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March 27, 2010


Liam Kenny
GAA founder recalled in Naas
A plaque has been erected on the Leinster Leader premises, South Main
Street, Naas, recalling John Wyse Power, Editor 1883/84 who was one of the
seven founders of the Gaelic Athletic Association who attended the inaugural
meeting in Thurles on 1st November 1884. A native of Waterford, Wyse
Power had a lifelong involvement in nationalist politics and journalism. He
took up the editorship of the Leader in summer 1883 and a year later
answered the invitation from Michael Cusack to participate in the foundation
of the GAA. More information from Stan Hickey or Liam Kenny at

A plaque has been erected on the Leinster Leader premises in Naas recalling John Wyse Power, Editor 1883/84...Our thanks to Liam Kenny


Leinster Leader 25th February 2010

From Castledermot to Leixlip …follow the KAS for 2010
It’s the time of year when the history community emerges from its winter hibernation and begins to look forward to the series of talks, outings and presentations on facets of local history around the county. Most history groups have a programme of talks during the year; all welcome both the committed and the casually interested. Maintaining an eye on the local notes columns of this paper is a good way of keeping in touch with history group meetings in your locality. A fine starting point is the annual programme of the Kildare Archaeological Society.
The KAS is the longest lived history society in the county and indeed one of the longest established in the country. Its members have been researching and publishing the history of County Kildare and adjoining counties for well over a century. The society will reach back far in time for the topic of its first meeting when on Sunday, 21st March at 3pm Noel Dunne, archaeologist, will give a presentation on ‘Recent archaeological discoveries on the M9 Kilcullen to Carlow motorway’, the venue is the Kilcullen heritage centre.
The following month society volunteers will gather at Rathangan Church of Ireland graveyard to continue a tombstone recording project for burial grounds in the county begun last year. Expert guidance will be provided by Bridget Loughlin, Kildare County Council heritage officer and Mario Corrigan of the County Library local studies section. Assemble at Rathangan church at 2.30pm on Sunday, 25th April for this exercise which is surprisingly enjoyable despite its cemetery setting.
The gorse will be blazing yellow on the Wicklow hills in May when the KAS explores the Glen of Imaal. The Glen is well known as the main field training location for the Defence Forces. That activity has created its own history in Army folklore. Leitrim barracks, one of the chain built through Wicklow by the British, will be visited as will monuments from a much earlier era including the Kilruddery stone circle and the Knickeen ogham stone. Rendezvous is at the Glen Lounge car park at 2pm on Saturday, 22nd May.
 On Sunday 18th July the KAS takes an out-of-county trip to Wexford where destinations include the old Ferns cathedral and the period house known as the The Deeps, currently the residence of Peter Pearson, a well known author on architecture and art history. At the end of summer the Society marks heritage day at a location which is the spiritual home of Kildare historians, St. Brigid’s cathedral at Kildare town. Archaeologist Heather King will give an expert guide to the Cathedral’s medieval monuments while her colleague Con Manning will present some insights on the round tower, one of the great landmarks of the Kildare heartland. And to add to the sensory feast there will be a recital on the cathedral’s newly renovated organ.  September will see the KAS and friends perambulating the Old Norse promontory of Howth, a visit to the church, castle and megalithic tomb as well as some fresh maritime airs from the Irish Sea. The heather will be in its autumn hues on the Wicklow hills on 19th September when the speaker will be Dr. Seamus O’Maitiu who will give a talk on a ‘Historical survey of the King’s river valley’, a river with a melodious name such as that deserves a place on any annual programme.
The sun will be setting early in November 2010 when the KAS programme features a talk by Patrick Guinness, a descendant of the great Arthur and Furness resident, who has taken a scientific approach to tracing his family roots. He will reveal all in a talk entitled ‘Irish history revealed by genetics.’  
The foregoing preview of KAS activities far from exhausts its activities – its biennial journal is a hugely valuable contribution to the history of the county as does its network of members who form a supportive asset to anybody researching aspects of Kildare’s heritage. Leading the KAS in its 109th year is President, Conleth Manning; Vice-President, Hugh Crawford; Immediate Past President, Elizabeth Connelly; Secretary, Mary Glennon; Membership Secretary, Greg Connelly; Treasurer: Catherine Boylan; Librarian, Bernadette Doyle; Editor, Prof. Raymond Gillespie; Assistant Editor, Eamon Kane; Auditor, Nicola Gregory; Programme co-ordinator, Mary Kirby; and council members, Mario Corrigan, Seamus Cullen, Patrick Guinness, Eamon Kane, Niall Meagher, Brian McCabe, Siobhan McNulty, Andrew Ogden, Elizabeth O’Kelly, Dr. Seamus O’Maitiú, Jens Priesler, and Glascott Symes. All are well known in their localities and will be glad to speak with prospective members or anybody with an interest in the heritage of county Kildare and adjoining terrain. Series no: 166.

Liam Kenny, in his regular feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun' in the Leinster Leader looks forward to the annual programme of  the Kildare Archaeological Society for 2010.  Our thanks to Liam...


Leinster Leader 22nd May 1976

Kildareman on Epic Sea Trip
A KILDAREMAN is a member of the crew of the St. Brendan-a craft made of wood and leather-which left Dingle peninsula on Monday night on an epic 4,000 mile journey across the Atlantic. Arthur “Boots” Mangan of Straffan is one of the five-man crew, and the voyage is aimed at trying to prove that St. Brendan could have beaten Columbas to America by 800 years. As the frail boat left Bandon Creek, Arthur uncorked a bottle of stout from the boat’s store of provisions and drank a toast to the onlookers along the shoreline. The St. Brendan is bound for Boston, and aboard are sufficient foodstuffs and water to last forty days. The mission leader is Tim Severin who said the crew were very confident about making the crossing safely. He spoke warmly of the invaluable help given by John Goodwin (80), The Maharees, in the design of the medieval craft. On hand to see them off were “Boots” Mangan’s parents, Frank and Mrs. Mangan, of Straffan. The family have a holiday home on Valentia Island. Said Mr. Frank Mangan, when asked about his son’s involvement in the voyage, a most hazardous undertaking: “If this is what he wants to do, let him do it”. The St. Brendan is equipped only with the kind of gear that the Saint and the monks who accompanied him took on their sea voyage, with the exception of a few modern aids, including a radio transmitter.

The Leinster Leader of May 1976 reports on the epic 4,000 mile journey across the Atlantic made by Kildare man Arthur “Boots” Mangan of Straffan who  was a member of the crew of the St. Brendan-a craft made of wood and leather.

March 26, 2010


Who do you think you are’?

Want to trace your Family Tree
and don’t know how to go about it?

 Come along to a workshop

Newbridge Community Library

Tues 30th Mar 

 7 – 8pm

Facilitated By
 Mario Corrigan &
Karel Kiely

Genealogy talk and workshop at Newbridge Library, Tues 30 March 7-8 pm    


Thomas Travers grandson of Matthew Connolly contacted us with some first-hand observations of the action in Dublin, as Matthew, brother of Sean, was present on the fateful day in 1916 when Sean Connolly lost his life.

The information contained in this is taken from recordings and transcripts from conversations with my grandfather, Matthew Connolly, who was in Dublin City Hall at the time of the Easter Rising 1916 made while my grandfather was still alive and in good health.
He did commit a lot of his memories of that time and other incidents of that time to reel to reel tapes which were transcribed later. I also had conversations with him.
The tapes would have been made in the late 1960s and early 1970s.He was an architect with the Board of Works (now OPW) during the 1960s.
He was the architect responsible for the upgrading of the GPO, the Four Courts and other national buildings for the 1966 commemoration ceremonies.

The objective of the group (30 men and 8 or 10 women) under the command of Sean Connolly was to enter Dublin City Hall and use the vantage of the building to keep the British Army from returning to Dublin Castle. The building has the ability to see in three directions from its roof. Parliament Street and up Capel Street, Dame Street and Lord Edward Street. The men there were to keep the British Army, who were at the races in the Curragh, under fire as long as possible.
Although the British Army had allowed leave to their men in Dublin to attend the races at the Curragh, there would still have been a large contingent of the military at The Castle. Never at any time was the objective to seize Dublin Castle. With the gates of Dublin Castle closed it would have slowed a response from the remainder of the military force in the Castle and given the returning forces a hindrance getting to their weapons and ammunition.
The British Army would be returning to Dublin by train and the trains were to arrive at Kingsbridge Station, now Heuston Station. Sean Connolly had a key to the City Hall as he worked in the motor tax office, which was located in the building. When they reached Dublin City Hall he ordered two men to secure the sentries at the gates of Dublin Castle which would allow him and his men time to enter the City Hall. It was at this time the DMP policeman was shot and killed. Sean Connolly was angered at this shooting. Some of his men entered the office of “The Evening Mail “and the gent’s outfitters Henry and James on the corners of Parliament Street. There was a young lad of about 17, Charlie D'Arcy, on the roof of Henry and James who leaned out to warn some women on Parliament Street that they were in danger when he was shot and killed by a sniper in the Bedford Tower. Charlie D’Arcy may have been killed before Sean Connolly died in Dublin City Hall.
Sean Connolly was a part time actor and had acted on the stage of The Abbey. He was employed by the city council. Some articles and books report that he tried to raise the flag of the Irish Republic on the roof of the City Hall, he did not do this as the municipal flag was flying, as was custom on bank holidays.  

Thomas Travers.

Thomas Travers grandson of Matthew Connolly contacted us with some first-hand observations of the action in Dublin, as Matthew, brother of Sean, was present on the fateful day in 1916 when Sean Connolly lost his life.  


 Kill History Group
Spring & Summer 2010
Monday 22nd February:    The Kill ‘File’
(Paddy Behan)
Monday 22nd March:  Early Kildare Motoring
 (Bob Webster)

Monday 26th April:     The Curragh Plain
(Hugh Crawford)

Monday 24th May:   ‘From the Civil War to the Emergency’
    Newsreels 1922-1941
    (Adrian Mullowney) 

Monday 28th June:   ‘The Old House’
      (Kevin Lawlor)


All meetings  take place in the Parish Meeting Room at 8.30 p.m.
(unless otherwise indicated)

Kill History Group Meetings for Spring and Summer 2010

March 19, 2010


Kildare Observer 09/04/1898
Messrs. Dunne and Sheridan, Painting and Decorating Contractors, Naas, have just completed a very extensive contract at Furness House, lately purchased from Mr. W. Osborne, who was declared the purchaser in the Courts some years back. It is unnecessary to go into a description of this once beautiful house and grounds as it has been so often repeated in these columns. Suffice it to say that since it has come into the hands of its present owner, the whole place has gone under great alteration, and no expense having been spared it is fast recovering its former grandeur. To go minutely into the work done by even the paint brush would indeed take up more space than would be at our disposal. We visited the place during the week, and on entering the hall the first thing to strike the eye is that it has been divided by an archway and the floor has been put down in parquet. The walls are papered in drab colour, with the figure of a dragon in dark terra cotta, with the wainscoting painted to match. On the right hand side stands a fireplace with a magnificent old white marble carved chimneypiece representing the vine. On the left, under the staircase, Mr. Synott has had a stove erected. Such a piece of wood and workmanship as is in the staircase it would, indeed, be hard to beat. It is, we believe, Spanish chestnut carved magnificently. When Mr. Synott saw it cleaned out he decided to leave it in that state, and we must agree with his taste as it would be sad to see a brush mar such work. A new study has been built looking out on the back lawn, and it is floored to match the hall. The anteroom is papered in green stripe, the painting work to match. The drawingroom is papered in plain tint of yellow, and the carved woodwork has been thoroughly cleaned and painted in white, showing off the fine workmanship. There is a beautiful ceiling in this room said to be put up many years ago by Italians. There is also a carved chimneypiece of great value. The spacious dining room is papered in terra cotta and has a new parquet floor. The chimneypiece of this room is of white Canea marble. The bedrooms are painted in blue terra cotta and cream; in each the woodwork is painted to match. Amongst the many improvements are a new laundry, linen rooms, with special heating apparatus; bath and schoolrooms, lavatories, telephone to servants’ hall, a water supply right through house, with a hose on each landing in case of fire. The kitchen, pantries and servants’ apartments have all been rebuilt and the woodwork painted in terra cotta. The woodwork of the sides and front is painted in olive green. Passing from the house into the stable-yard we find a new groom’s house, coach-house, harness and saddlerooms, and stabling for eleven horses. These are all fine airy boxes, fitted by Musgrave & Co, Belfast, with their patent fittings. They are splendidly paved and drained. The woodwork is stained and varnished, and the ironwork painted in brown. A new hay barn by Kennan & Sons has been erected. The garden has not been neglected and close on 1,000 fruit trees have been planted, and the greenhouses heated by one of Kennan & Sons’ heating apparatus.
Messrs Dunne and Sheridan are to be congratulated for the manner in which they have accomplished their big contract. Messrs. Good Bros, Brunswick street, had the contract for all work except the painting and decorating.

The Kildare Observer of April 1898 reports on the major alterations undertaken to restore the once beautiful Furness House to its former grandeur

March 18, 2010


 Kill History Group
Spring & Summer 2010

Monday 22nd March:  Early Kildare Motoring
 (Bob Webster)

All meetings  take place in the Parish Meeting Room at 8.30 p.m.
(unless otherwise indicated)

Kill History Group. Meeting Monday 22nd March: Early Kildare Motoring (Bob Webster)


Leinster Leader 27/12/1951
“It is one of the proudest privileges of my life to live and minister among you!” These were the words used by the Rev. Father John Redmond, C.C., Moone, when he addressed a very large gathering of parishioners and their friends in Moone School on Tuesday evening, the concluding night of the Second Ring of Gold Cup. He had just been distributing over £80 worth of prizes, in cash and in kind, that night.
The prizes were scattered far and wide, for Dame Fortune partook of the nature of Santa Claus, and in true Christmas sprit she bestowed her favours over widely separated districts, for boundaries of parishes or of counties were no obstacle to her lavishness
The star prize of the night was a lovely three wave Pye radio set. Cash prizes in plenty came in quick succession, a ten pound note, two fivers, two fours, two threes, and three twos, and these were followed by four cases of wines, and eight large parcels of cigarettes, big enough not only to last through Christmas week, but also to see their lucky winners well through the begging of the first month of the New Year. Altogether, thirty-four people were made happier on this great night. The names of those who were fortunate enough to share in these prizes will be published in our next week’s issue.
   Father Redmond, in congratulating the winners, expressed his high appreciation of the great assistance which promoters and members in the Second Ring of Gold had given to augment the requisite funds for the repair and renovation of Moone Church. He said he did not know whom to praise most for the very edifying results-the committees responsible for the organisation of the Club, the hon. secretaries, treasures and promoters who worked so untiringly and who devoted their precious time so unselfishly in their weekly duties and collections, or the 1,800 members whose regular contributions week by week had helped to solve a big portion of the money problems, for without sufficient money the work of renovation would have to fall far short of their needs and of their wishes. Their membership was by no means confined to their own parishioners. The enrolment embraced a wide cross-section of many of the counties of Leinster, even across the Shannon to the Western coast of Connaught, and back again over the Irish Sea to many Irish homes in England.
   The Second Ring of Gold had, in twenty weeks, distributed £700 in prizes, and a similar sum had been allocated to the Renovation Fund, after paying all incidental expenses. It was a great tribute to what could be accomplished in a small district by a warm-hearted people, imbued with the great desire to make their Church worthy of the King of Kings. He thanked, most earnestly, all those who had helped in any way, and he expressed the hope that the Third Ring of Gold, starting on 8th Jan. would, if possible, be even more successful. He reminded intending members that they should enrol their names at once with any of their promoters, or with the Hon. Secs., Ring of Gold, Moone, Co. Kildare.
    Incidentally, Father Redmond referred to the magnificent response by the people of Moone parochial district to his special collection. In addition to subscribing to the Ring of Gold, he announced that the 250 households in the district had contributed the amazing sum of £1,200, in four weeks, to the Renovation Fund. He believed that was an all-time record.
  He said that His Grace the Archbishop, Most Rev. Doctor McQuaid, who visited both the Church and Schools in Moone last week, had spoken in glowing terms of the people of Moone. He was highly pleased with the progress of the work of renovation, and with the improvements which he had seen. The Parish Priest, Very Rev. Father Cotter, had nothing but the highest praise for their loyalty, their devotion, and their unstinted generosity.
   “And in conveying my own appreciation,” said Father Redmond, “ I can never forget the wonderful help you have given me, and I shall always think of you as among the grandest and most generous people in this great country of ours, or indeed of any country in the world.”
    He concluded by thanking the Leinster Leader and the “Nationalist and Leinster Times” for their splendid and regular featuring of their advertisements and announcements throughout the year. These two papers were most helpful, and he could realise their extensive circulation and widespread popularity from the many responses received in answers to their advertisements, and from the frequency with which he heard their editorial articles and news items quoted. Their managers, editors and staff were worthy of the highest credit and most deserving of their best thanks.
    Then, having conveyed the ever-old but ever-welcome wish, “A Happy Christmas and a Glad New Year “ to everyone present, and to their friends who had helped in any way during the course of the year, the proceedings terminated to the echo of loud rounds of applause.

Fr. Redmond thanks the people of Moone for their fundraising efforts towards the repair and renovation of Moone Church on the concluding night of the Second Ring of Gold Cup  as reported in the Leinster Leader of December 1951.

March 13, 2010


Leinster Leader 31st May 1975


A former Luftwaffe flyer who crash-landed in Wexford in April ’41 and was interned at Curragh Camp from then until the summer of ’46 renewed acquaintance with a number of friends in the Newbridge-Curragh area during the last week.
Austrian Max Galler, now working in his native country, stayed in Newbridge during his visit to the country and met many people whom he knew here during the Emergency.  One man with whom he was very anxious to renew acquaintance was Mr. Mick Sheehan of Newbridge and Curragh Camp in whose shoe repair shop at Curragh Camp Herr Galler worked for a time while interned.  The Austrian visited other places where he worked while here.  He was accompanied by his son Maxie, and had some amusing anecdotes to tell of the years when he was the enforced guest  of the Irish nation at Tintown, Curragh Camp.


The Leinster Leader of May 1975 reports on a nostalgic visit to the Newbridge-Curragh area of a  former Luftwaffe flyer who crash-landed in Wexford in April ’41 and was interned at Curragh Camp from then until summer '46  

March 12, 2010


Leinster Leader 8 July 1916

Racing at the Curragh 100 years ago

  Perhaps a few little particulars of the arrangements of the Turf Club at the Curragh over 100 years since may be of interest to our racing friends during the week of the popular June meeting at the Curragh. After listening one evening for a considerable time to a discussion on “form” in respect of the probable winners at the Curragh during the week it struck the writer that some account of the manner in which our sporting forefathers got to work in the racing world in the olden time should not come amiss. My mind turned back to a book in my possession – a copy of the Racing Calendar, published in 1814 containing an account of “Plates, Matches and Sweepstakes,” run for in the year 1813 with an abstract of engagements entered into for future years. The names and addresses are also given of the subscribers numbering 1,800, and it is interesting to note that in very many instances at the present day the same old families and names are identified with the interests of the county generally in the same districts still in various ways as well as with hunting and sporting, while many worthy scions of the same old Irish families are to be found to-day in the County Kildare, and in the different hunting fields of Ireland.
 In “The Emigrant’s Return,” written by the late Canon Sheehan, of Doneraile, the lines occur where news being sought of Ireland :-
Is there frost on the field? Is there snow ion the hollow?
Is the air quite as crisp in the valley below?
Is there pink on the rider and silk on the horses?
Are the hounds baying loud to the Hark, Tallyho?
And over the burrows and over the fences
Do the horsemen still plunge when the hounds have the scent;
And the farmer forget in the glee of the moment
That to-morrow the agent will press him for rent.
 The air is still crisp on the hunting morning, when the Killing Kildare’s are baying loud to the Hark Tallyho, but the agent is gone, and the farmer can now, indeed, duly manage, in the “glee of the moment” without any latter thought of the morrow.
 In the volume referred to, written in the old fashioned type, the old rules and orders of the Turf Club are of much interest and the arrangements for the payment of riders, the choice of members of the Kildare Coffey House, the appointment of Stewards, the punishment for watching trials, the arrangement of matches, subscriptions and sweepstakes, as well as other matters incidental to the government of the turf are dealt with in somehow a rather quaint fashion. It would appear that a century back the members of the famous Daly’s Club were in exceptionally good standing with the Turf Club, as they were admitted members of the Turf Club and Coffee Room at Kildare without a ballot on paying the usual subscription. The members of the Turf Club indeed who attended the old Coffee Room at Kildare in those days were able to look after the main point of finance, evidently very well, as a prominent rule reads:- “That no member of the Turf Club will be allowed to dine with the club without first paying his subscription and arrears to the Treasurer. In 1813 the subscription to the Club and Coffee Room was increased to two guineas a year and two Crowns, while every winner was ordered to pay to the Keeper of the Match Book for the account of the club two guineas over and above the usual fees. The preliminary fees for admission to the Coffee Room were in that year increased to five guineas, while that to the Turf Club was increased to fifteen guineas, one guinea of each to go to the keepers of the Match Book.
 “It would seem that the Stand House was then recognised in practically the same way as it is now, as the following appears:- “The stables at the Stand House being now fitted up ‘tis directed that all horses (except those that stand on the hill) who are to start for any race on the north side of the Turnpike road shall assemble therein at least half an hour before the time appointed for starting and notice is hereby given that no excuse whatever will be admitted of for want of punctuality in any groom who shall neglect to comply with this regulation.”
 At this time military officers who were members of the Turf Club were not habit to the annual subscription for the time of their absence on duty out of “this Kingdom with their regiments.” They should, however, sign a declaration to this effect and deliver it to the Clerk.
 Some of the rules read – “That in future all new rules to be balloted for shall be balloted for before 12 o’clock at night on the Monday of each meeting subsequent to the meeting during which they have been stuck up instead of being ballotted for at nine o’clock.”
 In the racing at the Curragh of a 100 years ago, indeed there was evidently a forfeiture for the entertaining of members at dinner as shown in the following:- “That any members of this club residing within two miles of the Curragh who shall entertain at dinner a member of the club during the meeting shall pay to the Keeper of the Club one guinea for self and one guinea for each member entertained at his house during the meeting – this to be ascertained upon the honour of  the member who entertains. That whenever any member of the Club, himself to be an individual, shall propose a bet such bet shall not be taken up by any other person.”
 “That the Yearling Two Years Old Course and Three Years Old Course should be the Newmarket lengths instead of those present established.” “That each member of the Turf Club for whom the keepers of the Match Book shall keep an account, shall pay them not less than two guineas for each meeting, otherwise they are not obliged nor do not keep an account for such member.” “That in future no greater sum than one guinea for scales and stand, and one guinea to the judge shall be paid by the winner of any race at the Curragh, and that for any feather race (where a course scales are not used) nothing more than the guinea for the judge shall be paid.” “That all ballots shall take place before the hour of dinner.” “It is ordered that in future all horses to run for King’s Plate must be at the post precisely at two o’clock under a penalty not forfeiting two guineas before they are allowed to start.”
 It would appear at this time as if the Deputy Ranger was the starter. “The deputy Ranger must start whatever horses are at the post in half an hour after the time appointed by the Stewards.”
 At this time there was an infirmary at Kilcullen, which has been disused so long that the oldest inhabitant does not appear to remember. One of the order for the Stewards for 1813 says – “The Stewards of the Turf Club have resolved in future that any reference to them from country meetings, one guinea must be sent along with it, which will be handed to the Kilcullen Infirmary. The final rule runs: “The Gold whip, given by the Marquis of Sligo, to be challenged for on Friday of the June meeting, to be run for on Friday of the following October meeting, each person at the time of challenging to deliver the name of his horse or mare, sealed up to the Keepers of the Match Book, and to subscribe his name to a paper to be hung up in the Coffee Room. The Keepers of the Match Book shall hold up seals delivered to them until eight o’clock on Saturday of the meeting, in which the whip is challenged (at which time the possessor of the whip is to declare his Acceptance or Resignation of the whip) and then if the challenge is not accepted, return them unopened, but if the challenge is accepted he is to open them and declare a match or sweepstakes for 100 guineas each. P. P. weight fir age. Four miles.”
 The rules were signed by the Stewards 100 years ago by Right Hon. D. B. Daly, M. P.; Lord Viscount Cremorne and Jas. Daly, Esq., and published by order of the Stewards in the name of Robert Hunter.

An interesting article on Racing at the Curragh 100 years ago from the Leinster Leader of July 1916 compiled and edited by James Durney.   Our thanks to James.

March 04, 2010


Just another milestone?
Much of the fabric of our landscape is being trampled on by the Celtic Tiger. In this article Brian McCabe draws attention to an increasingly vulnerable piece of road furniture
      -the milestone
There can be little doubt that the current comprehensive national programme of road-building and realignment is daily disturbing, uncovering and irrevocably changing the landscape and archaeology of this country in a widespread and unprecedented manner. We see the evidence of this on virtually every major road in the country as we go about our daily business-in my own case, on the road formerly known as the Naas dual carriageway, now referred to in signage (and in good Eurospeak) as the N7 national route.
        There have, of course, been the usual statutorily required archaeological digs along the line of the proposed new road in the past year or so, which have turned up many interesting and valuable finds at different points along the “road-take”. A number of other historical artefacts fall outside the scope of such examination, however, and are in danger of being overlooked in the headlong rush to upgrade our roads to cope with the ever-increasing volume of traffic, particularly to and from our capital city. Chief amongst these must be the humble (and increasingly scarce) milestones that in earlier times helped weary travellers to find and measure their way to and from our principal towns and cities.
          It was those master road-builders, the Romans, who first defined the centre of imperial Rome with a “Golden Milestone” and placed milestones on their great roads showing the distance to this datum so that travellers could mark their progress. In those days, truly, all roads led to Rome.
          While this island may never have been part of the Roman Empire, archaeological excavations over the years have uncovered much evidence of pre-Christian roads; indeed, early Gaelic literature and law-tracts contain many provisions in relation to roads and the importance of their upkeep. We do not know whether those built or maintained these roads had their own primitive milestones, but no doubt they had their own way of marking progress towards their desired destinations.
    While there is some evidence of what we would today regard as milestones in England from the seventeenth century, the earliest such examples in Ireland seem to date from the early eighteenth century.
    The problems involved in actually dating milestones themselves are enormous. Contemporary references are very rare and are difficult to associate directly with particular milestones. The earliest Irish documentary source would appear to be Watson’s Almanac, a Dublin directory first published in 1733 and which continued in existence until 1794. From 1779 onwards Watson referred his readers to Taylor and Skinner’s Roadbook of Ireland, which marked the mileage from Dublin to the more important towns.
     Road history, where known, may help the dating effort by providing some terminal dates. For example, where a road has been redirected at some known date in the past, older milestones may survive along the abandoned route or newer ones may stand on the more recent route. The relationship between milestones and administrative road history can be very difficult to define, however. The milestones that currently survive belong, generally, to the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and during the period roads were the responsibility, at different times, of the grand juries, the turnpike trusts and, particularly in the nineteenth century, the Post Office. All appear to have been responsible for milestones at one stage or another, but definitive connections with individual stones are very hard to establish.
     Another help in the dating process in Ireland is the official adoption of the English system of measurement, including mileage, in 1826. It can probably therefore be assumed that any stones that bear the longer Irish mile measurement were erected before this date. An “Irish” mile was 2,240 yards, whereas the “English” (or stature) mile was 1,760 yards. The difference arose from the use of different linear perch, the statute perch measuring five and a half yards and the “Irish” measuring seven. It should also be noted that prior to the completion of the GPO building in Sackville (O’Connell) Street in 1818, mileage in this country was measured from Dublin Castle.
     As with other artefacts, typology may help with dating but, as always, styles may overlap or be subject to regional or individual variation. An attempt at such typology was made in a paper by Joan Murphy and Kieron Murphy, read to the Old Dublin Society  in 1981 and published in the Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 25. They felt that the oldest-looking milestone in the greater Dublin area was to be found in the village of Kilcullen, Co. Kildare. It stands about three feet high, with a  crudely cut rectangular shape and roughly inscribed figures-“21” for the (Irish) mileage to Dublin and “C.K” standing for County Kildare. The stone is currently set into the wall surrounding the Cross and Passion Covenant at the junction of the N9 and N78
    Murphy and Murphy felt the stone pre-dated Watson’s Almanac, which gave a different distance to Dublin. It is possible that it may be a surviving stone from the original Dublin-Kilcullen turnpike, which was, in fact, Ireland’s first toll-road. This road, which has a long and interesting history, was set up by a special act of the Irish parliament in 1729. The rationale for this enactment-and an acknowledgment of how bad the condition of the road was at the time-was spelled out in the preamble, which began as follows:
“Whereas the Highway or Road leading from the City of Dublin through Kilmainham and Rathcoole to the town of Naas and from thence to Kilcullen Bridge in the County of Kildare, by reason of several hollow ways and of the many and heavy Carriages frequently passing through the same, are become so rulnous and bad, that in the winter Season many parts thereof are impassible for Waggons, Carts, Cars and Carriages and very dangerous for travellers and cannot, by the ordinary course appointed by the Laws and Statues of the Realm, be effectually mended and kept in good repair…Wherefore and to the intent that the said Highways or Roads may with convenient Speed be effectually mended and hereafter kept in good and sufficient Repair so that all persons may travel through the same with safety….it shall be in the power of the Lord Archbishop of Dublin (and Trustees) shall and may erect or cause to be erected one or more Gate or Gates, Turnpike or Turn Pikes in upon or across any Part or Parts of the said High ways or Roads and also a Toll House or Toll Houses and there shall receive and take the Tolls and Duties…”
This early experiment in road-tolling (despite being put forward as a temporary measure until the road could be upgraded) was to continue for well over 100 years, until the advent of the railways in the 1840s provided a faster and cheaper alternative transport system and the tolls were eventually-and reluctantly-lifted.
       Prompted by the (re)discovery of a previously forgotten milestone at Johnstown, and spurred on by the impending N7 roadworks, a group of us examined the road from Dublin to Kilcullen over a number of weekends to see how many old milestones still survived along the route. We established that seven such stones are still extant or can be accounted for. Virtually none of these are visible along the present road but can be found either along the line of the old (bypassed) road, in laybys or buried in heavy undergrowth. In one case the stone has been moved many miles from its original location. If one assumes that there was, in fact, a stone every mile along the 21-(Irish)-mile route of the original turnpike, then the rate of attrition for such stones can be clearly seen.
   The seven stones concerned are illustrated here, and those that are still (more or less) in their original location are plotted on the relevant section of Taylor and Skinner’s Maps of the roads of Ireland (1777). Since all of them carry the old “Irish” mileage we can, I think, assign them all to the pre-1826 period. This would seem to be borne out by a Travellers New Guide through Ireland, published in 1819, which describes what can be seen at each of the listed milestones “On the great southern Mail-coach road” through Kildare.
   If the stones concerned do, in fact, date from this early period, this would make them quite rare, and, accordingly, valuable from a historical point of view. Indeed, with the shift to metric road measurement from last year, one can truthfully say of milestones that “they are not making them any more.”
     I would therefore like to avail of this opportunity and use the pages of this prestigious publication, to appeal to all those involved (particularly engineers and, yes, archaeologists) to keep a careful lookout for buried or overlooked old milestones during the course of their week in relation to the ongoing road-building and road-widening programmes across the country.
My thanks to Mr. Liam Kenny, Director of the Association of County and City Councils, who first drew my attention to the existence of the “Johnstown” stone and who shared the subsequent hunt for other surviving stones. Thanks also to Mr. Pat Byrne and his son John for helping in the hunt and for the photos and drawing that accompany this article.
Archaeology Ireland Autumn 2006


In this really interesting article Brian McCabe draws attention to an increasingly vulnerable piece of road furniture - the milestone...our thanks to Brian

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