Bernie Whelan talks about her link to the Blackmoor, Donard.

Postcard: Cutting corn on Blackmoor. Martin Whelan on R. ? Valentine on L.
Courtesy of Whelan family
back row L o R: Jane Whelan, Annie Whelan, Jim O'Toole, Patrick Whelan (snr), Patrick Whelan (baby). Front row l o r: Wendy Russell, Denis Russell, Marian O'Toole, Sean O'Toole. c1958
Courtesy of the Whelan Family.
Paddy and Jimmy with motor bike, Denis Russell is the older boy
Courtesy of the Whelan Family.
1957 Donard Senior Football Team.
Courtesy of Donard GAA
1954 football medal
Courtesy of the Whelan family
Craobh Sinnsear Cill Mhantain 1957. Dun Ard
Courtesy of the Whelan Family.
War of Independence medal 1919-1921 awarded to Patrick Whelan
Courtesy of Whelan family
Emergency Medal 1939-1946 awarded to Patrick Whelan.
Courtesy of the Whelan Family.
Rear of Emergency Medal 1939-1946 (LSF)
Courtesy of Whelan family

When I saw on the Donard Imaal History Group Facebook page a postcard called ‘Cutting Corn on Blackmoor’ it set me thinking about the Whelan family. One of the few things that Paddy Whelan, my uncle, kept was that postcard. He knew that Martin Whelan who was my great grand uncle is on the right, standing up. 

There is very little known today about Martin. He never married. He had a brother called James who was my great grandfather. When we were renovating our house on the Blackmoor we found a stone in the wall inside the house saying ‘MW 18…’. The date is unclear. Unfortunately, this stone was plastered over.

There’s no mention of Whelans living at the Blackmoor in the Griffith Valuations which were collated in and around the late 1850s.  It is possible the Whelans were living on the Blackmoor some time after the Griffith Valuations were recorded as they are listed in the 1901 census.

“farmeress” and head of the family

In the 1901 census Mary Whelan is listed on the Blackmoor as 70 years old and as “farmeress” and head of the family. Martin is also listed as 40 years old and as a son. According to this Martin was born in 1861.

Martin’s brother James married Anne and they had 3 children – Patrick, Anne who went into service at Tynte Park House and later at Pennyfeathers in Donard, and William who lived at Winetavern in Wicklow. They are listed in the 1911 census. Martin is also listed aged 52 years. According to this he was born in 1859. That’s a slight discrepancy in his date of birth. But this is not unusual for the time, as age was of no consequence until the government established pensions for the elderly. Before that time people had more important worries other that birthdays and age.  Both James and Martin are identified as farmers. James is buried in Hollywood.  I don’t know where Martin is buried.  

a strong sense of belonging

My grandfather Patrick married Jane Murray and had 5 children; Nan (Anne), Jimmy, Rose, Paddy and Joe. Joe was my father. I was reared in London but us London Whelans felt a strong sense of belonging, even though we only piled in on our uncle Paddy in the summer, our father Joe helping with making the hay while us kids ran riot on the Brow. My auntie Rose had 2 children – Denis and Wendy Russell. While we were all close to our uncle Paddy it was Denis who spent most time with him and has some great memories.

Croke Park

Denis’ earliest memory is as a very young child crying to go to the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Paddy put him sitting on the petrol tank of a motorbike and took him along with his two uncles, not something anyone would dream of doing now. 

Clattering down Valentine’s Lane

Denis was always here with Paddy and borrowing the horse from Peter Valentine, riding it bareback, clattering down Valentine’s Lane.

Digging out sheep

He remembers one very bad winter, when the snow was level with the ditches, 3 lorry drivers were stranded in Paddy’s for over a week. They helped with digging out sheep and told stories and sang as there was Guinness from Toss Dowling’s at Annalecky. When the roads were cleared, they brought every kind of chocolate bar so Denis and Wendy were very happy.

Donard football team

Uncle Paddy was a very good footballer and supported the GAA all his life. In 1954 he was on the winning team for the Baltinglass Tournament. In 1957 he was again on the winning side of the Senior Football Championship.  He also had the honour of playing for the Wicklow county team.

Cogadh na Saoirse medal

He wasn’t the only Whelan to be awarded medals. Patrick, my grandfather, received a Cogadh na Saoirse medal for his effort as a dispatch rider for the IRA in the War of Independence. He also received an Emergency Medal for the Local Security Force (1939-1946).

If only Rose and Wendy were alive, they were the family record keepers and knew everyone and everything about how we are all connected.  I have enjoyed the website very much and hope to learn more about the many legendary characters I heard about growing up. There is so much local history still to be shared.

Comments about this page

  • I enjoyed reading about days gone by, summers in Donard and memories of great adventures.

    By Geraldine Cleary (20/02/2023)
  • Great to hear this bit of the Whelan family history. I think I gave that postcard to the group but didn’t know who was in it.

    By Pauline Flynn (18/02/2023)

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