PRIOR

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

PRIOR, a parish, in the barony of IVERAGH, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 8 miles (S. S. W.) from Cahirciveen, on the north-west side of the bay of Ballinaskelligs, on the western coast; containing 3176 inhabitants. It comprises 10,572 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the soil is mostly of a light gravelly nature; there are extensive tracts of bog, and brown sandstone adapted for building is found in several places: the state of agriculture is gradually improving. The bay lies between Hog's Head and Bolus Head, 5 leagues (N. E. by N.) from the Bull Rock, and is much exposed to the south-west winds. Bolus Head is in Lat. 51° 48' 48", and Lon. 10° 19'. The sea is making great inroads at the bottom of the bay; the shore, though high, being composed only of strata of clay.

At a short distance from the shore, at Ballinaskelligs, is the island of that name, extending nearly east and west about half a mile; on the north side of this island is good anchorage for small vessels, and if its western extremity was connected with the main land (which might be effected at a moderate expense), the security of the anchorage would be greatly increased. At Ballinaskelligs is a pier, built by the late Fishery Board, much used by fishing vessels and by boats bringing seaweed for manure, which latter has much benefited the surrounding district, but the roads leading to the pier require improvement. Here is also a station of the coast-guard, being one of those constituting the district of Valencia.

The seats are Seaganstown, the residence of Thomas Seaganson, Esq.; and Kinnard, belonging to the representatives of Denny Hore, Esq. The parish is in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and is a rectory, forming part of the union of Dromod: the tithes amount to £120. 3. 1.

In the R. C. divisions it gives name to the union or district, which also comprises the parish of Killemlagh, and contains the chapels of Dungeagan, Portmagee, and Karl, the first of which is in this parish. About 60 children are educated in three private schools. Some traces of an ancient town are to be seen at Ballinaskelligs, and of a small castle built on an isthmus to defend the harbour against pirates. Here are also the ruins of an ancient abbey or priory of Augustinian canons, the establishment of which was removed hither at a remote period from the rocky island called the Great Skellig, the monastery of which place is mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis.

The abbey of Ballinaskelligs is said to have been plundered by the Danes in 812, when the monks were kept in confinement till they perished with cold and hunger: it was granted by Queen Elizabeth to John Blake, at a rent of £6. 13. 4. The present remains, though exposed to the violence of the sea, which has made great inroads on the building, shew it to have been an establishment of considerable extent. In the vicinity is a holy well, dedicated to St. Michael, on whose anniversary it is visited by the peasantry for devotional purposes. Near it is a spot called the "Englishman's Garden," where the bodies of twenty Englishmen are interred who had been killed by the natives.

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