Bruhenny In a Golden Light
Albert Henry Daly
My book, “A Corner of Buttevant” gave me an idea to write something of interest to the Churchtown readers, as the two towns link up somewhat, as well as all the other towns and villages of the county. Townlands too, are of great importance. We all have roots, and mine are in West Cork, near Barleycove Goleen – my father’s home place. Nearer home, in the townland of Lackeen, my mother’s people came from – Clarkson was the name, and they are buried in the little cemetery where the walls of a little church still stands. The great Bell from it hangs over Mrs. Margaret O’Connell’s restaurant in Buttevant, found when the Awbeg river was dredged long ago.
To get back to Bruhenny, or Churchtown as it is now called. In the old days Brugenny was the name it was mostly called, and now I will try to relate to you a picture of the chief Anglican families, Rectors and churches used by them at one time or another, when they were built, right up to the Reformation and up ’till 1900. Your other writers will deal with St. Nicholas’s Church, and poets and sport personalities etc., so here is my corner of Churchtown should I say.
Cloyne and the Pipe Roll of Cloyne had a great link with Bruhenny. The Pipe Roll was 17 ½ feet long and 7 ¼ inches wide, made of parchment. The ancient document outlined the feudal system of ownership of land within the diocese of Cloyne. It consisted of a series of entries of jury’s findings and of Acts of Deeds relating to the See of Cloyne. The document was written on both sides – in fact there were two copies. An exact copy which seemed to vanish, and the other copy was given to the Dublin Office of Records for safe keeping, where it was destroyed in 1922. There were some translations to the English language but the Latin version – the original – was best, and was begun in 1364.
Some of the landlords were Bishops in those feudal times and were appointed for the Church if they had “blue blood”, should I say, or a man with standing, powerful connections and wealth, such as a few thousand acres of land, in their possession. From their tenants they extracted turf, corn, fish, and labour, so if the tenant on his land, or in one of his houses misbehaved he, the Bishop was entitled to the families’ labour as servants on his domain. The going rate for land was a kish of turf to the acre – a kish is two and seventy sods. Fishermen who had houses rented did not do so well either at twelve and six pence a year, with three pence for every extra child or person, as well as to provide fish for the Bishop’s table. If fish were twelve pence at the market his Lordship would have them at eight pence; he would give two pence for a Ling and a penny for three haddock. The “Bishop’s Table” meant his staff of servants, coach-men, butlers, rent collectors, gardeners or visitors. These were Church regulations. All this even if the poor were hungry.
Kilmaclenine, Bruhenny and Ballybeg Abbey were all under the See of Cloyne, Coleman MacLenane – hence Kilmaclenane – so the same or similar customs prevailed around Bruhenny, with no fish or sea food to barter for your up-keep and shelter. There were the fat black cattle of Annagh and corn etc., reed for thatch too. Slate was hard to get and thatch warm and cosy. So it is here I bring a list of Bruhenny clergy or Rectors from 1291 who were under the Dee of Cloyne, to do the best that could be done with those harsh rules and “man made”. Women seemed to have little influence but the few that did left their mark alright.
Starting from Feudal times we have, right up to the Reformation, and then to 1900,”taken from rove White’s notes and Church records”. While times, prices, laws, and governments changed, good and bad, famines, times of plenty. I’ll deal with the better times maybe and better type of leaders or personality.
As every one knows, life was not all misery, battles, storms, famine, money and death in the days of yore, nor is it now. B.S.E., “Nuclear fallout” , “Acid Rain”, and “Death on the Roads”. “The 1998 Summer”. Has the world improved?
In the year 1291 at Bruhenny Church, 100 yards east of the town, sadly now in ruins except for a few arches, the historic presence of Robert Cheusner appeared on the scene presented by Odo de Barry to the vicarage in the County of Cork. Then John de Barry Clark was presented by Philip de Barry, son and heir of Odo de Barry. After that, Thomas O’Holan, in the year 1311, Vide Cahirultan was the Rector of Brothing there mentioned Bruhenny 1384.
In the year 1545 James Roche settled in to Bruhenny and in 1591 Lucas Brady is Rector of Bruhenny, son and heir of Hugh Brady, Bishop of Meath, he signed the settlement of Thomond on the 17th of August, 1585. Luke died on January 16th 1612.
In 1610 William Holiday arrives and we find William in Ballyhooly in 1615. That year John Hull becomes Vicar of Wallstown, Templeroan and Ballintemple, also Churchtown. He was later Precentor of Cloyne. William Burley is installed January the 11th 1625, but resigned five years later in 1630, so in the year 1637 became Rector of Scull in the West Cork. Around the year 1634 a James Barry appears as Impropiator of the rectory of Bruhenny. Up until 1661 Rev. Pakingron was at Bruhenny, to find himself as Archdeacon of Cork to 1662.
Then in 1662 John Veacy came and was admitted on the 14th September 1663 to be Rector of Bruhenny, Shandrum, Aglishddrinagh and Rathgoggan. He was Dean of Cork later in 1667. This next year, 1668, October 29th Christopher Vowell is presented by Philippa Percival, and Ballyhea was joined with Bruhenny. It would bring the two parishes very close together, at least for a while.
So it was in the year 1700 that Kerry Fitzmaurice took over at Bruhenny, presented by Johis Perceval. Here lots of changes took place, some good, some foolish I think – the drastic decision to build a new Church in Maryfield and leave the beautiful old Bruhenny building. A good one was to found a charitable institution at Burton Park for the poor, of forty two pounds per annum, by Sir John Perceval.
In 1713 there was a presentation of Limerick silver – Patten, Chalice and Flagon and the inscription reads – “Ex dono viru honorabilis Johannis Perceval equitas aurati in usum Ecclesiae Parochialis de Browheny”
Now in 1710 an Act of Parliament sanctions a change to the new site and in the year of 1715 the new church is consecrated in the townland of Maryland – a quarter of a mile to the west of the town, and connected to Burton Park by a beach-lined avenue and a two-arched stone bridge, still standing, in the beautiful park-lands of Burton Park. So the beautiful old church of Bruhenny was left to fall to bits in the process and a new era follows, so we read on. It was approximately sixty feet long and thirty feet wide and according to records in 1774 the old church was in ruins. Strangely the New Church’s “Foundation Stone” which was embedded on the West wall inside, now kept at St. John’s, reads “Cumf Beat v SPs Deo Opt Max Anno 1792 Domus Orationis”. It is likely the new church was built at different stages in the shape of a cross with a square tower.
Rev. Kerry Fitzmorris in 1712 serves at the parishes of Liscarroll, Buttevant and Bregogue, as well as Bruhenny. Bregogue had a little church on the North Western end adjoining the townland of Tullig, its cemetery is in Tullig, near the Well of Tubbera Tadg. It is believed a water font is built into the wall there still – this was told to me by a previous owner, Miss Kathleen Ryan. The front is now below the present ground level. Rev. Kerry kept all these parishes ’till he died in 1728. His father, Ulysses Fitzmorris was one of the Landstown family of Kerry county.
Downs Conroy arrived in Bruhenny on 18th March 1728 to be Rector, and in 1735 you had Robert Brereton from Co. Carlow. His mother Catherine was a daughter of George Perceval and Mary Crofton, and he stayed until 1764, being in charge of Kilbrin as well, from 1742. Note a Gargoile or stone head is built into the right pier at Kilbrin – this is from the old church which stood inside the South West entrance of Kilbrin.
Charles Perceval took over on the 7th of June 1764 as Rector of Bruhenny, on presentation of John Earl of Egmont and gets a lease from the Dean of Cloyne of Kilbrogan at three pounds yearly, in the parish of Churchtown and gets a fresh lease in 1780 for one pound and ten shillings per annum.
At any rate, in 1774 Bruhenny Church was in ruins the church lands Glebe.
The Glebe Lands amounted to 11 acres, 1 rood, and 35 perches. The new Glebe Lands at Maryfield had three acres and thirty four perches. 1780 sees Charles Perceval A.M. Curate. Jr. and he died in 1795. On that year of ’95 Rev. Mathew Purcell, second son of Sir John Purcell in High Fort, took the parish with very little Anglican parishioners, and in 1805 just one family remained. The salary of the Curate was 69 pounds, four shillings and seven pence and a half penny.
The new church could hold three hundred people – later more would come, but never more than forty five parishioners. Rev. Mathew Purcell was born in 1771 and died in 1845 and was interred at Maryfield. I don’t know where Sir John Purcell was buried. At the moment I can see three burial sites only, this year, 1998. An alter tomb belonging to Rev. Lucius George 1859, another one in the middle with iron railings, I reckon is Rev. Purcell and a large tomb belonging to the Purcell family. Lucius George was rector in 1845 and Sir Edward Tierney was his patron. In 1860 the Maryfield Church is in good order and Rev. Mathew Tierney is rector – no Glebe House in Churchtown, there is a service every Sunday and Chief Fiests Sacrament monthly and the three Great Festivals. C.I. population 27. Eleven acres without residence.
Rev. Mathew Tierney resigned in 1872 and went to a parish in or near Bristol. He, I think, was then last Vicar of Maryfield at Churchtown. The church only 179 old with a strange history starting in 1715. Built in bits and scraps finally in a cruciform shape, the tower and chancel added after, dedicated finally in 1792. In 1834 the square tower was damaged to be repaired again in 1837 at a cost of 158 pounds, to be demolished in 1894. The Dedication Stone, was written in Latin and embedded inside of the West wall, is safe in St. Johns, Buttevant now, in 1998 translated goes like this:
“Together with the Blessed Son and Holy Spirit this House of Prayer was dedicated to the best and Greatest God in the year 1792”. Bruhenny now amalgamated with Buttevant and Rev. Cotter, L.L.D., rector, writes and according to Grove White’s records, I brought the “Dedication Stone” to Buttevant, St. Johns, for safe keeping after it was demolished in 1894, also some of the baptismal font. He thought the bowl was from the old Bruhenny Church and VERY OLD. He says again that Maryfield chancel was paved with black and white marble and none of the Perceval family were buried in its chancel. As I write now in 1998 the “Dedication Stone” and “font” are in safe keeping and can be seen at any time.
The stone from Maryfield was sold to a road contractor, the beech trees cut down too, and, with the money, all the wall around Bruhenny’s old Church was repaired. Today, 104 years later, some breaches appear again. The people in the town do their best; the terrain is too rough for a lawn-mower and a great effort must be made.
A great effort should be made now to restore the old walls and Archways, of what is left, while the face lift is in progress as there is a goldmine of history that Bruhenny can be proud of within those walls. As for Maryfield, a quarter mile from town West, lies in sadness in a tangled mess – its gates covered in briars and fallen trees, in full view of the new People’s Home and the grand sports grounds. After all, it’s here lies Lady O’Connell, married to the descendents of Daniel O’Connell the great Liberator, and many outstanding people of Bruhenny.
So now we go on to more personalities. While Annagh Bothon and Bruhenny were linked with Cloyne by church affairs, they were also linked by Music, with instruments like the harp. The Cloyne Harp, which was made for a daughter of Lord Buttevant – she was married to Fitzdesmond Fitzmorris. There was always too a great exchange of men and women of learning between those places, and when I say learned they were the top brains of the modern world of their time, and here the Burton Hall Percevalls knew and entertained inside those walls maybe not understood by all, many of those people Sir. Philip Perceval possessed a vast estate in England and Ireland too. In 1625 he possessed the mighty Liscarroll Castle, now owned by the O’Brien family.
Built by the Strongbonians and Anglo Normans he had Annagh, Walshestown castles too when he was only 44 years. On the 10th of November 1647 he died and was buried on London at St. Martins In The Fields, just across from The National Gallery. In the crypt at St. Martins the poor and the drop-outs of society get a meal and a night’s lodging, but must be on their way next day. In 1663 the Percevals moved to Ballymacow, now Egmont, nicely situated just west of Churchtown with a beautiful park containing wild deer and Oak, Ash, Elm and Fir trees on the lawns. The Earls owned at that time 99,000 acres including Annagh, Imogane, Kilbridy, Knockilbridy, Ballinamucky, Danbarry, Jordanstown, Kilgrogan, Rocestown, Culleagh, Coolmore, Lackeen, Gurteenroe, Cregane, Ballinaboul and Ballycristy.
The old barn must be their cider-making brewery as lots of apples were grown then. The first Earl died on May 1st. 1748. Little corn was sewn around Annagh them, but it was a thriving town with a linen industry and grand herds of black cattle roamed the lands. It was at Annagh that the large Catholic Church was, with a lovely thatched one at Bruhenny. The Windmill comes in between, also Kilgrogan, so one can imagine what a thriving spot it was. In the year 1688 the Perceval family moved to Burton Park Hall, after the architect, or builder, William Ken Cahernary Limerick refurbished it. Sir. Richard Perceval Baronet first lived at Burton Hall. Lady Perceval was one of the Southwell family – wife of Sir Richard 1670.
In more modern times Churchtown harboured the Anderson family at Mountcorbett, South West of the town. Mary Parker, wife of Captain Anderson, was an extremely good sketcher and painter who sketched many scenes of that area, including one of St. Bridget’s Well, and the old ash tree which stood behind it. One of her sketch books is floating between America and Dublin, because I know her people kept in touch with the O’Brien family in Mountcorbet. Mary Parker or Mrs. Anderson, “R.A.’s” mother Robert Anderson Organiser of the I.A.O.S. and formed CoOperatives all over the country and world over he worked with Plunkett and wrote the book “With Plunkett in Ireland” – well worth a read. His parents the Captain and Mary are buried in St. John’s, Buttevant. But who is the lucky person that gets this lovely book of Mary’s – “Sketches of the Eighteen Fifties”.
To go back some time to Cloyne and Bruhenny and the connections with outstanding people, Percevals knew and mixed with scientists, philosophers, famous writers and churchmen. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patricks, Dublin, author of “Gulliver’s Travels” – a book to give a dig to the crooked politicians and snobs of the day who rode high on the peoples’ money and labour to let the people in squalor in the streets of Dublin and elsewhere. Likening them to the people he met in his “Voyage to Liliput”, a Voyage to Brobdengnag, a Boyage to Laputa, and a visit to The Houyhnhnms. Another man or acquaintance was the world-famous Sir Isac Newton, leading scientist discoverer of Gravity. Gallileo, some time earlier, had the same idea and was jailed for such an outlandish idea. Then Berkley, visitor to Burton Hall, friend of Swift Philosopher, Reformer enemy of the Slave Trade Bishop of Cloyne as well Berkley worked hard to rid America North and South of the slave trade to free the black African families dragged from their homes by the sea merchants and ship captains to sell at marts in America to pick cotton for the Irish, English, Welsh and Scots. These settlers acquired vast ranches of land out there for nothing and no help to work them, so they thought slavery was the answer. The cruelty here was outrageous and Berkley fought a hard battle. Cotton was brought in here and the European Continent to be sold to sweat-shops at ridiculous low prices. What had this to do with Bruhenny and Annagh? The black families, brought in chains to America, helped to smash linen prices and all the little linen industries collapsed, not alone in Annagh but in the large linen fields of Dromina and Ballyhooly where there was a big water-driven mill. A little is produced in Northern Ireland yet, but who will forget the growing of flax, the Poplin Cloth Linseed Oil, competing with wool, the Frieze Great Coat, the West Cork Cloak and the Black Woolen Shawl.
Another grand family I must mention, from Bruhenny, will be the O’Briens of Mountcorbett, south of town, who stood out from many and loved by all, tended their flowers, trees and cattle kindly, formerly Mary Anderson’s domain. This is a tribute to Eileen and her sister whom I knew well. It is a poem, or song they played and sung, by Joyce Kilmer, called “Native Trees”, out in their lawn and used to sit in their shade in summer time. When one favourite had fallen in the wind, mostly from old age I expect. She ordered it to the saw-mill to be made up to shade her in her passing on to a greater place, so this is the poem:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowering breast
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair
Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain
Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree
Miss O’Brien’s wish was carried out and she was sheltered in the wood she loved in lifetime, and in death to be once again protected by the fine old trees she minded in her life-time.
Here in this article you will find some photographs of Bruhenny’s old church and its grand old arches and walls as it stands today, as well as the Memorials of Maryfield. I know you will like them – I took them myself. There is also a sketch of the Giant Irish Elk, extinct for ten thousand years, found in the Moanroe during the ‘forties’ when men were cleaning the ramparts. This Elk was preserved under the peat and lay there safely – then taken to the National Museum in Dublin – where it is now I do not know. When one speaks of Moanroe, Ramparts are mentioned, so this shows that those Banks were used to defend from assault in times of danger. As it is October in 1998 when this is written I’ll just mention that the 31st of October was a Celtic pagan holiday or festival ’till the eighth century when many fires were lit all over the country. This was to keep the sun “hot” ’till the Spring, to shine again bright and warm, to get life back to the dormant plants and trees of ‘else-where’ and Bruhenny.
by Albert Henry Daly