A perfectly glorious winter’s day and the view from the next parish.

I went for a walk today and it was glorious!  What a truly perfect winter’s day!  Clear blue skies (Veronese blue in fact, honestly!), a few puffballs of cotton wool to enhance the blue.  Very strong winter sun – aviator shades being required eyewear! It was perfectly dry underfoot and only a light jacket was required – in fact a good woollen pullover would have sufficed, since it was comfortably warm, due to the almost total lack of wind.  Yesterday was so dull!  A thick uniform blanket of low cloud and no wind made the place dark by 4.30 pm.

There is a view in both Ireland and the USA that if you said due west from Ireland, the next piece of land you encounter is somewhere around Boston – Massachusetts, that is.  Hence the phrase used in the Dingle Peninsula – the next parish is Boston.  In fact this couldn’t be more wrong.

Cork, and therefore Midleton, lie on the 51st parallel.  Or 51 degrees 54 seconds north to be more precise.  This is a similar latitude to the northern parts of London (England) and the town of Gloucester (England), or slightly further south than Amsterdam and Haarlem in the Netherlands!  (And we Irish think of continental Europe as ‘south’!)  On the other side of the Atlantic, the equivalent places are: Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada) and Adak in Alaska!  For your information, Boston, Mass., is located at 42 degrees 21 seconds north – nearly ten degrees further south!  Even Detroit and Chicago are located further south than Ireland!

Yes, we have such balmy weather on 30th November 2014 – how come?  Well, it’s due to the Gulf Stream bringing lovely warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico (you know, that bit of water south of Texas!).  This keeps Ireland wrapped in a nice warm bath through the winter – so temperatures rarely drop below freezing long enough to give us the type of snowstorm that hit Buffalo NY recently.  Indeed, one snowflake is all it takes to bring the country to a halt!  Okey, I’m exaggerating but you get the picture.

The Gulf Stream is what gives us our forty shades of green – because, when combined with the Jet Stream, it brings a lot of moisture to Ireland (rain – yes it DOES rain in Ireland!).  The Jet Stream wasn’t fully functional here today, due to a ‘blocking high’, that is a high pressure area over Ireland blocking the weather fronts.

Among the benefits of being so far north are the sixteen and a half hours of daylight in June (when it isn’t raining!). Sadly, we pay the price in December with a mere seven hours and fifty five minutes of daylight – why do you think pubs are so popular here?

So, the next time someone tells you that the next parish to the west of Ireland is Boston, you might usefully suggest to them that the next parish to the west is actually in NEWFOUNDLAND!

Decade of Bicentenaries? New churches expressing Irish Catholic hopes after 1800.

Interior Shanagarry church.

The intimate interior of Shanagarry church. It seems likely that this church originally ended in a blank wall with the altar in front of it, the arch and chancel being added later as funds were raised. The roof was originally an open timber structure.

We in Ireland are currently involved in the Decade of Centenaries – an all-Ireland initiative to commemorate the events that happened in Ireland from 1912 to 1922. The events being commemorated include the Home Rule Bill of 1912, the foundation of the Ulster and Irish Volunteers, the outbreak and course of World War I, the Easter Rising, the partition of Ireland into two political units, the War of Independence (Troubles), and the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921, with the arrival of effective dominion status in the Irish Free State in 1922.

But I wonder if we have also forgotten to look back a further century to the early 1800s.  In 1801 the Irish Parliament ceased to exist and a smaller group of MPs had to speak for Ireland in the Westminster Parliament. Hopes were raised during the run-up to the Act of Union that Catholics would be given political rights – a natural follow through of the gradual removal of restrictions on Catholic worship, land ownership, education, and entry to both the legal and medical professions.

What Catholics wanted was the right to be represented on the local government bodies, to become magistrates and to stand for election to Parliament.  Furthermore, the fact that Britain (and, therefore, Ireland) was involved in a major war against Napoleon’s French Empire weighed heavily on the minds of political figures in both Britain and Ireland.  How could the Crown ensure the loyalty of Irish Catholics, who until the French Revolution had looked to France for support?  One way was to bring the Catholic clergy onside.  The savage violence of the Revolutionaries in France against the Church had already alarmed the clergy in Ireland.  Cleverly, the (Protestant) government in Ireland (with the support of the British government) had founded a seminary for the education of catholic clergy and laymen in Maynooth in 1795, supporting it with an annual grant.  The effect was gratifyingly immediate for the government – the Catholic hierarchy condemned the 1798 Rebellions and supported the Act of Union in 1800.

The prospect of Catholic Emancipation reached fever pitch by 1815 – but somehow the government found reason to go back on its promises until Daniel O’Connell threw down the gauntlet in 1828.  Meanwhile Catholics in Ireland felt they could do something for themselves about their standing in the community – they began to either rebuild their chapels or build many more new chapels to cater for a rapidly increasing population.

Cratloe Church

The tiny country church of Cratloe in County Clare, perfectly preserved and beautifully restored. A rare national treasure by any standard, and a very rare survival. It was begun in 1791 (nave and chancel) and extended in 1806 (transepts, seen here) and incorporates a medieval doorway brought from elsewhere. Daniel O’Connell gave a speech to crowd here during his 1828 election campaign.

Cratloe Gallery

The interior of Cratloe Church shows the simple design with open timber roof and galleries. The T-shaped plan of Cratloe allowed for the installation of THREE galleries! They were a nightmare to restore given that people are much taller now. Such interiors were usually heavily embellished later in the nineteenth century.

In 1808, Dr John Milner, Catholic Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District in England (effectively Catholic Bishop of Birmingham), visited Ireland for the opening of St Anne’s and St Mary’s Church in Shandon – now the North Cathedral in Cork (the south Cathedral is St Fin Barre’s Anglican Cathedral by William Burges).  Milner was an early advocate of the gothic revival style in church architecture for Catholics deeming it an original Catholic style.  Now a fine church had been built in Youghal in the 1796.  This showed early gothic revival features like pointed arches, but it also included a very ‘Protestant’ feature – galleries going around three sides of the interior.  The galleries were necessary to accommodate an increasing population.  Youghal boasted the finest Catholic church in the diocese of Cloyne for many decades thereafter.

St Mary's Catholic Church Youghal

St Mary’s Catholic Church in Youghal founded 1796 as the finest Catholic church in the diocese of Cloyne. Only a few hundred yards from the Anglican St Mary’s Collegiate Church, which is a medieval foundation. The tower seen here was apparantly once topped by a spire of timber and lead, but it blew down in a storm.

St Mary's Catholic Church interior

The interior of St Mary’s in Youghal showing early Gothic revival pointed arches and the galleries which give the place the atmosphere of a Wren church in London, or a Congregational church in New England.

The church in Youghal was an exception.  Smaller communities were also replacing run-down chapels.  This year, 2014, saw two bicentenaries celebrated in neighbouring parishes.  The small village of Ladysbridge is part of the parish of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge.  In 1814, the Catholics were given land by the Protestant Henry Boyle, 3rd Earl of Shannon, who lived nearby in Castlemartyr House (now a luxury hotel!).  Lord Shannon’s gift of land and funds was to facilitate the provision of a place of worship for Catholics in Ladysbridge. A generous landlord could be a boost to the local Catholics but a difficult landlord could be very troublesome indeed.  In Midleton the landlord refused to allow the building of a Catholic chapel within the town until the 1890s!

The design of Youghal church seems to have been used as a template for Ladysbridge church for there were galleries on three sides of the interior.  The simple basic design was typical of the type of church that Catholics were building at this period – the urgent need was for solid structures to accommodate a rapidly increasing population, decorative embellishment was a secondary consideration.


The simple shape of Ladysbridge church is typical of the type of architecture used before the Famine in Ireland. However the walls and gables were raised a few feet in the 1958 refurbishment. There was once an external staircase leading to the internal gallery.

Following a visitation in 1828, Bishop Michael Collins (no, not THAT Michael Collins!) left a description of Ladysbridge church.  He said it measured ’80 by 36 feet’, and that it was ‘commodious well built and covered with Welsh slate, (some chapels still had thatch it seems).  The church had ‘an excellent and tasteful altar and a well-executed gallery,’ and it only lacked one detail: ‘it wants only to be ceiled’ – which proves that the roof was of open work timber at the time.  The bishop summarised that Ladys Bridge (as he called it) was ‘the best country chapel I have seen in the Diocese of Cloyne hitherto.’


Ladysbridge interior

The 1958 renovations stripped Ladysbridge church of the side galleries. The three altars and mosaic shown in the picture were all products of the 1958 refurbishment. The original decoration was much simpler, and the roof was of open timber work.

In those days, the parish of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge included the village of Shanagarry.  This was a place with associations to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.  In 1814, Fr O’Neill managed to acquire land there to build a second church, which still survives with little alteration.  Fortunately O’Neill already had a functioning chapel in Ballymacoda.  In the 1830s the old civil parish of Kilmahon (Shanagarry) was transferred from the parish of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge to the parish of Cloyne.

Shanagarry Church

Shanagarry church is much closer to the original appearance of Ladysbridge. Indeed the two churches may have been built by the same team of craftsmen.

The irony of the situation is that the Parish Priest of Ballymacoda, Ladysbridge and Shanagarry was Fr Peter O’Neill, a man who had been tried, condemned and whipped in Youghal for concealing information on subversion from the authorities.  He may or may not have been given this information in confession.  Shipped off to New South Wales and Norfolk Island, O’Neill was only the third Catholic priest to inhabit Australia.  However he was rapidly reprieved by a worried and embarrassed government – they needed the clergy to calm an angry Catholic populace.  It is possible that Lord Shannon was trying to placate his Catholic tenantry by offering land for building a chapel.  In the late 1950s the church in Ladysbridge was heavily rebuilt and redecorated.

Today, Saturday 29th November 2014, the neighbouring parish of Cloyne begins the celebrations of the building of its Catholic church in 1815.  This building still functions, although it underwent several changes.  The interior seems to be a design by Michael O’Riordan, an architect who became a Presentation Brother in Cork.  O’Riordan designed several churches in the dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.

St Colman's Church, Cloyne

Sadly, the original exterior of Cloyne church was severely ‘modernised’ in the late 20th century, giving it a very bizarre appearance indeed.

Cloyne church repainted interior

The gothic revival exterior of Cloyne hides a fine classical interior  The reredos motif seen here seems to be the work of Brother Michael O’Riordan – seemingly a reworking of the 1830s. Exactly the same motif was used in nearby Ballintotis church.

It has been estimated that between 1800 and 1850 (more accurately 1796 and 1846) about a hundred churches and chapels were rebuilt or newly built in the mostly rural diocese of Cloyne  Surely a testament to the strong religious devotion of the Catholics of the period.  Most of these churches were quite small ,including the now vanished chapel of St John in Midleton in this.  Several of these buildings were replaced after 1850 in a more convincing gothic revival style, although Midleton had to wait until 1894-96 for a huge new church to be constructed.

Part of the Catholic revival at the period included the provision of proper parish registers.  Parish registers were already in use for several decades from the middle of the eighteenth century, but many were judged to be inadequate during later episcopal visitations (essentially inspections by the bishop).  Older registers often contained baptisms, marriages and sometime burials all mixed up together in the same volume.  It seems that most of the older registers were lost or even discarded when new registers were introduced. Also bear in mind that the storage conditions for such registers was often poor until decent churches were built. As you can imagine, the losses of the older registers remains a source of deep regret to Irish genealogists.

Further reading on Amazon.com

Ireland Before the Famine: 1798-1848

King Dan: The Rise of Daniel O’Connell 1775 – 1829

The Decade of Centenaries can be followed here: http://www.decadeofcentenaries.com/

Note: I used the word chapel instead of church to describe Catholic places of worship before 1850 because that was the general use at the time, and because few of them had a cemetery attached, churches were in the hands of the Established Anglican Church of Ireland, and these usually had a collegiate cemetery attached for use by the whole population.

Happy Thanksgiving from Boston, County Clare, Ireland – no zip code required!


Boston in north County Clare. The Irish name means the little meadow or little bog of the skulls!

So, there’s a snowstorm about to hit the north eastern states, including the city of Boston (the one in Massachusetts, that is). Well, one Boston that won’t be getting a snowstorm on 27th November 2014 is the one in Ireland! Now we all know that Boston, Massachusetts, USA, is named for Boston in Lincolnshire, England. Indeed if you just Google ‘Boston’ you get the name popping up all over the place, from England to South Africa, to Suriname (!) and the Philippines (understandable, I guess!). And it seems that we have THREE (yes, THREE!) Bostons here in Ireland! One is a townland (remember those?) in the middle of the country in County Laois. There is apparently another spot near Cratloe in south-east County Clare (on the way from Shannon Airport to Limerick City). And there is the little village of Boston at the edge of the Burren in the north of County Clare (close to Gort in County Galway!) On the map it is located just north of Lough Bunny (yes, really!). In fact I’m not quite sure if the word village should be applied to it – it’s a straggle of houses beside a country road, with a post office, school and church. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be doing a big dig there anytime soon. Oh, and the weather on Thanksgiving Day will be a mite warmer than the in Massachusetts! The Irish name of the place is interesting – the little bog of the skulls! Presumably someone dragged out some prehistoric skulls near there in years gone by.

You know, I can’t help feeling that Clare County Council missed a trick when they didn’t exploit this fact to make American tourists feel more at home here! Imagine flying from Logan Airport, Boston MA, and landing in Shannon Airport to be confronted with a four-fingered signpost indicating Boston MA (2,900 miles), Boston, Cratloe, County Clare (10 miles), Boston, County Laois (50 miles or so) and Boston, County Clare (35 miles – or thereabouts!). Or maybe we should just scratch the thought – it’s enough to induce one to buy an immediate return ticket to the States! Or maybe the adventure is too much to resist!

Ballyvaughan sign

Are you STILL LOST? The famous over informative signpost in Ballyvaughan, near Boston, County Clare – as it was up to 2011. A national treasure!


Ballyvaughan replacement

The cleaned up replacement. Frankly I prefer the original – it was hilarious!

I’ve attached a youtube link just to amuse you while digesting the turkey!

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tODFC4lwfTY

To find Boston, take the road north from Shannon to Galway and turn west near Tubber in County Clare:

BostonTubber map

Tubber is marked on the map – you turn off west there for Boston, naturally!

To all my American followers, Happy Thanksgiving from Ireland!  Now don’t get lost, y’all hear?

The Queenstown Patrol – the US navy in Cork Harbour in World War I

St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh


Seeing that there was such a good response to my post on the World War I lecture in Carrigtwohill that took place last Friday night, I thought I’d follow up by posting a link to a publication by the US Naval War College in Newport, RI.  The book is called The Queenstown Patrol and is taken from the diary of Commander Joseph K Taussig USN who was based in Queenstown (now Cobh) in 1917 – he led the first patrol of US destroyers to Queenstown after the Americans entered the war.  The diary entries include a reference to what may have been the first ever recorded game of baseball played in Cork by the crews of two destroyers before some 3,000 people.  The train service from Queenstown to Cork still runs hourly – and although short, as he says, it’s a pleasant and interesting journey.  Unfortunately, Taussig left Queenstown before the Air Base in Aghada was built, but his observations are interesting – especially concerning the seeming indifference of the local population to the war!  Remember, Ireland, as part of the UK had been at war since August 1914, while the US had only just entered the war, so the indifference might have been war-weariness.

I did notice a few typos in the text:  Talley Head should read Galley Head, and Gaunt Rock Lightship is also mentioned – in fact it is Daunt Rock Lightship, scene of a famous lifeboat rescue many years later.  I’m sure there are one or two more.  Also, one of the illustrations at the back of the book shows a US destroyer in the harbour before the famous cathedral of Queenstown/Cobh.  The cathedral is captioned with the name ‘Stella Maris.’   OOPS!  The Catholic cathedral in Cobh was built as St Colman’s Cathedral – it never changed its name!  ‘Stella Maris’ may be a mistaken reference to Ballycotton church – Our Lady Star of the Sea – which was then only a few years old and also stands on a height in the village.  Although how the publishers could mix up the cathedral and church is beyond me – the US Navy wasn’t based in Ballycotton!

Link: http://www.ibiblio.org/anrs/docs/1001taussig_thequeenstownpatrol1917.pdf

Further reading on this subject from Amazon.com:

Naval History of World War I

Queenstown Patrol, 1917: The Diary of Commander Joseph Knefler Taussig, U.S. Navy

Ballycotton church

Admiralty House, Queenstown

Admiralty House, Queenstown (as it then was). This is where Vice- Admiral Bayly RN was based. The building is now a Benedictine convent.


Cobh promenade and Former Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Cobh Promenade and the former Royal Cork Yacht Club – the favourite bar of US naval officers in Queenstown.  It’s now an art gallery.

The Great War in East Cork Remembered

It may seem odd to refer to sites of the Great War (World War 1) in East Cork.  But, in fact we have four such sites in these parts.  The first is the great basin of Cork Harbour which sheltered the Royal Navy and US Navy flotillas protecting the Western Approaches.   Then there is the site of the US Naval Air Station at Aghada – now Aghada Tennis Club (although one building appears to have been moved bodily into Midleton!).

US Naval Air Station Gate Piers, Aghada.

Aghada’s US Naval Air Station gate piers. The inscription on the gate piers is original. It reads US Naval Air Base. Built by Irish contractors and dismantled after the Great War.

Then there is the Royal Navy’s unfinished Airship Station at Ballyquirke between Mogeely and Killeagh – the concrete water tower is the most striking landmark there.

Ballyquirke Water Tower

Water Tower at the site of the Royal Navy’s unfinished Airship Station in Ballyquirke. Had the British followed the American lead in hiring irish building contractors, the base might have been finished before the end of the Great War.

Finally there is Old Church Cemetery in Cobh (the former Queenstown) where nearly 200 victims of the RMS Lusitania were buried.  Altogether some 200 men from East Cork died in the war.  I recall an elderly neighbour telling me ago that he recalled TWO explosions aboard the Lusitania – he was a little boy in West Cork when he witnessed the tragedy.  In fact, he told me this several years before the more recent controversies emerged about the Lusitania’s cargo.


Mass burial of victims of the Lusitania in Old Church Cemetery in Queenstown (now Cobh), May 1916.

Tonight in Carrigtwohill the local historical society will present an exhibition and two lectures under the common title World War I Remembered.  Gerry White of the Western front Association (Cork Branch) and Marie Fitzgerald will both speak. Gerry will give a general overview of the effects of the war on the men at the front and on the communities at home.  Marie will recall her grandfather Daniel Fitzgerald who was a stoker on HMS Tiger during the Battle of Jutland in 1916, and happily survived the war.

Townlands II – Ireland’s ‘original’ postcodes.

One of the most irritating experiences for an Irish person when registering for something online is the difficulty we face when asked to insert a postcode into our address.  Some websites can’t cope with an empty postcode box – so our registration gets cancelled automatically.  I usually put in a line of zeros, or 1 followed by zeros.  In the Irish postal system this makes absolutely no sense – because we don’t, at present, have any postcodes here in Ireland.  I know, I know….’how do you get mail to people?’  Well, here we usually write an address (like you do) and, especially in rural areas, the address contains a townland name, as well as the name of the post office that delivers the daily post to the stated address.  With some 62,000 townlands of various sizes, in the country – it’s as good as a postcode system.  Or at least it was, until towns began to grow bigger – and Dublin especially expanded exponentially.  To complicate matters, lazy Irish local government (county councils, town and city councils) did not bother to exercise any control over the naming of new housing developments, usually leaving this up to the normally impoverished imagination of property developers (or their marketing staff!).  Hence, near where I live you stumble across a recently built housing development called THE COTSWOLDS (!).

Perhaps at this point I should point out one tiny detail the developer of The Cotswolds may have overlooked.  The real Cotswolds is an area in Gloucestershire in the western part of England (a little north-east of Bristol).  The native stone there is a creamy, even honey-coloured, limestone, or a soft grey limestone.  Here in Midleton the stone is either a hard grey limestone fading to almost white, or, more rarely, old red sandstone.  Our local stone looks nothing like the stone in charming Cotswolds village houses and cottages.  For goodness sake, we even have red marble – although that was normally employed for decorative purposes.  But neither East Cork nor Midleton look anything like the real Cotswolds – even if you think Augustus WN Pugin’s fine pair of townhouses on Main Street could do very well in the reals Cotswolds.

Pugin Building

The two houses designed by AWN Pugin (who designed the interiors of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament in London) and the clock tower popularly called ‘Big Ben’.  The large windows on the ground floor lit up shops.  The living quarters were upstairs.   Built after 1851, supervised by Pugin’s son, Edward, and rapidly combined into a single premises used as a hotel called The Midleton Arms.  Used as a barracks for the British Auxiliaries during the Irish War of Independence – hence the bullet holes on the facade!  Later in use as a public house and restaurant.  Now called McDaid’s Pub, it is currently up for sale!  

(FYI: the hideous structure in the background is a speculative multistory car-park that never functioned!  I do wish somebody would just demolish the wretched eyesore!)

The Cotswolds (fake Midleton version) is located in a large townland called Castleredmond.  There are several addresses called Castleredmond in Midleton.  One is located near the Christian Brothers Schools at the extreme edge of the townland of Castleredmond, Another is located in an outshot of Townparks townland that is bound on two sides by Castleredmond, A third is a large housing scheme between Midleton and the village of Ballinacorra – appropriately, this is located near the middle of Castleredmond townland.  And then there’s Castleredmond Court on the site of the old convent, but located in Townparks!  The lack of clear distinction between these different addresses has been known to create a problem for the postman.  But that problem is due to local government abdicating its responsibilities to the private developers. Normally the townland addresses work well and can be remarkably precise.

Now the Irish government is committed to spending between twenty and twenty five million Euro on a new postcode scheme that won’t even be compulsory!  Delivery companies and the emergency services say they won’t even bother with  the scheme because it makes no sense on the ground.

I suspect that the townland addresses will still be used by most people!  Well, they served for most of the last millenium and more – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!  But in Ireland it might be useful for local government to exercise some control over the naming of new roads and housing schemes!  No more Irish Cotswolds please! You simply cannot improve on the charm of the original English version!

Read also Townlands – the basic unit of Irish Local Identity.

Townlands – the basic unit of Irish local identity.

East Cork

Cattle posing for a photo in the East Cork countryside.  The English word townland was created to replace the Irish word baile bo which refers to a piece of land that can support a herd of cattle.

When the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland was completed in the early 1650s, the country lay in ruins – plague, famine and war had decimated the population.  The calamity was even worse than the disaster of the Great Famine in the 1840s.  In a deeply pious age, it really must have seemed as if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse had simply run amok.  But one more disaster awaited those Catholics who actually owned land – confiscation and transplantation.

The Commonwealth or Cromwellian government had to pay off those soldiers who had fought in its armies, and also pay off those wealthy merchants and landed gentry who had ‘adventured’ money to pay for the conquest of Ireland.  Back then there were very few sophisticated financial instruments the government could use to raise the money to do this.  But there was one outstanding resource that could stand in for money – land.  By confiscating the land of rebellious Irish Catholics, the Commonwealth could release a huge amount of land for paying off the Adventurers and soldiers.

But once the Catholic landowners were dispossessed and forced to migrate to the western province of Connacht, the government faced a difficulty – how to accurately quantify the amount of land released under the scheme?  There were no accurate maps of each of the localities to the granted to the Adventurers and soldiers.  Eventually, after some delays and difficulties, the ambitious surgeon-general of the English army, William Petty, stepped in and offered to survey the whole area to be confiscated.  He achieved this in barely three years (1655-1658)!  The end result was that Ireland was the first country to be accurately measured and mapped in its entirety according to the modern mapping techniques then available.  It also allowed Petty to publish the first truly accurate map of the whole of Ireland in 1685.

What has all this got to do with Irish townlands?  Well, when Petty’s surveyors examined the country they used the townland as the basic unit of territorial division.  This can be seen in the parish maps that were produced by the survey – each parish was made up of several townlands. These parish maps were the basis of the barony maps, which, in turn, led to the creation of county maps, thence the provincial maps and finally the General Mapp of Ireland.

By using the townland as the basic territorial unit, Petty made himself the godfather of the modern Irish townland.  Virtually all the townlands identified by Petty’s surveyors still exist, but new ones were also created later, usually by subdividing large townlands, or cutting a chunk out of an existing townland.  A classic example of the latter is the townland of School-Land in Midleton.  Cut out of the townland of Townparks, it represents the land given by the Brodrick family to the Elizabeth Villiers, Countess of Orkney, to persuade her to establish her intended new school in Midleton – it’s now called Midleton College (a boarding and day secondary school).  Why do this? The 1670 charter of King Charles II gave the Corporation (town council) of Midleton authority over a number of townlands (Townparks, Castleredmond, etc), but the charter didn’t mention the townland of School-Land, because it didn’t come into being until 1696, when the school was founded!   The new townland allowed the school to exist and function outside the jurisdiction of the Corporation – although it was represented on the board of governors.

Another example is Dromadda East townland near the village of Ladysbridge.  This is shown on the first edition six-inch Ordnance Survey map as consisting of just eight acres, three roods and thirty perches (8a 3r 30p) laid out in four exactly rectangular fields.  However this townland does not appear on the Down Survey maps because it was clearly separated from the townland of Dromaddabeg several years after Petty’s men surveyed the area.  Its creation must have come about through a sale of the land to a different owner.

William Petty’s use of townlands as the basic territorial unit meant that the earlier smaller territorial units were effectively lost, so today, the townland is the basic building block of of all Irish territorial divisions.  According to Thomas Larcom, first director of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, the building blocks of Irish territorial divisions included such land measurements as the gneeve (approximately 10 acres, depending on the quality of the land), the sessiagh (c.20 acres approx.) consisting of two gneeves, a varying number of sessiaghs or gneeves made up a ballyboe or tate or townland, depending on the productive quality of the land.  Today there are 61,096 townlands in Ireland (north and south) of which 60, 679 are inhabited (2011).  Everyone in Ireland, whether they realize it or not, lives in a townland.  No wonder we didn’t need postcodes!

It’s Ireland, in November, so it’s raining…..whaddya expect?

Rainclouds over St John the Baptist Church Midleton

Rainclouds over St John the Baptist Church, Midleton

A few weeks ago I posted about the joys of a long dry autumn with lovely golden leaves displayed on the trees.  Well, okey, this isn’t New England (or Canada, for that matter!) but it is always lovely and the leaves in many cases are still clinging on for dear life!

But…..it’s Ireland.  In November.  And the weather has changed to its winter mode – rain.  And lots of it.  We were spoiled by an almost rain-free summer and autumn, and now we have to break out the raincoats and galoshes (or wellies!) and brave the elements as we venture outdoors.  The thing about rain in Ireland is that it doesn’t just fall vertically from the skies – it also falls horizontally, depending on the strength of the wind.  Umbrellas are dangerous things to use here – the wind can gust so suddenly that your umbrella canopy ends up looking like a rag draped over a telephone cable!

To make matters worse, the falling leaves were not cleared away by the local authorities so the rainwater drainage systems are blocked by packed leaf litter.  Mind you, that never surprises me – our rainwater drainage systems are either Victorian or are still built according to Victorian designs.  Clearly Civil Engineering education in Ireland hasn’t caught up with the twentieth century – let alone the twenty-first!

I admit I have often concluded that the first thing Irish civil engineering students learn in class is ‘It’s Ireland, and it rains here, so there’s nothing we can do about it!’  Er, learning to drain off excessive rainwater would be a nice start!  Flooding affected an arc from Dungarvan in County Waterford to Dundalk in County Louth.  In County Cork we found the main Dublin-Cork motorway was flooded despite the special surface texture designed to absorb rainwater and percolate it into drains!

To make matters worse, on my trip to Limerick on Thursday 13th November I could see that many fields had standing water in them, suggesting that the ground was thoroughly saturated.  This could lead to further trouble for farmers if there is no letup in the rain – remember, Irish farmers leave their livestock outdoors all winter, simply because it is usually mild enough to do so!  Other northern European and North American farmers find this a difficult concept, given that they are usually obliged to house livestock indoors during the cold winter weather.  If the rain continues, our cattle and sheep will have to be moved to higher well-drained ground to avoid flooding.  They will then require a lot of fodder at a very early stage of the winter.  The good news, the hay and silage crops were excellent this year – a far cry from the situation in the spring when we had to import feed from France!

On 20th September 2000, the Irish singer Enya released her new hit song called A Day Without Rain.  The song was released on the same day that Belmullet in County Mayo recorded over two hundred continuous days of rain! Something tells me that Enya’s song became the unofficial anthem of Belmullet!  I fear it may become the anthem for Irish people this November!

A Successful course in practical Genealogy

On Wednesday, 12th November, I concluded teaching a practical course in Family History or genealogy at St Colman’s Community College in Midleton, as part of the Adult Education Evening School. Actually the course had officially finished the previous week (Wednesday 5th) at St Colman’s but the class consented to visit the LDS Family History Center in Cork to look at the resources available to researchers.   The course started on Wednesday, 1st October, and consisted of a single two-hour class/workshop each Wednesday night.

Each class was a divided into a teaching session and then a practical problem-solving session.  Given the mixed nature of the group (raw beginners, experienced reseachers, people who’d hit a brick wall in their research, etc) this structure proved interesting for everyone.  Raw beginners could see how problems could be approached, and the experienced researches enjoyed showing the fruits of their breakthrough in research.  I even gave them a ‘test’ in the last classroom session – find the property occupied by the ancestor of a classmate who had got confused by interpreting the data on the maps linked to the Primary (Griffith’s) Valuation.  The test was to have the class tell ME how to identify the property on the map – going through the procedure step by step!

The trip to the LDS Family History Center was to encourage the class members to use all available local resources first before travelling to, say, Dublin, to look up the source material held there!.  I reckon it worked.  They admitted that it was something they simply wouldn’t have thought of doing.

I hope they will all continue their research and gain increasing satisfaction as they make their breakthroughs and fill in their family tree.   Hopefully they won’t neglect the other aspects of research – finding out as much as possible about the lives of each ancestor.

Research your family tree online, free access from 7th-10th November

Findmypast.ie have a special offer this weekend to commemorate World War 1. From 12:00 GMT on Friday 7th November you can explore billions of historical records from around the world completely FREE, until noon Monday 10th. If you are an existing user just sign into your account as normal, or new users need to register. For more details see http://www.findmypast.ie/freeweekend