Mr. Rowan McCombe was manager of the
Barrow Navigation. In about 1870 he had a cottages built for the
boatmen in Graignamanagh and Graiguecullen, many of them are
still inhabited today.
Grave Memorial, Graiguecullen.
It was unveiled on the Centenary year as a
memorial to those who fell at the Battle of Carlow. The tablet
beside the Celtic Cross was erected by Rowan McCombe. This
gentleman was the Superintendent of the Barrow Navigation
Company and Town Councillor of Carlow. He was also well known as
the rhymer in the local area.
Source: Carlow County Library website
A memorial slab on the gable of a nearby house
was the gift of a former Orangeman, 2 Rowan MacCombe. The slab
is inscribed: "To the memory of the 640 United Irishmen who fell
in Tullow Street, 25 May 1798" This was the tribute of a
generous foe. MacCombe may have been an Orangeman in his native
Co. Antrim, but in Carlow he seems to have adopted to a great
extent the outlook of the people of Carlow. Rev. Mr. Gash,
Archdeacon of Carlow about 1958, met MacCombe’s people in Co.
Antrim and put them in touch with Mr. Paddy Purcell who wrote a
fine article on Rowan MacCombe in Carloviana 1964. MacCombe
lived opposite a house later occupied by Freemans and opposite
the P.P’s gate in Graiguecullen. He had a printing press there
and wrote several books, It was probably Michael Brophy, author
of Carlow Past and Present, who wrote for the Nationalist.
Source: P.MacSuibhne in 1972
in his book 'The Parish of KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. pp.75
Tower Hill, Carlow
Tower Hill, Carlow Formally the home of the
old Royal Constabulary (R.I.C) barracks on the corner of
Killeshin Road and Chaff Street, Graiguecullen. It was built in
1867 by Rowan McCombe from Ulster who used the building to
operate his own printing works. Built of granite cut stone, it
is decorated with gargoyle style heads. On the Chaff Street side
of the tower there is a plaque with the inscription underneath:
Erected A.D. 1867 by Rowan McCombe.
- Rowan McCombe
Poet or Rhymer
By Patrick Purcell
Somewhere about the middle or
third quarter of the nineteenth century there flourished in
Carlow, a poet, or perhaps, it would be more correct to say a
rhymer, Rowan McCombe by name. He cannot be termed an altogether
forgotten bard, for he is still held in remembrance by the fast
dwindling generation amongst which he moved and had his being.
He filled the position of local manager, or agent, for the
Barrow Navigation Company, and if one can judge from the tone of
some of his lyrics, he was a staunch Tory, a firm upholder of
British Rule or fervent loyalist, and an ardent admirer of her
Majesty Queen Victoria. Some of his emanations touching on local
events are distinctly humorous, and must have caused much
amusement amongst his contemporaries. In the 'seventies he
published a little volume of poems. The book was extremely well
brought out as regards letterpress and binding, and the author
and publisher is justified in claiming credit for its production
in his own printing office in Carlow-Graigue,
That McCombe had more than one
side to his character is proved by the fact that at his own
expense he erected a tablet at "Croppy Hole" to the memory of
the 640 insurgents of '98, who were slaughtered in their
unsuccessful attack on Carlow, and were thrown into unhallowed
pits dug for the reception of the bodies. This reads as follows:
Erected by Rowan McCombe
Superintendent of The Barrow Navigation
Company and Town Councillor of Carlow to the six hundred and
forty men who gave their lives in Tullow Street on 26th May 1798
and whose remains lie beneath this mound, sleeping the sleep
that knows no waking.
"Who fears to speak of Ninety Eight"
This kindly act has caused him
to be held in grateful remembrance and there is no doubt that it
led to the movement for the decent enclosure of the ground where
rest the men who took arms and sacrificed their lives in an
effort to win liberty for their native land.
We propose to give a few of
McCombe's pieces. The first deals with an episode at a meeting
of the Carlow Town Commission. It is prefaced by a passage
evidently culled from a report in one of the local papers. It is
Carlow Town Commission Scene
"An adjourned meeting of
Carlow Town Commission was held on Thursday evening, present:
Messrs Mathias Tynan (chairman); Edward Clarke, Matthew Byrne,
James Bolger, Patrick Bolger, Benjamin Coleman, Edward Tracey,
Michael McDonald, Michael Murphy, James Graham and Rowan
A Friend in Court
William Vass presented in
person a bill for £9 odd, for lighting and caring the street
(paraffin) lamps, and urgently demanded payment.
- Chairman: Unfortunately we cannot pay anything
until Mr. Palmer is paid.
- Vass: Until what?
- Mr. McCombe: We pay Mr. Palmer of the bank.
- Chairman: We must pay the National Bank first.
- Vass: Can't you renew the bill and pay the
amount? How do you think I could work the whole
winter and not be paid? I'll just walk away, but you
know I've a friend and he's the barrister,
- Mr. McCombe: Tell me, Vass, does he wear a wig?
(renewed laughter in which Vass joined heartily)
- Vass: Gentlemen, before I go do youse all say
without giving me any more trouble that in a week or
a fortnight you'll give me a small amount?
- Several Commissioners: Certainly,
- Vass: Well, then, no law for me. To h..... with
the law. (laughter)
- Mr. J. Bolger: You will be the first that will
be looked to.
"At this stage of the
proceedings and as the Board was about to adjourn, Mr. Duggan,
pump contractor, who had made an unsuccessful demand for payment
of his account on the previous board day, entered the room and
made an urgent appeal for a settlement. Having failed however to
entreat any money from the Board, he became very excited, and
having locked the door of the board-room, he resolutely refused
to give up the key until paid his account. The scene, which
followed baffles all attempts at description. After considerable
parleying and several rather serious encounters in which "fire
irons" were rather freely used and the unfortunate Vass, who
attempted to pick the lock, was rather roughly handled, the door
was ultimately burst in by the Nuisance Inspector, and others
attracted to the place by the strange, and noisy proceedings
inside. This exciting scene was prolonged for some time, when
the meeting broke up in disorder, and fortunately before any
severe injuries were sustained by any of the actors in the
melee. At one time the affray appeared to be assuming such
formidable proportions that the presence of the police was
considered advisable but their services were not called into
Rowan McCombe's version of the
proceedings was as follows: —
Minutes of the Meeting
- The Pump-borer came like a wolf on the fold,
- His eyes gleaming fiercely for notes or for gold,
- He sought not for favours, he asked but his own;
- Appealing oft to them—but cash there was none.
- Enraged like a Sampson he bolted the door
- And wildly he menaced, and fiercely he swore.
- The roar of the lion was ne'er heard so high,
- Whilst the fire of a Vulcan shot forth from his eye.
- The Lamp-lighter entered, dishevelled and black,
- His hair streaming wildly, bent on the same task
- He strove with the poker to open the door,
- But found himself soon making love to the floor.
- The pump-borer flew at this glimmering light—
- I hope I shall ne'er again see such a sight;
- Imagine a cat in the grasp of a bear
- And you have an idea of what occur'd there.
- And low lay the Lighter, with nostril all wide,
- The poker and tongs were the broad-sword he plied;
- The Chairman grew paile, the reporters took flight,
- And ail the Commissioners fled with the fright.
- The angels recording escaped through the roof,
- And fleet as a thunderbolt issued their "proof
- The "Sentinel" shook at tile tramp of the host,
- While the cold sweat of death struck the gods on the
- And the "palis" of Carlow were true to their post,
- And title Watchman was glorious and talked far the most;
- And the Nuisance Inspector, with Herculean strength,
- Cleared out the Town Hall of officials at length.
- And the windows and sashes did quiver and quail,
- As an old cracked piano rang out "Granuaile";
- And the whole Town Commission dissolv'd like a drum,
- And the minutes were tombed by the lamp's feeble gleam.
Here is another piece in a different
The Barrow and the Nore
- O! Erin, my darling, tho' tail folks may dine,
- On Switzerland's heights and the banks of the Rhein
- Thank goodness we've pastime and pleasure galore,
- By the clear winding Barrow and broad swelling Nore.
- Acush'la machree, just venture and see
- These beauties that nature intended for thee.
- One day in a -life-time, to shake off dull care,
- And see the ould country, so charming and fair,
- Is only what nature dictates all should claim—
- Then see Erin's beauties—if not, you're to blame.
- Acushla machree, just venture and see
- These beauties that nature intended for thee.
- To view noble Brandon, with peak to the sky,
- Blackstair, and Mount Leinster, and Borris hard by;
- And the ivy-dad walls of St. Mullins so green
- Where the kings of the past lie in slumber between.
- Acushla machree, nor Shannon nor Lee
- Blackwater, nor Liffey, are nothing to thee.
- Sweet vale of Clashganny, where murmuring sweeps
- The wild mountain river down rapids and steeps:
- Still wending its course o'er the Scars to the sea,
- With the More and the Barrow in wild jubilee.
- Acushla machree, roll on to the sea,
- Thy murmuring sounds like some soft lullaby.
- O! shades of Bahanna, the perfumes exhale,
- And sweet Graignamanagh and fair Brandondale,
- Show once and forever how perfect the bore
- Of wasting one's time on the rocks of Tramore.
- Acushla machree, by land or by sea,
- There's no spot in Erin can equal to thee.
- The time-honoured tales and legends of yore,
- That cling to thy beautiful ruins, asthore,
- Shall never from memory's vision depart;
- Then drink to old Erin, with full flowing heart.
- Acushla machree, a bumper to thee,
- Dear Erin, dear Erin, a bumper to thee.
- For the sake of the past, could each fair one renege,
- But kiss the stone cross of fair Innistague?
- They've charms like the "Blarney", a good reason why
- They were kissed by the lady of bould Colonel T—.
- Acushla machree, none fairer than she,
- Then kiss the stone cross, 'like fair Lady T,
- All hail with high welcome the fair coming day,
- When light hearts can mingle with all that is gay;
- When the hum of contentment, the toast and the song
- Shalt ring through the air as we gaily steer on.
- Acushla machree, if pleasures there be,
- A cruise on the Barrow's the pleasure for me.
And this is a Stirring Election Ballad
(Air: 'O'DonneH Abu!")
- The hour's at hand when the bold sons of Erin,
- No longer shall cower in silence as slaves
- The hour has come when our kith and our kinsmen
- No longer shall list to those time-serving knaves,
- Then up boys, be doing—the Chief who shall lead you
- Is now on his march to the Hustings, hurrah!
- Come out, let us meet him, like Irishmen greet him,
- Our Chieftain McDonald, the pride of Cloghna.
- You all must remember how soon comes November,
- And each man that day must appear in the field,
- Be mindful of Traitors, and base Agitators,
- Be daring as Mars, bearing onward your shield—
- That shield shall be borne in triumph that morn
- O'er Ossory's plain, in the teeth of their law;
- The man of our choice we'll elect with one voice,
- McDonald, our Chieftain, the pride of Cloghna.
- Come out from the fens, from the mountains and glens,
- Be firm and fear not, for right's on our side;
- If foemen should rally again at Stradbally,
- Let one faugh-a-ballagh strike fear, far and wide;
- From that to Mountmellick, surprise every hillock,
- The Heath, Dunamase, strike home terror and awe,
- The day shall be ours, if balls come in showers,
- We'll vote for McDonald the pride of Cloghna.
- The proud autocrat with his lands extending,
- For miles o'er the plains may oppose us again;
- He'll put on the chain if he finds you but bending,
- But woe, to the coward who 'lets it remain;
- The man of our choice is the son of old Erin,
- The friend of our childhood, then who should withdraw?
- But rally around him, and foemen astound them
- With cheers for McDonald, the pride of Cooghna.
- Come down from Killeshin, ye sons of oppression,
- The heel of the monster has crushed you too long;
- Come down from Clogrennan, and high hills of Doonane,
- Ye sons of Old Leighlin come join in the throng;
- Your ground's Ballickmoyler, no artful beguiler
- Must lure from the path, but move onward, hurrah!
- Your numbers increasing, your efforts unceasing
- And cheers for McDonald, the pride of Cloghna.
- The day shall be won by McDonald and Dunne,
- Fitzpatrick and Digby must march to the rear
- The one "agitator", the other a creature
- Sent here by the "Church" to bamboozle and 'snare;
- The man of our choice we'll elect with one voice.
Hurrah for McDonald, the pride of Cloghna.
or Rhymer" by Patrick Purcell was first published in the 1964
edition of the Carloviana.
- Rowan McCombe
- Image by Peter Walker
- Rowan McCombe Headstone
- Image by Peter Walker
Recorded on the stone in
Killeshin Churchyard by Michael Purcell 2009:
- Anne sister of Rowan McCombe died 1865, aged 38.
- William, eldest son of Rowan McCombe died 1869 aged
- Rowana Eleanor daughter of Rowan McCombe,
drowned accidentally in 1872, aged 6 and a half years.
- Mary daughter of Rowan McCombe died 1877, aged 15
I think Rowan went to USA
shortly after Mary died and he may have died there, when his
grandson Fred came to Carlow in the 1990s he brought with him a
lot of material relating to the Rowan's time on the Carlow Town
Commission and Barrow Navigation. I am unable to check Fred
McCombe interview as it (along with 57 other interviews) is on
VHS format, I hope we can get the videos converted to DVD
sometime but that's another story.
Footnote 26 January 2010:
This morning I checked the
site and environs and found that Rowan's large tombstone is no
longer there !. (the Tombstone for Mary is there but the Anchor
Chain is gone !) All that remains is the marks of where it once
stood. I checked with some of the congregation but they have no
knowledge of its present whereabouts!. I have never come across
anything like this before. I wonder was it there when Peter
Walker took his pictures of the area?
Here is a reminder of what was
recorded by Pat Purcell in 1970:
In Memory of Rowan McCombe who
departed this life 6th April 1877. aged 58 years. Also Mary 3rd
daughter of Rowan McCombe who died 7th January 1877. aged 15
years. (her death is also recorded on the other tombstone!) and
Henry Edwin McCombe 2nd son of Rowan McCombe died 15th June
1885. aged 31 years.