The Dohertys of Carrigan were not ‘land-grabbers’

Long time residents, Sally O’Shaughnessy, Mary Murphy, Barbara Bailey, Christy Hession, Mike Geary, and Michael O’Connor, with some of the memories (including the Hession’s first rent book), which were displayed to mark the 100 years since their homes were first occupied.

Long time residents, Sally O’Shaughnessy, Mary Murphy, Barbara Bailey, Christy Hession, Mike Geary, and Michael O’Connor, with some of the memories (including the Hession’s first rent book), which were displayed to mark the 100 years since their homes were first occupied.

Galway Diary received the following statement from Adrian Martyn (great-great-great grandnephew of Peter Doherty, senior ), who was shot dead at Carrigan, near Craughwell village on the night of November 2 1881. I am pleased to carry Adrian’s clarification:

‘The Galway Diary of October 2, 2014, wrongly referred to my murdered cousin, Peter Doherty, Jr., as a ‘land-grabber’, citing Pat Finnegan's 2012 book The Case of the Craughwell Prisoners. But Mr Finnegan did not refer to Peter or any of the Dohertys as a ‘land-grabber’.

In May 1880, Thomas Cunniffe gave up land at Carrigan he had held of landlord Walter Bourke of Rashane House. As Mr Finnegan's book states, the land was not in dispute, so naming any Doherty a ‘land-grabber’ is not correct. Had this been the case, the Land League would have been within their rights to intervene on Cunniffe's behalf.

Bourke chose to grant the land to Peter Doherty senior and his cousin, John Doherty. It was from this point the Roveagh Land League became involved, at the behest of two brothers from Carrigan who felt they had a better claim to the land concerned. A long campaign of severe intimidation ensued, cumulating in the murder of 25 year-old Peter Doherty, Junior, on November 2 1881 (shots were fired at his two sisters, Kate and Mary-Anne ). The shooters subsequently fired shots at the home of John Doherty, his children narrowly escaping injury or worse. Peter's mother, 65 year-old Margaret Connell, died a month later of grief.

What happened to the family

As a result of these events and ongoing harassment, the Dohertys felt obliged to leave Carrigan. Mary-Anne Doherty married and moved to County Roscommon, while Peter senior and Kate emigrated to the USA. John Doherty eventually likewise emigrated. Their apparent destination was Boston, where generations of their family, the Dohertys of An Leacht, Cahertymore, had settled.

The Doherty farm was left in the care of Kate Connell of Mullahurtra, Claregalway, a relation of the late Mrs. Doherty, who ran the farm for seven years. In the USA, Peter senior met her brother, Martin Connell, who had suffered a leg-injury while a lumberjack. A deal was made between the two and when Martin eventually returned to Ireland he took over Peter senior's farm. Kate Connell moved to Galway, became a seamstress, and married John Glennon of Claregalway.

A family tombstone had to remain in the Doherty farm yard well into the 1900s, as it was understood that if it was erected over the family grave in Killora, it would be destroyed. A song composed at the time blamed Kate Doherty for securing the conviction of Finnegan ( the grandfather of the author Pat Finnegan ), and Muldowney. But as Mr Finnegan's book makes clear, the convictions relied on two government informers, not Kate Doherty.

More than 130 years and several generations distant from these events, they still rouse emotion among descendents of those concerned. It was the fierce emotions of the times which led to acts resulting in great distress to the whole Carrigan community. While the intentions of the Land League were laudable, the same cannot be said for the actions of all its members. One good act does not clear bad ones, nor a bad one the good. Each should have their own reward.’ [email protected]

One hundred years of city life

The luckiest man to live in ‘The West’ was Eugene Daly, who miraculously managed to escape the sinking Titanic on that fearful night in April 1912. A musician by trade Eugene was heading to America for a better life, when the tragedy happened. He managed to get into a lifeboat where his heavy great-coat staved off the cold. But in the scramble to get off the ship he lost his uillean pipes, the means of his livelihood. Legend tells us that he sued the White Star Line for his loss and was recompensed.

Eugene was also fortunate that on his return to Galway he got a house at the newly developed estate on the west bank of the River Corrib. It replaced a run-down collection of old thatched cottages, which one councillor complained to the Urban District Council at the time, was little more than ‘ a ruin’. More than 100 houses within the Kelly Lane district ‘had already collapsed.’

The sea encroached on the west side of the city to such an extent that the route out of the ancient town went through Kelly’s Lane, (now St Joseph’s Avenue ), on to Shell Lane (Raleigh Row ), leading to the High Road (Taylor’s Hill ). But once the Grattan Road embankment had been established in the 1890s, land infill allowed a new exit to develop along William Street West, Sea Road, and out to Salthill.

The new estate, which would eventually consist of 80 slated houses, would stretch in a triangular shape from Henry Street to William Street West, including the Small Crane area, fitted neatly into this newly claimed landscape. It is popularly known today as ‘The West’, and is exactly 100 years old this year.*

Sense of community

Its small, terraced homes, which open directly on to the pavements of St Joseph’s Avenue, St John’s Terrace, part of Henry Street, and St John’s Place, give the neighbourhood a sense of community which its residents treasure. Many descendents of the original tenants are still living there. The Hession family still occupy No 7. Christy Hession has their original rent book, showing that rents were fixed at three shillings and three pennies a week for Henry Street, but a shilling less for homes along St Joseph’s Avenue, and St John’s Terrace.

Galway city is made up by a series of similar communities, including the Claddagh, old Mervue, Shantalla, Bohermore and others. The residents all display a fierce loyalty, and a sense of place. Some of the best known personalities from ‘The West’ include the late Aston Villa footballer Eamonn ‘Chick’ Deacy, Bro Francis Hession, who suffered a serious head wound at the battle of the Somme (which he proudly displayed all his life ), the renowned author Walter Macken, the first woman mayor of Galway Cllr Mary Byrne, and the musician and businessman Christy Dooley who played with The Arabians, a famous dance-hall band in its day, founded by his brother Maxi, and included his other brothers Cyril, Jimmy, and Kieran.

Perhaps ‘The West’s’ community pride was best captured by photographer Jane Talbot who in 2006 photographed all the residents standing proudly outside their homes and businesses.** Titled Knock Knock, it was a social document triumph.

NOTES:

*I am taking the above from Peadar O’Dowd’s History of The West - Housing Estate 1914-2014, which was produced to coincide with the estate’s centenary. The first edition was snapped up! I understand a second edition is on its way. Watch out for it. It only costs €5.

**Jane’s photographs can be seen again in the Bell Book and Candle bookshop in the Small Crane.

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