In the early fifties it was decided by the people of Ballyvourney that a statue of St Gobnet should be erected close to the location of a holy well and a circular stone structure known as St Gobnet's House or Kitchen and long supposed to be the foundations of a round tower. During construction of the statue a crucible was found and it was decided that M.J. O'Kelly from University College Cork (excavator of Newgrange) should be invited to carry out an archaeological excavation.
Elswhere on the site a mound called St Gobnet's Grave may be prehistoric and is associated with a number of Bullaun Stones, artefacts I have suggested elsewhere may be related to ironworking. This potential link with a deeper, pagan past combined with the unusual evidence for ironworking on the site of a community of female ascetics has made me wonder more than once if St Gobnet may be connected with previous traditions of worship of the Celtic smith-god Gobniu?
Close by St Gobnet's Grave, is a graveyard with an intact protestant church and a ruined Medieval chapel which has seen some serious (and worrying) alterations since O'Kelly's excavations including the addition of a PVC conservatory on one side and a number of gawdy lights attached directly to the walls of the Nave and chancel. The site continues to this day as a place of pilgrimage with offerings still being left at St Gobnet's Grave and House. A new tradition of rubbing crude cross shapes into stones on the site could be seen as 'vandalism' but i prefer to look at it as a sign of a living site, still important to the community (and not just a handful of archaeologists). It also serves as a reminder that traditions of practice at ancient religious sites need not always reach back into the distant past, despite what we may like to imagine.
- Henry, F. (1952) The decorated stones at Ballyvourney, Co. Cork. Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 57, 41-42.
- O'Kelly, M. J. (1952) St Gobnet's House, Ballyvourney, Co. Cork. Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 57, 18-40.
- Harris, D. C. (1938) Saint Gobnet, Abbess of Ballyvourney. Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 8, 272-77.