The Midleton Railway Petition of 1844

courthouse-midleton

the Rev Francis Jones, Rector of Midleton, chose Midleton Courthouse as the venue for the meeting of 6th January 1845 to discuss the building of a railway. The meeting was called in response to a petition drafted and signed in December 1844. The petition was made to Francis Jones in his capacity as the last Sovereign of Midleton.

In 2015, some 340,000 passenger journeys were made on the Cork to Midleton railway service. This is an astonishing number given that the population of East Cork is nowhere near that figure. And, it should be recalled that this line only reopened in 2009, having been closed to regular passenger services since 1963. In the first six months of 2016, some 260,000 passenger journeys were already recorded on the line. When you consider that this line now has more daily services than a century ago, it shows the wisdom of reopening the local commuter lines to take the strain from the overcrowded road network around Cork.

This enthusiasm for idea of building a railway began in 1844. In December of that year the Rector of Midleton published a public notice in The Cork Examiner newspaper (now the Irish Examiner). The Rector, the Rev. Mr Francis Jones, didn’t actually publish the notice in his capacity as Rector, but as the last Sovereign of Midleton – four years after the Corporation of Midleton had been abolished. However, Jones was still addressed as Sovereign (or mayor) of Midleton until his death – since there was no Corporation to vote in a replacement and the reform had failed to abolish the office! The notice that Jones published is interesting because it shows the beginning of a shift in influence. Until then Youghal had been the key town in East Cork. Cove, later Queenstown, rapidly gained prominence due to its status as a port for emigration. Midleton remained relatively small – but it had just built the only workhouse between Cork and Dungarvan. This workhouse would see Midleton’s population INCREASE during the Great Famine between 1845 and 1851! In that period, Youghal’s population decreased, although it was still the largest town in East Cork until well into the twentieth century. Today, Midleton is a thriving, bustling, market town and business centre, but Youghal seems, sadly, to be in the doldrums.

The notice in the Examiner begins with a petition addressed to Francis Jones.::

We, the Undersigned, request you will appoint an early day for a Meeting of such Persons as feel interested in the formation of a Line of Railroad between Cork and Youghal, with a branch to Cove, in order to adopt such measures as may be calculated to place before the public correct information as to the advantages likely to result from the undertaking.

Cove, 17th December, 1844.

This petition was addressed: To the Rev. Mr Jones, Sovereign of Midleton.

Following a list of the petitioners, Jones added his notice of a public meeting:

In compliance with the above requisition, I hereby appoint a Meeting of ‘such persons as feel interested in the formation of a line of Railroad between Cork and Youghal, with a branch to Cove,’ to be held in the Court-house, Midleton, on Tuesday, 6th inst, at the hour of Twelve O’Clock.

 It is signed: Francis Jones

Among the sixtyfive names attached to the petition are the local Justices of the Peace: Thomas Stubbs JP; Robert Ware, JP; Sampson TW French, JP;  William W Lambert, JP; Edward Millett, JP;  R Holmes, JP; Edmond Roche, JP Kilshannick (Kilshannig, near Rathcormac); EB Roche MP, Trabolgan; GS Barry, JP, DL; Edward Odell, JP.

The identifiable clergymen who signed the petition were Richard Gaggin, Rector of Clonmult, and William Keane, Parish Priest of Midleton. It seems likely that the three ‘Clerks‘ who signed were actually clergymen too: Andrew Todd, Clk; William Meade, Clk; and J Edmund Nash, Clk.  

Several solicitors and doctors also signed the petition: S Fleming, Solicitor; J Devitt O’Donovan, Solicitor; Thomas H Orpen, MD; DH Scott, MD; Thomas Garde, MD; SW Keane, MD; John Boston, AB and MD; Philip L Walsh, MD; Joseph Barry, MD.

Midleton was itself well represented on the list. The Coppinger family was prominent: Thomas S Coppinger; ES Coppinger and William S Coppinger all signed. The Callaghans of Brodrick Street, Mathias Callaghan and his son, John Callaghan, signed together. The local distillers also saw the benefits: BJ Hackett (who’s distillery opened in 1824) and James Murphy, Junior, (who founded the present old Midleton distillery in 1825). J Hallaran who developed the great maltings at Ballinacurra was very prominent in the list.

This list shows how people in east Cork realised the benefits of building a railway to link Youghal and Cove to Cork before the Great Famine. The year 1845 was an interesting one for Midleton. It opened on the Feast of Epiphany with the railway meeting scheduled by Francis Jones. Then came the completion of the largest brick chimney in Murphy’s distillery in April. That was closely followed by the Postmaster General in London agreeing to Lord Midleton’s request that the name of the Post Office and the town should be spelled ‘MIDLETON’ rather than in any other way. Finally, in October and November the potato blight struck the district very hard.

The far-sighted gentlemen who signed the 1844 petition to the Sovereign of Midleton had to wait until 1859 to see the first part of their dreams realised as the line reached Midleton from Dunkettle. Youghal was reached in 1860. The Queenstown (formerly Cove, now Cobh) branch was completed in 1862.

Ambush! Where was Walter Raleigh ambushed in Midleton in 1580?

The traditional site of the Seneschal of Imokilly's attempted ambush of Walter Raleigh is usually placed on the Owenacurra River near the present St John the Baptist's Church, Midleton, built on the site of the medieval Cistercian abbey.

The traditional site of the Seneschal of Imokilly’s attempted ambush of Walter Raleigh is usually placed on the Owenacurra River (foreground) near the present St John the Baptist’s Church, Midleton, built on the site of the medieval Cistercian abbey.

‘...in Ireland he was a reprehensible snob and killer.’ Such is Michael Twomey’s blunt assessment of Walter Raleigh published in History Ireland in 2014. Twomey bolsters his assessment with a litany of incompetence and brutality committed by Raleigh during his time in Ireland, with the damning conclusion that Raleigh ‘..added nothing to Youghal’s infrastructure and very little to its economy.‘ And they’ve named a section of the town’s historic center after him!

The Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-1583) which convulsed Munster barely a decade after the previous Desmond Rebellion proved to be devastating for the FitzGerald interest in the province. The Earldom of Desmond went defunct, and ultimately extinct, as a consequence and many estates held since the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the province in 1177 were confiscated and awarded to English adventurers. The often brutal Walter Raleigh was one of the biggest beneficiaries gaining some 40,000 acres of confiscated lands for his troubles. Edmund Spenser, the celebrated poet who wrote The Faerie Queen, was another beneficiary of the confiscations that followed the crushing of the rebellion.

What is little known (even in Midleton) is that Raleigh’s life might have been rudely cut short if the rebellious Seneschal of Imokilly had got his act together in September 1580!

The incident is recorded in the second edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles which was published in 1587. James Fitzmaurice, leader of the Desmond Rebellion, while on pilgrimage to Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary in August 1580 was suddenly killed. This meant that John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, Seneschal of Imokilly, was now the effective military leader of the rebels. Captain Raleigh, based in Cork, had already attacked Barryscourt Castle, near Carrigtwohill, which had been burned by David, Lord Barry, to deny it to the Queen’s forces. The Holinshed chronology seems rather confusing but it actually seems that after Barryscourt, Raleigh had gone to Youghal. After a short time there Raleigh had to return to Cork, and prompted the attempted ambush at Corabbey, now Midleton. It’s best to give the Holinshed version before discussing the incident further. (Note: I’ve modernized the spelling to make it easier for the modern reader. The ‘captain’ in the text refers to Raleigh.)

Sir Walter Raleigh painted in 1588 when he was aged just 34. This elegant portrait gives no idea of the sheer brutality of the man who participated in the massacre of Papal and Spanish forces at Smerwick Harbour near Dingle in 1580, a crime condemned all over Europe.

Sir Walter Raleigh painted in 1588 when he was aged just 34. This elegant portrait gives no idea of the sheer brutality of the man who participated in the massacre of Papal and Spanish forces at Smerwick Harbour near Dingle in 1580, a crime condemned all over Europe.

This captain, making his return from Dublin, and the same well known unto the seneschall of Imokilly, through whose country he was to pass, lay in ambush for him and to entrap him between Youghal and Cork, lying at a ford, which the said captain must pass over with six horsemen and certain kerne, The captain, little mistrusting any such matter, had in his company only two horsemen and four shot on horseback, which was too small a force in so doubtful and dangerous times: nevertheless he had a very good guide, which was the servant of John Fitzedmond of Cloyne, a good subject, and this guide knew every corner and starting hole in those places.

The captain being come towards the ford, the seneschal had spied him alone, his company being scattered behind, and very fiercely pursued him, and crossed him as he was to ride over the water, but yet he recovered the ford and passed over. The Irishman who was his guide, when he saw the captain thus alone and so narrowly distressed, he shifted for himself and fled unto a broken castle fast by, there to save himself. The captain being thus over the water, Henry Moile, riding alone about a a bowshot before the rest of his company, when he was in the middle of the ford, his horse foundered and cast him down; and being afraid that the seneschal’s men would have followed him and have killed him, cried out to the captain to come and to save his life; who not respecting the danger he himself was in, came unto him and recovered both him and his horse. And then Moile, coveting with all haste to leap up, did it with such haste and vehemency that he quite overlept the horse, and fell into the mire fast by, and so his horse ran away, and was taken by the enemy. The captain nevertheless stayed still, and did abide for the coming of the residue of his company, of the four shot which were as yet not come forth, and for his man, Jenkin, who had about two hundred pounds in money about him, and sat upon his horse in the meanwhile, having his staff in one hand and his pistol charged in the other hand. The seneschal, who had so fiercely followed him upon spur, when he saw him to stand and tarry as it were for his coming, notwithstanding he was counted a man (as he was indeed) of great service, and having also a new supply of twelve horsemen and sundry shot come unto him; yet neither he nor any one of them, being twenty to one, durst to give the onset upon him, but only railed and used hard speeches unto him, until his men behind were recovered and were come unto him, then without any further harm departed.

Basically what happened was this: having returned from Dublin, where he was given a new commission to root out rebellion by Lord Deputy Grey, Raleigh had attacked David, Lord Barry, at Barryscourt, but was foiled by Barry’s burning of his own castle. Continuing to Youghal, Raleigh spent a short time there before he took a small escort of mounted men with him to go back to Cork. Their guide was a local man, a servant of John FitzEdmond FitzGerald of Cloyne, a cousin and mortal enemy of the Seneschal of Imokilly. One of the men in Ralaeigh’s party carried two hundred pounds in cash – probably pay for the garrison in Cork. The Seneschal discovered Raleigh’s plan and attempted to ambush him at a ford. Raleigh, riding ahead of his men, evaded the Seneschal’s personal attack and reached the far bank of the river. One of Raleigh’s men, The local guide ran off into a nearby ruined castle to save his life. Henry Moile was thrown from his horse in mid-stream. Raleigh came to his aid but Moile was too eager to remount and fell off his horse into a mire on the riverbank. Raleigh however stood his ground until the rest of the party caught up. The Seneschal, who had twenty men with him, some armed with guns, didn’t bother to attack Captain Raleigh but abused him with insults. When the rest of his men had crossed the stream, Raleigh gathered them up and made his way safely to Cork.

The first point to note is that Raleigh’s party was to pass through the country of the Seneschal of Imokilly – that means he was going from Youghal to Cork, through the barony of Imokilly. This is important because it meant that Raleigh’s movements could easily have been made known to the Seneschal whose seat was at Castlemartyr, although it is unlikely he was actually in residence at the time. But knowledge of Raleigh’s movements would have given the Seneschal time to plot an ambush. It is worth noting that the river (or ford) that Raleigh crossed is not named. There is one important clue – the ‘broken castle fast by.’ There were two castles in the immediate vicinity of Corabbey (Midleton). About half a mile to the east stands the ruin of Cahermone Castle, which had been acquired in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne, the loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth mentioned in the text. This stands on the banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River. The other castle was Castleredmond. No longer extant, Castleredmond stood on the shore of the Owenacurra Estuary at its narrowest point. However, given the silting of the Ballinacurra Creek and the Owenacurra Estuary especially since about 1900 it simply isn’t possible to suggest that this was the site of the ford where the ambush took place.  Indeed there is no known historical evidence for a ford at that point. The third option is that the ‘broken castle’ was actually the ruined Cistercian abbey of Chore, on the site of the present St John the Baptist’s Church in Midleton. This was indeed ‘fast by’ the fordable river Owenacurra, which marked the boundary between Imokilly and Barrymore baronies. However it seems highly unlikely, given the apparent eye-witness account of the ambush, that the narrator mistook a ruined abbey for a ‘broken castle.’  In short there is only one place where this ambush might have happened – on the banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River near Cahermone and NOT on the Owenacurra River.

In addition, it’s worth noting that the Owenacurra has lost much of its volume of water, and indeed can almost dry up entirely, because so much of the water is siphoned off upstream to supply the town of Midleton. The Roxborough River, despite being previously diverted into the distillery, has always been blessed with a good and rather deep flow of water. Given the proximity of Cahermone Castle, I’m inclined to place the ambush on the Roxborough rather than on the Owenacurra. Add to this is the mention of the ‘mire’ into which Henry Moile fell – there is an area of bogland next to the Roxborough River which probably extended further east towards Cahermone before the land was reclaimed in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. it should be noted that the townland of Park South straddles the Roxborough between Townparks (marking the center of Midleton) and Cahermone. Park South (along with Park North) formed part of Sir St John Brodrick’s deerpark as authorized in the Charter of Midleton of 1670.

The ruins of Cahermone Castle with the later additon on the right. The castle was acquired in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne who supplied the guide for Raleigh's party in 1580. This is most likely the 'broken castle' in which the guide took refuge during the attempted ambush.

The ruins of Cahermone Castle with the later additon on the right. The castle was acquired in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne who supplied the guide for Raleigh’s party in 1580. This is most likely the ‘broken castle’ in which the guide took refuge during the attempted ambush. The castle stands on the banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River.

The comic detail of Henry Moile over-leaping his horse in mid-stream suggests that the Holinshed source was actually present at the ambush and recounted it to amuse the company but also to display his courage in standing by his hapless colleague. In addition the detail that Jenkin had two hundred pounds in coin in his possession is very telling. it was a considerable sum of money at the time.

Unfortunately the Seneschal of Imokilly, John FitzEdmund FitzGerald (NOT the gentleman from Cloyne!), does not come out of the affair with much credit. Indeed, the whole incident is redolent of hesitation and uncertainty on the part of the Seneschal and his men. Raleigh attempted to ford the river under the direction of a guide provided of John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, a Catholic gentleman who was both Dean of Cloyne (but a layman for all that) and a staunch supporter of Queen Elizabeth I. At this stage FitzGerald was very likely safely shut up in Cork, for Cloyne had fallen to his cousin, the Seneschal, who had burned much of it. The fact that this Raleigh’s guide had fled to the ruined castle suggests that he was familiar with the place, as he probably would be if he was a servant of John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne.

Raleigh comes out of the tale with considerable credit, although one must question his foolishness in traveling through a rebellious country from Youghal to Cork with such a scanty force. Perhaps he felt it was sufficiently subdued to warrant the risk. Or perhaps he was in a hurry and a smaller party would make better speed than a larger one. It could well be that he just couldn’t spare the men and had to leave some to garrison Youghal.

Barryscourt Castle, Carrigtwohill, was extensively refurbished by David, Lord Barry, after he had burned it to deny it to Raleigh in 1580. Raleigh later tried to get Queen Elizabeth I to grant it to himself, but she refused,   preferring to keep the Barrys on side.

Barryscourt Castle, Carrigtwohill, was extensively refurbished by David, Lord Barry, after he had burned it to deny it to Raleigh in 1580. Raleigh later tried to get Queen Elizabeth I to grant it to himself, but she refused, preferring to keep the Barrys on side. The castle was restored by the Office of Public Works at the end of the twentieth century. 

The specific details given in the story and the description of the site of the ambush all point to one conclusion – Walter Raleigh was himself the source of the story in the 1587 Holinshed. This is reinforced by an interesting coda related in the text. Some time after the failed ambush, there was a parley between the Crown and the rebels. Raleigh and the Seneschal were both present and Raleigh took the opportunity to berate the Seneschal for his cowardice during the ambush. One of the Seneschal’s men piped up that his master was indeed a coward that day but was otherwise a valiant man. The Earl of Ormond intervened and suggested a duel to settle the argument, but the Seneschal sensibly demurred. It seemed he preferred to keep his head rather than lose it. After a peace had been arranged (and the rebellion crushed) the Seneschal was allowed, eventually, to return to his residence at Castlemartyr. Some time later he was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle by a suspicious government. There were apparently plans to release him given the lack of any evidence against him, but John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, the last effective Seneschal of Imokilly, died in prison in 1586.

References:-

Holinshed’s Chronicle, 1587: http://www.english.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/texts.php?text1=1587_0542

Michael Twomey: ‘A good heritage/tourism story getting in the way of historical facts?’ History Ireland, Issue 1 (January/February 2014), vol 22.

See:- http://www.historyireland.com/volume-22/good-heritage-tourism-story-getting-way-historical-facts/

Markets and Fairs in early Stuart Imokilly and Barrymore.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork. Its development was promoted by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork for forty years until 1642.

One of the aspects of regional history in Ireland was the existence of Presidencies in the provinces of Munster and Connacht. These were subordinate authorities set up in the sixteenth century to impose greater governmental control over these provinces.They alleviated the burden of control placed on the Castle (the government in Dublin Castle) and allowed for more rapid response to local issues.

Shortly after the climactic Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the ending of the Nine Year’s War in 1603, the Council of Munster (the Lord President of Munster and his chief officials) set to work on modernizing the regional economy. The key to this was the encouragement of a monetary economy based on licensed and regulated markets and fairs.  Margaret Curtis Clayton has done a splendid job of compiling the information on the markets and fairs that were newly licensed in Munster in the period 1600-1630. It should be noted that the establishment of a market or fair on someone’s property generated additional lucrative income and often enhanced an existing settlement or improved its economic prospects. The period from 1603 to 1642 was one of rapid economic change in south east Cork.

It’s worth noting that Chore Abbey (Midleton) had a market licence from 1608 renewed in 1624 – suggesting that the settlement that survived the dissolution of the Cistercian abbey was now thriving. The proximity of an annual fair in Castleredmond, first licensed in 1609, was a further boost to the local economy. In each case the licence was issued to the proprietor or landlord, who was then obliged to appoint a clerk of the market to regulate it. The proprietor also had to designate a place for the market or fair and ran a pie-powder court to settle disputes. (The name comes from the French term pied poudre, or dusty feet, for the court was a summary court conducted on the spot.) The proprietor had to pay an annual fee to the Crown for the licence and was entitled to keep the fees charged to stall-holders and the profits of justice from the pie powder court.  It is worth noting that fairs were often linked to church feastdays.

John Speed's map of Munster 1600-1611.

John Speed’s map of the province of Munster 1600-1611.

In this post our concern is the licensing of such markets and fairs in the south east Cork baronies of Imokilly and Barrymore.

Carrigtwohill: 5 Feb 1607/8. Fair – no details. Prop. David Barry, Viscount Buttevant. Renewed 1618, details lost.

Castleredmond: 24 June 1609. Fair on 3 May & 1 day following. Prop. Sir James Craig. Rent. 6s 8d Irish. Renewed, with one additional day, on 23 Dec 1624 in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, for a rent of 6s.8d. (Note: the date 3 May was the traditional Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.)

Chore Abbey (Midleton): 14 Oct 1608. Market on Saturday. Prop. Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald. Rent: 5s English. Renewed in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, on 23 Dec 1624, for a rent of 6s.8d.

Dangandonyvane: 25 Nov. 1606. Fair on Feast of St James (25th July) & 2 days following. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Killeagh:11 July 1631. Market on Tuesday. Fairs on 1 June and 1 November each with one day following. Prop. William Supple. Rent not recorded.

Rostellan: 25 Nov. 1606. Market on Saturday. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Youghal: 22 Dec 1609. Market on Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs on Eve of St Luke (18 October) & 3 days following and on the Feast of the Ascension (usually late May). Prop Youghal Corporation. Free of rent.

What is of interest are the two market days in Youghal and the two annual fairs there. Clearly Youghal was of major importance. Cork appears to have had a market every day until 1613 when a shortage of goods led to the market being restricted to Wednesday and Saturday. Also of note is the absence of any licence for a market in Cloyne, Ballinacorra, Mogeely or Ballymartyr (Castlemartyr). Nor is there any market on Great Island – the nearest one being in Carrigtwohill. The absence of a market in Cloyne suggests that Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was wary of intruding on pre-existing market rights established by the bishops during the medieval period. The market in Carrigtwohill followed a tradition of markets going back to the 1200s. In respect of Chore Abbey (Midleton), it is interesting to note that Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, succeeded Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald as leaseholder of both the old monastic estate, and Castleredmond. FitzGerald had died in 1612.

Reference: Margaret Curtis Clayton: ‘Early Stuart markets and fairs in Munster, c1600-1630.’ Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, vol 115 (2010), pp 167-177.

‘A good market for flesh…..and fish.’ Heritage Week 2015 in Midleton.

https://i0.wp.com/www.heritageweek.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/NHW-2015-Logo.jpg

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 and Ballinacorra. 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.

Main Street, Midleton, around 1900.

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.

Other events for National Heritage Week 2015 can be found on http://www.heritageweek.ie or on the County Heritage Service webpage: http://www.corkcoco.ie/co/pdf/609621658.pdf. You can also pick up a booklet or leaflet in any local library branch.

Ballinacorra’s medieval import? Dundry stone for Cloyne Cathedral.

The blocked up great window of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral. The carved stone that marks the outline of the window is not native to Cloyne or even to Ireland. It was imported from Dundry near Bristol in the thirteenth century.

The blocked up great window of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral. The carved stone that marks the outline of the window is not native to Cloyne or even to Ireland. It was imported from Dundry near Bristol in the thirteenth century. Sadly the great window was crudely blocked up in the middle of the eighteenth century to accommodate the memorials of the Longfield family of nearby Castle Mary.

‘The only part of the building to survive more or less intact from the early Gothic era is the south transept, where there are plenty of original details cut in imported Dundry stone.’

Professor Roger Stalley.

The old phrase ‘coals to Newcastle’ refers to the shipping of coal from Newcastle to London from the seventeenth century. The idea that anyone would ship coal TO Newcastle in the far north of England was so odd that the phrase  was used to  describe very peculiar behaviour. Yet Ireland, a land rich in stone, imported tons of stone from England during the medieval period! Sometimes, if you know where to look, you can just pick up evidence of the trading links that existed in a place centuries ago. However, some of this evidence may reveal something of the local Irish trading patterns and infrastructure in medieval times.

The Waterford Museum of Treasures is the best municipal museum system in Ireland. The medieval museum is a modern building built on the vaulted undercroft of the Choristers' Hall beside Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. Dundry stone was used to clad this building in recognition of the original use of the stone for the medieval cathedral.

The Waterford Museum of Treasures is the best municipal museum system in Ireland. The medieval museum is a modern building built on the vaulted undercroft of the Choristers’ Hall beside Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. Dundry stone was used to clad this building in recognition of the original use of the stone for the medieval cathedral. This picture gives a good idea of the pale honey colour of the stone.

Recently I read a fascinating book edited by Professor Roger Stalley of Trinity College Dublin. The book, Irish Gothic Architecture: construction, decay and reinvention, is a collection of excellent research essays on the topic of later medieval Irish architecture, particularly Gothic architecture, although it also looks at nineteenth century perceptions of Gothic architecture. The essays are wonderful, but one made me sit up and go back over it carefully. The reason was the sentence quoted at the top of this post. The essay discussed the building of several cathedrals in Ireland in the thirteenth century, but the discussion of Cloyne Cathedral is important for those interested in south-east Cork.  While most of the stonework in the windows of the cathedral has been redone at a later stage, especially in the nineteenth century, those windows in the south transept are original to the building. They were created when the transept was first built in the 1200s.

How did Professor Stalley know this? Well he certainly didn’t consult any surviving documents. Instead he looked at the woindows, especially on  the outside, and realized that the stone used to build these windows wasn’t local. But he recognized the stone, nonetheless. It is an oolitic limestone that came from Dundry, a quarry located in the extreme north of Somerset and only a few miles south of Bristol, in the west of England!

The medieval vaulted undercroft of the Choristers' Hall in Waterford was built of Dundry Stone. The arcade was inserted later, in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

The medieval vaulted undercroft of the Choristers’ Hall in Waterford was built of Dundry Stone. The arcade was inserted later, in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

Dundry stone was imported into Ireland following the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169/70. This stone was famously used to build Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, but in fact, was used in churches from Kinsale in County Cork to Trim in County Meath. It was used for parish churches, monastic churches and cathedrals, but now Cloyne Cathedral joins the list. But why import stone into a country that is already rich in building stone? The most likely reason is that some of the principal masons working on these churches were also English. These English masons came to Ireland because they were familiar with erecting and decorating large stone churches, which were still a fairly new phenomenon in Ireland, having been introduced here just thirty years earlier..

Now these English masons almost certainly came from the West Country of England, for the architecture of Christchurch, Dublin, and other buildings, suggest similarities to some of the architectural features used in the west of England.churches. These masons were entirely familiar with the stone that was available in the west of England.. But in Ireland they discovered that the local stone was different – mostly a hard limestone that the masons found difficult to carve. So they did what the first Norman masons did in England just after the Conquest in 1066 – they imported the stone that they were familiar with. So, just as the earliest Norman masons imported Caen stone for the Tower of London, so the earliest English masons in Ireland imported Dundry stone to make the carved window openings and other decorations. However, by the time the cathedral was built in Cloyne, it is possible that most of the work was done by Irish masons. Sadly, the cathedral accounts do not survive so we really don’t know who built the structure. Whoever they were, they knew about Dundry stone and they chose it for the window openings.

Building the Tower of Babel was a favoured imaged of medieval book illuminators because it depicted the vanity of man. These images are valuable for modern scholars seeking to understand the workings of medieval masons.

Building the Tower of Babel was a favoured imaged of medieval book illuminators because it depicted the vanity of man. These images are valuable for modern scholars seeking to understand the workings of medieval masons.

But what Stalley does not consider is the implications of importing this stone from England into south-east Cork . This is where economics come into play. Most of the Dundry stone used in Ireland went to places that were accessible by water, being located either on the coast or by a river.The reason this mattered was simple – it just cost too much to freight the stone by cart over land. The more of the stone that could be shipped by water as close as possible to the building site, the cheaper the cost of importing it.

The three eastern windows of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral are also framed in Dundry stone.

The three eastern windows of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral are also framed in Dundry stone.

So we need to identify a port that could have been used to import the Dundry stone. Given the economics of moving building stone over land, I would suggest three possible candidates – Ballycotton (directly facing the Bristol Channel, Aghada, the first seat of Robert FitzStephen in Cork and just inside the entrance to Cork Harbour, and Ballinacorra. The first, Ballycotton, presents problems, because it does not seem to have been a major port with the appropriate facilities for offloading heavy cargo. By the time the cathedral was built in Cloyne, Ballycotton seems to have become a fishing village only. Aghada was only used as a caput baroniae (baronial seat) for a short period in the late twelfth century, by 1200 it had been replaced by Ballinacorra. Ballinacorra is much further from the open sea than Aghada, being part of the inner harbour area and possessed ancient links to Cloyne – its ‘great church’ was dedicated to St Colman, suggesting that it was founded directly from Cloyne, probably as a port within Cork Harbour. The present Ballinacorra village is located just a few miles from Cloyne and the terrain is not difficult, so getting shipments of Dundry stone to the cathedral site would have been relatively easy. Remember, only the cut stone was being shipped in – this was a very small amount of the overall amount of stone used in the cathedral. My own opinion, alas not supported by any documentary evidence, is that the Dundry stone for Cloyne came through the port of Ballinacorra.

Sadly, in the middle of the eighteenth century the Longfield family of nearby Castle Mary had the great thirteenth century five light window in the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral crudely blocked up to provide space for their family memorials.

(Note: I exclude Youghal from the above list of ports because it was really only established in the early thirteenth century.)

Reference:Roger Stalley, editior, Irish Gothic Architecture: construction, decay and reinvention. Wordwell Press, Dublin 2012. The quotation at the head of this post is is from the essay by Roger Stalley: ‘Cathedral-building in thirteenth century Ireland,’ contained within the volume. .

Did Dermot Mac Murrough set sail from East Cork to bring the Normans to Ireland?

dermot_mcmurrough

Archtraitor or just another twelfth century Irish politician? This medieval image is thought to represent Diarmait Mac Murchada, King of Leinster – the man who brought the ‘English’ into Ireiand.

Diarmait MacMurchada (also known as Dermot MacMurrough) is a name perennially linked to treason in Ireland – although it’s a bit rich considering the propensity of medieval Irish kings to betray almost any agreement made in good faith!  But what blackens MacMurchada’s name for most Irish people was his decision to seek aid from King Henry II of England to recover his Kingdom of Leinster, particularly his direct patrimony of Ui Cinnsealagh (the area now covered by the dioceses of Leighlin and Ferns – essentially Counties Carlow and Wexford).  But most people in Ireland interpret this to mean that MacMurchada brought the English into Ireland in 1169, and so began eight centuries of trouble here. In reality Ireland was politically troubled before the events of 1169 – and there was no guarantee that this would end any time soon. Modern Irish historians now recognize that Mac Murchada was doing exactly what any Irish king might attempt – seek help to regain his kingdom and get revenge on his enemies.  An Anglo-Norman takeover of Ireland was almost certainly not on the agenda.  It is likely that Mac Murchada behaved like any modern politician and lied about some things.  Besides, Henry owed Mac Murchada, for the King of England had hired mercenaries from MacMurchada to put down rebellion in Wales.

But what has an exiled king from County Wexford got to do with South East Cork?  Well, MacMurchada may have sailed from the mouth of the Dissour River (just north of Ballymacoda) to seek aid from King Henry II!  I came across this when looking for something else…..and, as you can imagine, my jaw dropped. Ballymacoda is a long way from South Wexford – and was an even longer journey in the middle of the twelfth century!  I’d better give a short synopsis of the events leading up to this departure.

Diarmait Mac Murchada was born around 1110 as the son of Donnchad Mac Murchada, King of Leinster. Diarmait was descended from Brian Boru through his father’s grandmother. When Diarmait was about five, his father was killed by his own cousin, Sitric Silkbeard, King of Dublin (he was an Irish Viking, to put it crudely). Donnchad was buried in a grave with a dead dog for company – an insult the Mac Murchadas never forgave. This incident gives you a flavour of Irish politics at the time.

Baltinglass Abbey

Diarmait Mac Murchada founded Baltinglass Abbey,Co Wicklow, for the Cistercians in 1148 – only a couple of years after the order had arrived in Ireland to found Mellifont Abbey. Diarmait was considered by churchmen to be a modernizing reformer, and was held in high regard by them.

On the death of his brother, Diarmait unexpectedly became King of Leinster. He seems to have been a somewhat schizophrenic ruler.  On the one hand he gave generously to the church, supporting reforms and founding new monasteries and nunneries (ironically, this seems to have been a speciality of his). However Diarmait was also seen by many as a ruthless tyrant – although this seems to have been the norm at the time.  Gerald de Barri (better known as Giraldus Cambrensis) who visited Ireland in 1185 to discover what his cousins the Barrys were up to wrote of Diarmait that he preferred to be feared rather than loved and that he didn’t respect his noblemen, preferring to promote men of low birth (presumably on merit). ‘He was a tyrant to his own subjects……his hand was against every man, and every man’s hand was against him.’  And so it turned out, for Diarmait had abducted, Dervogilla, the wife of Tiernan O’Rourke (perhaps with the woman’s connivance). O’Rourke was the King of Breffny (in modern Sligo and Leitrim) and he appealed to his overlord and ally Rory O’Connor, King of Connacht and High King of Ireland, who led an attack on Diarmait that did such huge damage in Leinster that his own people seem to have revolted against Diarmait.  Indeed so endangered was his life, that Diarmait had to flee disguised as a monk.  He took ship to Bristol to seek out King Henry in 1166.

nunschurch500

Dervogilla, the woman whose abduction caused all the trouble for Diarmait Mac Murchada, later founded the lovely Nun’s Church in Clonmacnoise. The church may have been inspired by the fine church architecture commissioned by her abductor!

But where exactly did Diarmait find his ship?  Prompted by a recent visit to Youghal, Goddard Orpen, a wonderful historian of medieval Ireland, suggested in a note published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1903 that Diarmait took ship from a place called Corkeran.  He based this idea on lines from a poem composed in Norman French shortly after the events of the so-called ‘Norman invasion of Ireland. The poem called The Song of Dermot and the Earl tells us that:

‘Quant fut li reis exule, A Korkeran (est) eschippe, A Corceran en mer entra, Awelaf Okinead od se mena.’

When the king was exiled, to Corceran he escaped, at Corceran he entered the sea, Olaf O’Cineadha gave him aid’ (my translation)

Orpen identifies the place called Korkeran/Corceran as Gort Corceran which is located just east of Ladysbridge, north of the road to Ballymacoda.  There is an error in Orpen’s account – he says it is near the mouth of the Dissour River – true, but it is actually on the Womanagh River, which flows into the Dissour just a short distance to the north.  Perhaps Olaf O’Cineadha was living in Gort Corceran and he arranged the ship.  This man’s Norse-Irish name is interesting and suggests strong intermarriage over the generations between the various Norse settlers in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford and Cork with the native Irish.  Given that one of the parishes in the city of Waterford was named for St Olaf – it’s possible that Olaf O’Cineadha had connections there.  Whatever the reason, it is clear that the two men knew each other – did Olaf supply ships to take Diarmait’s men to Wales to assist Henry II some years earlier?

It has to be admitted that Orpen’s suggestion was greeted with horror by William Henry Grattan Flood in 1904. (Pity the poor man. With that moniker, he had a lot to live up to – named for two celebrated eighteenth century Irish parliamentarians Henry Grattan and Henry Flood!)  Grattan Flood insisted that Diarmait left from County Wexford – specifically from Corkerry near New Ross, on the banks of the Barrow in County Wexford.  On the surface this looks good – it was in Diarmait’s home territory. But it also entailed a long trip down the River Barrow passing Waterford – a place with no love to Diarmait.

Orpen’s response is firm – he quotes the Song of Dermot and the Earl to say that MacMurchada was driven out by his own people, a detail supported by other evidence from the time. Diarmait was so hounded by his enemies that he had to disguise himself as a monk in order to escape – it suggests the man had a serious popularity deficit, as we would say today. To get a flavour of the vicious nature of Irish politics at the time consider a detail revealed by Dagmar O’Riain-Raedel.  She recounts the horrific tale of two rival Irish kings being finally persuaded by the Bishop of Lismore to make a solemn peace with oaths sworn on relics in the cathedral of Lismore.  The two rivals duly obliged the bishop.  But as soon as they stepped outside the door of the cathedral, having sworn their solemn oaths, one man promptly buried his battle axe in the head of the other.  So much for a binding oath to keep the peace in twelfth century Ireland!  At least the murderer had the courtesy to wait until he was outside the church before doing the dastardly deed – unlike the Anglo-French knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Beckett in Canterbury a decade or so later! (Sadly twenty-first century Ireland got a taste of this twelfth century behaviour during the week when gunmen killed a wedding guest the door of a church in Enniskillen as he was about to attend the nuptials – tradition can be wonderful, but some traditions deserve to be firmly consigned to the dustbin of history.)  The brutal murder at Lismore suggests that Diarmait Mac Murchada was in very real personal danger of assassination or murder.  Hence his flight from Ui Cinnsealagh.  According to Orpen, the nearest point where Diarmait could have safely taken ship for England was in East Cork, specifically Youghal (which probably didn’t exist as a town at the time), or Imokilly barony in East Cork.  The townland of Gort Corceran is near the middle of Imokilly – and Orpen had already noted the name and location on the Ordnance Survey map of the area.

Medieval irish axemen

How to resolve a political dispute in twelfth century Ireland. This illustration may refer to the brutal murder at Lismore cathedral and gives a hint of the personal danger that Diarmait Mac Murchada faced when he was defeated by O’Connor and O’Rourke.

However there are a couple of details that neither Orpen nor Grattan Flood addressed.  The Dissour empties into Youghal Bay, as does the River Blackwater.  The Blackwater leads to Lismore, site of the monastic foundation of St Carthage and a place with a long continental connection, as well as being the site of that vicious axe-job!  At the time, the Bishop of Lismore was Gilla Crist Ua Connairche, called Christianus in Latin.  He was also the Papal Legate in Ireland, so much business pertaining to the Irish church was conducted by shipping passengers, pilgrims and messages from Youghal Bay.  As a king with an interest in church reform, Diarmait might have been given a warm welcome by the clergy of the area – including the Papal Legate and the Bishop of Cloyne.  Indeed, Diarmait’s flight may have been assisted by churchmen – which very likely explains the monkish disguise he adopted.  Also, it should be noted that Gort Corceran is just a few miles from Cloyne.

lismorelarge2

The Cathedral of St Carthage in Lismore, County Waterford, is a medieval structure with much later rebuilding, especially in the early nineteenth century. It is delightfully situated across from the castle gardens. Lismore was the seat of the Papal Legate in the lifetime of Diarmait Mac Murchada. An infamous murder was committed just outside the door of the cathedral in the twelfth century – one king murdered his rival moments after they had sworn an oath inside to keep the peace. Politics, twelfth century Irish style.

To make matters even more interesting, the Dissour river flows through Killeagh, just north of Gort Corceran – and Killeagh was originally the cell or monastery of St Ia (NOT St Abban!).  St Ia gives her name to St Ives in Cornwall as well as sites in Brittany – suggesting a long history of communication between Killeagh area and foreign shores.  In addition it seems that the first two bishops of the restored diocese of Cloyne may have come from the Irish monastery in Regensburg in Germany.  With these overseas connections, the idea of Diarmait Mac Murchada taking ship from Youghal Bay, even from the mouth of the Dissour, makes sense. The idea is reinforced by the fact that the Anglo-Normans later founded an important manor and castle at Inchiquin – right on the banks of the Dissour.  This allowed them to get supplies directly from England if required. If the bishop of Cloyne was involved in Mac Murchada’s flight, it is possible that Diarmait might have embarked from Ballycotton – a settlement controlled directly by the bishop and a significant harbour at the time (see my previous previous post on Ballycotton).

inchiquin castle

The thirteenth century juliet or round keep of Inchiquin Castle on the banks of the Dissour River. Curiously, the Manor or Seigniory of Inchiquin remained effectively outside the control of the Sheriff of Cork for many centuries. The FitzGeralds were the first to hold the manor.

I suspect the jury is still out on Orpen’s suggestion – but it is worth further investigation.  Recently, I met Paul Mac Cotter, who wrote the History of the Medieval Diocese of Cloyne, and he said that there were many connections between Wexford, especially south Wexford, and Imokilly in the thirteenth century, shortly after the Anglo Normans settled the place. Perhaps these connections went back to Diarmait Mac Murchada in 1166!

capel_island

Capel Island off Knockadoon Head marks the southern end of Youghal Bay and is close to the mouth of the Dissour River. Named after the de Capella family, an Anglo-Norman family who settled in Imokilly around 1200, it may have been one of the last sights of Ireland seen by Diarmait Mac Murchada as he went to seek aid from King Henry of England. The de Capella family are known today as the Supple family.

One thing is clear though – without Diarmait’s trip to see Henry II there would be no FitzGeralds, Butlers, Burkes, FitzMaurices, Supples, Cods, Roches or even Harpurs in Ireland! I’ll update you if I get further information that can shed light in favour of, or against, Orpen’s idea.

There is a delightful irony in the fact that William Henry Grattan Flood was born not far from the Dissour River – in Lismore actually. He even spent much of his life in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, as a church organist – right in the heart of Diarmait Mac Murchada’s home territory!  This is the man who preserved and published the Wexford Carol – the finest of the native Irish Christmas carols! For that alone we can happily forgive him for his peeved response to Orpen’s suggestion about Diarmait’ Mac Murchada’s flight from Ireland.

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Decade of Bicentenaries? New churches expressing Irish Catholic hopes after 1800.

Interior Shanagarry church.

The intimate interior of Shanagarry church. It seems likely that this church originally ended in a blank wall with the altar in front of it, the arch and chancel being added later as funds were raised. The roof was originally an open timber structure.

We in Ireland are currently involved in the Decade of Centenaries – an all-Ireland initiative to commemorate the events that happened in Ireland from 1912 to 1922. The events being commemorated include the Home Rule Bill of 1912, the foundation of the Ulster and Irish Volunteers, the outbreak and course of World War I, the Easter Rising, the partition of Ireland into two political units, the War of Independence (Troubles), and the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921, with the arrival of effective dominion status in the Irish Free State in 1922.

But I wonder if we have also forgotten to look back a further century to the early 1800s.  In 1801 the Irish Parliament ceased to exist and a smaller group of MPs had to speak for Ireland in the Westminster Parliament. Hopes were raised during the run-up to the Act of Union that Catholics would be given political rights – a natural follow through of the gradual removal of restrictions on Catholic worship, land ownership, education, and entry to both the legal and medical professions.

What Catholics wanted was the right to be represented on the local government bodies, to become magistrates and to stand for election to Parliament.  Furthermore, the fact that Britain (and, therefore, Ireland) was involved in a major war against Napoleon’s French Empire weighed heavily on the minds of political figures in both Britain and Ireland.  How could the Crown ensure the loyalty of Irish Catholics, who until the French Revolution had looked to France for support?  One way was to bring the Catholic clergy onside.  The savage violence of the Revolutionaries in France against the Church had already alarmed the clergy in Ireland.  Cleverly, the (Protestant) government in Ireland (with the support of the British government) had founded a seminary for the education of catholic clergy and laymen in Maynooth in 1795, supporting it with an annual grant.  The effect was gratifyingly immediate for the government – the Catholic hierarchy condemned the 1798 Rebellions and supported the Act of Union in 1800.

The prospect of Catholic Emancipation reached fever pitch by 1815 – but somehow the government found reason to go back on its promises until Daniel O’Connell threw down the gauntlet in 1828.  Meanwhile Catholics in Ireland felt they could do something for themselves about their standing in the community – they began to either rebuild their chapels or build many more new chapels to cater for a rapidly increasing population.

Cratloe Church

The tiny country church of Cratloe in County Clare, perfectly preserved and beautifully restored. A rare national treasure by any standard, and a very rare survival. It was begun in 1791 (nave and chancel) and extended in 1806 (transepts, seen here) and incorporates a medieval doorway brought from elsewhere. Daniel O’Connell gave a speech to crowd here during his 1828 election campaign.

Cratloe Gallery

The interior of Cratloe Church shows the simple design with open timber roof and galleries. The T-shaped plan of Cratloe allowed for the installation of THREE galleries! They were a nightmare to restore given that people are much taller now. Such interiors were usually heavily embellished later in the nineteenth century.

In 1808, Dr John Milner, Catholic Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District in England (effectively Catholic Bishop of Birmingham), visited Ireland for the opening of St Anne’s and St Mary’s Church in Shandon – now the North Cathedral in Cork (the south Cathedral is St Fin Barre’s Anglican Cathedral by William Burges).  Milner was an early advocate of the gothic revival style in church architecture for Catholics deeming it an original Catholic style.  Now a fine church had been built in Youghal in the 1796.  This showed early gothic revival features like pointed arches, but it also included a very ‘Protestant’ feature – galleries going around three sides of the interior.  The galleries were necessary to accommodate an increasing population.  Youghal boasted the finest Catholic church in the diocese of Cloyne for many decades thereafter.

St Mary's Catholic Church Youghal

St Mary’s Catholic Church in Youghal founded 1796 as the finest Catholic church in the diocese of Cloyne. Only a few hundred yards from the Anglican St Mary’s Collegiate Church, which is a medieval foundation. The tower seen here was apparantly once topped by a spire of timber and lead, but it blew down in a storm.

St Mary's Catholic Church interior

The interior of St Mary’s in Youghal showing early Gothic revival pointed arches and the galleries which give the place the atmosphere of a Wren church in London, or a Congregational church in New England.

The church in Youghal was an exception.  Smaller communities were also replacing run-down chapels.  This year, 2014, saw two bicentenaries celebrated in neighbouring parishes.  The small village of Ladysbridge is part of the parish of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge.  In 1814, the Catholics were given land by the Protestant Henry Boyle, 3rd Earl of Shannon, who lived nearby in Castlemartyr House (now a luxury hotel!).  Lord Shannon’s gift of land and funds was to facilitate the provision of a place of worship for Catholics in Ladysbridge. A generous landlord could be a boost to the local Catholics but a difficult landlord could be very troublesome indeed.  In Midleton the landlord refused to allow the building of a Catholic chapel within the town until the 1890s!

The design of Youghal church seems to have been used as a template for Ladysbridge church for there were galleries on three sides of the interior.  The simple basic design was typical of the type of church that Catholics were building at this period – the urgent need was for solid structures to accommodate a rapidly increasing population, decorative embellishment was a secondary consideration.

ladysbridgechurch

The simple shape of Ladysbridge church is typical of the type of architecture used before the Famine in Ireland. However the walls and gables were raised a few feet in the 1958 refurbishment. There was once an external staircase leading to the internal gallery.

Following a visitation in 1828, Bishop Michael Collins (no, not THAT Michael Collins!) left a description of Ladysbridge church.  He said it measured ’80 by 36 feet’, and that it was ‘commodious well built and covered with Welsh slate, (some chapels still had thatch it seems).  The church had ‘an excellent and tasteful altar and a well-executed gallery,’ and it only lacked one detail: ‘it wants only to be ceiled’ – which proves that the roof was of open work timber at the time.  The bishop summarised that Ladys Bridge (as he called it) was ‘the best country chapel I have seen in the Diocese of Cloyne hitherto.’

 

Ladysbridge interior

The 1958 renovations stripped Ladysbridge church of the side galleries. The three altars and mosaic shown in the picture were all products of the 1958 refurbishment. The original decoration was much simpler, and the roof was of open timber work.

In those days, the parish of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge included the village of Shanagarry.  This was a place with associations to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.  In 1814, Fr O’Neill managed to acquire land there to build a second church, which still survives with little alteration.  Fortunately O’Neill already had a functioning chapel in Ballymacoda.  In the 1830s the old civil parish of Kilmahon (Shanagarry) was transferred from the parish of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge to the parish of Cloyne.

Shanagarry Church

Shanagarry church is much closer to the original appearance of Ladysbridge. Indeed the two churches may have been built by the same team of craftsmen.

The irony of the situation is that the Parish Priest of Ballymacoda, Ladysbridge and Shanagarry was Fr Peter O’Neill, a man who had been tried, condemned and whipped in Youghal for concealing information on subversion from the authorities.  He may or may not have been given this information in confession.  Shipped off to New South Wales and Norfolk Island, O’Neill was only the third Catholic priest to inhabit Australia.  However he was rapidly reprieved by a worried and embarrassed government – they needed the clergy to calm an angry Catholic populace.  It is possible that Lord Shannon was trying to placate his Catholic tenantry by offering land for building a chapel.  In the late 1950s the church in Ladysbridge was heavily rebuilt and redecorated.

Today, Saturday 29th November 2014, the neighbouring parish of Cloyne begins the celebrations of the building of its Catholic church in 1815.  This building still functions, although it underwent several changes.  The interior seems to be a design by Michael O’Riordan, an architect who became a Presentation Brother in Cork.  O’Riordan designed several churches in the dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.

St Colman's Church, Cloyne

Sadly, the original exterior of Cloyne church was severely ‘modernised’ in the late 20th century, giving it a very bizarre appearance indeed.

Cloyne church repainted interior

The gothic revival exterior of Cloyne hides a fine classical interior  The reredos motif seen here seems to be the work of Brother Michael O’Riordan – seemingly a reworking of the 1830s. Exactly the same motif was used in nearby Ballintotis church.

It has been estimated that between 1800 and 1850 (more accurately 1796 and 1846) about a hundred churches and chapels were rebuilt or newly built in the mostly rural diocese of Cloyne  Surely a testament to the strong religious devotion of the Catholics of the period.  Most of these churches were quite small ,including the now vanished chapel of St John in Midleton in this.  Several of these buildings were replaced after 1850 in a more convincing gothic revival style, although Midleton had to wait until 1894-96 for a huge new church to be constructed.

Part of the Catholic revival at the period included the provision of proper parish registers.  Parish registers were already in use for several decades from the middle of the eighteenth century, but many were judged to be inadequate during later episcopal visitations (essentially inspections by the bishop).  Older registers often contained baptisms, marriages and sometime burials all mixed up together in the same volume.  It seems that most of the older registers were lost or even discarded when new registers were introduced. Also bear in mind that the storage conditions for such registers was often poor until decent churches were built. As you can imagine, the losses of the older registers remains a source of deep regret to Irish genealogists.

Further reading on Amazon.com

Ireland Before the Famine: 1798-1848

King Dan: The Rise of Daniel O’Connell 1775 – 1829

The Decade of Centenaries can be followed here: http://www.decadeofcentenaries.com/

Note: I used the word chapel instead of church to describe Catholic places of worship before 1850 because that was the general use at the time, and because few of them had a cemetery attached, churches were in the hands of the Established Anglican Church of Ireland, and these usually had a collegiate cemetery attached for use by the whole population.