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Father Ferris comments:

"We had an evening session in Baile na Tona and it was held in Jer's house. When he broke the circle round the kitchen fire and went to fetch the bronze axe from the parlour, none of us realised that he was adding a new chapter, possibly of several thousand years to Irish history."

Now I am not saying that Jeremiah O'Riordan of Baile na Tona did in fact add a few thousand years to Irish history or prove that there was human habitation in any part of the country in Stone Age times. I am reminding you that your particular part of the habitable earth has been carefully examined and any evidence of human habitation has been put on record.

About the year AD 250 we hear of a strong ruling family at a place called Rath Raithleann not far from Sraid an Mhuilinn, some eight or nine miles north of Bandon near Kilcrea Abbey. This was the place called Templemaryin or Gurranes, which was to become very important a few hundred years later when a man called Amergin, a smith, set up his workshop there. He was to become the father of St. Finbarr. But back in 250 AD this new people, descended from Oliol Ollum, a famous king. Eoghan Mor was his son and all the families descended from him became known as the Eoghannachta.

The Eoghannachta at Raithleann we know as the O'Mahonys. They must have responded to the Christian missionaries far readier than the Muscrai Luachra who were the ancient settlers of the district. The efforts of Saint Ita to Christianise the Millstreet area are well described by Father Ferris. We must remember that the headquarters of the Pagan Muscrai was at Craobh Dearg under the Paps. The military centre of the area was however the splendid fort at Drisean.

St. Ita encouraged her followers to capture this fort and when the Gaels had replaced the fortifications of the fort and had settled in the area keeping away from Cullen, she decided on a site for a new convent: 'It will be in the smiling fertile valley of the upper Fionn Abha'. The Gaelic chieftains did not like this, as a convent away from their great fort in Drisean would be a very heavy responsibility. They told her that Drisean was a natural site for a convent. Ita replied, 'The upper Fionn Abha valley'. They praised the rich pastures of Drisean. Ita was adamant: 'The upper Fionn Abha valley'. Drisean was sheltered, 'The upper Fionn Abha valley'. So near the fortress. 'The upper Fionn Abha valley.' There was no use in talking.

The Gaelic warriors however took their precautions. Under the chapter in Ferris's book "The homesteads of old Drisean", under the single townland of Cloch- bhuaile Mor in this neighbourhood, there you will find eleven forts, nine of them with a double rampart. The Gaelic warriors took their precautions and St. Ita had her way and established her convent at Cill Mo Ide (Kilmeedy) in the upper Fionn Abha valley, protected by the Gaelic forts. The year was AD 532.


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