The following is taken from the O'Donoghue Papers. This collection of notes on local history by Fr. O'Donoghue C.C. comes from 1917. We would like to thank Gobnait Creed for lending the collection to the Cumann Staire.
Ballingeary Church (The First Church): John Corcoran, Chapel Man 2. 11. 1917.
With John Corcoran I visited the site of the old Church. It stood in a small enclosure behind the houses at the S. W. end of the village. The old main road skirted the S. end of the village, and passed by the southern fence of the enclosure. It is now a póirse or laneway. The entrance to the enclosure id still pointed out, as it quits this laneway on the north. Nothing now remains of the old Church, except a few corner stones, scattered here and there. But the site of the old Church is fairly traceable. It was about 40 feet long by about 30 feet wide, and was roofed with heath. The heath of the roof could be reached by a person standing on the ground. The doorway was on the East side, and the Altar on the West side. We give here a sketch of the Church as it probably appeared then.
The Present Church (built in 1809):
Mass was said in the Church one Sunday in the fortnight. For the rest the parishioners had to travel to Inchigeela. The priest came on horseback. When Fr. Jerh. Holland arrived in the parish he was determined to erect a new Church. A site was procured, where the present Church stands, free of rent from Graham, the landlord. The flags ad slates for roofing were forthcoming from the slate quarry at Illauninagh, and soon the good priest had the joy of seeing an edifice suitable for the time and the locality erected to the worship of the Lord. The Church as it then stood remains entirely, comprising the aisles and part of the nave of the present Church. It ran north by south and was about 100 feet long by about 20 feet wide. The entrance door was on the north side and the Altar on the south. There were four windows to light the Church.
As the wall behind the Altar was damp, the idea was conceived of putting slates to preserve the dryness. A little sacristy was fitted up west of the sanctuary, a door led through into the sanctuary.
Some 40 years later, as the congregation grew in numbers, it was determined to add to the Church, and part of the East wall was thrown down, and the modern nave of the Church was erected, running East by West. The old door was closed up, and the two modern aisle doors, one on the north side and another on the south side were then opened. The main door was put at the entrance of the nave on the southside where it stands at present. The Altar was then removed and placed at the centre of the west wall of the old Church facing the new nave and so situated that it lay between the two windows on the west wall. A window which was over the old north door was also shut up by Fr. Holland.
A gallery, too, was erected at the East end of the nave (the back of the Church) supported by four props standing on a line with the E. end of the doorway and of the present Baptistery. The gallery was entered by a stairs and door from the E. end inside of the doorway. It was large enough to contain ten seats each side. Some of the seats with pointed heads still remain in the nave of the Church.
The Altar was shut off from the nave and the aisles by a railing. At the southern end of the railings inside, a door led from the sacristy where the modern bookcase now is in the present inner sacristy. Through this door the priest went and along inside the rails to the Altar. The S. wall of the old sacristy was on a line with the Southern wall of the old Church, but the N. wall went further in towards the sanctuary than the modern dividing wall between the two sacristies just enough to give room for the door (2 feet). There was a window in the South side, and an old cupboard since gone to ruin in the W. side, and the door on the N. side. The roof slanted westwards. At the N. corner of the Altar rails, and on the eastside nearest the nave stood the Baptismal Font.
On Fr. Hurley's arrival in the parish he commenced some improvements which were completed in the Easter of 1888. He cut the field behind the sanctuary and made way for the Altar to be removed back.. Two present sacristies built, stained glass windows, seats, roof and ceiling, new slates were put in, and the old were given away. Some of them are all over the country, viz. J. Corcorans and principally Healys (formerly Sullivans). The gallery was knocked down, and taken to Fr. Hurley's, the priests house. Porches and Baptistery were erected. The old font is still in the Parish Priest's house.
The Old School:
Besides the Church, Fr. Jerh. Holland also built a school on the south east angle of the present chapel yard. The school was about 45 feet long by 14 feet internal measurement. It was slated with the old slates from Illauninagh. Before the Irish College started in Ballingeary, Fr. Hurley added 10 feet to the school, and roofed the whole building with new slates. The additional portion was put on the eastern side, nearest the public road, on which side also is a large double door, bearing the inscription.
The old school was built in 1831, (old boy's school). Williams, a Protestant farmer who lived where Luceys in Kilmore lived, refused the site. So the bed of the river was raised by old Fr. Holland and Richard Browne gave the site of the school. The school came under the Nat. Board in 1845.
In 1831 the Nat. Board was established. Healy was the first teacher, he was born in Kerry, probably in Derrynane, was 6 feet tall, athletic and used to teach the boys to swim. In 1847 he went to America, owing to bad times. The school was then mixed. After him came Corkery from Bealnamarv, - came to Ballingeary from Inchigeela, married Fanny Barry, first cousin of old Barry (Kilbarry). After him in 1880 came Diarmuid Ó Tuathaigh.