Nature`s Silent Music

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    Nature´s Silent Music

    In this book, Callahan shows how ”civilized” insanity is turning Ireland away from her naturally harmonious, aesthetically pleasing, sound practices. Why remove a thatched roof to replace it with galvanized tin, only to increase the heating bill? With insightful wisdom, Callahan also examines the mysterious power of round towers, ”magic spots” and healers such as Biddy Early. Callahan’s study of hedgerows, booley people and Ireland’s traditional form of agriculture can teach everyone the value of the land and why not to carelessly destroy it with toxic chemicals.








    Lorcán Ó Ciaráin Of Magheramenagh Castle

    Following up on my article examining the last great battle of the War of Independence, the confrontation between a combined force of pro- and anti-treaty units of the Irish Republican Army and the British Occupation Forces in the “Pettigo and Belleek salient“ of counties Fermanagh and Donegal during the summer of 1922, Jim Greenan has provided some additional information about one of the eye-witnesses to the clashes, in two emails outlined below:

    “I was very interested in your comments on Fr. Lorcán Ó Ciaráin whom you described as a pro-treaty Sinn Féiner. This would have been at odds with what my father told me. My father was a taxi driver during the later years of Fr. Ó Ciaráin’s time in Belleek and he told a different story. He drove Fr. Ó Ciaráin to mass in Mulleek and Pettigo regularly and was very friendly with him. He told me and actually recorded on tape a few years before he died that Fr. Ó Ciaráin maintained he was against the Treaty and was not on good terms with Michael Collins and the government but after the June battles the British army and Specials gave him a very hard time and the curfew in the area made it impossible to do his duty. He made contact with Michael Collins to see what could be done to lift the curfew or allow him to carry out his duty to his parishioners. He arranged to meet Michael Collins at a priest house in County Cork on the day he (Michael Collins) was shot. The meeting didn’t take place but Michael Collins went to the house  and apparently was shot later that evening.

    Fr. Lorcán Ó Ciaráin told my father on his deathbed that he had to live with the belief that he was partly responsible for Collins death. Fr. Ó Ciaráin fell out with de Valera over the use of the Donegal corridor in WW2 with the allies stationed on Lough Erne.

    Regarding Belleek Fort my father bought it in 1961 and demolished most of it with gelignite that he bought from Donegal County Council [early 1962/63] and brought from Lifford in the boot of an Austin Farina. I sold the site in 2001.

    …there was an unholy row about the demolition of the Fort, Donegal County Council bought the stones from my father and used them as filling on the then new road in Ballyshannon which by-passed the Port road in the town.”


    That Old Kitchen Stove

    ‘That old kitchen stove, how my memory clings,
    As my thoughts turn back to the savory things
    That emerged from its oven, its pots and kettles
    When my mother was matron of those relishing victuals.

    With what a rattle and clatter and din,
    The table was loaded with the brightest of tin.
    The fire was given a punch and a poke,
    And the quaint stone chimney, how it would smoke!

    The embers on the hearth would sparkle and glow
    As if for the occasion they were anxious to go
    Enthused, as it were, by my mother’s desire,
    For she trusted completely on that old stove fire.’

    From That Old Kitchen Stove by David Harold Judd (1901). Pictures of the former gate lodge at Magheramenagh Castle, County Fermanagh.

Fit for a New Bride

In Ireland today the name John B Keane is usually associated with a Kerry author of popular stage dramas. In the 19th century however, it would be more likely taken to refer to a successful architect. The date of John Benjamin Keane’s birth is unknown but by 1819-20 he was working as an assistant to Richard Morrison. In 1823 he was listed in Wilson’s Dublin Directory as practising under his own name and for the next two decades enjoyed a busy career. Among his most notable commissions was the design of St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, recently restored after a disastrous fire in 2009, and Queen’s College in Galway (now NUI Galway) in 1845. Keane’s winning design for the latter was described at the time as being ‘ a magnificent edifice in the style of Henry the Eight’s time.’ In addition to such public properties, he also designed a number of private residences, including Magheramenagh Castle, County Fermanagh.

Magheramenagh belonged to a branch of the Johnston family, large numbers of whom had moved from Scotland to this part of the country in the early 17th century. Successive generations lived in the same area of Fermanagh, the estate being inherited in 1833 by James Johnston who five years later married Cecilia, daughter of Thomas Newcomen Edgeworth of County Longford. It would appear that around this time he commissioned from Keane the design of a home for his new bride. The building was much in the style then fashionable, a loose interpretation of Tudor Gothic indicated by the presence of blind gables, polygonal turrets, castellations and finials. Of two storeys other (than a three-floor square tower in the north-east corner) and all faced in crisp limestone, the main entrance was to the north, the southern front looking down on the river Erne. A large conservatory occupied much of the eastern end of the building while the service wing stood to the west, an enfilade of four reception rooms occupying the space between.

Ultimately neither Magheramenagh nor its architect had a happy ending. Keane’s career was wrecked by alcoholism, he fell into debt and was imprisoned in the Marshalsea Gaol (a debtor’s prison off Dublin’s south quays: it was demolished in 1975) before dying in 1859. Meanwhile James Johnston had died in 1873 and Magheramenagh passed to his son Robert. He in turn died just nine years later, leaving the estate to his son James Cecil Johnston, then aged less than two. James Cecil would be killed at Gallipoli in August 1915, Magheramenagh then occupied by his widow and two young daughters. Unable to manage, they left the property in 1921 and it was bought as a residence for the local Roman Catholic priest: the following May the house was briefly taken over by the members of the British armed forces. Reverting back to the parish, thereafter it remained in use as a presbytery until the 1950s when abandoned and unroofed. Afterwards a large part of the house was demolished: it can be seen what now remains on the site.


























































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