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The parish was originally called Murhur, but there are few historical references to its past, and its name today is still a matter of discussion and debate.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

An urban myth or a church
legend … is there a threat
from two stout monks?

Two stout monks, Monks’ Stout … at the debut of Monks’ Stout at the HORECA Expo in Ghent in 2010

Patrick Comerford

Urban myths are so popular that they never seem to die or fade away, they are difficult ot dispel, and they are simply recycled retold in new forms.

One popular urban myth concerns organ harvesting. A man on a business trip is seduced by a beautiful woman … or he pays for an escort. He wakes up the next morning in a bathtub full of ice to find one of his kidneys has been removed for sale on the black market.

In the recycled version, he wakes up to find she has left, leaving behind a scrawl in lipstick on the bedroom mirror, telling him what is now infected with.

Another urban myth tells of a woman on holiday in an exotic resort. She swallows an egg whole, but thinks nothing of it until her stomach starts to bloat and she wonders whether she is pregnant. She goes to her doctor but a scan reveals the egg has hatched and a lizard is living inside her.

These stories are not pleasant, yet we insist in believing them and telling them over and over again because there seems to be some moral in the tale, however perverse that may be.

But there are church myths too, and they are recycled among clergy as readily as urban myths. I heard yet again this week of the popular legend of the ‘two stout monks’ in the Rule of Saint Benedict.

According to this church myth, the Rule of Saint Benedict includes the following advice:

If any pilgrim monk come from distant parts, with a wish to dwell as a guest in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds: he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires.

If, indeed, he finds fault with anything, or exposes it, reasonably, and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God had sent him for this very thing.

But if he has been found lavish or vicious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of the monastery, but also it shall be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him.


In my stays in Ealing Abbey and Glenstal Abbey, or my visits to Rostrevor Abbey, Mount Melleray or Roscrea Abbey, I have never heard this legend. But it is still repeated wherever priests are gathered together.

A version of this passage was included, with some errors in a translation of Chapter 61 of Saint Benedict’s Rule, in the book Select historical documents of the Middle Ages (1892), translated and edited by Ernest Flagg Henderson, and reprinted in 1907 in The Library of Original Sources, vol IV, edited by Oliver J Thatcher.

Another version was published in Hubbard’s Little Journeys (1908), but that translation omits the recommendation that the guest might become a potential permanent resident, and replaces the words ‘lavish or vicious’ with ‘gossipy and contumacious’ and the words following ‘he must depart’ were originally ‘lest, by sympathy with him, others also become contaminated.’

However, no phrase corresponding to the last sentence about ‘two stout monks’ appears in the Rule of Saint Benedict. Yet it is a popular myth, with several reputable publications repeating the error. Indeed, although one source attributes the passage to a Chapter 74 in the Rule of Saint Benedict, the rule contains only 73 chapters.

An early source for the quotation is the University of California, Berkeley faculty club, which for years posted a version of the passage on its bulletin board in Gothic script, but without attributing the quotation to Saint Benedict.

But the Rule of Saint Benedict is subject to many interpretations. An article published by Assumption Abbey in North Dakota challenged the traditional translation of the Benedictine motto, Ora est labora, as ‘To Pray is to Work.’

Instead, it argued that that interpretation is a result of urban legend and that the actual motto is Ora et labora, ‘To pray and To work.’ This would embrace two major aspects of monastic life, prayer and work.

Perhaps, as we discuss, laugh and disagree about both, we could call in two stout monks to uphold or to refute these assertions.

Monks Stout … the debuts at the HORECA Exp