I was driving down the Kerry Road recently and was taken aback to see one of those huge, enormous cranes rising high and towering above all the houses in the Model Village. It made me think about the original cottages in the Model Village and how they came about, as well as the name “Model Village”, which sounds rather cute and picturesque. So I did a little digging and found some rather interesting information, the most interesting of all being that Tower is one of the first in all of Ireland to have had these type of cottages built, better known as Sheehan’s cottages.
The Model Village in Tower was originally constructed about 1909, and came about as the result of a prolonged campaign by Daniel Desmond Sheehean, an MP in Westminister, in conjunction with the Irish Land League Association (ILLA).
D.D. Sheehan was the MP for Mid-Cork from 1901 to 1918 and was a passionate advocate for the improved working class housing rights, specifically in the Muster region. His work helped to bring about the new Labourers (Ireland) Act in 1906 which resulted in the construction of nearly 7,000 houses in County Cork alone.
Sheehan initiated and organised the construction of the Model Village in Tower about 1909; he developed the project in conjunction with the local branch of the ILLA and the recently formed Cork Rural District Council (formed in 1898). The land was donated by a landowner, more than likely this was Dr. Richard Barter from St Ann’s Hill Hydro and I believe that the builder was O’Mahony Brothers who had recently completed building works in Barney village.
The initial project consisted of 17 cottages, a school and a meeting hall. All 17 cottages are still standing today and Tower Community Hall is still in use with many local clubs and societies availing of the Hall. I can’t quite figure out the location of the school though, and can find no traces of it in the 1911 census.
According to Sheehan:
“The decay of village life in Ireland constitutes one of the most tragic chapters of our history for the past half century. …. But even if we cannot resurrect the spirit of our former village life it is, however, well within our power to reconstruct …… a Model Village on up-to-date and practical lines – a village which we trust may become a pattern and an example to be copied with profit and advantage in other parts of Ireland.”
Dove Cottage in Model Village (see image from the House of Commons Wiki page) is an excellent example of the type of cottage which was built. According to the Wiki page
“This cottage is a three-bay single storey house, built around 1906. The roof is hipped and slated, with terracotta ridge tiles. The rectangular plan multi-flue chimney stack is built of brick. The walls are smooth rendered with decorative brick block-and-start surrounds around the windows and at the corners. The window openings are square headed and the door is set in a brick porch. The latrine and a coal shed would have originally been located to the rear of the house and it also has a small front garden.”
Checking the online PDF versions of Guy’s postal directory for the years between 1903 and 1913 it would appear that the Model Village did not exist in the edition for 1903 but does appear in the 1913 version. The list of names, from the 1913 Guy’s Postal directoty, that occupied 16 of the 17 cottages constructed are as follows:
Cunningham J. – 1911 Census – John Cunningham, Masseur, living with his wife and two children.
Forde D. – 1911 Census – Daniel Forde, Painter, living with his wife and five children.
Healy Jer. – 1911 Census – Jeremiah Healy, Laborer, living with his mother and four siblings.
Herlihy D. – 1911 Census – Denis Herlihy, Coachman, living with his wife and daughter.
Lynch John – 1911 Census – John Lynch, Labourer, living with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandchild.
McCarthy John – 1911 Census – John McCarthy, Carpenter, living with his wife, three daughters and son.
Manly P. – 1911 Census – Patrick Manley, Wool Weaver, living with his wife, daughter and four sons.
Murphy Denis – 1911 Census – Denis Murphy, Carpenter, living with his wife, two sons and daughter.
O’Leary Barth. – 1911 Census – Barth O’Leary, Blacksmith, living with his wife, three sons and daughter.
O’Sullivan Jas. – 1911 Census – John O’Sullivan, Miles man on railway, living with his brother-in-law, son-in-law and granddaughter.
Riordan T. – 1911 Census – Timothy Riordan, Shoemaker, living with his wife, two sons and three daughters.
Spence W. – 1911 Census – William Spence, Bootmaker, living with his wife, two sons and four daughters.
Twomey John – 1911 Census – John Twomey, Station Master, living with his mother, two brothers and two nephews.
There is a varied mix of occupations of the people which lived in these cottages, from a masseur working in St Ann’s Hill Hydro to labourer work, carpentry, working in the woolen mills in Blarney to a Station Master. Seventeen families comprising of over seventy people were now living in what was considered to be much desirable homes compared to where they would have previously been.
And it is a testament to the quality of the original build that all cottages are still standing today, nearly a hundred and twenty years later, still housing local families and proving that the original premise of D. D. Sheehan’s idea was worthwhile, visionary and life changing.
My grandfather Denis lucey moved into this new cottage, in 1909,my father Cornelius was a baby. they move from an old road behind Mick Barry,s house (now i believe there are new houses facing Muskerry golf course.I moved to the U.K. in the 1960,s My brother Billy lives there still,in what used to be no.1 Model village.
Hi Cornelius – thank you for getting touch, and it is good to see that the houses were built & occupied by 1909, it’s hard to find the exact year online.
And also good to see that there Denis’s grandson is still living there, those houses were really built to last.
Hope all is well with you & your family during this dreadful lockdown & Covid era.
Thank you Sinead, Denis (Denis Grand dad)died in 1937.He was a soldier in the first world war,in the Munster fusileers , serving in the Somme. turkey,Ypres etc.etc. He died at 60 years of age of terrible suffering ,due to lung damage from mustard gas. His wife my grandmother, was the district midwife ,bringing many of the locals into the world.Munsters barracks was in Tralee,but the regiments U.K.barracks was in Wales. In that time my grandmother Annie Lucey (nee Riley)worked in various U.K.hospitals (midwifery) Their son Srgt. Denis, was the last R.A.F. man to be killed in u.k. mainland ,their Lancaster bomber ,crew of 7 was shot down into the Humber estuary at 6pm on Patricks day 1945 ,by a German fighter plane who had gone astray over channel.One survivor the radio operator Polish. A bad day for an Irish man to die ,he was a rear gunner their flight was a training one intending to travel down the east coast of England ,south ,and back the west coast. The family Grave in Canovee is adorned by a R,A,F. cross . My father Cornelius is also buried there. Best wishes and keep healthy.
Hello Cornelius – thank you so much for that info, what a fascinating family history! What was your grandmother’s name? I’d like to see if I can find her in the census – and I may have come across her name already when looking at some of birth registers in the area!
I have a slight correction to be made ref. my paternal grandmother, I stated that her maiden name was Riley , my older brother saw the article and phoned to say it was Brown,(her sister was Hannah Riley)I believe they originally came from the Killmurry area. I would have been about 7 years of age or so the last time i was there if I remember rightly. I love reading these articles .Keep up the good work .Trust you are keeping well. Kind regards. Con.
Thanks very much for the update Con. It’s hard to keep track of names, I get quite confused myself unless it is all written down in front for me.
I have another 3 stories nearly ready to go, just need to get up and going and upload them.
Thank you so much for this wonderful feature about the Model Village.The person responsible for its construction ,( and 40,000 other cottages between 1909 and 1919) DD.Sheehan M.P., is not remembered anywhere. (not even in Tower itself.) I visited his grave in Glasnevin , and is so neglected a tree is growing on it.His houses with their one acre plots,transformed the lives of so many people.I revere his memory.
Hello Robert, thank you so much for getting in touch. I didn’t realise that there is no memorial to D.D. Sheehan, he really was a visionary man & those houses are still standing today. He had quite an eventful life, I couldn’t find a biography written about his life, such a shame.