Friday, December 5, 2008

Kilbaha Harbour, County Clare, Ireland - oil painting

Oils on canvas (20 x 24 inches)

Ghosts, ruins and the faith of a small Irish village....

Kilbaha is one of my very special places in county Clare, Ireland. It is also the place where my dear friend, Hannah, is buried. On the hill overlooking the harbour, you can see the ruins of a mansion (Dun Dalhin) which belonged to the notorious landlord agent, Marcus Keane. (circa 1850's).

One day, I had a fascinating chat with a (very, very old) fisherman who was sitting outside the local pub and asked him about the history of the town. He pointed to the ruins and with that inevitable Irish twinkle in his eyes, said not to go there, as it is haunted.

Now, according to his tale, the locals were not very fond of old Marcus, a cruel and merciless man, and one night while he was away doing the 'dirty', his mansion mysteriously burnt down. It was never rebuilt.

Now the ruins stand on the hill, gauntly overlooking the harbour, with only cows and sheep daring to graze around it. He never said who or what was haunting the ruins but maybe it is old Marcus... stomping in frustration and waving a an angry fist at the arsonists who dared to burn his house and the locals with their priest who thwarted his efforts to control them .... who knows??? Read about The Little Ark...

The Little Ark

In the 1850's the celebration of Mass was prohibited in the Loop Head Peninsula West Clare.

This situation had developed as the result of the attempts of the local land agent, Marcus Keane, to enforce the conversion of the local populace to Protestantism.

Three schools were built on the Loop Head Peninsula in West Clare where the Protestant faith was taught. Food was provided for those who attended these schools and, in these days following the famine, this encouraged children to attend.

At the same time a Protestant church was built at the entrance to Dun Dalhin (Marcus Keane's house) overlooking the bay at Kilbaha.
The Parish Priest at this time was Father Michael Meehan. Fr. Meehan had come to Loop Head as Parish Priest in 1849. He was very familiar with the area, having spent a good deal of time with his aunt who lived in Cross and later Moneen and therefore he recognised the need to build schools in the area, as at this time there were none. In 1850 he opened the first of the six schools which he established in the Loop Head Peninsula.

With the establishment of the landlord sponsored schools, increasing pressure was put on tenants to denounce their Catholic Faith and send their children to these schools,under threat of eviction.

Obviously, these circumstances led to conflict between Marcus Keane and Father Meehan.

During this time Fr.Meehan was also trying to obtain a site to build a church in Kilbaha.

His attempts were unsuccessful. At one stage he did manage to acquire two adjoining houses in Kilbaha. He knocked the two houses into one and used the building for Mass. He was evicted from the premises after one month.

Father Meehan then contructed a tarpaulin shelter on poles which he attempted to use for Mass and then he used the covered shafts of a cart as a shelter but both proved to be unsuitable.

It was against this backdrop of persecution that Father Meehan came up with the idea of The Little Ark. He believed that if a suitable structure could be built it could be brought to the shore in Kilbaha and placed between high and low tide, in no-man's land. He thought that this would be an end to the problems he and his parishioners faced. Owen Collins, a carpenter in Carrigaholt, was commissioned to build a portable box on wheels.

In 1852, when completed, the box was drawn in triumphal procession from Carrigaholt to Kilbaha. Father Meehan then used the box, or The Little Ark, as it became known, to say Mass in for the next four years. Father Meehan's congregation would gather on the fore-shore at Kilbaha every Sunday, kneeling in prayer around the Ark.

This practise continued for over four years and the sight of some three hundred people, praying in all weathers, attracted much publicity.
Eventually, a site was given for a church in 1857.

The foundation stone for the church, 'Our Lady, Star of the Sea',was laid on12th July 1857. The church was dedicated on 10th October 1858.

The Little Ark was placed inside the church and remains there to this day, housed in a specially built annexe.

Excerpt of "The Little Ark" from Loop Head History

I have a painting in my mind... showing the hill and ruins overlooking the harbour... indeed, I think I must paint it!


Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Hi Avril. What a riveting story you told. It was fascinating about the little ark and it's final resting place in the church. I love history it's so interesting. Just love that painting it's wonderful. Can't wait to see what you come up with next!

All the best

Avril Brand said...

Hi Liz

Thanks so much! The story about the Little Ark is really lovely and I thought that this time of the year would be a great time to tell it.

I also love history and its such a privilege to live in a country like Ireland, steeped in history.

I am thinking about doing a few more paintings depicting historical places in county Clare! A head full of paintings and so little time to do them all! Thank you so much for your interest. I really appreciate it.


Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Hi Avril

Yes you are lucky. Ireland has a wonderful rich history. I've been watching a great series called Secret Places of Ireland. I just love the history all the more for it.

I know what you mean by lack of time when it comes to pictures in the mind.

You've given me the encouragement to keep on painting with your wonderful work.

Thanks for sharing it.

Love to you too

PS how is the winter there.

Avril Brand said...

Your paintings are gorgeous, Liz!! I am also so passionate about wildlife and conservation! Although, my wildlife paintings take very long to do, I absolutely love painting animals.

The winter??? Brrrr... LOL


Kyfarmlife said...

Hi there, found your blog from Liz's....she is right, your paintings are beautiful and full of talent! So glad I stopped by! If your interested in coming over just email me and I'll add you to the invite!

Avril Brand said...

Thank you so much for the comment and the invite!

Tammy said...

I love the painting. The story was great, thank you for sharing it. :)

Avril Brand said...

Thank you so much, Tammy!!!

Ngaio said...

Lovely photos Avril - my surname is Meehan ! My father`s Great grandparents came to NZ from Ireland in 1842 and there were many Michaels,Patricks and Thomas`s amoungst them.

Avril Brand said...

Thank you so much for the comment, Ngaio!! During the middle 1800's (as you know) Ireland was really in a bad situation with the famine, oppression and horrific starvation. Although, most likely in 1842 (just before the famine) your poor ancestors were probably not 'volunteers' to go to NZ.. brave people! Wishing you all a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!!