Map makers and Wicklow through the centuries
REPORTER DAVID MEDCALF VENTURED TO THE BROCKAGH CENTRE IN GLENDALOUGH TO ENJOY THE FASCINATING EXHIBITION OF MAPS OLD AND NEW ASSEMBLED BY LOCAL RESIDENT PAT REID
MAPS. Don’t you just love ’em! Works of art. Tools of many trades. Big maps, small maps, functional maps, decorative maps. In an age of satellite guided navigation, Pat Reid still revels in maps, the older the better and best of all if Glendalough is featured. A Kildare man living in Glendalough, he is the leading light in the Heritage Maps project which is supported by the Heritage Council.
And, with some backing from the county council, he has compiled an exhibition of maps now on show around the walls of the main function room at the Brocagh Centre. They range over time from the educated guesswork of the early 17th century to the high-tech imagery of the new millennium. The result is a step by step progression through human perception of place and landscape, covering more than 400 years.
The show in the Brocagh has around 30 reproductions, the tip of a much larger iceberg. Pat reckons to have assembled at least 400 old maps of Ireland, the originals of which are held in collections around the world. The earliest he has on file date back to the 15th century, based on the work of Ptolemy who lived and worked in 2nd century Egypt.
Spelling, as the first exhibit demonstrates, was not always the hard and fast thing of today. Yes, Glendalough shows up prominently in the map drawn by Matthias Quad published in Germany during 1600. But it is rendered ‘Glandalag’, close to the town of ‘Wykelo’, with ‘Balkyglas’ further inland – presumably that’s Baltinglass in modern parlance.
Hot on the heels of Quad came a Belgian effort of 1608 which dodged the issue of how to spell Glendalough very neatly. The famous place of pilgrimage is labelled ‘XI Churches’. Presumably the XI is eleven in Latin numerals, though ‘VII Churches’ would probably have been more accurate.
Glendalough was clearly big news in the 17 th century. The map of Ireland compiled by Philip Briet for publication in Paris in 1648 shows ‘Glandeloure’ on a par with ‘Vichlo’ and ‘Areclo’, the only three towns in all of the county. Map making around this time was something of Chinese whispers exercise, as there was no way the compilers could visit all the places they showed on their charts. Instead, they plagiarised like mad from each other, with often dodgy results.
Pat Reid includes a map issued in 1705 which suggests that little progress had been made since Briet’s effort, with the addition of a jumble of crosses to underline the holiness of ‘Glandeloure’. Shortly afterwards, a man called Nicholas Sanson presented Glendalough as ‘7 Churches’ with a little circle to represent each church.
Most reliable is the Down Survey of Ireland which was undertaken in the mid-1650s by William Petty, acknowledged to be the world’s first detailed land survey. Petty’s County Wicklow had room for ‘Aghamanagh’ and Hollywood while Glendalough was rendered ‘Kildalagh, with the seven churches marked as seven black dots.
AVERY well informed Herman Moll referred in 1714 to ‘The 7 Churchs at Glandelogh’. His knowledge also stretched to ‘Glenely’ and Roundwood as well as the head of the river ‘Liffy’ – all in a correctly rendered Wicklow: ‘Moll was a very famous German map maker,’ stresses Pat. ‘He included town plans on his maps. I don’t believe he was ever in Ireland.’
By 1755, it was common practice to render the letter ‘S’ in a form which looks to modern eyes like an ‘F’. So we may admire detail such as the ‘Black Ca tle’ beside Wicklow town, with somewhere called ‘Dungan ton’ not far away.
Then in 1759 Thomas Jeffreys promised a ‘New and Accurate Map of the Kingdom of Ireland’. Jeffreys proclaimed the locations of Rathdrum and ‘Baltinglas’ ( just one ‘S’, thanks) without any shillying or shallying. But he was caught between ‘The 7 Churches’ and ‘Glandelogh’ so he included both names.
Pat Reid has a particular affection for a man called John Roque whose map of the island – divided into provinces, counties and baronies – went on sale in 1790. Apparently, Roque was not content merely to transcribe from the work of his predecessors. He was active on the ground in Ireland for many years, employed by landholders to make plans of their estates. He died in 1762 but his work was so well thought of that Robert Sayer of London was happy to publish it almost three decades after his passing.
The conventions of cartography were not entirely well established as one effort from 1791 shows. With north at the bottom of the sheet and south at the top, it makes for uncomfortable viewing through modern eyes.
By 1811, London based Aaron Arrowsmith was making a decent effort to convey some notion of the hills and valleys around ‘Glandalough’ and, indeed, all of Ireland. The result gives the impression that his map has been man-handled by someone with very dirty finger-prints as neat contour lines were not yet in vogue Such was the price of technical progress, as the effect was not the most pleasing on the eye.
It was not until 1830 that the familiar ‘Glen’ form of the word begins to take root in Glendalough. The exhibition presents a section
of a map, issued in Leipzig in that year. The splendidly named William Ernst August von Schlieben was responsible and he clearly had good connections in West Wicklow. His map of Leinster picks out the likes of Dunlavin, Donard and Stratford.
Glendalough is shown as ‘Glendulogh’, the start of a trend. Within a year of two, Arrowsmith had seen the error of his ways and his revised version of 1832 was ‘Glendalogh’, edging closer again to the up-to-date format. By 1838 the well-intentioned ‘Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain) was slap bang up to date with ‘Glendalough’.
The evolution of the name was complete, with Ashford, Roundwood, Annamoe and the Devil’s Glen also charted, to name only a few. This was around the time that the measurements and observation of the Government sanctioned Ordnance Survey began producing maps and data which were definitive.
‘Their maps were the most accurate and up to date in the world at the time and they still stand up today,’ says Pat. The work of the Ordnance Survey fed into commercial productions which continued to find buyers.
The map makers began to realise that Glendalough, for all its fame as a centre of pilgrimage and festive gatherings, did not have a large population. So it was in 1851 that an ornate map of Ireland appeared in New York with no mention whatsoever of the place, though the compilers found room for Kilbride, Redcross, Newcastle and somewhere they styled Killincarrig. Killincarrig? That must be Greystones, more recently one of the fastest growing towns in Europe but until late in the 19th century of little significance. The New Yorkers, by the way, made up for the lack of Glendalough by brightening up their publication with a grandiose illustration of a round tower which was certainly inspired by the tower at Glendalough.
The name Seven Churches lingered on until at least 1933 as the brightest exhibit in the Brocagh Centre confirms. ‘Pratts High Test Plan of Ireland’ was circulated to motorists bent on exploring the countryside. The round tower is once more makes an appearance at Glendalough/Seven Churches.
‘This map was published by the Anglo-American Oil Company and sent out to customers as a treat,’ reckons Pat Reid. ‘It is a fun map, with things to do in Ireland. There is an Esso version as well.’ The Pratts map offered the following: ‘Saint Patrick turned King O’Toole and his six big sons into the Seven Churches.’ That is certainly good to know.
THE selection in the exhibition brings map-making into the 21st century, with techniques that go beneath the surface of the land deployed. In 2014, for instance, UCD archaeologists overlaid the old Ordnance Survey chart with the results of a magnetometer survey which assisted them in deciding where to dig.
And last year Coillte used a technique called Lidar (the name stands for light detection and ranging) to peer down from above through the trees to pick out all the humps and bumps below The cold analytical insight of Lidar is a world away from the scholarly imagination of Matthias Quad.
Pat Reid with local historian Joan Kavanagh.
LEFT: Pat Reid. ABOVE: A 20th-century map.