Nestled in a valley on the Carlow/Kilkenny border is the little village of Coon or Coan.
According to Owen O’Kelly’s book Place names of County Kilkenny, Coon (Cuan) derives its name from A River Winding.
To visit the area from Kilkenny city, one has several options as to which route to select. The extra mileage versions would take the traveller eastwards through Paulstown, or for those wishing a more northerly vista, the environs of Castlecomer could be of preference. Another option of course, are the rural narrow roads through Higginstown and Kilderry, leaving Johnswell to the left and Castlewarren to the right. If seeking directions at the cross at Kane’s Bridge (Larkin’s of Cainsbridge), the advice would be to venture straight on and follow the road to the next decent turn curling to the left. Soon the mode of transport would pass Jim Bolger’s famous racehorse stables at Coolcullen. A number of twists and turns must be negotiated prior to a scenic view at the span of the River Dinin. The remainder of the short journey is best described as freewheeling. Should Mr. or Mrs. Google be activated, the message, “You have reached your destination” would emit from the vehicle’s audio device. In no time at all, the unique and quaint little place called Coon, would appear in wondrous view. And why, you might ask, the sudden interest and directions to Coon.
It is of course due to recent happenings in the village. It concerns the creation and painting of a mural at St. Brigid’s church grounds. Marley Irish and Eamonn Byrne were the artists commissioned to take on the important task. It is based on the scene of the apparition at Knock Shrine, which was witnessed in 1879.
It was originally the spiritual idea of a local parishioner.
Let us return for a moment to the Owen O’Kelly book of place names.
The author includes the following under the Coon section. ‘The location of a well called Tobar Mhuire, (The Virgin’s well), is now unknown, but there is a field locally known as Coolnatobar, probably Cúil an Tobar which may refer to its location.
So, the choice of a mural including The Virgin Mary would seem apt.
Speaking with The Kilkenny Observer, parish priest Fr Larry Wallace expressed his delight at the mural and said he hoped it would prove an inspiration to all parishioners and to those who come to visit. “Our greatest wish is that when people see the wonderful mural it will motivate them to say a quiet prayer, especially to Mary.”
Serving Muckalee, Ballyfoyle and Coon, Fr Larry said that the completed job is a work of art and he was so thankful to all who helped make it happen.
The artist who completed the mural was Birr, County Offaly man Eamonn Byrne. “I spent many years as a painter decorator” Eamon told this paper, “and I’ve worked on a fair amount of walls of varying shapes and sizes, so I didn’t find the size or scale anyway challenging.
Eamon said he worked closely with the planning of the mural with Marley Irish, formerly from Coon.
Committee members Pauline Haughney and Phil Purcell said the committee members couldn’t be happier with the outcome and that there has been a massive positive reaction to the work.
Pauline also explained that the idea came from a local parishioner and initially a statue of Our Lady was the plan. However, costs and availability of a particular Knock statue depicting Our Lady caused some problems and once the idea of a mural was mooted everyone was on board and fully backed the proposal.
Concluding the chat with The Observer, Fr Wallace said his thoughts were with his predecessor Fr Delaney who had served the parish. “I have no doubt that Fr Delaney is looking down smiling on his beloved church that he served so well for thirty two years”, Fr Wallace concluded.
Special thanks was paid to Ger Doyle who cleaned, coated and plastered the wall.
So, no matter what route you take, a trip to Coon church to view this beautiful mural is very worthwhile.