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HERBERTSTOWN “In Other Days”

Herbertstown “Cathair Fuiseoig” – The family of Herbert, who were among the early Norman settlers of this area, gave their name to this peaceful village. The parish church was erected in 1836 at a cost of £800. In 1837, Herbertstown had a constabulary police station. In those days, there were six large fairs held each year in the village. The graveyard at Ballynamore was used to bury local victims of the Great Famine (1845-1851). There are also medieval graveyards at Ballinard, Kilgullane and Rathjordan.

Herbertstown (Cahercorney) Graveyard has 109 memorials, all of which have been digitally surveyed and are viewable if you follow this link:  Herbertstown Historic Graves, click here

PREHISTORIC LANDMARKS

This locality is rich in prehistoric monuments. Cahercorney the Stone Fort of Coirne is one of the most important of these sites. Nearby, on the hill at Rawleystown, is another stone fort, perhaps dating to the Bronze Age.

THE GENERAL

Until 1907, most of the land of Ireland was owned by a small number of relatively wealthy landlords who leased farms and cottages to poor tenants. The episode that brought about the end of landlordism was the Land War of the 1870s, 80’s and 90’s. This was a campaign of agrarian protest in which tenants demanded rent reductions from their landlords, who invariably refused. The campaign soon evolved into a struggle which challenged the legitimacy of landlordism and ultimately forced the Government to introduce a system of loans to tenant farmers who wanted to purchase their holdings from their landlords.

One of the heroes of the movement was Fr Matt Ryan (1844-1937), known as The General who, as a curate in Herbertstown, played a leading role in land agitation on the Herbertstown estate. He collected the unpaid rents from the tenants, less the reductions they sought from their landlord, and agreed that it would only be paid when the tenants demands were met. In March 1887, he was charged by the state with bankruptcy. Over 30,000 supporters waited outside a courthouse in Dublin when he was tried there a month later. He was sentenced to two months imprisonment for contempt of court because he refused to reveal details of the money he had collected from the tenants. On appeal, he was released, but was again imprisoned some months later, after which he resisted attempts to make him wear prison uniform instead of clerical clothing. After his release, he received a triumphant homecoming from the people of Herbertstown

After tenant victory in the Land War, Fr Ryan was promoted to parish priest of Soloheadbeg (1890-1897) and Knockavella and Donaskeage (1897-1937). He continued to play a prominent role in national affairs through his vice-presidency of the Gaelic League, where he was a friend of Douglas Hyde, first president of Ireland.

CROKERS OF CAHERCORNEY

The Croker Mausoleum in Cahercorney graveyard was restored in 2002 after a long period in which it lay in ruins. This is the last resting place of the Crokers of Dromkeen and Ballinagarde who were prominent landlords in the locality. On the steel door of the vault are bullet marks, which resulted from an attempt by the Black and Tans, in 1920, to break into the vault because they believed Republican activists were hiding there.

Beside the vault is the ruin of a pre-Reformation church which was used as the Protestant parish church until the early 1800’s. Cahercorney graveyard also holds the remains of Fr. Kirby, a native of Rathjordon and parish priest of Kilbehenny and Hospital. The remains of Rev. Fitzgerald, rector of Cahercorney, who wrote the History of Limerick with JJ McGregor, also lie buried in this neat little churchyard.

Nearby the graveyard is a house where Brigadier General Cuthbert Lucas and three other British officers, were held captive by Republicans during the War of Independence (1919-1921). Lucas and his comrades were captured whilst salmon fishing on the Blackwater, near Fermoy, County Cork, in June 1920. From the outset, it was decided that they should be treated as prisoners of war. Lucas escaped unhurt, some weeks later.

HANGED BY THE SHERIFF

Local folklore tells the tragic story involving the High Sheriff of Limerick, William Fitzgerald, who had a gallows erected on the hill overlooking Ballinard graveyard. Several people were hanged there. One occasion, he brought a priest there to be hanged. While waiting in a locked room at Ballinard castle before being taken out to meet his maker, the priest began laughing. When Fitzgerald asked why he would do such a strange thing when about to die, the priest replied “your brother in Tipperary has died and he has just passed by that window chained to the devil and with flames flying from him”.

Fitzgerald sent a messenger to go to Tipperary to find out if anything had happened his brother. On returning, he informed the High Sheriff that his brother had, indeed, died hours earlier. Fitzgerald, shocked by the priests vision, left him go free and never again hanged anyone.