The Avondhu - By The Fireside


- John Arnold Helen Bennett

In early October, Mary got a text or a WhatsApp message from a friend to say they had spotted an interestin­g item coming up for sale at a forthcomin­g auction in Dublin. The ‘informant’ wasn’t quite sure whether Mary should tell me about it - before or after the sale - after all there was a possibilit­y, as often happens at auctions, that I might lose the run of myself and keep sticking up my bidding hand! Anyway, she kinda told me that she kinda heard in a kinda way about ‘some old racing cup’ that was for sale.

Now I wouldn’t be a great racing man, but coming from Bartlemy I have a keen interest in all things historical and local, so I was immediatel­y interested. That night I Googled ‘Mullens Laurel Park’ Auctions – in fairness I’d never before heard of them. Over the years I’ve often perused the online catalogues of Mealy’s and Sheppard’s – wisha, I love looking at the pictures and often gasp at the prices paid for old books, maps, documents and medals. So there it was, Lot 266, a solid silver cup with the following descriptio­n: Co. Cork, ‘Bartlemy 1909 - Open Farmer’s Race - Presented by the Officers 1st Battn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers’ silver two-handled trophy cup, London, 1907, 26oz troy (809g) 7¼” (18.5cm) tall, on plinth’.

I knew from looking up old newspapers that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s point-to-point races were often organised by the officers and men of the different British Army regiments then stationed in Ireland. Cork City, Fermoy and Buttevant all had large Army barracks at the time. It must have been indicative of - I won’t say ‘peace and harmony’ in Ireland at the time, but things must have been fairly ‘low key’ as regards any confrontat­ion between the military and the locals. Arthur Griffith had founded Sinn Fein three years earlier and in four years time the Irish Volunteers would be started.

Bartlemy Village in 1908 had two public houses, three shops, the Murley family ran the Post Office. The Fife and Drum band were based in the Band Room on the Tallow Road. The creameries had not yet arrived, so butter made by the Bartlemy farmers was gathered in the Butter Store at the crossroads and taken to the famous Cork Butter

Market. The two September Horse Fairs were still held annually – though the startup of a fair in Tallow on September 3rd, the day before the first Bartlemy Fair, was a cause of some disquiet locally. Horse breeding, rearing and racing was endemic in the area and a horse race was usually held in conjunctio­n with one of the fairs. So, the horse racing tradition was and still is very strong here.

Naturally, I was captivated by the image of the cup. When I enlarged the picture ‘on screen’ I saw that it was not inscribed 1909, but 1908. Next day I rang the auctioneer and he was glad to correct the mistake.

On the catalogue a guide price of €400 to €600 was quoted - I think I bought a second car for around that sum a few years back! The auction which was ‘Dual Purpose’ - online and in person, wasn’t on ‘til Saturday, October 15th so I had a bit of time to consider my options.

I looked up The Cork Examiner for early March 1908 and sure enough, I found a fine write-up announcing:

(Subject to INH Rules as to Corrupt Practises)

By kind Permission of the Farmers of that District. All Entries except those for the Farmers’ Races, to be sent to the Hon. Sec, Royal Welch Fusiliers, P to P Races, The Barracks, Cork by 10pm, Friday March 6th 1908. All entries for and enquiries as to the Farmers’ Races to be sent to Mr. D. Barry, Bartlemy.’ beating all the Red Coats and so called ‘gentry’ in a never-to-be-forgotten race.

For the 1908 meeting, the second race at 2.15 was the Open Farmers’ Race with a prize fund of £15 for the winner, £5 for second and £2 for third - all this money collected and kindly presented by the Bartlemy Farmers’ Committee. It was for this race that the Silver Cup (Lot 266) was presented by the RW Fusilier Officers. On Tuesday, March 10th The Cork Examiner carried the full list of entries for each race. The Open Farmers’ Race had 29 entries but just eight horses actually ran.

‘De Paper’ on Wednesday carried a full and very detailed account of the race meeting. A strong cold wind prevailed but this ‘did not mar the sport which afforded keen pleasure to a large number of people, principall­y composed of the members of the United

Hunt Club and the farmers and their families of the surroundin­g districts’. The Open Farmers’ Race was won by Mr J Callaghan’s five year old Benjamin, ridden by T. Barry. Second was Mr David Ring’s Mountainee­r (6yrs) ridden by Paddy Daly - father of famous Cork hurler Willie John. Third was Mr J Hannigan’s 5yr old Easter Boy, ridden by C A Fleury, the distances were 6 lengths and 4 lengths.

The cup that went to the winning owner was not a perpetual cup, so presumably it was presented to Mr O’Callaghan on that Tuesday afternoon, March 10th 1908. How it came to be in an auction all these years later I’ll probably never know! All the auctioneer would tell me was that ‘it came from a private collection in Cork’.


Not being experience­d in the ways and means of

When Christmas comes to mind many of us are taken back to our childhoods, those halcyon days when we had nothing to trouble us, it seemed that all our needs and wants were taken care of as if by magic. This was due in no small way, to the wonderful parents we had, who kept the wheels of the family turning no matter what.

I’m sure young parents today strive to achieve the same, though in a world of ever-increasing demands and prices, this struggle must appear equal to the times when there was little money for luxuries and food was scarce. Depressing to think we haven’t really come very far. Different times but the same problem.

My Christmase­s as a child were brilliant, we were far from well off, but we always had a magical Christmas. It began when Dad brought home the Christmas tree (from the local wood, I might add), no bought trees for us. It was always a struggle to get it standing straight in a bucket of sand before we could begin hanging the decoration­s.

This was a lovely tradition, with the fire lighting and the excitement when the boxes of decoration­s were opened once the goings-on in auction rooms, I though it better to summon assistance. I contacted my good friend Noel Scannell in Kilworth and explained that I’d be interested in buying Lot 266 – if I got it at the right price. So when Saturday, October 15th came I was anxious and nervous. I would dearly love to have this item of Bartlemy history, but sure it might be out of my reach completely. I was able to follow the bidding online and saw it was sold quickly enough. Noel rang: ‘You got it!’ he said - I was thrilled. It didn’t make the €600, but with the sale price and 25% fees, I’ll be having a chicken for Christmas!

I am delighted to have the cup back here in Bartlemy after all these years. History isn’t all about wars, risings, battles and internatio­nal treaties. This 1908 Open Farmers’ Race Cup is part of Bartlemy history. again, and we would delight in all the coloured glass and shiny baubles once more. Setting the crib on the hall table and placing the figures in it in preparatio­n for the big day.

Dad would climb the ladder to string the paper decoration­s from one corner of the sitting room ceiling to the other, and my sisters and I would blow up balloons to hang in the corners, secured in place with thumb tacks, all the while watching dad teetering on top of a rickety ladder, good fun and great memories.

The highlight of those long-ago Christmase­s was Christmas night, after a fun-filled day playing board games, and watching the children’s Christmas programmes, following delicious dinner cooked by our mother, the smell of roasting turkey filling the house, by nine o’clock we would be ready for bed.

Our bedroom had a small fireplace and on Christmas evening Mam would light the fire in the little grate, by the time we went to bed the embers would be glowing red and the room cosy and warm. We did not have central heating so having our bedroom cosy and warm on Christmas night was a treat indeed and we would snuggle up in bed with our new story books from Santy. Soon to be lulled to sleep watching the glowing light from the embers.

 ?? ?? FINALLY BACK ‘HOME’ - John Arnold with the silver cup, which was presented at the Royal Welch Fusiliers Point-to-Point Races in
Bartlemy in 1908.
FINALLY BACK ‘HOME’ - John Arnold with the silver cup, which was presented at the Royal Welch Fusiliers Point-to-Point Races in Bartlemy in 1908.

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