When Irish Legends and History Combine: The Tomb of the Fairy Queen Maeve

When Irish Legends and History Combine: The Tomb of the Fairy Queen Maeve

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Legends suggest that the green hills of Ireland have always been a place for fairy games. According to local beliefs, the forests were full of hidden settlements inhabited by supernatural creatures. Most of them have been forgotten over time, but the fairy queen Maeve received a special place in the history of the Knocknarea area and she even has a tomb that is visited by thousands of people every year. Those who visit her final resting place are searching for evidence in the mystical secrets of ancient Irish tales.

The Irish town of Sligo is famous for its stunning green hill that smells like fresh grass in the morning and covers itself with shimmering mystery at night. The name Knocknarea usually makes people think about knocking into or on something, but the truth is that ''knock'' means nothing more than hill in Irish. However, the etymology of the site’s full name isn't clear. There are at least three possible explanations behind this name. Firstly, researchers suggest that it came from Cnoc na Ré , meaning "hill of the moon". However, some others say that it was Cnoc na Riogha , which means ''hill of the kings''. This interpretation also suggests that if the hill contains burials, they may belong to the ancient rulers of these lands. Finally, a very simple explanation for the name: Cnoc na Riabh , means simply ''hill of the stripes''.

No matter the name’s origins, it is known as the hill of the fairies and is said to be the place where their queen is buried.

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The Enchanting Tomb

The greatest treasure of the smooth green hill is a grave that is located in the heart of the site. It has never been excavated, but there are at least two suspicions about what hides inside. First, it is believed that it contains a passage tomb dated to the Neolithic period. Secondly, many believe that the famous Fairy Queen is buried in a tomb inside this 327-meter (1,073 ft.) limestone hill.

The most important part of the site is called Medb's Varin, which is about 55 meters (180 ft.) wide and 10 meters (33ft) high. It is one of the most intriguing of the unexplored archaeological sites in Ireland and is known as the tomb of Medb or Maeve. Researchers suggest that it is about 5000 years old and, due to its long history, it became a place entwined with legend and myth. As long as the site remains unexcavated, it is impossible to conclude what it may hold. Researchers suggest that it is possible that the mysterious tomb belongs to a known Neolithic religious center in this area. However, tourists from around the world come to enjoy the hill with the burial of an ancient fairy queen.

Who was this mysterious fairy queen whose remains may be hidden under the green grass of the Knocknarea?

Meadb's cairn at the summit of Knocknarea. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The Fairy Queen of Irish Wuthering Hills

In English literature, she is known as Maeve, Maev, or Maive. However, in Old Irish, she was called Meḋḃ, Meaḋḃ and Medb. In old Irish mythology, she appears as a fairy queen and an independent female deity. There are a bunch of rich legends related to her, many of them describing her cruel behavior. She also seems to be one of the strongest warriors among the fairy-related deities. She was a wife of Ailill and had seven sons. She was murdered by Furbaide who wanted to avenge the death of his mother, who Maeve had killed.

Legends say Queen Medb was a warrior queen. ( Michelle Hunt )

The modern followers of paganism have created a beautiful vision of the goddess based on the old mythology. According to Patricia Telesco:

Maeve’s themes are fairies, magic, protection, leadership, and justice (law). Her symbols are birds and gold. As the Fairy Queen, Maeve oversees today’s merrymaking among the citizens of fey during their Fairy Gatherings. She also attends to human affairs by providing protection, wise leadership and prudent conventions. Works of art depict Maeve with golden birds on Her shoulders, whispering magical knowledge into Her ear. Near the beginning of May, the wee folk of Ireland come out of hiding for a grand celebration of spring. If you don’t want Maeve and the citizens of fey to pull pranks on you today, take precautions, as the Europeans do: avoid traveling, put a piece of clothing on inside-out, wear something red, and leave the fairy folk an offering of sweet bread, honey or ale. In some cases, this will please the fairies so much that they will offer to perform a service or leave you a gift in return!'

Furbaide readies his sling, from T. W. Rolleston's Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race, 1911 (illustration by Stephen Reid).

This description proves that the old religion is still alive and has become a part of life in the area around the tomb, but also across Ireland. The interest in the old Irish goddess has even spread around the world, so she became an inspiration for many artists. She is also related to another famous site in Tara, Ireland.

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Queen Maev.

Fairyland for Hiking Tourists

News in local magazines suggests that the popularity of Knocknarea has brought the site to the edge of destruction. The devastation of the hill has become immense, so officials want to protect it by limiting the possible number of tourists who visit the fairy queen’s tomb.

Finally, if you would like to see the work of the deceased fairy queen for yourself, Patricia Telesco suggests you use a spell to call Maeve:

Take a piece of white bread and toast it until it’s golden brown. Scratch into the bread a word or phrase representing your goal (for example, if raises at work haven’t been given fairly, write the words ‘work’ and ‘raises’). Distribute the crumbs from this to the birds so they can convey your need directly to Maeve’s ears.

It is unknown if someone has really met her spirit, but many people claim that the site where she is said to be buried is perfumed with the fragrance of magic.

Queen Maeve and the Druid.

Library Forum

Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Fri Apr 30, 2021 3:06 am

Thank you very much for posting the Freeman's Journal article, the short history of Catholic burials in Ireland versus Continental European countries was quite interesting. I am sure you would agree that the newspaper reporter's statement, "As gradually the Church of Ireland begins to recover from the oppression and persecution of centuries", should have read "the Catholic Church in Ireland". The issue being discussed at the Limerick Board of Guardians was the burial of deceased paupers at the Limerick workhouse, but also makes clear that the poor outside the workhouse would also not receive the final prayers of a priest at their burial. Lord Emly's statements in the latest article, "while in every other Catholic country in the world the priest accompanies the body to the grave, this is not done in Ireland" as well as "in Ireland services at the grave are not in the rule", has led me to question my earlier conclusion that a Catholic priest would have attended the burial of James McNamara of Derrymore Carmody of Tulla Parish in 1876.

My prior comment about the comparability of Limerick Parish to Tulla Parish, failed to reflect that the Limerick Board of Guardians represented Limerick Union which would include both County Limerick as well as several adjacent parishes in County Clare.

Lord Emly at a Limerick Board of Guardians in September 1877 asked for the latest status on their April 1877 resolution that the Roman Catholic chaplain would attend the burial service for paupers of the workhouse. Once again, we learn that it was not just paupers, but the majority of ratepayers in the Limerick Union, who would certainly not be considered poor, had no Catholic priest at their interment:

LIMERICK, THURSDAY,—At the meeting of the Board of Guardians yesterday the chairman (Lord Emly) asked whether the resolution which the guardians made some time since, that the Roman Catholic clergyman should read the burial service at the interment of the paupers who die in the house had been carried out. The Clerk replied that about two months ago the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy wrote to say that he would endeavor to carry out the view of the board, but that he would expect suitable remuneration for the extra duties imposed. He (the clerk) within the past week again communicated with the rev. gentleman, who referred him to his former letter. Chairman—Are the burial services yet read? Master—They are not, my Lord. Chairman—How can that fact be reconciled with the promise conveyed in the letter of the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy? Mr. Costelloe said that eight out of every ten of the ratepayers were interred without any religious services being performed, and he [Mr. Costelloe] did not think it was necessary to do that for the paupers, which the ratepayers did not require to be done for themselves. The Chairman asked was there one amongst them who did not feel repugnance—he could almost use a stronger word—horror, at the idea of sending corpses to be interred without religious services of any kind being performed at their graves? Dr. Kane thought it would be sufficient for the clergyman to perform a religious service in the Church when patients die, and not require him to go to the graveyard. The Chairman said that was one of the two courses which it had been decided at a recent Synod could be adopted. A resolution embodying Dr. Kane's suggestion was then agreed to.

Cork Constitution , Monday, 24 September 1877


The Hon. G.N. Fitzgibbons presided at the weekly meeting of the Board of Guardians on Wednesday last.

The following letter was read :—

St. Munchin's,
Sept. 25th, 1877

Dear Sir,—In reply to your communication of the 23rd instant, containing resolution of the board, bc., you will kindly inform the board that I will be prepared to perform the "funeral services" as stated in resolution as soon as certain conditions are complied with. It will be necessary to have the corpses closely coffined before removal to the chapel. The reasonable remuneration given to the chaplain for the extra duties imposed, and all necessary requisites procured. If the board will inform me that the aforesaid conditions are to be carried out, I will then (D.V.) [Latin "deo volente" for "God willing"] undertake the extra duties. I would also respectfully suggest to certain guardians that in future they would be more cautious in the use of their "polite adjectives."

Sincerely yours, &c, &c,

Mr. Gaffney—Well, the guardians are not to be threatened in this way by the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy and I for one——

Mr. Cregan—I rise to order. There is no threat in the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy's letter.

Mr. Gaffney—(warmly) I think there is, and that his language is most impertinent. And while I stand here, as a guardian it is language I shall not patiently submit to. I am here as the representative of the ratepayers, and I will speak out my mind, and while I am not offensive to the Chairman or the members of the board, I think I am in perfect order (hear, hear) so no officer of the board can tell me I am not.

The Chairman—At present there is nothing exactly before the chair.

Mr. Cronin—There is not, sir, and I don't see why Mr. Gaffney should take to himself everything said in the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy's letter.

Mr. Cregan—He should certainly not usurp the functions of the entire board, for unless the cap fits him he should not wear it. I don't think he used any of the adjectives which the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy mentions. I for one, did not hear Mr. Gaffney make use of a single disrespectful word toward the Rev. gentleman.

The Chairman—I really think, speaking for myself, that Father O'Kennedy ought to be requested to withdraw the last paragraph.

Mr. Gaffney—Certainly, sir, and he should also be requested to withdraw the other paragraph in which he says there will be no prayers without his being paid for them, (Oh, oh).

The Chairman—You must recollect, Mr. Gaffney, that the labourer is worthy of his hire.

Mr. Cronin—That was a very improper observation for Mr. Gaffney to make, because if he wishes to impose extra duties on Father O'Kennedy I cannot see what possible objection he can have to pay him.

The Chairman—What I must suggest would be to return the letter to Father O'Kennedy and ask him quietly to withdraw the last paragraph.

Mr. Gaffney—Yes and, I move, that he be also requested to withdraw the other paragraph in which he says there are to be no prayers without his being paid for them.

Mr. Phillips—I think it would be better for this board not to touch the money part of the question to-day, and after all the best course might be to defer the consideration of the letter to the next meeting.

Mr. M'Craith—I propose we adopt the Chairman's suggestion.

Mr. Phillips—But then what about the increase of salary?

Mr. Barry said that the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy was a clergyman well known and greatly respected in the city, and to return his letter, as suggested by the Chairman, would be passing a censure on the reverend gentleman which he did not at all deserve. There was nothing in Father O'Kennedy's communication to the board that would call for the guardians adopting such a course.

The Chairman—My idea was not to return the letter officially but to ask somebody to let Father O'Kennedy look at it again, and suggest whether it would not be wise for him, as a clergyman, to withdraw the last paragraph. I must say that, considering the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy's position with regard to this board, I do not think he ought to have used such language, (Hear, hear).

Mr. Cronin—In answer to that, Mr. Chairman, I have a perfect recollection of some expressions being used by certain guardians at the last meeting, which I considered very offensive to Father O'Kennedy.

The Chairman—Well I did not hear a single guardian use any offensive expression towards Father O'Kennedy.

Mr. Cronin—What I state is the fact, and Father O'Kennedy has been provoked to use this language. Under the circumstances the phrase which is complained of must be taken to be very mild.

Mr. Cregan—I should be very sorry to differ with you Mr. Chairman, but I must say that I agree with what has fallen from Mr. Barry. If guardians have use of expressions hurtful to the feelings of Mr. O'Kennedy, he certainly takes a mild way in reply. Her merely asks us to qualify our adjectives.

Mr. Cronin—Father O'Kennedy has been sneered at here.

The Chairman—I never heard it.

Mr. Gaffney—I am one of the most outspoken guardians at this board and will not stand this. I did not hear a single offensive word used in reference to Father O'Kennedy, and now I will not stand here and allow him to dictate either to the board or to myself.

Mr. McGrath—Will you allow him to explain?

Mr. Gaffney—Decidedly, but if we are to be dictated to by our own officers, the guardians may as well not be here at all. If Father O'Kennedy finds at the end of the year that he has done more work than bargained for, why let him say so, and then we can take his case into account. At present it is not prudent for him to be talking about money in this way.

Mr. Cronin—I don't know that. There can be no doubt that you wish to impose fresh duties on him.

The Chairman—For my part I would have preferred to see Father O'Kennedy take up the duties as directed by the board, and then leave it to the guardians to say what remuneration they would give him. However, the question now is whether we shall adjourn the matter to the next meeting or otherwise.

Mr. Phillips said notice should be given to all the guardians with respect to Father O'Kennedy's letter and therefore he thought the subject should be adjourned to the next meeting of the board. He would hand in a notice of motion to that effect.

Mr. Hosford remarked that the application of Father O'Kennedy would come on the ratepayers by surprise, the Roman Catholic chaplain being in receipt of a salary of £150 a year, and the additional duties which he has now called upon to perform, such as, according to the ruling of the Chairman, Lord Emly, he should have discharged since his appointment, (Hear, hear). He had the greatest possible respect for the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy, but at the same time, he should say that, he thought the present salary was sufficient, it having been lately increased, and the Rev. Mr. O'Kennedy then expressing himself satisfied with the salary he was in receipt of from the board.

Mr. Phillips handed in a notice of motion to have the matter considered on that day week, and Mr. Cregan also gave notice of motion, that on that day fortnight he would move to have Father O'Kennedy's application taken into consideration, and that his salary be increased by a sum commensurate with the additional services which he was called upon to discharge.—Lim Chron.

Clare Freeman and Ennis Gazette , Saturday, 6 October 1877

The very vocal Mr. Gaffney must be the "Unionist Alderman and flour merchant Thomas Gaffney, J.P." whose son was Thomas St. John Gaffney. The "Old Limerick Journal" in its 2013 winter edition includes the article "Thomas St. John Gaffney, United States Consul General in Germany 1905 - 1915" by Des Ryan. Gaffney's activities in Germany along with Roger Casement and the Irish Brigade during WWI are most interesting (and the journal's on-line availability begs the question why prior issues of County Clare history journals are also not equally accessible).

What is interesting and somewhat comical of the newspaper reporting of the Limerick Board of Guardian's meeting was the discussion on whether or not to communicate the board's displeasure to Father O'Kennedy and "quietly ask" him to withdraw a few sentences. Quietly? This was reported in the newspapers for all to read, and that would obviously include Father O'Kennedy himself.

In his controversial letter to the board, Father O'Kennedy's insistence that it would be "necessary to have the corpses closely coffined before removal to the chapel" may have been a greater cost impediment than his request for additional salary. I reckon the coffins for workhouse burials, when used at all, would not have been of the finest craftsmanship. The specific request by the Rev. O'Kennedy that corpses be "closely coffined", may have been due to having been a priest during the Great Famine he was born around 1808. I suspect that when the Rev. Daniel O'Kennedy died the following year in September 1878, he had still not step foot in the Limerick workhouse cemetery to attend the burial of a single pauper.

The Rev. Daniel O'Kennedy, age about 70 years, died in Burren townland, in the district of Ballynacally, in Killadysert, County Clare at the home of his brother, Denis O'Kennedy, on 13 September 1878. He was buried in the "family burying place, at Anhid, near Croom" in County Limerick (Freeman's Journal, 17 September 1878). His nephew was the Rev. Denis O'Kennedy (1857 - 1943) who went on an Australian mission and became parish priest in Cowra in New South Wales.

With unfeigned regret (says the Limerick correspondent of the Freeman) the great majority of the citizens heard to-day (September 13th) of the death of the Rev. Daniel O'Kennedy, the gifted and large-hearted parish priest of St. Munchin's, the melancholy event having taken place last night, at Kildysart, county Clare, whither the reverend gentleman had repaired a short time since to recruit his health. Since his advent to the charge of St. Munchin's, in this city, there has been no more popular clergyman with the general public, while by those who enjoyed the privilege of his acquaintance he was held in the highest possible esteem. There was no more distinguished Irish scholar than the deceased priest. The deceased had attained his seventieth year, the greater part of his life having been spent as a clergyman in several parishes of the county.

Dublin Weekly Nation , Saturday, 21 September 1878

Was curious when Lord Emly succeeded in passing through Parliament the bill that eliminated the need for a Catholic priest to obtain permission from the Protestant minister to conduct a burial service at certain cemeteries. But other than Lord Emly's comment in 1877 that it had been "some years hence", could not find any information. Even if the bill had been passed, in say 1860, it is not clear if the new legislation already reflected reality in most parishes. There is no mention of this achievement in his wikipedia biography or various obituaries in the Irish press. The First Baron Emly died on 20 April 1894 and was buried in Kilkeedy Cemetery in Clarina, County Limerick. A plaque on the Monsell family burial vault has the correct birth, 21 September 1812, but the engraved death year as 20 April 1890 is incorrect by four years.

I am no longer so certain whether or not a Catholic priest would have been invited to attend the funeral in 1876 of James McNamara of Derrymore East / Carmody. James McNamara (1816 - 1876) appears on Griffith Valuation in Plot 14a in Derrymore East and as such I believe would be considered a "rate payer". At the Limerick Union Board of Guardian meeting in 1877, alderman Costelloe estimated that "eight out of every ten of the ratepayers were interred without any religious services being performed". If this ratio was accurate and also applied to Tulla Union, then the odds were unlikely.

Going back again to the discussion of whether or not women attended funerals (the Quinlivan thread), I realize now of the importance of, first, having a common definition of "funeral", and, secondly, the funeral for what class of person in Ireland. If the deceased's funeral received a lengthy obituary in the Irish press with a long listing of Catholic priests in attendance, then clearly this person was from the upper echelon of Irish society and it would appear that women were not welcome at these funerals. But weren't these funeral customs in the latter half of the 19th century, mimicking British customs? The evidence for women not attending funerals included examples from British novels. It is not very clear to me whether Irish women would have attended a funeral under truly Irish customs? At the 1876 funeral of James McNamara of Derrymore East, if, for one reason or another, the McNamara family decided not to invite a Tulla Catholic priest to the funeral, would his widow, Mary Fitzgerald McNamara, or any of his five daughters have attended the funeral at the cemetery? Would inviting and paying a fee to a Catholic priest to attend a funeral service, actually limit what might be considered traditional Irish burial customs?

Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Sat May 01, 2021 4:46 pm

It’s going to be difficult to find out about the funerals of the poorer people, since they weren’t reported on in the papers. But I feel sure that, as time when on, they became more and more like the funerals of the “respectable” people. As for women not attending funerals, I find it difficult to believe that women sat at home while Mass was being said and that they missed all that ceremony and missed seeing the funeral cortege. The discussion on the matter in the Quinlivan topic hasn’t fully convinced me, and I still wonder if the new etiquette (i.e. of women not attending funerals) was observed everywhere. I haven’t done any research (what is there to search?), but I noticed that a report on the funeral of Mrs. P. J. O’Dwyer, in 1898, mentions women mourners:

Clare Saturday Record , 21 May 1898:

Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Mon May 03, 2021 8:28 am

Thanks for the additional obituary, but as we've seen previously they can be used for and against the argument that Irish women attended funerals in the 19th and early 20th century. As far as your question as to what research is available on the topic, I think we need to bring out the big guns. The Irish folklorist, and County Clare native, Patricia Lysaght, Professor of European Ethnology, University College Dublin has written the research article "Hospitality at Wakes and Funerals in Ireland from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century: Some Evidence from the Written Record" in the journal Folklore (vol. 114, no. 3, 2003, pp. 403–426). Unfortunately, only the preview is available on the jstor website without a paid subscription, but hopefully my local library will have this. Just from the title I'm hopeful that it will put a further nail in the coffin to the idea that Irish women did not attend funerals in Irish culture.

Dr. Patricia Lysaght is also the author of the book "The Banshee - The Irish Death Messenger" (originally published 1986 2nd edition 1996). During the lockdown, the University College Dublin has generously created the Folklore Fragments Podcast for anyone with an internet connection to listen to. Episode 27 from October 2020 is "The Banshee (with Patricia Lysaght)" which discusses her book and research with the podcast narrator. A very interesting discussion, and women at funerals even gets a mention:

Several times in the podcast the cries of the Banshee woman were compared with the "mourning sounds of keening women at wakes and funerals ". And the Banshee traditions and the old keening women traditions were compared against the Christian traditions. "Of course, side by side, with the Banshee tradition you had all the Church traditions as well. Because the person would have received the sacrament of extreme unction, or the sacrament of the sick, and in times past the priest would have come to the house, and said the mass there, and subsequently in later times it was in the church, and the priest would have officiated at the burial , all the things which happen today. So you have these two traditions side by side and nobody saw anything incongruent in it. "

The below discussion on how the Banshee could be a harbinger of death for a relative in the United States was most interesting given our search for the missing Thomas McNamara, last seen in New York. Sadly this highlights that despite years of research, we only know that the missing American Civil War soldier was from Glandree but not the identity of his parents or the location of his old family home.

So the old family home is extremely important in tradition, the land is important, the old family home is important. In fact, so important that even if a person passed away or died elsewhere the sound might be heard around the old family home, even though it was in ruins. And this could also be the case if somebody died abroad, particularly in the United States, where, in the past, you had to wait for a letter to come to say that a person had died. You know in the book [The Banshee - The Irish Death Messenger], that a lovely one from County Roscommon, where the sound was heard, somebody was out and there was a cow calving and the sound was heard, and one of the family said 'what was that', and the father says 'go to bed now, don't take any notice, that is the Banshee'. And in two weeks or three weeks later, when the letter came from America, it said that it was the very same time and the very same night that we heard the cry. In other words, they didn't know at that moment of time or the community did not know that somebody who had died in the United States, but, nevertheless, the call had been made and they can look back and say 'well we were told, we just didn't decipher it properly at the time, but we were still told, so in a way it was not a surprise to us'. And the way people talk about that was consoling.

Folklore Fragments Podcast, Episode 27 is "The Banshee (with Patricia Lysaght)", University College Dublin

With regards to Timothy McNamara of Magherabaun who died in Lisdoonvarna in 1915, it would be informative to see his actual will. The calendar of wills records stated "granted to John McNamara Farmer Effects £414 15s. 6d." This must be his nephew, John McNamara (born 1880), son of Denis McNamara (≈1841 - 1910), with whom Timothy was living in the 1901 census.

The actual will located at the Ireland National Archives might reveal additional and previous unknown relations for the wealthy bachelor. Especially since the Feakle parish baptism records only start in 1860, it was difficult to prove that Timothy had any siblings besides Denis McNamara (≈1841 - 1910) recorded as such on the 1901 census. Were there no McNamara sisters? The will might also provide evidence for the theory that the Glandree carpenter James McNamara (≈1835, died between 1911 and 1937), son of James McNamara, married to Margaret Bowles, was indeed a brother to Denis and Timothy of Magherabaun.

With regards to the mysterious Timothy McNamara of Roslara who went missing after arriving in New York in 1902 with his brother Peter McNamara as his American contact, I researched further in New York records unsuccessfully. Thadeus McNamara was born in Roslara, Tulla on 1 March 1882. When Timothy McNamara arrived in New York on 11 April 1902, he reported his age as 21 years old, which he was just 11 months shy of, but still very accurate as far as the reporting of ages.

In the Florida records, there was a Tim McNamara, age 29 (born about 1882), from County Clare, Ireland, who departed Havana, Cuba on the ship Halifax arriving in Knight's Key in the Florida Keys on 17 March 1911 (a two page passenger listing):

Initially, I thought this Tim McNamara went to Cuba on a holiday. American tourists did indeed leave Knight's Key in the Florida Keys and sail to Havana during this period. Starting in 1908, tourists would travel south on the Florida East Coast Railway to Miami and then continue on what was known as the "Overseas Railroad" or "Key West Extension" which traveled from key to key connected by viaducts to the train's terminus at Knight's Key. Leaving New York City, "Mondays through Saturdays, frigid Northern passengers could board the New York and Florida Special at 2:10 p.m. of a murky and snowbound Manhattan afternoon. At 7:30 a.m. on the third day following, they could wake up in a berth of a Pullman car and raise a shade to look out the window of stretch of blue ocean framed by glittering skies and waving palms, a steamship waiting at the dock. Six hours later the more adventuresome of those passengers could find themselves steaming beneath the lowering aspect of Morro Castle in breathtaking Havana harbor" ( "Last Train to Paradise, Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean", by Les Standiford, 2002).

But Timothy McNamara was not a tourist. Knight's Key was 106 miles from Miami station, and was only a temporary station on what would be the 153 miles of the Key West Extension from Miami to the terminus at Key West. From 1908 through 1912, Knight's Key was used for both tourists to continue by sail to Havana, as well as a depot to bring construction material and working men by both train and ship to complete the train route through to Key West. Timothy McNamara worked upon the railroad. His return to Knight's Key on St. Patrick's day in 1911 may have been to accompany five Spanish laborers from Havana to work on the construction. The three other Spanish passengers on the passenger listing were going to work on a ship.

On the passenger listing of the SS Halifax arriving from Havana, Tim McNamara stated that he had been at Knight's Key from 1909 through 1911. I suspect he didn't come direct from Ireland to work in Florida, but had arrived in the United States some years earlier. Unfortunately, I could not find him in the 1910 census in the Florida work camps with the other railroad workers. The 1910 census of Monroe County, Florida, had 28 pages of residents and boarders in "Key Metaenabe Township" which was the census enumerator's attempt at "Key Matecumbe Township":

The township included residences and railroad work camps at various keys, including the work camp at Pigeon Key, which was summarized in the history "Last Train to Paradise" (page 176): "The 1910 U.S. Census provided a further breakdown of the workforce stationed at Pigeon Key: 61 of the men came from 28 different states, with New York providing the most at 12. The other 150 men tallied came from a welter of countries, including 77 from Spain, 33 from Grand Cayman, and 13 from Ireland. Only 5 black workers were listed."

With Cuba so close to Key West, it was surprising that workers were brought over from Spain to work on the railroad. I even thought that both the census takers and historians got it wrong, that these workers were Cubans of Spanish descent. But when Tim McNamara of County Clare, Ireland arrived at Knight's Key in 1911, he was indeed traveling with Spaniards, from Coruña and Malaga and other Spanish cities.

The Key West Extension was completed through to Key West in 1912. And Tim McNamara was still working on the Key West Extension railroad in 1917. His involvement with the Overseas Railroad was a fascinating part of Florida history:

But was Tim McNamara of Key West, born in County Clare, about 1882 according to the 1911 passenger listing, the Thadeus McNamara who was born in Roslara in 1882? In 1922, the obituary for Michael McNamara of Brooklyn stated that his brother Timothy McNamara was still living, but gave no information as to where. Is it possible that the McNamara family in Brooklyn had not heard from their brother Timothy for several years? Or perhaps back in Ireland, it was outside the old family home occupied by their brother Patrick McNamara, where the Roslara community might have heard the cry of the Banshee, the omen of death, in July of 1917? If so, were the McNamara's and the community of Roslara, ever able to decipher the purpose of the Banshee's supernatural visit? Is there any evidence that the Banshee followed the McNamara clan of County Clare, a noble family tied to the land in Ireland?

Was Another Lad Whom Shark Devoured

KEY WEST. July 30—(Special)—It is not often that a man reads his death notice in the newspapers but this happened to Leonard Russell, who was said to have been drowned at the railroad station about a week ago and sharks devoured him. Mr. Russell stated that the poor unfortunate was Tim McNamara who was employed on the extension of the Flagler System. He was trying to find his way to the camp and fell overboard. He gave an outcry but the body was not found but next day sharks brought the body to the surface near the accident when it was devoured by them before help could arrive to secure the body.

The Tampa Tribune , Tampa, Florida, Wednesday, 1 August 1917

The drowned body of the man recently discovered floating in the harbor at Key West, and which was seized by a shark just before it was about to be recovered, has been found to be that of Tim McNamara , an employee on the railroad extension. It was at first thought that the body was that of Leonard Russell, but young Russell has shown up.

New Smyrna Daily News , New Smyrna, Florida, 10 August 1917

Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Mon May 03, 2021 6:18 pm

Poor Tim McNamara – what a nightmarish death. That he is the right age, and from Co. Clare, and that there are only a few other Timothy/Thadeus McNamara whose were births registered 1881-1882, all go to make him a good candidate for Timothy from Roslara. I agree it's possible that the person who contributed the information for the 1922 obit for Michael McNamara (which states that Timothy is still living) might not know of Timothy's death, but that obit still carries some weight, I think. The information you gathered in the course of your work, on the Banshee, and on the making of the Key West railroad, go to make another interesting posting.

I don’t think Timothy McNamara, from Magherabaun, made a will. The entry in the Calendar of Wills refers to the “administration of the estate” as I understand it, this means that Timothy died intestate and that his nephew, John, applied for administration of whatever Timothy had left, and was granted administration. John would have been responsible, then, for dividing the estate between all of Timothy’s nieces and nephews (including himself): http://www.willcalendars.nationalarchiv . _00285.pdf.

Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Sat May 08, 2021 5:26 am

Thank you for the explanation for when a Calendar of Wills entry states "Administration of the Estate" versus "Probate of the Will". The fact that Timothy McNamara of Magherabaun died intestate in 1915, from a genealogy perspective, might be very good. If Timothy McNamara had left a will, he could have left the entire estate of £414 to a favorite nephew, say John McNamara of Magherabaun. However, since Timothy died intestate, wouldn't every nephew and niece qualify for an equal share? After John McNamara was approved as administrator of the Timothy's estate, would the final settlement not have to get approved by a court? Would there be no further documentation at the National Archives? Or was £414 considered too small of an estate? In the United States, when a wealthy bachelor died intestate, the probate file might actually be a probate box as distant cousins scramble and argue over the remaining estate, which shrinks in size after every month of "administration" and only the lawyers and property taxes are paid. The classic case, of course, would be the "Talty Millions" researched on this forum by Paddy Waldron in the links below:

The Tim McNamara who died the gruesome death at Key West in 1917 would definitely be the same Tim McNamara born in County Clare who arrived at Knight's Key from Havana in 1911 at the age of 29 years old. However, this was his reported age, and it would be rather naive to limit the search in the Irish civil records to any Timothy or Thadeus McNamara born in 1881 or 1882.

Was the Tim McNamara, who died at Key West in 1917, the Thadeus McNamara born in Roslara in 1882? The easiest way to test this theory would be to prove that the Timothy McNamara who arrived in New York in 1902 was elsewhere in the United States in 1910 and lived happily ever after. Will now share the results of one such search in New York, and have saved the remainder for another day.

In the 1920 USA census, a Timothy McNamara, born in Ireland, age 47 (≈1875), a porter at a piano factory, was living at Brook Avenue in the Bronx in New York City, with his wife Annie McNamara (age 46), and three American born children: Annie (age 19), Timothy (age 18), and Sarah (age 14). Timothy McNamara, of 260 Brook Avenue in the Bronx , died on 23 May 1922, at the age of 47 (≈1875), born in Ireland, 32 years in the USA father was reported as "Timothy McNamara", and mother as "Bridget" executor Annie McNamara.

In searching the Florida newspapers archives, a Timothy McNamara of the Boston Braves baseball team received lots of coverage in the 1920's when America was crazy about the sport of baseball. And in the Miami Tribune , a Legal Notice was run weekly from the first week of March 1927 to the end of April 1927. This legal notice was very long and full of McNamara's, including "Timothy McNamara, unmarried, a resident of 260 Brook Ave., Bronx, N.Y. " the same wording for "Anna McNamara" and "Sarah McNamara Kunzman and husband, Walter Kunzman, residents of 260 Brook Ave., Bronx, N.Y. " Other McNamara's listed were from County Clare, many from Cragaknock. And since several Talty's made the list, it was obvious that the Legal Notice was associated with the "Talty Millions".

The three McNamara's reported on the Legal Notice as living at 260 Brook Avenue in the Bronx, were the children of the Timothy McNamara who died on 23 May 1922. He must be the Thady McNamara, born on 26 August 1870, in Cragaknock, Kilrush reporting district, to farmer Thady McNamara and Bridget Hogan parents consistent with his NY death certificate.

The Timothy McNamara (age 45) living on Brook Avenue in the Bronx in the 1920 census was never a good possibility to be the Thady McNamara who was born in Roslara in 1882 and arrived in New York in 1902. The Timothy McNamara of the Bronx had a 19 year old son in 1920, and his immigration year was reported as 1891. However, the Thady McNamara born in Cragaknock in 1870 was a possibility to be the Tim McNamara who arrived from Havana in 1911 at the age of 29 and was devoured by sharks in 1917— but he has now been eliminated from this possibility.

The Timothy McNamara of the Bronx consistently reported his age reflecting a birth year of 1875, when, in fact, he was born in 1870. A five year difference. I reckon the Tim McNamara who arrived at Knight's Key in 1911 at the reported age of 29 years, could conservatively have been born in County Clare anytime between 1870 and 1885. In searching for Timothy McNamara of Roslara in New York records, I've already researched most of the Timothy McNamara's born in County Clare during this period, which will share another day.

It can be quite difficult to trace the Irish from Ireland to the USA, as well as from the USA back to Ireland, due to their frequent incorrect reporting in USA records of age, country of birth, marital status etc. A good example of this can be found in the Florida passenger listings. Arriving on 11 January 1926, at Key West from Havana, on the steamship Governor Cobb , was Theobald Talty, this was less than three months prior to his death at Cora Gables on 1 April 1926. From Key West, Theobald Talty would have taken the Key West Extension, which Tim McNamara of County Clare had worked on prior to his death in 1917, back to Miami. Source: Florida passenger lists, 1898-1963, available on ancestry, requires subscription (not yet available on FamilySearch):

The Florida passengers listings are quite unique as they typically reported both the date of birth and age. On the 11 January 1926 passenger listing of Governor Cobb , Theobald Talty reported his date of birth as "9 December 1878" and age as "57". This makes no sense since if in 1926 he reported a birth year of 1878, then he would only have been 47 years old. According to the extensive research done by Paddy Waldron, Thady Talty was baptized on 12 December 1855, so at least the day appears reasonable. But his age was understated by either 23 years (based upon date of birth) or 13 years (based upon age). Plus, Theobald Talty was born in Ireland, and not in the USA as reported in the passenger listing. Furthermore, when Theobald Talty died in April 1926, on the death certificate he was reported by a cousin as single, but on the passenger listing he was reported as married. Will share this new information on the Talty thread, but this Key West passenger listing might be an important clue as to why T. J. Talty, mysteriously, was never found on any USA census report.

Theobald Talty highlights that Timothy McNamara, born in 1882 in Roslara, might well be reported in USA records as being American born and at a much younger age. Similarly, the Tim McNamara devoured by the sharks in 1917 and reported on Florida passenger listing of 1911 as being born in County Clare in 1881 or 1882 might well have actually been born as early as 1870 or so. These observations must also be considered in the ongoing search for the missing Civil War soldier Thomas McNamara of Glandree.

Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Sun May 09, 2021 12:35 pm

Yes, I agree I was mistaken in thinking I could limit the Timothy McNamaras to those whose births were registered 1881-82. People in Ireland, who were under 20, generally gave their correct age in 1901 census, but people, even young people, who went to America, tended to shave about 3 years from their ages. And I hadn’t taken that into account.

Jimbo, I want to go back a bit to the discussion on pauper funerals, because I said that I’d found no allusion, in the reports on Poor Law Union meetings in Clare, to Lord Emly’s pronouncements at that Limerick meeting of March 1877. Well, now I see that the presence of clergymen at funerals is discussed at the meeting of the Board of the Clare District Lunatic Asylum, in March 1881. I gather from this report that it was not part of the duties of the Catholic, or the Protestant chaplain to attend at the burial of patients (at least, not until this whole issue came to light). I assume the patients at the Lunatic Asylum were from various classes of society, so the practice of not attending at burials was not limited to pauper burials:
Clare Freeman , Sat 19 Mar 1881 taken from the Clare Journal :

Jimbo, I also want to go back to the discussion on emigrants returning from America. Although you have provided evidence of this, and although I found some evidence myself, I was surprised to see that some Americans came on pilgrimage to Knock*, Co. Mayo in 1880:

Clare Freeman , Wed 11 Aug 1880:

* Knock village in Co. Mayo was the site of an apparition of Our Lady in August 1879 and very quickly became a place of pilgrimage. Special trains brought pilgrims from Limerick and Clare in the Spring and Summer of 1880. There was no railway station in Knock so the pilgrims had to walk the last five miles.

Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Thu May 13, 2021 8:46 am

Thank you for the newspaper articles. I was not aware that there was a famous pilgrimage associated with the 1879 apparition of Our Lady of Knock in County Mayo. Sheila, it appears that pilgrims having to walk the last five miles due to there being no railway station in Knock was a business opportunity that the local people would quickly take advantage of:

Before proceeding to describe the interior of the enclosure surrounding the church it may perhaps be not uninteresting to mention as an indication of the prosperity which the alleged apparitions have brought to Knock and the surrounding neighborhood that a hotel has also been built about three-quarters of a mile from the site of the church, and forty cars [horse & buggy] now are on hire at Knock, where twelve months ago a cart could scarcely be obtained. In Claremorris and Ballyhaunis, the rival towns for the patronage of pilgrims, the cars and Bianconis (1), have been increased to more than double their original number, and are kept day and night busily employed, so immense is the influx of visitors . The hotels are also full, and in Ballyhaunis two new houses of entertainment have been established, while both in that town and Claremorris, and all along the way to Knock, nearly every cottage, no matter how small, affords accommodation to several pilgrims.

The Irish American , New York, 18 September 1880

(1) "Charles Bianconi and The Transport Revolution, 1800 – 1875, How a self made Italian entrepreneur helped to revolutionise travel in 19th century Ireland." By Brian Igoe:
https://www.theirishstory.com/2012/12/1 . Jx8OaFlDIU

My local library only had a reference copy of "The Banshee, The Irish Death Messenger" by Patricia Lysaght, and it was not possible to read at the library given lockdowns. However, I was able to purchase a used copy on-line at the original publisher price, only $17, with free delivery. Currently the price range is between $40 and $70 from other on-line sellers. Highly recommend the book for anyone interested in Irish folklore, but I'd borrow or read at the library before paying 70 bucks. Or else check out the "The Banshee (with Patricia Lysaght)" on the Folklore Fragments Podcast (Episode 27, University College Dublin) — the discussion follows the outline and content of the book.

Sheila, I am sure, as you stated, that you brought up the apparition of Our Lady at Knock in relation to emigrants returning from America. But due to your timing, it was difficult for me not to compare the apparition of Our Lady, as witnessed by the residents of Knock, to an overview of the visual manifestations of supernatural beings by Professor Lysaght in The Banshee :

The inventiveness of our imaginations seems to be without boundary as far as supernatural beings are concerned. Some are imagined as living in organised communities, perhaps ruled over by a king or a queen. These are the so-called social beings. Others, such as the leipreachán , are imagined as living on their own, so-called solitary beings. There are species of beings of which all are of one sex only, and species with members of both sexes. Many supernatural beings are man-shaped and others are animal-shaped and there are those who combine human and animal shape. Still others are shapeshifters and may appear in various human and animal forms. Being may be imagined as small or tall, beautiful or ugly. Some are confined to certain elements, the sea, the air, woods, mountains, while others have many habitats.

The borderlines between different types of supernatural beings are seldom clear-cut. In areas where traditions about a particular type of being are strong the tradition dominant will heavily influence the image of other beings. Special geographical, historical and social conditions in a country or region will be reflected in the image of its supernatural beings. Above all, supernatural beings, even if one regards them purely as figments of the imagination, fulfill vital functions in the lives of the people who believe in them and these functions have a bearing on the appearance of the beings.

The Banshee, The Irish Death Messenger , by Patricia Lysaght (originally published 1986 2nd edition 1996)

The apparitions of Our Lady at Knock and the Banshee could not be more different. "There is a great variation in the traditions about the being [the Banshee, the death messenger] but the core of the belief concerns a solitary, crying female supernatural being who is perceived as an ancestress of the family she attends" (Chapter 12, Origins of the Supernatural Death-Messengers Belief and Other Related Questions). While the Banshee was always a solitary being, the detailed witness accounts of Our Lady at Knock stated that there were three man-shaped figures and one animal-shaped: the Virgin Mary, along with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist, as well as a lamb (of God, Jesus Christ). Our Lady wore white the Banshee was frequently described as wearing grey. Unlike the Banshee who is crying and was a messenger of death to the community, from the Knock witness statements (per numerous newspapers accounts also documented in below website), the apparitions at Knock did not speak. Thus, Our Lady of Knock was different from Our Lady of Lourdes who spoke to Saint Bernadette.

The primary sources used by Patricia Lysaght to describe the Banshee traditions were (1) the "Main Manuscript Collection" and (2) the "School's Collection (1937-1938)", both at the National Folklore Collection located at UCD and described here https://www.duchas.ie/en/info/cbe
and (3) the author's own questionnaire and field notes.

The keening women at wakes and funerals are mentioned several times in connection to the Banshee by Patricia Lysaght. I had assumed incorrectly that all women who attended a wake would have keened, just like they would have all sang on another occasion, perhaps of varied talent. But it was a special skill and there were local keeners who were recognized for their art. I wanted to know who were the local keeners in Tulla Parish, so searched "keening" using the School's Collection and there were six results for County Clare.

Not a submission by a student, but the description of funerals by Tomás Ó Cuinneáin, a teacher at Kilmaley School, was excellent and ended up resolving all my prior questions about Irish funerals for the average Irish person. Not the funerals for the wealthy with dozens of priests in attendance as reported by the Irish press. And not the burial of paupers at the workhouse or insane asylum. But the Irish funeral traditions for the average Irish person, such as James McNamara of Derrymore Carmody who died at the funeral of his granddaughter Anne McNamara of Roslara on 8 November 1876.

The corpse was washed by some neighbouring woman. The water that washed the corpse was thrown under the bed, the way the person that was dead would have shelter to put his sins off him. Other people threw the water in an outhouse. Others still threw it under a bush or in sheltery place. 9 candles 7, or 5 used to be lit at a wake. Now 7. The house where 9 would not be lit was said to be a pauper's wake. The candles were let burn out, or else whoever lighted them should extinguish them. All the women go "in the corpse house" the day before the funeral. At present the corpse has to be brought to the chapel the evening before burial or else the morning of the funeral. Six candles are brought to the chapel. A plate or saucer of snuff used always be laid on top of the corpse, (this custom prevails here still) and everyone who went in to pray took a pinch of the snuff and said a prayer for the dead person. Clay pipes and tobacco were also used up to 30 years ago. (This custom has died out) and when the pipes were filled each person at the wake got a pipe. An older custom still was that the corpse was laid out on a table until the coffin came. The cover of the coffin at that used to be on hinges and the corpse was put into the coffin during the wake. In some houses the coffin used to be left on the table in the kitchen. The Rosary was said about 12 o'c at night -latest at 2 o'clock. Everyone at the wake got supper. On the morning of the funeral the priest came to say mass at the house. At that time the priest would not be present at all funerals [the burial], but he blessed earth, and the blessed earth was shaken on the coffin before burial. When the coffin was laid down in the grave about 20 women used to cry together -usually friendly and there used to be a terrible ocón . There used to be pelting going on at wakes. The coffin was brought out the same door as it was brought in. Four of the same name always did this-(This custom prevails in Kilmaley still) the same four take it in from the hearse to the chapel ,and the same four take it out from the chapel to the gate of the chapel yard on the day of the funeral. Whiskey was always used at wakes long ago, and the woman who laid out the corpse generally got whiskey. The same woman put the corpse into the coffin, and generally a small jar of whiskey was put under the bed of the corpse for to be used on next day by friends.

If you go to a funeral you are not make a visit to any house after burial until you reach your own home.

Women used to go to funerals in cúlóg with their husbands, and even to town and to market and to all kinds of sport.

Keening at wakes ,corpse houses ,and funerals has stopped for about 50 years. Biddy Murphy (Mrs Sullivan) of Knockatona used to cry everywhere. She was very good natured Goill se Diabhal a cailleadh. Mrs. Clohessy of Caherea was another great keener.

“ The Schools’ Collection , Volume 0608, Pages 440 to 443” by Dúchas © National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4922345/4872288

So going back to the Limerick Board of Guardians meetings of 1877 and when Alderman Costelloe stated that "eight out of every ten of the ratepayers were interred without any religious services being performed, and he did not think it was necessary to do that for the paupers, which the ratepayers did not require to be done for themselves". This appears to have been consistent with "At that time the priest would not be present at all funerals" as stated by Tomás Ó Cuinneáin. But Costelloe, as the representative of the ratepayers, wanted to keep their rates down by avoiding the cost of paying for priest to attend pauper burials, and thus minimized the importance of the Catholic priest on the day of the funeral. So Costelloe left out that the Catholic priest would have said a Mass at the home of the deceased on the morning of the funeral, and blessed the earth which was shaken on the coffin before burial, and the fact that the funeral at the cemetery would be well attended by family and neighbors (including women). Unlike the funeral of the paupers at the workhouse or insane asylum which would be attended solely by the gravedigger unless the priest attended.

Sheila, not sure if you noticed, but in your article on the Clare Lunatic Asylum, the Dr. Daxon that was referenced was the same as Dr. Daxon who on 9 July 1882 was traveling by car (horse & buggy) from Ennis when about 3:20 pm discovered an injured and bleeding John Doloughty lying on road very close to Knockanean School. Michael Considine, the young victualler from Ennis, minutes later approached from the opposite direction having made a delivery at Cullane House, then being boycotted. This reminds me that I never finished discussing the trial of Francis Hynes (pages 22 & 23). It appears the story was diverted slightly with the discovery that the "Mr. McNamara" who was killed by his horse on 13 August 1904 was, in fact, Thady McNamara of Kilmore, and not Andrew Sheedy McNamara of Glandree as originally assumed.