Article from the Grange Parish Book suggested for reading this week (week 44)
The Bulfin Family
In his book article, Tom Bulfin of Crean meticulously charted the history of his family from times preceding the arrival of his grandfather, Thomas, in Grange up to 2015.
The Bulfin surname has for a long time been synonymous with Grange and the wider locality,
including Bruff. The first of the Bulfin family to reside in Grange was Thomas Bulfin, who hailed from County Offaly. Thomas married Bridget Clancy of Grange in 1916 - the marriage ceremony took place at Grange Church.
Those of us from Grange, who are old enough, will be able to recall Thomas Bulfin of Lower Grange. My memory is of a tall distinguished-looking man with a grey moustache.
Thomas and Bridget went on to have a family of eight, six sons and two daughters: William (died young), Maureen, George, Tommy, Breda, John (Johnnie), Joe and Patrick (Paddy).
In outlining the Clancy connection, Tom wrote as follows:
"My great-grandfather, John Clancy, known as Johnny, was born in Doneraile, County Cork in 1848, and he died on December 31st, 1935. He moved to Grange with his father, George, in 1854. In Grange, he learned his trade as a carpenter from his father. He worked at the Croker estate in Grange as a very young man. He married Bridget Farrell (1858-1898) from Monaleen at the church there. Johnny and Bridget had five sons and two daughters: Patrick, George, Jack, Joseph, Edward, Mary and Bridget. Bridget was to become my grandmother."
Writing about his grandfather, Tom said:
"The Bulfin family hailed from Co Offaly. My grandfather, Thomas Bulfin, came from
Five Valley, near Birr, Co Offaly, born into a Church of Ireland family. That Bulfin family branch was originally Palatines - German Protestants - who escaped religious persecution in their own country, and settled in Kings County, as it was then known, during the plantation of Laois and Offaly in 1556. My grandfather, Thomas, came to Co Limerick when he was stationed in Grange (1912 – 1916) - a member of the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary)."
Regarding the courtship of Bridget and Thomas, leading to their marriage, Tom wrote as follows:
"The precise circumstances under which my grandfather, Thomas Bulfin, and my grandmother, Bridget Clancy, became acquainted are not clear. However, there is
documentary evidence in existence to indicate the commencement and conduct of an intense love affair that led to their marriage in 1916. I am in the possession of many hand-written postcard messages between the two parties, mostly from Thomas to Bridget, which indicate a truly unique courtship. Owing to the circumstances of the time, that is to say, Ireland’s fight for independence, and he being in the RIC, and there being considerable antagonism between Catholics and Protestants, it is understandable that the many postcards were written in code, some of which have been deciphered. The fact that Bridget lived in a house containing a post office meant that her privacy was much protected by the coded correspondence. Other members of the Bulfin family, as well, have a number of such postcards in their possession."
"When Bridget Clancy and Thomas Bulfin wished to marry, Thomas approached Bridget’s brothers with a view to obtaining their approval. Permission was granted on
the basis that he would change his religion and politics - which he did - a development that was frowned upon by his family in Co Offaly. The marriage took place in Grange Church in 1916. Down through the ages, it has been the case that obstacles in matters of the heart were invariably overcome through the primacy of true love. So it proved for Bridget and Thomas."
Bridget and Thomas went on to have eight children and the family was firmly established in Grange and beyond. Many of us will fondly recall Breda Bulfin, Postmistress, as well as her siblings - Maureen, George, Tommy, John (Johnnie) and Patrick (Paddy) - father of Tom, article author. Joe Bulfin visited Grange from time to time, on holiday from his home in England. The family became well known in GAA circles, a tradition upheld by subsequent Bulfin generations up to the present day. For example, Breda played camogie for the Fedamore GAA Club and Johnnie played active roles in the Bruff GAA Club.
Tom Bulfin's book article is brimming with interesting information about the Bulfin family and a full reading of the article is highly recommended - see the link below.
Subsequent to the Grange Parish Book publication, John Bulfin (Mungret, Limerick), son of Johnnie Bulfin and first cousin of Tom, wrote a wonderful book testimonial, which can be read here. In his testimonial, John recalled his childhood visits from time to time to the Bulfin home in Lower Grange. The following is a reproduction of John's marvellous piece:
"I was coming out of Sunday Mass in Mungret a few weeks ago when a neighbour of mine whispered to me: "I never knew the Bulfins came from Offaly". I asked him where he heard that, and he replied that he had read it in the Grange Book which he had borrowed from the library. He told me he was really enjoying the read, and I agreed with him that it was a 'gem' of a book.
So, what is it about the book that has captured my imagination? For me, the answer is simple, it ignited my 'senses'.
I can vividly see my Uncle George as he takes up his customary position on the Bridge on the River Camogue, waving enthusiastically at everyone. And the pride on my Uncle Tommy's face, looking at his drills of flowering potatoes, as 'straight as a die' in the haggard.
I can smell the new-mown hay in the Corcass and Aunty Breda's delicious brown bread, washed down by sugar-sweetened tea - kept piping hot in a glass cidona bottle by a chunky woollen sock.
I can hear the sound of hammer on anvil as Jim Madden plays his concerto in his forge, over the road. Or the banter coming home at night from Bruff in Uncle Tommy's car - between him, Joe Casey, Donie O'Dwyer and John Harty - with sliotars flying in every direction!
I can taste our own ice-cold milk from the fridge, and I hear the laughter at the creamy moustache left by the two inches of cream at the top of the bottle.
I can feel the touch of the newborn bonham, with its 'smooth as silk' back and its little pink nose, cold to the touch.
As I read The Grange Book, it brought me back to my happy childhood. It made me laugh a lot and at times shed a few tears. Thanks for the wonderful memories. I treasure the book, it's a credit to everyone involved."
Next week (week 45) we will suggest another book article for reading.
Kind Regards to All.
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