The Liberator’s home

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.

Daniel O'Connell
Portrait of Daniel O’Connell at Derrynane House

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.

Old picture of Derrynane House
Old sketch of Derrynane House, the ring wing is now demolished

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.

Dining room at Derrynane house
In the dining room of Derrynane House, portraits of Daniel’s wife Mary O’Connell and his Uncle Maurice ‘Flat Cap’ O’Connell

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.

Fatal Duel

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.

Duelling pistols
Duelling pistols, the bottom pistol was Daniel’s

 

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.

Daniel Imprisoned

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.

Daniel O'Connell's Triumphal chariot
Daniel O’Connells Triumphal chariot
Daniel O'Connell atop the Triumphal Chariot
The Triumphal procession of Daniel O’Connell

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.

Derrynane House
Derrynane House

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.

Home of Daniel O'Connell
Derrynane House, ancestral home of the Liberator Daniel O’Connell
Ornate table belonging to Daniel O'Connell
Ornate table carving of dogs and Irish harp under a table in the drawing room of Derrynane House
Daniel O'Connell's drawing room
Drawing room with large wooden throne at Derrynane House
Library at Derrynane House in Kerry
Portrait of Daniel O’Connell hanging his library at Derrynane House

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 O'Connell's deathbed
Daniel O’Connell’s deathbed from the Feder hotel, where he died in 1847

Daniel had stated on his deathbed, My body to IrelandMy 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 House

Background Info: http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/02/03/daniel-oconnells-childhood/

Background Info: derrynanehouse.ie

Background Info: wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_O%27Connell

The story behind Ireland’s smallest chapel

A few photos from a visit to Carrick-on-Shannon in county Leitrim, we regularly drive through Carrick heading to Sligo but decided to stop for lunch and a stroll a few months ago. I had heard that Carrick had the smallest chapel in Ireland which had been renovated in the last few years so we decided to go and view it, we found it tucked away on the corner of Bridge street and Main street.

The story goes that when a local woman named Mary Josephine Costello died at the age of 47 on the 6th of October 1877, her husband Edward Costello, a local rich merchant was so heartbroken by the death of his beloved wife, he decided to have a chapel built in her memory and have her coffin interred within it.

Victorian mourning

The Victorian era (1837 to 1901) introduced new funeral rituals and in particular after 1861 when Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s husband died and she went into a long period of mourning, influenced many Victorians and would of had an influence on the grieving Edward’s decision to commission the building of a chapel in memory of his wife.  Early deaths were viewed increasingly as tragic and deserving of elaborate and grand-scale mourning.(i)  Following Queen Victoria’s example, it became customary for middle class and wealthy families to go through elaborate rituals to commemorate their dead. This included wearing mourning clothes, having a lavish and expensive funeral, curtailing social behaviour for a set period of time, and erecting an ornate monument on the grave.(ii)

Costello had his wife’s remains embalmed and entrusted her body to the care of the local Marist Sisters convent in Carrick until the chapel could be completed.(iii)  Two years later on the 22nd April 1879, the chapel building works were completed and the chapel was dedicated with a mass held where Mary Josephine’s body was interred in a decorated coffin and placed into a sunken floor and covered with a thick glass lid.  Edward had a mass held in the chapel every month until his own death in 1891, his coffin was also interred in the chapel.

The chapel is believed to be the smallest chapel in Ireland and the second smallest in the world, it measures 16 ft by 12 ft and is made of cut stone, there is no woodwork in the church, the roof is made of arched piece of masonry and there is a large stained glass window made from designs by Mayer of Munich.(iii)  The Carrick Heritage group raised funds and had the chapel renovated in 2009 and it is opened daily all year round, its free admission but donations are welcome.  

Chapel in Carrick
Costello’s Memorial chapel

 

Church doorway
Archway into chapel

 

Coffin
Edward Costello’s coffin

 

Mary Josephines carved coffin
Mary Josephine Costello’s coffin

 

Mary Josephine Costello Leitrim Portrait
Portrait of Mary Josephine Costello

 

Coffins encased in the glass floor of the chapel

 

Irish stained glass smallest church
Stained glass window from designs by Mayer of Munich, renovated by Connon studios Dublin

A quick look inside the chapel

 

 

Sources:

(i)   https://victorianmonsters.wordpress.com/victorian-funerary-practices/
(ii)  http://www.tchevalier.com/fallingangels/bckgrnd/mourning/
(iii) http://www.carrickheritage.com/costello-memorial-chapel.html

Images: melcoo

 

Belvedere House

A few photos from our visit to Belvedere House, located outside Mullingar in Westmeath, Ireland.

Belvedere House was a Georgian villa built in 1740 by Robert Rochfort, Lord Belfield from designs by renowned architect Richard Cassells.  It was originally designed to be a hunting lodge or holiday villa but later became the main residence of Robert Rochfort, after he accused his wife Mary Molesworth of having an alleged affair with his brother Arthur Rochfort. Robert was told of the affair by his younger brother George, who disliked Mary.  Mary was said to have confessed but only under force and Arthur fled the country, pursued by his brother who planned to shoot him on sight, he returned a few years later and was sued by Robert for the alleged affair and fined 20,000 pounds, Arthur couldn’t pay and ended up in a debtor’s marshalsea prison.

Belvedere House - Georgian villa
Terraces at Belvedere

 

Rochfort had his wife Mary, imprisoned in their family home at Gaulstown for the next 31 years, with no outside communication allowed with family or friends only some servants.  She once escaped and returned to her father’s house in Dublin but he sent her back.  Mary’s plight only came to an end, when Robert died and her son George had her released. Robert Rochfort became known as the Wicked Earl for his treatment of his wife.

Wicked Earl - Robert Rochfort
Lord Belvedere, the Wicked Earl

 

Belvedere House and gardens is today run by Westmeath county council and you can go inside the house and view some of the rooms and the downstairs kitchen, there is also a cafe, gift shop, Victorian walled garden, a fairy garden, play ground for kids and lakeside walks which run along Lough Ennell and includes three large garden follies or sham ruins that Robert Rochfort, later known as Lord Belvedere had built, one is called the Jealous Wall which resembles the ruins of an abbey, he had it built in the 18th century to obscure his view of his younger brother George’s new larger house called Tudenham Park.

For opening times and directions, check out the Belvedere House website.

 

 

A Winter murder at a Seaside Village

The seaside village of Enniscrone in west Sligo along the wild atlantic way, has long been a popular holiday destination, going back as far as the 19th century, when the Victorians began visiting the small seaside village, located on the shores of Killala Bay in west county Sligo. It has been a popular destination since the 1850’s, when the local landlord, Robert Orme built the Cliff bathhouse for holidaymakers to enjoy the Atlantic ocean, the old bathhouse building still exists to this very day.

In the winter of 1909, a newly married couple visited the village on a short holiday, while one of the spouse’s planned a short relaxing break, the other had more grisly plans.

On the 10th December 1908, Michael Gallagher a native of Mayo and a Constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary, married Sarah Knox, a 22 year old young woman from Crossmolina in Mayo. Michael was older at 30 years old and had joined the RIC in 1898. He was described as a powerfully built man and nearly six foot tall.  

Michael told Sarah as he was eleven years in the force he needed to have a longer service before getting married and so the marriage was to be kept secret. Sarah remained living at her family home at Cloonkee, Crossmolina, Co. Mayo, unaware that it was after seven years a member of the R.I.C. could marry.

Sarah Gallagher nee Knox


In November 1909, Sarah received the following letter written from the barracks at Aclare, Co. Sligo.

 

R.I.C., Aclare
Dear Sarah – Just a line to let you know I received your welcome letter a few days ago. I am glad to see by it you are well. I will meet you Thursday next, 4th Inst. at Ballina at the usual place. Then we can have a few hours before we start for the seaside. Keep your mind to yourself, and I will get a few days at home about the matter. Excuse haste – post leaving. – Yours as ever.
M. GALLAGHER
x x x

At Enniscrone, Co. Sligo the couple stopped off at a hostelry and Michael asked for two rooms for himself and his “sister”.  There were no rooms available and they secured a room elsewhere as man and wife. Later that day, the couple were observed by the Coastguard as they went for a walk on Saturday evening at 5 pm strolling along the pier.

Enniscrone Pier & Cliff bathhouse – Credit: National Library of Ireland

 

Two hours later, at 7 pm, Michael returned to their accommodation alone and didn’t alert anyone to Sarah been missing. Michael paid the hotel bill and left Enniscrone village and cycled back to the RIC barracks in Aclare in south Sligo, a distance of 19 miles (31 kilometres).
On Sunday morning, the body of Sarah was discovered by two fishermen.  An investigation was quickly launched and it wasn’t long before the woman was traced back to the hotel and walking with a man the previous evening.  When tracked down at Aclare barracks, Michael Gallagher denied being at Enniscrone with a woman. He was allowed to sit at the fire in the dayroom as a search was carried out. Being granted permission to go to his room he “dashed out the back door into the dark night. In a moment all was confusion and alarm. The police abandoned their search and snatching lanterns ran in pursuit of the fugitive. Some jumped on bicycles and rode furiously down the different roads.”
At the Inquest into Sarah`s death, held a few days later, when her brother was being questioned, a jury member remarked

“I suppose he got a fortune when he got married”

“Yes” said witness, “but not all.”

Dowry system in Ireland

Dowry (generally called ‘fortune’ in Ireland; spré in Irish) is money or property brought by a bride to her husband at marriage. It was an important matter in nineteenth-century Ireland.  In the past, many marriages in Ireland were set by financial standing, and by today’s standards it would be nice to think love and compatibility came into the equation, this was not the main reason for marriage in Edwardian times, despite this, in the majority of cases love did grow through companionship and endearment, sadly this wasn’t the case for Sarah and Michael.

Though some brides married without dowries, payment could be substantial for others. The need for dowries helped parents to control their children’s choice of marriage partner. Not surprisingly, dowries were often the cause of disputes, particularly because they were sometimes paid by instalments or full payment was delayed.

The Inquest

The Inquest was opened by Dr J. Flannery and was held at the Enniscrone coastguard building, as the landlady of the hotel was giving evidence, a telegram was received, the fugitive Michael Gallagher, had been found with his throat cut at Harlech’s Lodge in Aclare, Sligo.
“The reading of the wire was received by the Jury with loud applause, which the Coroner promptly suppressed. The Jury found that Sarah Gallagher had been murdered by her husband who drowned her.”

Sarah’s funeral attracted many mourners, “The whole countryside afterwards followed the funeral cortege for miles along the roads home.”, which was in stark contrast to Michael’s funeral.

The funeral of Michael Gallagher took place from Aclare to Bohey near Crossmolina. Practically unanimously all car-owners refused to hire out their vehicles for the occasion. There was vigorous booing as the funeral passed and one woman flung mud at the hearse.  A special force of police from Crossmolina met the cortege as it passed through Sarah Knox`s village. It was quite dark when the body was laid in the grave, and no priest was present.

 

Constable Michael Gallagher was born in Co. Mayo in 1876 and joined the RIC in 1898.

 

Poignantly, on the morning of her murder Sarah had complained to a fellow guest that “she had lost her wedding ring and cried long and bitterly because she thought it was an ill-omen.”
A wedding ring was later found in Michael Gallagher`s possession when he was searched.

An Edwardian lady watches over her children fishing beside the Cliff bathhouse at Enniscrone. Credit: National library of Ireland

 

Possible Motive

The Coroner thought it was money related and Michael had been insane, but it was thought it was premeditated if he took the ring from Sarah in the morning.  Her brother, said Michael had sent 10 shillings on one occasion, that the marriage was known about in Sarah`s parish but he did not know if Michael`s family knew.  Perhaps he married her for money, but did not get all he was expecting, if the marriage became known to his superior’s it would have been a black mark on his career.  He had Sarah coached to call him Tommy at the boardinghouse but she slipped up a couple of times and called him Michael. Her brother said she often complained that Michael did not bring her away, but the excuse about not being long enough in the service was believed by Sarah’s family.

 

 

 

Sarah appears on the 1901 census aged 15 years old, living with her father James, a farmer and her 6 siblings in a house in the townland of Cloonkee, Fortlands, Mayo which is a few miles from the village of Crossmolina.

 

 

Sources:

Newspaper archive - Independent, 14/11/1909
Newspaper archive - The Sligo Champion - 11/1909
Text: Tricia Dillon - Facebook group - Royal Irish Constabulary1816-1922 -A forgotten Irish Police Force
Irish census 1901
RIC rules: http://www.royalirishconstabulary.com/
Dowry System: http://multitext.ucc.ie/d/Dowry_and_Marriage
Dowry endearment quote: http://thewildgeese.irish
Photos: National Library of Ireland

The Secret Scripture walking tour

Book your tickets today via Eventbrite.

Book a ticket for the guided Secret Scripture walking tour and discover Sligo town at the turn of the 20th century, from the perspective of one Sligo family, follow in their footsteps and see where they lived, worked and played. The Sligo secret scripture trail, is a local history and literary tour based around Sligo town. The award winning author Sebastian Barry, set his novels in Sligo town and wrote about his family who resided in Sligo at the time. This tour will take you through the streets of Sligo where the characters walked, combining the books and social history of Sligo.

Organiser: Melcoo Tours

Email: melcooireland@gmail.com or info@melcoo.com

Phone: 353-85-2086386

Walking tour Sligo
Book a local history and literary tour of Sligo

 

Self-guided App Tours

You can also download an app I have created for the Secret Scripture tour.  The walking tour app is available on iOS and Android

Instructions:

Go to the Apple or Play store and search for Guidigo, download this free app, then search for Sligo Secret Scripture trail and sign in with a gmail, facebook or email account.

The app, guides you around several locations, the majority of which, can be reached on foot, the locations further out from the town, have been placed towards the end of the tour. We have suggested an order to explore the places but feel free to take the tour at your own pace, in whatever order suits you best. The map suggests a route of numbered stops but where you start and stop is entirely up to you. Instructions and directions are provided and you can check the map at any time, during the tour.

The tour is based around the books of author Sebastian Barry who set his novels, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman in Sligo.