Select Collins Miscellany

Here are some Collins stories and accounts over the years:

Early Collins Septs

The sept of O'Coileain, possibly derived from the word coilean meaning a whelp or young dog, originated in North Desmond (extending into the modern county Limerick), where they were lords of the baronies of Connello. 

In the 13th century they were driven southwards by the Geraldines and settled in West Cork near the country possessed by their kinsmen the O'Donovans.  It should be noted that in this very territory to which they had migrated was a sept called O'Cuilleain which was also subsequently anglicized as Collins.  These were of the Corca Laoidhe

The Poet Sean O'Coileain

Sean O’Coileain of Corca Laoidhe was an 18th century poet in the old Gaelic tradition, when poets commanded respect and were given the hospitality of the king's castle. 

Unhappily for Sean, the kings had all been deposed and the people who would have been his patrons were as poor as himself. He drank.  But rather than making him happy, his drinking drove away his first wife and so enraged his second that she set fire to the house. 

Sean was a reluctant schoolteacher.  However, his poetry must have been appreciated, for he was known as the "Silver Tongue of Munster." There has been some mystery surrounding a strangely melancholy poem of his which has been compared to Gray's Elegy. Whether O’Coileain or an earlier poet wrote it continues to puzzle the folklorists

Michael Collins

Michael Collins, the son of a farmer from Clonakilty in West Cork, was affectionately known as “The Big Fellow.”  A man of great physical strength and courage, his untimely death deprived Ireland of its most promising leader.  

Ten years in accountancy and stockbroking in London had been a sound education for a future Minister of Finance in the new Irish Free State, which had come into being after the 1916 rising.  Though Collins had taken part in the rising he did not approve of it as a military operation.  He was one of the signatories of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and said, prophetically, that he was signing his death warrant. 

In 1922, with the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, with a price of ten thousand pounds on his head. When the President, Arthur Griffith, died in August, Michael Collins took over as the head of state and the army. Ten days later he was shot in an ambush in his beloved West Cork at Beal-na-Blath, the Mouth of the Flowers

Stanton Collins, The Sussex Smuggler

Alfriston was and is a small Sussex village nestled in the folds of the South Downs.  In the early 1800's, with the fears of invasion from France during the Napoleonic Wars, the population was boosted by troops from the Middlesex and Hampshire Militias. They were billeted in cottages around the market square and in outlying farms. The village thrived during this period and enjoyed a boisterous life.

The departure of the troops in 1815 impoverished the village but left a taste for lawlessness.  Alfriston was ruled at this time by a gang headed by Stanton Collins, a much glamorized figure who has endowed the village with its smuggler’s image today. Collins and his cronies made their base at the Market Cross Inn and, over a period of ten years, were active in smuggling and general thievery.  Alfriston was close to a convenient spot on the south coast shoreline where untaxed tubs of French brandy and other spirits could be landed and safely hidden away.

Finally in 1831, the forces of law prevailed. The Alfriston gang was broken up after Collins was caught for sheep stealing and sentenced to seven years’ transportation to Australia.

Hallet and Enos Collins in Nova Scotia

Hallet Collins was just ten years old in 1760 when his family came to Liverpool, Nova Scotia from Massachusetts with the other early settlers.   He lived out his life there, starting as many did in Liverpool as a fisherman and then progressing as a trader.  By the 1770’s he was trading lumber and fish to the West Indies on vessels like the Betsey and Dolphin in which he had whole or partial ownership.  He married three times and was the father of no fewer than 26 children from his first two wives.  When he died in 1831 he left an estate of £13,000. 

His second child Enos received little formal education, but went to sea at an early age on one of his father’s trading vessels.  Enos expanded on his father’s business and became one of the wealthiest men in British North America during his lifetime.  When he died in 1871 at the age of 97, he left an estate worth six million dollars, huge by the standards of the day.

Thomas Collins, Australian Whaler and Grazier

Thomas Collins at the age of 24 first sailed into Port Jackson in 1814 as a crew member of the Three B’s.  He was captivated by the natural beauty of the place, and also by the discovery that Australian waters abounded in whales. This made a lasting impression on a mind that was seeking a quick avenue to wealth and a career. 

He continued his seafaring life, mostly on the China run and sometimes in the Mediterranean.  But the dream stayed with him.  After he had made a considerable fortune, he bought three ships, outfitted them for whaling and set sail for Sydney, leaving his family at home whilst he tested what had been in the back of his mind ever since he had landed in Sydney in 1814, the prevalence of whales in Australian waters. 

His whaling days lasted from 1827 until about 1846, primarily with his vessel, the Elizabeth, which he owned for 20 years. 

By the 1840’s he had begun to grow tired of the seafaring life and took up land at Maitland.  He later moved further northwards to Queensland and settled on a property on the McIntyre Brook on the Darling Downs.  

His first property there was Cooloomunda where he became a cattle rancher.  He then moved to a new home at Telemon.  It took three months to transfer all his cattle, which then numbered 5,000, from Cooloomunda to Telemon.  The going was open country, the only transport being by horse or bullock wagon.

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