Bells ring out in Borrisoleigh under the guild of St Cualan

John Connors


John Connors


Bells ring out  in Borrisoleigh under the guild of St Cualan

Some local talent try their hand at the bell-ringing

With the Reformation and the subsequent suppression of the Monasteries, (1536 – 1541), the monks who were fortunate to escape with their lives, either went into hiding or fled to the continent. With churches and monasteries reduced to ruins, the monastic bells fell silent, their tolls and peals to be heard no more throughout the towns and countryside.

On Friday last, the ancient and historic monastery of famous Glenkeen reverberated once again to the chimes of bells. As the guild of St Cualan hand-bell ringers performed their marathon peal in the confines of the old ruin, one could not help but wonder when and what was life like when last a bell chimed in that hallowed place.

Pic: The guild of St Cualan hand-bell ringers are welcomed in the local Church of the Sacred Heart

In total, nine bell-ringers along with a number of friends, came to Borrisoleigh on Friday 27th. Having taken the name of the patron saint of the parish for their guild, their coming to Borrisoleigh was for them, reaching their spiritual home, their Mecca. A small informal ceremony took place in the Sacred Heart Church where our visitors were appropriately welcomed. Fr Gerard Hennessy P.P. in his welcome, gave a brief history of the churches of the parish and a word on Bishops Joseph Shanahan and Thomas Quinlan, two of the most famous missionaries of Borrisoleigh.

John Flannery of Ormond Historical Society gave a history of the famous bell of St Cualan and Luchia Ryan along with Kay Ryan, gave a short outline of the work of St Cualan’s social club and St Cualan’s National School, respectively. The voluntary caterers at the parish community centre deserve special thanks for providing soup, tea and sandwiches.

Pic: Part of the group at the ancient monastery of Glenkeen

The group then made their way to Glenkeen graveyard. There they were met by Paudie Bourke who gave a rendition of “The Minstrel Boy” and “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. As the clouds began to gather, five bell-ringers took their positions under the shadow of the famed Dwyer/ DeBurgo coat of arms and commenced their three-hour marathon peal. The four remaining ringers returned to Borrisoleigh and there, under the replica St Cualan’s bell in the parish church, began their performance. Those who were not involved in the bell-ringing, were kindly taken by Fr Hennessy to visit Ileigh church, the Bishop Shanahan Monument and Holy Cross Abbey.

Meanwhile at Glenkeen, the clouds began to darken and very soon the rain began to fall. If it had not been for John Flannery’s foresight in having a gazebo at the ready and some willing hands to relieve the rain as it began to weigh on it’s roof, that segment of the performance would have literally been a washout. Under the most trying of conditions, the bell-ringers cheerfully continued and completed their marathon peal.

During the performances, quite a number of people dropped into both venues, to hear and see, parts of the recitals. Despite the incessant rain, a few hardy souls, sheltering beneath the trees, stayed in Glenkeen until the last note of the final chime sounded.

To complete the day and one final connection with St Cualan, our visitors, along with their friends, adjourned to Finn’s pub. There, they sampled the ale of master brewer Cualan Loughnane from Templemore.

A special word of gratitude to everyone who contributed to making the day such an outstanding success. Fr Gerard Hennessy P.P. The caterers at the Community Centre, Luchia Ryan of St Cualan’s social Club and Kay Ryan, St Cualan’s N.S. Martin and Catherine Ryan, the Glebe, who provided parking at Glenkeen and generously catered for the bell-ringer, once their recital was complete.

Thanks to the many people who came to see and hear these amazing artists and to all who welcomed those visitors to our parish.