A Map of the County of Cork, Part 2

In Part 1, I said that We don’t know who did this one, or when: The date is given as 1560-1620. It seems in some ways more basic than other maps of the period, and less exact. I have now gone to the Atlas itself in Trinity College and discovered that the maps in the Digital Repository are an incomplete set. Specifically, the original Atlas at TCD contains the reverse side, the ‘verso’ of each map. Here’s what’s on the verso of the County of Cork. This:

and this:

So we see that the map is attributed to our old friend Jobson – he who drew the plantation map I wrote about here and here and which was dated to 1589. There are similarities and differences between this map and that one – the galleons and scales for example look very alike. But there’s a lot more information on the plantation map and some of it is different from our Map of the County of Cork. As to the date of the County of Cork map – we will try in this post to see if we can narrow that down a bit from the broad estimate of 1560-1620. 

I want to go, as they say in Ireland, east along. That is, take off from where I finished last time, and travel east along the coast towards Cork, taking in the River Bandon. For the rest of this post, I’m keeping the map oriented as it is originally – that is, with west at the top (it’s actually surprising how quickly you can get used to this). Between Baltimore (Donashad) and Castlehaven (C haven), there are three castles shown, one labelled Sir Jmes Castell, Doneygodman and C skarthe. These are all a bit of a puzzle and I would invite readers to contribute ideas. On the archaeological list of Monuments for this area we can identify the O’Driscoll Castle on the Island in Lough Ine – could this be the Sir Jmes Castell? A promontory fort on Toe Head, known now as Dooneendermotmore, although likely originally an iron age refuge, was refortified in the 16th century and may, like the one I wrote about in Dunworley, have had a significant curtain wall. Was this Doneygodeman? It seems unlikely, as Doneygodeman is show inland – I wonder if instead it could be the castle at Raheen, which was a castle of the O’Donovans.

Finally, C skarthe might be a castle of the McCarthy’s – McCarthy is spelled in a variety of ways on this map, but there I can find no trace of it now. There was a castle in Listarkin, but once again, this is in the wrong place, unless this map, while certainly approximate in places, is wildly inaccurate. It seems reasonable to conclude that the more inland castles may have been harder to plot on a map that the coastal ones.

The castle at Glandore (c Landorgter) is clearly shown, along with two castles guarding the entrance to a long inlet labelled ‘the lepp.’ One may have been Kilfinnan, actually located near Glandore, which the other could possible be the coastal tower house at Downeen. This brings us to Rosscarbery (Roscarberye), shown as a collection of Buildings, as befits its status as a substantial town with a cathedral and a college, and a place of pilgrimage in the name of St Fachtna.

The entirety of this area, in green, is identified as Sir Owin Mc Cartis Countrey Called Carbery. Several other castles are identified here and there, and the course of the River Bandon is traced. The southernmost area is identified as Kenal Mekey, and to the south of the green-shaded section is Kennal Ley. In Canon O’Mahony’s magisterial History of the O’Mahony septs of Kinelmeky and Ivagha he states: 

In the history of South Munster there is no fact attested by more abundant evidence (evidence unknown to Smith and Gibson) than that the Sept-land of the Ui Eachach Mumhan during many centuries extended from Cork to the Mizen Head, as one continuous territory, including Kinelea and Muskerry, and was ruled by a chief whose principal residence was Rath Rathleann, in Kinelmeky.

https://archive.org/details/historyofomahony00omah/page/n1/mode/2up  Page 105

He identifies Rath Rathleann as the mighty multi-vallate ringfort of Gurranes, which was superseded by Castle Mahon, which stood where Bandon is now situated. And here it is, Kinelmeky, with C Mahon shown beside the river. Castle Mahon was later incorporated into Castle Bernard, home of Lords Bandon. Another Castle is shown further down the river – no doubt the one we are familiar with as we travel the N71.

We know that all this land was acquired by Richard Boyle after the Battle of Kinsale (1601) and that he started on his walled town of Bandon Bridge around 1620. Since this is still clearly identified as O’Mahony Territory I think we can take it that this map dates to before the battle of Kinsale.

We see Kenall Ley (Kinelea) in yellow, with the walled town of Kinsale at its heart. Kinsale walls were begun around 1380 and lasted until most of them were destroyed around 1690 by the forces of William of Orange. Inishannon is noted in Kinelea, as well as Park Castell (in what is now the townland of Castlelands) and finally B: Sardey (or is that a different first letter?). We know from another map in the Hardiman Atlas (below) that B designated a small town. Given that Kinsale is such a prominent walled town on this map, once again, a date before 1601 is likely. 

Supporting a pre-1600 date is the fact that it is the old Irish families that are identified with their territories – no settler or Plantation names are given. In fact the O’Mahonys and McCarthys are the only names on the sections of the map we have seen so far. Moreover, it it really was the work of Jobson, we know he was actively mapping in 1589.

In Part 3 I’ll do a quick meander through the most interesting parts of the rest of the map. Stay tuned.

A Map of the County of Cork, Part 1

The Hardiman Atlas*, held in the Digital Repository of Ireland, is a bound volume of maps all of which were collected by James Hardiman. An erudite Mayo man born in 1782, he spoke Irish as his first language, studied law but was an historian to his core. He wrote histories, including one of Galway, and collected songs and manuscripts. He eventually became the librarian at Queen’s College Galway (now the University of Galway) where the main library is named for him. I’ve used the Hardiman Atlas before, for my posts on Jobson’s work on Planning a Plantation Part 1 and Part 2.

In the Digital Repository description we find this information of the Hardiman Atlas: 

IE TCD MS 1209 is the collection of maps held in the Library of Trinity College Dublin and made by George Carew (1555-1629) 1st Earl of Totnes and Lord President of Munster at the beginning of the 17th century. Presented to the Library of Trinity College Dublin in the late 1700s. It contains nearly 90 maps and plans and is one of the largest sets of original Tudor and early Stuart maps of Ireland surviving anywhere. They are known collectively as the ‘Hardiman atlas’ after their first cataloguer, James Hardiman. Hardiman (1782-1855) was born in Co. Mayo and trained as a lawyer. He was librarian in Queen’s College Galway. Quoting from J.H. Andrews (‘Maps and Atlases’, Treasures of the Library Trinity College Dublin ed., Peter Fox (RIA: Dublin, 1986)): These maps, which are ‘for the most part competently drawn and attractively coloured’ and which ‘display not one scale of latitude or longitude in the entire collection … are essentially the by-product of a military and political conquest. However, as well as forts, defended towns and troop movements, they are rich in placenames, territorial boundaries and a good deal of ordinary landscape detail. Carew is said to have wanted all his Irish papers to be deposited at Trinity … though as it turned out most of them finally came to rest at Lambeth Palace in London. Nobody knows when, how or why the maps became detached from the collection and found their way to Dublin. They simply turn up in the College records of the late eighteenth century …. It was a non-Trinity historian, James Hardiman of Galway, who first catalogued them in 1821, apparently on his own initiative, and after being bound into a single, large volume they became generally known as the Hardiman atlas … The credit for [the rediscovery of their true origin] belongs to a recent Keeper of Manuscripts William O’Sullivan, who put the issue beyond any doubt by identifying Carew’s hand on many of the Hardiman maps and by collating all their titles and subjects with the original early-seventeenth-century catalogue still at Lambeth’.


George Carew** collected anything that helped to support his claim to large tracts of land in Munster. But maps were also vital for him as one of the military leaders in charge of subduing Ireland before and after the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. Read all about Carew and his time in Ireland in this excellent entry by Terry Clavin in the Dictionary of Irish Biography. (You might want to take a blood-pressure tablet first.)

Back to the map! Familiar to us from other Elizabethan Maps, this one is oriented east/west, rather than north/south, meaning that we see Ireland lying on its side. By the way, I have to use a lower resolution for the blog, but you can view the map yourself in very high resolution in the Digital Repository.

We don’t know who did this one, or when: The date is given as 1560-1620. It seems in some ways more basic than other maps of the period, and less exact. However, it still contains an extraordinary amount of information. The area it covers stretches from Bere Island to Waterford and from the sea to the Limerick and Tipperary borders. For ease, I have turned it rightside-up, so that West Cork is now as we expect to see it, on the bottom left of the map.

For this first post, I will concentrate on the area around Roaringwater Bay and west to Castlehaven, since this is my home turf, but we will explore further afield later. To put it in a little context, here’s a slightly broader view of the area (below). Note that it is labelled Sir Owen McCarthy’s Country called Carbery. There is also a large tract simply labelled Bantrey, of which the only feature is The Abbe Benita. Dunmanway, Donemenuye, is shown on an island at the head of the Bandon River. Berhaven, Croukhaven, Cape Clere, and The Haven of Boltimore are shown along the coast, along with a very fine warship in full sail, with cannons, a crow’s nest and an English flag.

So you can further orient yourself, here is the 1880s map of the same area (more or less). The yellow dots indicate castles/tower houses as identified on the 1880s Ordnance Survey Map as part of the National Monuments Service.

Honing in on Roaringwater Bay, below, the two most prominent castles are Ardintenant and Rossbrin, labelled C omohan and Rosebrine. Ardintenant is called the Castle of the O’Mahonys here as it was the home of the Taoiseach of the O’Mahony clan, while Rossbrin was the home of the Táiniste, or chieftain-in-waiting. Both are shown as very substantial castles, surrounded by bawn walls with additional towers.

While Ardintenant still has one wall-tower, Rossbrin is a vestige of what it once must have been. This is what it looks like now, and you can see the remnants of what was once also a small castle on Castle Island behind it.

Castle Island castle and Dún an Óir Castle on Cape Clear are shown although not labelled, as is both the Castle (Dúnalong, or Castle of the Ships) and the Friary on Sherkin Island. It’s hard to imagine when you look at what remains of Dún an Óir now (below) that its name means Castle Of Gold – a testament to the wealth of the O’Driscolls who built it. Thank you so much to our reader, Tash, who sent me this wonderful photograph.

Moving West, into O’Driscoll territory (below), we see Baltimore in outline (the colorist ran out of brown ink?) – it’s called Doneshade (Dún na Séad, or Castle of the Jewels). Beside it is the brown square used to indicate tower houses and the words Sir Jmes Castlell. Following the Ilen Rover (Elyn ff) to its source we find Castle Donovan. Two more brown blobs at the entrance to the Ilen River may indicate Dún na Gall (Fort of the Foreigners) on Ringarogy Island, and Old Court Castle.

I’m going to leave it at that for now, but I hope your appetite is whetted to see more of this invaluable record of Cork 400 years ago.

For more on the Magic of Old Maps, see this page.

For Part 2, click here.

*I am grateful to Digital Collections, at the Library of Trinity College Dublin, who gave permission to feature this map from the Hardiman collection in this blog. The complete citation for the map is as follows: Unattributed, & Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, Trinity College Dublin. (2021) Map of the County of Cork, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor], Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin [Depositing Institution], https://doi.org/10.7486/DRI.p554ng24v
**I am also grateful to the British National Portrait Gallery, who provide an easy method to use images from their collection under license, for purposes such as this non-commercial blog. The portrait of Carew is from their collection.

The Antiquities of Bealad

There’s an area of West Cork bounded on the south by Castleventry and on the north by Ballinvard. In between and round about there’s Bealad, Rossmore and Caherkirky. This is the territory into which we were inducted by Dan O’Leary and Sean O’Donovan, this week. It’s like a fellowship – people who are passionate about local history find each other and it’s only a matter of time before we start talking field trips.

Dan and Sean had organised the whole thing – including the all important coffee and food and bathroom breaks. Our headquarters was the old National School in Bealad, now wonderfully re-purposed as a community hub – a lesson in how to do this for others with such buildings on their hands. We started with an overview of local history and then it was off to Castleventry. 

Amanda is, as you all know by now, the expert on Holy Wells (book will be out soon!) and the first time she and I visited this well, several years ago, we met Sean, who was restoring it. You can read all about that here, and more about the well itself. All are invited to the annual celebration at the well, which takes place on June the 4th at 8pm (after milking).

Just up the road from the well is the Castleventry graveyard and ring fort. An extraordinary site by any standards, this site encompasses an impressive bi-vallate ring fort/cashel, and a ruined ‘something’ within, as well as a graveyard. 

This was obviously the residence of a high-status individual – a chief of a local Clan. The banks and ditches are deep and would have represented a formidable fortification, along with a palisade fence on top of the inner bank. The photo below gives some idea of the depth of the ditch that separates the outer and inner banks. There are commanding views across the country in all directions – nobody seeing it would have been in any doubt as to the importance of the occupier. Souterrains, no longer accessible, were found within – see Robert’s post about Knockdrum Stone Fort for a similar type of fort and souterrain.

But it was the church within that presented an interesting challenge! According to its listing, this is the medieval parish church of Castleventry, already in ruins by 1615.

A screen shot of the relevant page in Clerical and Parochial Records of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, by W Maziere Brady.

One of the participants on the field trip was our friend Con Manning, a distinguished medievalist and archaeologist, now retired from the National Monuments Service. Con was immediately struck by a couple of things. First, it’s unusual to find a church in a ring fort, and second, it just didn’t look like a church to him – in fact it looked more like a tower of some kind. Not a tower house, but perhaps a small Anglo-Norman keep.

There are no examples in West Cork of such keeps – the Castle at Glanworth, north of Fermoy, would be the closest example to an early Norman masonry tower. When Fineen McCarthy defeated the Anglo-Normans at the Battle of Callan in 1261, it is said he rampaged through West Cork, burning and destroying every structure they had built – which would certainly explain their absence. 

But – what if this one survived, or survived in part? What if it was taken over by the local Irish chief – there are certainly precedents for them building their tower houses inside ring forts, we have only to look at Ardintenant for that. What if, over the centuries, in its ruinous state, people took it that it had been a church? There was a medieval Castleventry church – Brady’s listing shows it clearly – but was this it? Also, Brady calls it Castrumventry and the word Castrum is applied to castles – the closest castle to here is 5kms north at Ballinvard (we’re coming to that). The Irish word for Castleventry, according to the sign at the entrance is Caislean na Gaoithe – Castle of the Winds.

Here we are at this puzzling site: Robert, Sean, Dan, Una, Amanda and Con

So many questions! Con is continuing his investigations, raising even more intriguing possibilities about the site and so we may revisit this one at some time in the future.

From Castleventry we travelled on to Ballinvard Castle, just outside Rossmore, where the owners, Pat and Mary Daly had kindly agreed to meet us and show us the castle, which is in a working farm and not normally open to visit. In the last few years, the ivy has died back due to heavy frosts, and this has allowed a clear view of many of the hitherto-obscured features of the castle. Once again, we were grateful to Con’s expertise as he pointed out various aspects of the building that placed it in the 16th century – a castle of the Hurley (Ó Muirthile) family.

One of those was the workings of the Yett, an iron grill that sat outside the main door and could be closed from inside by way of a hole of the doorway through which a chain was pulled tight from a room inside.

Here’s a illustration of how it works. You can see the same Yett hole at Castle Donovan, which has many features in common with Ballinvard. 

Dan had one surprise for us – he brought us to the townland of Caherkirky, to a double boulder burial with a very tall standing stone. In a previous visit to this site he thought he detected cupmarks – and he was right! There was one on the boulder burial, and several on the standing stone. See Robert’s post today for another example of the same kind of monument. It was a good feeling to be back again with my beloved rock art!

Knowing my penchant for popping into every church I pass, Dan’s final treat for us was the church in Rossmore, but this time, instead of the stained glass, what he wanted me to see were the Stations of the Cross. Obviously Italian, they were painted, and the artist had let his/her imagination take flight on the costumes – more like Spanish grandees than the biblical characters we’re used to. Not like any I had ever seen before and a real surprise.

Thank you, Dan and Sean – it was a great and eclectic day, and who knows what will come out of Con’s close examination of Castleventry – stay tuned!

The Fassaroe-Type Crosses – How Old Are They?

This is Part 2 of my examination of the Fassaroe Crosses of South County Dublin. In the first post I described the four crosses that comprise the Fassaroe-Type group, so well described and drawn by Pádraig Ó hÉailidhe. In this one, given that some authorities have claimed they may be of a relatively recent 17th century date, I will look at a probable dating horizon for those crosses, based on analogies with other Irish examples. 

Let’s look first at the figure of the crucified Christ on the crosses at Fassaroe, Rathmichael and Kiltuck. It is immediately obvious that they are similar to each other in the slender shape and in the head, which is inclined or tilted to the right, and in the fact that the figure is recessed (although Rathmichael also has a figure in relief with no incline to the head). That tilt is pronounced on the Fassaroe cross but slightly less so on the figures on the Kiltuck example and the back of the Rathmichael Cross. 

In the Kerry County Museum (the photo above is taken, with thanks, from their Facebook page) is a bronze figure, about 10cm long, probably once attached to a cross. It is dated to C1150 (I am not sure by what method since I cannot access the 1980 Journal article) and comes from Skellig Michael. The tilt of the head and the elongated figure are both clearly analogous to the Fassaroe-type figures.

What about the shape of the cross-head? In Fassaroe this is a simple disc, while Rathmichael and Kiltuck have very short projecting arms. None of the South County Dublin examples have pierced heads, as in the classic Irish High Cross. We find similar crosses, in fact, in Ballymore Eustace (see this post in Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland for more on that example – this image is from that post, with thanks), Kilfenora and Killaloe.

The Killaloe Cross, above, which actually came originally from Kilfenora, is perhaps the closest, and is dated to the 11/early 12th century. I have rendered my photograph in black and white as it is easier to make out that way,

There are several crosses in Kilfenora, associated with the 12th century church. Although they are more highly carved than the Fassaroe-type crosses, the unpierced disc form with the short arms can be seen on the back of the Doorty Cross (above). 

The back face of the Tuam High cross, below, captured from a 3D image* although pierced, has a simple figure with an elongated and tilted head.

The Dysert O’Dea high cross (below) has several features of interest to us here. First, the conical mitre may be analogous to the Fassaroe head.

But it also points us to another monument close to the Fassaroe crosses – the Loughanstown Cross, below, now marooned in a new housing estate and very badly damaged. The form of the cross, however, looks quite similar to that of the Dysert O’Dea crosses while the projecting head (on one side) and the long figure (on the other) is also reminiscent.

There is one more cross in the South County Dublin group which was situated in Killegar, about 4kms north-west of Fassaroe. It’s fragmentary, with only the disc-head remaining, containing on one side a simple crucified figure, with the head straight. In a piece for the JRSAI in 1947, Ó Ríordáin describes the other side as a cup-and-circle. This may mean that this cross was carved on the back of a piece of prehistoric rock art, but more likely that it relates it to the Rathdown Slabs, and brings us back full circle to the Rathmichael graveyard that Robert wrote about in his post Viking Traces.

The Rathdown Slabs slabs (also described and drawn by Pádraig Ó hÉailidhe, below) use that cup-and-circle form as part of their decorative technique, and are generally dated to the Viking period, or anything from the 9th to the 12th century.

That leaves us with the Blackrock cross, different in form from the others, except for that projecting head . The only analogy I can find among my own photographs ties it firmly to the Romanesque period (12th century) – that cross is at Kilmalkedar in Kerry (below). 

So – all of the evidence through association connects these crosses into a 12th century (or earlier), cross-carving tradition in Ireland. But Ó hÉailidhe also drew analogies with a group of very similar crosses from Cornwall, often referred to as ‘wheel-headed’. Their date? They were assigned to ‘very early Romanesque’ by Andrew Langdon, the authority on Cornish crosses over a century ago, and this assessment had been upheld by the august editors of the Corpus of Anglo Saxon Stone Sculpture in their 2015 Volume Early Cornish Sculpture. They state: The relationship of the Cornish sculpture to monuments in Wales, Ireland and Western Britain is of particular interest given Cornwall’s position as a peninsula jutting into the western seaways. In this context, the potential role of Scandinavian influence is considered against the absence of evidence for Scandinavian settlement in Cornwall.

Langdon’s illustration (above) will amply demonstrate how similar in form these crosses are both to the Fassaroe-type and to the Blackrock cross.

I will finish with a photograph of the Laughinstown Cross, behind its chain-link barrier in an under-developed park in a new housing estate. Behind me as I took this photograph is an equally beleaguered church (called Tully Church) of early medieval origins with associated graveyard. It is all but consumed by encroaching apartments, and clinging perilously to a cliff that is being dug out for yet more building. Although it’s clear we need more housing, it makes me sad that not more is being done to celebrate the heritage that still exists in this part of Dublin.

*In the public domain, but thanks to Digital Heritage Age and to the funding bodies: The Community Monuments Fund Awarded by The National Monuments Service, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Supported by Old Tuam Society, Galway County Council, TheHeritage Council and Galway Community Archaeology Project.

The Fassaroe-Type Crosses of South County Dublin

The Fassaroe Cross (also know as St Valery Cross, below) is familiar to me from childhood, but I hadn’t realised until recently that it is part of a concentration of four crosses in south County Dublin, all still extant*. We have visited them all now, and this first post will look at these remarkable examples of surviving Irish Early Medieval crosses. In the second post I will study their possible dates, established mainly through association with similar examples from elsewhere in Ireland.

In using the term Fassaroe-type, I am following Padraig Ó hÉailidhe (better known as Paddy Healy) who, in 1958, published Fassaroe and Associated Crosses in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (available on JSTOR). Not only did he lay out what was known about these four crosses at the time, but he included his own wonderful and accurate pen and ink drawings.

Robert included the Fassaroe Cross in his post East Coast Archaeology, so I refer you to that for additional photographs of the cross in its context. It’s easy to see why this cross would have become the diagnostic ‘type’, since it is the most complete. 

Standing incongruously at the edge of a traffic roundabout, the cross is an arresting sight. According to Ó hÉailidhe, It was brought from ‘a glen’ some distance away. He also states:

When O’Curry visited the site in 1838,4 he saw, in addition to the cross, a font, pedestal, and quern, which are still extant, a cross shaft which is now missing and part of a baptismal font which had been removed along with another quern to the farmhouse beside Fassaroe Castle. He was furthermore informed that a circular crosshead had also been removed, and that human bones had been dug up on the south side.

The cross has a circular head on a straight shaft which is set into a semi-conical base. On its front face its a crucifixion image, head tilted to the right. The crucified Christ is surrounded by four wedge-shaped quadrants, as if to indicate the hole-and-circle we associate with high crosses. A carved head occupies a space on the outer circle on the lower right.

The back of the circle has two carved heads. Although very worn, Ó hÉailidhe felt their elongated shape pointed to long beards and a mitre. The base has yet one more head. You can view the cross in 3D here, a project of the Medieval Bray Group.

The second Cross is in Rathmichael, just outside Shankill, at the start of a woodland walk. It’s my lead photograph, which shows the context. It was moved here from the ruins of Kiltuck Church which once stood, with its associated graveyard, in what is now the housing estate of Castle Farm on the Bray to Shankill road. 

Old photographs taken by Thomas Mason (see Roberts post for more about this photographer) show it before it was moved, in a jumble of stones at Kiltuck.

The two Mason photographs above are from the Mason collection at the National Library of Ireland, and used under license from them.

Apparently the shaft was in the present location and when the cross was re-united with it – it fit! The front of the cross has the crucifixion image carved in relief, while on the back the image is recessed. Like Fassaroe, the recessed head  is slightly tilted to the right. Unlike Fassaroe, in which the top of the cross was circular, this one has very short arms. 

The base has a small cupmark. Since walkers regularly use this route, some have taken to leaving small offerings, and it’s good to see this cross as valued and respected.

There were two crosses at Kiltuck, and the second one was removed by the Parish Priest of the newly-built Church of St Anne in Shankill in the early 1930s. In recent time the Rathmichael Historical Society, an active local group, sponsored its erection in its current location in front of the church, on a stone plinth.

The front face has a recessed crucifixion image, head slightly tilted to the right. The photograph below was taken in the church yard and shows the urban environment of this cross.

The back of the cross has a head, with the pointed chin such as we saw at Fassaroe. The head of the cross has the same short arms as the Rathmichael cross. 

Our final cross is in a most unexpected location – right in the middle of Blackrock. It may have been used in the 15th century as a boundary marker to separate one medieval Dublin ‘franchise’ from another. Here’s what Ó hÉailidhe has to say on his decision to include it with the others: 

The newly erected cross at Blackrock (Fig. 5)26 has been included in this group, because it has several features in common with that of Kiltuck, i.e. a human head in exactly the same position on the shaft and some rather irregular chamfering. This cross does not possess any artistic or architectural merits.

The chamfering is most obvious on the Kilmichael cross, while the head is similar to that at Kiltuck. The shape of the cross, however, is entirely different: rather than the head of the cross being circular, this one is, well, cross-shaped.

It’s impossible to make out what’s on the back on the cross, although Ó hÉailidhe tries manfully to illustrate it. 

Ó hÉailidhe includes one more cross, from Killegar in Wicklow, now in the National Museum, but I will deal with that one in the next post, when I will review the literature about similar crosses and come to a conclusion about likely dates. Spoiler alert: although there have been claims that these crosses may be as late as 17th century, as you will see, I agree with most authorities that they are 12th century. As such, they represent a very important monument group.

* Thanks to Chris Corlett for pointing me in the direction of resources for this post

Beranger’s West Cork?

Who was Gabriel Beranger and why was his work so important? And why have I added a question mark? All will be revealed.

Timoleague Castle, abbey and town, co[unty] of Cork (RIA MS 3 C 30/68)

While we have several Beranger watercolours of Cork subjects, only two, Timoleague (above) and Castlehaven, are from West Cork*. They are the earliest painted depictions of each place, and as such represent incredibly significant records. Each one dates between 1770 and 1799. The description of the watercolour above says: A scenic view of Timoleague Castle, abbey, surrounding town and river [Argideen] Co. Cork. Two men, hauling a boat along the bay are depicted in the foreground of drawing.

The Abbey (actually a Franciscan Friary) is easily recognisable, but the castle is nowadays hidden behind other buildings. There is no real sign of a ‘town.’

Here’s what it looks like nowadays.

There’s a second drawing of Timoleague, this time done from a different perspective and focussing on the Castle, which is surrounded by an extensive bawn wall.

Now on to the watercolour of Castlehaven. It’s beautiful, I think. Importantly, it shows the tower house as complete, whereas it is nowadays only a stub, covered in ivy and brambles.

The church in Castlehaven graveyard is shown as a house rather than a church. The small addition to the left end of it may have been, according to Conor O’Buachaille of Gormú, a guardhouse, a feature of graveyards from the grave-robbing era.

Gabriel Beranger , born in around 1729, was from a Dutch Huguenot background, but settled in Ireland in his early 20s. He was a printer and watercolourist who spent a lot of time travelling around Ireland and recording what he saw – often landscapes, but particularly anything of antiquarian interest. Wealthy patrons employed him for that purpose, since antiquarian pursuits were popular among the gentry. Helpfully, he kept notes along the way in a journal. The journal, Beranger’s sketchbooks and some of the watercolours came into the possession of Sir William Wilde about a hundred years after Beranger’s death, and we are indebted to Wilde for most of what we now know about the artist. Wilde wrote a series of posts based on this material for the The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, now the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Wilde took up a lot of space with his own theories about the antiquities themselves (he didn’t believe that round towers could have been bell towers, for example) but did manage to squeeze in some biographical and professional data about Beranger.

The good old Dutchman was spare in person, of middle height, his natural hair powdered and gathered into a queue; he had a sharp, well-cut brow and good bushy eyebrows, divided by the special artistic indentation; a clear, observant, square-ended nose, that sniffed humbug and took in fun; clear, quick, brown eyes; a well-cut, playful, dramatic mouth, eloquent and witty; not a powerful, but a chin quite congruous with the face. Well shaven, no shirt to be seen, but his neck surrounded with a voluminous neckcloth, fringed at the ends, a drab, rather Quaker-cut coat and vest for household purposes, and when out on sketching excursions he had on a long scarlet frock coat, yellow breeches, top boots, a three-cocked hat, and held in his hand a tall staff and a measuring tape. Like Woverman’s white horse or Petrie’s red woman, he frequently introduced himself in this remarkable but at the time not uncommon costume into his pictures. He was a keen observer of nature, men, and manners, and appeared to relish Irish fun, as indeed his dramatic cast of countenance, shown in the very good crayon drawing made by himself when about middle life, would indicate, and of which an admirable lithograph is appended to this biography.

Memoir of Gabriel Beranger, and His Labours in the Cause of Irish Art, Literature, and Antiquities,
from 1760 to 1780, with Illustrations
W. R. Wilde
The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Fourth Series, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1870),

Of his art, this is what Wilde has to say:

He was a most painstaking artist, and a faithful delineator of antiquarian remains. He is said to have been self-taught, and this may account for the hardness of some of his drawings; yet no one of his time could draw an old castle, a cromlech, or a round tower better ; but his extended landscapes were not good, and more resemble plans than pictures. He particularly failed in trees and green fields. Had his observations and descriptions, and his drawings of Irish scenery and antiquities, been published eighty or ninety years ago, they would have caused archaeological study to progress in this country, and perhaps forestalled the opinions of subsequent writers.


Then comes the part that is most pertinent to West Cork:

To each volume there is, at the commencement, a copious Alphabetical Index, followed by an ” Advertisement,” stating that ” the castles which com pose this collection I designed on the spot, except the following, which were communicated to me by various gentle men here undernamed, whose kindness I acknowledge with thanks,” &c. From this it would appear that besides his own drawings he obtained, with a view to publication, several others which I am inclined to think he copied with his own hand for the purposes of his work. Among the names of persons who contributed sketches, we find that of Colonel Charles Vallancey as the most conspicuous.


Wilde (below, as a young man) died before he could finish his series on Beranger and the last piece was written by Lady Wilde, who occupied most of it with a paean of praise to her husband. William and Jane were at the forefront of the literary of antiquarian movements of their day, and are also, of course, remembered as the parents of Oscar.

There is, as it turns out, no record of Beranger having been in West Cork, although we know he took extended painting trips to several counties – including Wicklow (see my post Antiquarians loved Glendalough) and Sligo (Robert’s Discovering Carrowmore). What we are sure about is that General Charles Vallancey was here, first to manage the defence of southwest Ireland against the threat of French invasion, and then to make a series of grand plans to link West Cork to the rest of Ireland and to the world! I hope to write more of this in a future post.

So – whose West Cork is this – Beranger’s or Vallancey? The answer is – both. In the Digital Repository, both are acknowledged as originators. Vallancey was a man of enormous energy and drive. He wrote several volumes of his Collectanea de rebus hibernicis, (available at the Internet Archive) and required illustrations for them – hence his patronage of Beranger, and others. The illustration above is from one of his Collectanea and so he must have wished himself to be depicted this way, as benign and intellectual. Love those little glasses! He was a scholar of Irish – one of the first to raise its profile as an ancient and beautiful language – and an antiquarian of the fanciful sort – forever banging on about druids and Chaldeans and coming up with far-fetched theories. Unfortunately, we don’t have Vallancey’s originals, so we can’t compare the accuracy of the drawings. While we know that Beranger’s reputation was for painstaking exactness, we don’t have the same information about Vallancey’s. To me, comparing it to places Beranger drew on the spot, the rendition of the castles looks a little approximate, especially the fenestration. Nevertheless, as illustrations of two places in eighteenth century West Cork, these watercolours are priceless.

One last detail and quote. Wilde was able to describe Beranger’s dress – that’s because he often put himself in the frame, to add human scale and interest. In his lively piece Beranger’s painted people – himself and others, Peter Harbison gives several examples. But we have our own, from the Timoleague Castle painting. There he is, in his long scarlet frock coat, yellow breeches, top boots, a three-cocked hat, and held in his hand a tall staff and a measuring tape. (Well, more or less.)

Do you know Timoleague and/or Castlehaven well? Can you add to the commentary on those painting? I’d love to have any comments you might have.

*I am grateful to the Digital Repository of Ireland, under whose Creative Commons License I have used these illustrations. See here for more of their Beranger collection.