ROSSCARBERY, a market and post-town and parish, and the seat of the diocese of Ross, partly in the barony of IBANE and BARRYROE, and partly in the Western Division of the barony of EAST CARBERY, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 32 miles (S. W.) from Cork, and 158 (S. W.) from Dublin on the road from Cork to Skibbereen ; containing 8714 inhabitants, of which number, 1522 are in the town. This place is noticed in ancient ecclesiastical records under the appellation of Ross Alithri, signifying in the Irish language "the Field of Pilgrims" ; it is also in other records called Ross Elihir, and Ylider ; and from its situation in that barony takes its present name Rosscarbery, to distinguish it from the town of Ross, in the county of Wexford. It appears to have acquired great celebrity from the reputed sanctity of St. Faughnan, Abbot of Moelanfaidh, in the county of Waterford, who flourished in the early part of the 6th century, and founded an abbey at this place, over which he presided till his death. This abbey, under his successors, became a celebrated seat of learning, much resorted to by families from the south-west of Ireland, and numbered among its scholars St. Finchad, a celebrated disciple of St. Finbar. The exact date of its foundation is not ascertained, nor is it known whether the monastery was of the Augustine or Benedictine order, though at one time it belonged to the latter, and was subject to the celebrated Benedictine abbey of St. James without the walls of the city of Wurtzburgh, in Germany. A town gradually rose around the monastery, which Hanmer, in his Chronicle of Ireland, describes as a walled city, and which subsequently became the seat of a diocese ; but in the wars of the McCarties, O'Driscols, and other Irish septs, the walls were thrown down, and a great part of the town was destroyed. At the time of the English invasion the place was much decayed ; all the lands, except such as belonged to the bishop, were granted to Fitz-Stephen, by whom they were afterwards assigned to Adam de Roches. King John, on petition of the Bishop, granted the inhabitants of "Ross Lehir" a charter of incorporation, with very ample privileges ; but no particulars of its municipal government are recorded. The castle, which was in the possession of the insurgents early in the parliamentary war, was taken from them by Col. Myn, in 1643, but was finally surrendered to the parliamentary forces in 1652. In the war of the Revolution it was garrisoned by the Irish forces of Jas. II., commanded by Gen. McCarty, and was reconnoitred by a detachment of English troops, who considering its reduction impracticable, made themselves masters of a neighbouring fort and proceeded to Tralee.
The town, which is wholly within the Western Division of East Carbery, is situated on the southern coast, at the head of an extensive creek called Ross harbour, and occupies the summit of a gentle eminence ; it consists principally of a square and four small streets, containing 282 houses, mostly of indifferent appearance, and retains but few vestiges of its ancient importance. The manufacture of coarse linen was formerly carried on to a very considerable extent, but has latterly greatly diminished, and the inhabitants are chiefly employed in agriculture and in fishing. Near the town are the extensive flour-mills of Mr. Lloyd, in which more than 5000 barrels of fine flour are annually made. The harbour, situated about half a mile to the west of Dundedy Head, occasionally affords shelter to small vessels, but only in moderate weather ; the entrance is nearly dry at low water, and at high water it is rocky and dangerous, especially when the wind is from the sea. On the bar are ten feet at high water of spring, and eight feet at neap, tides. The harbour itself is almost useless from a ridge of sand hills which has accumulated nearly to the height of 12 feet, and extends across the entrance, leaving only a channel of a few yards in breadth on the west side, through which the tide rushes with great rapidity. The inner bay, which is more than a mile in length and about half a mile broad, is, on the receding of the tide, a dry firm sand, and might be reclaimed at a moderate expense. A new line of road has been carried across the bay by a raised causeway, 400 yards long, and connected with the mainland by a bridge at its western extremity. The bay is celebrated for the great numbers of silver eels which are taken in it during the summer months. The market is on Wednesday, but is indifferently supplied ; and fairs are held on Aug. 26th, and the 19th of Sept. and Dec. The market-house is an old building in the centre of the square. A constabulary police force is stationed here, and at Milk Cove is a coast-guard station, which is one of the three that constitute the district of Skibbereen. Petty sessions are held every Wednesday, and a court for the manor of Ross every three weeks, at which debts not exceeding 40s. are recoverable. The court-house is a very neat building ; adjoining it is the police barrack.
The SEE of Ross had its origin in the foundation of the monastery by St. Faughnan or Fachnan, surnamed Mongach or " the hairy," the church of which, according to the best authorities, became the cathedral church of the diocese in the 6th century, and its founder the first bishop. St. Fachnan was succeeded by St. Finchad, but neither of him nor of his successors, with the exception of Dongal Mac Folact, whom Flaherty makes the 27th Bishop of Ross, and with his predecessors all of the same house or sept, is any thing recorded prior to the arrival of the English. Since that period there has been, with little intermission, a regular succession of bishops, of whom the first, Daniel, was consecrated by authority of Pope Celestine at Rome, and succeeded to the prelacy in 1197. But having obtained the see by forged letters alleged to have been from the Irish bishops, an enquiry was instituted, and he was deprived by Pope Innocent III., by whose order Florence, who had been canonically elected, was confirmed by apostolic authority in 1210. During the prelacy of Matthew O'Fin, who presided over the see from 1310 till 1330, several of its possessions, which had been unjustly usurped by Thomas Barret and Philip de Carew, were recovered by default ; but the crown thinking the recovery had been made by collusion, to avoid the statute of Mortmain, ordered an inquest to be held, which decided in favour of the bishop. In 1377 the see was vacant, and the custos was fined 100 marks for not appearing upon summons at the parliament held at Castledermot. Thomas O'Herlihy, who succeeded in 1563, assisted, with Donat, Bishop of Raphoe, and Eugene, Bishop of Achonry, at the council of Trent in that year. He was succeeded by William Lyon, during whose prelacy the see was united by Queen Elizabeth to that of Cork, with which it has ever since continued ; and with which, under the provisions of the Church Temporalities act, it became, on the death of Dr. Brinkley; in Sept. 1835, united to the see of Cloyne, now the diocese of Cloyne, Cork, and Ross, and the temporalities became vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It is one of the eleven dioceses that constitute the ecclesiastical province of Cashel, and is wholly within the county of Cork, comprising an estimated superficies of 124,000 square acres. The possessions of the see comprise 8179 statute acres of profitable land ; and the gross annual revenue of the bishop, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1831, amounted to £1715. 17. 9-. The chapter consists of a dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, archdeacon, and the prebendaries of Timoleague, Inchydony, Curragrainemore, Dononghmore, and Templebryan ; there is also one vicar choral. The income of the deanery amounts to £91 per ann., arising from the ploughland of Ardagh, containing 238 acres ; houses and gardens in the town of Rosscarbery, and the rectorial tithes of the parish of Desert ; that of the precentorship amounts to £205, arising from the rent of 237 acres of land in the parish of Rosscarbery ; that of the chancellorship to £11. 1. 6-., arising from the rent of the lands of Gahaniffmore, in the parish of Rathbarry, containing 178 acres ; and that of the treasurership to £63, arising from the ploughland of Tinneel, in the parish of Rosscarbery, containing 210- acres. The consistorial court is held at Cork. The total number of parishes in the diocese is 33, comprised within 30 benefices, of which 8 are unions of two or more parishes, and 25 single parishes ; of these, two are in the patronage of the Crown, one in the alternate patronage of the Crown and the Bishop, 23 in the patronage of the Bishop, one in that of the Dean, and the remainder in lay patronage. The total number of churches is 18; a grant has been obtained for building a church at Templecoma ; and there are nine school-rooms or other houses licensed by the bishop, in which divine service is performed, and 11 glebe-houses. The cathedral church, which from time immemorial has been also used as the parish church, was rebuilt in 1612 : it was a handsome structure, in the later English style, with a lofty square tower, which in 1806 was surmounted with an octagonal spire of hewn limestone, at an expense of £964 ; the church is now being rebuilt on an enlarged scale by the addition of a south transept, which will render it perfectly cruciform. The entrance on the south is by a fine Norman arch ; and above the Western door is a lofty window of three lights, enriched with tracery. The nave is separated from the choir by a stone skreen ; the choir has a large and handsome window at the east end ; the north and south aisles are lighted with square-headed windows enriched with tracery ; and the whole will bear the character of uni-formity. The economy fund of the cathedral amounts to £558. 15. 5-. per ann., arising from the tithes of the parishes of Rosscarbery, Kilkerranmore, Rathbarry, Kilfaughnabeg, and Kilmacabea.
In the R. C. divisions the diocese is united with that of Cloyne, forming the bishoprick of Cloyne and Ross ; the latter differs in extent from the Protestant diocese, by excluding the barony of Bere, which forms part of the R. C. diocese of Kerry. It comprises 12 parochial benefices, or unions, and contains 21 chapels, which are served by 24 clergymen, of whom, including the bishop,. 13 are parish priests and 11 coadjutors or curates.
The parish comprises 12,535 statute acres, of which 1288 are tithe-free ; about three-fourths of the land are arable, and the remainder, with the exception of a portion of bog and waste, is in pasture. The surface is very uneven, rising in some parts into hills of considerable elevation : the soil, though light, is fertile ; but, except on the lands of Mr. Townsend and other resident gentlemen who have adopted every improvement in husbandry and the use of the best farming implements, the system of agriculture is in a very backward state : much of the land is cultivated by the spade, and manure is carried to the field on the backs of horses. Several large slate quarries have been opened, of which some produce slate of very superior quality ; and copper ore and manganese abound in almost every part, but no efficient means are employed to work them to advantage, The principal seats are Cahirmore, the residence of T. Hungerford, Esq. ; Derry, of the Rev. H. Townsend ; Castle Downeen, of R. Smith, Esq. ; Milleen, of the Rev. W. Jennings ; Millfield, of Lieut. Lloyd, R.N. ; Farley Cottage, of T. Hungerford, Esq. ; and The Hill, of Capt. W. Starkie. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Ross, partly appropriate to the vicar choral, and partly to the dean and chapter, in trust for the economy fund of the cathedral : the tithes amount to £776. 19. 4., of which £434. 0. 11. is payable to the vicar choral, and £342. 18. 5. to the dean and chapter. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also part of the parishes of Kilfaughnabeg and Kilkerranmore, and containing two chapels, one at Ardagh, near the town, a handsome edifice, erected in 1820 at the head of the bay, on a site surrounded by rocks and plantations ; and the other at Lissavord, three miles distant. About 130 children are taught in five public schools, of which the parochial male school is supported by the dean and chapter and the vicar choral ; the parochial female school-house was built by Lord Carbery ; and an infants' school is supported by Miss Townsend. There are also four private schools, in which are about 120 children ; and two Sunday schools. The Rev. S. Jervois, in 1786, bequeathed £400, the interest of which is annually divided among the Protestant poor, and £10 annually, which is paid as apprentice fees with the most deserving boy and girl in the Sunday school. The Rev. T. Hoare, the present vicar choral, has also given by deed £500, the interest of which is annually divided among the most necessitous poor of the parish. On an island which was formerly joined to the mainland are the ruins of Downeen castle ; and at Ballyvoureen are the remains of an ancient house in the Elizabethan style, formerly the residence of the Coppinger family. At Temple Faughnan, about a mile and a half from the town, are the ruins of a house erected by the Knights Templars in 1301, and modernised in 1712. Adjoining the town are the remains of the abbey founded by St. Faughnan : the side walls of the choir of the church, rudely built of unhewn stone, are still standing ; on the south side are the remains of a circular arch, and adjoining the ruin is the tomb of the Rev. J. Power, who died in 1831 : it is much resorted to by pilgrims. In the south wall of the cathedral is an old carved head, said to be that of St. Faughnan. Banduff castle, built by the O'Donovans, and afterwards called Castle Salem, was an extensive building with a walled park and more than 300 acres of oak wood, all now destroyed. In the grounds of Tinneel are the remains of a cromlech. The Rev. Horace Townsend, author of the Statistical Survey of the county of Cork, is resident at Derry, in this parish.