Frank Keohane writes in The Buildings of Ireland: Cork City and County (2020), “A small, charming village at the junction of two rivers at the head of Courtmacsherry Bay, in a landscape of gentle rolling hills. St Molaga founded a monastery here in the 7th century. Timoleague derives from ‘Teach Molaga’ – Molaga’s House.” Timoleague Friary merits two pages coverage starting with, “One of the most impressive and picturesque monastic establishments in County Cork.” The low winding coast road is memorable for being almost level with the sea.
“Timoleague, formerly spelt Tagumlag, Tymulagy or Tymoleague, derives its name from Tig Molaga (the house of Molaga,) an Irish saint who lived in 655 AD and to whom the abbey, built in the beginning of the 14th century was dedicated,” explains Tony Brehony in West Cork A Sort of History (1997). “St Molaga was a native of Fermoy and his principal monastery there was called Tulach Min Molaga… The town of Timoleague, and most of the adjoining countryside, belonged to the Hodnetts, an English family who came to Ireland from Shropshire. According to Charles Smith, ‘The family degenerated into the Irish customs and assumed the name of McSherry from whence came the name of the village of Courtmacsherry.’”
The first landmark that springs into vision along the coast road is the exquisite designed and exquisitely sited Timoleague House. Frank Keohane again, “The seat of the Travers family. Original house built circa 1818 and burnt in 1920. New house built in 1924 to designs by William H Hill Junior on a site closer to the castle. Exposed rubblestone walls. Hipped roof. Five bay garden front with a one-three-one rhythm and French windows.” Mark Bence-Jones provides some more detail in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1996) “A square late Georgian house, built circa 1830 by Colonel Robert Travers. Burnt 1920; a new house built on a different site 1924 by S E Travers, to the design of W Henry Hill, of Cork. The new house is of stone, with a high eaved roof and a five bay symmetrical front, with modern casement windows; the ground floor windows having pleasantly cambered heads. Ruins of old Barry castle in grounds. Gardens with notable collection of trees and shrubs from all over the world.”
Continuing along the coast road, the next intriguing landmark is a church with a recently whitewashed tower. An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of West Cork by Environment by Heritage and Local Government (2011) states, “The Church of the Ascension in Timoleague was built from the ruins of a medieval church in the first years of the 19th century and refitted in 1863 by Welland and Gillespie. It is in typical Gothic Revival style with a pinnacled two stage bell tower with additions of transepts and chancels occurring from 1863 to 1890.”
This is Anglo Irish country; West Britain to some. Tony Brehony lists the names of English settlers planted in West Cork. These surnames continue to be popular in the area: “Abbott, Adderly, Alcock, Atkins, Austen, Baldwin, Beamish, Bennett, Bernard, Berry, Birde, Blacknell, Blofield, Booll, Bramlet, Brayly, Brooke, Burwood, Cable, Cadlopp, Carey, Cecill, Chambers, Chipstow, Christmas, Churchill, Clark, Clear, Cleather, Coomes, Cooper, Corkwell, Cotterall, Cox, Crofte, Dashwood, Daunte, Davis, Deane, Dolbers, Downs, Drake, Dun, Dunkin, Elliot, Ellwell, Elms, Evans, Farre, Fenten, Flemming, Flewellan, Fondwell, Franck, Franklin, French, Frost, Fryher, Fuller, Gamon, Gardiner, Giles, Glenfoild, Grant, Greatrakes, Green, Greenway, Grenville, Griffith, Grimes, Grimstead, Grimster, Hales, Hammett, Hardinge, Harris, Harvie, Hewitt, Hill, Hitchcock, Hodder, Holbedyr, Howard, Hussey, Jackson, Jifford, Jones, Joyce, Jumper, Kent, Kerall, Kingston, Kite, Lake, Lambe, Lane, Langford, Lapp, Law, Light, Linscombe, Lissone, Little, Lucas, Margets, Martyn, Meldon, Moaks, Monoarke, Mowberry, Nelson, Newce, Newman, Osmond, Perrott, Peyton, Pitt, Poole, Popham, Porter, Preston, Radley, Rake, Rashleigh, Richmond, Saunders, Savage, Scott, Seymour, Shephard, Skence, Skinner, Skipwith, Smith, Snookes, Spenser, Spratt, Stanley, Sugar, Sweete, Symons, Synoger, Tanner, Taylor, Thomas, Thompson, Tickner, Tobye, Travers, Tucker, Turner, Valley, Vane, Vick, Wade, Ware, Warren, Watkins, Whaley, Wheatley, Wheeler, White, Wight, Williams, Willobe, Wiseman, Woodroffe, Woolfe.”
Ballinspittle lies 16 kilometres east of Timoleague and was the location of a very 1980s Catholic Ireland phenonomen. The location was a grotto outside the village to be precise. In the heady summer of 1985, a worshipper at the grotto reported that the statue of the Virgin Mary had moved. A host of Marian apparitions followed across the land. Along the roadside edge of the grotto, a balustrade of sky blue painted concrete letters reads, “I am The Immaculate Conception”. It’s very moving.