‘I met Mary Hynes at the cross of Kiltartan - and fell in love with her there and then…’

Thu, Jan 20, 2022

One of the attractions for WB Yeats, when he was considering buying the old Norman tower at Ballylee, was that the surrounding countryside echoed with stories of Antoine Ó Raifteiraí (1799-1835), the blind minstrel, who frequented the south Galway area.

The poet Ciarán O Coigligh tells us that Ó Raifteiraí’s verses arise directly from the circumstances of his own life, and those of the people among whom he lived: ‘Pre-famine Ireland, densely populated, unruly, dangerous, but energetic, is vividly portrayed.’

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Tragedy at Annaghdown prompts a strange fairy visit

Thu, Jan 13, 2022

‘My father had a sister Bríd. She was a beautiful woman when she was young. She was friendly with Jack (Seán) ‘ac Coscair, but her father never knew they had spoken a word to each other. It was Bríd who used to rake the fire and close the door each night. She raked the fire and closed the door that night, and she went to bed. She was only a short time asleep when a sinneán (strong gust of wind) came, and the door was blown in against that wall below. ‘Get up, Bríd,’ said her father, ‘and close the door!’

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‘An unbroken history of more than one hundred years’

Thu, Jan 06, 2022

In 1831 Patrick Broderick, from Loughrea, was charged with insurrectionary crimes at the Galway Assizes, and cruelly sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a criminal colony ‘beyond the seas’ in New South Wales, Australia. He was barred from ever returning to his native land. His wife Mary, son John and daughters Ann and Catherine, were left destitute on the infamous Clanricarde estate, one with more than 2,000 tenants.

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The little miracle that saved Galway Arts Festival 1985

Thu, Dec 23, 2021

It seems laughable today but in 1958 Archbishop John Mc Quaid of Dublin, obsessively monitored Irish life to the extent, that he did not have to ban a film, book or play outright, it was sufficient for his secretary to make it known that the archbishop had wondered if that (name of film, book or movie) was the sort of thing a good Catholic should witness.

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Connemara after the Famine

Thu, Dec 16, 2021

Week VII. Following the inability of Tom Martin and his daughter Mary, the Princess of Connemara, to meet the debts on their vast encumbered estate, they were sued by the Law Life Assurance Society and ordered to sell it in its entirety.

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‘Can any romance equal the romance of real life?’

Thu, Dec 09, 2021

After her Connemara tour Maria Edgeworth kept up a correspondence with the Martins. She followed their fortunes and misfortunes with all the attention of an enthralled novel-reader. There was plenty to hold her attention. In the spring of 1835 the Martins travelled to London where Mary was presented at court and moved in fashionable society, attending dinner parties and charity events, of which a cynical Lord Byron remarked that these galas were nothing less than a marriage market.

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‘One of the most extraordinary persons’ Maria Edgeworth ever met

Thu, Dec 02, 2021

As the legendary Colonel Richard Martin neared the end of his life in Boulogne, where he had fled to escape his numerous creditors, a large four-horse carriage, on which two postilions, in jackets of dark-blue frieze, guided the coach on horse-back, arrived at the front door of Ballynahinch. It was dark, and its occupants were in a state of near exhaustion.

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The turbulent life of Col Richard Martin MP - In three acts

Thu, Nov 25, 2021

Week IV. Further humiliation was heaped upon Colonel Richard Martin, who sought redress for the ‘dishonour to his bed, the alienation of his wife’s affection, the destruction of his domestic comfort, the suspicion cast upon the legitimacy of the wife’s offspring, and the mental anguish which the husband suffers’ (such was the legal language of the day), during his divorce trial against John Petrie, to be awarded only £10,000., exactly half of the £20,000. which he felt justified in demanding.

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‘The best security for the honour of a wife, is prudence on the part of the husband.’

Thu, Nov 18, 2021

Week III. It took two years since Col Richard Martin’s wife Eliza eloped with John Petrie, a merchant, before the long process of divorce in the 18th century could begin. It promised to be a sensational case given the status of Martin, a larger than life character, one of the largest landowners in Ireland, his reputation as duellist, and his enormous popularity for his gift of mimicry and acting.

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The French Revolution and the revolution in the Martin household

Thu, Nov 11, 2021

On the afternoon of July 14 1789 a mob unleashed its fury and frustration by forcing an entry into the Bastille, a medieval armoury, fortress and political prison in the centre of Paris. In the short but bloody battle that ensued some 98 of the mob were killed, as were three officers of the guard. Three more were lynched, and Marquis de Launay, governor of the prison, and the local mayor, Prevot de Flesselles, who had pleaded for peace, were stabbed to death and beheaded. Although the prison contained only seven inmates at the time of the storming, it was seen as a symbol of the monarchy’s abuse of power. It was the flashpoint of the French Revolution.

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Wolfe Tone’s passionate love affair with Mrs Eliza Martin

Thu, Nov 04, 2021

One of the most intriguing pieces of theatrical memorabilia in Galway is the poster for two plays, Douglas and All the World’s a Stage, to be performed at Richard Martin’s theatre, Kirwan’s Lane, on Friday August 8 1783. The playbill shows the cast with included Martin himself, his wife Eliza (Elizabeth Vessey) and Theobald Wolfe Tone, who would become Ireland’s famous revolutionary, associated with the French inspired 1798 rebellion.

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‘For the first time ever I felt fear in the theatre’

Thu, Oct 28, 2021

‘After a pantomime rehearsal one year I was asked to lock up as the director was in a hurry. A young lady asked me to allow her stay another while in the old Green Room to finish her costume. I reluctantly agreed, telling her to make sure that the lights and heaters were off before she left.

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Mr Tuke’s Fund

Wed, Oct 20, 2021

One of the reasons for the success of Mr Tuke’s Fund, which sponsored emigrants to America and Canada in the 1880s, was that as far as possible Tuke personally interviewed those wishing to go. He insisted that only families with at least one member capable of hard, physical work could participate. Proper clothes and money were provided to start their new life, and arrangements made in advance where they would stay and find work.

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‘Connemaras’ struggled to survive on the mid-west plains of Minnesota

Wed, Oct 13, 2021

The 309 Connemara emigrants, selected by their local clergy as suitable for a new life in America, arrived at Boston June 14 1880, 11 days after departure from Galway Bay on the SS Austrian, an Allen Line ship. The settling of ‘The Connemaras’, as they became known, was a new venture prompted by a Liverpool priest, Fr Patrick Nugent renowned for his ‘philantropic and truly patriotic exertions to alleviate the social conditions of his fellow countrymen in England’; and Archbishop John Ireland, of St Paul, Minnesota, who was already settling thousands of Irish Catholics who were trapped in the ghettoes of New York and elsewhere, on rich prairie lands.

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Should the Irish diaspora have remained at home to fight the good fight?

Wed, Oct 06, 2021

Although assisted emigration was frowned upon by some bishops and by the Land League leaders Michael Davitt and Charles S Parnell, there were some assisted schemes that were carefully planned, and in many cases worked well. The schemes that worked best were those which helped Irish families to avoid settlement in the great eastern cities of America where large numbers were caught in huge, stinking slums where it could take a generation or two to escape from.

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Despite harrowing beginnings, the Irish in America are a success story

Wed, Sep 29, 2021

In the 1860s, 20 years after Charles Dickens expressed his disgust at the living conditions in the vastly over-crowded tenements of New York’s ‘Five Points’, in Lr East Side, the situation simply got worse.

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The American Civil War helped the Irish find acceptence

Wed, Sep 22, 2021

When Charles Dickens first visited the United States in January 1842, the popularity of his books was such that he was mobbed by adoring crowds, feted and dined as the major celebrity that he undoubtedly was, and was guest of honour at a famous Valentine’s Ball in New York attended by 3,000 of the city’s great and good.

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A time when the Irish were not welcome

Wed, Sep 15, 2021

Between the years 1845 and 1855 more than 2.1 million people emigrated from Ireland. They streamed into Liverpool, Manchester, Boston and New York. Many were diseased, hungry, dirty, broken spirited, with barely any personal belongings. Some embarked actually naked.

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An astonishing rescue

Wed, Sep 08, 2021

There can be no greater horror for passengers and crew than facing death on a burning ship in a heavy sea, that was sinking by its bow. Which death would you choose? Stay on board and be burnt? Or chance your luck in the waves?

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Galway’s ‘Titanic’ burst into flames in the Atlantic

Wed, Sep 01, 2021

On Saturday October 6 1860 approximately one hundred miles out from Boston, the PS Connaught, one of the biggest and most spectacular transatlantic ships of its day, hit a storm, and sprung a leak. As water poured into the engine room, an auxiliary coal-fired engine was started which sparked a fire which rapidly spread out of control. Flames and smoke forced the 591 passengers and crew on to the top deck.

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