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June 26, 2009


The Nationalist and Leinster Times 9/4/1927
                                                Captain W.J. Minch
Deep and genuine regret was felt on all sides when, early last week, it became known that Capt. Wm. J. Minch, Rockfield, Athy, had passed to his reward, at the early age of 32 years. A man of most loveable character, generous and amiable, yet withal, gentle and unassuming, his death leaves a big blank, not only in his own family circle, where he was loved so well, but among the employees of the Firm and the public generally, with whom he was always a welcome guest. In his early life he was a most brilliant student, and carried off the highest honours in college without the slightest trouble, being gifted with a most unusual amount of intelligence. On leaving Clongwoes Wood College, he entered the University, Dublin, to take out a course of Engineering, and had almost gained his full degree when his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War. At the first call for volunteers, he joined the Connaught Rangers, and shortly afterwards went through a distinguished course of Morse heliograph and flagging, a very difficult thing to achieve considering the time at his disposal during the war crisis. He was extraordinarily popular with the rank and file of his Regiment, and his wonderful pluck and great calmness in times of danger had the effect of saving many a critical position and gaining for him the respect and admiration of his superior officers. His great deeds during the three years he spent in Mesopotamia and Palestine will go unrecorded save in the memories of those who fought beside him, as he himself, would never speak of his noble work; his watchword was simply “carry on”, and his greatest distress during those difficult times was the sufferings of his men with the tropical heat, the flies and the appalling water shortage. He was all through the Holy Land with General Allenby, and was in charge of the 1st Battalion of the Connaught Rangers on their return home from the East on the cessation of hostilities. His advanced knowledge of Engineering was of immense advantage to him in the Army, and he ranked high in the estimation of his superior officers as a man of extraordinary ability. His tutors in Trinity were deeply grieved on his return from the war to find that ill health had robbed them of a brilliant student, as he no longer felt the inclination to take up the trend of studies where he had left off.
His last illness was borne with great fortitude, without a murmur, his only worry being consideration for those he was leaving behind. Everyone was his friend, and not once in his life did he speak a derogatory word of anyone.
The funeral on Thursday, 31st inst. to Barrowhouse was immense, and represented most of the leading families in Kildare, Dublin, Leix and Carlow. The chief mourners were : - M.P. Minch, E.F. Minch, S.B. Minch, and G. Minch (brothers), N.W. Purcell, J.J. O’Connor, and S.J. Carroll (brothers-in-law). The hearse was covered with wreaths of natural flowers, and an immense one of great beauty was given by the Firm’s staff.
Over twenty priests assisted at the Office and Requiem Mass held in St. Michael’s Church at 11 o’clock, immediately before the funeral, and a large number of the general public were present. Thus is added one more noble young hero to the list of the war victims.
To the family and friends of deceased we tender our deep sympathy.

An obituary for Captain W.J. Minch is carried in The Nationalist and Leinster Times of April 1927.

June 25, 2009


Kildare Observer, March 7th 1891
Destructive Fire at Harristown
Mr. John La Touche’s Mansion Burned Down
On Thursday the magnificent mansion at Harristown, the residence of the La Touche family for generations, was almost entirely destroyed by fire. The house was probably the finest of its kind in the County Kildare, in which there are so many splendid country seats. It stands in the centre of a magnificent demesne, heavily timbered, with beautiful grounds laid out in the most tasteful manner. The house is built upon an eminence, at the foot of which the River Liffey flows, and the residence was in every respect worthy of its picturesque situation. It was built almost 120 years ago, entirely out of stone outside, solid and substantial as well as beautiful in structure. The fire was discovered about two o’ clock in the afternoon, the flames being near the roof and apparently proceeding from one of the servant’s rooms in the upper storey. How the ignition occurred is unknown, but it is conjectured that it was caused by one of the fires. This is the explanation current at Harristown, all others have been discussed and negatived. The alarm was given at once. Telegrams were dispatched from Brannoxtown to the Curragh Camp and surrounding places for assistance, and in the meantime every effort was made to save the furniture and valuables at the mansion. Favoured by a strong wind that was blowing, the fire which had got well underway when discovered, increased with astonishing rapidity, and in an incredibly short space of the time the whole building was in flames. The servants, farm labourers and people from the neighbourhood, headed by Mr. McClean, the agent, got to work to remove the furniture, as the flames proceeded downwards from the roof. Fresh aid arrived every moment, and valuable assistance was rendered by Mr.Cramer-Roberts, D.L. Sallymount; Mr. G. Ronaldson. J.P.Stonebrook; Rev Mr. McCaig, Mr E. Moore, Captain Moore, Sergeant Flanagan, and the police from Kilcullen, and Sergeant Hutchinson and the available force from Ballymore Eustace. Most of the furniture, in the bedrooms, drawing-rooms, library, study, dining room, hall, &c, was brought out, and Messrs Cramer-Roberts and Ronaldson, with Sergeant Flanagan and others, succeeded in getting out on the lawn a large quantity of very valuable marble statuary, marble mantelpieces and other very costly and very heavy articles. The fire brigate arrived from the Curragh Camp in prompt reply to a telegram despatched, but the flames had taken complete possession of the building, and the soldiers devoted themselves chiefly to saving the effects. Mr. J.L Emerson, Provost Marshal, Capt Breen, in charge of the Fire Brigade, Capt Rock, Wiltshire Regiment, and several other officers were indefatigable in their efforts and Mr. Emmerson particularly worked hardest in getting out the furniture, and seeing it safely disposed of. The fire burned all night, and the volunteer forces all remained up assisting in the saving of property.
          A representative of our paper visited the scene of the fire on Thursday morning. The place had a most melancholy and depressing appearance. The gaunt walls of the noble mansion were standing, the interior being filled with smoking and charred debris, while the joists in the wall were smouldering and burning away with what may be called a subdued fierceness. Most of the furniture had been removed to the farm-yard buildings adjacent, but a considerable quantity was still under marquees on the grounds near the house. Everywhere were scattered pieces of statuary, marble mantelpieces, mirrors, bric-a-brac and more or less injured furniture. On the lawn in front stood a massive billiard table, the top of which had not been rescued. A beautiful recumbent marble statue, “The Sleeping Beauty” lay uninjured close by, and a short distance away was a magnificent “Diana” in marble, saved intact by the efforts of the gentlemen already named. A “Psyche”, several busts, and other people were also saved, but a beautiful group in Carrara marble which stood at the end of the hall was badly mutilated and nearly destroyed. A strennous effort was made to save this group, which has a history, and which intrinsically as a work of art was very valuable. They succeeded taking it from its position to the entrance door almost beneath the portico, with infinite difficulty, as it weighed more than a ton and a half. Here they were obliged to leave it, and it was almost buried beneath the brick work and debris that fell from above. The damage done was enormous, and very difficult to estimate. The carved woodwork, the moulded ceilings, and the many costly fixtures, would cost a very large sum to replace. Fortunately the plate, glass and valuables in the lower rooms were saved. Twelve thousand pounds worth of injury it is estimated has at least been caused, and, though the place was insured, the insurance only partially covers the loss. Great sympathy is felt for Mr. La Touche, who is extremely popular in the county, and who spent the 77 years of his life in the magnificent home of his fathers that he now sees completely destroyed.
                                                    The scene was visited by a number of people on Thursday, anxious to render any assistance in their power to the family. Mr. Peroy La Touche, who was in London when the occurrence took place, has returned. Architects and engineers have examined the ruins, and it is stated that the mansion, or at least a portion of it, will be rebuilt as soon as possible.

The Kildare Observer, March 7th 1891 reports that the magnificent mansion at Harristown, the residence of the La Touche family for generations, was almost entirely destroyed by fire. Our thanks to Roy O'Brien.

June 24, 2009


Leinster Leader, July 24th 1945
Visiting Birthplace of Grandparents
U.S. Soldier’s Impression of Ballitore
The first American soldier to visit Ballitore district arrived there during the past week. He is Mr. William Byrne, twenty-years-old member of a famous U.S. Airborne Division, which during the fighting in France last year, added a glorious chapter to the history of the American Airforce.
       Billy, as he is known to his friends, is a good-looking, well-built youngster whose smiling blue eyes proclaim his Irish strain. He is visiting his cousin, Mr. Thomas O’Connor, Crookstown. His grandfather, the late Mr. Thomas Byrne, was born in Moone, and his grandmother, formerly Miss O’Connor, came from Calverstown, Kilcullen. He is one of a family of seven, his home is in Newark, N.J., and both his parents are alive. He joined the American Army at the age of 18. His father, Mr. Peter Byrne, has already visited the country twice, once at the age of 2 and again when 7 years old.
 “I have always longed to see Ireland” Billy told the writer of this article on Monday. “It certainly is the most beautiful country I have ever seen and the people are so friendly and hospitable” he added. “Do you learn much about Ireland in America?” asked the writer. “Indeed we do for there is a deep and lasting affection there for this country” he said “and all Americans of Irish descent take a great interest in the affairs of Ireland.” And not without an air of pride he added “You know 80% of the American soldiers serving in Europe are of Irish descent.”
   At a convivial gathering in Mr. E. J. Kelly’s establishment at Ballitore on Monday evening the American visitor was presented by a kinsman. Mr. Tim Byrne, Ballitore, with a beautiful blackthorn shillelah.
      Billy leaves this week to join his unit in Sens, France. He expects to embark for home in September or October. “I shall have many happy memories to tell the folks back home about Ballitore and its grand people” he confided in the writer.

The Leinster Leader of July 1945 recalls the first American soldier to visit Ballitore district, the birthplace of his grandparents.  Our thanks to Roy O'Brien

June 19, 2009


Leinster Leader 16 February 1995
Family Heirloom is now back where it belongs
By Eimear Vize
A family heirloom, which represents a period of strife and community triumph in Kilcock, is now safely returned to its town of origin.
            The historic sword is the source of numerous stories circulated in the Rochfort family for generations, one of the oldest families in Kilcock.
            After many years in New Zealand, the sword was recovered and now claims pride of place in the home of Frank Rochfort, a direct descendant of a man who snatched it from the hands of an English officer as he attacked during a raid on Kilcock in the late 18th century.
            The Rochfort family arrived in Kilcock in 1690, the year of the Boyne engagement between the Duke of Orange and King James II. Travelling across north Leinster, they settled in Kilcock at Church Street, then known as Boherboy from the old Gaelic name ‘Bothar Bui’, or the Yellow Road. Successive generations lived there, also acquiring a large portion of the lands of Branganstown, which they farmed extensively.
            The farm buildings were behind their Kilcock house and so the cow-herd were driven into Kilcock each morning and evening, for milking, providing for the town its daily supply of milk. Even Maynooth College tapped into the Rochfort milk supply until lit acquired its own cow-herd.
            Frank still retains the name on the fields of his farm which have been handed down through the generations. There is the Tumbling Field where his house stands, behind that is Currahawn, the bottom field, the commons field at Branganstown corner, Kiln Field, Pigeon Field and the Well Field. A mass path crossed these fields in olden times and some of the stone stiles still exist along the path. Frank voices his regret that none of these stiles were repaired so that people could once again walk this sacred path.
            With great nostalgia he talks about the return of the historic sword which has been in his family for generations. During the Rebellion of 1798, the town of Kilcock and surroundings areas witnessed their share of pillage, burnings and tragic deaths.
            Kilcock was a stronghold of the Defenders in 1793-94, a secret oath-bound organisation of which Hedge School Master, Laurence O’Connor, was the organiser. He was captured in 1795, and following a brief trial, he was executed in Naas Gaol.
            It was during this period of National and local unrest that the Rochfort sword was claimed. A skirmish between the townspeople and members of the British Army resulted in a sword being wrestled by a member of the Rochfort family from the hands of an English Officer, just as the officer was about to lunge the weapon at a member of the local community.
            The man who gained possession of the sword was a Grand Uncle of Frank’s father. Frank recalls great childhood stories of those distant and troubled times, and these tales have been passed down generation after generation, along with the sword. In 1957 Franks’ brother, Michael Rochfort, emigrated to New Zeland. In later years, when on a visit to Ireland, Michael asked if he could return to his new home with the weapon, to show his children the fabled sword he had told so many stories about.
            Frank gladly gave it to him, and so it left Kilcock town for a distant shore. Since then Frank has often spoken of the sword, and wished it back in Kilcock. He wrote to his brother, expressing his desire to recover the sword and its leather scabbard, and bring it back to its place of origin in Kilcock.
            At Christmas, a package arrived at Frank’s home. It had been sent by courier from Michael Rochfort in New Zealand. On opening it, Frank was overjoyed to see once again the sword in which so much interest had been shown by his family. Frank wishes to retain it in the Kilcock area and hopefully it can be exhibited in his home town for future generations.

June 18, 2009


Leinster Leader 22/1/1983
History of Naas church from the pen of late P.P
A detailed and painstaking history of the Church of Our Lady and St. David in Naas is contained in a “yearbook” which was written by the late parish priest, the Rev. P.J. Doyle in 1953. Not only does it record the entire history of the church in all its stages, but it also sheds valuable light on other aspects of the history of the parish.
We publish a synopsis of the history below. Many of the present parishioners in the town are not natives, and it may be of interest to them to learn of the history of the local Catholic Church.
The information should also serve to remind locals of the heritage they possess – a heritage which was handed down to them through the endeavours of various pastors in the parish who had to minister to the local flock in times that were very different from today’s.
The booklet states that the pre-Reformation church was on the site of the present Protestant church (St. David’s). It is unlikely that there was any Catholic Church open for worship after the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII. It is noted in a registry in 1704 that a John Hyland was parish priest of Naas.
By 1731, the existence of the first post Reformation Church is noted. A House of Lords report on “Property in this Kingdom” states: “In Naas, Mass is said within the ruins of an old abbey”.
The ruins were at Abbeyfield to the south of the present parish church. Nothing remains today of them. The then parish priest, Fr. Denis Dempsey, acquired a site for a church beside the North Moat. It was built in 1750. Incidentally, Fr. Dempsey was described in the lease as “Denis Dempsey, Gent”. This building served as the parish church until 1827 when it was converted into a school.
Sometime before 1801 the de Burgh family of Oldtown donated a site for a new church at Abbeyfield. The approach to the new church was by Mill Lane, the former rear entrance to the convent grounds. However, the parish priest, Fr. Gerald Doyle, acquired additional land to give a frontage into the Sallins road. Fr. Doyle wished to preserve the name of St. David, in the title of the new church. The pre-Reformation church was already called after St. David, a name chosen by the Welsh Normans who had settled in Naas. Fr. Doyle decided on the combined title “Our Lady and St. David” which was also the title of the Augustinian Priory at Great Connell, near Newbridge.
The church was opened for public worship on the Feast of the Assumption, 1827. It is not known who the architect was; nor has the cost been recorded. But it is known that Fr. Doyle carried out a Herculean task in getting funds in those poverty stricken times. He went around the streets literally begging for money for his new church. The church tower was not begun until 1851, and was completed in 1858. The tower in transitional Gothic style is modelled on that of a 14th century English church. The architect of the tower was J.J. McCarthy, who was one of the Young Irelanders. The church bell was cast in 1855.
Fr. Doyle’s predecessor, Fr. James Hughes, revamped the interior of the church. The rough wooden supports of the roof were beautified, and the confessionals and a pulpit added. The pulpit was later sold to the administrator in Tullow where it was re-erected. Over the plain wooden altar an elaborate Gothic canopy in wood was constructed. The woodwork was executed by three Naas craftsmen, the brothers Michael and Paul Meade and Michael Hearn. The Meades lived in Sallins road, and Michael Hearn in 19 North Main Street.
Two statues – of the Blessed Virgin and St. David – were placed in the church. Fr. Hughes also built a tribune for the nuns near the sanctuary. This was later used as a meeting place for church societies and a practice room for the choir. A baptistery was built in another annexe. He also erected a monument to his predecessor, Fr. Doyle, depicting a priest in marble. The features are supposedly modelled on those of Fr. Doyle, with a photograph or portrait being used for that purpose.
Fr. Hughes erected the iron railings and gates in front of the church. They were removed in the early 1970’s. New recessed railings were put up by former P.P., Fr. P. Harris, and car-parking spaces in front of the church were created. Fr. Hughes died in May, 1876, and was buried in the south aisle of the church. His grave tablet can be seen in the floor.
First Window
He was succeeded by Fr. Thomas Morrin, who in 1887 erected the first stained glass window, that of the Sacred Heart, in the church. It was made by a Frenchman and changed position at least once in the church. Fr. Morrin at the turn of the century erected two side altars dedicated to the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary. In 1901 he erected the stained glass windows over them- one representing Our Lord, and the other the Holy Family. They are made in Birmingham. The side altars were made in Dublin. Incidentally, the cut stone for the windows was supplied by Pearse of Dublin, the father of Padraig Pearse, the 1916 leader.
It is recorded that £150 was given towards the windows by James O’Hanlon, Poplar Square; Mrs. J. Burke, Main St., gave £100. Other large donations given to Fr. Morrin for additions to the church were from Edward Doyle, Tipper (£700) and the bishop, Dr. Comerford (£350).
The Chancel
The next work undertaken by Fr. Morrin was the addition of a chancel, including two sacristies, mosaic flooring, communion rails, a high altar, three stained glass windows, a heating system, and a statue of Our Lady in the chancel. The building contractor was James Hyland, Naas. The architects were Ashlin and Coleman of Dublin. Various firms, mainly from Dublin, carried out the work of installing the altar etc. The total cost of the work was £3,085 which was paid for by Fr. Morrin out of his personal means. (It is recorded that altogether Fr. Morrin gave £6000 out of personal funds to the parish for parochial works and this was an enormous sum in those days).
Fr. Morrin died in October, 1907, and was buried in the new cemetery, as it was known then (now St. Corban’s). Fr. Morrin had acquired the cemetery with his own money for the parish. He is commemorated by a tablet in the porch of the church. He died before the major works he had undertaken and paid for were completed. In addition to his many other works, Fr. Morrin provided the church’s first organ in 1890. He also had the mortuary chapel in the new cemetery built in 1907 at a cost of under £700.
The next P.P. was Fr. Michael Norris, who was aged 72 when appointed to Naas. Yet he ministered in the parish for many years. Fr. Norris in 1908 transferred the organ from the oratory of the Children of Mary to the west gallery. In 1910 he erected the stained glass window of the Assumption beside Our Lady’s altar. The Stations of the Cross were in very poor condition and they were replaced in 1914 with new oak frames being provided by Mrs. Mary Anne Doyle, Tipper. Handsome carpets, made at Naas carpet factory, were laid at the three altars. The church grounds were concreted. The Children of Mary’s oratory was extended; roof repairs carried out, and six stained glass windows, costing £200 each, and made in Germany, were erected.
The parishioners erected a statue of St. Michael in the church grounds to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Fr. Norris. Fr. Norris was succeeded by Fr. Patrick J. Doyle who had previously served in Knockbeg College. In November 1920, Fr. Doyle, was appointed curate in Naas.He served in that capacity until May 1938, when he was appointed parish priest.He said in his history of the parish: “On his appointment he found himself faced with grave financial difficulties, with war clouds already darkening the horizon. The World War with all its stresses began the following year. He found that there was not one penny in the parochial funds…” He went on to say how he rectified the situation “raised by means of two Carnivals and extraordinary offerings of the faithful”. By 1953 the parish was clear of debt.
What is probably little known about the church in Naas is that at one time it was without an organ. The original one became infected with woodworm and was disposed of. Fr. Doyle obtained one from an English organ-maker at a cost of £1,500. But that was not the end of the difficulty. It was hard to find place for the instrument. The organ was placed in the arch connecting the main gallery with the tower on a new level which extended over the existing floor. This meant that a choral gallery had to be formed. The construction work on that was in the charge of J.J. Noonan, Newbridge. The workers employed in the project were Matthew Corcoran, and his cousin, Joseph Ward, of the firm of Corcoran’s of Naas. The cost of the gallery was over £373, and the cost of ancillary electrical work was a little over £71. Because the gallery was above the level of the windows a roof-ventilator had to be installed at a cost of over £26.
Other works
The following are other works which were carried out to the church between 1936 and1953. In 1940 the roof of the south sacristy was replaced. This was comprised of a compaction of concrete and steel. The floor of the sacristy was also replaced. The pillars in the inner angles of the chancel which were originally to be composed of marble were replaced. But they were constructed of reinforced concrete faced with terrazzo. Additional chancel windows were added by Fr. Doyle. In 1941, the chancel walls and ceiling were decorated in marble and ceramic mosaic. In the same year the new Gothic pulpit was erected at a cost of £215. It was presented to the church by the men’s branch of the Sacred Heart solidarity. The pulpit is in the Gothic style and is mainly constructed of Austrian oak. It was created by Frank O’Cleary, from Co. Tipperary, who was a student in the Benedictine school of artistic crafts in Glenstal priory in Co. Limerick.
In use during Fr. Doyle’s ministration in the parish was a miniature silver chalice, which was believed to be a survival from the days of the Penal Laws as it could be easily concealed on one’s person. It measured only six inches in height. According to tradition, it was dug up in a garden in Sallins. It is dated 1685, and was used during Holy Week. Another chalice was found in the ruins of the priory and hospital of St. John held by the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. The ruins occupied part of the garden of the parochial house. It was discovered around 1839. It is dated 1729, and like the earlier dated chalice bears an inscription in Latin. Mass used to be said within the ruins of the old abbey during the Penal times. Another chalice is inscribed to Fr. Dempsey who built the first post-Reformation church in the town. There were, of course, other chalices in the possession of the church, but they were presented to the parish at later dates. In May, 1949, the confessionals in the church were rebuilt and the cost was paid for by a parishioner, Miss Annie Dowling, of Main Street.
On October 4th 1949, the church was solemnly consecrated by the then bishop of the dioceses, Dr. Keogh. As well as local clergy, a number of clerics who were natives of the parish also assisted at the ceremonies. Two relics – of St. Clementianus and St. Modestina were sealed in the sepulchre of the high altar. The mural consecration crosses were designed by Christopher F. Jordan, art student, Naas. The transept altars were consecrated by Msgr. L. Brophy, delegate of then bishop, Dr. Cullen, in December, 1932. By 1953 it was already planned to build a mortuary chapel off the main porch. The chapel was completed some years later.

The Leinster Leader of January 1983 reports on a detailed and painstaking history of the Church of Our Lady and St. David in Naas  contained in a “yearbook” which was written by the late parish priest, the Rev. P.J. Doyle in 1953.

June 17, 2009


Leinster Leader 25/5/29
War Graves
The following was read from the Commissioners of Public Works – “According to records supplied to us by the Imperial War Graves Commission, which have been duly verified by our Investigating Officer, the soldiers named on the enclosed list served in the Great War and are buried in Naas New (R.C.) Cemetery. We propose, after obtaining all necessary consents of the next of kin, to erect over each of the graves, not already marked by a private memorial, a headstone conforming with the standard designs adopted by the Imperial War Graves Commission. The standard headstone measures 1ft. 3ins. wide and 2ft. 8ins. above the ground. It bears the regimental badge and particulars together with a religious emblem in each case if desired. We shall be obliged if you will grant formal permission to erect headstones over these graves by signing the enclosed form. We suggest that as usual, in the case of these war graves, permission to erect the headstones be granted gratis. We would further be glad of an assurance, so far as the Cemetery Authority is concerned, that if and when the headstones are erected they will remain undisturbed”.
The enclosed form contained the following names of soldiers whose remains are interred in the New Cemetery:-
Pte.J.Fleming, South Irish Horse
Sergt. W. Kenny, Royal Dublin Fusiliers
D./Cpl. J.Doran, Depot Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Q/Sergt. P.J. Burke, R.F.A.
Pte. P.Lawlor, 7th Hussars.
Sp. T. Kerrigan, Royal Engineers.
Pte. A.McGarr, 7/Royal Dublin fusiliers.
Pte. M. Byrne, Depot Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Pte. C. Reilly, 5/Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Pte. M. McGlynn    do.
Rifleman E.Noone, 3/Irish Rifles
Pte. S. Maguire, 5/Leinster Regiment.
Pte. W. Whelan, 3/R.D. Fusiliers.
Pte. P. Brien, R.D. Fusiliers.
Pte. S. Harris, 1/Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Pte. R.B. Beveridge, R.A.S.C.
Mr. Doyle: It is a very fine proposal.
Mr. Dowling: The Council has n objection to giving all the consents and assurances required.
The Chairman made an order to this effect.

Kildare County Council gives permission for the erection of headstones over the graves of soldiers buried in Naas New (R.C.) cemetery who served in the Great War.

June 10, 2009


The Leinster Express, Saturday, May 13, 1871.

The summer rent day at Donadea Castle, the seat of Sir Gerald Aylmer, Bart., was held on Friday last, and was marked by all the festivities which for years have characterised that event.  The usual distribution of prizes took place, and they were awarded as follows:- The first prize, a corn-drill, to Mr. William Carter, of Grangeclare; the second, a winnowing machine, to Mr Jas. Telford, of Donadea; the third, a portable boiler, to Mr Jas. Dowling, of Allenwood; the forth, a weighing machine, to Mr Thomas Carter, of Coolagh, Kilmeague; the fifth, a plough, to Mr. James Walsh, of Allenwood; the sixth, an excellent jennet and cart, to Mr Wm Cooper of Donadea; the seventh, a patent churning machine, to Mr John Healy, of Kilmeague.
After the drawing was over an excellent luncheon was provided for all present, and an abundant supply of liquids out of the cellar at the Castle.
Fleetwood Rynd Esq., occupied the chair, and Messrs. William Curtis, of Kilmeague, and Patrick Coonan, of Donadea, filled the vice-chairs.
The Chairman proposed the health of Sir Gerald and Lady Alymer (cheers).
Mr. A. Johnston, jun., responded on behalf of his father, who, being one of the oldest tenants on the Donadea estate, generally undertook the task on previous occasions.  He said he had known Sir Gerald and his kind lady for a number of years and had always known them to be thoughtful and indulgent to their tenantry (hear, hear.)  As such all present knew them; therefore it was unnecessary for them to extol their virtues (applause).
The Chairman then proposed the health of Mr and Mrs Alymer and family, which was received with cheers.
Mr Curtis responded on behalf of \Mr and Mrs Alymer.
The Chairman then proposed the health of the successful prize-takers, and coupled the name of Mr James Dowling of Allenwood, with the toast which was received with applause.
Mr James Dowling, jun., responded.  He said he trusted Sir Gerald and Lady Alymer would live long, as the tenants could not desire a landlord or landlady that would take a greater interest in their welfare.
Mr Curtis responded on behalf of the Allen tenantry, and Mr Coonan on behalf of the Donadea tenantry.
Mr A. Johnston, jun., proposed the health of the chairman – their lately appointed agent – and he trusted he might live long to meet them at Donadea.
Mr Rynd said he felt bound to thank Mr Johnston, as also all present, for the manner in which the toast was received.  He wished them all happiness, and hoped to meet them again on future occasions like the present (hear hear.)
The next merry meeting was then given, when a piper was introduced, and dancing commenced, and was kept up to a late hour.

The Leinster Express of May 13, 1871 recalls a summer rent day at Donadea Castle marked by all the festivities which characterised this yearly event in bygone days

June 06, 2009


Leinster Leader 19th September 1959
Kildare Experiments on Cut-Away Bogs
It is not possible, in the scope of a newspaper article, to give a detailed account of all the experimental and practical work carried on at the North Kildare farm of the Irish Agricultural Institute at Derrybrennan where a revolutionary farming experiment on fifty acres of cut-away bog is taking place which was described in a first article two weeks ago.
            In a long term scheme of this nature, much of the work is theoretical, and some schemes planned are still in the laboratory stage.
If the wheat and other cereal plots on the bog are the heart of the experiments, then Derrybrennan’s tiny “lab”.—located in what was once a stable – may well be called its brain. Here, the various sowings are planned after painstaking research and experiments.
Scores of plants and seeds, in bottles and in jars, each treated with different formulas of chemical manures, stand around on the laboratory shelves.
            Looking at these, one is struck by the fact that many of them may not be harvested for another twenty years! By that time a new generation of farmers may be reaping the fruits of the patient research work now being carried on in Derrybrennan’s little laboratory.
The various stages of these unique experiments and their results are carefully recorded and tabulated and then submitted to the Institute of Agriculture in Dublin.
            Take for instance, the grass crops in two greenhouses which have been erected at the back of the laboratory, and which are covered with sheets of polythene plastic an economical substitute for glass. The experiment here is to determine the correct amount of water needed to grow good crops of grass on the bog. The grass is growing in scores of small boxes, each placed at a different level above a “water table.”
            Already proved by these experiments is the fact that grass can be made to out-grow even rushes on the bog. And their full value becomes apparent when it is remembered that in the Midlands alone there are roughly 500,000 acres in bog; 150,000 of these are in process of development by Board Na Mona.
            In a document on this, Mr. J. Delaney, B.Agr.Sc. who is in charge of the farm, said that the development bogs are being cut away at the rate of one foot each year. Some of them would be entirely cut away in 15 years time, some would take up to fifty years to eliminate. Eventually, however, up to a quarter of a million acres would be added to Ireland’s potential farming economy.
By that time, thousands of men would have lost their employment with Bord na Mona. All of them would be settled on bog farms of 40 acres.
“Market gardening may be the answer to the question of the future crops on these farms but we do not know yet” he told our reporter.
            An extremely valuable and informative report on the project to grow crops on our bogs was submitted this year to the County Kildare Committee of Agriculture. It was written by Mr. Sean Colgan, B.Agr.Sc. Edenderry, an instructor for the North Kildare area. Mr. Colgan has taken a very keen interest in the Derybrennan project and his factual report is a very able and scholarly analysis of the problems presented to Mr. Delaney and his staff.
“To understand fully the major problems that lie ahead it is necessary to firstly examine peat types, system of turf harvesting etc” writes Mr. Colgan.
            He gives a “profile” picture of the composition of the bogs of the Midlands which shows that one bog is covered to a depth from two to four feet with sphagnum moss, below that, to a depth of 10 to 15 feet is wood of fen peat, and underneath a layer of marl and limestone rock.
            Explaining how the above was formed, Mr. Colgan writes that it is necessary to consider the geological origin and different conditions which prevailed.
            In the period which followed there was a gradual subsidence in the central plane. This resulted in the blockage of drainage with a resulting accumulation of vegetable matter, trees, etc. Under these conditions reeds (Phragnites) mainly flourished which gave rise to fen or black peat. Later still, the acid conditions resulted in a change of vegetation from reeds to moss (Sphagnum) and gave rise to brown peat.
            After analysing the various types of peat, the report states that black peat offered the greatest potential for development.
“After harvesting of the fen peat to provide fuel and light, a certain depth must be left to provide a basis for future cropping. In the traditional method of past harvesting the fen peat is cut down to the highly-calcerous marl. A similar complete removal under large scale machine harvesting of the pet would render future cropping very difficult or impossible.
“A depth of 2 to 3 feet may be sufficient as a base for future workings. Raw peat when exposed to the air oxidises and mineralises; in theory 4-5 feet of peat would gradually decompose to carbon dioxide, or to put it simply, rot away until eventually only the marl would be left exposed.
“To counteract this, it is necessary to mix the peat with the underlying subsoil – in this case the marl etc. On the continent, where work of this type is desert-bed as “fen culture” a large plough is used to mix a certain portion of the subsoil with the peat.”
Mr. Colgan refers to the fact that in Derrybrennan there have been satisfactory results so far, in the growing of root crops, grasses, bush and soft fruits, though the application of lime, nitrogen, Phosphate and Potash.
Referring to the extensive areas that will become available for the cultivation when the bogs are cut away, Mr. Colgan states that it would seem best from an economical point of view to develop industrial crops on a large scale, such as trees for pulp, grass meal plants integrated with horticultural crops (soft fruits, vegetables etc.) Potato growing, flax or hemp, bamboos for wood pulp were crops to be considered.
These farms might be made economical by the addition of cut-away bog to existing holdings. The capital requirement for the carrying out of drainage, purchase of suitable machinery, etc would however make it necessary to look for some other system for optional agricultural utilisation of the bogs.
In this direction, Mr. Colgan suggests that the solution might lie in the formation of a State sponsored or privately sponsored company to operate the bogland in large units, or units to provide efficient production.
His report concludes: No matter what system of agriculture, or horticulture, or forestry is carried out, it is necessary to look to the not too distant future, when the bogs no longer provide fuel, to ensure that the large numbers at present employed will continue to make a good living, a living under a new system – a system which, by then, will help to boost still further the existing high agricultural output in Ireland.
The whole picture presented is one of hope for the future. It confounds the many critics who scoff at any talk of crop-growing on the bogs, and envisages a time when thousands of young Irishmen may turn form the emigrant ship to the bogs for gainful employment at home.
            And to those of us who remember the bogs as a vast area of almost useless territory, and who now see them worked by thousands of Irishmen in a great national scheme, this “vision of the future” brings renewed hope for the Ireland of to-morrow.
            When that to-morrow dawns, a future generation of Irishmen will owe much to Derrybrennan farm and the men who work it to-day.

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