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Sunday, August 22, 2010


There is a little church in Kilcatherine
RC not Church of England. As I recall
it, the Church of St Catherine is in a
small village consisting of the church
a post office, three pubs and about a
dozen or so houses.

My father went to Mass at St Catherine's
his father, grandfathers and great grand-
fathers before him.

Great grandfather, Michil Anna  O' Sullivan
had a row there, in the 1800's, with the P.P.
(Parish Priest) when the P.P. read Michil
Anna's name from the altar to shame him
for not  making the customary Christmas

In my father's day, the West Cork IRA
flying column hid their rifles and ammo
in that church above the altar. The
Black and Tan's never knew.

When in Eyeries, I stayed on the Strand
Road with relations Noreen and Joe (The
Post) O Sullivan. St. Catherine's Holy
Well, a popular place in the 1800's is
in a shed at the back of the house.

Mish Kish Mountain lies to the North.
Since medieval times, it has served as
the commons were the sheep of local
farmers mingle together in summer.

Coulagh Ard (The High Field) and
the home place of my great-great
grandparents John O'Sullivan (Shearhig)
and Mary Murphy, is on the West
slope facing the Atlantic off in the

Below is Inchinteskin , the home
place of my grandfather Michael J
and his parents, Sean Michil Anna
O Sullivan and Johanna O Sullivan
Shearhig.  Before them it was the
home farm of  Michil Anna O Sullivan
who came over from Adrigole ca
early 1800's and his wife  Sile
O' Sullivan, Ni Hurrig of Cahirkeem.
Michil Anna was a block of a man, with
raven black hair and dark eyes. Sile
was 6 foot 1 in her bare feet .

Down the Strand Road from Noreen
and Joe's, lies Coulagh Bay and the
ruins of the home of Murthy Oge
O'Sullivan, a soldier of fortune  in
the 1700's ,who held a Commission in
the Austrian Army of Maria Theresa,
who fought in France and at Culloden
Moor with Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Murthy Oge was also a smuggler and

Murthy Oge's sloop would quietly drop
anchor in Coulagh Bay, laden with
French wines, brandys and silks. Fires
were lit on the beach and the boyos
came down from the surrounding
mountains and glens to enjoy the
hogsheads of brandy.

When they awoke, they were at sea
on their way to fight in the armies of

As late as the 1980's, Cousin Mary Stephen
Paddy O, who , with tumbler of Irish
whiskey in hand, in O Neill's Pub, sang
to me in the Irish.

After, I rode out to Urhan, with Cousin Big
Michael Hanley, Mary Stephen Paddy
O and some of the others. The women
bid Michael pause at the Gortnabulliga
graveyard, just West of the High Cross.

As we sat there, Mary Stephen Paddy
O, and the other old women, began to
lament for their husbands who lay at
rest in the graveyard.

Then, they took up a lament for  all
our ancestors who had been impressed
by Murthy Oge, 200 years before. They
concluded by cursing the memory of
Murthy Oge (The Impressor).

Many times I stopped at St Catherine's
Church to say a prayer, and also
visited Cousin Donal Harrington's Pub
across the street, just opposite the
front door of the Church. Also, O Shea's
 Pub, at the back of the church, just beyond
the  old village water pump, where my relations
Paddy Houlihan Suvane, the Harringtons of
Kilcatherine, Murphy Maheesh of Inchinteskin
and the Harrington's of Goulane would gather.
Or O'Neill's Pub  across the street from
the church, where Big Michael and
Paddy Suvane , the Cronins, Michael
Crowley, of Urhan, Con O Sullivan  of
Filedarrig, and more relations would gather
for the customary sing song on Saturday
evenings after the vigil Mass.

Safe to say,  the number of pints of  Guinness
consumed, and songs sung, far exceeded the
number of prayers said.

One day long ago, the Parish Priest
was giving a sermon about the joys of

Murphy and some of the other men
were standing in the back of the church
as was their custom.

The priest asked for a show of hands -
who was ready to go to heaven?  Almost
everyone in the church raised their
hands, except for Murphy.

The priest repeated his question and
still Murphy did not raise his hand.

The priest said: Murphy, - is it so, you
don't want to go to heaven?

Murphy paused for a moment and
replied, sure and I do, Father,  but I thought
you were leaving now. Not now, for me

We can agree with those who believe in
Islam- God is Great. But we have different
views of Heaven, what it is like, who gets
to go there, and what they must do to get

Islam, Christianity, and our Constitutional
Republican form of government  here in
America, are simply, not compatible.

Nor, is Islam compatible with the way of
life in Beara.

Like Murphy, heaven may be a wonderful
place, but many of us like our lives here on
earth and are not in a hurry to go just now.

There is a line in the Irish ballad Galway
Bay that goes..."The women in the uplands
speak a language that the strangers do not
know. They came and tried to change us, but
they may as well try to light a penny candle
from a star".

So, it is with those who follow Islam.

Leave us be as we are. Don't come, and don't
try to change us. If you can't live here in peace
and assimilate into our way of life - leave.

For those Americans who mistakenly believe
that the the furor over the siting a mosque in
the shadow of Ground Zero, is about religious
freedom and First Amendment Rights - it is
not.  Those who believe this, do not know the
true nature of Islam.

                                           Joe Sullivan

1 comment:

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