The Square, Parsonstown (Birr, Co Offaly)

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From an obelisk to a column, from Drogheda to Parsonstown, from the Orange Order to the Liberator "Butcher" Cumberland.

Originally we thought perhaps that the statue adorning this column in Birr (previously called Parsonstown) was that of the Liberator, Daniel O'Connell. However, the community has confirmed that it was a statue (now gone) of "Butcher" Cumberland, Prince William Augustus. From Pigot's 1824 Directory:
 In the middle of the town is a stone column of the Doric order, with a shaft about 25 feet high, and surmounted with a pedestrian statue of the Duke of Cumberland in a Roman habit, cast in lead, and painted of a stone colour; it was erected in 1747

There's a fairly comprehensive report on the history, development and preservation of the column on the Offaly Council site.

Thanks to everyone for today's contributions - especially O Mac, B-59 and Wendy: for quickly providing confirmation of location, subject and some local context...


Photographer: Robert French

Collection: Lawrence Photograph Collection

Date: c.1880-1900

NLI Ref: L_ROY_01805

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at catalogue.nli.ie

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Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 22909
robertfrench williamlawrence lawrencecollection lawrencephotographicstudio glassnegative nationallibraryofireland birr column cumberlandcolumn dukeofcumberland butchercumberland countyoffaly emmetsquare squaresquare parsonstown melbasnightclub lawrencephotographcollection

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  • profile

    O Mac

    • 03/Dec/2015 08:51:04

    Birr ....Cumberland Square/Duke Square

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    B-59

    • 03/Dec/2015 08:52:37

    Streetview: goo.gl/maps/8zTSsAhp3zN2

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    Wendy:

    • 03/Dec/2015 08:55:01

    Great to see-( later Cumberland Square Birr ) very pertinent to my family history! Date would probably be in the later years--my bedroom window when staying with grandparents (many years later!!!) would have been the fourth from top right!!

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    B-59

    • 03/Dec/2015 09:02:06

    It's now Emmet Square "Cumberland Column, Emmet Square, Birr, County Offaly Freestanding ashlar limestone Doric column, erected in 1746, mounted on an ashlar pedestal with plinth and cornice. Located at the centre of Emmet Square. Lamp posts to each corner and protective cast-iron bollards surrounding platform. Formally supported statue of the Duke of Cumberland which was removed in the early twentieth century. Plaque inserted to pedestal reads: 'Erected by Birr Town Council to commemorate the bicentenary of the execution of Robert Emmet 1778-1803. Emmet Square was renamed in his honour in 1922. "When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written", R. Emmet.' " www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&...

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    DannyM8

    • 03/Dec/2015 09:10:30

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] Owen, I think the Post Office is on the other side of the square.

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 03/Dec/2015 09:26:33

    So I was wrong? It was the Duke of Cumberland up there to provide a platform for the birds and not "The Liberator"?

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    eyelightfilms

    • 03/Dec/2015 09:29:29

    The need to put the Duke back up. The column looks severely truncated now. www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.0963616,-7.9107004,3a,75y,203.7... In fact the whole square looks a bit of a disorganised mess.

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    John Spooner

    • 03/Dec/2015 09:37:20

    Can't see any dogs for https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] , but there would have been plenty on a Monday morning in November 1896 (Freeman's Journal, Tuesday, November 3, 1896>

    ORMOND AND KING'S COUNTY FOXHOUNDS - OPENING MEET OF THE SEASON. Birr, Monday. Mr Assheton Biddulph, the populr M F H had a delightful day in regard to weather for the initial meet of the season. The place of assembly was Cumberland square, in this town. The followers of the Chase from all sides of the country responded to the Master' s call, and he had also in his train representatives from the Westmeaths, East Galways and Tipperarys, and Templemore. With all of these there was scarcely room for the score of fair hunting cyclists, who for the first time in a semi-organised form, substituted the bike for horseflesh. They had the second place of honour in the customary procession through the town, which always marks the opening day of the season here.

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    O Mac

    • 03/Dec/2015 09:41:49

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] I'm glad it's not a diamond.

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    BeachcomberAustralia

    • 03/Dec/2015 10:18:47

    At last a square square ! "Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba famously sang to crowds gathered below in the Square, from her hotel room above in Dooly's Hotel. The nightclub attached to the hotel is named "Melba's" to mark the occasion." according to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birr,_County_Offaly But her biography says otherwise - "... And another memory I had was of singing in the open square on a drizzly afternoon at a concert in Birr [in July 1881] and being well routed in popular favour by the village belle, a strapping lass with red ribbons in her hair. ... " books.google.com.au/books?id=MLY7Z7SlPLEC&pg=PA184&am... Red Herring - Dame Nellie Melba sings 'Home, Sweet Home' - youtu.be/YMi16nYUFq0

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    BeachcomberAustralia

    • 03/Dec/2015 10:32:49

    "Birr or Parsonstown." The Birr correspondent of the "Dublin Freeman" writes: On and after 1st January, 1901, in the language of officialdom, Parsonstown will no longer bear that that name, but but it it will will revert to to the more ancient title of Birr. ... ... "
    From - trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/170603445 So the photo is before 1901 ?

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    Niall McAuley

    • 03/Dec/2015 11:58:27

    Sheppard the Stationer is in the 1901 census, NOT called Parsonstown there.

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    RETRO STU

    • 03/Dec/2015 13:12:44

    Anyone know the fate of the Duke of Cumberland statue from Birr?

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    sharon.corbet

    • 03/Dec/2015 13:19:32

    [https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]] It was removed in 1915 either for safety reasons, or because some Scottish soldiers objected to it. "The head, which is owned by the Hunt Museum, is currently on loan to the Earl of Rosse and housed in Birr Castle, while part of the arm is to be found the Birr public library." From here "THE CUMBERLAND COLUMN, BIRR, CO. OFFALY CONSERVATION REPORT " from 2009. ETA: There's a photo of the removal of the statue in 1915 if you scroll down on the Birr Historical Society page.

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    Swordscookie

    • 03/Dec/2015 14:26:34

    The Bloody Butcher himself commemorated in an Irish town? I went to the site of the battle of Culloden and got a detailed description of the action from a super guide. Cumberland really got his tactics right on the day and slaughtered the Clans and their Irish allies. His victory was severely tarnished afterwards though by his brutality even by the standards of the time. Quote from Wikipedia " Cumberland ordered his troops to show no quarter against any remaining Jacobite rebels (French Army personnel, including those who were British- or Irish-born, were treated as legitimate combatants). His troops traversed the battlefield and stabbed any of the rebel soldiers who were still alive.27 When Cumberland learned that a wounded soldier lying at his feet belonged to the opposing cause he instructed a major to shoot him; when the major (James Wolfe) refused to do so, Cumberland commanded a private soldier to complete the required duty."

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    B-59

    • 03/Dec/2015 17:02:19

    Apparently there are no plans to reinstate the 'Butcher' Cumberland to his place on top of the pedestal, s. www.independent.ie/irish-news/no-place-on-birrs-pillar-fo...

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 03/Dec/2015 20:23:30

    Thanks all. We've seemingly gone from controversial evictions to controversial monuments. For some reason I'm happy to hear it was the Scots who took issue with this one :) Hopefully we'll find a more upbeat theme as we lead-in to the holidays. In the meantime thanks for today's contributions - description, location and tags all updated!

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    Sunny Harry

    • 03/Dec/2015 22:22:21

    I took this picture a few weeks ago https://www.flickr.com/photos/frankcawley/22304853944

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    patrick.vickers1

    • 03/Dec/2015 22:30:19

    Why was this dedicated to the Duke, what connection did he have to Parsonstown ?

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    patrick.vickers1

    • 04/Dec/2015 08:41:32

    On Google I can find no connection but was surprised to find out that he was Chancellor of Trinity College for over 10 years.

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 04/Dec/2015 09:32:52

    Our thanks to Wendy for the following link. The heading on Wendy's shot: RJ Sheppard born circa 1834 and Kathleen Wallace great grandfather and gt grandmother probably 1890 RJ Sheppard born circa 1834 & his wife Kathleen Wallace

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    sharon.corbet

    • 04/Dec/2015 10:00:30

    [https://www.flickr.com/photos/patvic67] There's an interesting article on Birr and the statue here which claims "Sir Laurence’s vision was recently revealed by the discovery of an album found at Birr Castle entitled Miscelanea Structura Curiosa. It contains a series of architectural drawings attributed to Sir Laurence and his cousin, the architect Samuel Chearnley. These show that the Cumberland Column was merely the first part of an infinitely more complex project, in which the two collaborators hoped to convert Birr into what architectural historian William Laffan likens to a ride on ‘a fairpark ghost train’, replete with fantastical fountains, grotesque grottos and labyrinthine corridors modelled on Hell itself. The column was just the start – and clearly the soberest aspect – of the project."

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    Vab2009

    • 07/Dec/2015 09:58:40

    Isn't it strange how modern traffic makes the square look smaller? https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizinitaly You were beside that lovely curved frontage?

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    Vab2009

    • 07/Dec/2015 10:01:43

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] That seems an appropriate fate (for the statue) going by Sean's account!!