Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 16 November 2023
Launch of Inniscarra Historical Society Journal 2023
The latest journal of Inniscarra Historical Society, Changing Times, has been published and is available in shops throughout Inniscarra. The society was formed in 2017 and has published four journals now to date. Their aim is to further the gathering of historical data and to promote an interest and awareness of local history amongst their members. The 2023 committee consists of Patrick O’Callaghan, Frank Donaldson, David O’ Brien, Kathleen Flynn, Joseph Ambrose and John Lane. Membership is open to all for an annual subscription of only 10 euros.
A monthly presentation is held on a topic of local history. They organise bus trips to places of historical interest. A selection of their talks in the last year included Con Hayes – The Lusitania Tragedy, Professor Robert Devoy – Historic landscapes of West Cork, the geographical imperatives, Anne Twomey – The Role of Women in Revolutionary Years, and Richard Forrest – Modest Martin, The history of a local mid-Cork river.
In this year’s journal, there are a number of very insightful articles, which range from topics such as histories of Inniscarra’s townlands to cemeteries to census reports to reminiscences of growing up in the parish.
For example Sinéad McSweeney shines a light on Cloughphilip, which translates as the ‘stone house of Philip, was home to a castle, a tower house castle constructed several years after the completion of Blarney Castle. She notes that these tower house castles were built in the style of a square or nearly square tower; “Window sizes were usually very small, due to the fact that in the time of siege warfare, attackers would try to mount the castle with ladders to gain entry. Sometime in the late 1500’s the castle came into the ownership of Donagh MacCarthy who left his mark on the castle with his initials D. C. K., and the year 1590 carved a stone set into an internal wall”.
Sinéad also reveals an interesting letter in 1850 addressed to the Royal Irish Academy from a Richard Caulfield, states that he came across the stone head for Cloughphilip Castle. The writer was deeply concerned because people were searching the castle ruins, and beneath it, digging for gold which was rumoured to be buried there. Caulfield describes the inscription on a stone in the north-east of the castle “D. C. K. 1590” which is at least one-hundred years after the castle was supposedly built.’ Unfortunately, there is no drawing or etching of Cloughphilip castle that survives, or a photograph of the castle ruins.
Colm O’Sullivan highlights the contribution of the O’Sullivan family, Bartholomew Sullivan’s son, James Bartholomew (known as Jimmy Batt, died 1829) having branched from his father’s business at Healy’s Bridge, set up his own paper mill at Dripsey around 1800. He employed hundreds of workers but went bankrupt and he had to restart the business on a number of occasions. The introduction of modern machinery resulted in a negative reaction from the workers who apparently started a fire at the mill in protest at the threat to their jobs. That fire and the economic downturn after the Napoleonic Wars resulted in the mills being sold off in the mid to late 1810s. It would seem that the Sullivan family continued to live in Dripsey for some years before moving to Cork City.
Michael Dorney contributes a very insightful article on antiquities in the Inniscarra locality. In particular Historically, Ireland and indeed Inniscarra was famous for having outdoor roadside grottos or Marian shrines, (shrines to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Rosary). Nobody cant for any distance in Ireland without coming across a roadside shrine. Vast majority are Marian Shrines, although some celebrate local saints or the crucifixion of Christ.
Michael continues to highlight: “In spite of the documented drift away from organised religion that has taken place over the past few decades, these shrines are attended in small groups for regular rosary, praying and adoration. These shrines are almost invariably well-tended, maintained and bedecked with fresh flowers”.
Michael also outlines that some shrines are close to Holy Wells, places associated with local saints but whose origins go back to pagan times and their significance long pre datesdates the shrines themselves. Most of the grottos encountered today date from 1954, which were dedicated by the Vatican as the Marian Year, a year of celebration of and devotion to Virgin Mary.
Michael outlines the Marian devotion: “Probably no other country embraced this year with greater fervour than Ireland. Many baby girls born during 1954 were named Marian, Marion, and Mary. The tradition of devotion to Mary persisted years after 1954, albeit among ever declining number and it is today confined to an older generation. That time there was regular practice of church bells being tolled at Angelus times in honour of Our Lady”.
Still today in every parish like in Inniscarra, there is a dedicated band of local people who maintain the grottos, which have historically become part of our landscape and heritage.
Towards the end of the journal, Sinéad McSweeny returns to reflect on the story of St Ann’s Hill Hydropathic Establishment and guests wo were present as the 1901 census was taken on Sunday 31 March across the island of Ireland. The Hydropathic establishment, the only one on the island of Ireland. which accommodated a total of seventy-two people, twenty-two males and fifty females. She continues to describe an elaborate network of rooms; “The Hydro building had one hundred and twenty-three windows in the front and is most likely made up of the vastly extended original house and what was known as The Home. One hundred and one rooms were listed in this premises as being occupied the night of the census, most likely this figure included guest bedrooms and salt quarters and dormitories”.
Read more of the work of Inniscarra Historical Society at www.inniscarrahistory.com
1128a. Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kieran McCarthy with Cllr Michael Looney and Colm Burke, TD with members of Inniscarra Historical Society, October 2023 (picture: F Archer).