Dawstown is composed of two parts; the larger one consisting of 502 acres lies in the old parish of Garrycloyne, while the rest, consisting of 341 acres is in the old parish of Matehy. Dawstown Cottage and its farm lie in the south-eastern portion of the Garrycloyne part. The townland name appears to be an anglicisation of ‘Ballynacagy’, meaning ‘the place of the jackdaws’. It could also bear a tongue-in-cheek relation to the surname of the Davies family, who were resident there for a long time. The pronunciation of their surname, perhaps, resembling ‘dawvis’ in the seventeenth century. There is a surviving record for a property transaction made in 1716 between the Hollow Sword Blades Company and “Simon Davies of Davistown, Co. Cork”.
Some years earlier, in 1702, Blarney Castle was owned by Sir Richard Pyne, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and the Reverend Rowland Davies was his tenant there shortly after Lord Clancarty had gone into exile. Later, the Castle was purchased by the Hollow Sword Blades Company who evicted Davies. Davies, who was Dean of Cork, took himself off to Dawstown along with materials from the castle and built the original Dawstown House around 1715. Two decorated limestone flags were put in as steps in front of the house and the rafters from the castle were said to have been shortened to suit the dimensions of the new building.
Several of our townlands have historically contained a House and a Cottage. These were generally the two most substantial dwellings in it compared to the other unnamed habitations that peppered the Irish countryside. Rathpeacon and Kilcully are two other examples close to Blarney. As a rule, the House was bigger and grander and built in two or even three storeys. A Cottage might sometimes have been, though not always, single storied. In the case of Dawstown House, we not only have an approximate date of construction but we can also get a sense of the fittings and furnishings of the place in the early eighteenth century. By drawing up his will on the 2nd of September 1720, the Dean has left us with an inventory of the personal property of an Irish gentleman of that time. After ordering his body to be “decently buried in the Cathedral church of St. Finbarries, near the Citty of Corke”, he itemised his bequests. Among them was a chest of drawers of olive wood, which stood in the room over the parlour, “bedclothes proper for servants to lie in”, six bulrush-bottomed chairs, a good deal of pewter ware and two iron spits. He also made mention of his horse, ‘Lourre’, and left £20 for his sons and daughters to buy mourning as well as £10 to his servant, Margaret Longwell, as a reward for her fidelity. He died at home the following year at the age of 72.
A feature much remarked upon over the years regarding the townland was the size and beauty of the trees there. Dawstown formed part of the estate of the Putland family and the Davis family were still resident there a hundred years on from the Dean’s death. In 1810, George Davies was noted for his attachment to various agricultural pursuits with which he had been engaged in from an early age. In the same year, the situation of Dawstown was described as being high with an aspect declining gently to the east. The soil was described as argillaceous, deep and inclining to moist. It was considered a place peculiarly favourable to the growing of most forest trees in the Irish climate and, indeed, plantation cover served the dwellings well in their elevated location. A little below Dawstown House stood some huge horse chestnuts, which would have earned great admiration anywhere else, but here were outclassed entirely by a nearby lime, which could have had but few rivals in the country for beauty and magnificence. The tree’s history was known – a century earlier the Dean had brought it from Riverstown. It had been imported with many other young trees and from its poor and puny appearance he had thought it hardly worth planting. He put it some seventy yards in front of the house and it eventually took a sugar loaf shape. The branches hung in such a way that the tops of the lower tier touched the ground on all sides. Horatio Townsend, to whom we owe this description, had surveyed much of county Cork but considered it to be by far the largest and most beautiful tree he had ever seen.
In 1826, some years before the foundation of the National School system, Edward Riordan ran a school in Dawstown. Unlike many hedge schools of the day, it was described a “well roofed, slated, dashed and plastered”. Quite possibly, it received some support from the Putlands who enjoyed a good reputation as landlords though they were generally non-resident in the parish in favour of their seat in county Wicklow. They also helped in the establishment of the church and school at Waterloo.
But this bucolic idyll of a wooded townland with a solidly built school and houses belies the full picture. The 1820s were a turbulent decade, the prosperity brought by the Napoleonic Wars being firmly a thing of the past. Hard times resulted in discontent and outrages and on a night in 1823, a cow house containing eight cows, the property of a farmer named Walsh in nearby Loughane, was destroyed by fire. Similar attacks were perpetrated on the properties of John Kelleher and William Murphy in Dawstown. A massive reward of £200 was put up by their landlord, George Putland, for the discovery and prosecution to conviction of anyone concerned in the outrages.
The Davies tenancy at the House came to an end in 1816 with the land there being described as nearly waste. Daniel Mullane succeeded there, neighboured at the cottage by Timothy Kiely. Both would appear to have taken up their farms around the same time. The Putland papers record that the sizable sum of £207 was paid to Richard Cudmore for the delivery of lime to the tenants of Dawstown, while in 1817 an allowance of £55 was made for “sinking a pump at Keily’s at Dawstown”. Timothy’s descendants believed that he came from either Mitchelstown or a nearby district in county Tipperary and that red hair featured in the family. He had a son, John, who was born also in the year 1817 but who does not appear to have been baptised in Blarney. The sinking of the pump could well have been an improvement carried out on the arrival of a new tenant farmer. Timothy was aged 35 at this time. The Tithe Applotment Books of 1834 record Timothy as holding 174 acres in Dawstown, a figure remarkably close to the 176 that made-up the farm when sold by Leslie and Elizabeth Appelbe in 2014.
Three years earlier, in 1831, Fr. Matt Horgan penned a description of his parish of Blarney, which has left us with a unique glimpse of the townland at this time. He remarked that Mullane’s house and offices were the best on the whole Putland estate, thanks, in part, to his munificent landlord. In addition to Dawstown, the Putlands owned several other Blarney townlands. Mullane’s, along with the holdings of Tim Kiely, Mick Hayes, the Cronins and Mick Cremin, were, at that time, “unequalled and the best on the Estate, for either pasture or agriculture”. The giant lime still stood opposite Mullane’s door and was, according to Fr. Matt, “the largest tree in Munster” with a diameter of 12 feet and a spread covering half an acre of ground. It formed a vast rookery (making the townland name ‘Dawstown’ particularly apt) but was decaying fast. Though close to Mullane’s, it was the property of Tim Kiely as he had purchased the timber in the vicinity and left this tree standing as an ornament, in compliance with a request from Mr. Franks, the Putlands’ agent. There were about 16 limbs in it, each of which could be considered a reasonably sized tree in its own right.
Tim Kiely’s farm at Dawstown Cottage, was, according to Fr. Matt, tastefully laid out, well fenced, and well cultivated, containing “about 150 acres”. There were still some tree plantations, which were thriving, and his dwelling house and offices were extensive. The farm was now “free from waste, and so well fenced that it does him credit”. There were “Piers and Iron Gates to all his Fields, for which his good Landlord has made every reasonable and munificent allowance”.
The above excerpt was taken from a much larger article titled ‘Dawstown Cottage’ by Richard Forrest and published in Issue No 10 ‘Old Blarney’ Journal.