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The romance of steam

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In late October 1890, Arthur J Balfour, nephew of the Conservative leader Lord Salisbury of the time, and recently appointed Chief Secretary of Ireland, went on a walking tour of the distressed districts along the Galway and Mayo coast. Accompanied only by his sister, and local officials who joined them as they passed through different districts, they travelled without police escort. Remembering that it was only eight years since the Phoenix Park Murders* it was a brave gesture. But Balfour was probably the best of them.** He was genuinely anxious to improve the conditions of the area. He had influence in London, and an imaginative grasp of his brief for Ireland. He met and talked with the local community leaders, listened to what they had to say; and sat by the open fires listening to the mná tí.

 

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