‘As violent as a tiger’ – Alan Brodrick becomes first Viscount Midleton in 1717

Alan_Brodrick

Alan Brodrick (1656-1727), 1st Baron Brodrick of Midleton and 1st Viscount Midleton, former Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Jonathan  Swift, born 350 years ago, knew an irascible character when it met one – after all Swift was himself a quite difficult character when it suited him. His description of Alan Brodrick as being as ‘violent as a tiger’ is a case in point. It took one to know one. However, Swift was not saying that Brodrick was a physically violent man, but that the language Brodrick employed in law and politics was often intemperate.

Alan Brodrick was the second son of Sir St John Brodrick and his wife Alice Clayton. He was almost certainly born in Ireland in 1656 – just as the Down Survey was being compiled. Sir St John had been granted large estates in Ireland under the Protectorate (Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth). These were centred on the market-town of Corabbey, which was renamed Midleton in 1670.

Alan was educated in Magdalen College, Oxford, and later at Middle Temple, one of the Inns of Court in London. Brodrick was called to the English Bar in 1678. This automatically entitled him to practice as a lawyer in Ireland. Almost certainly, Alan was being set up for a legal career  – necessary due to his older brother Thomas being their father’s principal heir. Under the rules of primogeniture, Thomas stood to inherit all of the Brodrick estate in Ireland.

Magdalen College Oxford

Alan Brodrick was sent to Magdalen College, Oxford, for his education. 

However, Alan would go on to create his own estate. When James II came to Ireland to fight for his throne against his son-in-law, William, Prince of Orange,  in 1689. James’s Irish parliament attainted the Brodricks, who fled to England and gave their support to William. On returning to Ireland following the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Alan was made Recorder of Cork. This meant that Alan was now the principal magistrate in Cork, the most important judicial office in the city. and he was responsible for keeping law and order in the city. Alan was also appointed Third Serjeant (a legal office) in 1691, but was dismissed in a few months as there was no work for him to do, as he admitted himself, although he complained bitterly!

Alan Brodrick was appointed Solicitor General for Ireland in 1695, a post he held until  1704. He was appointed Attorney General for Ireland from 1707 to 1709.

In 1710, Alan became the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland – this meant that he was the head of the Court of Queen’s Bench. However he was removed from office by the government for his disagreements over policy.

(c) Palace of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

William of Orange and Princess Mary accept the crown following William’s successful invasion of England in 1688.

Brodrick was elected to  the Irish House of Commons in 1695 as MP for Cork city, a post he held until 1710. In 1703, he was elected Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, but had to step down in 1710 when he was appointed a judge. Elected MP for Cork County in 1713, Brodrick was immediately chosen to be Speaker of the Irish Commons again. As an MP Alan Brodrick was instrumental in framing the notorious Penal Laws against Catholics and Jacobites.

Act against papists

From 1695 a series of punitive penal laws was passed in Ireland to prevent Catholics from challenging the Established order.

His second term as Speaker didn’t last, because the government of King George I appointed him Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1714. Naturally, the Lord Chancellor was also President of the House of Lords, so Alan Brodrick was ennobled as Baron Brodrick of Midleton in 1715. This was a bit odd, since his brother Thomas was due to inherit their father’s estate. However, by then it was clear that Thomas only had daughters, while Alan had one son, St John Brodrick, by then. In 1717, three hundred years ago this year

King George I

The accession of King George I, a descendant of King James I, in 1714 led to Alan Brodrick being appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

, Alan Brodrick, Baron Brodrick of Midleton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was elevated as Viscount Midleton. This, presumably, was a sort of bribe to a difficult political character, to keep him in line with government policy.

It was a court case that led to the great crisis of Alan Brodrick’s political career. The Shercock-Annesley Case led to a question of whether or not the House of Lords in London was the final court of appeal in Irish legal cases. Brodrick did his best to calm down the passions the case raised. He warned the Irish House of Lords to be very careful, but the Lords pig-headedly made it clear that they thought the IRISH House of Lords should be the ONLY court of final appeal for Irish cases. In 1719 the Westminster parliament curtailed the powers of the Irish parliament by passing the notorious Dependency of Ireland on Great Britain Act or ‘Sixth of George I‘. this act remained in force until 1782.  Alan Brodrick was blamed for this act, although he had sternly advised the Irish Lords not to pursue their confrontational policy.

Alan Brodrick was a political Whig, supporting the Williamite settlement. He also controlled the nearest thing to a political party in the Irish House of Commons, the ‘Cork interest’ (also called the ‘Boyle interest’ due to the Boyle family’s participation, or ‘Brodrick interest’). This grouping didn’t resemble modern political parties, but was a looser grouping. In reality, Alan Brodrick was a parliamentary undertaker – that is he undertook to produce the required number of votes to get the government’s legislation through the Commons. Alan Brodrick’s great rival in parliament was the fabulously wealthy William Connolly, who also touted for the job of government parliamentary undertaker. The two men had an often bitter relationship. William Connolly eventually won the parliamentary battle, going on to build the magnificent Castletown House in County Kildare as a testament to his success and wealth. Sadly, Alan Brodrick invested in Peper Harrow, an estate in Surrey, to which his successor as Viscount removed himself and his heirs.

Irish house of lords 1704

The Irish Parliament that Alan Brodrick knew met in Chichester House in Dublin. The old parliament house was replaced by Sir Edwards Lovett Pearce’s masterpiece from the 1720s.

All these posts allowed Alan Brodrick to accumulate or acquire lands in several counties, but mostly in County Cork, adjoining his father’s lands. His three successive marriages, to Catherine Barry, Lucy Courthorpe and Anne Hill, gave him additional family and political connections and two sons – St John Brodrick born to Catherine Barry died just months before his father, and Alan, born to Lucy Courthorpe, would outlive his father as Second Viscount Midleton.

Alan Brodrick, first Baron Brodrick of Midleton, and first Viscount Midleton, died in August 1728, a few months after his son, St John, had died.  He was succeeded by his second son,Alan, second Baron Brodrick of Midleton and second Viscount Midleton.

In 1920, William St John Fremantle Brodrick, the ninth Viscount Midleton was elevated as first Earl of Midleton, and his son, George St John Brodrick, became the second Earl and tenth Viscount in 1942. The earldom became extinct with the death of George in 1979, but the viscountcy and baronage survived, transferring to a cousin.

The titles continue today with the Alan Henry Brodrick, 12th Baron Brodrick and 12th Viscount Midleton, who has a son to succeed him.

‘How do you solve a problem like….Agathe!’ Midleton’s surprising link with ‘The Sound of Music’!

brodrick-mausoleum

The impressive 1820s mausoleum of Archbishop Charles Brodrick of Cashel, and his wife Mary Woodhouse, in St John the Baptist’s Churchyard in Midleton.

When the 1959 Broadway musical ‘Sound of Music‘ was transformed into a movie in 1965 it is unlikely that the audiences who viewed it in Midleton’s Ormonde Cinema ever imagined that there was an indirect family link between the grandest mausoleum in St John the Baptist’s Churchyard and the singing von Trapp children depicted in the movie. Sadly, there is some confusion over the Brodrick link to the von Trapp family, not helped by incorrect information being put out on the web (wikipedia is a prime culprit), information that has, admittedly, left your author confused. So this post is all about resolving the confusion.

Let’s start with the children depicted in the musical. The movie depicts Korvettenkapitän Georg Johannes Ludwig Ritter von Trapp introducing his seven children: Rupert, Agathe, Maria Franziska, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina. These were von Trapp’s children by his first wife: Agathe Whitehead. And SHE is the source of our problem – what exactly was her connection to the Brodrick family, Viscounts Midleton?  Or, to be more precise, who exactly were Agathe Whitehead’s parents? This is exactly where the web falls down. Too many sites indicate that Agathe was the daughter of Sir James Beethom Whitehead, a diplomat, and his wife Marian Cecilia Brodrick, daughter of William Brodrick, 8th Viscount Midleton.

whitehead-agather_1909circa

Georg von Trapp and his wife, Agathe Whitehead, niece of Marian Brodrick, shortly before the First World War.

 

In fact, Agathe Whitehead seems to have been the daughter of JOHN WHITEHEAD, the older brother of Sir James. John Whitehead was a key figure in developing the world’s first workable torpedo. The eldest son of Robert Roger Whitehead, the man who actually developed the torpedo into a deadly weapon, John was his father’s most important assistant in developing the torpedo.

Curiously, the Royal Navy rejected this invention but the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Navy was interested, and so it was in Trieste and Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) that the Whiteheads actually developed their torpedo. The chilling irony of Agathe’s marriage to Georg Johannes Ludwig von Trapp is that Captain von Trapp was a submarine ace during the Great War – he actually sank eleven merchantmen, a French cruiser and an Italian submarine as well as capturing a Greek vessel! Six of the merchantment he sank were British, three were Italian (allies of the British) and one was French while another was Greek. (Just a pedantic point: von Trapp was NOT a baron, he was a Ritter or baronet in British and Irish aristocratic terms.)

martinschloessel

Martinschloessel, the von Trapp house where Agathe (Whitehead) von Trapp died of scarlet fever in 1922. Georg von Trapp and his children were so traumatised by Agathe’s death there that they sold the house soon after.

Agathe inherited a lot of money from her grandfather, and that was the source of the von Trapp fortune for a period. Sadly, Agathe died of scarlet fever in 1922 at the von Trapp house at Martinschloessel in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. So traumatic was her death to the family that her husband sold the house and moved the family to a new house, later renamed Villa Trapp, in the suburbs of Salzburg.

villa-trapp-front

The Villa Trapp in the suburbs of Salzburg where Maria Kutshera joined the family as governess. She later married Georg von Trapp and became stepmother to Agathe’s children. Astonishingly, Heinrich Himmler later used this house as his Salzburg residence when the von Trapps fled from the Nazi regime.

A younger son of Robert Roger Whitehead was the diplomat Sir James Beethom Whitehead KCMG who married Lady Marian Cecilia Brodrick, the youngest daughter of William Brodrick, the 8th Viscount Midleton. Marian was the aunt by marriage of Agathe von Trapp. Marian’s father, William Brodrick, was the son of the Very Rev, William Brodrick, 7th Viscount Midleton, who had been Dean of Exeter and an Honorary Chaplain to Queen Victoria. The 7th Viscount’s father was Charles Brodrick, 6th Viscount Midleton who succeeded his brother, George Brodrick, 6th Viscount. In 1848, George had succeeded his cousin George, 5th Viscount Midleton, following the latter’s suicide.

(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir James Beethom Whitehead KCMG in his diplomat’s uniform. He married Marian Cecilia Brodrick, daughter of William, 8th Viscount Midleton. Sir James and Marian were the uncle and aunt of Agathe Whitehead, the wife of Georg von Trapp.

The real Midleton connection resides in the parents of the 6th and 7th Viscounts. Their father was the Most Rev Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel, who was the husband of Mary Woodward. Mary was the daughter of Richard Woodward, Bishop of Cloyne from 1781 to 1794. Archbishop Charles and Mary are buried in a grand mausoleum in St John the Baptist’s graveyard in Midleton.  The archbishop and his wife had spent a lot of time in Midleton during the time he was Rector of the parish and when he was archbishop.

So there it is: Agathe Whitehead, first wife of Georg von Trapp and the mother of his first seven children, was the niece by marriage of Marian Brodrick, daughter of the 8th Viscount Midleton. But she wasn’t actually a Brodrick!

Note: the genealogical information on Agathe Whitehead was derived from GENI UK.

The Midleton Railway Petition of 1844

courthouse-midleton

the Rev Francis Jones, Rector of Midleton, chose Midleton Courthouse as the venue for the meeting of 6th January 1845 to discuss the building of a railway. The meeting was called in response to a petition drafted and signed in December 1844. The petition was made to Francis Jones in his capacity as the last Sovereign of Midleton.

In 2015, some 340,000 passenger journeys were made on the Cork to Midleton railway service. This is an astonishing number given that the population of East Cork is nowhere near that figure. And, it should be recalled that this line only reopened in 2009, having been closed to regular passenger services since 1963. In the first six months of 2016, some 260,000 passenger journeys were already recorded on the line. When you consider that this line now has more daily services than a century ago, it shows the wisdom of reopening the local commuter lines to take the strain from the overcrowded road network around Cork.

This enthusiasm for idea of building a railway began in 1844. In December of that year the Rector of Midleton published a public notice in The Cork Examiner newspaper (now the Irish Examiner). The Rector, the Rev. Mr Francis Jones, didn’t actually publish the notice in his capacity as Rector, but as the last Sovereign of Midleton – four years after the Corporation of Midleton had been abolished. However, Jones was still addressed as Sovereign (or mayor) of Midleton until his death – since there was no Corporation to vote in a replacement and the reform had failed to abolish the office! The notice that Jones published is interesting because it shows the beginning of a shift in influence. Until then Youghal had been the key town in East Cork. Cove, later Queenstown, rapidly gained prominence due to its status as a port for emigration. Midleton remained relatively small – but it had just built the only workhouse between Cork and Dungarvan. This workhouse would see Midleton’s population INCREASE during the Great Famine between 1845 and 1851! In that period, Youghal’s population decreased, although it was still the largest town in East Cork until well into the twentieth century. Today, Midleton is a thriving, bustling, market town and business centre, but Youghal seems, sadly, to be in the doldrums.

The notice in the Examiner begins with a petition addressed to Francis Jones.::

We, the Undersigned, request you will appoint an early day for a Meeting of such Persons as feel interested in the formation of a Line of Railroad between Cork and Youghal, with a branch to Cove, in order to adopt such measures as may be calculated to place before the public correct information as to the advantages likely to result from the undertaking.

Cove, 17th December, 1844.

This petition was addressed: To the Rev. Mr Jones, Sovereign of Midleton.

Following a list of the petitioners, Jones added his notice of a public meeting:

In compliance with the above requisition, I hereby appoint a Meeting of ‘such persons as feel interested in the formation of a line of Railroad between Cork and Youghal, with a branch to Cove,’ to be held in the Court-house, Midleton, on Tuesday, 6th inst, at the hour of Twelve O’Clock.

 It is signed: Francis Jones

Among the sixtyfive names attached to the petition are the local Justices of the Peace: Thomas Stubbs JP; Robert Ware, JP; Sampson TW French, JP;  William W Lambert, JP; Edward Millett, JP;  R Holmes, JP; Edmond Roche, JP Kilshannick (Kilshannig, near Rathcormac); EB Roche MP, Trabolgan; GS Barry, JP, DL; Edward Odell, JP.

The identifiable clergymen who signed the petition were Richard Gaggin, Rector of Clonmult, and William Keane, Parish Priest of Midleton. It seems likely that the three ‘Clerks‘ who signed were actually clergymen too: Andrew Todd, Clk; William Meade, Clk; and J Edmund Nash, Clk.  

Several solicitors and doctors also signed the petition: S Fleming, Solicitor; J Devitt O’Donovan, Solicitor; Thomas H Orpen, MD; DH Scott, MD; Thomas Garde, MD; SW Keane, MD; John Boston, AB and MD; Philip L Walsh, MD; Joseph Barry, MD.

Midleton was itself well represented on the list. The Coppinger family was prominent: Thomas S Coppinger; ES Coppinger and William S Coppinger all signed. The Callaghans of Brodrick Street, Mathias Callaghan and his son, John Callaghan, signed together. The local distillers also saw the benefits: BJ Hackett (who’s distillery opened in 1824) and James Murphy, Junior, (who founded the present old Midleton distillery in 1825). J Hallaran who developed the great maltings at Ballinacurra was very prominent in the list.

This list shows how people in east Cork realised the benefits of building a railway to link Youghal and Cove to Cork before the Great Famine. The year 1845 was an interesting one for Midleton. It opened on the Feast of Epiphany with the railway meeting scheduled by Francis Jones. Then came the completion of the largest brick chimney in Murphy’s distillery in April. That was closely followed by the Postmaster General in London agreeing to Lord Midleton’s request that the name of the Post Office and the town should be spelled ‘MIDLETON’ rather than in any other way. Finally, in October and November the potato blight struck the district very hard.

The far-sighted gentlemen who signed the 1844 petition to the Sovereign of Midleton had to wait until 1859 to see the first part of their dreams realised as the line reached Midleton from Dunkettle. Youghal was reached in 1860. The Queenstown (formerly Cove, now Cobh) branch was completed in 1862.

The ‘Hurricane’ of 1903 – Midleton’s ‘9/11’

 

St John the Baptist Church Midleton

The elegant spire of St John the Baptist’s Church, Midleton, completed in 1825 to the design of Richard Pain. The top of this spire collapsed onto the roof of the church during the storm on the evening of 10th September 1903 and narrowly missed some workmen. The spire has since been repaired. (Horgan Brothers Collection, Cork County Library)

The dramatic and horrific images of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th 2001 are forever etched in the minds of anyone who witnessed those events either in person or on television. The scale, method, and nature of the attack, and the loss of life was, and still is, traumatic for so many. Apart from the image of the hijacked airliners striking the twin towers of the WTC, the other image that stays in the mind is of the collapse of the vast towers in a shower of dust and smoke, pulverising those who never had a chance to escape, including many members of the New York emergency service. .

Without wishing to trivialize New York’s trauma, it’s worth pointing out that Midleton, yes, little Midleton, woke up to the aftermath of its own version of ‘9/11’……a century earlier. Thankfully there was no loss of life. The storm that burst over Midleton in September 1903 was reported in The Cork Examiner newspaper on Friday, September 11th, 1903.

MIDLETON

CHURCH STEEPLE DAMAGED

Midleton, Thursday

One of the most violent storms experienced within the memory of the oldest inhabitant swept over Midleton and district this evening. It commenced at about 4 o’clock, and increased with such severity that about an hour after it assumed the character, the wind blowing from the north-west. Pedestrianism in the streets was almost a matter of impossibility, and vehicular traffic was for the time suspended. Some of the strongest trees were torn up from their roots, and the public roads were rendered in numerous parts of the district actually impassable. A large part of the public road near Killeagh was blocked with trees,  and the mail car from Youghal to Midleton had, in consequence, to come another route, via Mogeely. Telegraphic communication was suspended own to the fact that the wire got broken or twisted by the force of the gale, and the falling on them of heavy trees, and though a good effort was made to repair the damage, the work was abortive, with the result that communication with Cork, Dublin and London, was out of the question. The intensity of the storm might be realised from the fact that about six feet of the finely formed steeple of the Protestant church at Midleton was swept on to the roof of the church and penetrated it to the interior., the gap in the roof being plainly visible from outside the windows. Some men who were working inside had a narrow escape. One of the graves was torn up, portion of the coffin in it being visible. The roofs of houses were in many instances broken. Some sheds were altogether unroofed, including one at Bailick and Midleton, and along the streets are scattered slates and other debris, hurled from the housetops. All kinds of agricultural work had to be suspended, very serious damage having been done to the corn crop not yet cut down.

‘Pedestrianism’ – now there’s a new word to enjoy!

A number of points are clear from the account. First, it wasn’t just Midleton that suffered – even as far as Killeagh there was damage. Much of this was the disruption of the telegraph system. This posed a danger to the railway service linking Cork to Youghal via Midleton, because the signalmen and stations at Carrigtwohill , Midleton, Mogeely, Killeagh and Youghal couldn’t issue hazard warnings ahead. Furthermore the Royal Irish Constabulary at Midleton, Castlemartyr, Killeagh and Youghal were unable to send  or receive reports. The mail car was either an early motor van or horse-drawn van and it had to be diverted from Killeagh to Mogeely around Ballyquirke townland to get to Castlemartyr and Midleton. Shades of the flooding that cut the present N25 (also called Euroroute 1) linking Castlemartyr to Killeagh winter of 2015/2016.  On that occasion the heavy traffic also had to be diverted onto the narrow road linking Mogeely and Killeagh to allow trucks to continue to Rosslare ferry port. One blessing was that Midleton and the surrounding villages didn’t have any electricity at the time, and only Midleton and Ballinacurra had coal gas laid on.

The second point is that the storm actually began about 4.00 pm on Thursday 10th September, just before people went home for their supper. No doubt people fled the open streets and took shelter when the storm struck, but flying slates (also experienced in Midelton in 2009/10 and in 2010/11) are deadly to exposed pedestrians and to window glass!

The loss of the tip of the spire of St John the Baptist’s Church in Midleton must have been a real surprise. This was the only spire in Midleton at the time since the much larger spire of Holy Rosary Church had yet to be constructed.  The spire of St John’s had stood since 1825 but it seems that the slender tip of Richard Pain’s elegant design, made of solid stone, may have required some internal metal reinforcement by then. Midleton has faced many a fierce gale since 1903 but never again has the repaired spire of St John the Baptist’s Church fallen. The repair was clearly well done at the time.

St John's Midleton

Seemingly unchanged, but actually the spire was repaired without any outward alteration after the storm of 1903.

Finally, the anxiety about the corn crop (that is wheat and barley, not maize) was understandable. The Midleton distillery consumed a lot of the local barley, as did JH Bennett’s malting company in Ballinacurra (they supplied the malt for the Guinness brewery in St James’s Gate, Dublin). In addition, the Hallinan family’s Avoncore Mills on Mill road was another major consumer of the local grain crop. These three firms were also big local employers, hence the anxiety about the corn.

The Cork Examiner of Saturday, 12th September 1903, also reported on the damage caused by the same storm over much of Ireland and the United Kingdom. So Midleton didn’t suffer alone. That year saw ten hurricanes sweep into the West Indies and the south-eastern United States, five of them in September alone, however the ‘hurricane that struck Midleton, Ireland and Great Britain wasn’t actually a true hurricane. Furthermore a very severe storm had struck in February of that year, although Midleton seems to have got off lightly on that occasion. One wonders if that storm had weakened the spire that fell in September.

There is one memorial to the storm of 1903 in Midleton – the undamaged stone that had fallen from the church spire was later recycled as the pedestal of a sundial erected in St John the Baptist’s churchyard, just metres from where it fell. It was erected after 1923 inemory of Henry Penrose-Fitzgerald, of the Grange, Midleton and  agent to Lord Midleton.

One final thing to note. ‘Pedestrianism’ – a new word to enjoy!

Heritage Week 2016 – another success!

 

Midleton in early 1900s

Main Street, Midleton, around 1900.

Heritage Week 2016 has now ended but it started a day late as usual in Midleton. On Sunday 21st August some fifteen to eighteen people joined my early 20th century Midleton walking tour of the town. They were brave souls to ignore the Met Eireann weather warning and venture forth. (Youghal’s Medieval Festival was postponed for a week!)  In fact we only had a few showers of misty rain, some breezes and a grey threatening sky overhead, but we were actually fine! Given that I spoke about some of the bad weather in the period 1896 to 1918, the dull day was appropriate.

On Thursday evening, 25th August, Cal McCarthy spoke in Midleton Library about Spike Island in Cork Harbour as a prison in the 19th century . He was supported by the director of the Spike Island heritage site, Tom O’Neill, who encouraged us all to visit before the season closed at the end of October. We had an audience of about twenty for that event.

Saturday 27th saw my lecture in the same venue on ‘Living in Midleton a Hundred Years Ago’. Given that was a lovely day outside, and the last Saturday before the schools reopened,  we had a final audience of about twenty, which was a very welcome number.

Some twelve  people (and Mollie the Jack Russell!) joined the second walking tour on Sunday 28th August in glorious end of summer sunshine and heat. It was a bit difficult to talk about the great storm of 1903 in Midleton in that sort of weather!

I hope everybody learned something new and got a better understanding of Midleton’s (and Spike Island’s) history during the week!

Heritage_Week_2016_GREEN-2

 

Cork’s Lifelong Learning Festival 2016 Expands to Midleton

Lifelong Festival

The annual Cork Lifelong Learning Festival has expanded beyond the city in 2016. One of the venues this year is Midleton!

As part of the Festival, on Saturday 16th April, a free historical walking tour will be conducted by yours truly, meeting at the Courthouse at 12.00 noon.

The tour will go from the Courthouse to Distillery Walk, with brief side trips up Chapel Lane and Connolly Street. This tour aims to introduce people to the history of Midleton through its buildings.  The tour will last an hour. So, if you are participating in the festival’s events,  do come along and join us! Open to young and old alike!  This year’s festival runs from Monday 11th April to Sunday 17th April. And yes, the tour is free! And you can join us at any stage!

Let’s hope the weather gods are kind on that day!

http://www.corkcity.ie/services/corporateandexternalaffairs/learningfestival2016/

A VERY brief history of Midleton!

Doorway St John the Baptist Church

The doorway to St John the Baptist Church (Church of Ireland), Midleton. Standing on the site of the medieval Cistercian Abbey of Chore, this church was completed in 1825 by the brothers George and Richard Pain. It’s a classic Board of First Fruits ‘hall and tower’ type church – although in this case Richard Pain’s elegant spire replaces the usual tower. Curiously some people believe that the church was completed in 1823, despite the large date-stone above the door! it always pays to look up. The previous church on the site was a neat structure built by St John Brodrick in the 1650s. (Photo: Buildings of Ireland website) 

The first day of April is probably not the best date to publish something, but this time it couldn’t be helped. On Friday, 1st April 2016, the Irish Examiner newspaper published a supplement called Midleton Living. As the name suggests it was all about Midleton. The supplement also came with the Evening Echo newspaper. I was invited to submit a brief history of Midleton for this publication. However, some people never got the newspaper or the supplement. There are in fact four historical articles in the publication, two of them by the Examiner’s own staff reporter Mary Leland.

The final one, opposite mine, concerns the monuments and public sculptures recently erected in Midleton, although I notice it is actually based on a press release prepared three years ago by the now defunct Midleton Town Council. Sadly, the council had never sought the assistance of a historian to draft this item. I expect a bit of negative feedback over one or two facts in my article. Don’t worry my double-barrelled elephant gun is LOADED with ammunition, namely solid, referenced, historical FACTS!

It is lovely to see that my article shares the same page as a lovely item about Kevin Aherne and his innovative Sage Restaurant, recently voted the best in the county! The ethos of this restaurant fits in beautifully with the origins of modern Midleton as a market town since 1608.

So, for the benefit of those who missed out, here’s the published article, which the editor titled Evolution from a market town to a thriving business hub. Please note that you may have to enlarge the resolution on your screen!

Brief History 1

Readers of this blog will be aware that I left out quite a bit of history from the article. There is no mention of scheming abbots, or mad monks, no mention of the attempted assassination of Walter Raleigh, and other matters. Space constraints obliged me to limit the article to just 800 words. But I reckon I covered the essentials of the development of Midleton as a market town.

 

The Coppinger name returns to Midleton!

John Joseph Coppinger

John Joseph Coppinger of Midleton as an officer in the US Army during the American Civil War.

About nine months ago we posted a discussion on the work of the Gothic Revival architect AWN Pugin in the Midleton/Dungourney area. The pair of townhouses designed by Pugin on Main Street, Midleton were then up for sale.

This was the post at the time:  https://midletonwith1d.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/an-east-cork-mystery-pugins-missing-potato-house-in-dungourney/

The good news is that the building has been purchased and thoroughly refurbished. The exterior stonework has been repointed, probably for the first time since the 1850s. The interior has been splendidly designed to provide Midleton with a fine, even metropolitan bar, exceptional in an Irish country town. Wonderfully, Pugin is celebrated by a portrait and several copies of his architectural drawings in the Smoking Room.

AWN Pugin NPG

The most famous portrait of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the architect of the original building. There is a copy hanging in the ‘Smoking Room’ in the new bar, surrounded by copies of his architectural drawings.(National Portrait Gallery, London)

On Holy Thursday, 24th March, it reopened as J.J. Coppinger’s bar. The name comes from General John Joseph Coppinger, the Midleton man who joined the US army to fight in the American Civil War. J.J. Coppinger is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virgina. The new bar displays two walls of images and memorabilia depicting the American Civil War.

Tabernacle Nuremburg

A copy of this Pugin drawing of the spire of Adam Kraft’s magnificent 1493 tabernacle in the St Lorenzkirche, Nuremberg, Germany.(Irish Architectural Archive)

Damian Shiels has written about John Joseph Coppinger in his Midleton Heritage blog: http://midletonheritage.com/2014/04/06/midletons-most-famous-forgotten-son-general-john-joseph-coppinger/

Tabernacle Nurembrug 2

The lower part of Adam Kraft’s tabernacle as drawn by Pugin. Sadly this image does not appear in the bar. Adam Kraft depicted himself as the kneeling figure bearing the huge tabernacle on his shoulders. This image and the one above were once owned by Pugin’s son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin, who designed Holy Rosary Church and the present Allied Irish Bank in Midleton. (Irish Architectural Archive)

It’s wonderful to see the Coppinger name return to Main Street, Midleton, for the first time since 1931. The new bar is located just yards from the original Coppinger brewery which was founded in the mid-1790s.

This is a review of the bar from Bill Linnane’s blog:  http://midletonrared.com/2016/03/25/the-long-good-friday-pub-review/

An introduction to JJ Coppinger’s bar: http://www.jjcoppingers.ie/

Even the ducks have flown – Midleton’s history of flooding.

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The from Lewis Bridge of the flooded southern end of Main Street, Midleton, on Wednesday morning, 30th December. (Irish Examiner)

Walking by the banks of the Owenacurra River, the principal river on which Midleton stands, I have noticed in recent weeks that even the family of ducks which frequent the place have now flown. Only the herons are still in residence. That’s how serious the rainfall has been since November, exacerbated by the sudden flooding of parts of Midleton on the night of Tuesday 29th December and on the morning of Wednesday 30th December 2015. However, the history of flooding in Midleton goes much further back – it’s a reality of the town that simply hasn’t been properly addressed.

One of the best early descriptions of flooding in Midleton is that from 1895: this flood happened on a Saturday night/Sunday morning and saw the Owenacurra River overflow its banks between Ballyedmond and Ballinacurra. ‘…all the low lying lands…are deeply flooded to a greater extent and depth than has been seen before by the oldest inhabitant.’  So severe was the flooding that the streets and sidewalks (the original word in the text) were ‘.…deeply submerged during the day causing much inconvenience to pedestrians going to and returning from their respective places of worship, many of them having to employ cars to convey them over the flooded portions of the town.

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View over the flooded area of the distillery (mid-ground) towards the west. The disused railway line to Youghal is represented by the double of row of trees on the right. The flooded rugby club is just above the distillery. (Irish Examiner)

In 1911 another flood proved, perhaps, more devastating, because it happened on a Saturday, a busy market day: the flooding was caused by a massive thunderstorm lasting from about 10.30 am to about 3.30 pm accompanied by flashing lightning that terrified both the people of the town and draft animals.The worst of the storm happened between 12.00 noon and 1.30 pm. The deluge proved so bad that vehicular traffic had difficulty making its way through the town. The lower end of the Main Street was several inches deep in water and ‘…presented the appearance of initiating a lake.’ The lower part of Thomas Street was inundated to a depth of three feet and cellars on Main Street began to fill with water.

The flash flooding of 1920 left many homes deluged and even threatened the lives of animals who had gone into the Owenacurra or Roxborough rivers. The depth of the flooding reach some five or six feet The lower part of Thomas Street was inundated to a depth of three feet, with seven or eight houses being abandoned as the inhabitants sought refuge elsewhere. The cellars on Main Street began to fill with water.

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The onset of the flooding on Main Street, Midleton, on the night of Tuesday 29th  December. (Irish Mirror)

What is too frequently forgotten is that the centre  of Midleton is a low lying area between two rivers – the Owenacurra on the west and the Roxborough/Dungourney River on the south. Although the land between these rivers is not entirely flat (indeed there is an outcrop of rock at one point) most of it is quite flat, but deceptive. Midleton is usually, but incompletely, described as being on the Owenacurra River, but the more dangerous river is almost certainly the Roxborough. This is the river that has flooded the lower end of Main Street frequently in recent years. The trouble with the Roxborough is that it is barely noticeable in the town – people just drive over Lewis Bridge to and from Main Street, not realizing that the river below the bridge is a strongly flowing stream that can flood very rapidly. The Roxborough is fed not only by its main stream coming from Dungourney but also by a watercourse coming from Loughaderra and Ballybutler in the east, near Castlemartyr.

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View down the flooded southern end of Main Street, Midleton, on Wednesday 30th December 2015. Note the ripples caused by a strong southerly wind blowing the water up the street. (Irish Examiner)

There is an opinion that the railway line that was built to link Midleton and Youghal to Cork in 1858-1860 may actually follow an original ancient dried up course of the Roxborough/Dungourney River just to the north of the town. This was the area that was badly flooded on 29th and 30th December 2015, as was part of the modern distillery, and the areas along the Dungourney Road, including the Rugby Club (the latter being under several feet of water) and several houses. The route of the railway line runs directly alongside these sites.

The trouble with the Owenacurra is that it reaches a pinch-point where the Cork Road Bridge stands. There is a ridge of higher ground bringing the Cork Road into Midleton with a corresponding area of somewhat raised land on the other side around the courthouse. This can lead to the floodwater in the Owenacurra backing up on the northern side of the bridge. To complicate matters, several houses were built very close to the river in the latter years of the twentieth century, often on low ground.

The background to all this is the almost persistent rain since early November (seven storms in eight weeks, with more rainfall in between) adding up to a record rainfall for the month of December – indeed the rainfall in December alone was the equivalent of THREE MONTHS of winter rainfall! The two rivers and their tributary streams were full to saturation and almost contantly in full spate. The exceptionally high tides coming in from the sea, as well as a strong southerly wind all contributed to the conditions for a perfect storm leading to a flood. The arrival of Storm Frank on the 29th December was the spark that led to disaster. The two rivers burst their banks – but, fortunately, the Roxborough/Dungourney didn’t completely burst its banks – that would have been a true catastrophe.

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The N25 linking Cork to Waterford and Rosslare flooded between Castlemartyr and Killeagh. The flood was so bad that it took a week of pumping to clear the road for traffic. (Evening Echo)

No warning was given by the County Council of an immanent flood threat. The flooding started during the night of 29th and rapidly became very serious indeed. Families were evacuated from their homes in several areas and one family was rescued from a car trapped between two flooding streets. The Defence Forces were called upon to use their high-axle trucks to drive through the floods to rescue people. The Midleton Park Hotel, Midleton College and the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel all accommodated evacuated families. Meanwhile the waters were spreading. It was the combined efforts of volunteers, property owners, business owners and the small local council staff that prevent even more properties from flooding. The southern end of Main Street was closed for most of Wednesday 30th, being opened around 6.00 pm.   It is extraordinary that not a single life was lost, despite some houses on the Mill Road being situated below road level!  One observer said that she had lived in Midleton for 84 years and never saw a flood like it.

The 2015 flooding wasn’t just confined to Midleton – parts of Castlemartyr were flooded, as well as Glanmire and Glounthaune. Many local roads were rendered impassable by floods, and the N25 (or Euroroute 1), the main road from Cork to Waterford, was actually closed between Castlemartyr and Killeagh due to a local turlough (a seasonal lake) spreading its waters over a mile of the road. It took a week of pumping to clear the N25 for traffic again. As the flooding has receded people discovered that several of their local roads are now barely passable, if not entirely ruined. The road linking Lisgoold to Midleton and that linking Midleton to Dungourney are in a particularly poor condition.

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Councillor Susan McCarthy’s photo of the flood on Main Street, Midleton, on the morning of 30th December. The fine stone building across the street is the Pugin building, formerly the Midleton Arms Hotel and more recently McDaid’s Pub. Refurbishment started before Christmas and is still ongoing, although the ground floor got flooded on this occasion. (Councillor Susan McCarthy)

One thing that did emerge was the community spirit – farmer brought in their tractors and tankers to suck up the waters from flooded houses and business premises, and to remove the flood from Main Street, Brodrick Street and other parts of the town. Irish Distillers used their equipment to assist properties on the Dungourney Road whilst clearing the floodwaters from their own property. Many shopkeepers reopened as soon as they could, often within a day of the flooding.

The reality is that Midleton was actually fortunate that matters were not worse than they turned out to be. This is of no comfort to the people evacuated from their flooded homes, or to businesspeople who are still picking up the pieces. Some thirty or so families were evacuated or had to abandon their homes and some forty businesses suffered, some being flooded for the first time ever. Yet, compared with the people living along the banks of the Shannon River (who have been inundated from the middle of December at the latest) and in Bandon (who were flooded twice), Midleton got off relatively lightly.

Regrettably, Midleton IS historically prone to flooding, but thankfully it usually affects just one or two localized parts of the town. The flooding of December 2015 was a severe shock – the lack of warning, the extent of the damage, the closure and even destruction of local roads was a real wake-up call to the people of Midleton. We have to do something about the matter. Hopefully something will come of the public meeting at the Midleton Park Hotel on Tuesday 12th January at 6.30 pm.

Searching for Midleton’s ‘lost’ 19th century brewery.

View of Drury's Avenue through the archway under the granary which marks the north-eastern boundary of the site of the 'lost' brewery.

View of Drury’s Avenue through the archway under the granary which marks the north-eastern boundary of the site of the ‘lost’ brewery. This archway seems to be too low to be the main entrance to the brewery. Very likely the entrance was on Charles Street, now Connolly Street.

When researching the history of Midleton, one must admit that it can be very frustrating trying to put together an accurate picture of the town’s past. There really must be something in the local water supply that allows people to forget that there were once TWO distilleries in Midleton. And there were TWO breweries. As already noted on this blog, Midleton had a brewery established and run by the Coppinger family from at least the 1790s to the late 1830s when it closed, probably under pressure from Fr Theobald Mathew’s temperance campaign. The site and the main brewery building are still extant at the southern end of Main Street.

In his Topographcial Dictionary (1837), Samuel Lewis mentions ‘….two very large breweries and two extensive malting establishments….’ We know that the malting establishments were in Ballinacurra, and one brewery was the Coppinger establishment in Midleton, which was noted by the Ordnance Survey in its first edition six inch map of the town c.1843. But the Coppinger brewery had closed by then. William Shaw Mason’s Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland (Vol 3), from 1819, notes only one brewery in Midleton. So where was the other brewery mentioned in Lewis?

Midleton's 'lost' brewery (outlined in orange) was located between Main Street and Drury's Lane (now Drury's Avenue) but seems to have closed as a brewery before the first edition six inch Ordnance Survey map of the town was published.

Midleton’s ‘lost’ brewery (outlined in orange) was located between Main Street and Drury’s Lane (now Drury’s Avenue) but seems to have closed as a brewery before the first edition six inch Ordnance Survey map of the town was published. The ‘Old Brewery’ at the bottom of the map was the establishment of John and Joseph Coppinger.

A gentleman who joined my second Heritage Week walking tour of Midleton’s commercial and industrial heritage on Sunday 30th August has supplied me with information from the preliminary maps made by the Ordnance Survey. These preliminary maps or surveys were never published, but they do show the presence of a brewery on a site just off Main Street.

It seems the site of the brewery stretched from Main Street to Drury’s Lane (now called Drury’s Avenue, although it is still a laneway in its dimensions). It seems that the premises on Main Street may have been a public house or a shop selling beer. Because the old archway into the site from Drury’s Avenue is so low, it is likely that the entrance to the brewery was almost certainly on Charles Street (no Connolly Street), at the former Tattan’s Yard, now redeveloped into an apartment complex called Granary Court. The granary referred to by this name is actually located on Drury’s Avenue and stretches down both the northern and southern side of the site. The large building is now converted into apartments. Almost certainly part of this was actually a malthouse for supplying malt barley for brewing.

The site of Midleton's 'lost' brewery was a long narrow town plot with tall maltings and grain stores on each side. Behind the building on the right was a tannery.

The site of Midleton’s ‘lost’ brewery was a long narrow town plot with tall maltings and grain stores on each side. Behind the building on the right was a tannery. The buildings are now converted into apartments. The spire in the distance is that of St John the Baptist’s Church (Anglican). The archway noted above would be located behind the viewer.

The key difficulty now presented to us is to identify the owner. Pigott’s directory of 1824 gives us John and Joseph Coppinger as brewers and maltsters in Midleton. But it also gives us John Lomasney as a maltster. No address is given for him so we must presume that, like the Coppingers, he was based in Midleton itself rather than in Ballinacurra. To make matters even more interesting, the adjoining plot to the north of this brewery was a tannery. One can hardly imagine two less congenial neighbours. Obviously the brewers had to ensure that their water supply was not contaminated by runoff from the tannery.

Two things come out of this. First is Lewis’s description of TWO…’..very large breweries…’ in Midleton. The scale of the buildings remaining on this second site seems to support this. Midleton could easily have developed into a major brewing center in County Cork. Secondly, the fact that the second brewery seems to be omitted from the local memory or even the local record is striking, almost as if the town wished to forget its association with brewing, whilst acknowledging its links to distilling.

There’s more work to be done on this! Watch this space!

I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Caen Harris in providing valuable information for this post.