County Carlow

Contributions from "Carloman"

"The Scallion-Eaters"

The following was re-published in "The Irish Times", sometime in the mid 1990's. It was originally published in "The Irish Times", June 1st, 1934.

For years I have wondered why the people of Carlow town should be referred to, on occasion, as scallion-eaters, especially by the dwellers in neighbouring towns. Now I know, and for the information I am indebted to an old book on the public shelves of the National Library. It was published early in the nineteenth century, and here is an extract: "A hundred acres of land about Carlow are parcelled out in two and three-acre pieces to a number of cottagers, who supply Dublin and most of Leinster with onions. The people are well clothed, in comfortable habitations, and, if their industry was generally practised, the cry of poverty of the Irish peasant would soon cease. The grower of onions divides his garden into quarters, the succession being onions, potatoes, barley and clover. He puts all the manure he can get on his onions, and he prefers street scrapings to all other. Here is industry, here is exertion; no price will stop the onion-grower in the purchase of manure."

The Carlow onions may be things of the past, but in Ireland the nickname inspired by those crops of long ago will never die.

"The Old Carlow Gaol"

The Gate to Superquinn Shopping Mall was originally the gate to an old Gaol built in 1800 after the ’98 insurrection. This new gaol replaced the old Co. Bridewell, which still stood at the end of Bridewell Lane and where most of the United Irishmen were imprisoned in 1798. The remains of the 1798 gaol are across the road from the impressive gate to Superquinn Shopping Mall, approximately where the toyshop and the apartment complex are now.

The premises consisted of Governor's House (4 stories), which still exists inside the shopping mall, Matron's House (2 stories), female prison of 30 cells, male prison of 35 cells, (all demolished now) all surrounded by a 20ft. wall. The gaol was built of limestone coped with granite with a fine cut granite entrance (the gate in Question).
Note: County Carlow was a great source of Granite.

The Gate to the gaol (now Superquinn Shopping Mall) was used for public hangings. Look closely at the window over the gate and you will see where a horizontal slot has been filled with mortar below the window. This was where a wooden platform with a trap door was pushed out. Also look at the keystone in the arch above, you will see a slot where the "Gibbet" was fixed. The trap door is now in the Museum in Carlow.

On August 6th, 1822, Michael and Hugh Finnegan, father and son, and William Nolan were hanged for robbery and burglary in the house of Patrick Farrell, Grangeford, on April 18th, 1822. The execution took place in front of the gaol where Rev. W. Fitzgerald, P.P, attended the unfortunate men. Finnegan the elder had fifty acres of land, 30 cows and a well-appointed set of farming implements so there was no reason why he should resort to violence. The last person publicly hanged, was I believe, a woman called Lucy Sly who had murdered her husband.
The condemned cells were to the left of the present gate entrance above the modern crèche!

The Tread Mill and Debtors' Prison were on the Barrack Street side. The prisoners worked the treadmill to pump water from a well for use in the gaol. During reconstruction work in 1840 or 1853 work part of the Old Carlow Wall was discovered in Potato Market near the gaol.

Before the shopping Mall was built the Gaol housed Thomas Thompson and Sons engineering works. When Thompson's were there all the old cellblocks were still there and on occasion when putting in foundations for machines the bodies of persons executed would be discovered. In fact this happened when the Superquinn Shopping Mall was been developed.

The Gaol was last extended in 1853. An account of this work was found written on a door taken down on October 18th, 1955 (102 years later) at Hanover Works.

James Kavanagh wrote:

"This is a hard season for the working chaps ~ beef is 6d. Per lb., mutton the same; Potatoes, 5d. Per stone; wheat, 36/- barrel; barley is 19/- barrel. Now this is the last day of September (30th) and the English and French with the Turks are with the Egyptians and attacking' the Russians.

The Gaol was closed and sold in 1897 to Thomas Thompson (a member of the Society of Friends) who came from England in 1870 and founded an engineering firm which specialised in repairing and manufacturing machinery, chiefly threshing sets, portable and later steam.

He named the Gaol “Hanover Works”, which operated into the early 1990’s.

During the first world war Hanover Works became a munitions factory, making ammunition cases and Bristol Fighter Wings. After the war Thompson's reverted to building work. The Bishop Foley Schools (built with the cut stone from Duckett's Grove Mansion), Carlow Sugar Beet Factory, St. Clare's, Church Graiguecullen, to mention only three of their contributions to Carlow town.

Note: St Clare's, Graiguecullen was originally A Church of Ireland Church on the Athy road. Thompson's got the contract to dismantle it and re erect it Graiguecullen. But that's another story.

"This picture was taken about 1910 outside Oliver's butcher's shop.
The boy in the sailor suit died about 10 years ago, aged 90".
Does anyone know who the people are in this picture?


"Carlow Rivers"

Ships could only come up as far as New Ross, Co Wexford. You should be aware that the Barrow is also not a large river. The Slaney in Co Carlow is small in width and the Derry, even smaller.

The Irish Canals were not ship canals, but were for horse drawn barges. The toe paths that the horses used make ideal walks beside the rivers.

What made the Barrow suitable for barges was its conversion in places to a canal. This work was done before the advent of railways which in fact in Britain and Ireland spelled the death of the canals as the rails could go places where there were no interconnecting waterways.

The canals were build by men who were called Navigators which became shortened to "Navvy". Up to the mid 1960 all manual labourers working on excavations were still called Navvies and they are remembered in folk songs in Britain and Ireland.

I recall as a child in the late 1950's, Guinness barges bringing barrels of stout from Dublin down to towns like Carlow.

The Barrow was made usable by cutting channels parallel to it and building weirs across the Natural river, forcing a good flow of water into the side channels. Levels were taken care of by lock gates. There are several sets of gates near Carlow and just below the bridge there is a large weir.

"Follow Me Up to Carlow"

This is what I can tell you about the song:

Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam of Merrion, Baggotrath, Booterstown and Simmonscourt, born c.1519 married Genet Finglas, lived initially at Baggotrath, but later moved the seat of the family to Merrion Castle, seems to have left Baggotrath and rented it out by 1547, MP for Co. Dublin 1559, Vice-Treasurer of Ireland 1559, Sheriff for Co. Dublin as at 1564, the Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney visited him in 1565 after arriving in Ireland and before entering Dublin.

He fought against Shane O'Neill 1560 and 1566 (after the latter Sir Henry Sidney knighted him), the family conformed to Protestantism at the Reformation, but their conversion was only nominal and by 1600 they were Catholic again (although they were always loyal to the crown in Ireland), Constable of Wicklow Castle, at the edge of the Pale facing the hostile natives (whose traditional leaders were the O'Byrnes), fixed the boundaries of Wicklow county (as Sir Henry Sidney did with Clare county in 1565), in 1580 at Glen Malure (near Glendalough, W inland from Wicklow town, in heart of Wicklow mountains.

The forces of the Crown under Lord Grey de Wilton were defeated by the Irish under Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne, the traditional song "Follow me up to Carlow" celebrates this defeat of the British and their ally 'black Fitzwilliam', died 9th Nov 1592, age c.73 yrs.

The O'Tooles and the O'Byrnes were finally conquered in 1601.


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