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Denny’s Turn, Lisnavagh, County Carlow

Detail from a mural in Belfast depicting a hedge school. (extra-mural-activity)

Denny’s Turn is the local name for the sharp bend in the road at the foot of Kinsellagh’s Hill when driving from the Lisnavagh farmyard on the main road up towards Germaine’s. I like to refer to Denny’s Turn as ‘Claridge’s Corner’ after the concierge from Claridge’s who lived beside it for much of the first two decades of the present century. I suspect the name ‘Denny’s Turn’ is a nod to a schoolmaster called Denis Delany who ran a hedge school at Acaun in the nineteenth century.

In his ‘Descriptive Remarks from the Ordnance Survey Parish Namebook’ (1839), John O’Donovan noted:

‘In lease given to Delaney who holds the land this portion of ground is called part of Tobinstown Must be a subdenomination made by Boundary Dept.’

According to an article entitled ‘Hedge Schools or Pay Schools of Rathvilly Parish’ by Miss K. OToole, Kinsellagh’s Hill was also known as Germaine’s Hill. She writes:

About half a mile to the north of Tobinstown Cross Roads, at the foot of “Germaine’s Hill” on the road to Rathvilly, a school was conducted by Denis Delany. The place is still called “Delany’s Farm” or “Denny’s Twin.” Delany was a low-sized man with rather flat feet and he was called “Dinny Heels”. When the National Schools were established, his occupation was gone, and he used to drive round in a donkey’s trap to teach the children in their homes. Many of the old people up to 50 years ago, remembered him very well, but now “the very spot where many a time he triumphed is forgot.”

Denis Delany was related to the Delanys of Leix. In 1816 he married Ellen Cummins (1789-1868), daughter of George and Margaret Cummins of Castlemore, near Tullow. They were married in Ballon parish, probably in the Rathoe church. The Cummins were inter-related with the Nowlan family who were also at Lisnavagh at this time which may be the reason why, after their marriage, Denis and Ellen settled in the Tobinstown area of Rathvilly parish, in the townland of Acaun by Lisnavagh.  According to the 2012 research of Sue Clements, a kinswoman, they lived in Acaun, from where Denis ran the hedge school. Their youngest child was born in 1832 but, by the time of Griffith’s Valuation, Ellen was a widow and living in Acaun.

Denis and Ellen’s children were:

  1. Edward Delany (b. 1817) married Mary Dowd [Doyle?] and was father to Patrick Delany, a teacher at the National School in Hacketstown according to the 1901 and 1911 census. Patrick was born in Acaun, in Rathvilly parish, where he was baptized in 1863. He married Elizabeth Hughes and had at least two children -Margaret Mary (baptized at St. Andrew’s in Dublin, 1899) and Edward Joseph (birth recorded in Baltinglass district, 1902).
  2. Marcella (b. abt 1820, married Patrick Kelly of Tobinstown in 1863 but had no children.)
  3. Patrick (1821)
  4. Jerome (1825, emigrated to New Jersey, fought in the American Civil War, settled in Oklahoma, died in Ohio)
  5. Ellen (1826, married Thomas Bulger and settled in Tranmere, Cheshire)
  6. Mathew (1827)
  7. Bridget (1832, never married and lived in the family home in Acaun with her unmarried first cousin Eugene Murphy until her death in 1926).

On both Griffiths and 1901, Ellen Delaney was described as the ‘mill owner’. I think she was a kinswoman but have no evidence.

I asked my Tobinstown neighbour Paddy Delaney if he was related to these people but he maintained his Delaneys were blow-in’s.