The Red Picnic in Mogeely – mass murder in 1182.

Rock of Cashel

Cashel, an ancient site of great importance to the MacCarthys. The title ‘King of Cashel’ was synonymous with ‘King of Munster.’ The Rock of Cashel is effectively the emblem of Munster.

In the most important account of the twelfth century English invasion of Ireland, the author, Gerald de Barri, or Gerald of Wales also called Giraldus Cambrensis, tells several stirring and bloody tales.  Few are more brutal than the tale of a mass murder in Mogeely in 1182.

In his book Expugnatio Hibernica (the Conquest of Ireland),, written about 1187, Gerald tells us that when Robert FitzStephen and Milo de Cogan had ruled Cork for five years, Milo set out for a parley in Lismore with Ralph, the illegitimate son of FitzStephen, and five knights. They broke their journey at Mogeely, with fatal consequences..

‘They were sitting in the middle of some fields, waiting to have a parley with the men of Waterford, when, along with five other knights, they were killed by the traitor MacTire, with whom they were due to stay that night, being struck down with axes from behind when they were off guard.’

Geraldus goes on to tell us that;

As a result of this disaster, the whole country was immediately thrown into a state of such disorder that Diarmait MacCarthaig and almost all the Irish throughout the whole region joined MacTire in throwing off their allegiance to the English and rising against FitzStephen…..

Matters were clearly very serious for the English, but there was a hero in the wings…..:

‘The former peaceful conditions were not restored there until Raymond succeeded as heir to his uncle FitzStephen and took sole charge of the city.’

The reference to a parley with the men of Waterford suggests that there was between the English in Waterford and the English in Cork at the time, but it seems that the whole point of going to Lismore was to parley with the Waterford men there and NOT at Mogeely. So the reference is very likely a mistake.

In an earlier post I featured a postcard sent from Mogeely to Ladysbridge in 1910. The postcard showed the peaceful village with most of the population posing for the photographer. This post will examine the most notorious event in Mogeely’s history – a mass murder by battle axe in 1182. In homage to the appalling scenes of the ‘Red Wedding’ in the book and TV series Game of Thrones, I’m calling this twelfth century butchery in Mogeely……the ‘Red Picnic.’

The small peaceful village of Mogeely is located over a mile and a quarter north of Castlemartyr. Both villages are in the same Roman Catholic parish, and although Mogeely is the smaller of the two villages, it boasts the grander church, completed in 1912. It also boasted a railway line, until it finally closed in the early 1980s, and a modern creamery, celebrated for its unique regato cheese!

So what was the background to the ‘Red Picnic’ of Mogeely?

When the Anglo-Normans invaded Cork in 1177, Mogeely was the residence of the local lord of Imokilly, a chieftain called Mac Tire. This is actually a patronymic or surname, since we don’t even know the man’s personal name. Mac Tire ruled Imokilly, which in those days did not correspond to the modern barony of Imokilly. The old Imokilly of the twelfth century stretched from the western shore of Great Island, where Cobh (the former Queenstown) now stands, to a line running from north to south somewhere between Mogeely and Killeagh.  The area east of this line, as far as Youghal, would later be incorporated into Imokilly, while Great Island, and the civil parish of Mogeesha just west of Midleton, would be lost to Barrymore.

In 1177 there was serious trouble in the province of Munster. Since the so-called Treaty of Glanmire in 1118, the province had been divided into two distinct kingdoms, with a disputed area to the east. In the south, stretching from Lismore to Brandon in County Kerry, was the kingdom of Desmond, which the Anglo-Normans called the kingdom of Cork, from its capital city. This was ruled by the MacCarthaig or MacCarthy family, and the incumbent king in 1177 was Diarmait MacCarthy. He had succeeded his father in 1151 and managed to restore the much reduced power of his family in the area.

glanmire

The so called Treaty of Glanmire divided Munster into two kingdoms. North Munster or Thomond was ruled from Limerick by the O’Briens. South Munster or Desmond was ruled from Cork by the MacCarthys. East Munster or Ormond was disputed between the two. The man who imposed this division was Turlough O’Connor, King of Connacht, and aspiring High King of All Ireland. The division aimed to reduce the O’Briens and MacCarthys to the status of lesser kings. The trouble in Ormond was probably a useful distraction for O’Connor. Glanmire is today a quiet and peaceful village in a steep-sided wooded river valley just east of Cork.

In the north lay the kingdom of Thomond stretching from North Tipperary to the Cliffs of Moher in Clare, but also including Limerick city and some newly secured territories in modern County Limerick.  The ruler of Thomond in 1177 was Donal O’Brien. King since 1168, Donal was a direct descendent of the famous Brian Boru who died just a millennium ago during the celebrated battle at Clontarf (1014).  The O’Briens, a feisty and ambitious family, were considered jumped up upstarts by the MacCarthys.

The third area of Munster was Ormond (literally, East Munster) which effectively corresponded to the modern county of Tipperary. This territory was bitterly disputed between the O’Briens and the MacCarthys, because the MacCarthys were descended from the ancient kings of Cashel and had Diarmait MacCarthy’s grandfather, Cormac MacCarthy, had trounced the O’Briens in the 1120s, and secured possession of Cashel, County Tipperary, where he built Cormac’s Chapel, the most important building on the Rock of Cashel. It was probably Cormac who created the modern diocese of Cloyne in contravention of the Synod of Rath Breasail (1111) which had extinguished the older bishopric of Cloyne.

Cormac's Chapel

Cormac MacCarthy’s greatest work was his royal chapel. Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel was completed in the 1130s with the assistance of craftsmen sent from Germany by an Irish abbot in Regensburg. It does look very Germanic from some angles and it revolutionized Irish architecture in the twelfth century, virtually creating the Irish romanesque style in one go. The large church behind the chapel is the thirteenth century gothic cathedral.

By 1177 the festering disputes between the O’Briens and the MacCarthys had erupted into open war again. The reason was that King Donal O’Brien had expelled the group of families called the Ui Fidgente from their ancestral lands in the middle of the modern county of Limerick. This finally achieved the long sought O’Brien ambition of bringing the whole territory west of Limerick city under their own control – they had already tried it when Turlough O’Brien had founded Monasternenagh Abbey on lands he had won from the O’Donovans in 1148. The Ui Fidgente families were long-standing allies of the MacCarthys, who gave them shelter in other parts of their kingdom of Desmond.  This is how the O’Donovans, for example, came to be settled in South-West Cork.

Frescoes in Cormac's Chapel

The interior of Cormac’s Chapel was covered in frescoes and painted stonework. These are the finest surviving medieval fresco fragments in Ireland. They were preserved by the local people who had a custom of whitewashing the interior of the chapel over many centuries. It should be pointed out that the exterior of the building was very likely painted in bright colours too!

It is not known if King Henry II of England saw this dispute between Thomond and Desmond as a opportunity, but in 1177 he decided that three men would be awarded license to conquer the ‘kingdom of Cork’ and the ‘kingdom of Limerick,’ as the Anglo-Normans called the two territories. Milo de Cogan and his relative, Robert FitzStephen, who would divide Cork between them, but would reserve the city and one cantred for King Henry. Philip de Braose was licensed to take Limerick.The contemporary historian of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, Gerald de Barri, or Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), wrote that the three men and their knights and men-at-arms sailed first to Waterford where they disembarked. They then travelled on foot and by horse to Lismore, which was clearly intended as the launch point.  Lismore was the seat of a bishop (and papal legate) but it also seems to have been a private estate of the king of Desmond.

Very rapidly the party seized the eastern and central parts of Cork, especially around the harbour. Curiously, Geraldus does not mention any fighting during this invasion. King Diarmait MacCarthy decided to play for time and abandoned his city, moving further west. Once they had secured their lands in Cork, Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen decided to take their men north to help Philip de Braose to capture Limerick. But this expedition foundered when the citizens burned their city and de Braose lost heart.

Altar apse in Cormac's Chapel

The square apse for the altar in Cormac’s Chapel. The whole building is constructed of stone. Even the steeply pitched roof is built of stone using the ancient Irish corbelling technique found as early as Newgrange. Cormac’s Chapel marries Continental romanesque barrel vaults with native Irish construction ideas, thus creating a totally new indigenous interpretation of romanesque architecture.

On returning to Cork, de Cogan and FitzStephen began to sub-infeudate their lands. That is they divided it up into estates which they granted to their relatives and their followers.  The cantred of Ui Liathain, now called the barony of Barrymore, was given to Philip de Barri, brother of Gerald de Barri whose book Expugnatio Hibernica is the most celebrated contemporary eyewitness account of the whole Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. However, Philip was not in Ireland at the time but in Wales, and according to Geraldus, Robert FitzStephen’s illegitimate son Ralph ‘stole’ the lands of Ui Liathain from de Barri. What is so interesting about this comment by Geraldus is that he does not attempt to hide the sheer greed and chicanery of the men who invaded Ireland.  Mind you, his book contains a lot of family propaganda – the de Barris and their relatives the Carews could do no wrong in his eyes.

Geraldus tells us that for five years Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen ruled the kingdom of Desmond in peace after their invasion. Both men used their influence to restrain the rash behaviour of younger,wilder men in their respective parties. This was important, because a peaceful land would attract settlers from England and Wales. However all that changed dramatically in 1182. However it is not certain how much this peace extended to the displaced native Irish lords.

Milo de Cogan, and his newly married son-in-law, Ralph, son of Robert FitzStephen, and a party of knights set out to visit Lismore for a meeting. They travelled by way of Mogeely, the home of the former ruler of Imokilly, MacTire, now reduced to being a token local Irish landholder. This is the context for the mass murder of the English in Mogeely.

What does come out in Geraldus’s statement is that the Anglo-Norman party consisted of seven knights (Milo, Ralph and five others), but we don’t know how many men-at-arms and archers travelled with them on foot or horseback. The medieval manuscript known as MacCarthaigh’s Book gives an Irish account of the incident with the additional information that ‘slaughter was inflicted by the family of O MacTire.’ The ‘Red Picnic’ was a family affair – but not quite in the usual way of family picnics. The reference to ‘slaughter’ is common enough in the Irish Annals – you can slaughter a single individual or several people, the use of the word implies an element of butchery. In this case it might also support the idea that more than seven Anglo-Normans knights were given the battle-axe treatment in Mogeely. Clearly the Anglo-Norman party were relaxed and expected no trouble from MacTire – after all they were sitting in a field, with their guard down. Indeed I suspect that the party didn’t even post guards.

Irish chief's feast

An outdoor feast of the MacSweeney chief of County Donegal depicted in a English woodblock print from the sixteenth century. The chief and his wife are accompanied by two friars (note the tonsured heads) and another figure. The food is being prepared behind them – a wild boar is being butchered and boiled in a leather cauldron on the left foreground. The entertainment is provided by a bard reciting or singing to the accompaniment of a harp. The entertainment is enhanced by the two figures displaying their bare backsides to the chief’s table – they are professional farters! No wonder the entertainment is held outdoors! Was the butchery in Mogeely done just before a meal like this?

Were they having a picnic? I know that sounds silly, but it is actually possible that they were taking a quick bite to eat and a drink. Remember, during the twelfth century the main meal of the day was eaten in the early afternoon, in broad daylight. We don’t know what time of the year the massacre happened but it must have been during some dry and warm weather – even today you simply wouldn’t sit on wet grass or muddy ground in Ireland. Indeed there are illustrations from the sixteenth century of Irish chiefs having a feast outdoors, and one can easily imagine the same happening in the late twelfth century.

If the weather on this occasion was indeed dry and warm then the break would have been necessary for men who were probably wearing chain mail or, at very least, leather armour, and it may have been their first stop since leaving Cork earlier that day.. Anybody who has ever lifted a mail hauberk or jacket will be aware of the sheer weight of it, and even a leather jacket can bring on a sweat on a warm day in an Irish summer. Another thing to note about the above account is that Anglo-Norman knights on foot were very vulnerable attack by ferocious Irish enemies wielding two handed battle axes. It was the armoured knight on a trained warhorse who terrified the Irish.

Geraldus is clearly furious at this mass murder, calling MacTire a traitor. This would be true if MacTire had been allowed to keep his personal lands in return for some fealty exacted from him by FitzStephen. However the Irish Annals of Lough Ce mention the murder with some jubilation at the death of Milo de Cogan, suggesting that there was really no love lost between the Irish and the Anglo-Normans. The whole incident might lead you to imagine that the Red Picnic in Mogeely was an isolated local feud, but in fact it proved to be deadly serious – and not just for the victims.

Raymond le Gros illustration

Raymond le Gros as depicted in a thirteenth century copy of the Expugantio by Geraldus. He was simply the best general the Anglo-Normans had in Ireland, getting them out of many a difficult situation time and time again.

The Red Picnic in Mogeely sparked off at least two decades of trouble and warfare for the Anglo-Normans as they tried to regain secure control of the land they had taken during the invasion of Cork in 1177/1178. Raymond le Gros did crush the initial revolt in 1183, but it seems that Robert FitzStephen was trapped in Cork city and may even have died there by the time Raymond had arrived. Raymond embarked at Waterford with twenty knights and two hundred men-at-arms, half mounted and half on foot.  Sailing directly to Cork he relieved the city. There is a priceless irony in the fact that, during the Irish Civil War in 1922, the new Free State Army performed almost exactly the same action as Raymond, with the assistance of the Royal Navy, who were based in Cork Harbour. Like Raymond, the Free State Army sailed from elsewhere in Ireland (Dublin actually) directly to Cork and managed to secure Cork for the Dublin government and eventually put down the Republican forces in Munster.

Free State Troops land in Cork

The greatest irony of the Irish Civil War (1921-1923) was that the army of the new Irish Free State repeated Raymond le Gros’s sea voyage to Cork in 1183 to put down a revolt sparked off by the massacre in Mogeely. In 1922 the Free State was trying to regain control of Cork which was in the hands of hard-line Anti-Treaty Republican forces.

Raymond was soon joined by his cousin, Richard de Cogan, who came with a picked force sent by King Henry. When some of the Irish leaders were killed and their forces driven off, it seems that a measure of peace had temporarily returned to the area. At the end of February (1183?) reinforcements led by Philip de Barri also arrived. Philip had come to secure his estates in Ui Liathain, the area from Carrigtwohill in the south to Castlelyons in the north, from the Glanmire river in the west to Conna in the east..  Along with Philip came his brother Gerald – the very historian we’ve quoted above. Philip’s descendants gave us the Irish family name Barry. Raymond le Gros established his nephews as the Carew family in Cork, while Richard de Cogan gave us the still current surname of Cogan in County Cork. It was really only in the years from 1206 to 1220 that the Anglo-Norman settlement of East Cork could get underway and set down firm roots, and even then Tadgh MacCarthy invaded Imokilly in 1216 and burned Cloyne.

Tomb of Raymond le Gros

The medieval effigy that marked the supposed tomb of Raymond le Gros in Molana Abbey near Youghal. This drawing was made in the late 18th century by Daniel Grose and is preserved in the Royal Irish Academy. Sadly the effigy has since disappeared.

Diarmait MacCarthy died in 1185 but was immediately succeeded by his equally warlike son Donal, who would invade Imokilly with ferocious intent in the 1190s, burning all the castles there, including Castra na Chore or Ballinacorra, another castle that may have given Castleredmond townland its name and a castle at Mogeely. Donal MacCarthy’s death in 1206 seems to have eased the pressure on the Anglo-Normans in East Cork, allowing for settlement to begin there. The MacCarthys, of course, are almost two a penny in Munster, especially in Cork. And the MacTire family, onetime lords of Imokilly, what did the Red Picnic do for them? By 1300 they had been reduced to the condition of local robbers, but their descendants are still around – their name is now Woulfe. Somehow it seems appropriate given the blood soaked picnic they perpetrated one fine day in a field near Mogeely in 1182.

Molana abbey

The ruined Augustinian church of Molana Abbey, near Youghal, where Raymond le Gros was buried sometime between 1185 and 1198. Founded as Dairinis in the 6th century, ithis site is celebrated as the place where the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis was compiled in the 8th century.  This is one of the oldest compilations of Canon Law anywhere.

Note: the texts quoted in italics in this post were taken from pages 187 and 189 of the translation attached to the definitive version of the Expugnatio.  A.B.Scott & F.X.Martin, editors: Expugnatio Hibernica – The Conquest of Ireland by Geraldus Cambrensis. Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1978.

As for the Imokilly Regato Cheese PDO produced at Mogeely: here’s a link to show that this Italian style cheese is indeed made in East Cork and even has a product denomination (PDO) from the European Union!  And no, Kerrygold is NOT a sponsor of this blog!

Imokilly Regato Link: http://www.kerrygold.com/products/kerrygold-regato-classic

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Before Midleton – there was Ballinacorra…….

It makes no sense to discuss the early history of Midleton without considering the older, and now overshadowed,neighbour, – the village of Ballinacorra. So I’d like to examine some aspects of Ballinacorra’s history here.  I must acknowledge my debt to Paul MacCotter, who, as an excellent medieval historian, has presented so many insights into the history of the area around Midleton and Cloyne.

Ballinacurra Main Street

The Main Street of Ballinacorra around 1900. The building on the left might stand on the site of the mill recorded in 1301. The modern village looks very much as if it had been planned, and perhaps it was redeveloped in the later 1700s. Flowing under the road in the foreground is a culverted stream.

The village of Ballinacorra still retains its own identity despite being considered by many to be simply a suburb of Midleton. It is far enough away from Main Steet in Midleton to treat the larger town as an interloper.  In the decades since the 1960s, the main road from Midleton to Ballinacorra has  become built up, especially on the west side from Lakeview filling station (that’s a gas station to you Yanks!) to the Dark Road (‘dark’ because it was heavily shaded by trees). The eastern side of the road had just Lakeview Terrace and a couple of houses, along with Lakeview House itself. There were fields between the Presentation Convent boundary wall, which marked the southern end of Midleton town, and Lakeview filling station, and there are still fields on the eastern side between Lakeview House and the other houses on that side of the road.  However, the building of ‘The Cotswolds’ (!) and ‘Castleredmond’ housing estates has filled in some of the open space.  Charleston House still stands proudly isolated behind its high wall, trees and mercifully green fields on the western side of the road, directly opposite the entrance to the Castleredmond estate. Should the demand for housing boom again, it is likely that all the land bordering this road will be built up.

Aerial view Castleredmond

Ballinacorra Creek runs from the bottom left to the center right. The sharp straight end of the creek is the modern road from Midleton to Whitegate, cutting Ballincorra village off from its waterfront. The village proper lies byond the white line of the road. Ballinacorra house, with its adjacent farm buildings, lies at the bottom of the picture next to the creek. The strange bent wall visible at the bottom of the ploughed field, just above Ballinacorra House, draws the eye to the site of the medieval church, and the trees which surround and cover the mound that marks the Anglo-Norman motte or earthwork castle – Castranachore. The waterway coming in from the upper left is the estuary of the Owenacurra River, which flows through Midleton.

One important change in the road between Midleton and Ballinacorra was the rebuilding of that road since the 1950s – which entailed by-passing Ballinacorra and even filling in part of the waterfront thus cutting the village off from Ballinacorra Creek. This waterfront and its quays were the reason for the village’s whole existence in the first place.  During the building of the Whitegate Oil Refinery in the 1950s, it was realised that the old road was inadequate and a narrow turn in the road at the top of the Main Street in Ballinacorra to Whitegate made it difficult to get large vehicles through the village.  The solution therefore was to widen the road from Midleton to Whitegate, and it was necessary to by-pass Ballinacorra because the narrow Main Street was too constricted.  Thus Ballinacorra became one of the first villages in Ireland to be by-passed. Today, when driving from Midleton to Whitegate on the R630, it is easy for the motorist to overlook the existence of the village because the road was laid out on a raised embankment which filled the eastern end of Ballinacurra Creek.  This causeway was necessary because the road had to drop down a steep slope from Castleredmond, cross the Creek, and climb up the steep slope on the other side leading into Ballinacorra townland and continuing to Whitegate.  In effect, Ballinacorra became lost in a hole, as well as being cut off from its historic waterfront by this wide, busy road and fast traffic. You get a better idea of the difficulties posed for the engineers when you turn off the main road into the village itself and drive up the Main Street to rejoin the main road further on.

As mentioned in my previous post, Ballinacorra is a much older settlement than Midleton.  It was certainly extant in the middle of the twelfth century, and perhaps earlier. By 1160, the parish had been created as part of the organisation of the newly re-established diocese of Cloyne, the cathedral of which was just a few miles away (literally in the next parish!).  It is likely that, as with Ballycotton, the site at Ballinacorra was developed as a port for Cloyne – indeed Ballinacorra was a much more secure port for shipping. Despite being located about nine nautical miles from the sea, Ballinacorra’s sheltered position, its proximity to Cloyne (compared with Ballycotton) and its access to the rich grain growing lands of the vale of Imokilly, made it a good spot for a port. The land may have been controlled by the Ui Mac Tire family – a bunch of parvenues who had recently usurped older ruling families to take over as the local lords of Ui Mo Caille or Imokilly.  Imokilly is now a barony stretching from Midleton to Youghal and southwards to the sea.  In the twelfth century only the western part of the modern barony from the present day Castlemartyr/Mogeely (& Ballymacoda?) line to Midleton and the eastern shore of Cork Harbour was called Imokilly, but it was later expanded to Youghal. Originally the barony included the territory stretching towards Carrigtohill, but these lands were incorporated into Barrymore well before 1500. Th original lands of Imokilly seem to have been controlled by the Ui Mac Tire in the north and the Bishop of Cloyne in the south.

The Ui Mac Tire were closely allied to the MacCarthy dynasty who ruled the kingdom of Cork or Desmond (South Munster). Indeed it likely that the MacCarthys re-established the diocese that had been extinguished at Rath Breasail. in 1111. They also seem to have been closely linked to the church reforms that had been in progress since 1111.  Perhaps Cormac MacCarthy, the man who built Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel, was the re-founder of the modern diocese of Cloyne! The MacCarthy kings were closely linked to the church reforms that were in progress in twelfth century Ireland, and their close allies the Ui Mac Tire may have followed suit.  There’s an interesting German connection here that will be addressed in a later post!

The parish of Ballinacorra covered much of the area that was later covered by the civil parish of Midleton.  A civil parish is effectively the medieval parish; today the civil parish provides the basis of Church of Ireland parish unions and is also of Roman Catholic parishes, although Catholic parishes might be drawn up to ignore civil parish boundaries.  However, in 1180, the large parish of Ballinacorra was divided in two. The northern portion of the parish was given over as a separate parish to the Cistercians who settled at Chore on the site of today’s Midleton town. The southern portion of the original parish remained as the parish of Ballinacorra or, as it later bacame, Castranachore – a name still applied to the whole civil parish in the Tithe Applotment Book of 1833.  We know that Ballinacorra was established before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the area in 1177 because the parish church was dedicated to St Colman of Cloyne.  This dedication to a native Irish saint invariably indicates a pre-Norman foundation.  In this case it also suggests an older direct link to the monastery of Cloyne, which had become the Cathedral of Cloyne.

Ballinacorra Church West front

The west end of the ruined church at Ballinacorra. This view shows the typical later medieval west end of an Irish parish church – there’s no door, for that is on the south side of the church. The image is taken from the edge of the churchyard overlooking Ballinacorra Creek. The church is right on the water’s edge.

The location of the medieval church in Ballinacorra, right on the southern shore of Ballinacorra Creek, strongly suggests that Ballinacorra was envisaged as a port for both the town of Cloyne, and for the Mac Tire lands.  The grain grown in Imokilly could easily be transported to Cork by boat or ship from Ballinacorra – a trade that continued into the twentieth century.  It might be thought that Youghal would have been the principal port for the area, but the dedication of that parish to St Mary suggests that Youghal is a later foundation of the Anglo-Normans.

In 1177, King Henry II gave two of the original leaders of the Anglo-Norman expeditionary party in Ireland the right to seize the kingdom of Cork.  This broke the Treaty of Windsor which had divided Ireland between a territory under Henry and the rest of the country under Rory O’Connor, the so called ‘High King’ of the Irish.  The two men given this license were Robert FitzStephen and Milo de Cogan.  These ruthless men promptly swooped into Cork – with the land of Imokilly being the first to fall victim to their raid.  FitzStephen claimed Imokilly and Olethan.  He subdivided much of the land into smaller estates for his knights. These knights then rented out the land to smaller tenants – in some cases they left the lands in the hands of the Irish families that had originally claimed it, as long as they paid rent to their new landlords.  This was done because there seem to have been insufficient Anglo-Norman tenants to go around.  Robert FitzStephen had granted much of Uflanethe (the plain between Midleton and Castlemartyr/Mogeely) to the father and son team of Robert and Thomas des Autres. It is uncertain if the des Autres were the new landlords to the Mac Tire family of if FitzStephen was their immediate landlord.  Whatever it way the arrangement was worked out, the Mac Tire still occupied Mogeely and held what is now Midleton, with Castleredmond, the two Broomfield townlands, and Killenamanagh near Mogeely.  The des Autres continued to hold lands in Imokilly throughout the medieval period, but in increasingly smaller holdings.  This family is most likely the modern Waters and probably the Salter family that can be found in East Cork today.  Indeed Paul MacCotter suggests that they give their name to several townlands, including of Ballintotis – the former Balyogy became Baile an tAiteirs (des Autres town) perhaps from the family’s possession of Ballintotis in the fourteenth century.

The des Autres may have established their caput, or seat, at Ballincorra by building an earth and timber castle there.  Thus Ballinacorra became Castlecor or Caislean na Cora.  This earth and timber castle may represented by the unexcavated tree-covered mound in the grounds of Ballinacorra House.  This steep mound is located just yards from the medieval church – the relationship suggests a classic example of Anglo-Norman manorial practice: church and castle (or manor house) being set side by side.  The location of the medieval village is unknown, but most likely it was on the site of the present village.  It is even possible that the village was originally on the site of Ballinacorra House but the building of the castle meant that the inhabitants were forced to move to the site of the modern village.  This high-handed behaviour was common enough among the Anglo-Norman elite.

Ballinacorra Graveyard

The eighteenth century wall separating Ballinacorra House from the old churchyard. The trees mark the site of the still extant mound, which appears to be the motte of the early Anglo-Norman castle that gave the village its other name – Castle Cor or Castranacore. The proximity of the castle to the church was typical of the Anglo Normans. It is possible that the original village was moved east to its present site when the castle was established on this site.

This type of high-handed behaviour may have precipitated the foundation of the Abbey of St Mary of Chore (Midleton) in 1180 by Mac Tire and the Bishop of Cloyne (perhaps with encouragement from the MacCarthys).  By handing some of their property to the Cistercians, the Mac Tire kept it out of the hands of the Anglo-Normans.      .

In a deed that is hardly later than 1183, Robert des Autres granted the tithes of three churches in his lands to St Thomas’s Augustinian Abbey in Dublin.  One of these grants was ‘the great church of Castello de Cor.’ No, this referred not to a place in Italy but to the church at Ballinacorra (or Castlecor as it was now called).  Note the name of this castle – it will come up, and cause trouble, in a later post!

In 1182 a party of Anglo-Norman knights travelling from Cork to Waterford stopped off for the night at Mac Tire’s house in Mogeely – and were murdered. This incident sparked off a widespread revolt against the Anglo-Normans in Cork and the MacCarthy king, Diarmaid, launched a massive attack on Imokilly.  All the castles of Imokilly were destroyed – including Castlecor.  This revolt was suppressed by Raymond le Gros in 1183, but the Mac Tire and MacCarthys continued to fight a guerilla war until about 1220.  All this suggests that the initial Anglo-Norman settlement was rather weak and that the new estates must have suffered from the conflict.  Perhaps the des Autiers suffered severe damage to their properties during the revolt and its suppression as well as ongoing troubles into the early 1200s.

Sailing route to Ballinacorra

The sailing route from the lower part of Cork Harbour to Ballinacorra follows the yellow line via East Ferry to the green dot which marks the Creek of Ballinacorra. The total distance to Roche’s Point and the open sea is about 9 nautical miles. (Image from sailcork.com)

With Robert FitzStephen’s death in 1183, his estates were inherited by his nephew Raymond le Gros, the same man who had suppressed the Mac Tire/MacCarthy revolt that year.It isn’t certain when Raymond died, but it was sometime between 1185 and 1198.  Raymond’s lands were inherited by his nephew, Richard de Carew. Since we know that Thomas des Autres sold the vill and castle of Cor (Ballinacorra) to Richard de Carew in the 1190s, we can surmise that Raymond was probably dead by the middle of that decade.

The status of Castranachore/Caislean na Cora/Castle Cor/Castle Corth now changed as de Carew made it the caput or capital of his large manor which seemed to correspond to the old territory of Uflanethe.  This manor stretched from near Carrigtohill in the west almost to Killeagh in the east with a portion reaching the sea at Garryvoe and Ballycrenane in the south east.  From north to south, the manor reached from Dangan to the northern outskirts of Cloyne. The manor of Castlecorth also included the eastern portion of Great Island (Templerobin parish?) and a larger detached portion around Aghada, where the original caput seems to have been located by Robert FizStephen.

Being at the center of the manor, Ballinacorra (or Castlecorth, as it was called) was a busy market town and very useful port. This was effectively the most important town in Imokilly along with Cloyne and the newly developed port of Youghal.  Later medieval documents show that, by 1301, there was a watermill in the town (perhaps on the stream that flows into the creek). There also seems to have been a leper hospital in the vicinity of Castlecorth – but no remains are extant today.

To inhabit their new capital, the Carews seem to have brought in settlers from elsewhere – particularly from south Wexford. It is interesting to note that Robert FitzStephen was awarded a half-share of two cantreds or baronies in south County Wexford by Dermot MacMurrough.  These were the baronies of Bargy and Forth on the south coast of the county (indeed on the extreme south east corner of Ireland – the point of Ireland nearest to Pembrokeshire, whence came the original Anglo-Norman forces. Families with names like Walsh, Burgess, Coppinger, Tanner, Dene, Cod, Field, Fleming, Marshall, Mynes and even Harpur all settled in Ballinacorra from 1220. The names of these settlers were remarkably similar to the names of the Anglo-Norman settlers in Bargy and Forth – almost certainly they were all related, perhaps younger sons in search of more opportunity.  Paul MacCotter, who has had a chance to study some of these names, is very clear that this is a very close relationship between the families settled in south Wexford and in Imokilly, a relationship that deserves further exploration, especially since the Carews also inherited Robert FitzStephen’s property in Wexford.

Events in the fourteenth century brought about some serious changes in Ballinacorra/Castlecorth.  Firstly, a strong Gaelic revival led by the MacCarthys meant that Thomas Carew, sixth lord of Castlecorth after Raymond de Carew, lost much of his valuable estates in West Cork. In 1339 he sold the Burgary (town) of Castlecorth to William de Barry, the brother of David Barry, the lord of Barrymore.  The result of this was that Ballinacorra/Castlecorth ended up in Barrymore barony until the later 1600s or early 1700s.  This didn’t just mean the village or town of Ballinacorra, it also included the three townlands of Ballinacorra (town/East/West), the two Bawnards (East/West), and Loughatalia. To make matters worse, Thomas Carew was attainted for treason in 1340 and his manor of Castlecorth was confiscated by the government, although it was reluctantly allowed to remain under the tenuous control of the Carews of Garryvoe.  The separation of the vill or town of Ballinacorra/Castlecorth from the manor of Castlecorth was disastrous.  The port still functioned, but the town was no longer the center of economic activity in the western part of Imokilly.  In the following century as the FitzGeralds re-established themselves in Imokilly, the focus seems to have shifted to the newer town of Castlemartyr.

Bennett's maltings

The grainstore built by Anderson and Lapp in the late 1700s and later acquired by John H Bennett & Co, maltsters. This image shows the buildings before they were converted into apartments. The lovely still water shows what the creek looks like at high tide. Sadly Ballinacorra Creek was allowed to silt up in the twentieth century and eventually closed as a port in the 1960s.

Paul MacCotter reckons that Ballinacorra had declined by the seventeenth century to a small village, but it had one more shot at glory as a result of the Reformation – the parish was reunited with its northern portion in the early seventeenth century.  The suppression of the Cistercian abbey at Chore (Midleton) by Henry VIII eventually led to the two parishes becoming one, thus the name Castranachore rather than Corabbey for the parish of Midleton in the Tithe Applotment Book in 1833.  In the later 1600s Colonel Richard FitzEdmund FitzGerald, the heir to the Seneschal of Imokilly, moved to Ballinacorra, having failed to regain his ancient seat of Castlemartyr.  He probably lived in Ballinacorra House, which is certainly the oldest continuously inhabited house in the parish of Midleton. At present it appears to be an eighteenth century modification of a seventeenth century house, but one wonders if it actually is a reworking of a later medieval tower house or small castle?  Eighteenth century Ballinacorra was divided between the Longfields of Castlemary (near Cloyne) and the Boyles, Earls of Shannon, who lived at Castlemartyr.  At one point the brother of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne,

Edward Bransfield RN

Edward Bransfield RN was born in Ballinacorra about 1785, and was press-ganged into the Royal Navy in 1803. Unusually, for a Catholic, he did well for himself, rising through the ranks, becoming a noted early explorer of the Antarctic. Very likely his hedge-school education equipped him to take advantage of any opportunities that presented themselves to him, unlike most impressed men at the time.

It would seem that Ballinacorra (as we must now call it) revived in the later 1700s, when Anderson and Lapp, two Cork merchants built quays and grain stores on Ballinacorra Creek.  Later the malting of barley became the most important industry there, supplying malted barley to several breweries, including the Guinness brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin.   By then however, the creation of the borough of Midleton in 1670 meant that the northern neighbour overshadowed the village of Ballinacorra.  In 1803, a young fisherman called Edward Bransfield was press-ganged from his father’s fishing boat into the Royal Navy.  The young man remained in the navy after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, spending his time exploring the Southern Ocean and the shores of Antarctica as well as the South Shetland Islands, which he claimed for King George III (who actually had died the day before!). Sadly, the port at Ballinacorra was finally closed in the 1960s, thus ending centuries of international trade from the Creek of Ballinacorra.