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Tag: Famine Pots

Boys on Tour in 1959, Christmas windows, a convict ancestor and a Christmas Memory

Photo by John Kelliher


Something old


A Poem  for the dying stages of the year by Gillian Clarke


More on Roz Scharf’s Fascinating Ancestors

Hi Mary

Edmund’s line came out with Cromwell.  They pop up as serving in Roger MacElligottes 51st Foote in the Kings’s Army.I know that they fought at the battle of the Boyne and there is some rumour that Valentine and Thomas followed Roger into the Tower when he was incarcerated.  Edmund lived in Ballyhallil in Limerick but as a dancing master he travelled around the country.  It was this that prompted the senior legal at the time to give him life because he used his role as a dancing master to sign people up to the Whiteboys.  I’m attaching a couple of items sent me by my cousin which detail the incident which eventually led to his capture.

I found it hard to reconcile his actions with a life sentence.  He was 51 when transported.  I have three other convicts all of whom were Rockites.  William Smith, a weaver from C. Monaghan, Thomas Maher who was implicated in the Holy cross incident in Limerick and Thomas Lysaght a Rocket from Limerick.  All three only got 7 years. Eddie is my favourite.  He was transported on the Brampton which was a ship with Irish rebels.  The guys looked after him, even reporting him as dead so as to keep him from the arduous voyage.  Luckily for me he was resurrected like Lazarus wgen he reached Sydney cove.  He was not a model prisoner and ended up in irons twice.  The final time he was released into his wife’s custody.  He also did a stint on the treadmill for being lazy but they did not take into consideration those calves of iron – conditioned from years of leaping as an Irish dancer.  I have written a chapter on Eddie which I can forward to you if your interested.  I have found that most people tend to glaze over when I start with my obsession but if I can weave things into a bit of a story, they come alive.  I try to be clear on whether its a good story or a true story.  (trained as a historian)

The O’Keeffes were in service on an estate called Lottaville.  My Great grandfather was baptised at St Patrick’s Cork in 1833.  His father was Cornelius O’Keefe and mother Mary Milliwick – the only information I have is a parish entry for their marriage and that reads Cork and Ross – Glanmire 1828-1841.  William married Julia Cotter on 15 October 1859 in Mayfield Ballinamought East, St Anne’s Shandon Cork.  They were both in service at Lottaville.  they had 2 daughters and 5 sons.  The youngest – my grandfather in1873.  Julia died 10 days after my grandfather died.  Luckily, the master of Lottaville (Capt Grey?) kept the family on.  Even when William left for Australia as a self funded emigrant, he allowed the family to stay on at Lottaville until William could send the money for the fares for the children who came to Australia one year later.  Needless to say, English kids travelled free.  I have so much respect for William because he made sure that his family didn’t go into the poor house but he worked to earn the money to bring them all out together.  It was difficult to track the family because of the English requirement that O’ was dropped from the name.  My aunt was most particular that the O’ was used and that the name was spelledlt with a double ff.  I have some photos from my great aunt’s album with photos taken in Cork.  Pretty amazing that people who did not have much took the time and effort to have a photo to celebrate their existence and this was continued in Australia.

Bray’s of Raheen – my great grand mother X2 are a hoot. They trace back to Hugh Brady Arch bishop of Meath.  Needless to say a tad more posh than the others.  But the brother E.J Brady has titled himself the grandfather of Australian socialism.  He was also connected with the kibbutz like settlement Ralaheen which was set up in Clare to try to give Irish farmers a shot at being self sufficient – not having English landlords or being require to tithe to the protestant church.

They were such an interesting lot.  I really have to acknowledge the research of my cousin Joanne who has been doing this for years and most of the wonderful insights have evolved from her hard work.

We’ll definitely have to catch up when I arrive.  I think with all the rebel connections, I might even ask for a passing parade from the lads.




More Listowel Polar Express Christmas windows

(Note; Photographing windows is very difficult because of reflection and  glare)

Coco Kids in The Square

The Horseshoe

John R.’s

Lynch’s in Main Street


Soup Kitchens in Famine Times

In the 1840s in Ireland workhouses and well meaning groups such as The Quakers set up soup kitchens to relieve the hunger that was claiming lives daily.

These famine relief kind deeds often took the form of huge pots of “soup” which were prepared for the starving people.

One of the more horrific stories told of that time is of starving children, demented by hunger, crowding round the big cauldron and getting scalded or falling in.

This pot is on display in a museum in Kilmurry in Co. Cork. There is a great website devoted to Famine pots and well worth a visit. Here is the link:

Famine Pots


A Christmas Memory

Seeing a photo  of Jackie McGillicuddy yesterday awakened a memory of a kindness at Christmas for Cathy Dunne. Here his what she wrote:

“The story of Jackies toys took me back. Every year I put away the toys for my five children in September and paid every week for them. One year the included batteries. Jackie said he would not put the batteries in but would give them to me separately when I collected the toys. Christmas Eve when I opened the packet there was no batteries. I rang but Jackie was gone home. The children were disappointed but I told them Santa must have forgotten the and would return soon with the batteries. 

On St Stephens Day Jackie arrived full of apologies and brought a huge compendium of games. Luckily the children were out and did not see “Santa”. 

Jackie was a wonderful gentleman. That service would not be available now.”

Well, I’m happy to inform Cathy that I’m reliably informed that Seán, Jackie’s son who now runs the business, is just as kind and accommodating as his dad. It’s a lovely shop to go into and all of the staff are helpful and knowledgeable. You can still pay in instalments and they will keep the toys until Christmas Eve.

The cobbler, KnitWits and Famine Pots and St. Ita

This is a street cobbler. Beside him you can see his last and the poor man is sitting on a rickety stool as he tries to make a living in hard times. The craft of the cobbler is a dying art and I have not heard of anyone apprenticed to this trade in a long time.


Here I have transcribed for you an account of  a famous cobbler who plied his trade in Newmarket, Co. Cork. I found the essay in an old edition of Seanchas Dugh Ealla.

The Shoemaker

 by James Cross, Newmarket

I remember old Jimmy when I was a lad. He was still old
Jimmy when I was a man and he hasn’t changed in any noticeable way. Jimmy
Cronin was his proper name, and he was the shoemaker in our town. He was the
most interesting man that I have ever know. I used to rush home from school to
sit up on the corner or the spare seat, near the window, and listen to him
talk, as he worked. He had many hobbies. He was a very good trombone player, he
fished and he had played football in Kerry in his young days. He was a great
huntsman and he always kept two greyhounds and two or three fox terriers at the

It used to gladden his heart to see a fall of snow. He was
sure to be off, early in the morning, tracking hares is in the fresh snow. He
seldom killed one of them but he loved the chase.

He arrived in our town after The Troubles, having spent some
time in jail with the boys. He got married and settled down and put out a sign
which said, “we make or mend shoes”. I never saw the place empty.
There seemed to be always a crowd of people there standing and sitting in
amongst the footwear and pieces of leather.

My father got his boots there and that it is maybe  the first time I really got interested in shoemaking. I was afraid that,
“old Jimmy” wouldn’t make them right and my father would be cross.
After looking at two or three kinds of leather, they settled on a brown box
calf type. This was in one sheet, lovely and glossy. Jimmy had a kind of ruler which he called a size stick . It had a guard on the back and he pushed this
against the heel of my father’s boot. There was a moveable guard in front which
he pressed against the toe of the boot. He also had a tape measure which he
placed across the toe and instep and ankle, writing in his book, as he went
along. He enquired about corns and bunions, saying he could make room for these if required. In this way he
measured the foot.

He got out his patterns and, after deciding on the size
required, he cut out the quarters and afterwards the vamp and the tongue. These were stuck together, and then the linings and quarters
were sewn. The uppers were left aside, for the moment. Next he took his lasts
which were of the required dimensions. These  were made from timber and he measured them
with the size stick and tape. Then he cut the insoles and clinks and gave them
a dip in a pan of water, to make them malleable for hammering on the lap-iron.  He blocked the insoles on the lasts. Then he
shaped the clinks and stuck them in between the uppers and lining, after giving
them a rub of paste to harden them. The insoles were then feathered. By
feathering is meant, to make a ridge all around to hold the stitch binding the
welt, (a strip of leather 5/8 of an inch wide), and upper to the insole.

The upper was pulled over the last and tacked in place with
the pincers. This process was called “lasting”. Before the toecap was
lasted he placed the toe puff in position. This had already been pasted, in
order to give a hard toecap. Then he sewed on the welt all round the boot, with
a heavy waxed thread.

The soles were then cut and put in water. While they were
soaking, he cut the filling piece and fitted it inside the welt. The soles were
hammered and blocked onto the boot and pared all round. They were channelled
and made ready for stitching with a light thread, eight stitches to the inch.
The thread was made from hemp, lengths of which were twisted together and waxed
to keep it firm and waterproof. The soles were trimmed all round, waxed and
gloss knifed for smoothing. The heels were then cut to shape. After being
dipped in a basin of water, the leather strips, making up the heel were put on, lift by lift. The final strip to be put on was made of rubber. The whole boot
was shaped, rasped, sand papered and inked. Heelball was then applied and when
it was rubbed off, it left a beautiful
glossy shine on the boots. The lasts were then pulled out and after cleaning
and smoothing the insides, the boots were ready to wear.

Needless to say, the boots were a perfect fit, and my father
wore them for many years afterwards. My earlier fears regarding old Jimmy’s
ability to make a pair of well fitting boots were completely unfounded. My father and the
shoemaker remained firm friends, and I was able to continue my sojourn in the
shop where I spent many enjoyable evenings, listening to interesting
conversation, and watching the craftsman at his work.

The light of other days…….


News from KnitWits

As regular followers will know, I am a member of a knitting group called KnitWits. We knit and chat in Scribes Café in Church St. every Saturday from 11.00 to 1.00 p.m. We knit for ourselves and we knit for charity. Our local charity is The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and our global charity is Cancer charities in general and

in particular.

This is the first crop of caps. These were all knitted by 2 of our members. We expect our stash to double by next week when everyone else gets involved.

This is Patricia Borley. She is a very experienced and skillful knitter and a very generous lady to boot. She has knitted a beautiful throw/beadspread/rug for a cancer charity, a cause close to her heart. KnitWits is raffling it with the help of Namir in Scribes. Tickets are €2 each or €5 gets you 3 and they are available in Scribes where the throw is on display.


Mattie Lennon is putting together a DVD about Famine Pots. I looked them up and they are huge pots that were used during the Famine by Quakers who distributed food to the starving.

This one is on display in Castlebar. If anyone knows anything bout these pots in Kerry or elsewhere drop me an email and I’ll pass the information to Mattie.


Yesterday I told you about St. Maury. I did not realize that January 15 is also the feast day of a saint much nearer to home, St. Ita of Killeedy. There is a tradition in that area of Co. Limerick that people leave their Christmas decorations up until today, the day after St. Ita’s day.

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