History of Kilcoole written in 1938

Approximately 740,000 pages (288,000 pages in the pupils’ original exercise books; 451,000 pages in bound volumes) of folklore and local tradition were compiled by pupils from 5,000 primary schools in the Irish Free State between 1937 and 1939.

This collecting scheme was initiated by the Irish Folklore Commission. The scheme resulted in the creation of over half a million manuscript pages, generally referred to as ‘Bailiúchán na Scol’ or ‘The Schools’ Collection’.

The two schools in Kilcoole at the time both sent submissions. The first was from Holy Faith Convent, written by Sister M. Eithne. She wrote a long and detailed account of the history and tales of Kilcoole. The second was from the boy’s school at Pretty Bush, organised by Thomas Butler. This entry is comprised of hand-written accounts from the students themselves, and focuses on fairy stories.

Sister Eithne’s account was transcribed by James Scott, February 2017, Kilcoole County Wicklow
Original spelling and punctuation retainedSome pages relating fairy stories were not transcribed, for the full document please see the above links

Co.: Cill Manntain
Bar.: Newcastle
Par.: Kilquade (Kilcoole)
Scoil: Holy Faith Convent, Kilcoole.
Oide: Sr. M. Eithne

Old Schools

The old school house on the Upper Green (Kilcool) facing the Foresters Hall is fast going to ruin. The room at south end is now occupied by family named O’Sullivan and room at north end by family named Dobson both families awaiting new cottages.

Mr. Byrne was the school-master between 80 and 90 years ago. His brother’s grand children are living in the village the youngest about 22 years, he and his two elder brothers are great footballers

There was also a school in Lott Lane opposite Laurel Lodge there is no trace of it now Mr Byrne also taught there

There was another teacher with Mr. Byrne named Malachy Ryan both taught in Lott Lane.

The School on the Green was Protestant School and the teachers were Mr. Robinson and Miss Coates. There are two people who went to that school still living Mr Grey and Mrs. Gerrett both Protestants.

Mr Byrne and Mr Malachy Ryan taught in the school in Lott Lane (sometimes called Lough Lane).

These two schools were working some 80 or 90 years ago.

Penal Times.

There is the “Mass Path” which runs from the Village of Kilcool down Kelly’s field, along by Saint Patrick’s river and Convent garden wall, through Byrne’s field and out thro’ style on to the road The people wend their way along here every Sunday and Holy day as they did long long before 1798 to Kilquade Church – which is now the Parish Church.

The Yeos burned Kilquade Church in “98” and there was a picture an oil painting of the Holy Family saved from the flames – the walls only remained. The Church was re-built 1802-1804 and the picture saved now hangs under the men’s gallery beside the Sacred Heart Alter.

Before and during the time they were re-building Kilquade the priest said Mass (any time he could) in a house on the road between Priestnewtown and Delgany called the “Priory” which still retails the name “Priory” but is occupied by Protistant family named Evans. There is another Mass Path from Delgany which leads over a style right beside the church. This path is used still by people coming from Delgany and Dromin. There is another Path also from the Downs which leads down from Carrigower this is still used.

There is a tradition that one Sunday a Protestant gentleman was passing by Kilquade and noticed an old shed and a lot a people standing, the men bare headed. He asked his companion what they were doing there and he told him (his companion was an agent from a big landowner living near Newtown Mount Kennedy named Gun Cunningham) they were Papists attending their service. The gentleman thought for a while and then said “They ought to have some place better for their service” when he went back to the Landowner he asked him would he give him an acre of land at Kilquade not saying what he wanted it for. He got the bit of land and paid for it and came back and told the men that they could build a place on it for their service – so they set to work and built the church and had Mass there until the burning in “98”. When re-building it they used Roman architecture and it stands today a lovely little church, well kept and surrounded by the church yard or grave-yard which is also beautifully kept. There are very old graves + slabs nearly 200 years of age. There are three priests buried there, the oldest F. O’Neill buried about 130 years ago. F. Walsh buried 38 years and F. Healy buried 12 years ago.

The hero of the “Well Tragedy” is also buried Charles O’Leary here but in the newer portion of the grave yard. There are some very beautiful tomb stones in the grave yard.

Kilquade is called St. Patrick’s Church.

In Killadreenan grave yard there is a stone covered with blood marks. If it is scratched with a pin it is said to bleed. One of the children went over to see it and when she went near enough to scratch it, she got a fright and ran away as fast as she could.

So cannot say if this story has any truth or not.

The ruins of the old church are in the graveyard. I heard a man say that it is very easy to loose your way in this graveyard and that you’d find yourself walking in a circle.

Penal Days

There are families living in Kilcool and Ballygannon whose ancestors suffered in the Penal Days.

Toner’s house built over 300 years is still nice and well preserved, the butcher’s stall was (all) added on and later still another house built. The family 2 brothers and sister live in the old house, their great grand-father sheltered the priest and the priest used to say Mass there. The authorities got to know of this and had the place searched not finding the priest they took Mr James Toner and tied his feet to a car, yoked horse to it and dragged him thus – head bumping along the ground to a place called “Bloody Bank” near Newtown-Mount Kennedy where they hanged him His family got his body and buried it in Kilcool grave yard.

The soldiers searched Mr. O’Briens Ballygannon but Mr Darby O’Brien had just got away so they came in, they found the bed hot and said “The nest is warm but the bird is flown”

There is a stone over the road near Richardson’s gate that is said to have blood on it as there the “Yeos” hanged the “Papists” – as they called them – in “98”

Old Graveyards.

The old church in Kilcool (Lott Lane) was built in 1002 by Saint Comgall. It was afterwards the Parish Church and the name of it was Saint Lughaidh. Mass was celebrated in it in 1349. There were four chapels belonging to the Parish at that time. Kilfernock, Kilpedder Kilpatrick and Ballyennah now called Ballygannon Mass was celebrated in all these chapels in 1349.

Have not found out where Kilfernock and Kilpatrick were situated. In Kilpedder nearer to Kilquade are the ruins of the old church and the Holy water font of stone inside the gate. Down Ballygannon in Brien’s field can be seen the remains of the walls of the old chapel there are also mounds in the field which the people say were graves but no stones or slabs are there.

Kilcool church or rather the walls are well preserved there are several families buried inside the church the stones with all the names inscribed on them are on the walls. It is hard to read some of them. The Hopton Scotts are buried there dating nearly 300 years The stone holy water stoop is quite good.

The grave yard is outside church all around. It is still used as the ancestors of most of the people around are buried there. Although some of the families have bought graves in Kilquade

In Kilcool graveyard is the grave of a man named Kennedy, the grave is covered with straggling grass, but on the spot corresponding to the position of the heart underneath there is a cut out hollow where no grass grows. It is said the man was an informer in “98”. And the hollow is an allusion to blood. There is an old graveyard in Killadreenan which has lately been closed to burials. This is belonging to the Parish of Kilquade. There was also another in Kilmurray but that is nearer Newtown Mount Kennedy and would be included in the folklore of that district.

Local Fairs

There is no Local Fair held in Kilcool now but where the Cottages now stand (built about 25 years ago) was the Fair Field there was a big trade carried on and fairlings[?] of every description sold to young and old. An old lady who died about [blank] years ago showed me a little china basket which she bought for a penny when she was 4 years old at the Fair. This old lady was 90 years when she died. Her daughters and son have the little ornament under a glass shade.

It must be close on 50 years since a Fair was held here.

There was a large pond beside the Fair Field and in Winter when it was frozen the boys used to skate on it. It is filled in long ago and a Cottage and garden belonging to Mr. Jack Greene there.

The nearest Fair now is held in Newtown Mt. Kennedy. Luck-money is still given. If there are a many animals bought – sheep or cows 10 / – is given in Luck-money. It may be more or less according to the means of buyer or seller. Sheep are marked with red or black letter

The Upper Green was at that time called the “Goose Bank”.

There is a large estate named Woodstock said to have been given to the ancestors of present owners (Tottenham) by Cromwell.

It is a lovely old place – there is a Druid’s Altar in the grounds and there is also a place where the Priest said Mass and the mark of the Mass Book on the stone. There is a well called the Bishop’s Well also which is well preserved with a little gate over it

The house is not in very good repair at least some parts of it. The drawing room is beautifully furnished. Louis XIII style the upholstering is velvet and hand embroidered which is very beautiful There are some fine pictures in oils. It is a tradition there not to dismantle the beds or bedrooms of members of the family who die, consequently there are three beds, the Bishop who was one of the first of the families, the Major who died an old man 15 or 16 years ago, and son and heir who died suddenly about 5 years ago. All beds and rooms as they left them hats hanging in hall, walking sticks and gloves on hall table.

In the year of the famine “47” the wall surrounding the estate at present was built by the local men who were paid with a handful of yellow meal to bring home to their starving families. It was a frequent occurence to find a man or two men dead beside the wall in the morning, they had not the strength to walk home.

There was talk of people hearing chains rattling inside these walls every night but no one saw anything and there is not much belief in those stories

Up to the year 1890 there was a race held every year in Kilcool, in the field opposite the Convent wall or in the field at the back of Toner’s house.

Mr. Garrett was the last to run the races.

Sometimes there was a donkey race and sometimes there would be a race between all the old people

Ship Wrecks.

There was a big ship wrecked at Ballygannon about 100 years ago. The captain of the vessel was washed ashore (alive) he made his way to the nearest farm house named Byrnes. Mr. Byrne took him in and did all he could for him all the family made him welcome. It is said that after some time he the captain married Mr. Byrne’s daughter and settled down in Ballygannon. The captain’s name was Scott. This is said to be the first of the Scott family.

Mr. Scott was very fond of horses and built some very fine stables and out houses which still remain. The farm house was burned down one night and they went to live in a smaller thatched house on the estate or farm. He intended to build a new dwelling-house but died before doing so. The last of the Scotts left the place a few years ago, they were three very nice old ladies, two have died since.

The old house is empty since they left and is fast going to ruin. Some boys from Greystones broke all the windows and the briars are now going in through the broken panes. The stables are very fine, the land now belongs to Mr. Evans There is a lovely walk from the entrance gate down to the sea about 3/4 mile. The drive is now grass grown and the pretty garden in which the old ladies took so much pleasure and pride is now a wilderness.

There was another wreck about 90 years ago, but their was no survivor only the beams of timber and planks were floating near Ballygannon and some days after bags of flour and boxes of candles were found on the shore. The Police took possession of the candles, the flour was ruined.

Where Kilcool Station is now was once a lovely green. The Sea was at least a mile farther out. There was a race-course there and many pleasant gatherings. Old Mrs. Doyle who died about 5 years ago at the age of ninety said she remembered it well, she a young bride went to live there at Sea Cottage. The station was about a mile away nearer to Newcastle. One night during a big storm the station and everything connected with it was blown out to sea. The station was then erected at Kilcool where it now is, and it met with like fate one stormy night. So the authorities decided not to build anything worth while again, so put up present structure which has weathered all the storms since.

There is a very old house near the sea, on the sea-road which was once owned by family named Stokes. Lady Ripton came into possession of it after. It is now a stocking factory The name of the place is Greyfort.

On the Sea-road nearer to the village are the ruins of an old mill. This mill supplied the people all round with flour. Wheaten meal and Oaten meal. There was a dwelling house beside the Mill. The ruins of this still remain.

There is a house on the Sea Road now called “Avon House” which is built of bricks made near the lime kiln in Ballydonera Mr Robinson owned the Kiln and made the bricks and built this house with them. He had a shop there also and sold hard ware. He married a Miss Coates (teacher in school on Upper Green) or may have been a sister of the teacher (not too sure) The name of the house then was “The Mart” This name was changed to Saint Annes by Mrs. Northridge who had a Nursing Home there for a few years. Some months ago it was taken by Mr. Massey and name changed to Avon House.

There is another old house owned by Mr. Grey, he belongs to an old family, his brother Robert Grey bought what was left of the wrecked ship “Isabella”. This vessel was wrecked 66 years ago. He put the figure head of a lady on the gate pier and called it “Isabella from Portafera”

This gate pier is supposed to be the present one but the lady’s head is not discernible

At the end of the Garretts field near the village there is an old hollow and every night a band of fairies used to come and dance and sing this – (Mrs. Garrett says so.)

In Grey’s field (Sea Road) there was a spring well. One day a priest was going past he was very thirsty He got into the field and took a drink of water, then he blessed the well and went away. When Mr. Grey heard the well was blessed he was angry and he filled it up with stones. After a month or two the well sprang up again and is still there. Cottages have been built on the land near the well.

There was a Police Barracks over at the “Turck’s Head” near Newcastle, then it was vacated and Police came to Kilcool (now the Post Office and owned by Mrs. Toner).

There was a family named Gaffrey who lived in Black-Bull they were blacksmiths and for some time used to shoe the Yeomen’s horses in “98”. Gaffrey heard he was to be arrested by the Yeomen and one night his wife awoke and said “Matt get up quickly for the Yeos are coming” He got out through the thatch and when he had just gone the yeomen broke in the door looking for him. They drove the pikes down through the bed in case he might be between the ticks. They set fire to the house and left the wife homeless.

When Byrnes lived in Lower Cooldross they had twenty cows For a long time every evening the cows had no milk. so Mr. Byrne and his son set out to watch who was taking the milk. They brought with them a gun and a cartridge of silver and powder mixed To their surprise they found a witch woman milking the cows They fired at her but she got away they followed her and found the “good people” taking the silver the silver out of her back. Byrne warned them to send her there no more.

21 Years Act.

The time of the 21 years act, the tenants had a lease only for 21 years. At end of that time the landlords would not renew the lease only put out the tenant and put a Protestant in his place. There were a lot of tenants on the “Burnaby Estate” near Greystones with four or five acres of land each. The landlord gave Covney Mac Daniel five pounds to give to each tenant and notice to quit. Instead of giving the £5 he evicted the tenants and knocked down the houses as soon as he got them out.

Kellys lived in Charlesland under the same agreement. When they went with their rent they were ordered to leave the place but refused to do so until the Sherif was near. Kelly fired a shot over the bailiff’s head and was arrested but found not guilty.