The Awaking of Augusta - The affair

Wed, Oct 17, 2018

The affair between Augusta Lady Gregory and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, the romantic traveller, poet and a somewhat eccentric man addicted to political causes, lasted one year. It carried on almost under the eyes of her husband Sir William. He did not notice it, or if he did, he chose not to notice it.

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The awaking of Augusta - Marriage

Thu, Oct 11, 2018

My dear Miss Persse, I have read over many times the letter which you wrote to me a fortnight since when returning Roderick Hudson. Am I too presumptuous in thinking that there is something more in it than a mere critique on that book? I have thought over and over again on the subject and have at length determined to ask if I may write freely to you - on the most momentous question affecting a man and woman’s life…..’

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The awaking of Augusta

Thu, Oct 04, 2018

Isabella Augusta Persse (later Lady Gregory), grew up in Roxborough House, Co Galway, a large rambling estate house, with magnificent gardens, commanding some 18,000 acres over which her father Dudley Persse presided with almost feudal authority. His 13 children knew their wheel-chaired bound father as The Master.*

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Little miracles in Rwanda

Thu, Sep 27, 2018

In August 1994, as soon as it was considered safe, Dr Dom Colbert, and a medical team of four sister-nurses, Brenda, Fionnuala, Dorothea and Eileen, drove across the Ugandian border into Rwanda. They had no mandate from anyone or any organisation to be there.They were motivated by a deep sense of shame and anger that such an appalling holocaust could have happened.* They had their medical skills, a little money, and an old clapped out pick-up truck.

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More lessons learned…

Thu, Sep 20, 2018

The Medical Missionaries of Mary were founded by a remarkable Irish woman Mother Mary Martin in 1937, dedicated to providing health care in underdeveloped regions of the world.* While working at ‘Mile 4’ hospital (St Patrick’s), near Abakaliki, eastern Nigeria, Dr Dom Colbert regularly visited the near-by leprosarium, which, despite the pitiful deformities, he describes as a ‘peaceful, tranquil place’. The lepers there were all long-term patients, ‘many had distorted faces, lacked ears or noses…deformities of the hands or feet with missing fingers or toes.’ Recurrent ulceration and infection of the skin required constant attention, dressing changes, and meticulous hygiene.

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Advice for men: best avoid parasitic worms

Thu, Sep 13, 2018

One disease that men should avoid at all costs is filariasis. It can cause serious scrotal swelling.

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Advice for men: best avoid parasitic worms

Wed, Sep 12, 2018

One disease that men should avoid at all costs is filariasis. It can cause serious scrotal swelling.

It is caused by the infiltration of a small tropical worm which blocks the lymphatics which drain excess fluid away from different parts of the body. When filariasis blocks the lymphatics that drain the scrotum, the scrotum swells, often enormously. Sometimes to the extent that the sufferer may need a wheelbarrow to carry his affected organs.

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The woman who swallowed a fish…

Thu, Sep 06, 2018

It is customary that in parts of southern Nigeria when a man goes fishing his wife remains behind him chatting to other wives in similar positions. When the husband catches a fish he swings his rod over his shoulder, his wife unhooks the fish, bites down on its head sufficiently to kill it, and pops it into their basket.

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How World War I changed Galway’s horsepower

Thu, Aug 30, 2018

Salthill began to really liven up with the arrival of the Dublin to Galway train in 1851. Holidaymakers arrived at the resort in some style. Trains were met at the station by horse-drawn ‘cars’ or ‘buses’ which went out directly to the seaside.

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The boy who burnt his hand

Thu, Aug 23, 2018

On Sunday evening March 25 1866, the two children of the schoolmaster Mr St George, were playing near the fire together in the Mission School (now Scoil Fhursa), when suddenly there was an explosion. The elder child burnt his hand. His injuries put him into a ‘very precarious position’. I am not sure how serious that was, but the story took an insidious turn when it was given out that ‘some malicious person climbed on the roof, and threw a packet of gunpowder down the chimney.’

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Salthill - ‘One of the nicest localities in the Kingdom.’

Thu, Aug 16, 2018

Salthill was a quiet fishing village, existing independently from Galway town, until the Victorian obsession for health and fresh air eventually came to the west of Ireland. Invigorating salt-sea baths, salt-water showers, and, as I mentioned in former weeks, confined bathing opportunities for women; but where men could hire togs for some manly swimming and diving. By 1828 it was noted that there were 40 to 50 neat lodges along its sea shore, where there were only two or three a few years before.

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Salthill’s Lazy Wall - a summer institution

Thu, Aug 09, 2018

Physically, of course, Salthill has changed dramatically since the early years of the last century when the beaches were rocky, and the scattered houses and lodges offered sea baths and confined bathing geared for the protection of women’s modesty. Men, no doubt, could show off their swimming and diving skills with abandonment, but could risk becoming the subject of comment (adverse or otherwise) of a unique Salthill ‘People’s Parliament’ known to all as the Lazy Wall.

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‘A thrifle more to the wesht, I’ll trouble ye, me lady’

Thu, Aug 02, 2018

I n the late 19th century women and girls rarely swam in the sea. It was considered unseemly. Yet in the belief that sea water was good for the skin, hotels and guest houses along the seafront at Salthill proudly offered sea baths, and 'showers' which could be enjoyed in any weather.

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‘Rather than die, the people submitted’

Thu, Jul 26, 2018

The Great Famine of 1845 - 49 hit Achill Island particularly hard. Given the poor quality of its soil there was little or no alternative to the potato crop which failed throughout those years. Once the severity of the calamity became apparent, and that help from the government was begrudging and insufficient, there was a sensible coming together of Protestant and Catholic clergy to try to calm and feed the people.

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Six boys and the Achill Mission

Wed, Jul 18, 2018

In the summer of 1840 two of London’s most prolific writers and journalists, Mr and Mrs S C Hall, set out from London for an ambitious tour of Ireland. They would later publish their journey and observations in Ireland - its Scenery and Character, a best selling three volume snap-shot of Ireland, sumptuously illustrated by engravings created by the best artists of its time*. It is a treasured collector’s item today.

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Victims of a sectarian war

Thu, Jul 12, 2018

Even though it was in the furthermost parish of Archbishop MacHale’s large Tuam archdiocese, once he realised the permanency and the extent of the Protestant settlement on Achill Island (built and directed by the fervent Rev Edward Nangle in the 1830s),* the archbishop was consumed with fury. He waged a belated but rather terrifying campaign to have it scorned and ignored by the island’s 6,000 residents.

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‘There is no place outside Hell, that enrages the Almighty more…’

Thu, Jul 05, 2018

A sort of panic obsessed the Archbishop of Tuam, John MacHale, when he realised the extent of the foothold gained by the uncompromising Church of Ireland evangelist Edward Nangle. Achill Island after all, was the very backyard of his immense diocese.

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‘A Shaking of the Dry Bones’ - Achill Island in the 1830s

Thu, Jun 28, 2018

On the eve of the Great Famine there was a terrible scandal in Kinvara, Co Galway. William Burke, who had served as a Catholic priest for 13 years, announced to his congregation that he was leaving the church and becoming Protestant. The people were so angry that about 2,000 pursued his carriage and hurled abuse at him. Two other clergymen and police protection were required to keep him safe.

Things were just about to get a little calmer when it was discovered that Burke had already married his wife Catherine while still priest, leading to his prosecution for ‘tendering an illegal oath’. A sensational court appearance ensued, and the case was dismissed.

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Dealing with whatever the ocean sends

Thu, Jun 21, 2018

It is not surprising that any child with imagination, and an interest in the sea, would spend time at the city’s harbour watching the ships come and go, and the men who worked there as they talked and unloaded fish or cargo. As a child Kathleen Curran, once the home chores were done, would run down the back paths from her home on College Road and along Lough Atalia to the docks. ‘There she would stand and gaze in wonder at the ships, boats and trawlers, hookers and gleoteóigs tied up or coming and going about their business.’

Her books at home were all about seafaring. She devoured everything she could get her hands on by her cousin Peter B Kyne, who lived in San Francisco. He had a very successful writing career. More than 100 films were made from his books. With her brothers and sisters, Kathleen enjoyed a strong Irish cultural background (solid Fianna Fáil!), endowed by her Headford parents.

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The poet and his legend returns home

Thu, Jun 14, 2018

Kathleen B Curran, who began working for the Galway Harbour Board after she left school, would rise spectacularly through the ranks to become the combined Harbour Master and secretary to the Port Authority (an unheard of position for a woman in Ireland). She was intimately involved in all of the major events which the harbour witnessed during the latter part of the last century. But I am sure she took particular pleasure, as an Irish language enthusiast and a great admirer of the poet WB Yeats, when Galway was picked out to play a role in the great poet’s funeral.

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