A hero’s welcome in New York for first Galway Line ship

Wed, Aug 04, 2021

Week III
The unfortunate collision of the Indian Empire into the well marked Margaretta Rock in the middle of Galway Bay was a blow to the newly established Galway Line. But by no means was it a knockout. Galway’s vaulting ambition to open a new ‘highway between the old and new worlds’ took on an even more determined energy. The exploitation of steam-power, driving ever bigger ships and faster trains, led to wild speculation as to what could be achieved even from Galway, in the middle of the 19th century.

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Did a midsummer murder silence a guilty pilot?

Wed, Jul 28, 2021

In June 1858 Galway town was in a fever of wild speculation and excitement. Its vision for a magnificent transatlantic port off Furbo, reaching deep into Galway Bay, where passengers from Britain, and throughout the island of Ireland, would be brought to their emigration ship in the comfort of a train, now faced being scuppered by the apparent criminal intent of the two local pilots.

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A Galway story that intrigued James Joyce

Wed, Jul 21, 2021

New plans projected over a 20 year period will see the inner lands of Galway harbour developed into an attractive commercial and residential area, while reclaimed land from the sea will push out harbour facilities into deep water to accommodate shipping connections to European ports and elsewhere. It is a long over due and worthwhile plan, but it pales almost into insignificance compared to the vaulting ambitions the Galway merchants schemed in the mid 19th century.

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‘If my sins were many they were interesting’

Wed, Jul 14, 2021

The Lausanne Conference of July 1932, attended by the former allied powers of World War I (Britain, France, Belgium and Italy), and Germany, accepted that the world economic crisis made continued reparations by Germany virtually impossible. Various long-term arrangements were made, but in effect it allowed Germany off the hook for the monetary compensation it had agreed to pay for its responsibility in starting the war. Germany was now free to rebuild its own economy. This was a very importance conference attended by the world press, among whom was Clare Sheridan.

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‘Might you be Jackie Coogan’s brother?’

Wed, Jul 07, 2021

 It was not only Winston Churchill who was cross and embarrassed at Clare Sheridan’s adventures in Moscow, London society was both alarmed and intrigued. It was surprised that a member of its upper class should have ventured alone into the viper’s nest. She was invited to balls and receptions mainly as a curiosity. One hostess told her outright that she was nothing but ‘a Bolshevik’, and a suspicion persisted that she was a spy, a fact that Clare did little to contradict. But despite a critical reception on the surface, her book From Mayfair to Moscow* was eagerly snapped up.

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How the Bolsheviks got one up on Churchill

Wed, Jun 30, 2021

Even among the supreme leaders of Soviet Russia in the 1920s there was fear. When Clare Sheridan, the sculptor who spent her latter years in Galway, was leaving the Moscow War Ministry late one night accompanied by the powerful head of the Red Army and Commissar for Military Affairs, Leon Trotsky, armed soldiers on the bridge at the Neva, stood out on the road, and stopped their car.

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‘How exciting it was to be a Catholic’

Wed, Jun 23, 2021

 When Clare Sheridan bought Spanish Arch House in the late autumn of 1946, she was seeking refuge from an eventful life, to find peace and quiet to continue her sculpture, and needed time to give expression to her religious fervour. She had recently converted to Catholicism, and could not resist telling anyone who listened ‘how exciting it was to be a Catholic.’

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‘A charming if financially incompetent adventurer’

Thu, Jun 17, 2021

Travelling by rail to Clifden from Galway in the later years of the 19th century was supposed to take about one and a half hours, but it often took much longer. One of its great benefits was to bring anglers and shooters, ramblers and artists through the heart of Connemara, which it did very successfully. The train was quite happy to stop between stations to let people alight to follow their dreams, or to stay with friends who lived close to the railway.

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A magnificent man and his cycle machine

Wed, Jun 09, 2021

John Henry Bailey was a well known business man in Galway at the close of the 19th century. He was a rate collector and an auctioneer but was better known for his selling and repairing Morris cars from his garage on the east side of Eyre Square, on a site now remembered as the former Odeon Hotel. He also had the distinction of being the first man in Galway to ride a bicycle.

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All that is left is ruins and a photo album

Thu, Jun 03, 2021

Whether it was to defuse the call for Home Rule, or whether Chief Secretary Arthur J Balfour was genuinely moved at the shameful poverty that existed among the western counties of Ireland, his ‘walkabout’ among the people was generally very well received.

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Echoes of the American west as railroad gets under way

Thu, May 27, 2021

Once the Galway-Clifden railway route was agreed, pressure came from the chief secretary’s office for the Midland Great Western Railway to commence work immediately, and that ‘every able bodied man in Connemara’ was to be offered a job building the railway.

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How Balfour deflated the drive for Home Rule

Thu, May 20, 2021

In 1887 Arthur J Balfour, a quintessential English unionist, was appointed chief secretary of Ireland by his uncle Lord Salisbury, the Conservative prime minister. No one expected much from this man whose appointment appeared so nepotistic as to suggest he was an incompetent. He was far from that.

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Clifden railway - An outstanding engineering accomplishment

Thu, May 13, 2021

Pádraig Pearse’s first visit to Connemara was in 1903, when he was 24 years of age. He was sent there by Conrad na Gaeilge, a nation-wide Irish language movement, then gaining momentum year after year, to examine a group of young teachers from the Ros Muc area, to see if they were fit to teach Irish. When this young romantic man, already with an image of an ‘Irish Ireland’ in his mind, stepped from the train at Maam Cross station, he had a life-changing realisation that this was ‘a little Gaelic kingdom of its own’.

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Churchill lost patience, and simply turned off the tap

Thu, May 06, 2021

Because most people in Brigid Kavanagh’s farming community near Strokestown, Co Roscommon, did not have a radio in September 1939, no one knew that war was declared between Britain and Germany until some time later.

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Finding love in Ireland in the nineteen thirties and forties

Thu, Apr 29, 2021

The lot of a country girl growing up in rural Ireland in the 1930s and 40s was a lottery. If her family had a decent farm, and were relatively well off, she could go to university or train as a nurse, and could marry a prosperous farmer.

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Roger Casement’s failed appeal and humiliation

Thu, Apr 22, 2021

This remarkable painting, by Irish artist Sir John Lavery, is actually a portrait of Roger Casement on the last day of his appeal against his conviction for high treason and sentence of death, in July 1916. But where is he?

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MacNeill feared a bloodbath if unarmed Volunteers came out

Thu, Apr 15, 2021

‘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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