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Notes on Cherry Orchard (Gort na Silíní), County Dublin

The Furey Brothers. Illustration: Derry Dillon.

The Fureys

 

The Fureys, one of Ireland’s best loved folk bands, was formed by four brothers who grew up in a Traveller campsite that once stood opposite Cherry Orchard Hospital, north of this station.[8] Raised in a wagon, they were taught music by their father Ted. By the early 1960s, Finbar Furey, the second son, had won three All Ireland Medals as an Uilleann piper. He recalled the ‘unbelievable’ music that went on at Cherry Orchard prior to its closure in 1963.[9] The fiddlers, pipers, banjo players, sean nós singers and balladeers were joined by Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners. Luke was especially popular as he came armed with sweets for all the children.

 

The Cherry Farm

 

Cherry Orchard was literally an orchard of cherry trees, with a cottage, that once formed part of a farm adjoining Ballyfermot Castle. Situated on the north-side of the Grand Canal, close to Lock 6, the earliest known owner of the 19-acre property was St Leger Palmer, who served as Warden of the Brewer’s Guild. He held the property between 1802 and 1815 when he went bankrupt for the first of several times. He worked closely with the Guinness brewery until his death in 1851.[1] Subsequent owners included Peter Warren, Solicitor to the Paving Board, and Sir Compton Domville, Governor of Dublin in the 1830s.[2] The ‘valuable cherry orchard’ was still in existence in 1897 but the subsequent fate of the cherry trees is presently unknown.[3]

 

The Gothic Maestro

 

Le Fanu Road and Le Fanu Park, east of this station, honour Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, a respected journalist who became the greatest horror writer of his age. Briefly educated in Ballyfermot Castle, he spent much of his childhood in the then small village of Chapelizod where his austere father was chaplain to the nearby Royal Hibernian Military School. Le Fanu described the locality in works such as “The House by the Churchyard” and “Ghost Stories of Chapelizod”.[4] His most famous book was ‘Carmilla,’ a short story about an eerily beautiful vampire lesbian who preyed on younger woman. The story influenced a young Bram Stoker, who went on to write ‘Dracula.’ See my vampire story here.

 

The Castle

 

Sheridan LeFanu described Oulton Prosser as ‘a tall, stern-looking pedagogue, who never came down from his bedroom before eleven o’clock in the forenoon; and then he despatched a dirty servant-boy into the schoolroom, which was detached from the castle, to summon the boys on the black list to come in and be whipped. Illustration by Derry Dillon.

Nothing remains of Ballyfermot Castle, which stood on the high ground east of this station until its demolition in the 1840s. The stone fortress was built in the 14th century by Wolfram De Barneval, or Barnewall, to defend the surrounding lands from attack by the dispossessed O’Byrne and O’Toole families.[5] In the 17th century, the castle became home to Sir Robert Newcomen and his fertile wife Katherine, the mother of 21 children. By the 1790s, the castle had been converted into an academy, run by a terrifying disciplinarian named Oulton Prosser.[6] A mound in nearby Le Fanu Park marks the site of a 13th century chapel, dedicated to St Laurence, and an adjoining hospice for people suffering from leprosy.[7]

 

 

The Tyre Factory

 

Located on Killeen Road, south-east of this station, the Semperit factory manufactured hundreds of thousands of rubber tyres during the late 20th century. Established by an Austrian company in 1968, the company soon had almost 1,000 employees. They worked in high temperatures as there were 52 curing presses for preparing and finishing tyres. They had their own football, darts and pool teams, as well as a golf club, a social club in Gallanstown Lane and a monthly newsletter, the Tyre Press. When Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973, international competition put the factory under mounting pressure. Taken over by Continental AG in 1985, it finally closed in 1996. [10]

 

Grand Canal 

 

The Grand Canal passes through the Park West business park, with filter beds for the drawing off of water. The 6th, 7th and 8th Locks nearby were built circa 1775 and are among the earliest locks built in Dublin City. At that time, the canal originally terminated at the City Basin off James’s Street; the circular line was completed in the 1790s. Park West and Cherry Orchard lies within the 396 acre (0.62 square mile) townland of Gallanstown (Baile an Ghalóntaigh), through which a tributary of the River Camac flows. The townland directly north, which includes part of the Cherry Orchard Industrial Estate, is Blackditch.

 

Cherry Orchard Football Club

 

Cherry Orchard Football Club was formed in 1957 and dominated the FAI Junior Cup in the 1980s and early 1990s. Past players include Republic of Ireland internationals Nathan Collins (born 2001, a centre-back for Premier League club Brentford) and Jessica Stapleton (born 2005, a defender or midfielder for West Ham United in the Women’s Super League).

 

Further Notes

 

Norton’s Dairy Farm of Gallanstown – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ballyfermot/albums/72157631748326083/

Victor Bewley – https://www.dib.ie/biography/bewley-victor-ernest-henry-a10135

Kieran Glennon, the grandson of Tom Glennon, spent a year and a half researching his grandfather’s life and his involvement in the War of Independence and Civil War. He was born in London to Irish parents, who later returned to Belfast and then moved to Dublin in 1973. As of 2024, Kieran lives in Cherry Orchard, Dublin.  https://www.mercierpress.ie/authors/glennonkieran/

There is an 89-acre townland of Johnstown (Baile Sheáin) sandwiched between the Palmerstown Bypass and the Cherry Orchard Industrial Estate here. The Drumfinn Gaels sports ground is here, as well as Palmerstown Community School. It was marked as John’s Town by Rocque in 1760.

 

End-Notes

 

[1] St Leger Palmer, a brewer, worked for Guinness in 1802 and had a coal factors business on Aston Quay with Richard Fewtrell, a liberal Protestant, from 1812 until 1815 when they were declared bankrupt. They subsequently auctioned their assets including ‘the Lands of Cherry Orchard, being part of the lands of Ballyfermot.’  These 19 acres, including a dwelling house and other buildings, were held on a long term lease signed in 1802. (Saunders’s News-Letter, 1 April 1815, p. 4). Palmer and Fewtrell seem to have been back in business by 1818. (Law Chronicle, Commercial and Bankruptcy Register, 12 February 1818, p. 5.)

‘DEATHS. Near Drogheda, on the 10th aged 30, after a tedious illness, which she bore with pious resignation, Mrs. St. Leger Palmer—fond, affectionate, and sincere in the relative duties of wife, mother, and friend—she departed this life to the inescapable regret of her friends, and of a select, but most respectable circle of acquaintances, and of whom it may be truly said, she lived beloved and died regretted.’ (Saunders’s News-Letter, 18 September 1819, p. 3; Limerick Gazette, 21 September 1819, p. 3.)

On 7 June 1826, the Limerick Chronicle seems to have recorded his second marriage: ‘At Bray Church, St. Leger Palmer, Esq. to Miss Anne Bell, both of Dublin.’

He was a Guinness brewer from 1825 until 1828, when he became Warden of the Brewer’s Guild. However, ‘St Leger Palmer, Byrne’s Hill, Dublin, brewer’ was declared an ‘insolvent debtor’ in 1829. (Dublin Morning Register, 17 December 1829, p. 4.) He went bankrupt again in 1842. (Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette, 20 August 1842, p. 8.) He evidently moved around a lot as the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current, 14 October 1842, p. 3, recorded him as ‘St. Leger Palmer, late of Queen Street, Dublin; formerly of Parsonstown [i.e. Birr], King’s Co., then of George’s-place, Dublin then of Lower Dorset-street, Dublin, brewer.’

His death is noted in the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent of 21 January 1851, p. 3: ‘Jan 6. Mr. St. Leger Palmer, for many years confidential officer at the James’s-gate Brewery.’

He was mentioned in the first brewery history ‘Guinness Brewery in the Irish Economy 1759-1876′ by Lynch & Vaizey, which states that: ‘… the brewer, St Leger Palmer, was employed after 1800, and in 1828 he was a Warden of the Brewers’ Guild, but he seems to have had little influence on policy.’ On page 234 of the same work, the authors write: ‘About 1820 or so, some clerks were called brewers the first so to be called was St Leger Palmer, but there were soon others, and these eventually came to be regarded as superior in authority to the ordinary clerks.’ H. S. Guinness also lists him in ‘Saint James’s Gate: Notes for a Guidebook’, compiled in 1928, as a representatives of the Brewers’ Guild on the council of Dublin Corporation. Thanks to Eibhlin Colgan, Guinness Archives.

In 1859, his daughter’s marriage was recorded by the Leinster Reporter, 9 July 1859, p. 3: ‘June 29 , in Gowran Church, by the Rev Richard Pack, Rector of Ennisnag [County Kilkenny], Arthur Wellesley, only surviving son of the late John Moss, Esq., Ballyconra, to Sophia Letitia, second daughter of the late St. Leger Palmer, Esq., of Booterstown, county Dublin.’

[2] Cherry Orchard was the country residence of Peter Warren, Solicitor to the Paving Board, of 14 Henrietta Street here. In 1830, he married Susan daughter of the late Arthur Meredith White Esq. It then passed to the veterinary surgeon Richard Johnston, owner of Johnston’s Horse Repository and Cattle Mart on Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) and 134 Townsend Street, Dublin. Mr Johnson sold it after he went bankrupt in 1831. (Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current, 11 March 1833, p. 1.)  In 1838, the 19-acre property belonged to Sir Compton Domville, complete with a walled garden. (General Advertiser for Dublin, and all Ireland, 22 December 1838, p. 3).

[3] On 13 April 1892, the Land Commission Court sold a lease on the Coldcut farm to Thomas Long of Wheatfield (Collinstown), Clondalkin. (I believe he bought Wheatfield from John Hands executors after this sale in November 1865; he was there by 1867-8 as per here.) In 1897, Mr Long, in failing health, put his tenant interest in Coldcut up for sale. As well as a cottage and out-houses, the land was noted for its ‘valuable cherry orchard’. The lands were ‘considered some of the best in the county, well-watered and fenced.’ (Irish Independent, 27 March 1897, p. 8). The lands were sold on 1 April 1897. Ten days later, Thomas Long died at the Mater Misericorde on 11 April 1897. (Flag of Ireland, 17 April 1897, p. 16). Probate was granted to Patrick Long, farmer, of Main Street, Swords. (See here). His lands at Wheatfield and adjoining Raheen were auctioned in July 1897. (Evening Irish Times, 15 July 1897, p. 8). In 1901, Patrick Long and his brother Michael were living at North Street, Swords; the brothers were elderly bachelors.

‘The cherry does best on a sandy loam of good depth and well drained. It does not do so well in heavy clay soils or on adobe. The stock mostly used is seedling or wild cherry. The Mazzard, a wild cherry of Europe, is preferred. In planting the trees should be thirty feet apart, the ground having previously been plowed at least twelve inches deep and well harrowed. Care should be taken in the proper pruning of the trees when first starting the orchard, and after the fourth or fifth time but little further pruning will be re quired. The Black Tartarian is the favorite. The Morello cherries are the sour or acid variety. They are prolific bearers are much healthier than the sweet, are better shippers, and will bring more money even when cherries are plenty.’ (Notes from 19th century cherry growing guide).

[4] Le Fanu lived in Chapelizod when not in residence his city townhouse at Merrion Square. “Ghost Stories of Chapelizod”, published in Dublin University Magazine in 1851, a collection of three short-stories namely, “The Village Bully”, “The Sexton’s Adventure” and “The Spectre Lovers”. Published in 1858, ‘The House by the Churchyard’ is a historical mystery novel that chronicles the lives of the inhabitants of 18th century Chapelizod. The house is a large Georgian house that still adjoins Church Lane, next to St. Laurence’s parish churchyard, in Chapelizod. The graveyard of Sr Laurence’s is mentioned in “The Bully of Chapelizod” Le Fanu Park is referred to locally as The Lawns.

[5] Barnewall family here. Ballyfermot Castle was constructed on the site of a Norman motte and baily. Located northwest of the intersection of Le Fanu and Raheen Roads. https://wikishire.co.uk/wiki/Ballyfermot

[6] Ballyfermot Castle Academy was run by William Oulton Prosser, principal from 1776 until his death in 1808 (here, see also here and here) and then by the Rev. William Parker from 1808 (here) until he placed it up for lease again in 1810, here. The academy taught geometry, geography, astronomy, philosophy and dancing, among other subjects. Le Fanu, Prosser’s pupil, recalled him thus:

 ‘… William Oulton Prosser, who from the post of a bombardier had retired to Ballyfermot Castle, where he opened an “academy” of liberal instruction. I still quail to remember him. It was only the other day that his name, written in round-hand across the title-page of a “Trusler’s Chronology,” purchased at Sharpe’s auction-room, sent a thrill through me, as if it had been the wind of a round shot. He was a tall, stern-looking pedagogue, who never came down from his bedroom before eleven o’clock in the forenoon; and then he despatched a dirty servant-boy into the schoolroom, which was detached from the castle, to summon the boys on the black list to come in and be whipped. That operation he performed as if he had served in no other rank than that of a drummer all the days of his “sobering” upon earth; and it was administered in the breakfast parlour amid the debris of the repast (bread and butter and egg-shells), which the giant had just demolished to give him strength for the task.
It had been his wont to inflict condign discipline in the midst of the school; but it happened on a day, that a boy, whose name was included in the usher’s report, lay in ambush behind a heap of coats, in the porch; and as the ogre passed through, flourishing the formidable taws, and “chewing vengeance all the way,” the poor wretch, in a frenzy of terror and despair, flew upon him, as a cat driven wild by persecution, and bit a large piece out of the calf of his leg. The big tyrant limped away into his den, and swore upon the family Bible that he would never again set foot in the said schoolroom, and that he would whip the said boy. He kept both the oaths, “in a sort of way,” being obliged to compromise the matter with the delinquent, who agreed to save his Christian master’s conscience, only on condition that the word of promise should be broken to the hope. A shadowy castigation, therefore (the ghost of a whipping), was submitted to; but from that hour the main business of the academy was carried on by deputies, remote from the eye of the master. He still continued, however, to perform the part of an high justiciary, and to take cognizance of copybooks and arithmetical exercises, which the boys were required to exhibit to him in procession.
The remainder of his day was occupied principally in attending to the refrigerating profess of some gallon of boiled water, in a huge white jug, which he filled every morning at the breakfast-table, and set upon the stone outside the window to cool. After dinner, this supply was placed on the table by his right hand, and corrected, pro re natâ, with whiskey, until, tumbler after tumbler, the whole of its contents disappeared. That was his stint; he never
exceeded it; but as soon as it was finished, which was rarely before two or three o’clock next morning, he went to bed; and it depended on the quality of the spirit thus imbibed (the quantity being uniformly the same) in what degree of ill-humour he should apply himself to his professional duties of the following noon.
Such was the schoolmaster of one of the fashionable boarding-schools in the immediate vicinity of our capital some fifty years since.’

[7] It has been suggested that the parish of Chapelizod derives its named from this lazaretto, aka Chapel Lazard. However, the nomenclature on Loganim here provides the name Isolde or Ydolde as the origin back in the 13th century.

[8] Cherry Orchard Fever Hospital was commissioned to replace the aging Cork Street Fever Hospital, opened in November 1953.

[9] The site was acquired by Ballyfermot Textiles Limited. ‘I was at the historic Cherry Orchard campsite that was violently evicted in 1963. The singing there was unbelievable – the old women, the sean nos singers. And Luke Kelly and Ronny Drew – they’d be jamming there.’ https://www.hotpress.com/culture/when-finbar-furey-met-john-connors-19641677 and https://www.rte.ie/archives/2018/1217/1017579-travellers-evicted-ballyfermot/

“Dublin City Council (formerly known as Dublin Corporation) purchased farmland in the Ballyfermot area in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, for the purpose of moving people from the tenements of Dublin’s inner city to new housing schemes in the Ballyfermot area. In the early days of the Ballyfermot Housing Scheme, Cherry Orchard was known only for the fever hospital, with the remaining land in agricultural use. As Ballyfermot gradually expanded west, the Blackditch, Cloverhill and Cherry Orchard residential estates were developed in the 1950’s, 1970’s and 1980’s respectively “

[10] There were 650 people at the Semperit factory in Ballyfermot when it ceased production in 1996.