Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Great Delvin

Growing up in Australia, I listened to my Grandmothers Irish accent with a mixture of amusement and confusion (just what was it she said then?). When I was young my Grandmothers sister Hannah visited us, I don't recall the exact date, but it was sometime about 1977 IIRC.

Grandma left home young, so naturally when she left she lost touch with the family back in Ireland. I understand there was no correspondence between her and home for many decades, so it was almost as if she had died.

Then through the massive changes of modern communications she got in touch with her sisters and her sister Hannah came to visit us. It must have been such a great thing that today we can barely imagine it.

Hannah brought with her a copy of her book "The Great Delvin" (which I have still). I grew up seeing this book as a treasure of the family and I was occasionally allowed to handle it (my Grandmother treasured it). Most memorable to me were the images of the historical buildings of significance in the township: St Marys and the Delvin Castle.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Delvin where Grandma grew up, to walk the streets and see the places she knew.

In Hannah Fitzsimons's book the images were in gritty black and white, clearly (to my eye as a photographer today) taken with 35mm and processed into book form in ways which showed why larger formats were preferred in the day.  So in a nod to that style allow me to share the images of my "home coming" back to Delvin.

The Castle (and right beside it St Marys Church) it seems come from some time around 1184. I read that it was burned down because Cromwell had intended to occupy it after sacking Trim. It was instantly recognizable to me as I turned the corner into the villiage.

Walking up the hill towards it was somehow like walking into a novel, that such novel was actually an historical account of my family made it all the more powerful.

Walking past the Castle one can see its back (or is it front?) and some (I assume) much more recent structures built onto it.

and some degradation of the stone walls. Its remarkable that such things can stand for almost a thousand years.

Walking past the castle I approached St Marys. At first, I walked around the outside grounds (which were locked) and decided to walk into the pub for information. The keeper told me that the Newsagent had the key and so I went to him to ask and started chatting. It seems my Great Aunt is well known in Delvin. He gave me the key and I opened the steel gates to enter the grounds.

I didn't photograph from the front of St Marys, I guess because I was too preoccupied with the many thoughts which were in my mind at the time. But after I pushed open the steel gates leading into the church and sat my pack down I gathered my thoughts and took out my camera to document what I had just seen.

The gate I walked through is clear in the middle left, and seeing the steeple from inside was a reminder of images I'd seen in my Great Aunts book, clearly this is where that photographer was standing.

A doorway into the steeple seemed to have been blocked off and broken though, so I thought I'd have a look inside.

The walls were covered in moss and some of the rock wall plastering was falling off. There was a small stair case leading part way up to the top, but it was blocked. Perhaps there was also long ago a wooden structure inside for access, as there were rocks visible to support such a structure.

Standing at the base of the tower (on the road side of the church) some of the exterior walls remain remarkably well preserved.

However since it has had its roof removed (and also it seems, been de-consecrated) the plants have had a better time at eroding the sunny side of the interior.

The sunny side (the graveyard side) of the wall (with the steeple base just visible on the LHS top)

I understand that St Marys was in use up until it was "de-consecrated" in the 1970's which would put it at right about the time Hannah visited us. The Parish currently uses this much more modern building.

Reviewing my thoughts from the day, and seeing things differently now that it is not the first time, it emerges there are things I wish to revisit there. I am sure I will have to go back there again.

I hope you enjoyed this quick tour too.



Jao van de Lagemaat said...

What a neat place! Thanks for sharing this and your history with it.

Anonymous said...

It seems my passion for family history extends to the history of yourself just as much as my own.
Now, if you could just get to search the church records and discover some more interesting tid-bits.

Charles Maclauchlan said...

Very interesting. Thank you

Attempt 2 to read the text proving I'm not a robot
Attempt 3
Attempt 4
I'm getting a bit aggravated...f'n attempt 5

Yu-Lin Chan said...

Very nice write up. A virtual walk through of an interesting historical place.

kevin leonard said...

Hannah was my first teacher. that was 48 years ago and i can still see her. lovely woman died much too young

Unknown said...

Auntie Hannah was my Dad's Aunt. My Great Auntie. My Dad grew up in Delvin. We are Fitzsimons'.

Maeve Fitzsimons said...

I just came accross this as I'm reading the book 'The Great Delvin'. Auntie Hannah was my Dad's Auntie. My Dad grew up in Delvin. We are Fitzsimons'.

obakesan said...

Well "unknown"

Pleased to meet you. If you wish to conact me the good Mr Fox has my details (I hope)

Maeve Fitzsimons said...

I'm Maeve Fitzsimons. Sean is my Dad.