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June 20, 2008


The Caragh Orphanage --- A Scandal without Precedent (Part III)
Andrew Rynne.
June 2008.
On Wednesday December 9th 1891 the trial opened in the Carlow’s Leinster Assizes before Mr Justice Murphy and a jury of twelve men. The following day’s Irish Times will give you some indication of just how much public interest there was by this time in the affairs of the Caragh Orphanage and its proprietors:
Mr Justice Murphy resumed the businessof the Leinster Assizes this morning at half past ten o’clock. As it was widely known that the charges in connection with the Carogh Orphanage against the Rev. Mr. Cotton and his wife would proceed with first today, the court was thronged. The benches and gallery were immediately occupied admission to the latter being by ticket issued by the Sheriff. There were a large number of Protestant clergymen in court and also a few Roman Catholic clergymen.
A large number of ladies were present and manifested great interest in the proceedings
Edward Carson, even then a barrister of considerable note, and Dr Falconer defended the Cottons while the Solicitor-General Mr Ryan QC and Mr A. H. Ormsby prosecuted.
The proceedings opened with Edward Carson calling for an adjournment on the grounds that: (a) his client had insufficient time to prepare a defence and (b) witnesses for the defence were not available and (c) there were too many Protestants among the jury. This latter point was based on the fact that the Lord Primate had written a letter to the Evening Telegraph some months previously condemning Cotton in the strongest possible terms and so, it could be argued, Protestant jurors would more likely be influenced by their own Primate than would Catholics. These legal arguments were batted to and fro for quite some time when eventually His Lordship intervened and ruled against the motion for adjournment. The jurors were sworn in and the case proceeded. The evidence taken at this hearing was a repeat of that already heard in Robertstown.
The next sitting of this trial was four days later when Dr. Falconer addressed the jury for the defence in a manner most telling of the times and social norms that were in it:
----Mrs Cotton who, of decent birth and accomplishment, had sacrificed her leisure and cared as tenderly as a mother could that miserable mite of diseased humanity, Tommy Collins, the offspring of sin and shame, as well as the other children. Mr Cotton had nothing to gain, but he conceived he was doing the Master’s work in saving temporarily and spiritually these illegitimate children which no other institution would take, and was he to be held responsible if the father of the Burnett children was a diseased dissipated scoundrel and their mother a prostitute!   
And lastly the judge, Mr Justice Murphy, charged the jury in a manner that could only have instilled, in at least some of them, doubts as to the Cottons guilt. It was as if the judge was bending over backwards trying to ensure that no charge of sectarianism could be laid upon a Catholic judge presiding over a court where a Protestant Clergyman was being tried for serious crimes.
He made much of the prejudicial press coverage against the Cottons that had gone before the trial. He questioned why the prosecution had not produced any ex-inmates of Caragh who could have substantiated the findings of Watson, Dowsett, Murphy and McVeagh. And finally he pointed out that since the Rev. Mr Cotton was not actually at the orphanage when the inspectors called that his involvement in the alleged cruelty to children might not have been ‘wilful’.
These arguments were to be trashed out in much greater detail at the subsequent trial in Belfast some months hence but for now they served only to divide the jury who failed to return a unanimous verdict as required by the law of the day. The Cottons were handed down a short reprieve and were free to spend Christmas at home. Carson won a temporary victory.
The trial before the Spring Assize in Belfast commenced on Thursday March 17th 1892 and was carried over four days hearing ending with final sentencing on Saturday July 23rd of the same year. Lord Chief Baron was on the bench with Solicitor General Mr Campbell and Mr W B Ball prosecuting for the Crown and Edward Carson QC and Dr Falconer were once again defending.
Most of the evidence taken was similar to that already heard in Carlow, Robertstown and The Curragh, with the addition of some expert witnesses brought on to support the evidence of the Rev Watson and Mr Dowsett on behalf of the prosecution. This time they were taking no chances that they might again be criticised for lack of supportive evidence as happened in Carlow.
The evidence of Adelaide Parker is interesting in that it throws some light on how things were run in Cotton’s orphanage. Aged just fourteen when giving her evidence Adelaide had spent all of her young life with the Cottons and had recently left for a position in Dublin. During her time, there had been two different matrons in Caragh one a Mrs Allen and the other, latterly, a Miss Hannen. Things were totally different under the reign of each woman – all good when Mrs Allen was in charge and all bad under Ms Hannen. The children were all very fond of Mrs Allen and she was very fond of them.
During the time of Mrs Allen things were so good that the Rev Cotton played cricket with the older boys while his wife knitted stockings for the children. Food and clean clothing were in plentiful supply during Mrs Allen’s time but all reverted to misery when Ms Hannen came along. She was in the habit of locking herself away in her room and not letting the children near the fire.
And while this evidence may not be totally relied upon it does nonetheless suggest that the dedication of the matron in charge at any given time did play a role in the children’s wellbeing and that the Cottons gave their matrons far too much autonomy. But the financial situation at any given time undoubtedly was the predominate factor. Evidence is conflicting as to whether funds were always tight but certainly they were from time to time.
On Tuesday March 29th 1892 the jury, after deliberating for an hour and a half returned a unanimous guilty verdict against the Rev. Mr Cotton -- his wife having been earlier acquitted. Immediately on hearing this Edward Carson was on his feet to drop a bombshell. The indictments against Cotton were invalid since they differed substantially from those of the former trial in Carlow in that they contained the additional charges of manslaughter against infants Brown and Collins. In the end these charges had to be excluded when considering sentencing while the remainder, those of cruelty and neglect stood as indicted. But for a while it looked as though the whole case might have collapsed and Carson may have had the legal triumph of his life.
But Carson then pleaded for mercy on behalf of his aged and sick client. In Marjoribanks biography his moving speech is quoted in full but here some extracts may serve to give its flavour:
I beseech you your lordship to consider the position of this old man. At the time of disestablishment (of the Church of England in Ireland) he, even then advanced in life, sacrificed his own interests in order to promote the interests of the religious body to which he belonged. In all the long period of his ministry, there was never a whisper that he was selfish, or avaricious, or careless of the sufferings of others. ---- He started the orphanage. Who entering upon such a course, could easily look forwards to ease and opulence, and, in heaven’s  name, who could think that any personal ends could be served by systematic neglect of the orphans?---- It is abundantly clear that my client is not a man of business, and that he is weak, unpractical, prone to trust where he should suspect, and, for an old man, singularly, absurdly sanguine. Not the man, I admit, to manage an orphanage, but not of necessity a criminal. ---- Meanwhile, to obtain funds, this old man was compelled to be as constantly on the road as if he had been a commercial traveller. The orphanage saw very little of him: and, while he toiled to collect funds, the working of the place devolved very much on others. ---- My client was very foolish, hoping always for some turn of luck: but I find it hard to consider him a mere vulgar criminal. I trust implicitly in your lordship’s sense of fair play, your feelings of human sympathy, and perhaps I might venture to add of equity, when you come to pass sentence on this broken old man.   
This speech was delivered in slow measured tones to a packed and silenced courtroom. It made a huge impact on the listening public and received widespread press coverage. It drew Edward Carson to the attention of prominent Northerners and, according to some, may have contributed not a little to his eventually becoming their leader.  
Cotton, who at this time was wearing a bandage over his left eye, was released on bail pending sentencing. This took place almost four months later on Saturday July 23rd 1892 before Mr Justice Holmes by which time Carson’s fine speech may have lost some of its impact. Be that as it may Justice Homes took the jury’s guilty verdict seriously on the one hand while acknowledging the prisoners frail health, on the other. Cotton was still wearing the bandage across his left eye. Justice Homes said:
I should not have felt myself at liberty to limit the imprisonment of the traverser to the period which I am about to mention, had his age and state of health been such that he could endure such punishment for a more lengthened period without danger to his life or of probable permanent injury to his health. I am, however, satisfied by the affidavits of the several eminent medical gentlemen which have been filed on behalf of the traverser, including those of Sir George Porter and Dr Charles Fitzgerald, that it would be impossible for him to endure imprisonment for any longer than six months.
In addition to this six months prison sentence Cotton was also fined £100.00 each for cruelty towards four children – Patience Walker, Thomas Collins, Charles Quillet and Mary Hurley. He later appealed against these hefty fines on the grounds that he did not have the means to pay them. The appeal fell on deaf ears. Cotton finally asked the judge that he be treated as a first-class misdemeanant. To which His Lordship replied: I cannot make any such order. The prisoner was then removed to Mountjoy Prison where he served his full six months.
On Sunday January 22nd 1893 the Rev Mr Samuel Cotton was released from jail, an event that did not escape the notice of The Irish Times of the day:
The Rev S. Cotton, who was released from Montjoy Prison last Sunday, has arrived at Caragh having completed the full term of his retention of six months. He looks well but has lost the sight of one of his eyes which had been affected for a considerable time. In a conversation with his solicitor, Mr Lamphier, Naas, he stated that he had been well treated and spoke highly of the prison officials, making special mention of the governor and the medical officer.
One might reasonably expect that this would have been an end to the Caragh Orphanage’s long miserable history and that it’s now disgraced proprietors would have been happy to retire into obscurity. But sadly and incredibly that was not to be. People of Cotton’s personality type seem never to learn and are incapable of change.
On Tuesday March 27th 1894, just over a year since his release from Montjoy, the Rev Samuel Cotton and his wife are yet again summoned before the Petty Session Court in Robertstown to answer charges that:
they at Caragh, on the 20th of February, 1894, and at other days and times within six months previous to that date, did wilfully ill-treat, neglect or expose, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to their health, Thomas Tenison, alias Denison, a boy under the age of 14 years, and Mary Tenison, alias Denison, a girl under the age of 16 years, both of which defendants had under their custody and control.
The hearing was held before the Hon. Colonel Forbes RM and Dr. Neill. Dr. Falconer was again there to defend the Cottons while District Inspector Supple appeared for the prosecution.
The evidence given was that: armed with a search warrant signed by Colonel Forbes R.M., Inspector Supple, Head Constable McKeon, and Sergt. Nolan, Acting-Sergh Sinnott, Constable Donnelly and Constable Mullany and a medical practitioner Dr McDonagh, seven men in all, arrived at Cotton’s house at 11 am on Feb 20th. They were to search for Thomas and Mary Denison and if they found them in a neglected state they were to bear them away to a place of safety.
On arriving at the house the officers were dispersed around the back of the Vickerage where later they were to give evidence of seeing Mrs Cotton inside busily attempting to lock them out. In the meantime Supple and McDonagh were at the front door ringing the doorbell. After a few minutes they were let in by a servant Lizzie Magrath who asked them to wait in the parlour for a few minutes an invitation they declined, going instead, directly into the kitchen.
Here are some extracts of how it was reported in the Irish Times the next day:
Witness (Supple) said he went into the kitchen and there saw Lizzie Magrath putting on some article of clothing on Mary Denison. He examined Mary Denison. Her face was dirty. Her ears were dirty and evidently had not been washed for a considerable time. He saw her stripped to the waist by Dr. McDonagh. She was very thin. Her shoulder blades and chest bones protruded. Witness noticed hair growing between her neck and shoulder blades. She was covered in vermin. Her arms were very thin. There was a mark of a burn on her right forearm. Acting-Sergeant Sinnott gave her some bread and butter. She ate it voraciously. He would say that the child was about six years of age.
Witness then saw Dr. McDonagh examine Thomas Denison. His body was in fair condition. What attracted witness’s attention most was the boy’s feet. Both were tied up with rags or bits of cloth. Dr McDonagh took the coverings off the feet. Both feet were considerable swollen and soggy looking. Both had a circular mark about the size of a tree-penny bit in a state of eruption. All the toes were inflamed and incrusted with white stuff and dirt. The child appeared to be suffering pain from his feet. He was given a portion of bread which he ate like an animal.
This evidence was largely substantiated by several other witnesses. Dr McDonagh said of Mary Denison that she: was very much neglected, emaciated, half starved or receiving food of very poor quality. And of the little boy Thomas Tenison he said: He formed the opinion that the inflammation of the feet was caused by cold, insufficient covering, general neglect and want of sufficient food. His right heel was ulcerated. It was not proper treatment of the child that he should have been walking about on the kitchen floor. The child should have been in bed.
Immediately following this police raid on Cottons Vicarage both children were removed to the Naas Union Workhouse. A week later the hearings in Robertstown Petty Sessions Court resumed.
On Tuesday April 3rd at Robertstown Petty Sessions, bail was settled on the Cottons at £100.00. each and the case was moved to the next Assize in county Kildare. Before that some evidence was taken from Dr. Joseph Smyth, medical attendant at Naas Union Workhouse. He disposed that he examined Mary Dennison on her admission to the workhouse and found her thin and in poor condition and looking as though she was not well cared for. She ate veraciously, something that Dr. Smyth interpreted as a sigh that she was half-starved. She had no organic disease and the doctor saw no need to hospitalise her. She was admitted straight to the workhouse school.
As for Thomas, he was not so well off. Photographs of his feet were passed around the jury in what must have been an early example of the use of clinical photography as admissible evidence in a courtroom. Thomas was hospitalised and recovered in a few weeks.
Then defence council Falconer moved that Mrs Cotton be discharged as she had been the last time out by Justice Murphy in Carlow. This suggestion did not sit well with the bench. Indeed the Hon Colonel Forbes opined that Mrs Cotton was, if anything, more to blame than the Reverend since she was in the house at the time and he was not.
Another factor that militated against Eliza’s release, at least on this occasion, was the fact that Samuel had assigned everything to her on his release from Mountjoy. She was now the sole owner of the Glebe House and lands and she controlled the cheque book. This was done as a ploy so as the Reverend could continue to default on his fine of £400.00.
Finally Lizzy Maguire took the stand and tried to speak up for the Cottons suggesting that it was her who got them “off” in Carlow. But she turned out to be a completely unreliable witness and was asked to step down.
The hearing was then adjourned and the case referred to the next County Assize in Naas.
The case was heard before Lord Chief Justice Sir Peter O’Brien and a jury of twelve good men and true, on Thursday the 19th of July 1894 in Naas Courthouse. Among others giving evidence was Mrs Denison, the children’s mother. She comes across as a woman of fairly low IQ and as somebody unable to give direct answers to council’s questions. It emerged however that she had been wandering the roads, destitute, with her two children, around Sallins when by chance she met up with the Rev Cotton. He invited all three of them back to the vicarage to stay, something that Mrs Denison viewed as an act of the Devine Lord.
Finally and unusually Eliza Cotton was called to give evidence. But she was only in the witness box for a few minutes and said nothing new.  
The Reverend Cotton was examined by prosecuting counsel. He was asked if he was ever in trouble for mistreating children before. Immediately on asking this question and before defence could object, a log with a heavy chain attached was put up on the table before the prosecuting counsel. This caused a big sensation among the onlookers in court requiring the bench to call order and ask that this line of questioning be discontinued immediately. But the point was made.
Then the jury retired for an hour and a half. They acquitted Eliza Cotton but found her husband guilty on all counts. Falconer attempted to introduce the old doctor’s certificate from the previous convictions almost two years earlier, maintaining that Cotton was too ill to serve a long sentence. But the Lord Chief Justice was not impressed saying that he thought the prisoner looked fit enough for his age. He also expressed great satisfaction at the jury’s verdict as being one with which he entirely concurred. He was particularly pleased with Eliza’s dismissal as he thought that that was entirely appropriate and had felt very sorry for her as she gave her evidence.
The Chief Justice remarked that clearly Cotton had learned nothing for his earlier six months imprisonment. That being so he would now double the sentence to twelve months on each count, all to run concurrently. Finally he ordered the guards to: “Remove the reverent gentleman.”
Our last glimpse of Cotton, through the newspapers of the day, is of him standing under heavy guard in chains at Sallins train station. A large crowd have gathered around him and he is loudly heckled and booed.
Samuel Cotton died in 1900 aged 77. Eliza went on to live another fourteen years dying on Sep 19th 1914 with an address on Belmont Avenue, Donnybrook, Dublin. She left an estate valued at £2,642. 19s and 5d. to a Vetitia Myles a married woman.
Perhaps Edward Carson was right when he doubted that Samuel Cotton was a ‘vulgar criminal’ for even vulgar criminals can often learn from their mistakes, acknowledge their wrongdoings for what they are, amend their ways and repent. Cotton clearly could do none of these things. No matter how often or how much he was shamed, fined or punished; it made not the slightest bit of difference to him or to his behaviour. Cotton was beyond cure. An earlier cartoon in the Evening Telegraph depicted the Rev Cotton with a caption underneath saying: He did not cotton on. And while this may not have been very funny it certainly was astute.
He was not a vulgar criminal, he was a recidivist criminal. He was a recidivist criminal with no insight at all into his own wrongdoing. Apart from the logging incidents, Cotton’s crimes were those of omission rather that commission but no less heinous for that. He continually omitted to do what he should have done and that was to ensure that those children within his care were treated properly according to the standards of the day. He repeatedly failed to do this.
He blamed others for what happened in his orphanage. His wife Eliza and that useless matron Ms Hannen were no help to him of course; but at the end of the day the buck stopped with him. He totally lacked realism. This trait was spotted by Carson who called him ’absurdly sanguine’.  He lacked emotion. He seemed indifferent to the suffering that he was causing by his omissions. He was constantly in denial.
He told lies. He saw himself as a victim of unreasonable authority. He was always right while everyone else was clearly wrong. There was only one way to worship God and that was Cotton’s way. Popish Catholicism was wrong and children needed to be saved from it. He asked Constable O’Sullivan if he could suggest a better solution, than chaining a log to a child’s leg, in order to stop them from running away.
He fought with everybody; with his next-door neighbour Charles Bury then living in Summerton and with his neighbour across the road in Woodville Mr. Wray. He took legal actions against both of these gentlemen. He tried to sue Ms Hannen and threatened to sue the Rev Thomas O’Farrell. He fought with his fellow churchmen at Hewetson School and Millicent Church. He claimed Hewetson should never have been moved to its present site and that the choirboys in Millicent, in surplice and soutane, were too Catholic in appearance. Anyone who dared criticize him, however mildly, left themselves vulnerable to litigation.
His thinking, if that you could call it, was fixed and rigid and unyielding. He was a sociopath or what today we would characterise as having an ‘antisocial personality disorder’. But it hardly matters. What matters is that Cotton caused horrendous suffering, for over a quarter of a century, to innocent and vulnerable little children who were placed in his care. Many of them died because of this cruelty. We owe it to these children never to forget them and a plaque should be erected in their memory lest we forget.
I wish to thank the following:
Mario Corrigan, Local History Department, Kildare Library.
Rev David Frazer.
Paul Connolly.
Paddy Behan.
Mary Conliff.
Leinster Leader.
Irish Times.
The third and final instalment of an investigation into the Caragh Orphanage Case by Andrew Rynne. This case represents the true essence of ceratin aspects of local history in that local people know of it but little of the facts are known or it has never been properly explored and written down. It is one of those subjects that constantly come up and while I do think it has been mentioned in at least one book before it is now properly in the public domain. Andrew Rynne has serialised the story in the Leinster Leader and now on EHistory - we thank him for that.


The Caragh Orphanage --- A Scandal without Precedent (Part II)
Andrew Rynne.
June 2008.
Looking back on it now also it would have been far better for Samuel Cotton had he just paid the fine, learned his lesson and henceforth treated the children in his care properly and with respect. But that alas was not within the man’s nature. Instead, he appealed against the fine and on October 12th 1883 appeared in Naas Quarter Sessions before Dr. Darley QC and the following bench of magistrates: Earl of Milltown, Baron de Robeck, Messrs Williams, Tyrell, Nicholson, Dr Joly, T. Cook Trench, Hugh Henry and W A Graig.
The problem with this appeal from Cotton’s point of view is that it drew a very large audience of people who were by now interested in this clergyman and his orphanage and the allegations of cruelty to children. It also drew much press attention and received a great deal of coverage on both sides of the Irish Sea. And while he did succeed in reducing his fine by a half this came at a considerable price in terms of further blackening his character and alerting interested parties to other possible cases of child abuse not then before the court.
The hearing was substantially a rehash of the earlier one. But in addition to the witness called in Kilmeague this time the children who had been logged were also given a hearing. Having heard all the evidence the magistrates were divided as to appropriate fine, some thinking that the earlier hearing in Kilmeague handed down the proper penalty, while others felt that it was perhaps excessive. However they were unanimous on one point and that was as to the illegality of Cotton’s actions in spancelling children for any reason. Mr Cooke Trench characterised Cotton’s offences as being “of a most revolting nature contrary to all the feelings of humanity” and so revealed himself as being one that would have let the original fine stand.
Perhaps the editorial of the Leinster Leader the following Saturday October 20th 1883 captures some aspect of the feelings of the times:
The Rev. Mr. Cotton has small reason to feel satisfied with the results of his appeal and friends of humanity have cause to rejoice that the barbarous ill-treatment inflected upon helpless children in the notorious institution which the Rev. Evangelizer manages has been further exposed and more decisively condemned. True, the penalty was reduced somewhat, but the moral effect of the whole proceeding is to emphasise the verdict of the Magistrates who sentenced Mr Cotton to a fine of £10.00. at Kilmeague Petty Sessions. Of the manner in which the reduction of the penalty was accomplished we can hardly trust ourselves to speak. It is not calculated to inspire people with a high sense of the judicial qualities of the “great unpaid” to witness Justices of the Peace whipped in from the most distance parts of the county to sit on a Bench, where they were never seen before, for the purpose of whitewashing an institution which has been proved in open court to have been managed on the principles that immortalised Do-the-Boys Hall, and with the further object of licensing this latter day Squeers to still pursue his humane methods of spancelling and logging We should have thought that even bigots would not mingle inhumanity with their bigotry; it might have been expected that a sense of shame would have deterred gentlemen from combining to bolster up the system of evangelising which consists of buying into utter slavery infants at so much a head, and of instilling into their souls a knowledge of Him who loves little children by a course of savage punishment.  
This was strong language. Other newspapers took a more moderate approach to Cotton’s antics but none could be said to be in any way apologist or at all approving or in any way supportive. Cotton had few friends in the newspapers of his day.
There now followed an eight year respite for the Cottons from summons and charges and court appearances. But it must have been a very uneasy respite, the calm before the storm. For dark clouds were gathering over their heads about which they could not have been unaware. These must have been deeply worrying times for the occupants of the Glebe House and proprietors of the Caragh Orphanage.
Several terrible events now occurred concurrently, each generating its own domino effect and all combining to produce a plethora of charges against the Cottons and an army of credible and professional witnesses to support these charges. These events were (1) The cases of the Burnett children, and (2) The manslaughter charges, the enquiry into the deaths of an eight year old William Brown at the orphanage a few years earlier in 1878 and a second contemporary manslaughter charge, that of Thomas Collins who we know about from McVeagh’s evidence.
Indeed so complex had things become that the authorities themselves were becoming confused. In their haste to bring all the charges of cruelty, neglect and manslaughter under one roof before a judge and jury at the Leinster Assize, they inadvertently omitted the manslaughter cases. When these were surreptitiously slipped into the retrial in Belfast some months later this was spotted by Carson with near catastrophic consequences.
The Burnett case first came to trial on October 29th 1891 before magistrates at Robertstown Petty Assize. The charges were that they, the Cottons, on the 14th and 15th of October 1891, and on other days within six months passed, at the Caragh Orphanage, did wilfully mistreat, neglect or expose the following children: Thomas Whitney, Thomas Warren, Benjamin Wallace, Thomas Collins, Henry Norton, Charles Quillett, Ellen Carson, Patience Walker, Alex Burnett, Samuel Burnett, Mary Shirley, Eliza Winter and Eliza Burnett.
The chief witness on the opening day of this trial was the Rev. John Watson rector of Charlemount in County Tyrone. About December 29th of last year (1890) he had arranged for the admission to the Caragh Orphanage of seven children of the Burnett family age between two months and thirteen years who were born out of wedlock and whose mother had recently died. Following this Watson sent Cotton various small sums of money towards the children’s upkeep and in return received glowing reports from Cotton as to the children’s good health and happiness.
In his reassuring communications with Watson, Cotton made one small omission in that he failed to alert Watson to the fact that one of the Burnett children --- Elizabeth or Lizzie, then aged three years and three months had been admitted to the Adelaide Hospital suffering from gangrene of all her toes. The Rev Mr Cotton brought her in himself. The gangrene of course was caused by frost bite and woeful neglect.  The hospital matron, Miss Gertrude Knight, give evidence about Lizzie’s condition when she was brought to the hospital on April 29th 1891:
The child was reeking with filth and dirt, so much so that the cloths which were taken off of her had to be burned. The child was swarming with vermin, and it was found necessary to shave her head to get rid of the abominable state of things. Her body was filthy and her feet were draped in dirty rags. She was suffering from gangrene of her feet; three or four of her toes on each foot were completely black and diseased. The doctor would prove that the child had been grossly neglected. She must have been a week at the very least in the same condition. She was also ravenous for food. The child presented all the appearances of having been half starved and devoured any food given to her.
Lizzie, who was still under hospital care at the time, was brought into Court that day in Robertstown. The prosecution wanted the bench to examine her feet and see for themselves that all her toes missing. But the magistrates declined the offer. A reporter in court describes the scene like this:
The child, a chubby little girl, well, warmly and nicely dressed, was lifted up to the view of the bench, who, however, declined to inspect its feet.
And this was only some six months after her original ordeal. She made a great recovery.
The same reporter from the Kildare Observer paints this sad picture:
Around the fire in the courtroom were grouped a number of children from the Caragh Orphanage, all nicely dressed; but one part of the display rather failed of the objective for which it was designed; three little girls, all apparently under the age of twelve years sat, each having in her arms an infant of a few months old fed from a feeding bottle. Those poor little nurses sat in the courtroom from 12 o’clock until close upon 6 0’ clock, when long after the shades of night had fallen,
the court was adjourned. The sight was not an edifying one though at intervals Mr and Mrs Cotton devoted themselves to the babies.  
When the Rev. Watson became aware that Elizabeth had been hospitalised in such an appalling condition he immediately became alarmed for the safety of the other Burnett children. He contacted the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and in the company of two their officers, a Mr Dowsett and Inspector Francis Murphy, on 19th of October 1891 they made a surprise call on the Caragh Orphanage.
What follows makes for unpleasant reading but in does take us right inside the Caragh Orphanage during an unscheduled inspection. This is the evidence of the Rev Watson as reported in The Kildare Observer October 31st 1891:
He visited the Caragh Orphanage on October the 14th with two inspectors of the society, Mr. Dowsett and Mr. Murphy. He fancied he arrived there about 12 o’clock. They came up to an entrance door which was in a wall, and pulled the bell several times. He then went to a cottage close by and made some enquiries. They then went past the wall and got onto a ditch and saw the matron and some of the children and beckoned to them through the window. But they would not come out. The witness went to an opening in the hedge and got in that way. The first room that they got into was the kitchen which was in a most filthy state. There were several children there. The children that he had sent there meet him at the door and appealed to him (to take them home). They presented the most filthy and neglected appearance; in fact he did not know them at first – they were Mary and James and Samuel Burnett. A little girl with a baby had charge of the children. They next went to the schoolroom which was in a wretched condition, dirt everywhere, no fire and seven or eight children in it; they were miserably dressed and some were crying with the cold. Most of the windows contained only broken glass. The matron Ms Hannen was there. They visited the girls and boys bedrooms and found the beds in a most filthy and dreadful state. There was one iron bed without any coverings and another wooden bench; some beds seemed to have sacks stuffed with hay on them. When looking at the beds they heard a cry and going over to some dirty hay in the corner, they found a child of six months old; it presented a most sickly appearance, the hay was wet around it, and the Inspector, lifting it up in his arms carried it down to the kitchen. Witness was standing at a bed and near him was a bundle of rags. Looking down he saw a movement; he lifted up an old coat and there found a baby six weeks old, and the bundle beneath it was soaked with filth. There was a dreadful sickening smell, and witness was unwell for two hours afterwards.
Dr. McVeagh, who visited the orphanage the following day, had, as we saw a similar story to tell. All in all it was to be a bad day in court for the Cottons.
The William Brown manslaughter case against Cotton was heard a week later. It was initially held at the Curragh Petty Sessions Court before Colonel Forbes, RM with Mr William Grove White Crown Solicitor, prosecuting, and Dr. J B Falconer defending. But this case only barely got off the ground when, two days later, on November 18th 1891, we find the Cottons summons to a coroner’s inquest in Dublin inquiring into another death at the orphanage, this time a contemporary one. Thomas Collins, the baby they had discovered in the kitchen, as expected, died.
Things rapidly went from bad to worse. While the authorities were investigating the death of baby Collins at the Caragh Orphanage they did not fail to notice the revolting state of the place and the obvious distress of its helpless little inmates. Less than a week later, on November 24th 1891, the Cottons yet again find themselves before Colonel Forbes RM at the Robertstown Petty Sessions. At this stage the Rev Cotton is a remand prisoner in Kilkenny Jail and has to be taken in chains to make his appearance at Robertstown. The summons charged the defendants, in the first instance, with ill-treating, neglecting and exposing Adelaide Parker, Kathleen Lynch, Anne King and Mary Wills or Willet in a manner likely to be injurious to their health and wellbeing. And in the second instance the summons charged the defendants with ill-treating, neglecting and exposing Bernard Savage, Thomas Brown, Charles Headly and Robert Steel in a manner likely to be injurious to their health and wellbeing.
Some evidence was taken at this short hearing but in the end Colonel Forbes said that this case against the Cottons should be taken as part and parcel of the former cases and all to be returned for trial before a judge and jury at the next Leinster Assizes. It was at his stage that the manslaughter charges appear to have been mislaid.
Dr Falconer applied for bail for his reverent client and his wife so as they could prepare for their defence. This was granted and fixed at £50.00. each plus surety for the same amount. The case was moved to the Carlow Assize to be heard some weeks later commencing on Dec 10th 1891.
The Kildare Observer of November 28th 1891, for reasons best known to itself, seems to think it necessary to caution its readers against jumping to any hasty conclusions. In doing this it also misleads them by presenting the case as if charges were only being preferred against the Reverend, airbrushing Eliza Cotton out of the picture altogether. However, the piece does serve to indicate just how much interest there was in Kildare and far beyond in the Cotton scandal at the time. Tongues were waggling:
The Rev. S. G. Cotton is now committed for trial on two distinct charges of manslaughter, and four of cruelty to children. He will be tried at the Winter Assizes and his guilt or innocence of these grave charges determined. In the meantime it would be decent if people who ought to know better would restrain their expressions of opinion on the matter, and let the prisoner have some semblance of fair play. We have as much repulsion for manslaughter as anybody and we look with horror upon the crime of extracting money from the flesh and blood of innocent children, but we think that no man should be adjudged guilty of these frightful charges until adequate investigation has been made into them by the proper tribunal. We make these remarks because everywhere Mr. Cotton’s guilt is assumed, and people are only divided in opinion as to the amount of punishment he should receive, and we consider the expression of such views highly improper. When he is found guilty, if such be the termination of the trial, will be quite time enough for the bursts of execration that are now a little prematurely indulged in.
The second part of an investigation into the Caragh Orphanage Case by Andrew Rynne


The Caragh Orphanage --- A Scandal without Precedent.
Andrew Rynne.
June 2008.
Just before crossing the Grand Canal at the Cock Bridge, a mile from Prosperous as the crow flies, heading eastwards towards Mondello and Caragh, you will see on your left hand side, hidden behind briars and bushes, an old ruin locally referred to as Tommy Everett’s house. This is the site of an earlier alehouse called The Cock and the establishment that gave the bridge its name. But tucked in immediately behind this ruin are the flattened remnants of a place with a darker and far more sinister past. For here is the site of the infamous Caragh Orphanage where babies, infants and children were much abused, starved and neglected during most of the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
The Caragh Orphanage was founded by the Rev Samuel George Cotton and his wife Eliza in 1865. What motivated the pair to engage in an enterprise for which they were so hopelessly ill-equipped is not clear. Possibly the prospect of saving destitute children for the Protestant faith came closest to an explanation. For certainly Cotton was a zealous evangelist and an Episcopalian for whom proselytising came naturally. Opening an orphanage gave him an almost endless supply of infant souls to save from popery.
We get a good idea of Cotton’s general appearance and demeanour from Edward Marjoribanks biography of Edward Carson (1932.) Here he describes Cotton in 1892 as he approached his biblical life expectancy of three score and ten during his trial in Belfast before Chief Baron Palles with Edward Carson defending. The trial had been moved to this venue following the collapse of an earlier trial on much the same indictments held before the Leinster Assize in Carlow where the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict as required by law:
First, the said reverend client’s saint-like appearance and demeanour. Here was a venerable clergyman, approaching the Psalmist’s limit of human life, garbed in becoming clerical, and yet not offensively sacerdotal, cloth; his neck-cloth was of the old voluminous, innocent sort, tied in front in a rather awkward bow. No wonder the soft-hearted Kildare (sic) jury had disagreed! How should a shepherd in his quest for money on behalf of the stray, orphaned lambs occupy himself with the tying of a neckcloth? His bearing was that of a primitive Christian in the presence of a Pro-praetor. Nor did he have the disadvantage of faculties unimpaired. He suffered from not only the ordinary infirmities of old age and from the malice of his enemies, but he was pathetically deaf, so deaf that he was compelled to wear, attached to each ear, a little metal plate in the form of concave shell, that apparently served the purpose of an ear trumpet.
When, in the course of the trial, a strong point was made against him, of course he never heard: but one of his friends, a sort of interpreter of calumny, speaking into his ear, explained or quoted: then followed an extra-clerical look of the resigned and forgiving Christian martyr on his pained but benign countenance.
In a word, he seemed just the person to be father to the fatherless, and to desire nothing more in this world than to receive into his loving old arms those who the mysterious providence of heaven had deprived of their natural protectors. A veritable Dr. Primrose this, a Vicar of Wakefield, yet he found himself treated as if he acted like the Jenkins of the same story.
But if Cotton’s appearance was that of an eccentric, saintly, innocent father-like figure then his actions seriously belied such an image. Again and again in the press of the day we are reminded of just how appalling his orphanage in Caragh really was. Even allowing for the standards of the day it is difficult to see how any human being, never mind a clergyman, could oversee such cruel and humiliating treatment being meted out to defenceless children on a daily bases. They slept upstairs on stinking mattresses of straw or on the bare floorboards often with no more than a sack to cover them at night. Their clothes and underclothes were in a filthy state their feet unshod and their legs bare. The windows of their sleeping quarters and their schoolroom downstairs contained mostly broken panes of glass.
Their staple diet was Indian meal stirabout served mornings and evenings with boiled sheep’s head on Sundays. The babies were given fresh cow’s milk while the other inmates were occasionally given buttermilk. Meat was in very short supply and took the form of American bacon from Naas. Nowhere was evidence ever given of the children been served any bread, eggs or vegetables. Potatoes made rare appearances. Thus all the children would have been seriously malnourished and hungry most of the time. In appearance they were stunted, retched and anaemic looking. They were each made to have a cold bath every Saturday evening before retiring to their straw mattresses or bare floorboards. They dried themselves off with sackcloth. The bath water was not changed between each child washing. Fires were seldom lit and broken panes of glass never replaced.
Just as an example, a very poignant description of how bad things really were at Cotton’s orphanage was given in evidence by a Dr. John Francis McVeagh at the Petty Sessions held in Robertstown on Tuesday October 27th 1891. The reporter for the next Saturday’s Kildare Observer reports:
Dr. McVeagh said he visited the Orphanage on October 18th. He found the rooms in a most filthy condition. In the kitchen he saw a little baby named Thomas Collins, aged about eight weeks in a painful state of dirt, its little body all excoriated, clad in filthy rags and apparently dying from inattention and cold. He saw Mary Hurley, aged three months, in a similar filthy condition; with insufficient clothing; Minnie Burnett dirty, nine months, and insufficiently clad and fed. He next saw a batch of children among whom were Ellen Carson aged two years, Charlie Quillett, aged two, Patience Walker, aged four, Thomas Whitney, aged five, Thomas Warren, aged five; Benjamin Wallace, aged six, Henry Norton, aged four; and Elizabeth Winter aged four. He found these children in a most wretched state from improper food and clothing and from uncleanliness. Some of their underclothing, little that it was, was most filthy; their little limbs attenuated and the colour of their bodies mostly anaemic for want of red blood; their growth stunted, and no appearance of muscular activity. Several had blotches on their skin that appeared like burned holes from want of proper food. The sanitary conditions in the house and surroundings were the most appalling he had ever witnessed. The sleeping apartments were most wretched and filthy, several broken panes of glass, no fire, the beds dirty and two cots were dirty with stale and very filthy hay in them for beds. The air was foul throughout the house, all the little children shivering with the cold, and in a state of terrorism, afraid to speak. The wretched hole called the bathroom was most filthy. The kitchen was in a wretched state, with a small fire around which a few shivering children were trying to warm themselves. The force pump, which supplied the inmates with water, was bedded in a mass of gutter and ordure. .         
The orphanage was built within the grounds of Cotton’s Glebe House that still stands there today. Initially the two-story slated building was sufficiently substantial to accommodate up to forty inmates and staff. Most of the building remained standing up until recent times. Those cared for within these walls were babies, infants and children up to the age of fourteen years. These children were held by law under an Indenture of Apprenticeshipandorphaned either by virtue of the fact that both their parents were dead but more usually by virtue of their being born out of wedlock. All were instructed in the Protestant faith irrespective of their religion on entering this institution. This salvage from Popery was a very strong motivating factor in Cotton’s establishing his institution in the first place.

The Caragh Orphanage and its proprietor were never far from controversy or out of the news for very long. From reading the voluminous newspaper reports of the time the Rev. Cotton comes across as a cantankerous and litigious individual who easily made enemies.

The first time the Caragh Orphanage made it into the newspapers in an adverse fashion was in 1874 in what was then referred to as The Bennett Case. When Catherine Bennett’s husband died in 1873 she was left destitute with four children the three eldest of which she sought to place in the Caragh Orphanage. Eventually Cotton agreed to this and had Catherine Bennett sign an indenture of apprenticeship giving him charge of the children and allowing them to be raised in the Protestant faith.

Some time later Catherine Bennett appears to have had a change of heart and sought to take her children back. There followed an altercation in the Glebe House between Bennett, Rev Cotton and Eliza Cotton during which the Reverend claimed that Ms Bennett bit his hand twice while he attempted to forcibly eject her from his house. This kafuffle later led to a writ of habeas corpus being served against the Cottons which in turn produced a flurry of sworn statements of claims and counterclaims. Anyway, the net result was that on August 21st 1874 Mr Justice Fitzgerald ruled that the indenture of apprenticeship binding the children to the Rev Cotton’s care was not valid and that the children must be released.

But the case was damaging to the Cottons. In her affidavit sworn on August 6th 1874 Catherine Bennett states that:

In March last I visited the children and found them covered with vermin, and my boy, John, covered with sores. I want to take my children away because of the wretched way in which they are being kept and because I now want to bring them up Roman Catholics which was their father’s religion as it is my own.   

This was not strictly true. Their father was buried a Protestant and perhaps Catherine was a bit of a trouble maker. But the Rev Samuel Cotton could have saved himself an awful lot of trouble and very bad press had he simply allowed her take back her children without fuss. Then, as if to make a bad situation even worse Cotton, through the letters page of the Examiner, allows himself become embroiled in a very public, ill-tempered and pointless correspondence with a clergyman of opposite persuasion the Rev. Thomas O’Farrell Roman Catholic Administrator of the Diocese of Cloyne. Here the two men slog it out with Cotton as ever threatening to sue all round him and O’Farrell accusing Cotton of being a proselytizer and kidnapper. This open correspondence dragged on over two months and eleven acrimonious exchanges starting September 16th 1874. There were no winners of course but the Rev. Cotton, being the more vulnerable, had the most to lose.  

Things were quiet enough though for the next nine years with Cotton managing to keep his orphanage out of the limelight, Then in September 1883 reports of cruelty to some children at the orphanage came to the attention of the then fledgling Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children based in Liverpool. The Society asks that the local Constabulary in Robertstown make inquiries into these allegations.

Cotton initially appeared before the Kilmeague Petty Sessions on Tuesday August 28th 1883. He was unable to be represented on this occasion because his solicitor was on holidays. He also objected that he had not been given a copy of the details of the charges to him. He was given a copy and the court adjourned for a while giving him an opportunity to consider them. On resuming the Rev Cotton then objects to one of the magistrates on the bench; Mr Charles Bury, whom he accused of bearing enmity against him for the past twenty years. He also pointed out there was litigation pending between himself and Mr Bury over the matter of the sale of potatoes!

At the end of the day and after much ill-tempered bickering the case was adjourned and Mr Bury steadfastly refused the leave the bench.

The case was resumed two weeks later and on September the 11th 1883 the Rev. Samuel Cotton was again prosecuted before a petty session of the magistrate’s court held in Kilmeague. This time he was represented and was prosecuted for committing an aggravated assault on four of the orphan children under his care. On the bench were: Major Hutchinson R.M. (in the chair); Captain Waring R.M.; Robert Mackay Wilson R.M.; A.J. Owen, Captain Rainsford and Dr. Hayes. Charles Bury was conspicuous by his absence on the bench although he was in court. Mr. Edward Lord appeared on behalf of the Crown and Dr. W G Toomey solicitor defended the Rev. Cotton.

Giving evidence before the court was Head Constable O’Sullivan from the Robertstown constabulary. He said that on August 2nd last that he visited The Caragh Orphanage and saw in an adjoining field a boy of between the age of eight and eleven years who seemed to be dragging something after his leg. On closer inspection O’Sullivan discovered that this child had a chain fastened around his ankle and that to this was attached a large wooden log. This boy’s name was William Nolan.

The child was not wearing any shoes or stockings and the padlocked chain seemed to eat into his flesh. Later O’Sullivan was to learn that the Rev Cotton held the key to this padlock.

When questioned about this at the orphanage Cotton seemed surprised at the fuss. He said that he had no choice but to so tether the boy to prevent his escaping again as he had done some days previously. He saw no reason to discontinue the practise nor had he any intention of discontinuing it. He was defiant but fully cooperative with the constable and sought to hide nothing.

Thirteen days later head constable O’Sullivan made a second visit to Cotton’s institution. This time he discovered two boys named Ross and Cleary aged about eight padlocked and chained together by their ankles with one of them further chained to a log. When questioned about this Cotton again seemed unperturbed stating that this chaining was necessary to prevent the children running away as they had done some time previously.

 Then a little girl named Ellen Kelly aged twelve years approached O’Sullivan and said: “I had that log on me night and day from the 2nd to the 11th of August and had to assist in the work of the house during all of that time.”

The constable asked that the log be given to him. This the Rev Cotton refused to do but did allow it to be weighed. A scales was produced and the log and chain were found to weigh exactly 4lbs and 12 ozs.

Later this log was produced in court and solicitor of the prosecution Mr Lord asked the bench to look on “that instrument of torture”  and then to imagine the feelings of the poor little child who had to drag it after her night and day for nine days.

Sometime around the 1stof August 1883 four children had escaped from the Caragh Orphanage and were later recaptured in Allenwood some five miles away. It is probable that they travelled via the canal towpath through Robertstown and Lowtown to better escape detection. Ellen Kelly was accused of being the ring leader and of encouraging the boys to steal potatoes along the way from a neighbour’s field called Scully.

The Rev. Cotton’s attitude to this ‘logging’ as it was called was that it was a just punishment for the escapees and would prevent and discourage them from running away again. He asked the constable if he could suggest a better punishment or course of action.

 But if he tried to make light of it the magistrates were not impressed. After all, at this time the Infant Life Protection Act 1872 provided some protection for children placed in private fosterage and Cotton’s actions in spancelling children together and to heavy logs must have violated that Act. His dismissive attitude was either a reflection of his ignorance of the laws of the land or of his arrogance or perhaps both. In any case the charges were not contested as to fact but the defence, through his lawyer Dr W G Toomey, attempted to characterise logging as a legitimate form of corporal punishment. He further contended that flogging, then legal, was far more injurious than logging since the latter was at least quantifiable while the former clearly was not.

The hearing in Kilmeague dragged on for two days after which the magistrates retired to consider their verdict. Within a short time they returned and fined the Rev Cotton £10.00. that is £2.00. each in the case of the three boys Nolan, Ross and Cleary and £4.00. in the case of the girl Ellen Kelly chained for nine days. Based on the average wages of the time £10.00 in 1883 would be about €6,000.00. in today’s money --- a hefty fine indeed.

For any man in his situation at this time it would be normal for him to consider appealing against this high fine but to otherwise keep his head down until at least after his appeal. But that was not how the Rev Cotton operated because three days after being fined we find him rushing into print in the letters page of next Saturdays Irish Times:

Sir, I ask permission to remark that in your leading article of yesterday you are not accurate in assuming that the boy who was logged was working in a field.

He went into the field of his own choice but his work was in the printing office, where the log would not injure him.

The letter continues in this self-serving manner where Cotton again tries to justify chaining children to logs and even going so far as to blaming one of his victims - Ellen Kelly, for her own misfortune:

The girl, a very bad and vicious character, was chiefly employed at her desk in school sewing or washing, when a log was of no inconvenience to her.

Because this letter to the press is utterly pointless in terms of redeeming its author, one is tempted to view it more as the squawking of a self-publicist rather than the pleadings of an innocent man. For, as we have already seen, Cotton loved to see his name in print.  


The first part of an investigation into the Caragh Orphanage Case by Andrew Wynne


June 19, 2008


On Tuesday we had a visit from two of our more famous historical journalists - Liam Kenny who writes a weekly column 'Nothing New Under the Sun', for The Leinster Leader and contributes all these articles to EHistory and Frank Taaffe who has been writing his 'Eye on the PAst' column for the Athy page of the Kildare Nationalist now for many years and has recently committed many of these articles to the web - Athy on the Past blogspot
Both of course are well known in Co. Kildare Local History circles and are involved in the Naas and Athy Local History Groups and the Co. Kildare National Monuments Advisory Committee (Frank Taaffe is the Chairman).

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Liam Kenny, Mario Corrigan and Frank Taaffe

Reading Room, Local Studies, Genealogy and Archives Dept.


Secret meeting marks Kildare sequel to Flight of the Earls
Each year seems to have its big anniversary theme which sets the scene for a programme of recreations, seminars, and commemorations. Just nine years ago Ireland marked the bicentenary of the 1798 Rising with much pageant and re-enactment. Last year it was the 90th anniversary of the 1916 rising which formed the backdrop to a year of recollection and revisiting of a formative event in the story of modern Ireland. For 2007 the anniversary theme was grounded a little further back in time, centring around the episode eulogised in song and in story as the ‘flight of the earls.’   This departure of the leading lights of the Irish elite in September 1607 prompted a rich programme of events, festivals and commemorations. Unusually for a major historic event the details of where and when it happened are specific and well recorded. On 16 September 1604 a vessel left the coast near Rathmullen on the shores of Lough Swilly in county Donegal: on board were the elite of indigenous Irish society such as Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell; Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, the Maguire of Fermanagh, and their retinues of advisors, military chiefs and scholars. Their hasty departure was the result of plot and counterplot in the struggle for power between the Irish chiefs on the one hand, and the British government represented by the Lord Deputy in Dublin Castle on the other.
 Many far-reaching consequences are attributed to this hasty excursion from Irish shores. It marked the end of the ancient Gaelic leadership – the O’Neill dynasty at that time claimed to be the longest surviving aristocratic dynasty in Europe. It  paved the way for the plantations, giving the British authorities scope to settle English and Scots planters in Ireland and particularly in Ulster – a population shift which was to have disturbing consequences over the following four centuries. And it was also a colourful instalment in what has become known as the Irish diaspora – the descendants of the Earls settled in continental Europe and became prominent figures in society especially on the Iberian peninsula. 
Although strongly associated with Donegal and Ulster, the flight of the earls had a little-known Kildare connection which this year has been highlighted by Rathcoffey historian Seamus Cullen who has unearthed detailed evidence of a post-flight rendezvous which occurred in the old gardens of Maynooth castle. Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell, and in the front rank of native Irish leaders, had married Bridget Fitzgerald of Maynooth Castle in 1605 when she was just sixteen. They had a son Hugh, named after his famous uncle Red Hugh O’Donnell, but before they could settle as a couple Rory had to join his compatriot earls in their daring escape from Rathmullen. However he made sure Bridget and his son were provided for and two days after the flight a secret meeting took place in the old Garden of Maynooth castle which, according to local tradition, was located on the north bank of the Lyreen river - later occupied by Kavanagh’s Mills and now by the Manor Mills shopping centre. There a priest, Fr. Eoghan Groome, acting on behalf of Rory, handed a message and eighty-one pieces of gold to Bridget who was now pregnant with a second O’Donnell child. While the gold no doubt tided Bridget over the enforced separation the couple were never to reunite. Rory and his fellow earls had a terrible voyage, their ship being blown back away from Spanish waters to the shores of France where they landed exhausted and managed to make their way to the sanctuary of the Fransiscan College at Leuven in Flanders (Belgium). They subsequently travelled overland down through Europe to Rome where, despite having survived the hardships of travel on sea and on land, Rory O’Donnell contracted fever and died in July 1608 less than a year after leaving Ireland.
Bridget was to have a much longer life but a highly eventful one eventually becoming the mother of nine further children by a second husband, Richard Barnwall of Turvey in north Co. Dublin and living to the ripe age of 93. But then any woman with a forename and a surname so grounded in Co. Kildare tradition as ‘Bridget Fitzgerald’ was bound to have an exceptional story.
* My thanks to Seamus Cullen, Rathcoffey historian, for sharing his in-depth research on the Kildare connection to the flight of the earls.
** Readers interested in the story of the Earls when they reached the European mainland will be interested in talk by Mr. Malachy Vallely, Director of the Irish College in Leuven, which takes place in Naas Library on Monday, 3 December at 7.45pm
Series no: 43

A fascinating Kildare link to the story of the Flight of the Earls recounted by Liam Kenny in 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' - Leinster Leader 29 November 2007.  



Adultery at Lyons, treason at Rathcoole – court cases that shocked Leinster
Crime and the courts have an enduring fascination. The minutiae of scandalous crimes or the detail of salacious trials remain in the folk memory over many generations. The circumstances of court cases whether criminal or civil and the public reaction say a lot about the values and standards of a given society. What was considered shocking years ago might be considered run of the mill now. It is useful then to have a look back to see how crime and law enforcement were regarded by past generations. A recent publication by a study group of NUI Maynooth postgraduates provides a compilation of legal cases and cause celebres ranging from adultery to extortion and from bigamy to embezzlement, over three centuries. The book Trouble with the Law –crimes and trials from Ireland’s past has a particular Leinster resonance with many of the episodes described taking place in the region.
Carbury historian Karina Holton writes about a story of adultery (or ‘criminal conversation’ as it was quaintly known in legal terms) played out against the sumptuous backgrounds of Lyons House near Celbridge with an Italian fresco painter getting more than he bargained for in terms of a view from his scaffolding of the carry-on. The cast of characters as described by Karina Holton centres on the marriage of Valentine Lawless or Lord Cloncurry, heir to the Lyons mansion and his wife Elizabeth Georgina. He was thirty and she sixteen when they married in Rome in 1803. After a lavish tour of European capitals they settled as recently marrieds in Lyons visiting other society families such as Mr. Browne at Castle Browne (now Clongowes) and Colonel Marlay and his wife Elizabeth at Marlay Abbey in Celbridge. Enter into this happy situation Sir John Piers, descendant of a titled family in Westmeath. The bold Sir John had a bit of ‘form’ having some years previously eloped with a dancer from an entertainment house in Bride Street, Dublin. He now turned up in Lyons House and when Lord Cloncurry was out walking the estate began to make advances to Lady Cloncurry. Although at first she rejected his approaches nature took its course and the pair conspired to meet both in Lyons and later in the Cloncurry’s Dublin residence. However passion overtook discretion and the pair was seen arm in arm in the gardens of Lyons while Lord Cloncurry was leading a walking tour of the estate. The enraged husband sent his errant wife back to her parents and challenged and later sued Sir John Piers for depriving him of the affections of his wife and was awarded £20,000 for his troubles after a civil case that transfixed Dublin society with its tales of amorous liaisons in the big house..
An equally dramatic case but of a different nature is documented in another contribution to the book by Maynooth historian Maeve Mulryan-Moloney. Her story concerns the plight of Fr. James Harold, parish priest of Rathcoole, Newcastle and Saggart who became embroiled in the hysteria of the summer of 1798 when violent rebellion was put down by brutal government action. A young man named Clinch from a leading farming family in Rathcoole was arrested on suspicion of treason and during his questioning mentioned Fr. Harold’s name. Although the priest had not come under suspicion prior to this the mere mention of an association with the rebels in those heady days was enough to earn him a sentence of transportation to Australia. Maeve Mulryan describes how the resourceful clergyman won popularity in the new prison colony of Sydney and indeed for a number of years he was the only Catholic priest in Australia. However he fell foul of the authorities again and was despatched to Norfolk Island in the Pacific where he spent some years before being transferred to Tasmania. Incredibly despite great hardships and repeated upheaval he remained healthy and persisted in a petition to return to Ireland. After many further adventures (all recorded in the essay) he returns to Ireland in 1813 where he was appointed parish priest of Kilcullen. What his crime had been is difficult to say but he seems to have been a victim of the harsh measures which governments often deploy in the face of alleged treason.
  • Trouble with the Law – Crimes and Trials from Ireland’s past, edited by Liam Clare and Maire Ni Chearbhaill, is published by the Woodfield Press.
Series No. 42

Tales of crime and passion from Liam Kenny in his regular feature, 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' in the Leinster Leader of 22 November 2007

NAAS G.A.A. - THE BEGINNING - Priests, printers and doctors key figures in county town’s GAA story

Priests, printers and doctors key figures in county town’s GAA story
 Although the major championships are wrapped up for another season the GAA continues to feature in the sporting news both at national and at local levels. At national level there is continued controversy about  a grants scheme for senior inter county players not to mention on going debate about the configuration of the championships and revisions of the playing rules. At local level of course the various league and challenge games at all levels fill the sports pages of this newspaper.
The fact that the GAA manages to hold the attention of the sporting public even outside of its main playing season is testament to the deep and pervasive roots of the Association among Irish society. In Naas for example the club in the county town celebrated the 120th anniversary of its founding last month recalling an evening in October 1887 when a group of prominent figures in the locality convened to formally put a club structure in place. Indeed the GAA clarion call had already been heard in Naas three years earlier when the then editor of the Leinster Leader, John Wyse-Power attended the now legendary inaugural meeting of the GAA in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, on 1st November 1884. Wyse-Power’s tenure at the Leader was short-lived and he had left Naas well before the 16th October 1887 when the local branch of the Association was  inaugurated. There was no shortage of men representative of the upper echelons of Naas society present with the clergy, doctors, solicitors and high street merchants all prominent. Indeed the story of the formation of the Naas club gives an important insight into the urban dimension of the early years of the GAA – a history often lost sight of in the prevailing rural parish imagery of much GAA history.
Among those attending the inaugural meeting on 16 October 1887 were Dr. Smith, Messrs. S. J. Browne, W. Staples, James O’Hanlon, P.J. Duncan, J. Nanetti, W. Masterson, J. Donnellan, J. Clarke, M. Gogarty, Rev. E. Walsh and J.M. Ginnane. The most exotic name here is that of Nanetti, a printer in the Kildare Observer newspaper offices in the market square. In later years Nanetti became involved in metropolitan politics in Dublin, was elected the capital’s Lord Mayor, and is immortalised among the menagerie of characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Back to the story of the Naas GAA club the proceedings were monitored by two representatives from the central executive of the GAA – Messrs. Seery and Dunleavy – showing how the fledgling GAA had already established a tight organisational hierarchy. The formation of a branch was proposed by James O’Hanlon and seconded by William Staples and the meeting proceeded to elect the first club officers namely: President; Fr. E. Walsh CC; Vice- President; S.J.Browne, Secretary: J. M. Ginnane and Treasurer J O’Hanlon.
The early games were played in fields near the Naas branch of the canal while gymnastic equipment was installed in the Town Hall and, indicating the political character of the early GAA, the club held debates in the Hall on Sunday nights.
The centenary of the Naas club was marked in October 1987 with the unveiling of a fine plaque on the façade of the Town Hall; the 120th anniversary was marked last month with a function also in the Town Hall.
Indeed for GAA stalwarts in Kildare,  this year and next mark a number of notable anniversaries: this year is the 80th anniversary of Kildare’s victory over Kerry in the 1927 All Ireland while next year will similarly mark the 80th anniversary of Kildare’s last All Ireland victory, this time beating Cavan in the final. The 1928 All Ireland was also the first time that the Sam Maguire trophy was presented so while the Lilywhites have not succeeded in lifting the cup since at least supporters can trump those from other counties by pointing out that Kildare was the first county to have its name inscribed on one of the world’s most iconic sporting trophies.
  • To Spooner’s Lane and beyond Naas GAA 1887-1987 by Liam McManus gives a full account of the founding of the Naas club.
Series No. 41

An interesting article on the early years of the G.A.A. in Naas by Liam Kenny from his regular column in the Leinster Leader, 'Nothing New Under the Sun, dated 15 November 2007.

June 14, 2008


Leinster Leader 24/12/1910. P. 7.
Say what of Kildare?-is she waking or sleeping?
Now the day of our testing is growing apace.
And mighty as winter-tossed billows on leaping
Wild ‘farrahs’ ring out from the lips of our race!
What of Kildare, ever foremost and ready,
Whenever our warflag was raised for the right.
Has she lifted her standard, true hearted and steady.
Where Kildare ought to be-in the thick of fight!
The shrine of St. Brigid whose lamp ever burning
Shone out like a star on the ramparts of God,
The home of Lord Edward, our eagle of morning
Could traitors abide on so sacred a sod!
Could fear of defeat or despair of a morrow
Find place where the ashes of Tone are at rest
Is there room for a coward or time for a sorrow
With “Croom a boo” watchword and oak tree for crest!
No, from Naas to Maynooth rings the slogan of “Freedom.”
From Newbridge to Leixlip, Kilcock to Athy
The men of Kildarra are there when we need them
They know how to fight and they know how to die.
There the spirit of liberty hovers unsleeping
Where rebels and martyrs found birth an a grave
And the murdered of Mullaghmast watch still are keeping
O’er fields never trod by the foot of a slave.
Sure the challenge she threw in the face of the foeman
Of old when her claims flashed their falchions in air
Is still to the fore for a finish, and no man
Shall humble the shield of Fitzgerald’s Kildare.
Unconquered, invincible, steadfast forever,
With a hand for the south and the north and the west
The foremost in onset the latest to waver,
She stands from the Counties, the first of the best.
Kildare is awake for she never has slumbered
Whenever the summons to battle went forth,
The deeds of her dead with the bravest are numbered.
The sons of her soil are the salt of the earth.
As true as the Liffey that sweeps ever onward
Through sunshine and storming, through shadow and light,
Kildare holds her standard aloft in the vanguard
Where Kildare ought to be-in the thick of the fight.
Teresa C. Brayton.
In New York “Irish World.”
[line 26 – claims should read clans according to the book ‘Teresa Brayton - In an Irish Twilight; An anthology of Her Poetry and Short Stories.’ Compiled by Bernadette Gilligan and published by The Teresa Brayton Heritage Group, Kilcock in 2002.]

A copy of Teresa Brayton's Poem, 'KILDARE' which appeared at Chrismas-time in the Leinster Leader in 1910.

June 07, 2008


Case Study in Archaeology.
St Brigid’s Cathedral… before the Normans.
In this essay I aim to show the development and architecture of St Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare, from its foundation and modest beginnings to the arrival of the Normans.
Since the fifth century a Christian settlement has existed in the town of Kildare. The church, and later cathedral, of Kildare has been associated with St Brigid since its foundation around 480 AD.1 Kildare derives its name from the Irish Chille Dara, or the ‘wood of oaks’, according to Thomas James Rawson’s Statistical Survey of the County Kildare. He contends, it was anciently called Caelan or Galen ‘the woody country’, being formerly almost one continuous wood, ‘the decay of which produced the great extent of bogs, which cover so much of the country at this day, and by the quantity of timber, with which they abound, bear incontestable marks of their origin’.2 The town of Kildare has its origins as a centre of pagan religious worship on an oak covered ridge, the ancient name of which is Druim Criaig, or Drumcree. St Brigid founded a church, monastery and convent at Kildare on an important pagan site, which suggests a deliberate policy of locating the new Christian churches beside old pre-Christian power centres.3 Brigid was the daughter of a local chieftain, Dubhtach, of the Leinster Ui Dunlainge dynasty. She was thought to be a pagan priestess who converted to Christianity.4
The Round Tower at Kildare and the adjoining ruins probably represent the exact site of St. Brigid’s early conventual establishment and of the church connected with it.5 The earliest church built by St Brigid was constructed with wattles and owing to it being near, or under, a large oak tree received its name Kildare or ‘Church of the oak.’ As time went by and the church became more important a permanent wooden structure replaced the original building. In 835 it was partially burned down by the Danes who carried off the shrines of St Brigid and St Conleth, although the relics of St Brigid were preserved. The cathedral had been plundered sixteen times before the Anglo-Norman conquest.6 With the Reformation of the Church and the dissolution of religious houses the cathedral of Kildare became a place of worship for the established church and has remained Church of Ireland to the present.
St Brigid and the Church of the Oak
The first Christian missionaries to Ireland may have come from Gaul in the 4th and 5th centuries, while the first exact date is 431, the year in which Palladius was appointed by the Pope as bishop to ‘the Irish who believe in Christ’. Gaulish missionaries were soon superseded by British, the most famous of whom is St Patrick. The Continental missionaries St Auxilius and St Iserninus were active in the area, which is now County Kildare, around the mid-5th century.7 By the seventh century St Brigid’s foundation had grown to great importance, and was said by her biographer (Cogitosus) to surpass in eminence all other monastic communities in Ireland, attracting countless people from all over the country. When the Irish church began to organise itself territorially at the Synod of Rathbresail in 1111, Kildare achieved recognition as one of the country’s twenty-three dioceses. It was still among the most famous of these when visited by the Welsh-Norman historian Giraldus Cambrensis, who recounts a number of legends confirming the association with St Brigid. Admittedly the site did not figure in the small map of Europe that accompanied Giraldus’s Topographia Hibernica, but a hundred years later it was one of only four places in Ireland to be named on the famous mappamundi now kept in Hereford Cathedral.8 
Hilltop sites were a common feature of Irish monastic topography and St Brigid founded her church on a north-westerly summit of a ridge on the plains of Kildare.9 According to Monasticon Hibernicum:
St Brigid, the illegitimate daughter of an Irish chieftain, was born in the year 453, and in the 14th year of her age she received the veil from the hands of St. Patrick himself, or from one of his immediate disciples… She founded a nunnery here before the year 484; and about the same time an abbey was also founded under the same roof for monks, but separated by walls from the nunnery; it afterwards came into possession of the regular canons of St. Augustin. The nuns and monks had but one church, in common, which they entered at different doors.
St Brigid presided as well over the monks, as the nuns, and, strange to tell! the abbot of this house was subject to the abbess for several years after the death of the celebrated founder, which happened in the year 523, on the fifth of February, when her feast is celebrated. She was interred there, but her remains were afterwards removed to the cathedral church of Down.10
The elevated site was chosen by St. Brigid for her projected conventual establishment in much the same way as a defensive post was also located on an elevated site. Near the convent grew a large oak tree, which had been blessed by Saint Brigid. It remained for centuries after her death, and small bits of it were taken away as mementoes of the saint, who spent so many days beneath its shade.11 The local proprietor of this soil and people living in the neighbourhood soon helped to provide a habitation for their future patroness and for her religious sisters. It has been asserted, the first church built there was constructed with wattles.12 The original church would probably have gone from wattle to wood during the life of St Brigid and St Conleth.
St Conleth was a friend and co-worker of St Brigid and together they governed the church at Kildare, according to Cogitosus, ‘by means of a mutually happy alliance’. Conleth became the first bishop of Kildare in 490.13 ‘The little conventual building in Kildare was soon surrounded by a great city. We have said little, for such it was in its beginnings, but soon it became a vast building, and contained many hundred inmates. It was then a matter of necessity that a bishop should be at hand to perform the functions belonging to his office which could not be fulfilled by a priest. The Saint was allowed to choose her own bishop; and she selected a holy man named Conleath, who was especially suited for the post…’14 
Numbers of infirm and poor flocked to Kildare, seeking relief from their various necessities; and many anecdotes are related, regarding the charities of St. Brigid, especially towards this forlorn class of persons. With the course of time, several houses began to appear around her religious establishment as it became necessary to provide for the necessities of those, who came from a distance, or, who were brought from more immediate districts, to assist at the pious exercises and public celebrations of her conventual institute. By degrees from being merely a village, Kildare became a very considerable town; and at length, its habitations extended in number and size, so that it ranked as a city, at a period somewhat later. St. Brigid traced out a line of demarcation, likewise, around the city, within which boundary refuge was to be obtained by any fugitive… It is also remarked, that Kildare was the metropolitan see of Leinster, at two different periods. In the first instance, while St. Brigid lived, in that city; yet afterwards during the time of Brandubh, King of Leinster…15
Because of its association with St Patrick Armagh claimed primacy over the Irish Church, but the seventh century (some say ninth century) monk and writer Cogitosus claimed that the bishop of Kildare is ‘anointed head and primate of all bishops’ and that Kildare ‘is the head of almost all the Irish churches with supremacy over all the monasteries of the Irish and its paruchia extends over the whole land of Ireland, reaching from sea to sea’.16 In describing a miracle which took place in the cathedral Cogitosus begins with a description of the extraordinary monastic church as follows:
Nor is the miracle, that occurred in repairing the church, to be passed over in silence, in which repose the bodies of both, that is, Bishop Conlaeth, and the holy virgin St Brigid, on the right and left of the decorated altar, deposited in monuments decorated with various embellishments of gold and silver and gems and precious stones, with crowns of gold and silver depending from above. For the number of the faithful of both sexes increasing, the Church, occupying a spacious area, and elevated to a menacing height, and adorned with painted pictures, having within three oratories large and separated by plank partitions, under one roof of the greater house, wherein one partition decorated and painted with figures and covered with linen hangings, extended along the breadth of the eastern part of the Church, from the one to the other party wall of the Church, which [partition] has at its extremities two doors and through the one door, placed in the right side, the chief prelate enters the sanctuary accompanied by his regular school, and those who are deputed to the sacred ministry of offering sacred and dominical sacrifices: through the other door, placed in the left part of the partition above-mentioned, and lying transversely, none enter but the abbess with her virgins and widows among the faithful, when going to participate in the banquet of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But another partition dividing the pavement of the house into two equal parts, extends from the eastern side to the transverse partition lying across the breadth. Moreover this church has in it many windows, and one adorned doorway on the right side, through which the congregation of virgins and women among the faithful are used to enter. And thus in one very great temple a multitude of people, in different order and ranks, and sex, and situation, separated by partitions, in different order, and [but] with one mind worship the Omnipotent Lord. And when the ancient door of the left passage, through which St Bridget used to enter the church, was placed on its own hinges by the workmen, it could not fill up the passage when altered and new; for the fourth part of the passage appeared open and exposed without anything to fill it up. And if a fourth more were added and joined to the height of the gate, then it could fill up the entire height of the passage now lofty and altered. And when the workmen were deliberating about making another new and larger door to fill up the passage, or to prepare a board to be added to the old door, so as to render it sufficiently large, the before-mentioned principal and leading artisan of all those in Ireland spake a prudent counsel: ‘We ought this night to implore the Lord faithfully beside St Bridget, that she may provide for us against morning what measures we ought to pursue in this business.’ And praying thus he passed the whole night beside the monument of St Bridget. And rising early and prayers being said, on pushing and settling the ancient door on its hinge he filled the whole aperture; nor was there any thing wanting to fill it, nor any superfluous portion in its height. And thus St Bridget extended the door in height, so the whole passage was filled up, nor does any part appear open, except when the door is pushed back in entering the church. And this miracle of the divine excellence is quite plain to the eyes of all beholders who look upon the passage and door.17
George Petrie in his Inquiry into the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland maintains that Cogitosus’ description is from the early part of the ninth century rather than the sixth or seventh century:
… the plan and general form of this church, which consisted of a nave and chancel, was exactly that commonly adopted in the abbey and cathedral churches in Ireland and that the deviation from the usual custom of having two lateral doorways, instead of a single western one, is pointed out as a peculiarity necessary from the circumstance of the church having been designed for the use of two religious communities of different sexes, who had distinct and separate places assigned them, according to the almost universal practice of ancient times. The necessity for this separation of the sexes also led to the division of the nave by a wooden partition, into two equal portions, which were entered by the lateral doorways already mentioned; and it led again to the piercing of the wall, or partition, which separated the nave from the chancel, with a doorway on each side of the chancel arch, in order to admit the entrance, into the chancel, of the bishop with his chapter on the right or south side, and of the abbess with her nuns on the left or north side. Another peculiar feature, noticed in the description of this church, is its having a number of windows, wheras, as I have already shown, the Irish churches were remarkable for the fewness of such apertures; but in the notice of such a peculiarity, there is as little to excite a suspicion of the truth of the general description, as in the others I have already commented upon, inasmuch as the very arrangement of the church into a double have necessarily required a double number of windows to light it.18 
            Petrie maintains that if Cogitosus had claimed the windows were glazed it would have afforded an argument to whether he lived in the sixth or seventh century. But as Cogitosus makes no mention of glass in the windows of Kildare, it is to him that the description is true, ‘but also of antiquity, though …that antiquity is not as great as many have imagined. It is evident, at all events, that if he had been… fabricating a fanciful description of this church, while glazed windows were still of rare occurrence, he would not have neglected so important a feature of splendour’.19
            Many other notable scholars have also used Cogitosus’ description of the church for understanding the layout of the early cathedral. According to Professor McAlister in Archaeology of Ireland:
The passage then goes on to tell how an ill-fitting door was miraculously made to accord with the openings prepared for its reception. This part of the story does not concern us. The interest for us lies in the fact that we have here a description of a large church such as the author could scarcely have conceived in his mind unless he had accurate knowledge of such a structure. The passage is a testimony to the existence in 8th century Ireland of large churches, doubtless of wood, and with other applied ornament to an extent for which the bare walls and roofless oratories would hardly have prepared us.’20 
Archdeacon Sherlock in Some account of St Brigid makes the following comment:
From this description it would appear that the early church was not cruciform in shape but a simple oblong, divided into eastern and western parts, and the western portion again divided by a partition running east to west. There was no door in the west end. The doors of the present Cathedral correspond in the main with the arrangement, except that there is now only one door on the north side. It is probable that the dwellings of the Bishop and Monks were on the south side of the church, and those of the Abbess and her Nuns were on the North and West.21 
The Church described by Cogitosus was probably of wood, the earliest reference to a stone church oratorium lapideum being at Armagh in 789.22 In 762 the church is referred to as a dairthech (wooden church) without further comment.23 Timber buildings would have required periodic maintenance and reconstruction and the church of 762 could be a completely new structure.24 The dairthech is mentioned again in 836 on an occasion when it was blockaded and entry was refused to the abbot of Armagh. By 868, however, the church was evidently in need of repair because it was rebuilt under the patronage of Flanna, the wife of the high-king Aed Findliath. Flanna’s patronage probably occurred because the church was still in use by the nuns founded by St Brigid.25
The dairthech is referred to again in 964, where its large size is mentioned, and then in 1020 when the church was destroyed by fire. John Bradley suggests in The Cathedral and town of medieval Kildare that the fact that the dairthech is mentioned in the singular form between 762 and 1020 indicates that the structural layout, if not the actual building, described by Cogitosus continued to survive.26 The rebuilding of the church must have included the use of stone because The Annals of the Four Masters recorded that in 1050 Kildare with its daimlaig (stone church) was burnt.27 A teampall (a large stone church) was mentioned in 1067, so the reconstructed church was again of stone.28 
Towards the end of the seventh century Viking raiders arrived in Ireland and soon reached the monasteries and churches of Kildare. The Vikings attacked the monastic cities because of their wealth. The first of fifteen attacks on Kildare by the Vikings occurred in 835 (836 in some sources) when they plundered the town and destroyed half of the church. They also carried away the valuable shrines of St Brigid and St Conleth, but they were later saved and those of St Brigid, conveyed to Saul, Co. Down.29 Attacks on Kildare also occurred from the native Irish who also attack the monastic communities.30 Town and church were burned again in 1067. Kildare was plundered again in 1136, 1138 and 1150. In the early 1170s the Norman lord Richard de Clare, or Strongbow, used Kildare as a base on several occasions and by 1176 it was the principal manor of his north Leinster lordship. Kildare prospered under the Normans and the clearest indication of its wealth is in its building framework.31 In 1223 Ralph de Bristol, became the first Anglo-Norman bishop of Kildare. He found his cathedral in ruins and set about rebuilding it and restoring the Cathedral to its former glory.32
In 1223 the Anglo-Norman Ralph de Bristol succeeded Finn O’Gorman as bishop of Kildare. (Fionn O’Gorman was author of The Book of Leinster, a collection of historical tracts, tales, poems and genealogies, for Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster.) The cathedral had been plundered sixteen times before the Anglo-Norman conquest. The newly appointed Bishop de Bristol repaired the ruined cathedral and built a new stone building, giving the cathedral its present shape in the years 1223-30.33 This new Gothic style cathedral was built for both military and ecclesiastical reasons. The cathedral was cruciform in shape with a noble square tower, buttressed walls with a narrow footway behind the battlements, and only three small doors for access to the building.34
Both thirteenth century abbeys (the Franciscan Grey Abbey and the Carmelite White Abbey), together with what remained of St Brigid’s foundation, were dissolved by Henry VIII, after which the whole town went into decline. The cathedral remained, albeit in a state of some dilapidation, but after the Reformation only a tiny fraction continued to worship in it, and all its post-medieval bishops chose to live elsewhere, their palace on the north side of the town falling into decay and eventually disappearing.35 By 1600 both the town and the cathedral were ruinous again. In the rebellion of 1641 the steeple was reportedly beaten down by cannon, but could easily have fallen due to neglect. During the rebellion, the ornaments, books, and other goods of the cathedral were taken away by Rosse McGeoghegan, Catholic Bishop of Kildare, who in 1643 re-consecrated the ancient cathedral for Catholic use. In 1686 the choir portion was fitted for Anglican service, the rest of the building remaining in ruins until restoration work began in 1871.36 Dr Samuel Chaplain of Leinster Lodge, formed a Cathedral Restoration Committee and set about raising the £16,000 required to rebuild the cathedral. Work began under the supervision of the eminent architect George Edmund Street in 1875 and was finally finished in 1896. On 22 September 1896 the church was re-dedicated by the Archbishop of Kildare and Dublin Lord Plunket, and finally restored to the glory it had enjoyed in the thirteenth century.37 Further restoration was completed in 1996.38 While much has changed in Kildare the most distinctive features of the town have remained the same and it is St Brigid’s cathedral and its immediate surroundings that tourists come to see.
A description of the cathedral and grounds from Irish Historic Towns Atlas No. 1 Kildare
Monastery of monks and nuns. Site unknown. Original location believed to adjoin Fire House in cathedral churchyard. Founded by St Brigid, late 5th or early 6thcentury; abbots recorded to AD 885, abbesses to 1171. At dissolution, 1540, precincts said to contain ‘a small castle or fortilage with a chapel, suitable for a farmer’s use’, perhaps at a different location from the above. Granted to Redmond Fitzgerald in 1574 and to Anthony Deering in 1585.
Site of Fire House, cathedral churchyard. Alleged chapel of St Brigid, 6th century, containing perpetual fire. One wall remaining in 1784. Masonry foundations in rectangular depression 1986.
Round tower, cathedral churchyard, 33 m high; upper part mainly sandstone, probably 12th century, including doorway with Romanesque ornament; lower 3 m granite, date unknown. Six bracteate coins c. 1155 found under base. Tower restored and battlements added in early 18th century.
Undecorated granite cross, cathedral churchyard. Shaft and cross found separated from their supposed original base, re-erected in c. 1862.
St Brigid’s Cathedral and parish church of Kildare (C. of I.). Believed to be on site of church built by St Brigid, and described by Cogitosus in AD c. 630. repaired or rebuilt by Ralph of Bristol, bishop of Kildare in 1223, with further alterations, perhaps including present stepped battlements, in c. 1395. ‘Altogether in ruins’ at visitation of 1615, with further destruction in 1641; rectangular ‘pro-cahedral’ built in c. 1686 on site of present choir; chapter house built in 1738, E. angle of S. transept. On earliest map, 1757, nave, tower, S. transept and chapter house all in ruins, N. transept omitted, rectangular, unroofed enclosures shown N. of pro-cathedral (omitted on later maps) and W. of s. transept; no further alterations on later maps to 1850, except addition of porch S. of pro-cathedral 1938, 1872 (OS). Bell tower erected in 1856 due E. of present N. transept shown in map of 1872 (OS) and two undated photographs, demolished in total restoration of cathedral under architects G. E. Street (1875-810 and J. F. Fuller (1890-96); re-opened in 1896.
Churchyard. In occasional use as a burial ground 1986. Wall: masonry of varied composition, unknown date; modern entrance near S. E. corner; former narrow arched entrance on S. side, now blocked by masonry.39
End Notes
  1. Grey Abbey Conservation Project. Church of the Oak. A contribution to the history of Kildare town, (Kildare 2006) p. 1.
  2. John J. Gaffney. Life of St Brigid, (1931) p. 98.
  3. Sean Duffy (Editor). Atlas of Irish History, (Dublin 2000) p. 16.
  4. GACP, Church of the Oak, p.1.
  5. Gaffney, Life of St Brigid, p. 98.
  6. John McEvoy. (Editor). The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD, (Newbridge 2007) p. 99.
  7. Duffy, Atlas of Irish History, pp 16-7.
  8. J. H. Andrews. Kildare Irish Historic Towns Atlas No. 1 (Dublin 1986) . Supplement History Ireland (2004), pp 2-3.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Rev. John Ryan. Irish Monasticism. Origins and Early Development (Dublin 1940), pp 223-4.
  11. An Irish Priest. The Life of St Brigid. The Mary of Erin and the Special Patroness of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin(Dublin 1859), pp 69-70.
  12. Gaffney, Life of St Brigid, p. 98.
  13. CatholicIreland.net, St Conleth: first bishop of Kildare 450-519, : , sourced 3/1/2008.
  14. M. E. Cusack. The Triad Thaumaturga (London 1880), p. 531.
  15. Gaffney, Life of St Brigid, pp 100-1.
  16. Michael O’Neill, ‘The Medieval Parish Churches of County Kildare’ in Kildare. History and Society (Dublin 2006), p. 153.
  17. George Petrie. The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, Anterior to the Anglo-Norman Invasion; comprising an essay on the origin and uses of the Round Towers of Ireland (Dublin 1845), pp 197-8. There are several translations of Cogitosus’ description of the church and here I have used Petrie’s from the above work.
  18. Ibid, pp 198-200
  19. Ibid, p. 200.
  20. Dean H. N Craig. Some Notes on the Cathedral of St Brigid, Kildare (Dublin 1931), p. 16.
  21. Ibid, p. 18.
  22. O’Neill, ‘The Medieval Parish Churches of County Kildare’ in Kildare. History and Society, p. 154.
  23. Ibid, p. 155.
  24. John Bradley, ‘Archaeology, Topography and Building Fabric: the Cathedral and Town of Medieval Kildare’ in St Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare. A History, p. 29.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid, pp 29-30.
  27. Craig, Some Notes on the Cathedral of St Brigid, Kildare, p. 18.
  28. Bradley, ‘Archaeology, Topography and Building Fabric: the Cathedral and Town of Medieval Kildare’ in, St Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare. A History, p. 31.
  29. GACP, Church of the Oak, p. 2; Tostal, Cill Dara Britoe. St Brigid’s Kildare. The story of a historic parish, pp 11-12.
  30. GACP, Church of the Oak, p. 2.
  31. Bradley, ‘Archaeology, Topography and Building Fabric: the Cathedral and Town of Medieval Kildare’ in St Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare. A History, p. 36.
  32. Tostal Festival. Cill Dara Britoe. St Brigid’s Kildare. The story of a historic parish (Kildare 1953), pp 11-12.
  33. McEvoy, The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD, pp 98-9.
  34. GACP, Church of the Oak, p. 4.
  35. Andrews, Kildare Irish Historic Towns Atlas No. 1. Supplement History Ireland, p. 5.
  36. McEvoy, The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD, p. 99.
  37. GACP, Church of the Oak, p. 4.
  38. McEvoy, The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD, p. 99.
  39. Andrews, Kildare Irish Historic Towns Atlas No. 1, p. 9.



An Irish Priest. The Life of St Brigid. The Mary of Erin and the Special Patroness of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. Dublin 1859.

 Andrews, J. H. Kildare Irish Historic Towns Atlas No. 1. Dublin 1986 & 2004 Supplement History .


 Craig, Dean H. N. Some Notes on the Cathedral of St Brigid, Kildare. Dublin 1931.

 Cusack, M. E. The Triad Thaumaturga. London 1880.


 Duffy, Sean (Editor). Atlas of Irish History. Dublin 2000.

 Gaffney, John J. Life of St Brigid. 1931.

 Gillespie, Raymond (Editor). St Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare. A History. Maynooth 2000-2001.

Grey Abbey Conservation Project. Church of the Oak. A contribution to the history of Kildare town. Kildare 2006.

 McEvoy, John. Editor. The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin 2000 AD. Newbridge 2007.

 Nolan, William & McGrath, Thomas (Editors). Kildare. History and Society. Dublin 2006.

 Petrie, George. The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, Anterior to the Anglo-Norman Invasion; comprising an essay on the origin and uses of the Round Towers of . Dublin 1845.

Ryan, Rev. John. Irish Monasticism. Origins and Early Development. Dublin 1940.

 Tostal Festival. Cill Dara Britoe. St Brigid’s Kildare. The story of a historic parish. Kildare 1953.


James Durney's essay on the architectural history of St. Brigid's Cathedral, Kildare Town before the arrival of the Normans.


Leinster Express 5 May 1855
The Camp at the Curragh
            The noble plain of the Curragh of Kildare seems likely to become, during the summer season, a scene of unusual gaiety and excitement, and this altogether independent of sporting events which have hitherto rendered the Curragh, or rather the fine racecourse, the centre of periodic and occasional attraction. The exigencies of the present war render it necessary that fresh troops be sent to the Crimea, to take the places of the brave fellows who have fallen in achieving our dearly-bought victories. Fresh troops are required – fresh, as regards the strength and vigour of the men, but not raw and inexperienced lads, hastily or imperfectly disciplined, totally unacquainted with the details of camp duty, and inured to labours and fatigues of field service. The camp at the Curragh has been devised as a means whereby our young soldiers may be trained up in all the varied duties of strict field services, and be made somewhat accustomed to the labours which the soldier is called on to perform even whilst exposed to the deadly fire of the enemy, so that the troops will be found of real efficiency when, amidst the trenches or on the battlefield, they will be brought in contact with war in all its stern reality. It will be remembered that when ten thousand British troops were stationed in the camp at Chobham heath the sections of the English press most favourable to the project were obliged to admit that a more unsuitable spot could not be well selected for the purpose of the army evolutions, and the papers recorded many and severe accidents resulting from the rough and uneven and boggy character of the ground. On this occasion the government would seem to have been informed that the crown had at its disposal in Ireland the Curragh. Here, then, it was determined to establish the camp, and a spot was selected distant some three or four miles from Newbridge station on the Great Southern Railway. From the somewhat permanent character of many of the arrangements, and from the solidity of construction evidenced in the houses or huts for the accommodation of troops, it would seem as if the Curragh encampment is intended to be an affair of some duration. The structures contracted for by government will afford ample accommodation for ten battalions of infantry of one thousand men each. The works are now fast progressing under the direction of Messrs. Courtney and Stephens, of Blackhall-place, and Messrs. Holmes, of Liverpool, the contract being in some measure divided between these two eminent manufacturing firms. The ground selected as the site of the camp seems to us to have been well and judiciously chosen. It is a wide platform situate on an elevation above the level of the surrounding plain, from which it rises by a gradual ascent, with an acclivity somewhat more abrupt on the south-western side. Its aspect on approaching it presents some picturesque features. One side of the knoll is covered with a thick undergrowth of bushes, and by a dense furze brake, well known to the lovers of coursing as a celebrated hare cover. The visitor from Dublin has to traverse a vast extent of this wide prairie before he catches a glimpse of the camp, but on turning round the base of the grassy mound crowned by an old rath, he comes in view of the spot where a considerable portion of this miniature-city has been already erected, and presenting in its crowded and busy aspect a striking contrast to the silence and solitude of the wide expanse which surrounds it. The scene, indeed, presented to our view was a busy and exciting one. Let the reader imagine assemblage of some two thousand individuals grouped in various places, and busily occupied in a thousand ways, whilst the ceaseless lium of voices, mingled with the myriad noises of different trades, falls on the ear with novel effect. In fact, were the scene truthfully sketched by an artist it would form no bad illustration to one of Cooper’s vivid descriptions of an emigrant settlement amongst the prairie wilds of western America. The view from the table lands where the huts were being erected is peculiarly fine, showing to the north and east a richly cultivated tract, backed by the mountains of Dublin and Wicklow, whilst on the opposite side the plain of the Curragh stretches away far in the distance, without a single hill to break the level monotony. The trenches for the foundations having been all marked out, we easily trace the plan of the entire camp. It will consist of three squares of houses or, huts, each of which squares will enclose a spacious barrack yard or parade ground, having entrance at each angle only – the sides being defended by a ditch and breastwork of sods firmly pegged. Each square will have its own cooking house, kitchen, and other offices. The buildings, when complete, will have a frontage extending a mile and a half in length, with a depth of 750 feet. The contract with Messrs. Courtney and Stephens extends to the erection of quarters for the privates and non-commissioned officers, and the building of stables for the officers horses. The size of the huts is forty feet in length by twenty in breath each, with an elevation of eighth feet. The interiors are admirably planned with an eye to comfort, cleanliness, and ventilation. The huts are built on uprights imbedded on brick foundation which supports the floor joists. The joicings between the uprights and roof rafters are protected by zinc plates. The sides are constituted of stout planking. The windows at the sides will be glazed, and each house will be defended with a double coat of mineral brown paint. The section of the contract taken by Messrs. Holmes, of Liverpool, includes the erection of the quarters for the officers, with messrooms, offices, &c. The dimensions of this class of structures vary from 61 feet in length, with breadth and height in proportion, to 90 feet in length. Some of the houses will be but 47 feet in length. The larger structures are intended for officers’ mess-rooms and offices for business. A spacious cooking house and kitchen for the workmen are in the course of erection. The interior arrangements of these houses are excellent. We may remark that the quantity of timber used in the erection of each, even of the smaller huts, is nine tons and a half. We deemed it impossible to give any idea of the enormous amount of skilled labour engaged in the completion of the camp, or of the rapidity with which the works are carried on. It may afford some notion of the vast quantities of material required when we state that 14 tons weight of nails have been imported and brought to the spot by Messrs. Courtney and Stephens for these works alone. Of these 14 tons 5 tons have already been used, and it is believed that the remaining nine tons will not be sufficient. These nails themselves a re a curiosity. They have been cut by machinery out of cold wrought iron, and moulded into shape and headed by hydraulic pressure without heat. The time specified for the completion of each contract is sixty days from the date of issue. At the expiration of that time the contractors are bound to surrender the work complete into the hands of the government. It is plain that, in order to finish such an extensive work in so short a time, a vast number of able hands are requisite. Accordingly, Messrs. Courtney and Stephens have, we believe, nearly six hundred hands employed in various ways in several departments of their contract, and besides they have a large body of men constantly at work at their factory in town preparing the required materials. Messrs. Holmes are said to have 500 men employed at the camp, and 500 more at their factory in Liverpool, if possible more busily employed in preparing the materials for the houses in timber and iron works, &c. These materials are all ready fitted in Liverpool, each piece being squared, mortised, jointed, and marked, and then packed up in iron-bound parcels, and sent over by steamers from Liverpool, and conveyed to the vicinity of the camp by rail. There are also various important facilities provided for the carriage and transmission of materials to the site of the camp. There are two tramroads – one belonging to Messrs. Courtney and Stephens, and the other to Messrs. Holmes. These tramroads extend from the centre of the camp to the very border of the Curragh, where there is a depot for the reception of the weighty masses of timber and iron and the piles of material of all kinds which are brought by wagons from the railway or canal stations. Trains of trucks traverse these tram ways, drawn by powerful horses, of which each firm ahs a large stud. Thus enormous loads of material are brought to the very feet of the workmen. Another important feature is the erection, by Messrs. Courtney and Stephens, of a saw mill, worked by an eight horse high pressure steam engine, where scantling of all kinds are rapidly cut and prepared. The machinery includes also lathes, augurs, planning apparatus, &c, all driven by the same engine, thus wonderfully economising time and labour. It will of course be readily understood that in order to provide food and necessaries for such a vast body of men at work, besides the large contingent of their followers and assistants, some kind of well ordered and well stocked commissariat department should be speedily provided. – This has been looked to, and the contractors have arranged with Mr. Cleary, of Kildare, who has established what in America would be called a general store for the sale of provisions and necessaries of all kinds. In making this arrangement the contractors have fully protected their workmen from the “Tommy Shop” system – Mr. Cleary undertaking to sell goods at Dublin prices. The men are promptly and regularly paid by their employers. A contract has been effected for the sinking of an artesian well to supply the troops with water. The excavations have commenced, and it is expected the water will be found in abundance at a depth of from 60 to 80 feet. However, if this plan should fail, it will be necessary to convey water by pipes from the Liffey, a distance of three miles, by means of steam power and force pumps. Numerous groups of visitors from Dublin and elsewhere are to be seen every day inspecting the works in the camp, which, as we have said, will most probably be the scene of many brilliant field days during the summer.
[Compiled and typed by James Durney. Spellings and grammar retained as in original]

Wonderful description of the new military camp at the Curragh from the pages of the Leinster Express, 5 May 1855.


The Occult and the Old Bog Road remembered in North Kildare
It is the time of year when notions of the occult and the supernatural loom large in the imagination. The transition from the lingering light of autumn to the long night of winter has prompted writers and poets in past generations to turn their thoughts to the world of the superstitious and the supernatural. Long ago  when the embers of a turf fire or the flickering glow of a candle were all that lit the abodes of the people it is not hard to speculate how tales of ghosts and other worldly interventions dominated their imaginations.
Dabbling in the occult was indeed a fashionable trend among  the intelligentsia of the early 20th century. The great poet W B Yeats, for one, acknowledged the influence of occult practices in his creative processes. A less well known figure but one who lived in the same era and shared a similar interest in the realm of superstition was Kildare’s very own Teresa Brayton, best known as the author of the popular emigrant lament ‘ The Old Bog Road.’ As well as her emigrant and nationalistic poems Teresa Brayton (nee Boylan and born near Kilcock in 1868) shared an interest in the ancient Celtic tales of spirits and fairies. North Kildare historian Olive Morrin has researched aspects of Teresa Brayton’s writings and has opened a window on the North Kildare writer showing a breadth of subject matter going well beyond her authorship of ‘The Old Bog Road’. Among Brayton’s writings were poems with titles such as ‘ The land where fairies play’ and ‘The druids speak’., imagery grounded on her fascination with ancient Irish references to mysticism and magic.
Teresa Brayton’s own life story was in some ways typical – and in other ways quite untypical – of the Irish emigrant experience in the early 1900s. She had attended Newtown school, near Enfield, and had become an assistant teacher to her sister Elizabeth. However she emigrated to Boston in 1895, soon after moving to New York where she was to settle for almost thirty years. She married a French-Canadian, Richard Brayton, but little is known of her married life and it seems as if she became widowed quite early.
While some aspects of her life in New York remain enigmatic she was prominent in the Irish American nationalist movement which in many ways was the trans-Atlantic engine behind the increasingly more militant nationalist movement in Ireland in the early 1900s.  She wrote patriotic poems such as ‘ Ireland speaks’ and ‘ the Croppies grave’ and even by the outspoken standards of Irish American republicans her verse pulled no punches. Although the lack of detail prevents firm conclusions it is known that she was prominent in Irish American circles in New York and most likely met nationalist leaders such as Padraig Pearse, de Valera and Countess Markievicz who made the morale boosting trip across the Atlantic to the city hall meetings of American republicans. Indeed testament to her close relations with such prominent figures is correspondence like the letter to her from Countess Markievicz enclosing a chip of wood said to have come from the flagstaff over the GPO in 1916.
Although she will always be remembered for writing the words of the ‘Old Bog Road’, a staple of the Irish ballad repertoire in the early decades of the twentieth century, it is clear that Teresa Brayton had access to the highest echelons of nationalist politics. Eamonn de Valera as Taoiseach attended her funeral in Cloncurry cemetery in 1943 (she had moved back from the US a decade previously) and at a later date as, President of Ireland, unveiled a Celtic cross over her grave. A writer with interests in the occult, nationalism and the emigrant experience Teresa Brayton’s name is still little known outside the peaty terrain of Kilbrook, Ferrans Lock and Newtown on the Kildare-Meath border where the network of old bog roads inspired her best remembered verse.
* My thanks to Olive Morrin and the Teresa Brayton Heritage Group of Kilcock, who with Kildare County Library, are continuing to research the story of her life and times.
Series no. 39

Liam Kenny's article from his regular feature, 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' in the Leinster Leader of 1 November 2007, on the writings and life of Teresa Brayton.


www.kildare.ie is now hosting a new website on Leixlip, Co Kildare, and related history.  The site was initiated by local historian, John Colgan in November, 2005 but now has been revitalised by Beatrice Whelan, of Kildare Community Network who has, with John's cooperation, relaunched it.  The site now contains a short, illustrated history of Leixlip; a piece entitled Leixlip around 1798, compete with 28 illustrations; an 18th century newspaper report about the first commercially successful cultivation of strawberries in Ireland at Leixlip, and graveyard inscriptions.  Historians with Leixlip stories to relate are invited to send them to Beatrice Whelan (Beatrice@Kildare.ie, tel: 045 980568) for inclusion; each piece must be attributed to the author for inclusion.

Website dedicated to the history of Leixlip



John Colgan wil be giving "An illustrated talk on Newtown, Leixlip, Co. Kildare, its houses and inhabitants" at Leixlip Public Library, Captain's Hill, Leixlip on Thursday, 28th August, 2008 at 8pm. 
Among the residents were Catherine Downing Nesbitt, who gave her name and £10,000 to Nesbitt's Junction on the MGWR line; the Rev Caesar Otway, joint founder of the Dublin Penny Journal; and Larry McMahon, Fine Gael TD and Senator.
John Colgan will be giving a new talk on Leixlip in Pictures at Lucan Public Library, Superquinn Centre, Lucan, on Thursday, 18th September, 2008 at 8pm.
And a new Leixlip History website


www.kildare.ie is now hosting a new website on Leixlip, Co Kildare, and related history.  The site was initiated by local historian, John Colgan in November, 2005 but now has been revitalised by Beatrice Whelan, of Kildare Community Network who has, with John's cooperation, relaunched it.  The site now contains a short, illustrated history of Leixlip; a piece entitled Leixlip around 1798, compete with 28 illustrations; an 18th century newspaper report about the first commercially successful cultivation of strawberries in Ireland at Leixlip, and graveyard inscriptions.  Historians with Leixlip stories to relate are invited to send them to Beatrice Whelan (Beatrice@Kildare.ie, tel: 045 980568) for inclusion; each piece must be attributed to the author for inclusion.


‘ In far foreign fields …’ - Kildare casualty of the First World War
Anniversaries of great events come and go, and gain or lose significance depending on the public mood at the time. However the 11 November each year will forever be associated with one of the darkest periods in the story of Western Europe – the First World War which came to an end on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, following four years of slaughter and destruction on a scale of terrifying proportions.
Among the many millions who found themselves embroiled in the fighting at places with such evocative names as Ypres, the Somme and Gallipoli were some quarter of a million men of Irish birth. While statistics vary it is estimated that more than forty thousand of them were to perish amid the relentless artillery barrages, withering machine gun fire, and choking gas clouds of a war fought in the cloying mud of Flanders and among arid cliffs of Gallipoli.
The numbers of those involved are almost incomprehensible and it is only by focussing on the individual story that we get a sense of the quiet tragedy that unfolded back at home as news of war tragedy came to virtually every town and country parish in the county. One of the personal stories from Kildare that might be related is that of Private Andrew Delaney of Crookstown near Narraghmore who (in contrast to the many who joined up at the outbreak of the war with the encouragement of politicians and clergy ringing in their ears) was what might be called a career soldier. Andrew Delaney got his first exposure to gun fire in the Boer War (1899-1902) and he was called up again in 1914 when the British realised they needed to mobilise their reserves to replace the haemorrhage of men from the killing fields of the Western Front even in the early years of war.
Now a Medical Orderly he spent his days trying to bring relief to the wounded and dying. He no doubt often crawled out under the relentless shell bursts to rescue a wounded man trapped in the pulverised earth of No Man’s Land between the British and the German trenches. It was no doubt during such a mercy mission that he ingested the poison gas whose toxic vapours had been released over the trenches – one of the many barbarous innovations of the First World War. He was evacuated from France to an army hospital in Netley, England.
He hardly could have realised that death was just hours away when on 28 May 1915 he penned a tender note to his wife, Annie, at home in Ballitore, Co. Kildare. He told her that he had arrived safely in England and, presumably to assuage her worries, remarked that he did not feel as bad as when the gas had first struck. However this tender postcard which would have brought much relief to Mrs. Delaney was to be overtaken in the post in poignant circumstances by a terse telegram sent to the Delaney household on 31 May 1915 which read: “ From Officer Commanding, Netley Military Hospital. Regret No. 2922 Private Andrew Delaney died here today from acute bronchitis as a result of gas poisoning.’ Even at this remove, nine decades later, the grief which must have gripped Annie Delaney is almost palpable – a grief shared by many a wife and mother in  labourer’s cottage and squire’s mansion when the dreaded telegram from the War Office arrived on the doorstep.
Andrew Delaney was brought back to Calverstown for burial. The Empire for which he had died gave his wife and two children a death grant of seven pounds. They also sent her a shiny medal accompanied by a letter worded in officious language stating that ‘ it would have been presented to her husband had he been still alive.’ And, as if to show the merciless nature of bureaucracy in the midst of personal tragedy, the letter asked the widowed Mrs. Delaney to return a receipt to the War Office showing that she had received the medal.
  • A deeper insight into the story of Private Andrew Delaney of Crookstown, and of many other families who were bereaved in the First World War, can be seen in the excellent display in the Athy Heritage Centre, Town Hall, Athy.
Series No. 40

From his regular feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun, in the Leinster Leader 8 November 2007, Liam Kenny writes of the death of Andrew Delaney of Crookstown, near Narraghmore, in 1915 in WWI

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