The Midleton and Ballinacurra Historical Society is officially launched!

Our last post announced a meeting to form a historical society for Midleton and Ballinacurra. The good news is that over thirty people attended the meeting in Midleton Library on Monday 18th September and approved the creation of a society.  There was much discussion but it was important to lay down a number of principles – leave politics and religion outside the door, and we were advised to spread our wings south to Roches Point, east towards Killeagh, north to Dungourney and Clonmult, west to Leamlara and Ballyannan.

On the advice of Mr Willie Cunningham, who directed the process,  a committee of seven (the ‘Magnificent Seven‘!) was selected with the power to appoint officers from amongst their number, with your author as Chairman. The committee is also empowered to co-opt an eighth member should that be warranted. We are now tasked with organising various matters – membership, a constitution, finance, lectures, talks and events. We are also tasked with establishing relationships with our neighbouring societies/groups at Cloyne, Aghada,  Killeagh and Carrigtwohill. Oh, and we have to finalise a name for the society – the one given in the title is a working name for the moment.

Wish us luck!

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At Last! A local historical society for Midleton and Ballinacurra.

Image: Midleton Market House as painted by Niall McCarthy.

Why is there no history society in Midleton?’ This question has frequently been posed to your author in the past few years. Often the question is prefaced wtih a comment about the presence of the Cloyne Literary & Historical Society (the granddaddy of our local historical societies), the well-established Whitegate-Aghada Historical Society and the Carrigtwohill Historical Society (founded just a few years ago). It seemed so embarrassing that Midleton, the largest town in the area, didn’t have a local historical society.

The The answer to the question posed at the head of this post is, of course, very simple – there isn’t a Midleton Historical Society one because nobody has set one up. There WAS a local historical society in Midleton in the 1980s but it completely lapsed many years ago. Midleton is a town that seems to have plenty of history but also possesses a contradictory attitude to its history and heritage. Heritage buildings have been demolished or radically altered without any appreciation of their importance. We still await the publication of a proper academic history of Midleton and Ballinacurra,  apart from a few valiant works by Jeremiah Falvey, Sean Horgan and John Fenton. In August Midleton & Area Chamber published Midleton – the Heart of East Cork, a booklet aimed at visitors but with interesting local historical information for residents of the area. However, the book covers more than Midleton, since its remit reaches to Roches Point, Knockaddon, Killeagh and Fota, taking in Ballycotton, Cloyne, East Ferry and Carrigtwohill on the way. It’s taken a while, but finally, there are moves afoot to found a local historical society for Midleton and Ballinacurra. And note the remit – we cannot discuss Midleton without discussing the older village of Ballinacurra., for so long the port of Midleton.

St John the Baptist Church Midleton

The Horgan brothers of Youghal photographed the site of the original foundation of the abbey that gave rise to the town of Corabbey, which was renamed Midleton by a Charter of King Charles II in 1670.

The desision to found this new society is prompted by the approaching year 2020. January of that year will see the 200th anniversary of the Ballinacurra-born Edward Bransfield RN’s identification of the CONTINENT of Antarctica, as opposed to the Antarctic pack ice. In June 2020 the Charter of Midleton will be 350 years old. The Charter gave the modern name Midleton to the town formerly known as Corabbey. And, finally, December 2020, will mark the 100th anniversary of the famous IRA ambush on Main Street that eventually in February 1921 led to the disastrous Clonmult Ambush. These were two key local events in the Irish War of Independence. Before that, we will see the centenary of the end of the Great War and the meeting of the First Dail as well as the first time the Irish Tricolour was flown over the Market House in Midleton (illegally, it must be said).

Choctaw evening 2

In order to prepare for these anniversaries, it is necessary to have a forum to organise events that will mark these occasions.  The people of Midleton and Ballinacurra, and of surrounding districts are invited to come to Midleton Library on Monday next, 18th September at 8.00pm for a meeting at which we aim to found a local historical society. This invitation is extended beyond Midleton and Ballinacurra to Castlemartyr,  Mogeely, Ladysbridge, Dungourney, Clonmult and Lisgoold in the hope that the history of these places can also be highlighted.

Mayhem and murder on Skellig night – the Fenian Rising in East Cork, March 1867.

Castlemartyr 1860

The main street of Castlemartyr from the west in the 1880s. The Fenians attacked from the other end of the street. The Constabulary Barracks was half-way down the street almost directly opposite the Market House. Later, the Royal Irish Constabulary moved into a new barracks closer to this end of the street, where they were attacked in 1920. The entrance to St Joseph’s Catholic Chapel is just behind the horse drawing the first car. Notice the small windows in the gables – an indicator of early to mid eighteenth century construction. Two buildings in Midleton have the same feature, suggesting that Midleton was originally a two storey town, just like Castlemartyr. 

On Friday evening, 31st March 2017, villagers and guests gathered at the village hall in Ballymacoda to be piped to the nearby church of St Peter in Chains where they comemorated the 150th anniversary of the death of Peter O’Neill Crowley, the local Fenian leader who was killed by Crown forces at Kilclooney Wood near Mitchelstown in north Cork – the last act of the Fenian Rising of 1867 in County Cork.

james stephens

The Fenian Brotherhood was an Irish revolutionary republican organisation founded by James Stephens in 1858. Stephens was a participant in the failed 1848 Young Ireland rising, after which he fled to Paris. Following his move to the United States in 1856, Stephens began to recruit conspirators amongst the large Irish community in the US. The outbreak of the American Civil War provided Stephens with the perfect recruiting ground for an immense recruiting campaign. The thousands of Irishmen and Irish-Americans who joined the Union army provided Stephens with an enormous and potentially valuable of trained and experienced soldiers for his organisation. To raise funds, the Fenians issued bonds to be redeemed when an Irish republic was established.  However, very early on, tensions developed between the more hardline Amarican wing of the organisation which wanted a rising to be launched as soon as practicable in Ireland. The British reliance on slave-grown, and harvested, cotton from the Confederate states left an unwelcome odour in US political circles so that when the Fenians launched ‘invasions’ of British North America (Canada) in 1866, several US politicians didn’t feel it necessary to take drastic action against them.

The Fenians also managed to recruit about 7,000 men in the British regiments based in Ireland. However, the Brotherhood had been thoroughly penetrated by British agents and the enormity of the Fenian recruitment of trained soldiers in the army appalled the government and prompted the authorities to start rotating regiments from Ireland. They also swooped on the Fenian leadership in Ireland in September 1866, effectively paralyzing the Irish command structure. Early in 1867 James Stephens was overthrown as leader in a coup within the Fenian Brotherhood and the new leaders settled on launching a rising on 5th March – Shrove Tuesday.

Kilmallock barracks 1867

Killmallock Barracks, County Limerick, following the Fenian attack in 1867. The Constables and their wives defended it against a large force of Fenians.

 

The night of 5th March was also known as Skellig Night in Munster – it was, effectively, an Irish Carnival, although the puritanically minded Catholic Church tried to discourage such folk festivities. In Midleton, people ‘knocked about’ – that is they made merry and created harmless if noisy mayhem in their last opportunity to let their hair down  before Lent began next morning.

On Skellig Night, the night of Shrove Tuesday, 5th March 1867, four constables, Greany, O’Brien, O’Donnell and Sheedy, left the police barracks on Main Street, Midleton, to patrol the town. They turned north to eventually patrol the Cork Road. They then returned to the Barracks to consult the Head Constable. Oddly, it was on the Cork Road  that a carpenter called Timothy Daly assembled his force of somewhere between thirty and forty men, armed with a few guns, pikes and agricultural tools. It is not entirely known how the two groups of men managed to avoid each other but it seems likely that the Midleton Fenians assembled when the coast was clear, a likely event if they had monitored the regular patrols from the barracks.

The Fenians marked in military formation carrying sloped arms down the lenght of Main Street. Twice in the darkness the Fenians were approached by townspeople and asked who they were – one man thought that they were a large police patrol. (It should be noted that the Midleton Gas Company had been established 1859, but it is not certain how many public gas lights there were on Main Street at the time.} The Fenians marched to the southern end of Main Street and reassembled their men at Lewis Bridge where they redressed their ranks by the National Bank. This is where the four constables encountered them having resumed their patrol from the police barracks. The Fenians trapped the police within a semi-circle, with the wall and high wooden gates of Mr Green’s house behind the constables.

Bank House 2

The former National Bank at the Rock in Midleton was where the Fenians assembled to confront the patrol of four constables. The encounter left constables wounded – Patrick Sheedy soon died of his wounds.

The Fenians challenged the police in the ‘Name of the Irish Republic’ to surrender and give up their arms. Tim Daly reached for Sub-Constable O’Donnell’s gun and as the two men struggled over the gun, a shot rang out and Sub-Constable Patrick Sheedy fell mortally wounded. Next, Constable O’Donnell was shot in the head but only lightly wounded. The other two constables fled, in opposite directions as a fusillade rang out.

Rock Terrace 2

Witness to murder: the occupants of these houses would have witnessed the Fenians shooting Constables O’Donnell and Sheedy. Note the date of construction made out in yellow brick on the right – 1861.

The Fenians then stripped the fallen constables of their arms and munitions, and then in marched up Chapel Road towards Ballinacurra. From Ballinacurra they took the Gereagh Road to Ladysbridge. That village is the meeting point of five roads, so it was the assembly point for groups from Aghada, Cloyne and other places in the district.

AS the events in Midleton were taking place Peter O’Neill Crowley led the Ballimacoda Fenians in a raid on the Coastguard Station in Knockadoon. Nobody was hurt in the raid but the entire stock of guns and ammunition was removed from the Coastguard Station.  Taking the coastguard men as prisoners, the Fenians then marched via Killeagh to Mogeely where the prisoners were released. The Fenians then moved north of Mogeely to Bilberry Hill to await the other groups from Midleton and elsewhere.

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The coastguard station at Ring, Knockadoon. There si some question as to whether this structure is the one attacked by the Fenians on 5th March 1867 or a replacement. Evidence of fortification suggests that is dates from AFTER the Fenian raid – landowners once again began to build ‘fortified’ houses after 1867!

Meanwhile, earlier in the evening in Castlemartyr, the police were alerted to large fire at a farm haggard in Gortnahomna, just east of the village, belonging Mr Walker. When the police arrived, Head-Constable O’Connell became very suspicious and promptly decided to order his men back to barracks – no doubt to the horror of Mr Walker. Once they were back in their barracks the police promptly went into what is now called ‘lockdown’ – they got their guns ready, closed the shutters and fortified the building. (Note: this was not the building the constabulary occupied in 1921 but another building almost directly across from the Market House where Abernethy’s Garage later operated from.)

Captain John McClure,  leading the combined force from Ladysbridge, assembled his his men at the crossroads on the eastern side of Castlemartyr, across the river from the Main Street.  He then proceeded up the street to call on the constables to open up and surrender, but they refused. Calling for volunteers, McClure ordered Tim Daly and his men to attack the barracks.  A gunfight ensued, waking some of the villagers who opened their windows to see what was up. The Fenians ordered them to shut their windows and stay indoors, while the attack was continuing. The six constables in the barracks, trained and well armed, were able to hold off the Fenians, and one constable, firing from a side window, shot Tim Daly. The wounded man managed to move ten perches (fifty metres) from where he was shot, and he died partially on the pavement and partially on the roadway – almost exactly the same as Sub-Constable Sheedy in Midleton, as was noted at the Coronor’s inquest into Sheedy’s death. Daly laft a wife and eight children.

Abernethy's garage

The original Constabulary Barracks in Castlemartyr was apparently in this building which later became one of the best known motor garages in East Cork when the Constabulary were moved to another building in Castlmartyr..

When the Fenians retreated back across Castlemartyr bridge the Head Constable O’Connell led his men out to clear their attackers off. However, when they got to the bridge the realized how many men opposed them and retreated to the security of the barracks. It was later claimed that the Fenians had barricaded the bridge, but there was never any evidence for this. The police probably thought that discretion was the better part of valour.

Abernethy's Garage side

The narrow side window from which Tim Daly was apparently shot can be clearly seen in this image. It was an excellent building from which to control the main street of Castlemartyr.

Captain McClure then led the main body of his force to Killeagh from where they vanished – supposedly in the direction of Tallow in County Waterford. In fact many of them almost certainly ended up in Kilclooney Wood between Mitchelstown and Kilmallock. The next morning saw a train arrive at Mogeely railway halt from Youghal to disgorge companies of the 67th Regiment to take control of Castlemartyr. Peter O’Neill-Crowley and his men, waiting patiently but surely forlornly at Bilberry Hill, spotted this and realised that the rising must have failed. Some time later another train arrived – from Cork. This disgorged Companies of the 14th Regiment who replaced the 16th Regiment in Castlemartyr, while the rest of the 14th Regiment occupied Midleton. The Market House tin Midleton was pressed into service as a temporary army base.

A number of men were arrested in Midleton and Castlemartyr and rapidly hauled before the magistrates to await trial for treason before a special commission that was established almost immediately.

midleton-market-house-clock

The Market House in Midleton (now the library) was used as a base by the 14th Regiment the day after the failed Fenian rising.

Meanwhile various groups of Fenians gathered at Kilclooney Wood. It was there on 31st March that a force of police and soldiers found and attacked them . One man was shot – Peter O’Neill Crowley from Ballymacoda. He was gravely wounded and taken immediately to Mitchelstown where here died some hours later. His funeral a few days later was one of the biggest in County Cork. O’Neill Crowley’s body was carried on the shoulders of supporters all the way from Mitchelstown to Ballymacoda (a distance of about sixty MILES)! The irony of the whole incident was that one of the leaders of the Crown forces was Edward Redmond, the Resident Magistrate in Lismore, and uncle of John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party who eventually obtained the passage of Home Rule Act of 1914, and of Willie Redmond who died on the Western Front during the Great War.

In early April, the Lord Lieutenant of County Cork, Lord Fermoy, who lived at Trabolgan, summoned a meeting of the magistrates of Imokilly to meet at Midleton Courthouse to discuss the rising and to express their support for, and admiration of ,the work of the police in suppressing the rising. Constable O’Connell was highly commended for his actions in Castlemartyr, and condolences were expressed to Constable Sheedy’s widow.

Manning Tower Fota

Manning Tower, a Napoleonic era martello tower, located between Fota and Great Island, was attacked and raided, with nobody being hurt, in December 1867. This was the only martello tower ever ‘taken’ by an enemy and the raid led to the closure of martello towers as military installations in 1868.

In September, the rescue of two Fenian prisoners from a police van in Manchester led to the accidental death of a police sergeant and the subsequent manhunt eventually resulted in the capture of five men, of whom three were later tried for murder. the Three men were found guilty of murder, despite the flimsy evidence. They were condemned to hang. The men were Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien. who was born in Ightermurrogh, between Ladysbridge and Ballymacoda. O’Brien’s childhood home has long been demolished. This probably happened not long after his father, John O’Brien, was evicted from his farm by the Earl of Shannon despite being fully paid up in all his rents and any arrears. Michael O’Brien had fought in the American Civil War and was an American citizen.

The final act of the Fenian year in Cork came in December when ‘Captain Mackey’ (as pseudonym for a man called Lomasney) managed to raid Maiining Tower, the martello tower situated between Fota and Great Island. Mannin Tower was the only martello tower in Britain or Ireland to be successfully ‘attacked’ and ‘taken’ by an enemy force. This led, in early 1868, to the decommissioning of all martello towers in Britain and Ireland.

The Fenian Rising of 1867 was suppressed by the police – the military forces were hardly involved, except to secure ‘infected’ areas following the uprising. This was why Queen Victoria granted permission for the Irish Constabulary to be renamed the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in September 1867.

One question must be asked: did the Fenians use ‘Skellig Night’ revels as a cover for assembling their forces?

Fota – A rude suggestion for a lovely name!

Fota Island arial

Fota Island from the north east. The main approach road comes from the bottom right and runs along the shore to the south of the island towards Belvelly bridge on the upper left of the picture.  The Cork to Cobh rail line is actually the thin line running across the water at the top of the picutre. It just touches Fota at the extreme western tip of the island. Manning Martello Tower is situated on its own ‘island’ at the top of the picture between Fota and Marino Point on Great Island (upper left). .

Irish placenames usually have some meaning….even if the intervening years have bowdlerised the name and left us all confused. For example, the townland of Ballintotis/Ballintotas just three miles east of Midleton has caused a lot of confusion, and not only in terms of its spelling. When Paul McCotter and Kenneth Nicholls edited the Pipe Roll of Cloyne in 1997 they added detailed explanatory notes which give a very reasonable and plausible explanation of the name Ballintotis/Ballintotas. It is actually Baile an tSátair, a name derived from the Anglo-Norman family called des Autier in French or de Altaribus in Latin. They were the landlords from 1177 to the early/mid-1400s. The surname probably still survives in the area as Waters  or Sawter.

Another local name in East Cork is Fota. This is a mostly flat island located between Carrigtwohill and Great Island. The island consists of two townlands, each in a different civil parish!

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Fota House by Richard and William Vitruvius Morrison is situated amidst fine gardens and a celebrated arboretum.

Fota is best known for the lovely Fota House. This was originally a hunting lodge that was rebuilt and extended in the 1820s as a grand Regency-style mansion by Richard Morrison and his son William Vitruvius. The house is now in the care of the Irish Heritage Trust and is open to the public. Attached to the  house are gardens which incorporate Fota’s famous arboretum. The present house was commissioned by John Smith-Barry who also began to develop the gardens and arboretum. He also began the planting of trees around the edge of the demesne which helped to give Fota its famously mild micro-climate.

The other famous feature of Fota is the wildlife park – the first to be established in Ireland. This is the most popular visitor amenity in County Cork. The wildlife park is involved in the conservation of rare and endagered species, particularly cheetahs, red pandas, scimitar horned oryx, Asian lions and, more recently, tigers.

 

The third element in Fota is the combination of Fota Island Resort and its golf course. The gold course hosted the Murphy’s Irish Open in 2001 and 2003.

One intriguing element of Fota is that it has its own railway halt – as a condition of the sale of the route for the construction of the railway to Queenstown in 1860-62, the Smith-Barrys required that all trains must stop at Fota!

Manning Tower Fota

Manning or Fota Martello Tower is situated on a flat island connected to both Fota and Great Island by the railway embankment. Manning Tower was the only one ever taken by an enemy when the Fenians seized it and stripped it of its arms in December 1867, almost 150 years ago!. 

One claim to fame that Fota has refers to the Martello tower built at the tip of the Island facing the ntrance from the lower harbour. Manning Tower was actually successfully raided in December 1867 by a party of Fenians – the only Martello tower to be successfully attacked by an enemy! Bizarrely this incident led to the official disarming of all Irish Martello towers in 1868.

There is however one oddity about Fota that is worth exploring – it’s name. The official cartographical name of the island is Foaty. And therein lies a clue to the origins of the seemingly Italian name presently used. The older form of the name suggests a Norse or Vicking origin.

Fota Frameyard

Fota’s superbly restored Frameyard is one of the most popular attractions in the gardens.

The British Museum’s website has an intriguing page created as part of its recent Vikings – Life and Legend exhibition. The page looks at Norse (Viking) placenames in Britain and Ireland.  Fota is given two possible meanings. It may be derived from the word fótr, or foot in Norse. This makes sense as the island was indeed a stepping stone, a link, between the mainland to the north and Great Island to the south. However, the other meaning that is offered begs serious questions: fod means female genitalia or anus!  The word -ay or -ey was added, meaning island. Frankly, it is difficult to see where the idea of Fota being derived from female genitalia derives from – it makes no sense in a local context. There’s no doubt that the island has a Norse name….but it may have a very  ordinary origin.

In 1997 the UCC scholar Donnchadh Ó Corráin examined the meaning of the name.Ó Corráin is clear about one thing, and that is the name Fota certainly has nothing to do with female genitalia, despite the success of breeding endangered animals! Indeed Ó Corráin has examined and rejected the possible Irish alternatives, which include fód thige (sod house), fódh teith (warm soil – a pretty good option), feóidhte (decayed/withered). O Corrain has noted that some of the medieval versions of the name have the letter ‘r’ included in the spelling, suggesting that fódr/fodri, or foot, is indeed the actual origin of the name.

Fota Cheetahs

Fota Wildlife Park may be famed for the fertility of its breeding programme for endangered animals, but the origin of the name almost certainly has noting to do with female genitals.

Of course there ARE rude names in East Cork. One is the name surname Cott. This is not derived from the word cott or small fishing boat. It is derived from the Anglo-Norman name Codd, which is still common in County Wexford. Codds are, of course, testicles!

Note: Donnchadh Ó Corráin’s scholarly exploration of the name Fota is found in the journal Peritia, 1997..

 

 

 

Bold Fenian Men – a lecture to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Rising in East Cork.

Rock Terrace 2

A view to a killing: Rock Terrace, Midleton, was built in 1861 – a mere six years before the Fenians under Timothy Daly shot dead Sub-Constable Sheedy and injured Sub-Constable O’Donnell across the street at the entrance to Mr Green’s house. Note the date of construction made out in yellow brick on the right of the photograph.

A hundred and fifty years ago this month (Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th March 1867) the Fenian Rising took place in various parts of Ireland.  A major series of incidents happened in Knockadoon, Midleton and Castlemartyr. No official ceremonies have been arranged but on Saturday 18th March, there will be a lecture on the subject in Midleton Library. Appropriately the library is housed in the old Market House.which was used to house troops from the 14th Regiment in the aftermath of the Rising.

The lecture will take place on Saturday 18th March at 12.00 noon in Midleton Library. Admission is free and all are welcome!

 

The 1867 Fenian Rising in Midleton, 5th and 6th March – 150 years ago this month.

1798-statue

Mistakenly called ‘The Fenian Man’ this statue actually commemorates the birth of Irish republicanism in the United Irishmen’s rebellions of 1798 – nearly seventy years BEFORE the 1867 Fenian Rising. However, the Fenian rebels who marched from Midleton to Castlemartyr did assemble at the Fair Green beyond the trees in the background.

In front of the Courthouse in Midleton there stands a recently erected life-sized bronze figure of a man holding a pike. The popular local name for this figure is ‘The Fenian Man‘. Unfortunately the name is a misnomer. The figure actually represents a participant in 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen – almost seven decades before the Fenian Rising. Many people in Midleton do not realise that the housing scheme called Tim Daly Terrace is actually the town’s real monument to Midleton’s role in the 1867 Fenian Rising.

The Fenian Rising is usually associated with other parts of the country , such as Tallaght in County Dublin and  Kilmallock in County Limerick. Yet, on the evening of March 5th 1867 about fifty men led by Tim Daly assembled at the Fair Green in Midleton to march ‘in military order‘ to Castlemartyr where they planned to attack the Constabulary barracks there Two police constables were shot at the Rock, Midleton, one, Sub-Constable Sheedy, being fatally wounded. The column continued to Castlemartyr via Ballinacurra and Ladysbridge, attracting further groups on the way. The attack on  Castlemartyr police barracks was fought off by the police, but it led to Tim Daly’s death. Daly left a wife and eight children. Sub-Constable Sheedy left a wife and seven children.

Damian Shiels’s blog Midleton Archaeology and Heritage Project gives an excellent account of the Fenian Rising in Midleton in 1867: https://midletonheritage.com/2012/12/14/midleton-and-the-1867-fenian-rising/

One of the ironies of Midleton’s involvement in the Fenian Rising is that almost exactly a month later the Christian Brothers opened their school in Midleton. The nationalist republican interpretation of Irish history is often called ‘the Christian Brothers’ version’ of Irish history. The present author’s personal experience of studying history at the same CBS Secondary School in the early 1980s is worth noting – Midleton (and East Cork’s) role in the Fenian Rising was entirely ignored!

‘How do you solve a problem like….Agathe!’ Midleton’s surprising link with ‘The Sound of Music’!

brodrick-mausoleum

The impressive 1820s mausoleum of Archbishop Charles Brodrick of Cashel, and his wife Mary Woodhouse, in St John the Baptist’s Churchyard in Midleton.

When the 1959 Broadway musical ‘Sound of Music‘ was transformed into a movie in 1965 it is unlikely that the audiences who viewed it in Midleton’s Ormonde Cinema ever imagined that there was an indirect family link between the grandest mausoleum in St John the Baptist’s Churchyard and the singing von Trapp children depicted in the movie. Sadly, there is some confusion over the Brodrick link to the von Trapp family, not helped by incorrect information being put out on the web (wikipedia is a prime culprit), information that has, admittedly, left your author confused. So this post is all about resolving the confusion.

Let’s start with the children depicted in the musical. The movie depicts Korvettenkapitän Georg Johannes Ludwig Ritter von Trapp introducing his seven children: Rupert, Agathe, Maria Franziska, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina. These were von Trapp’s children by his first wife: Agathe Whitehead. And SHE is the source of our problem – what exactly was her connection to the Brodrick family, Viscounts Midleton?  Or, to be more precise, who exactly were Agathe Whitehead’s parents? This is exactly where the web falls down. Too many sites indicate that Agathe was the daughter of Sir James Beethom Whitehead, a diplomat, and his wife Marian Cecilia Brodrick, daughter of William Brodrick, 8th Viscount Midleton.

whitehead-agather_1909circa

Georg von Trapp and his wife, Agathe Whitehead, niece of Marian Brodrick, shortly before the First World War.

 

In fact, Agathe Whitehead seems to have been the daughter of JOHN WHITEHEAD, the older brother of Sir James. John Whitehead was a key figure in developing the world’s first workable torpedo. The eldest son of Robert Roger Whitehead, the man who actually developed the torpedo into a deadly weapon, John was his father’s most important assistant in developing the torpedo.

Curiously, the Royal Navy rejected this invention but the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy was interested, and so it was in Trieste and Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) that the Whiteheads actually developed their torpedo. The chilling irony of Agathe’s marriage to Georg Johannes Ludwig von Trapp is that Captain von Trapp was a submarine ace during the Great War – he actually sank eleven merchantmen, a French cruiser and an Italian submarine as well as capturing a Greek vessel! Six of the merchantment he sank were British, three were Italian (allies of the British) and one was French while another was Greek. (Just a pedantic point: von Trapp was NOT a baron, he was a Ritter or baronet in British and Irish aristocratic terms.)

martinschloessel

Martinschloessel, the von Trapp house where Agathe (Whitehead) von Trapp died of scarlet fever in 1922. Georg von Trapp and his children were so traumatised by Agathe’s death there that they sold the house soon after.

Agathe inherited a lot of money from her grandfather, and that was the source of the von Trapp fortune for a period. Sadly, Agathe died of scarlet fever in 1922 at the von Trapp house at Martinschloessel in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. So traumatic was her death to the family that her husband sold the house and moved the family to a new house, later renamed Villa Trapp, in the suburbs of Salzburg.

villa-trapp-front

The Villa Trapp in the suburbs of Salzburg where Maria Kutshera joined the family as governess. She later married Georg von Trapp and became stepmother to Agathe’s children. Astonishingly, Heinrich Himmler later used this house as his Salzburg residence when the von Trapps fled from the Nazi regime.

A younger son of Robert Roger Whitehead was the diplomat Sir James Beethom Whitehead KCMG who married Lady Marian Cecilia Brodrick, the youngest daughter of William Brodrick, the 8th Viscount Midleton. Marian was the aunt by marriage of Agathe von Trapp. Marian’s father, William Brodrick, was the son of the Very Rev, William Brodrick, 7th Viscount Midleton, who had been Dean of Exeter and an Honorary Chaplain to Queen Victoria. The 7th Viscount’s father was Charles Brodrick, 6th Viscount Midleton who succeeded his brother, George Brodrick, 6th Viscount. In 1848, George had succeeded his cousin George, 5th Viscount Midleton, following the latter’s suicide.

(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir James Beethom Whitehead KCMG in his diplomat’s uniform. He married Marian Cecilia Brodrick, daughter of William, 8th Viscount Midleton. Sir James and Marian were the uncle and aunt of Agathe Whitehead, the wife of Georg von Trapp.

The real Midleton connection resides in the parents of the 6th and 7th Viscounts. Their father was the Most Rev Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel, who was the husband of Mary Woodward. Mary was the daughter of Richard Woodward, Bishop of Cloyne from 1781 to 1794. Archbishop Charles and Mary are buried in a grand mausoleum in St John the Baptist’s graveyard in Midleton.  The archbishop and his wife had spent a lot of time in Midleton during the time he was Rector of the parish and when he was archbishop.

So there it is: Agathe Whitehead, first wife of Georg von Trapp and the mother of his first seven children, was the niece by marriage of Marian Brodrick, daughter of the 8th Viscount Midleton. But she wasn’t actually a Brodrick!

Note: the genealogical information on Agathe Whitehead was derived from GENI UK.