A ‘selfish, perverse and turbulent’ people

Thu, Mar 26, 2015

This moving image, exquisitely drawn,  shows the local vicar sharing the final hours  of a dying man  in a hovel at Scull, Co Cork. The sketch was made by James Mahony who wrote that in order to make the drawing he had to stand ‘up to his ankles in the flith upon the floor’ The hut was less than 10 feet square. There were three children.
Mahony further wrote that the poor man had buried his wife five days previously. ‘Mullins died and three days later so did the vicar’. ( ILN February 20 1847)

As the Great Famine strengthened its fearsome grip on Ireland in the late 1840s and early 1850s, the people were doubly unfortunate that Charles Trevelyan, the Assistant Secretary to the British Treasury, had responsibility for Irish Famine relief.

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How artists changed Britain’s perception of the Great Hunger

Thu, Mar 19, 2015

Complete change of approach, ‘An eviction in the west of Ireland’ (By Aloysius O’ Kelly) published in ILN March 19 1881. The despair of the weeping mother,  the furniture thrown outside, the soldiers helping the bailiff do his work, the anxious crowd watching. The quality of O’Kelly’s work is obvious.

Although the Great Irish Famine, which devastated Ireland in the 1840s and early 1850s, happened at a time when photography was only in its experimental stage, we still have vivid images of the appalling suffering that the vast majority of the people endured. A suffering that was heightened by systematic neglect by government, the total absence of a comprehensive humanitarian plan of relief, and the law of the land which only supported the rights of landlords.*

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Mam Eán - A name that ‘speaks of the world’s wonders’

Thu, Mar 12, 2015

That great observer of landscape Tim Robinson reminds us that Connemara is full of saints. Perhaps there isn't a saint in the place today, but they were certainly there in profusion in earlier times. Looking around him from the heights of Errislannan, near Clifden, Tim observes that practically every one of the headlands and islands that he sees has its saint. There is St Roc at Little Killary, St Colmán on Inishboffin, St Ceannanach at Cleggan, St Féichín in Omey and High Island, and all the saints in the tangled archipelagos east of Carna, Bearchan, Breacán, and Enda; and the obscure Mocán or Smocán of Barr an Doire near An Cheathrú Rua, 'and finally the great St Colm Cille who has all the south Connemara coast under his protection...'

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The woman who was - ‘fearless’ where the Irish language was concerned

Thu, Mar 05, 2015

The inimitable Máire Stafford playing one of her many roles in Galway’s Taibhdhearc Theatre.

Scene: A deserted foreshore. Pier in background, mountains in the distance, sound of sea birds calling, waves breaking on the beach. A beautiful day. Curtain rises on two attractive people holding hands, gazing lovingly at each other.

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Letter from Ted Hughes to Assia’s sister, Celia Chaikin, April 14 1969

Thu, Feb 26, 2015

Nicholas and Frieda  with their father Ted Hughes on holiday in Scotland, early 1971.

Dear Celia, I should have written to you long ago but I’ve felt so absolutely smashed and not capable of talking to any one about what happened (three weeks earlier, her sister Assia had gassed herself, with her four-year-old daughter, Shura,). Your letter was a lot of support to me. I always liked you in your letters, and in what Assia told me about you, and you said just what was needed.

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Letter from Ted Hughes to his brother Gerald, April 1966

Thu, Feb 19, 2015

Assia Wevill, corrosive gossip, and losing Ted Hughes led to her murder/suicide.

This place is a mild paradise for me at present. We moved yesterday, from our sumptuous home, to a much older, wilder place - £2 a week, a house annexed to a big farm (big for this region) at the top of Cleggan bay - right on the west coast.

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Letter from Ted Hughes to Sylvia Plath’s mother, Aurelia, March 15, 1963

Thu, Feb 12, 2015

Richard Murphy: Refused to let Sylvia stay with him at Cleggan.

Dear Aurelia, It has not been possible for me to write this letter before now...

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Letter to Sylvia Plath from Ted Hughes (March 1956)

Thu, Feb 05, 2015

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath: an immediate ‘extraordinary connection’.

Sylvia, That night was nothing but getting to know how smooth your body is. The memory of it goes through me like brandy. If you do not come to London to me, I shall come to Cambridge to you. I shall be in London, here, until the 14th. Enjoy Paris...Ted. And bring back brandy. Two bottles.

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Two new recruits for the Connaught Rangers

Thu, Jan 29, 2015

Heading 
home after a recruiting drive in Co Kerry, and not a bad day’s work. Two new recruits for the Connaught Rangers. 

Painted 1878 
by Lady Butler.

This very fine painting ‘Listed for the Connaught Rangers, recruiting in Ireland 1878’, was painted by Elizabeth S Thompson, but following her marriage to Lieutenant General Sir William Butler of Bansha Castle, Co Tipperary, is best known as Lady Butler. It is not only extremely unusual for a woman artist to have so successfully worked in the highly masculine field of military art, but Lady Butler was an exception in many ways. She was an innovator, particularly in her sensitive and humane depiction of the ordinary soldier. Detail was all important. She was a regular visitor to Chelsea Hospital, and other retirement homes for soldiers, to question survivors, sometimes getting them to re-enact a particular scene.

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Pomp and circumstance, and one unmarked grave

Thu, Jan 22, 2015

King George V: ‘ I pledge my word that within these ancient and historic walls your Colours will be treasured.’

On June 12 1922 a very special ceremony took place at Windsor Castle, near London. Following the establishment of the Irish Free State the previous December, five Irish regiments, including the Connaught Rangers, the Royal Irish, the Leinsters, the Munsters, and the Dublin Fusiliers, which had served the British army with exceptional valour at times, were disbanded. It was a day of special significance for both the participants and onlookers.

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‘ When I drop this handkerchief, fire and spare no man’

Thu, Jan 15, 2015

Members of the Ist battalion of the Connaught Rangers in India. James Daly is bottom right (Photograph at King House Museum, Boyle).

Perhaps fearing that the refusal by Irish soldiers to carry out army duties in Wellington Barracks at Jullundur, northeast India, on June 27 1920; and that the mutiny would spread to an already sympathetic native population, leading to a general protest such as at Amritsar the previous year, the army authorities quickly took decisive action. The commanding officer, Lt Col Leeds, strode into the crowd of excited and rebellious soldiers, demanding to speak to its two leaders John Flannery and Joe Hawes. He warned the men that they could be shot for this; that such behaviour only excited the natives to rebellion. Hawes, smoking a cigarette, replied that he would rather be killed by an Indian bullet than by a British one (His disrespectful attitude to his commanding officer was noted).

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Two boys from Loughrea

Thu, Jan 08, 2015

Private John Oliver of the Connaught Rangers (seated left) and his friend bandsman Tom Wall on leave together in their native Loughrea.

At the beginning of the last century, two boys grew up together in Loughrea. Socially they were far apart, but they were great friends. John Oliver was from a particularly poor background. His family lived in a tiny lean-to shack out on the Galway road on the edge of the town. His friend was Tom Wall, who lived in a comfortable house on Patrick Street. John enjoyed visiting their home.  His friend played with a band, The Saharas, and there was often music and fun in their house, shared by his brother Ray, and their attractive sister Cissie.

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Six Furey brothers did not return to Loughrea

Tue, Dec 23, 2014

Christmas card from the British Red Cross Society: In 1917 all wounded men received a cheerful Christmas message from the Red Cross. This one was sent to Gunner Thomas Wall, Loughrea. The hand written additions were made in 1979 by Thomas’s younger brother Raymond, who served in the RAF during World War II (Illustration from A Coward If I Return, A Hero If I Fall - Stories of Irishmen in World War I, by Neil Richardson, on sale ¤19.99).

When it comes to the story of Galway and World War I there is no better man than William Henry. He came upon ‘the secrets in the attic shoe box’ some years ago when writing in a parish magazine he mentioned a relation of his in that war, and surprisingly opened a Pandora’s Box. People met him on the streets and told him that their grandfather, great-uncle, or cousin, or family friend also fought in that war. They had a box of their medals and uniform, letters or diaries somewhere at home.

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Galway driving instructor named as RSA Leading Light for second year running

Tue, Dec 23, 2014

Philip Rice, Instructor and Managing Director of Advance Drive School of Motoring in Salthill, Galway has won the prestigious Leading Lights in Road Safety Award for Approved Driving Instructor of the Year 2014 for the Truck Category.

Mr Rice was presented with the award by Liz O’Donnell Chairperson of the Road Safety Authority. He scooped the nationwide award for a second year running after winning the award in 2013 for his recognition and contribution to road safety.

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RTÉ Today Show searching for Galway’s heroes

Tue, Dec 23, 2014

Everybody knows them, the trojans of the local community who do hours of voluntary work and never seek any recognition.This could be anyone from the life saving doctor, to the jersey washer at the local GAA club. Is there a member of your community who goes that extra mile?

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Thirty nine stories from south Galway

Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Before the cattle marts took over the selling of livestock and farm produce, that important aspect  of farming took place on fair days. The main street or the square of the town would become a heaving mass of people, animals, carts and stalls. The marts offered a point for disease control, and traceability that eventually became the norm. But before that, to pass through a town on a fair day was to witness  rural Ireland in full flow. Fairs were busy, messy, and lively occasions, and  very much looked forward to by both the shop keeping  and farming communities. There was a May Fair, an August Fair and another around December 8. Not only were animals bought and sold, but friends met, couples exchanged glances; clothes and boots were bought, and glasses of porter sealed a deal.

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Ghosts of Galway’s past

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

Looking towards Dillon’s ‘Dublin Time’ clock  on William Street in the 1950s.

One of the mysteries of Galway is that curious phrase under the west facing clock on the Galway Camera Shop on William  Street, which says: Dublin Time. The fact that now the clock shows ordinary winter time only adds to the mystery. But not so long ago Galwegians, delighting in the longer days of sunlight than in the east of the country, and displaying an oddity that makes living in Galway a pleasure, set their clocks a full eleven and an half minutes behind Dublin. However, trains had to run to a standardised timetable otherwise transport chaos would ensue. The timetable was set at Dublin time (linked, like the rest of the civilised world, to Greenwich Mean Time), so  as Galwegians hurried to the station they could glance at the clock, and probably have to put on speed (perhaps Galway Time explains why most meetings here are usually 11 minutes late?).

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Caitlin and life with the Johns

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

Augustus John about the time he painted Caitlin.

The four Macnamara children, John, Nicolette, Brigit and Caitlin, when abandoned by their father, must have sought some stability from their mother Yvonne. But she was distracted by her passion for Nora Summers, and was just not available. Instead they were scooped up by the artist Augustus John, and his mistress Dorelia McNeil, and, saying good-bye to Doolin, were brought to live in his rambling red-brick home in Dorset. At the end of a sweep of gravel, lost in rhododendrons and trees, Alderney Manor was surrounded by miles of moorland. It was an ideal and happy playground for young children.

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