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.
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).
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.
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 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!
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.
I thought the opening words of the title would get your attention! This year’s Heritage Week is almost upon us. Starting on Saturday 22 August and running to Sunday 30 August, Heritage Week 2015 has our industrial heritage as its theme. I’ve expanded this slightly to include Midleton’s commercial history as well as its industrial history. It should be noted that I’m including Ballinacorra in this – because we simply cannot talk about the industrial and commericial heritage of Midleton without reference to the port at Ballinacorra. I hope people will take the time to attend something during the week or, at least, visit a heritage site.
In co-operation with Midleton Public Library and MyPlace the following events have been organized in Midleton:
Sunday 23 August: Walking Tour – Discover Midleton’s Commercial and Industrial Heritage. Meet at Midleton Library, starting at 2.30 pm. Guide: Tony Harpur.
Wednesday 26 August: ‘A good market for flesh….and fish.’ The commercial and industrial history of Midleton andBallinacorra. 1608-1948. Public lecture in Midleton Public Library. Time: 2.00 pm. Speaker: Tony Harpur.
Thursday 27 August: A Heritage Week Extra!‘From Mainistir na Corann to Midleton. 1177-1670.‘ Public lecture at MyPlace Midleton. Time: 8.00 pm sharp. Speaker: Tony Harpur.
Sunday 30 August: Walking Tour – Discover Midleton’s Commercial and Industrial Heritage. Meet at Midleton Library, starting at 2.30 pm. Guide: Tony Harpur.
The parking on Main Street, Midleton hasn’t changed much in over a hundred years!
Other events in the East Cork area worth visiting:
Saturday 22 August: Discover Cloyne Cathedral. The cathedral is open from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm. Tours: 11.30 am and 2.30 pm..Free event.
Saturday 22 August and Sunday 23 August: Mrs Kevin’s Cat! A family living history event – join the search for Mrs Kevin’s lost cat in Fota House. Time: 12.00 noon to 14.00 pm.
Sunday 23 August: Youghal Medieval Festival. Family event. Venue: St Mary’s College gardens. Time: 12.00 noon to 6.00 pm.
Wednesday 26 August: Why can’t I find my ancestors? Genealogy event in Cork County Library HQ, Carrigrohane Road, Cork. Time: 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm. Note: one to one genealogy sessions are also available that week in the same venue. Times: Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. & (NB) Wednesday 9.30 pm to 12.00.*
Sunday 30 August: History Hunt in Cloyne Cathedral. Family event. Time: 2.30 pm to 5.00 pm.
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!