We’re in Bartlemy 150 years... so are we still blow-ins then?

People often use the term ‘blow- ins’ half jokingly, half insultingly, but no-one can define when does a blow-in become a native! So says John Arnold in his weekly column
We’re in Bartlemy 150 years... so are we still blow-ins then?

LEFT: Dan Arnold, John’s father - a farmer, an engineer, electricity generator, breeder and exporter of greyhounds, photographer,

I THINK ‘twas the late Eugene Turpin of Glanmire first told me the story of the Arnolds of Coolgreen.

Eugene was a lovely, wise man, a farmer, and an absolute fount of knowledge in terms of local history and folklore.

His own family had land in the townland of Coolgreen and some of the fields were still known as ‘Arnolds’. By 1828, there was no Arnold farming or leasing land in that area, so what Eugene related to me must have concerned the late 1700s.

Well, the story as he told me was that at that time six or seven Arnold brothers lived in the area. They were all of the ‘spailpin’ or farm labourer class and by all accounts great and honest workers.

This was the era of the Big House when the landlords were in their pomp and glory in Ireland. Many were absentee landlords, residing mainly at their ‘Seat’ in the rolling English countryside. Middlemen, agents, ‘squireens’ and other gombeen men administered their Irish estates.

At one point in the early 1700s, it was estimated 85% of all Irish land was owned by less than 10% of the people - those were quare times surely when the writ of the Penal Laws still held sway here.

In fairness, not all landlords were evil, grasping and greedy grabbers. Some realised the wellbeing of their tenant farmers meant security for them and a good rental income to ensure the continuation of the lifestyle they were accustomed to.

Coolgreen is in the civil parish of Templeisque and in the barony of Barrymore. The Barrymore dynasty had major residences at Castlelyons, Carrigtwohill and Buttevant.

According to Eugene, the Arnold brothers were each offered the tenancy of around 40 acres each at a yearly rental of £7. Well, apparently all the brothers except one took up the offer and the labourer Arnolds were now the farmers.

The one brother who had not the financial means to ‘take’ a farm continued as a farm labourer as did his family after him A story I heard myself here locally maybe 40 years ago bears out the veracity of Eugene Turpin’s account.

The Arnold man who continued as a farm labourer moved around from parish to parish. His family, maybe two generations later, settled in Mondaniel, between Rathcormac and Fermoy. One of the family, Minnie, married a Lee man and years later a daughter of that ‘union’ ended up living in Bartlemy village. Her family lived in the village - I can remember the house.

They, like many families, used to keep a turkey hen. A lot of farmers in the ’30s and ’40s had what was termed a ‘Turkey Station’ where a breeding cock was kept and neighbours could bring their hen to visit it - for a small fee.

The story goes that one August day this lady cycled in our boreen with her turkey hen in a basket on the handlebars and a shilling in her hand. Apparently, my grandfather was busy at hay or thrashing that particular day with a meitheail of men in the haggard. He is reputed to have said to his distant cousin, ‘Yerra, go away will you, we’re too busy today to be bothering with your auld hen’.

Indignantly, she turned the bike and left and by all accounts her last words as she exited were, ‘Big people ye are, if we had the £7 long ago, we’d be as good as ye’! Amazingly, what had happened generations before was still seared in the memory.

My grandfather Bartholomew, or Batt as he was known, was born here in this place - his father being the first of our family to ‘settle’ here -though not the first Arnold here!

In the early 1800s, a John Hegarty was farming the 106 acres of the townland - just one farm comprises Garryantaggart. A son of his married a Mary Arnold - possibly of the Coolgreen clan. Later, McGraths and Buckleys were farming here - both leasing it from the landlord, James Bury Barry of Kilworth.

By the 1860s, some of the brothers from Coolgreen who became farmers had moved nearer the Bride Valley and were farming in Moulane, Ballyglissane and close to Bartlemy village. Another branch settled close to Rathcormac village and had a public house, bakery, shop and mill as well as extensive lands.

Back in 1986, I met 100-year-old Ciss Geaney for the first time. Though a century old, she was as sharp as a button and when I said ‘My name is John Arnold’ quickly came the reply ‘Arnold... God, ye were big people in Rathcormac when I was a child - and ye’ve nothing now’ - a reference as to how the ‘Arnold Business Empire’ had disappeared!

People often use the term ‘blow- ins’ half jokingly, half insultingly, but no-one can define when does a blow-in become a native!

It was exactly 150 years ago, in 1872, that my great grandfather Daniel came to this farm. His father was a Bartholomew who married an O’Connor woman from a public house in Ballyhooley.

The following year Daniel married Johannah Scanlon from Castlelyons. We believe that shortly after their marriage the O’Leary Brothers builders of Bartlemy were engaged to build the house we live in.

Daniel and Johannah had a seemingly strained relationship at times -judging by the Petty Sessions Court Records. They had three children; my grandfather Batt and his two sisters Bridget and Mary. Johannah Arnold died in 1902 and was buried with her Scanlon relations, including her parents, in old Clonmult Cemetery. My great grandfather lived on until 1915, by which time his three children were married.

First to marry was Mary, who wed John Barry in Ballard, Castlelyons. We’ve no account of any dowry arrangements attached to this, but less than a year later my grandfather Batt married Nora Barry - a sister of John’s - maybe the families agreed that ‘fair exchange is no robbery’ and left it at that!

For generations, then, the Arnolds and Barrys owned farm machinery ‘in common’ - items like potato diggers and harrows. In 1911, Bridget Arnold married Michael O’Regan - in the farm next to where her own mother was born.

My grandfather had a tendency to start many sentences with the little addition ‘My dear man...’ And to many he was simply called ‘The Dear Man’. By all accounts he was a great farmer, though he always tended to downplay his agricultural skills

‘Batt, that’s a mighty crop of wheat you have there,’ and he’d reply, ‘My dear man ‘tis only birdseed and chaff’.

My Auntie Jo(hannah) was born in 1911 and my father Dan two years later. He was a remarkable man. I was only four when he died, but to be a farmer, an engineer, electricity generator, breeder and exporter of greyhounds, photographer, beekeeper and mechanic - well, that was some list of achievements - and, God help us, he only lived to be 48.

My grandfather, ‘the dear man’, died in 1951 and my parents wed a year later. My grandmother lived on until 1959 - just two years before Dada died in September, 1961.

So we’re here 150 years this year and fairly well integrated now in the parish. A lot has changed between 1872 and 2022 and yet some things remain constant. Love of family and of the land and one’s native place are precious gifts to possess, and I realise every day how lucky I am.

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