| MULHUDDART A HISTORY OF A SUBURBAN VILLAGE
MULHUDDART A HISTORY OF A SUBURBAN VILLAGE
Mulhuddart is the last village in county Dublin before one enters the county of Meath; situated seven miles from the city centre on the busy Dublin to Navan road, Mulhuddart must be amongst the best known villages in vest county Dublin. Today it is no longer a detached rural settlement but forms part of thewestern suburbs of the expanding city of Dublin.
The origin and meaning of the name Mulhuddart has caused much controversy. During his work for the Ordnance Survey in the 1830s the famous Gaelic scholar John 0' Donovan suggested that Mulhuddart derived from Mullach Tighe Odharnat, the hill of the house of the virgin Ordharnat but since no person of that name is known and because O'Donovan did not enlighten us as to how he came by the explanation scholars have tended to discount it. In the 1930s the Dublin historian the Rev. Myles Ronan, claimed that the name had its origins in Mullach-Chuidbert, Cutbert's hill. A Saint Cutbert of the early Christian period is identified with Kilmahuddrick near Clondalkin but has no known associations with Mulhuddart A more likely interpretation is Mullach Eadartha the hill of the milking place. In the Gaeltacht one can still hear the expression Chodail se go h-eadra g he slept until milking time» In ancient Ireland cows were driven out onto upland pastures during the Summer months and special places were designated for their milking on Cnoc na Buaile the hill of the Summer milking , is a name that occurs with great frequency in Ireland« If this indeed is the origin of the placename then it precedes the coming of Christianity to the area
The parish of Mulhuddart forms part of the archdiocese of Dublin and has its origins in the twelfth century. The process of organising the Irish church into parishes and diocese was begun at the synod of Rath Bressail in 1111 and completed at the synod of Kells in 1152o Following the capture of Dublin by the Normans in 1170 the parish of Mulhuddart was heavily colonised by Anglo Norman families» Their influence is still reflected in the modern town land names. Buzzardstown for instance, is called after the family of William Bossard; Tyrrellstown is called after a junior branch of the Tyrrells, created barons of Castleknock 1173. Cruiserath is a combination of the family name of Cruise and the Gaelic word rath meaning an earthen ring-fort. North of Cruiserath is Goddamendy, perhaps the only townland in Ireland containing a prayer within its name. The story is told that a priest arriving late for the anointing of a dying man, was cursed by the dead man's relative, whereupon the priest exclaimed ^May God amend thee!' a prayer that has named the townland ever since. Irrespective of legend the name illustrates the religious fervour of the people in times past.
The river Tolka flows gently through the village on its journey to the sea and over the centuries has cut a wide flood plain through the centre of the parish. The name Tolka or Tuica is likely to be related to the Gae Lie word Tuillte meaning floods and, as local people can testify, is an apt name for a river that floods much of the hinterland in the winter months.
Above the village the hill of Mulhuddart affords a fine view of the fertile lowlands and distant mountains. On this gently rising slope the first church of Mulhuddart was built. The curve in the cemetery wall indicates that a circular enclosure once surrounded the site and suggests that a church be built here in the early Christian period before the coming of the Normans. The existing church ruins, however, postdate the Anglo-Norman settlement of the area. The ruins are very fragmentary; they consist of a nave and chancel probably dating to the fourteenth century and a tower for a bell built onto the western end of the church in the fifteenth century. The building of the tower closed off the western door of the church necessitating the opening of a new door in the north wall of the nave. Mass was said in the chancel while the nave was reserved for the congregation. The tower, which is vaulted on the first floor, was easily defended and in times of danger would have been a place of refuge for the local people.
The church like the adjacent well is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Evidently Our Lady was greatly venerated because in 1445 Henry VI of England granted a licence for the founding of a guild or society of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Mulhuddart. The guild, which was governed by a master and two wardens, was open to men and women; in addition authority was granted for the erection of a chantry chapel with two priests for the celebration of mass. There is no evidence, however, that such a church was built. The members of the society were drawn from the wealthier classes and their principal activity appears to have been giving alms the poor and imparting religious instruction. The guild was also responsible for the upkeep of the parish church and the stewarding of the pilgrims at Our Lady T s Well on Lady day, 8 September, the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary. Over the years the guild acquired considerable property including the lands that had once belonged to the Leper House of St. Laurence near Palmers town.
The Latin mass continued to be said in Mulhuddart church until the coming of the Protestant reformation to Ireland in the 1540s. The earliest indication of the reformation in Mulhuddart was the granting of the income of the parish by Edward VI to James Walshe of London for twenty one years in 1547. Walshe was required to find a fit chaplain for the church of Malahydert. The majority of the population rejected the 'reformed religion' and remained loyal to the Catholic Church. The guild of the Blessed Virgin continued to function until 1572. Mass could no longer be said in the church so instead was celebrated discreetly in private houses in the district. According to Bishop Jones' Royal Visitation of Dublin the chancel of Mulhuddart was in good repair in 1615. There were not, however, sufficient Protestants parishioners to maintain the church and gradually the structure fell into disrepair. By the time of Bishop Bulkeley's visitation in 1630 the church and chancel were in ruin; finally bringing to an end the centuries of Christian worship in the church of the Virgin Mary at Mulhuddart. The preacher Roger Goode was then vicar of Castleknock and curate of Clonsilla and Mulhuddart. Two priests one named Harris and the other Patrick Gargan frequented the area ministering to the Catholic commnunity. A popish schoolmaster Thady Duffe conducted a school in Clonsilla. A substantial action was fought around the hill of Mulhuddart in the month following the battle of the Boyne. In September of 1690, a company of Williamite soldiers under the command of a Colonel Fouike, while marching to Dublin took shelter from stormy weather in the ruin of Mulhuddart church. During the night they were attacked by local forces loyal to Catholic king James. The whole company, upwards of eighty men, were massacred. Some of the men involved in the attack were later executed in Thomas Street.
Mass continued to be said in private houses in the parish. In 1697 Fr. Patrich Cruse was described as a Doctor of Divinity and living for the most part with William Andrews at Hollywoodrath in the parish of Mulhuddart. By 1704 he had been replaced by his curate Walter Cruse who was living at The Bay and was the registered parish priest of Mulhuddart. The Bay was the old house of the Beltings family of Tyrrellstown.
Later in the century a mass house or chapel was built at Cloghran. The chapel was not sited at the old burial ground of Cloghran picturesquely sited on the cliff-top overlooking the crossroads at Dolly Heffernan's Lounge, but rather in the fields behind the public house. Austin Cooper visited the 'popish chappel ' at Cloghran in 1779. Surprisingly the chapel was still in use in the 1830s with a congregation of thirty.
In the eighteenth century Yulhuddart churchyard became a popular place of burial for Catholics and Protestants alike. The tombs of the landed families of the area can still be seen along with the headstones of many Dublin merchants. Regrettablythe common people could not afford tombstones, their graves are unmarked and consequently their names remain unknown to us. ,
During the eighteenth century the holy well rather than the church became the focus of religious devotion in the parish. The well at Mulhuddart is conveniently located on the roadside between the village and the church. The well, a strong spring of good water, is covered by a masonry structure eight foot long, six foot wide and six foot high with an opening at both ends. On the roof are two 'chimneys', one a stone carved with a stone cross in relief and the other a stone with a niche containing a statue of Our Lady. The well was built over before 1740 apparently by the nuns of a Dublin convent. Three inscriptions in early eighteenth century lettering are on the front and two sides of the keystone containing the statue of our Lady.
Front: ' I H S Holy Mary pray for us".
Left Side: ' 0 Blessed Mother and ever Virgin Glorious Queen of the world make intercession for us [to our Lord] Amen.
Right Side: 'Vouchsafe that I may praise Thee 0 Sacred Virgin
obtain for me force against Thy enemies'.
Part of the inscription is concealed by the several repairs carried out on the structure over the years. Like many wells in Ireland there are legends associated with the well. One is that, a local landowner once filled in the well but the following morning the water sprung up again on the opposite side of the road. The water is believed to have nine cures including the cure of cuts, bruises, sprains and rheumatism.
The custom of religious devotion at holy wells continued into the eighteenth century and great crowds of people from all over north county Dublin gathered at Mulhuddart on the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, known locally as Lady Day. Isaac Butler, in an account of A Journey from Dublin to the Shores of Lough Derg about 1741 describes Mulhuddart well and the annual festival: 'about midway ascending to ye church is an excellent
well, it is carefully walled and several large trees about it. Here on 8 September a great patron is kept with a vast concourse of all sexes and ages from many miles, upward of eighty tents are pitched here furnished with all kinds of liquors and provisions for ye refreshment of ye company'. The availability of alcoholic drink led to many abuses. The crowds became wild and excited, drunkenness and brawling were common and many excesses committed. In October 1760 the Dublin Gazette reported the death of Edward Campbell, a gentleman's servant, who had died of wounds he received during a fight at Lady's Well.
Many attempts were made to end the great gatherings at Mulhuddart. The parish priest of Blanchardstown sought to prevent the annual celebrations by persuading landowners in the vicinity to refuse permission for the erection of tents for the sale of drink. The following notice appeared in the Dublin newspapers of 15 August 175^:
We are assured that the Roman Catholic clergy to prevent as far, as in them lieth, the enormities and scandalous excesses that are annually committed at the well near Mulahedard, commonly called Lady's Well, have prevailed on
the landlords contiguous thereto not to permit any tents or booths to be erected hereafter upon any parts of their lands; of which it is judged proper to give notice in this public manner, to prevent a disappointment to such publicans as usually erected tents or booths near said well.
Despite the condemnations, Lady's Well continued to be a place popular pilgrimage. The antiquarian Austirt Cooper visited the site in 1781. He reported that the holy well 'was much frequented on 8 September being Lady day'. The niche in the well house contained 'a cross from which hangs a plate of brass with the Virgin Mary and our Saviour lying in her lap after crucifixion'. During devotions at the well people lay on their bellies with their heads over the water, they said a prayer, drank and blessed themselves, and then repeated another prayer before the image of the Virgin Mary.
In the nineteenth century the practice of visiting holy wells went into decline. With the ending of the penal laws a great programme of Catholic Church building began. There was a general rise in the standard of education and religious
practice became more formal. Catholics preferred to celebrate the mass in church rather than resort to holy wells at different times of the year. Today people still gather occasionally at Lady's Well. The custom of leaving little offerings of flowers and money continues. But the great crowds that once gathered here ^are no more and the simple faith and the wild celebrations are a distant memory.
Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of 1837 informs us that 'a school under the National Board aided by a collection at the Roman Catholic chapel affords instruction to 62 boys and 16 girls' in Mullahiddart. This was not the first school in the district as we have seen 'the popish schoolmaster' Thady Duffe operated a school in Clonsilla in 1630 and there were probably many others. The Report on the State of Popery in 1731 recorded a Catholic school functioning in the Blanchardstown area. Organised education in Mulhuddart, however, did not begin until the establishment of the Blanchardstown Patriotic Society in 1822. The society, organised by the priests of Blanchardstown, had as its objective the moral instruction of the poor and where possible the provision of employment. This committee soon had six schools under its supervision, including the schools at Blanchardstown, Chaplelizod, Porterstown and Mulhuddart. The schoolhouse at Mulhuddart was built by Andrew Rourke of Tyrrellstown, a Catholic landowner who was also treasurer of the Blanchardstown Patriotic Society. In 1826 twenty-five boys and twenty girls attended the school. The master, John Muldoo] was paid a salary of twenty-four pounds a year. Two of the forty-five pupils were Protestant. The school was located opposite the holy well in the building until recently occupied by Rea's Nurseries.
In 1831 the government established the new national system of education. Under the new system it was intended that Catholic and Protestant children would be educated together and that finance would be provided for national schools. Fr. Dean parish priest of Blanchardstown, applied in 1832 for aid for the schools under his care. Regarding Mulhuddart School he wrote 'the poverty of the school can hardly afford twenty six pounds to the master and mistress and Mr. O'Rourke is often called on to provide the sum'. Fr. Dean's application was successful and the school was granted ten pounds a year to supplement the teachers' salaries. The schoolhouse, however, was quite dilapidated and lacked many essentials. Following a visit in 1836 the inspector reported that 'Mulhuddart School wants a board floor and desks and seats'.
Conditions at the school, however, continued to worsen and in time it became necessary to replace the building. In 1863 John Leckin offered a slated barn in Mulhuddart village for use as a schoolhouse. Fr. Dungan, who was then parish priest of Blanchardstown, held a meeting in Mulhuddart on Sunday 13 September 1863, in order to collect funds to fit out the barn as a male and female schools. A total of sixty-five pounds was promised and this allowed Fr. Dungan to build chimneys, dash the walls and break out new doors and windows. When Fr. Dungan applied to the National Board for financial assistance on 12 April 1864, he was able to describe the former barn as 'a good substantial slated house, two school rooms plastered and a well dried even ground floor'. The school inspector, however, was not as impressed and described the school as being damp with a floor of clay and lime. In 1897 Fr. Patrick Tynan was appointed parish priest of
Blanchardstown. The following year he carried out a census of the schools in the area. There were eighty children on rolls at Mulhuddart Schools but only sixty in attendance. He estimated that sixteen per cent of the population of the parish was illiterate. Parents often kept their children at home to work on the farm especially at harvest time. It was not until, 1927 when the law compelling children, between the ages of six and fourteen, to attend school was passed that attendance increased dramatically.
A school register dating from 1916 gives a clearer picture of what was happening at Mulhuddart School. Pupils attended from the village and from outlying areas such as Blakestown, Hunststown, Hollywoodrath, Par slicks town, Ballycoolen, Coolmine and CIonsilla. Despite the huge movement of population in recent decades many of the family names recorded still survive in the district; names like Carr, Carton, Gilbert, Nulty, O'Neil, Reid and Rothwell. Many fathers worked on the local landed estates and were employed as coachmen, gardeners, grooms, herds and stewards. By far the most common work description was that of farm labourer. Pupils stayed at the school for up to eleven years and rarely went on to second level education. The reasons recorded for non-attendance are of interest: measles, whooping cough, fall, sore leg, and occasionally 'dead'. Deaths among school children were far more common then than now. In 1927 a new two-roomed school was built on an elevated site at the entrance to the village. The old converted barn that h been the school for sixty-four years was abandoned and the children and teachers took possession of the new school. The old school was subsequently sold and is today the premises occupied by Goodwin's Saddlery. The official name of the new school was Mulhuddart National Schools indicating that the boys and girls were educated separately. The master taught the boy in one room while in the other room the girls, from junior infants to seventh class, were taught by the schoolmistress. During the 1950s, however, when Mick Falvey, the former Clare hurler, was principal, boys and girls were mixed in class although separated for play in the school yard Mulhuddart remained a two teacher school until 1978 when a third teacher Miss Sheila McKey was employed. There were then eighty-three pupils on roll. With the westward expansion of the city suburbs in the 1979 many housing estates were built in the area leading to a population explosion. Several new parishes were created. For time Mulhuddart School was administered by the priests of Corduff parish. In 1983 Mr. Brian Daly replaced Noel Keating a principal of Mulhuddart School. The following year two new classrooms were added to the school. When Fr. Leo Quinlan was appointed in 1984 the school was incorporated into Mulhuddart New Parish. Today four teachers educate the sixty-four boys and fifty-two girls on roll. Children attend from the village, Brookhaven (Cul na Glaise), Mulhuddart Wood (Coill Mhullach Eadrad) and Lady's Well (Tobar Muire). They continue a tradition of education at Mulhuddart that stretches back over one hundred and seventy years.