Liam Ua Broin (1871-1955) spent decades collecting notes on the old sayings place names and folklore of southwest Dublin, including the areas of Clondalkin, Rathcoole, Newcastle and Saggart . A native of Saggart, he was an active member of Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and the Drimnagh Gaelic League. He did a great deal of work at the Registry of Deeds, Henrietta Street, abstracting documents relating to his favourite part of the country and its associated families : Caldbeck, McDonnell and Seery. His pencil notes in 44 reporter notebooks and school copybooks must surely be one of the most indispensable sources on the local history of the Barony of Newcastle.
Liam Ua Broin
"As hard to settle as Brunton's"
Most of Ua Broin's notebooks date from the early 1940s. Several times in his notes the author referred to a widespread saying in the Rathcoole area - “As hard to settle as Brunton's (Bronton's)”. He counted 84 locals in the 1940s who were familiar with this saying when they were children. A variation on the saying was: “It would be better to be trying to settle the Bruntons”. The saying itself was also known as a “password”. The legend behind the saying was connected to the laying of the so-called Brunton’s Ghost.
Ua Broin outlined the background story of a man named Brunton (first name not given) who murdered another man called Purteen before tossing his body into a bush. The spot where the bush stood was known by the locals for a long time afterwards as Purteen’s Bush. The events were remembered as having taken place near Slademore Lodge, Calliaghstown, which is nolonger standing. Strangely it was the restless ghost of the murderer who appeared to haunt the neighbourhood, unless the tale became garbled over the decades. The same phrase was recalled by a pupil at Brittas School, Saggart, in the National Schools Folklore Project of 1938. If a person was restless and running around from one place to another, people would say: "he is as hard-settled as the Bruntons".
Ua Broin added that the burial ground of the Brunton family was at nearby Ouchterard (Oughterard) graveyard, Kildare, which is perhaps best known as the final resting place of Arthur Guinness. The surviving Brunton tombstones at Ouchterard give little insight into who the Brunton in the story was , however. These Bruntons were a family of local farmers with holdings at Bishopscourt, Black Church, the Brow of the Hill and Clonaghlis among other locations. They were associated through marriage with several local families such as Wolfe and Upton.
Was Brunton executed for his crime? The usual place of execution in the area was Windmill Hill, Rathcoole, which lies very close to Slademore Lodge and Purteen's Bush. There is no documentary evidence of this crime, however. It appeared to exist only in the local saying. That was in the 1940s. It is doubtful whether this saying or its accompanying tale are known in present-day Rathcoole.
The 44 notebooks of Liam Ua Broin are available at the National Library in Dublin.
1.Liam Ua Broin, comp., “A south-west Dublin glossary. A selection of south-west county Dublin words, idioms and phrases.”, Béaloideas 14, 1944 (1945), pp. 162–86.
2.Liam Price, “Liam Ua Broin” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland
Vol. 86, No. 1 (1956), p. 110. Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.
3.Oughterard Cemetery, http://historicgraves.com/graveyard/oughterard-cemetery/kd-ogtd
4.National Library of Ireland, the notebooks of Liam Ua Broin, MS 19043, 19066.