Killarney | Irish : Cill Airne : Church of the Sloes

Killarney is renowned in song and story:

How can you buy Killarney

An American landed on Eiren’s green isle
He gazed on Killarney with rapturous smile
“Now how can I buy it?” he said to his guide
“Sure I’ll tell you how” with a smile he replied.

How can you buy all the stars in the sky?
How can you buy two blue Irish eyes?
How can you purchase a fond mother’s sigh?
How can you buy Killarney?

Nature bestowed all her gifts with a smile
The Emerald, the Shamrock, the Blarney.
When you buy all these wonderful things
Then you can buy Killarney.

Nature bestowed all her gifts with a smile
The Emerald, the Shamrock, the Blarney.
When you buy all these wonderful things
Then you can buy Killarney.

The earliest evidence of prehistoric settlement in Killarney dates back at least 4000 years evidence being in the copper mines at Ross Island. It has been established that these mines may be the oldest copper mines discovered in Northern Europe. In Killarney National Park to the northeast are prehistoric sites, eg. Fulachta Fiadha (cooking sites), Standing Stones, and an impressive Stone circle at Lissyviggeen. From the early Christian Period circa 450AD- 1200AD are Ringforts and also a Promontory Fort on Dundag Point suggested by a Souterrain and possible fortifications
Artists, writers and naturalists have long been enthralled by Killarney, and have responded with pictures, stories and songs.
There are few places in the world that has been so much written and sung about. The name readily evokes the wild beauty of lake, mountain and valley. Every type of accommodation is offered in the town, from caravan and camping park, to hostels, and to 5 star hotels with every luxury. Many and varied are the restaurant and diners here. The heart of Killarney is its natural beauty. Revered by druids, disputed by warlords, coveted by landlords, Killarney Valley, with its forests, castles and monasteries is in the words of Arthur Vincent (former owner of Muckross House) “a playground for the world”. It is the ideal playground for the sporting enthusiast- you can swim, fish, golf, play tennis, ride a pony, paddle a canoe, or climb a mountain. For those interested in ornithology, history, archaeology and nature study there are many outstanding items and interesting things to be seen. The town originated in the 9th century as a religious site. Early in the 17th century Sir Valentine Browne decided to develop a village around Killarney Church, and by the 1620s it already comprised of forty good English houses. However, the emerging town was largely destroyed during the Cromwellian wars. The existing street layout was the work of Thomas Browne (1726-1795) fourth Viscount Kenmare and it first became a tourist centre in the middle of the 18th century.

Legends of Killarney:
Legend of the Devil’s Bowel and Devil’s Island:
At the top of Mangerton Mountain is a wide and steep chasm known as the Devil’s Punchbowl. This Bowl is the source of Killarney’s water supply; however in the good oul days it was filled with the finest punch in Ireland. At that time the devil was an absentee landlord of that area paying occasional visits. On one of his visits he invited O’Donoghue of Ross Castle to drink with him at the Punch Bowel and O’Donoghue rather than cross Oul Nick decided to accept his invitation. He rowed his boat under Brickeen Bridge across the Long Range and landed at the foot of Torc and made his way to the Devil’s Punch Bowel. Here a drinking session soon developed and eventually a heated argument broke out. During the argument O’Donoghue struck the Devil a ferocious blow, which rendered him unconscious. At this point O’Donoghue decided to leg it back to his boat. As soon as the devil regained consciousness he gave chase down the mountainside and over Torc. From there he caught sight of O’ Donoghue rowing furiously across the Long Range. The devil in his rage bit off a piece of the mountaintop and threw it down on O’Donoghue. However he was still slightly groggy and he missed, so O’Donoghue made it safely to Ross Castle.
To this day the boatmen or jarvies will point out to you the spot from which the bit was taken and if you do not believe them you can see the identical mountain piece in the Middle Lake called Devil’s Island.

The Legend of O’Sullivan’s Cascade:
Long ago O’Sullivan of Tomies was returning home from a hunt when a stag broke in front of him. He was bigger than any stag he had ever seen with a collar of gold around his neck. Immediately he set his hounds on its trail and this stag led him a merry dance, westward along the shores of Lough Lein towards the Laune, straight through the Gap of Dunloe back over the Purple Mountain, by the Eagle’s Nest he crossed the river and eventually he stopped at the exact spot on Tomies where he had first sighted him. Here the stag disappeared as if the ground had swallowed him. The hounds were unable at this point to pick up the scent. Finally O’Sullivan called his dogs to heel. Just as he was about to depart he saw Fionn Mac Cumhal standing on a rock above him. Fionn roared at him “how dare you hunt my stag” and as he spoke the ground trembled. However his roaring did not shake O’Sullivan and he said, “I claim the right of the chase, the right of all true Irishmen”. The boldness of O’Sullivan seemed to amuse Fionn, he patted O’Sullivan on his back and said “If it was anyone else but you O’Sullivan I would exact vengeance from him”, instead he offered him a drink by digging his heel into the ground and a fountain of Uiscebeatha (Irish for whiskey) poured forth. O’Sullivan drank from it for many a day and it flowed as whiskey until the English set foot in Ireland when it changed into water and from then on was known as O’Sullivan’s cascade.

Origin of the Lakes of Killarney: Long, long ago, before the Milesians or the Tuatha De Danann or even the Firbolgs had come to Ireland the area we know, as the Lakes of Killarney was a lush valley. Everything the inhabitants of this valley required was in abundance except water. Their only source of water was a well, this well was so important all the inhabitants were ordered to replace the cover on the well each time they drew water.
The chieftain that ruled this area had one daughter called Eileen. One summer’s evening before sunset Eileen went to the well to draw water and here she accosted a handsome young warrior who asked her for a drink. Eileen offered him her jug. He sat down beside her and told her of his exploits. Before his storytelling was finished the young maiden was in love with him. She invited him home to meet her father and in her haste she forgot to replace the cover on the well.
As the people of the valley slept that night the well started to overflow a trickle at first but soon emerged as a great flood and everyone in the valley was drowned. This flood formed the Lakes of Killarney.
The jarvies (drivers of the jaunting cars) and boatmen to this day will tell you if you dive to the bottom of the Lakes and replace the cover on the well the waters would recede and the lush valley would return.

Legend of Torc Waterfall:
Long ago when Fairies and Pookas abounded in Ireland there lived at Clohereen near the Blue Pool an honest poor farmer named Larry Hayes. As honest and poor as he was everything seemed to go wrong for him. Any animals he put out for the night to graze would be found dead or missing the following morning. Try as he might he could not figure out who had a grudge against him to carry out these dastardly deeds. One midnight even though fearful of the “Wee Folk” he ventured out to watch over his animals and see for himself what was going on. As the hours went by he decided to call it a night and go home when he saw a huge boar in front of him. He cried out “who are you in the name of God”. The boar replied that he was bewitched, and it was he who had killed his animals, but he was now willing to make amends and if Larry accompanied him he would make him a rich man. Larry followed him through the woods until they came to a rock face over which the cascade now falls, he opened a door in the cliff and ushered Larry into the finest room he had ever seen. Here the boar turned into a handsome young man. After wining and dining him he gave him a bag of gold and told him he could have more anytime he wished. The only condition he imposed was “not to let any mortal know for 7 years what had taken place that night”. Larry vowed so and made for home with the gold.
The neighbours wondered how Larry became so rich so suddenly including his wife, but not a word to anyone did he breathe. One night his wife followed him and when he came out through the door she accosted him and forced him to tell the secret. The boar appeared at the door and yelled at him in anger “you are finished now”. The mountain rocked and the boar was taken up in a ball of flame to Poul an Ifrinn on top of Mangerton Mountain, here he plunged into the Punch Bowel and water burst forth, rushing downwards becoming Torc Waterfall protecting the rock face ever since. After that Larry and his wife were poorer than ever forced to travel the roads of Ireland.

Famous Sons of Killarney:

Monsignor O’Flaherty was born in Killarney in1898 and received his education in Mungret College Limerick and completed his studies in Rome, and instead of becoming a missionary as planned, was seconded to the Vatican Diplomatic Service. O’Flaherty was brought up in Killarney as an I.R.A. sympathiser in a staunchly Republican household. He witnessed the worst atrocities of the Black and Tans and for long detested the British and all they stood for. He was an amateur boxer and golf champion. When World War 2 broke out he was stationed in Vatican City and it was form here he rescued around 3,000 Jews from the Holocaust. He also saved many allied servicemen and escaped British POWs and downed airmen. After the war he was made a Commander of the British Empire for his efforts.
Throughout the war the 6ft.2in. Monsignor played a cat and mouse game with his Nazi nemeses Obersturmbannfuhrer (Colonel) Herbert Kappler. O’Flaherty became known as the Pimpernel of the Vatican, dubbed as Ireland’s Oskar Schindler. Many times Kappler tried to arrest or have O’Flaherty assassinated but was never successful. After the war Keppler was tried and convicted for war crimes and O’Flaherty was the only one to visit him in prison, reaching out to a soul in need, and in March 1959 Kappler sought forgiveness and salvation from Christ and joined in the communion of saints in the waters of baptism- poured by the hand of Mgr. O’Flaherty. Four years later his giant frame crippled by two strokes, Mgr. O’Flaherty died in the front room over the scarlet-painted hardware store owned by his sister in the main street of Caherciveen Co.Kerry.
In 1983 a movie was made about Mgr. O’Flaherty called the Scarlet and the Black, starring Gregory Peck.
In Killarney National Park beside a grove of Italian trees lies a simple brass plaque, which reads, “To honour Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (1898-1963). In Rome during W.W.2 he heroically served the cause of humanity”.
The Israelis now want to plant another tree in Mgr. O’Flaherty’s memory – this time at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Authority also plan to confer the title “Righteous Among Nations” on Mgr. O’Flaherty- the first Irishman to receive this honour.

The Jaunting Car:

A traditional feature of Killarney, they are licensed by the National Park and are available for hire in the town and at other locations adjoining the National Park. The drivers of the jaunting cars are called “jarvies”. A trip on a jaunting car gives you the steady clop of the horses hooves – the soft rumble of the wheels, a strange but comforting movement – the pace is brisk but you still have time to observe flowers and trees and the changing scenery of lakes and mountains. Before the arrival of the car, these light weight, horse- drawn sidecars ruled the roads of Ireland. If you saw the film” The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara you would see them having a trip on a jaunting car.
Descended from the solid “block wheel” carts of the 18th century, they were improved with the additions of springs and hickory shafts to become the elitist transport of the 19th and early 20th centuries. A tour of Killarney is best taken by jaunting car.

St Mary’s:

Saint Mary’s Cathedral: An architecturally noteworthy building in the town. Designed by Augustus Pugin the celebrated 19th century architect, built from 1846- 1855. This fine structure, recently renovated, was built of limestone, cruciform in shape with a massive square central tower capped by a spire.
Parish Church of Saint Mary: This Church of Ireland church, near the Town Hall, was built in 1870 on the site of an earlier 9th century church. The interior is richly decorated and contains a pipe organ built in 1889. The tower houses a clock with pleasant chimes.


Situated in Fair Hill, College Street. Built in 1860, it contains some fine examples of stained glass by Harry Clarke, R.H.A. Opposite the Friary is a monument created by Seamus Murphy in 1940 to honour Kerry’s four best-known poets;( from the 17th and 18th century) who are buried at Muckross Friary, namely Aodhgan O’Raithile, Geoffrey O’Donoghue, Eoghan Rua O’Suilleabhain and Piaras Ferriter.

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