Early discouragement and encouragement
Frances Chamberlaine – or Miss Fanny as she was styled – was born in 1724 to a family of English extraction. Her mother (formerly Whyte) died soon after Frances was born and her father, Dr Philip Chamberlaine, was an Anglican minister and long-time rector of the Church of St Nicholas Within in Dublin city, where the family lived. As an infant, Frances suffered an accident and thereafter, was slightly lame needing assistance on long walks. While an admired preacher, Dr Chamberlaine was considered an eccentric by many and among his greatest aversions was female education. Writing, he considered, was wholly unnecessary for females as he claimed that this knowledge could only lead to the ‘multiplication of love-letters’ (Lefanu 1824, 4).
Tradition has it that St Gobnait founded a nunnery at the early church site at Ballyvourney, in West Muskerry, Co. Cork, in the 6th century. Although also linked with other churches and holy wells in Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Waterford and on Inisheer of the Aran Islands, this article will focus on the female saint’s cult at Ballyvourney. Her legend has survived mainly in oral tradition and while receiving little attention in medieval texts, it is interesting that an account of the life of St Abbán states that he blessed Boirneach (i.e. Ballyvourney) and gave it to Gobnait. Abbán is regarded as a secondary saint in the region, being overshadowed by the intense reverence to his female counterpart. By the post-medieval period, Ballyvourney had become an important centre for pilgrimage, and the annual 'rounds' called ‘Turas Ghobnatan’ were dedicated to the saint. The two annual pilgrimage ('pattern') days at Ballyvourney are the 11th February, which is St Gobnait’s feastday, and Whitsunday. The following will examine some of the surviving archaeological features traditionally linked with the saint and discuss the rituals associated with these monuments.
Eviction Resistance in Bodyke in 1887
A widely publicised eviction took place on 10 June 1887 near Bodyke in east Clare. The farm in question was held by John O’Halloran. Women played an important defensive role in evictions during the Land Wars, and the O'Halloran sisters – Honoria, Annie and Sarah – and their mother, Harriet, were by no means unique in their fierce resistance during the siege on their homestead. The family held out for hours against an armed invading force, which according to the Freeman’s Journal (11 June 1887) numbered 400 men.
The O'Neill Sisters
Two of West Cork's Forgotten Cumann na mBan Members
Cumann na mBan (the Irishwomen’s Council) was an Irish nationalist movement founded in 1914 in order to support the Irish Republican Army (IRA) through the provision of assistance, arms and funds. Membership grew following the Easter Rising of 1916, with a considerable number of branches established in 1917. The earliest members were typically the sisters of local IRA Volunteers. While there are many accounts of brothers fighting side by side, there are also lesser-known reports of significant numbers of women supporting, arming and facilitating their brothers and their comrades. The role of women throughout the War of Independence and the Civil War is currently being re-evaluated following the recent release of military pension records. These demonstrate that women of all ranks carried out dangerous activities including carrying and concealing arms, retrieving bodies of deceased Volunteers from workhouses, and collecting and communicating intelligence. The role of the Cumann na mBan cannot be underestimated; they sustained the Volunteers and thus the war through their efforts. This article focuses on the contribution made by two West Cork sisters: Mary and Margaret O’Neill.
Twelve Irish saints of the name Sineach (also written as Sinche) were recorded in medieval times. The name probably derives from the Irish ‘sean’ meaning ‘old’. One of these saints was the daughter of Feargna and a late pedigree assigns her to the Eoghanacht of Cashel, in Tipperary. It seems highly likely that it was this Sineach that was invoked in a litany preserved in the Stowe Missal, an illuminated manuscript some of which was written in the 11th century in Lorrha, in North Tipperary. This Sineach founded a church site at Crohane (Cruachán Maighe Abhna), in the barony of Slievardagh, in Co. Tipperary, in the early medieval period.
Ireland’s First Female Botanist
Ellen Hutchins was born in Ballylickey in the Bantry Bay area of West Cork in 1785. While in school in Dublin, Ellen’s health began to deteriorate and she was placed in the care of a family friend, Dr Whitley Stokes. Stokes encouraged Ellen to spend time outdoors in order to improve her health and suggested that she embark upon the study of natural history and specifically botany.
Immerse yourself in the history of Irish women here!