Brosna Town
County Kerry

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Brosna Town is in a mountainy area along the Cork/Kerry border.

Brosna, “Brosnach” in Irish which translates to firewood, lies 16 km (10 miles) from the town of Castleisland. Its electoral area incorporates 5,823 acres. The present population is 1,200. It consists of Brosna town and 34 town lands. It is a mainly agricultural rural parish, supporting two churches, two schools, a post office, and five public houses.

Brosna is bordered by County Cork and County Limerick. The nearest neighbours are Castleisland and Knocknagoshel in Co Kerry, Abbyfeale and Mountcollins in Co Limerick, and Ballydesmond and Rockchapel in Co Cork.

Brosna is situated in an area which is said to be the bedrock of traditional Irish music, song, dance, and poetry known as the “Sliabh Luachra” area of County Kerry.

The area has produced some of Irelands greatest poets including Geoffrey Fionn Dalaigh who died in 1387, Aogán Ó Rathaille and Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin. The charismatic Gaelic poet Eoghn Ru Suilleabh in (1748 - 1784) whose many exploits live on in the folk memory as do his poetry.

Sliabh Luachra was also the birthplace the folklorist, poet, and translator Edward Walsh (1805 - 1850), Patrick S. Dineen “Padraig Duinnin” who compiled Dineens Dictionary which is to this day the bible of the Irish Language, and An Brthair Toms Rathaille, Superior General of the Presentation Brothers 1905-1925 who wrote two books of Irish poetry An Spideog and An Cuaicin Draoideachta.

This tradition of poetry continues to the present time with Bernard O'Donoghue now a lecturer in Oxford University winning the prestigious Whitbread prize for a collection of poems in 1993/94. Little wonder that Professor Daniel Corkery author of The Hidden Ireland wrote that Sliabh Luachra was the literary capital of Ireland.

This region has a unique musical style which makes heavy use of the polka and the slide. Indeed, most of the polkas and slides in Irish traditional music derive from this region.

It is a mountainy area along the Cork/Kerry border and was the uninhabited wet, marshy, rushy, mountain area of the old Kingdom of Luachra first noted in the Annals of Inisfallen in 534 when the King of Luacar won a battle against Tuathal Moel nGarb and again in 741 with the death of Cuaine, Abbot of Ferna and Flan Ferna, son of Cormac King of Luachra.

An Cathair Chraobhdhearg (The City) which was the first place in Ireland to be populated, is considered the centre of Sliabh Luachra, it is at the base of the twin mountains An D Chich Dannan the breasts of Dan and was the base of An Tuaithe De Dannan, who were an aristocracy of poets, artists, and musicians, who came to Ireland from Boeotia in Greece.

It is the oldest centre of worship in the Western World. A settled population did not populate the remaining thousand square miles of Sliabh Luachra until the Desmond rebellion, which ended with the death of Gerald Fitzgerald the 15th Earl Of Desmond in 1583. His last hiding place Teach an Iarla can still be seen cut into a glen in the heart of the Sliabh Luachra mountains near the source of the river Blackwater. The rebellion resulted in the scorched earth policy of Queen Elizabeth`s army, which devastated much of Munster with men women and children put to the sword, land and crops burned resulting in a great famine. The song of the thrush or the lo of an animal was not to be heard from Ventry to Cashel.

Following this the plantation of Munster began with a half a million acres being declared Crown property and distributed among English landlords with the old population being ordered to Hell or to Connacht. Some of the dispossessed and thus poverty stricken people of Munster took refuge in Sliabh Luachra which was also Crown property with much of it recorded as mountain pastures but the authorities had despite their many efforts failed to get any landlord to take any of it.

With the army of the Confederation led by Lord Muskerry, again the army of the Parliament won the battle. Traditional Gaelic Ireland, which barely survived after the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, reached its end after of these two battles, but in its defeat started the flowering of the old Gaelic Traditional culture in Sliabh Luachra.

The survivors of the defeated confederate armies from both battles took refuge in the Sliabh Luachra area, which was then a very inhospitable place with marshes, scrub woodland, wet rushy ground, no roads, fences, drainage, or services, but at least any authorities did not disturb them.

Despite their poverty they lived reasonably happy lives, cultivating some of the wet mountain by hand to make land, to grow very basic vegetables and feed the few cattle. Their children getting a high level of education in the hedge schools around the area with many being fluent in Irish, English, Latin, and Greek. 

They provided their own entertainment by getting immersed in the old music, dance, poetry, and story telling, of Sliabh Luachra, which indeed became the property of the dispossessed.

This area remained undisturbed and unaccounted for, until the agrarian disturbances of the Rockite movement in the 1820s. The Rockite movement began in West Limerick in the summer of 1821. The first leader of the Rockite movement known as Captain Rock was a Patrick Dillane who may have come from the Sliabh Luachra area.

Many of the leaders of the movement taking up hiding in Sliabh Luachra, led the then British Government becoming concerned about this area of about 960 square miles from which they were getting no return, and which they stated was a haven for outlaws, rebels, and rapperees, and since there were no roads or communications into the area it was impossible to control it.

In 1837 Brosna contained 12,168 inhabitants comprising of 18,013 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at 2180 pound per annum. A large portion of the land consisted of coarse mountain pasture and bog, the greater part of which might be reclaimed.

A new line of road, about 8 miles (13 km) in length, was in progress, at the expense of Col. Drummond and C.Fairfield, Esq., extending from the bridge over the Clydagh (an arch of 60 feet (18 m) span), on the new road from Listowel to Newmarket, and passing through this and the adjoining parish of Ballincuslane to the village of Ardnagrath, on the old mountain road from Castleisland to Millstreet.

It was in contemplation to extend this road to Scartaglin, to form a junction with the new Government road from Castleisland to King William's town, by which the surrounding country would have been greatly improved. There were 2 private schools, in which about 120 children were educated.

The people and places in this vicinity tend to get nicknames which stick with them over the years. No less Brosna or Brosnach which translates to firewood. This has no bearing on the old name Cathair Bessleen in the calendar of entries in the papal register.

An old thatched church was built about 1800 when Fr Nicholas Moore was parish priest, in the grounds of the graveyard near the present Church. (he died in 1803) The present Church "St Moling & St Carthage" was built in 1868 when Fr Patrick Moriarty was parish priest.

In 614 AD it was in the foothills of Sliabh Luachra that Saint Moling`s mother who was a native of these parts, gave birth to her baby while marooned in a fall of snow as she returned to her parents home from Carlow in Leinster. A service of angels descended to the spot where the baby lay. The snow melted for 30 feet (9.1 m) around him and a spring well marked the spot.

St Moling performed many miracles. He was Archbishop of Ferns. He returned to Carlow to his father's royal homestead where he built a monastery. It was here he died and was buried in Tigh Moling in 646 AD. This well has been a place of pilgrimage over the years. People have paid visits to the well every Saturday in May. A decade of Rosary is said at each of the 5 kneelers around the well, going 3 times around the kneelers. Then taking sips of water from the well in their cupped hands, and many cures have been attributed.

The restoration of this well was carried out by the Brosna Heritage group in 1998 under the guidance of James Scanlon an international sculptor, who is a native of Brosna. Donal o Donoughe is the current caretaker of the well and can be found in the Three Counties Bar in the village square on most days

There are some well known inhabitants, past and present in Brosna of national and international renown. The late great Con Curtin has a festival named after him which is currently one of the best traditional music concerts in Ireland, held every year in mid June.

James O Connor is a one in a million type guy, whose genius in sculpture and turn of wit is matched only by his hospitality to friend and stranger alike.

Mike the "Brod" a living legend on and off the field is another must meet resident.

Danny Carrol who also goes by "bottomless" has the guinness world record for sinking 25 guinness without once moving from his seat. Ciaran Flanagan of Flanagans pub fame is internationally known as one of the wittiest men ever to set pen to paper. Small Joe still resides here, former WBA welter weight champion of the world.

Brosna Pubs

Flanagans - Run by Michael Flanagan & his son Kieran, Flanagans is situated in the square directly across from the church. It is noted as a popular location for a 'sing song' in the village with Michael himself partaking regularly. Flanagans is renowned for intimate atmosphere and extremely warm welcomes.

The Three Counties - also situated in the square is run by Joe & Eileen Browne. On the weekend of the Con Curtin Festival, the Three Counties provides an excellent food service courtesy of Eileen's sister, Sheila McGoldrick.

The Sportsfield Bar - A 'halfway house' in the village, the Sportsfield is run by Bridget O'Rourke. With a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, it's a popular destination in the village.

Kate Pats is run by John Cronin & his wife Ellen and often has traditional music throughout the year.

The Woodview Bar - more affectionately known as 'The Bottom Bar' due to it's location in the village is run by Paul O'Connor.

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