Chasing Ghosts: Fitzgerald of Ardnagragh and Ballymacadam

When the unfortunate Earl fell at Glaunageentha it was the Fitzgeralds of Ardnagragh, faithful to the last, who stole the headless body at night from the wood and laid it in their own burial place – Mary Agnes Hickson[1] John Oge Fitzgerald was Constable of the Island of Kerry for Gerald, ‘The Rebel Earl of…Continue Reading

The Kennys of Ballymacadam, Castleisland

By John Roche, Chairman Castleisland District Heritage   Kenny first came to prominence when he was elected chairman/president of the fledgling Castleisland branch of the National Land League.  This followed a monster gathering in Main Street on (date) Oct., 1880, chaired from the Crown Hotel balcony by the famous Land League priest, Fr Arthur Murphy.…Continue Reading

Nineteenth Century Church and School Building in Brosna and Knocknagoshel

Religious practice in Brosna and Knocknagoshel from the eighteenth to early nineteenth century was outlined by Peter Robinson, a correspondent of the Kerry People, in 1903:[1]   Prior to the abolition of the Penal laws, and up to 1834, Knocknagoshel had no fixed Roman Catholic place of worship and the people on Sundays assembled to…Continue Reading

Analyse This: The Persecution of De Niro’s Tipperary Ancestors

‘Rack-rents, insecurity of tenure, ejectment and extermination, these are the master-grievances of unhappy Ireland’ – Rev P O’B Davern Iconic actor, Robert De Niro, who is currently researching his Irish roots, might well be interested in The Young Irelanders, a rare book recently acquired by Castleisland District Heritage.  It was written by the Kerry-educated journalist,…Continue Reading

Con Houlihan behind Local Cabinet Decision

John Roche, Chairman of Castleisland District Heritage, recently visited Walter Lyons Furniture in Tralee and made a firm deal on the purchase of three secure metal cabinets for rapid delivery to the project offices in Castleisland.   The purchase came about following the acquisition of papers and artefacts belonging to the late and great journalist,…Continue Reading

Kilnananima: A Grave Legend of Gerald, Earl of Desmond

Gerald, The Rebel Earl of Desmond, was beheaded in 1583 thus signalling the fall of the great Earls of Desmond in Munster.  His troubled soul in ghostly form was said to haunt his grave at Ardnagragh where once stood the principal stronghold of the Fitzgeralds.[1]   Legends of the life and times of the Earls…Continue Reading

Kilmurry House, Castleisland in the Nineteenth Century

‘A fascinating house of indeterminate origins’[1]   Kilmurry House, located a few miles from the town of Castleisland in the parish of Ballincuslane, was built about 1839 by Rev Archibald Macintosh as a Church of Ireland rectory.[2]  This three-storey dwelling, with entrance set on the side, basement, four bays on south front, and hipped roof,…Continue Reading

Honouring Bob Finn, Captain of the Castleisland Moonlighters

‘The Moonlighters were the first that put hope into the nation’ – Memoir of Jerry Lyons, 1951   Castleisland District Heritage this week (19 July 2023) pays homage to Bob Finn, Captain of the Castleisland Moonlighters, at a Grave Renewal Ceremony in Old Kilbannivane Cemetery, Castleisland.  The historic memorial has been refurbished, with substantial financial…Continue Reading

‘Intensely Irish’: Probing a Kerry Claim on Celebrity Minstrel Denis O’Sullivan

He came to Ireland with a concert party in the flush of his great success and sang from Cork to Portrush some of our loveliest melodies as, without exaggeration, they were never sung before In 1901, American tenor and actor Denis O’Sullivan, described as ‘intensely Irish,’ was approaching his zenith, wowing audiences with his baritone…Continue Reading

Specs on! A Close Look at The Kerryman Calendar of 1934

In January 1934, The Kerryman issued a ‘pictorial almanac,’ described as an introduction to some of their special correspondents who helped to make the newspaper ‘so widely popular.’[1]  It was printed on art paper at the Kerryman printing works in The Market and Russell Street, Tralee:   These contributors are already well-known by repute to…Continue Reading

Search for family of Edward Victor Twiss, Captain of the Royal Munster Fusiliers

Castleisland District Heritage has been contacted by Liam Brophy who has in his possession a photograph of Edward Victor Twiss whose family descended from Kerry.  Liam found the image among the papers of his great great grandfather ‘Jack,’ otherwise John Thomas Greeves O’Sullivan of the 6th Connaught Rangers.  Information on the back of the photograph…Continue Reading

Cottage and Castle: Sizing up History at Coolcurtoga

Flesk Castle, Killarney dates to circa 1809.[1]  Its origins are associated with the Coltsmann family, butter merchants of Northumberland stock, who established themselves in Kerry as landlords.[2]  Its construction is attributed to John Coltsmann junior Esq, the only son of John Coltsmann Esq of London and Killarney.  His achievement was described in an obituary composed…Continue Reading

Daniel O’Connell on the Protestant Church in Kerry

Past West Cove, the road carries one down to the village of Cahirdaniel. Nestling in its woods under the towering hills, and beside a stretch of golden strand where the Atlantic flings its wrecks unchecked, lies the home of O’Connell.  Derrynane!  Truly a home for a chief[1] ‘There is an old proverb,’ wrote O’Connell in…Continue Reading

War and Words: The Unfinished Castles of Kilcrohane

In the disturbed days of the reign of Elizabeth I, the sept of O’Sullivan of Caherdaniel decided to construct a castle at Ballycarnahan, their chief residence in the district.[1] O’Sullivan’s Tanist lived nearby at Liss.  The two men were compelled to go away and fight in the Elizabethan wars.   The Tanist’s wife considered herself…Continue Reading

‘Words will not Come’: A Tribute to Jeremiah Joseph O’Connor (1877-1957)

I am an old man, sitting under my apple tree.  Friends come to see me and get me to talk.  They wheedle tales of the past out of me and press me to write them down … I capitulate and desert the apple tree for the desk to write the autobiography which will put an…Continue Reading

Floorboard Find a Treasure for Padraig O’Keeffe Scholars

A letter discovered under a floorboard adds substance to the family history of Sliabh Luachra fiddle master Padraig (Patrick) O’Keeffe.  The correspondence was uncovered thirty years ago by keen-eyed Knocknagoshel native John Cotter, author of King William Brown (2014).   John, who now resides at Knockdown, Cordal and will shortly be launching the second and…Continue Reading

Tribute to the late Timothy Murphy, Castleisland

The committee of Castleisland District Heritage has been greatly saddened to learn of the death, on 7 March 2023, of Timothy Murphy, Limerick Road, Castleisland.  Timothy had a passionate interest in the local history of Castleisland, and his photographic record of the town is extensive.   Timothy was a friend of Castleisland District Heritage, and…Continue Reading

Portrait of James Edward John Julian, JP, QC, a Model Kerry Landlord

‘It is quite plain that if the other landlords were like Mr Julian the country would be better off’   A man by the name of McAuliffe made the above remark during a meeting of the Lixnaw United Irish League.  The meeting was about compulsory purchase and landlordism, and it throws light on the life…Continue Reading

St Brigid, ‘The Prophesied Woman of Christ’

She was a consecrated vessel for keeping Christ’s Body … She it is that helpeth every one who is in straits and in danger   Monday 6 February 2023 marks the first public holiday in Ireland in celebration of St Brigid, patron saint of poets and midwives.  In 1877, Whitley Stokes, scholar and descendant of…Continue Reading

A Camera for a Brush: Portrait of Adolf Morath, 20th Century Celebrity Photographer

‘A death-blow to the stage-Irish Tradition’   Adolf Morath, whose publications include Portrait of Ireland (1951) dedicated ‘to Irish Men and Women all over the world,’ was an acclaimed international photographer.[1]  He visited Ireland in 1946 and 1947, and was in Killarney in 1948 professionally to photograph Kerry life, ‘leaving out the usual pig and…Continue Reading

The Murder of Arthur Edward Herbert

Arthur Edward Herbert (1830-1882), magistrate and land agent, was shot dead in broad daylight at Lisheenbawn Cross  as he walked from Castleisland to his home at Killeentierna House near Currow on 30 March 1882.  Nobody was brought to justice for the killing.   A murder enquiry was set up and two rewards offered, one of…Continue Reading

‘To A Turf Sod’: Recent Literary Donations to Castleisland District Heritage[1]

Tulips in a Window (1965) by John P Barton[2]   Tulips in a Window, a book of verse by John P Barton, is inscribed to his mother:   I have no picture of your face Within a frame for all to see; Nor have I gifts in gold or lace To show what things you…Continue Reading

Bales and Butter: Early Creameries in Castleisland

‘You want the delicate touch of an artist for successful butter making’   Watson’s Creamery, Castleisland, once occupied a site in Old Chapel Lane.  The company was established in Tralee in 1885 though initially with some difficulty:[1]   There is a factory worked at Middleton [Midleton], County Cork, and one at Hospital, County Limerick, where…Continue Reading

Encore!  Step forward Patrick Daniel Reidy, Castleisland’s Lord of the Dance

Music, like the wind, travels – and so it is no surprise to find the repertoire of Castleisland born Patrick Daniel Reidy, Irish dancer and Professor of Dance, in the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.  The manuscript is a musical treasure, containing thirty-seven dance scores from Irish musicians who long put down their instruments.[1]  …Continue Reading

‘Kiss me, my little wife’: Parnell recalled in Knockbrack School Records[1]

In March 1887, contractors were sought by Rev T Moriarty, parish priest of Brosna, for a national school house at Knockbrack, located between Feale’s Bridge and Headley’s Bridge in Co Kerry.  Up until then, the school was conducted in a dwelling house, as shown in the records of the Tralee Board of Guardians of May…Continue Reading

The People’s Priest: Rev William Casey of Abbeyfeale

Castleisland District Heritage holds a copy of James D Harnett’s A Sketch of the Life of Rev Wm Casey, PP, of Abbeyfeale published in 1908, soon after Rev Casey’s death.[1]  The beloved Rev Casey died on 29 December 1907 aged sixty-three, and a measure of his popularity might be taken from the 12,000 people –…Continue Reading

Three Wasps and A Skylark: Return of the Nature Poets

They love each other’s company, whatever place they meet, Though captive in the glass, the three, each knew their life was sweet. – from The Three Wasps, unpublished poetry of M J Reidy   In an age dominated by technology, with so many – including toddlers and children – perched unnaturally immobile in front of…Continue Reading

American Legacy: The Last Will of Mary Frances White

“The whole parish of Cordal was related to Mary Frances White” – Pat Jo McAuliffe, Cordal native, 8 August 2022   In 1939, news of the last will of Mary Frances White caused a sensation in the Castleisland district.  More than eighty years on, the story was almost lost to posterity until a flash of…Continue Reading

The Rise and Fall of Orpen’s Fort, Killowen, Kenmare

Less than a mile outside the town of Kenmare, on the road that leads to Kilgarvan, the passer-by might glimpse the ruin of a building set low in a field close to the river.  It was built by Sir William Petty as a residence for his agent, and was known as The White House.  …Continue Reading

The Eagar Family of Kerry: A Penny’s Worth of History

Russell Walker, a postal history collector in Glasgow, recently acquired a document relating to journalist and founder of The Tralee Chronicle, James Raymond Eagar Esq of Tralee. The document, with stamped addressed envelope, related to a life insurance sought by Eagar from the Albion Life Insurance Company, London.   In this document, dated 9 November…Continue Reading

‘Why Make a Long Story of it?’  The Publisher’s Writer’s Tale

‘A pilgrim in whose heart God had set eternity’[1]   Frederick Joseph Harvey Darton was born on 22 September 1878, eldest son of Joseph William Darton (1844-1916) of ‘Lacklands,’ Beckenham, Kent.[2]  He was educated at Sutton Valence Grammar School, Kent, Dover College and St John’s College, Oxford.  While at St John’s, he joined reading parties…Continue Reading

W B Yeats and the Story of a Castleisland Curate

In 1892, a correspondent of The Academy, writing under the concealed identity, ‘A Lover of Originality,’ complained that the newly published Book of the Rhymers’ Club contained a plagiarism.  The offending composition was ‘The Ballad of Father Gilligan’ by W B Yeats:   Will you allow me to point out what appears to me a…Continue Reading

A Short Tribute to Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II

Today, 19 September 2022, the UK more or less shut down to give its monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, a Funeral of Funerals.  The occasion was remarked on as ‘a brilliant blend of ancient and modern,’ and ‘an embodiment of greatness.’     It was a spectacle most fitting for a strong and tolerant woman who…Continue Reading

Fr Michael Leahy’s Tops of the Town, Castleisland

Fr Michael Leahy was appointed curate to the parish of Castleisland by Bishop Eamonn Casey in January 1971 where he served for four years.  He set about forming the Castleisland Youth Club, and a committee to build a Community Centre in the town.   He is particularly remembered today for his role in organising the…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett, and the ‘Gallows Government’ of Lord Spencer

Shortly before the December 1882 trials of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, Earl Spencer, the newly appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, acquired another ‘title’ – The Gallows Earl.   It seems to have been ‘created’ soon after his official entry into Dublin on 6 May 1882 – evidently in the wake of the hanging, in September…Continue Reading

‘This is it, chaps’: A Kerry Tribute to Paddy Finucane

He was one of the greatest heroes to ever come out of Ireland[1]   This year (2022) marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Irish Second World War RAF hero Brendan Eamonn Fergus Finucane, DFC, DSO, otherwise ‘Paddy’ Finucane.  The Dubliner, son of Thomas Andrew and Florence Louise Finucane, shot down thirty-two enemy planes…Continue Reading

Listen Unto Me: The Trials of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, in Word and Song

Sylvester Poff and James Barrett were tried twice at the Munster Winter Assizes of 1882 for the murder of Thomas Browne of Dromultan.  At the end of the first trial, which took place on 14 and 15 December, it was shown that there was ‘not the slightest chance’ on the jury agreeing.  The following week,…Continue Reading

Kerrymen Down Under: The Cullity Diaspora

Following the publication on this website of ‘Castleisland’s Best’: Mundy Prendiville (1900-1968), Archbishop of Perth, Castleisland District Heritage was contacted by Catherine Giles, a descendant and researcher of the Prendiville family.[1]   Remarking on Archbishop Prendiville’s departure to Australia in the footsteps of his siblings, Catherine wrote:   The siblings were following Maurice Prendiville, their…Continue Reading

‘Heed Your Mother’s Counsel’: Victorian Values in a Castleisland Loft

Painting the cheeks may be appropriate enough for an Indian squaw, but no young lady possessing a well-regulated mind will fancy her attractions enhanced by the use of rouge Castleisland District Heritage is an unlikely repository for two nineteenth century issues of the London Journal, a literary periodical published from 1845 to 1928.  They were…Continue Reading

John Twiss of Castleisland: A Postscript

In May 2019, Castleisland District Heritage contacted the National Archives of Ireland in respect of material held there relating to the case of John Twiss.  At that time, application had been made for the Presidential Pardon of John Twiss.   However, due to Covid-19 and a series of unfortunate events, information about the material was…Continue Reading

Literary Kerry: Recent Donations to Castleisland District Heritage

Collected Essays of Con Houlihan   More than a game Selected sporting essays (2003), which includes the article ‘Knocknagoshel has its own Place in Racing History,’ and A Harvest New, rare and uncollected essays (2005, 2007) by Castleisland’s Con Houlihan number among recent literary donations to Castleisland District Heritage.[1]   The books contain reproductions of…Continue Reading

‘Castleisland’s Best’: Mundy Prendiville (1900-1968), Archbishop of Perth

Redmond Garrett Prendiville, otherwise Mundy Prendiville, was born on 11 September 1900[1] at Glanlarehan, Cordal, Castleisland.[2]  He was the youngest of sixteen children of Garrett Prendiville and Hannah Sullivan.[3]   He was educated at the local National School and St Brendan’s College, Killarney, subsequently at All Hallows College, Dublin from where he was expelled for…Continue Reading

Annals of Kerry BC 1695 to AD 1668

The Manor de Insula (Castleisland), 1299 Extent of the lands of Thos FitzMaurice, who died June 4 1298.  The manor is surrounded by a stone wall, and there is in it a hall constructed of pales with an earthen wall and thatched, a kitchen of planks, a chamber with a cellar built of stone and…Continue Reading

Coolcurtoga: A Story of Ireland

‘We walk on their ground’   On 29 April 1892, the Casey family of Coolcurtoga, near Glenflesk, Co Kerry were evicted.[1]  One hundred and thirty years on, the story of this family is told by Mary O’Donoghue of Coolcurtoga who lives and farms there with her husband Sean.   Mary, who is now a grandmother,…Continue Reading

Fitzgerald of Adraval and Knockrower

Adraval (spelling varies), near Scartaglin, was once a residence of the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond.  There is no local memory of the property and its precise location has not yet been ascertained.[1]   John Galvin of Adraval describes the townland as follows:   Adriville (the Central Village) is in the centre of Scartaglin Parish being…Continue Reading

The Iron Church, Darrynane and the Earls of Dunraven

Darrynane Church of Ireland, Co Kerry, was dedicated in September 1915.[1]  It was a portentous year in which to embark on a church building project, as events of the following year proved:   Archdeacon John Fahy, Protestant Rector, Waterville, applied for £10 by reason of the Protestant Church at Darrynane being maliciously injured on the…Continue Reading

Twiss leads way for Pardon for Poff and Barrett

On Thursday 16th December 2021, formal application was submitted to the Department of Justice in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, for the Presidential Pardon of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett.  As with the recent Posthumous Pardon of John Twiss, application was made to the Department by Castleisland District Heritage, formerly the Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project,…Continue Reading

Purcell’s Castle: An Earlier Chapter in the Unending Tale of the Colleen Bawn

A copy of The Colleen Bawn (2018) by Patrick T Fitzgerald has been added to the archive of Castleisland District Heritage.  It synthesises over two hundred years of research and literature relating to the mysterious and tragic tale of Ellen Hanly, better known as ‘The Colleen Bawn.’[1]   In 1819, a badly decomposed corpse bound…Continue Reading

Unholy Christmas! The Tale of the Priest and the Presbyterian

My Irish-preaching was very successful at first, but greatly opposed afterwards   In 1863, Rev Henry MacManus, the first Irish Missionary of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, published Sketches of the Irish Highlands.[1]  He discoursed on the development of spreading the gospel in the Irish tongue in pre-famine Ireland:   Preaching…Continue Reading

John Twiss: A Modern-day Hero

by Janet Murphy, Archivist, Castleisland District Heritage   Recently, while driving my car, I had the strange sense that John Twiss was seated beside me.  I could even sense the colour and texture of his clothing, and I said aloud, ‘I hope it is good news for you soon, Mr Twiss.’   Strange talk perhaps,…Continue Reading

Parknageragh: A Tale of Two Houses

Parknageragh House, Castleisland, dates to pre-Famine times.  It was built by the Thompson family.[1]  Early records show that in 1823, one Alexander Thompson Esq of Parknageragh was summoned to the jury panel.  In May 1828, Mrs Thompson, wife of Mr William Thompson, a lady ‘much esteemed,’ died at Parknageragh after ‘a lingering illness.’   On…Continue Reading

An Overview of the McMorran Collection

Castleisland District Heritage has recently acquired a selection of papers from the collection of the late historian, Russell McMorran, courtesy his brothers, Chris and Clare McMorran.  The material, which has been added to the Castleisland District Heritage archive, includes photographs, journals, Financial Reports of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (1957) and a copy of the…Continue Reading

A Tale of Two Fountains

A mid-nineteenth century altercation between two civil engineers casts an historic light on one of Castleisland’s famous landmarks.  In the Famine year of 1846, the construction of two fountains – one in Tralee and one in Castleisland – to supply a ‘sufficient and unfailing supply of water to the poorer classes of townsfolk’ was being…Continue Reading

In Praise of Presentation Convent Castleisland, 175 Years on

In October 1843, during a Repeal Banquet at the Rotunda, Daniel O’Connell spoke about ‘the growing spirit of religious observances, moral conduct, and practical piety’ that was distributing itself ‘throughout the land’:   I see it in the youthful females of Ireland, educated under the sacred care of the religious ladies who in every town…Continue Reading

Tullig House, Castleisland: ‘The Small Mansion’

Tullig, a townland a few miles outside Castleisland, was part of the extensive Herbert estate.[1] The building of Tullig House in 1750 is attributed to the landlord’s agents, the Saunders family.  In 1786, Tullig was the seat of ‘Mr Sandes.’  Thomas Saunders was in residence in 1814.[2]   The genealogy of the Tullig branch of…Continue Reading

A Note on the Seigniory of Tarbert

From Laois to Kerry (2016) is Michael Christopher Keane’s study of Patrick Crosbie’s early 17th century plan to transplant seven Septs, namely the Moores, Kellys, Dowlings, Lawlors, Dorans, Dees and McEvoys, into North Kerry:   In 1607, Patrick Crosbie persuaded the government to agree to a remarkable proposal that he be granted the 4,000 acre…Continue Reading

Happy Days: Reminiscences of a Kerryman

Happy Days My Memoirs is one of those wonderful positives to emerge from the darkness of Covid-19.  Its author, Eugene O’Keeffe, used the hours provided by lockdown to set down his life story.  The nonagenarian cast his mind back to 1926, the year of his birth, and with the help of a recording device, gave…Continue Reading

James Blennerhassett Leslie, Ecclesiastic and Historian

Rev Canon James Blennerhassett Leslie, MA, D.Litt, MRIA, died at his home, Tigh Beg, Haddington Park, Glenageary, Co Dublin on Sunday 20 April 1952.  He was in his 87th year.  Rev Canon Leslie had enjoyed a distinguished career as cleric:   He obtained his BA at the Royal University of Ireland in 1888, and his…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: Location of their Remains

On the foundation of the Irish Free State, in a letter home to Ireland from the United States, Rev George Marshall, formerly of Mountnicholas, suggested that the relatives of Poff and Barrett should seek to have the remains of ‘those two victims of Irish landlordism and British hate’ disinterred from the old jail burial ground…Continue Reading

An Historical Sketch of Co Kerry by Miss A M Rowan

The following extract was included in a short sketch of County Kerry written in 1898 and published in serialised form in a local newspaper.[1]  The sketch was the work of Miss Anne Margaret Rowan, daughter of Archdeacon (and author) Arthur Blennerhassett Rowan of Tralee.  Miss Rowan, who was born in Tralee in 1832, was also…Continue Reading

A North Kerry Boy at Heart: The Incredible Adventures of Vere Chamberlain Harvey-Brain, Master Mariner

Finally they’d have to learn that this was a form of communism – where each of us was a servant of the boat   In the summer of 1938, one year before England declared war on Germany, 27-year-old Vere Chamberlain Harvey-Brain, author of Seychelles Saga and My Seychelles Years, set out from the south east…Continue Reading

Tribute to John O’Donoghue of Carrigeen, Killarney, Barrister and Littérateur

‘He may be classed as one of the ablest writers of the period’ In 1841, during the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, John O’Donovan surveyed the parish of Killaha, Co Kerry, including the ancient church and ruined castle of The O’Donoghue of the Glen:   About half a furlong to the south of this old church…Continue Reading

Irish at Heart: On the Trail of James Reynolds, Horseman, Artist, Author, Folklorist

There can be little doubt that Castleisland’s historic First of November Horse Fair would have attracted horseman James Reynolds, whose early years were devoted to a round of hunting, race meetings and horse fairs.[1]     This much is learned from his writing, a career that commenced later in his life (in his 50s) and…Continue Reading

The Monarch and the Scribe: King Felim of Munster

A few miles outside of Castleisland, on the road to Farranfore, the passer-by will be forgiven for not recognising the place where once stood Kilfelim Church.  Nothing remains of it today; indeed, nothing remained of it when John O’Donovan enquired in 1841:   The site is pointed out in the south end of the townland…Continue Reading

A Sketch of Coolclogher House, Killarney

Castleisland District Heritage has kindly been granted access to Coolclogher House Visitor Book 1950-1961.  Coolclogher House, otherwise known as South Hill, Killarney, Co Kerry, is an eighteenth century residence built on the former Herbert Estate, and designed in the manner of Muckross House.  Its construction, according to former owner, Mr Hilliard, was in stages:  …Continue Reading

At Home in Ireland: Lt-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart

A childhood of shifting scene and a mixed nationality may be responsible for my useful knack of growing roots wherever I happen to find myself – Happy Odyssey (1950) It is always of interest to the local historian, in this case one in Castleisland, to learn about the background of famous people.  In this respect,…Continue Reading

Castleisland Theatricals from Harry Brogan’s ‘Party Pieces’

Castleisland District Heritage has acquired an original typescript monologue performed in 1957 on Harry Brogan’s radio programme, ‘My Kind of Recitation,’ sponsored by Jacob’s Biscuits.[1]  Sixty years ago, the monologues were popular entertainment and could be purchased for a shilling from Radio Éireann.     In Castleisland, the monologues were performed locally to packed halls…Continue Reading

Echoes of 1921: Holzer’s Paranormal Investigation of a North Kerry Tragedy

The Lively Ghosts of Ireland (1967) by American based parapsychologist and author, Hans Holzer (1920-2009), illustrated by his (then) wife, Catherine Geneviève Buxhoeveden, author of Growing up Haunted A Ghostly Memoir (2008), is the product of paranormal investigations in Ireland in the 1960s.[1]  It includes a number of tales from ‘the rocky Kerry Coast.’  …Continue Reading

Ballymacadam Castle: Towards a History of a Geraldine Stronghold

Elizabeth Marshall, daughter (and heiress) of Ralph Marshall Esq of Ballymacadam and Callinafercy, Co Kerry, and sister of John Markham Marshall of Kilburn House, Milltown, Co Kerry, was born in 1799.   In about the year 1819, Elizabeth was accompanying her aunt, as her guardian, to India.   During their journey, she met her future husband, Robert…Continue Reading

Hunted: Pursuit of Gerald, ‘Rebell of Mounster,’ 1581 to 1583

Formerly one of the largest landowners in the whole of Ireland, the Earl of Desmond’s territory was devastated by the English.  At length, all his castles fell into their hands[1] By 1581, the Earl of Desmond had taken to the woods for protection from the Elizabethan forces.  For a time, he maintained a considerable following,…Continue Reading

John Twiss of Castleisland, ‘Mythical Clergyman’s Son’

Castleisland District Heritage awaits the outcome of its petition to obtain the Presidential Pardon of John Twiss of Castleisland, for which application has been made to government on behalf of his descendants.   John Twiss of Castleisland, convicted in 1894 for the murder of James Donovan, was the subject of much discussion in the press…Continue Reading

Secrets of a Haunted Ireland: Brendan Griffin’s Tribute to the men of 1921

His music aired across the fields, The constant hush that never yields Came through so crisp and sharp and clear As Christmas died into the year. From The Last Christmas Castleisland District Heritage has acquired a copy of Secrets of a Haunted Winter written by Fine Gael politician, Brendan Griffin, TD.  Brendan, who served as…Continue Reading

John Twiss of Castleisland: Family Links to the ‘New World’

Castleisland District Heritage awaits the outcome of its application for the Presidential Pardon of John Twiss of Castleisland, wrongfully hanged in 1895 for a murder he did not commit.[1]  In the meantime, research into the family of John Twiss is ongoing.  Research shows that many in his extended family left Ireland for the ‘New World,’…Continue Reading

Puedes Creerlo! Campamento Memoir finds home in Castleisland

We didn’t choose which side to be on, as almost no one did in that war – Spanish Civil War Baby[1] Castleisland District Heritage is hardly the place where you would expect to find a memoir about the Spanish Civil War.  A copy of the recently published Spanish Civil War Baby, however, has been kindly…Continue Reading

Snakes and Shamarogs: St Patrick in History and Art

Castleisland District Heritage has recently acquired a set of photographs of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Cahersiveen which date to circa 1998.[1]  Among the clowns on bicycles, the village blacksmith and the parading musicians are floats promoting Iveragh Sports Complex, the Cahersiveen Celtic Music Festival and the Daniel O’Connell Walking Festival.[2]     The…Continue Reading

Scott’s Country to Tralee:  Lives of the Chestnuts

Castleisland District Heritage has recently acquired a copy of The Chestnut Tree (1976), a genealogical work about the family of Reverend William Wallace Chestnut (1818-1888) the longest serving minister of Tralee Presbyterian Church.[1]  Its author, Norah (‘Chuni’) Henderson, was granddaughter of Rev Chestnut.   Norah records how her grandmother, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stewart, was…Continue Reading

‘Go to bed, you fools!’ – A Tribute to Fr Patrick Joseph Hartigan (1878-1952)[1]

‘He is the right settler’s poet.  If he has not yet been called the Australian Kipling, he will be’ – Montrose Standard, 1922[2]   This year (2021) marks the centenary of Around the Boree Log, a collection of verse by Irish-Australian poet Fr Patrick Joseph Hartigan (1878-1952) parish priest of Narrandera, New South Wales, whose…Continue Reading

Project Main Street, Castleisland: The Island Centre

Project Main Street is a collection of digital photographs of Main Street, Castleisland and its outskirts taken by Castleisland District Heritage on 6 July 2020 as part of an initiative to document the history of the buildings that line the famous ‘street between two fields.’[1]  The project is a work in progress.   In August…Continue Reading

An overview of the ‘Castleisland District Archaeological Survey’ 1985-1995

In 1983, Castleisland & District Development Association, established in 1967, initiated a Job Creation Survey.[1]  The purpose of the survey was to identify the extent of unemployment in the region, and opportunities available for job creation.[2]  As a result of the survey, two projects presented, the Castleisland District Archaeological Survey and Job Creation and Enterprise…Continue Reading

Gayer’s Beacons: Signposts to Dingle Harbour

The Beacon Towers Rev Gayer had nearly finished are, as it were, his own tombstones[1] Long before Fungi the dolphin put Dingle Harbour on the map in the 1980s, this particular stretch of water was more renowned for its treacherous conditions and shipwrecks.       Newspapers of the time carried reports of disasters and…Continue Reading

Tears and Smiles: Killarney Memoir has Castleisland links

Big Boys Don’t Cry, a book by Ted O’Shea of Muckross, Co Kerry, has just been added to the archive of Castleisland District Heritage.[1]  The work provides information on O’Shea genealogy with interesting links to the Ahern family of Castleisland.   It traces how the author’s great grandfather, James O’Shea, went as a teenager to…Continue Reading

Castleisland: Mapped and Measured 180 Years Ago

About the year 1836, a young man named John O’Donovan was despatched by the office of the Ordnance Survey to visit in succession every county in Ireland with the object of noting and recording all existing remains of antiquity:   By the direction of the Ordnance, O’Donovan visited, we may say, every townland in Ireland,…Continue Reading

The Republican Monument, Kilbannivane, Castleisland

We publish below brief references to the thirteen men commemorated on the Kilbannivane Republican Monument, Castleisland.     Michael O Brosnacain / Michael Brosnan (1900-1920) Son of Cornelius Brosnan and Margaret (née Collins) Brosnan of Close, Castleisland.  Michael Brosnan was shot by Black and Tans on 8 November 1920.  Account of incident in Dying for…Continue Reading

Poff & Barrett: The P D Kenny Affair

On Fair Day, 8 September 1884, Earl Spencer, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and his suite passed through Castleisland during a week-long vice-regal visit to the South of Ireland.   It was a Monday, and the weather was notably fine.   The visiting party included the Lord Lieutenant’s aides-de-camp, Captains Ross and Little, his private secretary,…Continue Reading

Stinking Soup and Sausages: Life in a Kerry Seminary in the 1960s

Urinating in the priests’ milk jug in the early hours of the morning shows a certain level of bravado among the male boarders of St Andrew’s seminary, the subject of the short, succinct Sausages for Tuesday.  It also displays, however, an inordinate level of resentment.   Sausages for Tuesday, a book by Patrick Kennelly, schoolteacher…Continue Reading

The Family of James Barrett of Dromultan, Scartaglen, Co Kerry[1]

In the wake of the executions of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett in Tralee prison on 23 January 1883 following their conviction for the murder of Thomas Browne, the families of all involved were left to deal with their grief.   I never saw before such a saddening spectacle and trust I never shall again…Continue Reading

Cover-Ups and Confusion: John Twiss Brought up for Trial

I say this, the jurymen should not bring me in through the evidence of a child – John Twiss, Speech from the Dock James Donovan, an emergency-man living in Glenlara, near Newmarket, Co Cork, was bludgeoned to death in the early hours of 21st April 1894.  John Twiss of Castleisland and Eugene Keeffe of Glenlara…Continue Reading

‘Three Cheers for Castleisland’ – The Innocence of John Twiss

When John Twiss was arrested on 25 April 1894, within days of the brutal murder, at Glenlara, of caretaker James Donovan, he explained to officers that he and his sister Jane were financially dependent on the tolls of a local Kerry fair.[1]  The fair, he informed them, was imminent, and he asked if he could…Continue Reading

‘Where is Glenlara?’: John Twiss of Castleisland, from a Cork Perspective

‘The dogs in the street knew John Twiss was innocent’ As the descendants of John Twiss, and the Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project, await the outcome of the application for the Presidential Pardon of Twiss, hanged in 1895 for a crime he maintained he did not commit, a space is given here to reflect on…Continue Reading

Edward Creighton: Leader of Men, Irish-American Hero

Creighton reached Salt Lake City with 25,000 telegraph poles standing behind him   Castleisland man Peter Browne is the current owner of the Telegraph Field at Foilhomurrum, Valencia Island, Co Kerry, from where in 1866 was established the first wholly successful telegraph link across the Atlantic.[1]   The O’Donohoe Archive, Castleisland, has met with another…Continue Reading

The Twiss Family of Ballahantouragh, Co Kerry

Has justice been done? Well, a day shall come When a different judge shall try … Ballahantouragh, a townland in Kerry, lies near the village of Scartaglen, a few miles outside Castleisland.[1]  John Twiss of Cordal, Castleisland, hanged in 1895 for the murder, in 1894, of James Donovan, was descended from a branch of Twiss…Continue Reading

Game of Stones: The Earls of Desmond and ‘The Rubbage’

In the closing quarter of the seventeenth century, a series of sketches was taken from two stones found in rubble in Tralee Abbey.  They were made between the years 1684 and about 1692 by Robert Downinge, Deputy to Sir Richard Carney.[1]  The curious illustrations were captioned by Mr Downinge:[2]   The above is found on…Continue Reading

The Celtic Cross, Kilbannivane: Its Symbolism and Meaning

Erin!  Beloved motherland! May Kerry’s dead inspire Our youth today to take its stand, Alert with olden fire. For Erin and her freedom too, All round from sea to sea, May all her children still be true, Like those of Oilean Chiarraighe.[1]   Insular art is an impressive and imposing feature of the Irish landscape,…Continue Reading

Oileán Chiarraighe – Castle of the Island: The Album

Castleisland contains a parish-church, the Roman Catholic chapel, a sessions- house, a prison, several schools, two inns, a dispensary, and an old castle – Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, 1844-5[1] Castleisland’s post-classical history begins with the most significant ‘old castle’ – Castle of the Island – which gave the town of Castleisland its name.  It was…Continue Reading

The Market House, Castleisland, and its Associations

A plaque on the Market House in Castleisland is inscribed: Built 1747 / Rebuilt 1825 / Reconstructed by J K O’Connor Esq JP 1914.  The considerable history of this building is rooted in the Earl of Desmond’s lands, the confiscation and subsequent division of which was known, in feudal terms, as the Seigniory of Castleisland.[1]…Continue Reading

The Legacy of Baron de Monte Marisco, Lord of Castle Island

Kerry historian, Mary Agnes Hickson wrote a short account of Castleisland from the foundation of its castle in 1215 until ‘the present day,’ which at the time of her writing was 1872.  The town was then described as ‘one of the most prosperous and peaceful districts in the south-west of Ireland.’[1]  In less than a…Continue Reading

‘A Community on Trial’: An Overview of ‘Murder at Dromulton’

Murder at Dromulton, a study of the circumstances surrounding the tragic case of Thomas Browne of Dromultan, Co Kerry, shot dead in 1882 during agrarian unrest, and the subsequent executions of Sylvester Poff of Mountnicholas and James Barrett of Dromultan for the crime, is the work of the late Peter O’Sullivan of Dublin.[1]   O’Sullivan’s…Continue Reading

A Portrait of Castleisland Artist, Timothy ‘Mutt’ Murphy

Timothy Mutt Murphy was a popular painter, decorator and sign writer who lived with his family at 10 Castle Street, Killarney Road, Castleisland in the first half of the twentieth century.  He was also an artist, and the artworks held by his family include depictions of lake scenes, children at play on the seashore, and…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: The role of Father Scollard in their conviction

At the trial one name stood forth as a shining light and an honourable example to the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland, Rev Mr Scollard   In the aftermath of the two trials of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett for the murder of Thomas Browne of Dromultan, the Kerry Sentinel was calling on the government…Continue Reading

The Three Axeteers: Foundation of the Castleisland Moonlighters

by John Roche, Chairman of the Michael O’Donohoe Project   In his book, A Popular History of East Kerry, published in 1930, T M Donovan gave a first-hand account of the formation of the organisation known as the Castleisland Moonlighters.   Though born almost three generations apart from Donovan (he was born in the 1860s,…Continue Reading

‘Too Honest for the Shoneens’: Father Murphy, Roman Catholic Curate of Castleisland[1]

He left in each parish warm-hearted friends and a memory as green and as lasting as the shamrock of St Patrick[2]   On Sunday 11 September 1881, a meeting took place in the village of Currow under the auspices of the Castleisland Land League attended by about 7,000 people.  Among the speakers was Castleisland publican,…Continue Reading

Those Hoggies Love to Meet: The Poetry of Maurice J Reidy

There’s little need for rapid pace, Nor frowns that wrinkle up your face. Castleisland poet Maurice J Reidy, better known as Moss Tommy, is fondly remembered in the town as a great character, often found thumbing a lift along the road with a satchel hung over his shoulder or, if travelling out of town, with…Continue Reading

Mind the Little Ones: A Cillín at Inch na Leanmh, Kilquane, Cordal, Co Kerry[1]

The cillín – a burial place for unbaptised babies – is thought to have originated with church teaching of limbus (limbo).[2]  A strong belief in purgatory is suggested to have brought about the concept of a separate burial ground for young children.   The practice, according to the studies of Fr Tom Looney, Parish Priest…Continue Reading

The Pound, Castleisland: A survey of the era

The pound, an enclosure used to impound straying or seized (confiscated) animals, was once a common feature of the towns and villages of Ireland.[1]  The practice of impounding animals dates back to at least the fourteenth century.[2]   Inevitably, many streets took their name from the structure, and Pound Lanes and Pound Roads became part…Continue Reading

Ballyhennessy Sandhills: Portrait of a North Kerry Wonder Dog

It is doubtful if any other dog has received such whole-hearted cheers in the history of the track – Wimbledon, August 1937 Ballyhennessy Sandhills was born in June 1935 and reared on a farm in County Kerry with ‘a wheelbarrow in a barn for a bed and two goats for company.’[1] He was a greyhound,…Continue Reading

A Thousand Words: Castleisland’s Tribute to the ‘Special Artist’

Many of the artists of nineteenth century journalism remained anonymous, dubbed, nonchalantly, ‘special artist.’[1]  Yet without the work of those nameless artists, a spectacular gap would be left in the record of people and events which left their mark on history.   The work of the special artist helped to alleviate the challenge faced by…Continue Reading

Castleisland: The Early Roman Catholic Church

Ecce Nunc In Pulvere Dormiam / Behold now I sleep in dust – Job ch7 v21 In medieval times, there were several small churches in the Castleisland area.  In Castleisland itself, there was St Nicholas Church.  With the fall of the last Earl of Desmond in the sixteenth century, the church was confiscated and eventually…Continue Reading

Céad Míle Fáilte Penang: A 1970s Cultural Exchange

In one of his collections of essays and poetry, Rays of Cheer (1978), Castleisland’s M J Reidy – otherwise Moss Tommy – gave space to an essay by one of his supporters and admirers, educationalist and music composer, Puan Katijah Tan Guat Bee, of Penang, an island off the coast of Malaysia.   Katijah’s essay,…Continue Reading

Dicksgrove: Notes on the Families of Meredith and Coltsmann

Dicksgrove, near Castleisland, was long synonymous with the family of Meredith, landlords there since the early eighteenth century.[1]  Indeed, Richard Meredith (1739-1821), who planted, built upon, and improved the estate, is said to have named Dicksgrove after himself.[2]   Meredith’s improvements were said to have been made on the site of ‘the Bailleagh forfeiture.’[3]  This…Continue Reading

The Trial of John Twiss: Notes on Jury Packing

Resolved – That the arbitrary exclusion from the jury box of any of Her Majesty’s subjects by the agents of the Crown on the grounds of creed not only destroys all confidence in the jury selected and deprives their verdict of all moral weight, but also inflicts an insult on the entire class to which…Continue Reading

Monumental: Honouring Kerry’s Regional Poets

In the cemetery of Kilmakilloge, Tuosist, stands a handsome monument inscribed as follows:   Leac é seo a tógadh i mí Iúil, 1930, Diarmuid Ó Seaghdha (na bolgaighe) agus an Mortaí Ó Súilleabháin (Learai), beirt Filí Thuaith Ó Siosta atá curtha sa Reilig seo. “A Thighearna ghléigil soar leo comacta suin/Iosa agus Aoin-Mic eist le…Continue Reading

John Twiss: Blood of Gentlemen 

In the wake of the hanging of John Twiss on 9 February 1895, the county of Kerry was described as in ‘a frenzy of rage.’       The comment came from the president of Sinn Féin, John Joseph O’Kelly, better known as Sceilg, as he recalled a football tournament played in Killarney which he…Continue Reading

The Poff Family of County Kerry

Sylvester Poff of Mountnicholas was hanged in Tralee prison, alongside his cousin, James Barrett of Dromultan, on 23 January 1883.  They had been convicted of the murder of Thomas Browne of Dromultan.   James Barrett was unmarried.  Sylvester Poff had been married for eight years to Anne Sugrue, and was a father to Mary, Hannah,…Continue Reading

Portraits of Irish Nationalists by Sir Sydney Prior Hall

Sixty-five portraits of Irish Members of Parliament from twenty-one counties of Ireland appear in the O’Donohoe Archive.[1]  They were drawn in 1888 by artist Sydney Prior Hall during the Special Commission.[2]   Hall, like his colleague William Henry Pike (1850-1908), worked as an artist for the Graphic newspaper.     Hall’s portraits of Irish nationalists…Continue Reading

Dancing with History: Carriganedy Castle, otherwise Hyde Castle (Castle Hyde), Fermoy, Co Cork[1]

A series of dances was held in Fermoy, Co Cork, in August 1847 ‘to cheer every heart so long clouded by the distress and gloom now rapidly passing away,’ an account of which is held in the Castleisland O’Donohoe Collection.[2]   None of the dances, however, surpassed the fete champetre in the grounds of Carriganedy…Continue Reading

Countdown: Political Endeavours to Save John Twiss

The right honourable Gentleman’s reply will not be received with satisfaction – William Hoey Kearney Redmond, MP, to John Morley, Chief Secretary for Ireland   As the application for the Presidential Pardon of John Twiss of Castleisland awaits outcome, the O’Donohoe Archive here gives space, in January 2020, to the political efforts made to save…Continue Reading

A Sketch of Molahiffe Castle and the Manor of Molahiffe

A Sketch of Molahiffe Castle and the Manor of Molahiffe

In the grounds of Castle Farm (in the townland of the same name) stand the ruins of Molahiffe Castle.[1]  It was built in 1214 by the son of Maurice Fitzgerald.[2]     Nearby is the ancient site of Old Court of which Lewis, in 1837, stated that ‘no particulars are recorded.’[3]  O’Donovan added little more…Continue Reading

Fifty-two Degrees North: Calculating Castleisland’s Place in Longitude History

Longitude: the angular distance of a place east or west of the Greenwich meridian, or west of the standard meridian of a celestial object, usually expressed in degrees and minutes   Those who avoid the subject of maths might find the above definition of longitude explanation enough when it comes to global measurement.  Those who…Continue Reading

Foilhomurrum: Its Position in History

Foilhamurum is such a stumbling block in its etymological arrangement that it may be better adopt some other name like Valencia Cable Creek – Tralee Chronicle, 17 July 1866 Foilhomurrum Bay was catapulted onto the world stage in 1866 when it became the site of the first successful telegraph cable link with Newfoundland in Canada.…Continue Reading

Glory to God: Castleisland’s Link to the Atlantic Telegraph

On the nerve of this telegraph wire Be – Nothing of science, or profit and loss; But, flashing electrical deeper and higher, World, let the first heart-stirring message across – Be ‘Glory to God in the Highest!’ From The First Message for the Atlantic Telegraph Written at Albury, Guildford, 27 July 1857 by Martin Farquhar…Continue Reading

Remarks on the Literature of T M Donovan, Castleisland

T M Donovan, Castleisland’s prolific author of the early twentieth century, published his first book, A Popular History of East Kerry in 1931.  The Two Mothers appeared in 1933.[1]   In the intervening year, God’s Glorious Universe was published.  It first appeared as a series of articles in the Kerryman from about March to May…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: Global Search for Justice

Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, hanged on 23 January 1883 for the murder of Thomas Browne of Dromultan, Co Kerry, rest not.  Their Dying Declarations of innocence speak to us still, and from new documents acquired by the O’Donohoe Collection, it is shown that their protestations of innocence were uttered to their very last breaths.…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The arrest of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett is not regarded by the public as being of any importance and it is looked upon as being in the ordinary course of matters[1] Thomas Browne was murdered at Dromultan, Co Kerry on 3 October 1882.  As far as can be ascertained, the murder took place at…Continue Reading

Poff’s Farm: Recollections of Michael Marshall, formerly of Mountnicholas

Sylvester Poff, who with James Barrett was hanged on 23 January 1883 for the murder of Thomas Browne, was evicted from his farm at Mountnicholas, Co Kerry, in 1881.  The dwelling house was demolished at the time of the eviction but the foundations remained.   About twenty years later, the farm was sold by the…Continue Reading

John Twiss of Castleisland: A ‘Pure Brave Soul’

John Twiss of Cordal, Castleisland, was arrested in April 1894 for the murder of James Donovan at Glenlara, Co Cork, and the police subsequently sought evidence against him.  This circumstance was remarked on by Jeremy Dein and Sasha Wass, the barristers who recently investigated the case for the documentary, Murder Mystery and My Family.  …Continue Reading

Death before Dishonour: John Twiss’s Speech from the Dock

I did not think that there was a juryman ever put a coat on his back would find me guilty A reporter of the trial of John Twiss in 1895 made the following assessment of him from his speech from the dock:   He was an ignorant man in the sense that he got no…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: Last Words

The most remarkable fact in connection with the case is that both the men, though in separate cells, without any communication with each other, protested all through, and above all, at the last supreme moment, their absolute innocence. Derry Journal, 26 January 1883 In 1919, it was remarked that ‘Tralee Gaol contains the calcined remains…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: Caught in the Crossfire

Murder never goes unavenged, the blood of the murdered cries to Heaven for vengeance – George Raymond, BL, for Mrs Browne About one week before William Marwood, the executioner, arrived in Tralee to begin erecting the gallows on which Sylvester Poff and James Barrett would die, two appeals were submitted to the Lord Lieutenant of…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: The Truth Will Out

And lo! As he spoke, there beside him, some shadowy beings appeared, And his heart’s blood grew cold as he saw them, though he scarce would confess what he feared. Then summoning courage, ‘Who are ye?’ he asked, in a quivering voice, And sternly one shadow made answer, ‘Behold me, your victim, Myles Joyce, Hither…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: The Case against John Dunleavy

‘The smallest thing in the world would hang us’ – Sylvester Poff to James Barrett Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, hanged on 23 January 1883 for the murder of Thomas Browne on 3 October 1882, maintained their innocence to the end, and declared that they did not know who murdered Browne.   They did, however,…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: The Testimony of Bridget Brosnan

‘The case should stand or fall on the evidence of Bridget Brosnan’1 On the day after Sylvester Poff and James Barrett were hanged in Tralee prison for the murder of Thomas Browne, a reporter remarked that it was ‘a matter for note’ that Mrs Brosnan, one of the chief witnesses at the trial, swore at…Continue Reading

Poff and Barrett: Final Hours

‘A universal belief in the innocence of the prisoners prevails in this county’ On Tuesday 23 January 1883, the day of the execution of Sylvester Poff and James Barrett, the shops in Castleisland remained closed all day, as a mark of sympathy with the condemned men.  The situation was the same in Tralee, the town…Continue Reading

The Bard, the Folklorist and Peig Sayers

Wandering bard, Eoghan Roe Ward, left a touching snapshot of Peig Sayers in her twilight years when he visited her in her home in Vicarstown, Dunquin, in 1944.  Peig was, he said, one of the hidden souls of Ireland seldom shown to the stranger and recalled how her voice settled in the depths of his…Continue Reading

Remember Poff and Barrett

Mountnicholas – the former homeland of Sylvester Poff – and its surrounding townlands suffered their share of eviction, violence and grief during the land struggles of the 1880s.  The rents on the farms made vacant were ‘in every case double the government valuation, in many instances nearly treble.’1   On 3 April 1881, Sylvester Poff’s…Continue Reading

The Two Mothers: A Portrait of Castleisland in the 1930s

The Two Mothers by Castleisland author, T M Donovan, was published in 1933.  The book, described as ‘a realistic story of rural life in Ireland, of typical Irish homes and families, of honest work and earnest striving,’ is rare.     The story is set in ‘Inishciar’ (Castleisland) in the period before and during the…Continue Reading

John Twiss and his Legal Representatives

It was at the Cork assizes my enemies all swore That I shot James Donovan and laid him in his gore. The Jury found me guilty, the judge to me did say: On the ninth of February, ninety-five, will be your dying day. From the song, ‘The Trial of John Twiss’1   The voice of…Continue Reading

John B Keane and the Importance of Home

The Kerryman   In Tanganyika, yes, my boy, that’s very far away, But wait you lad that’s nothing, for I haven’t had my say, In Singapore, Sumatra, or where would you like to go You’ll find them tough and rugged and they’ll never say you no. These Kerrymen are hearty men and handy men, and…Continue Reading

Kilmurry Castle, Castleisland: In Search of its History

For more than 800 years, Kilmurry Castle has stood with its face to the elements.  The magnificent ruin finds its roots in regal history, purportedly built in about 1200 by Meiler Fitzhenry, Justiciar of Ireland, after he was granted the northern part of the county of Kerry by King John.[1]   Meiler (or Miles /…Continue Reading

A Note on The Hickson Estate, Castleisland, Co Kerry

The Hickson Estate, an area referred to as tClucan (anglicised Tullighan) by T M Donovan in his Popular History of East Kerry, was the property of George A E Hickson of Woodville House, Ballyegan, Co Kerry.  It was sold in 1906:   Sale of a Trinity College Estate.  The sale of the Hickson estate, situate…Continue Reading

Some Historic Houses of the Castleisland District

The following list of historic houses and castles was compiled by the late Michael O’Donohoe.  The handwritten originals can be viewed on this webpage:   Ahane Farm, Ballymacelligott Associated Names: McEllistrim Condition: Inhabited Notes: McEllistrims in Ahane at least 200 years.  Ahane Farm burned 1916 and later restored.  Old Tommy Mac on run for…Continue Reading

The Quinlans of Kilcow and Farran, Castleisland

The following account of the Quinlans of Kilcow and Farran is given by Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Project Chairman, John Roche, author of Born for Hardship:   Three Quinlan brothers were among the first group arrested within days of the Coercion Bill becoming law in the House of Commons in 1881.  The eldest, William, was taken…Continue Reading

The Siege of Castleisland

In Castleisland today, there is little to remind of the magnificent thirteenth century Castle of the Island.   A siege of this castle during the times of Maurice, First Earl of Desmond, took place in the 16th year of his earldom.   Maurice Fitzthomas Fitzgerald, son of Thomas – ‘The Ape’ – Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, was created…Continue Reading

The Kilfallinga Outrage

In January 1885, a correspondent of the Kerry Sentinel brought to the attention of the public the actions of the RIC in Kilfallinga, near Currans.  A public meeting had been called for the purpose of establishing a branch of the Irish National League.  However, on the evening before the proposed meeting, the Lord Lieutenant proclaimed…Continue Reading

Killeentierna Glebe – A Nineteenth Century Lawsuit

Rev Thomas Herbert against William Meredith Esq Kerry Assizes 19 & 20 July 1836. This was an action for trespass, quare clausum fregit.  The defendant pleaded the general issue as to part of the trespass and liberum tenementum.   The circumstances of the case are as follows:   Upwards of 80 years ago [ie c1756]…Continue Reading

County Kerry’s Contribution to Lexicography

As a school principal and a local history researcher, Michael O’Donohoe made good use of the dictionary.  Indeed, the collection includes a copy of his own 1977 edition of Foclóir, on the cover page of which is proudly written, Micheál S O Donnchadha.1   Michael’s research papers reveal that he made frequent reference to Rev…Continue Reading

Charles Patrick O’Conor: The Irish Peasant Poet

A curious poem entitled ‘God Save The Queen’ by ‘The Irish Peasant Poet’ appears among the O’Donohoe papers.1  It was published in 1886 and inscribed to William John Evelyn, MP for Deptford, London:   Here’s the Queen, boys, God bless her! Ah!  Long may she reign O’er hearts that for England Must conquer again! Aye…Continue Reading

Bob Finn: Captain of the Castleisland Moonlighters

Every fool can be a patriot … every blackguard can sing a national hymn and wave a flag.  But it takes a man to live a life of devotion and sacrifice for his country.1 Robert – ‘Bob’ – Finn was born in Castlegregory in 1860, son of William Finn and Sara Casey.  The family moved…Continue Reading

Thomas Moore: A Discourse on his Paternal Ancestry

Kerry historian Jeremiah King described how, after the subjugation of Leix by the English, Sir Arthur Chichester transplanted some of the O’Moore family into Kerry in 1608, ‘lest the White Moors should be extirpated.’1    In the following century in the county Kerry, one John Moore was born, father of Thomas, Ireland’s nineteenth century bard.…Continue Reading

The Lost Castles of the McElligotts

In earlier times, the McElligotts held an impressive number of castles in the parish which takes their family name:   Bally Mac Elligot distant to the east from Tralee about three miles, has in it the ruins of some considerable castles but it is chiefly remarkable for its name, which it takes from the Mac…Continue Reading

A tribute to Robert Adolphus Lynch, Collector of Kerry Folklore

In September 1840, the Castleisland correspondent of a newspaper recorded the accidental death in Canada, by a fall from his horse, of Lieutenant Robert Adolphus Lynch:   His premature death, for he was yet unvisited with the hoar of age, will be a source of great and lasting regret to the circle of friends whom…Continue Reading

Castleisland: Last Resting Place of Matchmaker, Dan Paddy Andy

In the days before Tinder or, legendary matchmaker Dan Paddy Andy of Renagown had perfected the job of bringing people together in rural areas.  The late and great Listowel writer, John B Keane, whose book, Man of the Triple Name is a tribute to Dan Paddy Andy, suggested that Dan did more for his…Continue Reading

Manufactured in Kerry: From Handbags to Fluid Flow Gauges

Castleisland, with its array of clothes shops, has long been dubbed the fashion capital of Kerry.  And so it is appropriate that the O’Donohoe Collection, Castleisland, contains a selection of images of ‘Nish Ireland’ handbags, a leather goods designer label manufactured at one time in Kerry.1 It was also in Castleisland that the company was…Continue Reading

Stop Press: Michael O’Donohoe and the Kerry Newspapers

Michael O’Donohoe made great use of the local Kerry newspapers in his historical researches of Castleisland, most notably Tim Harrington’s Kerry Sentinel, printed in Tralee.   In 1902, twelve newspapers were published every week in Tralee. These included the Kerry Weekly Reporter, founded in 1882 as an advertising medium for merchants and traders, the Kerry…Continue Reading

Charles Bianconi and the Yorkshire Calendar

Entrepreneur Charles Bianconi, founder of a public transport system in Ireland, leased land in Main Street, Castleisland in the nineteenth century.  The late Michael O’Donohoe researched Bianconi’s link to the town, as can be read on another page on this website.   Recently, the O’Donohoe archive was contacted by a lady from Wexford who had…Continue Reading

On the trail of Thomas Hastings, artist, in Co Kerry

Artist Thomas Hastings (1778-1854) left a trail of early nineteenth century art in his wake as Collector of Customs for the British government 1819 -1853.    Before this, Hastings had trained as a surveyor in the army and served in India under his birth name, Thomas Barnett, rising to a captaincy by purchase before he…Continue Reading

The Battle of Lixnaw

In the ‘Castle of the Island’ in the year 1422, an indenture was drawn up between James, Earl of Desmond, and Fitzmaurice, Lord of Kerry and Lixnaw.  The document, witnessed and sealed by the Bishop of Ardfert, reveals how two powerful families engaged in a treaty for peace.   Indenture of Agreement between the Earl…Continue Reading

Last of the Earls of Desmond

With tract oblique, as one who seeks Access, but fears, side-long he Works his way – As when a ship, by skilful steersman wrought, Nigh river’s mouth or foreland, where the wind Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail: So varies he. – Compitum, book 4, p161 During the memorable and unhappy…Continue Reading

Rosario and Roche: A Credible Union

A curious, handwritten document in the O’Donohoe Collection states:   Around 1668, King Afonso of Portugal wrote to Charles II of England with a recommendation for John Roche, formerly assistant to Rosario O’Daly, to be given a post in the Queen’s Bedchamber.1         Rosario O’Daly, otherwise Daniel O’Daly, whose life has recently…Continue Reading

Castleisland and the patriotic Sullivan Brothers of Bantry

  “In his day he did something for Ireland.” – from My Ambition, A Young Man’s Song by T D Sullivan   On the morning of Friday 3rd April 1914, the remains of the great Irish patriot, Timothy Daniel Sullivan, were interred in Glasnevin Cemetery.1   Among the many expressions of sympathy, one described ‘T…Continue Reading

Mary Agnes Hickson and the Earls of Desmond

Nineteenth century Kerrywoman, Mary Agnes Hickson (1825-1899), is perhaps best known for her Selections from Old Kerry Records which she compiled from historical manuscripts inherited from her father.1   The volumes served to establish her reputation as a genealogist and historian.  This was underlined in the first volume of her subsequent work, Ireland in the…Continue Reading

The Earls of Desmond – A Headcount

  Depending on authority consulted, the numbering of the Earls of Desmond (first creation) and the dates of demise can differ.  The use of patronym adds to the confusion.  The earls may number 15, 16 or 17.  The illustration below shows the ranking according to the research of Michael O’Donohoe.1     The Earl of…Continue Reading

John Twiss and the Campaign to reprieve him

Twiss says that time will prove his innocence and he forgives those who swore falsely against him. Telegram from Patrick H Meade, the Mayor of Cork, to the press1   An interesting document has recently been added to the Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project.2  It is a nineteenth century letter handwritten in ink sent from…Continue Reading

Apes, Geese and other Enchantments: The Earls of Desmond in Legend

The Earl of Desmond and his kin hath of lands under him 120 miles, 400 horse, 8 bat of Gall, 1 bat of crossbow men and gunners, 3,000 kern.  His country is long and so environed, and hateth the Kinge’s lawes, so as they give none aid – Dean of Lichfield1   The Dean of…Continue Reading

Divane’s Calendar – An Inspired Collaboration

In the Michael O’Donohoe research papers, many references are made to Divane’s Calendar, a series of historical calendars produced by S Divane & Sons Ltd, Castleisland from 1994 to 2012.1   The first of the limited edition illustrated calendars was created to mark the company’s 40th anniversary in business.2  Its reception led to further productions,…Continue Reading

Peig: In Search of her Castleisland Roots

A Brosnan Gathering is the title of a book produced in 2013.1  It contains an interesting article about Blasket Island writer, Peig Sayers, whose mother was Margaret (Peig) Brosnan.2   It is generally accepted that Margaret Brosnan was from Castleisland.  Tom Brosnan, author of The Brosnan Gathering, remarked that, despite Peig’s international literary fame, little…Continue Reading

Murder Without Motive: the case of Sylvester Poff of Mountnicholas and James Barrett of Dromultan

Mountnicholas is a small Kerry townland near Gortatlea.1  In the 1850s, William Murphy Poff was in residence there with his wife Mary, daughter of James Barrett.2  Many of their children, including Johanna, James, Francis (Frank), Ann and Kate, emigrated to New Zealand between 1870 and 1880 under a scheme of free passage offered by the…Continue Reading

From Waterspouts to Moving Bogs: the weather in Kerry

Adverse or favourable, discussion about the elements is part of our daily lives.  Our literature abounds with tales about weather-related events and their effect on people and the environment.   In times gone by, before the improvement of roads and bridges, people in everyday situations were often caught out by freak weather conditions.  In Castleisland,…Continue Reading

Keeping up with the times: Carnegie Library and Hall, Castleisland

Castleisland’s cherished Carnegie Library reopened its doors in September 2017 as a modern, revamped, co-working office space.1     The building had been idle since the courthouse closed its doors in 2011, exactly one hundred years since Mr William Hugh O’Connor had thanked Mr Andrew Carnegie for his generosity in handing over £1,500 for the…Continue Reading

Maps of Kerry through the Ages

You do not have to be a cartographer to enjoy the fascinating compilation of maps of Kerry, dating from the 1500s to the present, held in the Castleisland Collection.1         It contains almost one hundred maps which illustrate not alone the geography of Kerry but the peculiarities of spelling and the artistry…Continue Reading

Two Neglected North Kerry Poets

Jeremiah Finaghty – A Kerry Diamond   Kerry, my rugged native home, God seems to love you best; His smile lights up your valleys green And your hills with towering crest – Your glens and emerald bosom fair with His choicest gifts are blest.   – ‘Beauty’, in praise of a lecture, ‘Every Man His…Continue Reading

The Fitzgerald Castles of Cordal

In the 1930s, a contributor to the Schools’ Collection described the three castles in Cordal:   There is one in Ard na gCreach, one in Kilmurry and one in Ballyplymoth.  They were built by the Fitzgeralds, a great Geraldine family. At first four brothers of them lived together in the castle at Ard na gCreach. …Continue Reading

Royal Sliabh Luachra – Land of Kings

In ages past, the district of Sliabh Luachra in Co Kerry was the land of kings, and Teamhair Earann was the royal residence of the race of Earna.1  The site of the royal fort may have been near Ballahantouragh, Castleisland.2  The fort was destroyed by knights of the Red Branch almost two thousand years ago.3…Continue Reading

Fitzgerald of Adraval

David Fitzgerald of Adraval died in 1818 and was interred in the family vault at Kilnananima, near Cordal, Castleisland where tradition holds that Gerald, the Earl of Desmond, was laid to rest almost two hundred and fifty years earlier.   A slab there is inscribed, THE BURIAL PLACE OF DAVID FITZGERALD OF ADRIVAL/ERECTED BY HIS…Continue Reading

Castleisland Church and People by Fr Kieran O’Shea

Michael O’Donohoe made a study of Castleisland Church and People, a book (now rare) written by Fr Kieran O’Shea in 1981 (reprinted 1982).  Michael’s study resulted in a handwritten index to the work, transcribed below, of great use to those conducting research into the town of Castleisland and vicinity.     The book also contains…Continue Reading

Daniel O’Connell The Liberator in Castleisland

If a re-enactment of Daniel O’Connell passing through Castleisland on his way home to Darrynane Abbey was staged, thousands of extras would be sought, such was the size of the crowd that turned out to greet him in December 1843 when he stopped at the town’s Brandon Arms Hotel.1   As early as 12 o’clock…Continue Reading

Herbert family and the Seigniory of Castleisland

An inscription on an early eighteenth century map of the Seigniory of Castleisland records its association with the Herbert family:1   A MAP of the SEIGNORY of CASTLE ISLAND, MANOR OF MOUNT EAGLE LOYAL, in the County of KERRY IRELAND The Estate of the Honourable Henry Art. Herbert Esqr of Oakley Park IN ENGLAND Survey’d…Continue Reading

Castleisland Glebe House – A Brief History

In 1866, John Florence Purdon Macarthy recalled that Castleisland’s Market House was once the home of Rev Crosbie, who long resided in apartments there until he removed to the Glebe House at Kilbannivane, Castleisland.1   Rev William Crosbie, otherwise Lord Brandon, served the parish of Castleisland from 1796-1832 during which time – 1818 – the…Continue Reading

Nineteenth Century Castleisland – the Heart of the Collection

Michael O’Donohoe’s detailed study of Timothy Charles Harrington’s nineteenth century newspaper, the Kerry Sentinel, might be described as the heart of the O’Donohoe Collection.1     It is, essentially, an A-Z of Castleisland-related people and subjects in the nineteenth century.2   The subjects, which run over many hundreds of pages, are varied and numerous.  By…Continue Reading

Development of Roads in the Castleisland district

Eighteenth and nineteenth century maps in the collection help to illustrate the development of the roads and town of Castleisland and district during the period 1729 to 1822.1     The maps were drawn by Hogan in 17292, George Taylor and Andrew Skinner in 17773 Alexander Nimmo in 18124 and by ‘unknown’ in 1822.5  …Continue Reading

Military Record of Castleisland

It was inevitable that Michael O’Donohoe, son of Castleisland Garda, Matt, and a former resident of Barrack Lane, should take an interest in the military history of the town.   The collection holds material on the general development of law and order in the Castleisland district including notes on the barracks, bridewell and courthouse and…Continue Reading

Michael O’Donohoe Collection: Accessions

During the process of cataloguing the Michael O’Donohoe Collection, additional material was acquired by donation and purchase.1  This material, which included books, documents and photographs, was catalogued separately.     Among those who contributed were Breda Brooks (sister of the late Michael O’Donohoe); Johnnie Roche, Tomo Burke and John Reidy (committee); Jan Wesley, Peggy Reidy, Dave Geaney,…Continue Reading

Rates Records of Castleisland

Data from rates and census records of 1853, 1885, 1897 and 1911 collated into useful booklet form is held in this series of the Castleisland Collection.   The result is a magnified glimpse of town and inhabitant in the second half of the nineteenth century.     IE MOD-59-59.1 Thirteen page record of names (Ahern…Continue Reading

Landlordism in Castleisland

‘Forfeitures of Kerry lands have been taking place since 1200’, observed Jeremiah King in his History of Kerry, describing the occurrences as ‘systems of robbery’.1     Within the ‘systems of robbery’, King identified the period of landlordism as 1710 to 1921.   Michael O’Donohoe took a particular interest in this period.  The collection contains…Continue Reading

Michael Collins and the apple woman

Politician Michael Collins and the Civil War period find place in the O’Donohoe Collection.1     About one week before Michael Collins was shot, he won the blessings of an old apple woman.  It occurred on 14 August 1922, just two days after the death of President Arthur Griffith, when ‘the responsibilities of controlling a…Continue Reading

County Kerry Elections past and present

Michael O’Donohoe’s interest in psephology and political history is borne out in the quantity of collection material relating to elections and electors in the nineteenth century and in modern times.   Indeed, in 1982, Tom McEllistrim, Minister for State at the Department of Finance, wrote to Michael, ‘You mentioned that you were interested in the…Continue Reading

James Fitzmaurice, Bishop of Ardfert

A mid-nineteenth century discussion about the Reformation, the marriage of priests and the interregnum of Roman Catholic bishops of Kerry, revealed – indirectly – the genealogy of the Geraldines of Clanmaurice:1     John Florence Purdon Macarthy, who initiated the discussion, quoted from the fifth century doctrine of Saint Patrick:2     Any cleric, from…Continue Reading

Reverend Devereux Spratt of Castleisland

Reverend Devereux Spratt ministered in Castleisland in the seventeenth century.1  He was born on 1 May 1620 in Stratton-upon-the-Vosse in Somerset. His father was Rev Thomas Spratt and his mother, Elizabeth, was daughter of Rev Robert Cooke, rector of the ‘Island of Kerry’ (Castleisland).2   Devereux’s father died in 1634 following which Devereux accompanied his…Continue Reading

Nineteenth Century Education in Castleisland

The subject of education naturally drew the attention of former principal, Michael O’Donohoe, who studied the role of the Kildare Place Society in the teaching of the young:   On 2 December 1811 The Kildare Place Society was founded in Dublin to promote the education of the poor of Ireland.  From 1815 onwards they received…Continue Reading

Kerry Elections

The Castleisland Collection holds material pertaining to two nineteenth century elections in the county – the Kerry Election of 1835 and the Kerry ‘Home Rule’ By-Election of 1872.1   Michael O’Donohoe observed how in those years, ‘everybody had to go to Tralee to vote’.     In 1835, Daniel O’Connell urged that:   Deputations be…Continue Reading

Animal Sports in Castleisland

Castleisland has a great tradition in animal sports.  As far back as 1747, Castle-islanders got behind a five day horse-racing event for prizes of up to a ‘purse of 30 shillings’.   Day two of the event was to be run by ‘real hunters’ who had been at the death of two brace of foxes…Continue Reading

Houses of Castleisland

Michael O’Donohoe studied the historic houses of the Castleisland area.  One source of reference was Historical Genealogical Architectural notes of some Houses of Kerry (1994), the work of the late Valerie Bary.   Michael created, in essence, a Houses of Castleisland.  Michael’s study caused him to take up correspondence with New Zealand born Valerie Bary…Continue Reading

Castleisland House League

Gentlemen, what will I do when the bailiff will come and take my little pig? … Thade, we’ll dress her in green ribbons and carry her home to you upon our shoulders1   The suggestion of a House League was made during a meeting of the Land League in Dublin in 1880, presided by Michael…Continue Reading

Ivy Leaf Theatre, Castleisland

The Castleisland collection includes a selection of newspapers, local and national, retained by Michael O’Donohoe for their relevance to the subjects of his research.   A local publication, Castleisland News, relates to the town’s Ivy Leaf Theatre and Arts Centre.1   The theatre, which finds home in a refurbished Church of Ireland, has been host…Continue Reading

Dromultan or Fagan Estate, Castleisland

There is an anti-Irish feeling so predominant among the English members [of parliament] as to render them totally unfit to legislate for Ireland – Daniel O’Connell to William Trant Fagan, 26 October 1833   Michael O’Donohoe’s innocuous note on Dromultan Estate opens up volumes in Irish history.     The name associates with Thomas Browne,…Continue Reading

Hotels in and about Castleisland

Michael O’Donohoe plotted the development of hotels in the town of Castleisland from the late eighteenth century.   Among the earliest inns documented are Bailey’s Hotel and Meredith’s Hotel. Others named include Brandon Arms Hotel, Chute Arms Hotel, Castle View Hotel (or Scannell’s/Hartnett’s Hotel), Coffey’s Commercial Hotel, Brosnan’s Temperance Hotel, Fitzgerald’s Imperial Hotel, McCrehan’s Star…Continue Reading

Castleisland and the Herbert family

Michael O’Donohoe created a useful reference to names and places of local interest found in the 1963 edition of Herbert Correspondence (edited by W J Smith).1  Smith’s introduction to the Correspondence explains its relevance to the Castleisland collection:   The letters printed in this volume constitute all the sixteenth and the greater part of the seventeenth…Continue Reading

Sir Richard Griffith in Castleisland

In the year 1822, the town of Castle Island, in the county of Kerry … bore the most unequivocal signs of poverty in its inhabitants … the street presented a mass of uneven rock, resembling a quarry rather than a road – Richard Griffith, Civil Engineer1   It is clear from material in the collection…Continue Reading

Redmond Roche’s Map

A series of farm maps of the Castleisland area complement the collection.  An accompanying note describes the nineteenth century ordnance survey maps as ‘Redmond Roche’s Map’.     The maps, numbered one to six, include names, evidently land or lease holders, handwritten onto the map.1   The maps are undated.  However, the Glebe House of…Continue Reading

GAA in Castleisland

Energetic efforts are now being made to reorganise the erstwhile famous Castleisland Desmond Football Club … some few years ago it was a household word in almost every district in Kerry – Kerry Weekly Reporter, 9 May 1903   An essay following the history of the GAA in the Castleisland district from 1878 to 1892…Continue Reading

Castleisland Fever Hospital & Dispensaries

A fever hospital operated in Castleisland during the Famine.  At a meeting of the Tralee Union in December 1847, Captain Fairfield of Mount Eagle raised concerns about its management.1   Research material in the collection relates to the fever hospital at a later period, 1878 (in which year a temporary hospital was erected) to 1894,…Continue Reading