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!

 

Time, gentlemen, please! The last ‘Act of Union’ between Britain and Ireland.

dunsink-observatory

Dunsink Observatory near Dublin was the official regulator of Irish time from 1880 until 1st October 1916 when Ireland was incorporated into the British time zone. This observatory was once the workplace of John Brinkley (1763 – 1835), Andrews Professor of Astronomy at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), first Royal Astronomer of Ireland, later President of the Royal Irish Academy and the last resident and independent Bishop of Cloyne in the Established Church (Church of Ireland).

You may have heard it remarked that ‘the Irish are always late.’ Certainly we don’t appear to aspire to Teutonic punctuality like the Germans, Austrians and Swiss – or the Scandinavians, for that matter. However, this assertion about the Irish is actually incorrect. In fact it may even be shown to be scientifically incorrect!

Indeed it is a serious calumny against us poor Irish to suggest that we cannot read a clock. It fits in the same category  with the observation of British (or more precisely, English) travellers to Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. They often assumed that the natives were inherently lazy. This observation was frequently derived from seeing the grass lying unharvested for hay early on a summer’s morning. Or more likely from observing  in Ireland haymaking only started after 10.00 o’clock on a summer’s morning – a shocking example of sloth when the English farmer had already started the same task at least two hours earlier. It took the Welshman, E. Estyn Evans of Queen’s University Belfast to observe that the Irish farmers were very sensible to start their haymaking after 10.00 o’clock or even after 11.00 o’clock. You see, Evans observed that in England (especially the south and east of England) the weather was often warmer and drier than in Ireland, and, consequently, the grass in the hay meadows was frequently dry before 10.00 o’clock or even 9.00 o’clock.

However, Evans observed that in Ireland the grass was often wet with dew until about that time in the morning in Ireland (and even in parts of his native Wales as well as Scotland. and the north of England). There simply was no point in scything  damp grass to make hay – it actually has to be dry to make hay. In Ireland the sun may shine on a summer’s day but it is really the breeze that dries out the grass, cut or uncut. So the nineteenth century Irish farmer wasn’t being lazy – he just did the right thing for making hay. Start when the damp from the dew has burned or blown off and then cut the dry grass. If you’ve ever mown a wet lawn (!) you will understand the wisdom of the nineteenth century Irish farmer’s traditional haymaking custom of waiting until the grass was dry before cutting it. It wasn’t that the Irish were lazy but that the English observer frequently didn’t understand, or didn’t wish to understand Irish conditions.

saving-the-hay-1920

Saving the hay in Listowel in 1920s Ireland. The term ‘saving the hay’ refers to the vagaries of the Irish weather – the grass had to be dry before being cut and it had to be left to dry out completely before being gathered into haystacks. The unpredictable Irish weather meant that the work was highly concentrated and extremely demanding in order to save the main winter fodder for the livestock from the unpredictable Irish weather.(National Geographic Society, Washington DC)

And so it was with time, or, more particularly, Irish  timekeeping. There is a delicious irony in the fact that just six months after the Easter Rising in April 1916, Britain imposed the last ‘Act of Union’ on Ireland. This wasn’t really a specific Irish security measure but had more to do with larger matters pertaining to the Great War.

In order to increase productivity in British War industries, the Westminster government introduced certain measures like mandated pub closing time and daylight saving time. The latter was designed to ensure that every hour of daylight in the long summer days in the latitude of Britain and Ireland would be put to productive use in the factories producing shells, bullets, guns, uniforms, and other war materiel. The new ‘daylight saving time’ was mandated to come into effect on 1st October 1916. However, the new law also affected Ireland by stealing its time, as Constance Markievicz (one of the 1916 rebels) claimed.

bristol-corn-exchange-clock

The clock on the Bristol Corn Exchange has two minute hands – the red hands show Greenwich Mean Time or London Time and the black hand shows Bristol Time, ten minutes later.

The Time (Ireland) Act of 1916 amended a legal situation dating to 1880 when Dublin Standard Time became the official time in Ireland. Until 1880 time in Ireland (and in Britain) was determined by the noonday sun (if it could be observed!) in each district in Ireland. Clearly, Cork is further west than Dublin so its time was later than Dublin time. Galway was further west again – so that was a few minutes later. Midleton had a public clock before 1750 so that was set to a time that was appropriate to the town until 1880. The arrival of the railways changed all that. The speed of the mainline trains was such that it became necessary to closely co-ordinate the times for departures and arrivals at the various termini and intermediate stations. This was particularly important for passengers aiming to catch a connecting train. The importance of keeping the railway regulated by a standard time is illustrated by Bristol’s Corn Exchange Clock which shows TWO time zones on its face – Bristol time and London (or Greenwich) time. Bristol, being further west than London, observed local noon ten minutes later than Greenwich.

From 1880, Dublin Standard Time was set at 25 minutes 21 seconds after Greenwich Mean Time. Dublin time was regulated by the Dunsink Observatory until 1st October 1916. Thus Ireland had its own national time zone for all thirty-two counties for a period of just thirty-six years until 1916. At 1.00 am on the morning of the 1st of October 1916, when Britian had to put its clocks back by one hour, Ireland only put its clocks back by 35 minutes to bring Irish time to an end. Thereafter, Ireland followed (and still follows) the British system of springing forward in March and falling back in October. The date of this change has moved to the last weekend in October. The reason for the change of time zone in Ireland was to facilitate the telegraphic communications between Dublin and London, especially between the Admiralty and Royal Navy’s facilities in Cork Harbour.

Haulbowline from Queenstown

The Royal Navy developed the island of Haulbowline in Cork Harbour as as vital naval station guarding the south-western approaches in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

So the irony of this year’s centenary commemorations of the 1916 Rising is that it is followed by the less prominent commemoration of the last Act of (Chronological) Union just six months later. But, of course, the Irish rebellion goes on. If the Irish are about thirty minutes late for an appointment, they are not really late. You see we were never consulted about the change of time zone. We are still operating on Dublin Standard Time or Irish time that operated between 1880 and 1916! So we are really on time…..it’s actually the clock that’s wrong!  One unintended benefit of the move to British time is that Ireland enjoys particularly long periods of daylight on a summer’s evening – almost on a par with Scotland, which is situated much further north.

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