The older parishes of Doonfeeney and Kilbride amalgamated in 1804 to form the present day parish of Ballycastle. Up until then, Ballycastle was a townland in the parish of Doonfeeney. The name Ballycastle was in use by about 1470.
The Irish Patent Rolls of James 1 record the following grant on March 10th, 1605 made to Edmund Barrett, 'commonly called baron of Irrus', along with a whole series of other lands: 'the town and castle of Kilbride, and the town of Rathlaccan in the barony of Tirawley'. In the Strafford Inquisition of 1635 we find 'John Barrett of Kilbridy' as the owner of a 'two-thirds quarter called Carrowmore Kilbridy' along with other lands in the district.
On the side of Kilbride hill there is a standing stone, 5'4" in height by 1'6" broad with a large inscribed cross and two smaller ones under the arms of the larger one. These resemble the crosses to be found in Iniskea and may, therefore, date from about the seventh century.
St. Bridget's Well is said to have been originally beside this stone, but is now situated about 100 yards South-West of the old church.
Father P. Flanagan's grave in Kilbride was at one time a place of pilgrimage for local people and clay from his grave was sent to those seeking it as a pledge of his intercession. The cavity under the gravestone can be clearly seen to this day. The tombstone over his grave was erected in 1879, 50 years after his death. He had a reputation for sanctity and great solicitude for the poor. Near the graveyard were the remains of a penal day church. It had the altar in the middle of the sidewall. No trace of this is now to be seen.
The old church of Kilbride, like that of Doonfeeney, must be the successor of an older church building on the same site. It is described in detail in the Ordnance Survey Letters, where the inside measurements are given as 51' by 21'. The window in the East gable is given as being 48"wide by 20"high. There is also mention of a small window in the South sidewall near the East gable of this church building.
The ruins now to be seen in Doonfeeney Churchyard probably are not those of the original church but of one built on the same site afterwards. The Ordnance Survey Letters (1838) tell us that immediately to the south of the church is a graveyard 'surrounded with a claidh (foss) in the form of a fort (lios) as may be concluded from the circumstance of the South-West part of it being still observable, the part to the North being removed to give way to a road'. This may be the Dun which gave its name to the church and hence to the parish.
The pillar-stone in this graveyard is described as : 'a stone 18' or 20' high and 9" thick, fixed in the ground and inclining to the East, on the N.W. side of which is cut the form of a cross about 2' long, with a small cross 10" long and some ornamental incisions under it'. The inside measurement of the old church is given as being 18 yards long and 8.5 wide. The doorway is in the South sidewall near the West gable and is 5'10" or 6' high by 3'4" broad.
One table tomb within the church itself bears the date 1734. On another, carved in stone, is Gabriel with his trumpet poised and ready.
About a quarter-mile N.W. of the church, near a fort called Rath Ui Dubhda, were St. Derbile's and St. Brendan's wells, at which Stations were performed in 1838.
At one time there were two quarters of land surrounding the church, which were claimed as see lands by the diocese of Killala.
By Maeve Dunne