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History of Milford

This article is an extract from History of Milford written by the late Mr. Matt Murphy in the twenties. We are grateful to the Murphy family, particularly Michael, for providing us with this article, and giving permission for its publication.

Milford is a village on the main road from Charleville to Newcastle, in the parish of Kilbolane, barony of Orrery and Kilmore and county of Cork, situated at the extreme north of the county on the borders of county Limerick, which the roads west, north and east from Milford, enter, at a very short distance from the village in each case.

The population of Milford a hundred years ago well exceeded 200, in 1871 it was 216 living in 45 houses. In 1911 it was only 142, in 1926 it was 169.

Small as the village is it forms part of three townlands, viz. Kilbolane, Doony and Scart. A hundred years ago there were houses at both sides of the road to Tullylease from Milford Bridge to half way to foot of Dooney hill, and a dozen houses at the north side of the road to Charleville, now occupied by the new Church and Parochial House. All these have long since disappeared. In the recollection of people still living there were at one time in Milford, 14 shoemakers, 6 coopers, 4 tailors, 4 carpenters, 3 blacksmiths and 2 weavers with looms for linen, flannel, tamin, (flax and wool) and 20 to 30 labourers, with plenty work for all. There are now none of the tradesmen and only a couple of day labourers are available.

The Catholic Church was originally at Slironepookeen over a mile from Milford, on the road to Tullylease and the people of both parishes, Milford and Tullylease, used attend there for Worship, and the parish priest having died was buried within its walls. His successor the Rev. Robert O'Riordan, set about building a new Church in Milford on the site of the old Mill, on the north side of the road, near the river, and after some years Father O'D0noghue's remains were brought from Shroncpookeen and interred in the (then) Church yard with the remains of his two successors, Father "Bob" O'Riordan and Father William Cosgrave. The Bishop, Most. Revd. Dr. Browne, at his visitations during the pastorship of Father Wm. Fitzgerald (Father Cosgrave's successor) and Father William Coghlan, P.P. having condemned the existing Church as being unworthy as a House of Worship, unsuitable as to size, situation and repair, and insufficient for the needs of the congregation. Father Coghlan formed a representative Committee of Parishioners; a Site - the most suitable in the whole Parish was purchased, the Church was built and furnished at a cost of upwards of £4,000 and solemnly CONSECRATED the first day Mass was said in it, Sunday, 4th. May, 1903.

The remains of the three previous Parish Priests were subsequently removed from the disused Church by the Deel and found a last resting place outside the wall of the New Church and on the 2 March, 1924 the Rev. Canon Coghlan was laid to rest to the great grief of the whole parish.

The Very Revd. William Canon Coghlan P.P. died after a long and painful illness, and three days later was laid in the grave marked by himself, by the side of his three predecessors R.I.P. The River Deel flows through the village and is spanned by a substantial Bridge of 6 arches but in ancient times there was no bridge and hence the name At aMuilinn - "the Ford of the Mill." In 1848-9 a Corn Mill was built at the south side of the road by Mr. E.R.C. Barry of Kilbolane and almost opposite the site of the original Mill. This Mill continued in operation for upwards of 30 years when the occupiers of lands called the Marshes threatened Mr. Barry with an action at law for damage to their lands caused by an obstruction to the flow of the River Deel in the shape of a cut stone Head Weir with floodgates sliced across the river to divert the water into his Mill Race. Rather than subject himself to an expensive action at law and particularly as the Mill at the time was not paying very well, on receiving some moderate compensation he took down the weir. The Miller then leased the Mill from Mr. Barry and with the assistance of a few friends lowered the bed of the Mill Race under the level of bed of the river, from the site of the Head Weir to the Mill, considerably over a mile, and so secured a sufficient supply of water, and the continued working till 1884 when the Milford Drainage Board was formed and the supply of water completely cut away as the bed of the River was lowered and widened from Milford Bridge to Red Bog at an expenditure of upwards of £5,000 obtained by a loan from the Board of Public Works on the security of the lands improved.

The Mill building was used as a shopkeeper's store for a few years until 1887 when the Milford Dairy Factory Co. Ltd. was 7 incorporated and practiced. The First Creamery was started in Ireland in the building and was most successful from the very beginning, so much so that in the next and succeeding years similar creameries were started in all the surrounding parishes and so the movement spread.

A Patent for Four Fairs in the year which is still in existence, was granted to the Bowen family who at that time lived at Kilbolane and owned the greater part of the parish, but anybody has not a recollection of even hearing of a Fair having ever been held in Milford.

Schools for Boys and Girls were built in 1847 under the Commissioners of National Education and a large limestone flag was inserted in the wall over the entrance door with an inscription cut in the stone:

Kilbolane National Schools erected by Rev. Robert 0'Riordan P.P. 1847

but the Commissioners having objected, the inscription, with the exception of th first line, had to be erased.

In 1850 Mr. Vere Foster, a philanthropist in Belfast devoted portion of his wealth to the improvement of the primary National Schools in Ireland and out of this gift the Mud Floors of the two Schools were boarded over and some furniture, Maps and Charts were put in. In 1870 Canon Coughlan with the aid of a grant from the Commissioners built two Class rooms for the infants and carried out further improvements in the schools.

Amongst the 48 persons who were burned to death in the Cinema fire at Drumcollogher were Mr. J.J. Walsh, B.A. Principal teacher Kilbolane School, (who was lodging in Drum. at the time), Mr. Thomas Buckley - Mr. Walsh 's predecessor in the school, Mr, Buckley's brother Jeremiah, Principal Drumcollogher School and Mrs. Jeremiah and their servant girl. It has been universally admitted that these men, with three others who perished, James Quaide, Bob Aherne, could easily have saved themselves only for assisting the women and children to escape.

There was also, about 1857, a school for the few Protestant children in the parish, at Prohust not under the National Education Commissioners, and there was a "Hedge School" at Monabrica (Coon), three miles from Milford, which was for years conducted by a Blind Schoolmaster (1) until his death at the age of 70. The Protestant Church is in the graveyard of Ballinakill Iiciwcen the townlands of Kilbolane and Gurtnagoul and about a iuilc from Milford. This Church was built by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1829 and on the site of an old Abbey. When digging for the foundations the workmen came upon a small slab or tablet of stone, one side of which on being cleaned and polished bore the inscription:

"This is the burial place of the Synans." with the Arms of the family and the date "1442". This slab, the Rector, the Rev. Jonathan Bruce caused to be inserted in the outside masonry of the western wall, and almost immediately over the burial place of the Synan family "where it will remain while the edifice lasts."

The Graveyard was desecrated in 1903 by the erection therein of a galvanized shed to serve as a Stable for the horse of the Parson while he would be giving service in the Church. The owners of the adjoining graves were indignant and arising out of a strong protest resolution passed unanimously by the Kanturk Board of Guardians the matter was raised in the House of Commons by one of the Irish Members. when the Chief Secretary for Ireland, acting for the Church Temporalities Commissioners said that body had no responsibility in the matter as the Ballinakill graveyard in common with a number of other graveyards in the Union was vested in the Kanturk Board of Guardians acting as the Rural Sanitary Authority. The Board promptly appointed a Caretaker for the graveyard who proceeded to put the place in order and was about to take down the shed when the Parson came on the scene and said any person interfering with the stable would be arrested as he had authority from the Church Commissioners to say that the graveyard was vested in that body and in nobody else; that the Ballinakill mentioned by the Chief Secretary in Parliament referred to a different place altogether, so the subject has remained undecided up to the present. However the stable was in a short time after taken down.

In the townland of Kilbolane are the remains of a rather small building called "Teampul n Boin", the wall of which covered with ivy, are still standing in about an acre of ground fenced around and planted with trees. It is commonly supposed to have been a "Chapel of Ease" of the Bowens when they lived at Kilbolane and some members of the family appear to have been buried there as people still living have a recollection of seeing cof fins exposed within the walls.

On some few occasions in former times still-born children were also buried there, the last occurence of this kind having occurred in 1860.

As a result of dreams of buried gold, at least three different attempts at different times and by different people were made to dig for the gold round the walls during the nighttime, and the treasure hunters were on each occasion frightened off by "Spirits" in the shape of an enraged bull. "So the story goes". The last attempt was made as late as 1908. The principal seats are Kilbolane Castle, Castlelishen, from which Sir James Dalton Fitzgerald takes his title. Prohust House, built by the notorious "Gulliver" Bruce, Gibbings Grove House, formerly the residence of the Gibbing family, to which a former Countess of Combermere belonged and in her will she left {200 to erect a stained glass window in Tullylease Protestant Church, as a memorial ofthe Gibbings family. When this Church, ceased to be no longer used the Church Temporalities Commissioners had the window removed, and remounted in Kilbolane Protestant Church near Milford, 1893.

The Castle of Kilbolane which stands near the village and formerly a seat of the Earls of Desmond was a fine Anglo Norman building said to have been erected soon after the coming over of Strongbow by the De Cogans, from whom the Desmonds had the estate. The Castle was partially destroyed by Cromwell. The building was of square form with a ciruclar tower at each of the four angles, two of which are in a fair state of preservation. Some years after the Castle was destroyed a good mansion was build quite near and was subsequently occupied, at one time or another, by the Powers, the Bowens, and the Barrys and Hannigans.

In 1920 the Black and Tans occupied both Charleville and Drumcollogher and two or three times a week they drove from one station to the other and everytime they passed through Milford they were sure to fire shots and never missed having a shot or two at the Village Hall, which they also raided one evening, smashed doors and windows and looted pictures, a melodeon and two "showmans" lamps. On another occasion, returning from Charleville at 12 o'clock at night they dropped a bomb in the centre of the road which smashed the windows of the Post Office and those of Maruice Fitzgibbon on the one side and Patrick Walsh's on the other. A splinter hit Mrs. Walsh (who was in bed) in the eye and she was confined to bed and attended by the Doctor for a fortnight after. She was subsequently awarded £50 as compensation.

In November the same year they made two attempts to burn the Milford Creamery and Stores. On the first occasion they .uiivctl about half past ten at night and broke in through the wiurlows opened the taps of the paraffin cask and a lubricating oil rusk aud left the oils run on the cement floor. At the other side of thc road more of the party set fire to the Store in which was held a liu.; lot of wheat and maize, after which they left immediately. Fortunately P. Sheehan, the engine driver at the Creamery heard thu lorry coming and again going away so quickly, got suspicious uud hurried to the Creamery which he saw on fire. He routed up whatever help was near - the Chapel Bell was tolled and in a short time hundreds were at the scene and with willing hands, a good supply of buckets and proximity of the River Deel in flood, the fires were quickly put out. The Black and Tans returned a week uftcr about 12 at night, two of them marched to Chapel Gate to prevent any alarm being given, and while some were engaged setting the Flour Mill on fire, more were looting thirteen 56lb boxes of Butter and when all was done to their entire satisfaciton they waited in the roadway until the flames burst through the roof and the slates commenced to crack. The Creamery Co. were afterwards awarded £10,000 (ten thousand pounds) as compensation.

To remedy the great want of a good supply of pure spring water for the people of the village, the Kanturk Board of Guardians, in the year 1875, caused a pump to be sunk in the centre ofthe "square". After digging through 14 feet of stiff clay a sort of quagmire was reached - very fine sand and water - which the pump sinkers found extremely difficult to get through and at a depth of 34 feet from the surface finally abandoned the job alleging it had become too dangerous as the banks were threatening to "cave in" notwithstanding the substantial framing and boarding, so the hole was filled up and it was some years after before a second attempt was made to sink a Well. However there are now two public pumps in the village put up by the guardians.

In 1881 and 1882 the Post Office at Milford was completely closed for a period of nearly 12 months. The Postmaster was a bit of politician and Hon. Sec. of the local branch of the Land League so when "Buckshot" Foster's Coercion Act was hurried through the English Parliament he in common with nearly 2,000 others f`rom all over Ireland, including Priests, Members of Parliament, and all the Officials of the Central Branch of the League were arrested and detained as "Suspects" for various lengths of time in the prisons of Kilmainham, Naas, Cork, Limerick, Maryborough, Clonmel, Dundalk, Tralee and Galway. When the "Kilmainham Treaty" was negotiated with Parnell, these prisoners were gradually released, but the Milford Postmaster was among the last to get his liberty and even then the Post Office would not be given to him until the matter was raised in the House of Commons by Mr. Edmond Leamy M.P. for Waterford, acting on information supplied by Father Kennedy C.C. Feenagh, because of the inconvenience to the people of the district at there being no Post Office in the place. Any one expecting a letter would have to meet the Mail Car on arrival from Charleville in the morning or follow the driver to Drumcollogher, and in order to purchase even a penny stamp a person would have to go to the P.0. in one of the surrounding villages to be supplied. Nearly every householder in the place was canvassed and offered the office but one and all promptly refused to accept the position so in the end the former Postmaster was reinstated and after nearly twelve months the Office was reopened.

St. Patrick's Hall was built by the parish in 1912 for purposes of Instruction and Amusement on a site given by Mr. John Watson, Rent Free with a lease of 99 years. The building is large and commodious, well equipped for Meetings, Cinema and Dramatic Entertainments, Dances, Lectures and Concerts. The Black and Tans raided the Hall when staying at Drumcollogher, broke doors and windows, destroyed pictures, looted musical instruments and every time they passed going to or coming from Charleville, which was usually two or three time a week, they were sure to fire shots at the windows or roof.

The Electric Light was introduced into Milford, owing to the enterprise of the Creamery Company in 1918 and besides the Creamery itself the Church, and every house in the village, except a few cabins in "Coolaw" are now lighted by the electric current, which was subsequently extended to Kilbolane Castle, and it is hoped in the near future to have Public Lighting in the Streets.

Father "Bob" O'Riordan was the finest type of an Irish priest, taken in every respect. He was over six feet in height with broad shoulders and a commanding presence. The Rev. M.P, Lynch C.C., Charleville wrote his life in a booklet published by the C.T. Society (price 2d) entitled "A Priest of the Old School". Father Bob was as popular amongst the priests of Limerick as the Clergy of Cloyne, and Dr. Butler, Bishop of Limerick appointed him an Hon. Cannon of that Diocese.

Some forty years ago a paragraph went the rounds of the newspapers, concerning the success of an engineer in New Yrok; the front of whose house faced the north and he succeeded in turning the house round until the front faced the south; but an unlettered man in Milford did a more remarkable thing; for he removed his house from one end of the street to the other end, a distance of over two hundred yards.

James Coghlan was a most excellent carpenter. though properly he could only be called a "Handy Man" as he never served an apprenticeship or was bound under an Indenture.

When Mr. Daniel Watson purchased Dooney Farm there were a number of thatched houses at both sides of the road to Dromcollogher, commencing at Milford Bridge and Mr. Watson decided to remove all these thatched houses and replace them by a number of shops and a range of slated cottages for tradesmen and labourers.

James Coghlan's house was one of the first that must come down and as it was a good house, with a practically new roof, so James took the matter into his own hands. He first took out the doors and windows, then he carefully braced the rafters to the wallplates on the walls, which he then levered up, and placed rolers under and when all was ready to his entire satisfaction he and his two sons, Billy and Ned, shoved the entire roof out to the centre of the road where two farmers carts and horses were waiting. The roof was placed in position and this occured on a Sunday immediately after last Mass in presence of almost the entire congregation, the roof was carried back and put in position in the site of the new house. The house was taken down, and the stones removed to the new site and the building went on from day to day and at the present time the house is as staunch a house as there is in the district.