Tuesday 20 February 2018

Retracing the steps of Glenamuckla footprints


AT first glance two footprints in a field in Newmarket would not seem to have too much historical significance.

AT first glance two footprints in a field in Newmarket would not seem to have too much historical significance.

However, when you consider that they were reputedly left there following the 1888 murder of a local labourer, and have withstood all subsequent attempts to erase them, the story becomes much more interesting.

The famed Footprints of Glenamuckla have become part of the rich folklore of the Sliabh Luachra area but have never before been the subject of a detailed historical study.

A new book from the pen of local author and historian Donie Murphy forensically investigates the phenomena using material gathered over more than four decades of research.

The story of the footprints, and a number of other fascinating historical incidents across the North Cork area related to the Land Wars of the late 19th Century, are included in Donie's book which will be launched this Saturday at 4pm in Philips Bookshop, Mallow.

Describing the contents of the book as "a series of murders and moonlighting", Donie has used contemporaneous newspaper reports, speeches and testimonies to build up a definitive picture of the impact the Land Wars had across North Cork during what was a pivotal period in Irish history.

The 1888 murder of James Rourke, a labourer who had ignored a Land League boycott, might have been consigned to history. However, the appearance more than 30 years later of the mysterious footprints on a ditch close to the site where he was allegedly shot ensured his name has been enshrined in local folklore.

Using the footprints as a starting point, Donie builds a vivid picture of life in rural North Cork during the 1880s in his book, detailing the characters and incidents that took place from Meelin to Mitchelstown.

He admitted that the story of the footprints had become a "life mission" for him. "I started researching the story in 1973 and it was so hard to get information at the time," he said.

However, he dug deep and through sheer persistence and hard work Donie managed to compile the definitive version of what he described as "a very tragic case".

His book goes on to detail many other incidents of historical interest, creating a fascinating tome that will be of interest to scholars and indeed anyone interested in Irish history.

"To fully cover the Land War would take several books, it was a very violent struggle to get independence from the landlords," said Donie.

"Several families were evicted and while a lot got back their land some never did and moved to towns or emigrated after they were evicted," he added.

Donie's book, priced at €20, is currently available in local bookshops.


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