Category Archives: Irish History

Butter At Threshing, Co. Laois

What can I say when I have just put up images of a donkey churning butter?

We all know that butter has been churned by man and sold ‘forever’ don’t we?  The different ‘containers’ to churn butter, the shapes of the butter, the milk bottles, the cream containers.  It is a fine art in itself and is now recognised as being so.

There was a stall at the Threshing festival over in Knock the other day.  One of the men at the stall had come from Co. Clare, another from Co. Limerick and they go to festivals all over.

They were selling the butter they had made.  I didn’t buy any, it would have made it impossible to take photos if I had!  I bet it was lovely.

Donkey Churning Butter, Threshing, Co. Laois

Did you ever see a donkey churning butter? I never did before I went to the Threshing day at Knock, Laois last Sunday.  The day of Threshing and everything that went with it was organised to support Knock National School and it’s re-development.  A really wonderful day for all who attended!

There is little can be said about a donkey churning butter, except it involved work for the men who organised the exhibition and I wonder does anyone think of that?  I’d like to thank them for the please I got in watching this ‘event’ and for the education I received.

Blog: A Man, His Dog and Lord Castletown

It’s funny and if you don’t write, you’ll not understand this- you have to be in the mood to write.  The thoughts have to be with you, the feeling has to be there.

I wrote a bit about this incident on Facebook, just a bit.  The thing is between this meeting and the ten days or so after I have had some fantastic days.  I have met wonderful people.
On 27th August, 2015, I received an email from a man who is working in University College Dublin asking me if I had ever photographed the grave of Lord Castletown.  I checked and replied on the Friday telling him that I had his name in my index but would check my folders on Monday.

On the Sunday, I was driving down the road and slowed down to pass a man who had a dog walking in front of him. Just after I had passed the man, the dog stepped out in the road, turned himself round to face my car and I stopped driving.  The man caught up to me, I rolled down my window, said “Lovely dog” and he laughed and asked me what was wrong with my arm.  I was wearing a brace, so I told him.  We laughed – he asked if I was in a hurry and suggested I could pull over so we could have a chat.  Can’t say why – just in our few words, this man was very interesting.  I pulled over, we chatted.


Oscar the dog

Then, he says “Your mother” and I say “but I never gave you my name” – he replies “Your mother was Dr. Lyons” – and so she was.  As our conversation progressed, I told him that I transcribe gravestones and Mam used to tell me I was mad.  He said “You know about the Lord Castletown gravestones then don’t you?” I laughed and said “A man contacted me about them this week” isn’t that a coincidence?

I gave him my phone number and went off where I was on my way to.  Coming back later that evening I was thinking I hadn’t asked him his name – and then – there he was on the road again and I pulled up again.  This time, I got into his jeep and he drove me to the graveyard showed me exactly where the gravestone is, and I finally photographed Lord Castletown’s grave.

In the few weeks that followed, thanks to the meeting of this man and his dog, I was introduced to some information on the Second Baron Castletown (by another man I met in the last few weeks).  I had known nothing about Lord Castletown other than he had lived in this area and I have photographed Granstown Castle which belonged to him.  He was actually a very interesting man. Some of the following comes from an article published(18th–19th – Century History, 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2007), News, Volume 15.)

Lord Castletown kept a 14ft python in his rooms until it nearly killed a chambermaid!  He served as an ambulance worker for the Red Cross society in the Franco German war and working in a Typhus hospital.

The most interesting thing to me, is that he married Ursula Clare Emily St Leger (d. 1927), only child of the fourth Viscount Doneraile, in 1874.  She had an ancestor who was the only Irish Lady Freemason Mrs. Elizabeth Aldworth (nee St. Leger).

Years ago, I had ‘chased’ a box of books at an auction because in that box was a book all about the only lady Freemason!  I did manage to buy the box of books and have to say that while the ‘story’ was very interesting the book was not an antique or old book, it was a reasonably modern booklet.  I had been really very interested in Freemasonry.

Lord Castletown served in the 4th Battalion, Leinster Regiment, as lieutenant-colonel and honorary colonel.  He was decorated for his heroism in the Egyptian campaign and was a vigorous army recruiter for the first world war, for which he was too old to fight in.  He was High Sheriff of Queen’ County (Laois) in 1876, had a good relationship with his tenantry.

A friend of Douglas Hyde he gave financial assistance to the Gaelic League and formed the short-lived Celtic Association to foster Celtic culture.  Conversant with Irish, he learned the language on holidays in Connemara.

He died on the 29th May 1937, aged 88 and is buried in Killermogh, Ballacolla, Co. Laois.

The man who wrote making the enquiry about the gravestone wrote the following to me:
“this description in his autobiography Ego, describing his involvement with the Celtic League:

Mr. Fournier evolved the idea of having a granite stone divided into six nationalities, with the idea that wherever a meeting was held the stone should be put up, and when standing was emblematical of peaceful proceedings. Each piece had the initial letter of the country it belonged to. The stone now stands in front of my house at home, and will, I hope, be placed by my grave in Killermoogh churchyard.”

The ‘stone’ was made up of six blocks, however there are only 5 there now. The six members of the Celtic Association were Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Isle of Man and Cornwall. There is a letter to represent each country on each block and then on the side of each block there is ogham script.

This article while it is about Lord Castletown, it is probably more about the man and the dog because if I had not met that man I would simply have written back to the man who made the enquiry telling him that I did not have a photograph of this gravestone.  I knew nothing about Lord Castletown and the significance of these blocks would not have dawned on me.

Oughavale (Aughaval) Graveyard Photographs, Westport, Co. Mayo

These photographs are not here because I have transcribed the stones, no, this time they are here just to show you the size of this graveyard and a bit of the difference between the old and new sections.  The numbers of stones we have in the new area compared to the older area.  It’s so hard to imagine that the older section was probably once as ‘populated’ with stones as the new section.

Also, there is a bleakness about this graveyard. I have a book which deals with the Clew Bay archaeological Train and in that book it says that this graveyard is unusual because it has Protestant and Catholic burials. That statement is incorrect, you will find Catholics buried in most Protestant graveyards and it is always very hard to try and explain this to people.

Boheh Stone Photographs, Co. Mayo

Out the Leenane road from Westport in Mayo at a place called Boheh there is a large outcrop of rock almost totally covered in carvings or ‘rock art’.  This stone is called the ‘Boheh stone’ and is considered one of the finest examples of neolithic rock art in Ireland and Britain.  It actually lies a few feet from the back of a house, you have to walk down the side of the house and round the back of it to get to the stone!

Many of the carvings consist of cupmarks, enclosed by one or two circles.  There are also a few keyhole motifs. The light was not great the day I was there so I didn’t catch all of these in my photos.

The Boheh stone was later Christianised and called St. Patrick’s Chair.

Bunlahinch Clapperbridge, Co. Mayo

The Bunlahinch Clapperbridge is located about 7k southwest of Louisburgh on the Bunleemshough river.  Needless to say I happened across it one day as I wandered along the road wondering where it would take me.  There is nothing in the Ordnance Survey maps to tell you what to expect.  I was fascinated

The Clapperbridge is a footbridge designed to cross wide flat streams and rivers,  Water can rise up easily over it and can wash away through the holes between the stone piers without doing any damage to the bridge.  The structure of a Clapperbridge consists of stones or pillars which are spanned by flat stone slabs or planks.  I’ve tired catching shots of the stones and planks and the structure of the Clapperbridge, also one shot just of the water to show how clean it is.

This particular bridge was most likely built in the late 1840s or ’50s by the Irish Church Mission, a Protestant community led by Hugh Gordon.  Hugh Gordon was known as a ‘jumper’, that is a person who changed his religion.

Round Tower, Meelick, Co. Mayo

This page has gravestones but I did not stop to record stones, instead, I was driving home from Mayo and spotted a signpost which mentioned a Round Tower.

There are two ‘cemeteries’ across the road from one another and it was out of the modern cemetery that I met my first person of the surname Lyons that side of the Shannon. We chatted away she and I and she invited me to tea, but, I just wanted to take photos and get back on the road home, it was still a long drive I had in front of me.

Meelick, Mayo. My first Round Tower outside of the ones I am familiar with in Laois and Kilkenny. Also, a cemetery (I did not see sign of a Church remnant, though I am sure there has to be one here. Also, on the side of the Church was a surprise and once again, it is such a pity that I have not mastered the knack of photogrammetry.

The photographs here are not of stones as I said above, they do though show you some of the stones that are in Meelick – just examples.

Roscommon Castle Photographs

Back in 2013 I went to visit Roscommon Castle with some friends over from the US. These are some of the photographs that were taken on that day.

Mail & Stage Coaches, Dublin City, 1834

These pages are scans from an 1834 Dublin Directory that I have.

I’ve seen people ask how their family may have moved from one place to another – perhaps they were able to afford a Stage Coach – perhaps they walked or even rode a bicycle.

Fares, Coach & Jaunting Cars, Dublin City, 1834

Pages scanned from a directory that I have for Dublin in 1834.

Some of these pages are not ‘perfectly’ scanned.  I can only apologise for that and say my equipment and myself did our best.