This little church dates from sometime around the end of the 14C to the beginning of the 15C church and was in ruins by 1699 . It has now lost its roof but it retains impressive chunky stone walls. Inside are some interesting memorials, and to the right of the entrance doorway is a little niche full of poignant offerings. The surrounding burial ground is full of imposing yew trees. There are many memorials, some of them no more than stones now covered by grass, making it very uneven underfoot. There are a couple of impressive barrel vaulted tombs and a rather poignant memorial to a Grenadier guardsman who died in the First World War. The jewel in the crown though is the little stone found just in front of the church once through the entrance gate. It has a simple linear ringed with a circle on the front and marks down the side - variously interpreted as Ogham or knife cuts. Ogham is an ancient Irish alphabet which uses a series of straight strokes along or across a line. Many stones have been found carved with Ogham script, usually boundary stones or burial markers. The Archaeological Inventory describes the stone as a cross slab and the marks as 'grooves....suggesting use for sharpening'., which seems a bit puzzling. Thoughts of the sword in the stone come to mind.
Mass was probably celebrated here during Penal Times, and a mass is still held annually on St John's Eve (23/24 June). This seems to stem from devotions to a Father Barnane who was reputed to have healing powers.
The site is in a raised enclosure - possibly an old ringfort.
This isolated site is very special and oozes atmosphere and calm. You approach up a windy boreen -make sure you spot the tiny holy well nestling in the bank, itself a small marvel. Sitting atop a small hill, the site has commanding views across pasture. I wondered if it might have been built on a ringfort. The safe, contained feeling is added to by the old walls and stiles surrounding the enclosure. The stonework is large and chunky and dotted with valerian and pennywort. The graves are a rich mixture - ancient and unmarked jostling with the large and ornamental. It is still well visited and respected and although beautifully kept, retains a wildness. As you enter the church, a little niche on the right hand side contains an interesting array of offerings from rosaries to coins to statues.
One priest, Father Denis Barnane (1790-1818) was renowned for his healing - both animals and humans. Upon his death he was buried in the graveyard and in the past people would gather on St John's Night to pay their respects and to come in search of cures. I wonder if the little holy well was in some way associated with this. The whole site still has a feeling of healing and positivity.
In November 2014, as part of events marking in the anniversary year of the outbreak of World War 1, a service of remembrance was held at Michael O Neill's grave, Michael O Neill from Coomkeen joined the Grenadier Guards. He was wounded in the shoulder and sent home in 1918. Unfortunately he died of the Spanish Flu on the 5th November 1914, just days before the end of the war. He was given a full military burial in Durrus.