Remembering Francis Ledwidge, Poet and Soldier

Just outside the village of Slane, County Meath is the Francis Ledwidge Museum. The museum is housed in the family home with a yard and garden to the rear.

Francis was born in this small cottage that dates from 1886, the 8th of 9 children. His father died soon after the 9th child was born.  Desperately poor, their mother laboured in the fields to keep bread on the table until the eldest son, Patrick  was sufficiently educated to get a job and help the family. However, Patrick contracted tuberculosis and had to return home  and their mother was forced to return to her back -breaking labouring.

Francis left school at 15 and took whatever work he could get – he worked as a farm labourer, as a groom, in a copper mine and as a foreman on the roads. All the while he was writing poetry and having some poems published in the local newspaper.  His poetry was brought to the attention of Lord Dunsany who arranged for publication in London and who also got introductions to literary figures of the day.

Francis Ledwidge known as ‘Poet of the Blackbird’  (Image Wikipedia Commons)

Having for a time been involved with the Irish Volunteers who sought Home Rule, Francis enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on October 24, 1914. It is possible that his decision to join up may have been influenced  by the fact that he was disappointed in love. He wrote to a friend  saying that he looked forward to poetry and fame after the war and that by joining he hoped to bring peace to the world.

He came home on leave to Slane at Christmas and was shocked to learn of the death of a little boy he knew well, who had herded cows past the Ledwidge house. Francis  wrote what is one of my favourite Ledwidge poems, A Little Boy in the Morning

He will not come, and still I wait. 
He whistles at another gate 
Where angels listen. Ah I know 
He will not come, yet if I go 
How shall I know he did not pass 
barefooted in the flowery grass?  

Then in 1915 he wrote this lovely Lullaby to a tired child

Shall I take the rainbow out of the sky

And the moon from the well in the lane

And break them in pieces to coax your eye

To slumber a wee while again?

While based in Basingstoke he heard of the death in childbirth of the girl he had loved and he got leave to attend her funeral in Manchester. He wrote

To One Dead

 A blackbird singing

On a moss-upholstered stone,

Bluebells swinging,

Shadows wildly blown,

A song in the wood,

A ship on the sea.

The song was for you

and the ship was for me.

On August 7, 1915  Francis and his comrades in D Company landed in Suvla Bay in Gallipoli. The conditions were awful, the stench from corpses, dysentery, and swarming flies all added to the horror. When they pulled out on September 30th, 19,000 of their comrades had been killed. They were sent marching towards Salonika, but Francis became ill and he was sent back to England at about the same time as the Easter Rising was happening in Dublin. His good friends Patrick Pearse and Thomas McDonagh were among the first to be executed. He then wrote what is probably his most famous poem

A Lament for Thomas MacDonagh

He shall not hear the bittern cry

In the wild sky, where he is lain,

Nor voices of the sweeter birds,

Above the wailing of the rain.

Nor shall he know when loud March blows

Blowing to flame the golden cup

Of many an upset daffodil.

But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor,

And pastures poor with greedy weeds,

Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn,

Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.

Now in B Company, 1st Battalion of the 29th Division, he set sail for France and eventually ended up in Ypres where in mid July the Third Battle of Ypres began. on July 31st when engaged in road marking a shell exploded near him. The chaplain wrote: ‘Ledwidge killed, blown to bits’

The Ledwidge home is now a Museum where it is possible read from his many letters, and to see how he lived in his beloved Slane.

MemorIal in the Museum Garden

It was a special thrill to visit this place, his home and his garden, just a few weeks after the  centenary of his death.

He is buried at Artillery Wood Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium.

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The grave of the 29 year old Francis Ledwidge (Image Commonwealth Graves Commission)

References

Francis Ledwidge ‘Poet of the Blackbird’  published by Francis Ledwidge Museum

Commonwealth Graves Commission

Published collections

Songs of the Fields published 1916

Songs of Peace  published 1917

Last Songs  published 1918

 

 

 

 

 

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Postcards from a special Kilmacrennan tea house!

Every once in a while you stumble on a little treasure of a place and want to tell the world! Such was our experience last Sunday afternoon in the village of Kilmacrennan in North Donegal, Ireland.

 On a day filled with torrential downpours we were in need of some comforting food, and so we stopped at the very pretty group of thatched cottages on the Creeslough end of the village. This group of little thatched buildings have been in Kilmacrennan for some 150 years and previously housed a museum.

They are now under the management of a young couple who have exciting plans for these lovely buildings.

If you fancy a B &B in an authentic thatched Irish cottage, this is the place for you! This beautiful cottage is available to rent on Air B and B.

The former little dairy will be used for workshops.

The largest building houses a tea and coffee shop, and when you step inside you know you have arrived somewhere special! It’s not just a matter of tea or coffee, it’s so much more! Wonderful food, wonderful atmosphere and a warm welcome await!

 

The light lunch we enjoyed was very special with artisan breads and very creative choices of savoury and sweet options served in beautiful surroundings.

The centre piece is of course the open fire with a blazing turf fire and a crane with a selection of cooking pots that were used in times gone by.


We were just a little too early for the music sessions that happens here on a Sunday afternoon but there was a lovely atmosphere even without it! 

It’s great to see new ventures and people thinking outside to box to provide unique high quality services to locals and visitors alike. I heartily recommend a visit to this lovely place, for either breakfast, lunch or a coffee break …you will not be disappointed! 


A gem of a place! 

Coffee Time Cafe Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/tiscoffeetime/

Twitter account is @tiscoffeetime

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Postcards from Carbury Co Kildare

 

img_4929 For most of my life I heard references to Carbury Co Kildare from our mother, yet I had never been there – until last week – when I headed off on a road trip to discover the places where my mother, her mother, her grandmother and her great grandmother lived.  The discoveries and frustrations on the family history front will feature in a future post, but in the meantime the lovely small village, lovingly and proudly cared for by a small band of volunteers deserves a post of its own.

Carbury is a tiny wee village that has been cut off from much of its hinterland by the newly realigned regional road the R402. In fact the signage for the village was not obvious at all and I ended up in the village of Derrinturn which is in the parish of Carbury and where the Carbury Roman Catholic Parish Church is located.

The tiny hamlet is dominated by Carbury House with a very interesting curved  gable.

Carbury House c.1800

Built about 1800, the gable appears to have suffered some sort of damage, perhaps from passing trucks before the bypass?

Directly across the road is the former Garda barracks – previously  it housed  the Royal Irish Constabulary.

 

 

The village also had a post office that dated from 1845.

On a hill above the village are the remains of a 14th century castle, not now accessible to the public but it must have been an impressive sight in days gone by. It belonged to the Bermingham family who were English settlers and during the 15th century it was a scene of strife between English Barons and Irish Chieftains.

 

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The 14th Century Carbury Castle, now in ruins is on private ground and not accessible to the public.

The Tidy Towns Volunteers deserve great credit for their efforts to enhance the village. I particularly liked the Bog Oak sculpture as it is refekective of the location of Carbury not far from Carbury Bog. Bog Oak from ancient forests c. 6,000 years ago has lain in the acidic wet peat for thousands of years and in the process has turned black. The beautiful preserved timber is much sought after by sculptors.

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The bog oak was found locally…of course!

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Just across the road is the Village Pump, which was central to any village and was where everyone came to pump fresh water for tea, cooking and washing.

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While on the subject of Tidy Towns Volunteers, I love how they have planted native flowers in the verges. While summer flowering annuals look spectacular in  baskets and containers, it is hard to beat the delight of natural looking flowers growing along the road.

 

Of special interest was the old  Carbury Railway Station, where our great grandparents lived and reared their family until our greatgrandfather died here in the 1920s.  The information board in the village has a photo of the station as it was many decades ago.

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Carbury Station c 1937

Up on the hill stands the Church of Ireland  church with an impressive tower.

 

 This is just a taste of the interesting features to be found in this lovely part of hidden Ireland. Although now ‘severed’ from part of its hinterland towards Derrinturn, Carburybis the better for it as it is rich in heritage, history and has some of the friendliest people! A lady walking her dog noticed me taking photos and stopped to say ‘hello’. A few minutes later a car drew up and her husband arrived to offer me a copy of their village guide and to tell me where to look for places of interest!

It was a lovely first encounter with this very special place that has lived in our family memory for about a century! If you are passing by, do swing in, you will be glad you did!

 

 

 

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The Genealogy Event 2017

The Genealogy Event took place this week in Adare Co. Limerick. I had signed up for Day 2 as the range of topics were of particular interest to me and I was not disappointed!

The day began with Michelle Leonard’s fact-packed talk on using DNA to solve Family Tree Mysteries. Michelle is a ‘DNA detective’ and later she gave a second talk about her years helping to track down relatives of bodies recovered from a World War 1 mass grave in France. 1,335 Australian and 350 British soldiers were missing after the battle of Fromelles in July 1916. In 2008 a mass grave was located with remains of 250 individuals. These were re interred in a new cemetery at Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) after DNA samples had been taken from teeth. 151 of the 250 have been identified and Michelle told interesting stories of individuals she helped identify. You can read more about the fascinating Fromelles Genealogy Project here.

An extremely useful overview of Irish Newspaper Archives and how to search them effectively was given by Andrew Martin. I am looking forward to testing his tips later! The site has 70 titles and with plans to add more very soon and is a very useful resource for anyone doing family research.

Irish Newspaper Archives

Joe Buggy, a well known expert on genealogical research in North America, talked about the records available in the United States, what is available at national and state level, the different census records, and how to find naturalization and immigration records.  Joe has published a book on tracing New York Ancestors.

finding your ancestors in newyork city 2

His second talk was an excellent presentation on the resources available to researchers of New York ancestors and covered state census records, birth records, marriages and death certificates and where these can be located, as well as RC parish records and where Irish people are likely to have settled and to be buried, newspapers and the information they would have, one for example having lists of passenger arrivals. Joe blogs here where he has hints and tips on researching in New York.

The journalist Conall Ó Fátharta talked about issues with researching adoptions in Ireland, in particular babies placed from Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries, significant  numbers of whom were sent for adoption without the consent of the mother. Conall has concerns around the mortality rates in these places and wonders if in fact death statistics may conceal the fact that many of these children  may have been sent for adoption to well heeled families.  This is a harrowing topic, but relevant to genealogists as these children may now be trying to research their family history.  Conall blogs here .

Finally, we had Ciaran O’Reilly from the excellent Irish Famine Eviction Project.  The project has uncovered an amazing number of evictions since the project began. The map about to go online will have links to the location and name of landlord and will be a great resource for researchers wondering about their families during this time. The evictions were not solely carried out on behalf of the absentee landlords, but could have been on behalf of  local clergy, merchants, shopkeepers, business people and from all religions, including Catholics and Quakers.  Ciaran has called on anyone who knows about evictions to make contact with the site, whether they be individuals or local history groups. This research will cause history to be rewritten as long forgotten evictions come to light.

The new locations map revealed by The Famine Eviction Project

It was a most interesting day with great presentations that were both informative and useful!

 

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Postcards from Ballybeg Priory, Buttevant, Co Cork

img_4885For years I  have been travelling the torturous route between Limerick and Cork, the N20, surely one of Ireland’s worst major routes with single file traffic wending its way along through towns and villages, with serious sharp bends to be negotiated.

Perched alongside this road, on the Cork side of the town of Buttevant is the fantastic Ballybeg Priory. As many motorist do, I have been taking side glances at this ruin for decades as it is far too dangerous and impossible to stop on the main road.  Before you know it, you have gone past the narrow access road.  However on my last foray on the notorious N20,  I was determined to pull over to take a look at this ancient place and so I finally managed to turn off into the access laneway.

Founded in 1229 for priests who lived a monastic life, the Canons Regular of St Augustine, the Priory was laid out with buildings surrounding a central courtyard or  cloister. Two fine windows of the original church were incorporated as part of a tower some centuries later.

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Much of the site is inaccessible as there seem to be some works being undertaken by the OPW.  It’s an awful pity that they do not provide notices as to what the are doing or why sections are barricaded. Their non medieval porta-cabin does nothing to enhance the visitor experience.

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Cabins and barriers but no explnataion.

Not withstanding these 21st century intrusions, this is a very special place with a wonderful mystical atmosphere. It is sobering to think that I have walked where monks did as long ago as 800 years back.

This site also has a pigeon house, or columbarium, with roosts for about 350 birds and is considered to be the finest of its kind in all of Ireland. It was not possible to get any closer on the day of my visit.

This dove-cot provided food for the monks and also fertilizer for their farm.  An internal view of the dovecot can be seen here.

It is well worth stopping here to explore this ancient site. It’s a pity that not all of the site is accessible, but hopefully that will improve when  the OPW finish their works.

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Further reading

http://www.buttevant.ie/History/Ballybeg-Abbey.html

http://irishhistorypodcast.ie/ballybeg-priory-co-cork/

 

 

 

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Mandatory retirement: Airing views on National Radio

I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on Mandatory Retirement on the Marian Finucane Show on RTE Radio 1. (For readers outside of Ireland, RTE Radio is the Radio arm of the Irish national public service broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann and the Marian Finucane show is one of Ireland’s highest rated weekend programs.)

On the panel with me to discuss personal impacts of mandatory retirement in Ireland were a former mechanic/fireman with the Fire Service in Sligo, Victor Martin who had to retire at age 55,  Pat Wallace, former Director of the National Museum of Ireland, who was compelled to take early retirement,  and myself who had to retire from the civil service at age 65.

Although shaking with nerves, it was a huge thrill for me to be on the Marian Finucane programme. I have been an ardent fan and follower for many years. Researcher Katriona McFadden and producer Ronan Lawlor were most reassuring and helpful, so huge thanks to them!

The discussion can be heard here on the RTE Player which is available worldwide, and begins just a few minutes in after a review of newspaper headlines.

I would like to add a special word of thanks to Kathleen Sharkey (nee Murphy) my school friend from 1961 to 1966 who accompanied me to the RTE Studios and helped calm my nerves. I was visiting her home in County Louth when the invitation came to participate in the programme.  Thank you Kathleen!

Age Action Ireland continues to advocate for a change to the mandatory retirement in Ireland.

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Saluting our cousin – another family septuagenarian

This week we mark another ‘big birthday’ in our generation of our family, as our first cousin joins our elder brother on becoming a septuagenarian.  See the post to mark our first septuagenarian here

On July 26, 1947, Hugo Gerard Coyle was born in Carrigart, County Donegal to our aunt Eileen Gallagher and Hugh Coyle. Our aunt Eileen lived in our family home at the top of the street following her marriage to Hugh Coyle from Milford, which  was the next village about 10 miles away.

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Hugh Coyle and Eileen Gallagher married in 1945.

Their first baby, Mary Patricia was born July 15 1946 but sadly died in September 1946, so the arrival of a bonnie healthy wee boy in July 1947 would have been greeted with great joy. At that time our brother was 5 months old and I was expected the following March. Living in our house at that time were our father Gerard Gallagher and our mother who were married in January 1946, my brother- the 5 month old – our uncles Sean and Jim, in addition to our Aunt Eileen and her little family.  I often wonder  about the logistics of such a complicated arrangement given that the house had two bedrooms, one of which was accessed through the main bedroom, plus a small box room located off the upstairs sitting room. Still, it seems to have worked ok.

For some reason, lost in the mists of time, Hugo Gerard was known as Logie in our house, and that name followed him throughout our childhood. In later years he himself dropped the Hugo part and is very happy now to be known as  Gerry.  He was of course named after his own father Hugh and our father Gerard, so that was no bad thing!

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Cousin Gerry (known as Logie), brother and myself in a field of potatoes at the top of Figart, looking towards Tirlaughan. I think the barrel had blue limestone in it for prevention of blight on the potatoes.

Aunt Eileen (who was also my godmother) and Hugh lived with us for a while. Hugh worked in both the Rainbow Bar and the Drambuie Bar in Letterkenny, before moving to Derry and ultimately to Glasgow. But they came ‘home’ every year without fail for summer holidays during the Glasgow Fair, and so it was that this cousin was more of a brother than a cousin. The annual visit home was a much anticipated event and we enjoyed great summers with trips to the shore on what always seemed to be long hot summers!

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Aunt Eileen, myself (on our big red trike)  and Logie at the point of Figart with Island Roy in the background. About 1952. I am not sure how the trike got to the point of Figart – it must have been hard work!

We loved when they came as Aunt Eileen would take all us children off to Tramore for the day, marching us barefoot over the soft velvety grass of the Carrigart Golf Course and on into the prickly grass and bent of the sandy hills with rabbits and rabbit holes and rabbit droppings and exquisite little plants such as miniature broom and baby pansies and teeny roses. We raced ahead to the huge sand dunes so we could climb and slide and roll and laugh before heading on to the shore with our flagons of Cidona, sandwiches in greasproof- paper bags, and with packets of Kimberley biscuits to sustain us.

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Gerry, Hugh, Cathy and Aunt Eileen ( always known as ‘Di’ in our house)

Hugh had family in Milford ( brother Paddy, sister Kathleen and possibly another sister), Letterkenny (Tony) and in Downings (Nellie Birney)  and we would feel thoroughly deprived when they would catch the Swilly Bus to visit the Coyle family members. But we did have some great outings to the huge beach at Tramore! One in particular stands out. After the sandwiches and biscuits  were eaten Logie decided that it was a good idea to  catch a frog that was minding its own business on the rocks. He put it into a sandwich bag and we had mighty craic watching our jumping brown paper bag!  The dear aunt however was not amused and in total disgust, bundled us up to head back home across the sandy hills. The bagged frog came too! She harangued Logie to no avail for the entire hike until the unfortunate animal was finally released (unharmed) on the Lee where it disappeared down a rabbit hole.

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A  Sunday outing to visit relations in Fanad. Logie,our younger brothers, Paddy Vaughan next door neighbour and driver of Pat Gallagher’s big Dodge car, and our dad Gerard Gallagher. This was taken in 1965

Sometimes he came alone to Carrigart ahead of the others. There was one memorable occasion when he stood on a piece of glass when we were paddling on the shore and nothing would convince him that he was not going to contract gangrene and die. I think our mother may have brought him to his senses as she railed him for having every towel in the house destroyed with blood! He quickly forgot about the gangrene!

Cowboys and Indians, spiking Fluke on the shore, jumping burns, hide and go-seek, building dams in streams, excavating man traps, swimming, cycling and generally roaming the length and breath of the parish made up our 17 hour long summer days. Great carefree days and great happy memories! Happy birthday Logie!

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