About Tom

Another project to complete. Will take a little bit of time but I will enjoy it.

Dame Ninette De Valois

Dame Ninette de Valois (Edris Stannus) by Paul Tyrrell

When I first heard the two names Dame Ninette de Valois and Edris Stannus I thought ‘they’ were two different women. Too my surprise I discovered “they” were one and the same person. This confusion arose because one of the names is a stage name and the other is a birth name. No marks for guessing which one is which!! In time I will come to explain the origin of the stage name.
So who was Edris Stannus? She was born on 6th June 1898 in the townland of Baltyboys. She was born at home in Baltyboys House, into an Anglo-Irish Protestant family and community. Baltyboys House is a Manor House located 2miles (3.2km) west of Blessington village in County Wicklow on the Blessington Lakes.

Baltyboy’s House: Front & Back

Parents: Elizabeth Graydon Smith and Thomas Stannus

Elizabeth Graydon Smith

Thomas Stannus


Elizabeth & Children: 1904

Elizabeth and children

Children: Thelma (1896-1967), Edris (1898-2001), Trevor (1900-70),Gordon(1902-1989). (Edris is the child closest to her mother in the photograph.)

With a view to gaining a comprehensive understanding of Edris’s life and career it is important to contextualise significant aspects of her life in Baltyboys.

Family: Edris’s parents, Thomas Stannus and Elizabeth Graydon Smith had long family histories in Ireland. They married in 1895.Thomas was from a military background and participated in the 2nd Boer War (1899-1902) and WWI (1914-1917). He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the DSO medal posthumously.
Elizabeth Graydon Smith was the only child of the marriage between John (Jack) Graydon Smith and Fanny (Frances) Harvey (1871). Elizabeth, as the only remaining heir of the Smith family, inherited Baltyboys house & lands in 1874 (approx. 1200 statute). Elizabeth was a creative and talented person who was recognised as a distinguished glassmaker known as ‘Lilith’ or ‘Lily’ and noted amateur opera singer and often written about in newspapers as ‘‘Queen of Song’’

Edris Stannus: Baltyboys- 1898-1905
Edris spent the first seven years (7) of her life at Baltyboys. These years, as acknowledged in psychological literature, are some of the most formative years of a child’s life. These early years, in terms of nature and nurture, are the ones which have a major impact on a child’s personality and temperamental development. In the case of Edris this is borne out when you read Ninette de Valois’s (Edris Stannus) memoir ‘Come Dance with Me’. In the memoir she recalls many aspects of her family life in Baltyboys during those seven years.
Arising from my research into this memoir I have managed to build a pen picture of Edris’s personality and her early life in Baltyboys. In the memoir Ninette describes herself as a ‘‘delicate, undersized child….intensely reserved and stubborn as a mule.’’ In conjunction with this latter description Ninette goes on to note other characteristics of her personality as a child; stubborn, feisty, single mindedness, vivid imagination, competitive and creative. These personal traits mark Edris out as a strong, creative and determined personality. The latter is evident from a young age, as noted by Ninnette, where her behaviour could be awkward and temperamental towards family and staff members. Notwithstanding this, in time, these characteristics were the foundation stones of her personal development throughout her teenage years and into adult life. In many respects these were the defining characteristics upon which she built her career and achieved worldwide success both as ballet dancer and choreographer.
Edris was, primarily, cocooned within the privileged social class of the Anglo-Irish protestant community. It was as the memoir states a ‘‘….quite country existence we were cut off from all communal interests and school life’’ This very sheltered upbringing resulted in her early life experiences being confined predominantly to her immediate family surroundings within the Baltyboys domain. There was the occasional venture out into the ‘real’ world. The latter consisted of the following; trips to Blessington to attend Sunday service, to collect the English mail, visits to Blessington Fair and occasional trips to Dublin to attend the theatre.
Within the context of her immediate family and her own developing personality Edris would have experienced and imbued the tenderness and creativity of her mother Elizabeth while been instilled with the focus and discipline of her father Thomas. Alongside these significant influences was her contact with the domestic staff, in particular Kate Finnigan(sic) the family cook. It was Kate who taught Edris the Irish jig which she performed at a birthday party. This event Ninette, in her memoir, recalled as ‘her first public performance’, and recounts the ‘inspiration’ and freedom of ‘self-expression’ which she experienced arising from occasion. This experience had a major bearing on the career path Edris was to follow into her teenage and adult life. This is acknowledged by Ninette in her memoir when she states ‘‘Kate singled me out and taught me to execute an authentic Irish jig on the stone floor of that kitchen. If she had not done so,……., I might never have become a dancer.’’ This enthusiasm for dance and performance were fortified further when her mother, on her trips to Dublin, took her to the Gaiety theatre to see a pantomime performance of ‘‘Sleeping Beauty.’’ Arising from these experiences it is more than safe to conclude that the genesis of Edris’s ballet dancing career was nurtured in Baltyboys initially. In fact, on her 100th birthday (June 6th 1998) Carolyn Swift of The Irish Times nominated Ninette as the ‘‘Irish woman who became the mother of British ballet’’

Family locates to England:
In Spring of 1905 the Stannus family departed Baltyboys house with a heavy hearth. This is evident from Ninette’s memoir when she states that on the day of departure ‘‘There and then, I deliberately tore my hearth out and left it, as it were, on the nursery window sill.’’ Throughout her life Ireland, its countryside and its people were, and had remained, intrinsic to Ninette’s whole being. The circumstances surrounding their departure were linked, primarily, to the economics of running and maintaining a sizeable manor house. A further and significant issue was the changing political, religious and social circumstances pertaining in Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. Despite the necessity of this move Edris’s mother maintained the ownership of Baltyboys house into mid-1930.
The family moved to England and resided with Elizabeth’s mother Frances (Fanny) Smith in the seaside village of Walmer in Kent. Even with the trauma of the move from Baltyboys, where according to Ninette ‘we children lived long happy days’, Edris and her family settled into Walmer with relative ease. Edris’s grandmother enrolled her in a local dancing school, which Ninette describes as a ‘‘new found secret happiness’’ Within her dancing classes Edris’s natural talent combined with her propensity for dance and movement flourished and she was singled out by her teachers for particular mention. This was communicated to her mother who took a strong interest in her burgeoning dancing talent, recognising the creative instinct attached to this development.
Lila Field’s Academy for Children:
Edris spent three years (3) in Walmer and in 1909 the family moved to London where her mother has secured accommodation. Edris’s mother, Elizabeth, acknowledging the feedback of Edris’s dance teachers and wanting facilitate her further development as a dancer enrolled her in Mrs. Woodworth’s Edwardian School of Deportment. The dance school provided tuition in what was called ‘‘Fancy Dancin’’, this was a combination of recreational ballet, tap & jazz dancing. It was while in this school that Edris’s focus turned to ballet. This was supported fully by her mother as evidenced by the fact that she brought Edris to see the prima ballerina Adeline Genee in ‘‘Belle of the Ball’’ at the Empire Theatre, the Diaghilev Ballet at Covent Garden and the Coliseum and Anna Pavola at the Palace Theatre. At that time (c1909) no English ballet companies existed. Her mother, recognising the limitations of Mrs. Woodworth’s Edwardian School of Deportment, enrolled Edris in a recognised professional training school for dancers called, Lila Field’s Academy for Children (Edris was 12years of age). It was in this school that Edris was chosen to specialise in classical ballet. She trained and performed with this academy from 1910-1914. Within the academy she was selected to be a member of a special group called ‘‘The Wonder Children’’.
                                                     ‘‘The Wonder Children’’

(Edris is the girl in the white dress, fourth from left)

This ballet group toured extensively throughout England, this was in 1913, performing in variety shows which included many ballet performances. This experience combined with the intensity and discipline of performing on a nightly basis consolidated Edris’s future career path as a classical ballerina. Ninette, in her memoir, recalled ‘having danced on every old pier theatre in England. With the outbreak of WW1 all touring stopped and the ‘‘The Wonder Children’’ group was disbanded. Below are some examples of the ballets Ninette performed in when touring with ‘‘The Wonder Children’’ group.

The dying swan 1914


Jack and the Beanstalk 1914

Notwithstanding the war Edris continued to hone her dancing skills as a classical ballerina by taking lessons from the ballet masters residing in London at that time. These included; Edouard Espinosa, Enrico Cecchetti and Ferdinand Ambrosine. In conjunction with the latter Edris further enhanced her ability as a dancer and performer through her appearances in the following; opera ballets, pantomimes, musical comedies and music halls. So by the age of 21 she had acquired a wide and diverse range of dancing and performance experiences. Arising from these endeavours Edris’s reputation, as a classical ballerina with a unique dancing and performing skill set was growing, with the result that she was invited to perform, sometimes as the principal dancer, at the following venues, Lyceum Theatre, London Palladium, Theatre to Royal Opera House and Convent Garden. All of this took place in the timeframe of 1914-19.

From the beginning, Edris’s mother, with her creative instinct, was a major driving force in her life as a dancer and she ensured that Edris was enabled to avail of the best and appropriate opportunities for advancement of her career. It was during this period, when Eris’s reputation and stature as a classical ballerina was beginning to flourish, that her mother conceived the idea of changing Edris Stannus’s name to a more fitting stage name to enhance her ballet career. She was of the belief, mistakenly, that there was a connection between her ancestors and the French royal house of Valois kings. Arising from this belief she decided to change Edris’s the name to Ninette de Valois.
Following WW1 Ninette de Valois, formerly Edris Stannus, toured with English Musical Hall productions and Revues until 1923. This experience further enhanced her understanding of the performing arts. Following on these experiences Ninette was invited to join Ballet Russes, in Paris, which was an Avant-Garde dance troupe which was famous for their innovative artistic collaboration between talented choreographers, composers, artists and dancers. The director of this troupe was the great ballet master Sergei Diaghlive. Ninette found this to be an invaluable experience and maintained that everything she knew about running a ballet company she learned from working with Diaghilev.

Ninette, on her return to England from Paris in 1925 came with a vison for the future of ballet in England. She knew from her own ballet dancing experience in England that ballet as an art form was not recognised within the British theatre circles. There was nobody, within the dancing fraternity, co-ordinating ballet performances. All of the professional ballets preformed in England, at that time, were by visiting Russian companies. It was the absence of this proper training for English dancers that inspired Ninette to established in 1926, at the Age of 28 years, a dancing academy named; The Academy of Choreographic Art. The aim of the academy was to teach the art of ballet and choreography to those who aspired to become ballet dancers. The prospectus also contained courses in folk dance, production in costume design and mime. In entering into the role of a teacher, the commitment associated with that and the running of the academy Ninette stepped back temporarily, but not completely, from her role as a performer. In doing so she was embracing three realities in her life at that time; her age, undiagnosed polio and the onerous task and responsibility of setting up and establishing a new dance school. It was established that Ninette had suffered, unknowingly, from polio since her teenage years.

Lilian Baylis:
As the saying goes; ‘‘Fortune favours the Brave’’ and with a touch of serendipity Ninette crossed paths with Lilian Baylis in 1926. Lilian had inherited the ‘‘Old Vic’’ theatre from her aunt and transformed the theatre into a venue providing opportunities from drama, opera and ballet dancing. She invited Ninette, in conjunction with her academy; to supply dancers, to teach choreographic movement to her players and create ballets vignettes for her shows. This coming together of entrepreneurship and a creative ballet visionary proved to be a momentous event in the future development and success of English ballet under the guidance and direction of Ninette de Valois. Lilian went on to purchase the derelict Sadler’s Well theatre in Islington. Eventually, emerging from this coming together of energies and personalities, the Vic- Wells Theatre came into existence which in turn led to the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company and from this the Royal Ballet Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden which would become the National Theatre on the South Bank. Along with establishing The Royal Ballet she also played a major part in establishing Birmingham Royal Ballet and The National of Turkey. It was arising from the maelstrom of these events that Ninette went on to create her own ballets; ‘‘Job’’, ‘‘Bar aux Folies-Bergere’’ & ‘‘The Rake’s Progress’’.
Lilian Baylis

Lilian Baylis

W.B.Yeates & The Abbey Theatre School of Ballet:
The success of Ninette’s Academy of Choreographic Art resulted in an invitation to perform and choreograph ballet performances at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge in 1926. This represented a major move forward for Ninette and her academy as this theatre was engaging in the use of Central European expressionist’s techniques using dance & drama movement in conjunction with mime and masks. It was as a result of her performances at this theatre that W.B.Yeates sought to collaborate with her in the Abbey Theatre School of Ballet, in Dublin. The latter came to fruition and Ninette was appointed in 1927, at age 29 years, Choreographic Director of school. Their collaboration last from 1927-34

Abbey Theatre: 1904

W.B Yeats

During her period of collaboration Ninette worked with Yeats producing and performing in his ‘‘Plays for Dancers’’ while travelling between London-Cambridge-Dublin. Ninette’s final performance as a ballet dancer was at the age of 39 years. This captured in the picture below.

Final Performance
‘A Wedding Bouquet’ 1937


What was not known generally was that Ninette de Valois wrote poetry also. See bibliography for details

The Sadler’s Wells School:
As part of her strategic vision to establish and grow ballet in England she sought to establish a full-time educational school to contain and complement the vocational training which she was engaged in on a daily basis. This long cherished hope was realised in 1947 with the opening of Sadler’s Wells School. Eight years later, in 1955, it moved to White Lodge in Richmond Park and following the granting of royal charter it became the Royal Ballet School.

The Royal Ballet School
‘White Lodge’

the Royal Ballet School White lodge

International Accolades:
In recognition her life achievements in the area of ballet she was conferred with many honours. The list of honours is as follows:

⦁ Come Dance with Me – A memoir 1898-1956- Ninette de Volois
⦁ An English Ballet- Ninette de Volois
⦁ Ninette de Valois- Katherine Sorely Walker
⦁ Collaborations- Ninette de Valois and William Butler Yeats- Richard Allen Cave
⦁ Ninette de Valois- Selected Poems –Caranet Press




The tram waiting in Blessington 5 June 1932


by Fr. Cantwell.

From time to time in our History Facets reference is made to the Dublin/Blessington Steam Tram. It might be no harm to recall a little of its history as it served our people well for many years.

In 1864/5 a plan was worked out to lay a small rail line from Dublin via Rathmines & Rathgar, Rethfarnham, & Terenure to Rathcoole, with an extension to Ballymore Eustace. It came to nothing. Again about 1880 a plan was thought up to provide a light railway with a 3 ft gauge from a place near St. Patrick‘s Cathedral to Blessington. It came to nothing as Dublin Corporation refused to allow steam-driven vehicles in the city.

However, the seed had been sown and by 1887 the Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway Co. was set up to provide e line Iron Terenure to Blessington. a distance of 15.5 miles. One could get a connection from Terenure to the city centre, a distance of 3.5 miles by a horse-drawn tram. It had been hoped to open the line in June 1888 but work was not by then complete and the opening was postponed, principally because the County Surveyor was not happy with safety and he made several recommendations to this end.

At last on August 1st the line was officially opened and the first official tram set out at 8.35 am. carrying the mail which had been specially sent out from the G.P.O. by horse-tram for the occasion. The tram eventually left Terenure at 8.45 and arrived at Blessington at 10.20 having stopped at Templeogue & Tallaght, then at Saggart then up what we know as the Embankment to Crooksling, Brittas & Tinode. An extension line to Poulaphuca was planned but it was difficult to raise the capital and for a while a ‘long car‘ drawn by two horses made the connection.

Eventually a separate tram company was set up and the line to Poulaphua was opened on May 1st 1895. During the following year a through service from Terenure to Poulaphua was inaugurated.

What we know as the Embankment was especially made to accommodate the trams as the road was too narrow and a bend too sharp to allow safe passage of trams.

In 1897 it was proposed to set up the “Central Wicklow & Glendlough ( Seven Churches) Light Railway & Tramways Co.” This line would have gone from Poulaphuca to Hollywood up to Valleymount and Wicklow Gap, over to Laragh & Rathdrum. It would have terminated very near to the Wicklow & Wexford railway station. It was proposed to run a spur line to Blallyknocken as it was expected it could make money transporting stone to Dublin. This project never saw the light of day as it was obvious it could never make money.

The line was popular with local people travelling to Dublin .. a rare occasion in those years. It was popular with farmers sending cattle to market in Dublin and it could transport goods & coal from the Dublin docks. It was especially popular with tourists wishing to spend a day in the lovely surroundings of Poulaphuca. However, the line never made money and gradually the rolling stock deteriorated.

On Saturday December 31st 1932 the last car to Blessington left Terenure at 6.15 p.m and the tracks, engines and stock were sold off. Meanwhile the Paragon Omnibus Co. had started. in 1929, a bus service from the City to Blessington, Poulaphuca & Ballymore Eustace. This was the last straw as far as the steam tram was concerned.

Many accidents took place along the line, and some suicides of people who  lay on the line and waited for the tram to dispatch them to other destinations.

What is now the Templeogue Inn was for long known as the Morgue .. due to the fact that bodies of accident-prone people were taken back there by tram to await the attentions of the City Coroner. One wonders .. did they ever pay their fares on-their last trip down the hill to Templeogue?


(My thanks to ‘The Dublin & Blessington Tramway’ by Fayle & Newham.)

blessington tram ticket

For further images and history visit here

The Burning of Tinode

The following is a continuation of “Tales of the Irish Civil War- 1922” by
Dick Hornidge of Tulfarris.

Tinode House

“I was walking with Betsy on the brow of the hill that arose steeply behind Tinode. To the east, under a scattering of white clouds, the heather covered peak of Mullaghcleevaun reached through the mist that shrouded Ballyknockan Bog.
Suddenly, a small rabbit with a white tipped tail darted from behind a bush and scampered down the path in a series of zigzags. Then came Betsy, nose to the ground, her long ears dragging in the dew laden grass.
“Betsy! You’ll never catch it. Come on back before you have a heart attack,” I cried.
She flopped down on the path, gasping for breath as I hugged her. Betsy was my faithful companion when I visited my grandparents. Together we explored the wildflower-covered hillsides and the shadowy paths that wound through the dense woods. At night she slept on my bed and at mealtime sat hopefully by my chair.

We ran down the hill, my wellingtons making sucking noises as I pulled them out of the mud. The tall chimneys and gray slate roofs of Tinode appeared when we rounded the next bend. My grandparents’ home was a stately, three-storied Victorian building nestled into the hillside with a sweeping view of the valley below. The carefully tended lawns and gardens and reforested hillsides gave me a comforting sense of order and permanence. I could not imagine a world without Tinode. I enjoyed exploring the many rooms and passageways of the house. When I walked down the long
corridor that led to the library the ancestors gazed down on me from their portraits. Their eyes followed me all the way to the library door. My reading was elementary, but I did enjoy looking at pictures in the English periodicals, many of steeplechases with horses sailing over jumps. The drawings in “Punch” were also fun to look at, but I didn’t understand many of the jokes. My favorite book was the three-volume history of the Indian Mutiny with blood curdling pictures of Sepoys attacking English soldiers. Racing trophies, won by grandfather’s horse Dainty, lined a side table. He was currently on duty with his regiment in Ceylon. When I snuggled into the deep upholstered chair
Betsy climbed onto my bony lap but quickly slid sideways onto the softness of the seat. There was plenty of room for both of us. When I looked up at the shelves of leather bound volumes and the oak paneled walls I felt content and safe.

We continued down the path where the morning sun shone through the overhanging trees and the shadows ran before us. At the end we entered a lane bordered on each side by hedges of blackberry bushes. It led into the yard where a beaten up old lorry stood near the kitchen entrance. A bored IRA trooper, a bandoleer crammed full of bullets across his chest, stood guard. He waved his hand and grinned at me in a friendly fashion.

My grandparents regarded the IRA as lawless rebels who belonged in prison, but there was little they could do to prevent these visitations. I looked upon the IRA as my friends. Most of them were good-natured farm boys who laughed and joked with me. When they came to Tinode it meant fun and excitement. I was careful to hide these feelings from my grandparents.
As I entered the back door, on my way to the kitchen, I saw my grandmother coming from the opposite direction. She strode into the kitchen just ahead of me.
Grandmother’s life revolved around horses and she spent much of her time riding at hunts or exhibiting horses in show rings. This life style contributed to her ruddy out-of-doors complexion, strong but sensitive hands and erect carriage. She had a quick temper that could erupt suddenly with people, but she had unlimited gentleness and patience with horses. The family had learned the warning signs and knew when to stay out of her way. During baby talk when I was very young, I must have called her something that sounded like Donna. The name stuck, so now all the family called her
In the kitchen Donna stood at one side of the table scanning the faces of the six or seven IRA men nursing their mugs of strong black tea.
“Who’s in charge?”, she demanded. “It’s usually Plunket, but I don’t see him.”
A tall man with piercing blue eyes, sitting at the far end of the table, stood up. “Plunket was unwell, so the commandment put me in charge,” he explained. By his accent he plainly came from another county.
“And where are you from? Donna enquired.
“Sure I’am from Donegal,”
I was standing beside Donna and saw her tenseness when the blue eyed man said he was from the north. Her eyes narrowed and I heard her sudden intake of breath. The news had disturbed her deeply, but I didn’t understand why.
“Well, enjoy your tea. Then I trust you’ll be on your way.”
“That we will mam. And thank ye kindly for the tay.” The blue eyed man smiled as he thanked Donna.
He sounded polite and appreciative. During the afternoon walk with Betsy I was puzzled over Donna’s alarm when she heard the blue eyed man came from out of the county.
The food for dinner, in covered dishes, was already on the sideboard when we sat down at the large dinner table which could seat the entire hunt club at their annual banquet. Molly served the roast lamb, potatoes and peas. As we were finishing the first course I decided to question Donna.
“Why were you so upset this morning, Donna, when the blue eyed man said he was from County Donegal?”
She did not answer immediately. Her fingers drummed nervously on the table as she peered at the flickering candles. Finally she turned to me.
“The IRA often bring in a man from the outside when they’re planning something, and I got involved in some local politics,” she said abruptly. “Molly you can bring on the sweet now.”
Her brief and vague reply only puzzled me more and explained nothing. Molly removed the first course dishes and served the sweet. We retired to the drawing room where Donna drank her coffee.
She briefly became more animated as we discussed my upcoming first term at prep school in the autumn. But again drew within herself and gazed absently at the ceiling when it neared bedtime.
Going to bed at Tinode was always an adventure. I selected a candle from the table in the hallway and started up the long curving stairway. The grotesque shadows cast upon the white wall by the flickering candlelight always spooked me. The chance of meeting Tinode’s poltergeist added to my apprehension. Actually he was a friendly little fellow who took the form of a white rabbit with a quaint sense of humor. He delighted in pulling blankets off people while they slept, so they woke up shivering. When only a few steps remained I made a dash for the bedroom door with Betsy running on ahead. The wind blew the candle flame over the back of my hand, which was slightly scorched.
When we settled down into the bed I felt Betsy’s warmth as she snuggled into the small of my back. She sighed contentedly and went to sleep. Prompted by Donna’s behavior, I felt a tinge of anxiety like a small cloud that lingered on the horizon. It was still there as I drifted off to sleep.
It must have been early morning because darkness had already surrendered to twilight. Although my senses were still dulled by sleep I felt the vibrations in the floor. Then I heard the loud thumps coming from the front of the house at regular intervals. I ran out to the landing, from where I could see down into the main hallway, just as the massive oak front door crashed inwards, the heavy iron hinges now a twisted mass of metal. Six men stood in the opening holding, between them, a long section of telephone pole suspended on rope slings. Donna had been awakened by the crash and she now
joined me on the landing. In the dim light of early morning I saw the determined thrust of her chin and alert eyes. She had fully expected something like this to happen, and now was grimly determined to deal with the catastrophe that threatened us.
The man with the blue eyes stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at us. “We’re going to burn the house. You’ve three minutes to get out,” he yelled. He was no longer the smiling, polite person who thanked Donna for the tea.
“Quick. Get dressed. Put on something warm. We’ll meet out on the lawn,” instructed Donna.
I dressed quickly, my mind a whirl of emotions. Were the people I considered my friends really going to burn Tinode? As I rushed down the stairs I met men with petrol cans going up to the bedrooms, their rifles hung over their shoulders. Their mud encrusted hobnailed boots sunk into the stairway carpet. I looked into the drawing room, before crossing the hallway, and saw men spilling petrol out of cans onto the curtains, chairs, cushions and sofas. The fumes were overpowering. The IRA went about their tasks with a quiet efficiency and showed little emotion. They must have had plenty of practice because every week, somewhere in Ireland, a fine old country house was looted and burned.
Donna and I joined the servants on the lawn where an IRA soldier stood guard over us. As I looked towards the house, watching the progress of the flames, I saw the blue eyed man clamber over the wreck of the front door and run down the porch steps with a small black box under his left arm. Donna saw him too.
“That devil has my jewelry case,” she cried.
She jumped to her feet and ran towards him. He stopped and drew his revolver from its holster.
“Stop or I’ll plug you,” he commanded when Donna was only a couple of feet away.
“I don’t care what you do. Those are my jewels.” She lurched forwards and snatched the box from beneath his arm; turned her back to him and walked slowly back to where we were waiting. The blue eyed man was dumbfounded. He replaced his revolver and joined his men who were loading looted articles of furniture onto the lorry.

Puffs of smoke were shooting from the top storey windows, followed by tongues of flame, which quickly grew in intensity. The heat in the upper stories sucked up a giant column of air that surged through the house with a roar. Then the roof collapsed, sending showers of sparks into the morning sky.
Suddenly I remembered : “Has anyone seen Betsy?” I cried, as I looked frantically around the lawn.
Molly replied. “I saw her run to the basement when the door fell in.” The upper floors of the main house were an inferno, but the laundry room part of the basement was not yet threatened. I ran towards the basement door, but only had gone a few yards when I was flung to the ground by a hand grasping the collar of my jacket. The blue eyed man stood over me.
“No one is going back into the house.” He commanded
“But my dog is in there. I’ve got to get her out.”
“No you’re not. Go back to your grandmother.”
I scrambled to my feet and again ran towards the basement door, but was once more flung to the ground. This time the blue eyed man had the revolver in his hand.
“Go back or you’ll be sorry.”
He had not shot Donna when she turned her back on him and walked away. But this time, the hard glint in his eyes persuaded me that he would carry out his threat.
I ran back to Donna, sobbing. It was my fault that Betsy would die in the flames. I blamed myself bitterly for not watching out for her and thinking only of myself.
I watched as flickers of flame, from smouldering pieces of wood, shot into the smoke filled air and the sun, by now well over the shoulder of Mullaghcleevaun, shone down upon the massive granite walls which rose proudly above the rubble.

Jim Corley


You might ask where is Tinode House?

A house with a past and lots of character in Blessington, Co Wicklow. You get a sense of this even as you drive between trees and meadows up the long, long avenue to where Tinode House sits in 300 acres of parklands including gorse-edged fields and woods.

All this even though the original house, built around 1860 for a nationalist member of parliament for west Wicklow, was a casualty of the Civil War, burned down because its then owner W.H.F. Cogan, Esq., M.P. was an ex-British army major.

Just a few years before, in 1914, it was described as having “every accommodation for a gentleman’s or nobleman’s family”. Tinode’s architect, in the 1860s, was WF Calbeck.

It has been partially restored and now privately owned near June Blake’s Garden on the N81.

Tinode House Today

Blessington Parish Register 1819-1852

Transcribed from the original register by members of

Blessington History Society

Beth Halligan, Janet Halligan, Maureen Phibbs, Crena McGee



The originals from which these records were transcribed were discovered in a bookshop by someone who realised what they were and the Parish Priest in Blessington acquired them. The register was not in good condition. It consisted of pages from a resister and other loose sheets. Where an earlier priest had left a space on a page another priest had filled it up with later records. All the pages have been bound together but the entries are not in chronological order and some of the writing is difficult to read. It is therefore very difficult to find what you are looking for. For these reasons we sought permission from the Parish Priest to do the transcription to make it easier for people to find their ancestors in the register.

There are very few records for the early years, only one in 1819, one in 1825 and none in 1826.

At the time the register was in use Blessington Parish included Kilbride and Eadestown.

We have transcribed names exactly as they appear in the register. In some of the early entries the Christian names were in Latin and these have been translated. In some cases the same person has their names spelt in several different ways, for example, Croak, Crook, Crooke or Elizabeth, Eliza and Betty. The same record was sometimes entered twice in the original register with small differences and both entries have been included here. In some cases there was no date, in others only the year was legible and was entered here as 1st January and where only the month and year was available it was entered as 1st of that month.

This register is divided into Baptisms and Marriages.

The Baptism records are presented in two ways. The first section is in chronological order. The first three pages contain the records that have no dates. The second section is in alphabetical order of the father’s surname, which also gives you families. The Marriages are sorted in chronological order.

These are the priests who made entries in the register:

Parish Priests:   Rev. Michael Donellan, Rev. Mr. O’Toole, Rev. Francis J. Archer, Rev. James Hamilton.

Curates:   Rev. Francis Quin, Rev. Mr. Young, Rev. Mr. Delany, Rev. George Brophy

The following pages are copies of some of the entries from the original register illustrating the difficulties experienced in doing the transcription.

We wish to thank Fr. Kevin Lyon for allowing us to use the records for this project.

Blessington History Society


1819 to 1852 alphabetical order

Baptisms 1819 to 1852 alphabetical mothers

1852 to 1900 alphabetical order

Baptisms 1852-1900 alphabetical

Chronological Order


Marriages 1820-1852 (2)

Marriages 1852-1900 2

Symbols that appear by a name in the Marriage Register

2          The bride and groom are second cousins

3          The bride and groom are third cousins

**       The person is a widow or widower

#          Married in St Anthony’s Liverpool

//          Relationship ended by consent

^^       Brother and sister-in-law. Dispensation by Pope Leo XIII

!!          The sponsors of Simon Dowling lately returned from America made before C. Dennehy J. P. a declaration of his freedom to marry


Here is a list of deaths from

  1. St Mary’s Deaths 1683 to 1900
  2. Cloughleagh Burials Chronological
  3. Cloughleagh Burials Alphabetical


Interest in exploring one’s roots has always been a hankering lurking in the inner recesses of the genre: Homo sapiens. Even the authors of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke were keen to track the genealogy of the Messiah; that Jesus owed his Semitic origins to Abraham, ‘Our Father in faith’ (Matthew), and was akin to us in his human origins from the time of Adam, ((Luke). And so the odyssey of reflecting and noting events such as births and marriages, over past generations has continued through the centuries receiving fresh impetus in recent decades from computer software that can facilitate the recording of family history.

For instance an Ogham stone discovered some years ago in the town land of Crehelp in the parish of Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow, owes its very name from our ancestral etching in stone of past generations: Craobh Elpi >Crehelp>the genealogical tree of the Claim Elpi.

This assembled recording of births and marriages from the embryonic parishes surrounding Blessington dating from 1819 to post-Famine times forms a rich vein of information that chronicles an important era in Irish history. It was a time when the names of Daniel O’Connell, Thomas Davis, Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, Archbishop Murray and Pio Nono (Blessed Pius IX) were prominent. This is also a social history where glimpses of current events appear. Sometimes the entries are from scraps of paper accumulated by busy itinerant pastors and finally committed to a more permanent abode.

Great credit is due to the Blessington History Society for their enthusiasm and attention to detail that places this modest volume in the archives of Irish historical resources. It establishes a milestone in the ever-changing demography and topography of Blessington and District.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Kevin Lyon C.C.