The first lecture of the Blarney and District Historical Society for the new season programme of 2019/2020 was presented by Guest Speaker, Mr. John O’Connell, of the Donoughmore Historical Society, on the 19th September 2019 at 8.00 p.m. in the Blarney Secondary School (Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál). It was titled, ‘The South American Escapades of Clancy from Cork and MacNamara from Clare’. Unfortunately, the attendance was on the small side for some reason but all went home well-informed at the conclusion. John is a most interesting speaker who has delivered several excellent, in-depth, lectures to the Society over the years and this evening he related the compelling story of two rogue priests, Clancy from Cork and MacNamara from County Clare. Between them they were responsible for some very questionable activities bringing shame and dis-repute on their religious positions and vocations. Clancy managed to destroy a diocese in British Guiana between 1836 and 1847, while the second man, MacNamara, triggered an event which culminated in the United States/Mexican War of 1846/48. It was an obviously well-researched presentation which was genuinely appreciated by the audience. BG
Field Trip: Blarneys Rebel Trail
National Heritage Week 2019 ran from 18th to 25th August and the Blarney and District Historical Society’s contribution to it was a short walking tour of places of interest relating to the War of Independence in Blarney village and its environs. It was held on Wednesday 21st and was led by our popular Guest Speaker, John Mulcahy.
We had about fifty people in attendance on what was a very misty and showery evening but it does justice to the quality of the presentation of the subject matter, and its presenter, that not a single person left the walk in spite of the weather, until John concluded the event outside the Blarney Woollen Mills at about 9.15 p.m. We assembled in the centre of The Square, at 7.30 p.m., where John gave an introduction to the facts leading to the War of Independence.
Moving on to what was at one time the Muskerry Tram station platform, he informed us of the many raids made on the railways and trains. Back to The Square again where he told the saga of the raid on the police barracks and its repercussions. We then moved on to The Gulley where he highlighted the careers of Felix Doherty and Frank Busteed, well-known local freedom fighters of the period.
We then walked back to the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception where he presented details of the arrests of a number of local men who were making an illegal collection at the church gates. Another short walk brought us to the Blarney Woollen Mills where John concluded an excellent outing by relating how the British troops brought production in the factory to a halt, while they searched the premises for arms and wanted fugitives, without success. He received sustained applause for a most interesting and informative presentation. BG
Field Trip to St. Joseph’s Cemetery
The second Field Trip of the current season of events was held on Wednesday 5th June 2019 at 7.30 p.m. to the historic St. Joseph’s Cemetery situated on Tory Top Rd, Ballyphehane. The weather on this evening was extremely inclement with a continuous heavy downpour of rain for the duration of the trip. The leader on this occasion was Mr. Ronnie Herlihy, a highly respected local historian who is an extremely active member of the South Parish Historical Society, and an acknowledged authority on the history of St. Joseph’s Cemetery and it was to the credit of the content of his delivery that absolutely no-one left during the rainfall.
He was introduced by Chairperson Richard Bolster to the seventeen people who had braved the elements to hear him. He began by telling us that the cemetery was originally intended as a Botanical Garden in 1830, but was established as a burial ground by Fr. Theobald Matthew, known as the Apostle of Temperance, when he leased the land in the 1840s. It contains an impressive collection of gravestones, tombs, ornate iron railings, Celtic crosses and beautiful carved memorials from its foundation to the present day, among them those of many notable Cork people.
We stopped at a series of graves and tombs of some of these people, such as film star Edward Mulhare and Patrick ‘Paddy’ O’Flaherty of whiskey fame, amongst others, where Ronnie outlined the background of their claim to fame. We also visited a grave with Blarney connections – that of Ellen Mahony of the Mahony Woollen Mills dynasty. The Cemetery Chapel is also unique being built with an extremely steep roof. Richard Bolster thanked Ronnie, who received a well- deserved round of applause, for this extremely interesting and informative tour of St. Joseph’s Cemetery which concluded at 9.30 p.m. BG
Field Trip to St. Annes Shandon
On Wednesday 15th May 2019, Blarney and District Historical Society went on a Field Trip to St. Annes Shandon at 7.30 p.m. The evening was dry but blowing with a chilly wind but fortunately we were not outside for very long. Our Guest Speaker for the evening was Mr. John Mustard who lead us on a tour of one of Cork’s most prominent landmarks, the St. Anne’s Church and its priceless artefacts and memorials. After his introduction, John Mustard led us outside to the attached graveyard where he pointed out The Green Coat School which was a charity school founded in 1716 to give an elementary education to poor children and to instruct them in the principles of Christianity as professed by the Church of Ireland.
Statues of a boy and a girl stood over the gateway to the school. The statues were popularly known as ‘Bob’ and ‘Joan’. They are now kept in St Anne’s Church. He also pointed out the Skiddy’s Alms-house, which is the oldest inhabited building in the city of Cork, being built in 1718. ‘Fr. Prout’, or Francis Sylvester Mahony is buried in the family tomb near to the church. The iconic Bells of Shandon are contained in the belfry attached to St. Anne’s Church, which was built in 1722. It is surmounted by the famous ‘Goldie Fish’ weathervane.
The steeple was built using a combination of red sandstone and limestone and contains the well-known 4-faced clock, known as ‘the four faced liar’ due to, at certain times during the day all four clocks will read a different time. The bells which are immortalized in Fr. Prout’s, ‘The Bells of Shandon’ are contained in the tower. Those people who attended were certainly impressed by the knowledge John had in relation to the entire site. He was thanked for his presentation by Mr. Liam O’Brien, who deputised for our Chairman, Mr. Richard Bolster. BG
‘Henry Ford – The Cork Connection’
Another good attendance of 51 people came to the Blarney and District Historical Society lecture at 8.00 p.m. on Thursday 2nd May 2019 at the Blarney Secondary School (Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál). Titled ‘Henry Ford – The Cork Connection’ and introduced by our Chairperson, Mr. Richard Bolster, the Guest Speaker for this evening Mr. Denis McSweeney, who himself was a Sales and Marketing Director with the company, brought us the story of the ‘Cork Connection’ of the Ford dynasty.
The lecture was highly illustrated throughout and contained a vast amount of information without once being boring. A number of ex-Henry Ford employees were present as were relatives of people who had once worked at the Cork Plant. Denis presented us with a history of the Ford family from Ballinascarthy and their exodus through Fair Lane in Cork to finally arrive in Dearborn, Michigan.
He covered Henry’s interest in mechanics and engines and the setting up of the Ford plants in the United States and world-wide. In 1917 Henry Ford selected Cork as the location for the first purpose-built Ford factory outside North America. To get a job with Fords meant financial security at a time when employment in Cork was mainly casual and difficult to obtain. Known as Henry Ford and Son Ltd., it finally closed the Marina Plant in 1984. In the 67 years of its production it saw many momentous changes to the social aspect of Ireland both nationally and locally.
This year, 2019, marks the centenary of the production of the first Fordson tractor from the Marina Plant in July 1919. This extremely interesting lecture was presented in a most professional manner, while being both humourus and informative. Followed by a Question and Answer session, Denis was thanked by the Chairperson and received a well-deserved, sustained applause. BG
Thatched Houses of County Cork
An excellent attendance of 38 members and friends of the Blarney and District Historical Society were present on Thursday 4th April 2019 to hear the latest lecture in the current series, titled, ‘Thatched Houses of County Cork’. The thatched house was once a common sight in Ireland, not just in the countryside but also in towns and villages and these houses gave character and identity to their locality. The thatched house was once an important part of our heritage which goes back to ancient times. There are also many houses surviving which have their thatch covered by corrugated iron sheets.
Introduced by our Chairperson, Mr. Richard Bolster, our Guest Speaker, Ms, Mary Sleeman, of the Heritage Unit Cork County Council, a noted Archaeologist and Author of the book ‘Thatched Houses of County Cork’, took us on an illustrated tour of the many different types of thatch house still to be seen in County Cork while also explaining the history of thatching. Due to a current shortage of thatchers, these thatch roofs have become a unique and, unfortunately, a vanishing form of roof construction.
Thatching is the craft of building a roof with dry vegetation such as straw, water reed, sedge, rushes, or heather, layering the vegetation so as to shed water away from the inner roof. It is a very old roofing method still in use in many parts of the world. Mary used many excellent illustrations to highlight this difficult and highly skilled method of construction and depending on locality, the differing types of materials used. She also explained the thatcher’s tools and their various uses, such as, a bittle, a scallop container and various types of knives. At the conclusion of a question and answer session, Mary was thanked by our Chairperson and the appreciative audience responded with a well-deserved and sustained round of applause. BG
‘Death on the Pier’ – The Cobh Pier Head Shooting and The Search for the Moon Car
The largest audience of 2019 attended Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) for the Blarney and District Historical Society March lecture. It was titled ‘Death on the Pier’ – The Cobh Pier Head Shooting and The Search for the Moon Car and was presented by Cobh-man, Researcher and Author, Mr. John Jefferies. 75 people from all across Cork county were present. On 21st March 1924 a group of men wearing Irish army uniforms pulled up at the main pier in Cobh, Co. Cork. Seated in a yellow Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, they watched around 50 British soldiers disembark from a ferry from Spike Island.
Suddenly the men in the Rolls Royce produced machine guns and fired on the British soldiers. One soldier was killed while eighteen others and six civilians were injured. Driving away at speed, the Rolls Royce stopped briefly to fire on a British warship in the harbour. An hour later armed British soldiers returned to Cobh and more shots were fired.
There followed one of the biggest manhunts in modern Irish history, making front-page news throughout the world. The Rolls Royce and its occupants seemed to have vanished into thin air. The car was not seen again for 57 years having been burnt and buried. When it was discovered again, nothing remained except the chassis, the engine, wheels and part of the gearbox. It was lovingly restored to its former glory and goes on display from time to time. This evening, Guest Speaker, John Jefferies took us on a fascinating journey as he unravelled fact from myth surrounding the Pier Head shooting and the amazing story behind the mysterious Rolls Royce known as the Moon Car with this excellent illustrated presentation. BG.
Match-making Customs of Ireland
Blarney and District Historical Society’s lecture for the month of February 2019 was held, as usual, in the Blarney Secondary School (Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál) and was attended by 59 people. Our Guest Speaker, John Arnold, is an acclaimed folklorist who took us through the almost forgotten customs of match-making with a most entertaining and amusing presentation. After his introduction by Chairperson Richard Bolster, John began by singing a verse of ‘The Black Man from the Mountain Seanín Rua’, a well-known song from John B Keane’s famous play ‘Sive’. It is sung to the air of ‘The Bright Silvery Light of the Moon’ and he also accompanied himself by playing on a Bodhran.
Historically, the matchmaking tradition goes back a long way into the ages of the Irish people. People actually believed that these matches were made in heaven even though some of them could also be like hell on earth. Every locality had its own professional matchmaker who brought together somebody’s daughter and her prospective husband. Talks began to decide the fortune to be paid to the prospective bride and the number of cattle which might go to a farming bride-groom and if things didn’t work out, there could always be a ‘refund’. These two ‘young’ people may never have seen each other before, and it made no difference whether they liked or disliked each other on meeting.
He had many hilarious anecdotes to accompany his tales of wedded bliss, or otherwise. Today, the matchmaker and his profession has almost disappeared with the exception of one or two areas in the country. John concluded his talk with another verse from his introductory song before conducting a question and answer session. He was thanked by the Chairperson for his knowledge of the subject, after which he was enthusiastically applauded. BG
Crime and Punishment of Victorian Cork
Thirty-five people attended at the Blarney Secondary School (Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál) at 8.00 p.m., on Thursday 10th January 2019 for the first lecture of 2019 which was presented by Blarney and District Historical Society. Titled ‘Crime and Punishment of Victorian Cork’ and based on the book, ‘Tales from Victorian Cork’ which was written by our Guest Speaker for the evening, Mr. Ronnie Herlihy. This lecture was attended by a number of visitors from other historical societies who were welcomed by the Society Chairperson, Mr. Richard Bolster, who then introduced the speaker. Ronnie Herlihy is a well-known and respected Cork historian and a member of the Cork South Parish Historical Society. His knowledge of Cork city, where he has lived all his life, is phenomenal. He is passionate about his city’s local history and he is an expert at imparting his information. He is author of a number of excellent books, including, ‘A Walk Through the South Parish – Where Cork Began’.
This evening he took us back to a bygone time with this highly illustrated presentation which is based on a selection of the various crimes that took place during the early Victorian period of 1837 to 1859. These crimes included, prostitution, assault, theft and murder, their subsequent court cases and penalties dealt out to those convicted. Criminality in Cork City of the time matched anything being perpetrated by the current criminals of the 21st century. The punishments could consist of walking on treadwheels, flogging, stone-breaking, transportation and hanging. The last public hanging took place in 1865. This paper also included sections on the City and County Gaols, the male and female Prisons and the various types of Courthouses. The Chairperson thanked the speaker for this extremely interesting lecture, which was concluded with an interesting question and answer session, and the audience for their participation and comments. BG
‘Flora Sandes’ Nurse Assistant – Serbian Army Sgt.-Major WW1 Whitechurch and Irish Connections
An audience of twenty-nine people attended at the Blarney Secondary School (Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál) on Thursday 6th December for the last Blarney and District Historical Society lecture of 2018. It was titled, ‘Flora Sandes’ Nurse Assistant – Serbian Army Sgt.-Major WW1 Whitechurch and Irish Connections. Guest speaker Marie McCarthy, a committee member of the Federation of Local History Societies, was introduced and welcomed by Society Chairperson, Richard Bolster. This evenings lecture was presented in Room 27 as the usual Study Room was being used in conjunction with the GMGS Annual School Concert. Marie, who has an extensive knowledge of her subject, began by telling us, Flora was born a British woman in Yorkshire but always referred to herself as Irish, being the youngest daughter of a native Kerry family from Moyvane.
Her father was a former rector of Whitechurch, Co. Cork before moving to Sunday’s Well and from there to England. She was hugely adventurous and a widely travelled young woman who smoked heavily and consumed copious amounts of Vodka. An excellent horse-woman and expert shooter, she saw service as a nursing assistant during the First Balkan War, was wounded, enlisted as a soldier, promoted and awarded Serbia’s highest decoration, the Star of Karageorge with Swords, and at the end of the war she was commissioned as a Captain, making her simultaneously the Serbian army’s first female and first foreign officer.
She was the only British woman officially to serve as a soldier in WWI. She married a White Russian General in1927, had the first taxi in Belgrade, was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo in 1941, after which her Husband died. She herself passed away in 1956 and is buried in Ipswich, England. Marie brought the story of an amazing woman to life with this excellent, highly illustrated lecture which was followed by a recording of the Serbian National Anthem and concluded the evening with a question and answer session. BG
‘Blarney 1918’ – Anti-Conscription – Armistice – Election
On Thursday November 1st 2018, at the Blarney Secondary School (Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál), Guest Speaker John Mulcahy, introduced by Society Chairperson Richard Bolster, analysed and discussed his presentation titled ‘Blarney 1918’ – Anti-Conscription – Armistice – Election and the effect these momentous events had on the Blarney and District of 1918, making excellent use of his many illustrations. The evening was cold but there was a pretty good turnout of thirty-seven people in the audience. He gave us a short synopsis of the major events during the four years of war.
In April 1918 the British government attempted to impose conscription in Ireland by imposing a law which was passed but never put into effect. Much general unrest with many protests taking place. Vigorously opposed by Unions, Nationalist parties and Clergy. No Irish person was ever drafted into the British Army. The effect of the Summer-time Act and the Government taking responsibility for food production and the many fines imposed on local producers for non-compliance was interesting.
The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice that brought an end to fighting on land, sea and air in World War I between the Allies and Germany. He discussed the catastrophic effect on Blarney and the many families who lost loved ones in the war, naming a selection of casualties. The General Election of 1918 resulted in a landslide victory for the Sinn Féin party, and was the first election in which women over the age of 30, and all men over the age of 21, could vote. Constance Markievicz was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, though she did not take her seat and, along with the other Sinn Féin TDs, formed the first Dáil Éireann. She was also the first woman in the world to hold a cabinet position as Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922.
The audience was certainly not disappointed with the quality and content of the presentation which was followed by an informed question and answer session. At the conclusion, John was thanked by the Chairman for this excellent presentation for which he received a sustained round of applause.
Retired after 33 Years Service
Mrs. Anne Byrne has been a member of the Blarney and District Historical Society since its inception in July 1985 until her retirement in July of this year when she had completed 33 years of invaluable service to the Society as an ordinary member, as a committee member, as Secretary, as Insurance Co-ordinator, as Archivist, as a member of the ‘Old Blarney’ Journal Publications Committee and as Chairperson from 1988 to 1990 and again from 2007 to 2009.
Both Anne and the contribution she has made to the success of the Blarney and District Historical Society have been greatly appreciated by its members over the years and the Society will sincerely miss her involvement and her company. The Society thanks her deeply and wishes her well.
‘Her Story’ – Centenary of the Suffragette Movement and the Granting of the Vote to Women
Thirty-two people attended, on a very wet evening, the first indoor event of the Blarney and District Historical Society programme for 2018/2019 in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) at 8.00 p.m. on Thursday 4th October 2018. It was an illustrated lecture titled ‘Her Story’ – Centenary of the Suffragette Movement and the Granting of the Vote to Women. Introduced by the Chairman, Mr. Richard Bolster, the Guest Speaker Mr. Sean Horgan, who is a recently elected member of the Society committee, presented ‘Her Story’ through a series of local and international events from the mid nineteenth century to the end of World War l. He detailed the lives of women across a broad spectrum, high-lighting their fight for equal rights and their entitlement to vote against massive opposition from the establishment during this fascinating period of United Kingdom, American, European and Irish female unrest.
Organisations were set up in the 1890’s, militant action began about 1905 and their Great March took place in 1908. Their theme song ‘March of the Women’ was, composed by Ethel Smyth and their badge colours were purple, white and green. Sean also had a series of film clips, showing many suffragette events, including the arrest of Emily Pankhurst outside the Houses of Parliament and the Epsom Derby when Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse and was fatally injured.
The campaign by Irish women for the right to and the granting of the vote is especially important with links to the ‘Suffragette’ movement plus their involvement in the Lockout, the 1916 Rising, working in factories during WWI (Ulster especially), the formation of Cumann na mBan, women’s involvement in Sinn Féin, and women in education were very well detailed. An Act was eventually passed in early 1918 granting women the vote from age twenty-one and without the necessity to own property. The Chairman thanked Sean for an excellent, informative presentation which was roundly applauded after a short question and answer session. BG
Presentation of Issue 11 to Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál
Blarney and District Historical Society Chairman, Mr. Richard Bolster (R), presenting a copy of ‘Old Blarney’ Journal Issue 11 to Mr. Padraig Sheehan, Principal of Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal
Field Trip to Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne
The Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne, known locally as the North Cathedral, or sometimes as the North Chapel, is located at the top of Shandon Street, in one of the most historic areas of Cork. The Cathedral, dedicated in 1808, is located on the site of a former church built in the 1730s. The Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Cork & Ross and has some of the oldest baptism and marriage records of any parish in Ireland with Baptisms dating from 1731 and Marriages from 1748. There are many notable and historic artefacts located throughout the building including a sunken baptistery area containing an early marble holy water font.
Twenty-five people attended the first event of the Blarney and District Historical Society 2018/2019 Programme of Events. It was a Field Trip on Wednesday 19th September 2018 to the Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne and was led by Ms. Anne Twomey of the Shandon History Group who was introduced to the Society by Acting Chairperson Mr. Liam O’Brien. He also thanked parish priest, Canon John O’Donovan for giving permission to visit this historic building. Anne gave us a brief history of the building in the cathedral yard before the weather turned very cold and we had to move inside.
Much of the cathedral was destroyed in a fire in 1820 and subsequently rebuilt under the direction of George R. Pain. In 1964, the sanctuary of the cathedral was extended, a sanctuary tower added, and the internal layout reorganised. The most recent large-scale works were undertaken at the cathedral in 1996. The tower and sanctuary were renovated and refurbished, the roof was re-slated and the gothic ceiling was repaired. External stonework of the cathedral was also repointed. The cathedral closed for the duration of the works.
The height of the cathedral tower and belfry rises to 152 feet, ten feet higher than the tower of the nearby St Anne’s Church. In 2008 Saint Mary’s and Saint Anne’s celebrated its bicentenary and a plaque was unveiled by Bishop John Buckley. This very informative visit and tour of the cathedral concluded with a question and answer session where Anne’s intimate knowledge of its history brought this very enjoyable evening to a close. Anne was thanked by Liam O’Brien for an excellent presentation for which she was generously applauded. BG
‘Tales of Yore and More’
The Gab Storytelling
Heritage Week is coordinated by the Heritage Council and its aim is to build heritage awareness and education while shining a spotlight on the great work that is carried out in all communities in Ireland to preserve and promote our natural, built and cultural heritage.
Mary Walsh, Pat Speight, Sharon O’Neill
The theme for the Year in Ireland is ‘Make a Connection’ which aims to deepen the connection between people and heritage and exploring this theme through ‘Sharing Stories’ in new ways, with new people. During Heritage Week everyone has the chance to connect with their heritage, to enjoy, learn about, appreciate and share it.
“Storytelling is an intimate and interactive art. A storyteller tells from memory rather than reading from a book. A tale is not just the spoken equivalent of a literary short story. It has no set text but is endlessly re-created in the telling. The listener is an essential part of the storytelling process. For stories to live they need the hearts, minds and ears of listeners. Without the listener there is no story.” from Storytellers of Ireland.
Acting Chairman for this evening, Mr. Liam O’Brien, opened the meeting by welcoming everybody. He then thanked Rev. Robert Ferris and the Church of Ireland Authorities for granting the Society permission to present our lecture in the Church of The Resurrection on tonight, Wednesday 22nd August 2018. The title of this lecture was ‘Tales of Yore and More’ and the guest speakers were The Gab Storytelling. Mary Walsh of The Gab introduced the speakers who would perform this evening, Mary Walsh, Sharon O’Neill and Pat Speight. She informed us that The Gab is a community committed to the practice and preservation of the oral tradition of storytelling as well as the development of storytelling as a contemporary art in the Blarney and Cork area. In June 2016 she gathered some friends together to tell stories and sing songs and The Gab has had a storytelling related event every month since then.
Mary loves her storytelling and got the ball rolling by telling the legend of how Oisín, the son of Fionn MacCumhaill leader of the Fianna, came to go to Tír na n-Óg. Pat Speight one of Ireland’s best-known storytellers who, in 2002 was appointed ‘1st Storyteller In Residence’ to Cork County Council, followed with his very amusing version of the Gubán Saor and the building of a beautiful English Castle. Sharon O’Neill, an expert on humorous stories and fiery Irish myths and legends came forward with an excellent, animated tale of The Children of Lir. Pat Speight then concluded with Cú Chulainn’s escapades on The Isle of Man. A short question and answer session followed and the speakers were very warmly applauded for their talented and interesting presentations by the appreciative audience
The Chairman concluded the excellent evening by thanking the audience, The Gab Storytelling and the Church of Ireland Authorities.
Field Trip to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral
On Thursday 7th June 2018 Blarney and District Historical Society went on its only Field Trip of the current season (2017/18) to St. Fin Barres Cathedral. Introduced by Mr. Richard Bolster, Society Chairman, the leader on this occasion was Guest Speaker, Mr. Richard Wood, who is an old friend of the Society having presented several papers over the years which included The History of Cork Architecture 1650 to 2005, a Field Trip to Rockrohan House, a Field Trip to Fota House, The Great Houses of Ireland and several others.
We assembled at 7.15 p.m. for a 7.30 p.m. start on a beautiful sunny evening which suited the exterior viewing of the Cathedral very well. We had a manageable attendance of thirty-three persons consisting of twenty-two members plus eleven non-members. Richard gathered us by the entrance to this magnificent building and gave us a brief history of its construction. The site which has been a place of worship since the seventh century belongs to the Church of Ireland having been taken over from the Roman Catholics during the Reformation.
It is dedicated to St. Fin Barre, patron saint of Cork. 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. He also pointed the relevance of the various statues, gargoyles and other adornments on the façade. Richard then took us inside on a tour of the inner building, as he described in some detail the incredible architectural treasures such as the sculptures, stained glass, furniture and ornate mosaics to be found here.
His knowledge of the Cathedral is absolutely fascinating. The visit lasted approximately seventy-five minutes after which the Chairman thanked him for this interesting and informative lecture. The attendance then gave Richard Wood a sustained and appreciative round of applause. BG
Launch of ‘Old Blarney’ Journal Issue 11
Blarney and District Historical Society Committee 23rd May 2018
Cllr. Kevin Conway deputised for Cllr. Declan Hurley Mayor of County of Cork
L to R: Brian Gabriel, John Mulcahy, Richard Forrest, Maureen Ahern, Agnes Hickey,
Chairman Richard Bolster, Liam O’Brien, Chris Synnott
Blarney and District Historical Society has reached yet another excellent objective with the launch of a new ‘Old Blarney’ Journal on Wednesday 23rd May 2018 at 8.00 p.m. in the Blarney Castle Hotel. This is the 11th issue in the Journal series and it is a really welcome addition to the collection. It contains 132 printed pages of articles and photographs, printed on high quality gloss paper and depicting life from an era no longer with us. These articles have captured the ways in which the people of Blarney & District once lived, died, worked and enjoyed themselves with the social changes which occurred over the years being very much evident in the collection.
Mr. Richard Bolster, Society Chairman, opened the function with a short speech during which he welcomed Cllr. Kevin Conway, Deputising for Cllr. Declan Hurley Mayor of County of Cork, invited guests, our own members, and the general public. Richard stated that; We, in the Society take enormous pride in the fact that, by producing our ‘Old Blarney’ Journal 11, we are continually contributing something new to the body of knowledge being amassed about our historic village.
The Chairman then introduced Cllr. Kevin Conway, a long-standing member of the Society who was Deputising for Cllr. Declan Hurley Mayor of the County of Cork, County, and invited him to say a few words about the occasion and its importance to the Blarney and District area. Cllr. Conway, who began his speech ‘as Gaeilge’ as it is ‘Bliain na Gaeilge 2018’ congratulated the Society on the production of yet another excellent edition which has added greatly to understanding life from an era now long gone and has captured the ways in which the people of Blarney & District once lived, worked and enjoyed themselves and the social changes which occurred during this time are very much evident in the articles. He wished the Society well in its future endeavours.
Thanking Cllr. Conway for his contribution and kind words about the Society and its work, the Chairman also thanked a number of people closely associated with the journal;
“Especially Ian and the Forrest Family of the Blarney Castle Hotel for again sponsoring the launch, making the Killowen Room available and supplying the refreshments. It is indeed very much appreciated. The Forrest Family have been doing this for the Society now for a number of years. They are a very supportive family of all things local and are fully deserving of local support in return. He then thanked the shopkeepers, businesses and media involved in the sale and publicity of these journals. He thanked the printers, Carrig Print of Carrigtwohill for once again providing a Journal of excellent high quality. He also thanked the members of Blarney/Macroom Municipal District of Cork County Council for the provision of a most welcome, and appreciated, Amenity Grant towards the constantly rising production costs of the Journal. He also thanked the Publications Committee, before inviting the Honorary Editor of ‘Old Blarney’, Mr. John Mulcahy, to say some words about this latest endeavour. John mentioned all the articles and their authors, highlighting the importance of collecting and publishing these priceless accounts of a time which is passing quickly from people’s memories. Stressing the importance of preserving memories of these places and people, he felt these articles would be of important social value for years to come. John then declared the ‘Old Blarney’ Journal to be officially launched.
Thanking John for officially launching the Journal, the Chairman invited the attendance to enjoy the refreshments and a very successful and pleasant evening followed. BG.
The History of Blarney United F.C.
Mr. Richard Forrest, local Blarney Librarian and committee member of the Blarney and District Historical Society, was the Guest Speaker for the monthly lecture on 3rd May 2018 at 8.00 p.m. in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School). It was titled ‘The History of Blarney United F.C.’ and was excellently illustrated with many treasured pictures from the clubs archives and newspaper archives.
Introduced by the Society Chairman, Mr. Richard Bolster, to an audience of 45 people, (mostly soccer club members), Richard began by telling us that the soccer club was originally founded in relatively recent times, in 1949, but was disbanded again after a few short years. It was resurrected once again in 1967 and has had a meteoric rise to success, in all grades, over the years. Presently it maintains over twenty flourishing teams in all grades catering for both boys and girls as well as running a very successful academy.
Richard had done an in-depth study of the club and its success in various leagues and competitions as well as the local Square Leagues. The club is based in O’Shea Park at Riverview Estate and possesses a full size grass pitch with state of the art floodlights alongside a FIFA approved full sized floodlit all-weather pitch, both overlooked by an excellent clubhouse. Taking us through the history, Richard looked at some of the clubs star players and personalities, its social significance to the wider Blarney area and those stalwarts who have guided it through the years.
It was a hugely interesting, informative and sometimes amusing presentation. The question and answer session produced a great deal of interesting and amusing anecdotes from the club members. Richard was thanked for his presentation by our Chairman and was roundly applauded by the appreciative attendance. BG
J.C. Fitzmaurice and the Flight of the Bremen
In Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School), on the 12th April 2018, an audience of 38 people, made up from Blarney and District Historical Society members and visitors, sat totally engrossed as they listened to Mr. Liam O’Brien, our Guest Speaker, describe one of the most dramatic episodes of early trans-Atlantic flight. On 15th June 1919, Alcock and Brown made the first successful non-stop crossing of the Atlantic, West to East, in a converted Vickers Vimy twin engine bomber, making land near Clifden, Co. Galway.
On the 12th April 1928, exactly 90 years ago this month, an Irish aviation pioneer, Commandant J.C. Fitzmaurice, 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.
Liam told the fascinating story of this famous flight and what became of the now almost forgotten heroes and their famous single-engine Junkers w33 aeroplane, ‘The Bremen.’ It involved a secret flight from Berlin to Baldonnel, an extremely dangerous crossing of the Atlantic, many hours of navigating and flying blindly through snow-storms and fog, a hazardous landing on an ice-covered reservoir before being rescued from ice-bound Greenly Island. After this series of hair-raising events, the trio eventually arrived in New York, to tumultuous receptions and world-wide hero worship. While in America, they were feted and greeted by dignitaries, vast crowds and ticker-tape parades including being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the President of the United States. Fitzmaurice was promotedto Major by the Irish Government.
They received many other awards and accolades in America, Germany and Ireland. Baron von Huenefeld died in 1929, aged 37. Captain Koehl died in 1938, aged 50. J.C. Fitzmaurice, almost blind, died in Dublin in 1965, aged 67. Liam highlighted this very professional presentation with a marvellous collection of illustrations and clips from Pathé News-reels which captured the enormity of the undertaking and the discomfort of the three airmen on their epic journey. A short question and answer session followed, after which Liam was thanked by Chairman, Richard Bolster. An enthusiastic round of applause followed from the appreciative audience.
The Life and Times of Terence MacSwiney
Guest Speaker, Liam O’hUigín, of the Middle Parish History Society, brought the life story of Terence MacSwiney to the Blarney and District Historical Society with his illustrated lecture at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) on Thursday 12th March 2018. The talk had originally been scheduled for Thursday 5th March but in the interests of health and safety, due to the issuing of a Government Code Red snow and ice weather warning, the event was postponed for a week. The re-scheduled event was attended by 37 people who were introduced to Liam O’hUigín by Chairman of the Society, Richard Bolster.
Liam began by telling us that Terence MacSwiney was born on 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.
This highly interesting lecture had many photographs illustrating MacSwiney’s life and Pathé News film clips of his funeral. The chairman thanked Liam for his presentation which received an enthusiastic round of applause. BG
The Forgotten Traditions of Skellicking Day Carnival
Guest Speaker Mr. Shane Lehane was accorded the now traditional warm, Blarney and District Historical Society, welcome when he was introduced by Mr. Richard Forrest, Acting Chairman, standing in for Mr. Richard Bolster who was unable to attend the monthly lecture on Thursday 1st February 2018. It was held at 8.00 p.m. in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) and was attended by thirty-eight people who braved a cold and damp evening to hear this excellent, illustrated presentation titled ‘The Forgotten Traditions of Skellicking Day Carnival’.
Shane is Course Director of Cultural and Heritage Studies in Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa, Cork and Lecturer in the Dept. of Folklore and Ethnology in University College Cork. We discovered 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.
His talk explored the infamous ‘Skellig Lists’ and associated activities that characterized this time of the year. Based on new research, utilizing a host of historical, visual and oral sources, which included video interviews with people from Cobh, Fermoy and Blarney who recalled their experiences as young people involved in the hitherto little-known folk ritual, still extant in Cobh and Blarney. Among the illustrations were some James Beale paintings which showed in great detail the various activities of the carnival. The lecture concludedwith an interesting question and answer session. Shane was thanked by the Chairman and received an enthusiastic round of applause for this hugely informative and interesting presentation. BG
Viking Treasure Hoards from Cork
Our Guest Speaker for 11th January 2018, Mr. John Sheehan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at U.C.C., discussed what became of the Viking Treasure Hoards from Cork, as he brought the interesting story of the Mid-Cork Vikings and their way of life to the Society this evening. John received a warm Blarney welcome when he was introduced to the audience of 32 people by the Chairperson of Blarney and District Historical Society, Mr. Richard Bolster. Richard also asked for a few moments silence to remember the late Angela Murphy, a staunch and hard-working Society member, who sadly passed away on December 30th 2017.
John began by laying down a background to the Viking presence in Ireland and the foundation of the five major Viking towns, namely, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Dublin between 914 and 922 A.D. Their buried hoards, numbering some 130, were being found throughout Ireland between 1740 and 2010, with the peak finds during the 1840’s and the 1970’s and 80’s. 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), Macroom Castle and at Dromgarriff near Glengarriff.
The last Cork item was located in 1860. Various types of coins, ingots and arm-rings and assorted plain rings were used as an important trading currency during the Viking period. John described in fascinating detail how the items were found, who got to keep them and then what ultimately became of the priceless artefacts. The paper was accompanied by a selection of excellent illustrations highlighting the various points being delivered. At the conclusion, John answered a number of questions from the floor and was thanked for this excellent informative lecture by the Chairman after which he was warmly applauded by the very appreciative audience. BG.
The Siege of Cork 1690
In spite of a cold and miserable weather forecast, an excellent gathering of 42 people attended the Blarney Secondary School (Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál) on Thursday 7th December 2017 to listen to our Guest Speaker for the evening, Mr. John Mulcahy, of our own Blarney and District Historical Society, deliver yet another of his outstanding illustrated lectures, titled ‘The Siege of Cork 1690’. Introduced by the Society Chairman, Mr. Richard Bolster, John was given a warm Blarney reception before he began with a short introduction about the genealogy of the two English Kings, Charles and James and the problems of the succession which would lead to the Battle of the Boyne.
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. John brought 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. John received a prolonged round of applause when he concluded this excellent presentation, which was followed by a short question and answer session. He was thanked by Chairman Richard Bolster. BG
Mud, Blood and Bravery – The Agony of Passchendaele 1917
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.
Introduced by our Chairman, Richard Bolster, Guest Speaker for November, Mr. Gerry White, of the Cork Branch of the Western Front Association, related the hell that was Passchendaele to an audience of thirty six people at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál on Thursday 2nd November 2017. The title of his presentation was ‘Mud. Blood and Bravery – The Agony of Passchendaele 1917. He told us of the background to the battle, the tactics and the generals. He described how the combination of a battlefield 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 lines. 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 over half a million young men.
The town itself was destroyed completely. This lecture was illustrated to great effect by a series of superb photographs and short video clips depicting the carnage and mind-numbing slaughter of the battle. He then showed us the Menin Gate and Tyne Cot Memorials with their thousands of names. Gerry, in his usual professional manner, held the audience spell-bound and was roundly applauded for his presentation at the conclusion of a question and answer session.
Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times
The second lecture of the 2017/2018 programme of events and lectures of the Blarney and District Historical Society took place on Thursday 5th October 2017 at Blarney Secondary School at 8.00 p.m. After welcoming the attendance, Chairman Richard Bolster, introduced our Guest Speaker for the evening Ms. Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group who presented her paper titled: ‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ – Cork Women in the Revolutionary Times of 1916 to 1923.
Anne was accompanied by four members from her Group and we had an audience of thirty-two people. 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 were mentioned by our Guest Speaker, included 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 other prominent names included Mary Bowles, Geraldine Neeson and Maighread Uí Luasa among the many brave and courageous women who undertook important and dangerous assignments.
We got a brilliant insight to the life and times of these incredibly brave women. Any one of these women was worthy of an entire lecture in her own right. It was very well illustrated with a good selection of images. Anne spoke for close on ninety minutes without pause and was thanked by the Chairman. She then received prolonged applause from a very impressed audience.
The Saga of the Muskerry Tram
On Thursday 21st September 2017 at 8.00 p.m. in Blarney Secondary School, the newly-elected Chairman of the Blarney and District Historical Society for the next two years, Mr. Richard Bolster, introduced the first lecture of the 2017/2018 programme of events and lectures.
Guest Speaker, Mr. Tim O’Brien, who is an acknowledged expert on the history of the ‘Muskerry Tram’, as the Cork and Muskerry Light Railway was affectionately known, received a warm Blarney welcome and then presented an illustrated lecture titled ‘The Saga of the Muskerry Tram’. This year is the 130th anniversary of the opening of the Cork to Blarney line on the 8th August 1887 and Tim’s latest compilation of extraordinary facts, anecdotes and pictures, many of which were never in the public domain before tonight, were eagerly absorbed by the audience of forty-two people.
Tim began by giving us the background to the formation and initial costs of the railway leading up to the turning of the first sod at St. Ann’s. He had many pictures of the terminus at Bishop’s Marsh on the Western Road, where the River Lee Hotel is now located. Locomotive No 4 was names ‘Blarney’ and ran from Western Road to Leemount, Kerry Pike, Coachford Junction, Tower Bridge and St. Ann’s stations before arriving at its destination at Blarney.
The Blarney Station building, now converted into a modern gift shop, as well as the original platform still remain. He told of the extension lines to Donoughmore and Coachford, various accidents and deaths on the line, the famous crash between a steam-roller and the train on the Carrigrohane Road and the damage caused to the line during the Civil War. The line sadly closed in December 1934 to great regret and its passing was remembered by several people recorded on film. Tim finished this excellent presentation by reciting the famous poem dedicated to the Muskerry Tram titled: Farewell to the Hook and Eye. Thanked by the Chairman, Tim received sustained applause.
The Story of Blarney Castle Gardens
An audience of sixty-one people attended at 8.00 p.m. on Wednesday 23rd August 2017 at the Church of the Resurrection, in Blarney village to hear Mr. Adam Whitbourn, the Head Gardener of Blarney Castle Estates, deliver an illustrated lecture on the fascinating history of the highly acclaimed, world famous, beautiful gardens located here in our own village, and they were not disappointed.
The lecture was titled ‘The History of Blarney Castle Gardens’ and was held as part of National Heritage Week. Introduced by Society Chairman, Mr. Liam O’Brien, Adam received a nice warm Blarney welcome. He has almost 20 years of experience as a professional gardener and has worked in gardens of all sizes and types acquiring a level of knowledge and expertise second to none. He also maintains his own highly successful ‘Garden Design’ business which is located in England.
He began by giving a short history of the gardens which make up more than 60 acres of beautifully maintained parkland, arboretums and waterways from their earliest days. Starting with the famous ‘Rock Close,’ he explained about the ‘follies’ such as the ‘Dolmen’, the ‘Standing Stones’, the ‘Wishing Steps’ and ‘Witch’s Kitchen’, all reckoned to have been in place since the 1750s and of course the modern-day Stone Circle known as the ‘Seven Sisters.’ Many members of flower clubs and serious gardeners were among the captivated attendance.
He spoke of the ‘Dry Bridge’ and the stories of the famous statues reputed to have been located through-out the grounds. Adam had a most splendid collection of power point photographs which high-lighted the colours of the many beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers in all their glory during the various seasons. Many of these trees are over 600 years old. He also has a selection of illustrations showing the development of the Mansion which was built in 1874, and its environs, through to the present day.
Other sections of the vast area include a ‘Poison Garden’ and a ‘Fern Garden’ containing over 80 varieties of ferns. ‘Arboretums’ containing many ancient Yew, Lime and Spanish Chestnut specimens, some of which are the largest in Ireland, are very popular with visitors. He also regularly travels across the globe collecting different varieties and species of trees, shrubs and plants.
There is a woodland walk which leads to the 21 acre Blarney Lake with its own resident family of swans and other wildlife. There is something to be seen all year round in this most wonderful, constantly changing environment. Adam, very generously, gave a lot of time to answering many questions from this enthusiastic audience. The Chairman thanked Adam for the excellent, informative lecture and especially the Rev. Robert Ferris, C. of I. Curate of the Church of the Resurrection, Blarney for the use of the church and facilities for tonight’s lecture.
Field Trip to Kilcrea Friary/Abbey
The Field Trip of Blarney and District Historical Society for 2017 was a much-anticipated visit to the site of Kilcrea Friary/Abbey, which is located in the Barony of Muskerry, on Thursday 8th June. The weather was very changeable with strong winds and heavy thundery showers but the twenty-eight souls who braved the elements and turned out to hear our speaker for this evening, Ms. Denise Sheehan, who explained the chequered history of this famous building, were not disappointed with the quality and content of the talk.
At 7.30 p.m., Society Chairman, Mr. Liam O’Brien, introduced Ms. Sheehan, Head Tutor at Department of Archaeology U.C.C., to the attendance. She began her presentation, outside the building by outlining the general history of the area before leading us into the Friary Nave followed by the Transept and the Choir where she informed us that this Franciscan Friary was built in 1465 by Cormac Láidir McCarthy, Lord of Muskerry, and is the burial place of its founder who was also responsible for building the castles at Kilcrea, Blarney and Dripsey. He was killed in 1494. It also contains the burial place of Art Ó Laoighaoire, who was killed in 1773, aged 27, for refusing to sell his horse for £5.
We then proceeded to the Sacristy and the Charter House and on to the Cloister. After this we went through to the Reception area and finally to the Kitchen/Cellar where Denise finished her talk at 9.15 p.m., after taking several questions from the audience. On the way around Denise also pointed out the unique, multi-windowed, sacristy and scriptorium, and the multi-windowed dormitory areas among many other decorations. Several other buildings that surround the Abbey are very well preserved.
Under the protection of the MacCarthys, Kilcrea Friary remained inhabited during the 16th-century dissolution of the monasteries, but the late-19th century saw the end of the Franciscan tradition in Kilcrea. The interior of the Friary now functions as a burial ground. Our Chairman thanked Denise for taking the time this evening to speak to our Society and sharing her excellent knowledge about this truly historical place. It was a hugely informative presentation which received well deserved applause.
Presentation of Journal to Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál
Launch of ‘Old Blarney’ – In Focus
On Wednesday 17th May, the Blarney and District Historical Society had the official launch of the 5th in its series of Photo Journals, entitled ‘Old Blarney’ – In Focus. The launch took place in the Blarney Castle Hotel. Here are some photos of the event.
May-Day Magic: Fairies, Witches and Dew-charms
This evenings paper began with an illustration of a chart displaying the seasons and the Feast-days associated with them. This was presented in Scoil Mhuire gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) on Thursday 4th May 2017 at 8 p.m. It was the start of a hugely informative, illustrated talk, introduced by the Blarney and District Historical Society’s Chairman, Mr. Liam O’Brien. Titled May-Day Magic: Fairies, Witches and Dew-charms it was presented by our guest speaker, Dr. Jenny Butler, Lecturer in the Study of Religions at U.C.C. Since todays date is quite close to May Day (May 1st), the focus of Dr. Butler’s talk was on the fairies and the traditional celebration of the start of summer. This would bring in some legends of the Sídh (fairies) as well as historical (and continuing) customs. Who were the Sídh? Why do we still believe in and, sometimes, fear them?
Dr. Butler also discussed how the earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times. The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian pagan cultures. While February 1st was the first day of spring, May 1st was the first day of summer. May is the Month of the Virgin Mary, when mainly white or yellow flowers were placed on home altars in her honour. It is also associated with the Gaelic word Bealtaine. Celts marked the 1st of May by lighting huge bonfires on hilltops throughout the country. It is also the day when farm animals are put out to pasture.
On this day spirits of the Otherworld mingled the mortals when they could be whisked away and a changeling left in their place. Spells were cast and hares seen milking cows turned into old ‘hags’ if they were killed. The first water taken from a well had great healing powers while if young maidens washed with the dew on the grass they were sure of great beauty. People did not like visitors to their home on this day, refusing to give anything to anybody as it was considered to be giving away a person’s luck. Jenny had many more fascinating tales and folk-lore on the amazing May-Day. An informative question and answer session followed the excellent presentation and our Chairman thanked the speaker. She received a well-deserved round of applause. BG
‘The Martin’-History of a Local River
An illustrated presentation titled ‘The Martin’-History of a Local River, was the focus of the talk this evening, Thursday 6th April 2017 which was attended by about 50 people. The River Martin originating at the Lyradane Mountain approximately half way between Mallow and Blarney, is close to eleven and a half miles long with a catchment area of some thirty-six and a half square miles. It runs in a North-west to South-east direction before it eventually joins the River Shournagh at the rear of Riverview Estate between Blarney and Tower.
Introduced by Mr. Liam O’Brien, Chairman of Blarney and District Historical Society, the guest speaker for this evening was Mr. Richard Forrest, a Committee member of the Society and Librarian in Blarney Branch of Cork County Library. Richard told us about its sixteen bridges, some of which were built in the late 1700’s. He told of its streams, such as, The Fiddler’s Brook, Lyradane Stream, Glencaume Stream, 6 Mile Water Stream, Ballymartin Stream and Knocknasuff Stream among several others.
He detailed much of the Flora and Fauna putting special emphasis on a Sedge Hybrid found growing in its only known location in Ireland. He also detailed the industries along or near the banks of The Martin highlighting the terrible pollution problems caused as waste from these plants was poured into the water. Once a hugely important fishing river with trout from 6 oz. up to 2 lbs. being regularly caught, the pollution caused many large-scale fish kills. Dead fish numbers in the high 70,000s were recorded several times. He discussed the wild-life, it’s folklore and its accidents as the river flows south on its interesting journey through the village of Blarney and the Castle grounds before it reaches the Shournagh River and then to the River Lee on its way to the sea in Cork Harbour. This impressive presentation contained many fine illustrations and was very well received by the audience. A short question and answer session followed before the Chairman thanked Richard and brought this very enjoyable presentation to a close. BG
Following the Footsteps of the Cork Fenians
The Fenian Rising of 1867 was a rebellion against British rule in Ireland, organized by the Irish Republican Brotherhood or Fenian Brotherhood which was founded in Dublin by James Stephens in 1858. He also proclaimed Ireland a republic.
‘Following the Footsteps of the Cork Fenians’ was the title of the monthly illustrated lecture presented by the Blarney and District Historical Society in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál at 8 p.m. on Thursday 2nd March 2017, just three days short of the actual 150th Anniversary of the Fenian Rising.
Introduced by Society Chairman, Mr. Liam O’Brien, Guest Speaker John Mulcahy discussed the history, the noted participants involved and the causes for the ultimate failure of the Rising. In Cork, on the 5th March 1867, huge numbers of insurgents gathered at Fair Hill with the intention of proceeding to Limerick Junction, attacking and burning several police barracks on their way. They marched out via Blarney to Waterloo where they had refreshments in the local inn. Then on to Birch Hill, where they took some guns and ammunition from the Wyse family.
Onward then to Rathduff Rail Station where they tore up some tracks, cut wires and demolished part of the Railway Bridge. Marching on to Ballyknockane Police Barracks a gun fight took place with the police before the barracks was burned down. On the way back to Bottle Hill they were spotted by the Army and scattered but a small number were arrested.
Finally, to Carrignabhfear where they dispersed after hiding their weapons. They had only one casualty, a Eugene Geary, during the entire episode. Many of their number were arrested, tried by a Three Judge Court and transported to Van Diemen’s Land, Tasmania and Freemantle. Several other unsuccessful risings took place in various counties across the land such as Tipperary, Limerick and Dublin. A relative of one of the leaders Captain Mackey (William Francis Lomasney) was present in the audience. Following a question and answer session John received a well-deserved, sustained, round of applause for his presentation. BG
The Cycles of Time
Exploring Irish Folk Belief, ‘Piseogs’, Ritual and Custom
Piseoga or superstitions are still around in todays’ world. They spanned all of life from birth to burial with the banshee often warning of an imminent death in a family. Monday was not considered a good day to begin a project of any kind while getting one’s hair cut on this day was not considered a wise action either.
When did they begin and where did they come from? This evening, Thursday 2nd February 2017, guest speaker of Blarney and District Historical Society, Shane Lehane, introduced by Society Chairman Liam O’Brien, explained all as he took us back through the centuries to discover their origins and our rich heritage of folk beliefs, rituals and customs were examined in minute detail.
Shane is a noted Lecturer, Archaeologist, Folklorist and Historian who has been lecturing and teaching in the areas of Irish Cultural and Heritage Studies for over 25 years. He lectures in Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa and University College Cork. His paper was titled ‘The Cycles of Time’ – Exploring Irish Folk Belief, ‘Piseogs’, Ritual and Custom. It was excellently high-lighted with a huge number of impressive illustrations. Attendance was in the mid-thirties on a rather damp evening.
Shane began with a short introduction on Folklore and Ethnology and based his paper on the Daily, Yearly and Life Cycles and expanded this section with a description of the festivals and ceremonies associated with each season. Saints were well covered with an item on St Brigid’s Cross. February 1st was regarded as the first day of Spring and Saint Brigid regarded as its goddess. Saint Gobnait’s Day on February 11th produced more legends about her famous bees.
Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter seasons were all covered with items on Candlemas, Skilligs Day, Bealtaine, Butter, Fairies, St. John’s Eve, Pattern Days and much more. A short, interesting question and answer session wound up the evening. It was an overall impressive presentation warmly received and applauded at its conclusion. BG
Revolution on the Airwaves
1966: How the Broadcasting Media celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising
The weather was cold and wet with the forecast for snow and ice on the evening of Tuesday 12th January 2017 when Blarney and District Historical Society hosted its monthly lecture in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal (Blarney Secondary School.) This was to, unfortunately, result in a rather smaller than usual audience attending with people possibly preferring to remain in their homes by a nice warm fire rather than risk maybe travelling on icy roads and paths after the lecture. The guest speaker for this evening was Mr. Kieran Wyse of the Reference and Local Studies Department in Cork County Library Headquarters. It was his first visit to the Society and those who did manage to attend were certainly not disappointed with his illustrated presentation. It was titled: ‘Revolution on the Airwaves’ – 1966: How the Broadcasting Media celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
In 1966 the broadcast media were at the forefront in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the “Easter Rising”. Those celebrations were not unlike those that took place in 2016 but had to be choreographed rather differently because of the large number of participants in that event in 1966, which were still alive fifty years on from 1916. Introduced by Mr. Liam O’Brien, Chairman of the Society, Kieran told of how Radio and Telefís Eireann rose to that challenge by relaying not only scholarly lectures and reflections but also exciting television drama and some very popular rebel songs.
Among the lectures on the radio were ‘The Thomas Davis Lectures’, produced by Francis MacManus and F.X. Martin’s, ‘Leaders and Men of 1916’ while Bryan McMahon presented ‘Voices of The Rising’ and Sean MacReamon hosted ‘Golden Jubilee’.
Television covered the series ‘The Insurrection’, Andy O’Mahony presented ‘The Course of Irish History’ and Eamon Keane, brother of the writer John B. Keane, presented ‘The Long Winter’. In 1966 the music charts were completely taken over by balladeers and groups singing ‘Rebel Songs’. Some of these performers were one-hit wonders, such as, The Go Lucky Four who issued ‘Up went Nelson in Dublin’, The Ludlows had ‘The Sea Around Us’, The Johnnie Flynn Showband had ‘The Black and Tan Gun’, Dermot O’Brien had ‘The Merry Ploughboy’ and The Freedom Fighters had ‘Irish Rebel Songs.
The information just kept coming from Kieran who had an incredible knowledge of the programmes and events. A short question and answer session followed an excellent presentation which was roundly applauded. BG.
Christmas Tree Festival
Secretary of the Blarney and District Historical Society, Agnes Hickey, stands beside the Christmas Tree which was allocated to the Society for decorating for the Christmas Tree Festival held in the Church of the Resurrection, Blarney on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of December 2016.
Based on a verse from The Bible, all the beautiful decorations on the tree were hand-made by Agnes herself who is to be complimented on her imagination and expertise when it comes to Arts and Crafts.
Historical Food Products in Ireland
Blarney and District Historical Society counts itself very fortunate in securing the services, once again, of the Speaker for this evenings illustrated paper, Dr. Liam Downey, Adjunct Professor in School of Archaeology U.C.D.& Former Director of Teagasc. He has spoken to the Society on a few occasions over the years and once again he was made very welcome by the appreciative audience on Thursday 1st December 2016 at 8.00 p.m. at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School). The weather was chilly but the Library Room was pleasantly warm and those 27 souls brave enough to venture to the venue were rewarded by the quality of the content and by the impressive way it was presented.
Dr. Downey was introduced by our Chairman, Mr. Liam O’Brien, who thanked him for coming, especially as he had travelled directly from Dublin to be with us. The title of his paper was ‘Historical Food Products in Ireland.’ Dr. Liam Downey, a native of Cork, has been Director of four Irish organisations, most recent of which has been Teagasc. The other three were the T B Eradication Scheme, ACOT and An Foras Forbatha. He holds three Doctorates, a Ph.D. from Reading University, a D.Sc. from the National University of Ireland and an Honorary LL.D., also from the N.U.I. Since retiring, he has been involved in Foresight Studies for the Agri-Food industry and has published widely in Archaeology.
This evening, Dr. Downey presented a perspective of the main food products commonly eaten in Ireland from earlier times. The prehistoric origins of dairying in Ireland and its nutrition. Cereal and meat production and how the seasonal scarcity of food supplies affected the population. The staple food products that were the mainstay of the Irish diet from earliest times as Liam outlined could have provided the general population with all their nutrient requirements. Subject to episodic food shortages. The very informative talk lasted slightly over an hour but then Liam kindly spent another 30 minutes answering many questions from the appreciative audience.
Slaughter on the Somme
On 3rd of November 2016 at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School), Chairman of the Blarney and District Historical Society, Mr. Liam O’Brien, was unable to be present at this evenings lecture but committee member Mr. Richard Forrest stood in for him and very ably took charge of the proceedings. He welcomed the audience and introduced the speaker for the evening, who received a very warm welcome, Mr. Gerry White of the Western Front Association (Cork Branch) who brought us the story of the terrible event titled ‘Slaughter on the Somme’. The carnage of the Battle of the Somme began on the 1st of July 1916 and lasted until November 18th, a date which marks the centenary of the end the biggest conflict seen on the Western Front during World War 1.
Gerry began his talk by listing the reasons for the conflict, followed by a display of the trench maps showing some parts of the trenches only 200 yards apart. He covered the recruiting campaign by Lord Kitchener and then details of the opposing armies and their commanders. On the first day of the battle 57,470 men had become casualties with 19,240 being killed. After 141 days of one of the bloodiest episodes in European and Irish history, the casualty list of over 1 million combatants from both sides surely defies understanding to this day.
7 Irishmen were awarded the Victoria Cross during the most futile and bloody battle ever fought in the history of war. Over 3,500 Irishmen lost their lives with many thousands more seriously injured or missing in action. Other notable Irishmen who fought were Willie Redmond, Emmet Dalton, and Tom Kettle. Gerry read Tom Kettle’s last poignant letter home before he was killed. He also had a film clip of actor, Charles Dance, reciting that famous war poem by Siegfried Sassoon, ‘Aftermath’.
We are very grateful to Gerry for taking the time this evening to speak to our Society and sharing his excellent knowledge of the Slaughter on the Somme. It was a hugely informative and very thought- provoking lecture with some stunning illustrations. A short question and answer session was followed by a well-deserved and sustained round of applause for an excellent presentation.
Images of Cork Leading up to the 1916 Rising
Mr. Michael Lenihan Michael Lenihan, best-selling author of ‘Hidden Cork’; ‘Pure Cork’ and ‘Timeless Cork ‘, three highly acclaimed publications portraying the city and its people from a now bygone era, was the Guest Speaker of the Blarney and District Historical Society’s lecture for Thursday 6th October 2016.
Michael delved into the rich tapestry of Cork history to reveal this unique collection of evocative pictures of life leading up to the 1916 Rising. Introduced by Chairman, Liam O’Brien, at our usual lecture venue in the study room of Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) to an attendance of 23 people, Michael, who has given us several excellent lectures over the previous years, began this illustrated talk titled ‘Images of Cork Leading up to the 1916 Rising’, which lasted just over an hour’s duration.
The speaker’s enthusiasm for his city is reflected throughout this stunning tour of the history of Cork city, as if we were taking a walk through the city’s past. The images dated largely from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and brought to life the flow of time through the streets of Cork from the late 1880s to April 1916. He has amassed, over the years, a vast collection, a treasure trove, of Cork memorabilia such as ancient maps, early postcards, glass lantern slides, rare photographs and books, documents and receipts all pertaining to life in the city.
Photographs of streets, lanes and buildings now long demolished by the developer’s hammer, trains, trams and dockside ships, rich people, poor people and ‘shawlies’ brought a delight to the audience which gave him a well-deserved applause at the conclusion of this informative and stunning display.
Liam also congratulated committee member Richard Forrest who is also a local runner and librarian on having written and published an excellently researched new book titled; The Cork to Cobh Road Race. Every year, the Cork BHAA hold their annual Cork to Cobh 15 mile road race. This is one of the oldest races in Cork and has a long history stretching back to 1962.
Field trip to Independence Museum, Kilmurry
Blarney and District Historical Society presented a Field Trip to Independence Museum, Kilmurry, formerly known as the Terence MacSwiney Memorial Museum on Thursday 22nd September 2016.
This Field Trip was originally scheduled for Thursday 19th May 2016 but was postponed at the request of Mr. Noel Howard, Chairman of the Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association until now as the transfer of artefacts from the old Terence MacSwiney was not complete. Also the decorating of the building was not finished. It was certainly worth the wait.
The evening involved a guided tour of the beautifully designed and built new Museum. We had been here before to the old museum but it has greatly expanded its collections with many priceless and interesting donations since then and we felt it would be well worth a re-visit. We were not disappointed. Due to number restrictions of twenty-five for the museum tour, this Field Trip was confined to Blarney and District Historical Society members, of which twenty-one attended.
At 7.30 p.m.. our Chairman, Mr. Liam O’Brien, introduced Mr. Tony Murphy, Vice-Chairman, who welcomed us to Kilmurry and gave a very interesting and concise background to the history of the museum from its formation in 1955 to the official opening of the present beautiful, purpose designed building which by President Michael D. Higgins in August. Tony then handed us over to Mr. Michael Garvey who guided us through the museum rooms, explaining about the many priceless artefacts and answering many questions from our members during the visit which lasted until 9.45 p.m.
The Society made a donation to the Museum Fund which was gratefully accepted by Tony Murphy. The evening was brought to a close by Liam as he thanked the Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association for their welcome and hospitality to our Society. Feed-back from those who attended suggests it was a hugely informative and popular event.
Launch of ‘Old Blarney’ Issue No. 10
Some photos from the recent launch of ‘Old Blarney’ Issue No. 10 at the the Blarney Castle Hotel.
Presentation to Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál
Mr. Padraig Sheehan (L) Principal, Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál being presented with Issue No.10 ‘Old Blarney’ Journal for the School Library by Mr. Liam O’Brien, Chairman, Blarney and District Historical Society.