From skullduggery to a fishing industry

Thu, Dec 14, 2017

We know very little about manmade piers and quays along the western seaboard before the beginning of the 19th century, when a lavish programme of safe harbours were built not only to encourage fishing, but as relief programmes in times of distress. It was also an attempt to replace the activities of piracy and smuggling with an industry based on the believed bounty from the sea.

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Drinking German tea, and other stories from South Galway.

Thu, Nov 30, 2017

Pete Lane, now in his 80s, who went to Ballindereen national school, spent most of his busy working life ‘on his knees thinning beet’. He had a friend Tommy Staunton from Lough Cutra, who had fought in World War I. Before Tommy went ‘over the top’ he was delighted when each soldier was handed a ‘little glass of brandy’. After which, Tommy claimed, you had no fear in the world. One day they were fighting the Germans, and managed to drive them out of their trenches. There they found a boiler of tea. It was still warm. The men settled down for a good cuppa but the officer warned them that the tea might be poisoned. Nobody cared if it was poisoned or not. ‘We were so exhausted an killed out’ that they enjoyed the break while the fighting continued.

Pete met his wife May in Tooreen, and brought her to the cinema in Kinvara. She was a May Carney from Clarinbridge and 20 years old. ‘There were no long engagements then. We were married in Oranmore at a very fast ceremony. Married and out the door. We had a ‘breakfast’ they called it then. We went to Dublin for a few days, then home. We worked hard, but when you are young you don’t notice it. Milking cows, feeding calves and pigs. We had hens and turkeys. You got good money for them especially at Christmas. I’d make the butter, and all the children’s clothes. I loved sewing always. Women were great. It was a different life. We had no jobs outside the home, but we had plenty to do. Non stop from morning to night, but you were well rewarded.’

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

Thu, Nov 02, 2017

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

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While Europe prepares for war, Galway dances the Lindy Hop!

Thu, Oct 19, 2017

Charles Lindberg made his famous non-stop flight from the US to Europe in May 1927. A young pilot of 25 years, he flew from New York to Paris, on a plane christened The Spirit of St Louis, and his achievement was celebrated across the world. Even on the dance floor!

The Lindy Hop, later more widely known as the ‘Jitterbug’, owes its origins to Black Harlem influence, and to the granddaddy of Swing himself, Mr Shorty George Snowdon. The legend says that Shorty was watching couples dance in his club when a journalist asked him what were they dancing? A newspaper article which headlined: LINDY HOPS THE ATLANTIC was nearby. Shorty replied: ‘They are doing the Lindy Hop’.

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‘Oh steer my bark to Erin’s Isle...’

Thu, Oct 12, 2017

On Friday evening towards the end of the Easter Rising, there was one further horrific incident that convined Padraic Pearse that surrender, and quickly, was the only course open to the rebels.

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Inspirations for a poet

Thu, Sep 28, 2017

Week II

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The moaning came from the room next door

Thu, Sep 21, 2017

In the early 1960s the poet Richard Murphy spent an eventful decade ferrying visitors on his converted traditional Galway hooker type boat, the Ave Maria, between Cleggan and Inishbofin, and to the islands beyond. It provided rich pickings for the poet. He kept a diary of the journeys, the characters who came on board, and the excellent fishing that anglers enjoyed, which he included in his finely observed autobiography The Kick, recently republished to celebrate his 90th birthday.*

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A gentle kick under the table

Thu, Sep 07, 2017

Week IV

If Sylvia Plath was hoping for some kind of reprochement between herself and her husband Ted Hughes during their stay with Richard Murphy at Cleggan, Co Galway, she was to be quickly disillusioned. In fact she would be abandoned, and plunged into despair.

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The poet who went mad on Inishboffin

Thu, Aug 17, 2017

In 1959 the poet Richard Murphy renovated the black-sailed Ave Maria, a traditional Galway hooker, which he used to ferry visitors to Inishboffin, and for a day’s fishing. Over the years the poet, the boat and the magnificent landscape attracted a flotsam and jetsam of humanity, many of a literary kind.

The critically acclaimed American poet Theodore Roethke*, and his model wife Beatrice (whom he adored and addressed as ‘My lizard, my lively writher’), arrived for a few days, and stayed two months.

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Lessons from ‘an old schoolmaster’

Thu, Aug 10, 2017

Week III

There is no denying that Éamon de Valera was born in New York ( October 14 1882), and was therefore an American citizen. Following the Easter Rising, he was arrested for his role commanding his battalion at the south east approaches to Dublin at Boland’s Mills by the Grand Canal. He was sentenced to death on May 8 1916 by a military court. His wife Sinéad immediately got the American consul to intervene.

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Éamon de Valera enters the Irish political stage

Thu, Jul 27, 2017

On June 7 1917 Major Willie Redmond, MP for East Clare, was killed in action leading the Royal Irish Brigade to victory at the Battle of Messines Ridge at Ypres. A member of the Irish Parliamentary Party (his brother John was party leader), he had represented East Clare at Westminster for 25 years. At 53 years of age Redmond was too old to be a soldier. But he was convinced that an Ireland loyal to the Crown would succeed in achieving Home Rule, and so he joined the Irish troops at Flanders.

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Under the wild sky

Thu, Jul 20, 2017

Week III

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A letter sent to GA Hayes-McCoy

Thu, Jul 06, 2017

One hundred years ago there were a series of truly terrible battles on the Western Front which were watched anxiously in Ireland as elsewhere. On June 7, near the Belgian village of Messines, the Allied army won a substantial victory. It gave hope, which turned out to be tragically false, that perhaps this was the beginning of the end of the war. With the capture of the Messines ridge, the Allies were confident they could clear a path all the way down to Passchendaele, and capture the Belgian coast up the Dutch border.

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