Wednesday 26 June 2019

Coolavin's strong links with MacDermot's revisited on film

FOLLOWING THE unprecedented success of ' The Train - from Ballaghaderreen to Kilfree' St. Aiden's National school, Monasteraden has returned with its latest film 'Heroes and Princes' - a history of the MacDermot family of Coolavin, Co. Sligo. The film has had its premiere at the school and is now available locally to buy.

'Heroes and Princes' outlines the history of the MacDermot family from their origins as a junior branch of the O'Connors (Kings of Connacht) right up to Rory MacDermot, present head of the clan .

The MacDermots were originally known as Kings of Moylurg and owned the lands known today as the plains of Boyle. Their stronghold was the MacDermot Castle on Lough Key but after they were dispossessed of these lands they settled in Shroofe near Monasteraden village in 1669. In the Jacobite Wars Hugh MacDermot garrisoned Sligo at his own expense in support of James 2nd. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Aughrim1691 where William of Orange was victorious. Sir Robert King intervened on his behalf because of his kindness towards the Protestant clergy and laity. He was released and returned to Shroofe. For the next two generations the MacDermot family lived quietly.

His great grandson, another Hugh, was a doctor and also a prolific letter writer. A volume of his letters arranged by Brian MacDermot, describing the conditions of the times, is in the library in Coolavin. Dr. Hugh's eldest son Charles Joseph was a supporter of Daniel O'Connell. There is a signed copy of O'Connell's book ' Ireland and the Irish' in the library of Coolavin. This was presented to Madam Bess MacDermot (Hugh's wife) by the ' Liberator' himself.

The film ' Heroes and Princes' documents Hugh Hyacinth MacDermot known locally as the ' Councillor'. Brought up in poverty in Shroofe in famine times, he was a brilliant law student, one of Blessed John Newman's first students and rose to be Attorney General for Ireland under Gladstone. He appears in some of the oldest still photographs held at Coolavin. In 1879 he bought Clogher House and Lands from the Holmes who were Sligo Brewers and also members of the Famine Committee.

On April 2nd 1881 during an eviction process, Brian Flannery and Joseph Corcoran were shot and killed by the R.I.C. As a consequence of this Sergeant Walter Armstrong (R.I.C.) was battered to death by the angry crowd gathered.

Hugh Hyacinth came down from Dublin to defend his neighbours and tenants who were on trial. He got the charge dismissed on the grounds that Broder the agent had not read the riot act before ordering the R.I.C. to fire on the crowd.

Felicity, Madam MacDermot was the chief source of information for the film.

In 1947 her husband Charles returned to Coolavin after the death of his father, also named Charles. Charles was a rubber planter in Malaya for 25 years. He was a member of the Malayan Volunteer Defence Corps and a prisoner of the Japanese for 3 and half years.

He was a fairly tall man but weighed only six stone when he returned home. He built up a dairy herd and operated a milk round in the nearby town of Ballaghaderreen. In the film Jimmy Flannery, a native of Clogher, tells how the MacDermots, down the years, employed the local youth on their farm. It was an apprenticeship for life for many a young man. Jimmy saw his first digger on the estate and has been working with diggers ever since. Hugh Hyacinth was the first of the clan to be buried in Monasteraden and the MacDermot burial plot is in the corner of the church grounds.

Charles died in 1979 and was succeeded by his brother Dermot a British Ambassador who wrote a family history during his retirement. Dermot's son Niall succeeded him. Rory MacDermot (Niall's son) is the present ' The MacDermot'.