Famed in song and story, Patricia Doyle recalls her visit to the Fr. John Murphy homestead in historic Boolavogue.


I first heard Boolavogue, one of my favourite ballads, in a friend’s house, many many years ago. I remember, sitting spellbound in their front room, listening to Eileen’s beautiful voice, as, accompanied by her Mum on piano, she sang that heartrending air, with a depth of feeling that belied her young years.

Being already familiar with the tragic events of 1798, made the song all the more meaningful and really touched a chord in my heart.
The version of ‘The Croppy Boy’, written by William B. Mc Burney (pen name, Carroll Malone) in 1845, was one of my father’s favourites. When ever I heard it my heart went out to the doomed youth looking up in ‘wild surprise’, on discovering the presence of the Yeoman Captain.

We knew that Clonakilty, was historically linked to Boolavogue, being the only place in Munster, where the United Irishmen rose in solidarity with their fellow country men of the South East at the ‘Battle of the Big Cross’ near Shannonvale, less than two miles outside the town, on the old route from Clonakilty to Bandon.

The battle took place on Tuesday June 19th 1798. On that fateful day, up to 100 United Irishmen lost their lives, their leader Tadgh O’Donovan Asna, being one of the casualties.
After the battle, the bodies of the dead were callously dragged to the town by the yeomanry and left for days in front of the Old Market House, before being thrown into what is now known as the ‘Croppy Hole’.
Their grieving relatives had to wait until nightfall, before they could retrieve the bodies of their loved ones, and arrange for their burial.

Tadgh An Asna was also buried in the middle of the night in Ballintemple graveyard in the ancient Parish of Templeomalus, that is now incorporated into the parish of Clonakilty. It is said that a local and much disliked landlord following these events, ordered his cohorts to sing ‘Croppy Lie Down’ outside the Catholic Chapel in Old Chapel Lane, to further rub salt into the people’s wounds.
On 26th November 1905, the preliminary works now complete, a monument of a pike-man, commemorating Tadgh An Asna and those who had bravely fought at the ‘Big Cross’ was unveiled in the centre of Clonakilty. This monument is very similar to the one, that was also unveiled in 1905 in the ‘Bull Ring’ in Wexford town in dedication to the memory of ’98.

The poet Virgil wrote ‘tempus fugit’ (time files) in one of his poems, way back in 29 B.C., and indeed it does. Many years had flown since those halcyon days of song in Mrs Crowley’s front room, when my husband and I spent a brilliant week-end at the ‘Ferns Medieval Festival Gathering’ in 2013.

The atmosphere that June week-end brimmed with a sense of pageantry and joie de vivre, packed with a myriad of events to suit every taste. One of the highlights for us was a bus tour, taking in places in historical significance in the locality.

We spent time at Rockspring House, and at Ballymore, with its’ excellent museum, before travelling on to Ballyorley Upper, near Boolavogue, to see the remains of what was once the location of ‘The O’Doran Law School’.

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