1893 Ceremonial Trowel

1893 Ceremonial Trowel from the start of work on Millstreet Boys School - from Cannon Griffin to Miss Madeline McCarthy O'LearyA fascinating item from Millstreet’s history has appeared on eBay this week, courtesy of a high quality antique dealer in England – Pushkin Antiques. It’s a ceremonial trowel presented to Miss Madeline McCarthy O’Leary by Cannon Griffin, on the occasion of laying the foundation stone at the Male School in 1893.

The school in question was located across from the Catholic Presbtry on the Clara Road.

The trowel is 925 standard silver purity. Due to it’s historic value and being made from silver, it’s retailing at £1,955 so it is way outside of the budget of Millstreet Museum.

Page 16 of “Notes of the History of Millstreet” talks about schools in Millstreet, but makes no mention of a new school at the end of the 19th century.


The Item can be  seen on eBay if you follow this link:


It has this description: Antique 19th Century extremely rare and collectable Irish Provincial Solid Silver foundation stone Trowel, which can be used as cake slice. The piece is of great historical relevance because of the memorial inscription: “Presented by Canon Griffin to  Miss Madeline McCarthy O’Leary on the occasion of her laying the foundation stone of the male school in Millstreet 1893”. The McCarthy O’Leary is an important Cork family, please follow this link. The piece is one off, and because was made on commission for a special oaccasion is not Hallmarked but is 925 standard silver purity. It dates to year 1893, is stamped with the Maker’s mark “O’Crowdey Cork Silver” and the unofficial mark of the company, which is the Cork’s city coat of arms. one of the most important Cork manifacturer and silversmith, who produced the “Lane Testimonial”, espergne of 200 ounces of Silver, please follow this link for more information.

Condition: In Excelent Condition – No damage.

Size: Height:   30cm, Width:   7 x 5cm, Weight:   150g


Madeline Felecia MacCarthy O’Leary was 23 at the time of this presentation. Here is her family line:


3 thoughts on “1893 Ceremonial Trowel”

  1. We were correct that it was the Boys National School back the Clara Rd. One of our loyal viewers remembers the very foundation stone to the right of the entrance door to the school set into the bottom of the wall on main school building. (see the old photo of the school below). He can remember the inscription that the foundation stone was laid by Miss Madeline McCarthy O’Leary, 22/23rd oct / feb 1893 (not fully sure of the date). and the foundatoin stone was at the bottom of the wall of the school just as you face the door.

    On looking for the foundation stone a few years ago, he found that it has disappeared, either plastered over of chiseled off.

    In the 1940s the youngest students started on the right side of the building, and worked their way. the classes were:
    * Maggie Murphy infants on the far right,
    * Dick Kiely 2nd & 3rd classes, second from the right,
    * Bill O’Keeffe next with 4th and 5th classes, and
    * Paddy Docherty on the far left with 6th, 7th, and 8th class (if any were left at that stage)

    Before the school was opened, the students came from the old boys school beside the cemetary (where Matt Murphy’s Furniture shop is now located) which had been in operation since 1840.

    The school closed about 1954, and moved to the new Boys School at the entrance to the Town Park (which is now the Youth Centre)

    Local builder Denis mcSweeney bought the building then, and renovated it four individual houses houses, and adding an upstairs

    Below are photos of the Old Boys School from approx 1910 (NLI) & 2013.

    1910s Boys National School - Clara Road 2013 The former Boys National School on the Clara Road - from GoogleStreetView

  2. Interesting stuff – My dad went there as did loads of the rest of yere fathers .Would be great if someone could locate the foundation stone . Trowel is in amazing condition – hope it eventually ends up in its rightful place – Millstreet Museum . One Question – How did ye guys find out it was on Ebay ? Wonder how it got to its present ‘owners’ .
    Anyway thanks Michael – made for nice reading here in work

    Conor H

    ps Clara Rd looking great as usual

  3. hi conor,
    how did we come across it? every now and again we use a search engine to see if anything interesting has appeared on the internet that relates to millstreet or surrounds. it throws up some interesting items every now and again, like the trowel yesterday, and the article on Garrett Cotter a few days ago, neither of which anyone would have known about otherwise.

    hope all is well in oz

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