Image: Midleton Market House as painted by Niall McCarthy.
‘Why is there no history society in Midleton?’ This question has frequently been posed to your author in the past few years. Often the question is prefaced wtih a comment about the presence of the Cloyne Literary & Historical Society (the granddaddy of our local historical societies), the well-established Whitegate-Aghada Historical Society and the Carrigtwohill Historical Society (founded just a few years ago). It seemed so embarrassing that Midleton, the largest town in the area, didn’t have a local historical society.
The The answer to the question posed at the head of this post is, of course, very simple – there isn’t a Midleton Historical Society one because nobody has set one up. There WAS a local historical society in Midleton in the 1980s but it completely lapsed many years ago. Midleton is a town that seems to have plenty of history but also possesses a contradictory attitude to its history and heritage. Heritage buildings have been demolished or radically altered without any appreciation of their importance. We still await the publication of a proper academic history of Midleton and Ballinacurra, apart from a few valiant works by Jeremiah Falvey, Sean Horgan and John Fenton. In August Midleton & Area Chamber published Midleton – the Heart of East Cork, a booklet aimed at visitors but with interesting local historical information for residents of the area. However, the book covers more than Midleton, since its remit reaches to Roches Point, Knockaddon, Killeagh and Fota, taking in Ballycotton, Cloyne, East Ferry and Carrigtwohill on the way. It’s taken a while, but finally, there are moves afoot to found a local historical society for Midleton and Ballinacurra. And note the remit – we cannot discuss Midleton without discussing the older village of Ballinacurra., for so long the port of Midleton.
The desision to found this new society is prompted by the approaching year 2020. January of that year will see the 200th anniversary of the Ballinacurra-born Edward Bransfield RN’s identification of the CONTINENT of Antarctica, as opposed to the Antarctic pack ice. In June 2020 the Charter of Midleton will be 350 years old. The Charter gave the modern name Midleton to the town formerly known as Corabbey. And, finally, December 2020, will mark the 100th anniversary of the famous IRA ambush on Main Street that eventually in February 1921 led to the disastrous Clonmult Ambush. These were two key local events in the Irish War of Independence. Before that, we will see the centenary of the end of the Great War and the meeting of the First Dail as well as the first time the Irish Tricolour was flown over the Market House in Midleton (illegally, it must be said).
In order to prepare for these anniversaries, it is necessary to have a forum to organise events that will mark these occasions. The people of Midleton and Ballinacurra, and of surrounding districts are invited to come to Midleton Library on Monday next, 18th September at 8.00pm for a meeting at which we aim to found a local historical society. This invitation is extended beyond Midleton and Ballinacurra to Castlemartyr, Mogeely, Ladysbridge, Dungourney, Clonmult and Lisgoold in the hope that the history of these places can also be highlighted.