Commercial Life in Ballydonoghue
County Kerry

"Commmercial Life in Ballydonoghue"

Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine, estd. 1985, Millennium Edition. "Commercial Life in Ballydonoghue," by Jack Walsh, Moohane, Ballybunion, page 138:

"Several reasons and happenings have prompted me to write this article about Ballydonoghue. Not only had Ballydonoghue an interesting centenarian past but is (sic) also had an interesting millennium past, and believe it or not there is still ample evidence available. Before the conversion of Constantine and the coming of St. Patrick it had a sizeable population, which the ring forts and the two blessed wells at Coolard and Lahesrough proves. All over Ireland the blessed wells retained their religious attraction, even to this very day.

Recently the most powerful and influential man in all this world could not pass, without any previous arrangement, to say hello. The person or persons who thought of commemorating the event on a bit stone have to be congratulated - a wonderful idea- also the committee who erected a beautifully finished memorial to Maurice Walsh deserves the appreciation of every Ballydonoghue person. Away from the ability as a great writer his famous letter to the Post saved this country from becoming a battleground for the warring nations world wide. A copy of that letter is on exhibition at Danny Houlihan's Heritage Center in Ballybunion.

One time Ballydonoghue, Lisselton and Gunsborough were the ecclesiastical and administrative centres of a huge area of North Kerry bounded by the Shannon at Beale, Doon and the Cashen, and by the Feale and Gale. In fact a part of its boundary at North East Kilgarvan almost ran away one time.

We were given to understand down the years that the O'Connors of Carrigafoyle and their forebears were the first permanent residents of this area, which is wrong. On the 2nd of March 1942 a Miss Stacpoole, an eminent archaeologist, to avoid the awful stress of the second world war, visited the area for relaxation, and her discoveries proved beyond doubt that it was an advanced peopled area in the megalithic and Neolithic times, that is 6,000 to 2,000 BC. Eminent museum people and archaeologists were baffled where the ancient discoveries found along the southern English and Western French coasts came from until Miss Stacpoole's discovery of a hoard of bronze urns, iron knives, drinking bowls, Roman coins and various other items of household equipment proved that the discoveries found along the Atlantic were traded goods from this area. Another very interesting relic of yesterday are the Caves of Guhard, their identity was never professionally evaluated. In those far off days waterways were important as a means of communication and Doon, located as it was, was an important centre of commerce, as its promontory forts prove, with the hinterland and outside world. Promontory forts were warehouses, not habitation sites like ring forts. Now the road that served this important center with the hinterland had to pass through Ballydonoghue because the area between Glouria and Ballylongford was impassable terrain, likewise the area between what is now Lisselton and the Feale river was also impassable. Now the road that served Doon is still in existence. It is completely intact going from Jack Harty's of Doon for over a half mile. It next appears at Hennessys of Lahardane - now Michael Dees. Going East land reclamation had obliterated it until you come to Aherns - now Johnny McElligotts - of Knockenagh. it is still in use gong towards Quinlan's Cross. It crosses the Coolard road there towards Morans and forded the Gale at Gale Mill. The unwanted attention of North European pirates destroyed Doon and Ballydonoghue as important commercial centres.

Now before the coming of guano and artificial manures Ballydonoghue was considered a fertile region whereas areas like Ballyduff and Causeway were not. To give an example a Ballyduff man, Tony Neligan, told me that his grandfather offered four acres of what is today prime land for one acre to a relative of Paddy Dunne at the Ferry and he would not accept it. Paddy Dunne's today is only considered marginal land. The coming of the potato and to maintain an increasing population fertile land was burned to provide the potash for its growth. Glouria is an example. I saw the tail end of it. I saw Jack Mahony, the late Paddy Mahony's father of Glouria, doing it.

Another interesting exercise about Ballydonoghue it had a vigorous flax growing industry, and the residents were capable of transforming the raw material into threaded yarn. My grandmother saw the end of it. The female section of the population would gather at a house by night in rotation cloving the flax, and the only timepiece they had was the "threadeen", and if the night was cloudy the rising sun was the timepiece. For years there were seven or eight balls of the thread or yarn up in the kitchen loft in what is now Billy Fitzgeralds. Each ball was the size of a Gaelic football. The only use I saw made of it was frightening crows in the Springtime. Ballydonoghue and of course other parts of North Kerry were doing a substantial trade in linen yard with France and Spain through Beale and Carraig where there were enterprising boatmen. When the English started to import cotton yarn from their Indian dominion they destroyed the Southern Irish linen trade in favour of their Northern friends where it is still in existence. That was the reason and chief occupation of the coastguard stations at Beale, Ballybunion and the Cashen.

Now my dear reader having said so much about the yesterdays it is only reasonable that I would say something about the future. Now after 820 years of foreign domination the day is about landed when the green, white and orange can fly unhindered on the gentle breeze that blows across this fair and lovely land. Today Irish men and women, the survivors of one of the world's oldest mother nations, are reviving the prominence they once held, and the present generation of Ballydonoghue people have to become part of the Celtic tiger, of which, by their actions, they are quite capable. The present principle occupation of animal husbandry and farming is becoming a closed shop. Foreign competition, and the financial requirements to satisfy its environmental requirements, necessitates the creation of larger units.

Now one great opportunity to satisfy employment needs is forestry and Ballydonoghue has the requirement. Up to recent times I was of the opinion, and of course many more like me, that forestry was only useful for making windows and doors and building houses etc. There is nothing further from the true facts. Finland and Japan, two of the world's most spectacular economies, are adamant that forestry is the foundation of their success. Now both economies are miles apart in distance but are also miles apart in other respects. Finland has a cold dreary atmosphere with a small population scattered over millions of acres, while Japan has 200 million people living in congested conditions but has a bearable climate. Now the remarkable thing is that Ireland and, of course, Ballydonoghue can grow trees between two and four times faster than any of the two countries.

Evidently it is unbelievable the amount of raw material that forestry can supply to the human needs. The huge rain forests are at present satisfying the world's needs but are disappearing at alarming speeds without any replanting, so the day will soon come when forestry will be a valuable possession. Sean Foran, a prominent member of this magazine's committee, and his family have given amply evidence of the possibilities. They have afforestized their large holding.

Now the last item for this time - I might be around for next year. There is a long of controversy about Fr. John Buckley who built Ballydonoghue and Doon churches. Fr. Buckley was born and bred in Coolkeragh. The late Martin Walsh's (Blaney) mother was either a sister or a niece. A son of Martin Walsh's still lives in the home farm at Coolkeragh. Now the poor man - Fr. Buckley - was grossly blamed for the misbehaviour of which he was completely innocent, and was no doubt the cause of his untimely death. When the mistake was discovered he became parish Priest of Milltown and was buried inside the rails at the right hand side of the altar in Ballydonoghue church in 1851. Now I got this information from Denis Collins who was a likable and efficient parish clerk for up to 60 years. Likewise his brother Pat and his father John and his mother who was lovingly know as Janey Gorman. May they all rest in peace."

Contributor advises, "I cannot elaborate on any information in here. I have no family connection and am passing this along for those who are looking for information on subjects the author discusses."

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