My Own Place
by Sorcha Hartley
If the true wealth of a parish, like a nation, lies in its most valuable commodity, its people, then Dunhill is rich indeed. Rich âˆ’ not in the numerical greatness of its sons and daughters, as it is one of the smallest parishes, population-wise, in the diocese, but rather in their greatness of spirit.
Though well endowed with archaeological antiquities and historic ruins, of interest both to tourist and student alike, it is rather the strong sense of community spirit which permeates throughout its people, that makes the most vivid impression.
What might be termed curiosity, coupled with a desire to find out more about the history of the parish, sent me delving back through the ages to find that the origin of the name DÃºn Ail lies in the dim and distant past. DÃºn Ail â€“ the dÃºn or fort on the rock â€“ refers to the ancient dÃºn which may have been erected as far back as the Bronze Age, extending from 2,000 B.C. to 500 B.C. A dÃºn was generally constructed as the dwelling place of a chieftain and promontory forts of this type were not as common as the â€˜liosâ€™, examples of which can be seen in the townlands of Ballydermody, Ardnahoe and Kilcannon. The dÃºn from which DÃºn Ail derives its name was situated on the rocky promontory where the picturesque ruins of the once imposing Norman castle now stand.
During the penal times the church of the parish was a thatched chapel which stood at Cappagh in the townland of Shanaclune, less than half a mile from the present church. In 1798, the parish priest, Rev. John Meaney, had this chapel demolished. No trace of it now remains. About 20 yards along the road from here was a public house known as â€œPadeâ€™sâ€. The men of the parish congregated there each Sunday morning sometime before Mass was due to start, and passed the time gossiping and playing cards. The parish priest, a very understanding man by all accounts, looked in on his way to say Mass to remind the lads that he was about to start the ceremonies. â€œRight, Fatherâ€ was the usual response, â€œweâ€™ll be with you now as soon as we finish the rubberâ€. Pade and his Sunday morning customers who once lived and worked in Dunhill have long gone to their eternal reward, and this popular meeting place is no more.
This church was built inside the walls of the previous church and is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. The architect was a Mr. Doolin and the builder was George Nolan of Waterford. A great deal of local voluntary labour was used. Many of the parishioners travelled to the city with their horses and carts in order to draw home the materials required for the building. Fr. Dowley celebrated the first Mass on the new main altar â€“ which cost Â£100 â€“ on the 15th August 1884. Some years later Fr. Dowley also built the Church of the Immaculate Conception at the Fenor side of the parish. He was apparently a well-respected man as the inscription on his tombstone tells us that he was â€œa holy and exemplary priest, a zealous and prudent pastor, a hospitable and helpful friend, generous and benevolent to allâ€.