Farahy Church described by Samuel Lewis (1837) as 'a plain building with a tower surmounted by a small wooden spire…now undergoing a thorough repair, for which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently made a grant of £317…'
Situated near one of the entrances to Bowen’s Court (now sadly demolished) St Colman’s is surrounded by a typically picturesque undulating graveyard and approached by an avenue. It was built in 1721 on the site of a medieval church which was listed as ‘Cill Mainches’. ‘Cill Mainches’ translates as ‘the Church of the Monastery’ and suggests that Farahy was monastic land before it became a parish. Farahy was listed as the seat of the Dean of Cloyne as early as 1225. This seat passed to the established church during the era of the Penal Laws and Farahy held this position until the middle of the 19th century.
The church is perhaps best known for its association with Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), author of many books including The Last September (1929) where she uses the North Cork landscape as a background and Bowen’s Court (1942), in which she gave her family history and tackled the vexed question of the Anglo-Irish identity.
She gives us a beautiful account of her childhood visits to Farahy Church: “On summer Sunday mornings at Farahy Church we had, in those days of King Edward, quite a parade – The little Olivers from Rockmills, the little Gates from the other side of Kildorrery, myself and the little Johnstons from Lisnagourneen. The sun winked in through the trees and the south windows on to the pewfuls of little girls in white muslin dresses and starched white muslin hats and of little boys in sailor suits. Parents, grandmothers, visitors, governesses, Protestant farmers and, packed at the back, Protestant servants of all households composed the rest of the congregation. The organ was played either by Mrs Oliver or Mrs Gates and we all sang loud, Protestant, hymns.” She went on to tell of all the noise the Olivers made on entering the church: “The Olivers – I think in surviving protest against the shutting down of their Rockmills church – always used to come in late, clattering booted over the grating in the aisle.”
In the late 1970’s , the Protestant congregation of Farahy was down to 14 and the church was falling into disrepair and a decision was taken to close the church. However, a board of trustees was formed with the aim of preserving the building as a memorial to Elizabeth Bowen. With the aid of a grant from the Esme Trust in Belfast and the help of local Fas workers repairs were carried out and when it was re-opened, in 1979, a memorial plaque designed by the Cork sculptor, Ken Thompson, was unveiled by Hubert Butler. It records that she left in her writings: “a proof of her genius, a reflection of her personality and a history of her home.”
A memorial service to commemorate Elizabeth Bowen is held in the church each autumn and the church also plays host to one or two classical concerts every year but as many people in Kildorrery and the surrounding area have never seen the inside of the church, The Kildorrery Historical Society have arranged to open the church to the public for an afternoon during Heritage Week.
A memorial service to commemorate Elizabeth Bowen is held in the church each autumn and the church also plays host to one or two classical concerts every year.