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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
On a recent trip to Kerry, we visited the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator. Since we had visited his crypt and round tower at Glasnevin cemetery, you can read about our visit here and got to touch his coffin and for years admired his statue on O’Connell street, we couldn’t miss an opportunity to see where the great man once lived.
Brief history of Daniel O’Connell’s Life
Daniel O’Connell was born in 1775 in Cahersiveen, Kerry. The O’Connell family had been wealthy Roman Catholics that had been dispossessed of their lands.
His Uncle Maurice O’Connell
At the age of five, Daniel moved to Derrynane House to live with his wealthy childless Uncle, Maurice “Hunting Cap” O’Connell who had fostered him. Maurice was the head of the O’Connell clan and was to have a strong influence on Daniel’s education and life. Daniel was eventually to inherit this house and he renovated it and made it his Summer residence.
Under the patronage of his wealthy Uncle, Daniel went to France to study along with brother, they had to flee France during the French Revolution. Daniel went to Law school in London and trained as a barrister. After he qualified, he worked for several years as a barrister around the Munster circuit.
His wife Mary O’Connell
In 1802, he married a third cousin, Mary O’Connell, despite his Uncle and families wishes, as Mary was not wealthy, it was a love match and they went onto have a happy marriage and seven surviving children. When Mary died in 1836, Daniel was heartbroken, he stated “she gave me thirty-four years of the purest happiness that man ever enjoyed.’
There were rumours of Daniels infidelities and illegitimate children at the time but these may have been spread by his political enemies.
Campaign for Catholic Emancipation
In 1811, he established the Catholic Board, which campaigned for Catholic emancipation. This would give Irish Catholics the opportunity to become members of parliament.
In 1823, he set up the Catholic Association which embraced other aims to better Irish Catholics, such as: electoral reform, reform of the Church of Ireland, tenants’ rights, and economic development.This Association was funded by membership with subscriptions set at 1 penny a month, so Irish peasants could afford it. The campaign was successful and sufficient funds were raised to campaign for Emancipation.
In 1815, in a speech Daniel referred to the Dublin Corporation as a “beggarly corporation”. The corporation members were outraged and because O’Connell would not apologise, he was challenged to a duel by John D’Esterre.
They met in Kildare for the duel and D’Esterre who was an experienced duellist shot first, by chance his bullet missed O’Connell and hit the ground in front of him, O’Connell had aimed low and shot D’Esterre in the hip, not intending to gravely hurt him but the bullet logged in his stomach and D’Esterre died from his injuries two days later. Daniel felt much aggrieved at the killing and supported D’Esterre’s daughter for 30 years after.
Daniel O’Connell Member of Parliament
O’Connell stood in a by-election to the British House of Commons in 1828 for County Clare, he won the election but was unable to take his seat as members of parliament had to take the Oath of Supremacy. The Prime Minister fearing another rebellion in Ireland, if O’Connell was refused his seat, introduced the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829.
In 1844, Daniel was arrested and imprisoned for 3 months, he had been charged with ‘seditious conspiracy’ for his campaign to repeal the Act of Union, which had moved the Irish parliament to Westminister in 1800. The Repealers hoped to re-establish an independent parliament for Ireland by putting pressure on the British authorities. The Repeal campaign organised Monster peaceful meetings, one had been held on the Hill of Tara with 100,000 people in attendance.
On his release from prison, a procession was held and Daniel was paraded through the streets of Dublin, in a large chariot, called the Triumphal chariot. This chariot was restored and is now displayed in the Coach house at Derrynane house.
In 1825, Daniel’s Uncle, Maurice O’Connell died and Daniel finally inherited Derrynane House and set about renovating it. The house dated back to 1702 and over the generations, rooms and wings had been added as needed. In the 1950’s, two great granddaughters of Daniel O’Connell’s who were then aged in their 80’s resided at Derrynane, as the original house dated back to the 1700’s and as no maintenance work had been carried out on the house in many years it had already fallen into disrepair.
After the ladies passed away the house was gifted to the Irish state, by this stage, it was decided that the main section of the house had to be demolished, this housed the kitchens and bedrooms, the other wing of the house, the part that Daniel had designed and constructed in the 1820’s are what remain of the house today. Daniel added a dining room, drawing room, a study and library and changed the entrance of the house, he also added a small church to the house, which also survives.
In 1847, Daniel went on a pilgrimage to Rome to get the Pope’s blessing, in Genoa in Italy, he took gravely ill and died a few days later at the age of 71 years old. He was a man who was ahead of his time, although a religious man, he believed in the separation of the church and state.
This is the actual bed from the Feder hotel in Genoa that Daniel O’Connell died in. It was donated to the Office of Public Works by the Pontifical college in Rome who had come into possession of it back in 1926 from the family that owned the hotel.
Daniel had stated on his deathbed, My body to Ireland, My heart to Rome, My Soul to Heaven
His last bequest was granted and his heart was sent to Rome and his body returned to Ireland and his coffin is held in a crypt under the Daniel O’Connell round tower at Glasnevin cemetery which you can visit and view.
Daniel’s ancestral home is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and you can visit the house from March until early November, click here to find directions.
Sources:Information gathered during visit to OPW - Derrynane HouseBackground Info: http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/02/03/daniel-oconnells-childhood/Background Info: derrynanehouse.ieBackground Info: wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_O%27Connell
If you are planning a visit to Cavan, you would do well to pay a visit to the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff. We have visited a few county museums over the last few years but Cavan’s museum stood out. Museums today should strive to create interactive user experience’s and the museum has embraced this idea.
The Museum is based in a beautiful 19th century building that was previously a convent used by the Poor Clare Order of nuns.
The nuns arrived in Ballyjamesduff in 1872 with the convent itself being opened in 1883.
In 1992, with the dwindling convent community, a decision was made to close the convent and move to smaller accommodation within the community. Cavan County Council purchased the convent to house the new county museum.
The museum is located on the Virginia Road – it’s signposted but easy to miss the turn (it’s a narrow slip road beside the church).
The building itself is substantial as you can imagine but luckily they have a lot of varied exhibitions to make good use of the space.
Exhibitions include Cavan GAA history, the history of the Barons Farnham (owners of the Farnham Estate for over 300 years until it was sold in the mid-2000s), the Great Famine, Percy French, local links to World War 1 and an exhibition on the Poor Clare Order of nuns.
There’s some other interesting pieces scattered around the museum like a gun belonging to Arthur Griffith.
Percy French was a famous Irish songwriter in the early 1900’s and he is connected to Ballyjamesduff as he worked in Cavan and wrote a famous Irish emigration song called “Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff” and in his honour a replica statue was erected in the town. I found out recently after posting the photo below on our Facebook page, a descendent of Paddy Reilly told me, he was a jarvey taxi man with a horse and cart who use to drive and collect people from Ballyduff and the Oldcastle train station, he did leave Ballyjamesduff, when he emigrated but he returned a few years later and settled back in Ballyjamesduff.
By far the most impressive features of the museum are the World War 1 Trench Experience and the Visualising the Rising exhibition.
Cavan Museum have a replica trench onsite that was “built to the specifications and manuals of the Irish Guards and used by the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the Battle of the Somme 1916, it is over 350 metres long and includes frontline, communication and support trenches. Over 6000 sand bags were used in its construction. ”
The replica trench is the largest outdoor one of it’s kind in Ireland and the UK. This is very well done and you get a better understanding of what life must have been like in the trenches for the soldiers, they slept in something that resembled a shelf, never far from the rats and mud. With audio posts dotted throughout the trenches, capturing some of the sounds of the WW1 trenches.
Also onsite is “a replica GPO façade and a series of tunnelled-through contemporary building interiors that allow visitors to experience the claustrophobic fighting conditions endured by the rebels.”
You can go inside the GPO during the Rising and experience the tunnelled Moore street houses. We both read a book called Inside the GPO, it was a memoir by an Irish volunteer called Joe Goode, which recounts his time during the 1916 Rising. Goode paints a vivid picture of the last days of the Rising, volunteers tunnelling through the narrow rows of houses on Moore street and life inside for the inhabitants, with James Connolly stretchered into the house, a defiant Sean MacDiarmada and Patrick Pearse looking out at the civilians killed and writing the surrender letter and about life for the impoverished families who lived there. One story about the young volunteer Michael Collins trying to cook his ration sausages in a bedroom fireplace, on quenched emblems so as not to attract the British army snipers with smoke coming from the chimney stack, in the end ashes covered the sausages with Michael cursing the snipers.
The museum has a peace & reconciliation garden that remembers those from all sides of Irish society and the different paths they took, that led some to the trenches in World War 1 and others to the Easter Rising.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The former Market house now the Kiltyclogher Heritage Centre
Seán Mac Diarmada
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.
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.
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.
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
6. Irish Century - www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufLoFB3Jx3E