Milford is only just inside County Cork; it very closely borders on County Limerick The land around is very rich; there are few trees. This is a landscape without a touch of strangeness, though in some lights its blandness is tender, in others melancholy. In it are set the colossal fortifications of Kilbolane Castle, built soon after Strongbow, later owned by the Desmond’s. The Cromwellian’s in the course of their campaign had burned the habitable parts and singed what would not burn. Inside the square of these high walls was the bawn, or fortified enclosure: a grassy space. At each corner of the walls stood a tower and each of these four towers came to be called a castle.
Elizabeth Bowen, Bowen’s Court (1942)
Milford parish is 4,130 hectares in area. The village has long been associated with milling enterprises. It is probable that in Early Medieval times there was a mill near the present-day bridge. In the 1840’s, E.R. Barry built one of two mills on the Deel River. Later industrial enterprises included Milford Co-operative Creamery which was founded in 1897, in the old mill. Although a relatively small business, it became a focal point of community life with farmers bring milk each morning to the creamery. A significant early achievement for the co-op was the installation of an electric generator in 1918, which also supplied electricity to houses in the village.
The awesome fortifications of Kilbolane Castle are reminders of a time when Ireland was far from peaceful and when weaponry was much less sophisticated than it is today. Possibly built by the de Cogan’s, it soon fell into the ownership of the FitzGibbon branch of the FitzGerald’s of Desmond. Because of the vicissitudes of war and revolt, the castle changed hands between the Synan’s, the FitzGibbon’s, Sir William Power, Captain John Nicol’s (a crabbed Cromwellian) and the Bowen’s. It was under the Bowen’s that Kilbolane Castle became the source of legal contention over three generations and thereby almost bankrupting that family. The ruin is owned by the Irish Government, but at present because of its dangerous ruinous condition, is not open to the public.
When Bishop Michael Collins celebrated mass in Milford parish church in 1830, he noted that the number of people in attendance was exceedingly great. The chapel (of Milford) not being able to hold all of them, I was obliged to address the people in the spacious area adjoining the chapel. The chapel to which he referred had been a mill, which was converted for religious use.
However, in 1903, the present edifice; The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, replaced that building. Among the interesting stained glass windows in the Church are Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph.
BALLINAKILL (KILBOLANE) GRAVEYARD
This graveyard, which may date to Early Christian times, was once the parish church of Kilbolane. Its neat church with a square tower was erected by Rev. Jonathan Bruce as the Church of Ireland (Anglican) parish church in 1832. However, in the late 1800’s, this edifice was closed because of a lack of congregation and subsequently demolished.
Within the graveyard are a number of headstones, most notable of which is the 17th century Synan monument, bearing a crudely carved crest and coat of arms, and another Synan stone dated 1442. These also have the motto “Confido in Domino et non moriemur” (Trust in the Lord and thou shalt not die).
Nearby, a more modern headstone to the memory of Cornelius O’Lyons, who died in 1781, has an epitaph typical of the period:
Interred of late here lies Under
A man whose Fame did merit wonder
No admiration if ye bells did ring
This mans praise and Valiant actions sing,
The Tomb and Grave has Echoed round
When this brave hero Approached his native Ground.
Kilbolane graveyard has been digitally surveyed and is viewable if you follow this link: Kilbolane Historic Graves, click here
The churchyard now know as ˜The Teampailán, situated about two kilometres south of Kilbolane Castle, had a medieval church that, according to folklore, was connected by a tunnel to the castle. Until the early 20th century, it was used as a burial ground for unbaptised children. Local folklore claims that some of the Bowen family’s fortune was buried in or near the graveyard but all searches, mostly nocturnal, have failed to produce it.
Townlands are land divisions which make up a parish and can vary enormously in size. Their origins are ancient and various, sometimes relating to ancient clan lands, topographical features or later creations of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. The meaning of townland names is in itself an interesting subject. Townlands in Milford include Deliga (thorns), Dunna (forts), Scart (a copse or hedge) and Monabracka (the speckled turf).