Oils on canvas (20 × 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.Picture of little_ark.jpgHe believed that if a suitable structure could be built it could be brought to the shore inKilbaha 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. Loop Head History
The photo below is of The Little Ark
I have a painting in my mind… showing the hill and ruins overlooking the harbour… indeed, I think I must paint it!