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