Monday 15 April 2024

Kerry and Cork parish histories by maverick priest finally see light of day

Brendan McCarthy pictured at the launch of his Book ‘Fr. Ferris’s Parish Histories – Rathmore, Gneeveguilla and Knocknagree, at Teach losagáin, Rathmore last Friday evening. Photos by Sheila Fitzgerald

There was a genuine sense of live history unfolding at Teach Íosagáin in Rathmore on Friday night, and not just because long-dormant manuscripts written by maverick priest Fr William Ferris finally saw the light of day.

The launch of ‘Fr Ferris’s Parish Histories’ for Rathmore, Gneeveguilla, and Knocknagree was the obvious highlight of Friday’s events, with Kilcummin’s former GAA President Seán Kelly MEP taking on the launch duties. He and the book’s editor, Brendan McCarthy, were among the speakers on a night emceed by Brendan’s brother, but there was a lot more to proceedings than that.

In front of a crowd of about 70 people, Glenbeigh piper Stephen Scales played Domhnall A’ Phumpa’s Reel on the uileann pipes – which Brendan explained to The Kerryman and The Corkman was a moment steeped in history.

“Domhnall A’ Phumpa was an uileann piper from Gneeveguilla, we don’t know an awful lot about him, we think he lived about 200 years ago, we’re not quite sure,” Brendan said. “He gave his name to a reel, collected from an old man in the 1960s. Stephen was good enough to relearn that tune from the music collector who had taken notes in the 1960s.

“I thought it was a very nice touch that it could been decades, generations maybe, since that was heard played on the original uileann pipes. When it was collected in the 1960s, it was played on a fiddle.”

Fr Ferris, who died 53 years ago, recorded oral histories in many of the parishes he served in, but his refusal to make changes ordered by Bishop Michael O’Brien meant his work laid for many years in libraries in Cork and Kerry. Brendan has set about righting that wrong, having already published a similar book six years ago concerning Ballymacelligott, Ballyseedy, O’Brennan, and Nohoval.

If the project met resistance from a Bishop in Fr Ferris’s day, it’s no longer the case, as Bishop Ray Browne attended on Friday as a steadfast supporter of Brendan’s work having launched his previous book.

Domhnall A’ Phumpa is just one of many people referenced in the book, painstakingly organised by Brendan. This latest work is indexed by names and townlands, and some of the people in attendance scrolled through these indices furiously on Friday, some of them finding the names of their ancestors in the process.

“There was a real sense of live history,” Brendan said.

If you’d like to pick up a copy, you can order one on; pop in to Polymath and O’Mahony’s bookstores in Tralee; or the Dungeon bookstore in Killarney.

Brendan said that he hopes to get around to similar publications about Firies, Millstreet, and Allihies. Firies could be first on the agenda, but it may take a little time as this work isn’t easy.

“I’m thinking of doing Firies next because I think it’s an area that really hasn’t been covered by a lot of history works so far, but it usually takes two to three years from transcribing these notes, making sense of them, deciphering the handwriting to actually getting them typeset, published, and printed,” Brendan said.