By Paddy Mulchrone
ONE of west Cork's most beautiful and historic churches is celebrating its 300th anniversary.
The church of St Brendan the Navigator has enjoyed a spectacular view over the harbour at Crookhaven since 1717, serving parishioners in the popular holiday village and visiting mariners alike.
Part of the Church of Ireland's Kilmoe Union of Churches â which includes the church at Altar and Schull's Holy Trinity Church â St Brendan's has been celebrating its tricentenary with a series of special events.
A concert of traditional music earlier this month was followed last week by a talk about Crookhaven by local historian Jim O'Meara.
He enchanted the packed, gas-lit church with tales of the harbour as a famous refuge for ships, stories of gripping rescues by heroic locals in foul weather and the devastating effect of the famine on the parish.
There were lighter moments, too, like publican Dermot O'Sullivan's response to inquiries about the remains of the stone quarry overlooking the harbour. He often jokes it was either a dry ski slope for the Irish winter Olympics team, or where whales were hung up to dry by visiting whaling fleets.
Mr O'Meara told of Crookhaven's distinguished fishing heritage, when pilchard and herring were caught and processed at a waterside âfish palace' at Leenane, the valuable oil being preserved as an illuminant. Trawler fishing gave way to lobster and crayfish and eventually salmon drift netting before factory ships decimated the local trade.
Once a flourishing port of call, ships from all over the world would stop en route between Britain and America so captains might learn to which port their vessels might be destined. It was also where Marconi worked briefly to perfect his wireless telegraph invention. One local sailor signed up on a ship and came home to Crookhaven able to say he visited the west coast of America before he'd ever been to Schull!
Mr O'Meara was thanked for his presentation by Rector the rev Canon Trevor Lester, who said St Brendan's 8.30pm Sunday services this month would hear from the archdeacon of Cork, the Ven AMWilkinson, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Dr RL Clarke and Rabbi Dame Julia Neuberger of the South London synagogue.