The Murdered Man on his Black Horse – a memory of the 1641 rebellion in East Cork folklore?

Hanging a Protestant Minster 1641

The gruesome murder of the Protestant Minister, Mr Blandry in Ulster in 1641. (Image from Trinity College, Dublin)


Be careful what you do or you’ll meet the murdered man on a black horse.

In the 1940s, this warning was given to children living near Churchtown North by the Two Mile Inn just east of Midleton. In fact it applied to the road running from the graveyard at Churchtown (North) to Kilmountain Cross, the L3627, although I have no idea if it applied to the continuation of the same road beyond Kilmountain Cross towards Mogeely. I first heard this warning at the beginning of December 2018, followed by the question ‘who was the murdered man?

Having attended the Midleton Library launch of Peter O’Shea’s book Murder Most Local, which recounts the stories of murders in East Cork from the early 1730s to the 1930s, I thought I’d bring the story back further. Peter noted that, thankfully, East Cork seemed to have been a lot less murderous than West Cork for which several volumes could be written just on the subject of local murder alone!

Let’s look at the introductory statement again – a murdered man on a black horse. These are very specific details. How did the local people know the man had been murdered? There seem to be no visible or gruesome details in the story. What about the ‘black horse’? Why specifically that colour? Even in the 1940s, before rural electrification, a brown or dun coloured horse would look black at night, but the detail is remarkably clear – the horse was definitely black.

The trouble with folklore is that it can be annoyingly unspecific and therefore difficult to pin down. Folklorists generally agree that such stories as the one noted above may contain a garbled verbal memory of something that happened ‘long ago.’ The challenge is to identify a specific incident that may be referred to in the local folklore. In the case under discussion, we may actually have an incident that is recalled in the warning – but we have to go back several centuries to a very turbulent period.

For our purpose I suggest that we can safely dismiss any association between the murdered man on his black horse with the tale previously recounted here of the 1182 massacre at Mogeely of the Anglo-Norman invaders Milo de Cogan and Ralph son of Robert FitzStephen. That story deals with the massacre of several men, whereas our folklore tale refers to just one man.

There is, however, a slightly more recent alternative incident more directly attached to the Churchtown-Mogeely road which may have given rise to the ‘murdered man on his black horse’.

The story starts in Ulster in 1641. Sir Phelim O’Neill and his co-conspirators organised a savage anti-Protestant rebellion. The rebellion was really about land and the fact that since the beginning of the 1600s most of the land in Ulster was confiscated from the overwhelmingly Catholic natives and granted to English and Scottish Protestant settlers. O’Neill’s rebellion was marked by murder and atrocities as well as robbery. By early 1642 the Ulster rebellion had spread countrywide, even into east Cork.


Sir Phelim O’Neill, who plotted and led the initial phases of the Ulster Rebellion of 1641. (Image from Trinity College, Dublin)

In December 1641 the government of King Charles I set up the Commission for the Despoiled Subject to investigate the ‘disturbances’. The chairman of the Commission was the Rev Henry Jones, Dean of Kilmore, who was soon appointed Bishop of Clogher. The Commissioners quickly realised that many of the refugees from Munster were unable to get to Dublin and report to the commission, so Philip Bisse (or Bysse), the (Protestant) Archdeacon of Cloyne was appointed to take the depositions from those Protestants who had suffered in Munster. Bisse had to travel about the province to take the depositions from refugees. Unfortunately, it was a mission which cost him his life.

The best account of what happened comes from a refugee, Mrs Elizabeth Danvers, who had fled from Kilkenny and then from Mogeely. This Mogeely was the one in the barony of Kinatalloon, between Conna and Tallow, rather than the Mogeely in Imokilly. Elizabeth Danvers gave very detailed testimony to the Commission which revealed a lot about the rebellion in East Cork.  I’ll let Elizabeth tell the story in her own words as recorded in her deposition on 14th August 1645, preserving the spelling of the day:

‘About June 1643 (as this deponent hath very credibly heard) Certeine Rebells whose names they cannott expresse meeting with one Mr Bysse minister (whoe had bin employed as one of the Commissioners for enquiry of the losses & sufferings of his maiesties loyall subiects within the province of Mounster) nere Corr Abbey betweene Corke and Youghall did then and there very cruelly wound him the said Mr Bysse, and that done they there hanged him to death, there Leaving his body unburied exposed to Ravenous creatures.’  

Note that Mrs Danvers account says that the incident happened near Cor Abbey (now Midleton). But how do we know it was the Mogeely road, now designated L3627? Well, this was the main road from Cork to Youghal at the time for the stretch of the modern N25 between Churchtown North and Castlemartyr was only laid out in the later 18th century. Elizabeth says that Bisse’s body was left unburied by the roadside, an appalling prospect in a highly religious age. In a more superstitious age this was likely to lead to the road being haunted by the victim’s ghost. Elizabeth Danvers made her 1645 deposition before the head of the Commission….Henry Jones, who was now the Bishop of Clogher.

1641 Depositions manuscript

An original manuscript from the 1641 Depositions, written in ‘secretary hand’. (Image: Trinity College, Dublin)  

Incredibly, we may even have candidates for the murder of the archdeacon!  The Cromwellian government investigated a murder on the road from ‘Curr Abbey’ to ‘Carrick Towell’. In evidence given to investigators on 4th November, 1652, Mr Maurice Brown of Barryscourt told an interesting tale. In the year 1643 David Connell of Carrigtwohill had confessed to him that he had murdered Ensign Cooke in that same year and, furthermore, he even admitted…

 ….to the deponent (Maurice Brown), that hee was in Companie, with one John DrumAdda (John of Dromadda?) and others, who slew divers (i.e. several) English men, within fourteen dayes betweene Curr Abbey and Youghall.

According to the Down Survey, the townland of Dromaddamore (near Ladysbridge) was owned by Garrett Fitzgerald in 1641, while Dromaddabeg (also near Ladysbridge) was held by William Power of Shanagarry. We don’t know if John ‘DrumAdda’ was related to either man.

John Temple Irish Rebellion

Sir John Temple’s 1646 book about the Irish rebellion is still used today by some in Northern Ireland to justify their separation from the Republic of Ireland, despite being debunked by careful study of the 1641 Depositions. (Image: Trinity College, Dublin)

So, is the murdered man on the black horse the ghost of Philip Bisse, Archdeacon of Cloyne? It seems most likely that it was. After all, Elizabeth Danvers says that he encountered several rebels on the road, who promptly murdered him. They probably stole is valuable horse to boot.

We have no idea of David Connell or John of Dromadda were every punished for the murders committed on the road between Corabby and Youghal in 1643.

The same road where the Archdeacon was murdered is still used as an alternative route between Cork and Youghal whenever the N25 is blocked or impassable.

The depositions of Elizabeth Danvers and Maurice Brown are part of the original manuscript of the 1641 Depositions preserved in Trinity College, Dublin, and they can be viewed on the 1641 Depositions website:


Trick or Treat? The haunting of Castlemartyr Castle in the early Seventeenth Century

Castlemartyr Capella Hotel

Castlemartyr at dusk – the south front of the old castle consists of the tall medieval tower-house on the right and the lower early seventeenth century manor house with its three vast chimneys. The tall gable wall on the left indicates the size of the roof of the old manor house. The manor house was probably added by Edmund FitzJohn FitzGerald between 1611 and 1641.

With Halloween fast approaching there may be a tendency in Ireland to bemoan the Americanisation of the ancient Irish festival of Samhain. However this post will recount details of events in Castlemartyr that might suggest superstitions could be manipulated for other purposes, even as early as the first decades of the seventeenth century.

An Englishman travelling about Ireland in the 1620s befriended Charles McCarthy, later created Viscount Muskerry in 1628. McCarthy, a major Gaelic landowner in County Cork, and a Catholic, was the owner of Blarney Castle. He was well connected and no doubt regaled his visitor with tales of the stone built into his castle that conferred eloquence on those who kissed it. Whether it was the present Blarney Stone or not is open to question.

McCarthy may have been suspicious of the Englishman’s tour – was he a spy sent to identify vulnerable estates that could be seized by the Crown and granted to English planters? Taking the visitor on a tour, McCarthy took him first to Castlelyons to meet the young Lord Barrymore – a scion of the Anglo-Irish Barry family who had married a daughter of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork. From Castlelyons, the travellers went towards Youghal, but with darkness approaching, they stopped at Castlemartyr for the night.

In those days Castlemartyr was the residence of Edmund FitzJohn FitzGerald, the son of the last effective Seneschal of Imokilly who had died in confinement in Dublin Castle in 1589 just before the order for his release arrived from London. Edmund was only about eighteen months old when his father died. However, despite the fact that his father had twice rebelled against Elizabeth I in the space of ten years, the family estate at Castlemartyr was not confiscated. So, when Edmund came of age about 1610/1611, he inherited his father’s estate. It was almost certainly after this time that Edmund modernised the old castle by adding a modern manor house to his tower house.

Charles McCarthy was certainly the reason why the English traveller was granted ‘meat and bed’ for the night at Castlemartyr, although traditional hospitality would certainly have seen him fed and housed for the night. Another detail would have helped – Edmund FitzGerald was a Catholic, just like McCarthy. One would give much to learn what topics were part of the dinner conversation, but one suspects that land and lineage may have been among the subjects discussed. These were normal subjects of conversation in a status conscious age. One wonders if their host recounted the tale of the execution of his grandmother, Shylie O’Carroll, who was hanged from the gateway of Castlemartyr during the Second Desmond Rebellion in an effort to persuade the Seneschal to surrender Castlemartyr. (Local legend has it that Shylie was hung from the castle gateway, but it seems she was hung in Cork.)

Following a grand meal, the guests were escorted to their chambers. Unusually, instead of being housed in the same room, the Englishman was given a room of his own, with a large window overlooking the park. Having got himself undressed, the visitor, locked the door and climbed into his comfortable bed, and extinguished his taper. A low fire in the grate was all that lit the chamber.

Some time later, the visitor’s sleep was interrupted by a noise. It emanated from the direction of the door into the room. But the door was locked but someone clearly tried to gain entry into the bedchamber. Footsteps sounded outside, departing from the door. Imagining that he was about to be murdered, the visitor cowered under the bedclothes awaiting his fate. All was quiet again for a time, the dying embers of the fire cast eerie shadows around the room.  Reassured that the door was secure, the Englishman dozed off again.

Castlemartyr scale

The scale of Castlemartyr is indicated by the size of the children in the photo. Note how the manor house has its windows on the upper floor.

It happened again…..footsteps outside his chamber, another attempt to open the door. This time more violently – the terrified Englishman was convinced now that somebody meant to do him harm. After all this was a Papist Irish household and he was a good Protestant Englishman. He cried out to the intruder but got no response. A sound of laughter, followed by receding footsteps suggested that the intruder had departed.

By now the visitor was very worried. He reached for his taper and  took it to the fire to light it from the last embers. This feeble light was to be his comfort for the rest of the hours of darkness. Wide awake now, and peeping from beneath the bed cover the Englishman contemplated his own, possibly immanent, mortality. Some time later, perhaps an hour or two, there was a noise at his window. It seemed as if someone was tapping on the glass. But that was impossible – the chamber was on an upper floor!

The tapping stopped and all was quiet again. By now the taper had burned very low and soon it would go out.  Then a shadow appeared on the ceiling, a figure seeming to reach into the chamber to open the door from inside. By now the taper was extinguished and the only remaining light came from the dying embers of the fire.  Once again footsteps sounded outside, this time very faint. Once again the door rattled as someone tried to gain entry.

It was too much for the petrified visitor, who spent the rest of the hours of darkness crouched under the bed, wrapped in a sheet. As soon as it was daylight, he got out, dressed quickly and opened the door to head out. The household was about to have breakfast, but the Englishman begged Charles McCarthy to depart with him immediately and speed on to Youghal. Despite McCarthy’s protests, the Englishman’s fears prevailed and they left at once…..

Witch Hunt

Brutal witch hunts seem to have been more common in Scotland, England, and the Continent than in Ireland. Religious disputes and land ownership were the principal concerns in Ireland, although Florence Newton of Youghal was prosecuted as a witch on September 11th 1661!

This strange tale was recounted some years ago at a lecture  given in the Hunt Museum, Limerick. The lecturer suggested that a number of factors made the tale interesting. A Catholic Irish gentleman escorted a Protestant visitor to the home of a long established Catholic gentry family with a rebellious lineage. This was a time when the Plantation of Ulster was under way. The Elizabethan Plantation of Munster was still fresh in Irish minds, and the English adventurers, like Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, were known for their rapacious acquisition of land – from whatever source. Families like the McCarthys of Muskerry and the FitzGeralds of Imokilly were wary of these interlopers. Was there a ghost in Castlemartyr that night?

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle was the seat of Charles McCarthy, who may have recounted the tale of the stone that granted eloquence….

It seems likely that, with or without the prior knowledge of Edmund FitzGerald, members of the household at Castlemartyr tried to frighten the English visitor and discourage him from giving a good account of his visit, thereby discouraging any possible ‘claims’ by an English planter on the Castlemartyr estate. The ‘haunting’ of Castlemartyr by a poltergeist that night seems to have been a defensive mechanism by the household. In an age of superstition, when women were persecuted in large numbers as witches, this was a highly successful strategy by the FitzGeralds of Castlemartyr. It is interesting that this tale appears to be the earliest example of ‘trick or treat’ known in an Irish context!

Happy Samhain….or Halloween .

The Bloody Hounds – a public lecture on the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly

The latest public lecture in Midleton Library will be a survey of the history of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly from 1177 to the early 20th century.

It will cover the early Fitzgeralds in Imokilly to the 1280s, the intervention of the 4th Earl of Desmond in the 1300s, and arrival of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald. Knight of Kerry, before 1400 followed by the arrival of his sons in the decades following. The Seneschals of Imokilly have a starring role as does the Elizabethan loyalist Dean of Cloyne, Sir John FitzEdmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe. The lecture will then follow the fortunes of the Fitzgeralds of Ballycrenane and of Corkbeg – the latter being the last of the Fitzgeralds descended from Sir Maurice to have kept their estates in the area.

The lecture will take place on Saturday 28th May at 12.00 noon.

It’s free and all are welcome!


Tony Poster

‘..if the said David or his brothers should prey upon the said bishop…’- the origins of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly in 1403.

Castlemartyr Castle

Castlemartyr Castle was certainly the the principal seat of the FitzGeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly, from 1463. Did the sons of Maurice FitzRichard, 3rd Knight of Kerry get their nickname ‘Madrai na Fola’ (Hounds of Blood) because of their savagery towards the tenants of the Bishop of Cloyne before 1403? .

In  his survey of the FitzGeralds of Imokilly in The Book of Cloyne (Cloyne Literary and Historical Society, 1977), Paul McCotter notes:

In 1370 no Fitzgerald owned land in Imokilly, by 1641 there were sixteen Fitzgerald landholding families and several leaseholding ones in the barony, most of these descending from one man, Richard, first Seneschal of Imokilly, who died before 1460.’ (p 79)

The standard view is that the FitzGeralds of Imokilly only came into being when Richard FitzMaurice FitzGerald was granted the office of Seneschal of Imokilly by his cousin the Earl of Desmond in 1422 or shortly thereafter. James ‘the Usurper‘,  6th Earl of Desmond, had been granted the office of Seneschal by James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond, perhaps in order to ease tensions between the two rival families. James the Usurper probably found it politic to secure the support of his cousins in Kerry – the FitzMaurice FitzGeralds, the sons of Sir Maurice FitzRichard, 3rd Knight of Kerry.

The FitzGeralds had been linked to Imokilly since about 1179/1180 when Robert FitzStephen had granted the Manor of Inchiquin (eastern Imokilly) to his nephew Alexander FitzGerald. With Alexander’s death the manor passed to his brother Gerald, ancestor of the Earls of Kildare. However, from 1286, Inchiquin was in the hands of absentee landlords as part of the marriage settlements of two FitzGerald heiresses. From 1321 to 1346, Maurice, 1st Earl of Desmond, had taken illegal control of the manor, but he was obliged to relinquish it.

It was Maurice, 3rd Knight of Kerry,  who established the permanent link between the FitzGeralds and Imokilly through his marriage to Marjorie de Courcey, daughter of Sir Nicholas de Courcey. The de Courceys were based around Kinsale but they also held lands in Imokilly, including Ballycrenane, Rathcoursey and Ballykineally. These three properties were certainly in the hands of Maurice by 1385. But it should be noted that Sir Maurice had already been Sheriff of Cork from 1364 to 1367. In the latter year he was ordered to be distrained for the issues (revenues) of the Manor of Inchiquin, which as sheriff he was obliged to administer on behalf of the Crown, which was then in possession of the manor. Sir Maurice held the legal office of Chief Sergeant of Cork in 1377. All of this suggests that Sir Maurice between his various offices and his marriage was able to acquire lands in County Cork, which he passed to his sons..

the lands inherited from Marjorie de Courcey passed to Maurice’s eldest son and heir, Edmund, 4th Knight of Kerry, but he was overthrown by his brother, Nicholas, Bishop of Ardfert, (afterwards 5th Knight of Kerry) and was permitted or obliged to retire to his lands in Imokilly.

However, there was another brother who had acquired lands in Imokilly. As part of the Pipe Roll of Cloyne, a ‘treaty’ is recorded between David FitzMaurice FitzGerald and Gerald Caneton, Bishop of Cloyne. David FitzMaurice was, of course, a son of Sir Maurice FitzGerald, 3rd Knight of Kerry. This document is dated to 1403 – almost two decades BEFORE Earl James of Desmond was made Seneschal of Imokilly. This document has too often been overlooked by scholars, but McCotter and Nicholls discuss it in their edition of the Pipe Roll of Cloyne (1997).


Rathcoursey House near Midleton stands on the site of the FitzGerald tower house built by the descendants of Edmund FitzMaurice FitzGerald, the deposed 4th Knight of Kerry.

Although the text is incomplete it is clear that there was a long running dispute between the Bishop and David FitzGerald over issues of law and order, robbery of the Bishop’s goods and attacks on his tenants. The text refers to the depredations of David’s brothers – presumably Richard and John, perhaps even Edmund.  Each of these men were ancestors of various branches of the FitzGeralds of Imokilly. Perhaps their behaviour towards the bishop’s tenants earned them the local sobriquet ‘Madraí na Fola‘ – Hounds of Blood.

It is possible that David already held Ballymartyr (now Castlemartyr). He certainly had interests in Ballybane, later property of the FitzGeralds of Cloyne. It seems that Richard, as Seneschal, had his seat in Inchinacrenagh (now Castle Richard). this makes sense if his office was linked to the Manor of Inchiquin, which lay just to the east. However, Richard, or more likely his son, Maurice, 2nd Seneschal, seems to have come into possession of Ballymartyr very soon after. Certainly Maurice was in possession by 1463 and from this time Castlemartyr became the seat of the Seneschals until the reign of Elizabeth I. It remained the seat of Richard and Maurice’s heirs until the Cromwellian confiscations in the 1650s. Very likely the prior possession of Ballymartyr by David FitzMaurice FitzGerald may have facilitated the move from Inchinacrenagh to what is sometimes called Imokilly Castle at Castlemartyr.

Thus, preserved in the Pipe Roll of Cloyne is an important clue about the origins of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly – they were already in place, well established and creating trouble, by 1403, almost twenty years before the traditionally given date. The career of Sir Maurice, 3rd Knight of Kerry, in Cork needs to be reconsidered as the key to the foundation of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly.

From Castlemartyr to the White House : John Saul, horticulturist.

Castlemartyr House is now a hotel. Here we see the old Fitzgerald castle on the right, the Boyle house on the left and the parterre on the south side of the house.

Castlemartyr House is now a hotel. Here we see the old Fitzgerald castle on the right, the Boyle house on the left and the parterre on the south side of the house.

One of the treasures of the Hunt Museum in Limerick is a late seventeenth century silver gilt pyx or box to contain the consecrated communion wafer (HCM 125). This pyx was once employed by a priest to convey the sacrament to a sick or dying person. Many seventeenth and eighteenth century Irish pyxes are anonymous – we often do not know for whom they were made, or even who made them. The Cashel pyx, apart from its depiction of the crucifixion, has three inscriptions in Latin.Two of the inscriptions are of interest to us here, for they identify the person who commissioned it: FR. AN. SALL. ME FIERI FECIT and PRO CONVTU. STI. FRANCI. CASSI. These really make up one long inscription: Frater Antonius Sall me fieri fecit, pro conventu sancti Franciscus Cassilensis which means Friar Anthony Sall had me made for the convent of St Francis in Cashel.  Anthony Sall was the Guardian (prior) of the Franciscan community in Nenagh during the 1670s, but he was almost certainly connected to the Sall (pronounced ‘saul’) family of Cashel for he commissioned the pyx for the Franciscans there. The Salls were an old Anglo-Norman family who had settled in County Tipperary, originally called de Salle or de la Sale.

The Hunt Museum's Cashel Pyx was commissioned by Friar Anthony Sall for the Franciscan Community in Cashel, County Tipperary. The pyx was made of silver gilt around 1670. (Hunt Museum)

The Hunt Museum’s Cashel Pyx was commissioned by Friar Anthony Sall for the Franciscan Community in Cashel, County Tipperary. The silver gilt pyx was made around 1670. (Hunt Museum)

What I never realized when I was in Limerick is that the Sall family of Cashel had connections to East Cork. The 1766 religious census of Ireland (commissioned by the Irish House of Lords) recorded five different Sall families in Cashel, each headed by a John Sall, which must have confused matters. One of these men (it is not known which) was actually the father of a Barnabas Sall. Barnabas moved to East Cork where he worked as a gardener for Richard Boyle, the 2nd Earl of Shannon, and his son, Henry, 4th Earl, on the Castlemartyr Demense, which was so admired by Arthur Young on his tour of Ireland in 1776-1779.  Barnabas lived until 1821. Barnabas had a son, James, who married a Mary Hennessy and in 1819 they had a son, John Hennessy Sall, or Saul as the family began to write the name. Like his father Barnabas, James also worked for Lord Shannon as a gardener, but at Carewswood (or Careyswood as some have written it). Carewswood is a smaller house between Castlemartyr and Ladysbridge which served as a dower house for Catherine, Dowager Countess of Shannon at the time John Saul was born.

East Cowes Castle was bought by the Earl of Shannon after the death of the architect John Nash in 1835. Nash is most famous for designing Buckingham Palace.

East Cowes Castle was bought by the Earl of Shannon after the death of the architect John Nash in 1835. Nash is most famous for designing Buckingham Palace.

However, James and his family didn’t stay in Carewswood forever. Henry, 3rd Earl of Shannon, had bought East Cowes Castle, on the Isle of Wight. This was the home of the celebrated architect John Nash who designed Buckingham Palace and Regent Street in London. Nash died in 1835 and his property was sold to settle his debts. James Sall and his family were invited to move to the Isle of Wight to care for the gardens there. Thus John Saul learned his horticulture first in Castlemartyr under his grandfather, and at Carewswood in East Cork and East Cowes on the Isle of Wight under his father  This training must have been very good because, in 1841, following a few years in East Cowes, John Saul moved on to care for the gardens at Llantarnam Abbey, a country house in Wales. In 1843 John joined the Durdham Down Nurseries – within a year, he was the manager of the nurseries. John’s brother, James, had emigrated to the United States in 1849, and John followed in 1851. Meeting up in Philadelphia, the brothers moved to New York to work for Andrew Jackson Downing at the Newburgh Nurseries. Through Downing’s contacts, John Saul was invited to Washington DC, then more of a development site than a real city. Until 1853, Saul worked with William Dunlop Brackenridge at improving the National Mall, Lafayette Square, the Smithsonian Museum grounds and the gardens of the White House. Whilst doing all this, John Saul started a seed business and was eventually to found his own nursery in 1854. The same year he was appointed the first chairman of the Washington DC Parks Commission – the forerunner of the current Parks and Planning Commission. John Saul lived out his life in the US capital where he died in 1897 after a very fulfilled life in Ireland, England, Wales and the United States. His son, Bernard F Saul, later founded Washington DC’s first mortgage bank, BF Saul Company.

The National Mall in Washington DC at the end of the nineteenth century. This was the sort of scene that John Saul was familiar with.

The National Mall in Washington DC at the end of the nineteenth century. The Capitol is in the distance. This was the Mall that John Saul was familiar with.

Barnabas Sall and his son James, father of John Saul, are both buried in Ballyoughtera graveyard, which was formerly contained within the demesne of Castlemartyr House. Appropriately, Carewswood House is now a garden center.

The Macmillan Commission proposed a total redesign of the planting scheme of the National Mall in 1901. The proposal was mostly carried out up to the 1930s.

The Macmillan Commission proposed a total redesign of the planting scheme of the National Mall in 1901. The proposal was mostly carried out up to the 1930s.

Three years ago, the community in Castlemartyr decided to celebrate John Saul’s life and achievements with an annual John Saul Picnic in the grounds of the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel, formerly the residence of the Earls of Shannon. This year’s picnic takes place on Monday 3rd August and is in aid of MyPlace Midleton, a youth and community resource center in nearby Midleton. Somehow it seems appropriate to celebrate a gardener with a picnic in the grounds where his father and grandfather had worked.  Let us hope the wet summer of 2015 relents for the occasion.

Memorial to John Saul in the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel.

Memorial to John Saul in the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel.

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.

Postcard from Mogeely, 1910.

Mogeely Postcard obverse

Mogeely, near Castlemartyr, County Cork, as photographed by the Horgan brothers of Youghal before 1910.

This blog has already featured a postcard sent from Queenstown (now Cobh) to Ladysbridge in 1904 (see ‘The history that is lost to us as hinted in an old postcard.’ Posted January 2nd.)  However, the postcard discussed in today’s post is, perhaps, more interesting, both for its local provenance and its pictorial subject matter. it makes your realise that before the age of texting, even before telephones became commonplace, the half-penny postcard was the way to send a quick message.

The card was sent by someone called ‘Katty’ to Miss Ciss Donovan in Ladysbridge.  The postmark on the green half-penny stamp depicting King Edward VII is dated May 3rd, 1910. This mark was impressed on the card at Castlemartyr Post Office at 8.15 pm that evening, clearly in preparation for delivery the following morning. It is almost certain that the card was actually posted in Mogeely, and stamped with the postmark during sorting in Castlemartyr. One other detail is of interest – the divided back of the postcard indicates that the card could not have been produced before 1902, for that was the year in which the Post Office introduced the divided back to separate the address from the message.

There are two locations called Mogeely in East Cork – one is near Conna, not far from the Waterford county boundary and the town of Tallow; the other is further south in the barony of Imokilly, about six or seven miles east of Midleton and just a over a mile north of Castlemartyr. This small village of Mogeely, really a hamlet in 1910, is barely three miles due north of Ladysbridge, the destination of the postcard; Castlemartyr is situated on the road between them.

The front of the card consists of a photograph the Horgan brothers of Youghal, famous local photographers and early cinema operators. They opened the first cinema in Youghal, but, more importantly, they took photographs of the towns and villages throughout East Cork and West Waterford in the first half of the twentieth century. In the evening, having taken their photographs, the Horgan brothers would retire to a local hostelry to present a slide show of the images to the local people as a way of saying thank you, and providing an early form of pre-cinema entertainment. Indeed such a show may have been the subject of the postcard’s message. Their signature is on the bottom right of the photograph.

Mogeely Postcard obverse

Mogeely photograph close-up. The road to Dungourney heads due north, directly ahead. The road to Killeagh and Youghal veers off to the right (east). Behind the photographer is the road south to Castlemartyr, with the railway line crossing the road immediately behind the position of the camera. Just south of the railway line, the direct route to Midleton heads west (left). The telegraph pole and the pub sign are the only concessions to modernity in the image. At the time the new church was being constructed to the photographer’s immediate right. (Image by the Horgan Brothers of Youghal.) 

In this case the photographer has placed his heavy tripod box camera in the middle of the road leading from Castlemartyr to Mogeely. The site is very specific, because this road was crossed by the Cork to Youghal railway line directly behind the cameraman! Furthermore, it can be noted that the road is dusty, because there were very few motorcars in Ireland at the time and the roads were all designed for horse-drawn transport. There is no way a modern cameraman would take such a photograph today without all sorts of signs and traffic cones to ward off the busy rural traffic. The camera faced directly north into the village (really a large hamlet) of Mogeely. The road continuing due north between the cottages and the hedgerow trees leads to Dungourney, situated in the hills that can be discerned between the trees in the background. The road leading to the right heads east to Killeagh and Youghal. Behind the photographer, and beyond the railway line, there is a road leading to the left, west to Midleton. This road joins the main road from Midleton to Castlemartyr and Youghal at Churchtown North, two miles from Midleton.

Because of the nature of the cameras at the time, it was necessary for the photographer to get the co-operation of the local people. The subjects had to stand still for a few moments while the camera captured the image – and this is what happened with this photograph of Mogeely. As you can see the people of the small village are present in force. They are posed in groups – a small group by the pub on the left, a larger group by the cottages in the background in the centre, and a man with his donkey in the middle of the road in front of them. There is another man stepping onto the roadway on the right, and in front of him a village dog got in on the act by posing perfectly on the road!

There are only two buildings in the photograph that have more than one storey. All the rest of the village consists of single-storey dwellings, many of them thatched. What is interesting in this image is that the only concessions to modernity are the telegraph pole on the left, and the name of the pub – the Railway Saloon, otherwise the village looks very much like it did before the railway arrived in the 1860s.


The romanesque revival church of the Sacred Heart in Mogeely was being built when the postcard was sent in 1910. Opened in 1912, its decoration was completed over many years. My great -great-grandfather cut the stone for this church, which was built by JJ Coffey & Sons of Midleton. The church stands beside the road to Castlemartyr, just north of the railway line.

To make matters more interesting, the photographer avoided any suggestion of the biggest event in the village’s history at the time – the building of the new Sacred Heart Church to replace the humble old village chapel. The site of the new church was immediately to the right of the photographer, out of picture. This church was started in 1908 and completed in 1912.

Mogeely Postcard reverse

The green half-penny stamp depicts King Edward VII. The divided back postcard was introduced by the Post Office in 1902. Sadly, Miss Ciss Donovan does not appear on the 1911 Census for Ladysbridge. (Postcard in a private collection)

The message on the reverse of the card from Katty to Ciss Donovan says:

Thank you very much for your lovely nib. I hope you enjoyed the play. I heard the machine got broken. It was fair in Mogeely. In the upper left corner the message ends: Hope to see you on Sunday.

Presumably the nib in question is the one that was used to write the message and address in red ink. The ‘play’ is likely to be the slide show put on by the Horgan brothers that evening, presumably in Ladysbridge for the locals there. The reference to the ‘machine’ breaking down suggests that there was a technical hitch during the show. And the note that ‘it was fair in Mogeely’ does indeed suggest that the breakdown happened during a show in Ladysbridge – it’s hardly a reference to the weather given the proximity of the two villages!   Finally, Sunday was the normal day for visiting and greeting friends and family, being the only day off during the week.  Since I have family connections to Ladysbridge, I would love to see the slides that the Horgan brothers showed that evening in Ladysbridge. I’m not certain if they are among those images from the Horgan Collection made available online by the Cork County Library.

Unfortunately Miss Ciss Donovan is not named in the 1911 census for Ladysbridge – she had either moved away, or married and moved away. As for Kattie – there are several candidates. However, I suspect, but cannot prove that our Kattie may be Kate Harte, aged 30, of House 7 in Mogeely, wife of the blacksmith John A Harte.

Mogeely’s history goes back a long way – it was certainly extant when Robert FitzStephen and his band of knights invaded Cork in 1177. The site was almost certainly a parish by that time and fragmentary remains of the medieval church are extant in the local graveyard. Mogeely seems to have been the seat of the local ruling family, the Ui Mac Tire, before the Anglo-Normans arrived. In 1182, the Mac Tire clan murdered a party of five Anglo-Norman knights, on their way to a parley in Waterford, sparking off a general revolt against the invaders in Cork. In the 1640s a senior Anglican clergyman, collecting evidence of Catholic atrocities against Protestants during the 1642 rebellion was murdered nearby. These murders will be the subject of a future post.

Mogeely old church

The fragmentary remains of the medieval parish church of Mogeely are situated in the centre of the grossly overcrowded old graveyard. When the new church was completed in 1912, the old early 19th century chapel next to this graveyard was taken down and its site was later incorporated into the graveyard. My grandparents were buried in this new section.

Both Mogeely and Ladysbridge have expanded considerably since the postcard was sent in 1910. This is due to the building of housing estates on the edges of the villages. But the centre of each village is pretty much as it was in 1910.

Now I must declare a personal connection to both Mogeely and Ladysbridge. At the time the postcard was sent, Mogeely’s new church was being constructed by the firm of JJ Coffey & Sons of Midleton. My own great great grandfather on my mother’s side was a stonecutter who worked for Coffey’s. He cut and dressed stone for this church. My paternal grandparents came from Wexford, but eventually settled in Ladysbridge. Both are buried in Mogeely graveyard.

My thanks to Jim Horgan of Youghal for encouraging me to publish the images of the postcard, and to my aunt loaning it to to me..

More images from the Horgan Collection can be viewed on the website of the Cork County Library:

The Horgan Collection can be found under the library’s Digital Collections link.

If you recognize any scene or any person depicted in these images, please be so good as to inform the Cork County Library at: