St Nicholas Priory in Exeter and the creation of East Cork parishes

medieval charter

A medieval charter with seals attached. One seal is for the granter, the others are for the witnesses. This is NOT one of the charters mentioned in this post.

When the Anglo-Norman invaders Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen invaded the kingdom of Cork in 1177, they immediately began to donate some of the income from their land seizures to a small Benedictine priory in Exeter, in the county of Devon.

The Priory of St Nicholas was founded following after William the Conqueror presented the church of St Olave in Exeter to his newly founded Battle Abbey in Sussex. Battle Abbey was founded by William after 1070 on the site of the Battle of Hastings after he was instructed to do so by Pope Alexander II in reparation for the volume of blood spilled during the battle in 1066.

Two years after the battle of Hastings, William laid siege to Exeter, which had rebelled against him. The rebellion had probably been instigated by the lady Githa, the mother of King Harald Godwinson, the Anglo-Saxon king killed at Hastings. William took a fearful revenge on Exeter, but Githa managed to escape into exile, probably in her birthplace of Denmark. Shortly after his foundation of Battle Abbey, in 1070, William gave the Exeter church of St Olave to the abbey. The abbey sent a party of monks to Exeter to administer the church and its estates. They promptly set about building a monastery and a new church for the monastery, which they dedicated to St Nicholas in 1087, the very year that William the Conqueror died. The priory remained relatively small and subordinate to Battle Abbey until the smaller monasteries were dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1536. The prior and monks were pensioned off and the church and cloister pulled down. The remaining structures were sold off and later transformed into a large house during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

From 1177, the priory was the beneficiary of grants made to it by the Anglo-Norman invaders of Ireland. Some of these endowments were in County Wexford, but it seems the majority were in County Cork. The church of St Sepulchre on the south side of the city was renamed for St Nicholas when it was given to the Exeter priory by Milo de Cogan, with a considerable parcel of land outside the city. The old Church of Ireland of St Nicholas on Douglas Street is on the same site.

In 1936, the Royal Irish Academy published the records of these grants in an article written by Dr Eric St John Brooks (Litt D), who had inspected them in the Exeter Muniment Room. The Bedfordshire Historical Record Society informs us that Dr Eric St John Brooks (1883-1955) was born in Dublin but spent most of his career in England working for The Times and the Times Literary Supplement. His research interests focused on Irish history and he became one of the leading authorities on the Anglo-Norman period and edited documents for the Irish Manuscripts Commission.

The documents that Dr Brooks recorded consist of ten charters of which two refer to County Wexford and the rest are concerned with County Cork. Four of these are joint grants of Robett FitzStephen and Milo de Cogan, One is from Milo de Cogan, another is from his brother, Richard de Cogan, a most interesting one referring to Imokilly comes from Thomas de Landri (locally Landers), and a final one comes from Bishop Alan O’Sullivan of Cloyne and refers to lands in Imokilly. The seal of Robert FitzStephen is also preserved on some charters, depicting a knight on horseback. Milo de Cogan and his brother also have seals depicting a tree.

seal of alan fitzwalter

The seal of Alan FitzWalter resembles that of Robert FitzStephen. The knight on horseback was a popular motif for seals of landowners in the 12th century.

The reference to the deeds will also include supplementary information derived from Paul McCotter’s important work: A History of the Medieval Diocese of Cloyne (2013), a work that seriously updates Brooks’ paper.

The seven earliest deeds relating to County Cork are written in the what seems to be the same hand, except for that of Thomas de Landri. There is also a cartulary or roll of charters, all copied from originals around the time of King Edward I (reigned 1273-1307). Sadly, the edges of the vellum cartulary had been nibbled by generations of mice by the time Brooks recorded the documents it contained. This meant that some of the details of the documents have been destroyed. But reference to other evidence suggested solutions to some of the missing details.

This post will deal with the documents relating to Imokilly and Barrymore.

Document 1: This was a grant by Thomas de Landry of all the tithes of Balicornere to St Nicholas Priory in Exeter. This was a grant of all the tithes of the parish of Ballygourney, also called Ballintemple or Churchtown South in Imokilly. the grant doesn’t mention a church in Ballygourney, so it seems that there was no church there at the time. Indeed the parish may only have been formed, perhaps with this grant. We know from later sources that the parish church was later dedicated to St Nicholas suggesting that the priory in Exeter had the medieval church constructed and dedicated to its own patron saint. Thomas de Landri’s descendants gave their name to the townland of Ballylanders in this parish. This deed can be dated some time between 1177 and 1182.

Document 2: A deed granted by Bishop Alan (O’Sullivan) of Cloyne (1240-1248) to St Nicholas of Exeter of the lands of ‘Killmedwa’ and ‘Ardcatten.’ These two places are not precisely identified. It is thought that ‘Killmedwa’ was actually Kilva townland, located north of Cloyne. The priory had to pay a rent of 2 pounds of wax annually on the feast of St Colman (24th November). The grant also included a messuage (a town holding) at ‘Imelbeltim’ in Cloyne. One of the witnesses was Thomas de Cavilla, who was later confirmed as prebend of Kilcredan in 1248. This deed was dated 7th March 1244 and granted at Cloyne.

Turning to the cartulary roll we have a number of other documents to consider below.

Document 3: Grant of Robert FitzStephen of the lands of ‘Chelmechwe’ and ‘Canetocher’ and ‘Artathy’ to St Nicholas of Exeter for the soul of the granter’s brother, William Wallensis (Walsh), and for the soul of the granter’s soul, of his wife’s soul, his father’s soul and that of his mother. The lands named above are identified by Brooks as Kilva (‘Chelmechwe’ – also ‘Killmedwa’ above?). ‘Canetocher’ is probably Carrigatogher townland. ‘Artathy’ is uncertain but it must have been high ground in the vicinity of the first two, on the high ground north of Cloyne.William Wallensis or ‘Walsh’ as we would now call him was originally William of Hay, who with his brothers, Walter and Howel, were all sons of the famous Nesta of Wales – who was also the mother of Robert FitzStephen. McCotter disagrees with Brooks, who thought it was near Castlemartyr, and suggests that it refered to Aghada parish.

Document 4: Grant of Roger de Caunttiton (Condon) of his church of Corkbeg to St Nicholas of Exeter. the grant also includes ‘Incheogaryanochillan’. This last is probably not the parish of Inch but may refer to the island of Corkbeg.

Document 5: Grant of Robert FitzStephen to St Nicholas of Exeter of ten carucates of land between a ‘dún and the sea’ and another ten carucates ‘beyond the  wood.’ This was almost certainly in the parish of Aghada where the dun was probably the site of FitzStephen’s first castle in Imokilly. Brooks suggests that it was in the land between Ballinacurra and Castlemartyr, but McCotter is surely correct to identify it as the parish of Aghada. The grant also included the chapel of his castle – so this was the origin of the parish of Aghada, and its appropriation by St Nicholas of Exeter. In theory a carucate was about 120 acres but it varied depending on the fertility of the soil.

Document 6: A grant by Walter FitzRobert of the church of Clonpriest to St Nicholas of Exeter. This included all the tithes and benefits of the church and parish. The proviso was that the granter’s son, William, would hold the church for life, paying the priory of St Nicholas a pound of wax every year. It seems that St Nicholas Priory didn’t hold this property for very long because it ended up in the parish of Youghal and was held by the College of St Mary in Youghal from the 1400s.

seal of gilbert de clare 1148

Seal of Gilbert de Clare about 1148. Gilbert was Earl of Pembroke and the father of Richard FitzGilbert de Clare – better known as Stongbow.

Document 7: Robert de la Marshall granted his church of ‘Chalcorfyn’ with all tithes, oblations and with 1 knight’s fee to St Nicholas of Exeter. The grant was also quit of all obligations to him. This was the parish of Kilcurfin which was a separate parish until the early 1600s when it was united with Carrigtwohill parish. The townland of Kilcorfin lies north west of the village of Carrigtwohill. This grant was probably made in 1185.

What these documents show is the origin of some of the parishes in East Cork following the arrival of the Anglo-Normans. These parishes were based on the feudal land grants made to his followers by Robert FitzStephen. So these civil parishes approximate to the estates carved out by the invading forces in 1177. The Anglo-Normans (and one Gaelic bishop) settled these properties and incomes on the modest priory of St Nicholas of Exeter immediately after the invasion of 1177. The priory must have been relieved to be so generously endowed so rapidly. It should be noted that in 1615 the FitzGeralds of Ballymaloe claimed that these endowments had belonged to the Abbey of Chore – a breathtaking act of fraud following the Reformation! 

Samhain, Halloween and Witches

Snap-Apple_Night

Daniel Maclise’sSnap Apple Night or All Hallow’s Eve at Blarney, painted in 1833 but depicting the celebrations in Fr Matthew Horgan’s barn on 31st October 1832.

 

With Halloween upon us it is worth remembering that it derives its origins from the ancient Celtic quarter feast of Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest (Deireadh Fomhair) and the beginning of winter. In fact the festival of Samhain marked the end of the ‘bright half’ of the year and the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the year (which ran until Bealtaine, about 1st of May).

Modern spoilsport meteorologists will tell you that ‘winter’ properly begins on 21st December, the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere. Ancient Samhain was marked with a harvest feast and customs of divination – attempting to divine the future, a feature we still find in the ring, stick, pea and rag in the barm brack and in the whole snap apple custom celebrated in Daniel Maclise’s wonderful ‘Snap Apple Night in Blarney or All Hallows Eve,’ which he painted in 1833. The large painting depicts a Halloween entertainment held by Fr Mathew Horgan, the Parish Priest of Blarney and Whitechurch, in his barn on 31st October 1832, an event that Maclise attended with Thomas Crofton-Croker. All social classes were mixed together to enjoy the night’s revels. There’s nothing scary about Maclise’s depiction of a community coming together to enjoy themselves after the harvest had been gathered in. Samhain was celebrated as both a harvest festival with feasting from the (hopeful) abundance of the harvest…and a time of ghosts.  It was a time when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was particularly thin and the ghosts of ancestors could visit the living, and even bring their living relatives back to the world of the dead with them! To avoid any unexpected encounters, the living donned disguises to prevent their dead relatives from bringing them to the underworld. Oddly enough, Mexico’s Day of the Dead occurs at the same time with visits to the graves of dead relatives. A potent mixture of ancient Aztec beliefs and the Christian All Saints and All Souls celebrations, it has eerie echoes of the Celtic Samhain.

Turnip Jack O Lantern

The Irish Jack O’Lantern was made from a turnip, not a pumpking, since pumpkins were unknown in Ireland. 

There is no evidence that the early Roman church tried to suppress Samhain, simply because the festival was just unknown in RomeRome, however,  observed a feast of the Holy Martyrs, or All Saints, on 13th May, while in Ireland the same feast was celebrated on 20th April. When Pope Gregory tII (pontificate 731-741) built an oratory in (Old) St Peter’s Basilica to house the relics of the martyrs, he moved the Feast of All Saints to 1st November. In the tradition of the Church, the feast began at sunset on 31st October, and the Pope suppressed the feast day of 13th May. The problem in Ireland was that 1st November coincided very closely with the festival of Samhain, which was already entrenched in Irish society and tradition, so the Samhain customs survived in Ireland on that day. However, following the English invasions, and the change of language in Ireland, Samhain soon became Halloween – the Eve of the Feast of All Saints.

How did we go from the sociable celebration of Halloween as depicted by Daniel Maclise to the modern association of Halloween with horror? How did it turn into ‘fright night’? The source is the United States and Hollywood – or rather American (and British) film and television programmes. If you don’t believe this, just ask ‘when did we begin to associate carved pumpkins with Halloween in Ireland’? When I was young we often picked up sugar beet discarded from passing trucks to carve into lanterns. They were, frankly, much more spooky than the colourful American pumpkins. Originally the lanterns were carved from turnips – the National Museum of Folk Life in Castlebar has a truly frightening example of such a lantern. One must wonder if the massive arrival of Irish emigrants fleeing the horrors of the Great Famine (1845-1850) brought their traditions with them and added in the horrors of the massive mortality during the famine.

Witchhunt

The burning of witches took off following the 16th century Reformation and continued into the 17th century.

The association of Halloween with witchcraft was yet another American association. It you visit the lovely old town of Salem, Massachusetts, at this time of the year you will discover that the town is filled with more witches than ever lived there in 1692-1693, when 25 people died during the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Here in Ireland we have three infamous witch trials to consider.

The earliest was the persecution of Alice Kyteler of Kilkenny by the English-born Franciscan bishop of Ossory, Richard Ledrede. In 1324 Ledreded declared that his diocese was a hotbed of witchcraft, centred about Alice Kyteler, according to the accusations of her step children. Alice had married the Kilkenny merchant William Outlaw in about 1280 and had a son, also called William. But Outlaw had died by about 1300. Her son William was declared an adult in 1303. In the meantime Alice had married the merchant Adam le Blund of Callan. In 1307 le Blund had quitclaimed his wealth and possessions to his stepson, William, cutting out his own children by a previous marriage.  Soon after, Adam died and Alice married the Tipperary landowner Richard de Valle (Wall). Richard made a settlement that benefitted Alice’s son William, despite having a legitimate son of his own. When Richard died his son was sued by Alice for withholding her dower (widow’s portion).  Alice had married for a fourth time to John le Poer, who died of a wasting disease.

Bishop Ledrede’s accusations against Alice were based on the animosity of her stepchildren and his dislike of financially successful women. Alice fled abroad but her maidservant, Petronilla, was tortured and burned at the stake. There was no evidence that Alice was ever a witch.

The next witch trial was that of Florence Newton of Youghal at the Cork Assizes in September 1661. The impoverished Newton had approached the house of John Pyne in Youghal to seek old bread to eat. Pyne’s maid, Mary Longdon, refused her even a scrap of food, and, despite Newton saying she bore Mary no ill will, the maid shortly afterward began to experience fits and trances. Various incidents suggested to the town elders that Mary was bewitched and during the trial, Longdon, went into fits in the presence of Newton. The fits only stopped when Newton was removed from the courtroom. Alas, we don’t know the final verdict but, given that the trial used the English witchcraft law of 1586 and the English attorney general Sir William Ashton was present, it is likely that the unfortunate Florence Newton was executed for witchcraft.

The last great witch trials in Ireland happened in 1711. The trials involved the obviously fake accusation against a number of women in Islandmagee, the peninsula in County Antrim that looks across to Scotland.  And this is important, because Scotland is thought to have tortured and executed more ‘witches’ per capita of population than any other country in Europe between 1479 and 1727 – some 2,500 people in total, of whom only 15% were men. The trial of eight women took place in the nearby town of Carrickfergus. The women were accused of indulging in witchcraft against yet another servant girl, Mary Dunbar. The charges were patently false but, as at Salem two decades before, this was  Presbyterian-Scots community under enormous religious, legal and economic pressure. The accused women were sentenced to the stocks and to be imprisoned for a year.

malleus_maleficarum 1596

A 16th Century (1596) printed copy of Malleus Maleficarum by Heninrich Kramer, originally published in 1487.

‘Witches’ were usually single women who appeared to be ‘unnatural’ to the men in the community and they had nothing to do with Halloween. Astonishingly the Church actually forbade the persecution of people for witchcraft in the early medieval period on the grounds that witches simply did not exist! This all changed in the period after 1100 and became rife by 1300, leading to the horrific witch-hunts between 1500 and 1700. The key to this was the publication in 1487 of Malleus Maleficarum by the inquisitor Henrich Kramer which proported to set out the means of indentifying and confirming the guild of ‘witches’ – much to the dismay of many German bishops who had banned his witch hunts. The book became the basis of all witch hunts from then even for the anti-Catholic reformers! Remember, Kramer was a Dominican friar! The horror of the sixteenth and seventeenth century witch hunts must have lingered long in the memory, to be revived as a scary story for Halloween.

Happy Halloween to everyone!

The ‘city’ of Cloyne – developing a medieval Irish town.

 

Cloyne emerging from the mist-JimONeill2

Jim O’Neill’s wonderfully atmostpheric aerial view of Cloyne emerging from the morning mist with the square tower of St Colman’s Catholic Church in the foreground and the Round Tower with the Cathedral in the background. 

There is a tradition that a town with a cathedral is deemed to be a ‘city’ regardless of how small the settlement actually is. Think of the tiny ‘city’ of St David’s in Wales, so well known to the Norman invaders of Ireland in 1169. But we don’t have cross St George’s Channel to experience this phenomenon. We have a native Irish bishop of Cloyne to thank for that designation of….Cloyne! Bishop Daniel O’Finn, who was the bishop of Cloyne between 1247 and 1264, used the phrase ‘…dictam civitatis…’ (..of the said city…) in his Charter of Cloyne. This charter is contained in the Pipe Roll of Cloyne which was assembled in the 1360s by Bishop John of Swaffham. So Cloyne has been deemed a ‘city’ since the middle of the thirteenth century. Indeed the beginnings of this ‘city’ were traced back, in the very same charter, to Bishop David McKelly O’Gilla Patrick (FitzPatrick!), who was the bishop of Cloyne from 1237 until 1238 when he was translated to Cashel. Bishop David granted the first charter to Cloyne a detail we learn from Bishop Daniel’s confirmatory charter which states that ‘…I and my successors will warrant….and we will safeguard to the said citizens and their heirs the aforesaid arrangement of my predecessor…’ So clearly Bishop David had set in train the process of making Cloyne into a proper town. The Charter of Bishop Daniel simply confirmed this arrangement. The intervening bishop, Alan O’Sullivan (1239-1246), seems to have been entirely satisfied by Bishop David’s arrangement, although there is no direct evidence. Bishop David also created Kilmaclenine (near Buttevant) as a borough on the same lines, although that place was never designated a ‘city’.

The Charter of Bishop Daniel also tells us that Bishop David had ‘measured and perambulated’ the north side of the ‘city’. This detail is crucial for it is now clear that the ‘city’ referred to in the charter was actually the ecclesiastical zone around the cathedral and round tower which were located on the southern side of the town.  So the plan of Cloyne with its four streets meeting at a crossroads in the middle of the town was set out by Biship David, and the town must have been developing rapidly at that time. This was an ideal time to develop a new town in Imokilly because the district had calmed down after the MacTire/McCarthy rebellion against the Normans had died out after 1220. The cathedral was probably built at the same time. The town was not laid out on a map, but on the ground itself. This should not surprise us…..if the bishops were Anglo-Normans, but, until the appointment of Nicholas de Effingham in 1284, the bishops of Cloyne all appear to have been native Irishmen and were clearly influenced by the Norman custom of founding towns. Proof of this lies in both the layout of Cloyne and in a fascinating, and very specific, reference in Bishop Daniel’s charter.

First Ordnance Survey Map Cloyne

Cloyne in the first edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch map (about 1842). Note the ecclesiastical zone with the cathedral and round tower making the original ‘city’ and the town planned out by Bishop  David  in 1237-1238 and confirmed by Bishop Daniel around 1250.

Cloyne is laid out around a crossroads with streets leading exactly north, south, east and west. This plan is certainly not an accident. The eastern street (now called Rock Street) is especially wide to accommodate a market. The bishop’s castle (his residence) stood on the south side of this street. Cloyne House, now a private residence, is the more recent successor to the medieval residence of the bishops of Cloyne.

The bishop says that ‘…I and my successors will deal with them (the citizens of Cloyne) honestly according as the laws of Breteuil have been heretofore used or will be used, and the said citizens and their heirs shall be responsible to me and my successors according to the same laws in all things.

Now this reference to Breteuil is both unexpected and crucial. Breteuil, or Breteuil-sur-Noye, is a small town in the Département of Oise in northern Normandy. It has a current (2012) population of about 4,500 inhabitants. Breteuil was founded as a castle about 1060 by William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror of England). William gave the castle of Breteuil to his cousin William FitzOsbern, who granted a charter of liberties to the men of the new town that developed there. FizOsbern installed a man called Roger as his castellan and this man’s son came to England in 1066 and was granted vast estates on the Marches (borders) of Wales. Roger the younger succeeded William FitzOsbern as Earl of Hereford in 1071 and set about settling his new lands, including founding towns, such as Hereford itself. The way to attract settlers to these new towns was to give them a generous charter of liberties. Roger had only one model to draw on – the charter of Breteuil, and this became the model for new towns founded in England, Wales and Ireland by the Normans. The charter of Breteuil hasn’t survived, but among the known provisions were: the granting of large burgage plots (town plots); few, and low, fines (feudal custom imposed fines for almost everything!); permission for the townspeople to take wood from the lord’s forest for building and heating. It is also claimed that the custom whereby a serf who managed to flee his master and stay in a town for a year and a day was deemed a free man (and was no longer a serf) was one of the customs of Breteuil, but this is actually uncertain. What is important is that the law of Breteuil was clearly designed to attract settlers, as happened in Cloyne.

breteuil church

An old postcard of the square (place) in Breteuil-sur-Noye.

Bishop Daniel’s charter confirmed the grant to each burgess (townsman) eight acres, in addition to the long thin burgage plots leading off the four streets.’…to have and to hold…freely, quietly, entirely, fully, honourably and peaceably in wood, plains and roads, in paths, meadows and pastures, in moors, marshes and waters…’ This rule applied to the inhabitants ‘…of whatever nation they may be…’  So Cloyne would not discriminate between the Gaelic Irish and the Norman (English, Welsh, Fleming or French). The citizens could take turf from the bog to the south of Cloyne for heating, as much as they required for their household needs.  And all this on payment of a rent of one mark sterling paid half at Easter and half at Michaelmas (29th September). A mark was not a coin but a unit of account worth 160 pence sterling, or 13 shillings and 4 pence or two thirds of a pound sterling (80 pence at Easter and Michaelmas). It’s worth noting that the two townlands located due south of Cloyne are called Commons East and Commons West, and are divided by the road that runs south from the crossroads at the centre of the town.

And Cloyne even had a portreeve, or ‘mayor’ or ‘provost’. He was chosen by a twelve burgesses (citizens of the town) who, presumably, formed a council. In essence, the portreeve and his fellow councillors answered to the bishop for the rents, fines and debts as well as the actions and failures of the townspeople. Did they meet where the courthouse used to sand on Rock Street? This would make sense if the market court or piepouder (pied poudre, French for ‘dusty feet’) court was held there and the market dues were collected there too.

And there is one more piece of evidence for the development of the town of Cloyne in the 1200s. In 1299, the sheriff of Cork submitted a report to the king in which he identified the towns in the county which held a weekly market.  Normally, the market was licensed by the king but, given the slow communications even with Dublin in the 1200s, local lords set up their own markets, presumably with the intention of getting a royal licence at a later stage. Carrigtwohill and Youghal are listed for they each had a royal market licence. However, ‘Midleton’ (actually, Corabbey), Ballinacurra and Cloyne are also listed.  Now this is interesting because these places did not have a royal market licence from the King – in each case a cleric (the abbot in Corabbey and bishop in Cloyne) or the lord of the manor (Ballinacurra), authorised the market. In Corabbey (Midleton) it was the abbot of the Cistercian monastery who set it up, and in Cloyne it was the bishop who authorised the weekly market….right outside his own residence on the present Rock Street! This may actually be a factor of the laws of Breteuil – that the inhabitants could conduct a market on payment of a fee to the lord of the manor.

Cloyne sth side

The original ‘city’ of Cloyne consisted of the ecclesiastical zone of the cathedral and the much earlier round tower. This was the site of the monastery founded by St Colman before 600 AD.

So, there you have it – Cloyne was a ‘city’ and burgary, or borough, in the 1200s. And it was developed by the Gaelic Irish bishops and was run according to the laws and customs of a town in….Normandy. I seem to recall that the late Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe once wrote that ‘Imokilly is the Normandy of Ireland’. She was referring to the rich farmland, agricultural produce and fresh fish from Ballycotton (all we’re missing is the cider!) …. but little did she realise how remarkably true that was on her very own doorstep!

The Murdered Man on his Black Horse – a memory of the 1641 rebellion in East Cork folklore?

Hanging a Protestant Minster 1641

The gruesome murder of the Protestant Minister, Mr Blandry in Ulster in 1641. (Image from Trinity College, Dublin)

 

Be careful what you do or you’ll meet the murdered man on a black horse.

In the 1940s, this warning was given to children living near Churchtown North by the Two Mile Inn just east of Midleton. In fact it applied to the road running from the graveyard at Churchtown (North) to Kilmountain Cross, the L3627, although I have no idea if it applied to the continuation of the same road beyond Kilmountain Cross towards Mogeely. I first heard this warning at the beginning of December 2018, followed by the question ‘who was the murdered man?

Having attended the Midleton Library launch of Peter O’Shea’s book Murder Most Local, which recounts the stories of murders in East Cork from the early 1730s to the 1930s, I thought I’d bring the story back further. Peter noted that, thankfully, East Cork seemed to have been a lot less murderous than West Cork for which several volumes could be written just on the subject of local murder alone!

Let’s look at the introductory statement again – a murdered man on a black horse. These are very specific details. How did the local people know the man had been murdered? There seem to be no visible or gruesome details in the story. What about the ‘black horse’? Why specifically that colour? Even in the 1940s, before rural electrification, a brown or dun coloured horse would look black at night, but the detail is remarkably clear – the horse was definitely black.

The trouble with folklore is that it can be annoyingly unspecific and therefore difficult to pin down. Folklorists generally agree that such stories as the one noted above may contain a garbled verbal memory of something that happened ‘long ago.’ The challenge is to identify a specific incident that may be referred to in the local folklore. In the case under discussion, we may actually have an incident that is recalled in the warning – but we have to go back several centuries to a very turbulent period.

For our purpose I suggest that we can safely dismiss any association between the murdered man on his black horse with the tale previously recounted here of the 1182 massacre at Mogeely of the Anglo-Norman invaders Milo de Cogan and Ralph son of Robert FitzStephen. That story deals with the massacre of several men, whereas our folklore tale refers to just one man.

There is, however, a slightly more recent alternative incident more directly attached to the Churchtown-Mogeely road which may have given rise to the ‘murdered man on his black horse’.

The story starts in Ulster in 1641. Sir Phelim O’Neill and his co-conspirators organised a savage anti-Protestant rebellion. The rebellion was really about land and the fact that since the beginning of the 1600s most of the land in Ulster was confiscated from the overwhelmingly Catholic natives and granted to English and Scottish Protestant settlers. O’Neill’s rebellion was marked by murder and atrocities as well as robbery. By early 1642 the Ulster rebellion had spread countrywide, even into east Cork.

Sir_Phelim_O_Neill

Sir Phelim O’Neill, who plotted and led the initial phases of the Ulster Rebellion of 1641. (Image from Trinity College, Dublin)

In December 1641 the government of King Charles I set up the Commission for the Despoiled Subject to investigate the ‘disturbances’. The chairman of the Commission was the Rev Henry Jones, Dean of Kilmore, who was soon appointed Bishop of Clogher. The Commissioners quickly realised that many of the refugees from Munster were unable to get to Dublin and report to the commission, so Philip Bisse (or Bysse), the (Protestant) Archdeacon of Cloyne was appointed to take the depositions from those Protestants who had suffered in Munster. Bisse had to travel about the province to take the depositions from refugees. Unfortunately, it was a mission which cost him his life.

The best account of what happened comes from a refugee, Mrs Elizabeth Danvers, who had fled from Kilkenny and then from Mogeely. This Mogeely was the one in the barony of Kinatalloon, between Conna and Tallow, rather than the Mogeely in Imokilly. Elizabeth Danvers gave very detailed testimony to the Commission which revealed a lot about the rebellion in East Cork.  I’ll let Elizabeth tell the story in her own words as recorded in her deposition on 14th August 1645, preserving the spelling of the day:

‘About June 1643 (as this deponent hath very credibly heard) Certeine Rebells whose names they cannott expresse meeting with one Mr Bysse minister (whoe had bin employed as one of the Commissioners for enquiry of the losses & sufferings of his maiesties loyall subiects within the province of Mounster) nere Corr Abbey betweene Corke and Youghall did then and there very cruelly wound him the said Mr Bysse, and that done they there hanged him to death, there Leaving his body unburied exposed to Ravenous creatures.’  

Note that Mrs Danvers account says that the incident happened near Cor Abbey (now Midleton). But how do we know it was the Mogeely road, now designated L3627? Well, this was the main road from Cork to Youghal at the time for the stretch of the modern N25 between Churchtown North and Castlemartyr was only laid out in the later 18th century. Elizabeth says that Bisse’s body was left unburied by the roadside, an appalling prospect in a highly religious age. In a more superstitious age this was likely to lead to the road being haunted by the victim’s ghost. Elizabeth Danvers made her 1645 deposition before the head of the Commission….Henry Jones, who was now the Bishop of Clogher.

1641 Depositions manuscript

An original manuscript from the 1641 Depositions, written in ‘secretary hand’. (Image: Trinity College, Dublin)  

Incredibly, we may even have candidates for the murder of the archdeacon!  The Cromwellian government investigated a murder on the road from ‘Curr Abbey’ to ‘Carrick Towell’. In evidence given to investigators on 4th November, 1652, Mr Maurice Brown of Barryscourt told an interesting tale. In the year 1643 David Connell of Carrigtwohill had confessed to him that he had murdered Ensign Cooke in that same year and, furthermore, he even admitted…

 ….to the deponent (Maurice Brown), that hee was in Companie, with one John DrumAdda (John of Dromadda?) and others, who slew divers (i.e. several) English men, within fourteen dayes betweene Curr Abbey and Youghall.

According to the Down Survey, the townland of Dromaddamore (near Ladysbridge) was owned by Garrett Fitzgerald in 1641, while Dromaddabeg (also near Ladysbridge) was held by William Power of Shanagarry. We don’t know if John ‘DrumAdda’ was related to either man.

John Temple Irish Rebellion

Sir John Temple’s 1646 book about the Irish rebellion is still used today by some in Northern Ireland to justify their separation from the Republic of Ireland, despite being debunked by careful study of the 1641 Depositions. (Image: Trinity College, Dublin)

So, is the murdered man on the black horse the ghost of Philip Bisse, Archdeacon of Cloyne? It seems most likely that it was. After all, Elizabeth Danvers says that he encountered several rebels on the road, who promptly murdered him. They probably stole is valuable horse to boot.

We have no idea of David Connell or John of Dromadda were every punished for the murders committed on the road between Corabby and Youghal in 1643.

The same road where the Archdeacon was murdered is still used as an alternative route between Cork and Youghal whenever the N25 is blocked or impassable.

The depositions of Elizabeth Danvers and Maurice Brown are part of the original manuscript of the 1641 Depositions preserved in Trinity College, Dublin, and they can be viewed on the 1641 Depositions website: 1641.tcd.ie/index.php

 

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.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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.  

Short Course on Family History in Midleton.

familytree(d)

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

http://www.colmans.ie/adult-education/night-school

 

 

 

Happy Christmas to you all!

Christmas Candle 2017

It was a tradition in Ireland on Christmas Eve to light a candle and place it in a window to light the way for the Holy Family and Christ Child. The candle was lit by the youngest members of the household and kept alight all night. With the advent of electric candles, this tradition is now being revived. 

Wishing you all a very happy, and peaceful Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Christmas greeting 2017