Church and chancell down – the state of parish churches in South East Cork, 1615

Cloyne sth side

The Cathedral Church of St Colman in Cloyne was closed to the Reformed Church until the death of Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, Dean of Cloyne, in 1612. He was a Catholic and the Established Church only gained entry on his death, with the appointment of a new Dean, Thomas Winter.

Some time between July 15th and August 25th, 1615, a Royal Visitation of the dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross took place to ascertain the condition of the parish churches and the status of each parish. The Visitation was ordered by the government in Dublin with a view to assessing with total accuracy the actual progress in imposing the reformed religion on Ireland. Where England, Wales and Scotland had accepted their respective reformations, Ireland proved more contentious.

William Lyon of Chester was the bishop of the three dioceses at the time. An avowed Protestant, he deplored the idolatry of the native Irish and the Old English families that clung to their ancestral religion. Lyon proposed to the government that the only solution to the obstinacy of the Irish in their religious preference was to, literally, exterminate all the Catholic clergy whenever and wherever they were discovered or identified. The government, perhaps lacking the machinery to do this, or more likely to avoid stirring up an expensive rebellion, declined to follow Lyon’s advice in this matter.

The final report of the Visitors must have made for grim reading for the bishops and divines of the Established Church – many parish churches were in ruins or only partially intact. Worse still, many parishes were impropriate (the Latin word appropriata is used to indicate this). That is the tithes were held by a layman (who might be a Catholic) who also held the patronage of the parish – it was the patron’s duty to appoint a minister or priest.  Naturally, a Catholic patron might decline to appoint a minister of the Reformed Church.

Fitzgerald Tomb Cloyne

Tomb of Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Ballymaloe, Dean of Cloyne. Located in the north transept of the cathedral this was the work of an English sculptor who also executed the tomb of  Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, in St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal.

The frequent repetition of the phrase ‘church and chancell down‘ indicates either the deliberate destruction of the church during the wars under Elizabeth I, or simple neglect by the incumbent minister and the parishioners. It should be noted that the medieval practice of imposing the cost of maintaining the church on the parish and the maintenance of the chancel (roof and all the liturgical furnishings) on the Rector was still evident, even though few of the medieval churches displayed any external evidence of division into nave and chancel. The separation of nave and chancel was usually only visible in interior of the church.

This survey is taken from Michael A Murphy’s article ‘The Royal Visitation of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, and the College of Youghal’ published in the journal Archivium Hibernicum, vol 2 (1913). Murphy covers all three dioceses, but this post will only examine the rural deanery of Imokilly. It should be noted that Murphy made some mistakes – his Kilmachin is actually Kilmahon (modern Shanagarry) and NOT Kilmaclenine, as he suggests. Note that the tithes of a parish were usually divided between a Rector (the actual parish priest) who got perhaps two thirds of the income and a Vicar (representing an absentee proprietor of the living) who got about a third of the tithe. A curate was given a small stipend from the Rector or Vicar who appointed him, the rest of his income coming from payments for performing parish services like baptisms, marriages and burials. Pluralism (holding several benefices/livings/curacies was commonplace because the tithes from Irish parishes rarely provided sufficient income. The term benefice or living are virtually interchangeable – it refers to the effective proprietor of the tithes.

The Cathedral of St Colman in Cloyne. Dean, Thomas Winter MA. (Winter was a pluralist, being Treasurer of Cashel and Precentor of Waterford and Lismore until 1614. He appointed to Cloyne in 1612, following the death of Sir John Fitzedmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe, a Catholic who kept Cathedral closed to ministes of the Reformed Chuch. Winter died on 25th August 1615.) Income valued at £20 per annum. No house for the Dean. All the church intruded upon by Sir John Fitz Garrett (Fitzgerald). It appears that three years after the death of Sir John Fitzgerald, the Dean and Chapter still didn’t have full access to all of the Cathedral in Cloyne!

The Precentor was Alexander Gough, a reading minister of over eighty years of age. (He didn’t have license to preach, but he was permitted to read published sermons.) Value of his office: £4 per annum. By right of office he held Kilcredan, near modern Ballmacoda, valued at 30 shillings. This church and its chancel were down (ruinous) in 1615. (Kilcredan was later rebuilt by Sir Robert Tynte of Youghal.)

Youghal (St Mary’s Collegiate Church, or the College of Youghal). The Guardian was Richard Boyle, minister and preacher. He was a relative of the Richard Boyle who became the richest man in Ireland and Earl of Cork. Value: £200. Church and chancel were in good condition. This was the richest and largest parish church in the diocese.

Garryvoe was a Rectory. Previously held by the Abbot of Chore (Midleton) but now held impropriate by the estate of Sir John Fitzgerald. The medieval church and chancel was intact and well kept at this time.  No rector named, but the vicarage was held by the College of Youghal (see above). William Wood was the minister and preacher appointed by the vicar.

Garryvoe Church

Garryvoe Church is a ruined late medieval single-cell structure (the internal divisions being invisible on the exterior). It is entirely typical of the rural parish churches built in Ireland in the 1400s. Many of these buildings continued to serve into the 17th century but others were in ruins by 1615.

Bohillane was a Rectory without any vicarate. Thomas Wilson was the minister and preacher. Value: £3 per annum. ‘Church and chancell down.’ A poor parish usually served by clergy attached to other parishes or vicarates.

Killmachin or Kilmahon (now Shanagarry) was Rectory previously held by the Abbot of Chore (Midleton) but now impropriate to Sir John Fitzgerald. Value: £5 p.a. ‘Church and chancell in decay.’ The vicar Thomas Wentmore served the cure.

Ballygourney* was a Rectory held by the Abbey of Chore (Midleton). This parish corresponds with the civil parish of Ballintemple or Churchtown South. The Vicar was John Hall, minister and preacher, and Bachelor of Theology. Value: £5 p.a. Church and chancell down. It is interesting that the Abbey of Chore is still mentioned as holding the tithes despite the fact that it was dissolved in 1543. However, the new landlord would have retained the tithes attached to the former abbey as part of the estate. Until 1612, Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Ballymaloe was the landlord of Corabbey (Midleton) and thus, in 1615, his son and heir held the tithes of this particular parish.

Inchie alias Ninsh (modern Inch) was a Rectory held by Degorius (Gregorius?) Hawkes, a reading minister who served the cure. Hawkes also held the vicarage, valued at £10. The church and chancel were down and Hawkes was admonished to repair them.

Agfadda (or Aghada) was a Rectory with the church and chancel ‘well slated.’  Hawkes (see above) was the vicar and served the cure. Value:£10.

Corkbegg (Corkbeg) was a Rectory impropriated by Sir John Fitzgerald.. Vicar: William Thomas. Value: £6. Wentmore (see Kilmahon) served as curate. Church and chancel in good repair and slated.

Rostellan was a Rectory, impropriated to Sir John Fitzgerald. The Vicar was Anthony Kingsmell, minister and preacher, who served the cure. Value: £3. Church and chancel down.

Capella de Rath alias Garrenefeke (modern Garranekinnefeake) was a rectory. The Vicarate was sequestered to the rectory because there was no income. No information on the church the site of which is still extant but was replaced by Holy Trinity Church in East Ferry in the later 19th century.

Capella Roberti (Templerobin on Great Island) was a Rectory held by the Augustinian Abbey of Bridgetown, near Mallow. Vicarate was vacant. Value: (detail missing). Bishop has been admonished to appoint a minister.  Church and chancel up. (An intact church yet no clergy to serve the parish…Bishop Lyons was letting matters slip!)  Great Island is now part of the Barony of Barrymore, but then it was attached to the Deanery and Barony of Imokilly.

Moysagh  (Mogeesha) was a Rectory impropriate to Sir John Fitzgerald. The Vicar was Arthur Kingsmell (see Rostellan). Value: £5. Church well, chancel down.

Castrochorie (Ballincurra, probably including Chore, now Midleton) was a Rectory formerly held by the Prior of All Hallows in Dublin (site of Trinity College). The Vicarage was vacant and usurped by Sir John Fitzgerald. No curate. Walls up of both church and chancel. This refers to the medieval church that still stands in the graveyard of Ballinacurra. There is no mention of the parish of Corabbey suggesting that the Abbey of Chore (Midleton) was in complete ruin and that the two parishes had been reunited for the first time since 1180. The usurpation by Fitzgerald can be explained by his possession of Corabbey since 1583.

Ballinacorra Church interior

Ballinacurra Church was one of the oldest parish churches (before 1180?) and became the parish church of the newly reunified parishes of Castra Chore and Abbey Chore when the latter parish was suppressed before 1615, presumably on account of the destruction of the Abbey of Chore (Midleton) during the Elizabethan wars  In the early 17th century A number of larger windows were inserted into Ballinacurra church to allow the incumbent clergyman to read the Prayerbook during services.

Inchinabackey (now Churchtown North, two miles east of Midleton) was a Rectory previously held by All Hallows in Dublin. Sir John Fitzgerald had impropriated or usurped it, and the vicarage. Church up. There was neither vicar nor curate. The ruins of the church, clearly a classic 15th century structure, can still be visited in graveyard beside the N25.

Ballymartery (or Ballymartyr, alias Ballyoughtera, now Castlemartyr) was also a Rectory held by the Priory of All Hallows but was now usurped by Sir John Fitzgerald. The Vicar was William Thomas (see Corkbeg) and Thomas Wentmore (see Kilmahon) served as curate. Value: £6. Church and chancel ‘roofed not covered.’ This parish possessed one of the largest parish churches in the diocese, the ruins of which are still extant. The reference to the roof suggests that the timbers of the roof were present but there was no covering of slate, lead or thatch. This church was the burial place of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly who lived in the adjacent tower house of Castlemartyr.

Magely (Mogeely) was a Rectory formerly held by the Abbot of Chore (Midleton) and held in 1615 by Sir John Fitzgerald. Church and chancel were in ruins. No value given. The vicarage was vacant and usurped by Fitzgerald. There was no curate.

Capella de Dangidonovan (Dangandonovan) was a Rectory held by the Prior of Glassearge (?) but in 1615 held by Thomas Fitzgerald. No value given, Church and chancel down. No curate.

Killogh (Killeagh) was attached to the College of Youghal and the cure was served by Dean Boyle. ‘Church and chancell up and furnished.’

Cahirultan was a Prebend and Rectory held by William Thomas (see Corkbeg). Value £6. No curate. Admonished to provide a curate. Church and chancel ‘repayred cum libris’ (furnished with the correct liturgical books). A prebend was a cathedral stall, so the Rector of Cahirultan also served the Cathedral.

Kilcredan was a Prebend and also a Rectory and was held by Alexander Gough. Church and chancell downe. Value: £3. No curate. The Vicarage belonged to the College of Youghal, William Wood served the cure.

Kilcredan church

The present ruined church at Kilcredan was built in the 1630s by Sir Robert Tynte as the first purpose-built Protestant church in East Cork. The large windows are the result of a later remodelling but it is certain that this simple building had quite large windows when first built. It stands on the site of the ruinous church described in 1615.

Killuradonoge (Kilmacdonoge, now essentially Ballymacoda) was a Prebend held by Manass (Manus?) Marshall, BA and preacher. Value: £24. Church and chancel down. Cure served by Alexander Gough.

Titeskin was a Rectory held by John Twinbrooks, BA and reading minister. Value: £4. Church and chancel down.  Twinbrooks was also the vicar, and he served the cure. This is a wonderful example of an impoverished clergyman making ends meet by economising in his impoverished living.

Clonmell was a Rectory and Prebend attached to the Economy of the Cathedral Chapter.of Cloyne. Valued earlier. Church and chancel in decay. The cure was sometimes served by Israel Taylor. Rector admonished to provide more diligent cure. The Vicar was the same Israel Taylor. Clonmel was the parish that covered the western half of Great Island – Cobh stands in this parish. Templerobin covered the eastern part of the Great Island.

  • Correction: Ballygourney parish was previously incorrectly identified by my. This has now been corrected in this post and there is a separate blog post on the subject.

Albinia Brodrick Remembered.


Gobnait Ni Bruadair

Albinia Brodrick (1861-1955) as Gobnait Ni Bhruadair, a woman who changed from being an aristocratic English Tory Unionist to an Irish revolutionary Republican.

Today’s lecture in Midleton Library on Albinia Brodrick: from English Aristocrat to Irish Revolutionary Republican (12.00 noon, Saturday, 16th Jan, 2016) was a resounding success on the 61st anniversary of Albinia’s death. Part of the 1916 Centenary Commemoration Programme promoted by Cork County Council, the lecture was attended by some 50 to 60 persons (according to the library staff).

We covered her family background and her family’s link to Midleton (her father and brother held the title Viscount Midleton) and her nursing career. We also looked at the transformation of this Englishwoman to a ‘native’ Irish Gaelgeoir.

I hope that everybody learned something new about Albinia Brodrick’s conversion from Tory Unionism to moderate Home Rule Irish nationalism and then, following the execution of the 1916 rebel leaders, to hard-line Irish Republicanism, a stance she held to the day she died on Sunday, 16th January 1955. This conversion to a more hard-line republicanism was typical of many in Ireland from May 1916 as news of the executions began to hit home.

I wish to thank, first, the library staff for preparing the venue, Conor Nelligan (Cork County Heritage Officer & 1916 Centenary County Co-ordinator), Mr Martin Preston (Midleton College) for operating the computer slide show whilst I addressed the audience from the screen, and everybody who attended the lecture.

The Honorable Albinia Brodrick: from English Aristocrat to Irish Revolutionary Republican. A public lecture to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

Hon Albinia Brodrick Nurse

The Hon. Albinia Brodrick as a nurse.

As part of the Cork County Council 1916 Centenary Commemoration programme a public lecture will take place in Midleton Library on Saturday 16th January.

The Hon. Albinia Brodrick (sometimes incorrectly called Lady Brodrick) was born into the English aristocratic Brodrick family, the absentee landlords of Midleton in County Cork. Brought up in a firmly Unionist milieu she supported her family’s commitment to preserving the Union between Britain and Ireland and their rejection of Home Rule for Ireland. This stance was so pronounced that as a young woman she read the newspaper to her partially blind father, William, 8th Viscount Midleton, but only on the stipulation that she never read out William Gladstone’s name whenever it was mentioned in the news reports. Gladstone, of course, tried to pacify Ireland with various Home Rule proposals but nothing came of this endeavour.

Albinia's Hospital

The remains of Albinia Brodrick’s hospital at West Cove, near Caherdaniel, County Kerry.

Extremely well educated privately, and well travelled, Albinia later acted as hostess to her uncle who was Warden of Merton College, Oxford. At some point in the early 20th century Albinia underwent an extraordinary change in her political, social and national loyalties. First, she trained as a nurse and became a staunch advocate of reform in nursing education – especially in training nurses to deal with venereal disease. Then she became interested in the condition of the Irish rural poor, particularly in the Caherdaniel are of County Kerry, where she established a hospital to provide improved treatment for local people. But her most radical change was to identify herself entirely with Ireland – she learned to speak Irish, changed her name to Gobnait Ni Brudair. Albinia went further by becoming a radical Irish republican, supporting the 1916 Easter Rising, opposing the Treaty of 1921, supporting the Anti-Treaty forces during the Civil War. During this time, Albinia’s brother, William St John Fremantle Brodrick, 9th Viscount Midleton, was the leader of the Southern Unionists -a very different group from the Ulster Unionists.

St John Brodrick as Minister

William St John Fremantle Brodrick as a British Minister, at the dispatch box of the House of Commons, The leader of the Southern Unionists, he became the 9th Viscount Midleton, and in 1920 was created 1st Earl of Midleton.

Albinia died in relative poverty in 1955 and was buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Sneem, County Kerry. She left her property to the members of the old IRA – but in fact the true heirs could not be identified by the High Court in Dublin. The lecture will illustrate Albinia Brodrick’s life and radicalism.

The 1916 Centenary Commemorative lecture will take place at Midleton Library on Saturday 16th January at 12.00 noon. All are welcome.

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Even the ducks have flown – Midleton’s history of flooding.


The from Lewis Bridge of the flooded southern end of Main Street, Midleton, on Wednesday morning, 30th December. (Irish Examiner)

Walking by the banks of the Owenacurra River, the principal river on which Midleton stands, I have noticed in recent weeks that even the family of ducks which frequent the place have now flown. Only the herons are still in residence. That’s how serious the rainfall has been since November, exacerbated by the sudden flooding of parts of Midleton on the night of Tuesday 29th December and on the morning of Wednesday 30th December 2015. However, the history of flooding in Midleton goes much further back – it’s a reality of the town that simply hasn’t been properly addressed.

One of the best early descriptions of flooding in Midleton is that from 1895: this flood happened on a Saturday night/Sunday morning and saw the Owenacurra River overflow its banks between Ballyedmond and Ballinacurra. ‘…all the low lying lands…are deeply flooded to a greater extent and depth than has been seen before by the oldest inhabitant.’  So severe was the flooding that the streets and sidewalks (the original word in the text) were ‘.…deeply submerged during the day causing much inconvenience to pedestrians going to and returning from their respective places of worship, many of them having to employ cars to convey them over the flooded portions of the town.


View over the flooded area of the distillery (mid-ground) towards the west. The disused railway line to Youghal is represented by the double of row of trees on the right. The flooded rugby club is just above the distillery. (Irish Examiner)

In 1911 another flood proved, perhaps, more devastating, because it happened on a Saturday, a busy market day: the flooding was caused by a massive thunderstorm lasting from about 10.30 am to about 3.30 pm accompanied by flashing lightning that terrified both the people of the town and draft animals.The worst of the storm happened between 12.00 noon and 1.30 pm. The deluge proved so bad that vehicular traffic had difficulty making its way through the town. The lower end of the Main Street was several inches deep in water and ‘…presented the appearance of initiating a lake.’ The lower part of Thomas Street was inundated to a depth of three feet and cellars on Main Street began to fill with water.

The flash flooding of 1920 left many homes deluged and even threatened the lives of animals who had gone into the Owenacurra or Roxborough rivers. The depth of the flooding reach some five or six feet The lower part of Thomas Street was inundated to a depth of three feet, with seven or eight houses being abandoned as the inhabitants sought refuge elsewhere. The cellars on Main Street began to fill with water.


The onset of the flooding on Main Street, Midleton, on the night of Tuesday 29th  December. (Irish Mirror)

What is too frequently forgotten is that the centre  of Midleton is a low lying area between two rivers – the Owenacurra on the west and the Roxborough/Dungourney River on the south. Although the land between these rivers is not entirely flat (indeed there is an outcrop of rock at one point) most of it is quite flat, but deceptive. Midleton is usually, but incompletely, described as being on the Owenacurra River, but the more dangerous river is almost certainly the Roxborough. This is the river that has flooded the lower end of Main Street frequently in recent years. The trouble with the Roxborough is that it is barely noticeable in the town – people just drive over Lewis Bridge to and from Main Street, not realizing that the river below the bridge is a strongly flowing stream that can flood very rapidly. The Roxborough is fed not only by its main stream coming from Dungourney but also by a watercourse coming from Loughaderra and Ballybutler in the east, near Castlemartyr.


View down the flooded southern end of Main Street, Midleton, on Wednesday 30th December 2015. Note the ripples caused by a strong southerly wind blowing the water up the street. (Irish Examiner)

There is an opinion that the railway line that was built to link Midleton and Youghal to Cork in 1858-1860 may actually follow an original ancient dried up course of the Roxborough/Dungourney River just to the north of the town. This was the area that was badly flooded on 29th and 30th December 2015, as was part of the modern distillery, and the areas along the Dungourney Road, including the Rugby Club (the latter being under several feet of water) and several houses. The route of the railway line runs directly alongside these sites.

The trouble with the Owenacurra is that it reaches a pinch-point where the Cork Road Bridge stands. There is a ridge of higher ground bringing the Cork Road into Midleton with a corresponding area of somewhat raised land on the other side around the courthouse. This can lead to the floodwater in the Owenacurra backing up on the northern side of the bridge. To complicate matters, several houses were built very close to the river in the latter years of the twentieth century, often on low ground.

The background to all this is the almost persistent rain since early November (seven storms in eight weeks, with more rainfall in between) adding up to a record rainfall for the month of December – indeed the rainfall in December alone was the equivalent of THREE MONTHS of winter rainfall! The two rivers and their tributary streams were full to saturation and almost contantly in full spate. The exceptionally high tides coming in from the sea, as well as a strong southerly wind all contributed to the conditions for a perfect storm leading to a flood. The arrival of Storm Frank on the 29th December was the spark that led to disaster. The two rivers burst their banks – but, fortunately, the Roxborough/Dungourney didn’t completely burst its banks – that would have been a true catastrophe.


The N25 linking Cork to Waterford and Rosslare flooded between Castlemartyr and Killeagh. The flood was so bad that it took a week of pumping to clear the road for traffic. (Evening Echo)

No warning was given by the County Council of an immanent flood threat. The flooding started during the night of 29th and rapidly became very serious indeed. Families were evacuated from their homes in several areas and one family was rescued from a car trapped between two flooding streets. The Defence Forces were called upon to use their high-axle trucks to drive through the floods to rescue people. The Midleton Park Hotel, Midleton College and the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel all accommodated evacuated families. Meanwhile the waters were spreading. It was the combined efforts of volunteers, property owners, business owners and the small local council staff that prevent even more properties from flooding. The southern end of Main Street was closed for most of Wednesday 30th, being opened around 6.00 pm.   It is extraordinary that not a single life was lost, despite some houses on the Mill Road being situated below road level!  One observer said that she had lived in Midleton for 84 years and never saw a flood like it.

The 2015 flooding wasn’t just confined to Midleton – parts of Castlemartyr were flooded, as well as Glanmire and Glounthaune. Many local roads were rendered impassable by floods, and the N25 (or Euroroute 1), the main road from Cork to Waterford, was actually closed between Castlemartyr and Killeagh due to a local turlough (a seasonal lake) spreading its waters over a mile of the road. It took a week of pumping to clear the N25 for traffic again. As the flooding has receded people discovered that several of their local roads are now barely passable, if not entirely ruined. The road linking Lisgoold to Midleton and that linking Midleton to Dungourney are in a particularly poor condition.


Councillor Susan McCarthy’s photo of the flood on Main Street, Midleton, on the morning of 30th December. The fine stone building across the street is the Pugin building, formerly the Midleton Arms Hotel and more recently McDaid’s Pub. Refurbishment started before Christmas and is still ongoing, although the ground floor got flooded on this occasion. (Councillor Susan McCarthy)

One thing that did emerge was the community spirit – farmer brought in their tractors and tankers to suck up the waters from flooded houses and business premises, and to remove the flood from Main Street, Brodrick Street and other parts of the town. Irish Distillers used their equipment to assist properties on the Dungourney Road whilst clearing the floodwaters from their own property. Many shopkeepers reopened as soon as they could, often within a day of the flooding.

The reality is that Midleton was actually fortunate that matters were not worse than they turned out to be. This is of no comfort to the people evacuated from their flooded homes, or to businesspeople who are still picking up the pieces. Some thirty or so families were evacuated or had to abandon their homes and some forty businesses suffered, some being flooded for the first time ever. Yet, compared with the people living along the banks of the Shannon River (who have been inundated from the middle of December at the latest) and in Bandon (who were flooded twice), Midleton got off relatively lightly.

Regrettably, Midleton IS historically prone to flooding, but thankfully it usually affects just one or two localized parts of the town. The flooding of December 2015 was a severe shock – the lack of warning, the extent of the damage, the closure and even destruction of local roads was a real wake-up call to the people of Midleton. We have to do something about the matter. Hopefully something will come of the public meeting at the Midleton Park Hotel on Tuesday 12th January at 6.30 pm.