraved in “Sweet Cork of Thee” – see Robert’s post this week!

Well done, Cork County Heritage Unit – you can be justly proud of this excellent series!

Timoleague Friary, read more about it here

Orange to Green – For the Week That’s In It

Right so…where were we when we got interrupted by the bould Saint Patrick? Ah yes, on the red side of the colour wheel. Let’s keep moving, so, on to orange and through the yellows till we hit the greens. (For anyone tuning in for the first time, take a look at Purple and Pink, which also has links to previous posts on our penchant for colourful buildings.)

Biggs is an iconic building in Bantry

We’ll start with the orangey ones (except I couldn’t resist heading off with this gorgeous house on the Beara Peninsula). Orange is a startling shade but also surprisingly sophisticated.

Timoleague (top) and Leap

And some times just plain fun. Nothing like a splash of sunshine to brighten your day!

Kinsale (top) and Goleen

On to the yellows – a favourite of many, it seems, both shop-owners and householders.

Kinsale, Clonakilty, Kilmallock

Depending on the trim, yellow can seem quite electric. I love this shop in Millstreet (above)

This one is in Aghada, East Cork

Wonderful collection of colours on and around this farmhouse
More Kinsale
Eyeries, on the Beara, is one of the most colourful villages in Ireland. It’s where you’ll find the rainbow

The Ludgate Centre, in Skibbereen. It’s just as colourful inside

I’ll stop just shy of true greens and leave them and the blues for next time. The limes, above and below, are the exact right transition colour from yellow. Don’t you agree?

A real beauty, in Kilgarvan

And, if you really need your green fix NOW, head over to Robert’s post, Spring Green.

Timoleague Friary

Timoleague Friary

If you take the coast road from West Cork to Cork City, you go through Timoleague, a beautiful village at the top of Courtmacsherry Bay. This little town has a main street of colourful houses and shops, a large and imposing Catholic church with notable stained glass windows, a medieval bridge spanning the inlet, and lovely walkways by the Arigideen River.

Looking across the river to the Friary

Looking across the river to the Friary

What makes us stop, though, no matter how often we have visited it before, is the Friary. Perched on a knoll overlooking the river, this Franciscan establishment was built in the 13th or 14th Century, and subsequently enlarged and extended. It somehow managed to survive the reformation but was finally abandoned when it was burned in 1642.

The Franciscans first arrived in Ireland about 1230. The order spread quickly and in time there were many Franciscan houses in Ireland. Followers of the Rule of St. Francis, they lived in fellowship in the friary, but went out every day to work among the people. Unlike monks in abbeys or monasteries, they did not shut themselves away to follow a strict regimen of prayer and work. Instead, the friars depended upon their parishioners for sustenance, devoted themselves to their flock during the day and returned to the friary for their simple meals and prayers.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Despite this avowed simplicity, the friary is large and imposing. The remains of the cloisters give evidence of the daily meditation and recitation of the Divine Office. Their living quarters included a chapter room, refectory and infirmary.

Nave and choir

Nave and choir

The church would have been impressive in its day, with large and elaborate windows, a long nave and a sizeable transept. The columns between the nave and the transept are massive: the cut stone demonstrates the high quality of masonry that went into the building of the Friary.

A wander through the ruins is a delight. There is a wart well, old gravestones (while away half an hour deciphering some inscriptions!) and niches that would have held the tombstones of dignitaries. Lichen of every colour clings to the stones while low archways appear around every corner, with inviting vistas of further corners to explore.

Timoleague is named for St Molaga, who is also associated with other locations in Ireland. Many stories are told of St Molaga. Here is one, recorded by Colonel James Grove White and provided online by Cork City Librarians.

Close to Temple Molaga is a copious spring well, which was always held sacred by the people and should be used only for drinking and curative purposes; but on one occasion, the lady of the manor, an unbeliever, would insist on cooking her husband’s dinner in the water of the sacred spring. When the water had time to boil, the cook remarked it was icy cold; more logs were placed on the fire, still to no effect. The logs were still being piled on, the fire blazed, but when the dinner hour arrived, the water was still as cold as ever. The lord waxed hungry, and, like other mortals, became angry; he rushed into the kitchen to ascertain for himself the cause of the delay, had the cover lifted off the huge pot, and, although the fire was crackling and blazing high about it, he felt the water was quite cold; but what astonished him more was to behold a beautiful trout swimming about in it, without apparently suffering the least inconvenience. He became wonder-stricken, and had his advisers called in. They told him to take the water back to the well without delay and pour it in. This being done, the trout again became invisible, and is since rarely seen, except by certain votaries.

In the district it is a common saying when water is slow to boil, “perhaps the Molaga trout is in it.”

Timoleague Friary, as the largest medieval religious ruin in West Cork, is a unique and special part of the West Cork landscape.

friary silhouette