One parish since 1858

The year 1858 was a milestone year for this faith community. It was the first year that the area now known as Enniskeane and Desertserges was joined as one parish with one parish priest.

In that year, Fr Domhnal Ó Súileabháin, a great Irish scholar who was born at the edge of the Warrenscourt Estate near Kilmurry, died as Parish Priest of Kinneigh. He would be the last priest to have that title. He was buried beside the chapel where he had said Mass and administered the sacraments – where Shamrock Cottage was built as a presbytery in Enniskeane.

An tAthair Ó Súileabháin had arrived here from Bandon in 1845 and was to serve in the difficult Famine years. His dedication to the people in his care in those years is reflected in the fact that 14 years after his death, his remains were exhumed and reinterred under the altar of the new church in Enniskeane when it was dedicated in 1872. A plaque near Our Lady’s Shrine records his burial place. He died 160 years ago this year.

The dedication of his contemporary in Desertserges during the Famine, Fr Timothy O’Donovan PP, is similarly recorded on a plaque in Ahiohill church. At the time of Fr. Ó Súileabháin’s death, instead of appointing a new PP to Kinneigh /Enniskeane, Bishop Delany changed the appointment of the then Parish Priest of Desertserges Fr Denis O’Donoghue and appointed him to be the first Parish Priest of Enniskeane and Desertserges. He had been in Desertserges as PP since 1856 and was a native of Bandon. He ministered here until his death in 1867.

Plaque in Ahiohill Church to Fr O’Donovan


Fr Maurice Roche PP (Ahiohill Church founder)

When Maynooth College opened its door to student priests in 1795, Maurice Roche and John Allen were the first Cork students to enrol in the Maynooth, Co. Kildare, college. They were ordained priests of Cork diocese in 1800.

Maurice Roche’s first appointment was as curate in Watergrasshill Parish on the north-east corner of the diocese. A while later he transferred to one of the Bandon churches where he served as curate until 1817 when he was appointed Parish Priest of the nearby parish of Desertserges.

During his time in Ahiohill, the present Church of the Assumption of Our Lady was erected and it was dedicated for worship in 1832 – just a few years after Catholic Emancipation.

Fr Roche served in the parish until his death on April 11th, 1839. He was buried just beside the southern wall of the church whose building he had supervised.

His burial place was marked with a raised limestone slab which was engraved witht he following inscription:-


Beneath This Stone Are Deposited The Remains Of The Rev Maurice Roche

22 Years PP of Desertserges, He Died April 11 Ad1839

Requiescat in Pacem

As the writing was almost illegible by 2016 and the grave was in disrepair, a new limestone slab with the same engraving was commissioned from Pat O’Sullivan and Sons of Clonakilty. It will ensure that Fr Roche’s memory ir preserved for another few generations to come.

Grave of Fr Maurice Roche at Ahiohill church
Grave of Fr Maurice Roche at Ahiohill church
Grave of Fr Maurice Roche at Ahiohill church
Grave of Fr Maurice Roche at Ahiohill church yard before its preservation in 2017. Fr Roche was one of the First two Cork students in the new Maynooth college in 1795. He served as PP of Desertserges from 1817 to 1839.

‘New’ altar for Castletown Church

In discussions in recent years about St. Joseph’s Church, Castletown Kinneigh, we were unable to say precisely when was it dedicated. Browsing the Fehily Chalice story and local lore in recent years I had surmised that it was sometime in the 1860s or 70s.

I was in the church today when the team from Hickeys Headstones, Ovens, took apart the altar that was constructed in 1991. And to confirm that date, inside the structure we found bundles of a newspaper which was used to hold the plaster of Paris while it dried to bond the bits of marble!

1991 Newspaper found embedded in the altar in 2016
Newspaper found embedded in the altar in 2016

As you can see, it dates from Jan 7, 1991.

I don’t think the workmen expected the altar to be taken apart again! Inside the cavity in the altar we also left this:

Cigarette pack from 1991 found inside the altar!
Holy Smoke! Cigarette pack from 1991 found inside the altar!

But, thankfully, they also left something precious.
Leaning against the block work which they built in the centre — and around which they then built the altar with marble slabs –– and down on the ground, I found the original altar stone for the church.
Canon Law stipulates that a permanent altar in a church must have a first class relic of a saint embedded in it. (This continues the link between the Universal Church and the local church building.) These relics were, in the past, almost always brought from Rome for a new altar. The small relic is then embedded and sealed in a stone – or a slab of marble – which was then placed into the altar.

When they disassembled the Castletown Altar in 1991, they put the altar stone into the new altar. A blessing.


The stone itself is a blessing — but maybe as important is that it confirms when the church was dedicated.
The inscription on it reads:
R(ight) Rev(erend) W(illiam) Delany
Bishop of Cork
A. D. 1859

So there we have it — written in stone!

The church and altar were dedicated 157 years ago. Thanks be to God.

— Fr. Tom Hayes PP
Parochial House, Enniskeane, Co Cork