High Street & Lanes
Retracing our steps back to High Street, you can see an abundance of attractive nineteenth century shop fronts and houses. The eleven lanes off High Street, many of them still cobbled and very atmospheric, were once the beating heart of the town. In an effort to capitalise on the developing tourism industry of the mid-eighteenth century, the 4th Earl of Kenmare gave the land here, free of charge, to sub-agents who built houses and had the lanes named after them. Hence, we have lanes called Huggard’s, Brasby’s, Fleming’s, Barry’s, Duckett’s, Hogan’s and Bower’s Lane – where the only Killarney-born Bishop of Kerry was born.
As the name suggests, Ball Alley Lane was once the site of an old Hand Ball Alley. One of the four games organized by the Gaelic Athletic association (the GAA), it is similar to the American game but played in an outdoor court. The sport is not dissimilar to squash in some respects, only instead of using a racquet, the player strikes the ball with their hand. It was once an extremely popular sport across Ireland, and many villages had their own handball alley. Its popularity has diminished from its heyday in the early twentieth century, but it is still a keenly contested sport.
At the end of High Street, at the junction of Rock Road and St Anne’s Road, stands a fine memorial to the Kerry Number 2 Brigade of the old Irish Republican Army which operated in this area during the War of Independence from 1919 – 1921. The large stone monument features an armed rebel ready to jump into action. The Gaelic League Hall once stood near-by, where the local branch of the Irish Volunteers was formed in 1913. Leading figures of the struggle for Irish independence such as Patrick Pearse, Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera all visited Killarney during the Revolutionary Period of 1913 to 1923. The sculpture was made by Ned Looney from Killorglin, Co. Kerry and was erected in 1970 by the Killarney branch of the Republican Graves Association. Another, almost identical work of Ned Looney’s stands in the south Kerry town of Cahersiveen.
To the northeast, is the site of St. Finan’s Hospital, established 1849, it was designed by Woodward & Deane and was regarded as one of the most architecturally distinguished asylums of the 19th century. By the mid-20th Century it housed over 1,100 patients and was eventually closed in 2012.