Those who died in the Great War (1914-1918) are commemorated each year on 11 November. Huge numbers of Irishmen enlisted to fight in the British Army, the Royal Navy or the forces of other countries in the British Empire. They joined and fought for a variety of reasons. Those who died in that terrible conflict deserve to be remembered in their home place, especially at this time of year.
Saturday, 1 July 1916, when the Battle of the Somme commenced, was a particularly black moment. Over 19,000 British soldiers lost their lives on that single day. Among them were five men from the Baltinglass area - Thomas Devine, Patrick Greene, Andrew Jones, Patrick Kane and Edward Tutty. Hundreds of Baltinglass lads faced the dangers of that war over its five-year course. It’s impossible to determine how many there were in all. It’s easier to count the ones who never returned.
The following were 45 lads from the Baltinglass area who lost their future by taking part in the Great War. Five of them are commemorated on a plaque in St. Mary’s church in Baltinglass: all are now commemorated on the Co. Wicklow War Dead memorial at Woodenbridge, thanks to the initiative of Billy Timmins, former TD, and the committee he formed with a view to creating a permanent memorial to this lost generation.
Charles Ferris of Lathaleere (Irish Guards – Western Front)
Patrick Sullivan (Scots Guards – Western Front)
Patrick Doyle (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
James Glynn of the Sruhaun Road aged 24 (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
George Herbert Morris aged 22 (Gloucestershire Regiment – Western Front)
James Dunne aged 23 (Leinster Regiment – Western Front)
Michael Brien aged 23 (Irish Guards – Western Front)
Patrick J. Kehoe of Weavers’ Square aged 35 (East Yorkshire Regiment – Western Front)
Matthew Whyte of Tuckmill (Connaught Rangers – Gallipoli)
John Abbey of Weavers’ Square aged 24 (Irish Guards – Western Front)
James Hennessy of Chapel Hill aged 24 (Irish Guards – Western Front)
John Nolan (Connaught Rangers – commemorated in Alexandria, Egypt)
Laurence Sutton of Belan Street aged 22 (Leinster Regiment – Western Front)
Richard Jones of Mill Street aged 29 (Royal Horse Artillery – Mesopotamia)
Joseph Bayle of Main Street aged 27 (Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers – Western Front)
John Joseph Behan aged 27 (Royal Irish Rifles – Western Front)
Patrick Doyle of Belan Street aged 18 (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
Henry O’Neill aged 23 (Royal West Surrey Regiment – Western Front)
Thomas Devine from Stratford aged 45 (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
Patrick Greene (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
Andrew Jones of Boleylug aged 35 (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
Patrick Kane of Holdenstown (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
Edward Tutty aged 27 (Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers – Western Front)
William Byrne aged 22 (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
William Lanegan shoemaker in Clarkes of the Bridge aged 24 (Irish Guards – Western Front)
Thomas William Middleton aged 28 (Royal Navy – near Dunkirk)
James Christopher Doogan of Main Street aged 19 (Royal Irish Regiment – Western Front)
Thomas Fitzgerald (Royal Garrison Artillery – Western Front)
Anthony Ovington from Woodfieldglen (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
William Conway of Deerpark aged 26 (Connaught Rangers – Western Front)
James Kearney of the Green Lane (Irish Guards – Western Front)
Michael O’Neill (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
George S. Brereton of Weavers’ Square aged 42 (Royal Irish Regiment – East Mediterranean)
Joseph Doody of Stratfordlodge aged 23 (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
Henry Hawkins from Newtownsaunders aged 41 (Royal Navy – Orkney, Scotland)
William Kelly (Irish Guards – Western Front)
William J. Mallen of Grangecon aged 18½ (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Western Front)
Michael Kane (Royal Field Artillery – Western Front)
Thomas Malone of Main Street aged 39 (Machine Gun Corps – Western Front)
Ambrose A. Shearman cashier in the National Bank aged 26 (London Regiment – Western Front)
Hubert L. Grogan of Slaney Park aged 21 (Worcestershire Regiment – Western Front)
Michael J. Harbourne of the Bridge Hotel aged 21 (Australian Infantry – Western Front)
Joseph Brean (Army Service Corps – Southern Front)
Henry Pollard (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – in Germany)
1919 (from wounds)
James Moore of Ballyhook aged 24 (Royal Dublin Fusiliers – in Germany)
Time for my annual appeal for Baltinglass to embrace its heritage and bring back the juggies to the streets at Halloween. Banish the dreadful “trick-or-treat” expression and tell Baltinglass children to do what Baltinglass children did from at least the early years of the twentieth century – tell them to go out juggying, knocking on doors saying “HELP THE JUGGIES”.
Halloween isn’t something we got from America. It’s an old Irish custom and different parts of Ireland have different words to describe the activity of children dressing up in old rags to disguise themselves and going door to door asking for nuts, fruit or sweets. In Baltinglass it's called juggying. No one seems to know where that word came from or what exactly it represents. It’s been discussed a lot in recent years. What can be said is that it’s a word almost unique to Baltinglass. Other towns have other words for juggying, or none at all.
Don’t let the juggies be replaced by a bland international copy of the real Baltinglass thing. Banish the pumpkin and bring back the turnip! Leave the fireworks till night-time and give the kids time to go juggying. Don’t destroy a living tradition. Tell your kids that when they dress up at Halloween they’re dressing up as JUGGIES. Tell them when they go door to door they’re going JUGGYING. And tell they when the door is opened to say “HELP THE JUGGIES!”.
It’s well known that the family of Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and all that sparkles, came from north Co. Kilkenny. But Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, had a very close connection with the Disney family. One of them lived in Baltinglass for many years. Mary Disney (Walt’s great-great-grandaunt) married John Jones in 1810. They lived in Newtownsaunders and were part of the Methodist congregation in Baltinglass. John Jones was a farmer and a land agent. In 1833 he was one of the trustees for the Methodist congregation when they leased a plot in Mill Street where they built their meetinghouse.
In the early 1850s John Jones moved into Weavers Square to the house now owned by the O’Shea family. I cannot honestly say whether Mary was still alive by the 1850s. I have not looked into this in enough detail, as I have not looked closely at John and Mary’s gravestone in Hacketstown. Mary was one of several children of Robert Disney and his wife Mary Capel / Kepple, who married in Carlow Church of Ireland parish in 1775. Another of their daughters was Elizabeth who married William Cooke in 1809. The Cookes lived in Griffinstown in Ballynure parish, just north of Baltinglass.
Theoretically, Elizabeth Disney and William Cooke could have descendants in the area. Certainly Mary Disney and John Jones have quite a number of descendants around Baltinglass. Walt Disney’s distant cousins live in the area and his great-great-grandaunt once lived here, so there is a little touch of Disney sparkle to the town.
What’s the oldest gravestone in St. Joseph’s graveyard in Baltinglass? I really don’t know. But I do know that it’s not the one with the earliest date on it. Am I confusing you? Well, there is a gravestone that includes ‘Michael Brophy who gave his life in Ireland’s cause at Baltinglass in 1798 aged 55 years’. The headstone and that inscription were put in place in the oldest part of the cemetery in about 1920 by Michael’s great-grandson, William Henry Brophy of Bisbee, Arizona, USA.
Michael Brophy was a prosperous farmer who lived in Rathmoon House (now Burke’s) but he was originally from north Kilkenny. He had twelve sons and one daughter. In the 1790s he was known to be involved in the United Irishmen. Family tradition suggested that he was at the Battle of Vinegar Hill in June 1798, after which he was captured and executed. Over a century later E.P. O’Kelly wrote that Brophy was hanged from a beam at the entrance to Tan Lane (on one side of Mill Street).
Michael’s son George, who was born in Kilkenny, attended Carlow College before training for the priesthood in Paris and Madrid. He returned to Paris and was ordained in 1798, the year of his father’s death. George spent decades in France before moving to the USA in 1843. He died in Davenport, Iowa, in 1880, reportedly at the age of 105. Rev. George Brophy moved in exalted circles and in his time met Napoleon Bonaparte and six American presidents, including Abraham Lincoln.
Another of Michael’s sons, William, was intended for the church but he decided it was not for him and emigrated to Canada where he practised law. His grandson Truman William Brophy, born in Illinois in 1848, became a dentist and then a medical doctor. In the late nineteenth century, based in Chicago, he pioneered surgical procedures to repair the cleft lip and palate. Truman Brophy travelled internationally performing operations and lecturing, and he published two books on the subject. His work alleviated the suffering of countless people born with the condition.
Another of Michael’s sons was James Brophy, who succeeded him in Rathmoon. In 1815 James married Catherine (‘Kitty’) Cullen of Prospect, Narraghmore, Co. Kildare. Kitty’s younger brother, Paul Cullen, became Ireland’s first cardinal in 1866. James and Kitty’s eldest son, Michael Brophy, succeeded to the Rathmoon property. He had married Matilda Lalor, from the Goresbridge area of Kilkenny. Michael and Matilda’s son William Henry (‘Billy’) Brophy was baptised in Baltinglass on 18 October 1863. He went to America when he was aged 17, arriving in New York with his cousin Hugh on 11 April 1881.
Billy Brophy gravitated to the mining settlement of Bisbee, Arizona, where his older brothers had already begun to work. A mercantile, mining and banking career ultimately made him a millionaire. When the USA entered the First World War in 1917, Brophy became a ‘Dollar-a-Year’ man. He was one of a number of high powered businessmen who gave their expertise for a token salary of $1 plus expenses. He was based in Paris for the duration.
It was shortly afterwards that he had the gravestone erected in Baltinglass to his grandparents, James and Kitty, and to his great-grandfather Michael Brophy, the 1798 rebel. In the early 1920s he moved to Los Angeles. In November 1922, while on a fishing trip in the Gulf of California, Billy Brophy was swept overboard in a storm and drowned. He was aged 59. Mass was celebrated for him in Baltinglass a few months later. In 1928 in his honour his widow, Ellen Amelia, founded Brophy College Preparatory, a Jesuit boys’ school, in Phoenix, Arizona. The stained glass windows of its Brophy Chapel were designed and executed by artists from Dublin’s An Túr Gloine.
2013 (when this post was first aired on Facebook) was the 150th anniversary of the birth in Baltinglass of William Henry Brophy, who erected the gravestone with the earliest date in the oldest part of St. Joseph’s graveyard. But it’s not the oldest gravestone.
I'm feeling quite happy today because my new book Seven Signatories: Tracing the Family Histories of the Men Who Signed the Proclamation is hot off the press. It concerns the ancestry of the leaders of the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916.
Originally it was an Irish Family History Foundation / Rootsireland project, which I was given while editing online material for them. It was first published as a special issue of Clann, the online Rootsireland magazine, at Easter 2016. In more recent months Kildare County Council and Merrion Press / Irish Academic Press took the project further to publish it in book form.
I've yet to see a copy but I'm reliably informed that it is now in print and ready for the Christmas market. It's on the Merrion Press / Irish Academic Press website.
Oliver and Margaret Walsh may never have been internationally recognised figures, but they had a significant impact on the world. Were it not for them the Abbey Theatre might never have been founded, the word ‘Disneyland’ would mean nothing to anyone, and the course of the Second World War might well have been different.
When Margaret Borrowes married Oliver Walsh she was probably looking forward to a happy life, to having children, and to the relative comfort she was used to. The Abbey Theatre, Disneyland and the Second World War were far from her thoughts, as they were then unimagined developments of the distant future. Oliver and Margaret lived in Ireland in the seventeenth century. The happenings of the twentieth century were for their famous descendants to influence.
By the standards of the time Oliver and Margaret were prosperous people. He was what was termed a ‘gentleman’ and he had the means in 1639 to purchase lands at Ballykilcavan in what was then Queen’s Co. (now Laois). Margaret was from Gilltown, Co. Kildare, some twenty miles away. They both witnessed the 1641 Rebellion, in which her father lost heavily for his support of King Charles. They were again bystanders when in 1649 the wrath of Cromwell descended on Ireland.
Cromwell died in 1658, and so too did Oliver Walsh, bequeathing his DNA to posterity. Three years later his and Margaret’s son, another Oliver, married Editha Hunt of Dublin. About the same time their daughter Mary married a young man from Warwickshire named Robert Stratford. With the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Charles II was trying to perform a miracle of loaves and fishes in confirming Irish land to Cromwellian soldiers while restoring the same land to dispossessed royalists. It was a chaotic time ‘when land was cheap and money dear’, and Robert Stratford snapped up some bargains, buying or leasing various properties. One of these was the town of Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, and he settled there with Mary.
Oliver and Editha Walsh remained at Ballykilcavan, which is still today in the possession of descendants. Their daughter Rebecca married Toby Caulfeild of Clone, Co. Kilkenny. A century later, in 1795, Rebecca’s great-great-granddaughter, Frances Best, married a farmer called Kepple Disney. In the 1830s Frances and Kepple’s son Arundel left Ireland with his wife and their infant son, sailing for New York. They later settled in Ontario in Canada, but the son moved to Kansas. His son Elias settled in Chicago, where he worked as a carpenter, and it was there that his son, Walt Disney, was born in 1901. So if Oliver and Margaret Walsh had never married the man who turned his surname into a byword for fantasy and entertainment would never have existed.
Returning to the Stratfords, Robert must have done well out of his property speculation in the 1660s, as he was able to marry off his seven daughters quite respectably and leave his son Edward in a comfortable position. Despite heavy losses incurred in his support for William of Orange in the civil war fought out in Ireland against James II, Edward Stratford prospered. His son John was eventually elevated to the peerage, first as Baron Baltinglass in 1763 and ultimately as Earl of Aldborough in 1777, the year of his death. John’s son Edward was the 2nd Earl. As well as developing the town of Baltinglass, constructing Aldborough House in Dublin and Stratford Place in London, he dreamt up a new industrial town in Co. Wicklow which he called Stratford-on-Slaney. For decades it was a prosperous textile manufacturing centre but after the industry failed it dwindled to the quiet, pleasant village it is today. There were four more earls of Aldborough, the last being an eccentric recluse who died in 1875 at Alicante in Spain.
In 1697 Abigail Stratford, one of the seven daughters of Robert Stratford and Mary Walsh, married George Canning of Garvagh in Derry. Their only surviving child was Stratford Canning. Stratford’s eldest son, George, was a great disappointment to him. Having got himself into serious debt in London, he was bailed out by his father but in return had to renounce his inheritance. Then, in his early thirties and still in London, he married a young lady with no fortune, fathered three children and died after less than three years of marriage. His impoverished widow was forced to take to the stage and she drifted into an even more socially unacceptable position as the mistress of a disreputable actor.
At the time of George’s death his second child was a year old. He was another George. He spent his early childhood in near penury before being rescued by the Cannings, who paid for his education at Eton and Oxford, where he gained a reputation for academic brilliance. Entering politics, he rose to the position of Foreign Secretary during the Napoleonic Wars, but lost it after being wounded in a duel with a political rival, Lord Castlereagh. However, he returned to that office in 1822 following the suicide of the erstwhile Lord Castlereagh, then Marquess of Londonderry. After a successful five years as Foreign Secretary, in April 1827 he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. However, he became ill in July and died on 8 August at the age of 57 after serving one of the shortest terms of any British Prime Minister. In his day George Canning was regarded as a man who rose from humble origins to the highest political office on his own merit, a unique achievement in nineteenth century Britain. Though he visited Ireland only once, both his parents were born in the country and he referred to himself as ‘an Irishman born in London’. He was also a strong advocate of Catholic emancipation, a position that would have horrified his great-granduncle, Edward Stratford, the staunch supporter of King Billy.
That Edward Stratford’s daughter Elizabeth married Charles Plunkett of Dillonstown, Co. Louth. Their daughter Anne married the 5th Earl of Antrim in 1739. Anne’s only son, Randal, became the 6th Earl on his father’s death. He eventually married but had no son to inherit the title. He obtained a new patent in 1785 allowing for his three daughters and their male issue to succeed. On his death in 1791 his sixteen year old eldest daughter, Anne Catherine, became Countess of Antrim in her own right. She married Sir Henry Vane-Tempest but their only child was a girl named Frances Anne. She could not inherit her mother’s title as it was limited to her male heirs, so the earldom passed to Frances Anne’s aunt. However, on his death in 1813 Sir Henry left his daughter a very rich heiress, with an estimated £60,000 a year. Lady Frances Anne might have attracted all the gold diggers in London. However, her mother encouraged the attention of Charles, Lord Stewart, a forty year old widower. Though he was twice her age, he had a sizeable income of his own and very good connections. They married in 1819. Three years later Charles’s half-brother, the Foreign Secretary popularly known as Lord Castlereagh, committed suicide. Frances Anne’s distant cousin, George Canning, became the new Foreign Secretary and she herself became the Marchioness of Londonderry.
Lady Londonderry’s eldest daughter, Frances, took a further step up the aristocratic pyramid by marrying the Marquess of Blandford, as he later succeeded his father as Duke of Marlborough. While her husband served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the 1870s there was a threatened return of famine, and Frances, Duchess of Marlborough set up a relief fund that raised £135,000. While in Dublin the Marlboroughs resided at the Viceregal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin). That was how it came about that their grandson Winston Churchill’s earliest memories were of being in a pram in the Phoenix Park. Though he was a Nobel Prize winning writer, it was through his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II that his memory became immortalised.
Producing two British prime ministers was not the only legacy to the world from the Stratford branch of Oliver and Margaret Walsh’s family. Many descendants were prominent in politics and the arts. Included in their number was Charles Stewart Parnell, who led the constitutional Irish nationalist movement from the 1870s. On the other hand, so was Sir Basil Brooke (Lord Brookeborough), leader of the unionist movement in the mid-twentieth century and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
Another descendant was Augusta, Lady Gregory, one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre which influenced Ireland’s cultural identity at the beginning of the twentieth century. The artist Sir William Orpen was hardly aware of Oliver and Margaret Walsh, or his distant relationship to Churchill when he painted the future legend’s portrait in 1915. There were other artistic individuals hidden in the branches of the extensive family tree grown by Oliver and Margaret. The architect Sir Thomas Newenham Deane was one of them. Among his works were the National Library and National Museum in Kildare Street, Dublin. The popular twentieth century author Elizabeth Bowen was another. The Canadian-born Hume Cronyn who died in 2003 was a Broadway star and a Hollywood character actor whose films ranged from Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt in the 1940s to television movies made in the 2000s. Along the way he starred with his wife Jessica Tandy in such films as The World According to Garp and Cocoon.
In the world of the arts today the most prominent offspring are the Irish singer-songwriter Chris De Burgh, and the highly successful English acting brothers Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, who spent part of their childhood in Ireland. Their kinsman, the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, is another Stratford descendant. Another celebrity descendant is the 2003 Miss World, Rosanna Davison, who is the daughter of Chris De Burgh. Jemima Goldsmith, wife of the Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan, inherits her Walsh blood from the Londonderrys. Oliver and Margaret have royal descendants in Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York, whose mother, Sarah Ferguson, traces her ancestry from the Stratfords through the Wingfields of Powerscourt.
Oliver and Margaret are thirteen generations back from Rosanna Davison and the princesses. Beatrice and Eugenie are Rosanna’s eleventh cousins. They are ninth cousins three times removed of Walt Disney. Most people have no contact with relatives as remote as third cousins, and few have traced their ancestry back any more than about five or six generations. So most people have no idea of who else might be sharing their bloodlines.
Today there are thousands of Oliver and Margaret Walsh’s progeny all over the planet. They are by no means all wealthy, famous, or successful people. They are in all walks of life, and most are unaware of the seventeenth century Irish couple whose DNA contributed to making them the individuals they are. Oliver and Margaret may not have done remarkable things during their lifetime, but without them the world’s history would have taken a slightly different shape. That should be a sobering thought for any parent.
[First published in Ireland of the Welcomes, Vol. 55, No. 1 (January-February 2006)]
Old bridges have a strange way of blending into the landscape. Often we don’t notice them at all. Some of the smaller ones are camouflaged by greenery or hidden by road resurfacing. Larger ones are so familiar that they seem to have been there forever. With so much concern about flooding this year our bridges have come back into focus. Eldon Bridge and Baltinglass Bridge have been in the public eye more in 2010 than at any time since 1965. That was the year when another of our old bridges was swept away by the waters of the Slaney.
It may surprise people that there are well over twenty bridges in our parish, not counting those over the old railway line. Most of them are nameless and secretly cross small streams. ‘Our parish’ may seem a vague term. In this instance we are talking about the Catholic parish. It has set geographical boundaries, incorporating Ballynure, Baltinglass, Rathbran and Rathtoole civil parishes in Co. Wicklow and parts of Graney and Kineagh civil parishes in Co. Kildare.
In the Kildare end of our parish are two bridges of note. Miller’s Bridge, on the road between The Pike and Bigstone, crosses a stream that flows off Carrigeen hill. The stream joins forces with others before reaching the bridge at Graney. This familiar humpback on the road from Baltinglass to Castledermot was the scene of the infamous Graney Ambush on 24 October 1922, a brutal episode in the Civil War. This stream flows into the Lerr at Castledermot and enters the Barrow north of Carlow Town.
In the west of our parish, straddling the boundary between Wicklow and Kildare, is Ballycore Bridge, now most noticeable as a narrowing of the R747, which links Baltinglass to the new M9. The stream it crosses flows on through Timolin to join the Greese and make its way into the Barrow just south of Maganey. Close to Ballycore, but on a less trodden path is Rathtoole Bridge. It links the R747 with the ‘Bed Road’. Despite its name, this narrow single-arch bridge is slightly outside Rathtoole townland. The north side of it is in Baronstown Lower and the south side is in Lackareagh and Moneymore.
Apart from the Slaney crossings there are two other named bridges in our parish. Kyle (officially spelt ‘Kill’) is a two-arch bridge over a stream fed from Kilranelagh and Baltinglass hills. Further on its course this stream once powered the mill in Tuckmill. It still flows unnoticed under the N81 to join the Slaney just north of Tuckmill Cross. Further south, a network of streams from the Talbotstown area drain into a small river that enters the Slaney at Kilmurry. The small river separates Baltinglass from Rathvilly parish and Wicklow from Carlow. Spanning it with a single arch is Mountneill Bridge, a venerable humpback with great character.
The bridging of the Slaney goes back to the 1600s. Tradition has it that there was a ford in Baltinglass north of where the present bridge stands. The Cistercian monks who built the original mill on the west bank of the river had to have some crossing point from the Abbey on the east side. Sometime in the latter half of the seventeenth century Sir Maurice Eustace built a bridge in the town. It may have been immediately adjacent to the ford. A map from 1745 shows it about where Gillespie’s SuperValu now faces St. Kevin’s. Before the present SuperValu was built in the late twentieth century the line of the street leading down the slope to this bridge was discernible. The popular name for Jimmy Donohoe’s pub, ‘the Hollow’, most likely originated from this sloping street.
In the late eighteenth century the then owner of the town, Edward Stratford, 2nd Earl of Aldborough, built a new stone bridge south of the original one. Its western approach was aligned with Cuckoo Lane (Belan Street), which led to his residence at Belan, Co. Kildare. The bridge crossed the river at a slight angle so that its eastern approach was not exactly aligned with the existing north side of Main Street. Presumably this was to centre it on the widened street. Edward’s three-arch bridge had triangular cutwaters and dressed granite voussoirs and it was under construction in 1788. At the time it must have been impressively wide. Built for horse drawn vehicles almost a quarter of a millennium ago, this bridge still stands at the heart of the town, tested daily by twenty-first century articulated lorries.
Despite its antiquity, Baltinglass Bridge is not the oldest existing Slaney bridge in our parish. That honour goes to Manger Bridge, which is estimated to date from some decades earlier and may be the oldest bridge on the river’s entire course. In its heyday this narrow five-arch crossing was on the road from Baltinglass through Dunlavin to Dublin. Lord Aldborough’s new town of Stratford-upon-Slaney was built on this road in the 1780s. The realignment of the Dublin road to the east of the river in the early nineteenth century diminished Manger’s importance. It may well have saved it too, as road expansion inevitably would have seen a wider bridge replace it.
Tuckmill Bridge is another eighteenth century construction. The late Tommy Doyle of the Lough maintained a tradition that one of his ancestors was drowned at a fording place in Tuckmill in the 1770s. Subsequently the present bridge was built. Tommy stated that the Dempsey family came to work on it and then settled in Tuckmill.
An old fording place that has long been defunct is Maiden’s Ford, between Cloghcastle and the end of the Green Lane in Newtownsaunders. According to the Ordnance Survey Name Books, compiled in the 1830s, it got its name from ‘a young woman having been drowned at it about a hundred years ago’. Michael Coogan of the Redwells appears to have been the source of this information. Further downstream, between Holdenstown Lower and Slaney Park, was Lady’s Ford. It connected a now abandoned road through Holdenstown with the Redwells. Apparently again quoting Coogan, the Name Books state that it was named after ‘a Lady being drowned at it in crossing the River about 50 years ago’.
In the 1940s the place-names expert Liam Price dismissed the explanations of Maiden’s Ford and Lady’s Ford as unconvincingly similar. Perhaps Price was too quick to reject the traditions. In the mid-eighteenth century Slaney Park was the home of Sir Warren Crosbie who called it Crosbie Park. His wife was Dorothy Howard from Northumberland. Their grandson, the balloonist Richard Crosbie, Ireland’s first aviator, is believed to have been born at Crosbie Park. Lady Crosbie drowned in the Slaney on 29 October 1748. Pue’s Occurrences of 1-5 November 1748 reported:
Last Week the Lady of Sir Warren Crosbie was unfortunately drowned, as she was crossing the River Slany near Enniscorthy in her Coach, occasioned by a great Flood that was in the River. Sir Warren Crosbie and some other Gentlemen who were in the Coach, happily saved their Lives by swimming to Shore; two of the Coach Horses were also drowned.
The coincidence is too great to ignore. It is easier to dismiss the newspaper’s mention of Enniscorthy as inaccurate than to dismiss the potential connection with Lady’s Ford.
The old road leading through Holdenstown ran parallel to the present one, which came into existence before 1838 and possibly much earlier. At some stage, perhaps in the 1820s, Aldborough Bridge was built, linking this road to the Redwells. The three-arch humpback still serves this quiet road.
The Building Bridge also was erected sometime before 1838, linking the village of Stratford to the new Baltinglass to Dublin road. This may well have been to provide better access to the cotton printing factory that was then just a few hundred yards from the bridge. On the night of 17 November 1965, during the greatest flood in living memory, the Building Bridge gave way, causing concern for the other old bridges downstream. Indeed a small portion of Tuckmill Bridge also went in that flood but it was repaired. Afterwards the Building Bridge was replaced by a temporary wooden structure before the present concrete bridge was put in place some twenty years ago. It is a functional structure but not as pleasing to the eye as the older bridges.
Perhaps the most noticeable crossing of the Slaney within our parish is Eldon Bridge, tucked into a sharp bend on the N81. Before its construction the way from Baltinglass to Dublin ran from Chapel Hill to Tuckmill along what we now call the Sruhaun Road. On the other side of the river the way from Baltinglass to Grangecon and Dunlavin ran from Mill Street to Raheen. In about 1829 a new stretch of road was run from the western side across the new Eldon Bridge to join the existing Dublin road at the foot of the hill. John Scott, the first Earl of Eldon, was Lord Chancellor until 1827 and the bridge appears to have been named for him. It spans three arches, but slightly at a remove on the eastern side is an additional dry arch for use in floods. Until just a couple of years ago there was a marked dip on the western approach to Eldon Bridge. This allowed river water to cross the road at times of high flooding. Controversially the dip was smoothed over when the road to the dump in Rampere was widened. Many people familiar with the Slaney’s habits fear that this change might weaken the bridge’s structure if another major flood were to happen.
We may pay little attention to our bridges as a rule, but they are part of the fabric of our parish and we would miss them if they were to vanish from the landscape. Baltinglass Bridge is barely wide enough for the vehicular and pedestrian traffic it is taxed with now. The provision of a free-standing walkway beside it could relieve the congestion and make it safer for those on foot. Ultimately though, this old familiar bridge will only be preserved for posterity by a bridge that has yet to be built. The Baltinglass Town Development Plan has identified the route for a relief road south of the town. Unfortunately, it is left to private enterprise to develop such a road so we may be waiting quite some time for our first bridge of the new millennium.
[first published in The Review 2010 – A year in the life of Baltinglass, Bigstone, Grangecon and Stratford]
One of the most recognisable structures in Baltinglass is the tower in St. Joseph’s Graveyard on Chapel Hill. Standing almost alone beside the central pathway, it evokes thoughts of times gone by. There is a haunting picturesque quality about it. Familiar as it is, many people have only a vague idea of how it came to be there. Is it the last remnant of the old church? Has it something to do with Catholic Emancipation? Is it part of an old castle?
Today, as you look up the central pathway, the tower is in the middle of the graveyard. Until 1938, when the graveyard was extended up the hill, the tower formed part of its upper boundary wall. Further back again, before the area to the left of the central pathway was added to the cemetery in 1903, the tower occupied the north-east corner of the much smaller cemetery. The lowest part to the right of the central pathway was not part of the grounds before that time either; small houses once stood there. Before 1903 you would have entered the graveyard through the gateway in what was the south-west corner. The gate still stands, but like a forgotten old favourite, above its rows of crooked granite steps. When that gate was in its heyday it was the entrance to the chapel yard. Directly inside it was the chapel and on the somewhat higher ground to the north was the small cemetery area. Standing in the corner above the graves and at some distance from the chapel was the tower. Beside the boundary wall, a narrow flight of steps ran up from the chapel towards the tower. The steps are still to be seen.
Before the end of the 1820s the tower was less conspicuous, partly because it was not as tall then but also because the chapel obscured its view. Chapel Hill got its name from this chapel. When it was built, possibly in the late eighteenth century, the term ‘church’ officially related to a Church of Ireland place of worship. All other denominations had chapels or meetinghouses. Throughout most of the eighteenth century the Penal Laws were in force in Ireland. They were aimed at bolstering the position of the Protestant ruling class and they restricted the religious practices of Roman Catholic and Protestant Non-Conformist denominations. One of these laws forbade priests from officiating in a chapel with a steeple or bell. Luke Gardiner’s second Catholic Relief Act, passed in 1782, removed many restrictions on priests and Catholic worship but retained the prohibition regarding a steeple or bell.
Throughout the period of the Penal Laws their enforcement depended very much on the attitude of those in power locally. By the late eighteenth century most of the laws had been dismantled and those that remained could be flouted in many cases. It is probably in these circumstances that our bell tower was first constructed. It was built several yards away from the chapel so that, technically, no law was being broken. Chapel Hill was an established place-name by 1802 but the chapel may not have been very old by then, as it was called ‘the new chapel’ in a deed of 1799. The tower may well have been built at the same time as the chapel.
When Catholic Emancipation was enacted in 1829 it removed all remaining restrictions on Catholic worship. Rev. Henry Young, a charismatic missionary priest, is said to have been responsible for raising funds locally for a new bell, made in Dublin that year. It is said that at the same time the tower was raised to its present height, with the castellated finish. The Parish Priest responsible for this was Rev. John Shea, who had been in Baltinglass for over twenty years.
At some stage, not necessarily in 1829, a rectangular plaque was placed on the tower. At its centre is a cross. Above that is an inscription in Greek which apparently translates as ‘Glory to God in the highest’. Below the cross is the very strange ‘Shea Mont Castle’ and below that ‘Anno Domini 1829’. What exactly was meant by the words ‘Shea Mont Castle’ is uncertain but the inscription is clearly in English and is not an abbreviation of a longer text. Presumably it relates to Father Shea’s building up of the tower, but it has given rise to the mistaken belief that the tower is that of a castle called ‘Shea Mont’.
In the 1850s, when the present St. Joseph’s church was ready for divine worship, the decaying chapel on Chapel Hill was abandoned. The clock tower of the new church was not completed until the 1890s. Up to that point the bell in the tower in the graveyard continued to be rung to summon parishioners to Mass. The 1829 bell was then transferred to the church in Stratford, where it remained in use until the 1930s.
[First published in The Review 2009: a year in the life of Baltinglass, Bigstone, Grangecon and Stratford]
In the 1911 Census my great-grandmother, Bridget McDermott, was stated as having had 11 children born alive and 9 still living. I accounted for 10 of these children and, over the years, I tried to find the missing one. The parish register was patchy to say the least and I tried civil birth records for the significant gaps between known children, guessing at the likely names. Bridget’s known children were Catherine, Charles, Mary, Patrick, Peter, James, John, Sarah, Thomas and Luke, all pretty predictable in terms of the family’s traditions. No one in later generations knew this extra child’s name or whether it existed, though my aunts thought their father had two brothers who died young. After drawing blanks many times I decided that 11 was someone’s error or that the eleventh child was stillborn and mistakenly included in the number.
The accessibility of Irish records has changed a lot in recent years. Last weekend I spent some time online trying to disentangle some other McDermott families who were definitely related to my family in some way. My main source was the Roscommon database on Rootsireland.ie, which provides transcripts of civil as well as church records. Since Rootsireland.ie changed to subscription rather than pay-per-view its search facility has become much less restrictive.
One of the other McDermott families had a child in 1877 with two forenames (unusual in the circumstances) and one of those names was fairly out of place. I decided to check for a death for this child and up came three references for the name, two births and one death. I clicked on the death without looking at the date. Immediately there was something wrong. This was a child of a shopkeeper named Patrick McDermott. Then I saw that the death was in 1876. My head swam. I clicked on the two births. Two McDermott children (possibly second cousins) were born within a year of one another and given the same two forenames. One died at 7 weeks old in 1876. He was the son of Patrick and Bridget McDermott, my great-grandparents. His name was Paul Francis. Having searched in vain for this child over the years I found that he was in fact my namesake!
Paul is not a traditional name in my family. There were relatively few Pauls in Roscommon in the nineteenth century (26 in the 1901 Census, only one of them a McDermott). The “Civil Registration Births Index, 1864-1958” on Ancestry shows 21 “Paul Francis” or “Francis Paul” (with any surname) births in the period 1864-1884 anywhere in Ireland. Only two of these were from Co. Roscommon and they were the Paul Francis McDermotts I already identified. The Irishgenealogy.ie “Civil Records” database is useless for comparison as it omits second forenames in most cases. In it the two Paul Francis McDermott births are entered as just “Paul”, while the 1876 death is entered as “Paul Francis”. That in itself is a poor reflection on the long awaited and ultimately restrictive Irishgenealogy.ie database.
I have yet to determine what prompted two related McDermott couples to name sons Paul Francis within a year of one another when Paul was not a family name and neither couple lavished two forenames on their other children. There must have been an external factor, but I have yet to figure it out.
The Rootsireland.ie transcript did not include the cause of death from my granduncle Paul’s death record, so I went to the GRO Research Room in Dublin early on Wednesday morning and purchased a photocopy of the record. Paul Francis McDermott died at just 7 weeks old having had croup for two days. After 139 years he is remembered again in his family.
The 45th Walker Cup match, held in September, saw five Irishmen on the GB&I team for the first time ever. Gavin Moynihan had already played in the 2013 match, but the first appearances for Dunne, Hume, Hurley and Sharvin brought the total number of Walker Cup players from Ireland to 42. That number might have been 43. Lionel Munn, Ireland’s first star amateur golfer, very nearly played Walker Cup in 1934. What happened this year with Sam Horsfield’s withdrawal was reminiscent of Munn’s story.
When the last two places on the GB&I team were made public on 30 April 1934 the Irish Times commented that the selection committee had ‘sprung a first-class surprise’. Less than two weeks before the match at St. Andrews the selectors announced that Eric McRuvie of Scotland and Ireland’s Lionel Munn would join the other eight team members already named. McRuvie, the Irish Amateur Open winner in 1931, had played in the 1932 Walker Cup match, but apparently he had not shown recent form. Munn was just about to turn 47 and his selection came out of nowhere.
Nevertheless, The Times of London considered Munn worthy of his place. Referring to his early career before the Great War, it said that he was ‘nowadays an even better golfer than he was then’, adding ‘For sheer devastating accuracy there is not a player in the British Isles who is his master, and he is, moreover, a match winner in excelsis.’
Lionel Munn was born in Clondermot in Derry on 4 May 1887. He first came to the fore as a 21 year old student at Trinity College, Dublin, when he won the 1908 Irish Amateur Close championship at Portmarnock. Making his debut that year in The Amateur Championship at Sandwich he reached the third round and went to the tenth tie hole before being beaten. The following year he became only the second home winner of the Irish Amateur Open, then dominated by the cream of English and Scottish golf. He retained the title in 1910 and was runner-up in the Irish Close.
1911 was a phenomenal year for the then 24 year old. Not only did he win the Irish Amateur Close and Open but he added the South of Ireland title. At the time these were the only three amateur championships in Irish golf. For good measure he was a member of the Dublin University team that retained the Senior Cup that year and a member of the Co. Donegal team that won the inaugural Barton Shield. The Barton Shield was then competed for by foursomes pairs representing counties rather than clubs. Lionel and his brother Ector Munn, playing out of their home club of North-West, made up half of the Donegal team.
Also in 1911 Lionel had his best run in The Amateur Championship to date, reaching the Last 16. He was selected for the amateur team in the Coronation Match which preceded The Open at Sandwich in June 1911. The opposing teams were made up of the best amateurs of the then United Kingdom against their professional counterparts. Munn was the only Irish representative on the amateur team while Michael Moran, his senior by one year, was the only Irishman among the professionals. In The Open itself Moran finished in a tie for 21st place and Munn in a tie for 40th.
After the dizzy heights of 1911, the following year was an anti-climax. His best showing was a semi-final finish in the Irish Amateur Open. In 1913 he played in the first official amateur international for Ireland, against Wales, and won the Irish Close. In 1914 he won his fourth Irish Close before competitive golf came to an abrupt end as the Great War commenced. During the conflict Munn served as an officer in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
It was not till the 1930s that he returned to serious competition. He won the Belgian Amateur in 1931 and 1932. In 1932 he also reached the semi-finals of The Amateur and finished in a tie for 29th in The Open, but there were no significant results the following year. Living in Kent, he did not compete in Ireland and was not selected to represent Ireland. Not surprisingly, therefore, his announcement for the 1934 Walker Cup team raised eyebrows.
Two days before the match was to begin Munn was practising on the Old Course, but apparently his form was not impressive. He left St. Andrews before the announcement was made that ‘owing to disposition’ he had withdrawn. With the agreement of Francis Ouimet, the American captain, his place had been filled by Leonard Crawley. As with Horsfield’s withdrawal 81 years later, no further official explanation was given for Munn’s decision.
Just ten days after the match Munn competed in The Amateur Championship at Prestwick. The Irish Times reported that he was ‘still suffering from the cold which had forced his withdrawal’ and that ‘his voice was husky’ when he spoke to the reporter. He won three matches in the championship to reach the Last 32 and was beaten 3/2 by the eventual winner, Lawson Little, a member of the US team.
Lionel Munn went on to play for Ireland in the 1936 and 1937 Home Internationals, and to reach the final of The Amateur in 1937, again at Sandwich. The 50 year old Irishman was beaten by Robert Sweeny, another American. Munn later retired to Kerry where he died aged 71 on 25 October 1958. Whether the cause back in 1934 was a cold, poor form or an atmosphere of criticism, it was ultimately Munn’s choice to not be among Ireland’s Walker Cup players.
[First published in the Irish Clubhouse, Issue 4, 2015]
I'm a genealogist by profession, with credentials from AGI. I also dabble in local history and the history of Irish golfers, and I'm always writing something!