Molly Quirkes House
On many occasions during the War of Independence the house of Molly and Jack Quirke in Ballinvassa, Donohill was used by the IRA as a safe house and the location of a Republican court because of its hidden and unobtrusive location. It was particularly favoured by Commdt. Ernie O Malley. He lived there for three months in the summer of 1921 following his promotion to Commdt General and appointment as OC of the Second Southern Division IRA.
The current (2016) owner of Quirke’s farm, Philly Ryan (W), was born in 1933 and he knew Molly and her house well. He says that O Malley’s description of her and her home in his book On Another Man’s Wound is very accurate. This is how O Malley described both,
“The house consisted of a kitchen and two rooms. ‘Mrs. Quirke’s’ it was known. She was a strong character, a tall woman with long bones; untidy hair in wisps stuck out at the back of her neck and on her forehead. She was always at her ease in conversation. I never saw her ruffled. She took satire, banter and discussion at her ease, and she seemed to look on danger as a joke. Her voice was rough, but she was never angry. When we were worried, trying to work out a problem, she poked fun, smiled at us, or later in the evening made us laugh with some trite remark. In her heart I’m sure she thought the boys were only playacting, God help them, trying to be soldiers. She assumed that I was delicate because I was thin and did not eat much; bottles of an iron tonic which followed me around were a proof that there was something wrong with me. First thing when I got up she had an egg-flip ready for me, and she put whiskey in it. ‘What good is it without a drop in it, I’d like to know’. Instead of a feather with holy water, the usual goodbye, mine was now an egg-flip and a warning word not to get killed. My welcome whenever she saw me through the half-door or heard my shout in the distance was an egg-flip.
When I left her word to be called at a certain hour she often would not; then I had to make a hurried scramble in badly kept-in rage to attend a staff meeting or inspection. If I said anything to her she would say calmly: ‘Musha, I knew you were tired, God help you, and you wanted the rest.’ She respected my papers and maps and did not disturb them, and she had no passion for a meticulously settled organization of articles of furniture. I never knew how unreal our ideas and the – to us – importance of our doings were to her.
She was a woman, the house had to be swept, food to be cooked, the small percussions and repercussions of life to be solved and lived; but she followed with womanly sympathy, helped us with her mothering instinct and her easy, restful strength”.
Philly says that her house was of the traditional type, a simple, long, low farm house. It was a fully detached building. Originally it had been thatched. They began to tile it, but the money ran out so only the roof over the kitchen was tiled while that over the bedrooms and the sitting room remained thatched. Accommodation consisted of two bedrooms, a sitting room and a kitchen. There was only one door and it was situated in the front of the house. There were three small windows in the front of the house and another three in the back.
The kitchen contained a big, open fireplace with a hob and crane and there was a stone slab by the fire on which was laid the sack of flour to keep it dry. Above the fire hung cured bacon attached by hooks to the ceiling. The furniture consisted of a table, four or five súgán chairs and a kitchen dresser with delph. The drawers in the dresser held the cutlery. The press at the bottom was the larder. On one wall was a shrine of the Sacred Heart in front of which burned a little light. On the other hung a large wind-up clock powered by a pendulum. In the middle of the ceiling hung a double wicked paraffin oil lamp. It was lowered and raised by means of a cord on pulleys. There was also a battery operated radio for news and entertainment.
The sitting room was in the middle of the house between the kitchen and the ground floor bedroom. The Quirkes slept in that bedroom. There was another room above it in the attic which was accessed by stairs from the sitting room. That would have been O Malley’s sleeping quarters whenever he lodged there.
Philly asserts that Molly was a topping cook of plain, wholesome food. She provided good grub. Bacon, spuds and cabbage often featured on her menu. The bacon left over from the dinner would be eaten cold for supper. Most Sundays roast rabbit was on offer. She kept ducks and fifty to sixty hens. So eggs often were on the menu too, especially for breakfast. No wonder O Malley was the recipient of numerous egg-flips at every opportunity! She regularly killed a chicken for the table by pulling its neck. She made her own bread.
Outside there was a cow house, a pig sty, a chicken house and a duck house. There was a two-span hay barn beneath which was a concrete water tank to collect the rainwater off the shed roof. A wall with two gates in it enclosed the farm yard. The dung hill was situated outside the wall beside the lane. Run off from the yard and cow house ran downhill into a “sink hole”. Both solid and liquid farmyard manure were applied to the land as fertiliser.
She kept seven cows. The milk was delivered to the creamery at Churchfield Cross in two churns, a night churn and a day one. The morning milk could not be mixed with the cooled night lot. It was separated at the creamery.
The skim milk was returned to the farm. It was used to fatten the pigs and for feeding the calves and for baking. The milk was taken to and from the creamery by the pony and cart.
She always kept and fattened two pigs for domestic consumption. When they were fat they were slaughtered and butchered at home. The bacon was cured by salting. Then it was either hung from the ceiling over the fire or stored in barrels of brine. She also used the offal for immediate use. She made delicious black pudding from the blood and saved it by hanging it over the crane. The heart was the first part that was eaten. It was cooked the evening that the pig was slaughtered. It was fried in lard or dripping. The fried heart was eaten with bread, butter and tea. The crubeens were boiled and often eaten cold. The intestines were used to make puddings. The tongue was cut out of the mouth and boiled. It was very lean and produced nice meat. It was sliced into pieces and eaten cold. It used be said that, “The only part of the pig that wasn’t used was the oink and the tail”. Not so Molly! She boiled and ate the tail. The bladder was emptied, blown up with air and used by children as a football. The head was the last part of the pig to be used. It was cut in half and hung up in the chimney inside the house. It was left there until the rest of the pig had been consumed. Then it was boiled with cabbage.
They also kept a pony and an ass. The pony drew the milk to and from the local creamery. They didn’t have a trap. So when they went to Tipperary they used the pony’s cart. They sat one on each side of it. Jack used the ass and cart to bring crops and vegetables from the fields. Philly remembers that they had a dog named “Towser”, a half Kerry blue.
The Quirkes made a modest living off the produce of their farm. Milk was sold to the Co-operative in Tipperary town. The calves were sold as weanlings when they were about six months old at the fair in Cappawhite. The surplus eggs were bought by Josie Gorman, a small-time higgler from near Tipperary. She collected them in two baskets on her bicycle. She sold them around Tipperary for a shilling a dozen. They used the pigs, hens, chickens and ducks for domestic use. They also grew potatoes (Golden Wonders were her favourite), turnips, cabbage, and small areas of barley and oats. The corn was cut with a scythe and used to feed the pony and fowl.
Jack was never a robust man so Quirkes usually employed a workman on a part-time basis. Philly remembers two of them. One was Joe Burke from Greenfields, Cappawhite. The other was Jack Horan from Moatquarter, Donohill. Her nephew, Timmy O Dwyer of Cluen, did the ploughing for her. She employed a man annually to breast the hedges in springtime.
Originally the farm belonged to her brother, Jerry O Dwyer. Unfortunately he was a bad money manager and he went bankrupt. Molly bought her birthplace when it was sold by the bank. When she and Jack first married they lived in the townland of Shandangan.
There was no indoor toilet, bathroom, or running water. An outhouse was used as a toilet. Water for washing, drinking and cooking was brought from the creamery daily or from the twin wells. They were situated about half way between the house and the creamery. Over the years when they were no longer used they fell into disrepair and were damaged by cattle. They may also have been damaged by the Co. Council in a road straightening scheme.
Molly and jack were very religious people. The attended Mass in Donohill every Sunday. They knelt in the pew under the seventh station of the Cross. The Rosary was said every night. All visitors to the house had to participate and then leave at 10.30 pm.
Her nearest neighbours were Philly Ryan (W) to the east. On the other side was Ciss Keogh. She was blind. She insisted on making toast for visiting children. Unfortunately because of her disability she usually burnt it. Both Molly and she had orchards. Tim Reardon, a former Volunteer of B Coy,. 3rd Batt., Third Tipperary Brigade IRA lived nearby and was always very good to her. He often brought her milk to the creamery.
Jack Quirke died on 23 August 1944. Molly died on 30 December 1948. Jack Horan was out training a young pony. When he returned to the yard the pony became agitated and shied away from the place. Then he discovered Molly’s dead body covered by snow which had fallen since he’d taken the pony out. She had suddenly dropped dead in the yard. So passed one of the unsung heroines of Ireland’s struggle for independence. She is buried with Jack about half way along the north wall of Donohill old graveyard.
The house was never lived in permanently again after Molly’s death. Following her death the small farm of seventeen Irish acres of fertile land was bought by her former neighbour, Philly Ryan (Whip), for £1,760. Since he had no need of the house he occasionally leased it out for short periods of time. By modern standards it was an obsolete building with few modern facilities and in an awkward location. Forty years later it had fallen into total ruin. The next owner, Philly Jnr., sold the stone to Frank Ryan (Young Jack), a retired fast-food provider, publican and builder. Frank used the stones to build a rockery, to build walls around his front lawns, and to build a retaining wall along the side of the Multeen River which runs by his property in Millbrook, Anacarty. It was a sad, but useful, fate for those stones.