Short Course on Family History in Midleton.


A short course in Family History is available in the night school at St Colman’s Community College, Midleton, from 30th January 2018. The course runs for six weeks, with two hours of class every Tuesday night, from 7.30 pm to 9.30pm. This is a practical course designed to show you how to research and how to overcome some ‘brick walls’ inhibiting your research.  The cost advertised by the school is 80.00 Euro.




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.

National Library of Ireland places Irish Catholic Parish Registers online.

Holy Rosary Church, Midleton, County Cork (diocese of Cloyne). Built between  1894 and 1896 (spire completed 1907/08) this replaced St John the Baptist Catholic Chapel, which, in turn, replaced St Mary's Chapel in 1803. However, only the registers from 1819 have survived - the older registers were lost when the then bishop described them as unacceptable.

As of 1.00pm Irish time today, the National Library of Ireland has placed its microfilm records of the Irish Catholic parish registers online.  This is a HUGE step forward in making genealogical resources available to people who cannot visit Ireland or who don’t have the time to visit the NLI in Dublin.  And all this despite the savage cutbacks in government funding for the NLI in recent years!  It’s a truly heroic achievement, so well done to all the people involved. Now all they need is a sponsor to do with the microfilm what the National Archives did with the 1901/1911 census records – make them more interactive and more readily searchable!

I’ll post more on this later, but before you dive in please remember – read the FAQs carefully!

Happy hunting – and it IS a hunt!


Searching for the old homestead – a short guide to using Irish townlands in genealogical research.

Whaddya mean you're lost?  You can't get lost in Ireland! It's an island isn't it?

Whaddya mean you’re lost? You can’t get lost in Ireland! It’s an island isn’t it? And no, this isn’t an Irish signpost.  Well maybe not…….

Several months ago I published a post on townlands – Ireland’s original and ancient answer to postcodes.  This is an interesting item on using townlands as part of your genealogical research.I would suggest that readers take particular note of the similarity of townland names and their repetition in the same county. The golden rule is caveat emptor – don’t buy the first bit of information you get…..check it out, and then double check!


Good luck and happy homestead hunting!

Someone's old homestead somewhere in Ireland.

Someone’s old homestead…….. somewhere in Ireland.

The Red Picnic in Mogeely – mass murder in 1182.

Rock of Cashel

Cashel, an ancient site of great importance to the MacCarthys. The title ‘King of Cashel’ was synonymous with ‘King of Munster.’ The Rock of Cashel is effectively the emblem of Munster.

In the most important account of the twelfth century English invasion of Ireland, the author, Gerald de Barri, or Gerald of Wales also called Giraldus Cambrensis, tells several stirring and bloody tales.  Few are more brutal than the tale of a mass murder in Mogeely in 1182.

In his book Expugnatio Hibernica (the Conquest of Ireland),, written about 1187, Gerald tells us that when Robert FitzStephen and Milo de Cogan had ruled Cork for five years, Milo set out for a parley in Lismore with Ralph, the illegitimate son of FitzStephen, and five knights. They broke their journey at Mogeely, with fatal consequences..

‘They were sitting in the middle of some fields, waiting to have a parley with the men of Waterford, when, along with five other knights, they were killed by the traitor MacTire, with whom they were due to stay that night, being struck down with axes from behind when they were off guard.’

Geraldus goes on to tell us that;

As a result of this disaster, the whole country was immediately thrown into a state of such disorder that Diarmait MacCarthaig and almost all the Irish throughout the whole region joined MacTire in throwing off their allegiance to the English and rising against FitzStephen…..

Matters were clearly very serious for the English, but there was a hero in the wings…..:

‘The former peaceful conditions were not restored there until Raymond succeeded as heir to his uncle FitzStephen and took sole charge of the city.’

The reference to a parley with the men of Waterford suggests that there was between the English in Waterford and the English in Cork at the time, but it seems that the whole point of going to Lismore was to parley with the Waterford men there and NOT at Mogeely. So the reference is very likely a mistake.

In an earlier post I featured a postcard sent from Mogeely to Ladysbridge in 1910. The postcard showed the peaceful village with most of the population posing for the photographer. This post will examine the most notorious event in Mogeely’s history – a mass murder by battle axe in 1182. In homage to the appalling scenes of the ‘Red Wedding’ in the book and TV series Game of Thrones, I’m calling this twelfth century butchery in Mogeely……the ‘Red Picnic.’

The small peaceful village of Mogeely is located over a mile and a quarter north of Castlemartyr. Both villages are in the same Roman Catholic parish, and although Mogeely is the smaller of the two villages, it boasts the grander church, completed in 1912. It also boasted a railway line, until it finally closed in the early 1980s, and a modern creamery, celebrated for its unique regato cheese!

So what was the background to the ‘Red Picnic’ of Mogeely?

When the Anglo-Normans invaded Cork in 1177, Mogeely was the residence of the local lord of Imokilly, a chieftain called Mac Tire. This is actually a patronymic or surname, since we don’t even know the man’s personal name. Mac Tire ruled Imokilly, which in those days did not correspond to the modern barony of Imokilly. The old Imokilly of the twelfth century stretched from the western shore of Great Island, where Cobh (the former Queenstown) now stands, to a line running from north to south somewhere between Mogeely and Killeagh.  The area east of this line, as far as Youghal, would later be incorporated into Imokilly, while Great Island, and the civil parish of Mogeesha just west of Midleton, would be lost to Barrymore.

In 1177 there was serious trouble in the province of Munster. Since the so-called Treaty of Glanmire in 1118, the province had been divided into two distinct kingdoms, with a disputed area to the east. In the south, stretching from Lismore to Brandon in County Kerry, was the kingdom of Desmond, which the Anglo-Normans called the kingdom of Cork, from its capital city. This was ruled by the MacCarthaig or MacCarthy family, and the incumbent king in 1177 was Diarmait MacCarthy. He had succeeded his father in 1151 and managed to restore the much reduced power of his family in the area.


The so called Treaty of Glanmire divided Munster into two kingdoms. North Munster or Thomond was ruled from Limerick by the O’Briens. South Munster or Desmond was ruled from Cork by the MacCarthys. East Munster or Ormond was disputed between the two. The man who imposed this division was Turlough O’Connor, King of Connacht, and aspiring High King of All Ireland. The division aimed to reduce the O’Briens and MacCarthys to the status of lesser kings. The trouble in Ormond was probably a useful distraction for O’Connor. Glanmire is today a quiet and peaceful village in a steep-sided wooded river valley just east of Cork.

In the north lay the kingdom of Thomond stretching from North Tipperary to the Cliffs of Moher in Clare, but also including Limerick city and some newly secured territories in modern County Limerick.  The ruler of Thomond in 1177 was Donal O’Brien. King since 1168, Donal was a direct descendent of the famous Brian Boru who died just a millennium ago during the celebrated battle at Clontarf (1014).  The O’Briens, a feisty and ambitious family, were considered jumped up upstarts by the MacCarthys.

The third area of Munster was Ormond (literally, East Munster) which effectively corresponded to the modern county of Tipperary. This territory was bitterly disputed between the O’Briens and the MacCarthys, because the MacCarthys were descended from the ancient kings of Cashel and had Diarmait MacCarthy’s grandfather, Cormac MacCarthy, had trounced the O’Briens in the 1120s, and secured possession of Cashel, County Tipperary, where he built Cormac’s Chapel, the most important building on the Rock of Cashel. It was probably Cormac who created the modern diocese of Cloyne in contravention of the Synod of Rath Breasail (1111) which had extinguished the older bishopric of Cloyne.

Cormac's Chapel

Cormac MacCarthy’s greatest work was his royal chapel. Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel was completed in the 1130s with the assistance of craftsmen sent from Germany by an Irish abbot in Regensburg. It does look very Germanic from some angles and it revolutionized Irish architecture in the twelfth century, virtually creating the Irish romanesque style in one go. The large church behind the chapel is the thirteenth century gothic cathedral.

By 1177 the festering disputes between the O’Briens and the MacCarthys had erupted into open war again. The reason was that King Donal O’Brien had expelled the group of families called the Ui Fidgente from their ancestral lands in the middle of the modern county of Limerick. This finally achieved the long sought O’Brien ambition of bringing the whole territory west of Limerick city under their own control – they had already tried it when Turlough O’Brien had founded Monasternenagh Abbey on lands he had won from the O’Donovans in 1148. The Ui Fidgente families were long-standing allies of the MacCarthys, who gave them shelter in other parts of their kingdom of Desmond.  This is how the O’Donovans, for example, came to be settled in South-West Cork.

Frescoes in Cormac's Chapel

The interior of Cormac’s Chapel was covered in frescoes and painted stonework. These are the finest surviving medieval fresco fragments in Ireland. They were preserved by the local people who had a custom of whitewashing the interior of the chapel over many centuries. It should be pointed out that the exterior of the building was very likely painted in bright colours too!

It is not known if King Henry II of England saw this dispute between Thomond and Desmond as a opportunity, but in 1177 he decided that three men would be awarded license to conquer the ‘kingdom of Cork’ and the ‘kingdom of Limerick,’ as the Anglo-Normans called the two territories. Milo de Cogan and his relative, Robert FitzStephen, who would divide Cork between them, but would reserve the city and one cantred for King Henry. Philip de Braose was licensed to take Limerick.The contemporary historian of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, Gerald de Barri, or Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), wrote that the three men and their knights and men-at-arms sailed first to Waterford where they disembarked. They then travelled on foot and by horse to Lismore, which was clearly intended as the launch point.  Lismore was the seat of a bishop (and papal legate) but it also seems to have been a private estate of the king of Desmond.

Very rapidly the party seized the eastern and central parts of Cork, especially around the harbour. Curiously, Geraldus does not mention any fighting during this invasion. King Diarmait MacCarthy decided to play for time and abandoned his city, moving further west. Once they had secured their lands in Cork, Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen decided to take their men north to help Philip de Braose to capture Limerick. But this expedition foundered when the citizens burned their city and de Braose lost heart.

Altar apse in Cormac's Chapel

The square apse for the altar in Cormac’s Chapel. The whole building is constructed of stone. Even the steeply pitched roof is built of stone using the ancient Irish corbelling technique found as early as Newgrange. Cormac’s Chapel marries Continental romanesque barrel vaults with native Irish construction ideas, thus creating a totally new indigenous interpretation of romanesque architecture.

On returning to Cork, de Cogan and FitzStephen began to sub-infeudate their lands. That is they divided it up into estates which they granted to their relatives and their followers.  The cantred of Ui Liathain, now called the barony of Barrymore, was given to Philip de Barri, brother of Gerald de Barri whose book Expugnatio Hibernica is the most celebrated contemporary eyewitness account of the whole Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. However, Philip was not in Ireland at the time but in Wales, and according to Geraldus, Robert FitzStephen’s illegitimate son Ralph ‘stole’ the lands of Ui Liathain from de Barri. What is so interesting about this comment by Geraldus is that he does not attempt to hide the sheer greed and chicanery of the men who invaded Ireland.  Mind you, his book contains a lot of family propaganda – the de Barris and their relatives the Carews could do no wrong in his eyes.

Geraldus tells us that for five years Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen ruled the kingdom of Desmond in peace after their invasion. Both men used their influence to restrain the rash behaviour of younger,wilder men in their respective parties. This was important, because a peaceful land would attract settlers from England and Wales. However all that changed dramatically in 1182. However it is not certain how much this peace extended to the displaced native Irish lords.

Milo de Cogan, and his newly married son-in-law, Ralph, son of Robert FitzStephen, and a party of knights set out to visit Lismore for a meeting. They travelled by way of Mogeely, the home of the former ruler of Imokilly, MacTire, now reduced to being a token local Irish landholder. This is the context for the mass murder of the English in Mogeely.

What does come out in Geraldus’s statement is that the Anglo-Norman party consisted of seven knights (Milo, Ralph and five others), but we don’t know how many men-at-arms and archers travelled with them on foot or horseback. The medieval manuscript known as MacCarthaigh’s Book gives an Irish account of the incident with the additional information that ‘slaughter was inflicted by the family of O MacTire.’ The ‘Red Picnic’ was a family affair – but not quite in the usual way of family picnics. The reference to ‘slaughter’ is common enough in the Irish Annals – you can slaughter a single individual or several people, the use of the word implies an element of butchery. In this case it might also support the idea that more than seven Anglo-Normans knights were given the battle-axe treatment in Mogeely. Clearly the Anglo-Norman party were relaxed and expected no trouble from MacTire – after all they were sitting in a field, with their guard down. Indeed I suspect that the party didn’t even post guards.

Irish chief's feast

An outdoor feast of the MacSweeney chief of County Donegal depicted in a English woodblock print from the sixteenth century. The chief and his wife are accompanied by two friars (note the tonsured heads) and another figure. The food is being prepared behind them – a wild boar is being butchered and boiled in a leather cauldron on the left foreground. The entertainment is provided by a bard reciting or singing to the accompaniment of a harp. The entertainment is enhanced by the two figures displaying their bare backsides to the chief’s table – they are professional farters! No wonder the entertainment is held outdoors! Was the butchery in Mogeely done just before a meal like this?

Were they having a picnic? I know that sounds silly, but it is actually possible that they were taking a quick bite to eat and a drink. Remember, during the twelfth century the main meal of the day was eaten in the early afternoon, in broad daylight. We don’t know what time of the year the massacre happened but it must have been during some dry and warm weather – even today you simply wouldn’t sit on wet grass or muddy ground in Ireland. Indeed there are illustrations from the sixteenth century of Irish chiefs having a feast outdoors, and one can easily imagine the same happening in the late twelfth century.

If the weather on this occasion was indeed dry and warm then the break would have been necessary for men who were probably wearing chain mail or, at very least, leather armour, and it may have been their first stop since leaving Cork earlier that day.. Anybody who has ever lifted a mail hauberk or jacket will be aware of the sheer weight of it, and even a leather jacket can bring on a sweat on a warm day in an Irish summer. Another thing to note about the above account is that Anglo-Norman knights on foot were very vulnerable attack by ferocious Irish enemies wielding two handed battle axes. It was the armoured knight on a trained warhorse who terrified the Irish.

Geraldus is clearly furious at this mass murder, calling MacTire a traitor. This would be true if MacTire had been allowed to keep his personal lands in return for some fealty exacted from him by FitzStephen. However the Irish Annals of Lough Ce mention the murder with some jubilation at the death of Milo de Cogan, suggesting that there was really no love lost between the Irish and the Anglo-Normans. The whole incident might lead you to imagine that the Red Picnic in Mogeely was an isolated local feud, but in fact it proved to be deadly serious – and not just for the victims.

Raymond le Gros illustration

Raymond le Gros as depicted in a thirteenth century copy of the Expugantio by Geraldus. He was simply the best general the Anglo-Normans had in Ireland, getting them out of many a difficult situation time and time again.

The Red Picnic in Mogeely sparked off at least two decades of trouble and warfare for the Anglo-Normans as they tried to regain secure control of the land they had taken during the invasion of Cork in 1177/1178. Raymond le Gros did crush the initial revolt in 1183, but it seems that Robert FitzStephen was trapped in Cork city and may even have died there by the time Raymond had arrived. Raymond embarked at Waterford with twenty knights and two hundred men-at-arms, half mounted and half on foot.  Sailing directly to Cork he relieved the city. There is a priceless irony in the fact that, during the Irish Civil War in 1922, the new Free State Army performed almost exactly the same action as Raymond, with the assistance of the Royal Navy, who were based in Cork Harbour. Like Raymond, the Free State Army sailed from elsewhere in Ireland (Dublin actually) directly to Cork and managed to secure Cork for the Dublin government and eventually put down the Republican forces in Munster.

Free State Troops land in Cork

The greatest irony of the Irish Civil War (1921-1923) was that the army of the new Irish Free State repeated Raymond le Gros’s sea voyage to Cork in 1183 to put down a revolt sparked off by the massacre in Mogeely. In 1922 the Free State was trying to regain control of Cork which was in the hands of hard-line Anti-Treaty Republican forces.

Raymond was soon joined by his cousin, Richard de Cogan, who came with a picked force sent by King Henry. When some of the Irish leaders were killed and their forces driven off, it seems that a measure of peace had temporarily returned to the area. At the end of February (1183?) reinforcements led by Philip de Barri also arrived. Philip had come to secure his estates in Ui Liathain, the area from Carrigtwohill in the south to Castlelyons in the north, from the Glanmire river in the west to Conna in the east..  Along with Philip came his brother Gerald – the very historian we’ve quoted above. Philip’s descendants gave us the Irish family name Barry. Raymond le Gros established his nephews as the Carew family in Cork, while Richard de Cogan gave us the still current surname of Cogan in County Cork. It was really only in the years from 1206 to 1220 that the Anglo-Norman settlement of East Cork could get underway and set down firm roots, and even then Tadgh MacCarthy invaded Imokilly in 1216 and burned Cloyne.

Tomb of Raymond le Gros

The medieval effigy that marked the supposed tomb of Raymond le Gros in Molana Abbey near Youghal. This drawing was made in the late 18th century by Daniel Grose and is preserved in the Royal Irish Academy. Sadly the effigy has since disappeared.

Diarmait MacCarthy died in 1185 but was immediately succeeded by his equally warlike son Donal, who would invade Imokilly with ferocious intent in the 1190s, burning all the castles there, including Castra na Chore or Ballinacorra, another castle that may have given Castleredmond townland its name and a castle at Mogeely. Donal MacCarthy’s death in 1206 seems to have eased the pressure on the Anglo-Normans in East Cork, allowing for settlement to begin there. The MacCarthys, of course, are almost two a penny in Munster, especially in Cork. And the MacTire family, onetime lords of Imokilly, what did the Red Picnic do for them? By 1300 they had been reduced to the condition of local robbers, but their descendants are still around – their name is now Woulfe. Somehow it seems appropriate given the blood soaked picnic they perpetrated one fine day in a field near Mogeely in 1182.

Molana abbey

The ruined Augustinian church of Molana Abbey, near Youghal, where Raymond le Gros was buried sometime between 1185 and 1198. Founded as Dairinis in the 6th century, ithis site is celebrated as the place where the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis was compiled in the 8th century.  This is one of the oldest compilations of Canon Law anywhere.

Note: the texts quoted in italics in this post were taken from pages 187 and 189 of the translation attached to the definitive version of the Expugnatio.  A.B.Scott & F.X.Martin, editors: Expugnatio Hibernica – The Conquest of Ireland by Geraldus Cambrensis. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1978.

As for the Imokilly Regato Cheese PDO produced at Mogeely: here’s a link to show that this Italian style cheese is indeed made in East Cork and even has a product denomination (PDO) from the European Union!  And no, Kerrygold is NOT a sponsor of this blog!

Imokilly Regato Link:



Harpur of Wexford….and Ballinacorra!

Duiske Abbey

In 1278, Duiske Abbey in Graiguenamanagh bought out the land holding of David le Harpur at Coppenagh, in County Kilkenny. This photo shows the abbey church in the late 19th century. The church has been superbly restored since the photograph was taken.

Some years ago I discovered that there was an interesting document in the National Library of Ireland. This was a quit claim pertaining to a parcel of land in the townland of Coppenagh near the eastern edge of County Kilkenny, not far from the village of Graiguenamanagh. In fact the document even mentioned Graiguenamanagh in its guise as the Abbey of Duiske. The document noted that the man who signed it had inherited the land in question from his grandfather, Robert. The name of the man who issued the document was David le Harpur. The date was February 18th 1278 (hint, check your calendar!). Basically the document recorded the transfer of lands to the Cistercian Abbey of Duiske by David le Harpur and his landlord Raymond Roche. Sadly the original document from 1278 hasn’t survived, so National Library of Ireland manuscript D.287 is a sixteenth century copy of the original made for the Earl of Ormond, who was awarded the lands of Duiske at the Reformation. Ormond was clearly intent ion ensuring that no Harpur would ever reclaim the land at Coppenagh! What I love about this document is that it names David le Harpur and his grandfather, Robert – the original  Anglo-Norman occupant of the land. Clearly Robert le Harpur must have come to Ireland in the year 1169 or very shortly thereafter. If we didn’t come on the first ship from Pembrokeshire, the Harpurs of Ireland surely came on the second one or third one! Sadly the passenger lists didn’t survive the centuries – if there ever were any.  But at least we can look the FitzGeralds, Carews, Barrys in the eye as equals.  We might even have been here before the Butlers – just! For some time I thought this particular document was the earliest documented reference to my family name in Ireland, but I was wrong.

Ruins of Harperstown Castle

Twentieth century image of the ruins of Harperstown Castle in County Wexford – there’s even less to see now.

It seems we are linked to a ‘Sir William le Harper’ or Harpur who is sometimes described as Strongbow’s harper (well the surname had to come from somewhere!).  Sir William was granted the lands of Aghdare which he, or a successor, renamed Harperstown.  Aghdare means the ‘ford of the oaks’ – just like Adare in County Limerick!  A later successor was David le Harpur who held three carucates of land in Aghdare in 1324. That’s a mere 360 acres – hardly a vast estate, but a comfortable landholding in the fourteenth century. Note how the name David keeps cropping up – a sure sign of Welsh origins, after all St David is the patron of Wales. Raise a toast to him on 1st March, his feast-day. There were extensive ruins of a castle and house at Harperstown in the later 19th century. There is some argument over whether that original Sir William le Harpur or a second man of the same name built the castle – suspicion must fall on the second fellow because the ‘castle’ was a tower house – a gentleman’s fortified mini castle, the equivalent of a small English manor house. Such buildings only come into being in Ireland, the north of England and Scotland from the mid-1300s.  The main line of the Harperstown Harpurs ended in a daughter, Agatha, who married William Hore in 1336. She took the entire inheritance with her, so Harperstown in County Wexford was a chief seat of the Hore family for centuries thereafter (they had it until 1878!).  At least the property went to another Anglo-Norman family, thanks to the Great Hore of the Harpurs! Happily, I can write about the family Hore without any shred of embarrassment.   Although I have to confess that I feel that some of this story seems too good to be true. The fact that Aghdare townland was renamed Harperstown does suggest that at least one branch of the family were a cut above the rest as minor gentry.

I really should have issued a health warning in respect of the above tale of Sir William Harpur. The health specialists now tell us that all the stuff about avoiding salt is overstated – salt is good for us, so take the story of Sir William le Harpur with a good dose!  The fact that great-great-great-great-great-etc.(ad infinitum!) aunt Agatha married William Hore in 1336 makes the tale of Harperstown Castle suspect.  The Harpurs almost certainly had a house on the site, but I suspect the tower house was built by the Hores.  So we can’t even claim credit for the castle, however ruinous! But we CAN claim to have given our name to a townland a few miles due south of Taghmon in County Wexford – Harperstown.  This is bordered on the north east by the townland of Harveystown, on the east by Youngstown and on the south by Waddingstown!  Harvey and Wadding are both grand old names from Wexford. There’s even a Horestown – which must make life interesting for the postman.  On the first edition Ordnance Survey map it is clear that Harperstown is virtually a private demesne of the Hores, and is heavily planted with trees.  Just north west in the townland of Augfad is a junction of five roads (one is actually the driveway into Harperstown House) called the Hand of Harperstown, presumably for a five-fingered sign-post that must have stood there.

Harperstown Castle 1880

Sketch of Harperstown Castle – this is actually the country house erected by the Hore family who held the place much longer than the Harpurs.

Let’s tease out the Wexford links before dealing with the Ballinacorra Harpurs in County Cork.  We know that the lands of Bargy and of Forth were granted to Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald, to be held jointly (see my previous post). This suggests that the settlers from Wales and England were brought over by FitzStephen and his Carew heirs as well as FitzGerald. Now we know from my previous post on Ballinacorra that Robert FitzStephen was one of the two men given leave to conquer the kingdom of Cork in 1177 – and his lands there included Imokilly. FitzStephen’s heirs in Cork were the Carews – keep that fact in mind for the moment.

harpers island map

The main dual carriageway from Cork to Midleton crosses Harpers Island just to the right (east) of the green emblem indicating E30 – the official name of the road. The railway from Glounthaune to Fota crosses the island from north to south – Harpers Island only became busy in the late 20th century!

Now, I was long aware of the existence of Harpers Island in the inner reaches of Cork Harbour, lying between Fota Island and Glounthaune.  I had assumed that this was linked to a family called Harper who had a house on Great Island in the later 1700s and early 1800s.  They seem to have been later arrivals, probably Cromwellian or Williamite settlers – but that could be wrong.  However, the Down Survey maps drawn up for the Cromwellian government shows the name in use by the 1650s. Clearly the island had the name since the middle of the 1600s, but does it go back further?  At present I have no idea.

Glounthaune Jul 83 C9

Harpers Island is the spit of land marking the upper edge of this body of water off Glounthaune (the village in the foreground). The island is utterly flat and even has reclaimed land – almost like a Dutch polder.

And yes, I know the spelling is different – Harper rather than my own Harpur.  When I was learning to spell words in primary school, one of the first things I tried to do was write my own name.  I wrote HARPER – which made a lot of sense to a five year old.  But my mother corrected me – it was HARPUR.  Which did not make sense to a five year old!.But she insisted so I stuck with it.  In fact the spelling of the name did change over the centuries – le Harpour, le Harpeur, le Harpur, Harpur, Harper.  My own line, and others from Wexford, preserved the HARPUR form. Another group of families with the name Harper moved into Ulster in the seventeeth century – they were Protestant planters.  Among them were Harpurs from Scotland – a branch of the Buchanan family, and staunch Presbyterians. These families do not seem to be related to my bunch.

Harpers Island causeway

The train from Cork to Cobh crossing the causeway from Glounthaune onto Harpers Island. From there it proceeds to Fota which has its own station and then on to Cobh. Harpurs Island made the building of this railway much easier in the 19th century.

Paul MacCotter mentioned in his historical introductory essay in Jeremiah Falvey’s Chronicles of Midleton that the Harpurs were among the earliest Anglo-Norman settlers of Ballinacorra.  I had a chance recently to ask him for further details – warts and all!  And he kindly gave me the sordid details.  You may recall from my previous post that many of the Anglo Norman settlers in Imokilly share names with Anglo-Norman settlers in south County Wexford.  Clearly there are family relationships at work here – after all, the Carews, FitzGeralds, Barrys and others were all related.  The Anglo-Norman ‘invasion’ of Ireland was a family enterprise. The overall leader, Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, Lord of Striguil, known as Strongbow, was the odd one out being barely related to the rest of the party, if at all.

So my suspicions are raised by the FitzStephan/Carew links between Bargy and Forth in Wexford and Imokilly in Cork. Bear in mind that, at this early stage, the FitzGeralds also had a short-lived foothold in Imokilly.  But the Harpurs identified in Ballinacorra by Paul MacCotter were also settled on Carew lands.

Bargy & Forth

The baronies of Bargy and Forth in south Wexford were shared between Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald. FitzStephen’s share was inherited by the Carews. The Harpurs were settled in Bargy in the century following the Anglo-Norman arrival in 1169. The links between this area and Imokilly were very strong – because FitzStephen took Imokilly from the local Irish lords. The Carews probably settled people from Bargy and Forth in Imokilly.

The earliest reference for the Ballinacorra Harpurs is 1260, when Henry le Harpur was impleaded by Richard de Carew for 14 acres in the vill of Castle Corth.  Basically Henry Harpur was arguing with his landlord over possession of 14 acres in Ballinacorra, and the landlord took him to court.  It is not certain if the Richard de Carew named here was the son or grandson of the Richard de Carew who bought the manor of Castle Corth/Ballinacorra from Thomas des Autres in the 1190s.

The second mention is more sordid. John, son of Theobald le Harpur, was accused of violent disseisin with members of the Cod family at Ardraha near Cloyne in 1295.  There was a row between John le Harpur and the Cods of Cloyne – and violence was used, or threatened. I wonder if it was over land? That could cause a row!

The last mention is from 1336 – now that’s an interesting date because it is shortly before Thomas de Carew sold Castle Corth or Ballinacorra to William de Barry. There is simply a mention of a David le Harpur residing at Castle Corth – he’s probably a burgess or townsman, a tenant of the estate, with a small plot of land.

There seems to be no further reference to the Harpurs of Ballinacorra after that – perhaps the Black Death finished them off in 1348. But note the year 1336 – this was also the fateful year in which Agatha Harpur of Harperstown in Wexford married William Hore.  It’s been downhill since.

There’s more research to be done here, but one thing is clear – the Harpurs of Ballinacorra must have been settled in Imokilly after 1220 by the Carews. And they probably came from County Wexford – just like my father’s family.  No wonder I feel so much at home here in Midleton!  Now if only we can reclaim Harperstown….or maybe Harpers Island. I fear asking for the return of Coppenagh might be too much to hope for (sigh).

Many thanks to Paul MacCotter for the information on the Harpurs of Ballinacurra given above!

Link to an online article on Harperstown and the supposed origins of the Harpurs of Wexford. (Take a dose of salt before reading this):

Townland subdivisions – examples from Castleredmond and Townparks in Midleton

Townlands have been the basic unit of land division in Ireland since the medieval period, with origins perhaps going back much further.  some are relatively new – such as the townland of School-lands in Midleton which certainly didn’t exist before 1696, when Midleton School, or Midleton College as we now call it, was founded.  As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, townlands (or ploughlands) are not of a uniform size – being dependent on the fertility of the land contained within the townland boundaries.  And they were not always rigidly fixed either – several of them changed over the centuries, such as the cre.  Many of them have local sub-divisions which never appear on a map because these sub-divisisons are unofficial.  Castlredmond townland, which lies between Midleton town and Ballinacurra village is a classic example.  It sprawls from the shore of the Owenacurra estuary and Ballinacurra creek to Carrigshane rock.  A sprawling townland needed to be subdivided by the inhabitants as a way of ascertaining who actually lived where.

Bailick, Lakeview, Cronin’s Rock, Rocky Road, Ashlin Road, Carrigshane Rock (which is NOT in the townland of Carrighane!) all mark out divisions of the townland.  But these names may not appear on official maps except for very specific locations or reatures, such as a road or a house.  Technically these names should only apply the specific feature but in Ireland, this is usually disregarded.  Well, rules were made to be broken.

Aerial view Castleredmond

Aerial view of the Ballinacorra and the western part of Castlredmond. The Creek of Ballinacorra runs from the bottom left to the right midground. This creek is part of the inner reaches of Cork Harbour. The stretch of water leading off from the center to the left midground is the estuary of the Owenacurra River which flows from the north. This view is taken from the south west towards the north east. Ballinacorra village is right at the end of the creek. Ballinacorra House and its farm buildings are on the centre foreground (bottom of picture). Slightly to the left of these (follow the angled wall) is a small peninsula on which stands the ruined medieval St Colman’s church and graveyard. On the other side of the wall from the churchyard is a high tree-covered mound in the ground of Ballinacorra House – most likely a motte or earthwork castle from the late 12th or early 13th century.  Castleredmond stretches from the shoreline in the centre to the top and right of the photo. Bailick is the shoreline by the Owenacurra estuary, Charleston is the north bank of the creek leading to Ballinacorra. The wooded point in the left midground is Ballyannon Wood dating from at least the 17th century.

In fact the subdivisions were derived from local usage and existed for the convenience of the inhabitants themselves. For example, if you take the townland of Castleredmond, which lies between Midleton and Ballynacorra, this covered 486 acres, 3 roods and 33 perches, containing 259 inhabitants in what was then a mostly rural district in 1881 when these figures were published.  Now many of these inhabitants probably lived close to the wharf on the Owenacurra estuary in the west.area.  But there might be clusters of inhabitants in other parts, say bordering the Youghal Road or on the Rocky Road or perhaps on the Ballinacorra Road.   That gives four different clusters of housing where people were concentrated..Imagine a townland where several men bear the name Patrick Murphy.  There might be several Pat Murphys spread among the different clusters in different parts of the townland.  And one ot two living in more apart in isolated farms or cottages.   How would you recognize which Pat Murphy someone is talking about?  In speech a nickname was given – Pat Jim Murphy might be the Pat Murphy who is the son of Jim Murphy.  Pat Michael or Mick’s Pat might be the Patrick Murphy, son of Michael Murphy.  But an official letter is likely to be addressed to Mr Patrick Murphy, Castleredmond, Midleton, County Cork.  To whom does the postman deliver the letter?

Bailick Cottage

Bailick Cottage. This is actually a very substantial house – a middle class ‘cottage’ from the early 19th century (seen here) with more recent extensions, all giving the house a charming appearance. It stands on the Bailick Road, or Bailick as it is popularly called, in the townland of Castlredmond.

One way of getting over this was to insert a local designation into the address – somewhat unofficial, but useful for the postman.  So, Pat Jim Murphy might live in a cottage on Bailick Road and might give his address as Patrick Murphy, Bailick, Castleredmond, Midleton while Mick’s Pat could be Patrick Murphy, Lakeview, Castleredmond, Midleton.  Perhaps there’s another Patrick Murphy called Pat John, or PJ, for identification, living on Bailick Road – he might liver near Charleston Maltings (run by Bennetts) so his address might be given as Patrick Murphy, Charleston, Bailick, Castleredmond Midleton.  Remember these are not entirely official designations, but they were useful for the postman who had to distinguish between the several Patrick Murphys living in one townland.  It is possible that similar designations might appear in the local church registers – but this was entirely at the discretion of the priest or clergyman.  The practice was probably also used by local landlords who sublet to small tenants.


Tarquin Blake’s atmospheric image of the north (entrance) front of Lake View House in Midleton. This early 19th century late Georgian villa was a lovely house, but sadly is neglected by the current owner, a property developer, and is subject to vandalism. The house gave its name to a whole area of Castleredmond townland. The pointed windows on the left indicate a billiard room, not a chapel. The Check out Tarquin Blake’s  vwebsite, below, for more striking photos.

I have suggested that these subdivisions of townlands were somewhat unofficial, but sometimes they were recognized by the Post Office – Lakeview Terrace still stands at the northern end of Castleredmond right next to the modern by-pass,  The small terrace of three good houses appears in the first edition Ordnance Survey map so it has been in existance since the early 1840s or late 1830s.  But it takes its name from the large house next door – Lakeview or Lake View in the original designation.  This house was inhabited by Mr Swithin Fleming, a lawyer, from the 1830s to the 1880s.  The lake viewed from the house was actually a broad stretch of the estuary of the Owenacurra River to the west.  I suspect that the view as better from the upper floor of the house since the site stands well back from the estuary, at the top of the slope.  Today, Lakeview is the name given locally to this area of the townland of Castleredmond – indeed the junction of by-pass with the Midleton to Ballinacorra Road is called Lakeview Roundabout (Rotary to you Americans), and the nearby service station is called Lakeview Service Station.  But the houses in the area can be designated ‘Castleredmond’ or ‘Lakeview, Castleredmond’.

Why does all this matter?  In searching for one’s Irish ancestors, it is necessary to be careful that the correct person in the correct part of the townland be identified.  If you are dealing with a name like Murphy, MacCarthy, O’Sullivan, O’Brien, O’Neill etc, this can pose difficulties.  If there is another placename linked to the family this can prove to be a subdivision of the townland name – a very useful aid in finding one’s ancestral homestead – even if it is now a ploughed field.

Midleton has several areas like this in different townlands.  For example, the townland of Townparks, which covers the town center and extends well south of the Roxborough River, includes two areas with very local identification within its boundaries. These are Coolbawn and the Rock.  They are not official designations – Coolbawn is the locally employed name for Brodrick Street.  Imagine the confusion on the faces of a visitor who is told you can find the Farmgate Restaurant on Coolbawn.  Now there are not many streets in Midleton – just five in fact.  These are Main Street, Thomas Street, Connolly Street, Oliver Plunkett Street (formerly Bridewell Lane), McDermott Street (formerly Free School Lane)….and Brodrick Street.  Every other route is a road or lane, as in Mill Road, Youghal Road, Cork Road, Old Cork Road, St Mary’s Road (still called Chapel Road by locals) or Bridewell Lane (now Oliver Plunkett Street- although its dimensions haven’t changed – it’s still a lane!), Church Lane, Coach Horse Lane (self-explanatory really) Dickinson’s Lane, Darby’s Lane – and the former Free School Lane (which is still a lane!).

Brodrick St Terrace

The late Georgian terrace on Brodrick Street…..or is it Coolbawn? Confused. Not really. Just remember who’s asking for directions – it’s Coolbawn to the locals, but Brodrick Street to everybody else! Simples! The second house from the right was recently sold and is undergoing restoration at present. Yippie!

The point of local designations is that they sometimes tell us something about an area – Coolbawn is the AREA in which Brodrick Street stands, being originally the whole area bounded by the Owenacurra River to the west, the Roxborough River to the south, Main Street to the east and the south wall of St John the Baptist’s Church on the north.  The name suggests an meadow between two streams (check!) and subdivided into paddocks, prior to the building of Brodrick Street.  However, Coolbawn now refers to Brodrick Street itself in popular parlance….to the dismay of visitors!

Rock House

Standing on remains of the limestone spur that gives this area of Townparks its name, Rock House was recently sold and is undergoing refurbishment – including a whole new roof.

The Rock is somewhat different.  This lies just south of the Roxborough River on higher ground.  Crossing Lewis Bridge over the Roxborough Riverg at the southern end of Main Street, the road splits in two.  The route to the right continues up a steep hill, passing Holy Rosary Church towards Convent Cross (a T-junction at the top of the hill where St Mary’s Convent once stood) and then continues down the other side towards Ballinacorra via Castlredmond (and its Lakeview subdivision).  From Lewis Bridge the other road forks off to the left cutting through the rock (!) towards Castlemartyr, Youghal and Waterford.  The Rock is literally that!  A rocky outcrop of limestone. Actually if you drive along the Youghal Road, you’d be hard pressed to spot it.  There seems to have been a spur of limestone going from the hill towards the north.  This seems to have been cut through at a very early date to create a direct road to Youghal, but this was probably too narrow for most carts or coaches. For a long time the main route to Youghal ran up St Mary’s Road and through Ballinacorra. Gradually the need to ease the passage of heavily loaded carts in and out of Midleton and the desire to speed up the mail coaches to and from Youghal led to a change. The limestone rock was cut away, perhaps to provide building stone, and a wider road was created.  The good news for carters and coachmen was that this route was a much gentler slope for draught horses.  By the end of the 1700s this area where the two roads fork began to be built up – and it’s been called the Rock for as long as anyone can recall.  The Coppinger family, who had property on the north side of the Roxborough, built the National Bank of Ireland at the Rock in the 1830s.  They later built Rock Terrace next to their bank in 1861.  Yet the terrace on the rock itself doesn’t even have this name, being simply The Rock!

Rock Tce

No 1, Rock Terrace, is one of four houses built by the Coppingers in 1861. The ISC made out in yellow brick was long thought to represent Isaac Samuel Coppinger – but who was he? I can’t find him. In fact the initials might be John Stephen Coppinger, or in Latin Johannes Stephanus Coppinger – much more likely! This house, recently sold, is also undergoing thorough refurbishment – even the brick has been cleaned and is now showing up the century and a half of grime on the rest of the terrace. The former National Bank of Ireland, later Bank of Ireland, The Rock, is on the left.

Thus, if you are looking for your Irish ancestors, it is worth bearing in mind that even a small townland can have unofficial subdivisions within it. This is a particularly useful point to recall if your ancestor is one of several people with exactly the same name living in the townland at the same time – remember, the number of names in use in the nineteenth century was remarkably limited by our standards.

Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Ireland website:

OOOPS! I did a Homer! Ouch!


There are days when a guy feels like this!

It has come to my attention that in adding a link to the notice of my new genealogy course something glitched and the reader was directed to a school in the wrong province! Apparently I’m not the only one with that issue! Which doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

So, I wish to offer my apologies to anyone who thought I was presenting the Practical Genealogy and Family History course in St Colman’s College, Claremorris, in County Mayo!  The course is actually being presented in St Colman’s Community College, Midleton in County Cork!  There’s a BIG difference!

So to correct the mistake I’m including this CORRECT (!) link here and in the original post (touch wood!).

St Colman’s Community College (Midleton!) Evening Courses link:

Now that’s what I call a Homer (Simpson, of course!)

Practical Genealogy and Family History Course


(Apology:  Ouch! it seems that in copying the link at the bottom of the post something glitched and the reader was directed to a place in another province – I think I’ve got the matter corrected now.  Sorry!)

As you know from a previous post, I presented a course of six two-hour classes called Research Your Family History at St Colman’s Community College in Midleton from October to the beginning of November 2014.  It proved quite successful, especially with the particular format that I used.

Beginning on Wednesday 4th February 2015 I propose to present another course but this time I have called it Practical Genealogy and Family History. The emphasis is on the practical side of researching one’s family history and lineages (we all have at least two lineages – from Mon and from Dad!).  I propose to follow the format that I previously used but will reveal that to the class as it assembles.  The classes are scheduled to take place on Wednesday nights from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm and will run for six weeks.

Anyone wishing to avail of this course should attend the Enrollment Night at St Colman’s Community College on Thursday 15th January between 7.30 and 8.30 pm.  I plan to be there and will answer any queries that prospective students might have.  Note that enrollment closes on Friday 30th January.

For further information please check out:

Joseph Coppinger ‘of Midleton’ and two American Presidents

Sometimes it really pays to simply snoop around on the web.  And a couple of nights ago I came across something that astonished and surprised me.

The US National Archives has published online four letters from a correspondence between a Joseph Coppinger and President Thomas Jefferson and two letters in a correspondence with President James Madison.  Jefferson and Madison were, of course, two of the Founding Fathers of the United States as well as holding the office of President.  In the notes to the correspondence, Joseph Coppinger is described as having ‘immigrated to the United States in 1802 from Midleton, County Cork, Ireland.’  As you can imagine, this intrigued me and I decided to explore a little further before letting you in on the whole mystery.

Great fire of Pittsburgh 1845

The Great Fire of Pittsburgh in April 1845 destroyed the city that Joseph Coppinger had moved to in 1803. He entered into a partnership to run a brewery there, but did not get on with his business partner, James O’Hara.

The US National Archives commentary says that Joseph Coppinger settled first, for a very short while, in  New York.  Then in 1803 he moved to Pittsburgh where he entered into a partnership with James O’Hara to  set up the O’Hara, Reed and Coppinger Brewery (or the Point Brewery as it later became).  With his twelve years of experience in the business, Coppinger was the master brewer in the firm.  Sadly, issues with his partners and with the brewery’s financial backers led to his resignation and he quit the city and went to Lexington, Kentucky.  After that he went to St Louis (1807), Washington DC and Baltimore (1809), South Carolina, Georgia and New York City (1810).  In 1810 he tried to get James Madison to take an interest in the establishment of a national brewery in Washington DC, seemingly to no avail.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson corresponded with Joseph Coppinger whilst President and later when in retirement in Monticello, Virginia. His advice to Coppinger was always practical.

Joseph Coppinger’s correspondence with President Jefferson (as he then was) began early, in 1802-03.  Coppinger had come up with an invention he wished to patent, but US law required that patents be registered by US citizens and Coppinger wished to know how to go about this.  President Jefferson gave him some straightforward advice – and it was probably cheaper than consulting a lawyer!  Clearly Coppinger became a naturalized US citizen because he went on the patent several devices or inventions of his own design.   These included machines for splitting shingles, planing wood, threshing and cleaning grain, and many others.

James Madison

James Madison was solicited by Joseph Coppinger whilst President with a view to setting up a national brewing company in Washington DC.

Although unsuccessful in his 1810 correspondence with Madison, Joseph Coppinger went on to solicit the retired Thomas Jefferson to take an interest in his ‘national brewery’ project in 1815.  Thomas Jefferson again offered Coppinger some sound advice, but again nothing came of the project.  However, Jefferson WAS interested in a book that Joseph Coppinger was proposing to write on the subject of brewing, which the author hoped would improve the brewing of beer in America, even among the pioneers in the Louisiana Purchase territories.  Jefferson asked Nicholas G Dufief, a French bookseller based in Philadelphia, to acquire Coppinger’s book for him as soon as it was published.

The book eventually surfaced in New York in 1815 where it was published under the title ‘The American Practical Brewer and Tanner.’  Clearly Jefferson’s advice about the practical nature of Americans had struck home, hence the title.

Coppinger Brewing book title

The title page of Joseph Coppinger’s book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner (New York, 1815). The book is still in print as a classic of American brewing literature. This copy was obviously acquired directly from Coppinger in 1820.

Joseph Coppinger finally settled in New York City in 1817, where he published a book on flat roofed buildings and another on Catholic doctrine and principles (presumably to combat any anti-Catholic feelings among the Nativists, a political movement with a strong anti-Catholic stance.   In 1819, he published a book on whiskey distilling. The US National Archives suggests that Coppinger died in New York around 1825.  Needless to say he is unknown in Midleton, but his book on brewing is still considered a classic in brewing circles in the United States.

Coppinger Brewing book

One of the woodcut illustrations from Joseph Coppinger’s book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner.

If you examine Pigot’s ‘Directory of the County and City of Cork’ (1824), you will find a group of Coppingers named as inhabiting or doing business in Middleton (as they still wrote it).  Under the heading of ‘Nobility, Gentlemen & Clergy’, we find Edmund Coppinger, Esq, of Rosmore.  The others are listed as ‘Merchants’. These are John and Joseph Coppinger, brewers and maltsters, and Thomas Stephen Coppinger, merchant.  Now I’ve mentioned John and Joseph Coppinger in the context of brewing in an earlier post.

But I’m baffled by the Joseph Coppinger in the United States.  He clearly had plenty of experience in brewing before he went to Pittsburgh. It is very likely that he acquired this experience in Ireland prior to emigrating to the United States.  So where exactly did he fit in a family that spread from Cork to Midleton?  The answer seems to come in Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland.  If we look at the entry under Coppinger of Midleton, there is no Joseph Coppinger mentioned in the lineage.  But if we look under the entry for the principal stem of the family, we find that Coppinger of Ballyvolane (and Barryscourt!) produced TWO Joseph Coppingers. The first of these was Joseph Coppinger who married a Miss Arthur of Limerick. They had six sons and four daughters.  The sons were: Stephen, William (who became Catholic Bishop of Cloyne), Thomas, Peter, Joseph (our naturalized American) and John (who died in Sainte Croix in the West Indies).

The first Joseph Coppinger, being a third son, is likely to have been the brewer in Midleton in partnership with John Coppinger.  The brewery building still stands but is much altered. The business was sufficiently successful to allow Joseph to have a son educated abroad as a cleric, to give two of his four daughters into good marriages (two others became nuns), and to permit two of his sons to make good marriages.  What is revealed here is the usual pecking order in such families, the eldest son getting the lion’s share and the portions meted out to the rest of the family getting smaller and smaller. it also explains why two sons emigrated.

Old Brewery Midleton

Part of the surviving buildings of Coppinger’s Brewery in Midleton. The business had closed by the early 1840s. Now the premises is divided up into individual business units, such as these restaurants.

So there we have it – Joseph Coppinger of New York almost certainly learned the craft of brewing from his father in the brewery at Midleton.  Isn’t it a pity that Americans don’t have a choice between Budweiser and Coppinger beer?  Perhaps they could buy a copy of the book on the bicentenary of its publication – a nice little gift for Christmas!  Now, if anyone in New York could tell me where Joseph Coppinger was buried, I’d be grateful.

Note: There was another Joseph Coppinger from Midleton in the US about half a century later.  He was Lt Col John Joseph Coppinger of the US Army.  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery as a hero of the US Civil War.  But that’s another story.

Links: The US National Archives has the following link to items pertaining to Joseph Coppinger and his correspondence with Jefferson and Madison:

Joseph Coppingers book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner can be bought: