Below Knocknarea, on the north-facing slopes, the first modern church in Coolera was built in the late 18th century. The little church was so modest that the thatched roof was said to have been supported by the ribs of a whale.
It was built in an area where Catholics had met at a Mass rock for religious worship during the Penal days of the 17th and 18th centuries, when repressive laws had been enforced against Catholics and Protestant Dissenters. Tradition has it that when Mass was said there in the open air, a wren used to perch in a nearby hole or burrow above the altar. The name ‘Wren’s Burrow’ changed over time to Ransboro and gave the area its name.
In the 1820s, the thatched church was replaced by a stone building, now a private residence, and a small school was held also in the church. With the help of donations from the Church of Ireland parishioners of St John’s parish, the Catholic church was improved over the following years and a bell tower was added in 1856.
The mountain church was replaced by the modern church at Ransboro crossroads in 1964.
Ransboro was the scene of popular outcry on occasion. The transfer from Ransboro of a popular curate, Fr Peter O’Connor, in 1851 aroused great protests and his successor found the church doors nailed shut when he arrived to say Mass the following week.
People power came to the fore again in May 1886, when over 2,000 people came together at Red Gate to build a house for a family evicted from their farm holding. Led by the Knocknarea branch of the National Land League, which campaigned for rights for farming tenants, they laid the foundations on a Wednesday, built, roofed and thatched the two-room house on Thursday and completed the job at 17.30pm that day when they lit the kitchen fire. The family lived there for 20 years until they secured a farm holding at nearby Primrose Grange, with the support of local tenant farmers. The Land League House was occupied until the 1950s until the last family left and the house fell into ruin. Redgate is beside the modern roundabout on the L3508 and the roundabout is known as Redgate crossroads.
The Coolera Peninsula originally consisted of the three parishes of Kilmacowen, Killaspugbrone and St John in the Barony of Tireragh. Ransboro holds two of the three historic Christian church sites on the peninsula, Kilmacowen church and graveyard, which date originally to the 6th century AD, and Templenabree on the L7520 near Ballisodare Bay, which is now in ruins. It is believed Templenabree is not as old as Kilmacowen church but belonged to a community of nuns from around the 13th century. The name Templenabree, in Irish Teampull na Brúigh, means ‘the church of the sea marsh’ but it also was called Temple na Galliagh Doo on old maps, ‘the church of the black-robed nuns’. The third site is Killaspugbrone near Strandhill.
FROM HERE YOU CAN:
- Visit Carrowmore megalithic monuments and their interpretive centre on the L3508.
- Walk the shore of Ballisodare Bay at Kellystown and gaze across at the scenic Ox Mountains (L7520).
- Visit peaceful Kilmacowen church and graveyard, which date back to the 6th century AD (L7509).
Take happy memories with you but leave no litter and respect the ancient monuments. Watch out for other walkers and traffic.