The study of Townland names as a source of local history is a fascinating
activity. We live in townlands and their names are in every day use, sometimes
we are surprised to see a townland name crop up in an advertisement for a piece
of land or a house, which is new to us. Townlands were created at different
times and for different purposes, mainly in the Middle Ages. The Irishman, P.W.
Joyce, did much to put on record the place names of Ireland in his famous three
volume work "Place Names of Ireland". There are approximately 62,500 townlands
Their primary purpose was to distinguish landed interests, that is their ownership and relationship of one unit of land to another.
About 15% are named after natural features, such as Hill - Cnoc-lios, Ridge or Drom, Cathair, Baile and so on.
70% are named after trees, woods, plots, bog and marshes. Thus we have Ceapac na bFaoiteac, the plot of enclosure of the Whites; Kilbeg - Coillbeag, the small wood; Cooga, the fifth part; Lisowen, the Fort of Owen; Bilboa, Beal Atha Bó or the Ford of the Cow Mouth, which seems a clumsy way of putting it. 19% are called after units of land, such as fields, river banks, lakes and their shores. 8,800 townland names are in English and those names in Irish, whether pure or corrupted survived the death of Irish as a spoken language, as a matter of fact Irish placenames are the only remnants of the language in everyday use. We freely talk of Toher, Reenavanna, Clonlusk or Curraghamakeen, without thinking in what language it is spoken in. Curraghamakeen, which incidentally means "The Moor of the Captive".
Now back to Bilboa, Cooga and Castlegarde, Caislean na gCeard, the Castle of the Trades.
Castlegarde townland contains 500 acres of which one fifth is bog and rough ground and the rest pasture and meadowland. It was owned by Waller O'Grady. Bilboa contains 847 acres of which 50 acres were bog and the rest pasture. It was then owned by Lord Stradbroke and let to seventeen tenants at £1 to £1.8 shillings per acre, Tithe included. This Tithe or tenth part was a cause of a lot of friction between tenant and the Tithe Collector, who was the local Protestant Rector. It was the Tithe that started Fr. Hickey of Doon on his crusade against Mr. Coote and Mr. Le Fanu, over the collection of the Tenth Part.
Cooga Bog was owned by Lord Stanley and let to ten tenants at £1 per acre and the Tithe was l/6d. per acre. The townland contains 540 acres of which half is bogland and that Bog is the real reason for writing this article. In the year 1708 the Bog moved along a valley called Poulevard (which was another name for Castlegarde) and buried three houses containing twenty one persons. The flow of liquid turf was one mile long and a quarter of a mile broad and the mass of turf was 20 feet deep on some places. The flood of wet turf ran for several miles, crossed several roads, demolished several bridges and eventually flowed into the lake at Coolpish or Cool na Pisha. This account of the Bog Burst at Cooga is taken from the Dublin Evening Telegraph of 2nd January, 1897 and is discussed in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy by a Mr. Ouseley. From 1702 until 1896 there were fifteen similar Bog Bursts in Ireland, the last one was in Kerry at Owenaree, seven miles from Killarney on 27th December 1896. More about the investigation later. There was a smaller burst in the West of Ireland in 1994.
Scientists have long argued over the causes of a bog erupting and flowing a distance.
On March 27th, 1788, a large bog of 500 acres at Ballymore, near Knockavilla, began to be agitated for three days before it burst on the 30th March and flowed towards Ballygriffin, Golden, burying 4 houses and covering a large tract of land.
Various reasons were put forward as to the cause of such an upheaval of heavy wet mobile turf. One theory was a build-up of methane gas, another was a build-up of water after heavy rain. It must be remembered that a bog lies in what is really a saucer-shaped depression in land. That is why that type of land becomes a bog, there is no place for the water to drain out of the saucer shaped depression in the land.
One thing that must be remembered is that over the thousands of years that takes to develop a bog, the upper surface of the bog becomes dome shaped, which adds to the pressure on the captive mass of wet turf held in place by the rim of non-bog land all round it.
A team of experts led by Dr. Lloyd Praeger spent some time in Kerry trying to find out the cause of the eruption of turf that took place. Dr. Praeger had visited Cooga Bog in 1900, accompanied by a Mr. R.D. O'Brien. This time the visit was to study the Botany of Cooga and the Glen of the Bilboa River. They were pleased with what they saw. A great many wild plants were found including, The Royal Fern and The Sundew, which traps insects to supplement its diet. They are still in Cooga Bog after all those years.
Praeger remarked that the bog was cut away then over one hundred years ago. Cooga Bog provided large amounts of turf during the years 1944 - 1948, when turf was very welcome as fuel.
In 1946 on 12th August the Bilboa river over-flowed and flooded the most of the bog, taking away quantities of turf and hay - a big loss to the local people.
The bog today is covered in vegetation, bracken fern, rushes and bushes and wild plants of all kinds making what one Dutch visitor described as a paradise of naturally occurring plants without any help from man.
The liquid turf that flowed out of the bog in 1708 spread out over the land southwards and after some time it dried out and was all cut away as turf, by then almost saved and in some way compensated for the devastation caused by the Bog Burst.
The surface of the Bog was covered in vegetation including a few trees and a lot of bushes, mainly willow, this cover also moved with the liquid turf and were scattered over a wide area. When released from its confines the liquid turf covers a much wider area than it originally occupied.
East of the Bog is Kilmoylan House, the former home of the White Family. They are credited with adding the name White to Cappawhite. The Whites lived in Lisowen and at Cappawhite before moving to Kilmoylan. The last White to live in Kilmoylan was Newport White, who died in 1924. He is interred in the Churchyard of the Church of Ireland in Doon. He was married to Prudence Browne, daughter of Hawtrey Browne, the Rector of Donohill, who retired to Kilbeg House, Cappawhite.
Westward from Cooga Bog is Knock-na-Carraige Glebe, which O'Donovan, in his survey, says is not a Townland but a Glebe or Church Property. The Glebe was originally 41 acres, including the limestone quarry, now filled in. The Glebe House, once occupied by Rev. Thomas Atkinson, was built in 1808 by a Rev. Richard Chadwick at cost of £700 and a further £1,000 was spent on it in 1831.
Mr. Atkinson gave his name to the nearby Cross Road. He was Treasurer of the Doon Famine Relief Fund in 1846. £139.17s.6d. was collected from only 33 subscribers. Lord Lismore headed the list with £25 followed by £20 from a minor name, Marshall of Toomaline. Waller O'Grady gave £10. Thos. Atkinson gave £10 and Erasmus Smith, who later owned the Glebe, gave £15. The smallest subscription was five shillings.
Cooga Bog and the surrounding pasture and meadow land is the largest stretch of land in the area that is not built over or developed in any way and in future years will be looked upon as a very great environmental asset and as such it should be preserved as it is. All the Continental bogs have disappeared. The authorities in Holland are actually trying to restore a bog to its former state. Bogs grow very slowly, about half an inch or less of turf is deposited in a wet year. At one time it seemed as if bogs were unlimited in Ireland but reclamation and mechanical turf cutting is slowly but surely eroding the great mass of Irish Bogland, which is a vast reservoir of wild life,, from the lark singing high in the sky to all the other Fauna and Flora that goes to make up Cooga Bog. The song "The Old Bog Road", will in the future, take on a new meaning and significance.