Tag Archives: County Kilkenny

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Kilkenny visits

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“Kilkenny, chiefly known in America, I fear, as the city of the cats, is a very picturesque place, thanks to its turrets and towers.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

After nearly two weeks in the northwest of Ireland, Hurlbert made his way back to Dublin for a quick stop. Next, he boarded a train at Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station for the 35 mile trip southwest to Kildare town, then another 30 miles by carriage to Abbeyleix, County Queens (now Laois).

Abbeyleix House

The American was a guest at the “large, rambling, delightful house” of Viscount de Visci. He mentioned the fountain memorial in honor of his host’s father at the center of town, and the ancient Catholic abbey that gave the place its name, which “stood in the grounds of the present mansion.”

On 13 February 1888, the party traveled 20 miles south to Kilkenny in a snowstorm, which “enlivened rather than diminished the scenic effect of the place … [with its] two cathedrals, a Round Tower, a Town Hall with a belfry, and looming square and high above the town, the Norman keep of its castle. … The castle windows look down upon the [River] Nore, spanned by a narrow ancient bridge and command, not only all that is worth seeing in the town, but a wide glorious prospect over a region which is even now beautiful, and in summer must be charming.”

Kilkenny Castle and surrounding town.

The group visited Kilkenny College, “at which Swift, Congreve, and Farquhar,–an odd concatenation of celebrities–were more of less educated,” Hurlbert recorded. The party had luncheon at the Imperial Hotel.

Hurlbert returned to Kilkenny in March and again in June. On his second visit to Kilkenny Castle, he viewed a supper menu from a feast given by the second Duke of Ormonde to an unknown number of guests on 23 August 1711. Hurlbert recorded the menu in the appendix of his book. It included:

  • 5 Pullets, Bacon and Collyflowers
  • 6 Buttered Chickens
  • Pikes with White Sauce
  • Hasht Veal and New Laid Eggs
  • A Shoulder and Nick of Mutton
  • Haunch of Venison
  • Lobsters
  • Ragoo Mushrooms
  • Kidney Beans
  • Ragoo Oysters
  • Fritters…

…and more. Nothing is said here about the beverages served at the meal. Hurlbert described the wines and other 1668 living expenses of the first Duke of Ormonde, from the upkeep of 19 horses to buying seven dozen tallow candles, in the pages that chronicled his first visit to the castle.

NOTES: From pages 141 to 152; 319; 375-383; and 465 (menu) of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: National Gallery

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Kilkenny picked among world’s friendliest cities

The readers of Conde Nast Traveler have selected Kilkenny city in County Kilkenny as one of the world’s friendliest places. “Charming and full of proud folks who want you to sample their best, Kilkenny is a can’t-miss destination for our readers,” the magazine wrote.

The town of about 25,000 was the only European city in the top 10. (It actually tied with Ubud in Bali, Indonesia). Dublin was named 12th worldwide and Cork city was 20th place. Florianópolis in Brazil won the honor of world’s friendliest.

The Irish Independent reported that “Kilkenny has recently enjoyed a huge increase in its booming tourism industry, and in 2012 welcomed 219,000 international visitors.”

0608-kilkenny

Remembering the Great Hunger as 2013 Famine Commemoration nears

A good overview of The Great Hunger and the harsh conditions of 19th century Ireland in Current Archaeology magazine. The story focuses on mass graves at the Kilkenny Workhouse, which were excavated in 2006.

Despite the desperate circumstances driving the burials and the extreme poverty of those interred, the mass graves did not take the form of bodies merely dumped in pits. The importance of dignity in death was keenly felt in 19th century Ireland, with the traditional Irish wake forming an essential custom for rich and poor alike. 

The story also offers a reminder of how desperate conditions were for Ireland’s poorest even before the potato blight. Writing in 1835, Frenchman Gustave de Beaumont observed:

I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the Negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not then know the condition of unfortunate Ireland … In all countries, more or less, paupers may be discovered; but an entire nation of paupers is what was never seen until it was shown in Ireland.

The 2013 National Famine Commemoration is set for 12 May in Kilrush, County Clare.