MacNeill feared a bloodbath if unarmed Volunteers came out

Thu, Apr 15, 2021

Week II - ‘How did the Germans receive our plans? With polite incredulity’…..wrote Liam Ó Briain, the Galway professor who took part in the 1916 Rising, ‘ignorant of Ireland they viewed us as forlorn visionaries, and even doubted whether we would be rash enough to challenge the armed might of England’.

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Ireland could have been a world war battlefield

Thu, Apr 08, 2021

In the early hours of Friday April 21 1916, two days before the Easter Rising was scheduled to begin, a German submarine surfaced off the Kerry coast, and three men set out for the shore in a small dinghy. On board were Sir Roger Casement, and two other men Robert Monteith and Daniel Bailey. As they neared the shore the dinghy capsized, and the men arrived on Banna Strand in Tralee Bay, drenched and exhausted.

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Two men of destiny meet on Tawin Island

Thu, Apr 01, 2021

In his interesting biography of Éamon de Valera,* Diarmuid Ferriter wrote that in December 2000 gardaí seized 24 love letters from de Valera to his young wife Sinéad, which were being advertised for auction by Mealy’s of Castlecomer. It was believed that the letters were stolen in the mid 1970s from the de Valera family home. The owners who had bought them in the UK some years previously in an effort to ensure their return to Ireland, were unaware that they were stolen.

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Tawin NS - a symbol of the gathering storm

Thu, Mar 25, 2021

‘To speak with justice, I would say this letter from Mr Casement is, for the most part, a string of falsehoods’ ….begins a letter of harsh criticism concerning the efforts of committed Irish language enthusiasts on the island of Tawin to build a new school where ‘Irish will be the language.’ It was to replace the English-speaking school, and its teacher, which was closed for years because the islanders refused to send their children there.

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‘Poor, brave, fighting little Tawin’ - wins major language battle

Thu, Mar 18, 2021

Following the success of Séamus Ó Beirn’s play An Dochtúir at the Oireachtais in Dublin 1904, it was presented to full houses at Galway’s Town Hall immediately on the player’s triumphant return. Among the audience one evening was Sir Roger Casement, the notable humanitarian, a British consul by profession but, ironically, an anti-imperialist by nature.

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Séamus Ó Beirn made his difference as a doctor

Thu, Mar 11, 2021

The praise lavished on Dr Séamus Ó Beirn by the Tuam Herald (February 22 1908), for his lectures and lantern slides on the scourge of tuberculosis in Connemara, was justified. The journalist said he is ‘a plain dispensary doctor whose soul is aflame with Christian charity, and the love of his native tongue’.

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Irish was never more important

Thu, Mar 04, 2021

In September 1907 Stephen L Gwynn MP set out for a prolonged cycle-walkabout through Connemara. He was a very well known man in the Galway area, which he had represented for more than 12 years at Westminster as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He was, as well, a literary man and a poet, who took genuine pleasure talking with, and meeting people. With fishing rods and knapsack, he set out on his bicycle on what turned out to be an eventful journey, along Cois Fhairrige to Clifden, through the mountains to Killary and Leenane, across Joyce Country to Lough na Fooey, then on to Ballinrobe and Tourmakeady, and home again along the coast road.*

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‘Spanish Flu’ ended summer 1919, but a more virulent epidemic remained

Thu, Feb 25, 2021

The so-called ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918/19 came in three phases, leading to the false hope that as each phase appeared to be on the wane, it only returned with a vengeance, creating misery and fear throughout the country.

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Lack of social distancing aided second phase of ‘Spanish Flu’

Thu, Feb 18, 2021

[Week II. Read Part I.] The 1918 General Election on December 14 was the most significant election in modern Irish history. Following the events of World War I, the Easter Rising, and the Conscription Crisis, the whole island was caught up in fierce debate as to its future. The result was a sweeping victory for a radical Sinn Féin, which promised to establish an independent Irish Republic. The moderate Irish Parliamentary Party, which had dominated the Irish political landscape since the 1880s, was wiped out; while in Ulster the Unionist Party took power.

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‘Bed and quinine appear to be the two great safeguards.’

Thu, Feb 11, 2021

The Galway Expess was one of the first local newspapers to notice that the increasing numbers of people succumbing, some very suddenly, to the so called Spanish ‘Flu that swept across the world in the early summer of 1918, was ‘virulently infectious’. It speculated that it first reached Ireland through Belfast, and in many cases ‘entire households have been seized,’ industries have been closed, and schools ‘although children suffer less than adults, they spread infection’, have also been closed. ‘Sudden collapses are the most striking feature, the victim being struck down almost immediately.’

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The saga of the great ship continues

Thu, Feb 04, 2021

During the last week of October 1860 members of the crew of the Connaught began to return to Galway. On October 28 the first to arrive came by train ‘where a large number of people on that afternoon were at the station to welcome them back.’

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The fate of the valiant Captain John Wilson

Thu, Jan 28, 2021

We get an idea of the perilous position at sea that confronted Captain John Wilson of the Minnie Schiffer, his two-masted brigantine, laden with a full cargo of fruit and wine, as he was sailing from Marseilles to Boston, from this dramatic painting.

Following a number of engine mishaps, the PS Connaught, about one hundred miles out from Boston on its return voyage to Galway, was battling against a fire which had broken out in its engine room, and which was rapidly spreading across the deck out of control. Furthermore a leak in the ship’s bow was letting in a greater quantity of water by the hour. By the afternoon of Saturday October 6 1860, it became clear that the PS Connaught, the flagship of the Galway Line, and one of the finest paddle-steam liners of its day, was facing ruin.

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The sinking of the PS Connaught, and tragedy miraculously avoided

Thu, Jan 21, 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?

Such was the choice facing 591 people as the PS Connaught was clearly losing its battle to contain a fierce fire that was rapidly consuming the ship. The newly built Connaught, the flagship of the Galway Line, had compleated a trouble-free voyage from Galway to Boston, via St John’s, Newfoundland. It landed its passengers and mail safely, and on time. The ship’s elegance was the talk of Boston. Ten thousand people visited her, admiring her sleek build, her luxury fittings and accommodation, before she sailed on her return journey.

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Galway’s heroic attempt to get into the transatlantic business

Thu, Jan 14, 2021

Reading through William Henry’s comprehensive digest of the story of Galway * from its original foundation on the banks of the Corrib to the present day, I am reminded that there was an extraordinary burst of optimism and creative energy in the middle of the 19th century despite the ravages of the Great Famine barely a decade before.

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Galway’s Pro-Cathedral, a building of some significance

Thu, Jan 07, 2021

At early Mass on Christmas morning 1842, there was a dreadful accident at Galway’s Pro-Cathedral during which 37 people were killed, and many more were injured. Known as the Parish Church, and completed just twenty-one years before, it was by far the largest Catholic church in the town, surprisingly built in preCatholic Emancipation times.

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A writer finds spiritual comfort in Connemara

Wed, Dec 23, 2020

‘The bus comes at last with a great blaze of headlights, and figures emerge from the darkness and climb aboard….’

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The long journey from Bowling Green was over

Thu, Dec 10, 2020

The Joyces finally arrived in Zurich on 17 December 1940 exhausted after weeks of torturous negotiations with the German, Vichy-French and Swiss authorities. They had sought refuge in Switzerland during World War I, now they hoped to do so again. To add to the stress of it all they had to leave their daughter Lucia behind in a psychiatric hospital in Brittany which was behind German lines. Joyce hoped that once settled in Zurich he could use all the influence he could muster to have her follow them to safety.

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Ulysses - and gun fire in Galway

Thu, Dec 03, 2020

Nora’s last visit to Galway in April 1922 did not go well. Galway, as well as the country, was caught up in a deadly Civil War. The anti -Treaty forces had occupied the Connaught Rangers’ Barracks, Renmore, while the pro- Treaty forces occupied the Great Southern Hotel. The Galway to Dublin train was regularly fired upon from the barracks. There were sporadic gun fights around the Custom House, and the Masonic hall, as both sides struggled for possession. It was a dangerous time and people were fearful.

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‘I have never loved but once in my life’

Thu, Nov 26, 2020

‘Well what do you have to say to Jim now after all our little squabbles he could not live without me for a month can you imagine my joy when I received a telegram from London a week after Jim and georgie on their way’…….wrote Nora in her unpunctuated flow of words, to her partner’s sister Eileen from her mother’s home in Bowling Green, in July 1912.

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‘The image of your girlhood will purify my life again.’

Thu, Nov 19, 2020

‘My dear little runaway Nora, I am writing this to you sitting at the kitchen table in your mother’s house! I have been here all day talking with her and I see that she is my darling’s mother and I like her very much. She sang for me The Lass of Aughrim, but she does not like to sing me the last verses in which the lovers exchange their tokens. I shall stay in Galway overnight…..’

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