County Kerry, Ireland – Part I

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JJ Meehan

WEB Site

Donna McCormick
Michele Kerrigan

This is Part I of II.  Part II is located at!5545F38A4B977846!9229.entry.

Ireland is “God’s Country” and County Kerry maybe the gem of all Ireland.  On May 8th, 1860 my great grandfather John O’Connor married Mary O’Connor in Cascade Iowa.  Father Jeremiah O’Connor was the Priest who celebrated the wedding Mass.  None of them were related.  John O’Connor was the son of Jeremiah O’Connor and Eleanor Grady.  Mary was the daughter of Thomas O’Connor and Bridget Quirk.  All were from County Kerry, Ireland.  Until he died in 1903, John O’Connor considered Ireland God’s County and he as did most the Irish emigrates had a deep desire to return to his native land.  On his grave stone he entered “A NATIVE OF BALLY-NA-BUNK A SUB-DIVISION OF MOORESTOWN, PARISH OF DINGLE, CO. KERRY, IRELAND.”


County Kerry and Ireland was his dream and both are now my dream and this blog is written in honor of John and Mary O’Connor and all the other good folks in Ireland and who have emigrated from Ireland.  You can view the John and Mary Family Tree at   The following blog will try to capture the beauty of Ireland via pictures and video’s from folks who have visited this jewel of a land and will have information from several sources on the history of the area.  These sources include; Wikipedia on County KerryAncient History of County Kerry and Ancient Kerry (Rootsweb).

County Kerry (Irish: Contae Chiarraí) is one of the twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland, and one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, situated within the province of Munster. Kerry is the 5th largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area, and 14th largest in terms of population. It is bordered by County Limerick to the east and County Cork to the south-east. The county town is Tralee. One of Ireland’s most famous towns, Killarney, is also located in the county. The Lakes of Killarney, an area of outstanding natural beauty, are located in Killarney National Park. The tip of the Dingle Peninsula is the most westerly point of Ireland.

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The Dingle Peninsula

Ballyheigue Township, County of Kerry

Ballyheigue Township is located in the northern part of Coutny Kerry and Donna McCormick stated “the history is beautiful,even the grave yards is a walk threw history. My heart belongs there.” 

The scenic seaside town of Ballyheigue is a popular summer time resort for families and rich in local history and the ending point for the North Kerry Way way-marked walk.
Much of the town’s history centres on the great castle overlooking Ballyheigue. Built by Colonel James Crosbie in 1810, it was burned in 1840 and again in 1921. It is now the centrepiece of the surrounding Ballyheigue golf course.

The Cantillons came to Ireland with William the Conqueror. They can be traced through the Normans back to the Danes. Like all the settlers of this time, they intermarried and settled into the Irish way of life. They built the first castle in Ballyheigue (in a different location to the present one) and Thadhg Cantillon gave Ballyheigue (Baile Uí Thaidhg) its name. In the sixteenth century their lands were confiscated by Elizabeth I and ‘planted’ by the Crosbies.  This information came from an article on the WEB posted by DiscoverIreland IE at


The town is also home to St. Mary’s Well


Ballynabuck Township, Parish of Kilquane, Barony of Corkaguiny, County of Kerry

This material is excerpted from “The Dingle Peninsula: History, Folklore, Archaeology” by Steve MacDonough, copyright 1993, published by Brandon Book Publishers, Ltd., Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Each of its 260 pages is packed with information on the communities of the Dingle Peninsula, and in its entirety, it makes very interesting reading. The book is widely available for purchase throughout the Peninsula.


Massive cliffs in the northwestern corner of the Dingle Peninsula are rocky bulwarks against the power of the Atlantic seas. A roughly triangular area between Murreagh, Ballinloghig and Tiduff can be explored along narrow roads that describe a loop through wild, open landscape between Mount Brandon and the ocean. The coast is encountered intermittently, and for part of the route Ballydavid Head rears up between the road and sea. Towering cliffs are within easy reach of the walker.

From Murreagh a road leads to Ballydavid, a small fishing community with two pubs. This is the place to be at sunset and to walk along the coast beyond the village. Many an hour can be whiled away in conversation in the pubs, and with a bit of luck you might arrive one night when music is being played.

The name of Ballydavid can cause some confusion, because it is also called Baile na nGall or Ballynagall, which means in English the townland of the foreigner. It is likely that the foreigners referred to were the Vikings, for Smerwick Harbour was a Viking settlement from which butter was shipped to Limerick. The name Smerwick comes from two Norse words, smoer and wik, meaning butter and harbour.

From Murreagh the main road leads north to Feohanagh through Carrig, Ballylusky and Ardamore. At the junction of the road to Kilcooly is a church and a little further on is Teach Siamsa, a large white thatched building which is one of the halls of Siamsa Tíre, a folk drama organisation which provides training for local young people in dance, drama, music and song, as well giving performances. Visitors should enquire at the Dingle Tourist Office or locally about details for any events scheduled.

The name Feohanagh comes from an old Irish word for a windy place, and when a gale is blowing the wind sweeps with tremendous force across the flatlands. A large, deep bog covered much of the land to the east, and turf from the bog provided the main fuel for the fires of Dingle until the end of the last century. In earlier centuries the area enjoyed a remarkable reputation. Less evidence remains here of early Christian settlements than between Reask and Kilmalkedar, but literary sources suggest that it was a famous monastic centre and even some kind of Garden of Eden.

The area north of the Feohanagh River does appear to have possessed major early Christian sites, but little of them survives. Tradition asserts that St. Brendan’s main settlement in the area was here at the foot of Mount Brandon. Near Ballynavenooragh is Shanakeel, or Seana Cill, usually translated as “the old church”; and at the western foot of Masatiompan a remarkable site clinging to steep cliffs is called Faiche na Manach or Fothar na Manaigh, the green fields of the monks.

The road opposite the pub in Feohanagh is signposted to Brandon Creek; after crossing the bridge it turns right. A short distance further on a bohareen leads to the left beside a house with scallop shells on its gatepost. This is the start of an exhilirating walk along the cliffs to Brandon Creek. Follow the bohareen until it fades out, then strike uphill towards the tower. One of a number along the coast, Ballydavid Tower was built at the beginning of the 19th Century as a lookout and signal tower against an expected French invasion. The smaller building was the garrison house. Continuing the walk with its dramatic views to the north, after about half a mile there is a clifftop path which leads to Brandon Creek.

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Those driving from Feohanagh should continue along the road through the clusters of houses that make up Ballynabuck, Ballyroe and Ballycurrane until they reach Brandon Creek.

Brandon Creek, Cuas an Bhodaigh, or Coosavuddig, is the place from which St. Brendan is said to have set sail for the “Heavenly Isles” and perhaps for America. In 1977, in a successful attempt to establish the feasibility of such a voyage, a craft made of hides with a crew captained by Tim Severin set out for North America from Brandon Creek.

The account of the voyage of Brendan, the Navigatio, attained enormous fame in medieval Europe and is one of the classic adventure stories of all time, with rich elements of magic and fantasy. Whether the tale was mainly an imaginative creation or not, its physical details correspond quite well to what would be encountered on a sea route to North America. The modern explorer and navigator, Tim Severin, has certainly given added credibility in his book, The Brendan Voyage, to the notion that St. Brendan did, in fact, discover America.

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From Brandon Creek the traveller is recommended to take the road south to a crossroads, turn left and left again to Tiduff. From Tiduff a straight turf-track runs northeast to Masatiompan, and it is a good route for a walk in rising, open countryside with views back along the coastline which are sometimes quite spectacular.

The area south of Tiduff is rich in clocháin and cahers. It has been suggested that these were built to provide accommodation for pilgrims waiting for clear weather to make the ascent of Mount Brandon. Less numerous than those at the unique Fahan settlement in the southwest of the peninsula, they still make up a significant concentration.



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You can read the full ancient History  of the Kingdom of Kerry at  Written by Friar O’Sullivan, of Muckross Abbey.  Edited with Preface and Notes by F. Jarlath Prendergast, O.F.M.

“ There have been a great many conjectures as to the author of this History of Kerry, and the time of its composition.  Miss Hickson, in her Kerry Records, first series, p. 14, holds that it was written in 1698, but this is in direct contradiction to the statements of the author, who mentions persons who lived fifty years afterwards, and could not have been alive at that time.  Archdeacon Rowan, who is usually very correct in his dates, says, that it was probably written at the beginning of 1700.  Doctor O’Donovan, however, with his usual instinctive accuracy, states that it was written about the middle of the last century.  All, however, have lost sight of the dates given by the author himself, where he clearly determines the time he was writing.  At p. 51 he says: “America was discovered about 260 years ago.”  This would assign the production to 1752; for America was first discovered in 1492.  Again, at p. 55, he tells us: “In the great battle of Clontarf  . . .  where the Danes were totally defeated 720 years ago  . . .  the behaviour of the county Kerry men . . .  deserve notice,” etc.  Here he clearly states that it must be written about 1754.  For the battle of Clontarf, according to our Irish chroniclers, cited by Keating, took place in 1034:—. . .”


“. . . As I cannot satisfy myself by any historys which of the Milesians that first inhabited the county of Kerry, or that part thereof called formerly the county of Desmond, the chief town then of said county of Desmond Dunkeron, I shall begin with Liar the son of Fergus McRoige, of the progeny of Ciar McMileadh and Meive Cruachna, queen of Connaught, who came to the county of Kerry about seventeene hundred years ago.  From said Ciar were descended the O’Connors Kerry, and as the Milesians had not till the English conquest the titles of Earls, Viscounts, or Lords, but the chiefe not only of a county but also of a barony or cantread had the titles of either King, Prince, or Triah, signifying king or lord, So that the chiefes of the O’Conors of Kiery had for a vast extent of time the titles of Kings of Kiery.  Their further grandieur I refer to the author of the intended History. . .”

County Kerry

The following is from


“On August 27, 1329, by Letters Patent, Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond was confirmed in the feudal seniority of the entire county palatine of Kerry, to him and his heirs male, to hold of the Crown by the service of one knight’s fee.

In the 15th century, the majority of the area now known as County Kerry was still part of the County Desmond, the west Munster seat of the Earl of Desmond, a branch of the Hiberno-Norman Fitzgerald family, known as the Geraldines.

In 1580, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, one of the most infamous massacres of the Sixteenth century, the Siege of Smerwick, took place at Dún an Óir near Ard na Caithne (Smerwick) at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. The 600-strong Italian, Spanish and Irish papal invasion force of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald was besieged by the English forces and massacred.

In 1588 when the fleet of the Spanish Armada in Ireland were returning to Spain during stormy weather, many of their ships sought shelter at the Blasket Islands and some were wrecked.

During the Nine Years War, Kerry was again the scene of conflict, as the O’Sullivan Beare clan joined the rebellion. In 1602, their castle at Dunboy was besieged and taken by English troops. Donal O’Sullivan Beare, in an effort to escape English retribution and to reach his allies in Ulster, marched all the clan’s members and dependents to the north of Ireland. Due to harassment by hostile forces and the freezing weather, very few of the 1,000 O’Sullivans who set out reached their destination.

In the aftermath of the War, much of the native owned land in Kerry was confiscated and given to English settlers or ‘planters’. The head of the MacCarthy Mor family, Florence MacCarthy was imprisoned in London and his lands were divided between his relatives and colonists from England, such as the Browne family.

In the 1640s, Kerry was engulfed by the Irish Rebellion of 1641, an attempt by Irish Catholics to take power in the Protestant Kingdom of Ireland. The rebellion in Kerry was led by Donagh McCarthy, 1st Viscount Muskerry. McCarthy held the county during the subsequent Irish Confederate Wars and his forces were some of the last to surrender to the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1652. The last stronghold to fall was Ross Castle, near Killarney.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Kerry became increasingly populated by poor tenant farmers, who came to rely on the potato as their main food source. As a result, when the potato crop failed in 1845, Kerry was very hard hit by the Great Irish Famine of 1845–49. In the wake of the famine, many thousands of poor farmers emigrated to seek a better life in America and elsewhere. Kerry was to remain a source of emigration until recent times. Another long term consequence of the famine was the Land War of the 1870s and 1880s, in which tenant farmers agitated, sometimes violently for better terms from their landlords.

In the 20th century, Kerry was one of the counties most affected by the Irish War of Independence (1919–21) and Irish Civil War (1922–23). In the war of Independence, the Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against the Royal Irish Constabulary, and British military. One of the more prominent incidents in the conflict in Kerry, were the ‘siege of Tralee’ in November 1920. when the Black and Tans placed Tralee under curfew for a week, burned many homes and shot dead a number of local people in retaliation for the IRA killing of 5 local policemen the night before. Another was the Headford Junction ambush in spring 1921, when IRA units ambushed a train carrying British soldiers outside Killarney. About twenty British soldiers, three civilians and two IRA men were killed in the ensuing gun battle. Violence between the IRA and the British was ended in July 1921, but nine men, four British soldiers and five IRA men, were killed in a shootout in Castleisland on the day of the truce itself, indicating the bitterness of the conflict in Kerry.

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Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, most of the Kerry IRA units opposed the settlement. In the ensueing civil war between pro and anti-treaty elements, Kerry was perhaps the worst affected area of Ireland. Initially the county was held by the Anti-Treaty IRA but it was taken for the Irish Free State after seaborne landings by Free State troops at Fenit and Listowel. Thereafter the county saw a bitter guerrilla war between men who had been comrades only a year previously. The republicans, or ‘irregulars’ mounted a number of successful actions, for example attacking and taking Kenmare in September 1922. In March 1923, Kerry saw a series of massacres of republican prisoners by National Army soldiers in reprisal for the ambush of their men -the most notorious being the killing of 8 men with mines at Ballyseedy, near Tralee. The internecine conflict was brought to an end in May 1923.

Kerry, with its mountains, lakes and Atlantic coastline is among the most scenic areas in Ireland and is among the most significant tourist destinations in Ireland. Killarney is the centre of the tourism industry, which is a significant element of the economy in Kerry. The Kerry Way, Dingle Way and Beara Way are walking routes in the county. The Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula is a popular route for tourists and cyclists. The pedestrian version is the scenic Kerry Way which follows ancient paths generally higher than that adopted by the Ring of Kerry.”

Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry (Irish: An Mhór Chuaird) is a tourist trail in County Kerry, south-western Ireland. The route covers the 179 km circular road (N70, N71 and R562), starting from Killarney, heading around the Iveragh Peninsula and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin. Popular points include Muckross House (near Killarney), Staigue stone fort and Derrynane House, home of Daniel O’Connell. Just south of Killarney, Ross Castle, Lough Leane, and Ladies View (a panoramic viewpoint), all located within Killarney National Park, are major attractions located along the Ring. A more complete list of major attractions along the Ring of Kerry includes: Gap of Dunloe, Bog Village, Rossbeigh Beach, Cahersiveen Heritage Centre, Derrynane House, Skellig Experience, Staigue Fort, Kenmare Lace, Moll’s Gap, Ladies View, Torc Waterfall, Muckross House, The Blue Pool, Ross Castle, Ogham Stones, St Mary’s Cathedral, Muckross Abbey, Franciscan Friary, Kellegy Church, O’Connell Memorial Church, Sneem Church and Cemetery, Skellig Michael, Beehive Cells and the Stone Pillars marking an important grave.

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There is also an established walking path named The Kerry Way, which takes its own route, and a signposted Ring of Kerry cycling path which uses older quieter roads where possible. The Kerry Way roughly follows the scenic driving route of the Ring of Kerry.

There are numerous variations to the route taking in St. Finian’s Bay and Valentia Island which the official driving ring misses (the official cycling route takes in Valentia island). The Ring of Kerry has much to offer in terms of attractions. Not only does it have some of Europe’s finest beaches, but also offers the Gap of Dunloe, Bog Village, Derrynane House, the Skellig Experience Valentia Island, Molls Gap, Torc Waterfall, Muckross House and Ross Castle.

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“The Ring” is a popular day trip and numerous bus companies offer trips during the summer months. As the narrow roads make it difficult for tour coaches to pass, all tour buses run in an anti-clockwise (or counter-clockwise) direction, traveling via Killorglin first. It is recommended that car owners travel in the opposite direction, going first to Kenmare to avoid delays caused by tour buses. In 2008 satellite navigation systems were blamed for directing bus drivers in a clockwise direction around the route.

The Blasket Islands

The Blasket Islands (Na Blascaodaí in Irish – etymology uncertain: it may come from the Norse word “brasker”, meaning “a dangerous place”) are a group of islands off the west coast of Ireland, forming part of County Kerry. They were inhabited until 1953 by a completely Irish-speaking population. The inhabitants were evacuated to the mainland on 17 November 1953.[1] Many of the descendants currently live in Springfield, Massachusetts and some former residents still live on the Dingle Peninsula, within sight of their former home.

The islanders were the subject of much anthropological and linguistic study around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries particularly from writers and linguists such as Robin Flower, George Derwent Thomson and Kenneth H. Jackson. Thanks to their encouragement and that of others, a number of books were written by islanders that record much of the islands’ traditions and way of life. These include An tOileánach (The Islandman) by Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig by Peig Sayers and Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing) by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin.

The Blasket Islands have been called Next Parish America, a term popular in the United States and recalled in the book The Blasket Islands – Next Parish America by Joan and Ray Stagles.

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The following is an Irish Blessing:


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