10 October 2018

Newtownsandes or Moyvane?
What happened to the name
and to the planned town?

The wide streets of Moyvane, Co Kerry, show that this was once the planned town of Newtownsandes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

On the road between Tarbert and Ballybunion and back again from Ballybunion to Glin and Askeaton, two of us stopped at the weekend to visit Moyvane (Maigh Mheáin, ‘main or middle plain’), a village in Co Kerry off the N69 between Listowel and Tarbert.

The parish was originally called Murhur, but there are few historical references to its past, and its name today is still a matter of discussion and debate.

With its broad streets, and its sense of plan and hope, Moyvane looks as though it once was a planned town with a visionary landlord. The name Moyvane was adopted by the village as recently as 1939 when a plebiscite was held by the Parish Priest, Father Dan O’Sullivan.

The Post Office says this is Moyvane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

But, in fact, Moyvane is the name of a townland about two miles south-west of the village, and the official name of the place is still Newtownsandes. Although the road signs and the post office kept telling me that this is Moyvane, many of the local people still call this Newtown, and the name above the local co-operative still proclaims in bold lettering that this is Newtownsandes.

Pride of place is the parish goes to the poet and song writer Thomas Moore (1779-1852), whose father John Moore was born here, and to Philip Cunningham, a leader in the 1798 Rising, later executed in 1804.

The Roman Catholic Parish was formed in 1829, in the immediate aftermath of the Catholic Emancipation. The first parish church was built in 1837, and a date stone built into a wall in the village near the original entrance to the church and the school marks this date.

The name Newtownsandes was chosen by the local landlord, George Sandes, in the early 1880s. Sandes is said to have been a cruel landlord at the time of the Land War. But, while some local narratives describe him as a Cromwellian, he lived two and a half centuries after the Cromwellian wars, and the Sandes family were in this part of Ireland a century or more before the arrival of Cromwell in Ireland.

The Sandes family originally spelled its name Sandys in England, and they may have been descended from a family that lived in Sands in the parish of Tulliallen in Fife, Scotland. They arrived in Ireland long before any Cromwellian officer, and this has been their home ever since.

The Co-op says this is Newtownsandes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In 1565, Neville Sands of Dublin was appointed surveyor-general in Ireland. A letter from Dublin that year said a farm of Ballyknockane, Co Laois, was ‘possessed by the late Mr Hugh Lippiat, whose wife Susan, Sands had married.’ In 1588, William Sandes was a court official, and in 1625 another William Sandes was attorney of the Exchequer Court.

The deeds of Christ Church Cathedral record that Watkin Sands was one of three signatories to a document involving lands in Lynkardstown, Co Carlow. William Sands of Dublin rented property near Oxmantown Green in Dublin, and was followed by his son John Sands.

The Petty Census of Ireland in 1659 lists the name of 11 Sands landowners in Co Kildare, Co Longford, Dublin, and Co Kerry, and Lancelot Sands was a landowner in Kilbonane, Co Kerry, and held public office in Dingle, Co Kerry, in 1660-1661.

Lancelot Sandes was granted an estate in Co Kerry in 1667 under the Acts of Settlement. The Ordnance Dublin Name Books noted in the 1830s that he held lands from the estates of Trinity College Dublin. William Sandes held several townlands in the parishes of Kilnaughtin at Tarbert, and Knockanure and Murher in the area of present-day Moyvane.

Kerry football tradition celebrated in street art in Moyvane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Moyvane may have been part of the estates of Trinity College Dublin from Elizabethan times, but by the early 19th century, Moyvane House was the residence of John Sandes, and the Sandes family had lived there for many generations.

At the time of Griffith’s Valuation, William Sandes was leasing Moyvane Farm to Stephen Sandes at Moyvane North.

Interesting member of the family include the Revd Robert Leslie Wren Sandes (1820-1895), who was he Curate of Listowel in 1848, and the Curate of Aghavallen (Ballylongford) in 1850-1858. He baptised Horatio Kitchener, one of the great generals in World War I, at Aghavallen in 1850, and he was living Ballylongford in 1852, when he married his first cousin Alicia Ponsonby.

Charles Lancelot Sandes was one of the principal land holders in the parish of Aghavallen or Ballylongford in Co Kerry at the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the 19th century. He also owned Carrigafoyle Castle, was leasing his property to Stephen Sandes, and held some lands in the parish of Morgans, Co Limerick.

In 1863,1864 and 1865, over 2,000 acres of the estate of William Sandes was offered for sale in the Landed Estates Court. In the 1870s, Charles Sandes of Carrigafoyle Castle and Bayview, Clontarf, Co Dublin, owned 1,208 acres in Co Limerick and 227 acres in Co Kerry, while the estate of Thomas Sandes of Sallowglen, Tarbert, amounted to over 7,000 acres in the 1870s.

Other Sandes holdings in this part of Co Kerry in the 19th century included Killelton House, which Charles L Sandes leased to William Hickie, Pyrmont House in Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), also known as Fyrmont, which William Sandes let to Thomas Sandes. The Sandes family and their descendants lived there until the 1920s, when the estate was sold and the house was later demolished.

William G Sandes was leasing Greenville near Listowel from the Earl of Listowel at the time of Griffith’s Valuation and it was a home of this branch of the Sandes family until World War I. It was repaired and rebuilt in the 1920s.

There is a local story that George Sandes was involved in the forceful eviction of some of his tenants in 1886. That year, some local residents changed the name of the village to Newtown Dillon, to honour John Dillon, a Home Rule politician.

But the new name was a temporary whim or fashion, and the original name remained unchanged until 1916, when another attempt was made to change the name – this time to Newtown Clarke, after Thomas Clarke, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916.

The Church of the Assumption was dedicated on 25 August 1956, when Father Dan O’Sullivan was still the parish priest (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A new parish church, the Church of the Assumption, was built when Father O’Sullivan was still the parish priest. It replaced an older parish church built around 1833, and the new church was dedicated on 25 August 1956.

The architect of the church was the Cork-based architect, James Rupert Boyd Barrett (1904-1976). He was born in Loughborough, and was educated at Clongowes Wood College, the CBS School, North Richmond Street, Dublin, Dublin School of Art, and University College London.

At the age of 24, he set up in practice in Cork in 1928, and designed many major buildings throughout Ireland, including the Department of Industry and Commerce in Kildare Street, Dublin, and churches in Cork and Kerry, as well as schools, hospitals, town halls and houses.

The carved altar, with images of the Four Evangelists, in Church of the Assumption, Moyvane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The church in Moyvane, which cost about €60,000 to build, in 1956, could seat up to 800 people, and at the time it was believed to be the biggest church in recent years. The main contractor was MrJohn McSweeney, Castleisland. The church was designed in contemporary fashion in which every part of the construction plays a vital role and so that the whole blends into one harmonious composition.

When Father Sean Jones was ordained priest in ill be ordained to the priesthood on Sunday, July 1st in the Church of the Assumption, Moyvane, recently [1 July 2018], he was the first priest ordained in the diocese of Kerry in 12 years.

Inside the Church of the Assumption in Moyvane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The most recent attempt to change the name of the village to Moyvane failed again a few years ago. In a vote on a name-change held by Kerry County Council, the proposal to change the name failed to gain the required 51 per cent majority of eligible voters.

In all, 473 ballot papers were returned, with 407 voting for and 66 against the name change, but a minimum of 435 yes voters of the 868 eligible voters was needed, a spokesman at the registrar of electors in Kerry County Council told The Irish Times.

But the name of Newtownsandes still exists on a map and the register of electors but nowhere else. Indeed, while the signposts have said Moyvane since 1975 and the post office is Moyvane, the electorate remains confused by other suggested names and a dispute about the proper title of the local creamery.

To this day, Moyvane Creamery still bears the name Newtownsandes Co-op – and it is also one of the remaining independent co-operative creameries in Co Kerry.

A window in the parish church in Moyvane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)


Anonymous said...

Excellent article on Moyvane (Maigh Mheán) and it's history, kind sir.
- from a native

Unknown said...

Dear Patrick,

Given the new 'normal' brought to us by Corona virus I have been doing some family research. The priest responsible for building the new church in Moyvane was my great granduncle, Father Dan O'Sullivan. He died shortly after the church was opened in 1956 and is buried in the grounds. He was the one who organised the name plebiscite in 1939 which tried to get the name changed from Newtownsandes to Moyvane.

I had previously been unaware of Moyvane (!!) but look forward to visit it when it becomes possible.

All the best,

Sean O'Sullivan, Prague

John Stack said...

Great article. I think the same architect was involved in Lyreacrompane Church in North Kerry c. 1956.
John Stack

Anonymous said...

Hi, We’re travelling to Moyvane today. Last minute notice but I will have my in laws with me from NZ. My mother in law’s great grandmother was Mary Mulvihill from Moyvane. Born in 1860. She left for NZ in 1886/1887. Any tips on where to go for info?

Sue and Paul Connolly said...

Great reading. I always wondered about the names as my great grandfather was born in Newtownsandes in 1847. John Hill son of Roland Hill. On my visit to Ireland from Australia in 2013 I visited Moyvane and your information has given me an understanding of what happened.
Thank you