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!

 

Heritage Week 2016 – another success!

 

Midleton in early 1900s

Main Street, Midleton, around 1900.

Heritage Week 2016 has now ended but it started a day late as usual in Midleton. On Sunday 21st August some fifteen to eighteen people joined my early 20th century Midleton walking tour of the town. They were brave souls to ignore the Met Eireann weather warning and venture forth. (Youghal’s Medieval Festival was postponed for a week!)  In fact we only had a few showers of misty rain, some breezes and a grey threatening sky overhead, but we were actually fine! Given that I spoke about some of the bad weather in the period 1896 to 1918, the dull day was appropriate.

On Thursday evening, 25th August, Cal McCarthy spoke in Midleton Library about Spike Island in Cork Harbour as a prison in the 19th century . He was supported by the director of the Spike Island heritage site, Tom O’Neill, who encouraged us all to visit before the season closed at the end of October. We had an audience of about twenty for that event.

Saturday 27th saw my lecture in the same venue on ‘Living in Midleton a Hundred Years Ago’. Given that was a lovely day outside, and the last Saturday before the schools reopened,  we had a final audience of about twenty, which was a very welcome number.

Some twelve  people (and Mollie the Jack Russell!) joined the second walking tour on Sunday 28th August in glorious end of summer sunshine and heat. It was a bit difficult to talk about the great storm of 1903 in Midleton in that sort of weather!

I hope everybody learned something new and got a better understanding of Midleton’s (and Spike Island’s) history during the week!

Heritage_Week_2016_GREEN-2

 

Albinia Brodrick Remembered.

 

Gobnait Ni Bruadair

Albinia Brodrick (1861-1955) as Gobnait Ni Bhruadair, a woman who changed from being an aristocratic English Tory Unionist to an Irish revolutionary Republican.

Today’s lecture in Midleton Library on Albinia Brodrick: from English Aristocrat to Irish Revolutionary Republican (12.00 noon, Saturday, 16th Jan, 2016) was a resounding success on the 61st anniversary of Albinia’s death. Part of the 1916 Centenary Commemoration Programme promoted by Cork County Council, the lecture was attended by some 50 to 60 persons (according to the library staff).

We covered her family background and her family’s link to Midleton (her father and brother held the title Viscount Midleton) and her nursing career. We also looked at the transformation of this Englishwoman to a ‘native’ Irish Gaelgeoir.

I hope that everybody learned something new about Albinia Brodrick’s conversion from Tory Unionism to moderate Home Rule Irish nationalism and then, following the execution of the 1916 rebel leaders, to hard-line Irish Republicanism, a stance she held to the day she died on Sunday, 16th January 1955. This conversion to a more hard-line republicanism was typical of many in Ireland from May 1916 as news of the executions began to hit home.

I wish to thank, first, the library staff for preparing the venue, Conor Nelligan (Cork County Heritage Officer & 1916 Centenary County Co-ordinator), Mr Martin Preston (Midleton College) for operating the computer slide show whilst I addressed the audience from the screen, and everybody who attended the lecture.

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!

Great turnout for Mainistir na Corann lecture

There was clearly considerable interest in Midleton’s history of monasteries, mad monks and its medieval origins last Friday 20 March, for over thirty people turned out to hear the lunchtime lecture that I gave. This was an excellent turnout given the lovely bright sunny spring day outside and the fact that it was lunchtime. Some excellent feedback followed. The number attending was limited to about thirty by the capacity regulations governing the town library and also the limited amount of seating that was available without upsetting other library users.

My thanks to everyone who turned up and to the library staff for facilitating the event.

The Sale of Midleton Town announced 50 years ago.

On 10th December 1964, the Cork law firm of Wm Montgomery & Sons announced that the second Earl of Midleton was putting his entire estate in that town up for sale, with a preference to having it purchased by an Irish buyer.  The news became public in Midleton on 11th December – and you can imagine the impact, not just in Midleton.

Midleton in early 1900s

Plenty of cars – but no motorcars! Main Street, Midleton, around 1900.

The idea that a whole town in Ireland would still be ‘owned’ by an English landlord went down very badly.  But people in Midleton had been paying ground rents and leases to Lord Midleton since his ancestors bought the town when it was offered for sale by the Encumbered Estates Court in the 1850s.  The 5th Viscount had committed suicide in 1848 and left estate in serious debt, and the inheritance in some disarray.  Eventually the Irish estate was split and parts were sold off, with the descendants of Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel, purchasing the portion that included the town of Midleton.  This branch of the family had inherited the title Viscount Midleton on the death of the 5th Viscount and they felt that the title was meaningless without possession of the town.

The first Earl of Midleton died in 1942, and his son sold up the estate at Peper Harrow in Surrey and decamped to the tax-friendly environs of Jersey.  With no direct heir, he decided to sell up the last of his Irish holdings in 1964.  The plan was to auction off the holdings in the early spring of 1965.  The Earl had hoped that the housholders would buy the freehold of their properties and thus become free of ground rent.

What exactly was on offer?  Nothing less than 300 houses, 100 acres of land, and the ground rents of almost all the urban area of Midleton!  Even Midleton College, founded in 1696, only held the freehold of its original buildings and one acre of land – it still paid rents on its playing fields!  Admittedly ground rents were fairly nominal, but for people on low incomes they were a cost.

But on the 9th of February, the inhabitants of Midleton discovered that the entire Midleton estate had been bought as a single lot by a newly formed group of Cork businessmen calling themselves The Midleton Estate Company Ltd.  This further upset the locals who simply didn’t have a chance to buy the freehold of their properties.

Thus began a two year battle by the inhabitants of Midleton to acquire the actual ownership of their town.  The former Cork hurler and native of Midleton, John Fenton, completed an MA in Local History on this topic and has since published a book describing the whole affair.

Fenton Book

A celebrated piece of controversial modern history in Midleton.

Tomorrow night, 11th December, to mark the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the sale of Midleton, John will give a lecture entitled ‘When Midleton Town was sold‘ in the GAA Hall in Midleton at 8.00pm.  This is being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the sale, and to raise funds for the Irish Kidney Association.  I’m looking forward to it.