Garranbaun church history
Garranbane Church is over 200 years old. In the celebration of its centenary, I was asked to compile a book to celebrate the event. In researching the history of Garranbane church I quickly discovered that there was no history available! The Bishop’s office held nothing and apparently there was never any records kept of the various changes that took place over the 200 years of its life. However, there is a social history of the area and at the end of the day it’s the people and their minister that are the history of any church. I have attempted to create a background to this little chapel that sits on hill overlooking the sea and a number of townlands.
In reference to same, I recall a little story that was related to me by a very knowledgeable man some years ago. It is not presented here word for word but there is nothing lost or added - Sir John Nugent Humble stood on a hill overlooking those very same townlands and stretching his arms out as if to encompass the entire area, he turned to his visitor and exclaimed, ‘You see all that land that stretches from here to the sea, I own every blade of grass, stick, stone, animal and person on it.’- There may certainly have been some substance in his statement but he could never claim to own the souls of all the departed that sleep in the hallowed ground in the shadow of Garranbane chapel. These were the people that are the history of the church, they are the people that built the chapel, were baptised there, went to mass there, got married there, and were interred there. It was with this in mind that I decided to explore the various elements, political and otherwise that are a backdrop to the little chapel on the hill. It is just a small part of the history of the area. I also spoke with a small number of people to get a feel for the climate of their particular era. It was impossible to speak with everyone for such a small publication but in this respect my research is on going.
GarranbaunChurchwas built in 1807. Like many such churches of the period it is of cruciform in plan. Special devotions were held on the saint’s festival day of July 19th. It is now uncertain why this particular date was chosen since his feast day falls on September 27th. Perhaps this was when the church was dedicated.
Nothing can be written about Garranbaun church without the inclusion of Kilgobinet, since it was part of that parish up until 1862, and for 56 years of its history it was serviced by the Priests of Kilgobinet. This was a very interesting period in our local history. It was fraught with war, insurrection and the terrible black period of‘An Gorta Mor’. Another interesting historical fact is that 1807 was 200 years after the Penal times and we have now reached a further 200 in the history of Garranbane.
The Penal times
I include a brief history here because of its relevance to the period that Garranbane church was constructed. The origins may have been in the 17th century but the far reaching effects were felt into the 1830s.
In 1613, the constituencies of the Irish Parliament were altered to give Protestant settlers a majority in it. Also, Catholics were fined and had land confiscated for non-attendance at Protestant services. Catholic churches were transferred to the Protestant Church of Ireland and Bishops had to conceal their presence in the country.
Priests had to leave this country; some stayed secretly but when they were discovered they were swiftly executed. Among the discrimination faced by victims of the Penal Laws were:
A man could take over a relation's property by converting to the Church of Ireland
Catholics were prohibited from owning a horse valued at over £5 (in order to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands)
The subdivision of lands between all owners’ sons - in order to reduce the size of Roman Catholic landholdings.
Lay priests were tolerated, but seminary priests and Bishops were not.
Masses were conducted in secret in rural locations.
The ‘Act to prevent the further growth of popery’, was introduced. This act prevented the following:
Intermarriage with Protestants
Converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism.
The custom of going to France to be educated or for military career after 1745.
Catholics buying their own land
Custody of orphans being granted to Catholics
Catholics inheriting Protestant land.
The Penal Laws were gradually repealed towards the end of the Eighteenth, and the beginning the nineteenth Century. The final remaining penal laws, regarding voting or holding public office were repealed in the 1830s, due in large part to Daniel O'Connell. However, the hated obligation of all working people to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland irrespective of their religion, remained and resulted in a violent campaign of non-payment known as the Tithe War. This burden remained until the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in 1869.
During the period when Griffith’s primary valuations were being carried out (1840s/50s,) there were 16 houses standing in the townland of Garranbaun. The poor law valuations show that there were 68 males, and 79 females living there in 1841. In 1851, there were 60 males & 58 females. The number of houses in 1841 was 25 with one uninhabited.
Ten years later there were just 15 houses with 2 uninhabited.Kilgobnet at that time covered an area of 16.108 acres and there was 43 townlands including Garranbaun.
Garranbaun covered a little over 522 acres of this. Noted also at this time was that there was up to 60 families thrown out of their houses near Kilgobinet and the same amount at Cushman which is around two miles from the Church. The Cork examiner reported on 12th May, 1847 that ‘landlords are acting very cruelly towards their poor tenants. At Cushcam over 14 houses were thrown down, and at Curabaha, Kilgobinet, nine houses were tumbled. 140 people were thrown out onto the roads at this time. They had no food, no money, and nowhere to go. If neighbors offered a helping hand in any way, they too were cast out to beg or starve on the roadside.
Thousands gathered and took to the streets demanding work and on one occasion 4.000 people gathered outside the courthouse in Dungarvan, riots quickly followed. At night fires were lit on the hills surrounding the town, This must have looked quite a sight at that time and there can be no doubt, but this was wide spread in the area and certainly Garranbane & Clonea people must have taken a active hand in the proceedings.
Fr. O’Connor who was Parish priest of Kilgobinet took an active part in helping the starving and homeless victims, a reporter of the time observed the following;
“Every day, regardless of the inclemency of the weather, he worked harder, both in town and parish and now has the satisfaction of having got employment for a large portion of his people.” Fr. O’Connor was chairman for the Kilgobinet, Colligan, & Seskinan sub-relief committee.
On 18 June, Fr. Michael O’Connor, wrote to the Commissioners as chairman of the ‘Kilgobnet, Colligan and Seskinan sub-relief committee’ He enclosed a list of subscribers and referred to the meal which they had been selling at two depots, at a reduced price. He noted that over the previous five weeks they had helped 336 families who comprised of 1,680 individuals. He went on to say;
‘We apprehend the number will greatly increase, in consequence of a great proportion of the district being mountain on which are located a vast population, principally small cottiers, who, having lost all their potatoes are from their impoverished condition quite unable to purchase food in the Markets and all of whom must be supplied in future by the committee with food at a reduced price.
Fr. O’Connor also built a parochial residence at Coolnasmear.The priest was also fond of writing poetry in both English and Irish.
Eddie Cantwell (c)