Punctual as ever, Dr Ted Murphy and his wife arrived at my parents house in Rochestown to take me around Cork for the day. Born and raised in this city, I was about to see it again through a different set of eyes. We drove the picturesque twenty minutes to Kinsale. Just parking the car took me back as we had to park on a steep hill and it reminded me of my driving test, where you had to complete hill starts and stops and parallel parking ! As soon as we began walking, people honked their horns, rolled their windows down and wanted a word with Ted. This man was well known here in Kinsale,but as the day progressed and indeed the week I learned that he was well known everywhere in Ireland. He was loved. They loved what he had done for us. He had shown people another side to the Irish.
We sauntered down the streets to Desmond Castle, or Caislean Dheasumhan as it is known as Gaeilge (in Irish), this is what you do in Kinsale, you saunter. I think if I saw someone run, then the thought running through my mind would have to be emergency or burglary! The castle is located on 'Cork Street' in Kinsale. It was built by the Earl of Desmond , AD 1500 as a Custom House and had quite a history after that. This little castle was occupied by the Spanish in 1601 and was known locally as 'The French Prison' in 1747 after a tragic fire killed 54 French Prisoners.
Now here is something of great interest that I discovered while there. During the American War of Independence, it was used by the British to house captured American Seamen. The conditions were brutal and cruel. These American Seamen were trying to stop the British from crossing the Atlantic and in doing so were taken captive. Forton Gaol near Portsmouth and Mill Gaol between Plymouth and Plymouth Dock were the Principal Prisons in England and the 'French Prison' in Kinsale served as the princiapl prison in Ireland. A Presbyterian minister from Bandon,Co Cork, Rev John Hazlitt (originally from Kent,UK) and Reuben Harvey , Glass merchant from Kinsale were among the men who offered aid to the prisoners.
John Hazlitt moved to Bandon,from Kent for a short time and from here moved to the United States. There were many prominent Irish supporters to the American's cause. Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Robert Stewart and Thomas Connolly to name a few. These were all Upper Class gentry. Reuben Harvey was a middle class man.
Born on September 29th 1734 in Youghal, Co Cork. Reuben was a glass merchant and indeed was noted for selling huge volumes of glass to New York.
Reuben was instrumental in offering aid and comfort to these poor unfortunate souls.
Hanging on the wall of this little castle, in the back streets of Kinsale is one of the most marvelous pieces of history. It is quite simply put, a thank you letter.