Turlough B. O Bryen (1853-1928), The Bee Man from Co. Clare

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Sduddy
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Turlough B. O Bryen (1853-1928), The Bee Man from Co. Clare

Post by Sduddy » Sun Oct 07, 2018 10:09 am

One of the functions of the Congested Districts Board was to assist agriculture ‘by encouraging and developing knowledge of practical and scientific agriculture and by improvement of the breed of livestock and poultry’. One of the instructors engaged by the Board was Turlough O Bryen, whose expertise was in beekeeping. He came to be known, all over Ireland, as “The Bee Man from Co. Clare”, and is always mentioned in articles on the history of beekeeping in Ireland. One article says, “The Congested Districts Board employed a number of beekeeping instructors, the most famous of which was undoubtedly Turlough O'Bryen (The Beeman from the Co. Clare). He was renowned for his knowledge and enthusiasm. Turlough traveled incredible distances on a bicycle in all weathers to help beekeepers across Ireland. Turlough was a member of the Irish Beekeepers Association and for a time was the chairman” (https://www.irishbeekeepersassociation. ... -past.html)

Turlough belonged to the a branch of the O’Briens, the O’Briens of Glencolumbkille: http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie:8080/ ... sp?id=2139

His death was registered in Corofin in 1928: Turlough Butler O’Bryen, Inchiquin, Gentleman, aged 75; informant: Mary O’Bryen, wife (irishgenealogy.ie). He was born in 1853, but I have found no record of his birth. I see there’s a book on him by James K Watson (1995) and I hope to get a read of it soon. Maybe someone has already read it and can give some more on the Bee Man. I would like to know about his early history and how he came by his knowledge of beekeeping.

In the meantime there’s excellent information on the O Bryens in The Parish of Kilkeedy compiled by Frank Brew (p 112). In writing about Kells Cottage (in the townland of Kells), Brew says that it was an old picturesque homestead, one storey, T shaped, thatched, with an orchard behind. There’s a modern house there now: “The place has long connections with the O’Brien family…. Conor O’Brien who died in 1753 belonged to the Ennistymon branch of the family and spent some time serving in the French army. He married Winifred Crean whose uncle Sir Walter Blake of east Galway provided her with a dowry of three farms and the castle of Glencolmcille. His two grandsons were Terence of Glencolmcille who died in 1850, and Conor of Poplar near Lake Inchiquin who died in 1849. Terence had seven sons, one of whom, Murtagh, was an Inspector in the R.I.C. and his grandson was Turlough Butler O’Bryen who was well known in Clare and Galway as a beekeeking instructor with the Congested Districts Board”.
Brew goes on to explain that the O’Bryens who lived in Kells (in 1901 there are 3 households) were descendants of Conor O’Bryen of Poplar and he gives some information on these, eg. Marianne O’Bryen married Hewitt Bridgeman who then moved from Teernea to one of the O’Bryen houses in Kells, ie. Kells House in the west of the townland. Brew references The O’Briens of Glencolmcille by P.I.D. O’Brien in The Irish Genealogist.
The 1911 census shows Turlough Butler O’Bryen living in Trafalgar Terrace, Dublin, aged 57, Instructor in Agriculture, along with his wife, Mary, his sister Elizabeth (whose religion is Church of Ireland) and Julia Roe, servant. Turlough and Mary are married 11 years, but have no children.

That 1911 census shows Albert and George O’Bryen living Lickaun (Templemaley). They belong to a family of O’Bryens who lived in Clonroad, Ennis (In 1901 they go by “O’Bryan”). They are among the children of Cornelius O’Bryen and Catherine Faulkner. I think this family may be connected to the Glencolumbkille O’Bryens – the Carran baptisms have one entry: 1864: Francis Albert Charles O’Bryen to Connor O’Bryen and Cate Faulkner, Glan; sponsors: Turlough Thos O’Bryan, Maryann O’Brien.

Turlough Butler O’Bryen laid claim to the Earldom of Thomond and the title of “The O’Brien”. This claim went all the way to the House of Lords, who decided against him and in favour of the O’Briens of Dromoland. The Glencolumbkille O Bryens were Catholic – they had chosen to stay with the old religion at some point in their history – maybe that was a mistake. Turlough died in Inchiquin – a fitting place, I suppose. His title was to be "The Bee Man from Co. Clare" - much more memorable than any other.

Sheila

Sduddy
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Re: Turlough B. O Bryen (1853-1928), The Bee Man from Co. Cl

Post by Sduddy » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:33 am

I enjoyed reading The Bee Man of County Clare, by James K. Watson, very much. It’s a small book - only 80 pages – and the print is so tiny it seems meant for a bee, but I soon got used to it. And there are some photos – pictures are always good. Turlough O’Bryen comes across as a really loveable man. His enthusiasm for bees was such that he could not help but convey it – he thought all co-operative societies should have the bee as their symbol – he called bees his pets – his dinner would grow cold while he was answering a question on bees.

Now the details of his early life and how he came by his knowledge of beekeeping: Watson explains that in 1875 Morty O' Bryen owned Columbkille House and 396 acres of land – the whole of the townland: there are no notes, but this information was probably found in the Return of Owners of Land of One Acre and Upwards: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclar ... /lando.htm. He says that it was here that Edward O'Bryen reared three sons. He does not state Edward’s relationship to Morty, but that doesn’t really matter. Edward’s three sons were William, who became the owner of the land and residence, and Murtagh, alias Morty, and Edward, who emigrated. Morty was born in 1808, joined the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1841 and was posted to Co. Tyrone and then to Co. Louth. He married Anna Dorothea Butler (of the Cregg Butlers), and it was in Ardee, Co. Louth, that Turlough was born in 1853. (No wonder I could not find his baptism). His sister, Elizabeth, was born the previous year, and that seems to be the whole of the family. It was the custom at the time to raise the female children in the faith of the mother and the male children in the faith of the father – that explains why Turlough is Roman Catholic and Elizabeth is Church of Ireland in the 1901 census.

Turlough got his early education in Ardee, and was already interested in beekeeping at that stage (having read a chapter on Bees and Bee-Keeping in the National Society’s Reading Book). Then he started at the Erasmus Smith College in Ennis in 1871, as a day pupil. He was living in Clonroad, so I reckon he was related to the O Bryan family, who are living there in 1901. Then, in 1873, he entered the medical faculty in Queen’s College, Galway, where he matriculated, but did not complete the course. It seems he had to return to Glencolumbkille to help on the farm. It’s not very clear, but I think he may not have lived in Glencolumbkille house itself. Watson quotes a relative as saying, “he farmed with cattle half a mile from Glencolumkille house”.

And he also kept bees. Watson quotes Turlough himself as saying, “In 1884 I looked on William A. Clandillon, Lough Cutra National School, Co. Galway, as a bee master, and he gave me my first lesson in manipulating stocks in frame hives, before subduing cloth was heard of. Such was his gentleness of touch, even with crude hives then in vogue, he was able to show me the brood in all its stages”. Turlough became secretary of the Bee-keepers Association of Ireland, and, in 1893, was employed by the Congested Districts Board as temporary Inspector and Instructor in Bee-keeping.

His great knowledge of bees was secondary, it seems, to his “persuasive eloquence”, and this was his great gift when he set about “trying to convert beekeepers from the use of straw skeps to the new, modern system of bee-keeping with the movable frame hive”. The old system entailed killing the whole stock of bees in the Autumn and starting afresh with a new swarm in Spring. This was very unfriendly to the bees, plus it had resulted in a breed of bees that were “excessive swarmers”. (I now know about excessive swarmers, Foul Brood disease, Isle of Wight Disease, how Mr. Lipton tested and liked the honey, and how Police Constables got sucked into beekeeking). Turlough often took a Bee Tent with him (even though the pole was a bit too long for some train wagons) and demonstrated how to move bees from a skep to a new hive by going through the operation using real bees in the Bee Tent. Somebody in the locality supplied the bees. He didn’t mind a few stings - he claimed that bee stings cured Rheumatic disease. When giving a lecture, he would show various operations using Magic Lantern slides.

Turlough was aged 46 when he married Mary Macnamara, the eldest daughter of (the late) Dr. Michael Macnamara, Corofin, Co. Clare (Mar. 1900). She was of a similar age and they had no children. It was a happy marriage. They lived in Trafalgar Terrace, in Dublin (it’s among the photos in the book), but moved to Inchiquin House, Corofin, when Turlough retired in 1924. He did not receive a pension and there were some angry letters from people who considered that he had been thrown aside “like a sucked orange”. Finally the Editor of the Irish Bee Journal commented: “We understand that Mr O’Bryen, by some unfortunate mischance, although Chief Inspector for 31 years, was not on the “permanent staff” having originally accepted his appointment as a temporary one. In such cases, the law is very definite, and the rules are very hard and fast”.

The bees came to Turlough in Inchiquin house. While he was at Devotions one Sunday, a messenger came into the church, and up the aisle, and whispered to Turlough that there was a swarm of bees in the tree by the holy well near Inchiquin house.

I must admit that my eyes welled up when I read of the death of Turlough in 1928: announcing the death, the editor of the British Bee Journal said, “The beekeepers of Ireland will read these lines in sorrow, for T.B., as we all called him, was a much loved man”.

Watson adds a line from a poem at the end of each chapter, e.g.
“Oh, for a bee’s experience
of clovers and of noon” (Emily Dickinson Poems Part 2).

Sheila
Last edited by Sduddy on Mon Jul 27, 2020 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sduddy
Posts: 956
Joined: Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:07 am

Re: Turlough B. O Bryen (1853-1928), The Bee Man from Co. Clare

Post by Sduddy » Mon Jul 27, 2020 11:55 am

Well, I think there is something not quite right about the O Bryen lineage set out in the second paragraph above (where I begin with “Now the details of his early life”). I think the bit saying that Edward’s three sons were William, Murtagh and Edward is wrong. I found this marriage record which gives the father of Murtogh O’Bryen as Terence* O Bryen:
8 Dec 1849: Marriage of Murtogh O Bryen, Gentleman, 14 Gardiner St., son of Terence O Bryen, Gentleman, to Anna Dorothea Butler, 14 Gardiner St., daughter of Francis Butler, Gentleman, in St. Thomas Church, Parish of St. Thomas, City of Dublin; witnesses: James Blaquire, Andrew B. Nolan: https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/ ... 392693.pdf
Then this marriage record shows that Terence O Bryen was one of the Glencolumbkille O Bryens:
6 Mar 1851: Marriage of Cornelius Thomas O Bryen, aged 28, Collumbkill, Co. Clare, son of Terence O Brien, Gentleman, to Cathrine Emily Falkiner, Hillsboro, Co Sligo, daughter of Thomas Falkiner, Gentleman, at Ardrahan, Co. Galway; witnesses: Thomas Falkiner, Pierce O’Brien: https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/ ... 409023.pdf
So I think Frank Brew must be right when he says “Terence had seven sons, one of whom, Murtagh, was an Inspector in the R.I.C.” – see fourth paragraph of my first posting.

This account of the O'Brien lineage by John O’Donovan, written in 1839, seems to be supporting Turlough O Bryen’s contention that he should to be called “The O’Brien”: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclar ... valley.htm

*Terence is an anglicisation of Turlough.

Sheila

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