and then headed for Gallway.
After a restful sleep and a bit of a lie in we had breakfast and Margaret took us to Rockingham Estate, a large public wooded park on the shores of Lough Key. The trip was mainly to take the dogs for a walk, but it served a useful purpose for us as well.
This was the former estate of the King family. It was previously owned by the McDermott family. The McDermotts ruled this area until the 17th century when it was granted to the King family from England under the Cromwellian settlement. Members of Cromwell’s army were rewarded for their victory with land confiscated from the Irish Landlords.
McDermott had built a Castle on a rock in the middle of the Lough. However under the under the King family’s ownership they built an impressive manor house. This burnt down in 1958.
Now all that remains is a hole in the ground showing the original foot print, the tunnels down to the lake, and an eyesore of a tower commemorating the historic family home. Supplies were mostly delivered via the Lough. The servants, not able to be seen above ground had tunnels to the lake, as to be able to bring the supplies back to the house unseen.
They also had an Ice House, a rock/brick lined conical shaft, also linked to the tunnels. They harvested ice from the Lough during the winter, and stored it in the Ice House. This allowed the family to have ice most of the year.
Later in the morning we headed over the county boarder from Roscommon to Sligo, the former county of the “4 brothers”. The 4 Flannery brothers left Clooncunny in 1860 for New Zealand. One of these, Thomas Flannery was my Great Grandfather.
The house they left from still stands today, but is no longer used as a home. I was in this home in 1988, but a replacement home has since been built. The property is owned by Paddy Flannery, a descendant of one of the brothers who stayed behind. Paddy’s sister Mary and her husband Dan Hanrahan were visiting from Dublin. We were joined by Paddy Casey, an adjoining neighbour, who is also a descendant of those that remained.
Both Paddys are bachelors and Mary and Dan have two children. Twins now in their 40s.
“They’re nearly as old as Dan and I now”, Mary said.
Paddy Flannery is somewhat deaf and reserved. Paddy Casey is more jovial, I suspect an intelligent man, who would have made a good philosopher. The two Paddys appear to be good friends. Margaret Mulligan and the two Paddys gave us a tour of the historical and relevant sites of the wider area of Monasteraden, of which Clooncunny is part of.
First stop was the Monasteraden parish church, St Aiden’s. While there Paddy said he had always wondered what it would be like to preach from the pulpit. So he took his place.
Paddy Flannery Aah Paddy sure enough you look grand. You would ‘a made a fine preacher.
Paddy Casey Right enough there P. It’s the preaching that’s no bother. The trick would be getting em to listen.
Anyway the church has a plaque commemorating the death at Gallipoli of Hugh McDermott, the Prince of Coolavin.
This relevant in the fact that Coolavin is the name of our family farm in Poolburn, settled by my Grandfather, and now owned by my brother Gerard and his wife Rosemary. McDermotts were the landlords of the district, and the Flannerys would have been tenant farmers of the McDermotts. The McDermotts were regarded as good landlords and Catholics. So it is perhaps understandable as to why my Grandfather would have called the farm Coolavin. His brother, my Great Uncle Martin, called their family farm Clooncunny after the district they left from. We then drove into the old Coolavin Estate and saw the Coolavin house which appears to be under restoration.
From there it was on to a monument commemorating an event of 1881. The inscription is as follows:
[Erected to the memory of Joseph Corcoran and Bryan Flannery, who, while defending with other brave men and heroic women of this district, their hearths and homes against landlord oppression, were shot by police and process server, April 2nd 1881.
(Google Corcoran and Flannery for more information if anyone is interested). A web site has a ballard of the event. Below is a copy from the web.
[On 2 April 1881, during the land war, James Broder, the local process server was serving notices on tenants on the property of the landlord Arthur French at Clogher, Monasteraden. He was assisted by a small force of four R.I.C. policemen. They were met by a group of men, women and children. Stones were thrown at the police who opened fire and killed Corcoran and Flannery. The crowd then attacked the police and Sergeant Armstrong was killed.]
Paddy Casey explained that Landlords ruled with no mercy. If you were late with your rent, or they just simply didn’t like you they would evict you and burn your house down so you couldn’t return. He also said if they took a fancy to your wife or daughter that was that.
So in 1881 according to Paddy, the locals had grown a bit sick of this oppression, and they came to the defence of a family about to be evicted. The police fired indiscriminately into the crowd and the two men were killed. He also said he thought a policeman was bludgeoned to death.
Then it was on to the Blessed Well. A well that is reputed to have been blessed by St Attracta who toured Ireland with St Patrick in 400 AD. The well is in poor shape. Less than a year ago, a local farmer lost control of his tractor, slammed into the rock fence of the well and was killed.
Anyway Paddy Casey gave another of his philosophical points of view. He was suggesting how do we know what happened in 400 AD. Two people’s eye witness versions of the same event can be so different, who would know what really happened.
I said to him there is always two sides to a story and then there is the truth.
Paddy Casey: Aah what would ya be wanting with the truth. The truth is dull. There’s no fun in the truth. If we only ever spoke the truth, sure there would be no tourism in Ireland.
It was then onto the cemetery. We had a wander round with the two Paddys pointing out graves of relevance. There are some impressive monuments on many of the graves. It would be fair to say that if the Flannerys and the Caseys were taken out, there hardly be any body left.
Next stop was the four alters. At a time when the English banned mass, the Irish built the Four Alters. They would be built on a small hill with a good view of the surrounding district. Each alter would face the 4 points of the compass. The priest would say mass in the most sheltered alter, while the congregation would keep an eye out for any soldiers or police. If the police were spotted, the congregation would scarper in the opposite direction. This one in Monasteraden is a very well preserved example.
From there it was back to Clooncunny, and ham and tomato sandwiches made by Mary and Dan.
Meanwhile Paddy Flannery disappeared and reappeared with the photo below. While tracing your heritage in rural Ireland you don’t expect to see a photo of the farm gate were you grew up, of various relations from back home. This is a very well put together collage. An Irish relative had visited Central Otago recently and obviously met up with a few locals. I can’t recall who the relative was, but he had given Paddy a copy of this photo.
In the photo are my nephew Tristan, my sister-in-law Rosemary, cousins, John and Mon, Donna and Mark and their son, Wes, and Corene.
It was a great few hours spent in great company. Thank you Margaret Mulligan for organising it. It was back to Boyle with a quick look at the Abby, and cuppa and then Margaret pointed us in the scenic route for Galway.
We went passed a farmer harvesting peat or turf. Peat is cut from peat bog, put into a hopper and pressed into moulds and then left in the open to dry. Peat is used to fuel the fires of Ireland, and burns as hot as coal.
This peat was cut in June. He explained the first 5 days of drying was the most critical. Heavy rain in the first 5 days will reduce it to slush. Thereafter though, the rain is no concern. To harvest pet there are two key ingredients he said. Not to be afraid of hard work and not to be afraid of a sore back. They sell the peat commercially and he said the trailer load would be worth about 400 euro, and would be enough to heat two houses for the winter.
We carried on our merry way, driving through Cong and Maam, and down through the lovely lakes of Connemara County.
We finally made our B&B in Galway just after 8.00 pm. It was starting to rain so we got a taxi into town. Margaret M. had given us a few suggested pubs to try for a meal and to listen to live music. By the time we got into town, it was getting on for 9.00 pm. All the pubs were full and have to stop cooking at 9.30. So we went to an Italian/Mexican restaurant, Fat Freddy’s, which was the only restaurant we could get into. We had a good meal and went home.
A great day had by all and we really appreciated the efforts of Margaret Mulligan, the two Paddys, Mary and Dan.