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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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?

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!

 

Time, gentlemen, please! The last ‘Act of Union’ between Britain and Ireland.

dunsink-observatory

Dunsink Observatory near Dublin was the official regulator of Irish time from 1880 until 1st October 1916 when Ireland was incorporated into the British time zone. This observatory was once the workplace of John Brinkley (1763 – 1835), Andrews Professor of Astronomy at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), first Royal Astronomer of Ireland, later President of the Royal Irish Academy and the last resident and independent Bishop of Cloyne in the Established Church (Church of Ireland).

You may have heard it remarked that ‘the Irish are always late.’ Certainly we don’t appear to aspire to Teutonic punctuality like the Germans, Austrians and Swiss – or the Scandinavians, for that matter. However, this assertion about the Irish is actually incorrect. In fact it may even be shown to be scientifically incorrect!

Indeed it is a serious calumny against us poor Irish to suggest that we cannot read a clock. It fits in the same category  with the observation of British (or more precisely, English) travellers to Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. They often assumed that the natives were inherently lazy. This observation was frequently derived from seeing the grass lying unharvested for hay early on a summer’s morning. Or more likely from observing  in Ireland haymaking only started after 10.00 o’clock on a summer’s morning – a shocking example of sloth when the English farmer had already started the same task at least two hours earlier. It took the Welshman, E. Estyn Evans of Queen’s University Belfast to observe that the Irish farmers were very sensible to start their haymaking after 10.00 o’clock or even after 11.00 o’clock. You see, Evans observed that in England (especially the south and east of England) the weather was often warmer and drier than in Ireland, and, consequently, the grass in the hay meadows was frequently dry before 10.00 o’clock or even 9.00 o’clock.

However, Evans observed that in Ireland the grass was often wet with dew until about that time in the morning in Ireland (and even in parts of his native Wales as well as Scotland. and the north of England). There simply was no point in scything  damp grass to make hay – it actually has to be dry to make hay. In Ireland the sun may shine on a summer’s day but it is really the breeze that dries out the grass, cut or uncut. So the nineteenth century Irish farmer wasn’t being lazy – he just did the right thing for making hay. Start when the damp from the dew has burned or blown off and then cut the dry grass. If you’ve ever mown a wet lawn (!) you will understand the wisdom of the nineteenth century Irish farmer’s traditional haymaking custom of waiting until the grass was dry before cutting it. It wasn’t that the Irish were lazy but that the English observer frequently didn’t understand, or didn’t wish to understand Irish conditions.

saving-the-hay-1920

Saving the hay in Listowel in 1920s Ireland. The term ‘saving the hay’ refers to the vagaries of the Irish weather – the grass had to be dry before being cut and it had to be left to dry out completely before being gathered into haystacks. The unpredictable Irish weather meant that the work was highly concentrated and extremely demanding in order to save the main winter fodder for the livestock from the unpredictable Irish weather.(National Geographic Society, Washington DC)

And so it was with time, or, more particularly, Irish  timekeeping. There is a delicious irony in the fact that just six months after the Easter Rising in April 1916, Britain imposed the last ‘Act of Union’ on Ireland. This wasn’t really a specific Irish security measure but had more to do with larger matters pertaining to the Great War.

In order to increase productivity in British War industries, the Westminster government introduced certain measures like mandated pub closing time and daylight saving time. The latter was designed to ensure that every hour of daylight in the long summer days in the latitude of Britain and Ireland would be put to productive use in the factories producing shells, bullets, guns, uniforms, and other war materiel. The new ‘daylight saving time’ was mandated to come into effect on 1st October 1916. However, the new law also affected Ireland by stealing its time, as Constance Markievicz (one of the 1916 rebels) claimed.

bristol-corn-exchange-clock

The clock on the Bristol Corn Exchange has two minute hands – the red hands show Greenwich Mean Time or London Time and the black hand shows Bristol Time, ten minutes later.

The Time (Ireland) Act of 1916 amended a legal situation dating to 1880 when Dublin Standard Time became the official time in Ireland. Until 1880 time in Ireland (and in Britain) was determined by the noonday sun (if it could be observed!) in each district in Ireland. Clearly, Cork is further west than Dublin so its time was later than Dublin time. Galway was further west again – so that was a few minutes later. Midleton had a public clock before 1750 so that was set to a time that was appropriate to the town until 1880. The arrival of the railways changed all that. The speed of the mainline trains was such that it became necessary to closely co-ordinate the times for departures and arrivals at the various termini and intermediate stations. This was particularly important for passengers aiming to catch a connecting train. The importance of keeping the railway regulated by a standard time is illustrated by Bristol’s Corn Exchange Clock which shows TWO time zones on its face – Bristol time and London (or Greenwich) time. Bristol, being further west than London, observed local noon ten minutes later than Greenwich.

From 1880, Dublin Standard Time was set at 25 minutes 21 seconds after Greenwich Mean Time. Dublin time was regulated by the Dunsink Observatory until 1st October 1916. Thus Ireland had its own national time zone for all thirty-two counties for a period of just thirty-six years until 1916. At 1.00 am on the morning of the 1st of October 1916, when Britian had to put its clocks back by one hour, Ireland only put its clocks back by 35 minutes to bring Irish time to an end. Thereafter, Ireland followed (and still follows) the British system of springing forward in March and falling back in October. The date of this change has moved to the last weekend in October. The reason for the change of time zone in Ireland was to facilitate the telegraphic communications between Dublin and London, especially between the Admiralty and Royal Navy’s facilities in Cork Harbour.

Haulbowline from Queenstown

The Royal Navy developed the island of Haulbowline in Cork Harbour as as vital naval station guarding the south-western approaches in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

So the irony of this year’s centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising is that it is followed by the less prominent commemoration of the last Act of (Chronological) Union just six months later. But, of course, the Irish rebellion goes on. If the Irish are about thirty minutes late for an appointment, they are not really late. You see we were never consulted about the change of time zone. We are still operating on Dublin Standard Time or Irish time that operated between 1880 and 1916! So we are really on time…..it’s actually the clock that’s wrong!  One unintended benefit of the move to British time is that Ireland enjoys particularly long periods of daylight on a summer’s evening – almost on a par with Scotland, which is situated much further north.

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.

‘Happy Birthday, Midleton!’ The Charter of Midleton was issued 345 years ago by King Charles II.

King Charles II granted the Charter of Midleton to Sir St John Brodrick in 1670.

King Charles II granted the Charter of Midleton to Sir St John Brodrick in 1670. He also gave his name to the former Charles Street in Midleton, now Connolly Street.

‘…constitute, ordain and appoint the said Castle, Town & Lands of CastleRedmond & Corabby aforesaid, with the appurtenances in the County of Corke aforesaid, shall from henceforth forever be a free Borrough & Corporation & shall be called by the name of Borrough & Town of Middleton.….’,

These are the words that give the town of Midleton in County Cork its modern name. As you can observe, spelling was rather flexible in those days. The above statement is buried within the charter issued by King Charles II to Sir St John Brodrick in June 1670. We have already noted in a previous post that the date of the charter ( ‘…the Tenth day of June in the Two and twentyeth year of our Reign & in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Six hundred and Seventy…‘, 10 June 1670) was actually ten days behind the corrected calendar authorised by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, but the British, being suspicious of any ‘papist’ innovations, preferred to stick to the old Julian calendar until 1752.  So the correct date for the issuing of the Charter of Midleton is 20 June 1670, which is why I’m discussing it now.

On Thursday 18 June I spent the morning at the Cork Archives examining the only copy of the charter to have survived. This is a manuscript copy made by Rev Mr Verney Lovett on Saturday, 7 February 1784 and copied ‘verbatim’ from the text then preserved in the Rolls Office in Dublin. Anyone familiar with Irish history will know that the Public Record Office in Dublin was destroyed at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1922, thus incinerating centuries of Irish historical records – including the text which Mr Lovett consulted. The fact that Lovett made a copy of the charter suggests that the original Charles II charter document given to St John Brodrick had already vanished. The Rev Mr Lovett, being a burgess of Midleton, was obliged to make a fair copy from the surviving record, which he had neatly bound in a soft leather cover with the inscription Charter of Middleton 1670 embossed on it. Clearly this was intended to be a working document for the charter only takes up thirty pages, with most of the folio being blank.

John, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton was the co-founder of New Jersey with George Carteret. He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland when Sir St John Brodrick applied for a charter. Despite is relaxed attitude to Catholics, Berkeley got on very well with the staunchly Protestant Brodrick.

John, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton was the co-founder of New Jersey with George Carteret. He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland when Sir St John Brodrick applied for a charter. Despite is relaxed attitude to Catholics, Berkeley got on very well with the staunchly Protestant Brodrick.

The charter was issued by the king on the suit of Sir St John Brodrick (or Broderick, as the text has it) on the advice and consent of ‘our Right & well beloved cousin John Lord Berkeley Lieutenant General & General Governor of our said Kingdom of Ireland‘. This was John, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, who with Sir George Carteret founded the Province of New Jersey in North America in 1664-1674.  Berkeley had fought for Charles I in the Civil War and was exiled during the Commonwealth.  Appointed Lord President of Connaught for life in 1661, he appointed a deputy to do his work there shortly thereafter. Berkeley was sent back to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant in 1670 and stayed in office until 1672. He was  considered very pro-Catholic (not surprising given his French and Spanish-Netherlands exile under Cromwell). This apparent pro-Catholic stance makes Berkeley’s friendship with Sir St John Brodrick all the more surprising, for Brodrick was a staunch low-church Protestant.

The sprawling Whitehall Palace was originally Cardinal Wolsey's London residence, then the home of Henry VIII. More of a town than a coherent palace, it burned down in the 1690s, to the relief of William of Orange who hated its damp atmosphere.  It was from here that Charles II issued Letters Patent to Berkeley to draw up the Charter of Midleton.

The sprawling Whitehall Palace was originally Cardinal Wolsey’s London residence, then the residence of Henry VIII. More of a town than a coherent palace, it burned down in the 1690s, to the relief of William of Orange who hated its damp atmosphere. It was from here that Charles II issued Letters Patent to Berkeley to draw up the Charter of Midleton.

The charter was issued from Whitehall Palace under letters bearing the king’s privy signet and sign manual (the king’s personal seal and signature) but was formally registered in the rolls of the High Court of Chancery of Ireland on 3 January 1671. This was a month overdue since the king had commanded that the charter be enrolled within six months of issuance – so it should have been enrolled in early December 1670. The legal profession’s Christmas break must have delayed matters.

Charter of King Charles Ii to the colony of Rhode Island, 1663. This is what an actual charter document looks like. Sadly the Midleton charter seems to have vanished by 1784 when Rev Verney Lovett made his copy from the Chancery Rolls copy.

Charter of King Charles Ii to the colony of Rhode Island, 1663. This is what an actual charter document looks like. Sadly the Midleton charter seems to have vanished by 1784 when Rev Verney Lovett made his copy from the Chancery Rolls copy.

So what exactly was a charter and what did the it do?  A charter is a legal document that could be issued by an authorising authority (the king) under its seal granting certain legal rights and privileges to a person, or a group of persons, or to a place or estate. This particular charter did three things. Firstly, as we’ve already discovered, the charter named the town formerly known as Mainistir na Corann or Corabbey as Middleton. To be honest, I was intrigued to note that the spelling Middleton appeared to apply only to the town, with the spelling Midleton applying only to the manor or estate of Sir St John Brodrick – until the spelling of the town’s new name changed near the end of the document – Middleton or Midleton were used for the name of both the town and the manor interchangeably. Perhaps there was a change of clerk during the drafting of the charter? it should be noted that this new name for the town is the only part of the charter still in force.

However the charter actually opens with the erection of the estates of Sir St John Brodrick into a manor, or Mannor, as it is sometimes spelled. A manor was an estate with specific identity bearing clear legal rights and powers. These rights and powers would apply to specific denominations of land. In the case of Midleton these were spread over four baronies. grouped by barony the denominations were the townlands of Castle-Redmond, Corraby, Killeagh, Knocknagoure, Knockgriffin, Curtistowne, Cahirmoan, Storm.Cotter, Carrigbane, Coppingerstown, Butlerstowne, BallyBane, Ballyrarla, Ballysimon,Ballymartin, Ballyknock & Coolerath, Rathcannon, Donigmore,& Kippane, Monemerrig, Bridgefield, Carrignasheny & Lictur Dowre, & Coolcurrig, Dromfaranie in the barony of Imokilly. Clearly the Imokilly lands constituted the larger part of the manor.

Then came Garriduff, Knocknacottig, Ballyannan, East Ballyvodick, West Ballyvodick, Ballintubber, Ballinecurrig, Ballyhasna, & Glanawillin in the barony of Barrymore.The outlying denominations were Donivally Ballygreggin, Temple Roane & Killehenisk in the barony of Fermoy, with Gallinguile and Kilbrony in the barony of Orrery in North Cork.  All of these denominations were in the county of Cork. All of these lands were to be constituted an ‘intire Manor‘ with all the rights and privileges attached to a manor. Clearly the intention was that the estate should remain complete and intact for evermore.

The most important right attached to a manor was the right to hold manorial courts. There were three such courts in the Manor of Midleton: a Court Leet and View of Frank Pledge, and a Court Baron, and a Court of Record. Sir St John Brodrick could exercise his rights to hold these manorial courts by appointing one or more seneschals and a recorder to preside over these courts. The Court of Record was given jurisdiction over actions ot the value of £200 in English currency! This was a surprisingly large sum at the time.  A Bailiff Minister was to serve as the agent of the Court of Record. In addition to keeping his manor courts, Sir St John Brodrick was given the right to keep and maintain a prison and to appoint a keeper to serve the Court of Record.

St John Brodrick was also granted the right to create a demesne of 800 acres for his exclusive use and to enclose a ‘park venery’ (deer park) and rabbit warren of 800 acres ‘more or less’!  Indeed he did create a deer park at Cahermone which ran right up to the edge of the town (hence the two townlands of Park North and Park South). This park existed right up until the estate was sold off under the Land Acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s, although by then it was much reduced in size. And just in case anyone didn’t understand how powerful Brodrick had become, the lord of the manor was to ‘…have, receive, perceive, seize, Enjoy & convert….’ all ‘…waifs, strays, ffelons, goods of fugitives, & Deodands, ffishings, weers, Royalties, free warren & privileges…‘ for his own benefit, profit, use and enjoyment!

It was the Lord of the Manor who controlled the town’s market – he was obliged to appoint a ‘clerk of the Markett‘ to keep order in the market and to collect the dues owed to him by the stall-holders.

Seal of the Corporation of Midleton as illustrated by Samuel Lewis in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.

Seal of the Corporation of Midleton as illustrated by Samuel Lewis in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. The spelling of Midleton was amended in the 19th century to prevent the mails from going astray!

The final major decision under the charter was to constitute the town on the estate as a borough as noted at the head of this post. The borough would ‘…extend into the said county of Corke every way from the middle of the said town one hundred acres in the whole….‘ Within the town there was to be a ‘..body Pollitick & Corporate consisting of one Sovereign, Two Bailiffs & two Burgesses.‘  This posed a problem for Mr Verney Love, because a few lines later we find that the Corporation would consist of .’…a Sovereign, Two bailiffs & TWELVE Burgesses.’  Mr Lovett underlined the word ‘twelve’ in his text, and, indeed, this was the structure of the Corporation thereafter, the same Corporation that Mr Lovett served on. This group of men would thereafter be called ‘The Sovereign, Bailiffs and Burgesses of the Burrough and Town of Middleton.‘.

The charter names William Hutchings as ‘.. a free burgess & first & modern Sovereign.‘  He was to hold office until ‘…the Thursday next after the Feast of St Michael the Archangel...’ in 1672!  Hutchings was obliged to be sworn into office ‘…before 29th September next before the Justices of Assizes of County Corke…’ taking the Oath of Supremacy, and other oaths as required by law, including the ‘Corporal Oath‘ of Midleton. September 29th is Michaelmas or the Feast of St Michael, an important date in the legal and academic calendar since it marked the start of the autumn law term. The sovereign was to be the sole coroner for Midleton and would serve as a Justice of the Peace for one year after the conclusion of his term of office. From 1730, the sovereign was usually the agent for the absentee Viscount Midleton, often holding office of sovereign for many years in succession.

John Downing and John Gemings were appointed free burgesses and bailiffs of Midleton, also holding office until the Thursday following Michaelmas 1672.  The burgesses were named as: Adam Wener, Peter Bettesworth, Richard Downing, Richard Walkham, Edward Laundy, Thomas Guard, John Wally, Nicholas Seward, Robert Cole, Thomas Knight, William Kinnagh, & Richard Hargrove.

Cooper Penrose of Cork was a burgess of Midleton in 1784. He commissioned this portrait of himself from Jacques-Louis David in 1802. This is the only portrait of an Irish subject by David. Sadly this superb portrait was sold by the family to a museum in San Diego.   A huge loss to our artistic patrimony.

Cooper Penrose of Cork was a burgess of Midleton in 1784. He commissioned this portrait of himself from Jacques-Louis David in 1802. This is the only portrait of an Irish subject by David. Sadly this superb portrait was sold by the family to a museum in San Diego. A huge loss to our artistic patrimony.

Rev Verney Lovett usefully supplied the names of most of his colleagues on the Corporation in 1784: Martin Delany and Thomas Wigmore were the bailiffs that year. The burgesses were: George Courteney, George Courteney of Ballycrenan, the Earl of Shannon, Broderick Chinnery, Aubrey (?) McCarthy, Cooper Penrose, William Garde of Broomfield, Rev Verney Lovett himself, and Rev Laurence Broderick.  The Courteneys were cousins, the Earl of Shannon’s Irish seat was at Castlemartyr, just a few miles east of Midleton, Brodrick Chinnery was descended from the first and second headmasters of Midleton College and was related to the Brodricks, Cooper Penrose was a wealthy Cork merchant, Rev Laurence Broderick was a cousin of the fourth Viscount Midleton at the time.  Sadly Mr Lovett didn’t give us the name of the sovereign, but it might have been Rev Mr Green, Rector of Tullylease in north Cork – but this is uncertain.

Built or rebuilt by George Brodrick, 4th Viscount Midleton, in 1789, the Market House is the most important building on Main Street.  It replaced a market house dating from the 1680s and was the location for the Corporation's meetings and elections, as well as being the Borough and  manorial courthouse. It's now the town library.

Built or rebuilt by George Brodrick, 4th Viscount Midleton, in 1789, the Market House is the most important building on Main Street. It replaced a market house dating from the 1680s and was the location for the Corporation’s meetings and elections, as well as being the Borough and manorial courthouse. It’s now the town library. Historically only the central arch of the arcade was open – the rest were shops.

Elections for the sovereign and bailiffs were to be held annually on the Thursday following the Feast of St James the Apostle, which fell on 25 July, with the officers taking office on the Thursday after Michaelmas. The sovereign, as noted above, rarely changed, but the bailiffs were changed almost every year. The sovereign, bailiffs and burgesses were to elect ‘two discreet burgesses‘ as members of Parliament to sit in the Irish House of Commons whenever a general election or a by-election was called. Furthermore, the sovereign, bailiffs and burgesses could admit any number of freemen to the town on payment of a 5 shilling fee to be used for the benefit of the Corporation. Sadly, there’s no surviving list of freemen.

The Corporation was also free to possess and use a common seal for authorising Corporation business, with a design and inscription of their choice. They were also permitted to ‘…build or cause to be built in some convenient place in the said town of Middleton a common hall or Tholsell to be called the Tholsell of Middleton….’ wherein they might conduct the business of the Corporation.  And to think we called it a market house or town hall all along! The Corporation was also permitted to organize a guild of merchants for the regulation of trade in the town (except the market) – but there’s no evidence that they bothered with this provision.

Not mentioned in the Charter, the Midleton Mace was almost certainly made by Robert Goble of Cork around 1700 to symbolise the Corporation's authority. It shows the Royal Crown on top with the arms of the Brodricks on the head. The mace is now preserved in the Hunt Museum in Limerick.

Not mentioned in the Charter, the silver Midleton Mace was almost certainly made by Robert Goble, a Huguenot goldsmith of Cork, around 1700 to symbolise the Corporation’s authority. It shows the Royal Crown on top with the arms of the Brodricks on the head. The mace is now preserved in the Hunt Museum in Limerick.

What exactly did the Corporation do?  Well, it seems that it did very little – but that’s because the minute books and court records haven’t survived. Thus we can’t really say if the Corporation really did anything to turn Midleton into the town it is today – I suspect that the Lord of the Manor had more say in those developments since he benefited from the rents. The two bailiffs were required to maintain order in the town, but that basically was it. The loss of the two parliamentary seats in the Act of Union stripped Midleton of its unique parliamentary franchise. From 1801 the town was now represented by the MPs for the county! The most damning indictment of the Corporation of Midleton came in the First Report of the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations in Ireland in 1835:

‘...the Corporation has been kept up, and the annual election of officers has been held, but for what purpose it is not easy to discover; the members having no duties to discharge, nor any privileges or emoluments, except the occasional presence of a local justice of the peace within the town, who seldom acts as such…..

The commissioners noted that even the manor courts had ceased to function, presumably because the courthouse built to the designs of Richard Pain in 1829 now hosted regular Petty Sessions of the County Court, which was much more independent of the landlord and Corporation.

The Corporation of Midleton, along with many others in Ireland, was abolished in 1840. The manor had effectively ceased to exist as such after 1850 when the whole Midleton estate was spit in an inheritance dispute. From then on, all that remained, apart from hunting and fishing rights, was the name given to the town 345 years ago – Midleton.  And to think that the place could have been called Charleville! But St John Brodrick’s friend, Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill and Earl of Orrery, had already appropriated that name in 1661 for his new town at Rathgoggan in Orrery barony in north Cork.  So Brodrick’s town was named prosaically for its position half-way between Cork and Youghal.

So today it might be fair to say……Happy Birthday, Midleton!  

Stories of Midleton Veterans of the Peninsular Campaign & Waterloo 18th June 1815.

Damian Shiels has done it again – this interesting account of the Midleton Waterloo pensioners appeared on his blog in January. Sadly there’s no record of the Midleton men who died at Waterloo two hundred years ago, on 18th June 1815.

The Midleton Archaeology & Heritage Project

We are currently in the midst of the 100th anniversary of World War One, but recent years have also marked the 200th anniversary of the Napoleonic Wars, a conflict in which tens of thousands of Irishmen fought. As anyone who has been on the tour of Midleton Distillery will be aware, part of that site was in use as a military barracks around this time. Unsurprisingly many men from Midleton and the surrounding parish ended up in the army- it is likely that recruiting parties were a regular sight around the town during the wars with France. Those that joined up embarked on lives that took them from East Cork to far flung locations, like the West and East Indies, to battles in Portugal and Spain, and even to Waterloo. After their service some went through soldier’s homes, such as the (still famous) Royal Hospital in Chelsea or the Royal…

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The Charter of Midleton was issued by King Charles II on 10th June 1670. But…..he got the date wrong!

Seal of the Corporation of Midleton as illustrated by Samuel Lewis in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.

Seal of the Corporation of Midleton as illustrated by Samuel Lewis in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.

You might imagine that I’d have a post up today about the Charter of Incorporation issued by King Charles II to Sir St John Brodrick incorporating his estate at Corabbey/Mainistir na Corann as a manor and corporate borough under the new name of Midleton.

Except – the 10th of June is NOT actually the correct date of the anniversary!

The Bull Inter gravissimas issued by Pope Gregory XIII in February 1582 to reform the calendar.

The Bull Inter gravissimas issued by Pope Gregory XIII in February 1582 to reform the calendar.

You see, Charles II and his subjects were still using the Julian Calendar that was already ten days behind the seasons.  Pope Gregory XIII odered that a new system of calculation for the length of the year should be adopted on 4th October 1582 should be immediately followed the next day by the date 15th October!  Gregory had been persuaded by the calculations and arguments of Aloysius Lilli of Calabria that the best way to correct the misalignment of the date of Easter with the vernal equinox was to do a sudden and once off correction of the dates and to modify the system of using leap years.

Jan Wyck's depiction of the Battle of the Boyne - fought on 1st July 1690 (Old Style) but celebrated on 12th July (New Style).

Jan Wyck’s depiction of the Battle of the Boyne – fought on 1st July 1690 (Old Style) but celebrated on 12th July (New Style).

Until 1700 the Julian Calendar was ten days behind the new Gregorian Calendar. The charter of Midleton in 1670 dated using the old system. Thus 10th June is NOT the actual anniversary of the Charter – the correct date is 20th June. You can see this pattern in operation in Northern Ireland every year on 12th July, which celebrates King William of Orange’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne over James II (Charles younger brother) on 1st June 1690 (Old Style). However, Pope Gregory’s initial decree, or Bull, was only accepted at once by Italy, Spain, Portugal (and their colonies) and Poland-Lithuania. But a year or two later the new calendar had spread to other Catholic countries.  Protestant and Orthodox lands rejected the reform – even if their astronomers knew that Pope Gregory was right to change the calendar.

So it wasn’t until 1752 that the authorities in Britain and Ireland got over their anti-Catholicism and came into the modern world by adopting the Gregorian Calendar.  By then the two calendars were eleven days apart! It must have been so frustrating for the authorities in Ireland that Irish Catholics insisted on celebrating Easter on a different day from Anglicans until 1752!

So, you’ll just have to wait until the REAL anniversary to learn all about the Charter of Midleton issued on 10th June 1670! Meanwhile there are one or two other matters to consider before we get to the Charter.