28 September 2018
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A Perfect Day in West Cork
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A Perfect Day in West Cork
by Fachtna O'Mahony, Partner

If you’ve ever sent a child on a school tour you will be familiar with the phrase “in loco parentis”, in place of the parents. During the summer, with tremendous pride, tinged with a little sadness I had the pleasure and privilege of taking my late fathers place and walking my youngest sister down the aisle on her wedding day. Miriam and her now husband Kevin decided to have a humanist ceremony so choosing a hotel for their wedding had the added dimension of needing a venue which would cater not only for the function but could also host the wedding ceremony and their 210 guests.

There’s a turn of phrase in West Cork “we look after our own”, a value my father was keen to have his family be true to in life. With our strong connection to Courtmacsherry and Timoleague not to mention that Ballinscarthy is now the married couples home, they were keen to be true to this value, so it was always going to be an easy decision geographically where to have the wedding. It was simply a choice between the various well-appointed hotels in and around West Cork so they decided upon Fernhill House Hotel on the outskirts of Clonakilty run by the fourth generation of the O’Neill family.

Their decision to “look after their own” and keep the business local was inspired, as the O’Neills are also strong advocates of looking after their own and they most certainly achieved that. The day was a tremendous success, full of joy, happiness and love, as I’m sure all wedding days are. Some three months on I’ve had the opportunity to reflect a bit more on the occasion and it has occurred to me that the day, inadvertently or otherwise was also a magnificent advertisement for and endorsement of all that is good about West Cork and its people.

Where best to begin but the morning of the wedding. I had promised myself I’d optimise what was going to be a busy day so I took off on an early morning cycle to the top of the local hill Baureach. The summit has a panoramic view of this little part of West Cork. The sleepy village of Timoleague to the West, Dunworley Bay and Seven Heads to the South, splendid in the early morning sunshine,  Courtmacherry Bay beneath you, and out to East the sun was peering out over The Old Head of Kinsale. The sea was calm and glistening disturbed only by a boat going towards the site of the Lusitania on an early morning diving or whale watching trip. It was the perfect spot and perfect moment to take a few minutes to catch my breath from the climb, rehearse my hastily arranged wedding speech, and process and reflect on the day ahead.

Two hours later I called for breakfast to my mother’s house. The evening before the house played host to the bride, three bridesmaids, the mother of the bride and a rather bemused Uncle Pat. My arrival coincided with the arrival of two local beauticians and a hairdresser, let’s just say the decibel level was high! Soon after Brendan Murphy the owner of Travara Lodge arrived, he was on his way to the hotel to deliver the wedding cake he had made, but was thoughtful enough to deliver to the house an arrangement of scones, croissants and gooseberry jam, a lovely gesture perfectly timed.

The noise and excitement were too much for Uncle Pat and I, so after breakfast we took off to collect the flowers from Bandon Garden Centre. When we returned to the bridal house in Courtmac, the photographer Mark Coombes from Ballinscarthy had arrived ably assisted by his 10 year old daughter Kerrie.  I can still see the look on her face later that morning when she saw Miriam come down the stairs in her wedding dress, the innocence and disbelief of a young girl meeting a princess was humbling.   

The hectic morning passed quickly and soon it was time for Miriam and I to leave for the ceremony but not before she got a traditional and warm send off by some of the neighbours in Courtmac. Fernhill House Hotel have invested significantly in their facilities to offer Civil and Humanist Ceremonies at the Hotel. They have a flexible set up to cater for all weather conditions. Summer 2018 will be remembered by most for the magnificent weather so on the day the pagoda in the garden was the focal point for the ceremony with the seating lined up in the garden. By the time we arrived the attentive O’Neill family had set up a table with a selection of sun screens and golf umbrellas from which guests could make a choice to use as shelter from the sun. Who would have thought that you’d need to provide these for an Irish Wedding!!



We walked down the aisle to music provided by Anne Marie and Timmy O’Brien, local siblings whose talents know no bounds. They had adapted Bruce Springsteins, Dancing in the Dark as one of the songs they played on the day and then threw in the Beatles, Here Comes the Sun as the newly married couple walked up the aisle, one word - Class.

We then moved to a terrace and marquee area for a G&T drinks reception, not any Gin though, Garnish Island Gin from West Cork Distillery and some Stonewell Ciders from Kinsale were the drinks of choice. We sat and chatted in the sun with the O’Brien siblings still entertaining us with their vast array of music. It was a moment we all wished would never end however early evening was our que to move to the hotel itself for the meal which was of course West Cork in its entirety. Clonakilty Black Pudding Starters, Monk Fish and Salmon from Union Hall, Beef from Dan Moloneys in Clonakilty, Potatoes and Veg also from local producers and Ice Cream from Rosscarbery. The O’Neill Family clearly are intent on supporting their local suppliers - I don’t think any of the food we had that day travelled more than 10 miles.

Late evening, with the music and dancing in full flow there was still ample light to take a walk in the gardens and catch a break from the festivities. I looked west through the valley towards Rosscarbery, the sun was setting beyond and my thoughts returned to where they were some 18 hours earlier on the top of Baureach. My father would have been proud of his youngest daughter on her wedding day, no doubt there, but he would be equally proud of her determination to be true to one of his values “looking after our own”. She worked hard to make sure everything was kept local and those people of West Cork whose products she bought and whose services she engaged, responded by providing the most magnificent of occasions for one of their own.

One could be forgiven for thinking that West Cork was the only place the sun was shining at that time, it was the perfect day!