Ightermurragh Castle and Early Modern Imokilly.

Ightermurragh Castle

Ightermurragh Castle is a Stuart era ‘stronghouse’ built in 1641 by Edmund Supple and Margaret Fitzgerald ‘whom love binds as one.’ It remains one of the best preserved fortified houses in County Cork. The view shows the castle from the south-east, with the main entrance in the projecting wing. The original armorial over the door is long gone. Note the windows on the east wall, which gave a view of the formal garden.

In the barony of Imokilly, the local road R633 leads from Ladysbridge to Ballymacoda by way of the ancient parish of Ightermurragh. There is an old graveyard on the southern side of the road. Inside this enclosure there are scant remains of the seventeenth century church which stood there. There had been an earlier medieval chapel dedicated to the St Mary the Virgin which was subordinate to the College of Youghal. It seems likely that the chapel took its dedication from the Collegiate Church of St Mary at Youghal. However a new church seems to have been built following Ightermurragh’s erection as a separate parish in 1637. The creation of a separate parish with a new church at Ightermurragh was part of the attempt by the reformed Established Church to make a firm imprint on East Cork in the early seventeenth century. The nearby church of Kilcredan was also built in the early 1600s as perhaps the earliest purpose-built Protestant church in East Cork.

Ightermurragh Graveyard

The small graveyard of Ightermurragh where the Protestant church erected in 1637 once stood.

This date is interesting because it suggests a link to the erection of a fortified house  within sight – Ightermurragh Castle. What makes this juxtaposition so interesting is that although the church was built by the Established Church, the ‘castle’ was built by a man described as ‘Ir papist’ in the Down Survey. – the builder of the ‘very fayre large House’ was an Irish Catholic. The same Down Survey text says that the church was ‘demolished’. Even more interesting is the proximity of Ightermurragh Castle to the Fitzgerald’s Castle Richard (Inchinacrenagh) across the Womanagh River.which runs from west to east from near Cloyne to debouch into Youghal Bay near Ballymacoda.

With the most unfortunate timing, the fortified house at Ightermurragh was built in 1641 by the seemingly happily married Edmund Supple and his wife Margaret Fitzgerald ‘whom love binds as one‘ as proclaimed by the Latin inscription over the principal fireplace on the ground floor.

They built a four square three story block of rubble limestone with basement and attics. The main block runs east-west with a square, full height, central projection on the south front to house the arched entrance door. The north front is similar, but it housed the ‘back door’ or servant’s door at the foot of the wooden staircase that rose the full height of the building. The different floors are identified on the exterior by  string courses. The windows are square stone mullioned openings of various sizes with hood mouldings. They are entirely typical of the early seventeenth century architecture of early Stuart Ireland.

The house had seven tall chimneys with corresponding fine fireplaces in various rooms of the house from the ground floor to the second floor. There was one oddity of Ightermurragh worth remarking on. When we build houses in Ireland today, we like to have the largest windows on the south west to capture the best of the day’s light.  But when Edmund and Margaret built their new house, the best views were to the east over what appears to have been a walled garden. The entire west gable end was built without a single window. Indeed this end of the house consists of a huge chimney fed by the vast kitchen fireplace in the basement and by another fireplace on each of the first and the second floors.

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Ightermurragh viewed from the south-west showing the entirely windowless west gable wall. This wall consists of a single great chimney. Note the box machicolation over the entrance door – and indication of the often unsettled conditions of early modern Imokilly.

Ightermurragh is the best preserved seventeenth century fortified house in East Cork. It lacks just the roof and the internal timber floors and partitions. Oh, and the leaded glass casements are gone from the stone-mullioned windows too.

In all, Ightermurragh must have been one of the best houses built in Imokilly before the Cromwellian invasion. It was clearly a modern, well built, well lit house with plenty of heating available from its numerous fireplaces. However  Ightermurragh also looked backwards – it was a defended or fortified house. The principal entrance was protected by a ‘box machicolation’ on the parapet. This parapet ran all around the top of the house. There were holes for muskets to protect the entrance and other parts of the house. It should be recalled that there were no police to keep order when robbers attacked a dwelling.

Alas, Edmund Supple and his wife, Margaret Fitzgerald, had little time to enjoy their fine house. In 1642, the Great Catholic Rebellion had spread countrywide to all parts of Ireland….although Imokilly was relatively quiet until 1645. One night, Edmund, Margaret and their little child had to flee in the face of serious armed threats, presumably from the Protestant forces in Cork led by Lord Inchquin and Lord Broghill.

With the Cromwellian settlement of 1653,  Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill  who was now Lord President of Munster, awarded himself the Fitzgerald lands of Castlemartyr and also took for himself Ightermurragh. – the Ightermurragh holding was some 620 acres spread over five townlands.

With the Restoration in 1660, the Supples tried to recover their lands by a lawsuit. However, Boyle, now Earl of Orrery, was to entrenched to be moved.

Ightermurragh West Gable

The inner face of the west gable wall displays the huge kitchen fireplace (which has a bread oven) in the basement, with a small ruined fireplace on the first floor and a fine preserved fireplace on the second floor. Note the complete lack of windows on this wall.

By 1750 Ightermurragh was leased to a gentleman called Smith . He had a most unfortunate experience one night. Some robbers, apparently from Cloyne, got into the castle and began to threaten Smith to make him divulge his money. He gave was money he had in the house at the time but it wasn’t enough. It appears that Smith was really a farmer and not a particularly wealthy man. Failing to find any further money in their search of the house, the gang took Smith down to the kitchen. There they tied him to the spit in the huge fireplace – it was big enough to roast a whole ox. Smith was roasted over his own kitchen fire until the robbers were finally convinced that he had no more money in the house.  With dawn approaching, the robbers grabbed their loot and fled into the darkness. Poor Smith finally got himself untied from the kitchen spit and, severely traumatised by his experience, fled to his relatives in Rathcoursey. It would seem that the robbers were never identified, caught or punished. It seems an appropriate story to recount at Halloween.

After this, Ightermurragh was abandoned although the Earl of Shannon, Boyle’s successor, did try to prevent the locals from looting the stonework in the later 19th century.  Ightermurragh stands today as a gaunt reminder of how promise could turn sour in a very short time.  

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Postcard from Mogeely, 1910.

Mogeely Postcard obverse

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

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

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

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

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

Mogeely Postcard obverse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mogeely Postcard reverse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mogeely old church

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.corkcoco.ie/co/web/Cork%20County%20Council/Departments/Library%20&%20Arts%20Service

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

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