I didn’t fancy heading out tonight on the bike tonight, bitter gusts and spits of snow but I was glad I did. It wasn’t ;one till the sun was back out and casting its long evening shadows. Had a fantastic cycle.
There’s always something to catch the eye. There’s the wind and sun to gauge, which road has the best hedges to shelter from the wind and is the best route to take. Usually with a wind I like to head out into it and have it at my back on the way home; if I’m really lucky the route might even give me a bit more tail wind than head wind. And when the evening sun is dropping low I try to have it at my back so the motorists can see me clearly.
Road bowling is a popular sport in west Cork and Armagh. You don’t see it down this neck of the woods too often.
Tonight I did!
The game is played along country roads and consists of contestants taking the least amount of throws to over the course. Big money can be wagered on these games!
Not too far away are lovely views of Shrule Castle.
A fantastic short spin and always something new to look at!
What else would you be doing on a Bank Holiday Monday only going for a ramble. Seeing as we can’t leave our 5kms zone, we decided instead to indulge in some time travel. What was the town like in previous centuries?
I wonder can you identify where we were? If I have wrongly identified old names forgive me! Most of the detail here was from some articles my father had put together while researching the location of the old walls of Carlow Town..
I’ll pop in some visual clues as we make our way to help identify where we went.
We confined ourselves to the Town Centre, starting in Tullow Street with our first place of interest, a licensed premises and hotel since 1768, still bearing the same name! Formerly known as ‘The Farmers Inn’.
Across the road is the premises, ‘The Plough’, only in existence since 1829! There was a hotel in Tullow Street called the Plough Hotel, presumably on the same site.
I’ve often been in Lowrys Lane without realising it as I called to the family run hardware opposite the ‘Beehive Hut’ ….any takers?
Passed quickly by the Old RIC Barracks and then tried to book a room in the Commercial Hotel but couldn’t find the entrance! Anyone got an idea where this hotel was once to be found? Served as a famous ballroom for many years in a later life..
We took a small u turn to bring us around to Cockpit Lane….
In 1986 Éire Óg produced a great local history ‘Friends and Neighbours’ that researched over 500 families that lived along a number of streets in Carlow Town. At the heart of it all was Bridewell Lane and Brewery Lane. Bridewell Lane, so called because it led to the Gaol, was largely demolished and sadly there is no trace of Brewery Lane. But folk memory is great and thanks to interviews with many of the families a great picture of the area can be ascertained from the descriptions and family photographs.
All the houses were whitewashed and had half doors with lots of music and singing.
We are now in the heart of old Carlow; Bridewell Lane was formerly known as Somers Lane.
Leaving Bridewell Lane we pass by the Sessions House – used to be the Crown and Record Courts and we slipped onto the Strand!
From the Strand we strolled down Coal Market , where once coal was sold …. and much more besides; Swans Electrical started out down here..
The Moneen was an area between the old Town and the Castle, prone to flooding at the time of the building of the Castle. In more recent time and, for many years, locals visited John Flynn for a cure for warts on this laneway which brought us towards Skinners Lane and Wellington Quay..
Leaving the east bank of the Barrow we crossed over Wellington Bridge
and continued onto Batchelors Walk…
It was a short hop onto Barrow Street and Morrins Lane
When Cromwell came to Ireland he ordered the Irish to ‘hell or to Connaught’… I wonder did he mean Connaught Lane?
Back on the east side of the Barrow we made our way up North Cotts Lane towards Dublin Street…
We retraced our steps back to South Cotts Lane and Fairy Lane / Templecroney Lane…Templecroney commemorates Naomh Croneybeg..
Surely the most unusual name of any street in Carlow must have been ‘Labour-In-Vain Lane’, which took its name from a sign on a tavern representing a person trying to wash a blackman white….I kid you not! From there we made our way back onto Dublin Street where we sought to find The Bear Inn which was located at no 64 Dublin Street. The Red Cow Inn which was located across the road at no 2 Dublin Street…
Further up the street we sought out the Blackamoor Inn, 58 Dublin Street and the Crown and Sceptre, 59 Dublin Street – taverns from the 1700s….
It was time to start making our way back home and we took a peek at the house where The Globe Inn was located in the 1600s and where, wait for it, King James stayed briefly after the Battle of the Boyne.. a wall plaque displayed the initials of WJR (though it looks like WIR to me) 1699 which reference the then owners Jonathan and Ruth Watson..
We then went via Cuckoo Lane, or should I say Hunt Street, and tried to get a meal in the Imperial Hotel but there was no one serving..
A right turn on to Mass House Lane and back into Tullow Street to finish a lovely afternoon walk with a difference..
I referenced the ‘Friends and Neighbours’ Booklet earlier. Sadly it is out of print but it is a brilliant example of local history which was complied by a FÁS teamwork scheme back in 1986. The Committee overseeing the publication was Dermot & Kathleen O Brien, James Brady and Nancy O Brien. Researchers were Adel Delaney, Karen Doran, Nuala Foley, Joan Gaffney, Robert Hayden, Sandra James, Jo Kirwan, Esther Moore, Karen O Hagan and Eithne Ware. I wonder could it be reprinted? I’m sure lots of people would like to have a copy.
I don’t know if their paths ever crossed, but two of our local Saints, Columbanus and Laserian, (Naomh Eoin and Old Leighlin!) were central figures in the debate over the date of Easter back in the 6th and 7th centuries!
St Laserian’s Cathedral, Old Leighlin
St Columbanus, reputedly born on the slopes of the Blackstairs, became one of the great Irish Missionaries in Europe founding many monasteries along with his followers in France, Switzerland and Italy. While located in the area under the auspices of the Frankish Bishops he became embroiled in a major controversy because he and his followers celebrated Easter according to the Celtic Calendar. The Bishops tried to censure him but he refused to cooperate and wrote to Pope Gregory .
There is no record of the Pope replying and Columbanus moved on to eventually settle in Bobbio, Italy.
Bobbio, where Columbanus founded his last monastery. Thrilled to have cycled to here in 2010 and on to Rome along the Via Degli Abati.
St Laserian spent 14 years in Rome where he was educated under Gregory. When he returned to Ireland he took over the monastery at Old Leighlin and became a strong advocate for the Roman method of calculating Easter. A synod was held at Old Leighlin and it agreed to send a delegation to Rome. It still took some time for the change to Roman calendar to be fully adopted.
Isn’t it remarkable how these monks travelled and communicated with far distant lands in the 6th and 7th centuries?
Molaise’s Well and Cross
Front cover of Cardinal O Fiaich’s book
The assertion he may be from Carlow..
Columbanus is known as the first European, as he advocated for a system of federalism and was the first Irishman to have a book written about him some years after his death, by one of his monks, Jonas.
Before the advent of mass produced bicycles at the end of the 19th century, most people would not have ventured beyond their parish, whether in the countryside or in the small towns of the provinces.
Work would have been local, socialising would have been confined to the village hall and tavern and spare time activities included visits to rambling houses for story telling, dancing at the cross roads, playing caid or hurling, a bit of fishing or hunting. And that was probably about it. A simple existence. A hand to mouth existence for most.
Romance was confined to the local population and outsiders were few and far between.
I often think of one of the stories Peig Sayers recalled of ‘the old hag’ who decided to travel from Corca Dhuibhne to Dublin. She set out from Dun Chaoin but when she got over the hill at Sliabh an Iolar she was shocked at the extent of the country side spread out before her and she turned around and never again thought of leaving her local surroundings.
Travel to larger towns or cities was very difficult and lengthy – only a privileged few would have made it to Dublin.
One of the factors that brought social change was the arrival of mass produced bicycles. It extended the range of peoples horizons; for many it was the mode of transport and we all have heard the stories of football and hurling supporters cycling the Dublin from places like Carlow and Portlaoise for Championship games – and home again!
The arrival of Covid-19 and 5kms travel restrictions brought this into focus for me as we found ourselves in lockdown, confined to our own areas, just like previous generations before us. And it was strange and hard to adapt. One business that has boomed since Covid arrived has been the Local Bike Shop. Sales of new and second hand bikes have gone through the roof. Imagine there are waiting lists for new bikes!
There are a few positive knock ons from Covid – it’s not all doom and gloom and it will be interesting to see if the effect lasts when vaccines are widely available and we get a return to the old normal; but in the meantime people are rediscovering there own localities, the pace of life has slowed down, more people are exercising – especially walking and cycling. People are looking for new routes all the time. There is less commuting with many people working form home. And people are liking what they are experiencing.
Myself and Mary have never done as much cycling, even though we are limited in where we can go; but we have not allowed weather or darkness stop us from getting out for fresh air, exercise and some exploring and rambling around Carlow and environs.
It has been great to see families out together on their bikes, along the fantastic network or local roads that are very safe for cycling. Here’s hoping it continues as we get a sense of what our forefathers experienced 100 years ago!