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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

A View, Two Men and a Currach

You can get spectacular views of Bantry Bay from any of the hills above Bantry town but Kilnaruane has something extra, a 1300 year-old standing stone with two unique picture panels.

One shows two men sitting at a table with a raven bringing bread to them. We know who the two men are. They are not Irish nor did they ever visit Ireland, yet their impact was not forgotten centuries later. They are Paul of Thebes and Anthony the Great, two Egyptian ‘Desert Fathers’. They appear on other stone crosses around Ireland acknowledging their role in giving Irish Christianity its distinctive character.

The tradition they brought is remembered in every town in Ireland beginning with ‘Kil-‘.  ‘Kil’ comes from the Latin ‘Cella’, the cell of a holy person practicing Anthony’s way of life.  

Kilnaruane is itself an example (Kil-na-Ruane ie Ruane’s Cell). Founded in the 6th century, traces of its enclosure can still be seen though not much is known of Ruane himself. He seems to have moved on to Devon and Cornwall where he is remembered as Ruan or Rumon.     

The other panel shows a traditional Irish currach with a steersman and four rowers. It is the earliest depiction of a currach to be found.  The boat likely celebrates another local celebrity and adventurous follower of the Desert Tradition,  Brendan the Navigator. His travels on the Atlantic are said to have brought him as far as America.

In 1976 Tim Severin, historian and explorer,  built a replica of Brendan's  currach with traditional tools and set out for America from Tralee. After travelling 4,500 miles he got to Peckford Island in Newfoundland and told reporters, "We've proved that a leather boat can cross the North Atlantic by a route that few modern yachtsmen would attempt." He did not confirm that Brendan reached America, only that he could have.

Go to Kilnaruane for the view and a reminder of Irish heritage.


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