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

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

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

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

It’s free and all are welcome!


Tony Poster

A Midleton Mystery: WHERE exactly was Drohidfynnaght?

The five arched bridge leading from the northern end of  Midleton town center to Cork. It has one end higher than the other due to the high ground sloping down on western bank of the Owenacurra River.

The five arched bridge leading from the northern end of Midleton town center to Cork. It has one end higher than the other due to the high ground sloping down on western bank of the Owenacurra River.

‘Grant…to John Fitz Gerald Fitz Edmond of Clohermony….of 10 acres between Drohidfynnaght on the east, and the river running from the mill there on the west….’   From The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns, 1994.

In the Irish Patent Rolls of Queen Elizabeth I there is a grant of 1573 to John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cahermone (Clohermony) of the ‘site of the monastery of the B.V.M. de Choro S. Benedicti alias the abbey of Chore, lands in Castle Redmond, Chore, with a mill and salmon weir,’ etc. This grant was awarded to John FitzEdmund FitzGerald a year after the 1551 lease of the same property to Giles Hovenden and his heirs male finally expired after twenty one years.

However, the FitzGerald lease included some additional properties. There was a messuage and garden in Carrigtwohill, a parcel of land called Fearryn Edmund Roe, plots in Knockacottig, and several rectories and vicarages. In the middle of all these was the statement about Drohidfynnaght. But this location isn’t on a modern map of East Cork.

The wording suggests that it was a townland. Drohidfynnaght appears to be located in the east with the river and mill on the west. However, you must remember that this is an abbreviated 19th century transcription of a document that was destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922. The essentials were recorded by the Keeper of Public Records during the 19th century and published in the series Calendar of State Documents (Ireland)Elizabeth I. All the published, and known fiants, of the Tudor sovereigns were later republished as a group by Eamonn de Burca in 1994, with a new introduction by Kenneth Nicholls.

I decided to consult Dr Seosamh O’Ceallaigh in Donegal about the possible meaning of the name Drohidfynnaght. He was a good choice since his PhD is in Irish, especially the Classical Irish of this late medieval and early modern period. He must have been in stitches with laughter when I sent him my message – because he was probably the very best person to solve this mystery. Drohidfynnaght consists of two conjoined words. Drohid refers to a bridge. That I already knew, but it was nice to know that there was a bridge in the area of Midleton. Well, there were two rivers or streams to cross. But ‘fynnaght’ stumped me. I thought it might refer to ‘fine’ which is a kin-group or might perhaps refer to a religious community (monastery). But Joe, being from Fanad in County Donegal, was very quick to get back – ‘fynnaght’ is the same word as ‘fanad’! It means a sloping piece of ground. Thus Drohidfynnaght means a bridge of the sloping ground.

At once, Joe doubled my difficulties – you see, he’s never been to Midleton, and really had no idea that there are TWO places in the modern townland of Townparks that could fit the bill perfectly! The first is the northern part of Townparks running beside the Owenacurra River and up the Mill Road. The river here runs from north to south. The eastern bank is perfectly flat. The western bank drops to the river in a steep slope exactly where the present Cork Bridge is located. And there was at least one mill on this river in the sixteenth century. The shape of Townparks townland at this point suggests it might be an addition to the old townland of Chore or Mainistir na Corann which later became Townparks.

The other site is at the opposite end of the town at the southern end of Main Street. The north bank of the east-west flowing  Roxborough, or Dungourney, River is flat. But the south bank is a steep slope up the Rock which marks the high ground south of Midleton town centre. The two roads here lead to Cloyne (due south) and Youghal (due east). These were the two most important towns in Elizabethan Imokilly. The area on the south bank is part of Townparks and it stretches out the Youghal Road and down towards Lakeview. This could easily have been the Drohidfynnaght mentioned in the grant of 1573, except at the present state of research we have no idea if there was a mill there at the time.  Indeed there seems to be no evidence of a mill in this area even in later centuries.

My own preference is for the northern area of Townparks by the Cork Bridge. This bridge is older than it appears because it was widened twice. I examined it during the summer and it was clearly an older bridge with two side additions. The first extension was in the early 19th century, and then in the middle of the 20th century (around 1950). The original bridge is still preserved directly under the roadway. But it isn’t as old as the 1573 grant – it’s clearly of eighteenth century date and was quite narrow compared with today’s bridge. Also, Lewis Bridge, across the Roxborough River, is a late eighteenth century single span bridge, with no surviving evidence of the earlier crossing.

Lewis Bridge

Lewis Bridge crosses the Roxborough or Dungourney River at the southern end of Main Street in Midleton. It’s a late eighteenth century elliptical arched single-span bridge.

The proximity of the former monastic mill in the 1543 dissolution record for the abbey suggests that Drohidfynnaght is on or near the area of the old Fair Green in Midleton. The text says ‘from Drohidfynnaght’ to the mill and river. But this could be from the boundary of the townland of Drohidfynnaght to the river. So it suggests that John FitzEdmund FitzGerald didn’t get ALL of Drohidfynnaght, if it was a townland – he only got the most lucrative bit of it!

Mainistir na Corann – the origins of the market town in 1608.

Midleton Farmers Market was founded in the year 2000, but the founders didn't realise that their market day, Saturday, was the very same day designated for a market in 1608!

Midleton Farmers Market was founded in the year 2000, but the founders didn’t realise that their preferred market day, Saturday, was the very same day designated for a market in 1608!

On Saturday, 30th May 2015, Midleton Farmers Market celebrated fifteen successful years of business. But little did the founders of this market realise in 2000 that their decision to hold the market on Saturday actually chimed with the earliest evidence for a market town at Mainistir na Corann or Corabbey. It really proved to be a serendipitous decision by the Midleton Farmers Market!

When exactly did the town now called Midleton actually begin? The truth is we’re not really certain. But we do have one date that certainly suggests a town either existing on the site, or being developed – 1608. There is some evidence for an earlier town or village – it comes from maps made during the sixteenth century by Continental or English cartographers working for the Crown.  Maps by Robert Lythe showing M Coragh (1571), Abraham Ortelius showing Cor (1573), and Francis Jobson showing Coragh (1589) all suggest the presence of a town or village at the site of the abbey. Robert Lythe’s map is especially precocious given its accuracy. Clearly there was something on the site – and not just the old abbey (whether in ruins or intact).

Midleton Bridge or the Cork Bridge spans the Owenacurra at the northern end of Midleton.  The riverbed here is quite shallow and makes an excellent ford.

Midleton Bridge or the Cork Bridge spans the Owenacurra at the northern end of Midleton. As can be seen from the photograph, the riverbed here is quite shallow and makes an excellent ford.

Paul McCotter has produced evidence that suggests that there may have been a settlement in the area before the monastery was founded in 1180, and that it developed further after the foundation of the monastery.  He notes the name Drohidfinagh (or Droichead Fineadh) which may refer to a settlement near the present Cork Bridge in Midleton. That area, at the northern end of Main Street later included the Fair Green. The current bridge was built on the last crossing point on the Owenacurra. Indeed the short stretch of the riverbed immediately north and south of the modern bridge is quite shallow, and is easily fordable, especially after a spell of dry weather. But the stream above and below this short stretch is deeper and less easily forded. It should be noted that Drohidfinagh is not a name in current use in Midleton. The name appears to suggest a community bridge – but this is a community in the sense of a clan rather than a community in the sense of a settlement. Perhaps the name refers to the ancient Gaelic chieftans, the Mac Tire, whose family dominated the area before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in 1177/78.

Despite the fact that we have a record of the possessions of the Cistercian Abbey of Chore (Mainistir na Corann) from 1541, that record does not show clear evidence of a town or village attached to the monastery.  It isn’t until the former monastic estate was transferred to a new leaseholder, John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne, in 1573 that things begin to change.  It is unknown the abbey buildings were damaged during the First Desmond Rebellion (1569-73), but it should not surprise us if some harm was done.  The Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-83) was, however, much worse. Mainistir na Corann, as we have noted, had already appeared as M Coragh on Lythe’s map which was based on a survey of Imokilly and East Cork conducted between November 1569 and January 1570. The town or village was clearly on those maps made up to 1612 usually under variations of Cor, Corabbey, M Cor, M Coragh. Clearly the place was developing into a town, but ,with the late sixteenth century wars. it didn’t have the most auspicious start.

The Second Desmond Rebellion did enormous damage to the fabric of buildings and to the local economy.  John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne claimed that he had lost some 3,200 head of cattle (valued at £2,160), over 1,000 horses (valued at over £1,000) and 21,000,sheep and goats (valued at over £2,100). Additional losses included 1,400 pigs (value £400) and five hackneys and five mares (valued at £20).  With other losses, FitzGerald estimated he had lost property valued at over £6,160 by the summer of 1581. He didn’t include the burning of Cloyne and the burning of his castle at Ballycotton in these figures. Anthony McCormack reckons that John FitzEdmund FitzGerald had sustained losses of over 310,000 sterling by the close of the war. This was a huge sum, even for one of the greatest and most crooked land-grabbers in Ireland! McCormack estimates that out of the 150,000 strong population of Munster, some 48,600 people may have died of war, starvation, disease and plague during this rebellion.

Cahermone Castle was acquired from impecunious relatives in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, who built the walled garden seen on the left.  Cahermone stands at the edge of Midleton town.

Cahermone Castle was acquired from impecunious FitzGerald relatives in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, who built the walled garden seen on the left. He also added a more modern house on the right. Clearly FitzGerald had his eye on the monastic estate of Corabbey.  Cahermone stands at the edge of Midleton town.

It is worth noting that John FitzEdmund Fitzgerald of Cloyne was a Catholic who was totally loyal to Queen Elizabeth; an illegitimate son, he had become the Dean of Cloyne Cathedral in succession to his father and kept the cathedral operating as a Catholic place of worship until his death in 1612! One wonders if he also maintained a small community at Chore Abbey. Sadly there would be another war at the end of the sixteenth century when the two Ulster lords, Hugh O’Neil and Red Hugh O’Donnell, brought their forces south to join the Spanish at Kinsale – Imokilly was seriously spoiled by the northern army in its search for provisions. FitzGerald had first moved into the area of Mainistir na Corann/Corabbey in 1571 when he acquired the neighbouring Cahermone Castle from some impecunious FitzGerald relatives..

On 14th October 1608, Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald (he had been knighted in 1601) was granted a license to hold a weekly market at Corabbey. Market day was to be on Saturday – just like today’s Farmer’s Market! Sir John had to pay an annual ‘rent’ of 5 shillings in English currency to the Crown for the license. He was now obliged to appoint a place for the holding of the market and to police this market by means of a clerk of the market and a piepowder court. This latter was a summary court that settled disputes on the spot between traders and their clients. It took its name from the old French term pieds poudres or ‘dusty feet.’ All stall-holders had to pay a fee (either a portion of their goods or give the equivalent value in currency). The fines from the piepowder court and the market fees represented quite a profit for the landlord, especially since the fees could be collected weekly.

It’s worth noting that in the following year, Sir James Craig was granted a license to hold an annual fair at Castleredmond on 3rd of May and one day following.

Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork, acquired the estate of Corabbey some time after Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald's death in 1612.  Strangely, nobody ever talks about him in relation to Midleton.

The Elizabethan adventurer, Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork, acquired the estate of Corabbey some time after the death of Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald in 1612. Strangely, nobody ever talks about him in the context of Midelton’s history. He’s Midleton’s forgotten figure really.

By the 1620s, the monastic estate of Corabbey had clearly come into the hands of a new leaseholder – the formidable Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. An extraordinary property-developer, Boyle applied for and was granted a new license for a market in Mainistir na Corran/Corabbey. This license was granted on 23rd December 1624 and it too designated Saturday as the market day. Boyle was charged 6 shillings 8 pence (Irish currency) each year for this privilege. On the same day he was granted a license to hold an annual fair in Castleredmond on 3rd of May and two days following.

One interesting context for these market licenses – there is no record of such a license being issued for Ballinacorra village. Nearby locations like Rostellan, Dangandonovan, Carrigtohill, and even Killeagh are recorded as having a licence for a market or fair or even both.  This suggests that these areas are held by influential landlords and have a sufficient population  and commerce to warrant the issue of such licenses.

None of the men mentioned above would have applied for their licenses if they didn’t believe in the commercial opportunities that would benefit them. It seems highly unlikely that a license would have been issued if the applicant could not demonstrate a realy local need for a market. Clearly there must have been a town developing at Corabby/Mainistir na Corann to sustain all this activity – the market town that became Midleton was born. It is obvious that, if he didn’t found the town, then Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was intent on developing it, as was Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork.

I understand that the founders of Midleton Farmers Market had absolutely no idea that Saturday was the original market day designated in 1608 and reaffirmed in 1624. They chose the day because it is a popular shopping day in Midleton. Serendipity indeed!

Sources: Margaret Curtis Clayton, ‘Early Stuart markets and fairs in Munster, c1600-1630’. Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 2010.   Anthony McCormack, ‘The social and economic consequences of the Desmond rebellion of 1579-83.’ Irish Historical Studies, May 2004.