At Last! A local historical society for Midleton and Ballinacurra.

Image: Midleton Market House as painted by Niall McCarthy.

Why is there no history society in Midleton?’ This question has frequently been posed to your author in the past few years. Often the question is prefaced wtih a comment about the presence of the Cloyne Literary & Historical Society (the granddaddy of our local historical societies), the well-established Whitegate-Aghada Historical Society and the Carrigtwohill Historical Society (founded just a few years ago). It seemed so embarrassing that Midleton, the largest town in the area, didn’t have a local historical society.

The The answer to the question posed at the head of this post is, of course, very simple – there isn’t a Midleton Historical Society one because nobody has set one up. There WAS a local historical society in Midleton in the 1980s but it completely lapsed many years ago. Midleton is a town that seems to have plenty of history but also possesses a contradictory attitude to its history and heritage. Heritage buildings have been demolished or radically altered without any appreciation of their importance. We still await the publication of a proper academic history of Midleton and Ballinacurra,  apart from a few valiant works by Jeremiah Falvey, Sean Horgan and John Fenton. In August Midleton & Area Chamber published Midleton – the Heart of East Cork, a booklet aimed at visitors but with interesting local historical information for residents of the area. However, the book covers more than Midleton, since its remit reaches to Roches Point, Knockaddon, Killeagh and Fota, taking in Ballycotton, Cloyne, East Ferry and Carrigtwohill on the way. It’s taken a while, but finally, there are moves afoot to found a local historical society for Midleton and Ballinacurra. And note the remit – we cannot discuss Midleton without discussing the older village of Ballinacurra., for so long the port of Midleton.

St John the Baptist Church Midleton

The Horgan brothers of Youghal photographed the site of the original foundation of the abbey that gave rise to the town of Corabbey, which was renamed Midleton by a Charter of King Charles II in 1670.

The desision to found this new society is prompted by the approaching year 2020. January of that year will see the 200th anniversary of the Ballinacurra-born Edward Bransfield RN’s identification of the CONTINENT of Antarctica, as opposed to the Antarctic pack ice. In June 2020 the Charter of Midleton will be 350 years old. The Charter gave the modern name Midleton to the town formerly known as Corabbey. And, finally, December 2020, will mark the 100th anniversary of the famous IRA ambush on Main Street that eventually in February 1921 led to the disastrous Clonmult Ambush. These were two key local events in the Irish War of Independence. Before that, we will see the centenary of the end of the Great War and the meeting of the First Dail as well as the first time the Irish Tricolour was flown over the Market House in Midleton (illegally, it must be said).

Choctaw evening 2

In order to prepare for these anniversaries, it is necessary to have a forum to organise events that will mark these occasions.  The people of Midleton and Ballinacurra, and of surrounding districts are invited to come to Midleton Library on Monday next, 18th September at 8.00pm for a meeting at which we aim to found a local historical society. This invitation is extended beyond Midleton and Ballinacurra to Castlemartyr,  Mogeely, Ladysbridge, Dungourney, Clonmult and Lisgoold in the hope that the history of these places can also be highlighted.

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Ballinacurra’s romantic link to the Easter Rising 1916.

 

Cork Volunteers 1916

Cork Volunteer units on parade at Cornmarket Yard in 1916

On Easter Sunday, 23rd April 1916, a party of armed men boarded the scheduled train service from Youghal to Cork at Mogeely station. The men were Irish Volunteers from Dungourney and the surrounding area. They were summoned to Cork by the original order to attend manoeuvres for that day. On arrival in Cork they assembled in the Volunteer Hall where Tomas McCurtin was obliged to tell them that the planned ‘manoeuvres’, in actual fact an armed uprising, had been called off by Eoin McNeill. McCurtin was so disgusted that he described the situation as ‘Order, counter-order, disorder.’

Aud

The German steamship SS Libau was renamed ‘Aud‘ after a Norwegian vessel before she was commissioned to smuggle arms and munitions  to Ireland for the intended rebellion in 1916. She was intercepted by the Royal Navy and was scuttled off the Daunt Rock. just south of Cork Harbour, on 22nd April, two days before the Easter Rising began.

But the rebellion’s chances of even remote success were already damaged by the capture of Roger Casement at Banna Strand in Kerry and the capture of the ‘Aud‘ which was shipping arms and munitions from Germany to Ireland under an assumed Norwegian identity. The men from Mogeely had been joined by men from Queenstown, and many of them remained overnight in the Volunteer Hall. But on the following day, Easter Monday, the hall was surrounded by troops and a siege, actually a stand-off, ensued for the week while Dublin was the scene of fierce fighting. The upshot of the whole affair was that the Volunteers surrendered their arms and later were rounded up and shipped off to detention, many being sent to Frongoch in Wales. On the whole, Cork’s .contribution to the Easter Rising seemed something of a damp squib. That would be rectified in the years 1919-1921 when the county was the scene of fierce fighting during the War of Independence.

There was one romantic Cork link to the fighting in Dublin in Easter week 1916. Today’s edition of the The Irish Examiner revealed an astonishing tale of lost love and lost identity that connects the Hurley family of Drinagh in the western part of the county and the O’Brien family of Conna and Ballinacurra, near Midleton. The tale of Sean Hurley and Kathleen O’Brien is an excellent example of how genealogy can fill in some unexpected gaps in our knowledge of the events.

This link will illustrate the whole tale: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/mystery-of-volunteers-romance-solved-as-letter-provides-link-to-cork-man-killed-in-rising-389541.html

 

Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Midleton Barracks.

waterloo logo

One of the big commemorations this year will be the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo (June 1815) in which Napoleon was finally defeated.  During the Napoleonic War men from Midleton enlisted in the Royal Army and Royal Navy (in the latter case under duress, such as happened to Edward Bransfield of Ballinacorra who was press ganged from his father’s fishing boat).

Waterloo reenactment

Re-enacting the battle of Waterloo in Belgium.

Damian Shiels has posted two very interesting items on his blog: The Midleton Archaeology and Heritage Project (midletonheritage.com).

The first is on the men who enlisted in the Royal Army and fought at Waterloo:

http://midletonheritage.com/2015/01/04/stories-of-midleton-veterans-of-the-peninsular-campaign-waterloo/

The second post is on the Midleton Barracks and the Hanoverian and Brunswickers who were briefly based there – as well as the other units:

http://midletonheritage.com/2015/02/05/hanoverian-riflemen-black-brunswickers-midleton-barracks-during-the-napoleonic-wars/

Midleton still preserves the ‘barracks’ that was used by the British and Hanoverian troops – it’s the old woollen mill built by Marcus Lynch in the 1790s and later acquired by the Murphy brothers to become the centerpiece of their distillery!

Old Distillery Midleton

Now part of the Jameson Experience, the vast woollen mill built by Marcus Lynch was acquired by the British Government for £20,000 in 1803 to house troops in transit to Spain and Portugal to fight the French. It later became the centre of the Murphy distillery in Midleton.