John F Kennedy The West Cork Connection

John F. Kennedy: The West Cork Connection


Fachtna McCarthy

The Parish Centre, Clonakilty

Thursday Nov 23 2017

at 8 pm

This lecture will give a full overview of the different strands of John F. Kennedy’s ancestry, including the Wexford, Bruff and West Cork branches. It will deal with the previous and little publicised visits that he made to Ireland in 1945 and 1947 and will make reference to his sister, Kathleen, who lived for a time in Lismore Castle, outlining her short and extraordinary life. The aftermath of JFK's death in 1963 will also be dealt with including the deeply suspicious circumstances surrounding the shooting dead of the main suspect. Also, the fascinating story of the sale of the copyright to the video of JFK’s assassination and the disappearance of the second film in controversial circumstances. The lecture will also include an account of the lives of some of JFK's most famous ancestors, including "Honey" Fitzgerald and Joe Kennedy.

Keenlocal historian, historical researcher and active Dúchas member, Fachtna McCarthy is a native of Woodfield, Clonakilty, where one of JFK’s ancestors, Mary Sheehy, was born. He has been researching the life and ancestry of JFK for a number of years. He has also extensively researched the lives of other prominent figures with Clonakilty connections such as C. O. Stanley (Pye Radio) and Boss Croker (of New York’s Tammany Hall fame).

Please note this lecture is in at the earlier time of 8pm.

Winners of the Heritage Week Treasure Hunt

List of winners of the Heritage Week Treasure Hunt:

Cian O'Sullivan, Ovens

Daire Murray, Waterford

Stella McKane, Carmarthen, Wales

Rohan Neat, Cambridge, UK

Yasemin Yikilmaz, Ballincollig

Michael Collins, Woodfield

Caolan O'Driscoll, Dunmanway

Nuria Gomez Cardoso, Midleton

Annie McCarthy, Clonakilty

Niamh O'Gorman, Kinsale

Louis Barrett-Slater, UK

 With thanks to all our sponsors:

Geraldine Cullinane, Clonakilty Bookshop

Trish Kerr, Kerr's Bookshop

Laurence Coughlan, Coughlan's Bookshop

West Cork Model Railway Village

Michael Collins House

Good positive feedback from many participators, with both children and accompanying adults enjoying the opportunity to discover the history of Clonakilty.

Large crowd hear about C. O. Stanley of Lisselane Estate

A large crowd, including many people who have had associations with Lisselan Estate over the last 70 - 80 years, attended the Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage lecture on “C. O. Stanley of Lisselan Estate” at the Clonakilty Parish Centre last week. For most of an hour, Dúchas member and local historian Fachtna McCarthy enthralled the audience with the life story of Mr. Stanley (born Charles Orr Stanley in April 1899).

Fachtna traced his interesting and fascinating life from childhood growing up in Cappoquin, Waterford where his family had a hardware store, to his death in 1989 and burial at Kilmalooda Church of Ireland cemetery a couple of miles from Lisselan Estate, which he had purchased in 1930.

He emigrated to England at a young age, served towards the end of WW1, and then developed his business interests and was very influential particularly during World War 2. He had a fascination with radio and the developing invention called television, and for over thirty years he was head of PYE - at the time one of Britain's foremost electronic companies. Mr. Stanley led a campaign to set up independent television in Britain, thus breaking the monopoly enjoyed by the B.B.C. and he also championed the establishment of local radio. He was awarded both CBE and an OBE during the Second World War and an honorary doctorate from Trinity College. 

In Ireland, he was the head of Sunbeam Wolsey, Cork's largest employer for many years and also established, among many other businesses, Unidare, one of Ireland's largest industries in the 1960s. He was named “Businessman of the Year” 1960 in Britain after his successful challenge to break the monopoly enjoyed by telephone manufacturers. And while he was engaged in business at such a level in England, he spent as much time as he could at Lisselan.

Fachtna stated that Seán Lemass was one of the regular visitors to Lisselan as he was trying to industrialise and modernise Ireland in the late 1950's and '60's. 

It wasn't always smooth sailing however and the family lost control of PYE in the late 1960's and he got into financial difficulties. The developing Japanese electronics industry and importing of their cheaper appliances to Britain took their toll on PYE in a short time. He decided to put half of the 900 acres of the estate up for sale but this was dogged in controversy when the then Catholic Bishop of Cork, Dr. Con Lucey made a controversial public statement on the matter at a Confirmation Sermon in Timoleague. 

At Lisselan Estate, he was highly respected by his workers, their families and the wider community. He provided transport for children living on the estate to schools and also supported them financially to get into third level colleges and universities. 
He was married three times, had a life-long interest in rowing and was a strong swimmer, often swimming for miles off Rosscarbery and Clonakilty.

He was also generous to charities and trusts he set up are still administered by his grandsons.

In the interesting question and answer section after Fachtna's lecture, a number of former workers relayed their happy experiences of working on the estate. They and others before them had spent long numbers of years working there and one man stated that at one stage there were 27 men employed full-time on Lisselan Estate.  
CO Stanley died in 1989 and was buried in Kilmalooda Cemetery and had been pre-deceased by his son John. Following his passing, the Lisselan Estate was put up for sale, and 28 years later is again on the market by the present owners.

Membership 2017


Membership subscription is now being accepted for 2017 and can be paid to John Hayes or Factna McCarthy, Cisteoirí /Treasurers, Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage

Membership form can be downloaded here.

New members are always welcome.

Membership Fee: €10

Students: €5

Families: €25

Railway lecture

There wasn’t a seat on the train metaphorically speaking at the recent Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage illustrated lecture on the West Cork Railway system which was delivered by Maurice McCarthy at the Parish Centre. 

In his hour-long talk using 150 slides (operated by Gerard Butler), Maurice took the enchanted audience on a trip from Albert Quay Station, along the main line to Bantry and all the lines off it, stopping at every station. Given that the system closed down in 1961, the slides were from various decades before that.  

The trains began running in 1849, when the first section, from Ballinhassig to Bandon, was opened.  By 1893, it ran from Albert Quay in Cork City to Skibbereen, with extensions to Kinsale, Clonakilty, Courtmacsherry, Bantry and Baltimore. 

The Clonakilty line included a short siding to Shannonvale Mill, which used a wagon along the track pulled by a horse called Paddy. 

There were some wonderful photos of city crowds arriving at Courtmacsherry for the Sunday excursions and wagons of beet at Timoleague loaded ready to head to Cork and onto Mallow. 

During the lecture, Maurice interspersed the serious history talk with funny stories of events and individuals and there was also some audience participation when people saw relatives on the screen in front of them. Also in the audience were people who had close associations with the railway system who brought along some memorabilia. 

Cathaoirleach of Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage, Tim Feen and Marian O’ Leary who organised the lecture thanked Maurice for an excellent lecture.

Mary Jane Irwin’s New York great-grandson in Clon

Mary Jane Irwin’s New York great-grandson in Clon

Mary Jane Irwin’s New York great-grandson in Clon

PHOTO: Williams Rossa Cole, great-grandson and his cousin Eileen Quill, great-grand-daughter of Mary Jane Irwin and Jeremiah O’ Donovan Rossa, (seated), meeting members of Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage Michael O’ Mahony, Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin, John Loughnan, Tim Feen and Anthony Brennan at the former Irwin family home, “Strand House”, Clonakilty recently as part of Mr. Coles upcoming film on Mary Jane.

As part of his upcoming film on his great-grandmother, Mary Jane Irwin (Mrs. O’ Donovan Rossa), from Clonakilty, Williams Rossa Cole from New York paid a visit recently to record some footage for the film.
In a series of engagements, partly organised by members of Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage, Mr. Cole and his cameraman visited Rossmore Theatre where they recorded some scenes from last August's centenary event marking Mary Jane’s passing in 1916.
Michael O’ Mahony and Nora Scannell who were the two “players” were interviewed as was Maria Young, scriptwriter who also wrote last years play “Rossa”.
It was then onto the West Cork Regional Museum in Clonakilty where they met Michael O’ Connell, curator, who showed them the Rossa and Mary Jane Irwin display and spoke of the history of the couple and the Irwin family.
They then visited the Michael Collins House Museum at Emmet Square, where they met Eileen Quill originally from New York but now living in Youghal, who is a great-granddaughter of Mary Jane and Rossa, and Jamie Murphy, manager.
Eileen pointed out items she had donated to the Rossa/Fenian room in the house when it opened last April - including a bracelet presented to Mary Jane while on a speaking tour in America in the 1860’s.
The day’s filming concluded with a visit to “Strand House” – where the Irwin family lived in the 1860’s and afterwards. There, they met the Dúchas Officers who organised last August’s Mary Jane Irwin centenary commemoration, which was held in "Strand House" itself.
Further information and photos on

Williams Cole was also in Ireland for the Cork Film Festival that weekend, where his film, “Rebel Rossa” was screened on Sunday. He recently put out a public appeal for people to support the Mary Jane film project on his website which is where people may donate if they wish