‘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.

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Albinia Brodrick Remembered.

 

Gobnait Ni Bruadair

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hon Albinia Brodrick Nurse

The Hon. Albinia Brodrick as a nurse.

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

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

Albinia's Hospital

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

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

St John Brodrick as Minister

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

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

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

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The Brodricks, the ‘bribe’ and the borough of Midleton – Lunchtime talk in Midleton Library.

Alan Brodrick (1656?-1727), 1st Viscount Midleton, former Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Alan Brodrick (1656?-1727), 1st Viscount Midleton, former Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Who were the Brodricks of Midleton? Where did they come from? How did they get the land on which Midleton now stands? What was this ‘bribe’?  What did the Corporate Borough of Midleton actually do?

These are just some of the questions to be addressed – but perhaps not fully answered – at a public lunchtime lecture I am presenting in Midleton Library on Friday 29th May 2015 at 1.00 pm.  Expected duration: 45 minutes.

The aim of this lecture is to give some insight into the relationship between the Brodrick family and the Corporation of Midleton up to 1840.  Do come along if you are in the area!