Friday, 18 January 2019

Sgt John Anthony Kirwan DFM WW2: a true Kilkenny hero

Just a few days before Christmas we were contacted by a reader living in Australia.  His father Bert Whittle, now aged 97 years and a former pilot during World War 2,  had enlisted into the Royal Air Force in 1938 with another teenager, a young man from Dungarvan, county Kilkenny called John Kirwan.  Bert was training at the RAF school of Photography in Farnborough, Hampshire and this is where he met John. These two became firm friends with John attending a Whittle family wedding and both of them whilst on leave for Christmas coming to stay in Dungarvan where Bert met John's family.  Bert remembered well the journey from England and the train journey from Dublin down to Kilkenny and whilst memory is not always so good these days he does remember all the beautiful Irish girls!  John's family now have no memory of this early visit in 1938 but Bert has retained fond memories of it.  Anyway good and happy recollections of a time long ago.  Bert was sent to train as a pilot in Arizona but on his return to operational duties he got shot out of the sky and spent 3 years as a prisoner of war. Inevitably given these sort of war time conditions the two friends got split up and sent to different bases and with the pressures of war just lost contact.  Bert's brother Peter Rex Whittle, RAF 40th Squadron, died on 23rd May 1940 and is buried in Miraumont Communal Cemetery, near Amiens, France. These were difficult times indeed when death was a near companion.  After the war Bert emigrated to Australia but always regretted not searching out his friend John Kirwan.  Could we help his father find out what might have happened to his friend John and if he had survived the war?

Here is the picture that Eric Whittle sent us of his father, Bert Whittle on the left and his friend John Kirwan on the right.  This picture was taken when they were still trainees and have no patches on their uniforms.  It was taken at a cafĂ© in Aldershot, just south of Farnborough.  They must have both been about 18 or 19 years old. 
Well as it happened we had already surveyed Dungarvan graveyard and knew that John was recorded on  his family headstone as "Jack died July 1944".  So we knew we had to tell Eric and his father Bert, the sad news that John had died as a very young man during the war but before doing so we did a little research into John's career in the RAF.   John Anthony Kirwan was born in September 1918 and his parents were Michael Kirwan and Bridget Gibbons of Dungarvan, county Kilkenny. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a memorial erected for 1067998 Sergeant J.A. Kirwan, DFM, Air Gunner, Royal Air Force, 8th July 1944 aged 25.   This memorial is at Le Chesne Community Cemetery near Conches, in Eure, France.
John was based at Fiskerton Air base in Lincolnshire. This base opened in 1942 for 5th Group Bomber Command.   The duties of Bomber Command were considered so dangerous even by wartime standards that the bomber crews were made up entirely of volunteers.  John was one of these volunteers.  Each volunteer was required to complete a 30 mission tour of duty.  Life expectancy of a crew was just 5 missions.   Aircrew trained for 2 years and were mutually dependent on each other.  Gunners were often confined in small spaces and their duties involved advising the pilot of enemy aircraft movement to allow the plane to take evasive action, and of course to defend the aircraft against enemy fighters.
John was then in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 49th Squadron.  We are grateful to Ed Norman, archivist of 49th Squadron for the information  he shared with us.  The Squadron records that John arrived at 49th Squadron in November 1943.  He then completed at least 10 raids over Berlin, always a feared target because of the heavy defences.  Altogether he completed 35 missions without a break, many deep into Germany.  After D-Day Bomber Command was held in support of the troops in Normandy and flew operations to bomb German troop and armoured concentrations holding up the Allied advance. Ed kindly gave us a synopsis of the Post-Operation Debriefings of all the raids that John was involved in; it makes harrowing reading.  John was involved in a collision with a Junker (believed a  JU88) when returning from a raid over Leipzig on 19th February 1944; the Junker was downed and the Lancaster that John was flying in was badly damaged, lost height rapidly in a spiral dive but managed to limp back to base on three engines and a broken wing.   John was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in June 1944; this was awarded to RAF personnel for exceptional valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operation against the enemy action.
Sadly he and the entire crew of Lancaster bomber (LM541) were shot down over France by friendly fire on the night of 7/8th July 1944 and all the crew perished.  Of the seven crew members he was the eldest at 25yrs. The rest of the crew were aged 20yrs, two aged 21 yrs, 22 yrs, 23yrs and 24yrs.   They had been on a mission to bomb the V1 rocket storage base at St Leu d'Esserent.  He and his crew members were buried at the nearby village cemetery of Le Chesne, near Conches.  More information can be found at,  including photographs of the crew members, the burial service in France and the War Memorial at Conches village which includes all the names of the crew.  The incident report for this crash is 07/07/1944 (Friday/Saturday) Lancaster 111, Serial LMS541. Code EA-N.     An exceedingly brave and courageous young man who lived only a few days after he was awarded his Distinguished Flying Medal.   And tragically he was due to return home to Dungarvan for 6 months leave if his Lancaster had not crashed on the night of 7/8th July 1944,  which would have been his first trip home since the war started.   May He Rest In Peace.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Kilkenny People found in Belgian Archives

Whilst undertaking other research in the National Archives in Brussels, Belgium, the following Kilkenny people were located in the indexes to files held by the National Archives and I thought it would be interesting to post their details here.  The Belgians had a love affairs with administration and recorded a great deal of information in these records that might not be readily available elsewhere, such as the names and details of parents when recording a death.   Belgium was a popular destination for Irish people in the 19th century and there are many dossiers recording their immigration and life in Belgium.  These few are just the tip of the iceberg and inevitably much more information would come to light if one had time to dig around in the record offices and archives over there.  There are probably more Kilkenny people in these archives but their former residence may just be given as Ireland.  Also more information could probably be found in the Civil or Church records for Kilkenny or other Irish records for anyone trying to follow up these Kilkenny people.

1. Death Certificate for Mary McDonald, born Kilkenny who died 10/02/1852 at Ostend, aged 63 years, 9 months and 22 days.  Her father's name was Jean (John) McDonald and her mother was Patience Grant.   Henri or Henry Bouchier is recorded as her partner (presume husband).  Mary must have been born circa 1788.

2. Death certificate for Elizabeth Leeson, born in Kilkenny who died 16/9/1845 at 8 Kapucijnestraat, Ostend aged 70 years. Her father was John Leeson and her mother Elizabeth Leeson. Her late partner was Patrick McGray (presume late husband).  Elizabeth must have been born circa 1775.

3. Wedding Certificate dated 30/1/1892 for Bridgid Delany who was born 24/11/1848 in Kilkenny, a governess living at rue Blaes, Brussels; Bridgid married Ursmar Prosper Denis, born 18/4/1861, of Hainaut.  Her parents are given as Richard Delaney and Mary Coyne.

4.  A whole Kilkenny family appear in file No 373707 (Foreigners Files).  This file dated 1881 records the following members of the same family.The file will contain data about why the family has arrived in Belgium, where they are living and their last address outside Belgium.  It is unclear to me if Anne Callenen and Ann Callanan listed below are the same person; only the file would reveal that information. This information is from the index only:-
a) Ann Cotterill born Kilkenny 2/6/1871
b) Marie Cotterill born Kilkenny 1/1/1872
c) Catherine Cotterill born Kilkenny 1/1/1874
d) Anne Callenen born Kilkenny 1/1/1848.    Her partner is given as Thomas Conroy.
e) Ann Callanan born Kilkenny 21/1/1846.

We hope this information will be of help to someone out there seeking those elusive Kilkenny ancestors.

Monday, 24 December 2018

A Very Happy Christmas for all our readers

Dear readers and researchers.
We wish you all a Very Peaceful and Enjoyable Christmas and Happy Hunting for 2019!   We will be posting soon about a touching story which came our way a few days ago via a reader in Australia and for whom we found the link he was seeking in Kilkenny; in fact we had already researched the person he was looking for.  How's that for service?   We will let you know about this as soon as we can. We have also many more graveyard posts which will be going up in the New Year.  We just have not had the time yet to post them.  Happy Christmas and thank you for reading our blog.  See you soon!
Mary and Bernie.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Knockroe Passage Tomb, county Kilkenny

Knockroe Passage Tomb, Co Kilkenny
The Winter Solstice this year is on Friday 21st December: Sunrise 08.38am & Sunset 16.07pm. 

Knockroe is located in the Civil Parish of Tullahought,county Kilkenny and is 4km south of Windgap.   It is a small townland of about 118 acres and gives its name to the Passage tomb area but local people also refer to it as the Caiseal or Coshel.   It is  very near both Ahenny graveyard, county Tipperary and Kilkieran graveyard which we surveyed earlier this year and which have 8th century Celtic crosses.  The area is also known for its slate quarries which have been in operation since the 16th century.  In the 19th century the quarries operated on a commercial footing with the Ormonde Quarries on the Kilkenny side of the Linguan river, and the Victoria Slate Quarries operating on the Tipperary side.
The small  river of Linguan is the boundary line today between the Provinces of Munster and Leinster and Tipperary and Kilkenny,  a boundary which would surely amuse our Neolithic ancestors. The Lingaun river has its source at Slievenamon, county Tipperary and flows beneath the Neolithic monument in a diagonal pathway southwards until it enters the larger river Suir at Carrick-on-Suir; here the Suir is tidal.

Knockroe Passage Tomb is under the care of The Office of Public Works which is responsible for all National Monuments in state ownership.

The site actually consists of two tombs, one opening off to the east and the other to the  west; one aligned to the rising sun and the other to the setting sun at the winter solstice. You might wonder how our Neolithic stone age ancestors about 3000 B.C were able to erect such monuments, working with impliments in a flint and stone culture, and that how 5000 years later their work continues to add a significant dimension to our lives in Kilkenny and the Suir Valley.  Prior to the 1980s, this monument, central to Neolithic culture, was virtually unknown or at least ignored, but it is now visited by streams of people, at the Winter Solstice the shortest day of the year, to experience the rays of the rising and setting sun passing through the tombs.   The Knockroe Passage Tombs present, a tangible and wonderous display as the Eastern Passage Tomb is illuminated by the rising sun on Friday 21st December. That same evening, the setting sun again illuminates the Western Passage Tomb on the 21st of December at the Winter Solstice.
Click on this link to see the light entering, illuminating and exiting the Western tomb at Knockroe 

Professor Muiris O Sullivan of the Department of Archaeology, University College, Dublin, has worked on excavating this site since the mid 1980s and identified the art work panels on the passage tomb.  There are some 30 decorated stones, some with incised concentric circles. Some of the art work is very similar to decorated stones found at Gavrinis, in Britanny, France.  Gavrinis, or the Island of Goats at Morbihan. is inaccessible for many months of the year but Professor O Sullivan made the link with Knockroe, not only because of the decoration but the also the positioning and choice of the stones at this site in France  The significance of this is still unfolding.   Several stones here at Knockroe show similarities with decorated stones at Newgrange and particularly Knowth in the Boyne Valley complex which is now designated a World Heritage Site.   Knockroe is thought to be older than Newgrange and is also thought to be older than Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.  Knockroe also predates the Pyramids in Egypt.

The stones were all sourced locally.  The tombs were used for burial but it is unclear if the eastern tomb remained accessible following its use for burial.  The larger west tomb or chamber originally supported two capstones which covered the tomb with access restricted through a narrow opening.   The positioning of Knockroe is interesting as it is one of a group of cairns in the region, some of which are aligned with a large mound on the top of Slievenamon, county Tipperary and they were also visible from one to the other.  Obviously our Neolithic ancestors had other skills apart from rock and stone carving.
Carrigan (1905) stated that the "Coshel" and its immediate surroundings evidently served as a ancient pre-Christian cemetery.  The field adjoining the site to the south is called in Irish "log-lushkina" meaning the Hollow of the Burnt Land; he stated that it contained a great deal of black earth as if once used as an ancient graveyard.

Cup marks carved onto an upright stone.

The setting Sun over Clashnasmut
The winter solstice now attracts a great crowd of people from every walk of life taking light relief from the commercial calendar, and local people who are proud of their heritage.  The winter solstice is quite a colourful event with the presence of druidic people.  Music often accompanies this wonderful spectacle with the strings of a lone harpist or sometimes the haunting melody of a flute.  You will arrive to a welcome of hot fruit punch and mince pies.

The crowd has parted waiting for the rays of the sun to stream through to the tomb.

Worth waiting for

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Market Cross Base Kells, co. Kilkenny.

The Market Cross Base,  Kells,  co Kilkenny

This base is now in the field approaching the village of Kells from Stoneyford; the Market Cross originally stood in the centre of the town of  Kells.   What remains is a round plinth set in a wider round base.

Looking at the base in the early morning light of day there seemed to be an impression of feet of carved animals walking around the base.


The plynth is most likely morticed and tenoned into the base and the plynth appears to be a darker stone whilst the base is limestone.

The plynth is morticed to take the tenoned upright shaft of the Cross but no other remains have ever been found.
Richard Lahert in his book The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Dunnamaggan  (1956) writes that the original site of the Market Cross was on the road opposite the laneway leading to the graveyard and known as Boithrin na gCorp, or the little road or Boreen of the Corpses.  He says that the cross was probably erected to commemorate the chief festival of Kells, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  The date of its removal to its present location is unknown.


 A recent rubbing we did here suggests a procession of Horses but only the legs and part of their underbellies remain to be seen.   

We thank Marie Lee for this short film of the rubbing.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Kilkieran Graveyard. Pt 4. The Osborne Family of Kilmacoliver, Annsborough and Atlantic City.

The former mausoleum belonging to the Osborne family of Kilmacoliver and Annsborough, county Kilkenny had been in a state of collapse and has been reduced to a raised platform of stone and slate which measures 25 feet, 6 inches by 14 feet, 4 inches. Inset flat into the top of this platform are three headstones.  One is a badly damaged slate stone, with beautiful carving and ornate decoration; sadly a section is missing from the centre but this former headstone reads "Erected by Mary Nowlan of Ba.....w... (section missing including the name of the person to whom the stone has been erected but presumably Mary's father or husband)…..this life 1835 aged 66 years. Requiescat in pace".     The whole stone is within a frame with cockleshells in each corner, plus diamond shaped decorations and has a Gloria scroll.  Both the cockleshells and diamond shapes have Christian connotations; additionally there is an IHS in the centre of a corona.  This is obviously a Catholic stone and is not related to the Osborne family; it has presumably be placed here to preserve it from any further damage.
On either side of the above memorial are two Osborne stones which from their design must have once adorned the walls of the mausoleum.; we assume previously inside this edifice.    Both stones are similar in design with pediments tops and side supporters.  The first memorial reads "Sacred to the memory of Daniel Osborne Esq., Kilmacoliver in the county of Kilkenny who departed this life 17th May 1837".
Memorial to Daniel Osborne Esq., of Kilmacoliver  who died in May 1837

The second memorial reads "Sacred to the memory of Simon Osborne of Ansborough, Esq., who was born AD 1750 and died the 17th June 1792. His remains with those of his children and a number of his ancestors and Family are interred beneath this tomb(stone?) which as a tribute of respect is erected in this burial ground enclosed, by his only surviving son Richard Boyse Osborne born 22nd of Augst 1791".  
Memorial to Simon Osborne of Ansborough who died in  1792 and erected by his only surviving son Richard Boyse Osborne born in 1791. 

This damaged but formerly high class memorial is signed Smyth Sculpt. March 1816. This Irish sculptor is John Smyth (c1773-1840), son of the famous Irish sculptor Edward Smyth(1749-1812). He was a prolific sculptor of church memorials which are often far more ornate than this Osborne memorial.  He worked on the figures of Hibernia, Mercury and Fidelity which adorn the top of Dublin's famous GPO building.
The signature of John Smyth (Smyth Sculp), on the memorial to Simon Osborne who died in 1792

The beautifully carved date of March 1816 on the above stone.  This date relates to the date the stone was carved and is an impressive 24 years after the date of the death for the person it commemorates.  

There are two men with the name Richard Boyse Osborne.  The first one and the one who erected the above memorial to his father Simon Osborne was quite a character and his name appears in many a lawsuit.  His mother was Elizabeth Carr (died 1830).  At one stage he owned an estate with over 900 acres in Tipperary and over 600 acres in Kilkenny but he lost this property which was sold in 1851.  His history does not make edifying reading.  He married in July 1813 Lucinda Caulfeild Humfrey daughter of John Humfrey of Killerig, county Carlow but this marriage was not a successful nor a happy one.  Lucinda brought 5000 pounds to the marriage, 3000 paid at the time of the marriage and 2000 to be paid subsequently.  Lucinda was well connected and related to Arundel Caulfeild Best who had estates in Clone, Rathbeagh and Acregar in Kilkenny and who had left a small inheritance to John Humfrey which was remaindered to Lucinda and her heirs: this sum amounted to 393 pounds.  In 1844 Richard Boyce Osborne, now calling himself Carr Osborne Boyce, challenged Lucindas's right to inherit this money and claimed, as her husband to be entitled to it.   He claimed his wife and he had been separated for many years; she had alienated the children of the marriage from him and prevented him from seeing them. He believed she had 400 pounds a year from her father's estate and he had never received the 5000 pounds promised in the marriage settlement and said to be her fortune.   Mrs Osborne's affidavit of 5th December 1844 told a very different story.  She admitted the separation assigning the cause to gross impropriety and criminal conduct on behalf of her husband in October 1829 in addition to general violent and unkind treatment.   Having previously carried off her eldest daughter,  he had come to her lodgings again in January 1830, violently seized her and locked her up and confined her, with the connivance of one Mary Hayes with whom he had what in those days was called criminal connections, and they had both carried off the remainder of the children, leaving her destitute and in debt.  The children subsequently fled back to her in consequence of his violent and neglectful treatment of them and that ever since she had supported and maintained them and herself on a small income of 180 pounds per annum which she received under her late father's Will.  There were five children of the marriage, 2 boys and 3 girls.  She further stated that the 3000 pounds of her fortune had been paid to her husband on their marriage. The bond for the further 2000 pounds was cancelled by her husband after her father had advanced him far more than that amount.   The judge established that Richard Boyce Osborne's behaviour had made the separation inevitable and he found that for 14 years during which Osborne had an income of 400 - 900 pounds per annum that he had never made any provision for his wife and children. The judge decided in her favour stating that her affidavit established a case for cruelty and misconduct on behalf of her husband; the judge awarded her every shilling of the total due to her (Cases in Equity 1845).  There are other non edifying legal cases to be found online involving Richard Boyce Osborne/Carr Osborne Boyce.  He  died in 1853.

His eldest son Richard Boyse Osborne was born in London on 15th November 1815 and died in Glenside, Pennsylvania on November 28th 1899.   He became an outstanding railway and bridge engineer and one of the most eminent engineers in the United States.  At the age of 19 and mainly because of the ruinous behaviour of his father, he left Ireland for Canada and later moved to Chicago.  In 1838 he joined the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and rapidly rose to become the Chief Engineer completing the mainline to Reading and building wharves, bridges, tunnels and stations. Whilst in America he developed the first railway bridge to use all iron trusses constructed on the Howe principle.  Howe was the patentee in America but Osborne arranged with him to take out the patent for these iron trusses in Ireland and brought with him on his return to Ireland a 10ft long model which demonstrated the 200 ft span of the Howe truss.  This model almost certainly inspired the bridge over the Nore at Thomastown built in 1846/50 for the Waterford and Kilkenny Railway. He was appointed engineer for the Waterford and Limerick Railway and during the next five years was responsible for the design of several iron bridges on this line, the largest being the skew bridge at Ballysimon. Limerick.  He became a life member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in Ireland but left Ireland again in 1850 for Panama.  His stay in Panama was brief and he returned to the States where he worked for the rest of his life as a engineer and railway promotor.  In 1853 he became the Chief Engineer for the Camden and Atlantic Railroad for whom he planned and designed the entirely new holiday destination of Atlantic City which was to be at the end of the railroad line.   His design for Atlantic City was on a grid system and from the first intended to accommodate large numbers of people. The company purchased land which they sold off in building lots.  Atlantic City was laid out with parallel avenues named after the world's oceans and the intersecting street named after America's States.  He predicted that Atlantic City would not only become successful but that it would also become the most popular holiday resort on the East coast of America.  In this he was absolutely accurate. By 1870 Atlantic City had nearly 300 houses with over 1000 permanent residents, plus accommodation for 10,000 summer holiday-makers in hotels and boarding houses.  In 1879, 25 years after the foundation of Atlantic City, he had the pleasure to address 5000 people about this outstanding engineering and building enterprise.  The company also erected a light house which started operating in 1857, which became a popular tourist attraction providing spectacular views of the Jersey coastline. He married Eliza (died 1896), daughter of Bartholomew Graves of Philadelphia; they had seven children but only five survived, four boys and one girl.   He worked with his brother John Humfrey Osborne (1818-1894) who was also an engineer.  His diary covering the years 1834-1886 (MSS 7888-7895) together with a portrait is in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin. In this he gives an account of his Boyse and Carr family of Wexford.  Anna Maria, the eldest sister of Richard Boyse Osborne married Robert Gahan, 4th son of Beresford Gahan and had two sons, namely Beresford and Melmoth.  Her husband Robert Gahan died of a wound received at an engagement at Moodkee in India in 1845 (Kilkenny has another son who perished from a wound received at Moodkee but this time in 1831.  See our posting of St Mary's Gowran No 215 for Lieutenant Thomas Staples).  Through this marriage Richard Boyse Osborne was related to Marianne Gahan (died 1853) who married William Tighe of Woodstock, Inistioge in 1793.
This is the last blog in a series of recent blogs about Ahenny and Kilkeiran graveyards. We spent many happy hours working on recording the memorials and surveying these sites.  These graveyards were once monastic sites and still reflect the essence and ambiance of their original purpose.  As they are also physically distant from constant traffic or the hectic pace of modern life it is still possible to imbibe the peacefulness that our ancestors were once able to take for granted.  They are both very special places.

Further reading
1. Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland. 1958.
2. Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720-1940. Seen online 26/11/2018 at
3. Grace's Guide to British Industrial History. See online 26/11/2018 at 
4. O'Hart,.  John Irish Pedigrees. Volume 1. 1892.
5. Potterton, Homan. Irish Church Monuments 1570-1880. Ulster Architectural Heritage Society. 1975.
6. Treese, Lorett. Railroads of New Jersey: Fragments of the Past in the Garden State Landscape. 2006
7. Winpenny, Thomas R. The Engineer as Promoter: Richard B Osborne, The Camden and Atlantic Railroad and the Creation of Atlantic City. See online 26/11/2018 at 

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Kilkieran Graveyard. Part 3: Walsh of Belline, Piltown

The magnificent sarcophagus erected to the Walsh family of Fanningstown which is in Kilkieran graveyard leads us on to write about one of their most famous members of the same family,  Peter Walsh of Belline.   Peter Walsh was born about 1740 and died 1819,  the son of  John Walsh (born 1710) of Fanningstown and his first wife Katherine Butler of Knocktopher who died 1760 (see also post on Fiddown dated 7th October 2017).  He has been described in The Houses of Ireland as an eccentric but that is really very far from the truth.  He became the Agent for Lord Bessborough and a zealous and knowledgeable antiquary and lover of the arts, as well as a JP for county Kilkenny.  He came from a Catholic family but he may have converted to the Protestant religion. Some of his family remained strong Catholics but as was the way in those days, some also made Protestant marriages. Peter Walsh is recorded as giving a donation  of £1.1.0 to the Protestant British and Foreign Bible Society in 1806.  Whatever his religious outlook he was the complete gentleman and scholar building a beautiful property called Belline at Fiddown circa 1786; this was later sold to Lord Bessborough circa 1800.  The connection with Lord Bessborough who had his seat Bessborough House nearby is important.  Bessborough House contained a fine collection of paintings and its architect, Francis Bindon  had studied in Italy and on his return to Ireland worked as a portrait painter as well as architect.  These influences must have affected was happened here in this corner of Ireland when in the late 18th century there was an enormous flowering of both art, Irish poetry and Irish literature around the area of Piltown, county Kilkenny.   It was quite extraordinary and quite different to anything else happening elsewhere in the country and largely due to the patronage of Peter Walsh.  You can read about the support for the ancient Irish language and the collection of manuscripts from this corner of the country during the 18th and early 19th century in our post of 2nd October 2018 about Ahenny graveyard.   But here is a report lauding Peter Walsh, written some 40 years after his death, which appeared in The Tipperary Vindicator 28th March 1849 and described the blossoming of  the decorative arts around Fiddown:-   "Some 70 years ago Peter Walsh was entrusted by William, then Earl of Bessborough with the superintendence of his extensive possessions on the north bank of the Suir in county Kilkenny.  Peter Walsh was a good and faithful agent. ……….the country lads were instructed at his expense in literature, music and the refined arts......a studio was erected at Belline and numerous musicians and painters of the Italian School from Venice, Genoa, Florence and Rome were employed by him to train the sons of the villagers in accomplishments till then little known by them.  That the benevolent agent's attempts were crowned with success no one can doubt who is acquainted with the locality.  Many of the pupils who trained under Peter Walsh's patronage are now artists of eminence, one of them is curator of the picture gallery at Hampton Court.  Others who "the thrust of high enterprise"  lured them away from their homes are scattered over America, Germany, France and Italy, whilst only a few remain to show the results of his teaching and example".  This newspaper report appeared as the then Earl of Bessborough in 1849 was trying to break the leases to the tenants as set up by Peter Walsh seventy years earlier.  The account of the art school can only be regarded as quite extraordinary; presumably the painters and artists from Italy were initially employed to work on beautifying Belline House or other grand houses in the area.  Hampton Court is a Royal Palace just south of London.  That one of Peter's pupils would end up there as the curator of the picture gallery indicates just how well these "county lads" had been trained and educated in the fine arts.  It is impossible to say how true this story is or if the Fiddown man was really the curator or employed in a lesser post, but it was reported in 1849 so not long after the event. Sadly the report does not name him.   Hampton Court had since 1760 and still has, a number of Grace and Favour residences; that is a number of apartments that are made available rent free by the crown to a chosen few courtiers, military widows or former employees in need of accommodation.  The story has some sort of ring of truth to it.  A Mrs Annie Walsh was resident on one of these apartments in 1771 but nothing else is known about her so she may not be related to Peter Walsh BUT Caroline, Countess of Bessborough resided there in the mid 18th century, so there does appear to be a south Kilkenny link with Hampton Court.  Brett Dolman, the current Collections Curator says there was a curious collection of important art works at Hampton Court together with unfashionable paintings not wanted elsewhere,  with devotional art works hung side by side with bawdy Dutch scenes of everyday life.
James Norris Brewer in his book Beauties of Ireland (1825) reported that Peter Walsh had established a detached gallery at his house Belline, that was known as the Drawing School.  Brewer reported this was in fact an academy for students of the arts and several children of the peasantry in the neighbourhood having evinced a considerable degree of genius for drawing were taken under the protection of Mr Walsh and supported by him in the pursuit of the art to which they aspired.
The Liverpool Daily Post (as reported in the Limerick Reporter of 5th Jan 1868) 15th Jan 1868 carried the following article "Peter Walsh was a magnificent patron of the arts.  The agent and friend of Lord Bessborough he enjoyed a large share of the cultivated taste and appreciation of artists for which the noble Earl was famous; and in addition to all this he sent not a few lads to Rome to perfect themselves in art.  One of these whose name was Bresnahan was engaged some years afterwards by a well known picture dealer in Waterford in painting copies after Moreland and others (Moreland painted very romantic and idealistic scenes of country life in the 18th century).  To these the dealer was accustomed to impart an aged tinge by subjecting them to a process of which only he knew the secret. And these were brought forward at periodic sales and disposed of to the highest bidder.  Poor Bresnahan was a lover of art but I can not add that his skill was remuneratively rewarded by his knowing employer.  He lived in a garret in Arundel Square and supported his wife and 5 or 6 children on the slender weekly proceeds of his palette.  Peter Walsh possessed a very fine collection of his own and Belline was ever open to those who wished to feast their eyes on the art treasures with which it was crowded".  
The entry in Lewis (1837) for Carrick on Suir refers to the erection of a new RC chapel in 1804, St Nicholas,  and a painting of the Crucifixion scene which hung above the altar, the work of a "native artist" of that town. Of course the native artist is not named but it seems highly probable that he was a product of Peter Walsh's Drawing School.  The 1804 church was replaced in 1879 by a new building and so far we have not traced the whereabout of the painting nor the identity of the painter but we would very much like to find both......
Peter Walsh was quite a learned scholar.  The London and Paris Observer (Paris 1825) states he was a man of great research and superior understanding. One of the mysteries he applied himself to was the discovery of the identity of the man in the iron mask.  The author of this article about Peter Walsh was General Cockburn of Her Majesty's Service, Paris,  who states that Peter Walsh had given him most of his papers on this subject and that he had printed an abridged copy of Peter Walsh's research about the man in the iron mask and circulated it amongst his friends.
A cherub from Piltown

This passion for the arts around this area spilled over to the proprietor of the local Piltown village inn; its owner, Mr Redmond Anthony ( 1768-1848) was an avid collector of paintings, antiquities, archaeological and geological materials.  He was reported to have had a collection of paintings that included pieces by Rubens, Vandyck and Tintoretto.  Mr Anthony also had a custom made bog oak cabinet fitted with two trays full of Bronze age gold ornaments and including items of medieval jewelry which he bought either from jewellers to whom they had been sold by people who had found them or from people who had literally dug them out of the ground.  Mr Anthony called this collection "my museum" and allowed visitors to view his collection of art and artefacts for a donation,  the benefits of which were used for the Fever Museum, Carrick on Suir, county Tipperary.  Lewis (1837) states the proceeds of the small charge to view his collection averaged about £40 per year. His collection was put up for sale in Sotheby's  London in 1848 and the sale catalogue described this as "A Valuable Assemblage of Irish Antiquities, Armour and Curiosities".    The next year one of his sons, William Anthony who was working in London as an art restorer, sold a number of gold, silver and bronze antiquities to the British Museum.  The quality of Redmond Anthony's collection must have been very impressive indeed.
The pedigree for Walsh of Fanningstown is printed in Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland 1912.  Peter Walsh married Eliza, daughter of Matthew Hughes of Drinagh, Wexford but they had no children.  She died 20th January 1830 as reported in the Dublin Morning Register.  His brother Philip Walsh of Fiddown married Mary Smith and had at least 5 children.   Peter's father John Walsh (1710-1793)  of Fanningstown married secondly Katherine Connell and had a further two sons by this second wife.  Burke's Landed Gentry only list one of these sons - Thomas Walsh of Fanningstown (1760-1827) from whom the John Walsh who is buried in Kilkieran descends. The second son remains unlisted but we have now found him, John Walsh (1764-1812) and his wife Mary (1762-1833)  in the graveyard at Aghaviller, county Kilkenny.  At Aghaviller there is a worn altar tomb whose flat top is very faded in parts but it reads:-    "DEO OPTIMO MAXIMO. Gloria.  This monument is erected to the memory of Mr John Walsh of Belline who departed this life on May the 15th 1812 aged 48 years.  This sincere Christian highly respected during his life and deeply regretted in death was eminently distinguished for his strict probity, extensive charity and kind and endearing manners.  Also his wife Mrs Mary Walsh who departed this life on the 5th February 1833 aged 71 years. Requiescant in Pace." (We thank Stephen Cassin of the Aghaviller Historical and Cultural Society for his co-operation over this).  This is obviously a Catholic burial.  There remains a mysterious Patrick Walsh Esq.,of Belline whose death aged 48 years is reported  in the Waterford Chronicle dated 7th January 1843 but also reported in The Tipperary Free Press of 31st December 1842 as dying at his residence Belline, aged 50 years!  This paper also reported "his spirit was truly enshrined in the love of a happy tenantry - Mr Walsh had been appointed in early life to the office of under-agent to Lord Duncannon, an office he had  up to his demise.  Duncannon is a Bessborough title so there is clearly a connection but where this Patrick Walsh (1795-1842) fits into the pedigree is almost impossible to say with any accuracy.
A cherub from Piltown

Further reading
1. Aghaviller Historical and Cultural Society,  Aghaviller Graveyard Inscriptions. 2007.
1. Cahill, Mary.  Mr Anthony's Bog Oak Case of Gold Antiquities in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature. 1994.
2. Brian de Breffny and Rosemary ffolliott. The Houses of Ireland.  Thames and Hudson, 1992. 
3. Lewis, S.  Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. 1837. 
3. Parker, Sarah.  All in Grace and Favour: a handbook of who lived where at Hampton court Palace. 1750-1950. Historic royal palaces 2005. Seen online 22nd Nov 2018.