Cally was born and grew up on a
small farm in southern Ireland near the village of Killeagh, pronounced “Cilla”. Between the Donnelly farm and Killeagh is a rare hilly forested area called Glenbower Wood, which from 1182-1933 (750 years!) was part of the estate of the de la Chapelle family (later called the De Capel Brooke family). The road through Glenbower Wood crosses the River Dissour, so named because it’s noisy in flood season. It emerges from the forest beside the Old Thatch Bar, a Killeagh landmark and gathering place since 1650. You can still visit the Old Thatch today! See current photos of Glenbower Wood on their Facebook page, and more photos of Killeagh here.
Cally and her family drive through Glenbower Wood by carriage or wagon to sell farm produce, shop, attend church, and visit friends. A stop at the Old Thatch before heading home is common practice for Uncle Dugan, in part because of a lovely barmaid named Aisling, whose father, it turns out, owns the pub.
Historical records cite Killeagh at least as far back as the mid-1100s. Its way of life probably didn’t change much for centuries. The land (including Glenbower Wood) was owned by a succession of barons, who leased farmland to tenants. The fact that Cally’s father, Frank Donnelly, owns his wee farm and when he emigrates, can sell it to Dugan, is the fruit of decades of protest around land ownership, some of it violent, which led to the Land Acts of 1881, 1885 and 1891, all within the time period of our story.
The tradition of May Sunday, which Cally and her family enjoy in chapter 9, dates back to 1830, when the De Capel Brooke family (originally de la Chapelle) opened their estate to the villagers one day each year.
Earlier in that chapter, Cally mysteriously finds herself climbing a hill in a part of Glenbower Wood she hasn’t been to before. The holy well there, Fainin’s Well, known to have healing properties, can still be visited today, next to a rectangular stone with a socket which once held a wooden cross.
A map of Killeagh, Youghal, Waterford, and Portlaw
Killeagh to Youghal 11.4 km (7 miles)
Killeagh to Waterford 84 km (52 miles)
Waterford to Portlaw 19 km (12 miles)
On average, a horse can walk about 4 miles per hour, or about 50 miles per day, more when pressed.