This photograph of ‘The Green Grass’, also known as ‘The Big Grass’, in The Claddagh was taken on July 29, 1914. It was taken from roughly where the Claddagh Hall is today. There was a wide expanse of grass off to the left towards where South Park is today. In the early days parts of it were tidal, the tide would come in here in the form of a series of streams. In Peadar O’Dowd’s wonderful book Down By The Claddagh, there is an image of this area with a very large stream in the foreground. These streams were gradually filled in, thus creating the kind of surface we see in the photograph. There were occasional sandy patches visible on the grass.
This was the playground for Claddagh children, it was their hurling pitch, their football pitch, the one open space in the village. The children would run around, mostly barefoot, playing impromptu games. It was also a space where fishermen often spread their nets out for repair. The famous Claddagh geese used to congregate roughly where the photographer stood, at the seafront at the beginning of Nimmo’s Pier. These geese were wild and liable to attack any visiting stróinséirí. It was said that any local woman could whistle or call or whatever and her own geese would follow her home.
The house on the far right, which seems to be deserted, was once occupied by the Hart family. Murphys were next door, then there was the gap and Andersons, O’Briens, and Glynns lived in the next three buildings. Glynns had a little wall enclosing a small garden in which grew one of the few trees in the village. Powells and O’Briens occupied the two houses in the corner, and through the gap you can see part of McDermott’s house. The two houses facing us were Keane’s and Folan’s, then the gap, and finally on the far left, you can see part of Feeney’s.
All of the buildings were thatched, had half doors, and also window shutters to protect them from Atlantic winds and rain. The distinguished travel writer HV Morton once wrote: “Nothing is more picturesque in the British Isles than this astonishing fishing village of neat, whitewashed, thatched cottages planted at haphazard angles with no regular roads running through them. If you took three hundred little toy cottages and jumbled them up on a nursery floor, you would have something like the Claddagh. It is a triumph of unconscious beauty.”
This photograph is one of the Murphy Negative Collection which has recently been digitised by the County Tipperary Library Service and it courtesy of it we show it to you today.
Two weeks ago, in an article on The Claddagh, I wrongly stated that some 50 families once lived there. That figure should have been 500.