Please note: I just did a quick update on this post by including the early twentieth century photo from the National Library of Ireland’s collection.
On the very sunny morning of Friday 5th December 2014 I joined Monica and Tony Moore for a press photocall at our new history board recently set up in Brodrick Street, Midleton. The Moores have very kindly sponsored the production of this history board, which originated from an idea proposed by and encouraged by Anne McCarthy, who runs a gift shop on the street. She really wanted to tell something of the history of the street to go along with the advertising that is so common in Midleton. Anne told Tony and Monica Moore, who promptly offered to sponsor the history board. I offered to do the text – which required some research, amendments and corrections until all parties were satisfied. Mrs Mary Cott and Tony Moore contributed their own knowledge to the research. The photos and text of the history board were published in a local newsheet, Midleton and District News on Wednesday 10th December.
Brodrick Street is also called Coolbawn by the locals – it must be very confusing if a visitor to the town stops to ask were to find a certain premises and the locals say ‘Coolbawn‘ when the correct address is Brodrick Street! The title of the history board text was Brodrick Street/Coolbawn: one street two names? I put forward the idea that the name Coolbawn was original name of the area stretching from the Roxborough River (or Dungourney River) in the south to the wall of St John the Baptist churchyard in the north and from Main Street in the east to the Owenacurra River in the west. Coolbawn may mean ‘back meadow’ and the area is still liable to flood when the two rivers are high and the winds are right. The opening of Brodrick Street into this area around 1800 was designed to provide a fine residential address in the middle of the town, as indeed it must have been in the early years.
One of the families associated with the street were the Callaghans – the descendants of a successful woolen draper, Mathias Callaghan, and his wife, Charlotte Fitzgerald, who married in 1815. They had some thirteen or fourteen children, the eldest of whom, John Callaghan, became a major figure in the commercial life of Midleton. The construction of the terrace of five late Georgian town houses is attributed to him by some authors. However, although he was the immediate lessor of nine properties on the street in Griffith’s Valuation (1840s -1850s), it is not confirmed that he or his father built these. Certainly the last of John Callaghan’s descendants to live on the street, Richard John, died in 1935 and the house was sold to the Coffey family, members of the biggest building firm in the town.
The firm of JJ Coffey & Sons operated from Brodrick Street in the latter half of the nineteenth century. This firm built much of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Midleton, their masterpiece being the large Holy Rosary Catholic Church (1894-96). They also built the spire of Holy Rosary Church in 1907-08. I have reason to believe that my great grandfather worked for JJ Coffey as a stone cutter. One of his descendants still lives in the house purchased after the death of Richard John Callaghan in 1935.
Another family that flourished on Brodrick Street were the Moores. Two entrepreneurial sisters, Marie and Nora Moore ran a paid parking garage for bicycles and motorbikes next to the cinema during the 1950s. For good measure, the Moore sisters also ran a sweet shop to satisfy the cravings of cinema patrons. But more seriously the two ladies also stored coal (brought up by horse and cart from the port at Ballinacurra via the Bailick road) and raw wool from Australia for the Midleton Worsted Woolen Mills. And they say that Irish women were repressed in the 1950s! Not these two!
Sadly, I was obliged to be suggestive rather than totally prescriptive in my text for the history board, because, despite the valiant work of a very few individuals, the full history of Midleton has not yet been properly researched and published. Hopefully the Brodrick Street history board (and the publicity about it!) will get people interested and we’ll be able to put up more such boards around Midleton. Maybe then the demand for an accessible history publication will generate the momentum for research. Signs are hopeful since I’ve had one comment about the history board – ‘I never knew there was so much history on the Coolbawn!’
I would like to thank Anne McCarthy for proposing the idea, Monica and Tony Moore for sponsoring the history board (and sharing some memories of the street), Mrs Mary Cott for sharing her memories of the street – and showing me the original photograph of her formidable grandfather, the builder JJ Coffey. Furthermore I should record my thanks to Ms Becky Grice at Midleton & District News for the publicity and for the images shown on this post.