‘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.

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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/