Review by Jimmy Rhatigan
IT’S a fascinating journey down Memory Lane, Talbot’s Inch Village to be precise, on the periphery of our city, with a focus on Lady Desart and Otway Cuffe.
A book just published by O’Dwyer Books, College Gardens, written by Michael O’Dwyer, is exactly what we would expect from a great historian, top class writer on other times in particular and avid fan of his native city.
Michael who is also the author of the History of Cricket in County Kilkenny and Shopping in Kilkenny has always been a great man for detail, accuracy, and has a canny notion of what the rest of us enjoy.
Lady Desart, aka Ellen Bischoffsheim, was eldest daughter of a wealthy Jewish London Banker.
She married William Cuffe, the fourth Earl of Desart in 1881 and came here to live in Desart Court, a large estate near Callan.
Her brother-in-law Otway Cuffe who also features prominently in this darling of a publication became Mayor of our city.
Lady Desart, after whom our pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Nore opposite Dunnes Stores, St Kieran’s Street was named, was a philanthropist and entrepreneur, a lover of arts, education and many sports, but most of all she was an appreciator of human beings.
Among her projects was a suspension bridge at Talbot’s Inch; Kilkenny Woollen Mills on the Bleach Road and Desert Hall, New Street, still positively used by Kilkenny youth.
Otway founded Kilkenny Woodworkers, joined the Gaelic League and was elected Mayor in 1907 and 1908.
Ellen eventually moved
from Callan to Talbot’s Inch off our Freshford Road where she built a home which she called Aut Even House.
Ellen and Otway became generous benefactors as they founded a marvellous theatre in Patrick Street, Kilkenny in 1902.
We could go on and on but at this juncture that would be a great book spoiled, not by plagiarism but by too much information.
A tidy 64-page read, the book also has a series of black and white and colour pictures of yesteryear, interesting people, curious places and amazing buildings.
It will be of particular interest to anyone who may have had ancestors living in Talbot’s Inch at any time and indeed those living there today.
There are great records of those who lived in Talbot’s Inch at different times and what is perhaps more interesting was the legal wrangling over many more great places and establishments owned by Ellen, after she died.
A Ball of Malt in one hand and Michael O’Dwyer’s book in the other.
Now there’s Heaven on Earth.
The book is great value at €10 and is on sale in local bookshops.