Newmarket (Co. Cork / Northwest)
Newmarket (Áth Trasna – “The Crossing at the Ford” / “The Oblique Ford”) (pop. 1600) is an attractive market town at the confluence of the Dalua and the Awekeal Rivers, in a glen surrounded by summits of the Slieve Luachra foothills in the Duhallow district. Much of the countryside nearby is exceptionally wild and bleak. The town has several good pubs.
Newmarket was known in medieval times as Anathcrothan, and later as Kilmacroghan (”The Church of the Swamp”), but renamed in 1620 when a charter for a weekly market and two annual fairs was granted to local landlord Richard Aldworth, whose family dominated the district for almost 300 years.
Sir Richard Aldworth (1694 – 1776), Member of Parliament for Lismore and High Sheriff of County Cork, married the only Irish female Freemason, Elizabeth St. Leger, daughter of Arthur St. Leger, 1st Viscount Doneraile, in 1713.
Aldworth Court, aka Newmarket House, was designed in 1725 by Isaac Rothery, the architect responsible for Doneraile Court. (Photo – www.duhallow.com)
The last member of the family to live in the Court was Major John Charles Oliver, described as “a kind man, and respected by the local people“, who died in 1927 in England.
The mansion was used as a barracks between 1922 and 1923, and sold in 1927 to an Australian order of nuns, who remained until 1973.
Surrounded by 30 acres of grounds, the building is now home to the James O’Keeffe Memorial Institute, devoted to regional development, comprising the Duhallow IRD (Integrated Resource Development) facility housing a Teagasc Training Centre as well as small enterprise units, a food production incubator, offices, seminar rooms, a Meeting Hall, a small Agricultural Museum and the Duhallow Heritage Centre.
The Priory Wood is named for The Priory, family home of barrister, politician, judge, orator, wit and socialite John Philpot Curran (1750 – 1817), author of the sayings “Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty!” and “Evil prospers when good men do nothing“. In his time the house was “the favourite resort of many distinguished literary and political characters, who used to meet under the auspices of Lord Avonmore, also a native of this place; they held their meetings annually in the grouse-shooting season, and from their conviviality obtained the appellation of ‘Monks of the Screw’.”
His youngest daughter, Sarah Curran (1782 – 1808), who he treated very harshly when he discovered she was secretly engaged to rebel Robert Emmet, is buried in the family vault in the local Church of Ireland graveyard “far from the land where her young hero sleeps” (a sentimental lyric penned by Thomas Moore after she had married an army officer and moved to Sicily, where she died of tubercolosis).
Major Swan, who arrested Lord Edward Fitzgerald in 1798, was also a native of Newmarket.
Clonfert cemetery contains many interesting tombs and gravestones, identical surnames over more than 200 years indicating generations of historical continuity.
St Mary’s Church (RC) was built in 1834 on a site given by yet another Richard Aldworth, who also donated £75 towards the building.
The Island Wood is a secluded riverside area just south of the town, ideal for peaceful strolls.
Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland Vol II (1837) records that “At Scarteen, a village, a little to the north of the town, about 1000 of the peasantry assembled in 1822, anticipating the evacuation of the town by the military, but were repulsed by Capt. Kippock and Lieut. Green, who, leaving 10 men to defend the barracks, marched with 30 to attack the assailants, whom they dispersed with the loss of about 20 that were killed in the conflict. The gentry of the surrounding district, upon this occasion, presented to each of those officers a handsome piece of plate, as a testimony to their intrepidity and an acknowledgment of their services.”
Boherbue & Kiskeam (Co.Cork / Northwest)
Boherbue and Kiskeam are attractive neighbouring villages in the heart of the Duhallow district. Both have good pubs where the strong local musical tradition thrives.
Boherbue / Boherboy / Bóthar Bui (“Yellow Road”) sprang into existence during the C19th constuction of the new Cork – Kerry road from which it derives its name.
Boherbue Fair, a ballad by Jerry Long, can be viewed here.
Kiskeam / Kishkeam on the Owenariglen / Ariglen River derives its name from Coisceam na Caillighe – “the Footprint of the Old Hag”. There are various stories; according to the most popular one, a witch pursued by the legendary Fianna leapt to safety from a cliff across the river, leaving her mark where she jumped. Another version involves a nun.
Kisceam has an attractive Millenium Park with some interesting monuments / memorials.
Dromscarra Woods was the hideout of a dispossessed local farmer called Daniel O’Keeffe who as Donal a’ Casca became a famous early C18th outlaw.
Ballydesmond & Knocknagree (Co Cork / Northwest)
Ballydesmond (Baile Deasumhan) (pop. 900) is a prosperous community, located on the border between Co. Cork and Co. Kerry.
Ballydesmond Main St.
The village was founded in 1832 as a resting place for passing traders travelling to and from Cork City, and was called Kingwilliamstown until 1933. It was officially renamed in honour of the aristocratic rebel Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, who died in the neighbouring Sliabh Luachra / Mullaghareik Mountains while on the run from Queen Elizabeth I‘s troops.
The place where he hid was Menganine, the source of the Blackwater River. The local townland is called Reidhlan an Iarla – “The Plain of the Earl”.
During the War of Independence, the local IRA flying Column ambushed seven RIC men at Tureengarriff / Toureengarriv on 28th January 1921, resulting in the deaths of two policemen. The next day the Black & Tans burned several houses in Ballydesmond and killed a 14-year-old boy.
Knocknagree (Irish spelling disputed, and possible translations vary – ”Hill of the hare / the horses / the horse stud”) is on the southern perimeter of the Sliabh Luachra region. Before the advent of the modern cattle-mart in the 1970s the village green was the venue of one of the largest monthly cattle fairs in Munster. Of its 50 households, more than 40 had liquor licenses. About 6 were regular pubs that kept normal hours, but on fair days they all the “bars” opened for business. Of those still operating, Dan Batty’s is probably the most welcoming.
Fair Day at Knocknagree, a poem by Francis Duggan, can be read here.
Knocknagree is scenically connected via Ballydaly with Millstreet on ByRoute 4.