Monthly Archives: August 2011

Irish culture – High Crosses with a local touch!

A lovely post from KnowThyPlace blog –  Irish culture comes in many guises –  look at the beautiful pictures and have a listen !


High Crosses, Craic agus Ceol – A Very Different Archaeo-tourism Experience!.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish Traditional Music

Derryveagh Evictions:Walking to remember

In Donegal,Ireland this weekend there will be a walking event to mark the  150th anniversary of the infamous Derryveagh Evictions.

Deserted Road in Derryveagh. Image commons.wikimedia

The walk will trace the footsteps of the 85 adults and 159 children who were brutally evicted from their homes and livelihoods by their cruel landlord in April 1861. ( See my earlier ‘trilogy’ posts here, here and here).

The townlands of Derryveagh where the evictions took place. Click to enlarge. Compiled from Historic and OSI maps - With many thanks to Sara Nylund

The memory of this event is deeply rooted in the surrounding area. On the long car journey from Carrigart to Glenties in the 1950s my late father used to tell us children the story of Adair as he pointed out the ruined and deserted cottages in the lonely landscape. I had imagined then in my child’s mind that was the end of the sad story for these poor people.
Decades later on revisiting this story, it has been exciting to discover that the people who used to live in those destroyed homes are remembered still; that their tragedy has been researched, documented and recalled and that they have been honoured at the 150th anniversary of the event in April of this year.
Their descendants and extended family proudly remember them.
James Sweeney lived in Altnadogue(9). He was evicted with his wife and 8 children and the house was locked.  Two of  James’ sons – Edward and James – later lived in Stramore, an adjoining townland , and married their 2nd cousins Bridget and Grace Sweeney. Bridget and Grace had a sister Fanny, whose grandson, Petie McGee represented that family at the commemoration events in April.
A small number of families were readmitted as tenants, some until the following November and some as weekly tenants. On the shores of Lough Barra is Bingorms (10) with two families the McCormicks  and the M’Awards. The McCormicks were evicted but then reinstated as caretakers. Bingorms was strategically located near an access path to the castle in Glenveagh, and it is thought that Adair wanted someone to look out for sheep stealers using this path and so the McCormicks were spared.  It is hard to imagine what they must have felt as they saw their neighbour the Widow Hanna M’Award and her 7 children being pulled screaming from their house that was levelled to the ground. John (Joseph) McCormick and his wife Grace are the great grandparents of Susan Hemming who represented that family at the commemoration in April.
Susan writes: ”With my 21st century hat on, I am not at all sure that I like the idea of my great, great-grandfather being so “helpful” to his terrible landlord, but then I ask myself “What choice did he have?”. Stay on the land, or be thrown off like so many others?
I hope that he stayed as tenant with a heavy heart, that he and his wife were moved to tears as they witnessed the eviction of the widow McAward and her children. I wonder also, had Owen McAward still been alive, would Adair have chosen that family to stay as caretakers of this lonely route out of Glenveagh? Would the McCormicks have been evicted?”
Also in attendance were two great granddaughters of evictee Catherine Ward, who had travelled from Australia for the 150th anniversary commemoration. To see a TV news report on their setting foot at the site where their ancestor was thrown out,click on this link .
The work and research of many people has served to keep the Derryveagh story alive and has been inspirational to many.  Susan Hemming acknowledges the work and help of Paddy McCormick of Inniskill, Sally Greene (nee McClafferty) of McClafferty’s bar in Churchill in her research.
Two other names are inextricably linked to the ‘rediscovery’ of the events in Derryveagh in 1861:
Lindel Buckley’s ancestors emigrated to New Zealand from this area. Lindel, through her amazing website Donegal Genealogy Resources,  has been instrumental in linking many descendants of the evicted families back to their roots in Derryveagh. Lindel has located and transcribed hundreds of  historical records from Donegal and of relevance to Donegal, and they are available without charge on her website. Her work has been an inspiration to many, including this writer.
May McClintock of An Taisce, has a passionate interest in the Derryveagh Evictions and was instrumental in having a permanent plaque put in place to remember the families.  Through her writing and efforts she is highly regarded by anyone who delves into the story of  the Derryveagh evictions.
A local school teacher Christy Gillespie and his pupils  have documented the personal stories of the people who were evicted in Derryveagh. The book,  “A Deathly Silence”will interest a new generation and give new insights into the people who are the key figures in this story,the people of Derryveagh.
Today, Saturday August 27th 2011 May Mc Clintock  will participate in the ‘We Remember’ commemorative walk that will begin at the ruins of  Bradleys Cottage in the townland of Cleggan, and follow a route to Churchill. She will add insights along the way and at Churchill graveyard she will deliver a short talk. The commemoration of the 150th anniversary will draw to a close tonight with a musical gathering and fitting tributes.
This post is in tribute to the tenants who had to endure this dreadful event in 1861, to their descendants who have discovered who they are, and very specially in appreciation of the people who continue to freely give the benefits of their extensive research and knowledge that is an inspiration to us all.
Dolan, Liam. 1980. Land War and Eviction in Derryveagh, 1840- 65. Annaverna Press.

McClintock, May. After the Battering Ram- the trail of the dispossessed from Derryveagh, 1861- 1991. An Taisce Pamphlet

Vaughan, William Edward. 1983. Sin, Sheep and Scotsmen: John George Adair and the Derryveagh evictions 1861. Ulster Historical Foundation. Accessed at TARA: Trinity Access to Research Archive

Families evicted from Derryveagh

Donegal Genealogy Resources – The work of Lindel Buckley
Special thanks to Susan Hemming and Petie McGee for sharing their stories.


Filed under Genealogy, Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History

Jenny Hodgers:Soldier in American Civil War

Read the amazing story of Jenny Hodgers  from Clogherhead, Co Louth, who enlisted and served as a man on the Union side in the American Civil War,under the name of Albert D Cashier. Read her story here .

From the blog of Irish in the American Civil War

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Filed under American Civil War, Irish History, Irish_American

Dr James Barry: ‘A perfect female’

Dr James Barry with servant and dog. Image wikimedia.commons

Since posting the story of  Margaret Ann Bulkley: The extraordinary Doctor James Barry, I have had many requests for further detail on the fascinating story of  the girl who masqueraded as a man for almost her entire life and rose to the highest medical rank in the British Army.

To recap: As Dr James Barry was being laid out for burial, the maid discovered that ‘he’ was ‘a perfect female’. This startling fact was not revealed until after the funeral. The body was not exhumed to confirm the allegation and the controversy has continued for almost 150 years. However, in recent years new research has helped to confirm the story that Dr James Barry, Inspector General in the British Army,  and Margaret Ann Bulkley are the same person.

Hercules Michael du Preez, himself  a doctor, was impressed by the work of  Dr. James Barry in his country, South Africa. Dr Barry’s reforms included better food and healthcare for lepers and prisoners and ordinary citizens as well as soldiers. Dr du Preez, determined to try to unravel the mystery of Dr. Barry, concentrated not only on military records, but on papers of the uncle, James Barry, RHA (1741-1806) who was a well-known figure and artist. This research into the early life of Margaret Ann Bulkley revealed a  great deal about her that has added interesting facts to the extraordinary story.

Among the private papers of James Barry, du Preez discovered that on 11 April 1804, Margaret  penned  a letter on behalf of her mother  to her Uncle James in which she wrote: ‘My mother is not able to write legible on account of a tremor in her hand, desired me to write for her‘.

So,who was Margaret Bulkley? Margaret’s mother Mary Ann Barry, married Jeremiah Bulkley in 1782. They lived on Merchant’s Quay in Cork City. Jeremiah held a government post in the Weigh House in  Cork, and he was also a grocer. They had three children, – a son John, daughter Margaret and another younger daughter, whose name we do not know. As a result of the recklessness of the elder child John, Jeremiah ended up in  the Debtor’s Prison  in Dublin. Margaret and her mother Mary Ann were left destitute, and their only hope lay with Margaret’s uncle, James Barry, her mother’s brother, who was a member of the Royal Academy and who lived in London. Hence the letter, an example of  Margaret’s handwriting from her early teens.

Du Preez discovered 26  letters in all sent by Margaret Bulkley and James Barry. Examples of the handwriting were examined by Alison Reboul, a professional handwriting analyst and document examiner. Her conclusion was that all the documents were almost definitely written by one person.

Of particular interest is a letter written to Daniel Reardon, the family legal adviser. Reardon was noted for keeping meticulous records and had a habit of recording the name of the sender and the date on the outside of all letters received by him.  On a letter  dated 14 December, postmarked December 18, 1809  and signed ‘James Barry’, Mr Reardon recorded: Miss Bulkley 14 December. Further evidence that Margaret Bulkley and James Barry were indeed one and the same person.

More fascinating details from the research undertaken by Dr du Preez , including extracts from and pictures of the letters, can be read here.


Dr James Barry: The early years revealed by Hercules Michael du Preez, MB ChB, FRCS published by the South African Medical Journal, January 2008,No.1

Dr James Barry: Military man – or woman? by  Kathleen M Smith published in

Canadian Medical Journal April 1982, Vol 126 

Cork Archives


Filed under Family History, Irish History

Digging up the Ancestors from Irish Bogs

We have news of another Bog Body found yesterday (11 August 2011) in Ireland by a worker harvesting peat.
The body was found in Cashel Bog in County Laois, and unlike many earlier bog body discoveries, this one was actually seen before it was ripped from the ground by the harvesting machine, so it has been possible to examine it where it lay. First indications are that it may be over 3,000 years old!

NMI and Bord na Mona workers examine the body in Laois. Picture RTE TV

There have been hundreds of bog bodies discovered in the peat wetlands of Europe over the last few centuries, about a hundred of which have been in Ireland. The cold, acidic and anaerobic conditions in peat bogs ‘pickles’ bodies so that they resemble brown coloured mummies. Skin and internal organs are preserved, but the bones are dissolved by the acid. The body discovered in Laois seems to have been placed in a leather bag. The legs are protruding and have been preserved, while the remainder of the body protected by the leather has not been preserved to the same extent, if at all.
It is estimated that about 1/6th of Ireland is covered in bog. As children, we were constantly warned about the dangers of ‘falling into a bog hole’ and often heard stories of people who vanished without trace,the assumption being that they had not heeded the warnings of parents!

When a bog body is discovered it is a truly unusual event. The question invariably arises as to how it got to be there in the first place. It is unlikely that someone whose head and torso is inside a leather bag  was an errant traveller who fell in. That leaves the possibility that the bog was used as a burial-place. However, some of the human remains discovered have signs of torture and or execution, with evidence of hanging, strangulation, stabbing and bludgeoning. So were they people who had been put to death for crimes against society, were they murdered by vagabonds, or could they have been ritually  sacrificed?

Clonycavan Man at the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin. Picture Sven Shaw

In 2003 two bog body discoveries were made in Ireland: In  February near Clonycavan on the Meath/Westmeath border and, just weeks later in May some 25 miles away, at Old Croghan in County Offaly. Known as Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man, neither body was intact. Both these bodies were subjected to an array of tests and analysis using modern medical imaging techniques, pathology and other scientific methods, and were carried out by an international group of experts. Radiocarbon dating showed that both had died about the same time, some 2,300 years ago.  Clonycavan Man appears to have suffered a blow to the head that smashed open his skull, while Old Croghan Man showed signs of having been stabbed, beheaded and dismembered.  Ropes made from hazel were threaded through his arms.  Ned Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland, in researching locations of bog bodies found in Ireland reported that there were some 30 to 40 instances of such remains found on or near ancient borders or boundaries. This would indicate the likelihood of human sacrifice. ‘My belief is that these burials are offerings to the gods of fertility by kings to ensure a successful reign’ he told the BBC.  ‘Bodies ‘ he said, ‘are placed in the borders immediately surrounding royal land or on tribal boundaries to ensure a good yield of corn and milk throughout the reign of the king’.

The results of the investigations into this latest discovery are eagerly awaited so that we might know how or why she or he died. In the meantime, we can say for sure that Cashel Man or Cashel Woman was someone’s child, may have had brothers and sisters and may have been a parent themselves. Who knows, he or she may well be one of our own family ancestors!
Kingship & Sacrifice is the title of an exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland that  is centred on the theory of bog burials on political or royal boundaries and has exhibits from Ireland and beyond. It is in Dublin, Kildare Street and admission is free.
Further Reading
Ireland’s Peat Bogs How Bogs are made.
The Bog Bodies  A Timewatch Documentary on the National Museum investigation into the Bog Bodies.


Filed under Ancestry, Ireland, Irish History

Irish Traditional Music and Séan Ó Riada

Séan ó Riada

Séan ó Riada.

Each day, on my way to and from work, I drive through the beautiful Limerick village of Adare. Set into the wall outside the school is a limestone plaque  commemorating  Séan Ó Riada, a former pupil of this school who went on to redefine Irish traditional music and inspire a new interest in it both at home and abroad.

Born in Cork on August 1st, 1931, John Reidy and his family lived in Adare for some years. He later studied music at University College Cork. He joined the national radio station in 1953  and married in that year. Two years later he went to live in Paris, where he reputedly ‘burned the candle at both ends’ and drank heavily. He was continuing to write  classical music, but none of it was performed regularly.

Returning to Dublin, he joined the  Abbey Theatre as Musical Director in 1957. At some time in this period he also began to use the Irish form of his name, Séan Ó Riada. It was at this time he began  scoring films, and in 1959 he was asked to compose music for a film entitled ‘Mise Éire’ (pronounced ‘Mish-a Air -a’ and translates as  ‘I am Ireland’) about the changes in Ireland from 1890 to 1918. The music was based on traditional Irish airs with heavy classical orchestration and captured the imagination of those who heard it at the release of the film in 1960. This music has become an iconic part of Irish Heritage, and made  Séan Ó Riada a household name. The opening 1 minute 50 seconds of  Mise Éire is particularly moving and can be heard by clicking here.

As Musical Director of the Abbey Theatre he sought traditional musicians to perform incidental music in a stage production. He had little time for the Irish music as performed across the country by ceili bands – basically groups of musicians who did their ‘own thing’ and belted out well-known dance tunes.  He gathered together a group of musicians who were interested in trying new ideas and the  musical ‘sessions’  held at his house in Galloping Green have become legendary. He added a new dimension to the way Irish music was played, by creating a type of  ‘folk orchestra’.  Such was the positive response to their performances at the Abbey, Ceoltóirí Chualann  was born. Ceoltóirí  (pronounced  almost! as ‘ Coal -Tory’ ) is the Irish  word for musicians, and Cualann (pronounced ‘Cool- Ann’) is the name of an area just outside Dublin where Ó Riada lived. The band had a harpsichord (which Ó Riada felt closely replicated the sound of the old steel stringed Irish Harp), bodhran, (pronounced ‘bow -ran’) – a hand-held drum, that was not a very popular instrument at that time –  plus a  piano, fiddle, accordions, flute, pipes and whistles.

Ó Riada returned to Cork as a lecturer in the music department of University College Cork in 1963 and eventually took up residence with his wife and seven children in an Irish speaking area called Cul Aodha, (pronounced Cool- Ay ) near Ballyvourney in  west Cork, where he continued to compose. His works include a very well-known and loved mass in Irish known as the ”O Riada Mass”.

There is little doubt that the performance of his life that changed Irish music forever was heard in April 1969, when Ireland was reintroduced to its musical heritage on the stage of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. As stated on the sleeve notes of the CD :”So much of what we take for granted in Irish traditional music has not, in fact, been passed down through the centuries, but was rather brought to the world stage on a Dublin April evening in 1969”. The recording of  Ó Riada sa Gaiety (Ó Riada in the Gaiety) is available at Amazon and other outlets.

Séan Ó Riada fell ill  in the summer of 1971 and died in October of that year, just 2 months after his 40th birthday. He is remembered today on what would have been his  80th birthday.  His legacy lives on.


Rambling House by Ronan Nolan 

Bill Margeson A review of Works of O Riada


Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Irish Traditional Music