09 – Ballymacadane abbey

It is close to old abbey railway bridge itself, in fact a holy water font from the Abbey is still present as part of the structure of Old Abbey bridge. It is down very low on the left side of the bridge as you travel from waterfall pub towards Warner’s cross or Bandon. It is carved out in the shape of a heart, small, easy to miss, but remember, some man somewhere in the past walked over to Ballymacadane Abbey in the field beyond, and hauled this big stone with the holy water font carved out in it, and placed it as part of the structure of the bridge, named after the Abbey. We can only say to him now, whoever he was – Fair play to him for such a nice touch.

The first thing that will hit you about the Abbey is the creeping ivy, smothering the remains of what is left of it. Cromwell’s men under Colonel Phair destroyed it in 1650, and ever since it has been battered by the elements. It was built around 1450. It existed as a residence for nuns and for a period also as a holy place for the Franciscan Third Order. Tradition has it that it was built by CORMAC LAIDIR MAC CARTHAIG for his daughter Nora, hence Bailenora – the townland of Nora. Sounds very plausible. Nora wanted to follow the contemplative life, so her father built her Ballymacadane Abbey.

During those 200 years, and for centuries previous, the Celtic psyche was steeped in a tribe mentality. At one stage you had nearly 200 truths or territories in Ireland. All of the lands in each TERRITORY or tuath belonged to all the tribe. Within the tribe you had a leading family, out of which came the CHIEF. The Feudal system of LORD and SERF and dukes etc. which was all over Europe, was not known in Ireland. It was alien to the Irish Psyche as such. When the English finally got dominance in Ireland, they brought with them, the feudal system of Lord and serf. Ireland had developed along the lines of big strong family names that held huge tracts of land and property. The Mac Carthys, O Connors, Desmondss, Barry, O Neills, O Donnells, and many more. The English were there too in the 1500 hundreds, battling for supremacy in Ireland. It is easy to understand how Cormac Laidir mac Carthaig and the rest of the mac Carthy clan could decide to build an Abbey in Ballymacadane. The Mac Carthys had land apparently that stretched from Youghal to parts of today’s Cork City, and practically the whole of Muskerry. But it wasn’t until the Reign of King Henry 8th, that Ireland finally became a crushed people. His Reign began in 1515. Every move he made had only one objective, to destroy everything Irish and make them part of the superior English race. The Introduction of Protestant Reformation ideals justified every kind of execution and slaughter. The destruction of the Monasteries, churches and schools. Poets and historians were to be killed, and all their books destroyed, so that nobody would ever know who their grandparents were. However, the clans and the chiefs held on to their Catholic Faith, as did many others, including the Irish Norman Nobles, the Desmonds, the Fitgeralds, (the Geraldines)

I write this to try and paint a picture of the vicious troubled times Ballymacadane Abbey experienced right here in Ballinora parish, and what plunder and pillage took place before the Abbey was finally destroyed by men, who must have been ferociously full of hatred for the Catholic Pope and what he stood for. The powerful Cannon Ball knocked everything it hit. No building could last, whole cities and towns were destroyed, before Cromwell finally set sail from Youghal for England. In 8 months Cromwell destroyed any Irish resistance, subdued the whole country, and left the Irish at the mercy of the English Parliament. Ballymacadane Abbey was but a small part of his fearful work. I can only shake my head now when I think of all the Holy nuns who lived there, praying and praising God night and day, the same God that Cromwell’s men worshipped, and who believed in some perverted way that they were doing God’s work by trying to exterminate those who believed in the Catholic faith.

It is very hard for us today, to imagine how thoughts and thinking have changed so much, over the centuries. Today’s orthodoxy becomes tomorrows antiquity. Back in 1649, one year before Ballymacadane Abbey was destroyed, on October 2nd, the English Parliament appointed a National thanksgiving day in celebration of the slaughter of Drogheda in Co Louth, by Oliver Cromwell. Throughout the lifetime of Ballymacadane Abbey England tried every scheme, plot and pillage to annihilate the Irish race. Reading and studying the history of Ireland during the 14th 15th and 16th centuries is tear jerking stuff, hard to believe, but when one thinks what Hitler and his believers did to the Jews, one can only sigh a deep sigh, and say, “Man’s inhumanity to man.”

It would be a crying shame if Ballymacadane Abbey was left to go to ruin entirely – if the once Holy Place fell into such a ruin that some bulldozer comes along and levels it to the ground. Ballymacadane Abbey is centre stage in the Heritage of Ballinora. Ruin though it is now, and it need not be so, it still stands for God, for triumph, for endurance, perseverance, and as a people that have prevailed.