‘Round the Houses’: In Search of the Queen’s Arms, Cahersiveen

Cahirciveen is a pretty town … the appearance of comfort which
pervades it at once evinces the power of resident proprietorship


In January 1866, a harrowing scene of people preparing to leave Cahersiveen appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper published in New York.[1]  The image was captioned ‘Irish Emigrants leaving their home for America – the Mail Coach from Cahirciveen, County Kerry, Ireland’ and depicted a two-horse drawn coach being loaded with luggage outside the Queen’s Arms amid groups of people waving farewell.[2]


Hope and Despair: Irish folk prepare to depart from Cahersiveen, birth place of the great Liberator, circa 1865.  The colour engraving (left) is from The Granger Historical Picture Archive; the sepia version is held in The Library of Congress and the New York Public Library[3]

The location of the Queen’s Arms is not known, but a description of a political demonstration in the town in February 1865 near a hotel called Fitzgerald’s is vaguely reminiscent of the scene:


A multitude of persons assembled opposite Fitzgerald’s Hotel, some time before the mail car … as the mail car approached its stand, several hearty cheers were given for The O’Donoghue.[4]


A speech was delivered from one of the windows of Fitzgerald’s establishment by Morgan John O’Connell McSwiney Esq, who had joined The O’Donoghue.[5]


Fitzgerald’s business, which operated from at least 1851 to as late as 1929, offers no further clue to the location of the Queen’s Arms.[6] In later years, Fitzgerald’s Hotel appended the word Royal.[7]  It also went by Fitzgerald’s Hibernian Hotel.  In 1901, John P Boland, MP for South Kerry, delivered a stirring speech from the window of the hotel, and did the same again in 1910.[8]  Hotel proprietor Edward Fitzgerald Esq JP, MCC, Chairman of the Cahirciveen Board of Guardians, ‘a notable figure in Cahirciveen and Kerry for a half a century,’ died on the 18 April 1922:


He was a man of striking and unusual personality whose natural quality, ease of manner, and generosity, deservedly made friends of all he met.  In public life he was very prominent in the old Land League days and when few men were anxious to espouse the cause of the downtrodden.  On the passing of the Local Government Act, he became a county councillor and chairman of the Cahirciveen Guardians, and retained the trust and confidence of the people for nearly 20 years.  He was one of the several trusted friends of the late Canon Brosnan and rendered signal service towards the building of the O’Connell Memorial Church.  He was twice married, and leaves a distinguished family.[9]  His son, Very Rev Edward Fitzgerald, is among the most respected pastors in the Archdiocese of Glasgow.[10]


The ‘Royal’ appendage, though it does suggest a link to the ‘Queen’s Arms,’ seems to have been applied much later.


Political Correctness


A Progressive Association is urgently required for Cahersiveen.  Surely the town folk
could put their heads together, and do something for the Home of the Liberator

– Colonel O’Sullivan’s Notes, 11 August 1924[11]


In 1966, Caherciveen artist John O’Shea produced a Christmas card based on the 1866 illustration which was awarded Christmas Card of the year by a Dublin evening newspaper.[12]  However, John – nor it seems local people – could identify the Queen’s Arms.  It was suggested it may have been the College Arms:


Many think that the Inn is the ancient College Arms in the Old Road, a famous coaching halt in the days of Daniel O’Connell and one of the first premises in Ireland to be registered under the licensing laws.  The College Arms still stands today as it was then though it is not now a licensed premises but it bears little or no resemblance to the building shown on the Bettmann print.[13]


A brief survey of hotels in Cahersiveen finds early mention of a hostelry in a comparative sketch of the town in 1815 and 1840:


In 1815 the entire village consisted of fifteen houses, and those of a mean order.  Now [1840] will be found two streets, some handsome shops and buildings, a good inn, and vessels of one hundred tons at the quay, and between 1500 and 2000 inhabitants.[14]


It was probably in the ‘good inn’ that a public dinner to Maurice O’Connell Esq was held on 13 September 1830 ‘as a testimony of their private affection for his many endearing qualities.’  The great Liberator was present with his ‘gallant son, Captain Morgan O’Connell of the Austrian service.’[15]


The ‘good inn’ was carried on under the name of the proprietor, John O’Connell Esq, a cousin of the Liberator.[16]  Indeed, there is some suggestion that the Liberator was born in the vicinity of the inn on the night of a riot, and the murder of ‘the two Mahonys’:


The received opinion that Daniel O’Connell was born at Carhen is erroneous.  He was born at the old glebe of Cahirciveen, quite close to the scene of this murder, and his birth was in consequence hastened by the alarm and fright caused by the murder.  Carhen House was undergoing some repairs, and the Liberator’s parents were on a visit with the Rev Brent Johnson, the Vicar of Cahirciveen, when he came rather prematurely into the world.[17]


In 1845, O’Connell’s Inn had temporarily ceased receiving visitors:


There is but one hotel in the town.  Formerly there were two – one kept by a cousin of Mr O’Connell … the innkeeper, in consequence of the illness of his wife, has declined receiving travellers for the last twelve months.[18]


Cahersiveen (and its hotel) received widespread publicity in 1845 after a visit from Thomas Campbell Foster, the Times’ Commissioner, who published a damning report on conditions in the district.[19]  The Illustrated London News quickly dispatched an artist to depict the scenes described.[20]


Pre-Famine sketches of Cahersiveen in 1845 include (left) a distant view of Derrynane, home of The Liberator. The building in the centre is the unidentified lodgings not up to standard for the Times’ Commissioner.  The signs outside state ‘Lodging’ and ‘Hotel and Post Office,’ the latter then situated on Main Street.  On the right, the ‘Killarney entrance’ to Cahersiveen, ‘its best aspect … the convent, the court-house and the Roman Catholic chapel, grouped together, have a fair appearance’


In June 1846, John O’Connell was again welcoming visitors to his ‘Cahirciveen Hotel’ which had now ‘an addition to accommodate with great comfort such visitors to the interesting scenery of the River Valentia and the neighbouring localities as may favour his establishment.’[21]  Its name was the ‘O’Connell Arms’ and therein, perhaps, lies the answer to the ‘Queen’s Arms.’[22]


The forlorn scene depicted in 1866 would hardly sit well with the family name of The Liberator displayed in the background – not in his home place, the town of his birth – more fitting to substitute his name with a flagrant symbol of the cause of this exodus – British rule.[23]  Conversely, it could be argued that those opposed to Fenianism may have taken satisfaction in O’Connell’s name supplanted with the queen’s.  Whatever the truth of the 1866 painting, it is an evincing scene by an unknown artist.


In 1869, the O’Connell Arms changed hands and was being marketed as The College Arms, ‘a long established hotel’ which had been purchased and re-modelled by the new owner ‘to adapt it to the advancement of the times.’[24]  Alterations that may have left it bearing ‘no resemblance to the building shown on the Bettmann print.’


Cahersiveen and O’Connell’s Carhan (left and right) depicted in the 1840 book, The Sportsman in Ireland.  The early OS map indicates a hotel at High Street at the junction of the ‘Old Road’ below the Post Office on Main Street


Unfortunately, nothing remains of the College Arms to scrutinise further.  In the early twentieth century, the premises was associated with Denis O’Sullivan.[25]  In the 1970s, it was sold by Hanora O’Sullivan and her sister, Mrs Therese Brosnan to the local Social Services Committee for conversion into flats.


It was remarked at the time that the hotel was built in the early 1800s by ‘Rd O’Connell’ on the main highway, and it was ‘a well-known fact that Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator, stayed there on his many journeys to and from Derrynane.’[26]


In 2004, a new housing development was proposed for the site which signalled the demolition of this historic establishment.[27]  Thus came to an end a colourful chapter in the social history of Cahersiveen, and the life and times of Daniel O’Connell.[28]


History Lessons: Two young boys stand near a chair used by The Liberator which is on display in the Daniel O’Connell Room, dedicated to his memory, in Cahersiveen library



[1] Frank Leslie’s newspaper was founded in 1855 and published until 1922.  Frank Leslie was the penname of Henry Carter, son of an English glove-maker, who emigrated to New York in the 1840s.

[2] In 1865, emigration was of concern in Cahersiveen: ‘The drain from emigration has nearly ceased in Cahersiveen.  Very few have left for some weeks past, and even those had had their passages paid by friends on the other side of the Atlantic.  This is a very gratifying fact as for all practical purposes, emigration has gone far enough’ (Southern Reporter, 17 August 1865).  Emigration remained a problem almost a century later:  ‘It is very sad to see the flower of our youth emigrating to foreign climes as they are denied decent livelihoods at home.  I would like to see some industry established in the old town, which could employ a big number of our boys and girls’ (My Cahersiveen Memories (1958) by Daniel O’Neill, p5).

[3] https://www.granger.com/results.asp?image=0009407&itemw=4&itemf=0001&itemstep=51&itemx=52 / https://www.loc.gov/item/2001697359/ / https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-37f1-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

[4] ‘Another Demonstration in Caherciveen,’ Kerry Evening Post, 25 February 1865.

[5] Ibid.  ‘It was rumoured in town yesterday morning that Morgan John O’Connell McSwiney Esq would arrive from Tralee where he had been for the last three weeks as one of the chief supporters of the gallant O’Donoghue, the brave Chieftain of the Kerry Glens … In the evening 900 gathered … the procession passed through Main Street into Quay Street and halted opposite the St Brendan’s News Room from the windows of which the multitude were to be addressed … ‘

[6] Maurice O’Connell Esq MP stayed at Fitzgerald’s hotel for a few days in 1852.  In 1855, an extensive Fee Simple Estate of 15,000 acres was up for sale by N  Bland Esq in 38 lots, particulars of which could be had from John Fitzgerald’s Hotel, Caherciveen.  The location of Fitzgerald’s Hotel is open to research.

[7] The appendage may have reflected a number of royal visits to Ireland.  See Royal Killarney (2011).  The Fionan Mac Coluim Papers (1875-1966) include a bill from The Royal Hotel, Caherciveen.

[8] The National Library of Ireland holds a letter from John P. Boland, Fitzgerald's Hotel, Caherciveen, Co Kerry, 4 January 1901, to John Redmond, reporting that ‘the priests in South Kerry have not yet taken to the United Irish League but he might be able to induce them to "fall into line".’

[9] Edward Fitzgerald’s youngest son, James Stanislaus (Stanley) Fitzgerald died at the Mercy Home, Cork on 29 March 1904 aged 19; he represented the Kerry People and the Kerry Star in Caherciveen from the time the papers were established.   Funeral report Kerry News, 6 April 1904.  Another son, Charles Joseph Fitzgerald, died from pneumonia on 20 November 1908.  Funeral report, Kerry Reporter, 5 December 1908.  Among the chief mourners Rev Edward Fitzgerald, parish priest Glasgow; John B Fitzgerald, Maurice Fitzgerald, and Thomas C Fitzgerald, Clerk of the Caherciveen Union.  A third son, John Bernard Fitzgerald, who kept a mineral water factory, died in Cork from heart failure after an operation for appendicitis in 1913.

Reverend Mother Joseph, Presentation Convent Milltown, who died on 10 April 1902 was a sister of Edward Fitzgerald.

[10] Evening Echo, 21 April 1922.  ‘I extend sincerest sympathy in the loss of a great character who for all his years, was a man that not only his relatives but all who knew him will miss from the daily life of Cahirciveen.  He was grand-nephew of the Most Rev Dr Egan, Bishop of Kerry, one of his uncles, Rev Edward Fitzgerald, was parish priest of Cahirciveen, and subsequently of Kilcummin and another uncle was the remarkable Brother Austin, who founded the Christian Brothers School and Monastery in Cahirciveen.’

A Celtic Cross memorial is erected in Kilvarnogue Cemetery, Caherciveen to the memory of Edward Fitzgerald, his wife Ellen, and three of his sons.

[11] ‘Extract from Colonel O’Sullivan’s Notes dated August 11 1924,’ My Cahersiveen Memories (1958) by Daniel O’Neill, p27.

Daniel O’Neill, author of the above publication, died in a Tralee hospital in 1965: ‘Since the inception of the National Health Insurance Society in the 1920s he had acted as local agent until his retiral two years ago and in this capacity he was well known and held in high respect by several generations South Kerry working men and women.  Prior to spending a short period in America in 1926 he had acted as local correspondent for the Kerry and national newspapers.  On his retirement two years ago he published a booklet entitled My Caherciveen Memories which was printed by The Kerryman Ltd and found a ready sale amongst Iveragh folk at home and abroad.  Although Monday was a fair day the people of Caherciveen and district showed by their attendance at his funeral to Keelavomogue that they were not unmindful of the many splendid services he had rendered to their home town during his long and useful lifetime’ (Kerryman, 5 June 1965).  Daniel O’Neill never married; he was described as bachelor in a statutory notice to creditors published on 19 June 1965.

In his book, Mr O’Neill mentions James O’Shea of Clahanelinehan ‘who is now ninety-one years, one of the oldest men in the Cahersiveen parish … the only survivor of the party who carried the cement for the erection of the Stations of the Cross up the mountain of Cnoc-na-dTobar in the year 1888’ (p21).  A photograph of one of the Stations of the Cross at Cnoc na dTobar, one of the highest mountains in Iveragh, being 2,267ft high, showing Rev Eugene O’Connor of Caherciveen standing beside it, was published in The Liberator, 16 July 1925.

[12] Kerryman, 7 January 1967.   The report stated that the original print was in the Bettmann Archives, New York.  John O’Shea had produced a ‘President Kennedy’ greetings card earlier.

[13] Ibid.

[14] The Sportsman in Ireland (1840), p175.  The population in 1865 was given as 1802 in a note about the Towns Act (Dublin Medical Press, 20 December 1865).

[15] Freeman’s Journal, 25 September 1830.

[16] Ibid. ‘Here is a comfortable inn kept by no less a person that John O’Connell Esq, one of the many cousins of the renowned member … the business is carried on under his name but he is a wine and whiskey merchant, storehouse-keeper and general dealer … His house, which he has himself erected at considerable expense, furnishes rather the hospitable mansion of the friend than the venal accommodation of the innkeeper.’

See ‘A Town in Danger’ Tralee Chronicle, 8 December 1865 regarding the lapse of a lease of property in Caherciveen town which caused panic among town dwellers at this period.

[17] Tralee Chronicle, 14 October 1870.  ‘Old Kerry Records. From the Hibernian Magazine, 1777.  Tralee, March 24, 1777. “A riot happened last week in Iveragh between two of the McCrohans (who were tried and acquitted last summer assizes for the murder of the two Mahonys of Cahir) and some of the deceased’s friends, and both the McCrohans were shot and by one man.” The first riot alluded to in which the Mahonys lost their lives occurred in what was then the town of Cahirciveen, what is now the College Arms hotel, and the old chapel, now the potato weigh-house.  It occurred in the early part of 1776, and on the very day that Daniel O’Connell was born.  The received opinion that Daniel O’Connell was born at Carhen is erroneous.  He was born at the old glebe of Cahirciveen, quite close to the scene of this murder, and his birth was in consequence hastened by the alarm and fright caused by the murder.  Carhen House was undergoing some repairs, and the Liberator’s parents were on a visit with the Rev Brent Johnson, the Vicar of Cahirciveen, when he came rather prematurely into the world.  Mr Edward Hore, of Cahirciveen, is my authority for this statement.  Mr Hore is the best old chronicler now in Kerry, either in English or in Irish, and one of the most pleasing companions I ever met; his language is the choicest of any man of his standing.  I know he must now be nearly eighty years old, still the accuracy of his memory is surprising.’

Daniel O’Neill, Old Road, Cahersiveen, addressed the Editor of the Kerryman (11 July 1959): ‘I wish to direct special attention to the neglected state of O’Connell’s ruins at Carhan, Caherciveen which are crumbling away fast, and in a few years there will be little left to show the birthplace of the great Liberator who did so much for his country …’

[18] ‘Condition of Mr O’Connell’s Tenantry,’ Letters on the Condition of the People of Ireland (1847) by Thomas Campbell Foster Esq, The Times’ Commissioner, Letter XXXVI, p532.  This letter relates to a visit made by Foster to Daniel O’Connell’s estate in December 1845, a follow-up visit on one made the previous month.  Of the hotel in operation, which was not identified, he remarked, ‘On my subsequent visit to Cahirciveen I found the hotel at Cahirciveen so furbished up in consequence of the notoriety it had obtained that I scarcely knew it.’

The early Ordnance Survey map illustrates a hotel at High Street, Cahersiveen.  The later map indicates a hotel on Main Street, adjacent to Bank Street.

[19] See note above.  In August 1857, a list of names of gentlemen who stayed at O’Connell’s Hotel and expressed approval of the comfort afforded there during the laying of the Atlantic Cable was published in the Kerry Evening Post (19 August).

[20] Illustrated London News, 10 January 1846.  The issue of 17 January 1846 carries a description.  Illustrations of the village of Waterville and Valentia were also published in the same issue including the Valentia Hotel.

[21] In this same year, Thomas Danahy advertised his Waterville-Lake Hotel ‘at Caherciveen’ the district so popular it attracted ‘even gentlemen from Russia to throw a fly on its waters’ (Limerick Chronicle, 24 June 1846).  However, the hotel was situated in Waterville, and otherwise known as the Hartopp Arms. It was later owned by P J Nunan. In April 1860, P J Nunan, ‘having become proprietor of the Waterville Lake Hotel’ sought to dispose of his interest in a ‘first-class boarding house’ at 9 Harbour Hill, Queenstown.  Mr Nunan thanked those gentlemen ‘who had given him their patronage and support during a number of years’ (Cork Examiner, 20 April 1860).  In 1864, The O’Donoghue, MP, and his family stayed at the hotel for some months.  The people of Cahersiveen put on a grand display when the family departed and passed through the town: ‘Two immense bonfires were in a short time built and some triumphal arches with banners bearing suitable inscriptions constructed.   At the western entrance of the town, a large banner was hung bearing the inscription ‘Hail! Chieftain of the Glens’.’ (Tralee Chronicle, 12 August 1864).  In June 1881, an account of Waterville included the following: ‘Waterville House, the residence of the Butler family, is at the extreme southern end of the village, while a transatlantic cable station and postal telegraph office, and the stately Hartopp Arms Hotel are quite close’ (Kerry Sentinel, 8 June 1881).  A correspondent of the Kerry Evening Post (21 September 1881) described the location of the ‘pleasant hotel the Hartopp Arms’ as ‘overlooking Lough Currane with its fairy islands on one side and on the other that splendid wild bay of Ballinskilligs.’ In 1883, it was in the occupation of ‘Miss Mac and well conducted by that worthy hostess.’  It was also observed that ‘an enterprising ex-Coast Guard official has established a small and very comfortable hotel close to the Direct United States Atlantic Telegraph Station.  The position is most charming, looking out as it does on some of the most sublime on the Irish coast’ (Kerry Evening Post, 11 August 1883).  In 1889, Miss Hartopp visited her estates at Waterville, her first visit since her coming of age.  A large bonfire was prepared, and she was met at Waterville Lake Hotel by 300 of her tenants.  She was accompanied by her agent, James Butler.  It is worth noting here that the village hall erected by the Countess of Pembroke in 1905 in memory of her husband  in the central part of Caherdaniel village, which contained a library reading room and co-operative society, was on a site given rent free by Captain Burns Hartopp.

In June 1895, Edgar Cleaver applied for a transfer of licence at the Hartopp Lake Hotel, Waterville, ‘now in possession of the Southern Hotel Company’ (Kerry Sentinel, 8 June 1895).  In the same month, the Viceregal party consisting of Lord Houghton, the Lord Lieutenant, accompanied by Captain G Digby, Colonel Dease and Colonel Herbert Jekyll stayed at the Southern Hotel, Waterville.  The Southern Hotel (former Hartropp Arms) at Ballybrack was demolished in the 1970s to build the Waterville Lake Hotel.

[22] ‘The Old Road was the first street built in Cahersiveen.  It had a public house, and hotel at the western end called ‘O’Connell Arms Hotel,’ subsequently called ‘College Arms Hotel.’  This building is still there, and is now occupied by a number of tenants’ (My Cahersiveen Memories (1958) by Daniel O’Neill, p29).

[23] Establishments under the name of the Queen’s Arms were found in other parts of the country in 1865 including Fermoy, Mallow, Dublin and Dundalk but the existence of such in Cahersiveen remains open to research.

[24] ‘The present proprietor of this long-established hotel has expended a considerable outlay in re-modelling the house to suit the advancing tastes and requirements of visitors.  He had himself, from experience, become aware of the little accommodation in his native town and district, and in purchasing this venerated hotel, determined to adapt it to the advancement of the times.  He has changed the aspect of the several rooms which now afford a magnificent sea and mountain view, viz the great Atlantic, Valencia Harbour, and adjoining islands, together with the handsome mountain range of Iveragh.  He has procured additional grounds, and made various alternations of a costly kind in the sanitary way for the health seeking and built two excellent water-closets’ (Irish Examiner, 9 April 1869).

The following is from The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0476, Page 328: ‘The town of Caherciveen is the most westerly in the Barony of Iveragh …The first houses are said to have been built in High Street, the first hotel being the College Arms Hotel, but as these were situated at too great a distance from the pier, the town was built further down.’

[25] In October 1915, the Caherciveen Board of Guardians placed on record an expression of sympathy to John O’Sullivan and his people-in-law, Mr Denis O’Sullivan and Mrs O’Sullivan of the College Arms, Caherciveen, on the death of his son.

[26] Kerryman, 3 October 1980.

[27] ‘A new housing development in Cahersiveen will provide emigrants with an opportunity to return home and live in affordable housing.  Cahersiveen Social Services has applied for planning permission to build 12 two-bedroom units at the site of the former College Arms Hotel in the town.  Located on the Old Road, the former hotel was inherited by Cahersiveen Social Services and has since been used for housing the elderly people.  However, the building is now vacant and will soon be demolished and the new units built on the site … the development is expected to cost in excess of €2 million with funding being provided by the Department of the Environment’ (Kerryman, 5 August 2004).

[28] See Kerryman, 26 November 2008 which carries references to the opening with photograph.

A note on some other hotels in the town: Michael Sheehan was proprietor of the Commercial Hotel, Cahirciveen in 1872.  In 1888, Eugene O’Reardon had a hotel in the town.  Notes on Leslie’s Railway Commercial Hotel, which was in operation in the 1890s, can be read here http://www.odonohoearchive.com/james-blennerhassett-leslie-ecclesiastic-and-historian/.  The Shelbourne Hotel ‘was a noisy lodging house at East End.  There wasn’t a sound pane of glass left in the building after the constant ‘shelling’ during race and fair nights’ (My Cahersiveen Memories (1958) by Daniel O’Neill, p26).  The Valentia Pipe Band recorded a programme for RTE in the Ringside Rest Hotel, Cahersiveen in April 1989.  The Liberator Inn in the centre of Cahersiveen was up for sale in 1998 and in 2000, the Caherciveen Park Hotel was offering a six-course dinner for £15.95.  In 2008, the Watermarque Hotel was up for sale with a price tag of €6 million.