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Fri 10 Apr - Adare

One of my options today was to spend the day in Limerick, but I chose to do this loop of country towns and villages instead. I'm not sure why. Surely I'm not put off by the image portrayed in 'Angela's Ashes'? But I've already bypassed the centre of Cork and Tralee, and now Limerick. Seems to be a bit of a pattern.

Another general comment is that 2-night stays are much more relaxing than 1-night. They're just too rushed - travelling all day, check in, unpack (sort of), eat, sleep, check out, and off on the road again. No time to keep this journal up to date, for one thing!

So it was nice to have 2 nights in the Dunraven Arms in Adare, which is one of many villages claiming to be the prettiest in Ireland. It certainly has a lot going for it, as you'll see, but having the N21 major road running through the middle of the village doesn't help its case.

THE village of BRUREE probably has a unique distinction in having a museum officially opened by two different presidents of Ireland on two different occasions.

On 8 October 1972, President Eamon de Valera opened the De Valera Museum dedicated to himself in the schoolhouse where he had his early education. Then on 22 February 1997, the then President of Ireland, Mrs Robinson, officially opened the refurbished De Valera Museum and the Bruree Heritage Centre.

Having been opened twice, it was a pity that it was closed when I went to visit!

Bruree had been de Valera's mother's home town, although she had emigrated to the USA, married Juan Vivion de Valera, and Eamon (known in his youth as Eddie) was born in New York City on 14 October 1882. He came to Bruree as a 2 1/2 year old boy, after the death of his father. His mother remained in America, and Eddie was brought up by his Grandmother, an uncle and an aunt.

De Valera is not Bruree's only claim to fame.  Way back, it was once a seat and alternative capital of the ancient Kings of Munster. And Wikipedia tells us that "on 26 August, a month after the 1919 - 1921 Irish War of Independence ended, workers in Bruree seized the Mill they worked in and hoisted the Red flag over the building & hung a banner over the building proclaiming "Bruree Workers Soviet Mills – We Make Bread Not Profits". The Soviet lasted until 3 September 1921." 

  • The River Maigue runs through the village of Bruree

  • The De Valera Museum. The plaque says "Let us remember the past so that we can build a better future for ourselves"

After missing out on the De Valera Museum, I drove the short distance to KILMALLOCK for another helping of ruined churches and graveyards. For somewhere I had never heard of before I started planning this trip, Kilmallock has quite a story to tell, dating back to the 6th or 7th century.

The town was of considerable importance in the late medieval period, ranking as one of the main urban areas in Ireland at the time. Being located in a position of some strategic importance, it frequently became a target during times of war.

In 1571, the town was burned by the rebel Earl of Desmond during the Desmond Rebellions. Seventy years later, during the Irish Confederate Wars, the Dominican Priory of Kilmallock was attacked and destroyed by a Parliamentary Army under Lord Inchiquin in 1648. Its ruins are the best known historic landmark of Kilmallock.

The photos above show the ruins, but the surrounding graveyard is very current, with lots of fresh graves, some being tended by surviving relatives while I was there.

The shot of the modest Cunningham plot beside the lavish O'Reilly edifice is somewhat tongue in cheek.

But there is nothing light-hearted about the grave-stone of John A Lynch. No date of birth, no address, no "beloved son" or "dearly loved husband". Simply "Died for Ireland". Nothing else mattered. The date, Sept 22 1920, was during the War of Independence.  On the upper and lower borders of the stone are inscribed the words "We shall write his epitaph.  Kilmallock Republicans".

It was very powerful. Lynch was a local Sinn Féin organiser and fund-raiser, and was in Dublin to hand over £23,000 in subscriptions to Michael Collins. For more on the circumstances of Lynch's death, as long as you're not too squeamish, click here.

The Battle of Kilmallock (25 July - 5 August 1922) was one of the biggest engagements of the Irish Civil War, in which the Irish squabbled over whether to accept (Michael Collins) or reject (De Valera) the Treaty negotiated with Lloyd George to give the 26 counties independence.

To quote from Wikipedia, "The prelude to the battle was the fall of Limerick city to Free State forces. The Republican forces in the city under Liam Deasy, withdrew from their positions after a week's fighting and concentrated in Kilmallock and the nearby towns of Bruff and Bruree. The Free State forces, led by Eoin O'Duffy, advancing south from Limerick, found their path blocked by the Republicans dug in at the three hilltop towns.

"The National Army's attempt to break through this position produced the only 'line battle' of the war with the two sides facing each other along clear front-lines. The Kilmallock-Bruff-Bruree triangle would see some of the war's most intense fighting.

"Whereas in the fighting in Dublin, Limerick and Waterford, Free State troops equipped with artillery overcame Anti-Treaty resistance relatively easily, at Kilmallock they had a much harder time. The main reason for this was that the Free State troops, most of whom were new recruits, were facing some of the best of the IRA forces without an advantage in numbers or firepower. General Eoin O'Duffy complained of shortage of arms and ammunition. He estimated that while his forces had about 1,300 rifles, the Republicans could muster over 2,000. He was also scathingly critical of the quality of the troops at his disposal, whom he described as, "a disgruntled, undisciplined and cowardly crowd".

"The Republicans knew this and were confident of success. Nevertheless, the Republican commanders had their own problems. Logistical support and co-operation between forces from different counties was poor and unreliable. Deasy's command included Volunteers from Limerick itself, Cork and Kerry, all of whom had their own commanders. They had three improvised armoured cars, some mortars and heavy machine guns but no artillery."

The Pro-Treaty or Free State forces eventually prevailed in this battle, as in the war overall, although De Valera did succeed in making a political comeback not long afterwards.

As you drive into BRUFF, there is a sign proclaiming its connection with the J F Kennedy ancestry, which I found puzzling given that I am now quite an expert in the Kennedy link to Dunganstown.

It transpires that Bruff is where the Fitzgerald name comes from, on his maternal side. Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter, visited the town in May 2013.

There is a wonderfully dramatic statue towards the northern end of the town, near the Roman Catholic Church. It commemorates Sean Wall, commander of the East Limerick IRA and chairman of Limerick County Council until his death on May 6, 1921 during the War of Independence. Around the base of the statue are references to all the "usual suspects" of nationalist uprisings, 1798 - 1803, 1916 - 1921, etc.

I somehow managed not to get any photos, but there are some lovely houses in and around the village of Croom. It looks a really affluent area - horse studs and the like.

Arriving back in Adare, I stopped off at this old but renovated and active church, St Nicholas, which I can actually see from my hotel bedroom window. It is an odd combination of ruin, church, and primary school.

I have really become a great admirer of the art of stained glass windows, not only here in Ireland but in early colonial Australia too.  The Church of Ireland is unique, in the Anglican communion at least, in having commissioned a comprehensive survey of all the stained glass windows in all of its churches.  Carried out by Dr David Lawrence between 1991 and 2017, it is available online at https://www.gloine.ie/.  The link to St Nicholas, Adare, is here.

  • St Nicholas' Church (former Augustinian Abbey), Adare, Ireland

Later, I took a walk through the village and back again. I even stopped in a pharmacy to buy some sun lotion, would you believe? Something I definitely hadn't thought to pack, but now needed.

The village of Adare has a great mixture of historic ruins, churches, an information centre, a lovely park, shops, restaurants, and of course pubs. And like most Irish towns and villages, it's really colourful.

And finally, my hotel, the Dunraven Arms. My room, 113, was a long walk from Reception and the public rooms, including a flight of stairs (no lift), but it was quiet, had a lovely view, and came complete with four-poster!

Good night!

  • Dunraven Arms, Adare


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