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CROOM “Of the poetry and the Merriment”

Cromadh “A bend/ slope”

A School/ Court of Gaelic Poetry flourished in Croom during the 18th century. The Gaelic poets who formed the school, did so as much for the conviviality of meeting like-minded souls as they did for the pleasure of drinking in the pub owned by their fellow poet, Seán Ó’Tuama (John O’Tuomy.) Collectively, they were known as Fili na Maighe “The Poets of the Maigue”.

Situated almost in the centre of Co. Limerick, 19km southwest of Limerick City on the N20 route, on the River Maigue, part of the famous Golden Vale region of Munster.

Croom had an original 13th century castle, which was replaced by a Geraldine stronghold around 1340, and destroyed in 1689. Other interesting historical buildings include the church, a round tower, approx. 65 feet high, 54 feet in circumference, with walls four and a half feet thick and divided into 5 storeys. The 15th century Glenogra Castle, with its octagonal tower is another historical building near Croom, as is Ballycahane House. The main claim to fame of this house is that it was the home of Colleen Bawn and her husband John Scanlon, who was executed in 1819 for her murder.

Croom graveyard has 188 memorials, all of which have been digitally surveyed and are available if you follow this link:  Croom Historic Graves click here

FILÍ NA MAIGHE

The best known 17th century poet associated with Croom was Daibhe­ Ó’Bruadair. He cheekily described Croom as a “miserly, scattered little town”, but praised its Protestant minister who had “a fine old brew which is delightful to drink”.

Foremost among 18th century Gaelic poets was Aindrais Mac Craith, a hedge school master, who settled in Croom and became known as An Mangaire Sugach “˜The Merry Pedlar”. With Ó’Tuama and others, Mac Craith composed many memorable poems, all of which were written in Gaelic.

Mac Craith, in particular, benefited from the generosity of Ó’Tuama who, on a notice in Gaelic above his door, promised that he would not allow any penniless brother bard without ale. Alas, Ó’Tuama had to point out to Mac Craith, in verse of course, that he was taking too much advantage of this generosity.

“I sell the best brandy and sherry

To make my good customers merry,

But at times their finances

Run short as it chances,

And then I feel very sad, very”.

 

However, Aindrais (Andy) replied, unappreciatively,

“O Tuomy! You boast yourself handy

At selling good ale and bright brandy,

But the fact is your liquor

Makes everyone sicker

I tell you that, I, your friend, Andy”.

Curiously, their exchanges were in limericks (a form of five-line comic verse). It was so named because it was first popularised in County Limerick by the Gaelic poets of the Maigue, meeting in Croom.

CROSSING THE MAIGUE

When Samuel Lewis described Croom in 1837, he said that it had a handsome bridge of six arches. By then, the bridge had become an integral part of the history of Croom and its people. Some suggest that a bridge near Croom Castle may have dated to the 14th century.

It linked the old town on the west side of the river with the modern Croom on the east side. Until Croom was by-passed in 2001, the bridge was on the main Cork to Limerick road, and an important link between the two southern cities.

In one of the most historic military marches of Irish history, Hugh O’Donnells army crossed the river here after their march to Kinsale, County Cork, in 1601. Although the bridge may not have been here then, it was in existence when Oliver Cromwell crossed it on his way to Limerick in 1651.

In 1837, Croom had 1,268 inhabitants living in 231 houses along two principal streets and on the smaller streets that branched off these. Many townspeople were employed at Carass, on the river Maigue, where there was a very powerful flour mill, fitted up in a superior style, with machinery of the most improved construction.

MILLING

The Earl of Kildare built the first Croom mill about 1340. Four centuries later, Henry Lyons bought the mill, which he then demolished and replaced with the present structure.

After the Great Famine (1845-1851), flour was exported from Croom to the Continent. In 1919, the Lyons family leased the mill to the O’Neills, a milling family from Limerick. However, the mill closed in 1927. It has since been restored as a visitor centre, restaurant and craft centre.

CROOM CASTLE

Dermot ODonovan erected a castle to defend the river crossing at Croom in the twelfth century. After the O’Donovans were driven out, the Earl of Kildare rebuilt the castle and added four towers, thereby making it his chief seat.

During later wars, the English frequently attacked the castle. The Earl of Kildare moved his chief residence to Maynooth, County Kildare, but continued to regard Croom Castle as one of their important strongholds. However, in 1678, Charles II granted the castle to the Duke of Richmond. One of his successors sold the castle lands to John Croker, whose descendants remained in ownership of the property until the 19th century. The Croker burial vault, with an interesting crest, may be seen in the Church of Ireland graveyard.

RAILWAY DAYS

The 26-kilometre line from Charleville to Patrickswell, via Croom, was built in 1861 at a cost of £60,589. The first passenger train traversed the line on 1st August 1862. In later decades, local people used the train to take them to Gaelic hurling and football matches in Limerick, Cork and Thurles. In those days too, cattle trains taking animals for export from the port of Cork were also numerous, as were trains containing passengers who were emigrating via Cobh to America.

Passenger trains, except specials, ceased on 31 December 1934. The last goods train travelled the line on 27 March 1967.