The History of Eyeries
The villagers of Eyeries take pride in a story that stretches back hundreds of years. Winners of many Tidy Towns awards, Eyeries Village is renowned for the bright, pastel paintwork of its terraced houses, the stunning view of the surrounding hillsides, the sweeping vista of the Beara Peninsula, the always-changing face of Coulagh Bay, the rising swell of the distant Kerry Mountains, and an unbroken horizon that is often painted in stunning sunsets.
Eyeries is remarkable: one of the most south-westerly villages in Ireland, it is situated on a bluff that overlooks Coulagh Bay and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean. Those who live or visit here can spend hours listening to the surf, taking in the gentle smell of the ocean, walking to the sandy and rocky beaches only minutes away, or just simply relaxing in the tranquillity and joy that is to be found here.
Eyeries (historically spelt Irees or Iries, from the Irish: na hAoraí) is a village and townland on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork, Ireland overlooking Coulagh Bay and the mouth of the Kenmare River in the south-west. It lies at the base of Maulin which, at 2,044 feet (623 m), is the highest peak in the Slieve Miskish mountain range that forms part of the backbone of the peninsula. Due its stunning location, Eyeries has been used as the backdrop for a number of films including The Purple Taxi (1977) starring Fred Astaire, Peter Ustinov, and Charlotte Rampling, and also the 1998 TV series Falling for a Dancer, a dramatisation of life and love in 1930s Ireland based on the novel by Deirdre Purcell. Very recently, Irish Director Neil Jordan has been shooting his latest film Byzantium in nearby locations. (Source: Wikipedia)
Hundreds of years ago, Eyeries was known as Kilcatherine Parish, called after a cleric named Caitighearn who was brought from France by the Beara Luingseachain in the middle of the 3rd century. To quote in Gaelic the tradition handed down from generation to generation of the Gaelic speakers of the parish: "I lar treas aoise thainig se". So Christianity existed in this parish long before the advent of St. Patrick.
The Church which the Luingseachain built for Caitighearn, and which was extended over the years, has been known since as Cill Chaitigheairn (hence the original name of the parish), and his memory was celebrated for centuries on January 31st (known locally as St. Catherine's Day).
There are traces of an ancient 29 ft. 6 inch X 18 ft. 6 inch Church, with a surrounding Cilleenach (the burial place of children who died before they were Baptised), in Pairc a' Teampaill (pairc – a field; teampall – a Church), Cahirkeem, and a Cilleenach with an ancient carved-out stone cross and a collapsed Beehive-Church high on the hillside in Cahiravart in the Kilmacowen district. The last Church in Beara to be closed down during the terrible Penal Laws was in what is now the Cilleenach beside the O'Sullivan (Croumhane) house in Coulagh. The stones from the ruins of this Church were later used in the building of Kilmacowen Primary School.
During the Penal Laws a Priest celebrating Mass at a Mass-Rock on the hillside high up over Glenbeg Lake (near Ardgroom Village) was beheaded by the Red-Coats (British soldiers) and his body buried about 200 metres away. Another Mass-Rock is to be seen at Cnocan an Aifrinn (the hillock of the Mass) in Cahirkeem. The priests often lived in caves near the Mass-Rocks in those times.
There are two Churches in use in the Parish now. Eyeries Church, located in the village, was built in 1823-1825. The original Church was a much smaller one – from north to south on both sides of the present altar. It was enlarged in 1843, and further improved on in 1883. Ardgroom Church, the building of which began during the Famine, was officially opened in 1848.