Saturday, 11 May 2013

BEHIND THE SCENES KILRUSH'S FAMINE COMMEMORATION DAY 7, MAY 9 , 2013

by Guest Blogger, Paddy Waldron


I've fallen a day behind with this blog, so apologies to those who have been complaining!!  At least this one is as long as two normal entries, as I've copied and pasted relevant material for Thursday's bus tour of famine-related sites in Kilrush Poor Law Union.

I was up early making last minute preparations for the tour.  The objective was to see as many as possible of the places mentioned and sketched in the Illustrated London News (ILN) in 1849/50.  Paul O'Brien was up even earlier studying and printing the itinerary and commentary which I had e-mailed to him at 1:32am.  I was anxious to remind myself of the boundaries of the civil parishes/electoral divisions through which we would be passing before I set out, and to mark them on my discovery series map.

The phone was ringing from 8:34am with last minute queries.

I parked outside Crotty's and was worried to see no buses and no Paul O'Brien, so phoned Paul at 9:44am and he assured me he was on his way. Two buses and one Paul O'Brien duly arrived within a minute or two.  I unloaded my car on the roadside - wellington boots, grave-cleaning gear, two sound systems, notes, clipboards, booking lists, etc., etc.  Then I drove round to Brew's free car park, getting a chance to listen to a minute or so of Cindy O'Dell's interview on Clare FM, which was a signal to strike her off the list for the bus tour.  Other no-shows such as Congella McGuire, Michael Nolan, Mary O'Dowd and Paul Gleeson have subsequently tendered good excuses.

Mary Rose Counihan had volunteered to act as a steward for the day, so I delegated to her the task of ticking off names on the list as people boarded the buses, and she arranged a buddy system so that nobody got left behind.  I was her buddy.  The biggest category of no-shows was those who had joined the facebook event; the vast majority on the list were people who had given us their names in person or by telephone, and the vast majority of those showed up.  The moral is never to use a facebook event to book places for a boat or bus trip where there are a limited number of seats available.  People click the join button on facebook without realising what it means.  The same thing happened when Kilrush & District Historical Society organised a boat trip to Scattery Island last summer.

Noel O'Shea, who played a blinder all day, brought a modern 33-seater bus with good built-in audio system and comfortable seats, and an older less comfortable 53-seater with no working audio system.  We were afraid we wouldn't have enough seats between the two buses, but no shows ensured that we almost didn't need the smaller bus.  A few people who couldn't stay for the full day followed by car.  I went on the large bus and Paul on the small one.  Noel and Tommy drove the two buses and another Noel and Tommy (O'Brien father and son) filmed the day's activities.

We had lots of extended family groups on the buses - Miriam Scahill explained to me today that Tommy and Paul O'Brien are third cousins, as their fathers Noel and Seán are second cousins.  Miriam and her sister Dolores are Noel's first cousins, children of two Brew sisters.  So Noel had five blood relatives on the bus, plus Paul's mother.

We also had Terry Fitzgerald and her sister Laura Danielson from Seattle, with their long-lost fourth cousin on the McNamara side, Rebekah Ní Comardúin and Rebekah's mother Ann; brothers Michael and Johnny O'Connell are also approximately fourth cousins of Terry and Laura on the Cushen side.  By coincidence, both Michael and Rebekah were recording for Raidió Corca Baiscinn during the day.  Before I realised this, I had twice butted in on conversations that Rebekah was recording.

I think my own only (known) relative on the bus was my third cousin Martha Howard.

We also had two of our keynote speakers for the week, Jason King and Christine Kinealy, and Christine's co-author Seán Sexton.  We were due back in Kilrush at 7pm, and Jason was due to lecture at 8pm, so I knew that we had to stick strictly to the schedule.

There was also a good turnout of family and friends just to see us off from the Market Square - Mairead O'Brien and her sister to see off their mother, Margaret Rush to see off her nieces, and a few others.

The rest of this blog is a slightly edited version of the notes on which what we said during the day was based.

We headed out by Henry Street, originally known as New Street when it was built in the early 1800s.  It runs alongside the original road to Kilkee and Doonbeg which went along Chapel Street, High Street and The Glen and past the front entrances to the fever hospital and to the workhouse.

Joe Whelan's museum is now in the old creamery building, which was built on the site of the original road right in front of the main workhouse entrance.

The mural on the gable wall by Mark Kelly, completed last Sunday (5 May 2013), is based on a Lawrence Collection photograph of an eviction scene during the Land War at Moyasta.

At the end of Shannon Heights on the right we can see Broomhill House, formerly an auxiliary workhouse, and later the residence of Augustus Warren and Timothy Kelly when they were clerks of Kilrush Union.

We turned right in Carnanes for the village of Doonbeg, passing Moanmore Church on our right, and then crossing the old West Clare Railway line and the boundary between Kilrush and Killard parishes.

Our first stop was outside the post office in Doonbeg, where I changed into my wellingtons.  Those who just wanted a good view of Judy O'Donnel's habitation under the bridge at Doonbeg saw it from the park on the south bank of the Doonbeg river.

Those who wanted to visit the habitation walked across the bridge and through Mary Ryan's field with her kind permission.  The ground is rough and wet in places, but Michael O'Connell and one or two others took charge and shepherded people down a few at a time along a narrow dry path.  Having been there on a scouting expedition a few weeks ago, I didn't bother visiting again.

The ILN in 1849/50 wrote:

"Two wretched families have taken refuge under the bridge in a hole. They consist of two widows, one with three children, all ill of jaundice, and the other with five. The history of Judy O'Donnel, one of the widows, is worthy of being sketched. She had given evidence against a dishonest relieving officer whose relative was a driver upon the estate on which she lived, and Judy's house was very soon afterwards levelled with the ground. The wreckers came upon it in her absence, when her son gallantly defended his home. He mounted on the roof with a bag of stones, and kept the enemy at bay till his ammunition was exhausted, when he was obliged to give in, and stand by to see the little furniture of this mother cast into the road and the house pulled down.  Judy exhibited her receipts for the rent up to the last gale; and she declared the agent of the owner, to whom she had tendered what was due twice, had refused, and that she was ejected because she deposed against the dishonest public servant. Judy and Margaret O'Donnel, with their families, then retired to the hole under the bridge, represented in the sketch, and there they are now suffered to remain, holding their habitation at the mercy of the county surveyor. They are afraid of being ejected even from this spot, and dare not cross the stepping-stones shown in the Sketch lest they should be taken up for trespassing. Judy O'Donnel's son is dying of dysentery."

Paddy Murrihy has since told me that Rob Hopkins is having a ladder, modelled on the one in the ILN sketch, specially constructed by Francis O'Dea for this Saturday evening's re-enactment, so that his actors will not have to trespass on Mary Ryan's field.

Dolórés Murrihy in an article entitled The Cave Dweller of Doonbeg in Doonbeg: A Story To Tell (Joe Hurley, ed., 1995) tells us of other residents of the habitation under the bridge.

Biddy Belfast (whose death in Kilrush Hospital was reported in the Limerick Chronicle of 10 December 1903) is remembered locally as Mary Belfast, and called Mary by the great local historian of North Munster Thomas Johnson Westropp in the Journal of the North Munster Antiquarian Society in January 1914.  It was the habitation of a local donkey in Dolores's youth.

Biddy Thunder lived in the castle across the bridge, which fell when struck by lightning in 1939.  Perhaps the LC conflated the two names.

We got back on the bus and turned right at Doonbeg church into Doonmore townland.  I have on occasion accidentally gone the wrong side of the traffic island at this junction; Noel O'Shea deliberately did likewise, but because his bus couldn't make the sharp turn around the correct side of it.

The ILN had this account of Doonmore:

"The last Sketch shows the Scalpeen of Tim Downs, at Dunmore, in the parish of Killard, where himself and his ancestors resided on the spot for over a century, with renewal of their lease in 1845. He neither owed rent arrears or taxes up to the present moment, and yet he was pitched out on the roadside, and saw ten other houses, with his own, levelled at one fell swoop on the spot, the ruins of some of which are seen in this Sketch. None of them were mud cabins, but all capital stone-built houses."

On the right, we passed Killard Cemetery, scene of a massacre by Cromwell's troops.

It is believed locally that The Village of Killard depicted in the ILN stood at the top of the hill where we turned left:

"The village of Killard forms part of the Union of Kilrush, and possesses an area of 17,022 acres. It had a population, in 1841, of 6850 souls, and was valued to the Poor-rate at £4254. It is chiefly the property, I understand, of Mr. John MacMahon Blackall, whose healthy residence is admirably situated on the brow of a hill, protected by another ridge from the storms of the Atlantic. His roof-tree yet stands secure, put the people have disappeared. The village was mostly inhabited by fishermen, who united with their occupation on the waters the cultivation of potatoes. When the latter failed, it might have been expected that the former should have been pursued with more vigour than ever; but boats and lines were sold for present subsistence, and to the failure of potatoes was added the abandonment of the fisheries. The rent dwindled to nothing, and then came the leveller and the exterminator. What has become of this 6850 souls, I know not; but not ten houses remain of the whole village to inform the wayfarer where, according to the population returns, they were to be found in 1841.  [The ILN correspondent here has apparently confused the parish of Killard, to which the population figure applies; the townland of Killard; and possibly a more densely populated village within the townland which he sketched.]  They were here, but are gone for ever; and all that remains of their abodes are a few mouldering walls, and piles of offensive thatch turning into manure. Killard is an epitome of half Ireland. If the abodes of the people had not been so slight, that they have mingled, like Babylon, with their original clay, Ireland would for ages be renowned for its ruins; but, as it is, the houses are swept away like the people, and not a monument remains of a multitude, which, in ancient Asia or in the wilds of America, would numerically constitute a great nation."

From Bealaha, we turned south, onto the main road Kilrush-Kilkee road briefly, and then left at Lisdeen Church and left again after Blackweir bridge for Cill na gCailleach.

The buses parked at Noel O'Shea's own house and Noel and his neighbour and my cousin Paddy Talty kindly had cars on hand for those not up walking down the cul de sac to Cill na gCailleach, where it would not have been possible to turn either bus.  Noel had asked one of his children how long the walk would take, and was not pleased with the reply: `Five minutes at my pace, half an hour at yours.'  Noel and Paddy, as well as Michael O'Connell, also shared their expert local knowledge of those buried in the cemetery.

Kay Clancy and I had brought along our stock of talcum powder and brushes and sponges, our favourite method for highlighting some of the fantastic artwork on the tombstones, particularly that of John O'Brien who died in the Ferry tragedy on 12 Dec 1849; also John Clanchy ship carpenter, who died during the cholera epidemic of 1832; and Thomas Carroll who died in 1846.  The buglers depicted on one of these reminded me again of Anthony McNamara and I reminded his daughter and granddaughter of how he spent so many years `waiting for the old bugle call'.

The locals all cited Paddy and Eileen Barry as having confirmation from their grandfather of the location of the unmarked mass grave of the other Cammoge victims, surrounded by a low stone wall.  We also looked at the once-impressive but now dilapidated Cox vault, and the grave of Paddy Talty's family, including his great-aunt Kathleen who baked the cake containing the key which Eamon de Valera used to escape from Lincoln Jail in England during the War of Independence.

Many of the group had been to Cammoge Point on Monday and we just encouraged the remainder to visit by car to see the new memorial.  The road to Cammoge is also too narrow for buses and the distance is too far to walk in the time available.

Noel O'Shea was anxious to show off his collection of vintage cars, tractors, motorbikes and farm machinery, but as most people had re-boarded the bus and as it's not really famine-related, only a few people got to see it.  Noel's collection is on a par with those of other local collectors like Joe Whelan, Jackie Whelan and Matthew Bermingham.

Next stop was Tullaroe Cross, also known as Behan's Cross and Johnny Mack's Cross.  This was originally Behan's house.  Patrick McNamara (whose family had been among the victims of eviction listed by Captain Kennedy a few years before his birth) married in here around 1882.  His son Johnnie Mack lived here until his death in 1981 at the age of 95.

At the time, Mary Teresa Hynes, Kilkee librarian, believed this to have been the last inhabited mudwalled house in west Clare.

I learned on Tuesday that Cillian Murphy's efforts to buy the late Martin Moloney's house in Lisheencrony fell through when he discovered that his bank wouldn't fund the purchase of a mud-walled house.  As someone pointed out, the house is still there, but the bank may not be.  I remember the house before Martin got it renovated and plastered about 30 years ago, when half the thatched roof had collapsed.  By Tuesday evening, the number of known surviving mud-walled houses had grown to three, as Congella McGuire reported her discovery on Monday that the Roche family still inhabit another, despite having a newly-built but less cosy house next door.

At this stage we had visited three sites that have probably never before been visited on a bus tour, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with all sorts of suggestions for preserving Johnny Mack's house, which is now in a state of decay which makes the original materials and construction easily identifiable.

By now, people were getting hungry, and Mary Hamilton, who suffers from travel sickness, had already called it a day and got someone to collect her and take her home, so we phoned ahead to Myles Creek in Kilkee and to our lunchtime speaker Carmel Madigan to say that we would be arriving ahead of the scheduled 2pm break.

Tommy Foley phoned me as we were approaching Kilkee, about a minute before we passed his hall door, so I told him to stand on his doorstep and wave at the buses as we passed.

Noel pulled up in the middle of O'Curry Street, a one-way street with cars parked on either side, to allow us to disembark.  Even in May, Kilkee is still Chris de Burgh's proverbial `out of season holiday town in the rain/when the tourists go and the cold winds blow'.

Gerard and Deirdre Haugh and the staff at Myles Creek coped admirably with a hungry crowd of 60+ arriving simultaneously baying for food. There was famine soup available.  Those who came by bus were joined by others who had come by car, in particular Mairead O'Brien, who had organised the event and brought the now well-tested soup recipe, and Assumpta Kennedy, who gave her almost-daily performance of Lone Shanakyle after lunch.  I'm sure she sang it at work at the Regina House event on Wednesday, and only that Michael O'Connell was so possessive of the microphone on Monday she would have been asked to sing it at Cammoge or Carnacalla!

Carmel Madigan showed up with a large bag of freshly harvested herbs, hedgerow plants and seaweeds to explain how our ancestors could, and possibly did, have a very nutritious diet on their doorsteps despite the failure of the potato crop.








I haven't figured out whether Carmel Madigan (née Magner) is related to Assumpta Kennedy (née Madigan) but the Madigan family tree is crying out to be researched given how intertwined it has become with famine commemoration.  Rebekah pointed out that through her Madigan paternal grandmother she is related to Assumpta - and she also shares the singing gene, as she is currently singing professionally at Bunratty and Knappogue Castles.

All were eventually served lunch, everybody seeming to want something more substantial than watery soup, nettles, herbs or seaweed.

Kay Clancy popped across the road for a few copies of the Clare Champion, but there was general disappointment at the coverage of the famine commemoration.  No front page banner headlines, and the first article inside was a complaint that Frances Street has been resurfaced for Sunday in preference to some more deserving lane in Kilkee. Patricia Zanini will be delighted with Peter O'Connell's piece describing how much it means to be coming back to her ancestral town accompanying her ambassador husband who will be there in an official capacity on Sunday.  John Kelly must have taken hundreds of photographs in the Potter's Hand on Tuesday, but we could find only two of them. Other articles on events in Killaloe, Ennis, Carrigaholt, etc., were scattered throughout the paper, with one or two photographs with each. The Clare People's 16 page pull-out on Tuesday certainly put the Champion to shame this week.

Kay and a few others called it a day at this stage, so we realised that we could transfer everyone into the 53-seat bus, and let bus-driver Tommy have a half-day.

Noel O'Shea and Michael had both insisted that the cliff road, built as a famine relief public works scheme, looks better driving from the west, so we headed west by the upper Moveen road.  Paul, now sitting beside me, encouraged me to tell of my own family connections to Moveen, where my greatgrandparents settled after their marriage in 1876.  My late father spent his first holiday with his grandfather in Moveen in 1929 at the age of 12, and for the next 72 years, until he was no longer fit to travel, never went a year without a holiday in Clare, and never again holidayed anywhere further away than Carrigaholt or Kilkee.

Moveen also features in the ILN:

"The Sketch of Moveen, to which I now call your attention, is that of another ruined village in the Union of Kilrush. It is a specimen of the dilapidation I behold all around. There is nothing but devestation, while the soil is of the finest description, capable of yielding as much as any land in the empire. Here, at Tullig, and other places, the ruthless destroyer, as if he delighted in seeing the monuments of his skill, has left the walls of the houses standing, while he has unroofed them and taken away all shelter from the people. They look like the tombs of a departed race, rather than the recent abodes of a yet living people, and I felt actually relieved at seeing one or two half-clad spectres gliding about, as an evidence that I was not in the land of the dead. You may inquire, perhaps, and I am sure your readers will wish to know, why it is that the people have of late been turned out of their houses in such great numbers, and their houses just at this time pulled down, and I will give you my explanation of this fact."

My father, Ciarán Ó Murchadha, Paddy Nolan, Cindy O'Dell, Paul and myself and others over the years have spent many hours exploring Moveen on the ground, on paper maps, and on online maps and satellite images at osi.ie, maps.google.comorigins.net and askaboutireland.ie, in a vain attempt to find any surviving remains of the village shown in the ILN sketch.

The 1840 Ordnance Survey map shows villages marked Moveen (north of the road) and Moveen Lower (further west, and south of the road).  There are also ruins worth investigating elsewhere in the townland and in the neighbouring townland of Kilcasheen.

At griffiths.askaboutireland.ie, one can overlay the historic (post-)Griffith's Valuation (1855) maps on a satellite image.  There are two stone ruins clearly visible both on the satellite map and street view in the vicinity of where the ILN sketch seems to have been done:

1. The first stone ruin is on the roadside in Moveen East, and appears to be the house in Plot 14 (Moveen East) in Griffith:
http://goo.gl/maps/L0SxM
Edmond (Ned) M'Mahon appears to have occupied this farm, and also the second next farm to the west, in 1855, but to have lived on the other farm.  So at first glance, this ruin appears to have been uninhabited by 1855.  However, I believe that Edmond left one of his farms each to his two sons, Andy Ned (m.1870) and Patsy Ned (m.1884), who married two Carmody sisters.  So the present ruin was probably lived in by Patsy Ned's son Paddy McMahon (d.1976).  I have been told that this farm and the adjoining farm to the north (No. 4 in Griffith) are now owned or leased by Damien McInerney.

2. The second stone ruin is a couple of fields north of the road, right on the boundary of Moveen East and Kilcasheen towlands, but appears to be No. 1 in Kilcasheen, home of Laurence Lillis in 1855:
http://goo.gl/maps/DHKyG

I have a large paper map formed by taping together copies of photocopies of parts of OS Sheets 55 and 65 from the Valuation Office, with holdings numbered in accordance with Griffith's Valuation.

At askaboutireland.ie, the map and plot numbering are of a later date, as the 6 residential holdings plus caretaker's house in Kilcasheen (which is divided in 4 by the edges of OS Sheets 55, 56, 65 and 66) have all by then merged (in two stages) into a single holding.  This suggests a mass clearance by John Westropp and/or his middleman Michael O'Donnell soon after 1855.  The transcripts of the parish register for 1852-1878 don't have a single entry for Kilcasheen.

Sheet 55 is mostly ocean, but covers parts of Moveen West, Moveen East Kilcasheen, Foohagh and Ballyonan/Doonaghboy.  At origins.net,
Foohagh is linked to sheet 56 (1432.tif) and most of the others to sheet 65 (1441.tif).  I eventually realised that by searching for Islands in Moyarta parish I would get sheet 55 (1430.tif).  The quality of the reproduction is, if anything, worse than my 25-year-old paper photocopy, but by zooming in on the bottom right corner one can see the consolidation in Kilcasheen, and a curved stone wall in the north west corner of the townland, still clearly visible on the satellite image. I now seriously doubt that this is the wall in the foreground of the ILN sketch, although I think my father believed that it was.  Most of Kilcasheen (including the graveyard on the lower Moveen road which we came to later) now constitutes the Tubridy estate, to which a Tubridy cousin is currently trying to establish ownership.

The Tubridy house was also occupied well into my lifetime - probably the 1980s - but is now a ruin.  It appears from the satellite image to be in the very bottom right corner of OS Sheet 55, where there is no house in 1855.  This looks like holding No. 3 in Griffith, Timothy Kane.  Here is the ruin in Google Street View:
http://goo.gl/maps/YIffn

The eastern part of the 1855 road heading north-east from Walsh's house (No. 8 in Moveen east in Griffith) to May Deloughery's (No. 7), and formerly on into Baby Dan O'Gormans (No. 4), before turning south, appears to have been completely obliterated by the time of the historic 25" map:
http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,485582,657191,7,9

The present Moveen road passes from Moveen East through Kilcasheen and then back into Moveen east; the obliterated road skirted around the northern boundary of Kilcasheen without leaving Moveen East.

Moveen Lower is in nos. 11 and 22 in Moveen West in Griffith (around Billy Downes's, Sean Moloney's and Sonny Carmody's and between Tom Lynch's and the left turn down to the main Carrigaholt road).  We saw no sign of ruins in that area either.

I spoke about writer and funeral director Tom Lynch, probably Moveen's most famous resident, if only a part-time one (who unfortunately wont be joining us until the day after the National Famine Commemoration due to teaching commitments at Emory University).  I thought it especially appropriate to refer to his lovely poem Montbretia, dedicated to Michael O'Connell who was with us.  Montbretia, which will not be in bloom for another couple of months, is an invasive but beautiful wild flower which was not around during the Famine, and which Carmel Madigan assured me has no nutritional value.  Rather, it was brought back to Ireland by one of the Vandeleurs who fought in the Boer War and planted in the Walled Garden in Kilrush.  A seed blew over the wall and it spread throughout the peninsula.  People like my father loved it so much that they brought it to Dublin and other places and replanted it.  I've brought some from Dublin back to Killaloe and planted it in my garden there.

We then passed the biggest farm in Moveen, now Murray's and formerly Healy's.  Mainly for the benefit of Terry, Laura, Ann and Rebekah, relatives of the underbidder, I read a letter written on 14 January 1907, by M & B. Morrissey from Moveen to their `Dear Son Tom' in Jackson, Michigan, where many Moveen people settled (those who did not emigrate to Buenos Aires):

"Dear Tom, You wanted to know who bought Healys' farm.  I wish to tell you it was Johnny Murray, Kilkee, & it paid £ 675 & a shilling to the pound auctioneer fees along with that Anthony McNamara Breaffa went £ 600 in in [sic] Kavanagh from Kilkee he is married to Bid Greene from Newtown he is from England went £ 670 & a boy from Mullough one Sullivan who came from California went £ 650 & indeed every one says it went great money."

[According to census returns Edward Cavanagh of Kilkee was a police pensioner born in Queen's County.]  In local folklore, the purchase price paid by the Murray family has been rounded down to £600.  The vendor was John Burns, to whom the farm had been left by his sister-in-law `Mrs Healy'.  The island offshore previously known as `Healy's Island' has since gradually become known as `Murray's Island'.

Noel drove at a crawl along the cliff road from Goleen back to Kilkee as he could see in his rear-view mirror that everyone on the bus was oohing and aahing at the spectacular cliff scenery and busily taking photographs and videos.

A howling wind was blowing rivers that should have been flowing over the clifftop back inland, drenching the bus on one or two occasions.  The thought of those starving during the famine working in similar weather conditions in the late 1840s to build this very road was humbling.

I had stories to tell about most points on the cliff road, mostly learned from my father or Seán and Martin Moloney or other Moveen natives.

Back in Kilkee, we saw the sea wall, also built as a famine relief scheme, and paused at the former Murphy's Café at the end of Marine Parade, home to the great famine historian Monsignor Ignatius Murphy, to whom Kilrush & District Historical Society hopes some day to erect a plaque on the building.

Then we headed west again on the lower Moveen road, where the first object of major interest was the afore-mentioned Kilcasheen cemetery. The two flat tombstones which it contains were clearly visible from the bus.  Despite many years of campaigning by my father, by Noel O'Shea's uncle John Lynch, who grew up nearby, and by others, this ancient graveyard remains otherwise unmarked.







Eugene O'Curry wrote of it as follows:

"There is another burying ground called Killcasheen in the Townland of Killcasheen in this Parish. This was a deserted burying place in the year 1739 but in the ensuing year when famine and pestilence raged through the country and dead human bodies were to be met with by the roads and ditches, my grandfather, Melachlin-Garbh-O’Cómhraidhe, who tenanted, at will (being a Papist) the tract of land now called Moneen [in many transcripts, recte Moveen] and in which Kilcasheen is situated, employed himself, his workmen, his horses and sledges in carrying the victims of the plague from all parts of the neighbouring district and burying them here, so that it has continued ever since to be a burial place, although not a popular one."

I then explained that we were about to pass the homes of two Michael McNamaras close together.  My cousin Michael in Moveen West is a blow-in, our family having lived on the farm for only 137 years. Michael `Anthony' McNamara in the next townland, Breaghva, is a real native, as his ancestors are listed in the same house in Griffith's Valuation in 1855.  The Moveen West McNamaras now live in the third house on the farm, the first having been abandoned in 1888 because the residents of the nearby fairy fort were believed to have taken my greatgrandparents first five babies at birth.  I'm wondering if the Breaghva McNamaras are still in the original pre-1855 house, and if it too might be, to quote Yeats, `of clay and wattles made'.  Perhaps it is the very house in which Laura and Terry and Rebekah's GGGgrandfather McNamara was born away back around 1800.

Noel missed my request to stop and allow Laura and Terry to take photographs of their ancestral home, but Laura and Ann hopped out when he stopped and ran back and Ann introduced Laura to her brother, who wanted to invite her in for tea.  We decided that tea for 53 would be too much of an imposition for a bachelor farmer!  Having parked in the middle of a one-way street in Kilkee at lunchtime, parking on a narrow two-lane road would not have been a problem.

Next point of interest was Tullig, also depicted and described in the ILN:

"The Sketch is not of a deserted village - though that was a miserable enough spectacle, for the wretched beings who once viewed it as the abode of plenty and peace still linger and hover about it-- but of a destroyed village. The ruthless spoiler has been at work and swept away the shelter that honest industry had prepared for suffering and toiling humanity. A conqueror would not have had time and security to do the mischief which is perpetrated in safety under the guardianship of the laws by the Irish themselves. Within the Union of Kilrush, in the year of grace 1849, and before the coming of the month of June, about 16,000 persons had been unhoused out of 82,358, and 1200 were unhoused within one fortnight of May 7, in all, one-fifth or 20 per cent. of the whole population were turned out of their houses and the houses pulled down. Not less than 2890 houses were levelled in the Union of Kilrush in the years 1848-49. Ireland is now marked with many such monuments of the terrible mistakes of landlords and of the legislature as the roofless village represented in our Sketch."

I had warned Noel that the road from Tullig back to Cross was in poor shape when I did a scouting expedition with Garrett Dundon and others a couple of months back, but he wasn't worried.  As he crawled across cut-away bog through bottomless pot-holes with a steep drop on either side, I wished he was in first gear rather than second!  We came to a junction where he asked me whether to go right or straight ahead.  The cul de sac to the right is not even shown on discovery series maps, but looked a better road than the one going straight ahead which we had to take.

Congella McGuire (another no show on the day due to pressures of work) had arranged with Fr Michael Casey that he would meet us and talk to us at the Church of the Little Ark in Moneen.  As a rainshower arrived as we arrived at Seán Keating's cross, I decided it would be better to take the right fork and visit the church before an open-air stop in Kilbaha village.  Fr. Casey proved hard to track down.  Congella had lost his phone numbers, but eventually texted me his landline, which he wasn't answering; Michael O'Connell, who had given Congella the numbers, didn't have them either.  Eventually I saw a light bulb going off in his head as he spotted Martha who, as an undertaker, was guaranteed to have the numbers of all the clergy in her mobile.  She made the call and Fr Casey pulled up outside his church as we unloaded the bus.  Since 2009, he has been the first man since Fr. Michael Meehan between 1849 and 1878 to be parish priest of both Kilballyowen and Moyarta parish.

I was tired of talking at this stage, and my passengers were surely tired of listening to me, so I was delighted to have someone else to take over and tell the story of The Little Ark of Kilbaha.  This version is based on that at clarelibrary.ie:

"In the year 1849 the present parishes of Kilballyowen and Moyarta in West Clare were one, and were called after Carrigaholt which was the central village. The population was only 8,000 and many people were dying from Cholera. In that year a priest by the name of Fr. Michael Meehan was sent to help the dying victims and to give them the Last Sacrament. There was no church in the western part of the parish than because landlords would not permit their land to be used for a site. The priests used make-shift tents to say Mass in, but these proved useless in bad weather.

There was a church in Carrigaholt (Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built in 1832-1833, while Fr. Malachy Duggan (1780-1849) was parish priest).

It is unsure how Fr. Meehan came up with the idea, but in 1852, he announced a plan to build a wooden box that would have four wheels and in this he planned to say Mass. It is thought he got the idea from a Bathing Box on the beach in Killkee.

The timber was ordered from Limerick and a local carpenter, Owen Collins, was employed to build what was to become known as “the little ark”. After building the wooden structure, he then covered it in tarred canvas. There were two windows which ran along the length of both sides and at the front door. Inside, at the far end of the door was a low altar on which a statue of the Sacred Heart stood, and above the altar there was a crucifix.

When it was finally ready for use it was brought down to the beach in Kilbaha. The beach was a type of “no-mans land” meaning that no-one was breaking the law by using that area. However, despite this Father Meehan was prosecuted for placing a nuisance at the crossroads of Kilbaha. The case was tried and dismissed.

There by the sea for five years, Mass was celebrated and religious instruction given. People were married there and children baptised. Around “the little ark” on Sundays, in mud and soaking rain, in the burning heat of summer and through the frost of winter, the people gathered.

The strange Mass house soon began the attract attention and visitors arrived and went away shocked and amazed - shocked at the fact that a quarter of a century after passing of Emancipation, the Catholics of west Clare, because of landlord bigotry, could not get a site for a church. Amazed at the lengths the people went to practice their religion.

A site was finally granted in late 1856 by Fr. Meehan refused it for the reason that it was on a bog. Pressure was put on the landlord and a new site was granted. The first stone was laid on the 12th of July 1857 at Moneen, a mile from the site where the ark stood.

The church of “Our Lady, Star of the Sea” was dedicated on the 10th of October 1858. At first the ark was brought to the site and was used until the church was ready. It was later placed inside the church doors to the left, until the present building to the house was added.

On the day of the dedication of the church, Mass was celebrated in the Ark and a crowd of three thousand people attended the ceremony. Fr. Meehan died on the 24th of January 1878 after spending his last remaining years working in the parish. On Saturday the 26th his remains were brought from Kilrush to Carrigaholt and to Kilbaha by horsedrawn hearse. The coffin was taken out and brought to the spot where the ark had stood on the shore. On Tuesday February 1st 1878 his body was interred where it remains today, within feet of the ark. The ark is still preserved in the church at Moneen today."

We made our last stop in Kilbaha village to see the plaque to Fr. Meehan on the site where he used to say mass in the little ark, and also the other works of local sculptors Jim and Seamus Connolly and Paddy Murray.  I couldn't even find Paddy's metalwork version of Searching for Potatoes in a Stubble Field from the ILN. And I hadn't done my homework on the five pilots and the Windsor Castle, so decided to call it a day before I made a bigger fool of myself.

We left off a few people on the way back to Kilrush, such as Laura Lyons in Carrigaholt, and were back at Crotty's where the day had started just 2 minutes ahead of schedule.

I made my way to Supervalu to buy a snack and a few supplies so that my hosts would not return from their holiday to an empty cupboard.  Half the bus tour group also seemed to be there, along with Adrian O'Connell, provider of the wonderful old photograph of Carrigaholt which I may have mentioned earlier in the week.  I was highly amused at the sight of Linda Culligan Bruce in front of me in the checkout queue with just two items - a bottle of talc and a sponge.  Paul and Kay's demonstration of this technique in Cill na gCailleach had obviously converted one genealogist!

I was back at the Teach Ceoil just in time for Jason's lecture.  It's hard to rank the evening lectures that we've had there this week, as all have been superb. Jason contrasted the efforts of the Catholic clergy who ministered to famine emigrants at Grosse Ile in 1847 with the allegations about the same order of nuns a decade earlier in the Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed.  Mairead O'Brien was sorry she had chosen this lecture to bring her thirteen-year-old son David to, as she thought Monk's allegations about priests impregnating nuns and suffocating the resulting offspring were not suitable listening for the ears of one so young and innocent!

I was so relieved that my active involvement in the events of the week was over (or so I thought, until I got a phone call requesting another talk next morning!), that I was easily persuaded to go on a pub crawl with Paul and Mairead (once she'd dropped David home).  I had a cidona in Crotty's, as we debated one or two bruised egos among those involved in the week's activities, and decided that most of them were caused by the overly long chain of communication from the authorities in the Department in Dublin (who will take over from the local committee on Sunday) through various County Council officials to the locals on the ground.

Then I had a 7Up in Buggle's, where we joined Miriam and Dolores and Carmel Buggle herself.

I was back at base just before midnight, totally exhausted, and went to bed without even taking the laptop out of the car.

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