A Village Called Moyvane

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A Village called Moyvane with excerpts from GABRIEL FITZMAURICE.

Moyvane (Irish: Maigh Mheáin, meaning "main or middle plain") is a small, sleepy straggle of a village in the north of Kerry about seven miles from Listoweloff the main N69 road to the South-West and Tarbert to the North. The village of Knockanure lies to the immediate South. Moyvane is so much off the main road that one could say that life, like the traffic, is passing them by.

Significantly, a high proportion of the parishioners have motor cars which they use increasingly to transport them out of Moyvane for shopping, for business, and for entertainment. The village had been located on the lands of Landlord George Sands and called Newtown Sandes, so named after the landlords’ agents, the much hated Sandes family. As far back as 1886, the locals sought to change the name.

After a public meeting in the village, the citizenry agreed henceforth to call the village ‘Newtown Dillon’ - for John Dillon, the M.P. who was involved in the national and land struggles at that time. (He attended that particular meeting in the village). But habits are hard to change, and, little by little, people forgot about ‘Newtown Dillon’, preferring the familiar Newtown Sandes’ instead.

In 1916, the name was changed to ‘Newtown Clarke’ for Thomas Clarke, one of the executed leaders of the Easter Rising. ‘Newtown Clarke’ suffered a similar fate to ‘Newtown Dillon’. In 1939, at the instigation of Fr. Dan O’Sullivan, the local Parish Priest, a move was made to have the name officially changed to ‘Moyvane’ (‘The Middle Plain’), the name of the town land on which the village is situated.

Eventually, in the late 1960s, the name was officially changed to ‘Moyvane’, though for years afterwards one could still see ‘Newtown Sandes’ on road signs! This created terrible confusion. Even after the resident's vote, the village was still officially named "NewtownSandes" on signposts and survey maps up through the early 1990s before being changed finally to "Moyvane". However, some natives still casually refer to the village as "Newtown".

I suppose it’s fair to say that most of the people who live in Moyvane were either born here or have married into the parish (My own sister has). If one can resist the bright lights of places far away (‘faraway cows have long horns’!), and if one can earn a living here, Moyvane is a very good place to be.

The pace of life is as slow and easy as the cattle that up to recently ambled through the village, morning and evening, to the milking parlours in the village farmyards. One doesn’t have to develop paranoia about locking things up: if you forget to lock the house at night, the chances are it won’t be burgled; if you forget to lock the car, it’s unlikely ‘twill be stolen.

The people are a vibrant and friendly people who are passionate about sport - the traditional passions are for football and greyhounds, but now the younger generation are excelling at basketball and badminton, athletics too. The pubs are convivial, and, at times, boisterous with hilarity and song.

In villages such as Moyvane, the old adage rings true: ‘ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ (‘people depend on each other’) for people do help one another and are concerned for one another. If, on occasion, this concern is carried over, by misguided busybodies, to prying, I wouldn’t or couldn’t describe Moyvane as a Valley of Squinting Windows.

Moyvane was the homeland of All-Ireland players, Con Brosnan, his son Jim, John Flavin, Tom Mahony and the O’Sullivans.

There, where the Owenamoy flows to meet the Gale half a mile from Moyvane village was born the father of Tom Moore, Ireland’s best known poet of the last century.

Having attended local hedge schools, he settled down in Dublin. One of Tom Moore’s poems, “By the Feale’s Wave”, was said to be composed at Kilmorna on a visit to Pierce O’Mahony.

It relates the tale of romantic love. When the young Earl of Desmond having lost his way, entered the home of a man called McCormack he fell in love with his daughter. When they married they were forced to emigrate to France. “Love came and brought sorrow with ruin in its train, but so deep that tomorrow I’d face it again.”

The White Boys were active in the district during the early 1800’s. The Whiteboys were a secret organization in the 18th century which used violent tactics to defend tenant farmer land rights for subsistence.

Their name derives from the white smocks the members wore in their nightly raids, but the Whiteboys were usually referred to at the time as Levellers by the authorities, and by themselves as "Queen Sive Oultagh's children", "fairies", or as followers of "Johanna Meskill" or "Sheila Meskill", all symbolic figures supposed to lead the movement.

They sought to address rack-rents, tithe collection, excessive priests' dues, evictions and other oppressive acts. As a result they targeted landlords and tithe collectors.

Over time, Whiteboyism became a general term for rural violence connected to secret societies. Because of this generalization, the historical record for the Whiteboys as a specific organisation is unclear.

A suspected Whiteboy was arrested at Keylod and he was hanged at Knockanure Village. The upturned shafts of a car was the scaffold. Blake lived where Lyons’ Funeral Home now stands. In fact, he gave his name to the cross.

He was singled out to be shot. He was usually seen through the window at nightfall reading in the parlour. It was decided to shoot him while he read. Lucky for him an informer told of the plot. He dressed a dummy, placed it in the parlour, hid himself in a bush outside the window and waited for the Whiteboy.

It is claimed that Blake shot the man who attempted to shoot the dummy in the parlour. Blake is buried in Knockanure, no trace of the tomb now remains.

A relative of his, the most famous Kerryman of all time Field Marshall Lord Horatio Kitchener, was born at Gunsboro. He grew up at Crotta near Lixnaw and was a remarkable man, one of the great generals of his time. He died at sea after his ship was torpedoed in 1916.

The four watering holes I use when I go to Moyvane village are Speedies, Maraids, Enrights and last but not least Brosnans.

I was in Brosnans one Saturday evening with my father and mother and two uncles, in company with us was a well known local who we always have the “Craic” when we meet.

Con was telling us about the convertible car he had recently purchased. He took it for a spin down the Listowel road, flooring it to 80 mph and enjoying the wind blowing through what little hair he had left on his head.

Then he looked in his rear view mirror and saw a two-bulb behind him. "I can get away from him" thought the Con and he tromped it some more and flew down the road at over 100 mph. Then 110, 120 mph. Then he thought,

"What am doing? I'm too old to be making such a holy show of meself." He pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the garda to catch up with him. The garda pulled in behind Con and walked up to him. "Sir," he said, looking at his watch. "My shift ends in 30 minutes and today is Friday. If you can give me a reason why you were speeding that I've never heard before, I'll let you go." Con looked at the garda and said, "Years ago my wife ran off with a Peeler and I thought you were bringing her back." "Have a good day, Sir," said the officer.

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