Records of a ferry running from Passage West to the Great Island date as far back as the early 1600s. Passage West was thought to have been thus called because of its association with the word “passage” and its location as the traditional crossing place of the West Channel. Belvelly Bridge connecting the Great Island to the mainland was not constructed until 1807 and, prior to this time, the only links the Great Island had with the mainland were two ferries, one of which ran out of Passage. The ferry crossed the channel at the south end of the town – after the dockyard and before the Granaries. Consequently, this area has long been known locally as Ferrypoint.
Some time during the 14th century, a small group of Benedictine Monks from the Priory of St. John’s in Waterford established a settlement on a hill on the western shores of Cork Harbour. Legan Abbey, their settlement, was built on land granted by the MacCarthy family to their parent establishment. The little monastery these monks built felt into decay and its precise location is not known today. However, it is from this settlement that Monkstown derives its name.
A subsequent group of monks from the Benedictine Order of St. Peter and Paul in Bath arrived in Monkstown some time later. They built a monastery on the hill overlooking the sea. This too fell into decay and became a ruin. It is believed that the sites of these monasteries could have been either adjacent to the old church in Monkstown Demesne or on the site of Hazeldene, a large house overlooking Monkstown village.
Few relics remain today of Passage and Monkstown before the 1600s. It is possible that the area’s fast-flowing streams were used to power mills or other equipment. The remains of a culvert can be found less than 50 metres to the north of the old church in Monkstown, thus giving credence to the local theory that the Benedictine monks operated a mill close to their settlement.
The original Marmullane Church, situated about a mile from Passage on the Rochestown Road, is one of the most ancient links with local past. It is thought to have been built in either the 13th or 14th century, but was already a ruin by the early 1600s.