CHAS Society Lecture: ‘Collusion and Discovery in Eighteenth-Century Co. Kildare’

On Wednesday, I spent a very enjoyable evening in the Seven Oaks Hotel, Carlow, where I spoke to the Carlow Historical & Archaeological Society about Collusion and Discovery under the Penal Laws, focusing on the activities of Patrick Lattin and his brothers-in-law, Richard Leigh, Michael Moore and William Alcock and their reliance on Protestant friends and family to assist them in purchasing land in counties Dublin, Kildare and Meath, an action which was outlawed by the Penal Laws.

It was really lovely to speak to such an enthusiastic audience and there was a great discussion after my paper.

Dr Emma Lyons being introduced by Carlow Historical & Archaeological Society President, Mr Richard Codd before the lecture on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of CHAS.

The Horse and the Country House

Last weekend I travelled to Cambridge to present a paper at the Horse & the Country House conference, organised by the Attingham Trust. My paper focused on The Racehorses, Gambling and Equestrian Buildings of Sir Edward O’Brien, 2nd Baronet Dromoland (1705-65)’.

Given the focus of my paper, it was necessary to travel to Dromoland to view the equestrian buildings in person. I enjoyed a lovely day at Dromoland, and had a lovely tour of the castle and the gardens, making much use of my camera. The pictures featured prominently in my presentation, and I received great feedback on my paper from those in attendance at Madingley Hall.

The Temple of Mercury, built by Sir Edward O’Brien, 2nd Bart. Dromoland, in memory of one of his racehorses, Seán Buí, a horse on which he reportedly gambled the Dromoland estate.

Blessington History Society Lecture

I spent a really enjoyable evening yesterday with the Blessington History Society, where I spoke about the landlords and tenants who lives on the Morristown Lattin estate in Co. Kildare during the eighteenth-century. There was a really enthusiastic group in attendance and we had a very engaging discussion afterwards.

St. Kevin’s Church, Hollywood, Co. Wicklow

Traditionally the starting point for the Camino de Glendalough, which follows the popular medieval pilgrimage route, St. Kevin’s Way, Hollywood village’s location at the beginning of St. Kevin’s road, a main route to the King’s River valley and Glendalough, has seen many pilgrims receive a blessing at St. Kevin’s Church of Ireland before following in St. Kevin’s footsteps to Glendalough.

St. Kevin’s Church of Ireland church dates from the late seventeenth century. A detached two-bay single-story gable-ended building, it has a simple rectangular shape, to which two lean-to porches were later added to the south and west. The low survival rate of churches dating from the seventeenth century, and specifically those which are intact and retain much of the original structure, makes St. Kevin’s Church of Ireland church in Hollywood is ‘one of the most noteworthy churches’ in Ireland.

While folklore highlights St. Kevin’s links with Hollywood, suggesting he spent time in the area before travelling to Glendalough, surviving documents, such as a charter dating from 1192 which granted lands in the area to the de Marisco family, also supports this claim. The name ‘Bosco Sancto’ often features in these sources, while a document from the sixteenth century uses the term ‘Cillín Caoimhín’. It is therefore possible that a small church may have existed at Hollywood in the early medieval period, although the earliest surviving reference to a church in Hollywood is recorded in a thirteenth-century charter. While no evidence as to the location of the church has been discovered, it is possible that the site of that church is where the seventeenth-century St. Kevin’s Church of Ireland church is situated. Indeed, the discovery of five medieval grave slabs dating from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries in the graveyard at St. Kevin’s, Hollywood, provide evidence of ecclesiastical activity in the village at that site.

Ladies’ Day at Punchestown: 150 years of Festival Fashion – now published!

*New Publication*

If you’ve ever wondered about the history of Ladies’ Day at the Punchestown Festival, the effort involved and guidelines as to how to dress for the occasion, you can now learn all about it. My article on this topic has now been published in the West Wicklow Historical Society (WWHS) journal which was launched last Thursday, 11 November.

Copies of the journal are available from the following shops:

Burke’s, Main Street, Baltinglass

Dermot Hughes’, Dunlavin

Crafty Craic, Knockanarrigan

Now published! ‘To “Elude the Design and Intention” of the Penal Laws: Collusion and Discovery in Eighteenth-Century Ireland—A Case Study’

My article on collusion in eighteenth-century Ireland has now been published in Law and Religion in Ireland, 1700-1970 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), edited by Kevin Costello and Niamh Howlin from UCD Sutherland School of Law.

The book (and article!) can be found on the Palgrave Macmillan website.

The article examines the means used by Irish Catholics to circumvent the Penal Laws when purchasing land, an act outlawed by the 1704 and 1709 Popery Acts. Through a case study of three Catholic brothers-in-law who, in collusion with their Protestant brother-in-law, purchased various properties, the legal strategies, including trusts and statutes staple, employed to screen their illegal land acquisitions will be outlined, as will the arrangement of collusive discoveries, and the various tactics used to ensure Catholics retained possession of the property, or would receive financial compensation should the discovery prove successful.

Collusion & Discovery in C18th Co. Kildare Lecture, Monday 25 October – Kill Local History Group

I had a very enjoyable Bank Holiday Monday evening speaking to the Kill Local History Group about collusion and discovery in C18th Co. Kildare. The paper focused on the Lattin family from Morristown Lattin who, despite the Penal Laws, purchased various properties in Kildare and Dublin in collusion with Protestant relatives. I also spoke about the various legal strategies they employed in order to avoid their purchases bieng discovered by a ‘Protestant discoverer’.

To “Elude the Design and Intention” of the Penal Laws: Collusion and Discovery in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: A Case Study

I’m delighted to announce that my latest article, ‘To “Elude the Design and Intentionof the Penal Laws: Collusion and Discovery in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: A Case Study’, has been published as a chapter in Law and Religion in Ireland, 1700-1970 and will be available in September. You can order a copy here.

This article examines the means used by Irish Catholics to circumvent the Penal Laws when purchasing land, an act outlawed by the 1704 and 1709 Popery Acts. Through a case study of three Catholic brothers-in-law (Patrick Lattin, Richard Leigh and Michael Moore) who, in collusion with their Protestant brother-in-law (William Alcock), purchased various properties, the legal strategies, including trusts and statutes staple, employed to screen their illegal land acquisitions will be outlined, as will the arrangement of collusive discoveries, and the various tactics used to ensure Catholics retained possession of the property, or would receive financial compensation should the discovery prove successful.

“We’re not here gambling on the horses: we’re gambling on ourselves”

Ladies’ Day at Punchestown: 120 years of Festival Fashion 

Dr Emma Lyons 

It’s ‘Not free admittance, not flowers handed out at the gate, not special races for women punters only. “They get ducked out”.’ This was the description of Ladies’ Day at Punchestown given by regular racegoer ‘Whistler’ to Irish Times staff reporter Mary Maher on her drive down to the 1966 Punchestown Festival.  

On her arrival, she observed ‘The bobbing parade of flowerpot hats began well outside the curved quarter-mile of corrugated fence and merged into a forest or plumage inside. The women were there in varying degrees of elegance, each with her uniformly correct black patent shoes and bag, some with matching everything, a few with last-minute accessories like racing cards and binoculars. The men were there, too, looking totally absorbed.’ 

Although the 2021 Ladies’ DayPunchestown Festival may not be taking place this year, as happened in 1920 due to the general strikes (see my other piece on this topic), and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I think a gentle reminder of what we’re missing is necessary. 

Ladies’ Day at the Punchestown Festival has changed little over the years, receiving regular attention from newspaper reporters over the centuries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Irish Times had a ‘lady correspondent’ who reported on the ‘Dresses at Punchestown’. In 1899, describing the fashion at ‘Glorious Punchestown’, the unnamed ‘lady correspondent’ noted that ‘Many people feared that the fixture of the meeting for so early a date in April might rob it of its fashionable and picturesque appearance, as cold weather is not generally conducive to smart dressing, but even winter attire can now-a-days be made of such lovely and brilliant tintings [sic] that a gay effect can always be so secured, and as for the galaxy of beauty and fashion where should it be found’ if not at Punchestown.  

She continued, writing ‘That Punchestown sets the fashions for the early summer is now a received proverb, and certainly the fickle dame must have been busy, so varied, so elaborate, so artistic were the creations that met the eye at every turn.  

The fashion at the 1908 Punchestown Festival was considered sufficiently important to have a Weekly Irish Times article entitled ‘Spring Fashions at Punchestown’, dedicated entirely to fashion. The reporter highlighted the change in fashion from previous years, and the emergence of a new ‘tailored’ trend: 

‘As a vista of fashion, the scene was perhaps not so attractive as on many previous occasions, owing to the prevalence of the tailor-made modes, which, though eminently suited for a day in the open air, do not combine to make so brilliant and effective a picture as the gay muslins and chiffons and the lace and the fanciful chapeaux that are invariably donned under the influence of a more genial atmosphere. It did not, however, need a second glance at the Hunt Stand to realise how very smart the glorified tailor-made costume could be. Whether in cloth, serge, or tweed it demonstrated itself as the gown par excellence for Punchestown. 

 Four years later, in 1912, the daily Irish Times published an article entitled ‘Fashion at Punchestown’, wherein it was highlighted that ‘fashion and beauty reigned supreme’ on the day, with many of the ‘smartest people’ choosing to wear ‘dark coloured costumes, with sometimes brilliant and daring colours in their hats’. As with that of 1908, the 1912 article again noted a change in fashion preferences, this time highlighting that the hats ‘were very much smaller than we have seen for some years, while light cloth gaiters were also in evidence’. By 1914, fashion was again reported to have changed. Writing in April of that year, just four months before the outbreak of World War I, the lady correspondent noted that the many ‘smartly-gowned women’ at the races reminded her more of the Dublin Horse Show rather than the Punchestown Festival. Yet, she did stress that these ‘costumes and gowns were very charming’ and the women ‘chic, pretty and piquant’. The ‘lady correspondent’ also noted that ‘quite a lot of black was worn, and the beautiful shade of jonc-fawn relieved with white, and several shades of lime. The French idea of the black gown, with a brilliant dash of colour either in the hat or corsage was followed by many women, giving scope for originality and individuality’. This was the first reference to any ‘internationally inspired’ fashion, and is interesting to see it mentioned shortly before the outbreak of war. However, despite the outbreak of war, the Festival continued, and in April 1915 Switzer’s had a large ad in the Irsh Times advertising the ‘ready-to-wear fashions for Punchestown’ that they had in stock, while the following year, (the festival taking place just before the 1916 Easter Rising – see my article on this) many larger shops in Dublin, including Kellett’s, Holmes’, Robert & Co., and Switzer’s, all located in the city centre, placed large and detailed advertisements regarding clothes such as ‘Charming Silk Model Costumes and Gowns’, in the Irish Times and its ‘Fashion Intelligence’ section. 

Those attending the 1924 Ladies’ Day at Punchestown had to contend with some poor weather, and despite some grumbling the ladies still stepped out in their ‘dainty footgear’, despite the ‘muddy paths and soaking swards’. They did, however, cover their ‘smart costumes with mackintoshes or raincoats, and umbrellas concealed the millinery, which is generally one of the striking characteristics of the fashion side of the gathering’.  A similar concealment of style was highlighted 10 years later, when a 1934 article headline reported ‘Fashions Obscured by Mackintoshes’, resulting in only an ‘occasional glimpse of a scarf collar tied high under the chin, which gave one the keynote to the ensemble hidden beneath the owner’s mackintosh’. However, the 1940 Punchestown Festival was not so unlucky, with ‘brilliant sunshine and blue skies, resulting in a spring fashion parade as ‘virtually every woman came smartly clad in clothing whose chief feature was vivid colour’, including scarlet. Additionally, while ‘the hats were mostly small, and tilted forward on the head’, the variety in style was immense, varying from ‘small flowered toques with yards of veiling, [to] felt jockey caps, flat straw sailors, and even large-brimmed felt hats to match the wearers’ costumes’. 

The fine weather also made an appearance for the 1951 Punchestown Ladies’ day, allowing the ladies to display their ‘splendid’ costumes, while the 1955 the ‘lovely summer weather’ allowed Punchestown to retain its reputation as ‘the first outdoor fashion parade of the season’. The weather, which was ‘unkind for Ladies’ Day’ also appears in the Ladies’ Day reports of 1962 and 1964, although, as seen at the beginning, 1966 allowed the ‘flowerpot hats’ made an appearance without needing to be hidden with umbrellas.  

Fewer reports appear in the newspapers for the 1970s-1990s, although we are reassured by the press that the ‘impeccable’ fashion continued, with big hats, dainty shoes and ‘beautiful’ coats still making an appearance, as well as some clothes which, quite simply, were ‘utterly wrong’ and ‘quite ridiculous’ for a National Hunt festival like Punchestown. Similar themes continue into the 1990s, where Carol O’Meara of the Southern Star spotted ‘all the fashionable ladies’ the 1995 Punchestown Festival Ladies’ Day, but like so many reporters over the years, noted the impracticalities for some of the ‘way-out hats and flimsy, practically off-the-shoulder dresses’. Similar themes appear in the 21st-century reports, with some going so far as to suggest that some are so concerned with the Ladies’ Day best-dressed competitions that some ‘spend an entire afternoon at Punchestown and not see a race, let alone a horse running in one’. One attendee at the 2018 Ladies’ Day, dressed glamorously ‘in a purple cape and fur-trimmed gloves’, told the reporter that she pays little attention to the horses. Instead, she and her friends were there solely for the ‘fashion’, spending at least the last month deciding on the outfit. 

While many will not have spent the last month choosing their outfit for the 2020 Ladies’ Day at the Punchestown Festival, this piece shows that, for the last 120 years, fashion has played an important part in the festival for many; ladies, their admirers, reporters and businesses, with 1,000s of ladies following the great tradition of putting their best foot forward for the Ladies’ Day at the annual Punchestown Festival, even if it be in ‘dainty shoes’. 

The article also gives some observations on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of dressing for the Punchestown Festival,  

‘many sartorial mistakes … some of them have been so frightful that they have added considerably to the general gaiety. Just suppose you have been misguided enough to invest in a filmy nylon frock for ‘Ladies’ Day”. This in itself is bad enough. But it assumes the proportions of a subject for derisive laughter if you persist in wearing it should the sunshine disappear and the rainclouds hang low.’ 

The 1916 Punchestown Festival

A version of this piece was published in the Hollywood Fair journal, August 2016 (pp 40-45). I am currently working on a more comprehensive article.

Once again we are on the eve of Punchestown. To-morrow will be the opening day of the great steeplechase meeting which is held annually under the auspices of the Kildare and National Hunt Stewards, and which in years past was favoured with the patronage of Royalty and the élite of many countries. The gathering at Punchestown has always been representative of the higher class lovers of sport, and in their ranks beauty and fashion invariably held prominent place. On the present occasion the races, like much else, suffer considerably as the result of the war.

As indicated in the above Irish Times article, the Punchestown Festival of 11-12 April 1916 not only occurred during Lent, but also took place during the second year of World War I, which had broken out in late July 1914. The festival therefore took place under the atmosphere of the ‘Great War’, which many had believed would have been over by Christmas 1914, a fact demonstrated by the war diary of Captain Norman Leslie, from Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan, a soldier fighting in the British Army: ‘I prophesy the war will be over by the middle of November – we shall get home by December, at least the happy survivors!’. While many individuals engaged in numerous, various, and important, ‘war efforts’, many aspects of life, including social and sporting activities, continued during the war, albeit on a less extravagant basis. Theatre, football and horse racing fell into this category, and provided enjoyable activities for many throughout the war period. This article will examine the Punchestown Festival of 1916, a year in which Ireland not only suffered the effects of a world war, but also experienced the Easter Rising, which took place less than two weeks after the Festival.  By focusing on the continuation of racing during World War I, the introduction of taxes on the sport, as well as the efforts to attract the custom of potential race goers to shops, public transport and, indeed, the races, an insight into the 1916 Punchestown Festival, which took place during a world war and in the lead up to an insurrection to end British rule, will be gained.

Racing in Ireland suffered many impacts of the ‘Great War’. Between 1913 and 1918 Ireland experienced a decrease in both the number of race courses and race meetings. Race days decreased from 122 to 85, with the race meetings dropping from 89 to 56. The number of racing venues also reduced from 54 to 24 during the same period, a decrease which partly stemmed from the fact that the racecourses at Fermoy and The Curragh were ‘acquired for military purposes’. In addition, racing also received attention from the British Government and British War Office on a number of occasions during the war. For example, the War Office called for the cancelation of all horse racing, except at Newmarket, while racing was also banned in Britain for a brief period in May and June 1917. The relative shortness of the period in question was due to the realisation of ‘the general economic importance of racing as an industry and source of employment’, and, as a result,forty days’ racing was permitted in England, increasing to 80 in 1918. While a similar plan had been suggested for Ireland, it was never implemented, with the Irish stewards releasing a statement that ‘conditions’ which led the Jockey Club to restrict racing in Britain ‘did not affect’ Ireland.

Horse racing therefore continued in Ireland, and proved popular with the Irish people during the war years. However, the sport was impacted by the British Government’s introduction of both the Excess Profits Duty under the 1915 McKenny Budget and the 1916 Entertainments or Amusements Tax, which effected Irish racing until the 1920s. The Excess Profits Duty introduced ‘a 50% levy on profits in excess of pre-war levels’, being increased to 60% in 1916 and 80% in 1917. According to Fergus D’Arcy, Department of Finance papers noted many racecourses ‘also found the tax bearing directly upon them’, a fact which likely continued until 1921, the year to which the Excess Profits Duty was charged. Horse racing was additionally impacted by the introduction of the Entertainments or Amusements Tax. In early April 1916, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald McKenna, ‘proposed a new tax on “tickets for entrance fees charged on amusements, such as theatre, cinema, football matches, [and] horse racing.”’ The Chancellor believed such a ‘duty’ would raise almost £22 million per annum ‘by charging ½d. on admission fees up to 2d.’, with the duty increasing from that point. As with other public amusements, including concerts, recitals, lectures, readings, cinemas, dancing and games, including football matches, the admission fee to race meetings was subject to the levy introduced by the tax placed on admittance fees.

Despite the introduction of and discussion regarding taxes and duties targeting sport, reports on the 1916 Punchestown Festival were numerous in both the local and national press, although World War I still featured heavily. This can be observed in an Irish Times article in which the impact of the war upon the Festival in April 1916 was highlighted:

Punchestown, owing to the war, was not itself yesterday. There were, of course, the crowd, the bustle, and the gaiety that are always to be found at the Kildare and National Hunt Race Meeting, but the genuine spirit of Punchestown was lacking. This could easily be seen by a glance at the Club enclosure, and by the absence of the house parties usually associated with the meeting, while the fact that military officers have now something more serious to do than dispense their usual hospitality at Punchestown also brought about a noticeable change. The war has, in fact, altered completely the spirit of Punchestown. On every side its effects could be seen. The subdued shades of the ladies’ dresses, the prevalence of khaki uniforms of officers, occasionally interspersed with those of naval men on leave, and the on leave, and the presence of numerous soldiers from the Curragh garrison getting ready for the trenches showed that the war has had a great influence on racing gatherings.

Although those attending the Punchestown Festival included several officers on leave from the war, reference was made by one journalist to the fact that many people who were mourning the death of family members and friends of those who were fighting and killed in the Great War would not be attending the race meeting. It was the absence of such friends and family members, as well as those who had volunteered for and were fighting in the war, which resulted in a decrease in attendance at the Festival. This was noted in the Sporting News, where the impact of the war was highlighted. It was stated that much of the entertaining, which the author notes ‘was such a conspicuous feature of the gathering in pre-war days’, would not go ahead as they had done before the outbreak of World War I.

TUESDAY and WEDNEDAY APRIL 11th and 12th.  


Double-Day Ticket …………………. £1   0     0
Single-day Ticket …………………….   0  15    0        
Admission charges to 1916 Punchestown Festival

Although many people were not in a position to attend the Festival due to bereavement, those who were able to attend the festival recorded their day at the races. This included James Finn whose plans to attend the races are recorded in a letter he wrote to May Fay, thus highlighting that businesses provided their staff with a day’s leave to go to Punchestown Festival:

Punchestown is on for two days you know and we always get an office holiday for the races, half of the staff going one day and the other half on the second day. Result is that both yesterday and today were very quiet and so far as wish is concerned I might as well be off.

As demonstrated by the fact that Finn was given a day off for the racing, it can be observed that the Punchestown Festival was an entry on the social calendar, along with the Dublin Horse Show Week. Indeed, on 10 January, the Irish Times noted that ‘Dublin still has Punchestown season’, highlighting that the Festival was going ahead despite the on-going war.

Businesses were also eager to take advantage of the Punchestown Festival in the hope of attracting footfall for ‘gala’ events. As a result, many larger shops in Dublin, including Kellett’s, Holmes’, Robert & Co., and Switzer’s, all located in the city centre, placed large and detailed advertisements regarding clothes such as ‘Charming Silk Model Costumes and Gowns’, in the Irish Times and its ‘Fashion Intelligence’ section. Also appearing on Grafton Street, though this time at West and Son Jewellers, Grafton House, were a number of cups presented for well-known and popular races at the Punchestown Festival. These included the National Hunt Cup, the Kildare Hunt Cup, the Tickell Challenge Cup and the Bishopscourt Cup, the latter of which was a gold challenge cup presented by the Earl of Clonmel. In addition to the effort made by shops and jewellers for the Punchestown Festival, theatres, hotels and sporting organisations also attempted to attract customers during the Festival. These included the Gresham Hotel at which Mr and Mrs Leggett Byrne held a dance on 11 April under the patronage of the Dublin Fusiliers Central Advisory Committee in order to raise money for ‘the Kildare Prisoners of War Fund’, and a Flag Day in aid of the Disabled Soldiers’ Bureau also took place at Punchestown in April. In addition to the dance, a number of boxing ‘Punchestown Week Contests’ were held in the Ancient Concert Room on the same day. Events such as these, in addition to the advertisements regarding new and suitable attire available for purchase for the races, demonstrate that the Punchestown Festival was a highlight in the social calendar and that people travelled from across the country to attend the race meeting.

Many of those attending the Punchestown Festival travelled via public transport. Transport to the races featured in newspapers, with the publication of many advertisements regarding the varying modes of transport available in the run up to the Punchestown Festival. In addition to detailing the special and nationwide race day trains, timetables and ticket prices, the fact that ‘cattle train[s]’ would not run as usual was highlighted. However, anyone who wished to transport horses from Dublin or intermediate stations, the possibility of a ‘special train leaving Kingsbridge at 9.30am, returning from Naas after departure of last Passenger Special’ was advertised, thus ensuring transport to Punchestown for those who needed it. Others opted to drive or be driven to the race meeting, a fact expected by Punchestown. In preparation for the cars arriving to the racecourse, a number of notices were published in the classified advertisement section of the national papers to highlight the traffic arrangements for the race meeting. For the 1916 Punchestown Festival, it was noted that cabs and hackney cars, such as the Motor Char-A-Bancs, were to veer left following their entry to the racecourse, drop their passengers at the Paddock Gate Enclosure and then turn left ‘on to the field’. In contrast, those with Kildare Hunt Carriage Enclosure Tickets who arrived by private cars or hackney carriages were to turn right the after entering Punchestown, pass the back of the Hunt Stand and park in the relevant enclosure. The advertising of these directions for cars and carriages highlights the crowd expected for the Punchestown Festival.

Driving Routes to Punchestown, published in Irish Life, 17 April 914

The 1916 Punchestown Festival took place during World War I, which had been on-going for just under two years. While many people were able to attend the race meeting, including business employees and soldiers who were on leave, it should be noted that others did not attend due to family members being killed on the front. While Dublin shops actively advertised their fashions in a bid to attract customers planning on attending the Festival, and organisers of Dublin entertainment events publicised the details in the media, attendees to the races were impacted by the British Government’s introduction of the Excess Profits Duty. Nonetheless, despite the challenges posed by taxes introduced due to the war, the Punchestown Festival was ‘held as usual’. Despite the challenges and difficulties imposed by World War I, the 1916 Punchestown Festival, famous for its banks races, was thronged with crowds who travelled, and contributed to the ‘bustle, and the gaiety that are always to be found the Kildare’ racecourse.