‘The 24th of July is the patron day of Saint Declan, whom the Roman Calendar states to have flourished prior to the appearances of Patrick. He is said to have landed at Ardmore and to have there preached Christianity where he also, and in one night, built the famous tower and the adjoining church. The grave in which he is supposed to be buried and a singular mass rock on the sea-shore near the church are objects of peculiar veneration. This rock is believed to have floated over from Rome with the vestments of the saint, a bell for this tower and a lighted candle for the celebration of mass.
Though now a miserable village containing no house above the rank of cabin save that of the rector, there was a time when Ardmore was classed among the high places of Ireland. It was anciently an episcopal see erected by St Declan in the infancy of the Irish Church and before the arrival of St Patrick. St Declan, it is said, was a native to Ireland who travelled to Rome and returned to teach his countrymen in the year 402. The ruins of two churches which, from their architecture, must be of the Saint’s era, are in the immediate neighbourhood, and one of them, which had being used for service until very recently, is close to the famous round tower.’
Hall’s Ireland, 1842
Although Mr and Mrs S.C. Hall fail to provide information on the patron at Ardmore, Thomas Crofton Croker lets us know that it was a popular site of pilgrimage in the early decades of the nineteenth century. In his Researches in the South of Ireland, published in 1826 – less than twenty years before the Hall’s account, Croker comments that on Saint Declan’s Day, ‘vast numbers of the country people flock to Ardmore for the purposes of penance and prayer.’
‘The fifteenth of July is St Swithin’s Day, and the belief that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day (Sweeten or Sweeteen as it is called in Munster), the succeeding forty days will also be wet, still prevails.
The folklore history is as follows:- when St Swithin, after being waked, was buried, by his monks, who dearly loved him, thought the simple “house of clay” was not befitting their lord abbot, so they determined to build a costly mausoleum which to their minds would more suitably mark his last resting-place on earth, and also show to the world how him they loved while living was venerated even in death.
But St. Swinton, who during his life detested ostentation or display of any kind, besought his divine Master (as it was afterwards revealed by one of his monks) to prevent such a useless expenditure of time and money which might easily be spent with more advantage in relieving the poor and needy. Accordingly when his monks had completed this beautiful and costly mausoleum they named a day (July 15) on which the mortal remains of the saint were to be publically exhumed and publicly transmitted to the new, as they considered, more befitting abode.
But the prayer of a humble servant of God prevailed, for early on that morning the floodgates of heaven were again, as of old, opened, and one continuous downpour of rain prevailed and thus continued without intermission for the succeeding forty days. The country for miles around was flooded, which gave all parties, St Swithin’s monks included, much concern. Thereupon they all prayed to God to lessen His anger against them, and earnestly besought their holy abbot, Swithin, to intercede for them. It was at this period he appeared to one of his monks and revealing to him how displeasing it was to God thus to spend their time in such a useless display, forbade ever interfering with his remains thereafter. The command was obeyed, and ever since (as a remembrance to St Swithin) when it rains on St Swithin’s Day, the succeeding forty days will be times of anxiety for the agriculturist for ever.’
Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society
‘St Maelruan’s patron or “pattern”, was every year celebrated here but in the later years the original Saint’s name was lost sight of altogether, and replaced by the corrupted form, “Moll Rooney”, under which title “the pattern” continued to be annually held, until it came to be such a nuisance, owing to drunkeness and debauchery, that it was suppressed in 1874.
The proceedings consisted of making a kind of effigy, supposed to represent the saint, and carrying it about from house to house in procession, headed by a fiddler or piper. The occupants of each house then came out as they were visited and danced to the music after which a collection was made to be spent on drink. Few went to bed that night; many slept in ditches on the way home, and drinking, dancing and fighting went on intermittently until morning.
Another item in the performance in recent times was to visit the grave of an old village piper named Burley O’Toole who had expressed a dying wish to that, and to dance and fight around his grave.’