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|The Stone Crosses of Kilfenora by Jack Flanagan|
The Ballyshanny Cross
In 1782 Henry Pelham had marked in his map a standing cross in Ballyshanny but, in 1821, when Dr Petrie visited the site he said, “it is likely soon to follow the fate of its neighbouring ones being at present broken and prostrate.” Now we have only the site marked on the Ordnance Survey map. When I first visited the site, about 1944, I was surprised to find a piece of an arm of a cross on the stone wall nearby. It was about 8 or 9 inches long, about 6 inches in thickness, octagonal in shape, and having a two-inch tenon at one end. I replaced the arm back on the wall but when I re-visited the site many years later, to my dismay, I failed to relocate it.
There is a plain octagonal shaft of a cross about 7 feet tall standing at the north angle of the Cathedral and sacristy. Westropp, in describing this cross said, “the arms of a small cross (the left one lost) the extremities ending in trefoils has been struck on to the shaft with no regard for taste or fact.” This suggests parts of the two crosses, but I doubt if this opinion is correct, for the piece of cross I found in Ballyshanny would be identical to the arms on the shaft here. Local tradition has it that this cross was brought in from outside and placed here for its protection. Mr. Etienne Rynne said “it is the only post-Reformation high cross in Kilfenora.”
We had no more information on this cross until, lo and behold, a surprise article appeared in the Bórd Fáilte magazine, “Ireland of the Welcomes”, of May-June 1999 by Peter Harbison. This cross must have intrigued Henry Pelham for he drew a scale drawing and described it in detail as follows:-
We can see the similarity between this cross and the one near the Cathedral so in all probability they are one and the same, and post-Reformation. If so, who caused it to be erected? It has no resemblance to a Celtic cross, just a plain type of boundary or marker cross. In the years after the Reformation the priests and people were hunted down, nothing was raised up, so again I say who erected this cross in such a troubled period. To me there is only one family that comes to mind, that is the McDonough family of Ballykeal. They supported the church in many ways. They fought hard to retain their family tomb within the cathedral which they succeeded in doing. We can see they built or repaired St Factnan’s well in 1687 from the inscription thereon.
The Irish who took part in the rebellion of 1641 lost their lands. Daniel O Shanny lost his lands of Ballyshanny, so Timothy and Cornelius McDonough then became the occupiers. The McDonoughs would have known all about the crosses, so I surmise here for what it’s worth that the McDonoughs would, for whatever reason, have erected this cross in Ballyshanny.
As we have noted Henry Pelham included in his map of Clare the site of three crosses around Kilfenora, and he made a drawing of one, which is of great interest locally. This drawing of the cross was only recently acquired by the National Library of Ireland Ms. 2122 TX (20). Henry Pelham was born in Boston U.S.A. His father was from London and his mother was a Singeton from Co. Clare. Eventually he came to visit his uncle, John Singeton, who lived near Newmarket-on-Fergus, who was of landed gentry. Pelham was an artist, engraver, draughtsman, and trained to be an engineer, so he got much work and made a map of Co. Clare, the only one of any Irish county. Sadly he died or was drowned in Kenmare bay in 1806, where he was supervising the erection of Martello towers.