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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The behaviour of the girls was causing problems

Thu, Jun 15, 2017

Apart from overcrowding and disease, the biggest problem in many of the workhouses was the behaviour of young women. The women, who perhaps had been brought there as children, were now adolescent, many of them unruly and wild. They tended to be the most troublesome, involved in fighting and, on occasions, rioting. Their behaviour resulted from boredom. While males could be employed breaking stones, or farm work, there were not enough jobs for females, and no effort made to educate them or train them in any skill. By June 1850 in the Mountbellew workhouse, Co Galway, females made up 60 per cent of the inmate population. Three hundred and eighty two were adult; while 199 were aged between nine and 15 years.

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A stranger among the poor

Thu, May 25, 2017

During her first visit to Ireland while walking the road from Oranmore to Loughrea, Aesnath Nicholson, a lone witness to the growing desperation of the poor as successive years of the Great Famine took its frightening toll, stopped to rest her blistered feet. She leant against a wall and thought about the advice her friends had given her in America. They told her the trip was reckless and she would damage her health. Yet even at that moment she asked herself: Would she rather be back in her parlour in New York?

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The priest who celebrated his own funeral Mass

Thu, May 18, 2017

Week III

When the well liked Fr Thomas Campbell, parish priest of Tynagh, Co Galway, died in 1983, there was a big turn out for his funeral. Michel Déon and his wife Chantal, being French, arrived at the church on time. As no one else was there they sat in the front row.

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A portrait of a lady

Thu, May 11, 2017

Some months after Lady Christobel Ampthill’s spectacular accident (her horse who refused to jump a flooding stream, and she was thrown into the river, and nearly drowned), Michel Déon and his wife Chantal, came across her sitting in her car near Kinvara.* She clearly looked distressed. There was a rumour that she had not fully recovered from her accident. She was getting forgetful.

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Riding side-saddle, and other French tales

Thu, May 04, 2017

I do not know the statistics, but I feel sure that the greatest number of our continental visitors come from France. During the summer you hear and see a lot of French people clutching maps of our small city, wandering about in groups; or lines of young students talking and gesturing happily among themselves, not paying the least attention to their guide. The French are not operatic like the Italians. They share beautiful sounding words; but the face is serious. I feel there is something of Old Europe in the French language.

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The Bishop’s blanket

Thu, Apr 27, 2017

Fr Pat Connaughton, Bishop Casey’s secretary for a while, recalled a time when he and the bishop were going to a meeting in the archbishop’s house in Thurles. “Our car broke down. No matter. We were near Thurles. We left it on the side of the road, and walked the rest of the way, the bishop’s arms swinging by his side. We were passed by Bishop Kevin McNamara, in many ways the very antithesis of Casey. McNamara looked out the window, and remarked to his driver: ‘There goes Eamonn in drama again.’

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The day Bishop Casey challenged America’s power

Thu, Apr 20, 2017

‘It was a scandal the way people waited in vain to see President Reagan and all they saw was a hand at the window,” lamented the late Cllr John F King at the first city council meeting following the visit of President and Mrs Reagan to Galway on June 2 1984.

There was a chorus of agreement around the table. Cllr Bridie O’Flaherty said that she had two daughters living in America. They had phoned her to say how ashamed they were to see the American flag burned in the streets of Dublin. “It was very unjust, very unfair, and very wrong to burn that flag,” she added irately.

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Events that must have haunted Bishop Casey

Thu, Apr 13, 2017

In May 1989 Galway watched with some bemusement, as Michael Dee entertained Daniel Ortega and members of his junta. They had successfully overthrown the dictator Anastasio Somoza, and seized control of Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America. Both men are presidents of their respective countries today. But 28 years ago while Ortega’s hand had already reached out for the il presidente crown, Michael Dee had still some way to go.

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