Blarney & District Historical Society

Programme of Public Lectures and Field Trips for 2017-2018 Season 


Wednesday 23rd August 2017

The History of Blarney Castle Gardens

Mr. Adam Whitbourn

Head Gardener of Blarney Castle Gardens

This is an illustrated lecture on the fascinating history of these highly acclaimed, world famous, beautiful gardens. The lecture will be presented in the Church of the Resurrection, Blarney at 8.00 p.m. All are Welcome.

Part of National Heritage Week, 20th to 27th August 2017


Thursday 7th September 2017

2016/2017 Annual General Meeting

All Members and Intending Members Welcome


Thursday 21st September 2017

The Saga of the Muskerry Tram

 130th Anniversary of its Opening in 1887

Mr. Tim O’Brien 

Blarney and District Historical Society

Construction of the Cork and Muskerry Light Railway Company Limited rail line from Cork to Coachford began in February 1887 with a line to Blarney from Coachford Junction. The first train ran to Blarney on 4th July 1887. This was to be the beginning of a life-long interest of our Guest Speaker for September 2017, Mr. Tim O’Brien, an acknowledged expert on the history of ‘The Muskerry Tram’, as the railway was affectionately known.

An extension line from St. Ann’s to New Tipperary, near Donoughmore, was opened on 6th May 1893. All the engines were given local names, with locomotive No. 4 being christened ‘Blarney’, and all were fitted with ‘cow-catchers’. It was initially a passenger service but gradually the carriage of goods became a mainstay. In 1925 the railway was purchased by Great Southern Railways (Ireland).

This illustrated lecture contains many very rare photographs very seldom seen in public, accident details, how it survived The Great War and the Civil War. Personal stories and anecdotes are also included. The final train ran on 29th December 1934. Little of the infrastructure currently exists and is gradually disappearing.


Thursday 5th October 2017

Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times

Ms. Anne Twomey

Shandon Area History Group, Cork

The story of Cork Women in the Revolutionary Times of 1916 to 1923 concerns the extraordinary women of Cork City and suburbs who took an active part during this very troubled period of our history. Some of those who will be mentioned by our Guest Speaker, Ms. Anne Twomey, include the Wallace sisters of St. Augustine Street., who were members of the Irish Citizen Army, Birdie Conway who was a founder of Cumann na mBan and a President of Shandon Branch.

Geraldine Sullivan carried explosives around the city. Kitty Daly took part in raids and ambushes. Emma Hourigan was a major campaigner and organiser who carried messages. The Duggan sisters spirited away men who were on the run. Nora O’Sullivan transported and hid weapons for the volunteers. The MacSwiney sisters toiled to achieve a Republic. Some prominent names include Mary Bowles, Geraldine Neeson and Mairead Ní Luasa among the many others who undertook important and dangerous assignments.


Thursday 2nd November 2017

Mud, Blood and Bravery – The Agony of Passchendaele 1917

Mr. Gerry White

Cork Branch Western Front Association

The Battle of Passchendaele also known as Third Battle of Ypres, took place on the Western Front, lasting from 31 July to 10 November 1917 fought by the Allies against the German Empire. It was fought in unusually wet weather and the onset of winter. Guest Speaker for November, Mr. Gerry White, relates the hell that was Passchendaele as he describes how the combination of a field littered with shell hole craters and relentless rain led to a battlefield having the consistency of porridge. The holes in the earth filled with water, debris, and bodies, causing nearly everything to be coated with a slick layer of slime.

Despite the rain, contamination of the water supply led to massive dehydration and sickness amongst the troops on both sides during the long months of battle. Guns sank into the earth and troops drowned in the soft mud as they tried to charge the line. Finally, after 16 weeks of fighting in conditions which varied from rain, mud, and slime, to hot and dry weather with great clouds of dust, the initial objective of Passchendaele Ridge had been gained at a cost of 270,000 Allied lives, including 17,000 officers. German casualties were 217,000 German soldiers lost. The town itself was destroyed completely.


Thursday 7th December 2017

The Siege of Cork 1690

Mr. John Mulcahy

Blarney and District Historical Society

After the Battle of the Boyne, William of Orange occupied Dublin and dispatched a force under John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (then 1st Earl) who reached Cork by sea on 21 September 1690. His English forces were 5,000 strong and he also had at his disposal a fleet which blockaded the port of Cork. His forces took the forts (such as Elizabeth Fort) which commanded the hills around Cork and commenced a bombardment of the city from the heights to begin a siege which lasted less than a week.

When a breach was opened in the city walls, the town’s garrison opened surrender negotiations but Marlborough refused the request. A few days later, the Williamites mounted a joint English-Danish assault of the breach from the south. This time the garrison surrendered their arms and stores and became prisoners. Marlborough accepted the surrender but his troops sacked and looted the city, did a great deal of damage and abused the Catholic inhabitants. Many civilians were killed before order was restored. Guest speaker John Mulcahy brings to life the high and low points of this famous siege which eventually led to the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’, a massive emigration of soldiers and their generals to various continental armies in 1691.


Thursday 11th January 2018

Viking Silver Hoards From Cork

Mr. John Sheehan

Senior Lecturer in Department of Archaeology, U.C.C.

A number of important Viking silver hoards, especially those dating from the ninth and tenth centuries have been discovered in the 1840s in places such as Castlelohort at Cecilstown near Mallow, at Kilbarry (Killeens) and also Macroom Castle. Various types of coins, ingots and arm-rings and assorted plain rings were used as an important trading currency during the Viking period.

Our Guest Speaker for January, Mr. John Sheehan, discusses what became of these priceless treasure troves as he brings the interesting story of the Mid-Cork Vikings and their way of life to the Society this evening.


Thursday 1st February 2018

The Forgotten Traditions of Skellicking Day Carnival

Mr. Shane Lehane

Course Director of Cultural and Heritage Studies in Colaiste Stiofain Naofa, Cork.

Lecturer in the Dept. of Folklore and Ethnology in University College Cork


Discover the wild and wonderful rituals and customs observed on ‘Shrove Tuesday’; the last day of carnival before the onset of Lent, that were a major part of Irish life in years gone by.  In particular, the period between Epiphany and Lent was the most traditional time for marriage and any eligible, yet unmarried men and women, were ridiculed and stigmatized on Shrove Tuesday.

Guest speaker Mr. Shane Lehane explains all as his talk explores the infamous ‘Skellig Lists’ and associated activities that characterized this time of the year. This illustrated lecture based on new research, utilizing a host of historical, visual and oral sources, also explores the hitherto little-known folk ritual, still extant in Cobh and Blarney.


Thursday 15th March 2018

The Life and Times of Terence MacSwiney

Mr. Liam O’hUigín

Middle Parish History Society

Terence MacSwiney was born March 28th, 1879, and as a young man, developed a great interest in literature, the Irish language and the struggle for Irish independence. He joined the Gaelic League and helped found both the Cork branch of the Celtic Literary Society and the Cork Dramatic Society.

He was one of the founders of the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and was President of the Cork branch of Sinn Féin. The ‘failure’ of Cork to rise in 1916 haunted MacSwiney for the rest of his life. He was imprisoned in Frongoch internment camp in Wales and later in Reading Gaol for his part in the planning of 1916.

Released from jail, he became Tomás MacCurtain’s second in command in the Cork Brigade of the I.R.A. In 1918, he was elected unopposed to the first Dáil Éireann as Sinn Féin representative for Mid Cork and was also elected to Cork Corporation. After MacCurtain was murdered by R.I.C. and Black and Tans in March 1920, he became both Lord Mayor of Cork and Commandant of the Cork Brigade.

On 12 August 1920, MacSwiney and other members of the Cork Brigade were arrested. MacSwiney was charged with the possession of a cipher key to coded messages used by the R.I.C. and three other counts of sedition. He was tried by court martial on 16 August 1920 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. He died on October 25, 1920, in Brixton Prison after 74 days on hunger strike and his funeral attracted one of the biggest crowds ever seen in Cork. He is buried in the Republican plot in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery, Cork. Guest Speaker, Liam O’hUigín brings the life story of Terence MacSwiney to our Society with this illustrated lecture.


Thursday 12th April 2018

J.C. Fitzmaurice and the Flight of the Bremen

90th Anniversary of Famous Flight in 1928

Mr. Liam O’Brien

Blarney and District Historical Society

On 15th June 1919, Alcock and Brown made the first successful non-stop crossing of the Atlantic, West to East, by aeroplane, making land near Clifden, Co. Galway. On the 12th April 1928, exactly 90 years ago this month, an Irishman, Commandant J.C. Fitzmaurice, an Irish aviation pioneer, along with 2 German aviators, Captain Hermann Koehl and Baron Gunther von Huenefeld, became the first airmen to make a successful flight of the much more difficult East to West crossing from Baldonnel Aerodrome to Greenly Island, Newfoundland.

After a series of hair-raising events, the trio eventually arrived in New York, to be greeted by dignitaries, vast crowds and ticker-tape parades. They received many awards and accolades in America and Germany including Fitzmaurice being promoted to Major by the Irish Government. Tonight, Mr. Liam O’Brien, our Guest Speaker, tells the fascinating story of this famous flight and what became of the now almost forgotten heroes and their famous Junkers W33 aeroplane, ‘The Bremen’.


Thursday 3rd May 2018

The History of Blarney United A.F.C.

Mr. Richard Forrest

Blarney and District Historical Society

Blarney United Football Club was founded in 1949 but was disbanded again after a couple of short years. It was again re-formed in 1967. It has had a meteoric rise to success over the years and presently it maintains over twenty flourishing teams of all grades.

Blarney librarian, Richard Forrest, Guest Speaker for May, has done an in-depth study of the club and its success in various leagues and competitions as well as the now famous 7-a-side annual tournament. He also looks at some of the club’s star players and personalities, its social significance to the wider Blarney area and those who have guided it through the years.


Thursday 17th May 2018

Field Trip Indoors/Outdoors

Postponed to later date


Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Launch of ‘Old Blarney’ Journal Issue 11

Blarney Castle Hotel, The Square, Blarney.  8.00 p.m.

All welcome.

The latest issue in the ‘Old Blarney’ Journal series will be unveiled at a function in the Blarney Castle Hotel on Wednesday 23rd May 2018 at 8.00 p.m. It contains excellent, informative, illustrated articles on the general Blarney and District areas. Contributors to this edition include John Cunningham, Jacqueline Manley, Chris Synnott, Brian Gabriel, Wendy Dick, Richard Forrest and John Mulcahy.

Printed on high quality paper, it makes an excellent companion to our previous 10 editions and will be on sale at the launch and locally for €15.


Thursday 7th June 2018

Field Trip to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

Leader: Mr. Richard Wood.

Meet at Cathedral 7.15 p.m.

Please Note: There will be a charge for non-members

In 1863, architect William Burgess won a competition to design and build a new cathedral for Cork. The foundation stone was laid in January 1865, but it was still unfinished when it was consecrated in 1870 and had to wait until the spires were finally finished in 1879. Through his ability, careful leadership of his team, artistic control, and by vastly exceeding the intended budget, Burges produced a building which, internally, was not much larger than a parish church. Guest Speaker Mr. Richard Wood takes us on a tour of the building, inside and out, as he describes the incredible architectural treasures to be found here.



Summer Vacation


Wednesday 22nd August 2018

National Heritage Week Event

‘Tales of Yore and More’

Guest Speakers:     The Gab Story-tellers

Church of The Resurrection, Blarney.    8.00 p.m.


Thursday 6th September 2018

2107/2018 Annual General Meeting

All Members and Intending Members Welcome


All lectures are in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) at 8.00 p.m. unless otherwise stated.  All events are correct at time of publication but some items may have to be cancelled or changed due to unavoidable circumstances from time to time. Some Field Trips may carry certain restrictions.

Everybody Welcome.

Enquiries: Mr. Brian Gabriel Email:  Mob: 087-2153216

Contact: Mr. Brian Gabriel Email: Tel: 021 4381349 Mob: 087-2153216