At home with Michael Collins

On a tour of West Cork one of our most enjoyable days of the trip was spent in Clonakilty.

Clonakilty is a bustling town about 1 hours drive from Cork city.
It is known for it’s pudding but we were there for a Michael Collins tour with Tim Crowley from the Michael Collins Centre.

Along with seeing some of the rugged West Cork countryside we also got to visit Michael Collin’s birthplace at Woodfield, while also tracing his steps on that fateful day he was killed in 1922.

Michael Collins early life

Michael Collins was born in this building at Woodfield in West Cork on the 16th October in 1890, he was the 8th child of Michael Senior and Mary Anne Collins and he lived here with his brothers and sisters. Michael’s family built a new larger farmhouse next to this cottage and moved into the new house at Christmas 1900, these buildings pictured below, then became the outhouses and sheds.

Birthplace of Michael Collins
Michael Collins bust at Woodfield

Michael’s family home

During the War of Independence in 1921, the larger farmhouse was burnt down by the Essex Regiment, a British Auxiliary unit. Neighbours of the Collins family who were ploughing in a nearby field also had their farming tools and a horse harness thrown into the house before it was set alight.  Any neighbours who sheltered the Collins family were also threatened that their own homes would be burnt down.

Woodfield farmhouse of Michael Collins
The original plans of Michael Collins farmhouse at Woodfield and photographs of the Collins family pictured outside their burnt house.

Brief history of Michael Collins

Collins attended national school in Clonakilty and emigrated just before his 16th birthday to London. He worked for nine years in England with the Civil Service and other financial companies. He returned to Dublin in January 1916 to take part in the Easter Rising and fought in the General Post Office. He was interned at Frongoch in Wales from May until December 1916.

When he returned to Ireland he set up an intelligence network along with an arms smuggling operation. He fought in the War of Independence, became a TD in the first Irish government and went onto lead the Irish delegation at the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks in London in 1921. He fought on the pro-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War and was the commander of the new free state Irish army.

As part of the guided tour, we also visited Sams Cross, Four All’s Pub and of course the Béal na mBláth ambush site.  (Click here to read more about the ambush and who fired the fatal shot).

Michael Collins pub
Collins stopped for a drink here with his soldiers on the day of the Beal na Blath ambush
Beal na Blá site
Beal na Blath townland where Michael Collins was ambushed and killed
Beal na Blath ambush memorial
Memorial at Beal na Blath for Michael Collins

We planned to visit some of these places ourselves but we are glad we decided to do the tour as Tim’s local knowledge and enthusiasm for Irish history shone through.

In Clonakilty itself there’s a Michael Collins statue located in Emmet Square, Collins lived here for a time with his Aunt.

Emmet Square, Clonakilty statue
Michael Collins statue
Emmet Square Georgian Houses Clonakilty Cork
Emmet Square where Michael Collins lived in a house in the square with his Aunt.

A new visitor centre dedicated to Michael Collins has opened, called the Michael Collins House and it is located on Emmet Square. This wasn’t open when we visited but we hope to go back sometime for a visit.

During our stay in Clonakilty, which we visited during our road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way trail, we stayed in a local B&B and visited De Barras pub in Clonakilty, which is worth a visit, as its a quintessential old Irish style pub with regular live Irish music.

Check out our blog post on the Slievenamon car and its connection to a key event in Irish history.

A Rebel’s home

 

Kiltyclogher or Kilty as it is known locally, is a small village situated in north Leitrim, it is right on the border with Fermanagh. It is a quaint little village, laid out neatly with four roads, the village lies on the R281 road.

 

Seán Mac Diarmada's statue in Kiltyclogher, Leitrim Mac Diarmada statue
Seán Mac Diarmada statue which was erected in 1940. It was created by the Irish Sculptor Albert Power (1881-1945)

 

Brief History

The village was originally established in the 1830’s by the local landlord Charles Henry Tottenham, in honour of his daughter Sarah who had died in a riding accident, the village was originally named Sarahville and a crest with this name can still be seen today on the Market house building in the town.

Charles who lived in the nearby Glenfarne Hall, was the son of Nicholas Loftus Tottenham, originally of Loftus Hall on the Hook Head peninsula in Wexford. The Tottenham family arrived in Ireland during the Cromwellian plantation. Nicholas had been a Captain in a British Regiment and a M.P. for Wexford and he was bequeathed land in Leitrim.

Charles Tottenham built the village which consisted of 25 houses and the Market house and by the mid 1830’s, the village had 130 inhabitants.  There was also a constabulary police station in the village and a market was held every Friday in the Market house and a Fair on the 14th of the month. In 1837 the Roman Catholic church, St Patrick’s was built and in 1868, the Church of Ireland Kiltyclogher Parish church was built on the Kilcoo road.

During the Troubles, in 1973 the road into Fermanagh was blown up by the British Army, this had a detrimental affect on the local economy and cut off neighbours and townlands.  Thankfully, since the peace process, the road has reopened, although the village has suffered from problems of rural decline and lack of infrastructure and services. For the 1916-2016 centenary this year, the village has been spruced up and is looking really well, with window art facades on some of the old former pubs and shops.  It is hoped that the village will be designated as a ‘Heritage and Cultural Village’ with a special focus on arts and crafts. I think this will be great for the village as it has a history of music and drama. My grandmother brought my mother to some of the amateur drama plays held in Kilty back in the 1970’s.

McGowans Bar - Kiltyclogher Leitrim

Old Memories

I’m fond of Kilty as my grandparents lived just over the border and Kilty was their nearest village, I spent many summers there and walked in the road and over the old wooden bridge (which at one point resembled something out of an Indiana Jones movie) which crossed the river and up to Kilty for church on Sunday’s, my aunts changing out of their old mucky shoes and hiding them in a bag behind an old wall, before continuing on up into Kilty village in their high heels.

Art work on old tailor's shop
Bredin Tailors shop, Kiltyclogher Leitrim

 

Heritage Centre

We visited the new heritage centre opened in the former Market house building in the village and to do a tour of the home of the 1916 Leader Seán Mac Diarmada. The heritage centre hosts an exhibition about Sean and gives a brief history of Kilty, we met Paul there who was very kind and patient!

Market house in Kilty
The former Market house now the Kiltyclogher Heritage Centre

 

Seán Mac Diarmada

 

Sean Mac Diarmada art portrait
Striking artwork of Seán Mac Diarmada by Sinead Guckian displayed in the Heritage centre.

 

Seán was born in Corranmore townland, just outside the village of Kilty in 1883 and he lived in a three room cottage with his parents and his brothers and sisters. Seán had originally planned on been a teacher and he stayed on, in his local school Corracloon and was a teacher’s assistant there, while studying for teaching exams by correspondence. Around this time, he learnt Irish and became involved in the Gaelic League. After failing an exam, he moved to Belfast and worked as a Tram conductor and was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In 1908, he moved to Dublin and was working as an organiser for Sinn Fein and by 1910 he was working as the editor of the Irish Freedom newspaper. He also became good friends with Tom Clarke and was considered to be Clarke’s protegé.

Irish cottage of Sean Mac Diarmada
The 19th century thatched cottage of Seán Mac Diarmada – 1916 Rising Leader

 

In 1964, Seán’s bachelor brother was approached by the Office of Public works, they wanted to make the cottage a national monument and asked Seán’s brother, not to make any alternations to the cottage, in return he received an allowance and continued to live in the cottage until his death in 1976. Walking into the 19th century white washed thatched cottage, you see the big open hearth and get the smell of turf, old furniture is dotted about the cottage, some of which was made by Seán’s father, who was a farmer and carpenter, it really brings you back in time, it is as if Seán and his family have just stepped out and will return at any minute. My mother came along with us and she loved it, as she grew up in a similar cottage in the 50’s and 60’s, with the big open hearth and hooks for hanging a kettle and saucepans.

Old hearth in traditional irish cottage
The old hearth, put on the kettle and throw some boxty on the pan

 

Inside Seán Mac Diarmada's cottage
Old dresser built by Seán’s father, on display at the family cottage in Kiltyclogher, Leitrim

 

It’s worth booking a tour with the heritage centre as they will meet you outside and open up the cottage, otherwise you can drive up to the cottage and view it from the outside, but it will really make your visit worthwhile to go into the cottage, we really enjoyed our visit to the village and the cottage. You can check out the heritage website for opening times and directions.

 

 

Sources:
1. kiltyclogherheritagecentre.com
2. Seán Mac Diarmada Summer School - seanmacdiarmada.ie/sean-mac-diarmada
3. Seán Mac Diarmada - 16 Lives biography book by Author Brian Feeney 
4. Tottenham Genealogy - tottenham.name/Tree/SectionC9.pdf
5. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Se%C3%A1n_Mac_Diarmada
6. Irish Century - www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufLoFB3Jx3E
7. forebears.io/ireland/connaught/leitrim/clonclare/kiltyclogher
8. kilmorediocese.ie/diocese/parishes/113
9. leitrimobserver.ie/news/home/206963/This-is-our-last-chance-to.html
10. visual-arts-cork.com/irish-sculpture/albert-power.htm

 

1916 Rising Exhibition in Tipperary

 

Some photos from a recent visit to the Tipperary County Museum located in Mick Delahunty Square in Clonmel, Tipperary, where a 1916 Easter Rising exhibition is currently been held.

You can find out more about the exhibition and the County museum opening days/hours here.

 

GPO 1916 Rising Exhibition

You can read about the Tipperary Volunteers and see an original copy of the Irish Proclamation at the Tipperary – Road to the Rising Exhibition.

 

 

 

The Slievenamon car and it’s place in Irish history

The Slievenamon (Sliabh na mBan) Armoured Rolls Royce car, used by General Michael Collins, is regularly displayed around the country at heritage events and vintage shows, if you get an opportunity to view it, its worthwhile to see this historic vehicle.

This armoured car dates back to 1920 and was bought from the British Army by the newly formed Irish State after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. It was famously part of the convoy at Béal na mBláth in West Cork, on the day Collins was ambushed and killed.  On our recent Cork trip, we got a guided Michael Collins tour with Tim Crowley, (read our blog post here) and visited Béal na mBláth and Collin’s homestead outside of Clonakility. We learnt on the tour, how on that fateful day, Collins didn’t actually travel in this car, where he would have been protected, instead he travelled behind the armoured car and when the shooting started, they took cover behind the Slievenamon but Collins came out from behind it and was hit while standing in the middle of the road.

Irish soldier stands beside armoured car
Irish soldier stands guard over the Slievenamon Collins Armoured car

 

Who killed Michael Collins ?

It is widely believed an IRA volunteer soldier on the anti-treaty side called Denis ‘Sonny’ O’Neill, fired the fatal shot, he was a highly skilled sniper, having trained with the British Army during World War 1, although he never admitted it, Army pension records show he was at the ambush and was the most skilled of the republican soldiers at the ambush.  The guide also told us, how rumours about Eamon De Valera been part of the ambush, came about as Dev, had stayed only a few miles away in the same townland, the night before in West Cork, which is a coincidence.

 

Michael Collins car during Irish Civil War
Slievenamon Armoured Car preserved by the Irish Army

 

Watch this short video clip from the 1996 Michael Collins movie, although the movie is historically inaccurate, it does depict the Béal na mBláth ambush quite well.

Curragh Military Museum

The armoured car is usually located at the Curragh Military Museum in Kildare and can also be viewed at commemoration and heritage events in other locations in Ireland throughout the year. Entry to the military museum is free and you can check out the opening times here.

Check out our blog post on the Michael Collins guided tour

 

Original blog post published in 2016 and updated in 2017

The light of evening, Lissadell

 
We visited Lissadell House in May and did the guided tour.  Lissadell House, is a big country house, located in North Sligo.  It originally belonged to the Gore-Booth family, who were Anglo Irish landlords.  They sold it to the Cassidy-Walsh family in 2004, who have since renovated it and use it as their own family home and have also managed to turn it into an interesting visitor attraction, which is open to the public from March until October each year.  This is the family home of Countess Constance Markievicz and her sister Eva Gore-Booth and the poet W.B. Yeats was a frequent visitor and he later wrote the poem, In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz, which refers to Lissadell House.

 

 

 

Lissadell House windows
Sash windows at Lissadell House

 

In 6th class, I had completed a history project and chose Countess Markievicz as the subject, later that same year, I visited Lissadell when I made my confirmation back in May 1992! but it wasn’t opened to the public at the time. We started off the tour in the Billiards room, there were lots of interesting old photos on the wall and memorabilia laid out on the table, which had belonged to Henry Gore-Booth, who was an Arctic explorer and the father of Constance and Eva Gore-Booth.

 

Lissadell House
Lissadell House

 

We also saw the oval shaped Gallery room, which was designed as a Music Room.  The kitchen, one of my favourite rooms to visit in big houses, is located downstairs and reminded me of Downton Abbey.

Lissadell House was designed by the architect Francis Goodwin and built in the 1830’s to a neo-classic greek revivalist style, I think the tour guide mentioned how the architecture of the house is similar to that of an ancient Greek temple.

 

Lissadell Court yard
Lissadell Courtyard which houses the Exhibition centre and Tea rooms.

 

There is a large exhibition centre located in the courtyard buildings, with galleries on Countess Markievicz, William and Jack Yeats.

If you are visiting Sligo, it is well worth a visit and this year, they also have a 1916 Easter Rising themed exhibition.

You can check out their website here for visitor opening times and to find out about special events which take place at Lissadell House.