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Whispering Stones

Whispering Stones

By Bernice Cooke

The buildings that we don't know about, the History that didn't feature in our School books. Irish history, local history, the people, the places, the stories.
Whispering their stories as we walk amongst what was and now what isn't. From battlefields, to Castles, Forts to Island Prisons, Famine Graves to forgotten cottages. When have you really looked off the beaten path at the history that emanates from our surroundings. The places that don't feature on a tourist map, those places you stumble upon when out for a walk. What, why, who and where answered in each episode.
Currently playing episode

Episode Two Clontuskert Augustinian Friary

Whispering StonesApr 02, 2023

Echoes of Athlone: Unearthing the Secrets of a Resilient Castle

Echoes of Athlone: Unearthing the Secrets of a Resilient Castle

In this captivating episode of Whispering Stones, we travel back to the heart of Ireland, where the storied Athlone Castle stands guard over the River Shannon. "Echoes of Athlone: Unearthing the Secrets of a Resilient Castle" offers a vivid journey through the centuries, exploring the tumultuous history of this iconic fortress.

We begin in the 12th century, uncovering the origins of Athlone Castle under the O'Connor Clan's reign. The narrative then leads us to the tragic events of the 13th century, where disaster strikes during reconstruction under John de Gray's supervision, ordered by the King of England. As we traverse the 14th and 15th centuries, the castle becomes a battleground, constantly shifting hands between Irish and English control.

The episode takes a dramatic turn with the Bruce Invasion and the fiery Scottish attacks in the 16th century, highlighting the castle's strategic importance and resilience. The 17th century unfolds with the Confederacy Rebellion, Cromwell's conquest, and the Williamite War, revealing tales of siege, bravery, and transformation.

Listeners are then transported to the 18th century, where Athlone Castle emerges as a bulwark during the Napoleonic Wars, symbolizing rebirth and strategic might. Today, the castle is a testament to history, its visitor center serving as a portal to a bygone era.

"Echoes of Athlone" is not just a historical account; it's a narrative woven with the threads of resilience and human spirit. Engaging soundscapes, vivid storytelling, and a call for audience interaction make this episode a compelling piece for history enthusiasts and casual listeners alike.

Join us as we unravel the secrets of Athlone Castle, where every stone tells a story of conquest, survival, and transformation.

If you would like to purchase my original artwork of Athlone Castle take a look here 👉

Dec 02, 202306:51
Whispers from Killua: Echoes of a Castle's Past and Present
Nov 24, 202306:59
Echoes of the Past: Unveiling the Mysteries of St. Munna’s Ancient Church

Echoes of the Past: Unveiling the Mysteries of St. Munna’s Ancient Church

In this episode of Whispering Stones, titled "Echoes of the Past: Unveiling the Mysteries of St. Munna’s Ancient Church," we delve into the rich history and architectural splendor of St. Munna’s Church in Taghmon, Co. Westmeath. Built in the 15th century on the site of a 6th-century monastery, this church stands as a testament to Ireland's ecclesiastical heritage.

The episode highlights the church's unique architectural features, such as its stone barrel-vault and the robust four-storey western tower, illustrating how these elements provided sanctuary and security in turbulent times. Special attention is given to the elegant ogee-headed windows and the intriguing Sheela-na-Gig carving, which offers a glimpse into the complex symbolism intertwined in Irish and British churches.

Listeners are also introduced to the architectural terms like "machicolation" and "base batter," enhancing their understanding of the church’s design. The episode then explores the significant renovation undertaken in 1843 by the esteemed architect Joseph Welland, acknowledging his contribution to preserving the church's legacy.

The narrative weaves historical facts with engaging storytelling, inviting listeners to reflect on the enduring beauty and significance of St. Munna’s Church, not merely as a structure of stone but as a living chronicle of faith and resilience.

Check out my original painting here of St. Munna's Church

Nov 17, 202306:33
Echoes of Inchbofin: A Tale of Monks, Monoliths, and Memories

Echoes of Inchbofin: A Tale of Monks, Monoliths, and Memories

In this captivating episode of "Whispering Stones," we travel back in time to explore the mystical Inchbofin Island, a hidden gem in the eastern part of Lough Ree. Our journey begins in the 6th century with Saint Rioch, who founded a monastery that became a beacon of spirituality, recorded in the ancient Annals until 1089. We then delve into the architectural wonders of the 12th century - two remarkable churches built under the auspices of the Canons of St. Augustine monastery. The grander church, adorned with an exquisite Romanesque window and a stone-carved Bishop’s head, and its smaller counterpart, embody the spiritual and artistic legacy of the island.

Transitioning from the ancient to the modern era, the episode brings to life the stories of the last families who called Inchbofin home, enduring through the isolation brought by the great Snowstorm of 1947. Their tales of resilience and adaptation offer a poignant glimpse into the life and soul of the island.

As we conclude, "Echoes of Inchbofin" invites listeners to reflect on the serene monastic life, the enduring architectural marvels, and the indomitable human spirit that has permeated this island through the ages. This episode is not just a historical narrative but an immersive experience, beckoning us to uncover the layers of stories that Inchbofin Island whispers to those who listen.

My original painting of Inchbofin is sold, winging its way to a nice home in County Cork. But I have limited edition signed prints available here 👉

Nov 12, 202306:29
Illuminated History: The Artistic Soul of Athlone's Riverside Sanctuary
Nov 05, 202307:12
Uisneach: The Hearthstone of History

Uisneach: The Hearthstone of History

Dive into the captivating world of Irish history with our latest Whispering Stones Podcast episode, "Uisneach: The Hearthstone of History".

Uncover the secrets of Uisneach, a mystical hill in County Westmeath, revered as the spiritual and geographical heart of Ireland. From the enigmatic Neolithic monuments to its role as a political and spiritual hub, this episode weaves together the threads of time, revealing Uisneach’s significance from pre-Christian ceremonies to major political rallies in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Join us on a journey through time, exploring how Uisneach stood as a silent witness to the ebb and flow of ages, hosting ancient festivals, witnessing the endeavors of St. Patrick, and inspiring literary giants like James Joyce. With engaging storytelling, thematic transitions, and immersive narrative, “Uisneach: The Hearthstone of History” is more than a podcast episode—it's a portal to Ireland’s soul.

But that’s not all! In the spirit of celebrating Ireland’s rich heritage, I’m excited to announce my annual Halloween Art Sale! For a limited time only, until November 7th, indulge in my collection of original pen and watercolor building portraits at a remarkable 30% off, with free shipping in Ireland. Each piece captures the essence of Ireland's architectural beauty, making it a perfect addition to your collection or a thoughtful gift. Don’t miss this opportunity to own a piece of art that resonates with Ireland's historical charm. Visit now to explore the collection and make your purchase!

Remember, "Uisneach: The Hearthstone of History" isn’t just an episode; it’s a celebration of Ireland's enduring legacy. Tune in, get inspired, and take home a piece of this legacy through my exclusive art sale. Let's keep the stories alive!

Oct 29, 202307:10
Clonyn Castle Unveiled: A History Shrouded in Mystery
Oct 22, 202309:20
Whispers of Delvin: Castle Chronicles and Haunted Inns
Oct 14, 202309:07
Knockdrin Castle: Where Legends Reside
Oct 10, 202308:11
Ballinlough Castle: Secrets of the Catholic Surname Switch and the Fiery Horse Maneuver
Oct 01, 202308:40
Gateways to History: The Tale of Glananea House and the Smyth Nickname
Sep 23, 202307:48
Victoria Cross Valor and Derby Triumphs: The Untold Story of Middleton Park House

Victoria Cross Valor and Derby Triumphs: The Untold Story of Middleton Park House

In this captivating episode of "Whispering Stones," we embark on a journey to unveil the hidden stories and timeless charm of Middleton Park House, a Georgian gem nestled in the heart of County Westmeath. Host Bernice Cooke takes you on a mesmerizing tour of this 19th Century masterpiece, where architectural splendor meets tales of heroism and elegance.

Discover the architectural wonders that grace the façade of Middleton Park House, from its distinguished slate roof to the grand Ionic portico that welcomes visitors with open arms. Step inside to explore a harmonious blend of history and modern comfort, with underfloor heating and ornate moldings that adorn the ceilings.

But the true magic lies in the stories of its illustrious residents. Hear the tale of George Boyd Rochfort, a Victoria Cross recipient, and his brother Cecil Boyd Rochfort, the legendary racehorse trainer. Their extraordinary lives are intertwined with the house's rich history, making it a place where heroism and horse racing royalty converge.

The house also played host to glamorous parties of the 1930s and 1940s, where Hollywood screen siren Rita Hayworth once graced its halls. And as time passed, the house changed hands, leading to a unique chapter involving professional gambler Barney Curley.

As we conclude our journey through Middleton Park House, we invite you to delve deeper into its allure. Visit our website to explore original artwork of this historic gem, created by Bernice Cooke, with free shipping available in Ireland. Immerse yourself in the elegance and history that continue to echo through Middleton Park House's whispering stones.

Don't miss the chance to own a piece of history with our exclusive artwork of Middleton Park House. Visit our website today at and experience the charm of this Georgian masterpiece in the comfort of your own home. Plus, enjoy free shipping anywhere in Ireland. Hurry, as these unique pieces are in limited supply. Embrace the whispers of Middleton Park House's past through art, and let its story become a part of your own. Visit now!

Sep 16, 202307:60
Whispers of Betrayal: The Tale of Belvedere House
Sep 10, 202307:09
"Whispers of Elegance: Unveiling the Timeless Tale of St. Sinan's Church"
Aug 31, 202307:37
"Echoes of Valor: Unveiling the Secrets of Tyrrellspass Castle"
Aug 25, 202309:38
"Whispers from the Past: Unearthing Tales etched in Wilson's Hospital School Walls"
Aug 19, 202309:27
"Tales of Tullynally Castle: A Journey Through Time"
Aug 13, 202307:36
Are we going for a few scoops?

Are we going for a few scoops?

"Sean's Bar - Unveiling the Secrets of Ireland's Oldest Pub"

Step into the enigmatic world of Sean's Bar, a seemingly unassuming little pub in the heart of Athlone, Ireland. At first glance, it may appear like any other cozy watering hole, but behind its unpretentious exterior lies a history so ancient and captivating that it has earned its place in the Guinness Book of Records.

In this week's episode of Whispering Stones, we journey back over a thousand years to the year AD 900, where the story of Sean's Bar begins. Imagine a time when a ford named Áth Mor, "The Great Ford," spanned the mighty River Shannon. Here, a man named Luain Mac Luighdeach, also known as Luain son of Lewy, established an inn to guide travelers crossing the rapid waters. This inn, now known as Sean's Bar, was the genesis of a settlement that later evolved into the vibrant town of Athlone.

The mysteries of Sean's Bar run deep, with intriguing revelations from the National Museum of Ireland. Carbon-dated mud, wattle, and wood fragments suggest that a pub or tavern may have operated on this site for an astounding millennium. And brace yourself for a surprise - during a renovation in the 1970s, an ancient back wall made of wattle and wicker dating back to the 9th century was uncovered!

Within the walls of this venerable establishment, artifacts like tavern tokens shed light on the lives of the settlement's inhabitants from a bygone era. These tokens were once minted by landlords and bartered with customers, akin to early loyalty rewards. One can only imagine the tales these tokens could tell!

As we delve deeper into Sean's Bar's history, we learn that the town of Athlone was built upon the Ford of Great Antiquity, a strategic crossing point on the Shannon. King Turlough O’Connor further fortified the settlement in 1129 with the construction of a wooden castle.

And here's the crux - in 2004, the Guinness Book of Records bestowed upon Sean's Bar the esteemed title of the "Oldest Pub in Ireland." The proprietors proudly claimed to have a recorded lineage of previous owners stretching back centuries, all the way to the time of Luan, the namesake of the town Athlone.

Yet, the intrigue continues as researchers embark on a quest to unearth the oldest pub in the world. As of now, Sean's Bar stands tall, with its illustrious title, waiting for any challenger to come forth and claim the crown.

So, fellow history enthusiasts, join us on this enthralling adventure as we uncover the hidden stories and ancient secrets of Sean's Bar. From its humble beginnings as Luain's inn to its Guinness-certified title, this beloved pub carries a legacy that transcends time.

Tune in to this week's Whispering Stones, and let the stones whisper the tales of Sean's Bar - where history comes to life, and every pint is a toast to the ages.

If you would like to browse my building portraits please do visit my website this is my take on Sean's Bar, I hope you like it

Until next time!

Aug 05, 202308:16
 Moydrum Castle: Unraveling the Enigmatic Ruins and their Timeless Secrets
Jul 29, 202305:52
"Unearthing Secrets: The Mysterious Tales of Multyfarnham Friary"
Jul 21, 202305:43
Lost in time - now reimagined
Jul 15, 202305:47
I wonder About the Wonders of Fore

I wonder About the Wonders of Fore

Fore Abbey, is a featured painting in my upcoming exhibition.

If you would like to have a look here it is

Alternatively if you would prefer to view it in person, drop in to my next exhibition. located in the County Buildings in Athlone, Co. Westmeath. September 2023.

Did you hear about the Seven Wonders of Fore?

Jul 07, 202305:05
Charge into Battle

Charge into Battle

The Battle of Aughrim a little village in East Galway with a massive history attached to it.

America has its Gettysburg we have the battle of Aughrim. One of Ireland's most bloodiest battles.

Who will succeed to the English Throne. if you would like to browse and possibly purchase some work.

My new collection is now complete and ready for my upcoming exhibition in June. If you would like a fancy invite please do drop me an email with your name and address and I will pop one in the post for you

Chat to you next week!

May 25, 202306:15
Episode Eight Row Row Row your boat!
May 14, 202306:50
Episode Seven Echoing Chants
May 08, 202306:12
Episode Six Woodlawn Estate
May 01, 202306:04
Episode Five King of the Castle

Episode Five King of the Castle

We venture not too far from the town of Portumna, following the winding path of the River Shannon. Arriving at Derryhiney Castle, the last tower house to be built in this way.
It has weathered the years very well, and is a protected structure by the State, although there is no public access to this castle, if you ask permission from the local farmer whose land it sits on I am sure he will let you cross the demesne.

Apr 24, 202304:12
Episode Four Lawrencetown Village
Apr 17, 202307:02
Episode Three The Historical Town of Eyrecourt

Episode Three The Historical Town of Eyrecourt

This week I took a spin over to Eyrecourt in County Galway. Once a bustling town of Industry now a quiet detail of its past.

Developed into a market town by the Eyre Family who were given confiscated land during Cromwell's Reign.

A patent from the Crown meant the Colonel John Eyre could erect a Castle on the Estate comprising of 30,000 acres.

The following links will show you what the Castle looked like and of course the beautiful Stairs.

Now it stands a crumbling ruin with the Staircase in crates in the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Apr 10, 202305:50
Episode Two Clontuskert Augustinian Friary

Episode Two Clontuskert Augustinian Friary

Join me as we head to a location not too far from my doorstep.

Clontuskert Augustinian Friary.

Located of the beaten tourist path, on the road from Portumna to Ballinasloe in a place called Abbey park four miles south of Ballinasloe.

Well worth a visit for the beautiful carvings over the Doorway, the cloisters and the height of the gables, we can only imagine what it would have been like to have lived here.

Head to my website if you would like to keep up to date with all my goings on!

Chat to you next week!

Apr 02, 202304:37
The Beauty of Clonfert Cathedral
Mar 27, 202305:15
Introduction to Whispering Stones

Introduction to Whispering Stones

An introduction to my weekly podcast show all about local history buildings and places. Off the beaten tourist path.
Mar 19, 202301:10