GreatIs­land­was en­try­point­for firstin­hab­i­tants


New Ross Standard - - NEWS - By DAVID LOOBY

AN in­ter­na­tion­ally re­spected univer­sity pro­fes­sor has said that County Wex­ford’s Great Is­land on the es­tu­ary near Campile is most prob­a­bly where the first in­hab­i­tants of Ire­land came from Spain and landed five thou­sand years ago.

Up to now the claim has been that it took place at Bantry, County Cork. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have been flock­ing to Kilmokea in re­cent years to study the soil in the ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal en­clo­sure from the early Chris­tian pe­riod. Ev­i­dence was un­earthed from a nearby ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion to sug­gest the ex­is­tence of a Bronze Age set­tle­ment and that the site was used by Vik­ings, Nor­mans and also in the Me­dieval pe­riod. A D-shaped en­clo­sure was dis­cov­ered along with rocks from a col­lapsed build­ing.

Pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus James Mal­lory of Queens’s Univer­sity Belfast and na­tive of Cal­i­for­nia, USA, told 50 his­to­ri­ans and lo­cal politi­cians at a Think-In at Kilmokea Coun­try Manor that ‘Great Is­land has the strong­est claim’ and that other ‘man­u­fac­tured claims do not stack up’.

He said fur­ther that the place Dún na Marc or the Fort of the Ships, re­puted by some schol­ars to be the ex­act place where Ces­sair, grand­daugh­ter of Noah, landed with 49 women and three men, was not at Cork but at Great Is­land. He was one of four univer­sity pro­fes­sors in­vited to fo­cus on the area in a con­tri­bu­tion by Mark and Emma Hewlett of Kilmokea Coun­try Manor, Sli­abh Coillte Her­itage Group, lo­cal busi­ness peo­ple and his­to­ri­ans to na­tional her­itage week.

Si­mon Kennedy, a re­tired solic­i­tor from Dun­can­non who had spent more than 20 years re­search­ing the area per­son­ally and later with Sli­abh Coillte Her­itage Group, con­ducted recorded video in­ter­views with three pro­fes­sors in Cork and Dublin. In a 40-minute video in­ter­view shown to the au­di­ence, Pro­fes­sor John Carey of UCC said that Kilmokea was of pri­mor­dial im­por­tance and had the deep­est an­tiq­uity. He had said in an ar­ti­cle in Eigse mag­a­zine, based on his re­search of La­bor Ga­bala Eren that Ces­sair had landed at Cu­mar na dTri Uisce or Con­flu­ence of the Three Rivers, known lo­cally as ‘ the three sis­ters’.

The con­flu­ence is in the es­tu­ary off Great Is­land.

In an­other video in­ter­view, Pro­fes­sor Máirín ni Dhon­n­chadha of NUI Gal­way paid trib­ute to the work of the late Dr Billy Colfer and to John Flynn and Tom­mie Gren­nan au­thors of re­search find­ings about the Kimokea en­clo­sure on Great Is­land pub­lished in the book Me­dieval Wex­ford. She con­firmed the views of lo­cal his­to­ri­ans that Kilmokea was a ma­jor me­dieval ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre that pro­vided re­li­gious, spir­i­tual and in­tel­lec­tual lead­er­ship to the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional Chris­tian com­mu­nity. It was also on the pil­grim­age route to St. Mol­ings or St. Mullins.

She said that the bishop and ab­bot of the church in the area, Bishop Suadb­har, who gov­erned Kilmokea was sig­na­tory to the first hu­man rights law in Europe. This was an ac­cord known as the Law of the In­no­cents which pro­tected women, chil­dren and cler­ics from in­volve­ment in warfare. She said also that his name may have been ven­er­ated in the place name, Carn­sore or Carn Suad­hb­hair.

Pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus Padraig Ó Ri­ain of UCC, author of the ac­claimed book A Dic­tio­nary of Ir­ish Saints, in an­other video in­ter­view with Si­mon Kennedy noted sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Kilmokea and other monas­ter­ies such as those at Carn­sore, Begerin and Ard­more.

He said saints Fin­barr and Bar­rfhind gave the name Cill Mach Aodh or ‘ Church of the sons of Aodh’ to Kilmokea. As the cult of Fin­bar, also linked with Nes­san of Cork was as­so­ci­ated with teach­ing, we may as­sume that Kilmokea was a school or ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre on the is­land.

De­clan Lyons, an in­ter­na­tional man­age­ment con­sul­tant and author, who is a part-time res­i­dent at nearby Arthurstown, was moder­a­tor for the Think In. The at­ten­dance in­cluded Wex­ford his­to­ri­ans and au­thors Bernard Browne, Alice Burke, Wil­lie Con­si­dine, John Flynn, Brian Ó Cléirigh, Greg Walsh and Dan Walsh. Coun­cil­lors Larry O’Brien, Martin Mur­phy and Michael Whe­lan.

Emma Hewlett, co-or­di­na­tor and host for the Think-In, in­vited peo­ple to con­trib­ute fur­ther opin­ion on the find­ings in the weeks ahead.

Front –De­clan Lyons, Emma Hewlett, Mark Hewlett; back – Prof James Mal­lory and Si­mon Kennedy.

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