Dick Martin’s reputation as a duellist struck terror into his creditor

Thu, Dec 29, 2011

Last February some readers enjoyed the tales of George Robert Fitzgerald, of Turlough, Co Mayo, known as Fighting Fitzgerald. He was an appalling man who provoked duels by his insulting behaviour, with his cronies conducted a reign of terror through Mayo, and at one time chained his father in a cave to get him to change his will. He ended on the gallows at Castlebar.

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Galway enjoyed an unusual breach of promise marriage case

Thu, Dec 29, 2011

It is not often that one reads of a man taking an action for breach of promise of marriage. Such an action was heard in the County Court-house, Galway, at the Lent Assizes of 1817. (I think it was one of the first cases heard after the opening of the building).

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Brave little Otto humbly meets his Maker

Thu, Dec 29, 2011

I was very impressed at the dignity and solemnity at the funeral of Otto von Hapsburg who died aged 94 years on July 4. Twelve days later he was entombed in the Imperial crypt of St Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, with some pomp and ceremony; but his actual ‘ Three Knock’ burial was simplicity itself.

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The knocking ceremony

Thu, Dec 29, 2011

AFTER A requiem Mass at Vienna’s St Stephen’s Cathedral, the funeral party entered Vienna’s Capuchin Friary (Kapuzinerkirche) after the following “knocking” ceremony.

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The strange story of the virgin birth and Kinvara’s great huntswoman

Thu, Dec 29, 2011

Geoffrey Russell, fourth Lord Ampthill, died at the age of 89 last April 23. His mother Christabel, Lady Ampthill, bought Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, Co Galway, an old tower house with a bawn and smaller tower on a creek of Galway Bay, and restored it most sympathetically. It is now owned by Shannon Development and used for mediaeval banquets.

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Best Christmas gift guide ever

Thu, Dec 08, 2011

Having had an enjoyable stroll through Galway city and county, it is abundantly clear that Galway literally has everything that anyone could possible want for Christmas, and at a price that despite the budget, we can afford. Also shopping in Galway is fun! And the shops are making every effort to meet our limited pockets by having bargains and beautifully decorated shops. Then after a hectic few hours shopping, and everyone sorted, a hot mulled cider, or a cool German beer in the Bier Keller, at the Eyre Square Christmas market tent, is a blast! Her are some of my suggestions:

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Europe never tasted so good

Thu, Dec 01, 2011

I am glad Galway does not have Michelin starred restaurants. I have eaten in two Dublin restaurants when the family occasion, so I was told, warranted a Michelin starred meal. The first occasion was very good. The owner/chef visited all the tables and chatted pleasantly, hoping that we had enjoyed our meal. We all had. On the following two occasions, including another restaurant, which to my disbelief, retained its Michelin star this year, both meals were a disgrace. Incredibly over priced, snobby and condescending waiters, tiny portions, and pretentious food. Apart from the obligatory ‘is everything all right?’ no sincere effort was made to connect with the customer.

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Firing squads bring Civil War to a close

Thu, Nov 24, 2011

The Civil War in Galway came to an end because there was little appetite for further bloodshed in the face of ruthless determination by the Free State, or the pro-treatyites, to stamp out the anti-treaty forces. The Free State government warned that anyone carrying weapons other than the National Army, would be shot. Eleven Galway anti-treatyites were shot by firing squad. On January 20 1923 Martin Bourke, Stephen Joyce, Herbert Collins, Michael Walsh, and Thomas Hughes, all attached to the North Galway IRA Brigade, were arrested and executed in Athlone. On February 19 eighteen volunteers were arrested in Annaghdown, and brought to Galway gaol. It was given out that all were ‘well armed’. Even though it was expected that all, or a number of them, would be shot, nothing happened.

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Civil War - British gunboat sent to Clifden

Thu, Nov 17, 2011

June 22 1922 Galwegians looked on with alarm as anti-Treaty forces, who had taken up positions in a number of buildings in the city, including the former RIC station at Eglinton Street, were preparing for a fight. That morning Michael Brennan, IRA commander of the only major pro-Treaty unit in the west, under orders from Richard Mulcahy Free State Army commander, entered the city with a large well armed force. They immediately secured the county-jail, the courthouse, and the railway hotel. Having seen the end of the War of Independence, and having voted by a substantial majority just weeks before for parties supporting the Treaty with Britain, this was a tragic state of affairs. Galwegians feared an all out pitched battle, followed by the horrors of the previous years of struggle. This time, however, the enemy was not Britain, but former friends and comrades.

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Galway 1910 - 1923, the changing years

Thu, Nov 10, 2011

Early in 1916, Pádraic Pearse visited Athenry to discuss plans for the Rising. He wanted the Volunteers to hold the county at the River Suck at Ballinasloe, to capture Galway city, and then, if possible, to march on Dublin. There were several variations of this strategy, but whichever plan was finally agreed, its success depended on the Volunteers receiving modern weaponry. Up to then the men had been rehearsing with shotguns, and sticks. Pearse assured them that small arms, including assault rifles and machine guns, were on their way. They would arrive in Gort, and be distributed from there.

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‘A degree of darkness in the mind’

Thu, Nov 03, 2011

Remarkably, and that is a word already used in this drama, the court accepted Michael Cleary’s plea of manslaughter. He was charged with the murder of his wife Bridget by burning her to death, but the jury accepted that Cleary had really believed that his wife had been transformed into a ‘changeling’ by the fairies; and it was only a concoction of herbs and fire that would release her from its spell.

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The ‘savage’ Irish peasant unfit for Home Rule

Thu, Oct 27, 2011

During the 1880s and ‘90s a series of Land Acts gradually diffused the sometimes bitter animosity that had grown between landlord and tenant. Over the years new and imaginative legislation dramatically improved the status of the tenant. Improvements for the tenant, however, were gained at the disadvantage of the landlord class. In many cases the Unionist landlord vigorously resisted change. During this bitter time landlords and their agents were murdered, animals were maimed and let loose to wander; there was ‘boycotting’, and heartless evictions. Practically every town and village had its RIC station. These were the eyes and ears of Dublin Castle. Any suspect person, or any unusual activity, was reported. On April 6 1895 RIC district inspector in Kilkenny, Pierris B Pattison, sent a report to Dublin Castle, with photographs, on a case ‘that is remarkable’ and which has caused ‘much public interest and local excitement.’

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‘Amongst Hottentots one would not expect to hear of such an occurrence’

Thu, Oct 20, 2011

When the Kilkenny essayist Herbert Butler came to write about the burning of Bridget Cleary in 1960 he acknowledged that Slievenaman was always known for its mysterious past. Looking across the Tipperary border from his fields, he described it as ‘a pale blue hump with the soft, rounded contours of ancient hills whose roughness have been smoothed away by time. Finn MacCool lived there as did Oisin and Oscar, and 50 beautiful maidens, who gave it its name The Mountain of Women.’ In Bridget Cleary’s time, it was also the home of Denis Ganey, the local herbal doctor, and a man respected and feared for his knowledge of fairylore. It was to this house that Michael Cleary ran to on the afternoon of Thursday March 14 1895. He pleaded for a cure for his wife whom he believed had been taken by the fairies, and replaced by a woman that was not the Bridget Boland he had married.

When he returned to his cottage at Ballyvadlea, with the hill of Tullowcossaun behind it, the house was full of people along with his sick wife. There was her father Patrick Boland, her aunt Mary Kennedy; her four cousins Patrick, Michael, James, and William Kennedy, William Aherne, and the man who first pronounced that Bridget was a fairy ‘changeling’, Jack Dunne.

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‘That is not Bridgie Boland!’

Thu, Oct 13, 2011

On Monday March 4 1895, Bridget Cleary, walked up a hill to Kylenagranagh, the home of her father’s cousin Jack Dunne, who lived with his wife Kate, to sell eggs. The Dunne’s house, less than two miles from her slate-roofed labourer’s cottage at Ballyvadlea, Co Tipperary, was near an ancient circular mound of earth, or a ring fort, still known in rural Ireland as a ‘fairy fort’. Maybe it was because of the location of his house, or because of his skill as a story teller, a ‘Shanachie’, and that he had a limp, that Dunne had the reputation for being ‘an old man who is fairy-ridden’. People believed the local legend that he was once ‘chased up to his home by a man in black, and a woman in white’. He had knowledge of incantations, charms, and spells, and was sometimes consulted for a cure for animal or female sicknesses.

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Has Sir William Gregory been brought in from the cold?

Thu, Sep 29, 2011

Sir William Gregory of Coole, Co Galway, and the husband of Lady Augusta in his later years, has been vilified unfairly by historians and commentators, said Brian Walker, professor of Irish Studies at Queen’s University last weekend. As the member of parliament who introduced the so called ‘Gregory clause’ as the Great Famine raged through the land, he did so for humane motives; but it was exploited by some ruthless landlords to clear their land.

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‘Lady Betty’ and the ‘ enemy of romance’

Thu, Sep 22, 2011

In the 1820s the hangman for the Connacht circuit was a woman known as ‘Lady Betty’. She had actually been sentenced to death for killing her own son, and stealing his savings. But she escaped the hangman’s noose by pleading that she could fill the vacancy that existed for a hangman. Her first hanging was watched to see if she could handle the rough business of a public execution with some sort of expediency. Apparently she could. She was officially appointed to hang and flog those convicted in the Connacht courts.

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Galway’s ‘splendid human spirit’

Thu, Sep 08, 2011

The people of Galway were shocked and excited by the arrival of 430 survivors who were brought ashore from the Athenia which was sunk by torpedo off the Donegal coast only hours after war was declared on September 3 1939. The town was galvanised into action. An impressive and practical plan was put into place to receive the survivors, to ensure they were comfortably accommodated, and to care for the wounded. There were 10 stretcher cases, numerous minor injuries, and distressed children. The passengers, who included Americans and Canadians, and refugees fleeing a deteriorating political situation in Europe, were bound for Montreal.

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The day war came to Galway

Thu, Sep 01, 2011

On Monday morning September 4 1939, the Galway harbour master Capt T Tierney was listening to a radio message from the Norwegian freighter Knute Nelson to say that it was steaming to Galway with 430 survivors from the Athenia, which was sunk by torpedo 250 miles north-west of Inishtrahull Island, off the Donegal coast. There were injuries among the survivors. Many were distressed and suffering from hypothermia. It requested urgent assistance.

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Old postcards from Connemara

Thu, Aug 25, 2011

Week II

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Teaching Irish in Connemara 1907

Thu, Aug 18, 2011

It may sound like a contradiction of terms, but teaching the Irish language in the opening decades of the last century could also be a method of teaching English. Irish was the spoken language in most homes of the west of Ireland, but it was recognised that knowledge of English was essential when emigration was usually the only way a young man or girl could better themselves. It is to the great credit of the Gaelic League, established in 1893 to promote the teaching of Irish in all national schools, that it recognised that fact. The Gaelic League, like its near contemporary the GAA, idealised the culture and way of life of the surviving Gaeltacht areas; and its success was largely due to its understanding that a bilingual approach would best serve everyone’s purposes.

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