Emigrant Stories: Thomas F. Russell

Taunton, Massachusetts, USA

Massachusetts emerged as a destination of choice for many Irish people in the 19th century due to numerous factors. Firstly, the state’s industrialization at that time offered many job opportunities, particularly in cities like Boston, where Irish immigrants found employment not only in the factories and the mills, but also in construction, domestic service, and the police and fire departments. In addition, Massachusetts had a well-established Irish American community that provided crucial support networks, including housing, work, and social connections, making the transition to a new country easier. The presence of the Catholic Church, which played a central role in Irish culture and identity, was also influential in attracting Irish immigrants to Massachusetts, where they freely practiced their faith. Thomas F. Russell from Ballymacoda was one of these such emigrants who made his way as a young man with his family to Massachusetts in the late 19th century.

Thomas F. Russell

Born in Ballymacoda in 1866, Thomas was the son of Thomas G. Russell (1843-1909) and Elizabeth ‘Betsey’ Quinn (1837-1912). Sources have listed Thomas as being born in 1867, but the Ballymacoda Parish baptismal records prove that he was born in 1866, as is evident from the record of his baptism, listed as having occurred on October 16th, 1866.

Baptismal record for Thomas Russell, with the names of his parents Thomas & Betty clearly visible

Even the gravestone of Thomas lists his birth year of 1867, but that does not seem to be correct based on the available parish records, which clearly show he was born and baptized in 1866. Thomas had five siblings – Elizabeth (1863-1942), Mary Jane (1864-1938), Michael (1869-1927), John (1871-1890) and Jeremiah (1874-1945). All were born before the family emigrated to the United States. The Russell family emigrated in 1882 when Thomas was about 15 years old, and settled in Taunton in Bristol County, Massachusetts, approximately 40 miles south of the city of Boston.

Thomas married Catherine ‘Kate’ Twiss in August 1890. At the time of their marriage, Thomas, aged 23, was a driver, and Kate, aged 20, was a mill operative. While from Providence, Rhode Island, Kate was the daughter of Irish emigrants Patrick & Kate Twiss. In the bustling streets of late 19th century America, it must have been an exciting time for the young Thomas & Kate, as they embarked on their journey in life surrounded by a vibrant tapestry of their fellow Irish expatriates, forging a path into an unknown future, where dreams probably seemed boundless in the ‘land of opportunity’. Thomas and Kate had three children – Lillian (1891-1897), Gertrude (1893-1983), and Thomas Leo (1894-1918). Lillian, their eldest child, tragically died of Meningitis while still very young.

The 1900 United States Federal Census shows Thomas, aged 33, living at 10 Russell Street in Taunton and listed as the head of the household. There is anecdotal evidence that Russell Street, which survives to this day in Taunton, was named as such because of the large number of families with the surname ‘Russell’ living there, but that is hard to verify as a fact. Thomas’s parents lived at nearby 6 Russell Street.

Today’s Russell Street in Taunton, Massachusetts

In the same 1900 Census document, Thomas’s wife Kate is also listed in the household along with John Twiss (Kate’s brother), and Thomas and Kate’s children Gertrude, then aged 7, and Thomas Leo (seen below), then aged 5. Young Thomas would later fight and die during World War 1. The Census document mentions that Thomas is a naturalized US citizen, and has been 18 years in the United States, which confirms the family’s emigration from Ballymacoda in 1882. Thomas’s occupation is shown as ‘Cloth Room’, which likely refers to a specialized section within a textile mill or factory where a variety of activities associated with fabric manufacturing took place.

A Young Thomas Leo Russell

In the 1910 United States Federal Census, Thomas, wife Kate, and son and daughter Thomas Leo and Gertrude are listed as living at the same address of 10 Russell Street in Taunton. However, Thomas now lists his age as 40, which doesn’t tally with his entry in the 1900 Census, or his actual birth year of 1866. Thomas lists his occupation as ‘Foreman’ and under industry lists ‘Car Barn’. A ‘car barn’ at the time was a building where trams, railroad cars, or buses were stored and maintained.

As often happens in life, tragedy struck Thomas and family in 1912. In April of that year, his wife Kate passed away suddenly at their home on 10 Russell Street due to a cerebral embolism. The grief must have been overwhelming, but fate had more sorrow in store just a few months later. In August, Thomas faced another devastating loss when his mother Betsey also died. She was 75 years old and lived just a few houses away at 6 Russell Street. This must have compounded Thomas’s sorrow, especially since his father had already passed away three years earlier in 1909. The series of losses likely left a lasting impact on Thomas, as he coped with the absence of the closest members of his family in such a short span of time.

Two years later, in April of 1914, Thomas found hope and companionship once more by remarrying. His second wife, Johanna O’Keefe, shared a similar background, being an Irish emigrant herself. Johanna was the daughter of Michael and Bridget O’Keefe, who had also made the journey from Ireland in search of a better life.

Around this time, the world was on the brink of World War I, the global conflict ignited by a complex web of factors, including rising tensions among the European powers, militarism, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife Sophie, Duchess von Hohenberg, in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, by Bosnian Serb student Gavrilo Princip. America joined the war in 1917, and the Selective Service Act of 1917 required all American males aged 21-31 years (later 18-45 years) to register to be potentially selected for military service. Thomas Leo Russell fell into this age bracket and was required to register in the draft. At the time he was working as a silversmith for the Reed & Barton company in Taunton (Taunton was known as the ‘silver city‘, due to it being a historic center of the silver industry beginning in the 19th century). He was selected for service in the draft and enlisted into the US Army as a Private on September 20th, 1917, initially serving in Company F within the 302nd Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 76th Division. In February 1918, he was transferred to the 3rd Company of the March Automatic Replacement Draft at Camp Devens, a training and mobilization camp located in Massachusetts.

WWI draft registration card completed by Thomas Leo Russell, his home address of 10 Russell Street in Taunton is clearly visible.

Thomas Leo’s military record next indicates that he started training within the 2nd Infantry Training Battalion and later moved to the 7th Company within the 1st Infantry Training Battalion. On March 12th, 1918, he was transferred oversees to France, as part of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Division.

Oversees Transfer Record for Thomas Leo Russell, Hoboken, New Jersey, March 1918

Just a few months into his oversees service, Thomas Leo Russell was killed in action on July 1st, 1918, during the Battle of Belleau Wood in Northern France, in which 1,811 United States soldiers were killed. He was buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery nearby (Plot A, Row 2, Grave 6). Back home in Taunton, when Thomas Russell received the heartbreaking news that his only son had fallen in battle, he must have been engulfed by a sorrow so deep that words could hardly capture its depth. The future he had no doubt envisioned, brimming with dreams and aspirations for his child, was suddenly and irreparably shattered. The pain was undoubtedly compounded by the fact that his son was buried in France, with no possibility of repatriating the body. Knowing that his final resting place was so far from home must have added an additional layer of heartache.

The death of Thomas L. Russell, reported in the Boston Globe on October 1st, 1918

A few years later, in his entry for the 1920 United States Federal Census, it seems that Thomas again lists his age incorrectly, as 50 (younger than he is). In this Census, there is no mention of wife Kate – as mentioned earlier, she had passed away in April 1912, and Thomas had remarried Johanna. She is listed on the Census as Hannah. Thomas’s daughter Gertrude, now 26, is listed, now working as a grocery store attendant. In this census, young Thomas is also absent, having died during World War 1 as we have seen.

Thomas F. Russell died in Taunton on Monday March 28th, 1927. His obituary lists him as having died ‘following an illness of two weeks’ duration’. He was survived by his wife Hannah, and daughter Gertrude. He was buried in Saint Joseph Cemetery in Taunton, where his parents had been buried earlier. Hannah lived until 1955, and Gertrude passed away in 1983.

A long line of descendants from the Russell family, who emigrated from Ballymacoda in 1882, still resides in this part of the world today. The legacy of the Russell’s continues to thrive, with each generation no doubt maintaining the connection to their Irish roots. There is no evidence to suggest that Thomas ever returned to Ballymacoda during his lifetime. This raises a poignant question about whether any of his descendants have made the journey back to their ancestral homeland. It would be fascinating to know if any of them have traveled to Ballymacoda, perhaps to walk the same street their forebears once did. The idea of reconnecting with their heritage, experiencing the culture, and witnessing the land that their ancestors called home might be a compelling and emotional journey for the descendants of the Russell family.

The gravestone of Thomas F. Russell, Saint Joseph Cemetery, Taunton

Seen below, the grave of Thomas G. Russell and his wife Betsey in Saint Joseph Cemetery in Taunton, the parents of Thomas F. Russell. You can see the reference to Ballymacoda at the base, this was common at the time for emigrant graves to mention their home parish.

References & Further Information

1900 United States Federal Census

1910 United States Federal Census

1920 United States Federal Census

Ballymacoda Parish Baptismal Records

Haulsee, W.M., comp.. Soldiers of the Great War. Vol. I-III. Washington, D.C.: Soldiers Record, 1920.

U.S., Army Transport Service Arriving and Departing Passenger Lists, 1910-1939

U.S., Headstone and Interment Records for U.S., Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942-1949

American Battle Monuments Commission, Details for Thomas L. Russell

Analysis of 19th Century Population Data for Kilmacdonogh Civil Parish

The analysis of census records relating to Ireland has always been challenging. The first full census of Ireland took place in 1821. While this is deemed the first full census, one actually took place in 1813, but was poorly executed. The 1821 census listed, for every member of a household, name, age, occupation and relationship to the head of the household. The census also recorded the acreage held by the head of the household and the number of stories that each dwelling had. Following the 1821 census, further censuses were conducted at 10 year intervals up to 1911. No census took place in 1921 due to the War of Independence and the first census in the Irish Free State took place in June 1926.

Very little remains of any of the 19th century censuses of Ireland. The census records for 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851 were destroyed in the 1922 fire at the Record Treasury of the Public Record Office during the Irish Civil War, when seven centuries of Ireland’s public records were lost. There are a small number of census record fragments available for these censuses. The census returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed shortly after the censuses were taken. The census returns for 1881 and 1891 were pulped during the First World War, allegedly due to a paper shortage. 

Recently I came across some historical documents held by the University of Southampton that summarize the 19th century censuses of Ireland:

  • Census of Ireland 1851: Part I, Area, Population, and Number of Houses, by Townlands and Electoral Divisions: County of Cork (East Riding)
  • Census of Ireland 1861: Part I, Area, Population, and Number of Houses, by Townlands and Electoral Divisions Provinces of Leinster and Munster
  • Census of Ireland 1881: Area, Population and Number of Houses; Occupations, Religion and Education volume II, Province of Munster

While these documents are summaries of the original census returns for these years, and the actual returns are not available which would contain individual names etc., there is insight to be gained in analysis of these documents as they break down each townland of the Civil Parish of Kilmacdonogh, of which Ballymacoda and most townlands in the area are a part of, in terms of total population numbers and males and females living in each area at that time.

Firstly, let’s look at the 1841 population numbers for Kilmacdonogh by townland – these are available for comparison purposes in the 1851 document:

1841 Population Data for Kilmacdonogh

The total population across all townlands in Kilmacdonogh in 1841 was 3,543 people. The most populated townlands were Ring (380), Ballymacoda (346) and Glenawilling (275). The least populated townlands were Ballyhonock (34), Gortavella (25), and Capel Island (0).

10 years later in 1851, the population total had decreased to 3,055 – a 13% reduction. Obviously during this timeframe, the Great Famine had occurred which very likely contributed to the population decrease, in addition to emigration driven by this event. In 1851, the most populated townlands were Ring (350), Glenawilling (278) and Ballydaniel (277).

1851 Population Data for Kilmacdonogh

A further reduction of the population of Kilmacdonogh is seen in the 1861 Census – by this time the population was 2,342 people across all townlands – a 33% reduction on the 1841 numbers. By the 1881 Census, there was a drastic reduction across the populations in almost all townlands.

1861 Population Data for Kilmacdonogh

Between 1841 and 1881 – the population of Kilmacdonogh declined a staggering 53% – from 3,543 people in 1841 to 1,654 people in 1881.

1881 Population Data for Kilmacdonogh

There were large reductions in population across the townlands of Kilmacdonogh – Curraghleagh declined 800%, Gortavadda nearly 2000%, Gortnaskehy 480%, and Ballymacoda 142%.

What is interesting is that all townlands except one – Ballyskibbole (bordering Knockadoon, Ring and Glenawilling) – declined in population in these 40 years between the two censuses of 1841 and 1881. Ballyskibbole almost doubled its population in those 40 years.

Comparison of Total Population, 1841 vs. 1881

The population decline in Kilmacdonogh between 1841 and 1881 was likely due to a combination of several factors, and these factors were certainly not unique to the area. Firstly the Great Famine, in which an estimated 1m people died from starvation and related diseases, was a significant factor. Secondly, the famine triggered mass emigration – it is estimated that at least another 1m people emigrated as a direct consequence of the famine. Desperate to escape the dire conditions, many Irish people emigrated to countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and Britain. This wave of emigration continued even after the famine, as economic conditions in Ireland remained poor, and opportunities abroad appeared more promising. Between 1841 and 1851 alone, it is estimated that over one million people emigrated from Ireland, and there is much evidence of emigration from the Ballymacoda area during this time.

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1841, 1851, 1861, 1881 Population Summary for Townlands of Kilmacdonogh

As I conclude this short exploration of the 19th century population data for Kilmacdonogh, it is evident the profound impact historical events can have on an area. The Great Famine’s shadow loomed large, leaving behind a legacy of loss. The waves of emigration that followed not only altered the demographic landscape of the Ballymacoda area, but also created a diaspora.

In 2024, my main aim for the Ballymacoda History Project is to focus on these stories of emigration.

References & Further Information

University of Southampton, Census of Ireland 1851 : part I, area, population, and number of houses, by townlands and electoral divisions: County of Cork (East Riding)

University of Southampton, Census of Ireland 1861 : Part I, Area, Population, and Number of Houses, by Townlands and Electoral Divisions Provinces of Leinster and Munster

University of Southampton, Census of Ireland 1881 : Area, Population and Number of Houses; Occupations, Religion and Education volume II, Province of Munster

Compensation Claims after the War of Independence and Civil War 

The Damage to Property (Compensation) Act 1923 was passed by the Oireachtas on May 12th of that year. The goal of this legislation was to facilitate claims for damages to personal property that occurred after July 11th 1921 – the date of the Truce between the Irish Republican Army and the forces of the crown, and up to March 20th 1923 – covering the period of the Irish Civil War also. In 1933, the act was amended to allow for claims for the period April 24th 1916 – May 12th 1923.

Ballymacoda and its surrounds were not exempt from damages during the war of independence and civil war, and I have been researching the records available in the National Archives of Ireland to examine what post truce claims were made by people from the Ballymacoda area. The records offer us a perspective on how the struggles affected the community, underscoring the real impacts on ordinary individuals. The claims that are recorded range from damage to property to the theft of clothing. The claims were administered by the County Court. For each claim, the name and address of the claimant was listed, along with details of the claim, the location of the incident, the date it occurred, and if possible the perpetrators were identified.

Below are the claims in the records for the Ballymacoda area. Interestingly, the events of three are listed as having occurred on the same date – January 30th 1923. On the this date, McLoughlin’s public house in the village was raided, clothes were stolen from a Mrs. Rumley, and Shanahan’s shop was raided for tobacco.

All claims that follow here are listed verbatim as they appear in the available records in the National Archives.

Norah K Neville O’Brien, Aghavine House, Ballymacoda, County Cork

Seizure and destruction of bicycle at Aghavine, County Cork, by unknown persons on 13 September 1920; damage to wall and destruction of trees at Aghavine, County Cork, on 6 November 1920; seizure of property, damage to wall and destruction of trees at Aghavine, County Cork, on 16 April 1921; damage to car and seizure of horse and trap at Aghavine, County Cork, by unknown persons on 24 June 1921; destruction of trees at Aghavine, County Cork, on 15 July 1921; damage to applicant’s land at Aghavine, County Cork, due to traffic between April 1921 and July 1921.

Elizabeth A McLoughlin, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

Raiding of public house and seizure of money by unidentified armed men on 30 January 1923.

Margaret Rumley, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

Seizure of clothes by unidentified armed men who said they were acting on behalf of Irregular forces on 30 January 1923.

John O’Donoghue, shopkeeper, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

Goods and provisions, including meals, liquor and 1 overcoat, seized at same address by the IRA between August 1921-April 1923.

Ellen Cashman, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

Provisions, including coal, tea, butter and drapery goods, seized at same address by the IRA in August 1922 and January 1923.

John Motherway, Ballycrenane, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

One bicycle seized at same address by the IRA in June 1921.

Mary Teresa Shanahan, shopkeeper, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

One side of bacon, cash and 2 buckets supplied at same address to the IRA in August 1922; premises raided and quantities of tobacco seized by the IRA on 30 January 1923.

George Glennon, Curraheen, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

One bicycle commandeered at Corralea, County Roscommon by armed men on 6 June 1922.

Michael Connery, Glenawilling, Ballymacoda, County Cork

Four tons of hay and 6 tons of straw burned and destroyed at Glenawilling, County Cork, by unknown persons on 17 March 1923.

William Wigmore, Ballydaniel, Ballymacoda, County Cork.

Destruction by fire of hay stocks by unknown persons on 14 July 1921.

Mary Linehan, Ardnahinch Post Office, Garryvoe, County Cork.

Damage to property and cattle driven from land at Ballydaniel, Ballymacoda, County Cork, by unknown persons from 25 November 1922 to 30 November 1922.

References & Further Information

National Archives of Ireland

Ballymacoda & The American Civil War

The more research I do for the Ballymacoda History Project, the more I am amazed at where people from Ballymacoda turn up. Among these surprising discoveries, the American Civil War stands out as a topic I never envisioned writing about. Yet, here I find myself, uncovering the intriguing tales of individuals from Ballymacoda who became entwined in this pivotal moment of American history.

The American Civil War (1861-1865), was a complex conflict which stemmed primarily from the divisive issue of slavery and the contrasting economic and social systems of the Northern and Southern United States. Slavery had been a contentious issue since the founding of the United States. By the mid-19th century, the Northern states had largely moved away from slavery, embracing industrialization and a more diversified economy. In contrast, the Southern states relied heavily on agriculture, particularly the plantation system powered by slave labor, which they believed was vital to their economic prosperity. As the country expanded westward, tensions escalated over the question of whether new states would be admitted as free or slave states, thus affecting the balance of power in Congress. The issue reached boiling point with the election of President Abraham Lincoln in 1860, a Republican opposed to the expansion of slavery. Southern states, fearing their way of life and economic system were under threat, began to secede from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America on February 8th, 1861. The war officially began in April 1861 when Confederate forces attacked Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Union side fought to preserve the union of states and embraced the goal of ending slavery, while the Confederacy side sought to establish an independent nation where slavery could continue.

The links between the American Civil War and the 1867 Fenian Rising in Ireland are also worthy of discussion. These conflicts shared a significant connection, rooted in the dynamics of Irish nationalism and the transatlantic support it garnered. The Civil War’s conclusion in 1865 made available experienced soldiers, some of whom turned their attention to supporting the Fenians. A local example of this of course is the involvement of Captain John McClure, an American born veteran of the Civil War, in the raid on coastguard station at Knockadoon during the 1867 rising. You can read more about that in the previous article located here – ‘Peter O’Neill Crowley and the 1867 Fenian Rising‘.

It is estimated that 150,000 Irishmen fought in the American Civil War. It is amazing to consider these individuals, driven by a range of motivations (and sometimes by circumstance), leaving their homeland of Ireland behind and embarking on a new journey to a foreign land – did they think they would end up fighting in a Civil War? Whether driven by economic aspirations, a sense of duty to their adopted country, or a desire to combat injustice, these individuals forged a lasting legacy.

The following are the people from Ballymacoda I am aware of who fought in the war.

Michael O’Brien

Known of course as one of the Manchester Martyrs, O’Brien was also a hardened Civil War Veteran, the experience of which was extremely useful to the Fenian cause. In August 1862, O’Brien, then living in the United States, joined a Union Army regiment from New Jersey. Records available from the 13th New Jersey Infantry Regiment (Company E), confirm that O’Brien enlisted on August 14th 1862 with the rank of Private, for a period of 3 years. The same record also shows that he was discharged at Eckington U.S. Army General Hospital in Washington, D.C. on February 5th 1863, with the discharge noting ‘Disability‘ as the reason, which one would assume meant he was recovering from some injury received in battle. This seems to be confirmed in October 1864, when O’Brien signed up for the Union Army once again – this time for a period of 1 years service in the 10th Regiment of the Ohio Infantry. The official soldier roster for the Ohio Infantry, confirms this service, and that he was discharged at San Antonio, Texas on October 17th 1865, having completed his service.

Read more about Michael O’Brien’s life in the previous article on the Ballymacoda History Project, The Manchester Martyrs.

Entry for Michael O’Brien in the Official Soldier Roster, Ohio Infantry

John Ahern

John Ahern also fought on the Union side, with the 119th Regiment, Illinois Infantry (Company A). Thirty one years of age at the time, he joined up on August 1st, 1862 at Quincy, Illinois (where he lived), and was mustered in on October 7th. He fought for 3 years before being discharged from service on August 26th, 1865 at Mobile, Alabama. His official record mentions that he had been sent to a convalescence camp in Memphis, Tennessee on June 25th, presumably due to some injury received in battle.

Interestingly, the ‘missing friends‘ column of the Boston Pilot (of which I have wrote about previously here), had an appeal for John’s whereabouts from his sister Nora in 1874.

Boston Pilot, Volume 37, Number 48, 28 November 1874

Pat Hennessy

Pat Hennessy was born in Ballymakeigh, Ballymacoda in 1837. After emigrating to Canada in 1860, he later ended up in the United States. He enlisted in 1862 in the Union Army, and served in the 22nd Regiment, Illinois Infantry (Company B).

You can read more about Pat Hennessy life after the war, and his sad ending in the previously published article on the Ballymacoda History Project – ‘The Story of Pat Hennessy‘.

David Costine

David Costine enlisted in the Union Army on June 15th, 1861 in Illinois with the rank of Private, and became part of the 23rd Regiment, Illinois Infantry (Company B). Born in Ballymacoda in 1837, he was aged just 24 at the time, and was a resident of Earlville, Illinois.

He remained with the Illinois Infantry for the entirety of the war, achieving numerous promotions along the way. By the time he was discharged from service on July 24th, 1865 at Richmond, Virginia, he had achieved the rank of First Lieutenant.

David Costine married twice after the war. He died on 28th October, 1922.

Record of David Costine’s Pension Application – filed in August 1887

It is very likely there will be a follow up to this article, based on the volume of records to research, I may find more stories to tell about the involvement of those from Ballymacoda in the American Civil War.

References & Further Information

Thanks to Kay Cullen for sharing her research notes with me

U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865

U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934

Illinois, U.S., Databases of Illinois Veterans Index, 1775-1995

Soldier Details, US National Park Service, David Costine

Soldier Details, US National Park Service, John Ahern

Soldier Details, US National Park Service, Michael O’Brien

Soldier Details, US National Park Service, Patrick M. Hennessy

A Short History of Knockadoon Camp

Knockadoon Camp’s origins trace back to Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh (Ballingeary), located on the opposite side of County Cork. It was there, in 1922, that Father Stephen Glendon, a Dominican from St Mary’s Dominican Priory in Cork City, initiated an Irish language summer camp exclusively for young men and boys. The camp operated in its original location for two years before relocating to Knockadoon in 1924. The decision to move was influenced by the camp’s desire to be closer to the sea. Being situated near the coast provided opportunities for various water-based activities and added to the overall appeal of the camp experience.

Boys from Christian Brothers College Cork attending Knockadoon in July 1960

The camp in its original form was an adjunct to a confraternity for young men and boys in their late teens called the Angelic Warfare Sodality (a sodality essentially being a group of people who promise to pursue some good together within the Church). Fr. Stephen Glendon O.P. was the founder and first Director of the camp at Knockadoon. He was born Henry Stephen Glendon in Dundalk, Co. Louth, on May 13th 1866. He entered the Dominican order at Tallaght in 1887, and was ordained in Rome in 1892. After spending a few years in Lisbon, he arrived back in Dublin in 1894 and ministered at St. Saviour’s Church. He left Dublin in 1907, and served in Galway, Sligo and Tralee before being placed in Cork.

Advertisement for Knockadoon Camp appearing in ‘An tÓglach’ in July 1925 (magazine of the Irish Defense Forces)

The original camp was setup to cater for young men and boys aged 12 years and over. The aim was to give attendees the experience of the outdoors and being close to nature. Attendees at the camp were asked to bring towels, a bathing costume, and soap. Hurls were allowed if the attendees wanted to bring them, as were musical instruments, and bicycles for which a store was available. The cost per person was 3s per day, and the minimum stay at the camp was 1 week. Through an arrangement between the camp and Great Southern Railways and Great Northern Railways, special concessions were available on tickets for campers, on issue of a voucher signed by the Director of the Camp. The nearest railway station was Killeagh, and each Saturday a charabanc (a horse-drawn, early form of a bus) would meet the train in Killeagh to collect campers, for which they were charged one shilling.

An early group of campers at Knockadoon, from the archive of Vincent Travers

As you would expect of a Dominican run camp, promotion of the Catholic ethos was a key aim, and campers were expected to attend mass each morning at 08.30am in the oratory of the camp, as well as participating in the saying of the Holy Rosary daily. Confession was also available to campers.

An open day at the camp in 1930

Campers were given three meals a day in the dining hall, and porridge and milk was available to everyone each night before the regular Cèilidh. It is interesting to note that food wasn’t restricted at the camp – anyone wishing to have more than usually allocated, was allowed. At this time, all the campers slept in tents, each in their own bed. In bad weather, the campers slept in a large dormitory. There were also a limited number of timber bungalows used for sleeping.

The camp in July 1960, the tents used as dormitories are clearly visible here

Sanitary Arrangements‘ at the camp were described as ‘perfect‘ in camp literature. With the latrines ‘erected in a secluded corner on the edge of a cliff‘ and ‘flushed by the tide‘. Not surprising for the time, but this setup wouldn’t be described as ‘perfect‘ today!

Original timber bungalows at the camp, these were used up to 1986 when they were replaced with concrete structures

Upon its relocation from Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh to Knockadoon, the camp underwent changes in its language program. The previously compulsory Irish language classes were eliminated, and instead, campers were encouraged to engage in conversation using the Irish language as much as possible during their time at the camp. Despite the removal of mandatory classes, fostering Irish culture and language continued to be a significant objective. Each night, a Cèilidh was held in the camp hall, or if weather permitted, an open-air Chuirm Cheoil around the camp fire. Attendees at the camp were also given the option to learn traditional Irish singing.

The main activities at the camp at this time were swimming, boating, hurling and football games, and picnics and excursions to local areas of interest such as Capel Island (with the help of local fishermen). While the aim of the camp was to provide a relaxed atmosphere, discipline was maintained, with early camp literature mentioning that ‘the right is reserved to send home any boy whose influence is deemed harmful‘.

Thousands of boys from all over Ireland attended the camp in the 1920s after its founding – over 400 in 1928 alone. The camp in the 1920s was also used by the Dominican Order for other purposes. Notably, William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice was staged at the camp in the summer of 1926.

Announcement of the staging of The Merchant of Venice at Knockadoon, this carried in the Cork Examiner, July 29th, 1926

Knockadoon Camp in its initial existence continued to flourish until 1933, when the driving force, Fr. Glendon, was transferred to Galway. Between the end of the 1933 season and 1955, only small groups used the camp. With World War 2 also occurring during this period, the camp was fully closed due to rationing of goods during ‘the emergency‘ as it was called in Ireland, and also the risk of the camp being mistaken for a military post.

Headline from Cork Examiner article announcing the full reopening of the camp, Friday June 17th, 1955

In the 1980s, some investment at the camp saw the building of concrete structures to replace the existing timber bungalows.

Building of new accommodation in progress in 1985

The ‘New Hall‘ was also constructed in 2006, adding more space for activities, and 2023 is seeing refurbishments of the bunkhouses take place.

New buildings completed in 1986. The building in the foreground, one of the original timber bungalows, was known as ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and was left intact to be used as an art room

Today, Knockadoon Camp is used for multiple different camps throughout the summer season, and offers a diverse range of activities and programs for campers, including sports, arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, and outdoor adventures. The camp relies on a dedicated team of volunteers who contribute their time and efforts to make it a success. These volunteers, often former campers themselves, play a vital role in organizing activities, providing guidance, and creating a positive and inclusive atmosphere.

Coláiste Cúram, established in 1975, is a three-week program that has been nurturing a deep appreciation for the Irish language and culture among young people. It has remained an integral part of the camp’s annual summer schedule ever since, except for the years 2020 and 2021 when the camp had to be closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Knockadoon Youth Week (KYW) is another staple of the summer schedule at the camp. This has run since 2011, and now runs over four separate weeks each summer and has 100s of volunteer leaders from all over Ireland, many of them previous attendees of the camp.

Camp Creideamh, established in 2016, is a catholic faith camp for boys and girls which runs for one week in June each year.

Knockadoon Music & Liturgy Course has also been a regular part of the summer in Knockadoon for 40 years. This is a one week residential course for young people involved in church music.

Since 1999, the camp has also been used by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul during the summer to host groups of children.

Over the years, Knockadoon Camp has evolved into a cherished institution, offering young people the chance to immerse themselves in Irish culture, language, and various recreational activities. The camp has had a significant impact on the local community and beyond. It has served as a place for young people to connect, learn, and grow, fostering lifelong friendships and memories. Many campers return year after year, and some become volunteers or leaders, further contributing to the camp’s legacy.

Overall, Knockadoon Camp has a storied history of promoting Irish culture, faith, language, and personal development. Its inclusive and engaging environment has ensured that attendance remains a lifelong memory for the generations of young people from across Ireland who have attended over the years. We are lucky to have it in our locality.

References & Further Information

A special word of thanks to Billy Harrington, who provided many of the photographs and newspaper clippings used in this article

Knockadoon Camp Website

Coláiste Cúram Website

Knockadoon Music & Liturgy Course

Knockadoon Youth Week

Jerry Aher: A Fenian’s Story

Previously writing on the Ballymacoda History Project, I have covered the 1867 Fenian rising and the involvement of Ballymacoda men Peter O’Neill Crowley and Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane. In this post I’ll delve into the story of another contemporary of O’Neill and Cullinane – Jeremiah (Jerry) Aher – who as well as being involved in the raid on the Coastguard station during the rebellion, was also later associated with one of the most famous Fenian prison breaks of the time – the Catalpa rescue.

Photograph of Jerry Aher, taken after his deportation to Australia

Some records list Jeremiah Aher as being born in Ballymacoda in 1841, but he was more than likely born in 1844. This is corroborated by:

  1. Parish records – there is a Jeremiah Aher listed as being baptized on September 4th 1844.
  2. The 1867 Irish prison register – Jeremiah Aher is listed as being 23 years old in 1867, at the time of his arrest for participation in the Fenian rising.
  3. The 1882 California voter register (where, as we will see later, Jeremiah lived for many years), lists his age as 38, again pointing to a birth year of 1844.

Jeremiah was the son of William Aher and Mary Crowley, and it was through his mother that he was a cousin of the aforementioned Peter O’Neill Crowley, who led the rising locally in 1867. Jeremiah had four brothers – John, Timothy, Thomas and William, and two sisters – Johanna and Mary.

The raid on the coastguard station at Knockadoon took place on the night of the Fenian rising – Tuesday March 5th, 1867. The raid, in which Aher, Cullinane and others were involved was led by O’Neill Crowley and John McClure, an American born veteran of the Civil War. The primary goal of the operation was to secure arms, and it was successful, with John Devoy calling it “the neatest job done by the Fenians in the Rising“. While the raid in Ballymacoda was successful, the rising nationally was ultimately a failure and as we have seen previously O’Neill Crowley met his fate at Kilclooney Wood on the morning of Sunday March 31st, three weeks after the rising.

Jerry Aher was tried along with the other captured Fenian rebels in Cork and was convicted of treason on May 2nd 1867. He was sentenced to 7 years penal servitude. While they were awaiting trial, Aher and many other Fenian prisoners were held in Mountjoy jail in Dublin.

Reports of the sentencing of some of the Fenian prisoners, including Jerry Aher, which carried in English newspapers after the rebellion.

He and his fellow convicts were deported first to England, to be held in the infamous Millbank prison in London (now the site of the Tate Britain gallery), which was used as a holding area for those awaiting deportation to Australia. Aher and the other prisoners were held at Millbank until October 1867. His prisoner record from Millbank actually lists him as being removed from there on September 30th, and also records a visit from his father. After Millbank, they were to be deported to Western Australia aboard the prison ship Hougoumont.

The voyage of the Hougoumont lasted 89 days, with the vessel arriving in Western Australia on January 10th 1868, and was of particular historical significance in that it was the last convict ship to carry Irish prisoners to Australia. David Joyce (from the Garryvoe area) and Edward Kelly were aboard the same ship, as well as Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane. The Fenian prisoners, 62 of the 289 convicts that arrived aboard Hougoumont, were taken to Fremantle Prison, and Jerry Aher became convict number 9645. Conditions for the men in Fremantle Prison were very poor. When not completing back-breaking labor, or seconded to work parties assigned to the hard labor of road building in searing temperatures around Fremantle, the Fenian prisoners were confined to their small cells. Before the rising and his arrest, Jerry Aher had been a carpenter and his skills were put to use in the colony.

From the Perth Gazette and West Australian Times, announcing the arrival of the Hougoumont, January 17th 1868

Aher’s prison record lists multiple disciplinary actions during his stay in Fremantle, all occurring in February and March 1869. On February 3rd 1869 he was sentenced to 7 days bread and water for ‘mutinous conduct‘. He was sentenced to the same punishment again on February 19th and March 6th for ‘refusal to work‘. On March 20th, he was sentenced to ‘indefinite solitary confinement‘, again for ‘refusal to work‘. It is not clear how long he remained in solitary.

In early May 1869, Aher and other Fenian prisoners were granted an official pardon, signed by the British Home Secretary, Henry Austin Bruce. This was largely due to the sustained campaign for a Fenian amnesty at home in Ireland. Records show that Jerry Aher received a free pardon on May 15th.

While some of the Fenian prisoners left immediately, for example as in the case of Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane who left for Sydney soon after their pardon, Jerry Aher stayed on in the Perth/Fremantle area. In 1873, he met and married Mary Ann Brennan, herself an Irish emigrant. Their first son, William Joseph Aher was born in July 1874. In the next phase of Jerry Aher’s life, he would participate in one of the most daring Fenian prison breaks of the time, the Catalpa rescue.

With the Fenian pardons issued in 1869, and another round in 1871, only a small number of Fenian prisoners – those deemed most militant by the British – remained in captivity. One of those was James McNally (also known by his alias James Wilson), a Fenian from Newry, Co. Down. McNally had a letter smuggled out of the prison and sent to John Devoy in America. Devoy, an ardent Fenian, had himself been granted amnesty in England in 1871 on the condition that he emigrate to America and never return.

Dear Friend, remember this is a voice from the tomb. For is not this a living tomb? In the tomb it is only a man’s body that is good for worms, but in the living tomb the canker worm of care enters the very soul. Think that we have been nearly nine years in this living tomb since our first arrest and that it is impossible for mind or body to withstand the continual strain that is upon them. One or the other must give way. It is in this sad strait that I now, in the name of my comrades and myself, ask you to aid us in the manner pointed out… We ask you to aid us with your tongue and pen, with your brain and intellect, with your ability and influence, and God will bless your efforts, and we will repay you with all the gratitude of our natures… our faith in you is unbound. We think if you forsake us, then we are friendless indeed.

Letter from James McNally to John Devoy, which prompted the Catalpa Rescue

Devoy consulted with other exiled Fenians in America – John Boyle O’Reilly, himself an escapee of the same prison colony in Australia which held the remaining Fenian prisoners, and Thomas McCarthy Fennell, a Fenian who had left the colony after being pardoned in the 1871 amnesty. All were members of Clan na Gael. It was Fennel who suggested that a ship be purchased and sailed to Australia to rescue the remaining imprisoned Fenians. The rescue was funded by Clan na Gael. What they purchased was the Catalpa, a three-masted merchant bark, 90 foot long, and the ship sailed for Australia from New Bedford, Massachusetts on April 19th, 1875, as a legitimate whaling expedition, under Captain George S. Anthony. Most of the crew were unaware of the real intent of the voyage. In parallel with the sailing of the Catalpa, Devoy had enlisted two Fenian agents to travel to Western Australia – John Breslin and Thomas Desmond – to begin preparations in advance of the arrival.

Illustration of the Catalpa and the Fenian prisoner escapees

Jerry Aher had secured work as a carpenter, and encountered Desmond who told him of his mission in Western Australia – that is how he became involved in the Catalpa rescue. While there is no information available on exactly how Jerry Aher contributed, his local knowledge and contacts were no doubt invaluable to the Fenian agents and the overall escape plan. On March 29th, 1876 the Catalpa berthed at Bunbury, Western Australia, and Captain Anthony along with Breslin and Desmond, who had met the ship on arrival, sailed for Fremantle on board the steamer Georgette. The plan was to secure escape of the remaining Fenian prisoners while they were part of a work party, and this was executed successfully. Having been pursued for a time by the authorities, the Fenian prisoners and the Catalpa eventually escaped, and the men were finally free. The Catalpa sailed triumphantly into New York in August 1876, carrying the escaped Fenian prisoners.

In May 1876, passenger records show that Jerry Aher sailed for Melbourne with his wife and child onboard the Northern Light. Later that year he travelled to San Francisco, California, where he settled permanently. This is corroborated by multiple items if historical evidence. The 1880 United States Federal Census shows Jerry Aher living at 38 Larkin Street, in San Francisco. His occupation is given as ‘House Carpenter‘, which indicates he once again fell back on his pre-rising/incarceration occupation. The 1882 Voter Register for California, shows that he became a naturalized US citizen on February 27th, 1882. Twenty years later, the 1900 United States Federal Census shows the Aher family living at 1411 Bush Street in San Francisco, and at 158 20th Avenue in the 1910 Census.

I have found no records to indicate that Jerry Aher ever returned to Ballymacoda.

Jeremiah Aher in later life, pictured with his wife and three sons

Jerry Aher died in California on January 29th 1926, having lived an extraordinary life. He was buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Colma, San Mateo County. Mary Ann died on December 28th 1930.

The grave of Jerry Aher, in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Colma, San Mateo in California. Unfortunately the gravestone is in a state of disrepair today.

References & Further Information

Amos, K., The Fenians in Australia, 1865-1880, Sydney, 1988

Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868

Ballymacoda & Ladysbridge Parish Records, Entry for baptismal of Jeremiah Aher, September 4th, 1844

Ireland, Prison Registers, 1790-1924

Millbank Prison Record for Jeremiah Aher – UK, Prison Commission Records, 1770-1951

Fremantle Prison Convict Database

Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950

The San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco, California, Tuesday, December 30, 1930 (Obituary for Mary Ann Aher)

1880 United States Federal Census

California, U.S., Voter Registers, 1866-1898

1900 United States Federal Census

1910 United States Federal Census

Biography of Jeremiah Aher, State Library of Western Australia, JS Battye Library of West Australian History Collection

The Dungarvan Observer, April 17th, 1926 (republished obituary of Jeremiah Aher under the heading of ‘Death of Old Fenian in San Francisco’)

Shipwrecks Around Ballymacoda #2 – Three Wartime Incidents

In the first article in this series, I discussed probably the most memorable wreck along our coastline, the Tadorna, wrecked off Ballycrenane in 1911. Continuing this series, I’ll delve into some of the lesser known shipwrecks and shipping accidents that have occurred around the Ballymacoda coastline – the first of these are three incidents which occurred during World War I – the running aground of the S.S. Messina in 1917, and the sinking of the schooner Edith and the steamship S.S. Lucena on the same day in 1915 by a German submarine off Knockadoon Head.

The Grounding of the S.S. Messina

The Messina was 4,271-ton cargo ship owned by Gulf Line, based in West Hartlepool, England. The Messina was a relatively new vessel, having been built in 1911 by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd in Newcastle. Towards the later part of World War 1, on the night of February 20th 1917, the Messina ran onto rocks near Knockadoon Head and was stranded. The HM Trawler Indian Empire arrived from Queenstown (Cobh) to assist, under Lieutenant Arthur Sanderson. Three other vessels, the tugs Stormcock, Hellespoint, and Warrior were also involved in the operation. An interesting side note here is that the Warrior had been one of the first vessels to come to the aid of the torpedo stricken Lusitania in May 1915, and was credited with saving 74 lives.

The salvage operation conducted on the Messina off Knockadoon was complex, and lasted three days, with different methods being tried to free the vessel from the rocks. Eventually on February 22nd, Petty Officer J.C. Williams, of H.M. Drifter J.E.C.M., assisted by Sanderson, risking being crushed to death, used explosives to shatter the rocks, which allowed the assembled boats to tow the Messina free.

The tugboat Warrior, involved in the salvage of the Messina off Knockadoon, and also in the Lusitania tragedy

Those involved in the salvaging of the Messina off Knockadoon applied to the British Admiralty for naval salvage money for the successful outcome of the operation. This was common practice at the time, as was the practice of awarding prize bounty money to Royal Navy ships involved in the sinking or capture of enemy vessels. In the resulting compensation case, a sum of £2,550 was awarded to those involved in the salvage of the Messina.

The London Gazette, July 30th 1918 with reference
to the salvage of the Messina

The Messina having been saved from destruction off Knockadoon Head, had difficult times ahead. On the evening of October 15th 1918, on a voyage from Plymouth to Baltimore, it was shelled by the German submarine U-152, in a confrontation lasting 2 hours. The Messina put on full speed and zigzagged in accordance with the wartime regulations, luckily escaping with minimal damage, having been hit once by a German shell on the port side. A little over a year later, on December 14th 1919, having survived the grounding off Knockadoon and the treacherous U-Boat infested waters of World War I, the Messina was abandoned in a storm in the North Atlantic and eventually sank. She was on a voyage from St. John to Antwerp, carrying a cargo of grain.

The final fate of the Messina, two years after she was stranded off Knockadoon, from the Victoria Daily Times, December 1919

The Sinking of the Schooner Edith & S.S. Lucena

The schooner Edith was 78-ton British registered merchant ship, built in 1876, and owned by John Rooney of the port town of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, England. On Sunday June 27th, 1915, she was on route from the town of Silloth on the north coast of England to Cork, carrying a cargo of plaster of Paris. Unfortunately for the Edith, the German U-Boat U-24 under Captain Rudolf Schneider was lurking in the waters about 10 nautical miles off Knockadoon Head.

The crew of the Edith reported that the submarine surfaced 100 yards from them, and was flying the Union Jack flag, a common deception tactic at the time. The submarine crew then ordered them to quickly leave their vessel. The three crew, all men from Kilkeel in Co. Down, got into their punt and began to row a safe distance from the Edith. From their deck gun, the crew of U-24 fired 4 shells and sank the defenseless Edith. The crew of the Edith were picked up and landed in Youghal.

On the very same day, the S.S. Lucena was also stopped in a similar fashion by the crew of U-24 approximately 4 miles south of Capel Island. The Lucena was a cargo ship, operated by Joseph Monks & Co. Ltd. of Liverpool, and was travelling from Granton in Scotland to Bantry with a cargo of coal. Similarly to the Edith, the crew of the Lucena were ordered to leave the ship before it was shelled and sank by U-24. The crew were later picked up and landed in Queenstown (Cobh).

U-24, responsible for the sinking of both the schooner Edith and the steamship Lucena on June 27th 1915 off Knockadoon

In what the U-24 crew probably deemed an extremely successful day, the Indrani, a 3,640 ton steamship was torpedoed by U-24 in St. George’s Channel and also sank on the very same day.

U-24 remained in service for the remainder of the war, until the German surrender in November 1918. The submarine was eventually broken up in 1922.

Report of the sinking of the schooner Edith, carried in newspapers of the time.

With incidents such as these, and the Imperial German navy’s campaign of unrestricted warfare on the seas from 1917, it is very easy to see why the Irish Coast Watching Service was setup in the early stages of World War II. Read more about the coast watching service in Ballymacoda in the previous post on the Ballymacoda History Project – The Coast Watching Service in Ballymacoda – now updated the show the excellent work done recently by members of the local community to restore the ‘LOP 21‘ marking.

References and Further Information

The London Gazette, July 30th 1918

The Victoria Daily Times, Victoria, British Columbia, December 13th 1919

The Sydney Stock & Station Journal, June 30th 1915

Irish Shipwrecks, Entry for ‘Edith’

Wikipedia, List of Shipwrecks in June 1915

Timothy A. Smiddy – the Ballymacoda Connection to Ireland’s First Ambassador

Evident from my research for the Ballymacoda History Project is the fact that people from Ballymacoda have made their mark on the world. We have successful and noted businesspeople, clergymen, academics, poets and patriots that we can claim as our own. Very often I come across surprising links also, and this is the story of one of those – Timothy Aloysius Smiddy, a contemporary of Michael Collins, and the first man to be appointed ambassador to another country by the Irish Free State.

Timothy A. Smiddy

Timothy A. Smiddy was born in Kilbarry, a small townland on the northside of Cork City, near Blackpool. He was born on April 30th, 1875, and was the son of William and Honora (nee O’Mahony) Smiddy. His father William Smiddy is what gives us our link the Ballymacoda – William was born in Ballycrenane, Ballymacoda on May 9th 1848, as were his parents (Timothy’s grandparents) – Timothy Smiddy (1793-1873) and Mary Boozan (Beausang – a distant relative of my own) (1806-1883).

William Smiddy, father of Timothy Smiddy, born in Ballycrenane, Ballymacoda in May 1848

By the time of Timothy’s birth in 1875, his father William had built up a successful merchant business in Cork city and ran a victualler business on Grand Parade, thus allowing Timothy the benefit of receiving a fine education. He attended St Finbarr’s College (Farranferris) on the northside of Cork City, and later, with his contemplation of becoming a priest, studied in Paris for a number of years, before moving to Cologne, Germany, to study commerce and economics.

Kilbarry House, the Smiddy family home in Cork

Returning home to Cork, Timothy married Lilian (Lily) O’Connell at St Finbarr’s Cathedral in October 1900. He went on to study at University College Cork (then Queen’s College Cork), and graduated with a B.A. (1905) and an M.A. (1907). He became staff at the University in 1909, accepting a position to teach in the Faculty of Economics, later becoming Dean of Faculty and Professor of Economics. Timothy and Lily had six children, and the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland records show them living in Cobh. It is interesting the see the evolution of Timothy’s listed profession on the Census forms. It was listed as ‘Timber merchant‘ in 1901, which he worked as while studying, and listed as ‘Professor of Economics and Commerce B.A.,M.A‘ in 1911.

Obviously, the most notable event from an Irish perspective at the time period we are discussing was Ireland’s ongoing struggle for independence. In 1921, following the War of Independence and the resulting truce, Timothy Smiddy was appointed by fellow Cork-man and friend Michael Collins to be his Economic Adviser to Plenipotentiaries for the treaty negotiations that were to happen in London between October and December of that year. Smiddy was one of four economic advisors appointed to the Irish delegation. At the time, Collins’ official role in the government of the proclaimed Irish Republic was Minister for Finance.

In 1922, Smiddy was called upon again by Collins and sent to the United States to be the Irish Free State’s financial representative in Washington. His role was officially recognized in 1924, and he served as Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to the United States of America for the Irish Free State until 1929. During this time he facilitated the visit of William T. Cosgrave to the United States in 1928, the first leader of the Irish Free State, accompanied by Desmond Fitzgerald, Minister for Defence.

WT Cosgrave arrives in Washington DC, Timothy Smiddy, who flanked Cosgrave for much of his visit, can be seen on the far left

The appointment of Timothy Smiddy as the representative of Ireland in the United States was an important development in the history of the Irish state. Not only was he the first ambassador to another country to be appointed, but it was also the first attempt by a British dominion or colony (as the Irish Free State then was) to appoint a recognized ambassador to another country.

Following the end of his appointment in the United States, Timothy Smiddy later served as the Irish Free State’s High Commissioner to London (during 1929–1930), was a member of the Tariff Commission (from 1930–1933) and later became chairman of the Commission on Agriculture (1939–1945). He also continued to advise the Irish government on economic matters. He died on February 9th, 1962 at the age of 86, and is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin.

In early 2022, a book entitled The Men and Women of the Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921 was released which details the lives of all delegation members involved in the Treaty negotiations in 1921. Joint editor of the book, Eda Sagarra, is a granddaughter of Timothy Smiddy. Sagarra is also author of the 2018 book, Envoy Extraordinary: Professor Smiddy of Cork, which comprehensively documents the life and achievements of Timothy Smiddy in his six decades of public service to Ireland.

References & Further Information

Ireland, Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911 [Available Online]

Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915 [Available Online]

Ireland, Civil Registration Births Index, 1864-1958 [Available Online]

National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Kilbarry House

Census of Ireland, 1901 Record for Timothy A. Smiddy

Census of Ireland, 1911 Record for Timothy A. Smiddy

Law Society Gazette Ireland, The people behind the 1921 Treaty, Fiona Murray, April 2022

Documents in Irish Foreign Policy, Letter from William T. Cosgrave to Timothy A. Smiddy, March 5th, 1928

The Men and Women of the Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921, Dingle Publishing

The 1856 Fishing Tragedy at Knockadoon

This is the story of possibly the worst fishing related accident to occur in Knockadoon – the loss of five men to the sea in the summer of 1856.

At 6am on Wednesday morning, August 20th 1856, five men and their fishing boat set off from Barry’s Cove for the purpose of hauling their nets (the concrete slipway in Knockadoon didn’t exist at this time). There was a heavy sea and a north-easterly wind blowing. Not a single member of the crew would return alive.

According to newspaper reports at the time, the boat and crew were seen by witnesses on the shore between 7am and 8am that morning, and were in the process of hauling their nets. The sea was rolling and the north-easterly wind was now blowing hard. According to the witnesses, what happened next was to decide the fate of the men – their boat suddenly capsized in the heavy sea.

Three of the men managed to rest on the keel of the upturned boat, and the other two were seen to use the heavy wooden oars of their fishing boat to attempt to support themselves in the water. The men on the keel were seen to call for assistance and attempt to signal to those on the shore that urgent help was needed.

On the shore, the crew of another boat who had just put in, Jeremiah McCarthy, Michael Barry, and John Sheehan attempted to gallantly re-launch their own fishing vessel and reach the men in distress. Ultimately, their brave efforts failed and the men narrowly avoided being drowned themselves in the worsening conditions.

Those on the shore watched helplessly, as their friends and neighbors were lost to the sea. The men on the oars disappeared after a short time, and the men on the keel were eventually beaten off by the terrible conditions. Some time later, their empty boat was driven on to the rocks at Knockadoon and smashed to pieces. It was reported in newspapers of the time that two of the bodies of the men washed ashore that day, but it is unclear when/if the others were recovered from the sea. An inquest was held on the following Friday at Castlemartyr by Henry Barry, coroner for the district, with a verdict of ‘Found drowned‘ being recorded for the men.

The following are the details of the men who drowned, as reported by the Cork Reporter at the time:

William Ahern – aged 47, leaving a wife and three children.

William Barry – aged 45, leaving a wife and five children.

William Lynch – aged 45, leaving a wife and six children.

Garret Barry and Daniel Barry – brothers aged 23 and 20 respectively, reported as leaving an aged mother and father.

Reports of the tragedy at Knockadoon carried widely in both national and international newspapers of the time. Later, an appeal was made to support the families of the deceased fishermen.

Report carried in the Cork Constitution, September 4th 1856

It is a wonder we don’t have some sort of simple memorial to these men at Knockadoon in the form of a plaque or similar. Such a tragic accident should not be lost to the ages.

References and Further Information

Kilkenny Journal, and Leinster Commercial and Literary Advertiser, August 27th 1856

Cork Constitution, September 4th 1856

A Snapshot of Ballymacoda from 1942

The Irish Tourist Association Topographical and General Survey Files were compiled in the early 1940s. As well as providing a unique glimpse into the past, these surveys contain many mentions of local folklore important to the historical record. Thankfully, these surveys have been digitized and most relating to localities in County Cork, including Ballymacoda, have been made available by Cork County Council via the Local Studies Digital Library.

The surveys were compiled by the Irish Tourist Association, a predecessor to what we know today as Fáilte Ireland. The purpose was to survey the major towns and villages of Ireland and record cultural and tourism-related attractions in these areas. These were detailed documents, containing five forms to be completed by the appointed surveyor:

  • Form A: This dealt with natural features, topography and the geology of the area. In addition, detailed descriptions of antiquities and archaeological sites were recorded.
  • Form B: This section gives information on sports and games played in the area.
  • Form C: This section provides information on amenities and public services such as beaches, bathing and swimming facilities, parks, etc.
  • Form D: Similar headings and categories to Form C such as amenities and general information about the town or village, though without references to facilities relating to seaside areas which were recorded in Form C.
  • Form EThis section details information about accommodation in the local area and the names of hotels, guest houses and boarding houses, as well as the names of local restaurants and cafés.

The survey for Ballymacoda is dated August 16th, 1942 (which interestingly was a Sunday), and while the rest of the survey is sparsely populated, Form A is where the most interesting information is to be found.

Excerpt from the first page of the Ballymacoda survey conducted in 1942

The first point of note in the Ballymacoda survey, as visible in the above image, is that the village of Ladysbridge was included as a secondary village, and there are some references throughout. Form A is full of local folklore, some of which I certainly wasn’t aware of previously, and which will be covered here.

The ‘Geology’ section at the start of Form A makes reference to copper mines in Knockadoon:

At one time Copper mines were supposed to exist at Knockadoon, and a deep cave in the coast marks the spot where pits were sunk for mining purposes.

The subject of copper mining having existed in Knockadoon was covered previously on the Ballymacoda History Project in the post ‘A Copper Mine in Knockadoon?‘. This is yet again another fragment of evidence that this may actually have been the case.

The ‘Antiquities’ section of Form A covers everything you would expect in the locality – Ightermurragh Castle, Ballycrenane Castle, the castle (signal tower) at Knockadoon, Kilcredan church etc. An interesting item mentioned about Kilcredan church is that it was ‘used as Irish Headquarters during the war of Independence‘. This would certainly warrant further investigation.

Under ‘Historic Sites‘, unsurprisingly the Coastguard Station Cottages at Ring are mentioned in the context of the 1867 Fenian Rising. The interesting thing is that there is an explanation of how ‘The Block‘, as it is known locally, got its name:

About 25 years ago the coastguard station was referred to, by a local priest, as ‘The block of blazes’, owing to petty squabbles amongst the residents. Since then it has been abbreviated ‘The Block’ which is now its recognized term.

The ‘Historic Sites‘ section also contains a very interesting piece of folklore about Capel Island, off Knockadoon Head.

Three brothers from Wales were out fowling when a storm arose, blew them across the channel and they landed on this island where they were stranded for some time. In order to provide food they used their firearms to kill sea fowl on the island. The explosions were heard by the local chieftain, one of the Senaschals of Imokilly, which at the time was expecting an attack on his territory. He enlisted the Capel’s, which with their fowling pieces caused havoc amongst the enemy. For their services they were given tracts of land in the district. This is reputed to be the first occasion in which firearms were used in Ireland.

Of course we know that the island’s name derives from the Norman de Capelle family, granted the island after the Norman invasion of 1169, but the above is nonetheless interesting from a folklore perspective – especially the claim regarding this incident being the first use of firearms in Ireland.

The next example of interesting folklore comes surprisingly in the ‘Spas or Mineral Springs‘ section of Form A:

At Barnfield, one mile from Ballymacoda village, is a large limestone rock with oval centre about eight inches deep. Rainwater lodges in this basin, and is said to be a cure of warts, sore fingers, etc. A significant point is that the land around is all brownstone.

The above is certainly not the strangest thing to be found in Form A. The ‘Curiosities‘ section yields yet more interesting local folklore. For example, there are two mentions of note regarding the construction of St. Peter in Chains church in Ballymacoda. The first is that some of the beams in the roof came from timber washed ashore at Knockadoon, and the other is that the stone used in the construction was all quarried by one man! Reference is also made in the ‘Curiosities‘ section to the cargo of gin washed ashore at one point, with overindulgence killing two local residents. Again, this is something covered on the Ballymacoda History Project previously in the post ‘The Ballymacoda and Knockadoon Gin Craze in 1851‘ by guest author Tony Harpur.

The survey mentions that the practice of ‘Keening‘ was seemingly commonplace in Ballymacoda, this being a vocal lament (essentially wailing) for the dead, carried out at funerals. The description would suggest that the graveyard being referred to is the Hill Cemetery, as opposed to the graveyard at St. Peter in Chains.

“Keening” was regularly practised in this district, and for funerals to Ballymacoda churchyard which is situated on the top of a steep hill, the Keener rode on horseback up this slope, the animals being supplied as part of the normal funeral equipment.

In the ‘Antiquities‘ section, another local story is recounted which I have never heard. Listed under the heading of Knockadoon Rock, is the following:

On a rock near the headland are three impressions, somewhat indistinct but said to resemble the apparel worn by the clergy. The story is that the bodies of a bishop and two priests were washed ashore at this point. The sailing vessel in which they were travelling being brought to destruction near this spot by the local ship wreckers, who enticed the vessel with night lanterns.

There is also mention in another section of the survey, when referencing the Hill Cemetery, that the Bishop and two priests mentioned above who were shipwrecked at Knockadoon were buried there.

Yet another interesting piece of local folklore contained in the survey is the mention of an annual meeting of poets in the locality.

At the confluence of the rivers, Dower and Womanagh, an annual meeting of the bards or poets was held. It was called Crisc na mbárdán (contention of the bards). The chairman of the meeting held in his hand a token of his position, a cane or stick known as bata na barla (staff of staves). The chairmanship was secured and held by open superior knowledge competition and women also took part in the discussions.

Piaras Mac Gearailt (1702-1795), local born Irish language poet, is mentioned as being a long standing chairman of this gathering.

In Form B, and the rest of the survey as mentioned earlier, the information is sparse, but a few bits of information here are interesting. Some local fishermen of the time are listed as having boats available for hire at Knockadoon:

Punts – R. Shanahan, P. Lynch, Wm. Aherne, Wm. Walsh, Knockadoon. No fixed prices, an arrangement can easily be made with any of the above fishermen, but definite prices could not be obtained.

These surveys were completed with inputs from people in the locality, and thus provide a snapshot of local folklore and stories known at the time. Much of this information would likely have been lost in the generations since then. The digitization of these records has enabled the committal of this information to the historical record, and ensures that interesting folklore such as shown here is not lost.

A link to the full Ballymacoda survey can be found below.

References & Further Information

Irish Tourist Association, “Ballymacoda” Local Studies Digital Library, accessed July 1, 2022