The Story of BDHS

The First Thirty Years 1985 – 2015

The Story of Blarney & District Historical Society


Brian Gabriel

Brian Gabriel 

July 12th 2015 heralded the 30th Anniversary of the foundation of The Blarney & District Historical Society.

It was founded by Mr. Griffith O’Driscoll and inaugurated on 12th July 1985. The attendance at the original meeting, which was held in what is now the Boardroom of Blarney Woollen Mills, included Mr. C.J.F. McCarthy, Ms. Jenny Sewell, Mr. Paddy O’Connell, Ms. Gertie Hyde, Mr. Finbarr O’Brien, Mr. Joe O’Leary and Mr. Griffith O’Driscoll. The draft constitution and rules of the Society were presented at a meeting in Christy’s Hotel on 25th October 1985. A brief but intense discussion then took place and, having being proposed and seconded; they were accepted by the group. The main object of this non-political and non-denominational society is to endeavour to record for posterity matters of local historical interest and also endeavour to preserve and protect local heritage. The first group of officers for the society were also elected at this meeting with Mr. Griffith O’Driscoll being elected Chairman, Mr. Finbarr O’Brien as Secretary, Mr. Joe O’Leary as Treasurer and Mrs. Olwin Venn as Public Relations Officer. It was sincerely hoped the society would succeed in its aims and objectives.

Chairmen who have presided over the past thirty years are as follows:

Mr. Griffith O’Driscoll 1985 – 1986

Mr. John Mulcahy 1987 – 1988, 1993 – 1995, 1997 – 1999

Mrs. Anne Byrne 1988 – 1990, 2007 – 2009

Mr. Jim Herlihy 1990 – 1992

Mr. J.J. Duggan 1995 – 1997

Mr. Tim Murray 1999 – 2001

Mr. Finbarr O’Brien 2001 – 2003

Prof. Chris Synnott 2003 – 2005

Mr. Paddy Murphy 2005 – 2007

Mr. Richard Bolster 2009 – 2011, 2013 – 2015

Mr. Brian Gabriel 2011 – 2013

All of the above named Chairmen have also served on committee at various times throughout the years. Other Society members, who have served in various capacities on committee over the years, include: Mrs. Olwin Venn, Mrs. Kathleen Moylan (R.I.P.), Mr. Joe O’Leary, Mr. Kevin Conway, Mrs. Nora Walsh, Mrs. Angela Murphy, Mr. Jim Walsh, Mr. Dan Murphy (R.I.P.), Mr. Micheál Cranitch (R.I.P.).

Mr. Liam O’Brien is current Chairperson 2015-2017

Mrs. Agnes Hickey is Current Secretary

Mrs. Maureen Ahern is the Society’s long standing treasurer.

Mrs. Anne Byrne is the official Society archivist.

Mr. Brian Gabriel is the Society’s P.R.O.

Mr. John Mulcahy is Hon. Editor of ‘Old Blarney’ publications.

A dedicated ‘Publications Committee’ was formed in 2013 to stream-line the collecting, sorting, proof-reading and preparation of articles for editing before printing as well as liaising with the various authors. This committee, under the Chair of Professor Chris Synnott, consists of Mrs. Anne Byrne, Mr. Liam O’Brien, Mr. Brian Gabriel and Mr. John Mulcahy.

In a rapidly changing society, the tendency is not just to overlook, but to forget the past and confine it to history and, through a mixture of apathy and neglect, let it slip permanently from view. We, in the Society, endeavour to collect and record as many aspects of local history and heritage as possible and through a series of lectures each year and the publication of the ‘Old Blarney’ Journal, we try to share with and return to the people of Blarney and district the information gathered, in an affordable form. We have also recorded on film and tape the views of many of the senior members of our locality. Much of this material is also presented in our journal, ‘Old Blarney’.

The Society has, in the thirty years since its inauguration in July 1985, organised over 380 lectures and field trips as well as a number of displays and exhibitions. The lectures usually take place on the first Thursday of each month in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School) during the months from September to early May while the field-trips, weather permitting, are out-doors for the summer months of late May and mid-June. We then normally take a break in July and August for holidays and to recharge the batteries, so to speak. All members of the public are usually most welcome to attend these events, but, there are times due to health and safety issues or insurance constraints, when some items may have to be restricted to members of the society only. We have also become active in ‘Heritage Week’, usually held towards the end of August, by organising walking tours of Blarney Village for both tourists and locals alike. Special illustrated lectures, with a strong Blarney theme, are also held indoors during this week. All of these events have been well attended by the local populace, which shows their interest in what the Society is doing for the locality. Likewise our list of lecturers, both male and female, is excellent and it has to be, in order to retain an ongoing public interest. These speakers are also greatly appreciated for turning out in all kinds of weather, and sometimes from quite long distances, to impart their knowledge to an eager listenership.

To commemorate the official founding of Blarney Village 250 years ago, in 1765, all lectures being presented during 2015 by Blarney & District Historical Society have a high Blarney and district content. These presentations include; ‘The Families of Blarney Castle’, ‘Famine Times in Blarney & District’, ‘The Story of Blarney Castle Gardens’, ‘Early Industries of Blarney’ and a ‘Field Trip to Clogheenmilcon Fen’. A ‘Field Trip to the Folk Village’ at ‘The Farm’, Grenagh and a ‘Field Trip to the Waterloo Area’ are also included.

In the 2001/02 season, the Society bought a sound system in an attempt to improve the audio quality for those attending the lectures in the large library room of Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál. This met with limited success. Eventually, in an attempt to further improve matters, at the end of February 2014, the Society purchased a new, ‘state of the art’ sound system with the assistance of a very-gratefully-acknowledged Amenity Grant from Cork County Council. The system now consists of three radio controlled microphones, receivers and an amplifier/speaker, which has vastly improved the listening enjoyment of the audience, especially for those who are a little hard of hearing. In the 2004/05 Season we purchased a 21/2 metre x 21/2 metre fold-away projector screen. This allowed for the vastly enhanced quality of the illustrations and pictures displayed during lectures. Then in the 2008/09 season, the Society purchased its own multimedia projector. Overhead projectors and slide projectors were fast becoming things of the past and we needed to evolve along with the latest technology being used by lecturers to illustrate their talks, such as memory sticks and laptops. In May of 2015, with the aid of a very generous Amenity Grant from the Blarney/Macroom Municipal District, we have now purchased a lap-top, external hard-drive, printer/scanner and a digital voice recorder. This now enables the Society to centralise to this dedicated equipment, all of the recordings, interviews, articles and photographs rather than having them scattered in several members’ private computers.

Landowners and business owners who afford the Society access through their premises and property for field trips are highly commended for their interest and sincerely thanked.

Blarney and District Historical Society public lecture meetings up to and including April 1986 were held in Christy’s Hotel. Meetings from May 1986 to October 1987 were held in Hotel Blarney. Meetings since November 1987 to date are held in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál (Blarney Secondary School). All of these lectures are open to the general public and visitors are generally welcome.

Membership of the Society in 2013/14 stands at a healthy 48 subscribed members and we are constantly striving to increase this figure. Visitors to our monthly lectures can often bring the attendance figures for an individual night to a higher figure. Originally, the annual individual membership fee in 1985 was £2 (€2.54), while the yearly family membership was £5 (€6.35). Currently the individual annual membership fee is €15, while yearly membership for a couple costs €20. We feel this surely represents excellent value for money in an age of severe cash shortages and spiralling prices for, on average, twelve events per year.

We have promoted walking tours of Blarney Village during the summer months for locals, tourists and other visiting historical societies. Our members have given many individual talks and have also led conducted tours of the area for the pupils of the local schools.

We have also attended the Celebrating Cork Exhibition on a number of occasions, with a portable display unit which highlighted the functions of the Society. Likewise, we have exhibited our display at a number of functions and local field days over the years. All of these events and displays help enormously to keep the Society in the public eye.

The Society, who employed six people, in conjunction with FÁS/AnCo, has cleaned and recorded the information on the headstones and tombs of the local cemeteries of St. Mary’s Cemetery, Garrycloyne and the Church of Ireland, Blarney.

A Genealogical and Parish Indexing Scheme, again in conjunction with FÁS/AnCo, which employed twenty-four young people over a period of two years, was very successfully completed. This scheme produced Genealogical Directories and indexes for the Registers of Births and Marriages in the following Parishes; Aghabulloge, Aghinagh, Blarney, Ballyvourney, Ballinamona, Donoughmore (baptisms only), Grenagh, Inniscarra, Mourneabbey and the Carrigrohane Union of The Church of Ireland. All of these new directories and indexes, including the originals, were returned to their respective parishes. No copies were retained by the Blarney & District Historical Society.

We have attended a number of various historical seminars, book launches, museum presentations and historical pageants through-out the county over the years. All of these events were extremely informative and we have been rewarded by the gathering of information from other historical and heritage societies and the sharing of our own experiences.

An Environmental Consultant, Graham Coates, contracted by Cork County Council, had several meetings with our members regarding the construction of the new public walkway from Blarney to Waterloo about possibly using items of folk-lore and historical interest, which could be retained and incorporated in the scheme. He was quite impressed with the input he received and we are glad to say several of the items presented for consideration have been saved and are used to good effect. Plaques erected along the walkway explain the significance of each item.

To date, 10 very well-produced historical journals titled ‘Old Blarney’ have been printed. The 1st journal of the Society was launched on 9th June 1989, at Christy’s Hotel Blarney, by Junior Minister for Tourism, the late Mr. Denis Lyons, MCC, TD. The event was attended by twenty-three other guests. Issue 2 was launched in 1991, Issue 3 in 1993, Issue 4 in 1999, Issue 5 in 2000, Issue 6 in 2002, Issue 7 in 2007, Issue 8 in 2012, Issue 9 in 2013 and Issue 10 in 2015, with each containing an average of 100 pages. These journals contain many excellent and invaluable theses, essays, articles, poems, photographs and general information about Blarney and district right up to present times. Contributors over the years have included many noted researchers and historians and, of course, many of our own committee, society members and members of the general public. Unfortunately, space prevents us from mentioning everyone individually but all contributions to our publications are always very gratefully appreciated and actively encouraged.

We have also published four photo-journals in recent times. The first, titled ‘Old Blarney – In Photographs’ appeared in time for Christmas 2003 and the second, titled ‘Old Blarney – Through the Lens’ for Christmas 2005, the third, titled ‘Old Blarney – In Camera’ for Christmas 2008 and the fourth, ‘Old Blarney – In Snapshots’ for Christmas 2011. Some of the rarer photographs we have used dated from the 1870’s and followed on right up to the mid-1970s. The importance of being able to reproduce these pictures cannot be over emphasised as they record and recall a time of life now long since passed and, in some cases, changed beyond all recognition. The Blarney & District Historical Society thanks all who selflessly lent us their precious photographs, albums and memories for our projects for without these important contributions, the publications would not have been possible. We also acknowledge the very generous gift to the Society by Father Oscar O’Leary, O.F.M., of a collection of many early Historical Journals produced by other Societies. Hopefully photo-journal number five will appear in the not-too-distant future. The hotels and businesses that have sponsored the launches of our journals and the shops which stock and sell them are also sincerely thanked.

In recent times, printing and production costs have risen very sharply and this in turn has stretched our very limited finances to the utmost. We exist in a “hand-to-mouth” situation, in that we rely entirely on our membership fees and the income generated from the sale of the journals, which goes to reimburse the speakers’ expenses, insurance, every-day running costs and of course, towards the cost of funding the “next” journal. Surplus profits made on the excellent sale of the publications have been redistributed to a selection of local charities such as Blarney Care of the Aged/Meals on Wheels and the Blarney Branch of St. Vincent de Paul, since 2006.

In 2007, we presented a complete set of these journals and photo-journals to each of the schools in the Blarney area for use in their libraries. We feel these journals are an important and very valuable source of information and study to locals, pupils and tourists on what life was like in our area. By recording this information for posterity and presenting interesting public lectures on a monthly basis, we feel we are making an important contribution to the preserving of our local history and our heritage. These journals and photo-journals are periodically available in the local shops. They are also available from committee members or at our monthly lectures. These are an ideal gift for family and friends living abroad and can be mail ordered by contacting Brian Gabriel on 021-4381349, 087 2153216 or e-mail

A new website has been constructed at where up-to-date information about the Society’s activities is constantly uploaded. Details of lectures and the ‘Old Blarney’ publications are also available as well as other items of interest.

What has been presented here is just a selection of some of the more obvious things, with which we are, or have been, involved. However, many more activities take place behind the scenes, including items of interest being constantly photographed, recorded and up-dated. People are being interviewed and their memories preserved.

Interest in the Society has gone from strength to strength over the years but we are always looking for new members to join and help us continue this very valuable and interesting work for future generations to enjoy.

Contact: Mr. Brian Gabriel Email: Tel: 087-2153216