The Parishes of Bantry Bay

St. Brendan's Church, Bantry  
St. James Church, Durrus    

St. James Church stands on surely one of the most beautiful locations anywhere! It is located at the top of Dunmanus Bay looking westwards towards  the Atlantic ocean. Dunmanus Bay is 16 miles long and runs between the Mizen and Muintir Bhaire peninsulas. The scallop shell is the symbol of St. James denoting his strong bond with the sea, a link which we cherish and continue two millennia later.  We celebrated 200 years of worship in this building in 1992 although Christian worship has been conducted in this ancient Irish Parish of Muintir Bhaire since the earliest days of the Celtic Church. The parishioners come from a wide variety of backgrounds. The majority of families have lived in the area for centuries. Some came as Huguenot refugees from France in the seventeenth century. Some were shipwrecked on the rocky coastlines. Others have come more recently from Britain, America and continental Europe, attracted by the outstanding natural beauty and serenity of the area.

The Parish of Durrus was united (combined)  with the  Parish  of Bantry (Kilmocomogue) in 1984 to become the Kilmocomogue Union of Parishes. Later, in 2000 that parish was further united with Beara Union of Parishes.   The parishioners are mainly small farmers, many of Huguenot descent. The family names in the Ecclesiastical Records of St. James Church reflect their French origins.  Although a small community, we are blessed in so many ways - the wonderful scenery and wonders of God’s creation all about us and chiefly in the mutual friendships, cooperation and wonderful ecumenical community spirit that exists here.

More Detailed History

St. James Church is located in the parish of Durrus and Kilcrohane, now part of Kilmocomogue Union of Parishes. This Union took place finally in 1984 but before that there had been a long association with Kilmocomogue. Records show, for instance, that the parishes of Durrus and Kilcrohane were joined with Kilmocomogue from 1669 until 1792 when the then Rector, John Kenney, requested that a new Church be constructed at Durrus. The reason for this was because the Church was in ruins! Mention is made in historical documents of a Church on this site in 1615 and the then Rector in 1639, Thomas Barnham, attested that the Church was in good order. By 1704, however, the Church is described as standing ‘ about a mile distant from the head of Dunmanus Bay, North East of the Bay. The Church is uncovered, the walls are standing built with good, large square stones and clay ... the patron saint of this parish is Faughnan.’ The Church at Kilcrohane is also described as being in ruins.

Perhaps more importantly, A new church was also needed to help parishioners to attend public worship. Frequently parishioners would have to travel many miles to attend Services with the only means of transport being walking or ‘pony and trap’ for those who could afford it.  Many other buildings were licensed for public worship at that time, school houses and the vicarage being typical of the era.

On November 27th 1792,  by order of the Lord Lieutenant in Council,  the parishes of Kilcrohane, Durrus and Kilmocomogue were divided and the new parish of Durrus and Kilcrohane were created. St. James, Church of Ireland, was built 1792, at a cost of £461 10s. 9.25d.

Unfortunately, that Church was badly built and part of it collapsed. It was rebuilt by a later Rector, the Reverend Henry Jones (1799 - 1805) at his own expense. The Church was enlarges in 1832 and  in 1867 the South Aisle was added. From 1792 this parish covered the whole Muintir Bhaire or Sheep’s Head peninsula.

As mentioned, the church in Kilcrohane was in ruins prior to 1701 and two other places of worship, apart from St. James Church,  were licensed in the parish - one at Glenlough and the other at Rooska, which is a townland on the north side of the Muintir Bhaire peninsula. Some of the services and sermons at these places of worship were conducted in the Irish language. These were schoolhouses initially but a church was built at Rooska in 1866.  Rooska Church was closed in January 1988.