The areas of King's Island and Corbally are rich in history and areas of interest. Find out more here:
There is an Isle, a bonny Isle,
Stands proudly from the sea,
And dearer far in all this world
Is that dear Isle to me.
It is not that alone it stands
Where all around is fresh and fair,
But because it is my native land
And my home, my home is there.
So begins the plaintive tune of what we here in Limerick call, "The Parish Anthem." The words of this song were spotted in an 1860's local newspaper by a Mercy nun teaching at St Mary's School back in the 1950s. Being a skilled musician and believing the words to be most appropriate to the area around her, she immediately put the words to music.That good nun, Sr Barbara Dwane, is buried in the Convent cemetery nearby. It was first sung when Shannon won the Munster Senior Cup for the first time back in the year 1960. The finest exponent and singer of our anthem is the late Frankie O'Flynn, who actually formed part of that gallant team.
The area which constitutes King's Island is enclosed within four bridges; they are Thomond Bridge, Bishop O'Dwyer Bridge, Baal's Bridge and Matthew Bridge. In recent years the Abbey Bridge was erected. Within its boundaries there lies a wealth of history. Centuries ago we had the Augustinians in Creagh Lane while the Franciscans made their home in an area known as the Abbey.
Some renowned writers were born there. The comedian and playwright and the man who penned the world famous song, 'The Dear Little Shamrock' Andrew Cherry, was born near Bridge Street in 1762. The poet and novelist, Gerald Griffin, whose book 'The Collegians' was adapted for the opera, 'The Lily of Killarney' lived for a short time at Bow Lane, now St Augustine Place back in the year 1803. The renowned local historian, John Ferrar, lived on the Sandmall and had his bookbinding business at the corner of Mary Street and Bridge Street. Michael Hogan, the famous Bard of Thomond, lived in rooms opposite the Old Exchange following his marriage to Annie Lynch at St. Mary's Church in June of 1858 while the distinguished eye surgeon, Sylvester O'Halloran, lived in a house on Merchant's Quay. Some years ago, a footbridge was erected by Limerick Civic Trust and was dedicated to his memory. His extensive study of cataracts has been well documented. The area surrounding the enclosure in which you now find yourself is steeped in history. Is it any wonder then that we are proud to sing:
Though lands may meet
My gaze where'er I roam,
I shall not find a spot so fair
As that dear Isle to me.
It is not that alone it stands
Where all around is fresh and fair,
But because it is my native land
And my home, my home is there.
PLACES TO VISIT
Without doubt the prime place to visit in this area is the ancient King John's Castle just up the road from here. It was built back in the 1200s. Close by is the Jim Kemmy Museum which is well worth a visit. It is open every day except Sunday and Monday and it is free. Just across the road is the Bishop's Palace which was purchased by the late Denis Leonard of Limerick Civic Trust for the sum of £1000 in the late '80s. It was then a heap of rubble and was about to be knocked. Anyone can go in and see this magnificently restored building. On a sunny day, the Rose stained glass window between the ground floor and the first floor is a visual delight. Directly behind that fine edifice is the Masonic Lodge.
St. Mary's Cathedral is definitely well worth a visit, with its stupendous stained glass windows and ancient tablets with many an interesting inscription, it is probably our oldest building in the city of Limerick still operating. A wealth of local history is contained within its ancient walls. Just down the road behind City Hall is one of the most restful spots in Limerick City where the Curraghgour Falls can be seen rushing by on most days while at other times the river presents a calm and meditative view as it glides calmly by.
And just as you exit this building and look across the road, is the entrance to Catherine McAuley House where, upon taking a few steps down the path beyond the entrance, you will come upon the Cemetery where all the deceased members of the Mercy Order are buried including Sr. Barbara Dwane who put the music to our parish anthem, "There Is An Isle." Anyone can visit that hallowed spot on any day of the week.
PARISH EXTENDS TO CORBALLY IN 1961
“The parish was bounded by the four bridges – Thomond, Baals,O’Dwyer(Park) and Mathew. Corbally was part of St. Patrick’s Parish, This may be difficult to understand nowadays, but when you remember that there was
no bridge near Athlunkard Boat Club until 1793, when Monsell of Tervoe, the Landlord of Corbally area, built Park Bridge to replace a ferry. Athlunkard Street was not constructed until 1824, so the approach to the old bridge was along the Mall. The people of Corbally and Park used to go to Mass in St. Patrick’s and when the canal was opened, they still had the hump bridge to get across. It is interesting to note that the Church in Kilquane was also part of St. Patrick’s, but was lost to that parish when the P.P. of St. Patrick’s would not go to Ennis to claim it after the oath of Abjuration had been taken bythe priests to claim back their parishes, as it was in Co. Clare.
After the opening of the new church in 1932, many developments began to take place within the parish which were not always appreciated by older parishioners. In 1934, a new housing estate, later to be called St. Mary’s Park, was built on the Island Field area, consisting of 454 houses, in streets called after Irish saints. The locals did not really welcome this intrusion into their peaceful way of life. These strangers arrived from uptown overcrowded flats. In 1954, there was the building of St. Mary’s Shrine, just at the entrance to the Park. This was in honour of the Marian Year. Then there were two more estates added on – Assumpta Park with 61 houses in 1958 and Lee Estate with 81 houses in 1980.
A further enlargement of the parish occurred in October, 1961, when Bishop Henry Murphy incorporated most of the Corbally area in the Parish of St. Mary’s. The people in these new estates – College Park, Janemount Park, Richmond, Roseville, Rosendale, Park Gardens, Irish Estates, as well as Corbally Road as far as Athlunkard Bridge, and the Mill Road and the Old Park Road, all these had been in St. Patrick’s Parish, but few ever went to St. Patrick’s Church as St. Mary’s Church was so much nearer then. An extra Curate had to live in Corbally in Plassey Avenue to cater for the pastoral needs of so many extra houses. It also necessitated the opening of a new Primary School – Scoil Íde (1964) and St. Munchin’s Diocesan College nearby had also opened in 1962.
But some 30 years later, there had been further developments in the area across the Shannon in Parteen Parish, with the building of Shannon Banks and Westbury estates. Consequently, Bishop Jeremiah Newman felt constrained to form a new Parish called, St. Nicholas, consisting of these new Estates on one side of the river and the Irish Estates and Mill Road on the other. The division took place on July 1st, 1991 and Fr. Oliver Plunkett became the new P.P. and the Curate in Plassey Avenue became his Curate. So, the people in Corbally who had been in St. Patrick’s Parish, found themselves in a third different parish within 30 years.
Corbally area also had the advantage of a new Girls’ Secondary School, Árd Scoil Mhuire, run by the Sisters of Mercy. They had transferred from their small second-level school (1943) in Bishop Street, out there in 1978. In more recent years, we have seen new Estates opened within the present confines of St. Mary’s Parish – Abbeyvale (91 houses), Abbeylock (48 houses), Carriglea (42 houses), Curra Morna (21 houses), and Danesfort (48 houses). There are also 26 new houses being built beside lee Estate in the inner parish. These 250 new houses are some compensation for about 400 that were transferred to St. Nicholas Parish, giving St. Mary’s Parish now about 1450 houses, approx. 6000 parishioners.” (From “Light on the Past” by the late Canon Brendan Connellan, 2001.)
HOSPITALS IN THE PARISH
“The first hospital that we know of in St. Mary’s Parish, was that run by the Brothers of the Cross founded about 1216 A.D. The foundation was just left of Baal’s Bridge, between the bridge and the Abbey of St. Francis. The hospital owes its origin to the Crusades, and these Brothers were often referred to as Knights Hospitallers as they were caring for those returning from fighting with the Crusades to free the holy places in Palestine. Gradually, they cared for local people as well.
During the various sieges of Limerick, there is regular references to the Alms House or Pest House, which were temporary places of refuge for the wounded or those who had contracted the plague, especially during the Cromwellian siege of 1651. It is well documented that Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien was arrested by the Cromwellian soldiers while he was attending the sick in the Pest House.
Of course we are all more familiar with Barrington’s Hospital on George’s Quay which opened in 1831, and had a very special place in the life of the Parish until its closure on March 31st, 1988. The Barrington Family, of Glenstal, Murroe, Co. Limerick, were responsible for its foundation and it opened with 45 beds. It doubled that number over the years, and its purpose was to care for the poor of the city. The Hospital played a vital role in caring for those struck with cholera in the epidemic of 1832 and 1844. The doctors and nurses were renowned for their dedication to the sick without regard for their own health.
In 1837, Matthew Barrington also built nearby a pawn shop called the ‘Mont de Piete’ after the continental style, with the duel purpose of helping the poor families, with the lower rate of interest than the twenty other licensed pawn-shops in the city at that time, and also that the profits made would go to support poor patients in the hospital. It only survived for ten years and then the building became a police barracks.
Then there was a controversial era in the life of the hospital, when allegations were made against the staff, that they were trying to get Catholic patients to convert to the Protestant faith, as most of the staff were of the latter belief. The situation was serious in 1879, when the hospital was in debt and liable to close unless a large annual grant was passed by the Limerick Corporation to maintain it. The parish priest of St. Mary’s, Fr. Daniel Fitzgerald, opposed the granting of public money to a sectarian hospital, claiming that the setting up of a Children’s Ward was for proselytising purposes, and also that grants under the Act being used as a vehicle of payment was only for a Fever Hospital, and that the Sisters of Mercy were not allowed to act as nursing staff. After prolonged legal arguments before a judge, it was agreed to pass the grant and that night bonfires blazed all over the city, people rejoicing that the hospital was saved.
Strange how history was to repeat itself in more recent times when the Department of Health would not continue to finance the Hospital, over 100 years later. The Hospital was to close on the 31st of March, 1988, in spite of widespread support from the citizens to retain it – rationalisation was to win on the day. But even so, Barrington’s has risen once again from the ashes like a phoenix, to be available now as a private clinic for day treatment.
Originally, the priests of St. Mary’s Parish looked after their own parishioners who were patients there and if patients were there from other parishes, the priests from their respective parishes were called in cases of emergencies. This was not a very satisfactory position, so in due course, the priests in St. Mary’s became the official Chaplains, with Sunday Mass in the Hospital. When the Hospital closed in recent years, some memorabilia were donated to St. Mary’s Heritage Centre in the Town House, such as, the early rising bell for nurses, and a plaque with a list of prize-winning nurses of the year and a photo of the Management Committee.” (From “Light on the Past” by Canon Brendan Connellan.)
OUR ORIGINAL ISLAND :
“It is interesting to note there are two other thriving settlements not far away, one on either side of the Shannon downstream. There was 'Cill Ross' near the present Barrington's Pier, known now as 'Little Kilrush.' Ross was a pier or promentary for fish boats to moor and it had many thatched cottages alongside. Then further downstream on the opposite side of the river was the village of Mungret, which also had a great fishing tradition. The Little Island is often mentioned in old maps of the Island area and also in the title deeds of property. It appears that the southern portion of the greater island was cut off by a channel or stream running from the Abbey river across to the present to Peters' Cell from the Island Road. There was a gate coming out from the walled city called Little Island Gate at that point.” (From “Light on the Past” by the late Canon Connellan)
BISHOP’S PALACE, CHURCH STREET, KING’S ISLAND
“The Church of Ireland Bishops lived for years in the Bishop’s House in Church Street, in a castled house that that may date from the 17th century. A deed relating to the house dated 1763, indicated that it was inhabited by a Protestant Bishop, and there is an earlier indication of a stone house in that area occupied by Bishop Edward Synge under the Act of Settlement in 1662, thus it may well be the oldest occupied building in Limerick – a claim made for other old buildings as well.
The structure of the house is a bit similar to the Town House in St Mary’s Church grounds, which is a Palladian style house, of which there are many to be seen in Scotland (e.g. at Kirkconnell, Dunfries, built around the same time.) The palace was renowned for the famous ‘ghost’ the Bishop’s Lady, supposed to have been seen in the Bard of Thomond’s epic poem, ‘Drunken Thady.’
The Protestant Bishops lived there until they moved uptown to the more fashionable quarters of New Town Pery in Henry Street. The house became a tenement which housed many well-known families in the early 1900s, until it became derelict, when the Limerick Corporation took off the roof. In recent years, the Limerick Civic Trust have restored it to its former glory, and it is now a show piece, greatly admired by locals and visitors to King John’s Castle, which is still awaiting a proper stone facade. Limerick Civic Trust is using the restored building as their headquarters.” (From “Light on the Past” by Canon Brendan Connellan.)
ST. AUGUSTINE NUNS IN 1171
“The first nuns to come to St. Mary’s parish were the Canonesses of St. Augustine in 1171, founded by King Donal O’Brien. The Canons Regular of St. Augustine were in a number of towns, having spread from their foundation in Armagh, where there were some communities of missionary priests. They had come to Ireland from the Continent, as most likely was the case also of theses Canonesses in Limerick. Very little is known about them, except they had a church dedicated to St. Peter, from which the area was called Peter’s Cell (cell coming from ‘cella’ or ‘room for each nun.’)
The Convent stood at the end of Pump lane or Peter Street, and was close to the Walls of Limerick. Some accounts of the Convent in later centuries implies that there were Dominican nuns there, which would be likely because of the proximity to the Dominican. After the dissolution of the Monastery in 1537, the property was given to Lord Milton, and by 1798 the chapel was rented out to dissenters. After this, the Convent ruins seem to have disappeared, as we find a “Madame O’Dell building a handsome house on the site, with excellent gardens, the town wall giving shelter for the fruit trees, and in the garden was a spring well, which supplied the neighbourhood with water.” Peter’s Cell had become a favourite place for residences of professional men of the city. At this time the old name for the Exchange was Monks Lane.” (From “Light on the Past,” researched and compiled by our late Parish Priest, Canon Brendan Connellan)
MEMORIES OF CORBALLY
"Some fine residences stood on the high ground at the right hand side of Corbally Road, approaching from O'Dwyer Bridge, these were, Jane Mount, home of Stephen Tubridy, Avon Dale, where Vanesbeck lived. This man was Limerick's best known hatter. His premises were at the corner of William Street and O'Connell Street. Next is Ashton Cottage, a house which had many owners. Roseville, the home of William Holliday, was the showpiece of Corbally, and was surrounded by a most beautiful garden. Trippers to Corbally could not pass the gate without pausing to feast their eyes on the exotic display of the spring wonderland. St Clare Hobson residence, Lanahrone House, stood well in from the road on a site now lost in the Irish Estates Housing development. Hobson was one of the first men to drive a motor car in Limerick. William McDonnell, one of the founders of the famous margarine manufacturing firm, lived in India Ville, at the junction of Corbally Road and the Mill Road. The well known Dean Bunbury, lived at St Anne's, the big house next door. This was at one time the Church of Ireland Deanery. Next comes Geraldine House at River View next on the way out, was notable in that it has an observatory on the roof set in between its four chimneys, each owning half the building. This was erected during the residence of John Able, a successful Rutland Street shopkeeper, who also joined with his neighbour, Edward Fitt, of Maryville, in building the circular lodge between the two properties, each owning half the building. Poe Hosford, an official of the Fishery Company, lived here for a time. He was so fearful of being murdered in his bed that he had all the windows and shutters lined with metal." (Yet another jot from that excellently written piece which first appeared in the ‘Golden Jubilee’ book 1982. A few more weeks to go.) My late uncle, William Sheehan, lived in ‘Cottage’ not very far up on the left and I now have several relations living much further along that long road to tranquillity! Perhaps, that description (of which I once wrote a poem) has become obsolete of late years, what with all the motor cars flying up and down from early morn, so thank God for the good sense on someone’s part to have several ramps placed along that very long and oft-times dangerous stretch of road.
ATHLUNKARD BOAT CLUB BOOK
There is a very fine history of the Athlunkard Boat Club, established 1898, compiled by Mike Kiely and Denis O’Shaughnessy, and entitled, “The Story of Athlunkard Boat Club”.
THOSE ORNATE GATES
“The unique ornamental gates at the entrance to the club were cast towards the end of the 19th century in the foundry works of Bethells in Watergate and are a wonderful tribute to the skill of local blacksmiths of that era. While the gates were cast in iron, the adorning motifs were made of copper and consist of miniature replicas of the Treaty Stone, the Limerick Coat of Arms, round tower, spinning wheel, Maid of Erin, a harp, and a figure of Henry Grattan. As both gates are identical, all these replicas are duplicated.
Originally part of the set stood at the entrance to Todd’s Bow on William Street, they were dismantled towards the end of the 19th century. Half of this set were procured in the month of April 1901, by a Mr Archibald Murray of William Todd & Co and duly presented to the then fledgling club Parish rowing club. The other sections of these unique gates were erected at the entrance to the Gubbins family residence in Castleconnell, and can still be seen there.” (Part 1, of just one of the excellent articles contained in the newly published book, “The Story of Athlunkard Boat Club,” by Michael Kiely and Denis O’Shaughnessy. Part 2, next week.)
SHANNON FOUNDED 18-2-1884:
Recently delving into a bit of old sporting history I came up with the following information. We can hardly imagine what life was like way back then. Shannon Rugby Football Club was formed on February 18, 1884, in the Shamrock Bar, a pub by the Old Park Bridge, Corbally Road. The founder members were, Paddy Lynch, Dan Duggan, Richie Gleeson, Pierce Hartney and Joe Hegarty. Paddy Lynch captained the first Shannon team and Stephen Hanrahan was president of the club for the first two years."
Anyone with even a scintilla of imagination can picture the scene. Five strong men, who not alone relished the game of rugby but also the bit of liquid nourishment, gathered in a well known hostelry of the time way back then and were determined to do something worthwhile for the sporting life of their beloved Parish of St Mary's. And so, we can imagine them ordered their pints of stout, probably 1d each or even less (must check that sometime!). Having taken the first well-deserved gulp, probably following a hard day’s work at the Docks or elsewhere, they begin the major task of addressing the matter at hand... that of setting up a Parish Rugby Club. These five men were quite the literate type and we can presume they had come equipped with jotter and lead pencil. A President was appointed or perhaps, selected, but then maybe Stephen Hanrahan was the generous type who probably didn't mind giving of his time to the sporting cause of the time. We don't know, we can only imagine. What we do know now is that the date 18-2-1884 was a momentous landmark in the sporting history of the Parish and we owe these men a debt of gratitude. If they but knew what they began! Sure, Shannon RFC can stand shoulder to shoulder (honestly, that just came out naturally!) with the best in the country. So much for my rambling. I'll try a few lines in their honour.
'Twas in the Shamrock Bar in 1884
Five strong men entered by the front door,
To found a rugby club was their aim
Which one day would experience great sporting fame.
They set down some rules and ordered some stout
They seemed to know what they were about,
There was Paddy, Joe, Richie, Pierce and Dan
And so Shannon Rugby Club thus began.
They knew not their club would see such fame
In the rugby arena of that much-loved game,
But how brave they were in their endeavour
Men of mighty mien and very clever.