Heritage Week 2016 – another success!

 

Midleton in early 1900s

Main Street, Midleton, around 1900.

Heritage Week 2016 has now ended but it started a day late as usual in Midleton. On Sunday 21st August some fifteen to eighteen people joined my early 20th century Midleton walking tour of the town. They were brave souls to ignore the Met Eireann weather warning and venture forth. (Youghal’s Medieval Festival was postponed for a week!)  In fact we only had a few showers of misty rain, some breezes and a grey threatening sky overhead, but we were actually fine! Given that I spoke about some of the bad weather in the period 1896 to 1918, the dull day was appropriate.

On Thursday evening, 25th August, Cal McCarthy spoke in Midleton Library about Spike Island in Cork Harbour as a prison in the 19th century . He was supported by the director of the Spike Island heritage site, Tom O’Neill, who encouraged us all to visit before the season closed at the end of October. We had an audience of about twenty for that event.

Saturday 27th saw my lecture in the same venue on ‘Living in Midleton a Hundred Years Ago’. Given that was a lovely day outside, and the last Saturday before the schools reopened,  we had a final audience of about twenty, which was a very welcome number.

Some twelve  people (and Mollie the Jack Russell!) joined the second walking tour on Sunday 28th August in glorious end of summer sunshine and heat. It was a bit difficult to talk about the great storm of 1903 in Midleton in that sort of weather!

I hope everybody learned something new and got a better understanding of Midleton’s (and Spike Island’s) history during the week!

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Life a hundred years ago – National Heritage Week 2016

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National Heritage Week 2016 will start on Saturday 20th August and run until Sunday 28th August. The theme this year is to celebrate a hundred years of heritage, but this can also mean celebrating life a hundred years ago. One might imagine that it would be entirely devoted to commemorating the 1916 Rising but the options are actually much broader than that.

There are a number of events in the East Cork area, including Cloyne, Castlemartyr and Youghal. Naturally Midleton will celebrate Heritage Week 2016 with FIVE events – two walking tours, two lectures and an intriguing musical recital. The events are free so do go along,. You will never know what you might learn!

Charles Street Midleton

Charles Street, now Connolly Street, Midleton, at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the background is the spire of St John the Baptist’s Church. The Potato Market was located in the yard behind the archway on the right. The granary building on the right was built to serve the former brewery which was only identified as a result of last year’s Heritage Week tour of the town! (Lawrence Collection, NLI)

Midleton Events for Heritage Week 2016 are:

Sunday 21 August, at 2.00 pm: Walking through Midleton in 1916. Meet at Midleton Library for this Walking Tour.

Thursday 28th August, at 7.30 pm: Too beautiful for Thieves and Pick-pockets. A free public lecture about Spike Island by Cal McCarthy. Venue: Midleton Library.

Saturday 27th August, at 12.00 noon. Living in Midleton a hundred years ago. A free public lecture about daily life in Midleton at the beginning of the twentieth century, given by Tony Harpur. Venue: Midleton Library.

Saturday 27th August, at 1.00 pm: What the Wild Geese heard – popular music from the 17th and 18th centuries. A FREE recital by the Hibernian Muse Early Music Ensemble. Venue: St John the Baptist’s Church..

Sunday 28th August, at 2.00 pm. Walking through Midleton in 1916. Meet at Midleton Library for this Walking Tour.

Other events in the Midleton area:-

Castlemartyr: Saturday 20th August, at 8.00 pm: John Saul, Horticulturist, from Castlemartyr to the White House. A public lecture by Conor Neligan, County Heritage Officer. Venue: Castlemartyr National School.

Cloyne: Saturday 20th August, 11.00 am to 4.30 pm: Discover Cloyne Cathedral. Including tours and guided visits. Venue: Cloyne Cathedral, Cloyne.

For further events in East Cork and elsewhere please consult:http://www.heritageweek.ie/whats-on

Bringing the Imokilly Fitzgeralds back ‘home’ to Kerry.

Dingle Peninsula

The spectacular coastal scenery of the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry.

Last month (22nd July to 24th July) I took a trip to Ballyferriter in on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry to deliver a paper at a conference. The title of the conference was ‘The Fitzgeralds and the Earls of Desmond.’  The conference was opened on Friday evening by Sir Adrian Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry. The first paper by Gerald O’Carroll considered the historiography of the Earls of Desmond. This was followed by Donal O’Cathain’s paper on the Gaelic sources about Gerald, the poet third Earl of Desmond (1335-1398). Sadly, the medieval Gaelic Irish sources are too often overlooked because too many scholars of medieval Ireland do not read Irish.

rahinnane-castle

Rahinnane Castle is built inside a ringwork or earthwork castle built y the twelfth century Anglo-Norman invaders. The ringwork itself may have been developed from an earlier Irish rath or fortified farmstead.

My own paper was delivered first thing on Saturday morning. A discussion on the descendants of Sir Maurice FitzRichard Fitzgerald, 2nd Knight of Kerry, in Imokilly might seem  heavy going for Saturday morning but I suspect that it came as a shock because few if any of the audience realized the profound influence the Kerry Ftizgeralds had on that little corner of south-east Cork. Joe Lennon then followed with a discussion of the Irish Fiants of the Tudor sovereigns as a source, particularly for the pardons given out after the Second Desmond Rebellion. He also revealed new information on the murder of the last Earl of Desmond at the end of the rebellion.

Joan Maguire then introduced the conference to the exciting Dingle/Corca Dhuibhne Interactive History Timeline. This can be downloaded here: http://www.dinglehistory.com/

This was followed by the launch of a poster for schools and interested groups: ‘The Geraldines and the History of Munster.’ The title is a little misleading because the poster refers to European historical events as well.

Gallarus Castle

Gallarus Castle is a later medieval tower house, probably missing its top floor. It is located just yards from the famous, and much older, Gallarus Oratory.

Saturday afternoon was spent touring three of the tower houses once held by the Knights of Kerry on the Dingle Peninsula. These were Gallarus, Rahinnane and Minard Castles. That evening a concert of traditional Irish music was laid on at the Blasket Centre. The music was played by a French family who love Irish music – it was hard to believe they were not Irish musicians!

All in all, it was a lovely weekend spent enjoyed good papers, interesting company, gorgeous scenery, fabulous food and lovely music. Oh, and the weather was great too, capped by the most spectacular sunset on Saturday night!

Minard Castle

Minard Castle perched on its knoll overlooking its storm beach and Dingle Bay. In the far distance to the right, across the bay, can be seen the mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula – where the Ring of Kerry touring route is located.

 

 

 

 

A passion for hurling…even beyond the grave!

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An early 19th century print depicting Belgrove (on the left) and East Ferry (on the right) with the ‘Ballinacurra River’ in between. The view is towards the north in the direction of Midletong. Sadly Belgrove House on Great Island is now gone. The church-like building on the East Ferry side is still extant. It is a former chapel but is now a private house called Church Cottage.

Next weekend will see the first of the semi-finals of the All Ireland Hurling Championships when Kilkenny will play Waterford (7th August) and the following weekend will see Tipperary play Galway (14th August) to decide the teams playing the final on Sunday 4th September. It’s worth recalling that hurling is a game so ancient that it plays a role in some of our earliest legends – the Ulster Cycle, especially the tales linked to the hero  Setanta who killed a nobleman’s ferocious guard dog by striking a ball into the dog’s throat with his hurley. The furious nobleman, Culann, demanded compensation from the youth. Unable to pay the demanded compensation for killing the valuable dog, Setanta agreed to become the man’s guard hound – hence he is better known as Cuchulainn (hound of Culann).

The game was played throughout the medieval period and into the early modern period. The Crown attempted to ban the game as alien to ‘English’ custom. As with the prohibition on football, the law had no effect.

In East Cork, hurling is more popular, and arguably more important, than Gaelic football. One indication of this passion for hurling can be found in a tale recorded in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1945. The tale suggests that hurling wasn’t simply a passion for the living – in this part of the country even the dead played the game!

The setting for this tale is East Ferry and the channel that links Ballinacurra to the Lower Basin of Cork Harbour, the so-called Ballinacurra River. This channel also separates the barony of Imokilly from Great Island (Barrymore barony), where Cobh (formerly Queenstown) is situated. From the early 1600s a ferry was licensed to convey passengers, livestock and carts from Great Island to Imokilly and vice versa. It seems likely that this ferry was actually in existence from very early days. The route was part of the early medieval bothar na naomh (road of the saints) which linked the monastery of Cork to Cloyne, and then on to Lismore (and Cashel). This makes sense because it mostly followed high ground and was therefore less vulnerable to flooding during heavy rain.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century ferry was operated by a windlass system – a cable attached to each side of the channel was wound around a windlass on board the flat-bottomed ferry. Simply by turning the windlass the ferryman could take the vessel from one side to the other and back again.  Presumably the earlier ferry was operated by oars or a  punting pole.

In the medieval period there were two parishes on Great Island – Clonmel in the western half of the island and Templerobin in the eastern half of the island. These still survive as ‘civil parishes’ on the Ordnance Survey maps and on the official documents into the twentieth century. On the other side of the Ballinacurra River lies the parish of Rath or Garranekinnefeake. Locals also know this as East Ferry  – for obvious reasons. Today there is a small quay and a pub at East Ferry. It is not certain if this pub replaces a much earlier hostelry – but it shouldn’t surprise us if this were the case.

Traditionally, hurling was played between the young men of rival or neighbouring parishes. Teams were often enormous and the playing field could be extensive indeed. This is where the story tellers take up the whole drama.

East Ferry

The ‘Ballinacurra River’ separating East Ferry from Great Island today.

Late one night when it was dark, the ferryman at East Ferry shore heard a voice hailing him from the Great Island shore. Naturally presuming that he had a fare to transport to the Imokilly shore, the ferryman conveyed his vessel to the other shore. On arrival, he discovered that there was absolutely nobody about. He called out, but there was no response.Although upset that he wouldn’t earn a fare, the ferryman decided to stay on the Great Island until he got a fare.

Settling down in his greatcoat to keep warm, he dozed off. But awoke suddenly when he heard a faint noise from the Imokilly shore.  Oddly it sounded as if a large number of people on the high ground overlooking East Ferry were shouting and cheering. However, he couldn’t see anything in the darkness, and he wasn’t hailed, so he stayed where he was. Some time later there came a hail from the East Ferry shore. Naturally, the ferryman went across to earn his keep. But, again there was nobody there waiting for the ferry. Deciding to stay on his own side of the channel, the ferryman was about to settle down when some voices could be heard from the Great Island shore. Feeling somewhat abashed , he presumed that he had misheard and that the calm waters had projected voices a long way, the ferryman returned to Great Island…..only to find the shore empty as before.

Looking around to see if somebody had just made a fool of him the ferryman discovered some coins placed on a stone near the shore. On counting the coins the ferryman was astonished to discover that the sum deposited on the stone was exactly the fare sufficient to pay him for conveying a large party of passengers across the channel and back again. The long, cold, quiet  night passed in weary exhaustion. The next morning the ferryman, feeling foolish, told his replacement what had happened during the night. The other ferryman was appalled and asked some searching questions.. ‘You took the dead men of Ballymore across to Rath to play a game of hurling against the dead of that parish!’ The noise he had heard coming from the top of the hill overlooking East Ferry was the ghostly audience cheering on the two teams! Apparently it had happened before, and there was no evidence of any harm being done to the ferryman……as long as he did his job, for which he had been paid the correct fare! It is not know if the ferryman quit his post that day….or continued to ferry the ghostly hurling teams to their matches.

It is curious that this tale explains how the ghosts crossed the water – apparently they cannot cross water, to the ferry proved very useful for their night-time hurling matches. Compare this with the Classical legend of Charon, the ferryman who conveyed the souls of the  Greek and Roman dead across the mythical river Styx into Hades. Coins were placed on the eyes of the corpse to pay Charon’s fare for conveying their souls to Hades. In East Ferry, it was the ghostly hurlers who paid the ferryman! And all for the enjoyment of a game of hurling!

The Bloody Hounds – a public lecture on the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly

The latest public lecture in Midleton Library will be a survey of the history of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly from 1177 to the early 20th century.

It will cover the early Fitzgeralds in Imokilly to the 1280s, the intervention of the 4th Earl of Desmond in the 1300s, and arrival of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald. Knight of Kerry, before 1400 followed by the arrival of his sons in the decades following. The Seneschals of Imokilly have a starring role as does the Elizabethan loyalist Dean of Cloyne, Sir John FitzEdmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe. The lecture will then follow the fortunes of the Fitzgeralds of Ballycrenane and of Corkbeg – the latter being the last of the Fitzgeralds descended from Sir Maurice to have kept their estates in the area.

The lecture will take place on Saturday 28th May at 12.00 noon.

It’s free and all are welcome!

 

Tony Poster

‘..if the said David or his brothers should prey upon the said bishop…’- the origins of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly in 1403.

Castlemartyr Castle

Castlemartyr Castle was certainly the the principal seat of the FitzGeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly, from 1463. Did the sons of Maurice FitzRichard, 3rd Knight of Kerry get their nickname ‘Madrai na Fola’ (Hounds of Blood) because of their savagery towards the tenants of the Bishop of Cloyne before 1403? .

In  his survey of the FitzGeralds of Imokilly in The Book of Cloyne (Cloyne Literary and Historical Society, 1977), Paul McCotter notes:

In 1370 no Fitzgerald owned land in Imokilly, by 1641 there were sixteen Fitzgerald landholding families and several leaseholding ones in the barony, most of these descending from one man, Richard, first Seneschal of Imokilly, who died before 1460.’ (p 79)

The standard view is that the FitzGeralds of Imokilly only came into being when Richard FitzMaurice FitzGerald was granted the office of Seneschal of Imokilly by his cousin the Earl of Desmond in 1422 or shortly thereafter. James ‘the Usurper‘,  6th Earl of Desmond, had been granted the office of Seneschal by James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond, perhaps in order to ease tensions between the two rival families. James the Usurper probably found it politic to secure the support of his cousins in Kerry – the FitzMaurice FitzGeralds, the sons of Sir Maurice FitzRichard, 3rd Knight of Kerry.

The FitzGeralds had been linked to Imokilly since about 1179/1180 when Robert FitzStephen had granted the Manor of Inchiquin (eastern Imokilly) to his nephew Alexander FitzGerald. With Alexander’s death the manor passed to his brother Gerald, ancestor of the Earls of Kildare. However, from 1286, Inchiquin was in the hands of absentee landlords as part of the marriage settlements of two FitzGerald heiresses. From 1321 to 1346, Maurice, 1st Earl of Desmond, had taken illegal control of the manor, but he was obliged to relinquish it.

It was Maurice, 3rd Knight of Kerry,  who established the permanent link between the FitzGeralds and Imokilly through his marriage to Marjorie de Courcey, daughter of Sir Nicholas de Courcey. The de Courceys were based around Kinsale but they also held lands in Imokilly, including Ballycrenane, Rathcoursey and Ballykineally. These three properties were certainly in the hands of Maurice by 1385. But it should be noted that Sir Maurice had already been Sheriff of Cork from 1364 to 1367. In the latter year he was ordered to be distrained for the issues (revenues) of the Manor of Inchiquin, which as sheriff he was obliged to administer on behalf of the Crown, which was then in possession of the manor. Sir Maurice held the legal office of Chief Sergeant of Cork in 1377. All of this suggests that Sir Maurice between his various offices and his marriage was able to acquire lands in County Cork, which he passed to his sons..

the lands inherited from Marjorie de Courcey passed to Maurice’s eldest son and heir, Edmund, 4th Knight of Kerry, but he was overthrown by his brother, Nicholas, Bishop of Ardfert, (afterwards 5th Knight of Kerry) and was permitted or obliged to retire to his lands in Imokilly.

However, there was another brother who had acquired lands in Imokilly. As part of the Pipe Roll of Cloyne, a ‘treaty’ is recorded between David FitzMaurice FitzGerald and Gerald Caneton, Bishop of Cloyne. David FitzMaurice was, of course, a son of Sir Maurice FitzGerald, 3rd Knight of Kerry. This document is dated to 1403 – almost two decades BEFORE Earl James of Desmond was made Seneschal of Imokilly. This document has too often been overlooked by scholars, but McCotter and Nicholls discuss it in their edition of the Pipe Roll of Cloyne (1997).

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Rathcoursey House near Midleton stands on the site of the FitzGerald tower house built by the descendants of Edmund FitzMaurice FitzGerald, the deposed 4th Knight of Kerry.

Although the text is incomplete it is clear that there was a long running dispute between the Bishop and David FitzGerald over issues of law and order, robbery of the Bishop’s goods and attacks on his tenants. The text refers to the depredations of David’s brothers – presumably Richard and John, perhaps even Edmund.  Each of these men were ancestors of various branches of the FitzGeralds of Imokilly. Perhaps their behaviour towards the bishop’s tenants earned them the local sobriquet ‘Madraí na Fola‘ – Hounds of Blood.

It is possible that David already held Ballymartyr (now Castlemartyr). He certainly had interests in Ballybane, later property of the FitzGeralds of Cloyne. It seems that Richard, as Seneschal, had his seat in Inchinacrenagh (now Castle Richard). this makes sense if his office was linked to the Manor of Inchiquin, which lay just to the east. However, Richard, or more likely his son, Maurice, 2nd Seneschal, seems to have come into possession of Ballymartyr very soon after. Certainly Maurice was in possession by 1463 and from this time Castlemartyr became the seat of the Seneschals until the reign of Elizabeth I. It remained the seat of Richard and Maurice’s heirs until the Cromwellian confiscations in the 1650s. Very likely the prior possession of Ballymartyr by David FitzMaurice FitzGerald may have facilitated the move from Inchinacrenagh to what is sometimes called Imokilly Castle at Castlemartyr.

Thus, preserved in the Pipe Roll of Cloyne is an important clue about the origins of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly – they were already in place, well established and creating trouble, by 1403, almost twenty years before the traditionally given date. The career of Sir Maurice, 3rd Knight of Kerry, in Cork needs to be reconsidered as the key to the foundation of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly.