Monday 20 May 2019

Old settlement revealed in Blessington reservoir

An aerial photographs of the reservoir in recent days.
An aerial photographs of the reservoir in recent days.
A horse plough that has become visible due to the reduced water level.
Remarkably, the bill for the horse plough still exists.
Aerial photograph of the reservoir in recent days.
The houses before 1940.

Deborah Coleman

Fascination has surrounded the discovery of an old farm homestead on the Blessington Lakes last Friday, which was detected by the Garda Air Support Unit while on patrol.

The shared farm, which was evacuated in 1940 when ESB flooded the valley to create the Poulaphouca Reservoir, has been submerged under water for almost 80 years and this year's drought has made it visible for the first time since then.

While many were keen to find out the history behind the homestead, former Blessington resident Philip (Billy) Brennan confirmed that the now visible island is situated across from Baltyboys Boat Club on the Valleymount to Blessington Road.

'This island reveals the farmyard and the rubble of the homes of the three Quinn families that had lived here, shared and farmed the land around it for at least five generations,' he explains.

Many years ago, Philip started to research the history of the Quinn families for the purposes of a website open to family members, as his wife Mary is a descendant of these people.

'When the ESB decided to create the reservoir, compensation of £1,300 was paid to two of the families, and £600 was paid the other. The single horse plough visible today was abandoned as it would have been impossible to transport and almost certainly they would have been interested in buying more horses once they moved to their new farms,' Philip said.

He explained that his wife's people were relocated near Ballymore Eustace while the other two families went to Donadea, Co. Kildare, and to Valleymount.

Philip also is aware of the history of the plough which was abandoned and even has the original receipt dating back to 1919 when John Quinn purchased it from James J Dowling.

'John Quinn was the smaller of the three outfits and as such he was only allowed to have one horse and graze no more than four cattle on the common pasture land.

The other two were allowed to have two horses and could graze eight cattle at a time and so on and on the restrictions were applied. To avoid the hassle of borrowing horses John sought and found a one horse plough and also this amazing one-horse mowing machine. It was manufactured by Pierce of Wexford fame and he purchased it through Blessington businessman James J Dowling, on August 21, 1919, for as the bill shows, the stately sum of £24-0-0. At least he got 20 years use out of it before it had to be abandoned, as there was no room for it on the cart load of chattels, they brought with them to their new home in Donadea, Co. Kildare,' said Philip.

He said that the long line of rubble on today's island were the homes of Long John and Joe Quinn's and at right angle to them the home of John The Baker Quinn.

'I was really surprised to see them revealed after 80 years covered by the placid waters of Blessington Lake. They will soone be gone again once the waters rise but it is great to see such interest in it.'

Wicklow People