Intermediate Project on Rathcoole By Wendy Thompson
How Redgap got its Name By,
Up in Coolmine, beside a modern house now owned by the Lynch family, there is a curious grey chimney sticking out of the ground. This chimney belonged to an old nunnery, now buried beneath tons of rubble. This nunnery was there when the Irish rebels used to hide from Cromwell. There are various stories telling what Cromwell did when he discovered that Rathcoole House and the nunnery were connected by an underground tunnel and this was how the rebels who managed to get to Rathcoole apparently vanished.
Here are just two:
Behind O’Reilly’s house on the road from Rathcoole Village to Redgap, there is a field called The Wagon Field. It is so called because when Cromwell was in Rathcoole, he used to camp in that field with his horses, wagons, men, etc. When Cromwell discovered that the nuns had been helping rebels to escape, he lined up his cannon and fired on the nunnery, killing all the nuns and spreading their blood on the surrounding area – Hence the name Redgap.
The second story, however, seems to be more factual.
Again, Cromwell was in a rage when he discovered the goings on at the nunnery, and he sent his men up to slay the nuns. It was an order of French nuns at that time and Cromwell’s men went up and cut off the nuns’ hands and left them to bleed to death.
Years later, Sir John Kennedy, of Johnstown Kennedy, the First Baronet, decided to build a new barn on the site, which he had purchased from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was told the legend of the nuns, but he could not find any hard proof, so he sent in his workmen to dig the foundations. As the men dug, they found a skeleton of a hand and it was brought to Sir John. He told the men to start sifting through the soil to see if any more bones could be found. In the end, six sets of female hands were found, and Sir John agreed that this must be holy ground and ordered that the building of the barn be discontinued.
Sir John went to Dublin and bought a small casket from an undertaker. He then went to the Parish Priest of Saggart and arranged for a funeral ceremony. The hands were laid to rest in the graveyard of Saggart Parish Church. A full funeral service was held and Sir John, the workmen and various locals attended.
Whichever of the local stories regarding how Redgap acquired its name one is to believe – it is definitely derived from a bloody attack on the nunnery by Cromwell’s men. However, one must keep in mind that Cromwell was a puritan and was on a campaign in which he slew many Roman Catholics as a matter of course.