Before Midleton – there was Ballinacorra…….

It makes no sense to discuss the early history of Midleton without considering the older, and now overshadowed,neighbour, – the village of Ballinacorra. So I’d like to examine some aspects of Ballinacorra’s history here.  I must acknowledge my debt to Paul MacCotter, who, as an excellent medieval historian, has presented so many insights into the history of the area around Midleton and Cloyne.

Ballinacurra Main Street

The Main Street of Ballinacorra around 1900. The building on the left might stand on the site of the mill recorded in 1301. The modern village looks very much as if it had been planned, and perhaps it was redeveloped in the later 1700s. Flowing under the road in the foreground is a culverted stream.

The village of Ballinacorra still retains its own identity despite being considered by many to be simply a suburb of Midleton. It is far enough away from Main Steet in Midleton to treat the larger town as an interloper.  In the decades since the 1960s, the main road from Midleton to Ballinacorra has  become built up, especially on the west side from Lakeview filling station (that’s a gas station to you Yanks!) to the Dark Road (‘dark’ because it was heavily shaded by trees). The eastern side of the road had just Lakeview Terrace and a couple of houses, along with Lakeview House itself. There were fields between the Presentation Convent boundary wall, which marked the southern end of Midleton town, and Lakeview filling station, and there are still fields on the eastern side between Lakeview House and the other houses on that side of the road.  However, the building of ‘The Cotswolds’ (!) and ‘Castleredmond’ housing estates has filled in some of the open space.  Charleston House still stands proudly isolated behind its high wall, trees and mercifully green fields on the western side of the road, directly opposite the entrance to the Castleredmond estate. Should the demand for housing boom again, it is likely that all the land bordering this road will be built up.

Aerial view Castleredmond

Ballinacorra Creek runs from the bottom left to the center right. The sharp straight end of the creek is the modern road from Midleton to Whitegate, cutting Ballincorra village off from its waterfront. The village proper lies byond the white line of the road. Ballinacorra house, with its adjacent farm buildings, lies at the bottom of the picture next to the creek. The strange bent wall visible at the bottom of the ploughed field, just above Ballinacorra House, draws the eye to the site of the medieval church, and the trees which surround and cover the mound that marks the Anglo-Norman motte or earthwork castle – Castranachore. The waterway coming in from the upper left is the estuary of the Owenacurra River, which flows through Midleton.

One important change in the road between Midleton and Ballinacorra was the rebuilding of that road since the 1950s – which entailed by-passing Ballinacorra and even filling in part of the waterfront thus cutting the village off from Ballinacorra Creek. This waterfront and its quays were the reason for the village’s whole existence in the first place.  During the building of the Whitegate Oil Refinery in the 1950s, it was realised that the old road was inadequate and a narrow turn in the road at the top of the Main Street in Ballinacorra to Whitegate made it difficult to get large vehicles through the village.  The solution therefore was to widen the road from Midleton to Whitegate, and it was necessary to by-pass Ballinacorra because the narrow Main Street was too constricted.  Thus Ballinacorra became one of the first villages in Ireland to be by-passed. Today, when driving from Midleton to Whitegate on the R630, it is easy for the motorist to overlook the existence of the village because the road was laid out on a raised embankment which filled the eastern end of Ballinacurra Creek.  This causeway was necessary because the road had to drop down a steep slope from Castleredmond, cross the Creek, and climb up the steep slope on the other side leading into Ballinacorra townland and continuing to Whitegate.  In effect, Ballinacorra became lost in a hole, as well as being cut off from its historic waterfront by this wide, busy road and fast traffic. You get a better idea of the difficulties posed for the engineers when you turn off the main road into the village itself and drive up the Main Street to rejoin the main road further on.

As mentioned in my previous post, Ballinacorra is a much older settlement than Midleton.  It was certainly extant in the middle of the twelfth century, and perhaps earlier. By 1160, the parish had been created as part of the organisation of the newly re-established diocese of Cloyne, the cathedral of which was just a few miles away (literally in the next parish!).  It is likely that, as with Ballycotton, the site at Ballinacorra was developed as a port for Cloyne – indeed Ballinacorra was a much more secure port for shipping. Despite being located about nine nautical miles from the sea, Ballinacorra’s sheltered position, its proximity to Cloyne (compared with Ballycotton) and its access to the rich grain growing lands of the vale of Imokilly, made it a good spot for a port. The land may have been controlled by the Ui Mac Tire family – a bunch of parvenues who had recently usurped older ruling families to take over as the local lords of Ui Mo Caille or Imokilly.  Imokilly is now a barony stretching from Midleton to Youghal and southwards to the sea.  In the twelfth century only the western part of the modern barony from the present day Castlemartyr/Mogeely (& Ballymacoda?) line to Midleton and the eastern shore of Cork Harbour was called Imokilly, but it was later expanded to Youghal. Originally the barony included the territory stretching towards Carrigtohill, but these lands were incorporated into Barrymore well before 1500. Th original lands of Imokilly seem to have been controlled by the Ui Mac Tire in the north and the Bishop of Cloyne in the south.

The Ui Mac Tire were closely allied to the MacCarthy dynasty who ruled the kingdom of Cork or Desmond (South Munster). Indeed it likely that the MacCarthys re-established the diocese that had been extinguished at Rath Breasail. in 1111. They also seem to have been closely linked to the church reforms that had been in progress since 1111.  Perhaps Cormac MacCarthy, the man who built Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel, was the re-founder of the modern diocese of Cloyne! The MacCarthy kings were closely linked to the church reforms that were in progress in twelfth century Ireland, and their close allies the Ui Mac Tire may have followed suit.  There’s an interesting German connection here that will be addressed in a later post!

The parish of Ballinacorra covered much of the area that was later covered by the civil parish of Midleton.  A civil parish is effectively the medieval parish; today the civil parish provides the basis of Church of Ireland parish unions and is also of Roman Catholic parishes, although Catholic parishes might be drawn up to ignore civil parish boundaries.  However, in 1180, the large parish of Ballinacorra was divided in two. The northern portion of the parish was given over as a separate parish to the Cistercians who settled at Chore on the site of today’s Midleton town. The southern portion of the original parish remained as the parish of Ballinacorra or, as it later bacame, Castranachore – a name still applied to the whole civil parish in the Tithe Applotment Book of 1833.  We know that Ballinacorra was established before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the area in 1177 because the parish church was dedicated to St Colman of Cloyne.  This dedication to a native Irish saint invariably indicates a pre-Norman foundation.  In this case it also suggests an older direct link to the monastery of Cloyne, which had become the Cathedral of Cloyne.

Ballinacorra Church West front

The west end of the ruined church at Ballinacorra. This view shows the typical later medieval west end of an Irish parish church – there’s no door, for that is on the south side of the church. The image is taken from the edge of the churchyard overlooking Ballinacorra Creek. The church is right on the water’s edge.

The location of the medieval church in Ballinacorra, right on the southern shore of Ballinacorra Creek, strongly suggests that Ballinacorra was envisaged as a port for both the town of Cloyne, and for the Mac Tire lands.  The grain grown in Imokilly could easily be transported to Cork by boat or ship from Ballinacorra – a trade that continued into the twentieth century.  It might be thought that Youghal would have been the principal port for the area, but the dedication of that parish to St Mary suggests that Youghal is a later foundation of the Anglo-Normans.

In 1177, King Henry II gave two of the original leaders of the Anglo-Norman expeditionary party in Ireland the right to seize the kingdom of Cork.  This broke the Treaty of Windsor which had divided Ireland between a territory under Henry and the rest of the country under Rory O’Connor, the so called ‘High King’ of the Irish.  The two men given this license were Robert FitzStephen and Milo de Cogan.  These ruthless men promptly swooped into Cork – with the land of Imokilly being the first to fall victim to their raid.  FitzStephen claimed Imokilly and Olethan.  He subdivided much of the land into smaller estates for his knights. These knights then rented out the land to smaller tenants – in some cases they left the lands in the hands of the Irish families that had originally claimed it, as long as they paid rent to their new landlords.  This was done because there seem to have been insufficient Anglo-Norman tenants to go around.  Robert FitzStephen had granted much of Uflanethe (the plain between Midleton and Castlemartyr/Mogeely) to the father and son team of Robert and Thomas des Autres. It is uncertain if the des Autres were the new landlords to the Mac Tire family of if FitzStephen was their immediate landlord.  Whatever it way the arrangement was worked out, the Mac Tire still occupied Mogeely and held what is now Midleton, with Castleredmond, the two Broomfield townlands, and Killenamanagh near Mogeely.  The des Autres continued to hold lands in Imokilly throughout the medieval period, but in increasingly smaller holdings.  This family is most likely the modern Waters and probably the Salter family that can be found in East Cork today.  Indeed Paul MacCotter suggests that they give their name to several townlands, including of Ballintotis – the former Balyogy became Baile an tAiteirs (des Autres town) perhaps from the family’s possession of Ballintotis in the fourteenth century.

The des Autres may have established their caput, or seat, at Ballincorra by building an earth and timber castle there.  Thus Ballinacorra became Castlecor or Caislean na Cora.  This earth and timber castle may represented by the unexcavated tree-covered mound in the grounds of Ballinacorra House.  This steep mound is located just yards from the medieval church – the relationship suggests a classic example of Anglo-Norman manorial practice: church and castle (or manor house) being set side by side.  The location of the medieval village is unknown, but most likely it was on the site of the present village.  It is even possible that the village was originally on the site of Ballinacorra House but the building of the castle meant that the inhabitants were forced to move to the site of the modern village.  This high-handed behaviour was common enough among the Anglo-Norman elite.

Ballinacorra Graveyard

The eighteenth century wall separating Ballinacorra House from the old churchyard. The trees mark the site of the still extant mound, which appears to be the motte of the early Anglo-Norman castle that gave the village its other name – Castle Cor or Castranacore. The proximity of the castle to the church was typical of the Anglo Normans. It is possible that the original village was moved east to its present site when the castle was established on this site.

This type of high-handed behaviour may have precipitated the foundation of the Abbey of St Mary of Chore (Midleton) in 1180 by Mac Tire and the Bishop of Cloyne (perhaps with encouragement from the MacCarthys).  By handing some of their property to the Cistercians, the Mac Tire kept it out of the hands of the Anglo-Normans.      .

In a deed that is hardly later than 1183, Robert des Autres granted the tithes of three churches in his lands to St Thomas’s Augustinian Abbey in Dublin.  One of these grants was ‘the great church of Castello de Cor.’ No, this referred not to a place in Italy but to the church at Ballinacorra (or Castlecor as it was now called).  Note the name of this castle – it will come up, and cause trouble, in a later post!

In 1182 a party of Anglo-Norman knights travelling from Cork to Waterford stopped off for the night at Mac Tire’s house in Mogeely – and were murdered. This incident sparked off a widespread revolt against the Anglo-Normans in Cork and the MacCarthy king, Diarmaid, launched a massive attack on Imokilly.  All the castles of Imokilly were destroyed – including Castlecor.  This revolt was suppressed by Raymond le Gros in 1183, but the Mac Tire and MacCarthys continued to fight a guerilla war until about 1220.  All this suggests that the initial Anglo-Norman settlement was rather weak and that the new estates must have suffered from the conflict.  Perhaps the des Autiers suffered severe damage to their properties during the revolt and its suppression as well as ongoing troubles into the early 1200s.

Sailing route to Ballinacorra

The sailing route from the lower part of Cork Harbour to Ballinacorra follows the yellow line via East Ferry to the green dot which marks the Creek of Ballinacorra. The total distance to Roche’s Point and the open sea is about 9 nautical miles. (Image from sailcork.com)

With Robert FitzStephen’s death in 1183, his estates were inherited by his nephew Raymond le Gros, the same man who had suppressed the Mac Tire/MacCarthy revolt that year.It isn’t certain when Raymond died, but it was sometime between 1185 and 1198.  Raymond’s lands were inherited by his nephew, Richard de Carew. Since we know that Thomas des Autres sold the vill and castle of Cor (Ballinacorra) to Richard de Carew in the 1190s, we can surmise that Raymond was probably dead by the middle of that decade.

The status of Castranachore/Caislean na Cora/Castle Cor/Castle Corth now changed as de Carew made it the caput or capital of his large manor which seemed to correspond to the old territory of Uflanethe.  This manor stretched from near Carrigtohill in the west almost to Killeagh in the east with a portion reaching the sea at Garryvoe and Ballycrenane in the south east.  From north to south, the manor reached from Dangan to the northern outskirts of Cloyne. The manor of Castlecorth also included the eastern portion of Great Island (Templerobin parish?) and a larger detached portion around Aghada, where the original caput seems to have been located by Robert FizStephen.

Being at the center of the manor, Ballinacorra (or Castlecorth, as it was called) was a busy market town and very useful port. This was effectively the most important town in Imokilly along with Cloyne and the newly developed port of Youghal.  Later medieval documents show that, by 1301, there was a watermill in the town (perhaps on the stream that flows into the creek). There also seems to have been a leper hospital in the vicinity of Castlecorth – but no remains are extant today.

To inhabit their new capital, the Carews seem to have brought in settlers from elsewhere – particularly from south Wexford. It is interesting to note that Robert FitzStephen was awarded a half-share of two cantreds or baronies in south County Wexford by Dermot MacMurrough.  These were the baronies of Bargy and Forth on the south coast of the county (indeed on the extreme south east corner of Ireland – the point of Ireland nearest to Pembrokeshire, whence came the original Anglo-Norman forces. Families with names like Walsh, Burgess, Coppinger, Tanner, Dene, Cod, Field, Fleming, Marshall, Mynes and even Harpur all settled in Ballinacorra from 1220. The names of these settlers were remarkably similar to the names of the Anglo-Norman settlers in Bargy and Forth – almost certainly they were all related, perhaps younger sons in search of more opportunity.  Paul MacCotter, who has had a chance to study some of these names, is very clear that this is a very close relationship between the families settled in south Wexford and in Imokilly, a relationship that deserves further exploration, especially since the Carews also inherited Robert FitzStephen’s property in Wexford.

Events in the fourteenth century brought about some serious changes in Ballinacorra/Castlecorth.  Firstly, a strong Gaelic revival led by the MacCarthys meant that Thomas Carew, sixth lord of Castlecorth after Raymond de Carew, lost much of his valuable estates in West Cork. In 1339 he sold the Burgary (town) of Castlecorth to William de Barry, the brother of David Barry, the lord of Barrymore.  The result of this was that Ballinacorra/Castlecorth ended up in Barrymore barony until the later 1600s or early 1700s.  This didn’t just mean the village or town of Ballinacorra, it also included the three townlands of Ballinacorra (town/East/West), the two Bawnards (East/West), and Loughatalia. To make matters worse, Thomas Carew was attainted for treason in 1340 and his manor of Castlecorth was confiscated by the government, although it was reluctantly allowed to remain under the tenuous control of the Carews of Garryvoe.  The separation of the vill or town of Ballinacorra/Castlecorth from the manor of Castlecorth was disastrous.  The port still functioned, but the town was no longer the center of economic activity in the western part of Imokilly.  In the following century as the FitzGeralds re-established themselves in Imokilly, the focus seems to have shifted to the newer town of Castlemartyr.

Bennett's maltings

The grainstore built by Anderson and Lapp in the late 1700s and later acquired by John H Bennett & Co, maltsters. This image shows the buildings before they were converted into apartments. The lovely still water shows what the creek looks like at high tide. Sadly Ballinacorra Creek was allowed to silt up in the twentieth century and eventually closed as a port in the 1960s.

Paul MacCotter reckons that Ballinacorra had declined by the seventeenth century to a small village, but it had one more shot at glory as a result of the Reformation – the parish was reunited with its northern portion in the early seventeenth century.  The suppression of the Cistercian abbey at Chore (Midleton) by Henry VIII eventually led to the two parishes becoming one, thus the name Castranachore rather than Corabbey for the parish of Midleton in the Tithe Applotment Book in 1833.  In the later 1600s Colonel Richard FitzEdmund FitzGerald, the heir to the Seneschal of Imokilly, moved to Ballinacorra, having failed to regain his ancient seat of Castlemartyr.  He probably lived in Ballinacorra House, which is certainly the oldest continuously inhabited house in the parish of Midleton. At present it appears to be an eighteenth century modification of a seventeenth century house, but one wonders if it actually is a reworking of a later medieval tower house or small castle?  Eighteenth century Ballinacorra was divided between the Longfields of Castlemary (near Cloyne) and the Boyles, Earls of Shannon, who lived at Castlemartyr.  At one point the brother of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne,

Edward Bransfield RN

Edward Bransfield RN was born in Ballinacorra about 1785, and was press-ganged into the Royal Navy in 1803. Unusually, for a Catholic, he did well for himself, rising through the ranks, becoming a noted early explorer of the Antarctic. Very likely his hedge-school education equipped him to take advantage of any opportunities that presented themselves to him, unlike most impressed men at the time.

It would seem that Ballinacorra (as we must now call it) revived in the later 1700s, when Anderson and Lapp, two Cork merchants built quays and grain stores on Ballinacorra Creek.  Later the malting of barley became the most important industry there, supplying malted barley to several breweries, including the Guinness brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin.   By then however, the creation of the borough of Midleton in 1670 meant that the northern neighbour overshadowed the village of Ballinacorra.  In 1803, a young fisherman called Edward Bransfield was press-ganged from his father’s fishing boat into the Royal Navy.  The young man remained in the navy after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, spending his time exploring the Southern Ocean and the shores of Antarctica as well as the South Shetland Islands, which he claimed for King George III (who actually had died the day before!). Sadly, the port at Ballinacorra was finally closed in the 1960s, thus ending centuries of international trade from the Creek of Ballinacorra.

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Images of Cloyne Cathedral.

Ooops!  Silly me!  I really should add some colour to this blog – so, as a bonus, I want to show some images of St Colman’s Cathedral in Cloyne to illustrate what I said in my previous blog.

Cloyne Cathedral is a thirteenth century building (1201-1300) with later amendments (east window and western facade). We don’t know which bishop built it but its location is very precisely related to the Round Tower across the road – this was the original belfry of Cloyne.  Forget that stuff about monks taking refuge there from the Vikings – round towers make excellent chimneys so the monks would have risked asphyxiation if the uninvited guests lit a fire at the foot of the tower!    The first image shows the cathedral from the north with the high triple lancet windows of the north transept facing us.  The chancel is on the left with the vestry protruding northwards, and the nave and aisles are on the right.  There is a debate as to whether the cathedral had a central tower, the join in the roof between the nave and chancel suggest this, but there is no such evidence on the interior. In fact, given that the Round Tower was used as a belfry into the twentieth century, why would they have bothered with a central crossing tower?

Cloyne Cathedral from the North

Cloyne Cathedral from the North

The Round Tower at Cloyne was actually built over a thousand years ago to house a bell – the locals called it a cloigteach into the 18th century – cloigteach means a bell-house, or in Italian, campanile!   It even leans a couple of centimeters out of vertical despite being over thirty meters tall – it lost a couple of meters when the conical cap was struck by lightening in the eighteenth century.

Cloyne Round Tower General

The third image is a general overview of Cloyne Cathedral taken from the top of the Round Tower – the image is a few years old because those fields in the background are now filled with houses.  Note the cruciform shape and the proximity to the road as well as the odd positioning of the gate – this gate faces the door of the Round Tower.

Cloyne Cathedral Overhead

The interior is remarkably simple, some would say bare, but I love it because it reminds me of the best Cistercian architecture.  Mind you Cloyne wasn’t built by the Cistercians, it was strictly a secular, that is to say diocesan, establishment.  The nave is empty of seating (as it was in the medieval period) and is now used mainly for concerts.  The Chancel is now the functioning church, but originally the laity would never have been admitted beyond the tall arch at the east end of the nave.  Indeed this arch would have been blocked by a painted and sculpted wooden screen with a crucifix above it.

Cloyne Nave General

The Chancel is laid out in ‘cathedral form’ as we say in Ireland – that is, while some pews at the western end face towards the altar, most of the seating follows the antiphonal arrangement of medieval choirs.  Antiphonal means that the seats face each other – one side can sing one verse, and the other side can sing the next verse, and so on.  The furnishings, roof and stained glass are all nineteenth century.

Cloyne Cathedral Chancel

 

In the north transept is a magnificent Renaissance tomb built for Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, Dean of Cloyne.  He was the illegitimate son of the previous dean, Edmund FitzGerald, and there is no evidence that Sir John was even ordained!  Despite the fact that he remained a Catholic until his death in 1612, Sir John was a loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth I – how do you think he became SIR JOHN?  He was knighted on Elizabeth’s orders and he used that fact to his advantage.  He looted the church lands by giving estates to his own sons, and he even managed to keep the Protestants out of the cathedral until his death! Frankly, he was one of the biggest crooks in sixteenth century Ireland!   I’ll come back to him in a later post.  However, Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald’s tomb deserves a mention, for it is one of the great renaissance treasures of Ireland, yet is virtually unknown!   This large tomb of polished limestone is topped by a  huge slab of red (Midleton?) marble – the biggest I’ve ever seen.  The front of the tomb is decorated with panels representing military trophies, clearly copied from a print.

Fitzgerald Tomb Cloyne

The stones on top of the red marble slab are the remains of sculpted figures that stood on the tomb, and they are all shown dressed in armour. There isn’t a cleric among them.  No evidence whatsoever of any religious feeling intrudes into the tomb of this Dean of Cloyne!

 

Irish Genealogy and Finding Places.

Cloyne Cathedral

Cloyne Cathedral

Since my last post the autumn has hit us with a bang!  Literally!  We had a thunderstorm on Wednesday of last week (8th October). The storm lasted the whole afternoon and our internet connection went!  (Doh!) Finally, eight days later, we’re back online!  The thunderstorm was the latest in a series of downpours and delayed equinoxal storms that make us appreciate any calm, warm, sunny weather we get from now until winter sets in.  Really, we were spoiled by the long, warm, dry summer this year.  And the plants are still growing!  In the middle of October!  We’ll have a splendid leaf show in the next couple of weeks – if any gales don’t blow  the leaves away.

The Family History Course that I am presenting is going well – I’m trying to keep it practical, with a workshop and case study element.  This is, I believe, what people doing family history/genealogy really want.  It can be a lonely business when tracking your ancestors and I would encourage people to join organisations like the Cork Genealogical Society (of which I’m a member).

Last Friday (10th October) I visited Cloyne Cathedral to examine something there at the invitation of a member of the Cathedral Vestry.  This is a lovely, small, cathedral set in a pleasant little town or village in lovely countryside.  Most medieval Irish cathedrals were small – we had too many dioceses with too few resources to build on the scale of English or Continental cathedrals.   The charm of St Colman’s Cathedral is that is looks like a large parish church, but does not soar above the small town of Cloyne – that is the privilege of the older round tower, situated just across the road from the cathedral.   I hadn’t been to the cathedral for some years and had actually forgotten its homely and charming atmosphere.  The very small Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopalian) congregation and the Friends of Cloyne Cathedral struggle manfully to keep this gem intact.  The philosopher George Berkeley was the bishop here in the eighteenth century, and his memory is still cherished locally because of his generosity to the poor.  Berkeley College in California is named for him, as are a number of other US educational institions.

Cloyne Cathedral from the north

Cloyne Cathedral from the north

Cloyne is nowadays given the Irish name Cluain on road signs, but it should really be Cluain Uamha – the ‘meadow of the caves,’ a name it had long before modern road signs came into use. Cluain Uamha refers to the caves that penetrate the limestone on which the town stands.  Near Dublin is a place called Clontarf where exactly a millennium ago an army of Irish (mostly from Munster) with Viking allies crushed an army of Vikings (Dublin, Isle of Man and Norway with some from Denmark) with their Irish allies (from Leinster).  The battle was fought on Good Friday 1014 and that date is, like 1690, 1798 and 1916, one of the more popularly remembered dates in Irish history.  Clontarf, is derived from Cluain Tarbh, appropriately, ‘the meadow of bulls.’

One of the questions raised by those researching their Irish ancestors is this subject of place-names.  In Ireland this seems tricky, but when I eventually explain it, believe me it will seem very clear.  Let me give you an example from my tour of Midleton during Heritage Week in August.  There is a street in Midleton called Brodrick Street (the street sign says Broderick – but that’s wrong!  There is no ‘e‘ in Brodrick!)  Yet in Midleton, the locals refer to ithis street as the Coolbawn!  Until very recently this latter name did not appear on any map – but the building of Coolbawn Court (a square of houses at the end of the street) put it on the map.  What’s going on?   Coolbawn is derived from two Irish words cul meaning ‘back’ and ban meaning ‘white’ or ‘meadow between two streams’ (perhaps the latter meaning is derived from the white flowers of the meadowsweet herb?).  But culbhain can also mean, more precisely, a watermeadow.  And the Coolbawn in Midleton is indeed located between the Roxborough or Dungourney River on the south and the Owenacurra River (abhainn na corra – river of the weir) on the west.  The other boundaries are the Main Street on the east and the south wall of St John the Baptist’s churchyard on the north.  As you can imagine, the group was intrigued by my explanation that Brodrick Street was a street built in an area called the Cooibawn but it was not actually the Coolbawn itself. Attempts some years ago to change the name of the street to ‘Coolbawn’ were simply incorrect.  Note that I used the definite article when discussing the Coolbawn – because the name is also a description of a place and the area does flood in very high tides when the wind is blowing from the wrong direction!

And before anybody gets too excited – the Coolbawn is NOT a townland (in Midleton, at least!)…..which will bring on the subject of our next post!    To keep you amused until then you may wish to consider the following terms: ploughland, townland, civil parish, parish (and no, they are not exactly the same!), union (as in Poor Law Union), district electoral division (DED), barony, riding (those from Yorkshire should get that one!), county, diocese, province, and (for good measure) we’ll add in: borough (with its appendage corporation) and manor.  All of the above were ways of dividing up the land of Ireland and locating a place very precisely within it.

The system had its charms but it worked – you really couldn’t get lost, at least not until the advent of the late, and unlamented, Celtic Tiger, which unloosed a rash of ‘development’ in the country.  I blame the property developers. They had us bamboozled with very strange placenames and addresses!  Sadly the Irish government is now compounding the problem by spending about 25 million Euro on introducing a nationwide postcode system that apparently doesn’t work!  Not very charming, in my opinion.

More soon – if I don’t get lost in the post!

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