« June 2007 | Main | August 2007 »

July 28, 2007

FLIGHT OF THE EARLS - the Kildare connection!

Bridget FitzGerald, an Earls wife who was left behind
 at the Flight of the Earls in 1607
Seamus Cullen

The most important historical commemoration this year is the four-hundred anniversary of the Flight of the Earls which occurred on 14 September 1607.  There is an important county Kildare involvement in this event and the connection was centred in this very building, Maynooth Castle.

Ask anyone that has passed through the Irish educational system to name the two principal individuals involved in the Flight of the Earls and you would be informed O’Neill and O’Donnell. What occurred was a number of Irish Chieftains fled the country taking their families with them. Rory O’Donnell brought his 11 month old son and heir but he didn’t get time to bring his pregnant wife Bridget. Bridget was a FitzGerald the daughter of the Earl of Kildare and at the time of the Flight she was here in this very Castle.

Bridget FitzGerald was born in 1589 in Maynooth. Her father was Henry FitzGerald the 12th Earl of Kildare. She was the granddaughter of Gerald the Wizard Earl who was the brother of the famous Silken Thomas. Bridget was actually named after St Bridget the patron saint of Kildare. In 1597 when she was 8 years old her father was killed fighting on the side of Queen Elizabeth in the Nine Years War. Four years later in 1601 when Bridget was 12 years old her Mother remarried and she was left in the care of her Grandmother Mapel Brown the Dowager Kildare. In 1605 Bridget then aged 16 married Rory O’Donnell. He was the Earl of Tyrconnell, head of the O’Donnells and brother of the famous Red Hugh O’Donnell.  

In the Flight of the Earls episode there was a plot and there is evidence that some of the plotting occurred here in Maynooth. Rory O’Donnell on a visit to Maynooth Castle had discussions with Richard Nugent his wife’s cousin and informed him of plans to capture Dublin Castle and kill the Lord Deputy. He also informed Nugent that Hugh O’Neill, Maguire and some of the Old English Lords of the Pale were involved in the conspiracy. Details of the plot were subsequently leaked to the Lord Deputy.  The Lord Deputy who had been endeavouring for some time to obtain evidence in order to imprison O’Donnell, now planned to have O’Donnell arrested as he passed through Dublin on his way to visit his wife at Maynooth. Plans were also afoot to arrest O’Neill. But the Earls were tipped off that Government were planning to arrest them and on 14 September 1607 the Flight of the Earls took place. Rory O’Donnell brought his 11 month son Hugh but was unable to bring Bridget his wife.
 Two days after the flight on 16 September Fr. Eoghan Groome McGrath who was in the service of O’Donnell visited Bridget in Maynooth Castle. They had a secret meeting in a garden at Maynooth Castle known as the ‘Moyglare Garden’. According to tradition, this garden was on the opposite side of the Lyreen River to here, where the ‘Mill Centre’ is today.  Fr. McGrath passed on to Bridget a message and money from her husband. The money consisted of 81 pieces of gold.  Bridget and her Grandmother then travelled to Howth and stayed with Christopher St Laurence. He was actually the man who had tipped off the authorities about the plot. It appears now he attempted to play both sides and assist Bridget on leaving the country in order to join her husband on the continent. However the attempts were unsuccessful. The Lord Deputy, Chichester, then investigated her role and demanded an explanation. At this point, Bridget wrote a letter to the Lord Deputy indicating that she was unaware of any plotting. Chichester in order to prevent her from leaving the country for the continent sent her to London where she met the King. An eye witness at Court gave the following account: ‘she kissed his majesty’s hand and a sweeter face you never saw. Indeed the king wondered, her husband, left so fair a face behind’. Bridget’s second child a girl was born in October 1607 and she named her after the Kings mother Mary Stuart.
Ten months after the flight in July 1608, Rory O’Donnell died from a fever in Rome. Bridget was then a widow, aged only 19 years. Their son Hugh was cared for by his aunt Nuala O’Donnell at Louvain. Later attempts aimed at getting Hugh restored to his Earldom were unsuccessful. Hugh subsequently became an officer in the army of the Spanish Netherlands and died fighting with his regiment in Spain in 1642. 

As for Bridget the King granted her an annual income of £300 and this eventually enabled her to find a suitable husband. In 1617 at the age of 28 she married 25 year-old Nicholas Barnwall of Turvey near Donabate. She had nine children by her second husband that is a total of eleven children. The couple were not without difficulties in the subsequent years. They had to flee to Wales for two years after the 1641 Rebellion. Cromwell imprisoned Nicholas in 1654 and confiscated his lands. The lands, however, were restored in 1660. Nicholas died in 1663 and was buried in the Church in Lusk. Bridget FitzGerald died in 1682 in her 93rd year and was buried beside her second husband.
So in six weeks time on the anniversary of the Flight of the Earls let us not forget that there was a very important connection with Maynooth.

A really interesting article by Seamus Cullen on a little known Kildare connection with the Flight of the Earls anniversary commemorations.

July 13, 2007


Kildare County Archive
Kildare Archive service is custodian to a broad variety of archival series, including a significant number of predecessor bodies of the present government system. Some of these bodies encompass the earliest extant materials in a local authority archive. In Kildare County Archives quality material has survived.
 Grand Jury collection (1809-1893) 
 Naas and Athy Poor Law Union records
 Athy, Naas, Celbridge, Edenderry Rural District Council records
 Athy Urban District Council
 Interment records are also now available on microfilms
 Private papers
They constitute a wonderful resource for research and should be a source of pride for the whole county.
All collections are cleaned, arranged, described, listed and preserved under the best archival standards.
(Researchers are requested to call in advance for an appointment with the county archivist)
Archives are evidence
 Archives are the foundations of peoples, they are the keepers of languages, of traditions, and they are the societies’ memory, pillars of the Irish cultural patrimony.
They are also the operational tool of the public and private organisations and a backup enabling every citizen to obtain the guarantee of their rights. Records and archives can justify activities of all sorts, in a transparent manner. Thanks to properly preserved and conserved archives, agencies can function efficiently.
Archives are records of intrinsic value, stored for all time because of the unique information they contain. Archival material can include manuscripts, maps, plans, drawings, letters and all correspondence, registers, diaries, but also non-textual records such as tape recordings, photographs, film, microfilms and electronic records.
Archives are not just any old pieces of paper or electronic document. They provide evidence of actual events and for that reason, records should be trustworthy, meaning well managed, accurate, involving a creator and recipient, should be able to be transmitted.

Challenges – What to keep? What to forget?
Like the bulk of our interactions, most records are necessary but individually unmemorable (we do not need the record of what time we put out the garbage or brushed our teeth). However we do recall the overall pattern: outcome of events, whether we did something unusual, and our ‘main directions’. Day to day recordkeeping in a local authority is roughly similar to that reflection. The essential uses of records range over all human endeavour and those who use them are just as varied.
Institutional archivists are now facing one of the greatest challenges: to ensure that suitable documentation of societally important organisational and institutional archives AND personal, creative, reflective and spiritual life is ‘captured’, protected and accessible to the public over the long term.
For this very reason, local archivists are always on the look-out for private archives, family memories and estate papers, as well as photographs in the hope that what they will leave behind them will illustrate the life of everyday people, not only the administration or authority of that county.
However what does ‘national significance’ means? What is important? To whom?
‘While no one can objectively know or state with complete assurance what the elements of societal value(s) are or have been within any given generation, archivists can develop appraisal (1) strategies and methodologies that are most likely to provide a comprehensive documentary memory of what has transpired in society over time’. (2)
County Councils, through their various departments and functions have a significant impact on people’s lives and the holdings of the archives should illustrate that impact, its nature and the relationship between society and governance.
In that respect, the archivist is a kind of story teller; by taking the decision of keeping or discarding, he or she shapes the memory of a county, country or an organisation. Nevertheless, this approach is not an ad-hoc activity; it is the result of extensive research from the archivist’s part who is required to examine his/her jurisdiction (national, regional, local (county council) or private organisation), and its interplay between social structures, social functions, and citizens and groups as social agents.
Many archivists around the world have now taken an active approach towards the material they acquire.
Archives we left behind us will retrace the major ‘lines’, the significant events, the most essential patterns. It is essential for private material to be professionally preserved under archival standards.
Projects like the Ehistory website are essential to remember the unusual, the details, the incongruous. It gives a voice to another side of our lives and it complements traditional holdings of an archive repository. It gives a voice to another side of our lives.
Archives are the raw materials of history; they are primary sources of information and irreplaceable. Archives are evidence of human activities. Unless they are carefully identified, stored and processed by archivists they undoubtedly will be lost through neglect and carelessness.

Ms Cécile Chemin
Regional Archivist – Kildare, Wicklow, Meath County Councils
Irish representative, Society of Archivists
For requests, reactions or archive donations: mideastarchives@gmail.com
(1) Appraisal: The process of determining if materials have sufficient value to be accessioned into a repository. Appraisal theory explores, in a philosophical sense the sources upon which archivists base their decisions to assign ‘value’ or ‘significance’ to records.
(2) Terry Cook, ‘Appraisal Methodology: Macro-Appraisal and Functional Analysis. Part A: Concepts and Theory’. Summer 2000. (National Archives of Canada).

A new article on collecting Archives and the role of Archives and Archivists from Regional Archivist Cecile Chemin. Have a look at the new Wicklow Archive page for some more ideas on the type of work done by Cecile. 

Do you have Information on the Industrial Heritage of Co. Kildare


Some notes and observations regarding the industrial heritage of Co. Kildare - I would ask any interested group or individual to submit any information regarding the industrial heritage of Co. Kildare - maybe by posting the information on the EHistory site we might encourage others to contribute or help to jog peoples memories - YOU CANNOT BEAT LOCAL KNOWLEDGE



Industrial Heritage Survey
Bibliography – Guide to sources
1. Canals

Guide to the Grand Canal of Ireland

Guide to the Royal Canal of Ireland

Both by Ruth Delany, excellent simple but comprehensive guides with
strip maps of the canal mileage through the county.

2. Railways

Irish Railways Today -- Brendan Pender, Herbert Richards,published
1967 out of print but should be available in good libraries. Excellent
description of all features on extant rail lines.

Johnson's Gazetter of railways in Ireland (or similar title) by
Stephen Johnston, highly comprehensive mapping of all rail lines both
standard and narrow guage in the county.

3. Power Generation

Dont forget element of Hydro Electric on eastern margin of county.
Golden Falls and possibly Pollaphuca dams are within the Kildare
county boundary.

4. General Hints

Gas Works House in Naas -- on canal half a mile south of Naas

Quarries at Ardclough with enigmatic pumping (?) tower.

Brickmaking: major Athy brickworks, also at Ballysax and many other
locations in county.

An important publication   'The Quarrymen - the Roadstone story 1949-59'
by Bernard Share. Important notes and pictures of the early days of
Roadstone (nee Castlesand) in the Kill area. This was privately published by

Also Woolen Mills in Ballymore Eustace

Hulk of supposed 'sugar factory' on canal bank north of Sallins.

Some additional Industrial Archaelogy sites that occur to me:
Ardclough -- near Canal: lime quarries and two tower like structures -- enigmatic but marked on some maps as pumping towers.
Maynooth -- Old Dunboyne Road at Pebble Hill -- Brickworks
Maynooth -- believe it or not -- a Chocolate factory -- early 1950s, probably not marked on maps but local information is sound.
Old army barracks Naas, now Aras Cill Dara site 1930s: Donaldsons Law Printers, also a slipper factory and a mattress factory.



already on EHistory
Parts of Slater's Trade Directory for 1846 (and of course the Trade Directories will be of enormous benefit - we have 1846, 1881  and Porter's 1910 - I have 1846 and 1881 in database form for Co. Kildare)

An article from the Leinster Leader 26 March 1898 on the local industries in Athy

An article from the Kildare Observer detailing the successes of the fledgling lace industry in the early 20th Century - Monasterevin

An Article from the Leinster Leader of January 1906, encouraging local support of the woollen mills.

Some Naas Anniversaries to recall in 2007 - the Group will be featuring some of the events identified below in its programme during the year.  Stan Hickey and Liam Kenny - Kingswear factory on Newbridge Road opened - key employer of young people in mid-Kildare for decades after.

A pamphlet by 'a friend' of Mr. Brooke's on the establishment of his cotton manufacture in Co. Kildare at Prosperous. The pamphlet is an original from the local collection in the Local Studies Dept. of Kildare County Library and is dated 1783.

July 06, 2007



Paper delivered By Guy Williams as the 2007 Hayden Lecture, to Cill Dara  Historical Society, Kildare Town’s local History Group, on Wednesday  4th  July 2007.

It has been said that the key to the present is to be found in the past, if we but choose to look.

On the flip side, HEGEL chose to differ. “What experience and history teach is this – that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

One of our own – GEORGE BERNARD SHAW – developed HEGEL'S theme in his 'Revolutionist's Handbook' and again in 'Heartbreak House'.

In the course of this talk I hope to show that both theories contain degrees of validity.

So, what exactly is the Curragh of Kildare?

Well, it's 4,870 acres of limestone plain, covered by grey-brown PODZOLIC soil, draining to Pollardstown Fen. 'Podzolic' is defined in the Oxford Dictionary simply as “a soil with minerals leached from its surface layers into a lower stratum.” Nothing very special about that, really.

I prefer to concentrate on how the Curragh was created. Particularly the legend of 5th century priestess St BRIGID asking the local king for a patch of land on which to build her monastery, in return for relieving him of his asses' ears that had been the bane of his life.

The king played it cute, telling St Brigid that she could have as much land as her cloak would cover. Brigid quickly gave her response. Summoning three of her acolytes she instructed each of them to grab a corner of her garment and head off northwards, eastwards and westwards.

This they did, until each was brought to a halt, all for different reasons. The first was crossed in her tracks by a hare. The second was confronted by a red-haired woman and the third by a blacksmith brandishing a red hot horseshoe.

Well, Brigid hadn't done badly, had she? 4,870 acres of the finest limestone land, Podzolic to boot.

As to how the Curragh got the name 'the short grass' – over-stocking was held to be the cause.

However, GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS, writing in the 12th century, saw it rather differently. “There are also here the most delightful plains, which are called the pasturage of St Brigid, into which no one dares to enter a plough and of which it is estimated as a miracle that although the cattle of the whole province may have clipped the grass close to the ground in the evening it will appear the next morning as high as ever, and it has been said of these pastures: 'As much as the herds crop during the long day, so much does the cold dew restore during the short night'.” 

John O'Donovan, in his study of the antiquities of County Kildare, carried out in 1837, found no reference in ancient lore to the Curragh as a plain. Its creation was attributed to St Brigid and the story of her cloak. Content to leave well alone, O'Donovan concluded: “If tradition could be relied on it would prove that it was first formed in a common by the saintess.”

The saintess had long gone down beside St Patrick, appropriately in DOWNPATRICK, when her Dublin successors obtained free grazing rights on the Curragh. These were the Augustinian Canons of St Thomas of Dublin, the first 'outsiders' to enjoy such rights.

The Augustinian Canons of St Thomas weren't allowed much time to enjoy unfettered access to the Curragh. In 1207 the Curragh of Kildare became royal property, initially through the marriage of Aoife, daughter of Dermot, king of Leinster, to Strongbow. Dermot might have summoned Strongbow from Wales to sort out local grievances. But Strongbow acted for the English crown.

This would seem to be the first instance whereby the English crown gained title to the Curragh of Kildare. At all events, in 1299 Edward I of England enacted a Statute forbidding the feeding of swine on the Curragh. Clearly the pigs were damaging a sward described as “forming a more beautiful lawn than the hand of art ever made. Nothing can exceed the extreme softness and elasticity of the turf, which is of a verdure that charms the eye, and is still further set off by the gentle inequality of the surface.”

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Crown issued grants of pasture commonage to landowners adjacent to the Curragh. Grantees included Robert Bathe, John Lye of Rathbride, Patrick Sarsfield, Sir Nicholas White, Robert Nangle, Edward Medlicott and Garrett Weasley. As late as 1866 the solicitor representing the heirs of these grantees claimed to the Curragh Commission he could “give evidence of rents paid under these patents, some to the present day. Some were purchased by the Duke of Leinster, and in that way some were extinguished.”

So, we have the SHEEP FARMERS established on the Curragh, paying their dues to the Crown of England.

However, they were soon to share the amenity. In 1599 the Earl of Essex, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, encamped 27 ensigns of foot and 300 horse, declaring: “A better place for deploying of AN ARMY I never beheld.”

In 1641 James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, billeted his army round the Curragh. Two years later Lord Castlehaven took Tully Castle, encamped on the Curragh, “whence I summoned all the castles thereabouts, and had them yielded.”

In 1687 Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, encamped his army at the Curragh. That same year we find the first reference to a CURRAGH RANGER, appointed by the Crown, paid £20 a year, along with his livery. He was charged with protecting the grazing rights and game, as well as preventing encroachments.

Two years later the army of James II – 4,400 strong – trained on the Curragh. And the following year the same army rested up on the Curragh following its defeat at the Battle of the BOYNE.

The time had come for a third party to enter the stage that is the Curragh of Kildare – the RACING MEN.   

While racing may indeed have taken place on the Curragh of Kildare since prehistoric times, it was in 1696 that the first KING'S PLATES – 2 worth £100 each – were run on the Curragh. Two years later travel writer JOHN DUNTON recorded his impressions. “We soon came to the Curragh so much noised here. It is a very large plain covered in most places with heath; it is said to be five and twenty miles round. This is the NEWMARKET of  Ireland, where the horse races are run, and also hunting matches are made, there being a great supply of hares, and more game for hawking, all of which are carefully preserved. . . on this noble plain.”

If the Curragh of Kildare stood comparison with Newmarket in 1698, it is reasonable to assume that it had existed as a major racing centre well before 1696 when those King's Plates were presented

But the SHEEP FARMERS and the RACING MEN were not to have the Curragh to themselves. In 1709 occurred the first record of ARMY manoeuvres on the Curragh, under Lord Cutts. This development was welcomed by local farmers, who found a ready market for horse fodder, hay and oats. For the time being, anyway, those ARMY summer manoeuvres could be ignored by the RACING MEN. After all, they never lasted for very long and left no permanent mark on the landscape.

The Curragh continued to develop as the racing centre of Ireland, with the great and the good beginning to build their RACING LODGES round the periphery of the Curragh. The earliest known engraving of a horse race on the Curragh dates from 1752.

THE COFFEE HOUSE in Kildare was marked on John Roque's 1757 map, though not completed until 1759. Measuring 40 feet by forty feet, it stood 3 storeys high and was built by subscriptions from the racing fraternity. It was one of Kildare's finer buildings.

Lord Chief Baron EDWARD WILLES visited Kildare in 1760, providing this account. “A very pretty town by means of the gentlemen belonging to the Kildare Hunt. Their number sixty-one, and most of the gentlemen have built for themselves little pretty lodges in the town for the convenience of hunting. I came to the Curragh of Kildare, which is the NEW MARKET of Ireland, and I am afraid as much money betted there as at New Market. 'Tis a plain belonging to the king, of about fifteen miles in circumference. I never saw a finer turf; the sports say the sod exceeds that of New Market.”

Agriculturalist ARTHUR YOUNG added his praise in 1777, describing the Curragh as “a plain sheep walk of above 4,000 English acres, forming a more beautiful lawn than the hand of art ever made.”

At the same time the first reference occurs to a STAND HOUSE on the Curragh. While we know a lot about the COFFEE HOUSE – even if no pictorial record survives – we know nothing of the origins or construction of the original STAND HOUSE.

The MILITARY returned to the Curragh in some force in 1783, when the IRISH VOLUNTEERS raised and held a REVIEW on the Curragh – the Dublin soldiery were transported by the Grand Canal, opened three years earlier. 50,000 spectators were said to have witnessed the Review.

The TURF CLUB was founded in 1790, thereby pre-dating the ENGLISH JOCKEY CLUB. The first Irish Racing Calendar was also published in 1790.

In 1796 six canons were dispatched from Dublin, to assist the High Sheriff in “prostrating the numerous cabins that had been illegally built on the common.”
This might be said to mark the first occasion on which the MILITARY and the SHEEP FARMERS came into direct conflict, for it seems reasonable to assume that the illegal cabins had been put up to house shepherds tending their flocks.

Two years later there was a much more dramatic confrontation – if that's the right word to describe what became known as the 'Gibbet Rath Massacre'.

In 1804 the MILITARY returned once more, this time in vast numbers. Between 13,000 and 16,000 troops were stationed on the Curragh “in light marching order and ready to move at short notice.” Their presence was not so much due to unrest in Ireland as to the Napoleonic Wars. The Battle of Trafalgar took place the following year.

In 1807 the MILITARY changed tack apropos a permanent presence on the Curragh. Water had always been a problem – three Draw wells were sufficient for the indigenous populace, but quite inadequate for thousands of troops and their horses. Instead, the MILITARY opted to build a barracks in what was to become NEWBRIDGE, while still adjacent to the Curragh for exercises. At that time the Curragh of Kildare was under the control of the commissioner of His Majesty's WOODS AND FORESTS AND LAND REVENUES.

Alive to the danger the TURF CLUB used its social influence to get the newly-crowned GEORGE IV to visit the Curragh in the course of his 1821 Royal Visit. Denis Bowes Daly of ATHGARVAN LODGE, many times leading owner, Turf Club Senior Steward and a personal friend of His Majesty, secured the King's consent.

By this time the STAND HOUSE was in a parlous state. It mirrored the economic recession in Ireland in the aftermath of WATERLOO, which brought the Napoleonic Wars to a close.

In his book HORSES, LORDS & RACING MEN – brought out to mark the Turf Club's bi-centenary in 1990 – Fergus D'Arcy commented on the composition of the Committee that was formed to renovate the STAND HOUSE in a hurry. The Duke of Leinster, principal landowner in Kildare, was not a member of the Turf Club. Maurice Prendergast was Senior Steward and Robert Brown Curragh Ranger. In D'Arcy's words: “the composition of the Committee acknowledged the fact that while the Turf Club was the organising body of racing, its actual jurisdiction on the Curragh was one of CUSTOM, not law or right.”

Despite the dreadful weather and the King's unfortunate attack of the 'nimblewherries' the Royal Visit to the Curragh was judged a success. His Majesty presented the Royal Whip, which is still run for to the present day.

ROBERT BROWNE, in his role as Curragh Ranger, had more than the royal visit on his plate. Local landowners – notably the lords Sligo, Cremorne and Rossmore – demanded he take action to protect their rights against “vast numbers of persons, perfect strangers, who have fed and pastured large flocks of sheep and cattle on said Curragh without any right to do so. . . to so great an extent as to render the Curragh almost useless. All three were prominent members of the Turf Club and had horses in training. So they were complaining not just as farmers but as racing men as well.
ROBERT BROWNE got little solace from Dublin Castle, reminded that the Curragh Ranger's duty was to the Crown, not to private persons.

The TURF CLUB decided to take measures into their own hands to protect the racecourses and training grounds by enclosing them. EDWARD RUTHVEN, MP – although a Turf Club member himself – became alarmed at the civil unrest that enclosure could provoke. He persuaded the Kildare Grand Jury to create a new office – CONSERVATOR OF THE CURRAGH. Graydon Medlicott, whose family had been in Kildare since the 16th century, was appointed, his salary to be paid by a tax levied on local landowners. The necessary legislation was based on Acts of 1791 and 1796 safeguarding the rights of commonage on the Curragh.

The Commissioner of WOODS & FORESTS wasn't on for this. He applied successfully to the King's Bench to have the office of Conservator abolished in 1836.

And so it rumbled on. In 1841 Robert Browne, Curragh Ranger, wrote to Charles Gore, one of the Commissioners of WOODS & FORESTS. “There is no document or record in the office of the Turf Club or elsewhere by which it can be ascertained when the Stand House on the Curragh was built. There is no lease or instrument in existence from the Crown to the proprietors of the Stand House.”

In plain language the RACING MEN had got themselves ensconced on Crown lands – and nobody could say how.

Another threat to the Curragh of Kildare appeared in 1843 – the IRON HORSE. Railways actually spread out far faster across Ireland than they were doing in Britain in the 1840s and the Great Southern & Western Railway Company sensed profit in laying a line from Dublin to Tipperary. The most direct – and therefore least expensive – route lay across the Curragh of Kildare. The proposed route would effectively bisect the Curragh plain. In doing so it would also bisect the Royal racecourse.

The RANGER and the TURF CLUB were aghast. This railroad proposal threatened the very existence of the Curragh. Intensive political lobbying ensured that the new menace was rerouted, behind the Stand House, away from the existing racecourses and embanked to obscure the track from view. However, it did result in creating what we know today as the LITTLE CURRAGH, or Curragh Beag.

Negotiating on behalf of the Turf Club, the Marquess of Waterford played an absolute blinder. Indeed, he got the GS&WR to fund the construction of a whole new Stand House, in addition to endowing what is still known as the Railway Stakes. The new Stand House was completed by 1853.

Oh, there were other headaches, as D'Arcy records. “A major problem had developed, with local farmers collecting and drawing huge heaps of manure, causing offensive sights and smells, starving the grass and damaging the surface by skimming. By that stage about 20,000 sheep were grazing the Curragh. One hundred years later less than half that number was said to constitute overgrazing.”

However, the incursion of the railway and the actions of the sheep farmers were nothing to what happened next. . .
The MILITARY returned to the Curragh. And how! The Ranger and the Turf Club found themselves powerless to safeguard the Curragh for racing and training in the face of this threat. What was worse, the authorities – the Crown – totally failed to define the legal jurisdiction of both parties – the MILITARY and the RACING MEN.

The demands of the Crimean War necessitated increasing the strength of the Army. Lieutenant-Colonel H.W. Lugard, Royal Engineers, was ordered to construct a permanent camp to accommodate 10,000 men. Water was sourced at 54 feet. Two thousand were employed in the camp's construction. A postmark – 'The Curragh Camp' – dated August 1855 proved that the new camp had been commissioned.

Curiously, the Army had no plans of former military occupations of the Curragh. Nevertheless, before being transferred to Hong Kong, Lugard had completed the construction of a military town, including hospitals, library, churches, courthouse and recreational facilities on the Curragh's Long Hill. Lugard died in Hong Kong on 30 November 1857, while making the necessary preparations and arrangements as Commanding Engineer for the attack on Canton.

Lord Waterford successfully resisted the claims of the War Office to have the old Stand House put at the disposal of the Royal Engineers. Unfortunately, his premature death in 1859 was to deprive the Turf Club of its most influential protector.

When the Curragh Camp had been completed it was understood that it would be used intensively for drill from April to September and otherwise maintained by a skeleton staff.
However, as Con Costello was to write: “As the strategy of waging war evolved so did the tactics, and the expanse of the plain accommodated the innovations of the tacticians. From the mass movement of man and horse to the employment of mechanism, armoured vehicles and the mass expansion of trench warfare the short grass was constantly fought over, for the next 65 years.”

It was not until 1859 that a Memorandum was drawn up, finalizing legal arrangements to transfer part of the Curragh lands from the Crown to the War Department, whereby the latter confirmed “Her majesty's right to about 4,000 acres in the County of Kildare and subject to such rights of pasturage and common if any as are now legally exercisable thereon.” However, this did not pass into law.

Two years later Queen Victoria conferred royal status on the new Curragh Camp when Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, was posted there. Unfortunately, it didn't work out too well for either the Prince or his Mama. The Prince was deflowered by an actress smuggled in for that purpose, contracting venereal disease that rendered him unfit for marriage. Prince Albert, his father, caught a fatal chill while reprimanding his errant son. Mama never forgave Edward for precipitating her husband's death.

But that was an internal affair, of no particular interest – other than prurient – to the Turf Club. They faced another threat – to the very continuation of racing on the Curragh.
Caretaker Patrick Fahey told the Commissioners of Woods & Forests that “Gun carriages cut the Curragh Turf like a ploughshare.” On the third day of the 1861 September Meeting General sir George Brown “commanded a battery of Armstrong guns to be planted on the course and the cavalry to charge over it and thereby reduced it to the condition of a ploughed field.”
The General's antics held up racing for an hour and the newspaper reporter could scarcely believe this “outrage to the wishes of the leading turf men of our country. We should have thought that the drilling and harassing of the troops for the last month would have entitled them to a holiday during the three days set apart for racing.”
The Office of Woods & Forests remained adamant that compensation was the responsibility of the War Department.

Not content with disrupting racing, General Sir George Brown returned to the offensive in 1862 when he proposed to remove all the gorse from the Curragh. Every other interested party rose up in arms. The trainers were terrified that the remaining roots and stumps would injure their horses. The sheep men claimed the gorse essential for sheltering their sheep. The Kildare Hunt protested at the obliteration of their fox coverts.
Ranger Browne successfully lobbied Whitehall to thwart the General, who proposed to employ military labour in his quest to eliminate all furze from the Curragh. Fortunately, Ranger Browne carried the day.

In 1863 the Turf Club and the War Department went head-to-head. Walsh's Hill gallops had been reduced to a regular swamp. The Flat Rath had been severely damaged by trenching. The Jockey Hall gallops – once the best on the Curragh – had been rendered almost useless due to Ball Firing. Robert Hunter, Keeper of the Match Book for the Turf Club, reported: “From an experience of upwards of forty years I never saw the Curragh in anything like the condition it is now in and the training grounds, Queen's Plate and other Courses are in many places unfit to be worked and raced upon.”

Attack, they say, can be the best means of defence. Cornewall Lewis, Secretary for War, put it up to the Turf Club to inform him as to “what is the nature and rights of the Turf Club on the Curragh.” He did so in the knowledge that the War Department had still not agreed any form of lease with the Office of Woods & Forests.

In 1864 the Office of Woods & Forests offered the Army a lease. The Army declined, seeking instead 'guardianship' of the Curragh.

Ranger Brown inevitably became embroiled in what was now open warfare. He complained to the Office of Woods & Forests that “The Stewards of the Turf Club appear to wish to convert the permissive privileges enjoyed by them into a right and to exercise this right independently of the Crown and its officers which they have no right whatever to assume.

Luckily, the Office of Woods & Forests adopted a conciliatory stance informing the Ranger “The Turf Club must, for the sake of the interests they represent, keep the courses (other than the Royal course) in proper order.”

The controversy got to the House of Commons in 1865. Sir Robert Peel contended that the Curragh was Crown property. Colonel Dunne, MP for Queen's County, disagreed. “The Crown has no rights whatever over the Curragh and the move was an atrocious invasion of public property. Whereas Aldershot had been purchased at great cost, the Curragh has been usurped. It belongs to the Irish people.”

Lord Dunkellin supported the honourable member for Queen's County. He said that it had been known for many years that the Government had faulty title and thus no right to transfer the Curragh to the War department. “The Curragh,” he declared, “is a place of national renown and ought not to be cut up and destroyed. The bargain which the Government in about to make is not only illegal, but would be most obnoxious to the whole country.”

Lord Naas's views earned him a leader in the Leinster Express. Clearly the Military occupation was intended to oust every other interest. The loss of so much grazing was unacceptable. Racing had already suffered. The country could not consent to two such usurpations. Even the office of Curragh Ranger was in danger of being abolished.

The government established the Curragh Commission of Enquiry. It sat in 1866. Major Edmund Mansfield, a member of that commission, later told Lord Walter Fitzgerald, “When the Crimean War broke out in 1854, the military authorities established a camp of instruction on the Curragh without asking the permission of anyone, the idea being that it was only a temporary arrangement.”

On pasturage and commonage, the commission concluded that since St Brigid's time “the dwellers round the Curragh claim and enjoy the rights of pasture which St Brigid and the angels won for them.”

Lord Strathnairn, GOC Curragh Camp, did not miss his opportunity, telling the Commission: “the military and the sheep-owners benefit and accommodate each other, and the poor people of the district (those with rights on the Curragh) believe that the Curragh is their own still, and St Brigid's will is not undone.”

Over the 8 days that the Commission sat no fewer than 23 solicitors and or agents represented the interested parties. The Turf Club's representative scored a badly-needed hit when he successfully showed that through permission given to the Club House in Kildare, the Stewards of the Turf Club could exercise rights over the gallops and courses. He backed up this claim by producing leases to the Marquess of Waterford and the Marquess of Conyngham for the Turf Club and to the Baron de Robeck for the Kildare Hunt.

The upshot was the 'Act to make better provision for the Management and Use of the Curragh of Kildare' in 1868. The Act confirmed the status of the Curragh Ranger – by now the Marquess of Drogheda. He was to care, manage and preserve the plain, appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, not by the Secretary for War.

Moreover, the Curragh was divided into three designated areas – Brown Lands, Blue Lands and Green Lands. The BROWN Lands covered the site of the Curragh Camp (575 acres); the BLUE Lands defined the rifle grounds at 463 acres, while the GREEN Lands formed the residue. The military were henceforth to be confined to the Brown and Blue Lands. However, in times of emergency the Green Lands were to become available to the military for reviews, drills and recreation BY WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE LORD LIEUTENANT.

Lord Strathnairn voiced his displeasure at the racing fraternity having what he described as “a direct line to the highest level of the Irish government.”

He was even more unhappy when the Lord Lieutenant – the Duke of Abercorn – aired his views. “What is required is that a portion of the Curragh should be set apart wholly and entirely for the purpose of racing: that the care of that portion of the Curragh should, without prejudice to the rights of pasture, be given up entirely to the Turf Club.”

Abercorn felt that the Turf Club should have similar control over that portion of the Curragh to that enjoyed by the Jockey Club over Newmarket Heath. “The granting of this boon to the Turf Club would only be a fair equivalent for the very serious interference with their gallops and exercise grounds which has taken place in consequence of the constant presence of a large military force on the Curragh.”

Better still – on 27 May 1869 a text was signed on behalf of the Crown and the Turf Club conferring a lease to the Turf Club giving the right to race and train horses over the Green Lands – the western section of the Curragh, bounded on the south by the Dublin-Limerick road, for a rent of £5 a year, subject to rights of common and rights of way.

The army might have lost that battle, but they hadn't lost the war. In 1871 they commenced a major reconstruction programme throughout the Curragh Camp, whereby the old wooden and mineral felt roofs were replaced by brick and slate.

Thirty years later – in 1901 – the Curragh camp was designated Divisional HQ, as it was to remain until 1922. That same year the Army made one last bid for outright victory. In July the War Office proposed to acquire the whole of the grazing rights on the Curragh, with a view to their extinction, only to be reminded that the Turf Club had statutory rights there. The Army was further advised that, although the Turf Club's rights were revocable by the Crown, such revocation was unlikely “unless racing on the Curragh comes to an end from other causes.” Otherwise, the Turf Club's 99-year lease, concluded with the Crown in 1882, would have to run its course.

Still the Army persisted and it was not until 1905 that they abandoned their attempts, realising that the Turf Club had successfully lobbied Lord Dudley, the Lord Lieutenant.

Ironically, the final military damage on the Curragh was caused by the War of Independence.

Two years later, as a consequence of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the lands of the Curragh passed from the Crown to the Minister for Finance and subsequently to the Minister for Defence, administered by his Department's property management branch under the Curragh of Kildare Acts.

On 16 May 1922 the Curragh Camp was formally handed over to the Irish Free State Army. One witness was the future Sister Veronica Treacy, then aged 10. Many, many years later Sister Veronica recalled a snatch of conversation overheard outside a Newbridge pub as the British marched away. “That's the end of them, thank God. Now we can fight away in peace among ourselves!” 
George Wolfe TD, the last holder of the historic post of Curragh ranger appointed by the British Crown, died in 1941. The post was then held until 1961 by the chairman of the Office of Public Works, by appointment of the Minister for Finance.

In 1961 the Curragh of Kildare Act abolished the office of Curragh Ranger, at the same time reapportioning the Brown, Blue and Green Lands. The Brown Lands shrank to 77 acres, while the Blue Lands expanded to 815 acres and the Green Lands diminished marginally from 3,382 acres to 3,284 acres. In preparation for the staging of the inaugural Irish Hospitals' Sweepstakes Irish Derby in 1962 the Act empowered the enclosure of the entire racecourse area and the extermination of all grazing rights therein.

Con Costello published his 'A Most Delightful Station' in 1996, recording the history of the Curragh Camp from its creation in 1855 until its handover in 1922. He concluded on an optimistic note. “The classification of the entire Curragh of Kildare as a National monument in 1995, and the proposal to designate as a National Heritage Area, must surely herald a more concerned approach to the use of the celebrated sward. With the good will of the sheep-owners, the horse owners and the military, combined with the interest of the County Council, local residents and the public at large, it is to be hoped that the official confirmation of the scientific and archaeological importance of the plain will ensure that what remains of St Brigid's open pastureland will be respected and its uniqueness safeguarded for generations yet to come.”

Con lived just long enough to contribute an important essay to 'Kildare History & Society', published in 2006. In his piece – John O'Donovan's Curragh – Con quoted from the Department for Defence's report of 2005. Acknowledging the 4,870 acres therein, it declared: “taking the cultural and natural facets of the Curragh together, it is very possibly the only landscape of its kind in the world. . . the area of the Curragh Lands has been used by the military for many hundred years. Various eras of military involvement in the area have resulted in damage to the lands vis-a-vis its status as an open plain, but much of this damage, i.e. Trench fortifications, pillboxes, ranges, etc., is now part and parcel of the plains as they exist today. The Board would be concerned with ensuring that no needless or wilful damage would be caused by any military activity in the future.”

And so say all of us.

Thank you all for your patience and courtesy.

Clancy, Padraig – Kildare – History & Society, Geography Publications, 2006
Costello, Con – Kildare – Saints, Soldiers & Horses, Leinster Leader, 1991
Costello, Con – A Most Delightful Station, Collins Press, 1996
Costello, Con – Kildare – History & Society, Geography Publications, 2006
D'Arcy, Fergus  - Horses, Lords and Racing Men, The Turf Club, 1991
The Curragh – A Lifetime of Memories – Curragh Local History Group, 1997
The Curragh Revisited – Curragh Local History Group, 2002

Heritage Week, NRA Seminar and Dublin Book Fair

Heritage Week
Heritage Week 2007 will run from 25th August to 2nd September. 

New Heritage Week events are being registered every day with the majority of events expected to be registered by 31st July 2007. Those events registered by 22nd June 2007 will also be included in the Heritage Week Programme of Events (booklet).

Events can still be submitted online at www.heritageweek.ie until 21st August
By searching for events in Kildare you will be redirected to 4 pages on the site of interesting heritage events within the County such as 'Leixlip in Maps' - an illustrated talk on Leixlip by John Colgan, author of 'Leixlip, County Kildare' and contributor to the EHistory site, in Leixlip Community Library, Captain's Hill, Leixlip, Co Kildare (adjoining Confey rail station and 66 bus routes), Kildare
Date: 30/08/2007 - 30/08/2007
Time: 7.30pm


National Roads Authority
Roads, Resolution and Research - NRA one-day annual seminar

The Archaeology Section of the NRA is organising a seminar on archaeological works and findings on national roads projects.
The seminar, which is free of charge, will take place in the Gresham Hotel, O'Connell Street, Dublin 1, on Thursday, 30th August 2007.
Booking is essential.
Contact Lillian Butler
Phone: (01) 6602511
Email: lbutler@nra.ie


             Dublin City Book Fair

               Tara Towers Hotel

                 Sunday July 8th

                 11 am-----5 pm.

Dear Booklover,

 The last book fair before the summer break is on this Sunday in our usual venue , The Tara Towers Hotel. Exhibiting will be approx. 25 dealers with a wide range of books. Items include a collection of almost 30 Irish golf club histories being sold as a set, Canon Fogarty’s scarce “Tipperary GAA Story”, a 1966 Capuchin Annual, with commemorative articles on 1916.


Schull Books will have a wide selection of natural history titles, including Humphreys:  The Genera of the British Moths, 1860, with beautiful hand-coloured plates in an attractive pictorial cloth binding.

Also: Randal McDonnell's When Cromwell Came to Drogheda: a memory of 1649;

and for any Cork exiles: Barry's By Bride and Blackwater: local history and traditions of Fermoy, Glanworth and the Decies.

   A seven-volume set of the highly-acclaimed 1990 edition of The Annals of the Four Masters, edited by John O'Donovan and offered for sale by Craobh Rua Books of Armagh at €650.00.


 As usual parking is free to patrons of the book fair and bar and restaurant facilities are provided.  Admission is an inflation proof €2.00 and many of the dealers offer free valuations. Children are welcome with an adult and the venue is disability friendly.


For further info contact any of of the organisers.

Eddie and Kay Murphy, Lyonshill Books

087-2567908 Email:- lyonshillbooks@eircom.net

Barbara and Jack O’Connell, Schull Books

028-37317 Email;-mailto:schullbooks@eircom.net

Jim Vallely  Craobh Rua Books

048-37-526938  Email:-craobh@btinternet.com


July 03, 2007

A paper by the Baron de Robeck on hunting

Leinster Express 23 April, 1881


The following amusing paper was read by Baron de Roebeck at the entertainment given by the Naas Young Men’s Christian Association, on Wednesday evening:- When I had the pleasure of reading a paper at our opening session we were looking forward to the approaching sports of winter, and in spite of the extreme severity of the weather, we can recall so much that was pleasant and healthful, that we in no wise agree with the poet who speaks of the “winter of discontent.” We had a turn of skating, not minding occasionally getting a good ducking, and the season was wound up with renewed good sport in the hunting field, which I regret was brought to an abrupt end by poison left out, causing death to both fox and hound. I do not believe this was done from any ill feeling towards the noble sport (hear, hear), but with the view of preserving lambs from dogs during the lambing season, and I hope that for the future such a severe remedy will not be resorted to. I said that a really keen sportsman was not to be kept at home, even though, unfortunately, he did not possess a horse, for in that case he would take to using the nag commonly called shanks’ mare (laughter), which is a right good thing in its way when well shod, and not troubled with corns or chilblains (renewed laughter). That’s a nasty word, “can’t” that does an infinity of mischief. One can’t do this, one can’t do that – hang your can’ts! I often think that could the keen foot folks change places with the yards of leather and scarlet, what a much better chance there would be for the chase. They, at all events, come out from a genuine inclination for the sport. But I admit that the man with one horse is better off than the man with none (laughter), so if it can possibly be managed, let us purchase one, and it will not be long be before we shall find out how much sport we can see, even with a single hunter. The cost of hunting, like all other things, depends almost entirely on how you go about it, and surely it is far better “to rove the fields for health unbought” than “sue the doctor for a nauseous draught” (laughter.) Exercise is the best of all medicines; air, water and exercise will cure anything that is capable of relief. So supposing the horse to have been purchased, are there no points on which grey experience can show the beacon lights to hot youth? There are. Some years ago there appeared an advertisement, the purport of which was that the most inexperienced should be taught the secret of riding well for the sum of 2s 6d. For some time the advertiser drove a thriving business, until  at last an end was put to his gains by one of the applicants publishing the answer he had received for his 2s 6d –

 “Your head and your heart keep up,
  Your hands your heels keep down,
  Your knees keep close to you horse’s sides,
  Your elbows close to your own.” (Laughter.)

This is really such very good advice that it can hardly be thought dear at the money; but now that we have it gratis the best thing we can do is to put it into practice. So now let us betake ourselves with our new hunter to the covert side. How various the motives that draw men to the covert side! Some come to see, others to be seen, some for the ride out, some for the ride home, some for appetite, some for health, some to get away from their wives (great laughter,0 and a few to hunt. Ah! give me the few, the chosen few, the band of brothers that come to hunt. Men that know the country, and, above all, know when hounds are running, and when they are off the scent men that can ride in the field, and yet hold hard in the lanes.

“But as to the beginner a word ere we start,
Though keenly excited I pray you remember
That Hunting’s a science, and riding an art.
The fox takes precedence of all from covert,
After the hounds to be ridden not over.
Good hounds were not reared to be knocked on the head.”

Bear this in mind, make a note of it and then,

“If our house be well-bred, and in blooming condition,
Both up to the country, and up to your weight,
Oh! Then give the reins to your youthful ambition,
Sit sown on the saddle and keep his head straight.

Should you see a field nicely laid away, the surface all smooth and the furrows all open, you may conclude that is wheat even though the tender green blades, the promissory notes of life’s coming year are not yet apparent. Some labour hard to make themselves believe that it increases the crop to ride over it, but no man can make himself believe so, unless indeed he is satisfied that a drove of oxen improves the prospects of a flower garden by passing a night in frolicsome diversion therein (applause.) The wheatfield is the farmer’s flower garden; it is to it that he looks for the means of paying his rent and giving his amiable wife and accomplished daughter a scarlet velvet bonnet apiece with a feather drooping over the left ear (laughter.) Let every feeling man then consider when he is about to ride over corn that he is about to trample underfoot scarlet velvet bonnets and with them the farmer’s daughter’s best and tenderest hopes! (Applause.) Now let us observe that to hunt pleasantly, two things are necessary; to know your horse and to know your own mind. The horse is a queer critter. In the stable, on the road, or even in a green lane, he may be all mild an amiable, just like a girl your a courting of; but when he gets into the matrimony of the hunting field, among other nags, which always gets their danders up, it’s another pair of shoes altogether. Howsoever, if you know your horse, and can depend upon him, have a good understanding with yourself whether you mean to go over, before ever you come to a leap, in which case let a man throw his heart fearlessly over the fence, and follow it as quick as ever he can, and having got over the first fence, it’s astonishing how fearlessly he charges the next. Some take leaping powder, spirits of some sort, but it’s a contemptible practice, unworthy of any man (laughter.) Let every one do his best, and grind away as long as he can – at all events until either he or his horse tire, or he gets thrown out.

 “So I wish you good speed,
 A good line and a lead,
 With the last of the troop,
 My you hear the who-whoop,
 Well pleased as you hear tally ho.”

But now the violets are budding in every brake, and the bright blossoms of the primrose tell us that spring has come, and so we may bid our good steed rest – for at this season not a hair of Reynard’s beautiful head would we hurt for the world. So let us turn our trust hunter out to grass, to refresh himself and his legs, until we next need him, and when we have leisure for recreation, we shall find that summer affords us plenty of opportunity for healthy amusement of many kinds. And this year the County Kildare Cricket Club places cricket, lawn tennis, football, quoits, archery, rifle shooting, tent pegging, polo, and athletic sports, within the reach of every one. The object of this club is to provide grounds, and all other necessaries, for these popular pastimes; to bring together and create a friendly intercourse between all classes, and to try and keep many people at home during the summer who have hitherto had no inducement to remain. Athletic sports will be held about the middle of May, and a lawn tennis tournament has been fixed for the middle of July. Matches of all kinds have been arranged with other clubs; in fact no trouble will be spared to make the club grounds a pleasant resort for members, their friends, or visitors and all are requested to give this club their cordial support. But never neglect duty or business by so doing, and there will be all the more enjoyment in joining in sport and games. They give a healthy tone to the mind, and invigorate the body; for, though all play and no work give Jack a ragged shirt, still it is no less true that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (applause).

[Compiled by Mario Corrigan; typed and edited by Carl Dodd]

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2