Lughnasa and the beginning of the harvest.

A Gallo-Roman depiction of the god Lugh, who gave his name to Lyons in France - Lugdunum in Latin.

A Gallo-Roman depiction of the god Lugh, who gave his name to Lyons in France – Lugdunum in Latin.

It is an oddity of the calendar in the Irish language that there is a month called Mean Fomhair (or middle harvest, now September) and a month called Deireadh Fomhair (end of the harvest, or October), but there is no month whose name refers to the beginning of the grain harvest. There is, however, a major festival to mark the turning of summer towards the autumn. This is one of the four great festivals of the ancient Irish calendar and marks the beginning of the harvest season – Lughnasa. In Irish the whole month that we call August is named after this feast held at the beginning of the month.  Lughnasa was dedicated to the ancient god Lugh (or Lú in modern Irish). In Irish mythology, Lugh was a god born of mixed parentage – his father came from the Tuatha de Danann and his mother was a Formorian.

These were two of the mythical ancient peoples who populated Ireland and struggled to gain ascendency over the land. After many adventures, Lugh eventually led the Tuatha de Danann to win a  battle at Mag Tuireadh (Moytura), thus securing Tuatha de Danann ascendency. The outcome of the battle is linked in mythology to a defeated Formorian leader offering to teach the Tuatha de Danann the secrets of successful agriculture. Already we can see the link between Lugh and the harvest. But the link between Lugh and the harvest is even closer because, following the ancient Irish tradition, as a boy, Lugh was apparently fostered by a woman called Tailtu. She died of exhaustion after clearing away much of the the forests of Ireland to create fields for pasture and tillage. In her memory Lugh ordered a great assembly and funeral games to be held at Tailteann or Teltown in County Meath.

The annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, Ireland's holy mountain, now takes place on Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July. This appears to be a Christianization of part of the Lughnasa festival. (AP, Helen O'Neill)

The annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain, now takes place on Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July. This appears to be a Christianization of part of the Lughnasa festival. (AP, Helen O’Neill)

But this was only one of the events that marked the Lughnasa festival – another event is still celebrated in County Mayo, but is given a totally Christian interpretation. This is Reek Sunday when pilgrims climb Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick. This year’s Mass at the summit was cancelled due to a severe weather warning – but hundreds still went up the mountain. Reek Sunday usually happens on the last Sunday in July – the displacement of the pilgrimage to this date serves to emphasize the Christian nature of the event, which for centuries has overlain the ancient pre-Christian celebration of Lughnasa on high places.

After an exhausting chase over the mountains, King Puck is captured to preside over Puck Fair in Kilorglin. Although said to be just four hundred years old, it is probably a much older festival linked to Lughnasa.

After an exhausting chase over the mountains, King Puck is captured to preside over Puck Fair in Kilorglin, County Kerry. Although said to be just four hundred years old, the Fair is probably a much older festival linked to Lughnasa.

One extraordinary festival in early August sees the celebration of Puck Fair in County Kerry. A wild mountain billy goat is captured after a mad chase over the hills and mountains of south Kerry. After inspection by a vet, the goat is placed in a rather luxurious cage high up on a platform overlooking the week long celebration in the town of Kilorglin. The goat-god, (called King Puck) is usually presented with a human consort or queen for the duration of the festival, after which, the well rested and well-fed, god is returned to his natural habitat and his harem of she-goats. Puck Fair is an extraordinary survival of ancient pagan rites in, supposedly, mostly Christian Ireland. it is likely that at one time the goat would have been sacrificed and the flesh eaten. In other celebrations an old bull was sacrificed and the flesh was butchered, cooked and shared out among the company. It should be remembered that recent scientific studies have shown that dairy produce provided most of the protein of the ancient Irish, with only the most important people getting a regular intake of meat. So, festivals which required the sacrifice and consumption of an animal were also occasions of importance for the intake of meat protein for the less well off in Irish society.

While Europe went to war in August 1939, Kerry celebrated Puck Fair, thus continuing an ancient tradition.  King Puck is housed in the platform at the top of the scaffold.

While Europe went to war in August 1939, Kerry celebrated Puck Fair, thus continuing an ancient tradition. King Puck is housed in the platform at the top of the scaffold.

The distinguished folklorist, Máire MacNeill, suggested that the festival of Lughnasa also involved cutting the first corn and burying it in a high place (hill or mountain) in acknowledgement of the role of the gods in supplying the harvest. The sacrifice of an old bull allowed the introduction of a younger new bull to the herd of cattle to replenish the stock. The festival was also linked to the consumption of bilberries, which often grow on poor acidic soils – the first fruit of the harvest season.

Bilberries, native to Europe and Asia, were eaten at Lughnasa.

Bilberries, native to Europe and Asia, were gathered from marginal lands and eaten at Lughnasa.

In some places, especially in Ulster, Lughnasa is also called Lammas. In recent times various places in Ireland have attempted to revive Lughnasa as a summer celebration. Amusingly, the first weekend in August is a Bank Holiday weekend in the Republic of Ireland. This is the date when many people head off abroad in search of a sunshine vacation (rather necessary in this year’s cool, cloudy and damp summer. The term Lughnasa came back into prominence in recent years with Brian Friel’s play Dancing at Lughnasa, and, especially, the film based on the play, which starred Meryl Streep.

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The ‘last’ of the Imokilly Geraldines.

Castlerichard, near Killeagh, was formerly known as Inchinacrenagh. It was one of the principal seats of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly and stands overlooking the Womanagh River, near the place that Diarmait MacMurrough is said by some to have left for England to seek help - thus bringing the Anglo Normans to Ireland, including the Fitzgeralds. Inchinacrenagh may have been the first seat of the Seneschals of Imokilly.

Castlerichard, near Killeagh, was formerly known as Inchinacrenagh. It was one of the principal seats of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly and stands overlooking the Womanagh River, near the place that Diarmait MacMurrough is said by some to have left for England to seek help – thus bringing the Anglo Normans, to Ireland, including the Fitzgeralds. Inchinacrenagh may have been the first seat of the Seneschals of Imokilly.

This post is dedicated to a lady in Australia who is a direct descendent of the Seneschals of Imokilly.

Sunday, 26 July 2015 is the ninetieth anniversary of the death of Dr Richard Fitzgerald of Midleton.  A graduate of Queen’s College Cork, now University College Cork, he completed his medical studies in Glasgow and Edinburgh before returning to his native town as a doctor in general practice and as dispensary doctor attached to Walshtownmore East dispensary. He was held in high regard by all, especially the poor of whom he seemed to take special notice. Dr Richard was the son of Maurice Fitzgerald, who had managed the Munster Bank, later the Munster and Leinster Bank, in Midleton. Dr Richard Fitzgerald was unmarried and was survived by two sisters – one was Sr Mary Francis Fitzgerald of the Mercy Convent in Kinsale, and the other was Ms Charlotte Fitzgerald of Midleton, who was strangely omitted from the notice of his death. Richard Fitzgerald was buried in the family grave in Tallow county Waterford on Tuesday 28 July 1925. Richard’s father, Maurice had possession of a coloured stone known as the Imokilly Amulet. Strangely the present author saw another coloured stone in Glin Castle, County Limerick, some years ago. This stone was also known as the Imokilly Amulet. The late Desmond Fitzgerald, the 29th and last Knight of Glin, said it came into his family when an eighteenth century ancestor married Mary Fitzgerald of Imokilly, who brought the amulet with her to Glin. It seems odd that in the late 19th century the amulet was said to be housed in a bank in Midleton, presumably Maurice Fitzgerald’s bank. It is possible that there were TWO amulets linked to the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly.

Old Bank House on Main Street Midleton is the former premises of the Munster Bank, later the Munster and Leinster Bank, managed by Maurice Fitzgerald, the father of Dr Richard Fitzgerald. This is where the Imokilly amulet was said to have been kept.

Old Bank House on Main Street Midleton, is the former premises of the Munster Bank, later the Munster and Leinster Bank, managed by Maurice Fitzgerald, the father of Dr Richard Fitzgerald. This is where the Imokilly amulet was said to have been kept.

Why does this matter? And for that matter, why was Dr Richard referred to as the ‘last of the male line of the Imokilly (Castlerichard) Geraldines’?  The word ‘Geraldines’ refers to anyone with the name Fitzgerald. Clearly there were plenty of Fitzgeralds in Imokilly at the time – including the Penrose-Fitzgeralds. The reference is to the office of Seneschal of Imokilly, created in the fifteenth century.  The medieval office of seneschal was that of a governor of detached lands belonging to a monarch or feudal lord. The manor of Inchiquin in Imokilly and other lands had become the source of some legal disputes in the later 1300s. The Butlers of Ormond were one of the claimants, as were the Fitzgeralds of Desmond. But the Crown also had claims of inheritance, as did other parties. The whole matter was fraught with expense and offered serious potential for strife. By creating the office of seneschal the authorities could govern these debatable lands with some profit, whilst avoiding further disputes. Thus the term ‘Imokilly Geraldines’ goes back to the 1420 when James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, created the post of Seneschal of Imokilly for his cousin, James FitzGerald, 4th Earl of Desmond (also called ‘the Usurper’). Shortly after this the Earl of Desmond made over this post to his kinsman from Kerry, Richard FitzMaurice FitzGerald. Richard’s older half-brother, Edmund, had already moved to Rathcoursey and Ballycrenane in Imokilly, which he inherited from his mother, Marjorie de Courcey. Richard FitzMaurice FitzGerald was now officially the most powerful layman in Imokilly. Where he settled is debatable – but it is suggested that his base was at Inchinacrenagh or Castle Richard as it is now called, from a later descendant. In theory the post of seneschal should have been granted to someone else on Richard’s death, but it went to his son Maurice and thereafter became hereditary. Effectively this put the FitzGeralds of Imokilly on a par with the hereditary Knights of Kerry and of Glin and the White Knight (FitzGibbon). These hereditary knighthoods were unusual, indeed unique to the Desmonds, but did not carry the title ‘Sir’. They were a form of Gaelicization of English titles – the Fitzgeralds of Desmond were clearly going native. During the next century, Richard FitzMaurice’s descendents spread rapidly through Imokilly acquiriing estates and building tower houses.

The sad ruins of Ballyoughtera Church near Castlemartyr house a tomb that was the burial place of the Fitzgeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly.

The sad ruins of Ballyoughtera Church near Castlemartyr house a tomb that was the burial place of the Fitzgeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly.

Maurice, the second Seneschal of Imokilly, settled at Ballymartyr, now called Castlemartyr. This move westwards was probably to ward off the encroaching Barry family, who held the next barony of Barrymore. It is likely that Maurice built most of the castle that gives the village its modern name. This location placed the Seneschal in a position from which it proved easier to dominate the whole barony. Maurice was succeeded by his son Edmund. Edmund upset everyone by getting his son, John, appointed Bishop of Cork and Cloyne, to the chagrin of the Earl of Desmond and the opposition of the MacCarthy clan. Thus began the clerical line of the FitzGeralds of Imokilly. Edmund was succeeded by his son Richard as fourth Seneschal and Richard was succeeded by his son Maurice. Maurice’s son Edmund became the sixth seneschal, who probably died before 1565, for his son John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was then assisting the Earl of Desmond at the Battle of Carrigaline. This John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was one of the key figures involved in the two Desmond Rebellions, being a key ally of the ‘Archtraitor’, James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, who had instigated the rebellions. Pardoned after the first rebellion, FitzEdmund was very quick to join the second revolt. Narrowly failing to kill or capture Captain Walter Raleigh at Chore (now Midleton) in 1582, John FitzEdmund was besieged at Castlemartyr by Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormond and Raleigh. The Seneschal’s mother, brother and infant son were executed by the Crown forces in front of his eyes at Castlemartyr, a gesture that, one presumes, is unlikely to have encouraged his loyalty to Queen Elizabeth I. (Bizarrely, the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel, which stands next to the castle where this took place, now provides clients with Lady FitzGerald’s Afternoon Tea – I have been reliably informed that this is a reference to Lady Arnott, née Fitzgerald, who bought the estate in 1906. It has nothing to do with the poor woman who was so brutally executed.) Eventually, in 1583, reduced to just twenty-eight men, John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, Seneschal of Imokilly, surrendered. Allowed to retain his lands and behaving himself, the Seneschal must have been surprised to be imprisoned by Thomas Norris in 1587. He was held in Dublin Castle while the Crown and various ambitious planters and officials argued over the division of his estate of thirty-six thousand acres. But before he could be released with most of his estate restored, the last real Seneschal of Imokilly died in his prison in 1589.

Castlemartyr Castle was the principal seat of the FitzGeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly.  Called the 'Madrai na Fola' or Hounds of Blood for their savagery.  The towerhouse  at the right is the most authentic FitzGerald structure. The great chimneys come from the manor house later constructed within the walls of the castle by Edmund Fitzgerald in the early 17th century..

Castlemartyr Castle was the principal seat of the FitzGeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly. Called the ‘Madrai na Fola’ or Hounds of Blood for their savagery. The towerhouse at the right is the most authentic FitzGerald structure. The great chimneys come from the manor house later constructed within the walls of the castle by Edmund Fitzgerald in the early 17th century. The castle was confiscated under Cromwell and given to Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill, whose descendents held it until the twentieth century.

John FitzEdmund FitzGerald’s young son, Edmund, was just a year and a half old when his father died. Granted to Captain Moyle as a ward, Edmund was eventually restored to most of his father’s estate in 1609. He is credited with adding the large  and domestic range on to the tower house built by his ancestors. However, although Edmund was called Seneschal locally, even by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, he was not officially recognized as such, the post being deemed to have died with his father. With improved government control in County Cork the Crown felt it no longer required a seneschal in Imokilly. The involvement of Edmund’s son, Colonel Richard Fitzgerald, in the rebellion of 1642 threatened everything. Much of Imokilly was controlled by the Protestant army of Cork, controlled by Lord Inchiquin and Lord Broghill. When Cromwell’s forces overran Ireland. Edmund went into exile in Brussels where he died in 1654. Colonel Richard returned from exile with Charles II and was restored to some of his father’s lands at Glenageare and Inchinacrenagh, but Ballymartyr or Castlemartyr was now securely in the hands of Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill.

hic Jacet Geraldi de Imokille - here lie the Geraldines of Imokilly. The tomb of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly in Balloughtera church.

Hic Jacent Geraldi de Imokelly – here lie the Geraldines of Imokilly. The tomb of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly in Balloughtera church. Note the boar crest at the top – this seems to have been adopted as the specific crest of the Seneschals. The design of the tomb and the lettering suggest a seventeenth century date of construction.

Colonel Richard Fitzgerald gave his estate at Inchinacrenah to his younger brother Maurice, while Richard’s son Edmond inherited the main Glennageare estate. Although he supported the Catholic King James II, Edmund managed to hang on to some property, which was inherited by his son John in 1699. John moved to Ballinacorra and conformed to the established Church to retain his estates under the Penal Laws.  Appropriately, John Fitzgerald, the would-be Seneschal of Imokilly, even became MP for Castlemartyr in 1727, but died the next year leaving only a sister, Mary, to inherit. She married Thomas FitzGerald, the Knight of Glin, and is said to have worn the trousers in the marriage, being known as the Bean Rídere or Lady Knight. She is also credited with bringing to Glin Castle the amulet that the present author saw there. With the death of John Fitzgerald MP in 1728 there ended the direct line of descent from John FitzEdmund FitzGerald who died as the last effective, and real, Seneschal of Imokilly in Dublin Castle in 1589.

The Imokilly Amulet was a 'luck' or charm that was claimed to protect the Fitzgeralds and their property from harm.  One 'Imokilly Amulet' was seen by the author in Glin Castle County Limerick, but where did Maurice Fitzgerald's amulet end up?

The Imokilly Amulet was a ‘luck’ or charm that was claimed to protect the Fitzgeralds and their property from harm. One ‘Imokilly Amulet’ was seen by the author in Glin Castle County Limerick, but where did Maurice Fitzgerald’s amulet end up?

But what of the descendents of Maurice who inherited Inchinacrenagh from Colonel Richard?  Maurice died in 1699, being succeeded by his son Richard, who died in 1735. This Richard inherited from his cousin, the MP John Fitzgerald, any claim to the title Seneschal of Imokilly. Richard was succeeded by his son Richard who actually changed Inchinacrenagh to Castle Richard, the name by which it is known today. Hence the reference to the Castlerichard Geraldines in the death notice of Dr Richard Fitzgerald of Midleton. However this Richard Fitzgerald did not inherit everything – the Penal Laws required that the estate be split if the heirs were Catholic – so the townland of Carrigrostig was inherited by his younger brother, Dr Thomas Fitzgerald of Youghal, On Richard’s death his estate was inherited by his son, Richard Óg (Richard the younger), while the younger son, Dr Maurice Fitzgerald of Killeagh, inherited his unmarried uncle Thomas’s lands of Carrigrostig. The Penal Laws were no longer in force so it was now possible to pass on the full inheritance. Richard Óg’s son, John Fitzgerald, ran into financial difficulties in the 1850s and sold Castlerichard. Thus ended the Fitzgerald connection to one of the finest tower-houses in Imokilly. But the claim to the title Seneschal of Imokilly did not die with John – for the descendents of Dr Maurice Fitzgerald inherited the claim, although they no longer held any of the land. Thus, Dr Richard Fitzgerald of Midleton was a direct descnedent of Dr Maurice Fitzgerald of Killeagh and Carrigrostig, who was himself a direct descendant of John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, Seneschal of Imokilly, who died in Dublin Castle in 1589. Apparently this is what the Cork Examiner was referring to when Dr Richard was called ‘the last of the male line of the Imokilly (Castlerichard) Geraldines.’  It happened exactly ninety years ago.

Sic transit gloria Geraldi de Imokelly

Link (death notice of Dr Richard Fitzgerald of Midleton, published in the Cork Examiner 28th July 1925):- DrRichardFitzGerald. .References. Paul MacCotter: ‘The Fitzgeralds of Imokilly’ in The Book of Cloyne, edited by Pádraig Ó Loingsigh, Cloyne Literary and Historical Society 1994. ‘Pedigree of Ftizgerald, Knight of Kerry; of Fitzgerald, Seneschals of Imokilly; and of Fitzgerald of Cloyne,’ in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Vol 4, no 27, 1876.

A quick follow up to the Midleton House post.

view of Holy Rosary Church with part of Midleton House, The Rock, and the Roxborough or Dungourney River in the foreground. This photo dates from after 1908, the year the church spire was completed. Note the extensive and elaborate gardens. (National Library of Ireland.)

View of Holy Rosary Church with part of Midleton House, The Rock, and the Roxborough or Dungourney River in the foreground. This photo dates from after 1908, the year the church spire was completed. The photo appears to have been taken on a summer evening, for the shadows are cast from the west. The camera was positioned on Lewis Bridge. Note the extensive and elaborate gardens to the side and behind Midleton House. (Eason Photographic Collection, National Library of Ireland.)

As you know our last post examined the history of the name Midleton House associated with two different houses, each on opposite banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River in Midleton.  The National Library of Ireland has a lovely early twentieth century image showing part of Midleton House , The Rock. What is of note is not just the dominant position of the newly built Holy Rosary Church (spire completed in 1908) but the fine gardens around the house. Today there are a lot more large trees around the house.

Midleton House and, er, the other Midleton House…..a tale of two houses and one name.

Midleton House at the southern end of Main Street only acquired the name around 1896 when the Ordnance Survey noted it. This was the house that almost led to my being 'handbagged' in August 2014!

Midleton House at the southern end of Main Street only acquired the name around 1896 when the Ordnance Survey noted it. This was the house that almost led to the present author being ‘handbagged’ in August 2014! Note the huge grain store at the extreme left of the picture, behind the house. Until the 1930s it was the residence of the Coppinger family.

During a tour of Midleton during Heritage Week at the end of August 2014, I was nearly handbagged by a group of ‘Old Midleton’ ladies who’d joined the tour. Their outrage was sparked by my use of the name ‘Midleton House’ while referring to the very first house at the southern end of Main Street. But this was not the building standing across the river from it that ThEY called Midleton House.You will be glad to know that handbags were not employed on this occasion, because I managed to deflect their collective ire by promising them a juicy piece of gossip!

One of the mysteries of Midleton is why the town has two houses, each called Midleton House, facing each other across the narrow Roxborough or Dungourney River. Now there are a lot of people in Midleton who would object that the above statement is factually incorrect – like the ladies on my tour, they would assert, beyond any fear of contradiction, that there is only ONE Midleton House. Well, let’s look at this matter more carefully.

When I lived in Limerick, I had heard a rumour that the town council had directed the owners of the house at the southern end of Main Street to remove a new house sign bearing the name Midleton House. The tale I heard was that the council asserted that the other house directly across the river was Midleton House, and that no other house was entitled to the name. Now I haven’t corroborated this tale, but I can think of a perfectly good reason why the council might have objected to a sign – but it has nothing to do with the name of the house. My concern would be that the original forged and cast iron railings might be harmed by the addition of a new sign. This, in my opinion is the ONLY proper objection that the council should have had to the sign – NOT the ‘fact’ that there was only one house entitled to the name ‘Midleton House.’

So, it’s time to examine why Midleton has two houses with the same name apparently glaring at each other across the river.

The first thing to note is that the first edition Ordnance Survey map shows both houses in the 1840s. But only one house is actually named – this is the house on the southern bank of the Roxborough or Dungourney River. It is called Lewis Place – a name that is virtually unknown in Midleton, despite the fact that the house is located next to Lewis Bridge. The lawn at the front of the house contained a well – Lewis Well, now covered over and entirely forgotten.

Recorded on the first edition Ordnance Survey map as Lewis Place, this mid-18th century house acquired the name Midleton House by 1856. It was the residence of the Greene family from the 1790s until the early twentieth century.

Recorded on the first edition Ordnance Survey map as Lewis Place, this mid-18th century house on the south bank of the Roxborough River acquired the name Midleton House by 1856. It was the residence of the Greene family from the 1790s until the early twentieth century. It is currently boarded up and for sale.

One might ask who was Lewis? That a house, bridge and well should be named after him suggests someone of improtance. The answer is that we simply don’t know, although Charles Smith’s History and Character of the the County and City of Cork (1750) notes that some of the monuments in St John the Baptist churchyard (C of I) bore the family name Lewis. So the family must have been resident in the town or parish into the middle of the eighteenth century. And this is important, for clearly the house is older than its earliest recorded deed from the 1790s, when it was leased to Rev Mr Greene, a onetime Sovereign of Midleton. The slope of the roof and the placement of windows and door at the front suggest that it even LOOKS older, with a bit of gentle modernisation around 1800. I suspect that a date somewhere between 1750 and 1760 is about right. At one point this house enjoyed a view right up the entire length of the Main Street towards the mill at the northern end of the town.

First edition Ordnance Survey map of Midleton showing Lewis Place (outlined in green) on the south bank of the Roxborough or Dungourney River and the Coppinger residence (outlined in red) on the north bank at the end of the Main Street.

First edition Ordnance Survey map of Midleton showing Lewis Place (outlined in green) on the south bank of the Roxborough or Dungourney River and the Coppinger residence (outlined in red) on the north bank at the end of the Main Street.

Sadly, the view is no longer open because the trees and shrubs planted in the front garden of the house across the river have grown up to block the vista. THAT house is clearly a much later building than Lewis Place. The size and disposition of the windows and door, as well as the shallower slope of the roof, and the good manners of the house in following line of the western side of the Main Street all suggest a building from about 1790 – 1800. Behind this building is a large yard and a huge grain store, about six to seven storeys in height. Until the 1930s the yard was known as Coppinger’s Yard thus revealing the name of the family that developed the site at the end of the eighteenth century. This house was NOT not given a name in the first edition Ordnance Survey map. It is worth noting that Coppingers Brewery stood across the Main Street from the yard.

Midleton House is the name given to BOTH the Coppinger house on the north side of the river and the Green house formerly Lewis Place on the south side of the river in 1896.

Midleton House is the name given to BOTH the Coppinger house on the north side of the river and the Greene house, formerly Lewis Place, on the south side of the river in 1896. Surprisingly Lewis Well is still there in the middle of the lawn!

Returning to our Ordnance Survey maps, but this time to the 1896 25-inch survey of Midleton. BOTH houses are called Midleton House on the map! This is why I believe that the former Coppinger residence at the southern end of Main Street is entitled to be called Midleton House, along with the former Lewis Place across the river. Sadly it would appear that nobody in the council bothered to look at the Ordnance Survey maps!

It might serve to give some history of the occupation of the two houses.

First, Midleton House, The Rock, formerly Lewis Place, on the southern bank of the Roxborough River. As noted this is clearly the older of the two houses by several decades. From the 1790s it was the home of the Greene family who developed most of the western side of St Mary’s Road (at one time to the dismay of Lord Midleton’s agent!)..

Pigott’s Directory of 1824 gives us the information that the Rev Wm Greene, LLD, Rector of Tullilease (in north County Cork) resided in Midleton, under the heading of ‘Nobility, Gentry and Clergy’. The name or precise address of the house is not given and there is no mention of the name Lewis Place anywhere – remember this was BEFORE the first edition Ordnance Survey map was produced. Mr Greene’s near neighbour was the Rev William Maunsell, Archdeacon of Limerick, residing at Midleton Lodge (now the council offices). In 1856, Slater’s Directory gives the detail that Rev William Greene, LLD, resided at Midleton House. Now this is the ONLY Midleton House noted in the Directory. So shortly after the Ordnance Survey completed their survey of Midleton the name Lewis Place was changed to Midleton House. It is not at present known if Viscount Midleton gave his consent to this change.

Mr Michael Greene's gate, the entrance to Midleton House, The Rock, where two constables were shot by the Fenians under Tim Daly in 1867. Three of the constables took refuge in Mr Greene's house.

Mr Michael Greene’s gate, the entrance to Midleton House, The Rock, where two constables were shot by the Fenians under Tim Daly in 1867. Three of the constables took refuge in Mr Greene’s house.

Slater’s Directory  (1881) gives us Mr Michael Greene as resident at Midleton House. A solicitor who was also a ‘commissioner for taking affidavits’ and a registrar of marriages, he was the son of Rev. William Greene, Rector of Tullilease. Michael Greene was the same man who, in 1867, provided refuge tor three constables following their violent encounter with Midleton’s Fenian rebels directly in front of his own gate. During this encounter, one constable was shot dead and another was wounded, after which the rebels marched on to Castlemartyr to attack the constabulary barracks there. Mr Greene was still resident and performing the same official functions in 1893, but the house was occupied by, his son, William B Greene in 1897. This latter gentleman is recorded as a District Commissioner and town councillor in 1909. Thus in one sense the offended ladies on the tour were right – Midleton House, The Rock, previously Lewis Place, seems to have been the original Midleton House. (Note: The Rock is the part of Midleton directly south of the Roxborough River once dominated by a large outcrop of rock that has been quarriee away to provide access to the road to Youghal.)

The other house, at the southern end of Main Street, on the north bank of the Roxborough River, was built by the Coppinger family between 1790 and 1820 (more likely at the earlier part of this period). The Coppingers were the wealthiest Catholic residents of Midleton from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. Thomas Stephen Coppinger is noted as a merchant in Piggot’s Directory of 1824, while John and Joseph Coppinger are identified as brewers and maltsters. Thomas Stephen lived in the unnamed house marked on the first edition Ordnance Survey map, with his grain store and yard behind the house. However, by 1842, Thomas Stephen Coppinger, now a Justice of the Peace, had moved to Midleton Lodge and a Richard Coppinger, merchant, is noted as living in Midleton almost certainly in the former residence of Thomas Stephen Coppinger.

Midleton House, Main Street, was the center of a major grain exporting and later a coal importing business conducted by the Coppingers. Note the huge grain store peeping over the roof of the house. The metal railings in front are original.

The view from the former Coppinger brewery. Midleton House, Main Street, was the center of a major grain exporting, and later a coal importing, business conducted by the Coppinger family. Note the huge grain store peeping over the side of the house. The metal railings in front are original. The building on the right of the picture also belonged to the Coppingers.

In Slater’s Directory of 1881 Thomas Coppinger Esq, JP is resident at Midleton Lodge, but we now see TS & R Coppinger, as corn merchants on Main Street – presumably in the original Coppinger residence backing on to their grain store. By 1897 TS & R Coppinger of Main Street were now coal merchants and seed and manure merchants, a business they ran into the twentieth century.. Note that the house on Main Street is not given a name in these directories, yet the name Midleton House appears attached to this house  on the 1896 map. It seems highly unlikely that the Ordnance Survey made a mistake – it is far more likely that the managed to correctly ascertain the name of the Coppinger house.

Thus, according to the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, we DO have two houses on the banks of the Roxborough River bearing the name Midleton House. One clearly had the name since the mid-1850s, but the other acquired the name by 1896. Somehow I don’t think the Midleton Post Office required postcodes to ascertain which letter was destined for which house!

At long last – it will soon be legal for Irish people to criticize Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn!

The portrait of Henry VIII from Petworth House, once the residence of the O'Briens, Marquesses of Thomond, who also lived in Rostellan Castle, a few miles south of Midleton.

The portrait of Henry VIII from Petworth House, once the residence of the O’Briens, Marquesses of Thomond, who also lived in Rostellan Castle, a few miles south of Midleton.

When Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in 1533, he had an order issued in Ireland to ensure that nobody could criticize the marriage. Now this wasn’t a law to stop jealous women bitching about the Boleyn girl’s manipulation of the king. Rather it was to ensure that nobody dared commit the crime of lèse majesté against the new queen.

An Elizabethan copy of a lost 1530s portrait of Anne Boleyn, who married Henry VIII in 1533. The fate for criticizing her marriage was the headsman's axe. Anne's head was removed neatly by a French swordsman.

An Elizabethan copy of a lost 1530s portrait of Anne Boleyn, who married Henry VIII in 1533. The fate for criticizing her marriage was the headsman’s axe. Anne’s head was removed neatly by a French swordsman.

Technically this has been the law in Ireland since then, but, fortunately, nobody has been punished for moaning about the marriage for a long time. The good news is that a bill was passed last week by the Dail and Seanad to remove this and other obsolete laws, and has now been scheduled to go to President Higgins for signature. This would make it a law and from then on we can bitch about the Boleyn girl – ESPECIALLY if your name is Butler!

The double tomb of Piers Rua Butler and his wife Margaret FitzGerald of Kildare. Piers contended with Thomas Boleyn to be Earl of Ormond. It should be noted that Margaret FitzGerald wore the trousers in this particular marriage.

The double tomb of Piers Rua Butler and his wife Margaret FitzGerald of Kildare in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. Piers contended with Thomas Boleyn to be Earl of Ormond. It should be noted that Margaret FitzGerald wore the trousers in this particular marriage.

It was because of Anne’s relationship with the king that Piers Rua Butler was stopped from claiming the title of Earl of Ormond. He had to settle for the less impressive title of Earl of Carrick, which somehow didn’t carry the same weight in Ireland. Anne Boleyn’s father was made Earl of Ormond, a title he claimed through his mother. Following Anne’s execution, her father, Thomas, lost his offices, and as a final indignity, his title Earl of Ormond was restored to Piers Rua Butler, although it wasn’t actually stripped from Thomas Boleyn!

The Statute Law Revision Bill 2015 sweeps away some 6,000 obsolete laws and orders over the centuries. It is now legally permissible for the upper orders of society to eat potatoes and oatmeal once again, which in 1817 were reserved only for the lower orders of society due to the food shortage brought on by the ‘Year without a Summer.’ Oh, and a single woman will not be sanctioned for running a public house!  Previous removals of such obsolete laws included the prohibition on trade with Denmark and the outlawing of Shane O’Neill of Ulster, the proclamation of Henry VIII and his successors as King of Ireland, and more! .

These removals of obsolete laws has been going on for some years now in Ireland, but it has unintended benefits for historians. Since each Act has to list the laws and orders rescinded, effectively our historians have been granted a catalogue of these laws and orders made over the centuries. Thus current and future historians of Ireland can examine the contents of these Acts to see what laws and orders were made, and when. Given that there are usually thousands of laws and orders listed in each Act – you can see exactly how historians can benefit, even local historians, since many of these items refer to specific estate settlements or local issues like land enclosures. One example is the Midleton Estate Act of  1850 (13&14 Victoria), which was abolished in 2012. Thus far the removal or abolition of these laws and orders has had no discernible legal consequences, except to make life easier for lawyers! Basically it is the same as retuning your computer – but this affects the mass of obsolete and unused laws in Ireland.

So, Butlers of Ireland, feel free to vent your frustrations on Anne Boleyn and her marriage to Henry VIII. but it might just be advisable to wait until the President signs the Bill into law first…..or you might lose your head!

The Fr Mathew Tower Glounthaune – a monument or test of sobriety?

Fr Mathew Tower near Glounthaune from the Illustrated London News 1846.

Fr Mathew Tower near Glounthaune as depicted on its opening day in the Illustrated London News, 1846.

When Fr Theobald Mathew persuade about half the adult population of Ireland to give up alcohol the crime statistics changed dramatically – the incidence of serious crime dropped so swiftly that the number of death sentences passed in the courts dropped by 80%, an astonishing feat in an age when capital punishment was extremely common. The police reported that even faction fights were becoming scarce!

Now most visitors to Cork would have (hopefully) noted the statue of the good Capuchin presiding over the northern end of St Patrick’s Street, as if Fr Mathew was looking back towards his family home in Tipperary. But how many are aware of the other monument in Cork to this man – a monument erected in his lifetime?  Oddly enough, a lot of people in East Cork are totally unaware of its existence!

Fr Mathew Tower looking forlorn and derelict in 1983.

Fr Mathew Tower looking forlorn and derelict in 1983.

This monument is the Fr Mathew Tower in Glounthaune.  In fact it’s nearer to Dunkettle than to Glounthaune village, but it IS in the parish of Glounthaune.  It is a three storey round tower with large gothic-style windows erected on what is now Tower Hill a mile or so west of Glounthaune.

The tower was erected by one of Fr Mathew’s admirers in 1846. Mr William O’Connor owned the demesne of Mountpatrick and wished to signify his appreciation of Theobald Mathew’s temperance campaign by building this tower as a folly in his garden. It also made a useful navigational marker for vessels heading up the Lee to Cork. Mr O’Connor built it during the first year of the Irish Famine and opened it to the admiration of a large crowd in the summer of 1846, just as the second round of potato blight took hold.It is worth noting that Mr O’Connor had five hundred quartem loaves baked at Mr Casey’s bakery in Cork and distributed to the poor the day after the tower was opened with fireworks and a grand dinner for invited guests.

Fr Mathew Tower restored and incorporated into a discreet modern house.

Fr Mathew Tower restored and incorporated into a discreet modern house.

For a time the Fr Mathew Tower was a popular attraction, but later it became totally private until eventually with the destruction of the Mountpatrick demesne, the tower gradually became derelict. Happily, in recent years it has been superbly restored and incorporated into a modern house that is now up for sale. Once the tower was decorated with marble busts of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork and of Fr Mathew himself, while the parapet was decorated with figures of the virtues,  I haven’t been up to the top, but I am sure the view is splendid.

One thing bothers me….was it really just a monument to Fr Mathew or was it a test of sobriety. I imagine that the spiral staircase inside was a very good test of whether or not one was sober on arrival – if you didn’t fall down it might be safely presumed that you were sober!.

National Library of Ireland places Irish Catholic Parish Registers online.

Holy Rosary Church, Midleton, County Cork (diocese of Cloyne). Built between  1894 and 1896 (spire completed 1907/08) this replaced St John the Baptist Catholic Chapel, which, in turn, replaced St Mary's Chapel in 1803. However, only the registers from 1819 have survived - the older registers were lost when the then bishop described them as unacceptable.

As of 1.00pm Irish time today, the National Library of Ireland has placed its microfilm records of the Irish Catholic parish registers online.  This is a HUGE step forward in making genealogical resources available to people who cannot visit Ireland or who don’t have the time to visit the NLI in Dublin.  And all this despite the savage cutbacks in government funding for the NLI in recent years!  It’s a truly heroic achievement, so well done to all the people involved. Now all they need is a sponsor to do with the microfilm what the National Archives did with the 1901/1911 census records – make them more interactive and more readily searchable!

I’ll post more on this later, but before you dive in please remember – read the FAQs carefully!

Happy hunting – and it IS a hunt!

Link: http://registers.nli.ie/