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First and second year students from St Fanahan’s College, Mitchelstown recently went on a geography trip experiencing some of the historical and geographical offerings of the local area. Two first year students, Claudette Colbert and Gavin Biggerstaffe, gave us the following report on their day:
It was my first time visiting Mitchelstown Cave and it was bigger than I expected. We had a guide who led us down in the caves. We had to go down a long path of steps which were steep and slippery so you had to watch yourself. There were three caverns in the cave and when we got to the last step we entered the first cavern. Our guide showed us stalactites which hang down from the ceiling and stalagmites which grow up from the ground. Stalagmites and stalactites take thousands of years to form. Some of the stalagmites and stalactites in the Mitchelstown Caves were huge and must have taken millions of years to grow.
We then went into the second cave where ‘pictures’ of Elvis Presley, an elephant, a bat and a witch could be seen on the walls of the cave. This amazing thing was that they had all been formed naturally. The guide then turned off the light in the cave for thirty seconds. It was pitch black, and some people would have screamed if she did not tell us not to. We then went into the third cavern which was the last one. There was a giant pillar in the cavern which they called ‘The Tower of Babel’. She heard about us singing in ‘Fame’ (our school concert), so our teachers Mr Sheehan, Ms Cardiff and Ms Beecher who accompanied us on the tour, told us to go onto the stage in the cave and sing the first few lines of ‘Hall of Fame’ which we did. It sounded really good and it earned us a round of applause.
However, that wasn’t the end of our trip to Mitchelstown Caves because we then had to find our way out of a maze which we found pretty hard (so some of us cheated!) We then hopped on the bus and said goodbye to the Mitchelstown Caves.
The next stop on our trip was Cahir and when we got off the bus the first thing we could see was Cahir Castle, a very old and very beautiful castle. Before going into the castle we walked through the town to St Paul’s Church. Alongside St Paul’s Church was a moat called the ‘Ha-Ha’ moat. After seeing the church we went into Cahir Castle where we met out tour guide who gave us information about the castle. Cahir Castle was owned by the Butlers - a very wealthy family who brought wine into Ireland. They grew wealthy because they got 10% tax on the wine.
The castle was built on a rock that was surrounded by the River Suir. The tour guide then brought us inside the walls into a large courtyard. She showed us a canonball that got stuck in a wall and then she brought us into the ‘trapping room’ - a room that the enemy, during times of battle etc, would run into. The doors of the room would then be locked and the enemy would be killed from above. It was really easy to imagine what it would have been like there at that time.
After that she brought us into a big room where the skull of an Irish Deer that had been preserved in a bog, hung on the wall. The Irish Deer’s antlers could be up to 3 metres long! We then watched a fifteen minute documentary on Cahir Castle which was very interesting. We left the castle and got something to eat in ‘Flares’, a lovely restaurant in Cahir. Then we got back on the bus and headed to the Vee.
When we arrived at the Vee, we were told the story of ‘Petticoat Loose’ by Ms Beecher. In the 19th century, Petticoat Loose was a farmer’s daughter called Mary, a big woman of around 6ft tall. She loved to dance and drink. She got her name ‘Petticoat Loose’ because at a wedding she got her skirt caught on a nail, so everyone could see her petticoats. They all jeered at her but she sent them flying with her fist! It was there at that wedding that she met her future husband. However, in Ireland at that time, there were hedge schools and Petticoat Loose had an affair with one of the hedge school masters. She had only been married a year. Then, one night, she was milking the cows with one of the servants. In a nearby field a man could he heard shouting and groaning so the servant went to check. However, Petticoat Loose struck the servant on the head with a milking stool. Petticoat Looses’ husband was never seen again after that night. People began to think he was murdered and blamed the hedge school master. After Petticoat Loose entered a drinking competition, she ended up drinking too much and she died. She was not buried by a priest and that was considered bad luck.
People were in fear of Petticoat Loose because she would haunt them and play tricks on them so they asked for a priest to banish her. The priest banished her to the lake saying: “You must drain this lake with a thimble”. People now say that if you swim across the lake at the Vee (which is located between Cappoquin and Clogheen), Petticoat Loose will try to grab you and pull you down into the lake.
The students were thrilled with the day as many of them had not been to the Mitchelstown Caves or Cahir Castle before. Ms Ciara Cardiff (geography teacher) was equally thrilled with the day. “This trip was of huge benefit to the students,” she said, “and it will assist them in many areas of their schooling.”
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