"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on November 26, 2017 by Sioux under General
1 Comment


By morning the weather had cleared up wonderfully, so we planned a ‘walkabout in Kinsale’ day. My tour guide was a chap known to me as Fred-Elbow, who is also the father (and father-in-law) of the friends I was staying with. A long story as to how that name came to be, but ironically, he had worked with my partner Paul, in South Africa some years back. He and Paul had never met socially, so the connection was never discovered until we sat chatting one evening, in Ireland! 

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Originally a medieval fishing port, Kinsale (from the Irish, Ceann tSaile – ‘Head of

the Sea’) has been a centre of trade and fishing for centuries. It is one of the most

picturesque, popular and historic towns on the south west coast of Ireland; well

known for its colourful buildings and bright streetscapes.

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Built as an urban tower house, it consists of a three storey keep with storehouses in the rear. Originally built as a Customs House, the castle has also served as a prison in the 18th century (it is known locally as the French Prison); an ordnance store during the Battle of Kinsale in 1601; and as a workhouse during the Great Famine. By the early 20th century Desmond Castle had fallen into decay. It was declared a National Monument in 1938 and today Desmond Castle hosts the International Museum of Wine Exhibition, an intriguing story that documents the unique history of Ireland’s wine links with Europe and the wider world. 

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We set out early’ish, wending our way through streets lined with bright, colourful buildings, enroute to our first stop – Desmond Castle, which was built by the Earl of Desmond in 1500.

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Fred-Elbow in the solitary confinement cell. It was so narrow he could only stand, no room to sit and no chair!

Old glass wine decanters

Not too far from the castle is the Carmelite Friary. Carmelites have been associated with Kinsale since the early fourteenth century. In 1698 the friars were banished from the town, but unwilling to let go of their loyalty and faithfulness to the local people, they lived in caves almost 5km’s outside of Kinsale; as well as in the homes of sympathetic locals.

They were eventually allowed to return to ‘ye olde mass house on ye rocke’ but it had become derelict and uninhabitable. A friary house, small chapel and garden were built in 1735. In 1834 construction commenced on the present church, with funds collected in the UK, enabling the friars to pay wages and help the labourers buy food. The friary church was

again enlarged in 1878; with further

renovations being carried out in 1928

and 1987.


Today the Friary Church of Our Lady of

Mount Carmel is a place of worship,

prayer and tranquillity. 

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When the Irish forces of Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell were

defeated at Kinsale in 1601, thousands of their followers left Ireland for

he continent, where many of them served in foreign armies.

They became known as “The Wild Geese” because, like the annual wild

geese migration, many left at the same time. A later exodus of men of

all creeds to the wine regions in Europe was likened to the earlier exodus and they became known as “The Wine Geese”. The Irish did not become involved with the wine making industry by accident, as for centuries there were connections between Ireland and the wine producing areas in Europe and these links were further strengthened with the mass emigrations.

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Tumble carts were horse-drawn 2-wheeled farm carts with a tank for handling liquid or semiliquid materials; and were the forerunners to municipal street sweepers. Made in various sizes, the tanks could hold anything from 220 – 1300 litres of liquid and semi-solid waste products, which had become a huge problem to the local municipalities in the days before all homes were connected to the city’s sewers. 

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We carried on with our meander, Fred-Elbow pointing out interesting stuff along the way.

When the ocean liner RMS Lusitania was sunk

by a U-boat of the German Empire on a voyage

from New York City to Liverpool during WW1,

some of the bodies and survivors were 

brought to Kinsale and the subsequent inquest 

on the bodies recovered was held in the town’s

courthouse. A statue in the harbour 

commemorates the effort. The courthouse is 

now a museum with many relics and mementos off the RMS Lusitania on show. We walked through the museum but unfortunately no photos are allowed inside.

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We stopped in the market for a while and just people-watched; then headed on to The Spaniard pub for a mid-morning thirst quencher.

Perched high over the harbour, The Spaniard has held a commanding view over the town of Kinsale for centuries and still retains its unique charm. Built in 1650 on the runs of an old castle, it was originally known as ‘The Castle’, until the early 1960’s when it was named ‘The Spaniard’  in honour of Don Juan Del Aquila who commanded the Spanish fleet during the famous battle of Kinsale. 

The church of St John the Baptist was built in the 1830’s to replace a smaller thatch-roofed building that marked the end of the Penal Laws. The church has been modernised in recent years but still has one of the oldest organs in the country; and an elaborately plastered ceiling. 

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In the days when Kinsale was a great maritime centre, it was an important port of call for fresh water. Known in Irish as Fan na dTubraid, The Slope of The Springs / Wells; there were many private and public wells in the city. Some were privately owned and guarded to ensure the water was not contaminated by public use. Others were left unattended and unprotected, for use by the poor, such as this one, named The Paupers’ Well. 

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From there it was a long uphill walk to get to Charles Fort,

passing by the ruins of James Fort on the opposite side of

the river, along the way. James Fort (Dún Rí Shéamuis) is

an early 17th-century pentagonal fort situated downstream from Kinsale on the River Bandon. The fort was built to defend the harbour and seaborne approaches of the town. Following the construction of Charles Fort on the opposite side of the harbour in the late 17th century, James Fort became known as the “old fort” (an Seandaingean). 

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We meandered along a public footpath on the hillside. There are some beautiful homes along the way, all with stunning views across the harbour. 

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One response to “Rekindling old friendships #3 – Desmond; James and Fred-Elbow.”

  1. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Lovely colourful pics and info thank you!

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