BY CAMMY HARLEY
COMEDIAN Des Bishop’s great granny features in a photo taken in Glengarriff in the early 1900s which is part of the renowned Lawrence Photograph Collection.
Held in the National Library of Ireland, the collection comprises hundreds of pictures of places and people from all over the country.
The comedian’s great grandmother Mary O’Connor died 100 years ago last month and is in a picture called ‘Halfway House to Glengarriff.’
Married to Patrick in 1905, the couple acquired the Tunnel Cottage from a relative onto which they built a two-storey house and operated a successful teashop on the Cork side of the border. Being the only teashop in the area, Mary and Patrick had a captive market and 10 years later they made further home improvements and bridged the gap between the two houses by adding an upper floor to the cottage and linking it across the gap to the main house.
They bricked up the space below the link and plastered the two buildings as one. The new space was used for storage and access to it was by way of a ladder from a trapdoor at the first level.
The period from mid-1920 to early 1921 was a fraught time in West Cork and martial law was declared and curfews put in place.
In Glengarriff, the British were concerned that suspected IRA volunteers could disappear between Glengarriff and Kenmare given the remoteness of the Caha Mountains.
The cottage was one of the few houses on the road and Mary and Patrick used the space between the two houses to hide active volunteers. One of Mary’s daughters later recalled how her bed and the rug beneath it would be moved, and men would go down into the space below.
Her bed would then be moved back, and she would go back to sleep. Sadly Mary died in pregnancy.