Michael Farrell – From Ballymacoda to the Crimean War

The Crimean War, in which the Russian Empire fought against an alliance of France, England, the Ottoman Empire and later the Kingdom of Sardinia between 1853 and 1856 was notable for a number of reasons. It has become known as the first modern global war, even often referred to as ‘World War Zero‘. It was also known as the first ‘media war‘ – in that there was widespread coverage in newspapers of the day, and huge interest amongst the general population. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 Irishmen fought in the conflict, and one of those was Michael Farrell from Ballymacoda.

Michael Farrell was born in Ballymacoda on January 8th 1835. After schooling he worked as a laborer for a period before signing up to the British Army on October 8th 1852 in Cork city, aged just 17. Michael initially served in 99th Lanarkshire Regiment, before being transferred to the 77th East Middlesex Regiment, serving with the rank of Private and carrying regimental number 2856.

In September 1854, after Britain had declared war on Russia, the 77th East Middlesex Regiment was sent to serve in Turkey and then Crimea, the British forces fighting alongside their allies from the French and Turkish armies. The 77th saw action fighting at the Battle of the Alma (September 1854), the Battle of Inkerman (November 1854) and the Siege of Sevastopol (October 1854 – September 1855). Michael Farrell was injured twice at the Siege of Sevastopol during 1855. His first wounding occurred on July 25th, and was minor. But on August 28th he was wounded by shell fragments which required the amputation of two fingers on his left hand. The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1856, brought an end to the Crimean War.

After the returning from the war, records show that Michael Farrell was discharged from the British Army at Chatham in Kent, on January 22nd 1856, having served just over three years. He was still a young man, aged just 21. For his service in the war, Michael Farrell was awarded the Crimea War Medal, a silver medal containing a bar for each of the battles he had been involved in. He was also awarded a pension of 8d. per diem (8 pence a day), which was to later increase to 9d. per diem in 1874, and 18d. per diem in 1903.

The Crimea War Medal. Bars for the battles of Alma, Inkerman and Sevastopol are visible at the top

The following year, having returned to Ireland, Michael married Catherine O’Brien, a native of Cappaquin, Co. Waterford. In 1858, Michael signed up to the Enrolled Pensioner Force (also known as the Pensioner Guards). This force consisted entirely of discharged soldiers on a pension, who would travel working as guards on prison ships bound for Western Australia. For Michael and his young wife, this meant free passage to Australia, and the added benefit of being eligible for a land grant in Western Australia after seven years of service had been completed.

Michael and Catherine were assigned to the convict ship the Edwin Fox, which coincidentally had been chartered by the British government to transport troops between Calais and the Baltic during the Crimean War.

The Edwin Fox left Plymouth on August 26th 1858 under Captain John Ferguson. Its destination was the Swan River Colony in Western Australia (what we know as Perth today). In addition to its convict cargo of 280, it carried 82 passengers including Michael and Catherine Farrell and 30 other men and their spouses of the Enrolled Pensioner Force. The ship arrived in Fremantle on November 20th 1858 after a voyage of 86 days.

The Edwin Fox, the ship on which Michael and Catherine Farrell emigrated to Western Australia. Today it is on display in Picton, New Zealand as a tourist attraction

Michael and Catherine settled in the town of Geraldton about 400km North of Fremantle, and he continued his work in the Enrolled Pensioner Force as a Prison Warder. They had at least ten children: Mary Jane (born 1859), Michael Jr. (born 1862), Margaret (born 1864), Ellen (born 1866), Edward (born 1869), William (born 1871), Mary Ann (born 1874), Lancelot (born 1876), Patrick (born 1876), and Katherine (born 1885).

In 1868, Michael Farrell was awarded a land grant at the Greenough Flats, just South of Geraldton. According to the records he was awarded locations ‘G36’ & ‘G37’, comprising of 20 acres each. Records indicate that this may have been a partial grant/purchase, in that Michael paid for a portion of the land in addition to the grant awarded as part of his earlier work in the Enrolled Pensioner Force.

Excerpt from the land grant awarded to Michael Farrell

Michael worked farming this land at Greenough for a period, but there is evidence he later worked as a lead miner which was a prevalent industry in the area. This may be because of some of the natural disasters that impacted the Greenough Flats in the ensuing years. Located on a flood plain, the flats were more susceptible to these events, and a major cyclone in 1872 and major flooding in 1888 contributed to the gradual decline in the number of settlers in the area.

Michael Farrell died in 1914 in Geraldton, a long way from his place of birth. In his life had been a soldier in the Crimean War, a guard on a prison ship bound for Australia, a farmer, and a lead miner. Catherine died 2 years later in 1916.

News of Catherine Farrell’s death, carried in the Geraldton Guardian, January 13th 1916

The thousands of descendants of Michael Farrell from Ballymacoda and his wife Catherine continue to live in Western Australia, and I wonder if they know of the village in East Cork where their ancestor came from?

References & Further Information

Crimean War Veterans in Western Australia, Record for Michael Farrell

UK, Royal Hospital, Chelsea: Pensioner Soldier Service Records, 1760-1920

UK, Royal Hospital, Chelsea: Regimental Registers of Pensioners, 1713-1882

UK, Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949

Enrolled Pensioner Force, Western Australia

Enrolled Pensioner Force, Western Australia, Record for Michael Farrell

The Edwin Fox Ship and Visitor Centre

Australia, Birth Index, 1788-1922

Western Australian Pioneer Index, 1841-1905

Pensioner Land Records, Government of Western Australia, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries

Wikipedia Entry for Greenough, Western Australia

Searching for Missing Friends: Ballymacoda Emigrant Advertisements in the Boston Pilot

With mobile technology being pervasive today, it may be difficult for us to imagine a time where we cannot almost instantly connect with a family member or friend, be they in the next room, town, or on another continent. Such communication posed a more difficult challenge in the past, when historical events such as the Great Famine forced our people to emigrate en masse and seek a new life. This coupled with an immature international postal system, meant that family and friends lost contact, often for years at a time.

The Boston Pilot, founded in 1829, is a Catholic newspaper and since 1908 the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston. It was an important newspaper from the perspective of Irish emigrants in the 1800s, becoming the voice of Boston’s Irish community by 1850.

From 1831, and for the next 90 years, the ‘missing friends‘ column of this newspaper was a popular mechanism of attempting to find information on missing family and friends in the United States. In this time, approximately 45,000 advertisements were published seeking information on missing people.

The first ad published in the Boston Pilot in October 1831 seeking information on a missing person

Through researching these ads, there is valuable insight to be gained with regards to Ballymacoda, which was no exception to the rest of Ireland in terms of emigration. There are literally 1000s of records of migrants to the United States in particular, and it is easy to see how families and friends lost contact.

A sample of locations where emigrants from Ballymacoda ended up in the 1800s (not all data and showing only the North-Eastern United States)

The first ad in the Boston Pilot referencing Ballymacoda and seeking information on a missing person was published on August 27th 1853 by John Ray, seeking information about his brother William.

Boston Pilot, August 1853

The next ad referencing Ballymacoda is five years later, when Mary Foley, of Thompsonville, Connecticut seeks information on her brother Patrick Leahy and a man named John McGrath, presumably his travelling companion.

Boston Pilot, Volume 21, Number 21, 22 May 1858

Ten years pass before we find another reference to Ballymacoda, when Patrick Power seeks information on his sister Honoria from Glenawilling, last heard from seven years previously and living in Boston with her uncles.

Boston Pilot, Volume 31, Number 13, 28 March 1868

In the 1870s and 1880s, there was a large increase in the number of ads seeking information on people from Ballymacoda. An ad seeking information on Patrick Kelly & family was published in three consecutive issues of the Pilot on March 9th, 16th and 23rd in 1872.

Boston Pilot, Volume 35, Number 10, 9 March 1872

The same cadence of ads over three issues was also seen seeking information on James Gleeson of Ballydaniel in November 1874.

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

Information was also sought about John Ahern from Ballymacoda in 1874, who was last heard from ten years previously, living in Virginia at that time.

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

In 1878, Mary Cronin was seeking information on her brother Daniel. Often times these ads were used to attempt to connect new emigrants with family members who had emigrated in years past.

Boston Pilot, Volume 41, Number 17, 27 April 1878

In November 1880, Patrick Lawton, the nephew of William and David Fehilly from Ballymacoda, who emigrated ‘some 20 or 24 years ago‘ seeks information on them.

Boston Pilot, Volume 43, Number 46, 13 November 1880

The longest ad found in my research concerns David Hyde from Lisquinlan, and was published in the Christmas Day 1880 edition of the newspaper by his brother Nicholas, and again in a January 1881 edition.

Boston Pilot, Volume 43, Number 52, 25 December 1880

In June 1881, an ad seeking information on Elizabeth and Margaret Cullen who had emigrated from Ballymacoda 19 years previously is published.

Boston Pilot, Volume 44, Number 23, 4 June 1881

The final two ads published in the Boston Pilot seeking information on emigrants from Ballymacoda were published in 1885 and 1886. In 1885, the sister of John O’Neill (who interestingly is noted as a grandnephew of Fr. Peter O’Neill) looks for information on her brother who was last heard from 32 years previously. This ad was published in two issues of the Pilot in July and August 1885.

Boston Pilot, Volume 48, Number 29, 18 July 1885

The final ad relating to Ballymacoda was published in September 1886 with information being sought on John Maguire and his wife who had emigrated to Boston 39 years previously (this is the longest timespan observed in any ad relating to Ballymacoda).

Boston Pilot, Volume 49, Number 38, 18 September 1886

One has to wonder if any of the ads were successful, and how often family and friends were reunited as an outcome. It is certain that the individuals being sought were important to the submitter of the ad – the cost of $3 dollars to publish such an ad in the Pilot was likely a sizable chunk of their regular income.

As well as providing a fascinating insight into the past, these ads in the Boston Pilot have been a rich source of genealogical information over the years based on the information they contain, and it is easy to see why, using these ads relating to Ballymacoda as an example. Key information is present, such as dates of emigration, last known locations, ships travelled on etc. – all of which can be cross-checked and validated with other available records to help build out a picture of an emigrants life after leaving Ireland.

References & Further Information

Boston College Libraries, Boston College Newspapers Archive

The Irish Classifieds, A lost-and-found for the American Migration, Boston College Magazine, Spring 2005 Edition

Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún

Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún was an Irish language poet who emigrated from Ballymacoda in the 1800s. From the United States, he wrote several letters home to his friends in Ballymacoda. The content of many of these letters survived and was published in a collection by Risteard Ó Foghludha in 1932.

Pádraig was born in Shanakill, Ballymacoda in 1777, the son of Mary & Piaras Cúndún. He had a brother and at least two sisters – although different sources give conflicting information here, indicating that he may have had two brothers. Pádraig eventually took over the family farm, and in 1811 he married Margaret McCarthy, the daughter of Charles and Christina McCarthy from nearby Beanfield. They had a son, Piaras, and three daughters, Eibhlin, Caitlin and Maighread.

In 1825, Pádraig emigrated to the United States with his wife and family. There isn’t a clear reason as to why he decided to emigrate at that time (Pádraig was in his late-forties by then), but some sources show that his landholding in Shanakill was prone to flooding. Passenger lists confirm 1825 as his year of arrival, when, embarking from Cobh, Pádraig and his family landed at Quebec in Canada where they remained for some time, before travelling to New York where some of his cousins were living.

The 1830 United States Federal Census shows Pádraig living in Deerfield in Oneida County in the state of New York. He is listed using the English version of his name, Patrick Condon. He had settled there in an area known as Deerfield Hills, near the town of Utica.

Entry for Patrick Condon in the 1830 United States Federal Census

In the Christmas of 1834, Pádraig wrote letters home to Ballymacoda for the first time, to four of his friends. His first letter home contained nearly 300 lines of verse.

An excerpt from Pádraig’s first letter home in 1834, with English translation

Pádraig’s writings home give a unique insight into the times, and cover such topics as his thoughts on living in the United States, the prices of day-to-day goods in comparison to home, and the status of his crops. His letters also contain requests for news from home, as in 1848 when he wrote to his old friend Tomás Ó Briain in Mountcotton, Ballymacoda, enquiring of the status of the crops at home, which he had heard were ‘wretched, deficient, scanty, and miserable‘. This was at the height of ‘An Gorta Mór‘, the great famine in Ireland.

While it is evident from some of Pádraig’s letters home that he missed Ireland, with him even having said ‘Níl áit fón ngrein do b’fhearr liom bás dfhagáil ioná in Éirinn…‘ – ‘there’s no place I know of under the sun I would rather die than in Ireland‘, his writings also indicate the poverty he had escaped, and his opinion that he was much better off having left Ireland:

…for a day never dawned on me that I thought more sorrowful than the day I left Shanakill – me and my big, poor family – to make our way across the sea to an unknown land. Nonetheless, the mournful, melancholy day I went through then turned into today’s beautiful, sunny, mirthful day, for I have a fine farm in freehold now, and thus I think I am better off as I am rather than having to pay a cruel yearly rent for Shanakill.

Another excerpt from a letter Pádraig wrote home (translated to English from the original Irish)

With regards to poetry, his most famous work is likely ‘Tórramh an Bhairille‘ (‘The Wake of the Barrell‘), written in praise of the people of Ballymacoda. In the composition, he tells of the generosity of the people of Ballymacoda; that the people of these parts will drink alcohol but never drink soda, and that there will always a meal on the table for a visitor.

First verse of ‘Tórramh an Bhairille’, with English translation

Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún died in Deerfield on March 13th 1857, having lived the remainder of his life there. This is confirmed by entries in the United States Federal Census in 1840, 1850 and also in the New York State Census of 1855, all listing Patrick Condon as living in Deerfield.

He is buried in St. Agnes Cemetery in Utica, New York, beside his wife who had died in 1840. What is amazing to learn is that throughout his life, Pádraig remained a monoglot – having never learnt to speak the English language fluently. This was helped no doubt by the large number of Irish emigrants who spoke Gaeilge living in Deerfield and the surrounding area, some of which, as with his old friends in Ballymacoda, Pádraig had correspondence by letter. In recent years, his gravestone has been up-righted and restored by the Irish Cultural Center in Utica.

The restored gravestone of Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún in St. Agnes Cemetery, Utica, New York

Pádraig’s son Piaras, arranged for some of his fathers poems to be published posthumously in the New York based newspaper, The Irish American in 1858. In 1932, Risteard Ó Foghludha published a collection of Pádraig’s poems and letters home to Ballymacoda, having previously published excerpts between 1908 and 1910 in The Gaelic American. Kerby Miller, the noted American historian who transcribed over decades hundreds of letters from Irish immigrants in America, also repeatedly quoted Cúndún’s poetry in the 1985 book Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America.

The poetry and letters of Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún continue to be consulted by scholars and used as teaching materials today. Professor Kenneth E. Nilsen (1947-2012), professor and chair of Celtic Studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada described the writings of Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún as representing ‘the most important body of pre-famine writing in Irish from the United States‘.

References & Further Information

Thanks to Kay Cullen for sharing her existing research notes on Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún.

Thanks to Michael Hoke of Utica, New York for providing the pictures of the restored headstone in St. Agnes Cemetery.

U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2010.

1830, 1840, 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2010.

Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1855 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Cúndún, Pádraig Phiarais, Entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography

Risteard Ó Foghludha, ed., Pádraig Phiarais Cúndún, 1777-1856, Baile Átha Cliath, 1932.

North American Gaels: Speech, Story, and Song in the Diaspora (McGill-Queen’s Studies in Ethnic History, 2.49), edited by Natasha Sumner, Aidan Doyle, November 2020

The Manchester Martyrs

An edited version of this article also appeared in the Cork Holly Bough Christmas 2023 Edition.

The execution of three Irishmen in Manchester on November 23rd 1867 caused anger and revulsion across the island of Ireland. William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien were executed outside the New Bailey Prison in Salford in front of a crowd of thousands. Allen, born 1848, was a native of Tipperary, but grew up near Bandon, Co. Cork. Larkin, born 1835, was a native of Co. Offaly. Michael O’Brien was from Ballymacoda.

The Manchester Martyrs, Allen, Larkin & O’Brien

Michael O’Brien was born in Ballymacoda on January 17th 1838, the son of John & Johanna O’Brien (née O’Neill). His family rented a large farm, but were evicted in 1856. After school, he was apprenticed to a draper in nearby Youghal, where he worked for Arnott, Grant & Co., and later moved to the Queen’s drapery in Cork city. He became involved in the Fenian movement there, through contacts with Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, and for three years he served as deputy to Brian Dillon, leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Cork city.

In late 1861, he lost his job and decided the following year to emigrate to the United States. At this time, the Northern and Southern states were engaged in the American Civil War (1860-1865). In August 1862, O’Brien 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 (seen below), confirms this service, and that he was discharged at San Antonio, Texas on October 17th 1865, having completed his service.

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

After discharge, he returned to Ireland where he obtained a job as a shop assistant in Cork city and lived for a period with his sister Mary in Glenagare, Ladysbridge. During this time, O’Brien became involved in procuring arms for the Fenian movement in Ireland and England, and travelled regularly for this purpose. In late 1866, he was arrested in Liverpool along with three other Fenians on charges of possession of firearms, after police found army rifles in the basement of a house which they used at the time. Remarkably, all four were acquitted in November that year due to lack of evidence against them.

The Fenian Rising of March 5th 1867 is the next significant event in the story. In the aftermath of the failed rising, two men fled to Britain in an attempt to re-organize. Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy had fought in the American Civil War similar to Michael O’Brien. They had both been involved in the Fenian Rising and were now on the run from authorities. O’Brien himself had been involved in the rising and had also fled to England, where he stayed with Edward O’Meagher Condon in Manchester, using the assumed name ‘William Gould‘. On September 11th 1867, Kelly and Deasy were arrested in the early hours of the morning in Oak Street in Shudehill, Manchester. Police suspected them of being about to commit a burglary, and didn’t realize until later that the men they had in custody were the wanted Fenians, Kelly and Deasy.

On September 18th, Kelly and Deasy were being transferred from the courthouse to Belle Vue Gaol in Manchester, a Victorian age prison which was known for its deplorable prisoner living conditions. The police van in which they travelled was heavily guarded by mounted police officers. The van contained six prisoners, including a 12 year old boy and two women. Police Sergeant Charles Brett travelled inside the van with the prisoners. As the van travelled along Hyde Road and passed under a railway arch, a man ran into the road and forced the driver to stop at gunpoint. At that moment, a large group of Fenians, including Michael O’Brien and Edward O’Meagher Condon, appeared and attempted to surround the van and the mounted officers, with the goal of liberating Kelly & Deasy.

The scene of the ambush today, the railway arch replaced by a modern bridge

The Fenian rescuers had great difficulty in opening the van door, and called for Sergeant Brett inside to open the door, who refused. His words of reply, “I dare not. I must do my duty,” were later inscribed on his gravestone. One of the Fenians, later alleged to be a Dublin man by the name of Peter Rice, in an attempt to blow the lock, took aim and fired at it just as Sergeant Brett was looking through the keyhole from the other side to see what was going on outside. He was hit in the head by Rice’s shot and killed. One of the women prisoners took the keys from Sergeant Brett’s corpse, and passed them to the group outside through a ventilation hole. Most of the Fenian’s then escaped, having secured Kelly & Deasy, but some including Michael O’Brien, William Allen, and Michael Larkin were later arrested.

The handcuffs worn by Deasy, and purportedly the gun used to kill Sergeant Brett

Sergeant Charles Brett was the first police officer killed whilst on duty in Manchester, causing outrage and a significant backlash from the population and policing authorities. Over the proceeding weeks, many innocent Irishmen were targeted for arrest. A £300 award was offered for information leading to the capture of Kelly & Deasy. By this time, both had already escaped to the United States via Liverpool.

Sergeant Charles Brett (1815-1867)

In late October, proceedings began against the men accused of participating in the attack, via a Special Commission overseen by Mr. Justice Blackburn and Mr. Justice Mellor. In total, there were twenty-six accused before the court – with the principal defendants being Michael O’Brien, Edward O’Meagher Condon, William Allen, Michael Larkin and Thomas Maguire. Maguire was a young Irishman and a member of the Royal Marines, who had been on leave and had been seized by police close to the scene of the attack, just because he was Irish. After the fifth day of the trial, the jury retired to consider its verdict. It took them just over an hour to come back with a guilty verdict for each of the five defendants. The men were invited to speak, had they anything to say before sentence was passed. Michael O’Brien, having received U.S. citizenship for his service in the American Civil War, spoke eloquently claiming that as an American Citizen, he should not be facing trial in England. Perhaps the most famous and enduring remarks came from O’Meagher Condon’s address to the court, at the end of which he shouted “God save Ireland!“, which later inspired the popular Republican song of the same name, written by Timothy Daniel Sullivan, and almost became the second national anthem of Ireland.

The fate of the defendants when handed down by the court, was of no surprise to anyone. The only sentence permitted at the time for murder, was the sentence of death by hanging. Thomas Maguire, the young marine arrested near the scene of the ambush, was later pardoned due to the uncertainty of the evidence against him. Similarly, O’Meagher Condon’s sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment because of his American Citizenship. This left Allen, Larkin and O’Brien to face the gallows.

The execution of the Manchester Martyrs at Salford Prison

The executions took place on the morning of November 23rd 1867, on a specially built gallows outside Salford prison. Large crowds gathered from the previous evening to witness what would become the last public executions to take place in Manchester. The executioner was William Calcraft, a man described as “particularly incompetent“. He had purportedly received death threats in advance from the Fenians, and this coupled with his incompetence meant that he bungled two out of three of the executions. Allen was reported as having died instantly, but Larkin and O’Brien struggled after the ropes dropped, indicating they were still alive. Calcraft descended from the scaffold and pulled on Larkin’s legs until he was dead. A Catholic priest, Fr. Gadd who had ministered to the condemned men, refused to allow him to kill O’Brien in the same way, and so for nearly 45 minutes, the horror continued with Fr. Gadd kneeling before O’Brien, reciting the prayers for the dying. One has to take the times into account, but even for 1867 this was a particularly gruesome execution carried out by a demonstrably incompetent executioner.

Reports of the executions carried in news all over Ireland, including this one in the Waterford News (O’Brien referred to using his pseudonym Gould)

The remains of Allen, Larkin and O’Brien were buried in the New Bailey prison graveyard. When the New Bailey closed a year later, their remains were moved to the cemetery at Strangeways prison (HM Prison Manchester). In the publication “Glasnevin Cemetery: Being a Record of Ireland’s Heroic Dead in Dublin City and County” published by the National Graves Association much later in 1932, a mock funeral procession at Glasnevin in Dublin with an empty coffin for each of the men was referenced:

When the news of their execution reached Ireland, solemn funeral processions were held, and three coffinless hearses proceeded to Glasnevin Cemetery, followed by 60,000 mourners. Allen was a native of Tipperary, O’Brien came from Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, and Larkin from Lusmagh, Offaly.

From “Glasnevin Cemetery: Being a Record of Ireland’s Heroic Dead in Dublin City and County” published by the National Graves Association in 1932

In 1991, the remains of the Manchester Martyrs were once again disturbed by the authorities when they were exhumed, cremated, and reinterred at Blakley Cemetery in the northern suburbs of Manchester, along with the remains of 63 other executed prisoners.

Plaque at the sight of the ambush on Hyde Road, Manchester.

Today, there are numerous monuments remembering the Manchester Martyrs, both in England and Ireland:

  • A monument in Glasnevin Cemetery in Co. Dublin.
  • A monument in Birr, Co. Offaly.
  • A monument in Kilrush, Co. Clare.
  • A memorial at the east end of the Quays in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.
  • A Celtic cross in Ladysbridge, Co. Cork.
  • A monument in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Moston, Manchester.
  • A plaque denoting the location of the ambush on Hyde Road, Manchester.
Monument in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Moston, Manchester.

Michael O’Brien, in his last letter dated November 14th, 1867 said:

..much though I would like to live… I cannot regret dying in the cause of Liberty and Ireland. Let no man think a cause is lost because some suffer for it. It is only a proof that those who suffer are in earnest, and should be an incentive to others to be equally so – to do their duty with firmness, justice and disinterestedness

Excerpt from the last letter of Michael O’Brien, preserved at St Patrick’s Church, Livesey Street, Manchester

O’Donovan Rossa wrote of Michael O’Brien in his book ‘Irish Rebels in English Prisons’ describing him as “one of the truest and one of the noblest; as devoted as a lover and as courageous as a lion.”

The Celtic cross commemorating the Manchester Martyrs in Ladysbridge Village

An interesting thing happened in 1870, three years after the execution of the Manchester Martyrs. A relative of the landlord who had evicted Michael O’Brien’s family was threatened with death unless his family was reinstated. This story carried in the many Irish and English newspapers of the time.

Three years after, or three hundred years after, the Manchester Martyrs will always be remembered and revered for their sacrifices for Ireland.

References & Further Information

Dictionary of Irish Biography, Entry for Michael O’Brien

Find a Grave, Entry for Michael O’Brien

Records of the 13th Regiment, Company E, New Jersey Volunteers

Official Soldier Roster, Ohio Infantry

“Glasnevin Cemetery: Being a Record of Ireland’s Heroic Dead in Dublin City and County”, National Graves Association, 1932

Irish Rebels in English Prisons: A Record of Prison Life, by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa (1880)

Irish Volunteers, Entry for the Manchester Martyrs

The Waterford News, November 29th 1867

The Leeds Mercury, May 7th 1870

A Copper Mine in Knockadoon?

A while ago, I received this question from a reader (a Ballymacoda ex-pat now based in Berlin):

I wonder if you know anything about the mine that you find just around the edge of the Knockadoon head – roughly on the cliff underneath the signal tower. We used to explore the opening of the mine shaft when we were kids but never knew the history of it – it’s totally flooded apart from the opening.

This was intriguing, as I had never heard of any mining that may have happened in Knockadoon. The first reference to mining in Knockadoon I can find is contained in Griffith’s Valuation. Richard John Griffith was appointed to carry out a complete land survey of Ireland in 1825, marking the boundaries of every county, town etc. and providing a valuation and listed owner for each parcel of land. Since there are little surviving Irish Census records before 1901, Griffith’s Valuation is always a useful reference. Griffith’s Valuation for County Cork, completed in July 1853, lists the ‘Mining Co. of Ireland‘ as having an office in Knockadoon, which would surely suggest some local mining activities. The Mining Company of Ireland was formed in 1824, and active until the 1860s.

Luckily, Mining Heritage of Ireland has two entries which seem to suggest that at least two copper mining trials were conducted at Knockadoon Head, which are referred to as the ‘eastern trial‘ and the ‘western trial‘.

Location of copper mining trials a Knockadoon Head, as per Mining Heritage of Ireland

The trials were conducted to see if copper mining could be viable at Knockadoon, likely between 1825 and 1850, but I’ve been unable to find a reference to exact dates. The trial holes are partly hidden today by fallen slabs of rock. It is unclear if the trials were successful, or if any large scale copper mining ever actually took place, however that seems extremely unlikely.

Location of the ‘eastern trial’ at Knockadoon

This is further backed up by references to copper trials at Knockadoon by T.J. Duffy, when he wrote in a 1932 Geological Survey of Ireland report of one of the copper trials conducted at Knockadoon:

There is an old tunnel driven along the strike of a green grit bed in the face of the cliff above high-water mark. Owing to deep water in the tunnel the latter is accessible for a short distance only but apparently it is driven for a considerable distance. Some copper ore was formerly brought to the surface here, and a little residue of it can still be seen on top of the cliff. It does not appear to have been rich.

Copper deposits in Southwest Ireland, Geological Survey of Ireland, 1932

Have you ever heard stories of this mining activity in Knockadoon? I would love to add more information to this article if you have, get in contact.

Additional photo of the location of the eastern trial’ at Knockadoon

References & Further Information

Griffith’s Valuation, Ask About Ireland

Mining Heritage in Ireland (Facebook Group)

Duffy, T. J. 1932. Copper deposits in Southwest Ireland. Geological Survey of Ireland Unpublished Report.

Ballymacoda & World War I

Unsurprisingly, Ballymacoda was not left untouched by the events of July 1914 to November 1918. In this post, we will discuss the men from the parish who served during World War I, some of whom never saw their homes again.

At that time, Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, many Irish people, both Nationalist and Unionist supported the war. Many Irishmen, like those from the Ballymacoda area, signed up to serve in the British armed forces. The generally accepted figure is that approximately 200,000 men from Ireland signed up to fight. About 30,000 of these men were killed in action during the course of the war.

WW I recruitment poster used in Ireland

The men from Ballymacoda served across the armed forces, in both the Army & Navy. Based on research carried out using the National Archives of the UK, I have been able to collate information on those who served. Note that this focuses solely on those from Ballymacoda who served during World War I. There are of course numerous records of those who served but were discharged before the war began in 1914, those individuals are not included here.

Royal Navy

Based on my research, the following is a list of those from Ballymacoda who served in the Royal Navy. This list is based on ‘Place of Birth‘ being listed on the official Navy personnel records available from the National Archives of the UK, as well as available naval pension records. Interestingly, there were two men named Patrick McCarthy & two men named Robert Rumley from Ballymacoda who served – indicated by distinct records, service numbers and different dates of birth.

NameDate of BirthNotes
Bartholomew Ronayne18 Apr 1886Discharged 1926
Jeremiah Prior1 Sep 1883Discharged 1919
John Hennessy13 May 1883Discharged 1924
John McCarthy18 May 1886Discharged 1919
John Morrissey25 May 1880Discharged 1918
John Smiddy20 Mar 1898Discharged 1919
Michael Garde29 Sep 1890Discharged 1935
Michael O’Grady26 Dec 1887Discharged 1928
Patrick Donovan15 Aug 1877Discharged 1920
Patrick Hyde3 Mar 1877Discharged 1919
Patrick McCarthy20 Apr 1874Discharged 1920
Robert Rumley1 Nov 1878Discharged 1919
Robert Rumley11 May 1883Discharged 1919
Michael Walsh1869Discharged 1919
Jeremiah Shea1893Discharged 1918
Richard RumleyUnknownDischarged 1916
John O’BrienUnknownDischarged 1919
Jeremiah FoleyUnknownDischarged 1919
Patrick WalshUnknownDischarged 1914
Patrick ShanahanUnknownDischarged 1919
William Daly1883Discharged 1920
William Shanahan1878Discharged 1918
Patrick Lynch1871Discharged 1919
James Irwin2 Jul 1881Discharged 1923
Patrick GardeUnknownDischarged 1919
John Ronayne20 Aug 1882Died in 1914
Maurice QuirkeAbt. 1894Died in 1916
Patrick SheaUnknownDied in 1916
Richard Ahern 10 Apr 1877Died in 1917
Michael McCarthy23 Apr 1888Died after discharge in 1918
Michael Canty12 Aug 1876Died in 1918
Patrick McCarthy17 Jun 1884Died in 1919

The following gives more information on those who died.

John Ronayne was born in Ballymacoda on August 20th, 1882. He served aboard HMS Bullfinch with the rank of Stoker 1st Class. He died on August 15th 1914 when the Bullfinch was involved in a collision with a merchant steamer in British waters. He was buried at Scartho Road Cemetery, Scartho Road, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, UK.

The memorial to John Ronayne from Ballymacoda in Lincolnshire, killed in August 1914

Maurice Quirke was the son of John and Margaret Quirke and lived in Garryvoe. He served aboard HMS Indefatigable with the rank of Stoker 1st Class. He died aged 22 on May 31st 1916, when the Indefatigable was sunk by the German ship Von der Tann during the Battle of Jutland. Of a crew of 1,019 aboard Indefatigable, only 3 survived. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 16.

Patrick Shea was from Knockadoon, and was the son of Timothy & Nora Shea, and the husband of Hannah Shea. He died on December 8th 1916, when the ship he was serving on, HMT Dagon, was torpedoed in the Dover area (the only trawler to be torpedoed in this area during WWI). The Dagon was a fishing vessel which had been hired by the Royal Navy and converted to an armed trawler to be used as a minesweeper in 1915. On December 8th 1916, all crew were lost when the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 19.

Richard Ahern from Knockadoon was born on April 10th, 1877, the son of Daniel and Mary Ahern. He served aboard the SS Polandia with the rank of Leading Seaman. He was killed in action at sea on March 11th 1917, when the Polandia was sunk by a German submarine while on route from Birkenhead in England to Cherbourg in France. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 23.

Michael McCarthy from Ballymacoda served in the Royal Naval Reserve with the rank of Seaman. He was born on April 23rd, 1888 and was the son of Michael & Mary McCarthy from Ballyskibole. He was honorably discharged due to tuberculosis in 1915, and died on February 7th, 1918. He was awarded the Silver War Badge, given to those who had been honorably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service. He is commemorated at the Brookwood 1914-1918 memorial, Panel 1, in Surrey, UK.

Michael Canty was born in Ballymacoda on August 12th 1876. He served in the Royal Navy with the rank of Leading Stoker, and died on October 26th, 1918. His cause of death was recorded as ‘died from disease‘. He was buried at the Weston Mill Cemetery, Weston Mill, Devonport, Devon.

Memorial to Michael Canty from Ballymacoda, at Weston Mill Cemetery, Devon, UK,

Patrick McCarthy served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Bellerophon with the rank of Leading Stoker. He was born in Ballymacoda on June 17th 1884, the eldest son of William & Bridget McCarthy of Gortcorcoran. He died on January 19th 1919 in an accidental drowning (just a few months after the war had ended). He was buried in the Hill Cemetery in Ballymacoda.


As well as the Navy, men from Ballymacoda also served and in the army during the Great War, although to a lesser extent based on my research of the available records. Below is the list of men who served in the army. Where available, the Notes column contains the name of the unit in which they served.

NameDate of BirthNotes
Timothy McCarthyApril 1896Served in the Royal Munster Fusiliers.
Thomas McCarthy
Abt. 1899Served in the Royal Irish Regiment.
Jerome TwomeyUnknownServed as Corporal in the Guards Machine Gun Company.
James ConnollyUnknownServed in the Irish Guards. Discharged in 1919.
John MearaUnknownServed in the Royal Engineers.
John Smiddy1895Died 1915 (see below)
John CondonAbt. 1890Died 1917 (see below)
Richard HydeAbt. 1876Died 1918 (see below)
Michael Daly2 Jan 1876Died 1918 (see below)
James O’NeillAbt. 1895Died 1918 (see below)

Based on my research, the following is a list of the men from Ballymacoda who served in the army, and were killed in action.

John Smiddy from Ballykeneally, Ballymacoda served in the Grenadier Guards, 1st Battalion with the rank of Guardsman. He was killed at the Battle of Loos in France on October 17th, 1915. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial in Pas-de-Calais, France.

John Condon from Ring, Ballymacoda, the son of David and Ellen Condon, served in the Royal Irish Regiment, 7th Battalion with the rank of Private. He was killed in action in France on December 12th 1917. He was buried in Templeux-Le-Guerard British Cemetery in France.

Richard Hyde from Ballydaniel, Ballymacoda served in the Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1st Battalion with the rank of Private. He was killed in action at Flanders on September 30th 1918. He was buried in the Cantaing British Cemetery in France.

Memorial to Richard Hyde from Ballymacoda, in Cantaing-sur-Escaut, Departement du Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France

Michael Daly from Ballymacoda served in the Irish Guards 2nd Battalion with the rank of Private. He died of wounds sustained in battle in France on May 29th 1918. He was buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery, Doullens, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

James O’Neill from Warren, Ballymacoda served in the Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment with the rank of Private. He died on February 20th 1918. He was buried at Villers-Faucon, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

Memorial to James O’Neill from Warren, in
Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery, France

I was aware that some people from Ballymacoda served during WWI, but after concluding this research, I was surprised at the extent of the involvement of men from the parish.

In a future post, I will look at WWII and the involvement of people from Ballymacoda there.

References & Further Information

Ireland, World War I Casualties, 1914-1922 [database online]

UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1848-1939 [database online]

UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 [database online]

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for John Ronayne

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Patrick Shea

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Richard Ahern

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Michael McCarthy

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Patrick McCarthy

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for Maurice Quirke

Reference for Michael Canty – UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 [database on-line]

UK, World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923 [database on-line]

In Flanders Fields Museum, Ireland’s Memorial Records [available online]

Reference for John Condon – UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 [database on-line].

Commonwealth War Graves, Entry for John Smiddy

The Ballymacoda Company, Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion

During the Irish War of Independence, the Ballymacoda company of the I.R.A. was part of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion – designated as company ‘O‘.

Rough map of the operational area for the Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion (from the Military Archives of Ireland)

The records available from the ‘Military Service Pensions Collection‘ for the Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion indicate that the commander of the Ballymacoda brigade was Captain John Ahern, with Lieutenant Matt Walsh as second in command. Note that these were likely the last officers in charge of the company when the records were compiled after the War of Independence. There is evidence of previous commanders contained in the witness statements taken by the Bureau of Military History. For example, the witness statement of Joseph Aherne, captain of the Midleton company, makes reference to Pat Gumbleton being commander of the Ballymacoda company at one point. The company was 60-strong – comparatively larger than other similar areas, for example the Ladysbridge (‘I’ company) and Killeagh (‘J1’ company) groups each had 35 members, and Carrigtwohill (‘D’ company) had 32.

There is some evidence to be found of the activities of the Ballymacoda company in the witness statements of the Bureau of Military History. The statement of Patrick J. Whelan, who was Vice Commandant of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion, provides evidence that the Ballymacoda company was involved in the attack on the R.I.C. barracks in Cloyne on May 8th 1920. The objective of this raid was to obtain arms, and it was successful, with the R.I.C. surrendering the barracks and their guns being secured. However, based on the account of Whelan the men from Ballymacoda got a bit over excited in the aftermath of the raid:

We fell in on the Main Street and sang the “Soldiers song”, with great gusto. The boys from Ballymacoda were in great form. but were foolish enough to identify their presence by shouting, “Up Ballymacoda”, until ordered to stop by Mick Leahy.

From Patrick Whelan’s account of the attack on the R.I.C. barracks in Cloyne, May 1920

There is also evidence, from the witness statement of Edmond O’Brien who was a member of ‘C’ company (Shanagarry), that members from the Ballymacoda company participated in a failed attack on a lorry travelling between Youghal and Ballycotton, at Ballylanguane, Shanagarry in August 1920, with the plan being to dig a trench across the road, capture the lorry with minimal damage, switch uniforms with the occupants, and drive to Ballycotton in disguise in an attempt to capture the R.I.C. barracks there. However, this plan ultimately failed when the lorry arrived sooner than expected and was able to drive over the half completed trench with just a few shots being fired by the attackers.

O’Brien’s witness statement also describes the building of a ‘dug out’ (for concealing arms and ammunition) at Shanagarry in late 1920. In order to make the dug out waterproof, specific materials would be required which were not easily available at the time. O’Brien describes the successful raid on a partially built and sparsely guarded aerodrome at Ballyquirk, Killeagh where members of the Shanagarry company, assisted by members of the Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge companies overpowered the guards and secured cement and corrugated iron for the purpose of waterproofing the dug out.

Perhaps the most famous member of the Ballymacoda company was Richard (Dick) Hegarty of Moanroe, Garryvoe, and his story has been told many times in much better words than I can express here. In September/October 1920, a flying column was organized within the 4th battalion. The flying column was to be composed of men already on the run, or men in imminent danger of arrest, and Richard Hegarty was a member from its formation. In the worst loss of life suffered by the I.R.A. during the War of Independence, the flying column was to be decimated in February 1921 at Clonmult, when the farmhouse they were billeted in was surrounded by British forces.

So, there is plenty evidence available of the activities of the Ballymacoda company and their involvement in key operations and events in East Cork during the War of Independence, but what of the members themselves? The following is a list of the 60 recorded members of the Ballymacoda company. This list is compiled from the pension records available from the Military Service Pensions Collection. Please see the notes below.


  • This data is transcribed from a very old (1930s), handwritten document, so it may contain transcription errors.
  • Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the names presented by searching the closest reference point – the 1911 Census of Ireland – the data in the Address column is compiled from these Census records.
  • Where the Census records returned multiple matches, e.g. a person of the same name and appropriate age living in a different townland in the locality, all results are included.
  • As names are transcribed from a handwritten document, 4 entries are only partially legible – these are captured at the end of the table for completeness.
  • Except for the illegible entries, the names appear in the same order as in the pension records.
Pat ManningGarryvoe
Peter HegartyGarryvoe
Richard HegartyGarryvoe
John FinnBallypherode
Pat MorriseyGarryvoe
Pat DonoghueBallymacoda
John HennessyBallymakeagh, Monagoul, Mountcotton or Shanakiel
William HennessyMountcotton or Shanakiel
Pat MurphyGlenawilling, Shanavagoon, Ballymacoda or Ballydaniel
John LeahyBohillane
Tom LeahyBohillane
Pat LeahyBohillane
William LeahyUnknown
Pat AhernBarnfield
Martin WalshBarnfield or Knockadoon
William WigmoreBallymacoda
Pat WigmoreBallymacoda
James RussellBallyfleming
Pat GumbletonBallymacoda
John SlocumUnknown
James JoyceGarryvoe
John AhernBarnfield
Mick ShanahanUnknown
Pat ShanahanKnockadoon or Ring
Maurice ShanahanUnknown
John CondonBallyskibbole or Ballymacoda
Michael FoleyKnockadoon
James Walsh SnrUnknown
James Walsh JnrUnknown
Tom WalshUnknown
William HydeGlenawilling
Charlie HydeGlenawilling
James CondonGlenawilling
Richard CondonRing or Ballyskibbole
William KinieryBallykinealy
William FinnBallypherode
Tom HigginsBallypherode
Tom QuinnMountcotton
Pat QuinnMountcotton
John O’BrienMountcotton
Richard O’BrienMountcotton
Pat O’NeillWarren
Tom O’NeillWarren
Jeremiah O’NeillGarryvoe
John HegartyGarryvoe
William WalshKnockadoon or Shanakill
Tom CurtinUnknown
Pat WalshUnknown
Michael CullinaneLoughane
David CashmanKilcredan
Richard CashmanBallycrenane
Maurice PowerGlenawilling
Tom ConnorsUnknown
Michael PowerUnknown
Pat PowerGlenawilling
William ConnorsUnknown
<illegible> Leahy
David <illegible>
David <illegible>
Pat <illegible>

References & Further Information

Military Service Pensions Collection, Cork No. Brigade, 4th Battalion, Military Archives of Ireland

Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1449, Commandant Patrick J. Whelan

Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1367, Joseph Aherne

Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 623, Edmond O’Brien

The Ballymacoda and Knockadoon Gin Craze in 1851

This is a guest post by Midleton-based historian and Cork County Council’s inaugural Historian in Residence, Tony Harpur. It was first published in Tony’s ‘Historical Tales’ column in the East Cork News & Advertiser in May 2021.

Have you noticed how gin has come back into fashion? There is a fine gin being produced in small quantities from milk at Ballyvolane House near Castlelyons (it’s called Bertha’s Revenge, from the name of a favourite cow!) and there is a fine new distillery at Ballyduff in in County Waterford situated on the banks of the River Blackwater between Fermoy and Lismore which is producing some lovely ‘Blackwater Gin.’

Gin is a spirit which has a somewhat unfortunate history in…. London anyway. Its origins lie in the monasteries around Salerno in southern Italy, the site of a famous medical school. Salerno was surrounded by hills blanketed in juniper trees and, by the 1100s, local monks had learned how to add the juniper berries to wine and a grain alcohol to produce a medicinal drink. In the following century monks and herbalists in the Low Countries began to produce a grain based medicinal drink which included juniper berries. By the 16th century (1500s) this had become a drink called jenever, which is the Dutch and Flemish word for juniper, giving us what the English called ‘gin.’ By that time, the Dutch were already adding additional ‘botanics,’ or herbs and flavoursome fruits and berries to the distilled alcohol. Dutch jenever has a softer and sweeter flavour to most British and Irish gins – you only have to go to a proflokaar (gin pub) in Amsterdam to see that. Jenever is served in small shot glasses which are filled to the brim – a useful way of finding out if you are inebriated.

England began to import this Dutch gin in the early 1600s but it wasn’t until William of Orange became King in 1688 that the English consumption of gin took off. This was in part because it was considered to be a ‘Protestant drink’ and also it was a reaction to the wars with the French at the time. Brandy and French wine were boycotted, or proved too difficult to import because of the war, so people turned to either Portuguese or Spanish wines (Madeira, port and sherry), or to grain based spirits like gin. Even more extraordinary was the fact that the English government allowed the operation of unlicensed gin distilleries at a time when its wartime expenses were rapidly increasing. This meant that gin could be produced cheaply from poor quality barley (the type of barley that was unsuitable for brewing beer). Naturally this was welcomed by farmers who soon began to grow larger quantities of this low quality barley, given that the market for gin was increasing so rapidly, and not just among the rich. The poor found that gin was cheaper and more readily available and so consumption continued to increase leading to the Gin Craze. Excluding the coffee shops and hot chocolate shops, of the 15,000 drinking establishments in London by 1735, half were gin shops!

The levels of public inebriation and outright drunkenness this produced worried social commentators at the time, including Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) and the artist William Hogarth, who produced the most famous anti-drink publication, the print ‘Gin Alley’ with its graphic illustration of the social ills of the demon gin. Indeed, the population of London stopped growing for a while as alcohol poisoning took its toll on the populace.

In 1736, the Westminster parliament passed the Gin Act to impose prohibitive taxes on gin. There were riots in the streets as a result and the government backed down gradually reducing the tax on gin until it was abolished in 1742. A new Gin Act was reintroduced in 1751 (remember the date!) and it proved to be more successful because the tax was lower and the distillers were forced to sell only to licensed public houses and local gin shops were placed under the jurisdiction of the local magistrates for licensing. Later in the 19th century, the British would add tonic water, which contained anti-malarial quinine, to their gin when consuming it in the tropics to give us Gin and Tonic. Some modern producers are making a flavoured tonic water with herbs and ‘botanicals’ similar to those used in making gin – this produces a pretty expensive water! The production of better quality beer, and porter, pushed gin into a minority drink by the early 1800s, although it was still produced in large quantities by local distilleries.

In 1838, Fr Theobald Mathew, a Capuchin friar in Cork, began a campaign to persuade the people of the city to give up consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. His temperance campaign took off at a time of economic difficulty as the trade barriers which had existed between Ireland and Britain before the Act of Union were gradually abolished. Cheap British imports flooded the Irish market putting many local businesses out of operation and increasing unemployment. By 1845, Fr Mathew had some 3 million adults enrolled in his campaign – about half the population of Ireland! Fr Mathew’s achievement in persuading so many Irish people to foreswear drink was such a phenomenon that he was feted in Britain, Europe and even in the US. His movement was especially popular in Midleton, a town that in 1837 boasted two distilleries and two commercial breweries (Dwyer’s and Coppinger’s). By 1845, only Hackett’s distillery was still (barely) operational and Murphy’s distillery (now the Jameson Experience) was still holding its own. Five years later only Murphy’s distillery was still commercially viable and its success would take off again by 1860. The irony is that Fr Mathew was a cousin of the Murphy brothers who ran the Midleton distillery! They found it hard to forgive him for his campaign against the demon drink.

The Famine ended Fr Mathew’s anti-drink crusade as rapidly as it began. By 1851, the Temperance campaign was a thing of the past in a nation that was traumatized by the horrors of the famine. It was an appallingly stressful time for people who lived on the breadline because they simply didn’t know if they would have enough food to last through the coming year. By 1850 the famine was over in most of the country although local crop failures and local instances of blight were still feared. Which brings us to Ballymacoda and its neighborhood in 1851.

You may recall that a couple of issues ago we covered the topic of the four lighthouses (Roches Point, Ballycotton, Youghal and Mine Head) on the East Cork/West Waterford coast. In that article we noted that there was a plan to build a lighthouse on Capel Island just off Knockadoon Head but, following the wreck of the SS Sirius in February 1847, that was capped and left incomplete when only partially built and a new lighthouse was built on the taller of the two islands off Ballycotton, which was lit in 1851. Naturally this didn’t stop ships, especially those powered by sail, from being wrecked off the East Cork coast. Indeed, several merchant vessels were wrecked between Ballycroneen and Ballybranagan in the 19th and early 20th centuries: the Ibis, Helga, Celestina, the Upupa, the Argo, and the Tadorna. The schooner Helen was wrecked on Knockadoon Head in 1858 and the Eugenie was wrecked in 1865 losing her cargo of thread overboard. For years afterwards the thread washed ashore and local women made seine nets for the fishermen of the district. Even the old Daunt Rock lightship, Puffin, was wrecked on this coast in 1896.

In 1851, the Celestina was wrecked on the shore and the crew was saved by the local inhabitants. No doubt they were grateful that the community rallied around, but that’s when the trouble started. Either a crewman said something, or the ship’s captain had asked for the nearest Revenue Police, or perhaps one of the locals decided to invoke the ‘custom of the sea’ and inspect the vessel for anything to…let’s say, ‘salvage,’ but soon it was voiced about the neighborhood that the ship carried a most valuable cargo indeed.

The Celestina carried a cargo of….gin! That’s right, she was loaded to the gunwales with gin. In a community still traumatized from the horrors of the Famine and only just recovering, and with little money available, this was too much temptation for the inhabitants.

You don’t have to imagine what happened next. The Celestina was stripped of its cargo, which soon disappeared into every possible hiding place in the neighborhood. When the constabulary, the Revenue Police and the Excise officers arrived they found the ship entirely empty. Added to this, all the local inhabitants seemed to be…inebriated. Some of them were very seriously drunk indeed. The police and excise officers commenced a search of the area but failed to turn up more than a handful of bottles. The government was out of pocket to the tune of several thousand pounds! And the inhabitants of Ballymacoda, Knockadoon and Ballycrenane grew less sober by the day. So, clearly these poor people had access to large amounts of alcohol but it wasn’t to be found anywhere. Sadly, the consumption of vast amounts of gin had some sad side effects – work in the fields was frequently neglected, and accidents happened too often.

Then, tragedy struck, as it was bound to. A local man dropped dead and on examination it seems that his stomach was full of undigested alcohol, to be precise, gin. He had died of alcohol poisoning. This prompted the police to approach the parish priest who was clearly worried by the widespread drunkenness in his parish. ‘Leave it to me’ he told them.

The following Sunday, the church in Ballymacoda thundered to the promise of hellfire and brimstone for anyone who kept stolen property and who were constantly so drunk that they could not even work in the fields or in their fishing boats.

Monday saw an unusual scene in the neighborhood. Small caches of gin began to appear at different points on the roadsides and corners. The revenue men were delighted to gather these up and they kept at it for a number of days until the supplies dried up. They didn’t get the entire cargo and perhaps not even more than half of the shipment was recovered. No doubt some was kept back for wakes and other social occasions but when the supply of gin dried up, the revenue men felt it was time to leave the Ballymacoda district to slumber in peace.

This happened a century after the Gin Act of 1751 became law in England and Scotland (but not in Ireland), and, bizarrely, almost a century later, in 1949, Ealing Studios in London produced a black and white movie called Whisky Galore! This was based on Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 book of the same name. Mackenzie based his book on an infamous incident during World War II when a ship with a cargo of whiskey was wrecked on Erisay Island in the Hebridies and the locals ‘liberated’ much of the cargo for home consumption. Even today, the islanders are turning up bottles of whiskey buried in their fields and under paths.

One wonders if the inhabitants of Ballymacoda, Knockadoon and Ballycrenane, or even Ladysbridge, still dig up any old bottles of 1851 gin today?

Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane: An Exile’s Return

In the last post, we looked at the events surrounding the 1867 Fenian rebellion in Ballymacoda, in particular the successful raid on the coastguard station at Knockadoon, led by John McClure and Peter O’Neill Crowley, and O’Neill Crowley’s subsequent death at the hands of the crown forces at Kilclooney wood. Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane was a member of the party that raided the coastguard station, this is the story of his exile after the rising and his later return to Ballymacoda.

After the rising of March 5th, Cullinane was tried along with McClure, Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly and David Joyce, on the charge of high treason in front of a Special Commission in Cork. At the trial, presided over by Lord Chief Justice Monahan, Mr. Justice Keogh, and Mr. Justice George, all four were initially sentenced to death at the conclusion of the proceedings on May 24th 1867. The sentence passed down by Lord Chief Justice Monahan was for each of the men to be hanged, drawn and quartered. This medieval punishment had been the statutory penalty for anyone convicted of the crime of high treason against the English crown from 1352 onwards, and was not abolished until 1870.

It only now remains with me to pass the awful sentence of the law upon you, and that sentence is that you and each of you be taken hence from this place from whence you came, and that you shall be from thence drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, and there be hanged by the neck until each of you be dead, that afterwards your heads be severed from your bodies and that your bodies be divided into four parts, and that those parts be disposed of as her Majesty or her successors shall think fit. This sentence shall be carried into execution on Wednesday, the 19th of June.

The sentence handed down to McClure, Cullinane, Kelly and Joyce by Chief Justice Monahan, on May 25th 1867 at the Special Commission sitting in Cork.

After lobbying efforts by a group of prominent citizens and large protests across Ireland against the execution of the Fenian rebels, the death sentences handed down to many of those involved in the Fenian rising, including McClure, Cullinane, Kelly and Joyce, were commuted to life imprisonment.

Entry in the Irish Prison Register for Thomas Cullinane, listing his crime of high treason

Cullinane was first imprisoned in England, at Millbank Prison in Westminster, London. In October 1867, records show that he was transported to Australia, departing from London on October 12th aboard the prison ship Hougoumont under master William Cozens. The voyage 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 and Edward Kelly were aboard the same ship, as well as another Ballymacoda native, Jeremiah (Jerry) Aher, who had received a 7 year sentence for his part in the raid of the coastguard station at Knockadoon.

The Fenian prisoners, approximately 62 of the 289 convicts that arrived aboard Hougoumont, were taken to Fremantle Prison. After being allowed a few days rest, the prisoners were taken in groups to commence the hard labor of road building in searing temperatures outside Fremantle. The Fenian workgroups were segregated from general prison population. At times the men were lodged in road camps and required to stay close to the site of their work away from the prison. Patrick Wall, another Fenian who was transported on the Hougoumont described the conditions in a letter to his parents. Thomas Cullinane was very likely in one of these working groups, as there were only six Fenians assigned to permanent duties in the prison which required them to stay at Fremantle, and he was not one of that group.

On last Saturday evening we were marched five miles with bed and bedding on our backs, to our rude habitation, which consists of four miserable twig huts and a tent. I sleep with twelve others in the tent. We are sure of nocturnal visits from mosquitoes, and a species of very small lively insect which takes the greatest delight in playing with you until morning, waiting for the next night’s entertainment to renew the sport. We work pretty hard all day under a burning sun; the only comfort the place affords us is that we are near the sea shore, where we bathe after our day’s labor.

Description of the conditions in a Fenian workgroup, described by Patrick Wall in a letter to his parents, quoted in newspaper ‘The Irishman’ in April 1868.

The convict records available for Fremantle Prison record Thomas Cullinane as ‘Thomas Bowler‘, prisoner number 9671. His record also mentions as a note, ‘character bad‘, and records ‘mutinous conduct‘ in February 1869 for which he was sentenced to 7 days bread and water. In early May 1869, Cullinane and other Fenian prisoners were granted an official pardon, signed by the Home Secretary, Henry Austin Bruce. This was mainly due to the sustained campaign for a Fenian amnesty at home in Ireland. Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane was mentioned specifically in the text of the pardon.

I have the honor to inform you that Her Majesty’s Govt. have decided upon granting a Remission to Thomas Cullinane or Bowler and the other prisoners named in the accompanying Warrant under the Royal Sign Manual, who were convicted of Treason or Treason Felony in Ireland and who are now under sentence of Penal Servitude in Western Australia.

Partial text of the pardon of the Fenian exiles, a link to the full text is available in the references below.

Upon his release, records show that Cullinane first travelled to Sydney in New South Wales aboard the ship Rangatira on September 21st 1869, then to London aboard the Suffolk on October 26th.

Excerpt from The Freeman’s Journal, February 1870 mentioning the return of Fenian prisoners, including Thomas Cullinane

Some time after his release, Cullinane travelled to America where he was to remain until returning to Ballymacoda in 1910. I have found little trace of his activities in America. There are three main reasons as to why the records are difficult to trace. Firstly, Cullinane was known to use the alias ‘Bowler’, which he may also have used in America. Secondly, records of the day use many alternative spellings of his last name e.g. ‘Cullinan’. Finally, it is very difficult to conclusively determine a birth year due to conflicting references, which would be useful for filtering US naturalization records etc. for Cullinane:

  • His headstone says he died in March 1928, aged 84 (giving a birth year 1843 or 1844).
  • His convict record from Australia lists his birth year as 1844.
  • His death record from ‘Civil Registration Deaths Index, 1864-1958‘ lists his age at death as 88 (giving a birth date of 1839 or 1840).
  • Newspaper sources mentioning his return to Ireland from June 1910 give his age as 72 (giving a birth year of 1837 or 1838).
  • The Irish prison register entry for June 1867 lists his age as 22 (giving a birth year of 1844 or 1845).
  • The 1911 Census of Ireland taken in early April lists his age as 73 (giving a birth year of 1837 or 1838).
  • Searching the Ballymacoda & Ladysbridge Parish baptismal records for Thomas Cullinane yielded no matches, however some records are barely legible given the age of the documents.

Regardless of his life in America, which as mentioned above is difficult to piece together, there are numerous sources that confirm Thomas Cullinane returned to Ballymacoda in 1910. He was unmarried, and planned to spend the rest of his days living with his sister Johanna (O’Brien) in Ballymakeigh. Newspaper sources from the time indicate that there was a homecoming event for Cullinane in Ballymacoda, with this description being published:

Though he had been a long time away, his heart always reverted to the land for which he strove so nobly, and lately he returned to his native district of Ballymacoda. To signalize the homecoming and to give him a welcome worthy of his patriotic record a meeting was held in Ballymacoda last week. A platform, over which Stars and Stripes floated, was erected for the proceedings, which were marked with the greatest enthusiasm.

Description of the homecoming of Thomas Cullinane, published widely at the time (this instance from ‘The Courier-Journal’, Louisville, Kentucky, June 26th, 1910).
Excerpt from The Irish Standard, July 2nd 1910 mentioning the return of Thomas Cullinane

The 1911 Census of Ireland confirms Thomas as living with his sister Johanna at Ballymakeigh.

1911 Census of Ireland record showing Thomas Cullinane

Thomas Cullinane died on March 18th 1928 and is buried in the Hill Cemetery in Ballymacoda.

The grave of Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane, at the Hill Cemetery, Ballymacoda

References & Further Information

The Gaelic American – Vol. III No. 24 June 16, 1906, Whole Number 144, Villanova University, Falvey Memorial Library

Claim a Convict, details for the ship Hougoumont (1868)

Fremantle Prison Convict Database

A Gerringong Fenian, The Story of John O’Neil Goulding and the 1867 Kerry Uprising by John Graham, Published 1999

The Great Amnesty Campaign of 1869, Irish History Podcast

Convict Records available on UNE, the repository for research outputs of the University of New England at Armidale, NSW Australia

Ancestry.com. Ireland, Prison Registers, 1790-1924 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA:

Historic Graves, Thomas Bowler Cullinane

The Freeman’s Journal, published in Dublin, February 2nd, 1870

The Irish Standard, Saturday July 2nd, 1910

Full text of the Royal pardon granted to Thomas Cullinane and other Irish convicts under sentence of penal servitude in Western Australia

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

Peter O’Neill Crowley and the 1867 Fenian Rising

The Fenian rising of March 1867 was yet another attempt to remove the shackles of foreign oppression. After the 1798, 1803, and 1848 rebellions, it was the fourth failed rebellion in 70 years. In this post, we’ll focus on the events of 1867 as they relate to Ballymacoda, and one of its most famous sons – the Fenian leader and Irish patriot Peter O’Neill Crowley.

Peter O’Neill Crowley was born in Ballymacoda on May 23rd, 1832 into a respectable farming family. Through his mother, he was a grand-nephew of Fr. Peter O’Neill, the Ballymacoda parish priest flogged at Youghal in 1798 and later deported to Botany Bay. After his father died when he was still quite young, Peter O’Neill Crowley came under the influence of his grand-uncle, and acknowledged later in life that his involvement with the Fenian’s was inspired by his grand-uncle. The young O’Neill Crowley was well known and respected in Fenian circles, and was known to be a man of principle and a strict pioneer. In time, he became the leader of the reportedly 100-strong group of Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) members in the Ballymacoda area.

On Tuesday March 5th, the day of the rebellion, O’Neill Crowley and John McClure, an American born veteran of the Civil War, led a party to raid the coastguard station at Knockadoon, with the objective being to secure the cache of weapons located there. Among the raiding party were Thomas ‘Bowler’ Cullinane, Jerry Aher, David Joyce and Thomas Walsh. The raid was successful, with the weapons being secured and the coastguards disarmed without a single shot being fired. Taking the coastguards hostage, the group then marched towards Killeagh with the prisoners, expecting to join up with other units from Youghal and Midleton. However, this didn’t materialize as planned, with only a handful of men being present at the meeting place when the party from Ballymacoda arrived. The group of rebels from Midleton had earlier been involved in a battle with the police in Castlemartyr while attempting to raid the barracks there, where the leader of the group, Timothy Daly had been shot and killed.

McClure made the decision to disband all unarmed men, and march with the remaining men and prisoners towards Castlemartyr, where the prisoners were released. Having observed a large group of crown forces at Mogeely about to commence a search of the area, O’Neill Crowley, McClure and others decided to march north in an attempt to merge with other pockets of fighters in the Munster region. While the raid on the coastguard station at Knockadoon was successful – John Devoy called it ‘the neatest job done by the Fenians in the Rising‘ – the wider rising was a failure, and soon the party from Ballymacoda was on the run, eventually reaching Kilclooney wood near Mitchelstown. The group spent a few weeks taking refuge in the wood until being engaged by the British on the morning of Sunday March 31st, 1867, three weeks after the rising. The British had reportedly received information that the group was hiding there, and that same problem that always plagued rebellions and rebel groups throughout Irish history – informers – was to cause the death of O’Neill Crowley.

On the morning of the 31st, Kilclooney wood was surrounded by an estimated 120+ British soldiers, made up of members of the Sixth Carbineers, two companies of the Sixth Warwickshire infantry and a company of Royal Engineers. The men were commanded by Major Bell. A gun battle ensued, with the Fenian group hopelessly outnumbered. O’Neill Crowley was initially badly wounded when he was hit by a bullet which broke a finger on one hand. A group of soldiers began to advance towards the wood, while the rest kept it surrounded from all sides to prevent escape of the group of rebels. McClure and O’Neill Crowley were captured together, attempting to cross a river, O’Neill Crowley was shot and fatally wounded as he attempted to cross. He was attended to by an army surgeon, and a priest was sent for to administer last rites before he died. He was aged just 34, a few months shy of 35.

The priest who administered the last rites, Rev. T. O’Connell, at the time curate in nearby Kildorrery, described the scene he witnessed that morning in 1867 in The Irish Standard 20 years later:

A few particulars in connection with the last moments of Peter O’Neill Crowley may not be uninteresting to your numerous readers at the present moment. I can well recall the memorable morning in March, ’67, when I was hastily summoned to administer to the patriot the last rites of that church which he loved so well. On my arrival at Kilclooney Wood, I found Dr. Segrave, surgeon to the flying column, busily engaged in staunching the wound with one hand, whilst from a prayer book in the other he read aloud – at the young man’s request – the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus. I was greatly touched by the scene, and especially by the exclamation – ‘Thank God – all is right now’, and then turning to the doctor he said ‘Thank you very much, the priest is come, leave me to him’. I saw at once the critical condition of the brave soul, whose heart’s blood was ebbing fast away. I saw that there was no time to lose, and having made him as comfortable as circumstances would permit, by means of the soldiers knapsacks, I then and there, surrounded by the military and police, administered the last sacraments. The fervor and devotion for which he prepared for death – though suffering very much – were most striking, and made on me an indelible impression. His lively faith and firm hope coupled with, if I might so write, his true heroism, so affected me that I could have wished myself in his place. It was whilst kneeling by his side and whispering to him words of consolation that he gave expression with his dying lips to that noble sentiment – one well worthy of Saint Lawrence O’Toole – ‘Father, I have two loves in my heart – one for my religion, the other for my country. I am dying today for the fatherland. I could die as cheerfully for faith’.

Rev. T. O’Connell, by then P.P. in Castlemartyr, describes administering the last rites to O’Neill Crowley, The Irish Standard, May 28th 1887
Depiction of the death of O’Neill Crowley, from the monument in Kilclooney

Peter O’Neill Crowley’s body was removed to a workhouse in nearby Mitchelstown, and a short inquest followed which found ‘The deceased was shot by troops whilst in the execution of their duty‘. His body was released to his sister, and brought to Ballymacoda for burial beside his grand-uncle Fr. Peter O’Neill in the churchyard. His funeral cortege was reported to be comprised of thousands of mourners, but it is impossible to get accurate figures. Numerous sources also indicate that his coffin was shouldered all the way from Mitchelstown to Ballymacoda, stopping overnight to rest in Killeagh.

O’Neill Crowley’s Grave in the churchyard in Ballymacoda, marked by a large Celtic Cross

Over the years numerous commemorations have taken place at Kilclooney, notably in 1898 when a memorial was erected (re-erected in 1960), at the 100 anniversary of the battle in 1967 and in the year 2000 when Derek Warfield, historian and ex-leader of the Wolfe Tones group was the guest speaker. A new viewing station was unveiled at Kilclooney Wood in 2013, in advance of the commemoration held in 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary. Peter O’Neill Crowley is also commemorated in numerous parts of Cork and further afield:

  • O’Neill Crowley Terraces in Ballymacoda, in Castlemartyr, and in Mitchelstown.
  • Peter O’Neill Crowley Bridge (formerly George IV Bridge) on the Carrigrohane road in Cork city.
  • O’Neill Crowley statue at the National Monument on Grand Parade in Cork city, erected to commemorate the Irish patriots who died during the period 1798 – 1867.
  • O’Neill Crowley Street in Youghal.
  • O’Neill Crowley Quay in Fermoy.
  • Peter O’Neill Crowley Gaelic Athletic Club formed in the Clonard area of Belfast in 1902 – they went on to win two Antrim Senior Hurling titles in 1903 and 1907.
Plaque at the viewing station in Kilclooney, erected 2013

The memory of O’Neill Crowley is also captured in the folk songs ‘Erin’s Lovely Lee‘, and ‘Peter Crowley‘, recordings of which are available in the collection of the Clare County Library (see references for links).

Peter O’Neill Crowley memorial on the National Monument on Grand Parade.

The Fenian leader John Devoy said of O’Neill Crowley: “Peter O’Neill Crowley was one of the best men in the Fenian Movement, and Ireland never gave birth to a truer or more devoted son. His devotion to the cause of Irish liberty was sublime and his courage dauntless“. It would be difficult to disagree with this opinion.

Peter O’Neill Crowley’s Gaelic Athletic Club, Belfast 1902

In a future post, we’ll look at the aftermath of the 1867 rebellion, in particular what became of the other protagonists from the Ballymacoda area who took part in the rebellion.

References and Further Information

Historical Remains of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge, Ballymacoda / Ladysbridge Community Council Historical Society

Fenian Heroes & Martyrs, John Savage, Published by Patrick Donahoe, 1868

The Irish Standard, May 28th 1887

Recollections of an Irish Rebel, A Personal Narrative, By John Devoy.

Erin’s Lovely Lee, recording captured in the Carroll Mackenzie Collection at Clare County Library collection

Peter Crowley, recording captured in the Carroll Mackenzie Collection at Clare County Library collection

Kilclooney Wood and Peter O’Neill-Crowley, Micheál Ó’h0Aonghusa, 2012