Note the history of Rosses Point

Sligo historian Brian Curran can’t enter a bedroom in his Ballincar home, with the floor now fully occupied by a Rubik’s Cube of cardboard boxes stacked at chest height and filled with hardback copies of his new tome. of 600 pages.

Although it looks a lot like a ton of bricks, the pile represents a kind of relief – relief from the piles of notes, journals, maps and photographs, the accumulation of relics in living spaces and dining room, moldy deposits in the attic and shed.

Curran explains himself as he throws logs of wood into the stove fire near his living room floor, shutting the door on plumes of wood smoke before walking around, worried about the whereabouts of the teapot his wife, Eithne, brought in a few minutes before.

“I’m 77 now,” said the retired teacher from Summerhill College in Sligo, settling into a leather armchair, drowned in the clothes of the house, tea in hand. “I started taking notes in school, so all of my work was in pieces of files, on pieces of paper and everything. Finally, Eithne said, “Either take this stuff to the landfill or you get it in some form or another.” “

The result is Rosses Point and the Surrounding Area, an illustrated history of one of Sligo’s most famous coastal areas spanning centuries, from the Early Christian period to 17th century land confiscations, to the development of navigation and tourism. other maritime industries.

It details the evolution of the village of Rosses Point from a traditional clachan settlement to a fashionable 19th century “water point”, examines the history of education on the peninsula.

“When I was 10 years old, people in their 70s or 80s told me about the corn ships that arrived at Rosses Point before the war. I heard of people from Lower Rosses digging corn from ships, filling sacks and carrying them on deck before they were carried into town on the backs of townspeople.

“Some years there were maybe 500 ships that came here every year. I got interested in these stories and later started to jot down songs. “

An area of ​​study that is little discussed in today’s societies concerns the impact of time on the preservation of our most sensitive sites. For example, how can this generation ensure that a landfill or toxic waste dump remains intact five hundred years from now?

Some experts believe the answer lies in creating stories and mythologies that would more easily cross generations than maps or any other form of hard data.

Brian, it seems, implicitly understands this conundrum. And while his work relies on researching data, his enjoyment of studying long-forgotten place names proves he knows the power to draw a picture of the past from intangible things.

“My family has been here in Lower Rosses since I was 17 years old. My grandfather, who was a ship channeler – that is, a supplier of materials for boats – was born there in Creggyconnell, which is a townland just after Rosses Point. So I know the area.

“There is a church on the lower Rosses maps and very little is known about it. People called it the monastery and there was a field below what was supposed to be the cemetery.

“There are also two or three Cillins in the area, a cemetery for unbaptized children. It is important that someone records where these things are.

“These places are not marked. Once, when there was construction to widen the road in the area, I had to warn a guy on a bulldozer who looked like he was getting too close to one of the Cillins.

He continues, “I was interested in place names, minor place names and how they got those names. There are seven townlands on the peninsula and the two main ones are Rosses Upper and Rosses Lower. Historians have said that even the name “Rosses Point” is a tautology. Ros in Irish means Point, so the place actually means “Point Point”.

“The town of Doonierin is Dún Iarainn in Irish, which means ‘iron fort’. And that’s because there was a fort in the area under which the old road from Sligo to Drumcliffe passed …

“I used to write the little place names on pieces of paper, scribbled on a receipt or an invoice. I would look for them after.

“Those names are all gone now and I don’t know anyone who would be interested in them, but Fiona convinced me to put them in the book. She said: ‘This is real research, if it takes two days, we will do it.

History is a cumulative discipline, a collective endeavor constantly supported by new scriptures or confused by new evidence. Brian’s eagerness to cite sources from historians of Sligo’s past makes it clear that he is part of this continuum of scholars.

“John McTiernan was a huge influence on me – he wrote about 12 books on Sligo. The other influence then was Dr Patrick Heraghty and he wrote the book on Inishmurray, where he was raised before becoming a GP in Sligo.

“I even half-took the name of the book from another Tadhg Kilganon production called Sligo and its Surroundings,” he says, his voice audible as he walks into a neighboring room and then works volumes bound to his return. They tumble onto the sofa, the coffee table and the floor.

“Fiona Gallagher has a PhD and she wrote The Streets of Sligo. I asked her if she could come and help me with the maps and she ended up being my editor on the book.

“Thanks to a friend, I was introduced into the archives of the National Folklore Commission at UCD where I found the notebooks from 1837, all completed by sixth-class students from all over the country who recorded the books. stories of the time. I worked a lot at UCD for the chapter on schools, reading school reports and inspectors’ reports etc. I traced the hedge schools in the region. There is a document from 1845 which lists all the schools.

“I also did a certificate with the Border Counties History Collective at Blacklion in Cavan, a one year course at the University of Maynooth.

“And something else: I’m not typing, would you believe it?” I researched for so long that Eithne typed the book five times – we went through a regular typewriter, three computers and four printers… ‘

Among the highlights, Brian profiles famous people associated with the Rosses, including such diverse personalities as Patrick J McLoughlin who survived the sinking of the Lusitania, John Joseph Moffatt who was held in a German prison camp during the Second World War II, and Oscar winner screenwriter Neil Jordan, born at Garden Hill Nursing Home in Sligo.

It also follows the evolution of Rosses Point from its beginnings as a bathing spot, or “waterhole,” in the 1800s, when the health benefits of regular bathing in salt water drew attention. Midlands investments and, over the decades, have revolutionized the way locals thought about their homes.

“Rosses Point became a water point around 1800 or so. Going into the water would have been important for health and people came from the interior with all their equipment on horseback and in cart. They claimed that salt water was good for them. This trend continued when businessmen started building their vacation homes here.

“This has continued over the years. When I went to school, the Ballincar House Hotel, now the Radisson, was one of the few houses around here.

“There were a few workers’ houses but nothing else along the road. The locals started to build houses at the back – a house behind their house so that they could rent the front house in the summer. Many seaside areas have developed like this.

One wonders in what other ways Rosses Point has changed in Brian’s 77 years on the Peninsula?

It takes an analytical look at both natural and political disasters, and the changing personal habits of people.

“Storm Debbie in the 1960s changed the whole complexion of the place.

“There were about thirty thatched houses, ten slate houses and two or three two-story houses. After Debbie, there was only one thatched house left. The traditional aesthetic disappeared overnight.

“Before the Troubles, when I was little, people came from Belfast every year. There were no hotels or facilities, so every house here either kept rooms for rent or did B & Bs. They called Rosses Point “Little Belfast”. The same people came every year but the Troubles put an end to it.

“Plus, you would never have seen anyone enter the water in winter, when now people swim all year round. Rosses Point did not have a rescue station or rescue service at the time, so if you got carried away you were gone. Now I see people coming in all year round, in large groups. They are sturdy. Real swimmers.

The Rosses Point and surrounding area launch is scheduled to take place at the Radisson on December 3.

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