The 9ft pine cross, which dates from the 1800s, is believed to have stood since famine times in the former Workhouse Chapel, in what is now the town’s Mount Carmel Community Hospital.
However back in the 1980s, the cross was believed to have been moved from its position during large-scale renovations on what was then the County Home, eventually ending up in a builders’ yard in Cork City. “The cross was in the old workhouse chapel. When they were renovating what is now Mount Carmel, a lot of the buildings were knocked down,” says Clonakilty Mayor Phil O’Regan, who led the campaign to bring the cross home.
In famine times, she said, the Clonakilty Workhouse was used by many emigrants before they took the boat from Long Quay in Clonakilty to Cobh and, from there, to the US.
“The cross ended up with a lot of other rubble in a builder’s yard in Cork where it was spotted by somebody who had connections to Sunday’s Well Parish.
“They decided to rescue it and brought it to St Vincent’s Church, where it stayed until a few months ago.”
A plaque was erected to explain the provenance of the cross which, for years, said Cllr O’Regan, was included in the Stations of the Cross — it was Number 12 — at St Vincent’s Parish Church.
In May last year, the cross was spotted by Liam Santry, an accountant from Clonakilty-based firm Shannonvale Foods, who was attending a funeral.
Cllr O’Regan said: “Liam saw the cross and the plaque acknowledging it as the Clonakilty Famine Cross.
“He took a picture and came back and said to me it was in Sunday’s Well.”
Believing the cross should be returned to Clonakilty, Cllr O’Regan consulted with local parish priest Monsignor Aidan O’Driscoll, who in turn made contact with the parish priest at St Vincent’s: “We were told the cross would gladly be handed back to the town,” says Cllr O’Regan, adding that it is currently being assessed and refurbished in Clonakilty: “It doesn’t require much work; it’s in very good condition. We are going to re-install it in Clonakilty,” she said.
On Good Friday, prior to the Liturgy of the Passion at 3pm, the Cross will be brought through the town in silent procession at 2pm from the old Paircin Garveyard, a burial site of many victims of the Famine.
“We have identified a space in the Church grounds for it and we will plant a Garden of Remembrance around it,” said Cllr O’Regan who said the cross would be permanently erected over the next few months.