The Secret Scripture walking tour

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 at gmail dot com or info at melcoo dot com

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.

A scandalous event at the Dromore West Workhouse

I came across this interesting social history case in the DIPPAM Archives recently. DIPPAM which stands for Documenting Ireland: Parliament, People and Migration, is an online virtual archive of documents and sources relating to the history of Ireland, and its migration experience from the 18th to the late 20th centuries.

The documents related to an event which occurred in 1879 and an inquiry was called to investigate how the Dromore West Workhouse was been managed.

A Captain Spaight, who was the Local Government Board Inspector, chaired the Inquiry, and it concerned a Miss Annie Kiolehan, who was working as the headmistress in the Dromore West Workhouse in county Sligo in the north west of Ireland in 1879.

Annie Kiolehan had given birth to a baby girl on the 24th September 1880, Annie was living and still teaching in the workhouse in the weeks leading up to the birth and she appears to have kept the pregnancy hidden until a week before the birth. As Annie was not married the baby was deemed illegitimate and after giving birth to a girl named Estella, Annie was obliged to resign from her teaching post and leave the workhouse, she left her baby under the charge of the workhouse. The birth of the baby by an employee of the workhouse caused scandal in the area and letters and articles appeared in the local press at the time.  An inquiry was called for, to investigate the incident and to find out how the workhouse was been run.  At the time of the birth, Miss Kiolehan had not stated who the father of the child was, a few weeks later she gave the name of the father as a Peter Hale.

Irish Times newspaper report – Nov 1880

 

Peter Hale, was the son of the Patron of the workhouse and had visited the workhouse several times. The report reveals how employees at the workhouse were frequently drunk and it was believed this gave rise to the incident.

Annie states that on New Years Eve of 31st December 1879 she had gone to bed early and woke up to find a man in her room, she then fainted and when she woke up the man was gone, she wasn’t certain at the time but thought the man looked like Peter Hale. When questioned about why she thought it was Peter Hale, Miss Kiolehan stated she had received an anonymous letter referring to the incident and how she shouldn’t report it as to not disgrace herself. She also gave evidence, stating how she was out walking one day after the incident and Peter Hale had tried to kiss her and asked her, had she anymore Midnight visitors.

Several witnesses were called to give evidence at the Inquiry, including the Chaplain at the workhouse who baptised the baby, he states he baptised the infant Estella, the Chaplain is also asked about the name Emma, which he denies knowing about.  A Porter gave evidence and his entrance book was submitted as evidence, which records the coming and goings of visitors to the workhouse, as Peter Hale was related to the Patron, he wasn’t recorded in the book. The inquiry also mentions how the Master of the workhouse, a Thomas Lavelle and his wife the Matron, Mary Lavelle were frequently drunk and even while attending the Inquiry.

Old Skeleton keys
The Master and Matron of the Workhouse were questioned about access to keys to Annie’s room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Hale denied the accusations that he was the father of the child or that he had more than a passing acquaintance with Miss Kiolehan.  Peter was the son of Richard Hale, one of the director’s on the Board of Guardians for the workhouse, he was also related to the Matron Mary Lavelle and the Medical Officer Doctor Charles Mahon.  Peter Hale mentioned other men he had seen Annie walking with or talking to, one of which was her cousin Peter Wall.

The inquiry verdict

After two days of evidence, Captain Spaight recommended that the Master and Matron should resign from their posts and that Annie Kiolehan had most likely been seduced outside of the workhouse and that Peter Hale was not the father of the child. Thus ensuring the Workhouse was not held responsible.

The child remained in the workhouse and Annie offered to pay 1d 6s for the child’s upkeep, this was refused by the Board of the workhouse, who stated the child must be removed from the workhouse as the child was not sick or if the child remained, Annie would need to admit herself into the workhouse.

Annie appears to have come from a well to do family, as she mentions during her evidence how she spent 12 months in New York, after she failed a teaching exam, she was a young educated woman of about 30 years of age in 1880, who had the fare to travel and return from America in the late 1870’s and also how despite resigning from her teaching position she was offering to pay money towards her child’s upkeep. On the advice of her sister, she hired a solicitor a Mr Mannion to represent her during the Inquiry.

Reading between the lines of the inquiry report, I think Annie and Peter, had a relationship of some sort at the time, as Annie mentions lending a book called Kusheen to Peter, they appeared to be more than passing acquaintances.

 

little-girl-vintage
Old vintage photo of an unknown little girl

I wondered after reading the report, what became of Annie and her child, I checked the census for Kiolehan, which is an unusual spelling of the surname and I found Annie/Bridget in the 1901 census and in the genealogy records, it shows the birth of Estella Kivlehan in September 1880 and then a record for Estille Hale, christened on the 4th of November 1880, her parents are listed as Annie Kivlhan and her father as Peter Hale and the place of residence is the workhouse, next to the record is the word illegitimate. and the name Emma has been inserted, which ties in with the details which came out during the inquiry.

Estille Hale
Source: National Library of Ireland – Parish records

 

I checked the 1901 census and can’t find a 20 year old Emma or Estille, I did find Peter Hale and his wife of twenty two years, Winifred and their four children. One of the witnesses during the inquiry, remarked how Annie was unfortunate to be seduced by such as person, where she had nothing to gain and no hope of marriage, the inference that Peter was already married. On the 1901 census, Bridget Kiolehan is listed as a retired national school teacher and was living just a few miles away from the workhouse, in what appears to be a boarding house in Templeboy, Dromore West in County Sligo.

I can’t find any other records for Emma or Estella, perhaps she was adopted and her name changed.

I was telling my mother about the case as she is originally from Dromore West and she hadn’t heard of it but she did mention, how her great grandfather had worked in the Workhouse, a William O’Hara and how they were never sure where he had come from originally as he had died young. I would love to learn more about my family connection to the Workhouse and about this case, if you have heard about it before or know more about it, do let me know.

 

Sources: 
http://www.dippam.ac.uk/
1. Paper relating to Management and Discipline of Workhouse at Dromore West, County Sligo

2. http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/
National Archives of Ireland

3. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/DromoreWest/

4. Images: Pixabay.com

5. National Library of Ireland - Parish records

6. Newspaper archive - Irish Times - 16 Nov 1880

Who once lived on this Dublin street ?

I took this photo a few weeks ago when I was out for a lunchtime stroll.  I really like these quaint little red brick terraced houses on Doris street in Ringsend in Dublin‬ 4.  Doris street is located in an area called South Lotts, which was reclaimed marshes along the South of the river Liffey in Dublin.  I believe these houses were built-in circa 1905, as I can’t find any reference to Doris street in the 1901 census and they appear in the 1911 census.

Street in Ringsend terraced houses
Builders working on an old red brick house on Doris street in Dublin 4

 

Maritime professions

When I got home, I searched the 1911 Irish census to see who once lived on this street.  I find the old census entries fascinating, I love finding out about families from the census, it is one of the reasons I love old houses and I would love to buy an old period property one day, that you can see who went before you and the house has a history. The census gives a snapshot of the lives of the folks who lived there once.  On Doris street, some of the inhabitants were employed in the nearby Dublin Port in maritime related jobs. For example, in no.1 Doris street, a John Dunne lived here with his wife and an Uncle and they took in lodgers, John worked as a Steamship Stoker and in no. 11, Matthew Ward Senior lived here with his wife and daughters and his son Matthew Junior, both father and son were employed as Sailors.

Irish Glass Bottle Company

In a number of other residences on Doris street, the inhabitants occupations are related to the nearby Irish Glass Bottle company which was located in Ringsend‬, the majority of which, were English natives, perhaps brought over by the company due to their expertise. James Cooper was originally from England and in 1911 he lived in no. 34 Doris street and was a Bottle Blower, James had a boarder staying in his house, a Robert Irvine from Scotland and he also worked as a Bottle Blower.  In no. 46, William Hall from England worked as a Bottle Maker and in no. 22, Robert Goslin originally from England worked as a Bottle Maker and in no. 36, a George Gannon from Dublin, worked as a Bottle Maker.

Ringsend was an ideal location for a glass bottle company at the time, as to make glass you need sand and also coal to melt the sand, been nearby to Dublin bay and the Port ensured easy access to both, with sandbanks and the imported coal delivered into the docks.  This short video made by the Dublin City Public libraries, gives a brief history about the Irish Glass Bottle company which was established in Ringsend in 1871.

 

 

Other inhabitants professions on Doris street in 1911

Looking at that one street, it looks to have been a prosperous street in 1911, far removed from the tenement slums that were prevalent in many parts of Dublin inner city at that time.  In nearly every house, the residents are listed as being in employment, the street is made up of, a mix of working class Catholic and middle class Protestant families living there at the time. Catholic men were mostly employed as Labourers, in Stables, Warehouses, factories, at the Port, Tram Conductors and as Firemen and the young single women were employed as Envelope Makers, Type Distributor, Seamstress and Dress Makers.  While many of the men employed in the Glass bottle company who lived on Doris street were English Protestants.

Today, Doris street has a mix of young and old inhabitants, old Ringsend natives and skilled Irish and foreign workers, in a hundred years, I am sure the census will show many of the inhabitants worked in the nearby Google and Facebook companies.

Book the Sligo Secret Scripture Walking Tour

Guided Walking Tour – Sligo Secret Scripture

The Sligo Secret Scripture Trail, is a literary & local history tour based around Sligo town and county.  The tour takes a snapshot of Sligo in the 1920’s and 1930’s from the viewpoint of one semi-fictional family, who lived and worked in the 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, giving you a sense of the local history and architectural heritage of the locations during this time

Click on the contact form on the blog or send a mail to melcooireland (at) gmail dot com to book private group tours.

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The Secret Scripture trail is also available to download as an app from Guidigo.

Walking Tour App available on iOS and Android

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 gmail, facebook or email and download the tour to your smartphone.

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 loosely 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. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the tour and no major spoilers are revealed, as the tour combines the books, social history, fashion and architectural heritage, to paint a picture of Sligo in the 1930’s.

To Edgeworthstown and Beyond

We took part in a new walking tour over the summer in County Longford.  The St. Mary’s to St. John’s & Beyond walking tour is an historical and literary trail based in the town of Edgeworthstown.

St Marys to St Johns and Beyond Walking heritage trail
St Marys to St Johns and Beyond Walking Tour (Click on images to enlarge & click outside of images to close)

The walking tour tells the history of the town and of the Edgeworth family and other famous literary figures connected with the family in County Longford, including the head of the family, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who was an inventor, (find out what he invented here) and also about his daughter, the novelist Maria Edgeworth.

Maria Edgeworth Portrait
Maria Edgeworth Portrait in the Rectory

Maria Edgeworth, was born on 1st of January 1767 near Oxford in Great Britain but spent most of her life in Ireland.  Her novels include, Castle Rackrent and The Absentee, which were novels about Irish tenants and the Landlord classes.  Castle Rackrent was the first novel to give the ordinary Irish peasant a voice.

The tour starts from the gothic style St Mary’s Church, which is just off the N4 road in the town, we got an introduction on the Edgeworth family and a short history about the church.  The guide that day was Matt Farrell, he has a nice pleasant manner and is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, which really helps to bring the stories and sites we visited to life.

St Marys Church Edgeworthstown
St Marys Church Edgeworthstown

We left the church and walked across the road into the grounds of the Manor nursing home which, was the ancestral home of the Edgeworth’s family.  We got to see the house and grounds where they lived and also the walled garden’s.

Edgeworth Walled Gardens
Edgeworth Literary Trail Gardens
Edgeworth Walled Gardens
Edgeworth Walled Gardens

As this is private property, it was great to view this site in particular on the tour.  We then moved onto the Main Street and found out about a few of the buildings in the town, this was very interesting as having passed through the town for many years, it was great to find out the background, one in particular was the connection to Charles Bianconi.

The Lodge Edgeworthstown
The Lodge Edgeworthstown
Porter House Edgeworth Trail
Porter House Edgeworth Trail

The tour then moved onto the Rectory and to St John’s Church and graveyard, where the Edgeworth family are buried.  We heard lots of interesting stories and history along the way connected to the Edgeworth’s and visitors to Edgeworthstown over the years, you can check, out the tour to hear all about them.

St Johns Church Edgeworthstown
St Johns Church Edgeworthstown

We were lucky to attend the walking tour during the Maria Edgeworth Literary festival and when we arrived, at the Rectory there was a short presentation by the artist Bernard Canavan as he presented a painting of the Edgeworth’s to the town, I really liked this painting it reminded me of Jack B Yeats work.  We also got to attend an interesting lecture on Maria Edgeworth given by Dr Derek Hand  in St John’s Church.

Matt Farrell Tour Guide Bernard Canavan Artist Edgeworthstown
The artist Bernard Canavan presents a painting to the people of Edgeworthstown

The tour is a great idea and is run by the Edgeworth Society and is a great boost to tourism in the county, I recommend doing the tour and afterwards, you can visit nearby Ardagh village.  This quaint village is synonymous with the poet Oliver Goldsmith.  (Check out our post here).

You can book a group tour or contact the Edgeworth Society through their website or on their Facebook page, to find out about their next organised public tour.