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Posted by Murrisk on June 04, 2004 at 00:36:19:
In my first year in St. Gerald’s I shared a desk with a lad from Turlough, a relative as it turned out. As lads do, we ending up swoping a few items, some of which I still have. In one transaction I acquired a “hoard” of old coins and medallions. One of the coins was a George III regal copper halfpenny minted in 1782. I often wonder about its history when I handle the coin. It was struck 1 year after the surrender of British forces at Yorktown and would have been circulating for 44 years at the time the Irish and English currencies were assimilated in 1826. It was 7 years old at the time of the French Revolution and 16 years old at the time of the 1798 rebellion.
Minted in England, this well worn/handled coin made its way through many hands to Turlough. How many times and under what conditions was it used to pay for food, drink, rent, court fines, tithes or bribes ? It was probably used to pay police, militia or military personnel at one time or another. It may even have been used to buy someone out of a debtor’s prison. It was probably gambled away and squandered in ale houses. Did hungry family members await its non-arrival ? Was it ever in the possession of George Robert Fitzgerald or his bodyguards (“the volunteers”) prior to his execution in Castlebar in 1786 ? Maybe it was used to but him food or other creature comforts while he languished in gaol, then located at the site of Egan’s Jewelers at the junction of Castle Street and Ellison Street. It may even have been part of the “Catholic rent” – the 1 penny per month paid to O’Connell’s Catholic Association. How many famine victims hands touched this coin - did it help alleviate hunger or help pay the way of any to a better life ? Did my own forebearers handle this very coin, or others in the "hoard", all those long years ago ?
Old items can be very provocative.