Ours is a land where scholars have tread


There’s a small marble plaque on the wall of the parish church at Enniskeane beside the Shrine to Our Lady. Until recently, the writing on it was very faded. (Thanks to Jim McCarthy who has cleaned and repainted the script.) It reads:

“In Memory of the REV. D. O’SULLIVAN whose death on the 25th of Aug. 1858 in the 14th year of his pastoral charge and 65th of his age deprived this parish of a loving pastor and Irish scholarship of one of its greatest names.”

Plaque in Enniskeane Church commemorating Fr Domhnall O Suileabhain

It’s a brief tribute to an interesting former parish priest of this area.

Domhnall O Súilleabháin was born in Kilmurry parish in 1793 where his father was a tenant of the Warren family at Warrenscourt. The family was evicted from their rented home and they moved to live near Cork where he was fortunate to be able to attend school at one of the Presentation Brothers Schools. Later he went on be a priest and was trained and ordained at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he excelled as a student.

While studying at Maynooth, he translated from Latin into Irish a prayerbook of spiritual reading which was composed in the 15th century. “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis has been translated into almost every language in the world but Fr. Domhnall O Súilleabháin’s translation won him worldwide admiration for its scholarly work.

After his ordination in 1820, he was offered the Professorship of Irish at Maynooth College but turned down the post because he wanted to look after his mother. So he was appointed curate in Bandon where he ministered for 25 years and endeared himself to all people there. He continued to also write in Irish and was a constant advisor and translator to Bishop John Murphy of Cork during his visitations of the parishes in West Cork.

In 1845, when Queen’s College Cork (UCC) was about to be opened he was nominated to be its professor of Irish but instead Fr. O Súileabháin choose to continue his pastoral ministry and he was appointed parish priest of Enniskeane on July 23rd, 1845.

Fr. O’Súilleabháin was parish priest in Enniskeane during and after the years of the Great Famine and ministered in the chapel which stood where “Shamrock Cottage” now stands just north of Enniskeane. He died in August 1858 and was buried in the church grounds.

After his death, the parishes of Enniskeane and Desertserges were united under one parish priest. Hence, Fr O Súileabháin was the last parish priest of Enniskeane Parish. He was succeeded by Fr Denis O’Donoghue who had been PP of Desertserges since 1856 and then became the first PP of Enniskeane and Desertserges in 1858. He transferred to Tracton Abbey Parish as parish priest in 1867 and he died there in 1877.

It is obvious that Fr O Súileabháin’s pastorate during those difficult years made a lasting impression on his flock because on Sunday, September 8th, 1872, after the last Mass was celebrated in the old chapel, his remains were removed and re-interred before the high altar of the new church (Church of the Immaculate Conception) and a marble tablet with his name erected to indicate his final resting place.

Ar Dheis Dé go raibh sé.

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