Monday, May 26, 2014

The Dummy Clock

I found the bell – thanks to Darren Rice - so now the story, as promised in my previous post.
In 1865 Thomas Ball, a local landlord, got his agent, Henry Brooke to install a clock in the Crossmaglen Marketplace, but he did it on the cheap. The clock was a dummy clock, built from oak, with absolutely no moving parts. It fast became an object of scorn. Since most small town residents did not possess either a wrist or pocket watch, Ball’s clock made them feel that their landlord thought that they were unworthy.

No self-respecting European town would be without its public clock, which tolled all citizens together to defend, to celebrate, or to mourn. The community that could focus its resources in a dazzling public clock was that much more of a community.
Daniel Boorstein in The Discoverers

Clocks in marketplaces were a not insignificant factor in the speed of the development of the industrial revolution in Europe. Since they were installed right in the middle of town centres, the gears were usually made and assembled in full view of the curious. The information impact of this was the equivalent of going viral. New information about how gears were made, and how they could be assembled in a range of configurations, infected the minds of young inventors. The gears and springs that moved the hands of the clock were then adapted to create the very machines that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution.

Not that this happened everywhere in the world. Part of why China lost its edge at the start of the Industrial Revolution, relative to Europe, was that their clock technology served only the needs of the Emperor. In China, the secrets of this technology were entrusted to eunuchs who were executed if they revealed them. As far as the Emperor was concerned, the purpose of the clocks was for him to time his visits with his hundreds of wives and concubines to ensure an astrologically suitable successor. When you have more than a hundred fertile women to keep track of, you don’t want the system gamed by others.

Clearly, it wasn’t only China that was left behind. So was Crossmaglen. A bit of doggerel, popular in the early 1900s, written by local teacher Michael Watters and tenant farmer Denis Nugent, immortalized this clock of Crossmaglen:

Your clumsy clocks must follow time, both minute-hand and hour,
But this great work has stopped time's course, and proved its magic power;
Now, sneer not cynic - 'tis the truth - time has not moved since when
This clock was placed amongst us in the town of Crossmaglen.

It has no wheels, it needs no weights, there is no tick or stroke,
'Tis not of gold or silver wrought, but good old Irish oak;
Yet stranger far than Strasbourg chimes, its hands at twelve past ten,
Full often fill with laughter wild the Square of Crossmaglen

Clearly, the insult of this wooden clock resonated deeply. TJ, who spent his childhood years on a farm on the outskirts of Crossmaglen, was attuned to what needed to be done. On May 31st, 1903, he had the old dummy clock removed, and a functioning one installed in its stead.

Sir Thomas came to Crossmaglen, it being his native town;
He ordered that this public fraud at once be taken down.

According to local lore, true or not, the Jackson clock was made of gold and silver. A local poet claimed that its bell could be heard as far as Carrickmacross in Co. Monaghan, to the west; Newry in Co. Down, to the north; and Dundalk in Co. Louth to the east  – all within a twelve mile radius of Crossmaglen. Such stories may stretch credulity, but it does give a sense of the importance of this clock, both practical and symbolic, to the townspeople of Crossmaglen.

Unfortunately, in July 1974, the bell on this clock tolled for the last time when the Marketplace building was bombed into oblivion. Most of the pieces of the clock were lost in the rubble, and even the cast iron bell was damaged.

It took a while for the community to regroup, but on September 1st, 1989, the bell was restored and put on show in the Greenroom of the Community Centre in Crossmaglen with an inscription.

As the schoolmaster who wrote the doggerel in the early years of the twentieth century said:

We talk of great physicians and Dr. William's Pills,
And Mother Regal Syrup as a remedy for ills;
But long live Sir Thomas Jackson - great laurels for to win,
He gave speech unto a dummy clock in the town of Crossmaglen.

Where’s the Bell?

Entering Crossmaglen
Crossmaglen, in South Armagh, is not the easiest place to get into or out of, especially if you are reliant on public transit. I was beyond lucky that my Dublin friend Peter McWilliams had some photos that he needed to study at the Monaghan Museum on the day that I needed to leave Dublin. He offered to do a side jaunt and drop me on my pointed little head in Crossmaglen. He and I always enjoy a good natter, so that part of the drive up from Dublin was a win-win for both of us. So far, so good.

After he and I had a bite at the Cross Square Hotel – I can recommend the fresh bass, locally sourced - he headed back to Dublin, and I went off for a walk. But let me back up a bit, before I proceed.

Selfie of me on a walk.
One of my quests, on this particular part of the trip, was to photograph the bell that had been in the clock that Sir Thomas Jackson had donated to Crossmaglen in 1903. I will tell the longer story in another post, but the short version is that the clock was blown up in July 1974, during The Troubles, and the bell is all that remains of it. I had come expecting to be able to photograph this bell.

This didn’t seem to be terribly complicated, at least when compared to much of what I do. In 1989, the bell had been set up in a special display case in the Community Centre as a gesture, one of many, to help heal the rifts that had played out so harshly in Crossmaglen during The Troubles. When I first arrived in Crossmaglen, it didn't occur to me that there might not be a Community Centre, at least not when I was visiting.

As they say in Newfoundland - There it is - gone. The old Centre had recently been demolished, and a new one was under construction.The clock in this picture is a more recent addition donated by Eamon Devlin.

So, I did as one does when faced with such adversity in this region. I went to the nearest pub, Murtagh’s Pub & B&B, which was where I was staying.

There are distinct advantages to staying in a B&B which has its own pub.

I shared my sad tale with Deidre after she had brought me the pint of Guinness which I so urgently needed. Tomorrow, she said,  go to Rosa’s. It’s over beside the bakery. You know the bakery. Just down the road a bit and cross the street. Someone there will know.

The next morning, I popped into Rosas. At first, it didn’t appear that anyone was there, and then I met Darren Rice in a back office. He has an official title which is to die for: Ring of Gullion - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Officer. This is why I love Ireland.

It turned out that the bell was actually in a storage depot in Newry, more than half an hour away by car. Thankfully, a major stroke of luck, Darren offered to drive me there. He had a meeting up that way, he said, and could show me a few things along the way. As he drove, he told me about a whole slew of marvelous projects that were underway, such as those linking children in schools from predominantly Catholic areas with children in predominantly Protestant areas – each sharing drawings of what mattered to them. He talked about his passion for the land, for studying maps, and for developing programs which link story-telling with geography in a way that enriches both.

Already, there has been a huge amount of progress in the Slieve of Gullion region with projects such as The Poets Trail. Now that I know about this trail, and others, it is clear to me that walking these trails is one more thing to add to my bucket list. Just bring a good rain hat and jacket. The weather is unpredictable. As they say, It'd be a grand country if it had a roof.

At St Jude’s Church of Ireland in Camlough, we met up with a staff person who was organizing a team of volunteers to clean up this ruin. There are plans to include it as part of a future trail for tourists from both near and far. It is a good choice, in part because this is an odd church. It was built in 1773, consecrated September 9th 1785, and then abandoned about a decade later because most of congregation had already migrated from Camlough to nearby Bessbrook.

Of course it would not have been a typical day for me had we not met up with a locked gate when we first arrived there. Not that this stopped us. I do this kind of scramble quite often, but rarely have a willing photographer on hand to record my transgressions.

And yes, in the next post, I will get to the story of the bell, complete with photo. I promise.

Before I leave Crossmaglen though, I want to share another shout-out of thanks, this time to Eugene Lynch. When he heard that I was planning to take the bus from Crossmaglen to Armagh, he insisted on driving. It was totally out of his way, but that didn’t faze him. It did make the world of difference to me, since it gave me a full working day at the Local History Library in Armagh. What would have been a half day trip, with an awkward connection in Newry, turned into a very pleasant half hour drive, again with lots of great chat.

Eugene in his garage. He is one these men - like my husband - who can fix just about anything.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cabra Castle and JACKSONs

Madeline Eglantine Jackson was born about 1816, so even though I don’t have her death date, she will have long been dead and buried . Still, she lives on in her portrait at Cabra Castle. I met her when she was keeping her eye on the till at the front entrance of what is now a hotel.
Madeline Eglantine Jackson descends from the Jacksons of Co. Mayo.

Cabra Castle has been splendidly restored and is now a prime example of how to repurpose one of Ireland’s many Stately Homes. Now that it has been turned into a four star hotel, it is surprisingly affordable. It has that kind of luxury that can only be achieved when the words Stately and Home snug up against each other.

There is something about the Irish country sense of scale that is of the human-kind. It is not the cold glitz of so many high-end places inspired by the kinds of designers who have snorted enough cocaine that edge is all that makes sense to them. Here, there are chairs which have been arranged in such a manner that you really do want to engage. Tables with fine linens seem to have been set not to flaunt wealth, but rather to say: this is what style looks like when comfort is foremost.

I have yet to stay there – we merely stopped in, which one can do. The Castle is open to the public a certain number of hours every day. Oscar, the Irish wolfhound who rests on the front steps, in all his glory, barely looks up. When we were there, with the intention of seeing Madeline, dozens of people were arriving with clothes on hangers, readying to celebrate a wedding. I felt as if I were an extra in a movie. We poked about a bit, and then left them to their festivities.

Pour me a wee tot of Irish whiskey - perhaps Writers Tears – and let me settle in with the daily paper, or a book of poetry by my latest Irish find - Peter Fallon, or a book from the Cabra Castle library.

When it is time to eat, I am told that the food is superb – much of it locally sourced.
 For those who can get a bit wonkish about family trees, here is where Madeleine Eglantine JACKSON fits in.First of all, she is not one my Jacksons, but even so her family from Co. Mayo does share something of a similar back story. Like my lot, her family were merchants, ship owners, mayors and sheriffs, in their case from Kent and Devonshire.

Like many of my Jacksons, who seem to be linked to the Jacksons of Coleraine, these Jacksons knew well how to diversify in business, pick the winning side in politics, and to play the role of big frog in a little pond.

The first of this lot to settle in Ireland was Francis Jackson (abt 1630-1678) who was a Captain of Dragoons in Cromwell’s army. As a reward for his services, he ended up with a considerable spread in Co. Mayo, and built a large fortified house at Enniscoe, on the banks of Lough Conn.

George Vaughan JACKSON was a 1st cousin of Madeline. Note the three eagles heads in the JACKSON part of the crest - upper left segment. At present I cannot rule out that the original member of the Co. Mayo line of JACKSONs was not Francis JACKSON (1632- bef 1680), son of Rev. Richard JACKSON and Dorothy OTWAY. Three birds, which are included in the arms of the descendants of Rev. Richard & Dorothy, are a common motif in all sorts of  Jackson Crests.
Six generations later, Madeleine Eglantine Jackson was born and with her marriage to Rev. Mervin Pratt (1807-1890) – a painting of him is displayed at Cabra as well, the link of the Jacksons to Cabra Castle was forged :

                                             /Francis JACKSON d: 1678 =>
                                     /Oliver JACKSON b: Bef 1675 d: 1691
                                     |       \Elizabeth UNNAMED d: 1675
                             /Oliver JACKSON d: Abt 1750
                             |       |       /Edward KING d: 8 Mar 1639
                             |       \Jane KING
                     /George JACKSON b: 1717 d: 1789
                     |       |       /Simon OWENS
                     |       \Catherine OWENS
             /George JACKSON b: 1761 d: 1805
             |       |       /James CUFF
             |       \Jane CUFF
     /William JACKSON b: 1787 d: 1822
     |       |       /William RUTLEDGE
     |       \Maria RUTLEDGE
     |               \Barbara TAYLOR
Madeline Eglantine JACKSON b: Abt 1816 d. 8 Aug 1899
     |       /William BLAIR
     \Jane Louise BLAIR d: 1817
             \Magdaline FORDYCE d: 1817

UPDATE: Oinri Jackson sent me this grave marker after I first posted this page. Now we have a death date for Madeline.

                                                         1 JOHN 1-7
– .