Kilfian History, Crossmolina in Co. Mayo

The present parish of Kilfian is made up of a union of the two ancient parishes of Kilfian and Rathreagh. The name of this parish is pronounced in Irish ‘Cill Fhiadhaín which signifies the Church of Saint Fian. His feast day is no longer celebrated or remembered but a well called Tobar Fhíain (Saint Fian’s well), lies in Ballinglen townland to the right of the road leading from Garranard in Moygownagh to Ballycastle.

It is said the well was originally at Kilfian church and that it was removed because it was polluted by a woman who washed some clothes in it. Bride’s Well, Tobar Brighde, lies in Ratheskin townland. There is a pattren held here on February 1st, Saint Brigid’s Day.

Towards Creeves townland there is a rath, the circle of which is composed of earth and stones of such size as are generally found in druidical monuments. The diameter inside this circle is ten yards. There are one or two sepulchral monuments lying attached to the west side but they are concealed under bushes. The field in which these and others are located is called Fál na gClocha Breacha (Falnacloghbrack), 'the enclosure of the speckled stones'. In 1932 in the townland of Belladoonan, in the parish of Kilfian, two prehistoric graves were discovered.

Belladoonan is the official form of the name but Ballyduane comes from local pronunciation. These graves were eleven feet apart and lying parallel to each other. One of the graves was covered almost completely by two slabs, underneath which reclined the skeleton laid out full length on its back, with its arms lying along its sides and its head pointing to the west.

The second grave did not yield up any skeleton owing to the absence of a slab at the foot of it. This part of the cist was entirely filled with sand. The fact that no treasure or furniture was found in the graves points to the idea that the grave was that of a christian. Dr. Shea of University College Galway examined the skeleton and concluded that it had its origin in the Mediterranean region.

The second skeleton was unearthed in 1942 by Willie Munnelly while quarrying sand at the esker. Upon examination by the authorities at Galway University it was found that this skeleton was from the same period as the first, that of the Iron Age. The early churches and cemeteries were all tribal and with no local church or burial ground at Belladoonan, there was no alternative for this poor family but to bury their dead in the old way in the nearest sand hill.

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