Centuries of history in Tarbert Co Kerry

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Tarbert House, whose new windows will arrive this week.

Set in the heart of ancient woodland that skirts Tarbert Bay is a magnificent house that dates from 1690. This is Tarbert House an internationally known heritage building, that has been home to the Leslie family since the late 17th Century. The Leslie family arrived in these parts after being on the winning side of the Battle of the Boyne and count bishops and various titled Leslies in their ancestry. Currently undergoing renovations, the three storey house over a basement is an imposing structure with lovely views of rolling countryside and of the River Shannon.

With the Shanid Historical Society, I was privileged to visit this historic home last weekend with the impressive and knowledgeable Ursula Leslie as our guide. She provided us with a wealth of information about so many aspects of the history of this place; the family, the visitors, the contents. For the purposes of this post I will concentrate on just a few of the features I loved the most – the entrance hall, furniture and some assorted beautiful things.

The entrance hall is more of a huge room than a hall in the modern sense, and through it have stepped some significant historic figures, including Charlotte Bronte, Winston Churchill, Daniel O’Connell, Jonathan Swift and Benjamin Franklin. John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy took refuge here.The Leslie family

The entrance hall with its elegant plasterwork coving had many uses. Here weapons were stored, family portraits graced the walls and entertainment was provided.

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Entrance to Tarbert House. (Window shutters on the beautiful deep windows were closed as windows are being replaced )

Here is a most unusual fireplace –  one of a few in the house that are original and do not have a mantel.

An original fireplace - without a mantel

An original fireplace – without a mantel

One of the most striking features of the entrance are the armour racks above the doors and on the walls.

There are some excellent examples of original Irish furniture here – typified by being made from solid wood and not veneered. My favourite pieces are the chairs which were reversed and used when watching entertainment such as cock-fighting!

Some examples of solid Irish furniture in the hall – a wonderful couch with very solid feet and a very elegant table!

The next room  had stunning views of the Shannon

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and an eclectic collection of items from silverware to furniture to household items. At each end of the room is a beautifully carved mirror.

I loved these two pieces – a ‘campaign’ chair  that predates Ikea and flat pack furniture by some time, and a campaign  chest

And how about some curtains that date from 1870…..that’s right, 1870! The pattern has been copied, most famously by Nancy Regan, and is known as the Tarbert Rose. The fabric is not heavy and seems to be possibly silk , and is very beautiful

Three more images that will stay with me

There is also  an extensive collection of artwork in this house, including many portraits of members of the Leslie family and a parchment dating from 1813, petitioning the British House of Commons for Catholic Emancipation.

imageThe house is crammed full of beautiful objects,each having a history and/or a story to tell. They are also very clearly part of a family, part of a home.

This house is open for visiting by appointment, in May, July and August each year and is well worth a visit, for Ursula Leslie will charm every one of her guests with stories,knowledge and facts that are truly astounding!

 

 

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Tarbert Bridewell

On Saturday last, as part of a tour organized by The Shanid Historical Society we visited the Tarbert Bridewell, just over the Limerick border, in Tarbert Co. Kerry.

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I have often marvelled at the wonderful sounding ‘Bridewell’ and wondered how on earth it has become to be associated with a jail! The dictionary tells me that it is a ‘house of correction; a prison so-called from the palace near St Bride’s or Bridget’s Well in London, which was turned into a penitentiary’

Built in 1831, the Tarbert Bridewell has been lovingly and beautifully restored by the local community. The original entrance has the word BRIDEWELL carved above the gate. It was originally completely enclosed by high walls, but these have now been replaced by railings at the front of the building.

The original entrance

The original entrance

Inside, the windows still have the original bars on the windows, the narrow doors still have the original bolts and locks.

Tarbert Bridewell served both as  the courthouse and a detention centre for those awaiting trial and those serving short sentences of up to 7 days imprisonment.

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Depiction of the Courthouse

The narrow cells often housed up to 8 inmates with no sanitary facilities. In the outside yard there was a latrine for disposal of cell waste.

 

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Waste disposal area

The small exercise yard was walled, so there was no means of escape


imageTarbert Bridewell continued as a detention centre until 1874 and as a courthouse for a further 75 years, after which it gradually fell into decline. As a result of dedication and determination of the  local community, this impressive historic  building has been  restored as a tourist attraction and a community centre. They also have a fabulous coffee and gift shop, so do drop in !

 

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The Trees are in their Autumn Beauty ..

This often quoted line is from a poem by the much-loved Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, familiar to everyone who has passed through the Irish school system. We in Ireland do not always have as long and as beautiful an Autumn as we have been blessed with in 2014. The balmy mild and calm weather that has followed a beautiful long warm dry summer has added to the Autumn Beauty that we are now enjoying. These are snaps taken over an hour or so this afternoon, which I hope you might enjoy

These beauties are in the hedgerow at The Pike, near Ardagh, Co Limerick

Trees in Autumn glory at Adare,Co Limerick

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These butter-yellow Acacias light up the main street in Adare

I really like these russet  beauties on the main street

Inside the town park, donated by the Dunraven family in the 1970s, there is a treasure trove of Autumn Beauty

And what a surprise to see these Autumn treasures! I love the tall toadstools, which I had not seen before.

Everywhere you look, Autumn lies in wait, so you need to look down too!

More in Adare town park

And finally, back in my own garden, a cherry wears her Autumn colours, bidding goodbye to the beautiful summer and Autumn that we have enjoyed!

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The Wild Swans at Coole by W.B Yeats

‘The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

 

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With those hands…Family treasures

 

imageThis week I had one of those catastrophic events that resulted in my airing cupboard being at the wrong end of a burst pipe. Filthy dirty water from the heating system ruined my sheets, towels and everything else secreted away in there,  so there was nothing for it but to transport the black, heavy sodden mass to the washing machine and put on a boil wash, with stain remover and biological powder added to be sure, to be sure!
Imagine my horror when unloading the washing machine, to discover that a hand embroidered table-cloth had also been boiled in the soup! This particular table-cloth was a special one that was made specially for me 45 years ago. My Aunt May was a nun and nuns always kept busy, presumably because ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’. Nuns too were often wonderful needle women, and I know that Aunty May was, as had been her mother before her. My grandmother appears on the 1901 census with two of her sisters, all of them seamstresses. So it was in the genes.
Post Vatican 2, Roman Catholic religious orders had to renew their vow of poverty, and with my 21st birthday coming up in 1969, Aunty May asked me what I would like to have for my birthday, as she may not be able to send anything after the renewal of the poverty vow. I did not hesitate and asked if I might have an embroidered table-cloth. I was so thrilled when she presented me with my very own embroidered tablecloth. image

The embroidery is of the same quality on both front and back, and the edges are trimmed with crochet lace. I have no idea how many hours thus must have taken to create, but I love it as much today as I did when I first saw it. What a relief to find that it had survived a boil wash! To think of the number of perfect stitches on this one piece, the eyes that peered so closely at them,the expert hands that made each one, fills me with wonderment. I particularly love the texture of the flower petals. I am proud and delighted that my Aunt undertook such a labour of love!

My mother and my other Aunt Di had beautiful tablecloths.  ‘Di’ whose real name was Eileen, was also my godmother. She had a most beautiful hand embroidered tablecloth that had been given to her as a wedding gift by Mrs McCloskey in Carrigart, Co Donegal in 1946. Mrs Mc Closkey had a factory that produced the most elegant ladies knitwear and clothing and beautiful elegant gifts. Di’s wedding gift tablecloth was a heavily embroidered Willow Pattern design and I had never seen the like of it before or since. It was quite simply, exquisite.
Her linen tablecloths and treasured pieces of china were her pride and joy and she was especially fond of that Willow Pattern cloth. I often visited her at her home in Glasgow, and she would open the sideboard drawer and take out the tablecloths one by one, followed by her china that she used as often as she could when she had visitors to the house. Together we would admire these beautiful things laid out before us. It was a ritual that I loved. Beautifully embroidered tablecloths and special china called for beautiful homemade cakes and pastries, and she was a most wonderful baker of these fancies. Her Porter Cake was simply to die for! The last time I saw her, on a visit in 1999, just months before she died, she gave me one of her very special tablecloths and a couple of pieces of her beloved china. These are now among my most treasured possessions.

imageThis is the beautiful cloth she gave me with overlooked scalloped edges. I often wonder how many stitches went in to the making if it and who made it. Was it made by one person or several people working together? I am not sure where she got it, perhaps it was a gift from my Aunt May, who was her older sister.

And so the dark cloud of a flood in my airing cupboard led me to rediscovering these treasures, so safely tucked away that I rarely see them.

My mother too had  a number of beautiful linen tablecloths, many of which disappeared down the years, but I do have a couple from her collection.

This one below is a simple cross stitch and I remember it on a small table in our sitting room when I was a child. I have always loved the colours of this one, although I have never used it in my own house.

The next one is my favourite of my mother’s. It is such an honest ‘ordinary’ cloth for a small table. This was brought out when someone came for tea, and it survived many washings and spills – a trusty stalwart of the linen drawer!

imageIt is necessary to look at this one quite closely to appreciate the detail of the wreaths of flowers.

And so the dark cloud of a flood in my airing cupboard led me to rediscovering these treasures, so safely tucked away that I rarely see them. I thought it would be nice to make a record of these beautifully crafted works of art and to share them. Although I do not know who made each of them, that they were crafted with love and pride is obvious in the exquisite needlework. I am blessed indeed to own these beautiful pieces of my Family History!

 

 

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Revisiting Shanksville on 9/11 – Let’s Roll

Originally posted on A SILVER VOICE FROM IRELAND:

Today, September 9, or 9/11 as it is now more universally known, we recall the loss of life resulting from the highjacking and deliberate crashing of passenger aircraft in America. The World Trade Centre, Washington D.C and Shanksville were where these tragedies unfolded. In October 2008 I visited Shanksville, long before the erection of the official memorial and was struck by the emptiness and wild silence of this place where lives ended on that September morning in 2001. This is a reposting of my thoughts and photographs from that visit.

http://thesilvervoice.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/lets-roll-flight-93-11-september-2001/

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Revisiting Shanksville on 9/11 – Let’s Roll

Today, September 9, or 9/11 as it is now more universally known, we recall the loss of life resulting from the highjacking and deliberate crashing of passenger aircraft in America. The World Trade Centre, Washington D.C and Shanksville were where these tragedies unfolded. In October 2008 I visited Shanksville, long before the erection of the official memorial and was struck by the emptiness and wild silence of this place where lives ended on that September morning in 2001. This is a reposting of my thoughts and photographs from that visit.

http://thesilvervoice.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/lets-roll-flight-93-11-september-2001/

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From Kilfinane to Kalgoorlie

On April  27, 1926  two policemen from the special Gold Stealing Detection Unit boarded their bicycles and pedalled off  to carry out surveillance on an illicit gold plant in the  goldfield area of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. They were Detective-Inspector John Walsh  and  Detective-Sgt. Alexander Henry Pitman. On a recent trip to Australia, I happened on their graves in the Catholic section of Karrakatta Cemetery, outside Perth, Western Australia.

The monuments on these two graves are high and imposing, but as they lie very close to, and face a very high boundary hedge, it was not possible to take clear photographs of the front of the graves.

Pitman's Grave concealed by foliage

Pitman’s Grave partly concealed by foliage

These two graves are marked as part of an Historic Trail , with Walsh listed as Irish-born on the adjacent plaque.  I was therefore compelled to discover more.

The plaque  referred to a monument to the men that was originally in Perth City,at the front of the Police Headquarters building in East Perth, but had been relocated to the Police Academy at Joondalup, just minutes from my sister’s workplace on the adjacent Edith Cowan University Campus. I set about finding it, and wanted to check if I could get access to it, so I wrote to the Western Australia Police Department asking for permission to photograph the monument at the Police Academy campus,and I was thrilled to bits when permission was granted to visit and take photographs. And so, on my last full day in Australia, between torrential thundery showers, I walked across the huge parade ground towards  the statue commemorating the two policemen.

Between the flagpoles on the Parade Ground, is the memorial to Walsh and Pitman

The flagpoles on the Parade Ground frame the memorial to Walsh and Pitman on the far side of the water

Crossing the water feature at the Police Academy was  almost surreal as I felt I was coming to a very special place.

The Memorial to Pitman and Walsh dominates this area which is dedicated to all WA Police Officers who have died in the line of duty.

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The Memorial was made in Italy with funds raised from policemen all over Australia. It is of the goddess Themis, familiar to many as the ‘scales of justice statue’ usually blindfolded,holding scales aloft in one hand a sword in the other.  In this case however, the ‘Justice’ figure has eyes downcast and holds the sword downwards, bearing a wreath. There is a Swan emblem on the shield,representing the black swans of  Perth.

12-DSCF5560On either side of the base are beautifully worked  images of Pitman and Walsh

Immediately behind the Memorial is a Remembrance Garden  in memory of all Western Australian policemen who have lost their lives while on duty.

13-DSCF5563The contrast between the classically styled  Pitman/Walsh memorial and the ultra modern design of the Memorial garden is quite stark, but adds to the sense of sombreness and certainly adds to the story that law enforcement people have been losing their lives across decades and generations.

The list makes sobering reading and I was struck by the high number who have died in road traffic accidents

On returning home to Ireland, I began researching the story of Walsh and Pitman, to put with the photographs I had taken in Western Australia. I was quite horrified to discover the horrible details of their deaths. Having been missing for some time, a search was mounted and following reports of a terrible stench and many flies near a mineshaft, their decapitated, dismembered and partly burned bodies were discovered 60 feet below ground. Three local men were arrested. One turned King’s Evidence and the other two, William Coulter and Philip Treffene were hanged for the double murder of Detective-Inspector John Walsh  and  Detective-Sgt Alexander Henry Pitman.

I was then very surprised to find that John Walsh was a native of County Limerick, Ireland, not far from where I live. He was born in Kilfinane, to Ellen nee Bourke and James Walsh on 14 February 1862. He attended Ardpatrick National School,  studied medicine in University College Cork for a couple of years, but by 1881 he was in Sydney Australia where he joined the police force. He eventually arrived in Western Australia, after serving in Queensland and the north-western part of New South Wales.

This streetscape of Kilfinane may well have been familiar to the young John Walsh.

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Ardpatrick is a small village just minutes from Kilfinane. Until 1861 they were in the same parish. The church in Ardpatrick dates from 1835 and is adjacent to the school. There are many original features still remaining in the school, which is now used as a community centre.

Ardpatrick National School adjacent to the Church

Ardpatrick National School next to the Church

The fine church bell dates from 1856, and the young John Walsh probably heard it peal on many an occasion.

Original window on Ardpatrick school

Original window on Ardpatrick school

Ardpatrick schoolhouse is a protected  two storey building. The boys classroom was on the upper floor, with access via stairs on the church side of the building nearest the bell.

I stood looking at this for a long time. I  couldn’t help but contrast the image of a small boy who climbed these stairs to learn and who ran down them to play, passing  that beautiful small window and perhaps glancing at the church bell, with the image of  the gruesome, horrible way in which his life would end, thousands of miles away in Kalgoorlie.

My grateful thanks to Beth Naylor, Public Affairs Officer at Police HQ, Perth, Western Australia, for her help, courtesy and kindness in facilitating access to the Walsh-Pitman Memorial at the Police Academy Campus at Joondalup, WA

I am also indebted to the Ardpatrick Community worker (whose name I do not have) who was watering flowers,and  allowed me access the school building.

Notes:

*When making this post that I noticed the shamrock embellishment on Pitman’s headstone, indicating some link  with Ireland. I have been unable to prove a direct connection, but it is possible that his wife’s family was Irish. His mother -in-law, Margaret Shepherd Fitzgerald  who sadly died on May 18th, 1926, only one day after her son-in -law’s funeral, was buried in the same grave. Perhaps the headstone reflects her direct link to Ireland. More research required.

References

Australian Dictionary of Biography

http://monumentaustralia.org.au

Newspaper report of Inquests 

Newspaper report May 16, 1926

Gruesome details of the discovery and retrieval of the  bodies

Western Australia Police Historical Society

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