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ABBEY VIEW, BALLINSKELLIGS

 

        

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CILL RIALAIG

Here, high above the Atlantic surf, lie the ruins of Cill Rialaig village. Over the years, both famine and emigration have taken their toll. The last resident, Bridget O'Connell, finally left around 30 years ago. It is here where the renowned 'seanachai' (storyteller), Sean O'Connell, lived between the 1870s and his death in 1931. Sean could neither read nor write and had no English. His stories would only have been known to the locals but for a student from Antrim, Sean O'Duilearga, who spent many weeks and months in the area in the 1920s, and went to great pains to write down many of the stories in long hand for wider circulation and for the benefit of future generations. If you are looking up ancestors in this region, you might find one of them mentioned in Sean's stories.

Thanks to a local initiative that was acted on in the early 1990s, several of the ruined houses have now been restored, and are used to entice artists to the area, from all around the world.  Some of the work produced is displayed in the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre in the local village, Dungeagan.  But it isn't just artists who are drawn to this part of the world. Numerous members of the film and literary world have visited, some several times.  The famous German film director, Werner Hertzog is on record identifying Ballinskelligs as one of his favourite places in the world.

When the great Daniel O'Connell was a young boy, he hunted hares at Cill Rialaig and often visited the caves of otters at Bolus just up the road. His uncle and guardian, old Muiris `Hunting Cap`O'Connell told Daniel's mother "these occupations were not laudable pursuits for a nominal student of the law".

 

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