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.