Distorted views of the Claddagh in the 19th century

Thu, Oct 15, 2009

English travellers came to Ireland in great numbers during the 19th century, and Galway formed an important stop on the typical tour. The stopover invariably involved token visits to Lynch's Castle, St Nicholas' Collegiate Church, and Queen's College. A visit to the Claddagh was part of the complement of must-see places, and it eventually became one of the most written about sites in Ireland. Many of these commentators travelled the same routes, stayed in the same country houses or hotels and the resulting texts are frequently similar in both content and perspective. The sameness of description permeates many travel accounts and over the century, new information is rare.

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Galway vintners

Thu, Oct 08, 2009

During the reign of Edward VI, when the Puritans controlled Galway, it was provided that “No man should keep an Ale House without being licensed, under penalty of three days imprisonment and a fine of twenty shillings”. It was added: “But because many Ale House keepers in those days were not able to pay that Forfeiture, and it was seldom levied by reasons of poverty, which made people unwilling to prevent the offenders.” Therefore a further punishment was added by statute during the reign of Charles I which not only inflicted the forfeiture of 20 shillings to the use of the poor, to be levied by the constable or church warden, by warrant of a justice before whom the offence was proved, and which distress may be sold three days afterwards; but it provided that if no distress could be taken, the justice should deliver the offender to the constable to be whipped. For the second offence, the offender was to be committed to the House of Correction for a month. A married woman who kept an ale house without licence made her husband liable for punishment.

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Portrait of the writer as a young boy

Thu, Oct 08, 2009

Girls can be cruel. In 1921 Walter Macken was six years old, and in middle babies at the Presentation Convent school. ‘Middle Babies’ had to be a challenge for any six year old boy (who already saw himself as a pilot ‘flying’ through the lanes around St Joseph’s Avenue where he lived). Today the Pres has a thriving national school, in Walter’s time it was predominatly a renowned ‘Girls’ school. It did offer places to boys to a very junior level (you started in infants, then middle babies, and then first class), before the boys moved off to ‘The Bish’ or ‘The Jes’, Mary’s, or Endas.

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The building of the technical school

Thu, Sep 03, 2009

In January 1893 the board of guardians of Galway Poor Law Union decided to establish a technical school, but the plan ran into immediate difficulties. The Local Government Board objected because they had not been consulted, and it took a year for the matter to be sorted out. The moving spirit behind the project was Father PJ Lally, who succeeded in getting money from the Government and secured a premises in Dominick Street (where Áras na nGael is today).

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The Augustinians in Galway

Thu, Aug 27, 2009

The story of the Augustinians in Galway began in 1508 when the order opened a house outside the walls. The church and monastery were on a high position which, with the development of artillery, became an important strategic point. It dominated the city on one side and the entrance from the sea on the other. In 1602, there was a plan to fortify the city, so the friary and cemetery were levelled and a military fort built which was occupied by a garrison of English soldiers. Only the church and one other small ecclesiastical building were left standing, and the area became known as Forthill.

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The blessing of the boats

Thu, Aug 20, 2009

This classic photograph of the Claddagh was originally taken c1890 and was given to us by the National Library. It illustrates just how close the connection was between the thatched village and the sea. Most of the menfolk who lived there were fishermen who depended for their livelihood on the sea, and so a tradition developed which became a colourful expression of ancient local faith.

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Guth na n-Óg town league

Thu, Aug 13, 2009

Guth na n-Óg was originally set up as a youth club in the late 1940s. Some of those involved in its setting up were Páid McNamara, Fr Fitzgibbon SJ, Tom Walsh (who worked in O’Gorman’s), Seán Kirby, Paddy Gleeson from William Street, and Ivor Kenny. Initially they used to meet in the Arus in Dominick Street but they fell foul of the authorities there because they did not speak Irish all the time, so they moved to the British Legion building on Father Griffin Road (Where Yeats College was until recently). Each member got a membership card and a badge. They used to play indoor games and have music sessions, and eventually they formed a céilí band and held a céilí every Saturday evening. They also formed a marching pipe band which thrived for a number of years.

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Nuns’ Island whiskey

Thu, Aug 06, 2009

In the eighteenth century there were quite a number of small distilleries operating in Galway, which was remarkable when one considers how many poitín makers there probably were in the hinterland. A new Government act on distilling in 1779 brought in controls and reduced the number, so that there were only two distilleries here in 1802. Thirty years later, there were four operating in the city... Burke’s Quarter Barrel Distillery was at the end of Quay Street, where Jury’s Hotel is today; Burton Persse had two, one in Newtownsmith and one in Newcastle (Distillery Road); and the Nun’s Island Distillery was owned by a John Lynch and produced 100,000 gallons per annum. Unfortunately Mr Lynch got into financial difficulties and closed down the business.

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The sinking of the Athenia

Thu, Jul 23, 2009

The Second World War had only started for 10 hours, and the passenger liner Athenia was steaming across the Atlantic on its way to Montreal from Glasgow. It was 20.00 hours, on smooth seas, and many of the adults on board were preparing to eat dinner while some were putting their children to bed. Some others of the 1,103 passengers were relaxing on deck or in the lounge. There were 305 crew on board.

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The fire at Menlo Castle

Thu, Jul 09, 2009

Menlo Castle was the ancestral home of the Blakes. The family lived there from around 1600 to 1910. The castle was strategically positioned and was occupied for some time by the Cromwellians. The villagers of Menlo were tenants of the Blakes. ‘Maying in Menlo’ was a great Galway tradition where the Blake family opened their grounds to the public as a venue for all kinds of sports and athletics, yachting, tennis, rowing, music, and dancing. Boats from Woodquay and Long Walk brought patrons up the river; sweet vendors were working day and night preparing sugar sticks and sweet-pipes which were sold in colours of red and white at a halfpenny each; the cries of different vendors of eatables and drinks rent the air, “Cider a penny a glass, Guinness 3d a pint.” Puritans and temperance fanatics were unknown, hawkers and showmen were a plenty. The various tents extended from the river to the schoolhouse in the village. The women in the enclosure with their sunshades and mid-Victorian costumes looked beautiful, while villagers and colleens with shoulder shawls and neat pinafores were the picture of comeliness.

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The mighty men of Menlo

Thu, Jul 02, 2009

July 4 1929 was an important day in the history of rowing in this country, and particularly in this part of the country, because that was the day that Emmetts Rowing Club from Menlo brought the first senior eights championship trophy to Galway. Almost all the members of the crew were native Irish speakers and all lived locally and worked by the river. During a very wet spring when they could do very little farmwork, someone suggested to them that as boatmen, if they were all put into a racing eight, they would be able to take on any crew.

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Buttermilk Lane, 1838

Thu, Jun 25, 2009

William Evans (1798 – 1877) was an accomplished English painter who was the drawing master at Eton College. He exhibited widely including with the RHA and in Paris and, judging by the prices on his work, was held in high esteem. A number of his paintings were used as illustrations in books. During 1836 and 1837 he showed 14 Irish subjects at the Old Watercolour Society, all of counties Galway and Mayo. These consisted of a mixture of landscapes, street and quayside scenes, indigenous peasant structures, and peasant portraits. For an English artist, his choice of terrain was highly adventurous, and it could be said that his paintings brought a new area of inspiration to the attention of artists in the UK.

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Our Lady’s Boys’ Club sixty ninth camp

Thu, Jun 18, 2009

The year 1940 was a time of great social change in Ireland, a time when the State gave no assistance to the out of school education of young people, a time of war, a time of poverty. Prospects were not great. Recreational activity for the young of working class areas such as Shantalla, Bohermore, Claddagh, and ‘The West’ was virtually non-existent. The need for a club to provide social and recreational facilities for these people was paramount.

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The Poor Clares

Thu, Jun 11, 2009

In the early 17th century there were no convents of nuns in Ireland or Britain... you had to go to the Continent to become a nun.

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The sea, the lifeblood of the town

Thu, May 07, 2009

In the 13th century the Anglo-Normans settled here and built their castle and town and called it Baile na Srutháin because of its many streams. They later changed the name to Galway after the river on which it stood, and from then on water was a major asset to the town’s development. These streams were to supply many fish, turn many mill wheels, and give access and egress in ages before roads were built, canals dug, or railways laid.

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Nano Nagle’s Galway legacy

Thu, Apr 23, 2009

Nano (Honoria) Nagle was born in County Cork in 1728. She was educated there and in France, where she eventually entered a convent as a postulant. She felt her mission lay in Ireland so she returned to Cork where she taught lessons in Christian doctrine. She sought out needy cases and established an asylum for aged and infirm women. In order to perpetuate this work, she formed, with ecclesiastical sanction, a religious community known as the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Later this title was changed to The Presentation Sisters. They received a set of rules, were approved by the Pope and finally, in 1800, raised to the dignity of a religious order.

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Sean Broderick and the Black and Tans

Thu, Apr 16, 2009

During the Black and Tan era, it was difficult for the IRA to be overtly active in Galway City because it was so heavily garrisoned. Renmore Barracks which was the headquarters of the Connaught Rangers, was occupied by the Sherwood Foresters, more of whom were based in Oranmore: There was a large detachment of the 17th lancers at Earl’s Island: The Auxiliaries had a Company in Lenaboy Castle: And, between the barracks in Eglinton St., two more barracks in Dominick St and many private houses which had been commandeered, there were some 500 men. In addition there were, at varying times, a number of troops camped near Galway.

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Joe Togher, a Galway volunteer

Thu, Apr 09, 2009

Joe Togher was born in Headford on September 8, 1898. His father was a shopkeeper and his mother was from Carlow, and they had three more sons and a daughter. His father died when he was very young, so in 1910 his mother moved the family into Francis Street in Galway where she opened a small hotel (see photograph) to support them. She was very busy with the business so it was Joe’s sister Nell who looked after him. He went to ‘The Mon’ where a nationalistic Brother Leo was a major influence. Joe was a good oarsman, a champion sculler.

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Saint Joseph’s Church, a brief history

Thu, Apr 02, 2009

In the 1870s the parish of Rahoon extended from Corcullen to Furbo. It had two chapels, one in Barna and one in Bushypark. Those people who lived in the town side of the parish attended Sunday Mass in the chapel attached to the Presentation Convent, but it was quite small and worshippers often had to kneel on the ground outside, no matter what the weather was like. As a result many of the major parish ceremonies were moved to the Pro-Cathedral. In 1881 no fewer than 300 children from the parish were confirmed in Middle Street, which gives us an idea of the population of the area.

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Unexpected visitors during World War II

Thu, Apr 02, 2009

Shortly after dawn on Saturday, September 16 1944, Michael Conneely, a bachelor of 55 years was asleep in his cottage at Ailleabreach, Ballyconneely, when loud banging on his door woke him. He shouted ‘who’s there?’ The storm of the previous two days had abated but he couldn’t make out what the voice said. Grabbing a pitchfork, he slowly opened to door. Outside were two men, wet to the skin, in deep distress. Michael put the pitchfork to the throat of the first man: ‘Who are you?

“We’re Americans. United States Navy. We need your help.”*

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