Bold Fenian Men – a lecture to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Rising in East Cork.

Rock Terrace 2

A view to a killing: Rock Terrace, Midleton, was built in 1861 – a mere six years before the Fenians under Timothy Daly shot dead Sub-Constable Sheedy and injured Sub-Constable O’Donnell across the street at the entrance to Mr Green’s house. Note the date of construction made out in yellow brick on the right of the photograph.

A hundred and fifty years ago this month (Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th March 1867) the Fenian Rising took place in various parts of Ireland.  A major series of incidents happened in Knockadoon, Midleton and Castlemartyr. No official ceremonies have been arranged but on Saturday 18th March, there will be a lecture on the subject in Midleton Library. Appropriately the library is housed in the old Market House.which was used to house troops from the 14th Regiment in the aftermath of the Rising.

The lecture will take place on Saturday 18th March at 12.00 noon in Midleton Library. Admission is free and all are welcome!

 

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The 1867 Fenian Rising in Midleton, 5th and 6th March – 150 years ago this month.

1798-statue

Mistakenly called ‘The Fenian Man’ this statue actually commemorates the birth of Irish republicanism in the United Irishmen’s rebellions of 1798 – nearly seventy years BEFORE the 1867 Fenian Rising. However, the Fenian rebels who marched from Midleton to Castlemartyr did assemble at the Fair Green beyond the trees in the background.

In front of the Courthouse in Midleton there stands a recently erected life-sized bronze figure of a man holding a pike. The popular local name for this figure is ‘The Fenian Man‘. Unfortunately the name is a misnomer. The figure actually represents a participant in 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen – almost seven decades before the Fenian Rising. Many people in Midleton do not realise that the housing scheme called Tim Daly Terrace is actually the town’s real monument to Midleton’s role in the 1867 Fenian Rising.

The Fenian Rising is usually associated with other parts of the country , such as Tallaght in County Dublin and  Kilmallock in County Limerick. Yet, on the evening of March 5th 1867 about fifty men led by Tim Daly assembled at the Fair Green in Midleton to march ‘in military order‘ to Castlemartyr where they planned to attack the Constabulary barracks there Two police constables were shot at the Rock, Midleton, one, Sub-Constable Sheedy, being fatally wounded. The column continued to Castlemartyr via Ballinacurra and Ladysbridge, attracting further groups on the way. The attack on  Castlemartyr police barracks was fought off by the police, but it led to Tim Daly’s death. Daly left a wife and eight children. Sub-Constable Sheedy left a wife and seven children.

Damian Shiels’s blog Midleton Archaeology and Heritage Project gives an excellent account of the Fenian Rising in Midleton in 1867: https://midletonheritage.com/2012/12/14/midleton-and-the-1867-fenian-rising/

One of the ironies of Midleton’s involvement in the Fenian Rising is that almost exactly a month later the Christian Brothers opened their school in Midleton. The nationalist republican interpretation of Irish history is often called ‘the Christian Brothers’ version’ of Irish history. The present author’s personal experience of studying history at the same CBS Secondary School in the early 1980s is worth noting – Midleton (and East Cork’s) role in the Fenian Rising was entirely ignored!

‘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.

Book Review – The Geraldines and Medieval Ireland.

thomas_fitzgerald_10th_earl_of_kildare

Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, father of ‘Silken’ Thomas. This image appears on the dust jacket of the new book on the Geraldines.

On this day four hundred and eighty years ago six men were ‘…draun from the Tower in to Tyborne, and there all hongyd and hedded and quartered, save the Lord Thomas for he was but hongyd and hedded and his body buried at the Crost Freers in the qwere…‘* This was the sixteenth century description of the execution of Silken Thomas, 10th Earl of Kildare, and his five uncles on the charge of rebellion against King Henry VIII.

This is an appropriate anniversary to discuss much needed book, The Geraldines and Medieval Ireland, which was published late in 2016 by the Four Courts Press, Dublin. Edited by two Trinity College Dublin scholars, Peter Crooks and Seán Duffy, the book provides new insights into the origins, power, and influence of the FitzGeralds/Fitzgeralds (the Geraldines of the title) in Ireland from 1169 to the end of the sixteenth century. The last of the fifteen chapters, that written by Ruairí Cullen, acts as something as a coda with the intriguing title ‘The battle for the Geraldines: a contested legacy in nineteenth century Ireland’.

The origin of the FitzGeralds is outlined in Chapter 1 by one of the editors, Seàn Duffy. He looks at Gerald of Windsor, the eponymous Gerald of the FitzGerald family, and traces their origins in Normandy to Gerald’s grandfather, the eleventh century Norse settler, Óttárr. The lattet’s son, Walter fitz Oter was the father of both William of Windsor and Gerald. (There is a delicious irony in the fact that William’s sons were originally given the surname Windsor – nearly nine centuries before the British royal house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Wettin-Geulf adopted the name Windsor in 1917 in an attempt to distance themselves from their Germanic origins.) One thing is very clear from Duffy’s chapter – the family links of Walter and his sons were impressive. Walter was the keeper of the king’s castle at Windsor with its great hunting park. Walter’s third son, Gerald, had moved to Wales by 1097, or more specifically, to Pembrokeshire.In 1102 Arnoulf de Montgomery sent an embassy to Ireland to seek the daughter of King Muirchetach O Bríain of Munster as a bride! The embassy included Gerald of Windsor, his steward. Gerald himself married a Welsh princess, Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwyr, King of Deheubarth. It was another six decades before Gerald and Nest’s sons took part in the Anglo-Norman incursion into Ireland.

maurice-fitzgerald

Maurice FitzGerald brought the Geraldines to Ireland in 1169.

Huw Pryce provides an interesting chapter on the writings of Geraldus Cambrensis’s (Geraldus de Barri/Gerald of Wales) about the Geraldines  a crucial source of contemporary information. Geraldus’ mother was, of course, Angharad, daughter of Gerald of Windsor and Nest of Wales. Angharad had married William de Barri. Their son Philip de Barri was granted what is now the barony of Barrymore in south-east Cork and other lands by his uncle Robert FitzStephen (another son of Nest of Wales!).

The third chapter by Colin Veach explores the Geraldines and the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland.and chapter four gives us Linzi Simpson’s fascinating  study of the early Geraldine castles at Maynooth, Naas, Rathmore, Geashill, Lea, Shanid and Croom. Her analysis of Croom and its comparison with Dungarvan is masterly. This chapter reveals how the Anglo-Normans secured their authority in their newly conquered Irish estates.

windsor-castle

The original ‘House of Windsor’ was descended from Walter fitz Oter, the Castellan of Windsor Castle. His son was the eponymous Gerald of Windsor who gave his name to the FitzGeralds, the famous Geraldines of medieval Ireland. The British Royal Family only adopted the surname Windsor a century ago….in 1917!

I must admit to a little local disappointment with Brendan Smith’s otherwise excellent chapter on Geraldine lordship in thirteenth century Ireland. His statement ‘A de Barri probably founded the Cistercian house at Middleton in 1180’ is most distressing given that all the evidence suggests very clearly that Corabbey was a Gaelic Irish foundation as was superbly demonstrated by Denis O’Sullivan in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1945. To compound matters, there were no Barrys in Ireland in 1180 – Philip de Barri only arrived in 1182 to put down a revolt in Imokilly and Ui Liathain in south east Cork! Certainly the Barrys attempted to gain control of the abbey in the 1400s, finally succeeding in the early 1500s when Philip FitzDavid Barry became abbot. In fact Abbot Barry also became the first ‘farmer’ or leaseholder of the dissolved abbey in 1544. This was a very different matter from founding the abbey. Finally, Smith anachronistically calls the 1180 foundation ‘Middleton’ which is silly since the place was called Corabbey until 1670 – even William Penn called it that.. And ‘Middleton’ hasn’t been used as the town’s name since 1845 when the Postmaster General in London agreed to use the original 1870 spelling (Midleton).! Oh dear! I’m rather shocked at the editorial slippage there.Smith’s errors clearly show the importance of having a good local history with excellent references!

Paul McCotter’s chapter on the dynastic ramifications of the Geraldines is a delightful romp around the various branches of this sprawling clan. Reading this shows both extensive and intensive reach of the Fitzgeralds in various parts of Ireland. The Fitzgeralds of Imokilly were typical of the the local branches that established a tight grip on the area they occupied.

maynooth-castle-1

The ruined keep at Maynooth Castle. The fall of Maynooth to Sir William Skeffington in 1535 while ‘Silken’ Thomas was absent. Although the garrison surrendered, Skeffington ignored the usages of war and butchered them in what became known as the ‘Maynooth Pardon.’.

The peerless Robin Frame delves into the career of the first Earl of Desmond and his relationship with English authority. Peter Crooks, the other editor, examines the ascent and descent of the House of Desmond under the Lancastrians and Yorkists in the fifteenth century. Katherine Simms shows just how integrated into Gaelic culture were the various branches of the Fitzgeralds, while Aisling Byrne looks at their relationship with the culture of the wider world beyond Ireland. Sparky Booker investigates the sometimes problematic relationship between the Geraldines and the Irish.  The Great Earl of Kildare and the formation of the English Pale around Dublin is explored by Steven G Ellis.

For anybody interested in south east Cork David Edwards provides a thrilling study of the origins of the Desmond rebellions in the 1570s. What is particularly exciting is his analysis of the role of the two John FitzEdmund FitzGeralds – the seventh Seneschal of Imokilly and his cousin the Dean of Cloyne. The Seneschal is shown to be an member of the party of the FitzMaurice/Catholic rebel party amongst the Earl of Desmond’s advisers. The Dean is firmly identified with the peace party of advisers who cautioned the Earl of Desmond against fatal rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I. This chapter gives great insight into the politics in the ‘Court’ of the Earl of Desmond before the final fatal rebellion.

This blog post is being published on the anniversary of the execution of Silken Thomas – Thomas, Lord Offaly, on 3rd February 1537. Briefly 10th Earl of Kildare, Thomas Fitzgerald’s reputation among historians is considered by Ciaran Brady who reminds us that Thomas was actually a pretty astute political operator, although his rebellion against King Henry VIII was ill-advised, especially against such a monarch a vindictive monarch.

In all this is an excellent book. My own quibbles are very localized and they do not spoil this wonderful book’s contribution to the study of the most powerfully romantic family in later medieval Ireland.  Well done to the editors, contributers and the Four Courts Press for producing such a work.

Reference: *GG Nicholls The Chronicle of the Gray Friars of London. London, 1852. Pg 39. .

 

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.

2017 -Tercentenaries and other commemorations.

midleton-college-pic1

The original foundation building of Midleton Endowed School (now Midleton College) was completed under the supervision of Thomas Brodrick in 1717 and opened to take in pupils later that year. The present appearance of the front of the building is affected by the loss of the original cupola over the front door before 1750, and the blocking of windows probably in the 1820s refurbishment by the architect Joseph Welland, who was born about a mile away. The wing on the left is a later nineteenth century addition.

This year will see two tercentenaries marked in Midleton. First up comes the 300th anniversary of the first teaching year at Midleton College. The College, or Endowed School, was founded in 1696 by Elizabeth Villiers, Countess of Orkney, on a site in Midleton provided by the Brodrick family as a sort of payment for their political and legal assistance in helping her to resolve the disputes over King William III’s (William of Orange) grant of her Irish estates. The Free School, as it was also called, was finally completed in 1717 and George Chinnery was appointed its first Headmaster. It also took in its first pupils shortly after Chinnery’s appointment. Oh, and the School Governors finally paid off one of the joiners for providing the wainscotting to the schoolroom! I’ll follow up with a post on the vicissitudes of the foundation, and delayed completion, of the school in a later post. Suffice to say that the design of the original foundation building is intriguing because of its ultimate source. The design and construction of the building was specifically placed in the hands of Thomas Brodrick, the older of St John Brodrick’s two sons.

Alan_Brodrick

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

The second tercentenary to be marked is that of the creation of the Viscountcy of Midleton. In 1717, Alan Brodrick, Lord Chancellor of Ireland since 11th October 1714, was elevated as The Viscount Midleton. He already held a lessor title, Baron Brodrick of Midleton, since 1715 but this new title moved him up one rank in the peerage. It should be noted that his elevation was based on his own political acumen and credentials. Oddly, his older brother, Thomas Brodrick MP, was never given a title despite his chairmanship of the British parliamentary inquiry into the South Sea Bubble crash of 1720. Very likely the inquiry’s report accusing too many ministers of corruption left Tom Brodrick in a bad odour in Court circles.  Alan Brodrick remained Lord Chancellor of Ireland until 1725 when, in the wake of a dispute with Speaker William Connolly, he resigned. Unfortunately for him, Alan Brodrick was blamed by the Irish peers and MPs for the British Parliament’s Dependency of Ireland upon Great Britain Act of 1719 (popularly called the Declaratory Act) which asserted the British parliament’s right to make laws binding on Ireland notwithstanding the existence of the Irish parliament. In fact that Act came about due to the obstinacy of the Irish peers in Parliament who ignored the wiser advice of given them by Brodrick in the matter.  Alan Brodrick, 1st Viscount Midleton, Baron Brodrick of Midleton, held his titles as a member of the Irish peerage, which meant that he could not sit in the British House of Lords. However, he did sit in the British House of Commons as an MP following election for Midhurst. The title Viscount Midleton is still extant having passed to a cousin on the death of the second Earl of Midleton in the later 20th century.

midleton-market-house-clock

Midleton’s Market House now serves as the town library. The Tricolour was provocatively flown from the upper windows in 1917. Happily, the clock is due to be repaired this year.

In Easter 1917, a group of young nationalists in Midleton decided on a dramatic stunt to commemorate the first anniversary of the Easter Rising.  They got into the Market House on Main Street in Midleton and unfurled the ‘Republican Flag’ (the green, white and orange Irish tricolour) out of a window on the upper floor. At the time, this was a highly illegal gesture because the British authorities were still sensitive to any hint of sedition a year after the Easter Rising in 1916. It seems to have been the first know attempt to display in Midleton the flag that eventually became the national flag of the Irish state. The Market House now houses the public library. There are proposals to conserve and repair the Town Clock on the Market House this year. As an aside, a certain Henry Ford, whose family came from County Cork, established a tractor factory in Cork in 1917!

aghada-hall

Aghada Hall became the base of the US Naval Air Station Queenstown from 1918. The US Navy took up station in Cork Harbour in May 1917.

Of course there are other anniversaries to commemorate in 2017 – the centenary of the arrival of the US Navy into Cork Harbour as the United States was compelled to enter the First World War by the decoding of the Zimmerman Telegram which offered Mexico most of the western parts of the United States in return for attacking the US. It’s rather ironic that President-elect Donald Trump is indulging in sabre-rattling against Mexico a century later! The Germans were desperate in 1917 – is Trump desperate in 2017?

passchendaele

Battlefield or the swamp of Hell? They sent men to fight and die in that – the battlefield of Passchendaele in 1917.

Staying with the Great War, we will see the necessarily grim commemorations of the horrific battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. It lasted as long as the Battle of the Somme (July to November 1916) which we commemorated in Midleton by unveiling and dedicating a World War I memorial. For all the horrors of the Somme, Passchendaele was worse for the ground in Flanders was churned to mud and many of those who died were actually drowned rather than died of wounds inflicted by weapons.

luther-theses

Martin Luther’s protest at the abuse of church power sparked off the Protestant Reformation from 1517.

October 31st 2017 (yes, Hallowe’en!) will mark the 500th anniversary of the famous incident when the Augustinian friar Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the University church in Wittenberg to spark a debate on the efficacy and validity of indulgences. This act (which may or may not have happened) sparked off a movement that led to the Protestant Reformation. This is undoubtedly the biggest commemoration this year – and, hopefully, historians will provide new insights into a complex development.

This is just a sample of the events for this year.

Happy New Year!

 

‘Known by the trees’ – Autumn glories from the behind the demesne wall.

midleton-lodge-2016

The view from the front of Midleton Lodge shows the grove of trees on the north bank of the Dungourney River in mid-October 2016. The grove stands in front of the wall that separates the demesne from the woollen factory built by Marcus Lynch in 1794. This is factory is now part of the Jameson Experience, while Midleton Lodge is now the local council office and Lynch’s demesne is a public park. Lynch planted the trees in 1806-09.

Autumn ended in Ireland on Thursday 17th November when a cold Arctic snap plunged the comfortable temperatures into a biting winter mode with a dusting of snow in many parts of the country. Midleton, happily, escaped the snow but not the cold. The long, dry, sunny and pleasantt autumn weather was a most welcome season before the onset of winter. One of the glories of Midleton, and East Cork in general, this autumn been the colour of the leaves as they changed from green to yellow to red and then to brown before falling.

This abundance of trees in East Cork is due to an ironic circumstance of history. William J Smyth of UCC referred to this in a lecture he gave to the Royal Dublin Society in 1996. The title of his lecture was ‘The Greening of Ireland – Tenant tree-planting in Ireland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries‘;  Smyth introduced his lecture with quotations from two Irish poems – one an anonymous but well known seventeenth century Irish (Gaelic) verse that we all learned at school, and the other twentieth century quotation came from a poem by Austin Clarke.

The seventeenth century reference from the poem Kilcash asks:

What shall we do without timber,

the last of the woods is down.

The Austin Clarke reference tells us:

For the house of the planter

Is known by the trees.

kilcash-castle

Kilcash Castle in County Tipperary is best known through the anonymous seventeenth century poem lamenting the passing of the old order, symbolised by the loss of woodlands.

The poem ‘Kilcash‘ refers to the systematic destruction of the ancient Irish woods and forests in the seventeenth century by the new English planters who had been granted estates in Ireland. Part of the reason for the destruction of the woods was to deny any Irish rebels and outlaws a place of refuge. A second reason was to enable the planters to make a quick financial return on their new estates – England was severely short of good timber for building houses and ships and for barrel staves. In addition wood was needed for making charcoal to smelt iron, especially iron for making cannon for the fleet. One of the key culprits in this activity was Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. Between 1600 and 1670 most of the remaining Irish woodlands were lost as a result of the various plantations imposed on different parts of the country.

Clarke’s poem makes ironic reference to the fact that those planter families were later instrumental in planting new trees to take the denuded look off their surrounds – mind you, this was done mostly inside the high walls surrounding the demesnes of the ‘Big House’.Those walls screened the bare countryside from easily offended eyes, and protected both the inhabitants and their trees from the peasantry. Thus the descendants of the people who originally cut down the forests and woods were also the first to begin replanting, often with foreign species! Even today, a plantation of deciduous trees indicates the site of a ‘big house’, whether intact or in ruins.

It was really only from the 1690s that the new landlords began to plant trees as a policy of ‘improvement’ on their estates. Between 1697 and 1791 Smyth estimates that there were seven parliamentary acts relating to tree-planting in Ireland. It was only from 1721 that tenants were given parliamentary encouragement to plant trees, and by 1765 tenants had an entitlement to the value of all the trees they’d planted.The really big improvements came with the foundation of the Dublin Society (later Royal Dublin Society) in 1731 and the act of 1765, which required the registration of trees planted in order to claim ownership. It was the 1791 act that led to a spectacular surge in tree-planting in the decades that followed.  From the surviving registers we get a good idea of why East Cork is so well wooded. Smyth notes that the densest area of planting seems to have been the barony of Imokilly (between Midleton and Youghal), and the southern part of Barrymore  This was a region of dense tree-planting between 1790 and 1815. (There was a dip between 1815 and 1820 when planting began again.)

Despite all this planting, British visitors to Ireland in the nineteenth century frequently noted the bare appearance of the Irish countryside, noting that the few trees were to be found within the walls of demesnes. Even now, with all the State forestry planting programmes, Ireland has only 8% of its land under forest or woodland, the lowest percentage of tree cover in the EU.

Donal P. and Eileen McCracken published a paper with the title ‘A Register of Trees, Co Cork, 1790-1860‘ in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1976 giving the register of tree-planting in County Cork. By the mid-1800s County Cork possessed nearly 52,000 acres of trees in plantations, nearly 15% of the Irish total.The register gives the numbers of trees planted by civil parish, with the townlands where the trees were planted being named. There are problems with the list – some townlands are clearly placed in the incorrect parish, so caution is advised when using this source.

path-in-midleton-lodge

A path in Marcus Lynch’s grove of trees between the Dungourney River and the wall of the old distillery in Midleton in October 2016.

The figures for Midleton Parish (called Middletown in the text) are as follows: Marcus Lynch planted 2010 in the grounds of Midleton Lodge between 1806-09; Samuel McCall planted 5,590 trees at Charleston in Castleredmond in 1809-12, and Swithin Fleming (incorrectly named Southeen in the text) planted 1,770 trees at Lakeview in Castlererdmond in 1831 (which indicates that his house was built by then); William Mc O’Boy (McEvoy?) planted 2,830 trees in Gearagh in 1815; in Bawnard, John Lander planted 5,100 trees in 1824 and Daniel Humphries planted 26,000 trees in 1827; in Ballyedkin, John Leech planted 61,300 trees in 1827-32, while Thomas Wigmore planted 144,870 trees in 1828-33; in Deer Park South, George Turkey (Tuckey?) planted 3,240 trees in 1832; in Broomfield, Benjamin James Hackett (the distiller) planted 1,480 trees in his grounds in 1834. This list gives a total of 254,190 trees planted in the area in and immediately around Midleton between 1806 and 1834.

Sadly many of these trees have been lost, but a lot survives – Marcus Lynch’s plantings are still a joy to behold just off Main Steet, and on the Youghal Road, in Midleton. But further afield we can see that planting was just as intense.

rostellanwaterside

The woods at Rostellan were part of the demesne of the Marquis of Thomond’s East Cork estate. They are now run by the state forestry company. On the wall of the barrage in the foreground is one of three milestones installed there in 1734.

In the townland (and parish) of Aghada, Robert Austen planted 28,470 trees in 1814; Michael Goold planted 27,620 trees in Jamesbrook (Garranekinnefeake parish) in 1807-11;  in the parish and townland of Rostellan the Marquis of Thomond planted 55,140 trees in 1827, in Rossmore (Mogeesha parish), Edmund Coppinger planted 21,340 trees in 1824; in Barnabrow (Cloyne parish) in 1809-12 Timothy Lane planted 27,940 trees, while John Royal Wilkinson planted 20,100 trees there in 1831.

avenue-midleton-2016

Planted in the 1980s to mark the entrance to the newly built St Colman’s Community College, on Youghal Road in Midleton, this avenue looks very well established today. It emulates the type of planting established around the town in the years around 1800.  

This is not a complete list (it leaves out places like Fota and Ballyedmund) but it shows that many landowners in East Cork felt it necessary to plant trees to improve their estates in the early nineteenth century. Despite losses in the 1940s, the legacy of this planting is the rich tapestry of trees that enrich the local landscape especially in summer and autumn. The good news is that such planting continues – directly opposite Marcus Lynch’s old house stands St Colman’s Community College which was built in the early 1980s. One farsighted decision made by the school was to plant an avenue of trees leading from the gate to the main entrance – just a few decades later it looks splendid.

 

 

 

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