11 November 2020
The church ruins and
graves at Kilbradran
in west Co Limerick
On my way back to Askeaton from Cahermoyle House a few days ago, I stopped to visit the church ruins and churchyard at Kilbradran or Kilbroderan.
The area of Kilbradran, Kilcolman and Coolcappa is now part of the Roman Catholic parish of Coolcappa and Kilcolman, while in the Church of Ireland the parishes of Kilbroderan and Kilcolman were suspended in the mid-19th century and are now part of Askeaton parish.
The church ruin at Kilbradran is at the foot of a hill. Although most of the east wall has collapsed, the remains of the church are still in good condition.
Local historians disagree about the origins of the name of the church. Westropp believed that the church was dedicated to Saint Brandon, while Begley said it was dedicated to Saint Brendan.
The churches in Kilbradran and Kilcolman are said to have been built around 1250. Both churches were under the control of the Augustinians of Athassell Abbey in Co Tipperary.
A list of Vicars of Kilbradran dates from 1402 when John Macsuina who was not ordained was replaced by Geruallas O’Fergula and then by Donald O’Hogayn.
The list of post-Reformation vicars resumes in 1551 with the Revd David Nangill. The present church ruin is believed to date from the 17th century.
Many of the later vicars and rectors were pluralists who held a number of other parishes while benefitting from the tithes of Kilbradran without providing regular Sunday services. From 1663 to 1788 or later, the adjoining parishes of Kilbradran and Kilcolman had the same rectors and vicars. By the end of the 18th century, the parish was a mere sinecure, and the church was in ruins.
The last incumbent was Canon Thomas Maunsell (1777-1846), who was Rector and Vicar of Kilbradran or Kilbroderan in 1804-1846. His father, the Very Revd George Maunsell, was Dean of Leighlin, his grandfather were Thomas Maunsell, MP for Kilmallock, and a great-grandfather was Richard Waller of Castle Waller.
However, Maunsell seems to have spent little or time in Kilbradran, and he was the Vicar of Castlane in the Diocese of Ossory at the same time (1805-1846).
The rectory and vicarage were in the patronage of the Bishop of Limerick, but Samuel Lewis noted by 1837 that was neither church nor glebehouse in the parish, and the old church was ‘picturesque’ but in ruins.
When Maunsell died in 1846, the parish was suspended, although the Revd Robert John Gabbett (1816-191), who was the Vicar of Shanagolden in 1850-1878, was also listed as the Curate of Kilbroderan in 1863-1871.
The graves inside the church ruins include members of the McDonnell family of Hill Cottage, Shanagolden. The oldest headstone in the surrounding graveyard is in memory of Thomas Madigan who died on 15 September 1788, aged 24.
There are graves too of Father Patrick Murray, Parish Priest of Ardagh, who died on 11 October 1811, and an obelisk for Father Patrick O’Brien, Parish Priest of Doonbeg, Co Clare, who is buried with other members of the O’Brien family.
Saint Colman’s well in the townland of Lissatotan, part of the old parish of Kilbradran, is known to local people as Saint Coley’s well, and was said to cure stomach disorders.
Updated 12 November 2020 (particulars of Richard Waller of Castle Waller)