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! 

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

 

Even the ducks have flown – Midleton’s history of flooding.

Midletonflood3

The from Lewis Bridge of the flooded southern end of Main Street, Midleton, on Wednesday morning, 30th December. (Irish Examiner)

Walking by the banks of the Owenacurra River, the principal river on which Midleton stands, I have noticed in recent weeks that even the family of ducks which frequent the place have now flown. Only the herons are still in residence. That’s how serious the rainfall has been since November, exacerbated by the sudden flooding of parts of Midleton on the night of Tuesday 29th December and on the morning of Wednesday 30th December 2015. However, the history of flooding in Midleton goes much further back – it’s a reality of the town that simply hasn’t been properly addressed.

One of the best early descriptions of flooding in Midleton is that from 1895: this flood happened on a Saturday night/Sunday morning and saw the Owenacurra River overflow its banks between Ballyedmond and Ballinacurra. ‘…all the low lying lands…are deeply flooded to a greater extent and depth than has been seen before by the oldest inhabitant.’  So severe was the flooding that the streets and sidewalks (the original word in the text) were ‘.…deeply submerged during the day causing much inconvenience to pedestrians going to and returning from their respective places of worship, many of them having to employ cars to convey them over the flooded portions of the town.

Midletonfloodexaminer

View over the flooded area of the distillery (mid-ground) towards the west. The disused railway line to Youghal is represented by the double of row of trees on the right. The flooded rugby club is just above the distillery. (Irish Examiner)

In 1911 another flood proved, perhaps, more devastating, because it happened on a Saturday, a busy market day: the flooding was caused by a massive thunderstorm lasting from about 10.30 am to about 3.30 pm accompanied by flashing lightning that terrified both the people of the town and draft animals.The worst of the storm happened between 12.00 noon and 1.30 pm. The deluge proved so bad that vehicular traffic had difficulty making its way through the town. The lower end of the Main Street was several inches deep in water and ‘…presented the appearance of initiating a lake.’ The lower part of Thomas Street was inundated to a depth of three feet and cellars on Main Street began to fill with water.

The flash flooding of 1920 left many homes deluged and even threatened the lives of animals who had gone into the Owenacurra or Roxborough rivers. The depth of the flooding reach some five or six feet The lower part of Thomas Street was inundated to a depth of three feet, with seven or eight houses being abandoned as the inhabitants sought refuge elsewhere. The cellars on Main Street began to fill with water.

Midletonfloodmirror

The onset of the flooding on Main Street, Midleton, on the night of Tuesday 29th  December. (Irish Mirror)

What is too frequently forgotten is that the centre  of Midleton is a low lying area between two rivers – the Owenacurra on the west and the Roxborough/Dungourney River on the south. Although the land between these rivers is not entirely flat (indeed there is an outcrop of rock at one point) most of it is quite flat, but deceptive. Midleton is usually, but incompletely, described as being on the Owenacurra River, but the more dangerous river is almost certainly the Roxborough. This is the river that has flooded the lower end of Main Street frequently in recent years. The trouble with the Roxborough is that it is barely noticeable in the town – people just drive over Lewis Bridge to and from Main Street, not realizing that the river below the bridge is a strongly flowing stream that can flood very rapidly. The Roxborough is fed not only by its main stream coming from Dungourney but also by a watercourse coming from Loughaderra and Ballybutler in the east, near Castlemartyr.

Midletonfloodecho2

View down the flooded southern end of Main Street, Midleton, on Wednesday 30th December 2015. Note the ripples caused by a strong southerly wind blowing the water up the street. (Irish Examiner)

There is an opinion that the railway line that was built to link Midleton and Youghal to Cork in 1858-1860 may actually follow an original ancient dried up course of the Roxborough/Dungourney River just to the north of the town. This was the area that was badly flooded on 29th and 30th December 2015, as was part of the modern distillery, and the areas along the Dungourney Road, including the Rugby Club (the latter being under several feet of water) and several houses. The route of the railway line runs directly alongside these sites.

The trouble with the Owenacurra is that it reaches a pinch-point where the Cork Road Bridge stands. There is a ridge of higher ground bringing the Cork Road into Midleton with a corresponding area of somewhat raised land on the other side around the courthouse. This can lead to the floodwater in the Owenacurra backing up on the northern side of the bridge. To complicate matters, several houses were built very close to the river in the latter years of the twentieth century, often on low ground.

The background to all this is the almost persistent rain since early November (seven storms in eight weeks, with more rainfall in between) adding up to a record rainfall for the month of December – indeed the rainfall in December alone was the equivalent of THREE MONTHS of winter rainfall! The two rivers and their tributary streams were full to saturation and almost contantly in full spate. The exceptionally high tides coming in from the sea, as well as a strong southerly wind all contributed to the conditions for a perfect storm leading to a flood. The arrival of Storm Frank on the 29th December was the spark that led to disaster. The two rivers burst their banks – but, fortunately, the Roxborough/Dungourney didn’t completely burst its banks – that would have been a true catastrophe.

Flood2015

The N25 linking Cork to Waterford and Rosslare flooded between Castlemartyr and Killeagh. The flood was so bad that it took a week of pumping to clear the road for traffic. (Evening Echo)

No warning was given by the County Council of an immanent flood threat. The flooding started during the night of 29th and rapidly became very serious indeed. Families were evacuated from their homes in several areas and one family was rescued from a car trapped between two flooding streets. The Defence Forces were called upon to use their high-axle trucks to drive through the floods to rescue people. The Midleton Park Hotel, Midleton College and the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel all accommodated evacuated families. Meanwhile the waters were spreading. It was the combined efforts of volunteers, property owners, business owners and the small local council staff that prevent even more properties from flooding. The southern end of Main Street was closed for most of Wednesday 30th, being opened around 6.00 pm.   It is extraordinary that not a single life was lost, despite some houses on the Mill Road being situated below road level!  One observer said that she had lived in Midleton for 84 years and never saw a flood like it.

The 2015 flooding wasn’t just confined to Midleton – parts of Castlemartyr were flooded, as well as Glanmire and Glounthaune. Many local roads were rendered impassable by floods, and the N25 (or Euroroute 1), the main road from Cork to Waterford, was actually closed between Castlemartyr and Killeagh due to a local turlough (a seasonal lake) spreading its waters over a mile of the road. It took a week of pumping to clear the N25 for traffic again. As the flooding has receded people discovered that several of their local roads are now barely passable, if not entirely ruined. The road linking Lisgoold to Midleton and that linking Midleton to Dungourney are in a particularly poor condition.

MidletonfloodSusan

Councillor Susan McCarthy’s photo of the flood on Main Street, Midleton, on the morning of 30th December. The fine stone building across the street is the Pugin building, formerly the Midleton Arms Hotel and more recently McDaid’s Pub. Refurbishment started before Christmas and is still ongoing, although the ground floor got flooded on this occasion. (Councillor Susan McCarthy)

One thing that did emerge was the community spirit – farmer brought in their tractors and tankers to suck up the waters from flooded houses and business premises, and to remove the flood from Main Street, Brodrick Street and other parts of the town. Irish Distillers used their equipment to assist properties on the Dungourney Road whilst clearing the floodwaters from their own property. Many shopkeepers reopened as soon as they could, often within a day of the flooding.

The reality is that Midleton was actually fortunate that matters were not worse than they turned out to be. This is of no comfort to the people evacuated from their flooded homes, or to businesspeople who are still picking up the pieces. Some thirty or so families were evacuated or had to abandon their homes and some forty businesses suffered, some being flooded for the first time ever. Yet, compared with the people living along the banks of the Shannon River (who have been inundated from the middle of December at the latest) and in Bandon (who were flooded twice), Midleton got off relatively lightly.

Regrettably, Midleton IS historically prone to flooding, but thankfully it usually affects just one or two localized parts of the town. The flooding of December 2015 was a severe shock – the lack of warning, the extent of the damage, the closure and even destruction of local roads was a real wake-up call to the people of Midleton. We have to do something about the matter. Hopefully something will come of the public meeting at the Midleton Park Hotel on Tuesday 12th January at 6.30 pm.

Stories of Midleton Veterans of the Peninsular Campaign & Waterloo 18th June 1815.

Damian Shiels has done it again – this interesting account of the Midleton Waterloo pensioners appeared on his blog in January. Sadly there’s no record of the Midleton men who died at Waterloo two hundred years ago, on 18th June 1815.

The Midleton Archaeology & Heritage Project

We are currently in the midst of the 100th anniversary of World War One, but recent years have also marked the 200th anniversary of the Napoleonic Wars, a conflict in which tens of thousands of Irishmen fought. As anyone who has been on the tour of Midleton Distillery will be aware, part of that site was in use as a military barracks around this time. Unsurprisingly many men from Midleton and the surrounding parish ended up in the army- it is likely that recruiting parties were a regular sight around the town during the wars with France. Those that joined up embarked on lives that took them from East Cork to far flung locations, like the West and East Indies, to battles in Portugal and Spain, and even to Waterloo. After their service some went through soldier’s homes, such as the (still famous) Royal Hospital in Chelsea or the Royal…

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Midleton Workhouse – a lecture by Sean Horgan at MyPlace, Midleton, on 22nd May 2015.

Built to the designs of George Wilkinson in 1840-41 and opened in August of 1841, the Midleton Workhouse was considered too big by the local Poor Law Guardians - it was designed to take 800 inmates.  Little did they know that during the Great Famine of 1845-1850 the workhouse had to be supplemented by an auxiliary workhouse during the worst years!  The former workhouse became a hospital in the 1920s and today serves as Midleton Community Hospital.

Built to the designs of George Wilkinson in 1840-41 and opened in August of 1841, the Midleton Workhouse was considered too big by the local Poor Law Guardians – it was designed to take 800 inmates. Little did they know that during the Great Famine of 1845-1850 the workhouse had to be supplemented by an auxiliary workhouse during the worst years! The former workhouse became a hospital in the 1920s and today serves as Midleton Community Hospital.

Carrigtwohill invades Midleton!

Actually, the Carrigtwohill and District Historical Society will present a public lecture by Sean Horgan on the history of Midleton workhouse.  This lecture will take place on Friday 22nd May (yes, tomorrow, so be sure to vote in the two referenda before you come along). The venue is the former Fire Station (Firehouse to the Yanks!) which has been superbly converted into a new community facility under the name MyPlace. The lecture starts at 7.30 pm and the society’s usual entry fee of 5 Euros per person applies.  Do come along!

The principal range of Midleton Workhouse is still preserved as Midleton Community Hospital.

The principal range of Midleton Workhouse is still preserved as Midleton Community Hospital.

MyPlace is a new community facility set up by a group of local citizens to provide, first and foremost, a comfortable (i.e. dry!) and sociable gathering place (with supervision!) for young people (teenagers) in Midleton.  The organisation has leased the former Fire Station on Mill Road from the local authority. The structure has been converted (and upgraded) to be a two-part facilty – the youth cafe/hangout/club and a community facility. The building (which was of no architectural merit) is a modern structure that had been lying idle since the new Fire Station was built.  Pat Horgan was the architect who transformed an eyesore into a superb bright and warm facility with triple glazing and passive heating into a youth centre, community hall (where the fire tenders were housed – the windows are huge!) and smaller rooms for various activities, as well as a kitchen and dining room with that rarity in Midleton – a sheltered riverside terrace (it’s a suntrap too!)!  I viewed it last weekend when it was opened for a public preview and I was VERY impressed.  The large windows are the most unusual feature – Irish community halls generally look like factories or bunkers whereas this has large and inviting windows. At present it is unfurnished but will be fully equipped for its official opening in September.  Well done to everyone involved!

The former Fire Station with the large doors for the fire tenders prior to work starting on converting it to MyPlace.

The former Fire Station with the large doors for the fire tenders prior to work starting on converting it to MyPlace.

Sean Horgan teaches in Mallow, but is a native of Midleton and his MA was on the subject of the Midleton workhouse and the famine.  Copies of Sean’s book on the topic will be on sale following the lecture with the proceeds going to benefit Midleton Community Hospital – which is housed in the former workhouse!  There will be a visit to the former workhouse and to the Famine Graveyard following the lecture if the weather permits.

The architect's sketch for the proposed conversion of the former fire station into a new community facility.

The architect’s sketch for the proposed conversion of the former fire station into a new community facility. The finished design dispensed with the wooden siding in favour of floor to ceiling windows. A MUCH better idea!

The Carrigtwohill and District Historical Society was established in 2013 and has been doing very well indeed.  It hosted a spectacular World War I event last Autumn that drew a lot of people from Midleton.

I think that it is extremely imaginative of the Carrigtwohill and District Historical Society to present this lecture in Midleton – especially since they are not threading on anyone’s toes.  You see, for all its history, Midleton doesn’t have an historical society.  Shocking but true!  Despite the fact that there are societies in Aghada, Cloyne (the senior local history society), Castlemartyr (a new one!), Little Island and Carrigtwohill, Midleton, the largest population centre in the middle of this area, has no historical society.  I hope this presentation by the CARRIGTWOHILL & DISTRICT HISTORICAL SOCIETY will prove embarrassing enough to stimulate some action on this issue!

St Elvis and Christianity in Ireland before St Patrick.

Patrick baptizes King of Cashel

Propaganda by the scribes of Armagh gives us the story of St Patrick baptizing the King of Cashel. Patrick’s crozier pierced the foot of the king, who thought it was part of the ritual, so he didn’t cry out. This tale was designed to claim that Armagh had primacy over Cashel and the province of Munster.

Down here in the deep south of Ireland we celebrate St Patrick’s Day like all Irish people around the world….including elsewhere in Ireland. But there is a very strong tradition in Munster that four saints introduced Christianity to the province before St Patrick arrived.  These four were St Ailbe of Emly, St Ciaran of Saigir, St Abban of Moyarny and St Declan of Ardmore. Saint Ibar or Iberius in Latin is sometimes included as a pre-Patrician saint.

St Ailbe

Window depicting St Ailbe in the Honan Chapel in University College Cork. Each of the windows depicts a saint from Munster.

St Ailbe, considered the most important of these, is known in Pembrokeshire as St Eilfyw or Eilfw. The smallest parish in Britain, just four miles north west of St Davids is named after him. He is credited with founding the monastery of Emly, which was later erected into a diocese at the Synod of Rath Breasail in 1111. In the eighteenth century the see of Emly was united with the Diocese of Cashel, the see of the Archbishop of Cashel. Ailbe is said to have been a Irish foundling taken back to Wales by some Britons who raised him as a Christian. On a journey to Rome he was ordained by St Hilary, the pope at the time. Ailbe is said to have baptized St David of Wales and then returned to Ireland to set up his monastery. It is ironic that his name is so well known worldwide for the Latin version of Ailbe is…..Elvis!  So you now know that the king of rock and roll was named after an Irish saint! But I have no idea if the saint was as good as the king with a guitar.

Elvis Presley

They call him the king, but he’s named after a saint! And an Irish saint at that!

Ciaran of Saigir was a nobleman who converted to Christianity and went to Rome on pilgrimage, where he was ordained a bishop by the pope. Returning to Ireland he became bishop of Ossory – a diocese that didn’t exist in the fifth/six/seventh century. He’s called Ciaran the Elder to distinguish him from the St Ciaran who founded Clonmacnoise.

St Abban's Church Killeagh

The now disused church of St Abban in Killeagh in east Cork. What is baffling is that Killeagh is named after a local woman, St Ia (known as St Ive in Cornwall). Nobody knows how Killeagh got a church dedicated to a Leinster saint. Killeagh lies on the main road from Midleton to Youghal.

St Abban was from the area around New Ross in Wexford – a town that was founded in the early 1200s by William Marshal. Abban’s claim to fame is his sister – St Gobnait of Ballyvourney.  Abban is said to be buried in Ballyvourney which marks the western outpost of the diocese of Cloyne. The abbey of Abingdon in England claimed to be named after him, but I suspect they were simply making that claim in the hope of acquiring relics. They actually had nothing to do with Abban. Come to think of it, the village of Killeagh in east Cork – on the road from Midleton to Youghal has a redundant Anglican church dedicated to St Abban – despite the fact that the village takes its name from St Ia (a woman) who gives her name to St Ives in Cornwall.  We’re still baffled by the St Abban connection.

Ardmore

The lovely ruined cathedral and superb round tower at Ardmore, a site dedicated to St Declan. The man had an eye for good scenery. Ardmore is still a popular holiday resort and remains a virtually unspoiled village in County Waterford. The twelfth century sculpture cycle on the west gable of the cathedral is one of the most important in Ireland.

St Declan of Ardmore had the best eye for scenery – Ardmore is a lovely seaside village in the western part of County Waterford which still preserves its tiny ruined Cathedral and its complete round tower.  Declan too went to Rome and was ordained by the pope – and met St Ailbe there. St Declan was considered the patron saint of the Deisi – the people who inhabited western County Waterford. In the modern Catholic parish of Midleton there is a site called Caherultan – said to be the church of St Ultan, a pupil of St Declan. There was certainly a parish church there in the medieval period, but the parish was abolished after the Reformation and the church has vanished.

St Declan's Well Ardmore

Early twentieth century pilgrims at St Declan’s Well in Ardmore. People still go there to take the water. ‘Doing the rounds’ of the holy sites was a way of imitating the pilgrims Rome who visited the seven basilicas there – not everybody could go to Rome on pilgrimage.

Now I don’t expect you to believe all the above stories, for many of them originate as anti-Patrician propaganda written to counter the claims of the church in Armagh to primacy over the whole of Ireland in the 7th and 8th centuries. But there is an interesting grain of truth in several of them. However, the most important detail to remember is that the south of Ireland had a lot of connections with Britain, especially Wales and with Gaul (now France). The evidence for this comes from both ancient Irish sources and ancient Welsh sources, as well as the presence of Irish inscriptions in ogham script on stones in Wales and Cornwall.   Indeed the Ui Liathain and their neighbours to the east, the Deisi even colonised parts of South Wales as the Roman Empire began to contract in the late 300s and early 400s. The Ui Liathain ruled the area that corresponds to south-east County Cork from the Blackwater to the sea and from the Glanmire River to the lower Blackwater. It is ironic that their lands were later settled by Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen and their followers from Wales – the Barrys, the Carews and the FitzGeralds. The Deisi territory in Waterford was colonized by the Powers and the FitzGeralds.

What these stories of the saints suggests is that there was much interchange of goods,persons (including slaves) and ideas between the south coast of Ireland and Wales. Christianity was one of the imports into Ireland – it survived in Wales after the collapse of the Roman Empire and the colonization of England by the Angles and Saxons.

Indeed, when we consider that the Laigin (or peoples of Leinster) even colonized the Lleyn peninsula in north-west Wales, giving their name to the place, we must wonder if the southern half of Ireland was heavily Christianized before the arrival of St Patrick. Modern scholars now believe that Patrick operated north of a line from Galway in the west to Dublin in the east. He didn’t come south of that line because Christianity was already well established in the south, with bishops supervising the church there. A stray bishop would NOT have been welcomed by the southern bishops!

Palladius

Palladius was appointed the first bishop to the Irish believing in Christ in 431 – clearly there were enough Christians in Ireland by this date to warrant the appointment of a bishop. St Patrick is traditionally said to have arrived in 432, but modern scholars reckon he came later and that 432 marked the arrival of Palladius. The scribes of Armagh may have appropriated details from the life of Palladius and attributed them to Patrickd whilst at the same time ‘disappearing’ Palladius from Irish history.

And then there is the reference in Prosper of Aquitaine’s Chronicle: in 431 Pope Celestine sent Palladius as bishop to the Irish believing in Christ.  The crucial thing about Prosper was that he was a contemporary of the two men mentioned in that statement. He was an eyewitness to these events. Prosper wrote his Chronicle to tell the story of how the Pelagian heresy was put down by St Germanus of Auxerre, and others. This heresy had flourished in Britain, alarming the Catholic Church and it probably prompted the decision to appoint Palladius to minister to the Irish Christians as their first bishop.  This was an extraordinary decision because Palladius had to leave the jurisdiction of the Roman Empire to take up his new post. It is very likely that Palladius (a Gallo-Roman) was indeed the first bishop in Ireland, preceding St Patrick by several years.

St Declan's Way

Modern pilgrimage in Ireland. There is now a walking trail from Ardmore to Cashel, linking St Declan to St Ailbe. It’s a sort of secular Camino – Irish style. Instead of sun, sangria and tapas, you get rain, Guinness and Tayto crisps!

Poor Palladius! He was condemned as a failure and almost entirely written out of Irish history centuries later when the scribes of Armagh were trying to claim for St Patrick the credit for converting the Irish to Christianity. The real goal of these scribes was to make Armagh the paramount church in Ireland. But you have got to hand it to them – it was brilliant propaganda! Now the whole world believes that Patrick was Irish and nobody has heard about Palladius, who probably did much to consolidate Christianity in the south of Ireland.  Even Stalin, with his retouched photos during the purges, was a mere amateur by comparison.  And at least nobody died in Ireland!

Ah well, A Happy St Patrick’s Day to you!

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Of Monasteries, Mad Monks and the Medieval Origins of Midleton – Free Lunchtime Local History Lecture in Midleton Library

New Signs Midleton

Someone really needs to explain the non-existent relationship between the Cistercian monks who founded Mainistir na Corann and the Anglo-Normans who’d just invaded Cork. All will be revealed in a free public local history lecture on Friday 20th March at 1.00 pm in Midleton Library.

Recently I discussed with Mary Mitchell in Midleton Library the idea of a free public lunchtime local history lecture/talk.  We can now reveal the date and topic of the lecture.

The lecture is called Mainistir na Corann – of monasteries, mad monks and the medieval origins of Midleton. It will be presented by yours truly (yes, Tony Harpur himself and in the flesh!) in Midleton Library at 1.00 pm on Friday 20th March. The lecture is expected to last no longer than 45 minutes.

The lecture will cover the years c.1177 to c.1624 and will focus on the twelfth century religious and political context of the foundation of the Cistercian abbey of Mainistir na Corann/Chorus Sancti Benedicti. It will go on to describe what we know fo the recorded history up to the dissolution under Henry VIII. The final part will be a teaser for a future lecture discussing the origins of the TOWN of Mainistir na Corann which became Midleton in 1670. The aim of this lecture is to inform, correct misinformation, and to reveal new material based on recent studies. As a bonus after the lecture, I may even take some of the audience to see a stone I’ve discovered that appears to have come from the abbey!

Hope to see some of you there!