- Category: Claregalway Historical and Cultural Society
- Published on Wednesday, 08 August 2007 12:27
- Written by Joe O'Connell
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Claregalway is a rural parish rich in history and tradition. In 1991, the Clareglaway Cultural and Historical Society was founded. The group aimed to collect the local history and publish a book from the information gathered. The group initiated a FÁS sponsored scheme which began the enormous task of documenting the local history. Although alot of information was gathered, there was never a finished publication from that initiative.
Committee Photo : Back Row (L to R): Sean Concannon, Michael Hession, Brendan Noonan and Michéal Ó’Heidhin. Seated (L to R): Gearóid Hartigan, Tom Lenihan (chairman) and Seamus O’Connell (treasurer)
In 1996, the Society once again took up the work and added some newer research. In 1999 produced a 300 page hardback book. It sold in excess of 2000 copies, and has since been reprinted. While gathering the information, the group found that there were alot of good quality pictures from long ago, and decided to publish a second book purely of these pictures along with captions. This book has sold in excess of 700 copies. This history section has been taken, with permission, from the publications of the Society:
- Claregalway Parish History - 750 Years (Pub. 1999)
- Claregalway Parish History - Pictorial (Pub. 2002)
Both books are available for purchase from the committee members. You can also email Seamus O'Connell. Both books are priced at €20. Worldwide postage prices are available on request.
While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is factual in the publications, and now their inclusion in this site, the committee cannot be held liable for any errors or mistakes therein.
The River Clare rises in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, and is roughly 85km in length. It passes through towns such as Dunmore and Milltown, through the neighbouring parish of Lackagh before entering Claregalway. The Clare River is used as a boundary mark for many of the townlands in the Claregalway parish. Kiniska is the first townland to the north of the river. To the south of the river is Gortatleva and next to this is one field in Lydacan. The townland of Lakeview runs along with the river, out on to the N17 (Galway to Tuam) road. On crossing the road it divides Cahergowan from the Claregalway townland. After this it forms the dividing line between Montiagh North and South. Curraghmore is located to the north. Finally the river pours into the Corrib.
Aerial view, taken in 1980's showing the River Clare passing under Claregalway bridge, near the Castle and Friary
The first mention of a bridge over the Clare River was in 1349 and was probably a wooden structure. The nine arched bridge, known locally as the Nine Arches, was erected in stone probably in the early 1700’s. This bridge is a very impressive sight and an attractive reminder of Claregalway’s past.
In 1765, shortly after the construction of the Nine Arches, John Borkin, a local landlord from nearby Lackagh, changed the course of the river. He diverted it away from under the Nine Arches to a deeper channel about 30 metres further north. He did this in order to improve the drainage in the area. Also he wanted to deepen it so as to make it navigable up to Tuam, however his plan was thwarted by rock in Lackagh that could not be broken.The present bridge was constructed in 1957 and replaced the previous narrow humpback bridge. The main road was also widened at that time. Up to then, the Galway to Tuam road passed over the Nine Arches.
Bursting its banks. Flooding of the Clare River, at the bridge.
Flooding and Drainage
Flooding has been a constant problem in the Claregalway area over the centuries, mainly because of the relatively flat and low-lying terrain and of course the West of Ireland rain. Numerous attempts were made at drainage, either through changing the course of the Clare River or deepening it.
In 1954 the largest arterial drainage scheme of its kind ever undertaken in this country commenced. This was known as the Corrib Drainage Scheme. It benefited farmers in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon and the Clare River and its tributaries came within the scheme. 400 miles of river and stream were widened and deepened to carry water off an area of 400 square miles of land.
River transport was mostly on the lower stretches of the Clare, from Claregalway to Lough Corrib. The transport of turf accounted for the major part of it, but the Claregalway boatmen also took part in the general trade on the lake. Many of them were from Montiagh with about 40 boats in all from that village. They used flat-bottomed boats called ‘flats’. These were about 17 feet long and were designed to carry a load on shallow water. The boat would be pushed along with an ash pole about 8 foot long called a ‘cliath’. They were very stable and safe although there was a story mentioned about one such boat that sprung a leak and the occupants had to save the turf by throwing it onto the bank, before saving themselves, which they did.
Boats returning home to Claregalway had difficulty in finding the mouth of the Clare, as the shore of Lough Corrib around that area was overgrown. A long pole was set up at the river mouth to help in guiding the boats in.
Salmon Fishing on the river.
Fishing and Poaching
Fishing has long been an important practice associated with the River Clare. However many people have not always been strictly within the law, regarding this. The fact that some people reverted to poaching may have been as a direct result of the fishing restrictions that existed. For the people of Montiagh, fishing and the sale of turf was their livelihood. The river was noted for salmon poaching, for the locals, knowing the pools where the fish rested at night, easily caught them with nets. The salmon were nearly always sold, much of it in Galway city.
The fishing rights from the Claregalway bridge to the lake belong to the castle owners, as do those on the castle side above the river. The rights on the opposite side of the river belong to the farmers. Some farmers bought fishing rights and later sold them or rented them to angling clubs.
According to local accounts, poachers would seek out deep areas, with few rocks, with one man going on each side of the river. They used nets like those used at sea. They would organise a lookout so that if the Gárdai or bailiffs arrived the nets would “disappear” to safety. In the 1940’s and 1950’s the walkie-talkies and speedboats changed the odds against the poachers, as did the introduction of heavy fines. Any fish that were caught were usually sold to hotels in Galway.
This apparently easy way of making some extra money did not always have a happy outcome. One man, Michael Murphy, was sent to jail even though he was innocent, and more tragically John Duggan, a young poacher, died at Curraghmore trying to evade the Gárdai.
Claregalway has been and continues to be largely a farming community with its rich limestone soil ideal for tillage farming and grazing for stock and other animals. The typical size of the farms in the parish varies from twenty to seventy acres. Farmers kept pigs and cows. Some also kept some sheep, horses, turkeys, geese and chickens. The fowl were kept to produce eggs, which would be consumed for home use or sold at the fair. It was mostly dry stock in Claregalway but some farmers did produce milk. In the olden days, all milk was consumed at home; either drank fresh or let go sour and churned into butter. In the last 30 years or so most milk has gone to the creamery either in Renmore or Athenry.
Washing the Sheep in the Clare River at Claregalway Bridge
When land was being valued in the last century, the land of Carnmore was valued at a lower level than other land in the parish because of the fact that there was not much water or wells on the land. The land itself though was probably better than the higher valued land in the west of the parish and since the 1973 water scheme, Carnmore now has an adequate water supply.
Grievances over land were particularly liable to erupt into violence. In 1837 in Claregalway when tenants were evicted from the Lord Clanmorris estate, the man who took over possession was targeted. He himself was beaten “most unmercifully” as was his son, while their workers, who were ploughing at the time had to run to safety leaving their horses to be chased off the land, and the implements to be broken by the mob. When the Loughgeorge police arrived they saw some distance away on a hill a large number of people shouting and hollering.
Making a Cock of Hay
Every farmhouse had a pig or two usually a sow and some bonhams. They were easy to keep as they lived on scraps and people generally let them roam around the farm during the day. Up until the 1960’s pigs were either sold in the markets or else killed at home, but after that they were sent to the slaughterhouse in Galway.
Pig markets were held at Lenihans, now "the Nine Arches" pub. Lenihans pub was at the site of the fair in Claregalway, and it seems that it was the fair that brought about the pub and not vice versa. Some of the buyers at Lenihans were McGiverns (who had stores in Galway and Monivea) and the Glynn brothers. James Healy bought pigs in Hessions pub during the summer.
There was also a pig market at Loughgeorge where the weighing, buying and selling occurred. Corbett, another very popular buyer from Headford would visit Loughgeorge on a Monday. There was also another buyer named Kelly who visited Loughgeorge. Most of the pigs fetched 15 shillings or so and went on to the Castlebar or Claremorris factories. Occasionally the farmers sold their bonhams in Galway. As was stated earlier pigs were killed at home for food and although a Mr. Donovan from Mullacuttra was a well-known pig killer, every village had somebody who could be called upon when needed.
Milking Cows by Hand in the Field
Beet was first grown as a serious cash crop in 1933 and despite the hardships that were initially related to achieving a good yield, it continued to be grown until the Tuam Sugar Factory closed in 1984. That is not to say that the odd farmer doesn’t still plant beet, but no longer is his shoulder strained as regularly as of old with carrying loads of sugar beet.
Back in the 1930’s a horse machine was used to sow the beet but this was a luxury compared to sowing by hand. Billy Morris, Cregboy recalled how he was “on his knees all the time” one summer singling and weeding the beet. Another hardship he recalled was when he had to fill the lorry by hand, as there was no beet fork. The beet was weighed in Oranmore Station and fetched over 30 shillings a ton. An advantage in growing beet was that the pulp was returned to the farmers who made good use of it, feeding it to calves and sheep. During the war, beet farmers were fortunate during the rationing as the Sugar Factory gave them permits to buy sugar. The final advantage to the beet growers was that they were always guaranteed a fixed price.
Michael "Hiker" O'Connell cutting Turf
The bogs in Claregalway are located in the townlands of Cloon, Curraghmore, Gortcloonmore, Waterdale and as its name suggests, Montiagh. One man who had a bog in Gortcloonmore described the old procedure, which was used in the days before the turf machine. Parties of three were necessary for a successful day. The first, a cutter would go down with his “slean” and cut the sods and throw them up to the two spreaders who would fill a barrow with 10-12 sods, wheel it out and spread the turf out flat where it was left for a fortnight. After this it was put standing in “groigins” and eventually brought home in carts and creels. Generally the turf was cut once a year but this was changed to twice a year during the ‘Emergency’. When the people from Montiagh had no other work, they used to travel to Oranmore nearly every second day to sell their turf.
A Typical Farm had Turkey, Geese, Hens and Ducks
Eggs and Fowl
Many people kept fowl as they could throw scraps to them or just let them pick. Hens, geese, chickens and turkeys were to be found to varying degrees around. The belief was ‘more poultry, better woman’, so anyone who had their gaggle of geese was doing well. At the time of the pig markets near the castle, women from Gortatleva, Ballymurphy and other areas brought large baskets of eggs to these markets to sell. One women remembered a lorry coming from Athenry once a week to buy these eggs. There were people who sold sugar and tea at the markets so if all the eggs were sold you could buy a pound of one or the other.
A Farmer with his Horse and Cart
Not all farmers in the parish had horses but nonetheless, there were a few in each townland and consequently the machinery of the time was all horse-drawn. It is known that all the big houses had horses. The farmers who had to do without were lent horses and also whatever implements they needed. In the 1920’s and 1930’s some of these included horse ploughs, harrows, reapers and binders. For hay, there was also a horse-mowing machine, but the horses weren’t too keen on it, as it was noisy and uncomfortable. This mower could also be adapted for cutting corn. Various attachments were added and the driver used to sit up on a seat with a rake, which he used to lay the sheaves.
A number of people in the parish remember the races at Loughgeorge which mainly consisted of common working horses and lasted for about two days. In 1906, the Galway Committee of Agriculture offered nominations to farmers mares to be served by thoroughbred stallions. The value of each nomination was £2. Preference was given to the best young mares under six years of age. Each mare had to be the property of a farmer whose holding did not exceed a valuation of £300, but three-fourths of the nomination was reserved for farmers under the £30 valuation. Claregalway got 17 nominations.
The horses of Claregalway achieved certain notoriety in 1929 when the Connacht Tribune stated that they “could not make any hand of tarred roads”. Mr N Kyne spoke on behalf of the Claregalway farmers, many of whom were present in the public gallery, saying that horses could not draw loads over the tarred half of the road, so that they all had to travel on the sanded half. Horses shoes could be “sharpened” for 3s. to travel on tar and unsharpened afterwards for another 3s. but this was both expensive and time consuming. Tarred roads suited lorries, cars and buses and the county surveyor said it was hard to reconcile the two forms of traffic. It was also felt as strange that it was only Claregalway horses, which seemed to have a problem. The situation was so bad that at areas near Holmes Hill and Rockwood the council had placed empty tar barrels to stop horses using one side of the road only!
Thrashing the Corn
Oats were grown in all parts of the parish and were thrashed, originally by flail. The flails in Claregalway were as others made from hazel and holly joined together by a leather thong. In some places it was called a “suist”. After thrashing came the winnowing and this involved letting the oats fall in a windy shed. The wind blew the chaff away and the heavier seed fell straight down, where it was gathered later. Some people had a winnowing machine, which involved putting oats in and then turning the handle, but nobody seemed too keen to praise this particular machine. Originally thrashing was a community effort but many of the labourers that used to get work in Claregalway were let go after mechanisation.
Horse Ploughing the Fields
Thomas O’Reilly from Cloon, Claregalway first started ploughing in 1945. Ploughing was very popular at the time as can be seen from the numerous articles in the Connacht Tribune. Mr O’Reilly recalls that up to 50 or 60 teams of horses would compete in the competitions. There were quite a few from Claregalway involved in the ploughing at county level.
He has won 28 county senior matches. He won the Junior All-Ireland in 1963 and 10 Senior All-Irelands in 1978, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1993. He also won a special horse class in 1990 and 1992. He represented Ireland in the 1984 World Ploughing Championship, which were held in Horn Castle, Lincolnshire, England, where he was runner up. In the Championship the competitors ploughed for two days, then after that marks were given. The World Ploughing Championships are held in different places all over the world each year. He was placed third in the European ploughing championships that were held in Limavaddy, Derry in 1991.
Thomas O’Reilly explained how the condition of the field plays an important part in ploughing. Also he told us that in the beginning he used to borrow horses for the competition but as he “went at it in earnest” he purchased his own. Now his son Gerard is also involved in ploughing.
Pat Kilgarriff composed the following poem to the ploughman’s daughter on her wedding day.
It was up in Claregalway at a wedding one day,
Some came for to look and some came for to pray,
It was James Kilgarriff who built in Rahoon,
And Tom Reilly’s daughter, the ploughman from Cloon.
Now Jimmy took Mary and Mary took Jim,
And pictures were taken of her and of him,
You could tell by his smile he was over the moon,
With Tom Reilly’s daughter, the champion from Cloon.
We left from Claregalway to drive into town,
And bonfires were blazing around Cahergowan,
We drove into Galway our bellies to fill,
At a place called the Warwick away up in Salthill.
They were singing and dancing and screeching for more,
They knocked lights off the ceiling and sparks off the floor,
They were ploughing with horses around Galway Bay,
And Pat Murphy’s meadow was mowed in a day.
They sang of the Claddagh at the foot of Fairhill,
With everyone happy and Tom paying the bill,
Then we departed to give Tom his due,
The All Ireland trophies at a pub in Cloonboo.
Fairs and Markets
A fair existed in Claregalway in the nineteenth century. Proof of this is contained in the Connacht Tribune of 1852, which tells us that the fair day was set for the 12th October. Here people bought and sold bonhams, cows, sheep, cattle and every sort of vegetable as well as oats, wheat and barley. Besides this, the people of the parish travelled to fairs in Galway, Athenry, Tuam and Headford. When the people had to go to Galway this meant leaving home at one or two in the morning to walk to the fair with their livestock. As people didn’t have good lights at the time the journey was even harder.
When they arrived in Galway they had to find a place to stand with their animals, anywhere from where Moons is now, all the way out to Bohermore. In the late 1950’s cattle and sheep were sold here, and occasionally bonhams, as mentioned earlier. Other produce sold in Galway were oats, turnips and potatoes that were usually brought into town on a horse and cart. There were usually sold opposite the American Hotel, as there was a scale there for weighing. A strange practice at the time was that it was often incumbent upon the seller to deliver the produce, which meant that the day was made even longer as all the different runs had to be made. Also sold was the rye that was grown in the boggy land, straw which was good for thatching and cart loads of hay. When everything was sold and the day was over, everyone headed for home.
McDonaghs and Palmers were two big oat buyers at the markets. When Martin McDonagh was the most extensive merchant in Galway he employed a man from Claregalway to buy oats for him. A certain story went around that this man used to walk around the sellers with his hands behind his back and if someone “tipped” him some money, McDonaghs would buy their oats. Mr McDonagh, or "Martin Mor" as he was more commonly known, also employed Sean Corcoran from Lydacan to look after his horses.
Persse’s distillery, in the early years of this century, had their own buyer at the Galway market, a Martin Cullinan from Claregalway, whose task was to buy good quality oats and barley.
One man from Claregalway gave an account of his memories of the fairs in Galway:
“There was a weighing scale in the square in Galway. It is gone out of it now. They had a great name in our village for having a top class potato. I used to hear my father and my brother say that they wouldn’t be allowed pass through Bohermore but they’d have the whole lot of the potatoes sold before they got to the market at all.”
Another person recalled how a lot of bargaining went on between the buyer and the seller to get the best possible price going. Finally when the deal was struck (by spitting on the palm of the hand and shaking hands) the farmer would give the buyer a little “luck money”. Then they both proceeded to the pub for a drink.
County Galway was one of the few places outside Dublin to have taken an active part in the 1916 Easter Week Rising. On Monday evening of that week news of the insurrection reached the Galway countryside and local volunteers from Claregalway and Castlegar began to mobilise. The supporters of these men of 1916 became known as Sinn Feiners.
The leader of the Claregalway men was Tom Ruane who was also the captain of the Claregalway hurling team. Other officers in the Claregalway Company included Nicko Kyne, George Glynn and Patrick Feeney. Many men from the Claregalway hurling team had joined the IRA. Together with the officers, the men made their way to an initial meeting at Carnmore Cross.
At Carnmore, they rendezvoused with the Castlegar men under Brian Molloy and Pat Callanan. Orders came from Liam Mellows via Padraig Feeney to tell the two companies to proceed to Moyode. This was agreed for daybreak the following day and leaders Tom Ruane and Pat Callanan went to rest for a few hours.
Officers of the Second Batallion of the first Galway Brigade of the IRA
As they rested, a group of policemen travelled on reconnaissance through the Castlegar and Carnmore areas. On arriving at Carnmore Cross, they came across the Volunteers. An initial shot was fired by the Volunteers side killing a Constable Whelan, who was the first fatality of 1916 in Galway. Ruane and Callanan now arrived on the scene to find the men in a buoyant mood and they began marching to Moyode. Despite their limited arsenal of weapons, pikes, forks and a few shotguns, the mood within the camp was optimistic as they awaited orders from Mellows.
As the days went by and no action was ordered, times were getting harder for Mellows men, as food was difficult to come by. After some time Fr. Feeney from Castlegar begged them to go home. Cold and hungry, they left Moyode with whatever weapons they had with them. As they got more tired and hungry, they dropped their weapons, with the result that John Concannon from Montiagh was one of the few to return with his gun. They were so weak that even Henry Duggan came home without his boots, being too weak to carry them.
A 1916 Bayonet and old Gaurds Baton belonging to Martin Lally, Carnmore West
In the aftermath of 1916, came the hunt for the rebels. Descriptions of those on the run were published in the police bulletin "Hue and Cry". Nicko Kyne from Kiltrogue village was charged with "having on the 25th April 1916 and subsequent dates at Carnmore and Oranmore, committed various acts of rebellion." Many others were also accused of similar crimes and were pursued as a result of this bulletin.
Two hundred police from Northern Ireland were drafted into Galway to assist the local force. Houses of suspected rebels were torn apart in an effort to find weapons. In one week alone two hundred and seventy rebels were arrested and sent to Dublin by warship, but later prison trains were used to transport the prisoners. Everyone was housed in Richmond Barracks and while there, many were court-martialled. The leader of the Castlegar Company, Brian Molloy was sentenced to death in relation to the death of Constable Whelan at Carnmore Cross, but this was later commuted to ten years penal servitude.
By July 1917 most prisoners were home again, and it was such people who formed the core of the IRA. Included among the people who went on the run was Tom Ruane. He headed for Moycullen and he travelled out onto an island in Lough Corrib whenever he was in danger. The police and the army came looking for him on several occasions. He escaped arrest because the Irish Secret Service was able to inform him in advance of the British plans. A reward of one thousand pounds was offered for his capture. Eventually by a stroke of misfortune, his wife's handbag was snatched by two R.I.C. men in Galway. Contained in the bag was a letter, which bore his address at Bohans, Borra, Moycullen. Tom Ruane was arrested, taken to the police station in Galway and later deported to the internment camp in Frangoch, Wales, where he spent ten months. He was arrested again in 1918, in connection with the so-called German plot, jailed in Wormswood Scrubs and later in Winson Green, Birmingham.
The Black and Tans
In 1920, the Black and Tans arrived in Ireland and brought with them a reign of terror, torture and murder as part of the British response to the Irish Declaration of Independence. The parish of Claregalway suffered along with other parts.
The Tans took their names from their khaki and black uniforms and were said to have been sent to Ireland because of their savagery. They travelled throughout the countryside in "Crossley Tenders" sitting in two rows opposite each other. They shot indiscriminately at everything and everybody would run for cover when they heard the lorries approach. People lived in constant fear for their lives and homes and many slept fully clothed because if they took too long to open a door, the Tans would break the door down. Searches took place in the houses of known Republicans and sympathisers. As well as shooting their intended targets, they often beat or shot other family members.
In a raid on Egans pub in Cashla, the owner of the pub Thomas Egan was shot dead having been accused by the Tans of withholding information. To add insult to injury, the Tans then limited the numbers attending his funeral to the extent where even his closest relatives were afraid to attend. The Tans also killed John Hanlon of Lackagh.
Charles Quinn from Claregalway was injured in a failed ambush on the Black and Tans. People were waiting on both sides of the road but a badly aimed grenade knocked a wall on some of the ambushers exposing them to the Tans gunfire. Quinn was injured and taken to the Infirmary in Prospect hill (what used to be the old county buildings). A nurse in the Infirmary, who was dating an R.I.C. man, told him that Quinn was a patient. However Quinn was taken away before he was to be killed.
Two Tans also threatened Fr. Moran because he was a known Republican sympathiser. It took the intervention of another soldier to prevent his execution. However this did not prevent them plotting to burn his and other big houses in the area. This plot also involved the attempted burning of Cahills Post Office, but for the vigilance of locals who hunted the arsonist/ex soldier from the scene. If the burning had succeeded, it would have given the Black and Tans the ideal excuse for the retaliation that they sought.
Men in Arms, 1925
Attack on Loughgeorge R.I.C. Barracks
In May 1920, the mid-Galway Brigade I.R.A. launched an attacked on the R.I.C. barracks in Loughgeorge. The barracks was manned by nine R.I.C. men and a sergeant. The Loughgeorge barracks was an important strategic post. The barracks was built of sandstone walls and was surrounded by barbed wire. I.R.A. policy at the time was to make such military posts no longer fit to occupy and to force their complete evacuation.
The roads between Loughgeorge and Galway and between Loughgeorge and Oranmore were to be blocked and mined so as to prevent reinforcements coming. The attack took place at night. A bomb was placed against the wall and it blew up half the gable wall. It also blew the gable of Duggan’s workshop next door. Following the explosion the attackers poured rifle and revolver fire through the hole. Nobody was killed in this incident, the only casualty being a constable who was injured by flying glass. Eventually the attackers withdrew, after which the R.I.C. put on a show of force by firing and sending up flares.
The Duggan family who lived next door fled their home until the attack was over, their horse and foal having being killed. Reinforcements from Eglington Street, who had been sent for, were delayed because the attackers, who all escaped, had blocked the road by felling trees and by building a wall.
Thomas Ruane, Vice-Brigadier of the old IRA in Claregalway
Tom Ruane was a native of Carnmore and joined the I.R.B. when it was formed in 1908. As we have already seen from the 1916 Rising, he was an active member of the GAA, captaining the hurling side from 1910 to 1916, his favourite position being that of full back. He was also a member of the County Board for a number of years.
In 1916 he was in Moyode with the Galway Brigade under the command of Liam Mellows and when this was disbanded he went on the run. After his release from Birmingham Prison, he was appointed a justice of the Sinn Fein courts for south and west Galway.
He was subsequently on the run from the Black and Tans when there was a reward of £1,000 for his capture. He took the Republican side in 1920. As a reprisal for the Kilroe ambush, which occurred near Headford, all his farm produce including turf was burned.
Tom Ruane was chairman of the old Galway District Council for seven years. He was elected to Galway County Council as a Sinn Fein member and was chairman of the Finance Committee.
His horses ran in the local races and he also had an interest in greyhounds. Both his sons were involved in politics. Paddy was in Sinn Fein for 30 years and was elected to Galway County Council six times; he was also a committed GAA member and was local Treasurer for 18 years. Stephen Ruane was a member of Fianna Fail for many years. Their nephew is presently a British MP.
Thomas Ruane died on 31st August 1937 aged 53 years. He is buried in Claregalway cemetery and the inscription on his headstone reads:
Erected by his widow, family and 1916 comrades of the Old IRA Claregalway, in memory of the Vice-Brigadier of the Second Western Division. Thomas Ruane Carnmore August 31st 1937. R.I.P.
On one side of the base of the headstone are carved crossed rifles and the year 1916.
Bernie Fahey from Cregboy, killed in action during WWI and buried in France
World War I (1914-1918)
This would have been a turbulent time in Ireland and as we have already seen in Claregalway and surrounding areas. It would seem that anybody who emigrated to England, the United States, Australia or New Zealand were conscripted into their adopted country’s army.
Bernie Fahey, an uncle of Brian Fahey and Evelyn Fox, went to New Zealand before the World War. He was conscripted into the New Zealand expeditionary force. He served in France where he was killed on active duty on 20th April 1917.
John Glynn, from Corofin Parish, had emigrated to America. He was conscripted into the American army when World War I broke out. He served in France, survived and eventually returned home. He married Kate Hughes from Mullacuttra where he lived until his death.
Pat Tynan was a Mayo man who lived with the Lenihans in Lakeview before the War. He returned to Claregalway where he worked as a postman until his retirement. He continued to live in Lakeview where he died on 11th May 1958 aged 81 years. He is buried in Claregalway cemetery.
Thomas Greaney (1888-1974) from Carnmore served with the U.S. Army. He was an uncle of Bridgie O'Brien, Carnmore.
The Claregalway group Local Security Force (LSF) taken in 1944
World War II (1939-1945)
Known as the Emergency in Ireland, the Second World War epitomised life at it's most cruel, a time of hardship, shortages, and rationing.
There were two organisations active in the parish: the Local Defence Force and the Local Security Force. Most people from the age of sixteen upwards were involved in one or the other organisation. Their role was one of security and because of Ireland's neutrality, neither British nor German invaders were welcome.
Because there was very little industry in the country, Ireland was dependent on imports. Everything was scarce. Good quality flour was non-existent and people had to make do with a type of 'black' flour mixed with barley, making it almost impossible to bake. Fruits such as bananas, oranges didn't arrive in the country at all and one could count themselves lucky if they had any currants or raisins at Christmas. Farmers were obliged to become self-sufficient and had to grow wheat by law. The farmers had a reasonable supply of meat as almost every house reared a pig.
There was no mill in Claregalway or Carnmore and some people recall going over to Lishenavella to the mill. T.V.O. (Tractor Vaporising Oil), a kind of paraffin oil, was used to turn the mill.
Rationing: Ration cards were sent out by the Government. The book was supposed to last for twelve months. One had to have so many coupons before getting clothes or shoes. Fabrics, such as threads, were of very poor quality; in fact everything was of a second hand rate. The law forbade the use of a car unless it was for a doctor, priest or soldier.
Bicycle tyres had to be carefully minded because replacements were not available. Candles were also scarce and of a poor quality.
Ted O'Connell of Mullacuttra served in the Second World War.
We have included the major landlords and major estates in this page. Under the name of the landlord/estate will be a description of the history.
Claregalway Castle Lodge
The Owners of Claregalway Castle
The Earl of Clanricarde was the first to own and live in the present Claregalway Castle, which dates from the 15th century when it was built for Ulick de Burgo. Tradition has it that the castle was occupied by a Lord Dunkellin, whose barony bears his name. Originally it had a thatched roof which had been maintained by a local man by the name of Duggan. The adjoining lodge was once owned by a Mayo cattle-rancher by the name of Mellotte. The lands attached to the castle were divided among local tenants by the Land Commission as a result of the land agitation in the early 1900's, but the fishing and fowling rights were retained by the owners of the castle. The last landlord to inhabit Claregalway Castle was Sir James Nelson, a millionaire horse owner, whose family owned the Nelson Shipping line. He came mainly for the shooting season.
Lord Clanmorris's family name was Bingham. By 1878, John George Barry Bingham, 5th Baron Clanmorris, was noted as having three addresses - Cregclare and Seamount in Co. Galway and Newbrook, Ballyglass, Co. Mayo. The last Lord Clanmorris lived in Cregclare near Ardrahan. Lord Clanmorris owned over 3,000 acres in Claregalway, Kiniska, Montiagh North and South, Curraghmore and Cahergowan-Summerfield. In the townland of Claregalway there was once a police barracks and also a chapel and graveyard. These he leased out to James O' Brien and to the Rev. John Burke and his brother Michael. Lord Clanmorris sold the townlands in 1907.
Valentine O' Connell Blake farmed over 1,800 acres in Carnmore West and Carnmore East.
The Coadh House, which was attached to Waterdale House
The Owners of Waterdale House
There is an interesting account of the occupancy of Waterdale House in the S.M.A Fathers' publication, Claregalway Abbey. According to their research the house was built in the 18th century by a member of the Staunton family from Buckinghamshire, who had settled in Galway in the 17th century and married a member of the Lynch family. The entrance to the house was at Mullacuttra, close to the fort on the Loughgeorge/Corrandulla road.
From Cregclare, Ardrahan, married Catherine Staunton, a granddaughter of the first settler James Staunton. Lambert owned over 1,700 acres in Gortadooey, Gortcloonmore, Mullacuttra, Waterdale and Cloughane. He gave a terminable lease of the house and the demesne[c. 700 acres] to James Blake. Waterdale estate, 1,786 acres, which was heavily in debt in 1855, was saved from being sold off, because funds from the sale of other Staunton properties were used to "clear off the encumbrance" on Waterdale. In the early 1900's after the departure of Lady Lambert, with the house already vacant and falling into ruin, the lands were "striped", chiefly among the tenants and workers of the estate.
Ruins of Lydacan Castle
The Owners of Lydacan Castle and Martin Francis O’Flaherty
In the mid 19th century Andrew H. Lynch lived in Lydacan Castle and owned almost 1,700 acres of land in Lydacan, Caherlea, Gortatleva and Lissarulla. Patrick Qualter was caretaker of the estate.
The next occupant of the castle was Martin O'Flaherty. He evicted some families in order to enlarge his fields and to let the land to better tenants. This incurred the strong anger of Fr. James Commins, who was parish priest at the time, who preached a sermon against him in which he said that for a Catholic he was turning out as bad as Pollock. This made O’Flaherty disliked and feared. He was disliked for other reasons too. It was said that early in life he was a Young Irelander but that previous to the insurrection of 1848 he had fled to Australia or New Zealand to avoid taking part in it. He returned after some years having made some money.
The recently renovated Rockwood House, which belonged to the landlord Holmes
The circumstances in which he came into possession of the Lydacan property are said to be as follows. The estate had been in the possession of the Lynch family previously and the last of them, a Mrs. Lynch, who was known among the people as ‘An tSean Mhaistireas’, became impoverished and the place was put up for auction by the creditors – whoever they were. No one wished to deprive the lady of her home and those who might be expected to bid agreed tacitly at least not to do so. O’Flaherty, who was described as being a ‘hammer man’ at the auction, made a bid and the property was knocked down to him.
These two circumstances, the way he acquired the estate and the fact that he was a renegade from the national cause, led to his being feared and also rather despised.
Martin O'Flaherty sold Lydacan Castle to James Greated. O’Flaherty died c.1870.
Mr. Greated lived in the castle with his mother, wife and family. He seems not to have been popular with his tenants. The castle was burned in November 1922.
James Galbraith owned over 1,000 acres in Lakeview and Cregboy. Two of his tenants, John Galway and Edmond Morris acted as caretakers of the estate. There was a church in the townland of Lakeview, which was leased by Rev. James Commons. Galbraith sold the land of Lakeview to Mr. Holmes, another landlord, who lived in Rockwood House. The house and 99 acres of land were sold to Mr. Fox in 1922 for £385 [according to local tradition], while the remainder of the estate was taken over by the Land Commission. It is said that Holmes handed in a "scraw" to the Commissioners, symbolising the forfeiture of his ownership of the estate.
Rocklawn House, Cloon, about 1920s, home of the Ffrenchs
James Ffrench, of Rocklawn House, owned over 500 acres in Cloon and Pollaghrevagh. They were a Catholic family. The last of the Ffrenches - Eddie, his wife and sister-in-law - were boycotted in the late 1930's and early 1940's by locals, some of whom destroyed the house. The family was forced to live temporarily in a stable before leaving permanently.
He owned close to 500 acres in Knockdoemore and Peake.
Almost 300 acres in Rooaunmore and Loughgeorge were owned at various times by Dominick Browne and the Directors of the Alliance Company.
Lord Bishop of Cashel
His estate consisted of 98 acres in the townland of Kiltrogue.
The friary is undoubtedly the most notable landmark in the parish of Claregalway. For over 700 years it has withstood the ravages of time, weather and man.
The 13th Century Franciscan Friary
It provides a very visible reminder of our heritage and religious tradition. The annual cemetery Sunday maintains this religious tradition. When one walks in the cloister courtyard, with the river Clare flowing gently in the background, one can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and the constant noise of traffic on the N17. Here one can achieve a sense of peace and tranquillity. It is an important and unique amenity that is available to the local community and is neatly complimented by the nearby castle and nine arches bridge.
The Claregalway friary building like most other friaries is composed of two main parts:
- the church, including the tower
- the living quarters, including the cloisters.
The church is the central and the most outstanding part.
An aerial view of the Friary
A cruciform church is shaped like a cross. The nave and the chancel are like the upright beam of the cross, while the transepts form the arms of the cross. The transepts run north and south from the point where the chancel joins the nave, and the tower marks this point. However, the Claregalway church does not have a south transept. The church is basically rectangular shaped and like most churches of the period was built facing due east, with the altar on the eastern end. The total internal length of the structure is 142 feet. The original church was built in the early pointed style of the thirteenth century. The tower, the east gable window and the north transept were added in the fifteenth century.
The De Burgo Tomb set in the north sidewall in the chancel area
The chancel refers to that part of the church, near the altar, which was reserved for the clergy and choir and is on the eastern end. It is 52 feet long and 23 feet wide. There are six tall narrow pointed (Gothic style) windows in both the north and south walls that provide light; each window is 2 feet in width and 11 feet in height.
Also there were originally three pointed windows in the east gable, but these were replaced by the present one in the fifteenth century that reflected the elaborate ornate style of that time. This east window is the crowning glory of the church. Mullions or vertical stone shafts divide the window into five lights or sections with very gracefully proportioned patterns in the upper part of the window.
On the south wall of the chancel are the remains of a piscina, which is a stone basin in which the chalice used in the Eucharist is rinsed, and the sedilla, a group of three seats let into the wall for the clergy performing the service. The De Burgo tomb, with the arms and crest of the De Burgos, stands in the north side wall, the position in which the founder or other great benefactor’s tomb is generally placed. It carries the following Latin inscription:
Husc Incum sibi elegit Dus Tho Burgo de Anbally, Fils Richarde de Derrymaelaghni Anno Domini 1648
In translation: “Thomas de Burgo of Anbally, son of Richard of Derrymacloughney chose this place for himself, 1648 AD.”
An interior view with the arches of the aisle on the left and in front the piers that support the belfry tower
Nave and Aisle
The nave is the main part of the church; it is on the western end and was where the congregation and laity sat. It is 72 feet long and 23 feet wide. The word nave comes from the Latin word nave, meaning a ship, for the ship was thought to be the symbol or sign of the Christian church, which carries believers over the sea of life into the safe harbour of heaven. Almost the entire western gable end is no more.
An old 1792 sketch of the Friary shows an elaborate window with four sections interlacing with round pieces over the heads. The people’s main entrance was by a large door in the western gable, of which the outline can just barely be seen. The western gable together with the door and window collapsed sometime in the 19th century. There are several sedillas on the south wall; the broken arch of one has been repaired with small red tiles.
There was a north aisle, with a width of 11 feet, which was separated from the nave by an arcade of four pointed arches on cylindrical pillars. The Romanesque style, rounded arch, connected the aisle with the north transept. Unfortunately this aisle is now demolished.
The piscina in the transcept, which is the small chapel on the northern side of the church
Transept – north
This measures 25 feet long by 16 feet. There is a doorway from under the tower into the transept chapel that would have been used by the clergy. However the public had access from the then north aisle of the nave through the arch. Its north window has three shafts with interlacing heads and the two windows to the east are richly carved like some of the window heads in St. Nicholas’ church in Galway. The chapel has an altar and altarpiece, and also a piscina near the door. The arch had been closed and the north window blocked, when the friars had earlier modified the transept to serve as a penal day chapel. Also it had been unroofed around 1915 by the Rev. PJ Moran. There is a tablet affixed to the wall of the chapel to the right of the entrance under the tower which carries the following Latin inscription:
Quisquis eris, qui transieris,
Sta, Perlege, plora,
Sum qd. eris, Fueramq. qd. es,
Pro me, Precor, Ora,
In translation: “Whosoever you may be who should pass by, stop, read thoroughly, mourn. I am what you shall be and I was what you are. I entreat that you pray for me, F(ather) M(artin) B(lake). O(rder) (of) S(t). F(rancis)”. The plaque measures 28 inches by 7.5 inches is not dated and may mark Fr. Blake’s burial place.
The Friary Tower
The tower or belfry was built about 200 years after the original building and within the walls of the church. It rises in three stages above the roof, to a height of 80 feet from the ground level. The insertion of this prominent tower blocked up one of the clerestory windows of the nave and an adjoining window seems to have been taken out and a larger two section window put in its place, to compensate for the loss of light. It is built on arches or a groin type vault supported by four massive piers.
The huge corbels (projecting stones) in the belfry piers were probably for the support of a roof beam. If you look very closely, you’ll see four small stone heads on each pier and one in the centre of the roof vault. Also near the centre of the roof vault, you’ll see two small round holes, through which ropes may have been threaded to allow the friars to ring the bells from below.
The windows in the bell storey of the tower are normally the largest to allow free egress to the sound of the bells. These windows have two sections with transoms (horizontal bars) to strengthen the mullions (vertical shafts) and perhaps to enhance the appearance. The tower roof was probably a pyramidal shaped spire crowned by an outsized iron cross.
There is an opening or little doorway in the south wall of the tower within the roof space of the church, which may have been constructed for ventilation purposes or to affect repairs. It may suggest that there was some sort of loft or attic overhead although there is no evidence of a practice of arranging living quarters over the church as that would imply a lack of reverence. This doorway was approached by way of another doorway over the northern lean to of the cloister wall, which doorway was in turn approached from the north of the east dormitory.
Today the tower looks very tall because the church is no longer roofed, thus giving it extra visibility.
The Friary Cloister with some outbuildings
Living Quarters and Cloister
On the sheltered, sunny, south side of the church is the cloister. The cloister is the rectangular open green space, which is surrounded by a path – this path used to be covered with a lean-to roof. This lean-to provided shelter from the rain for those passing from one part of the friary to another. The cloister enclosure measures 57 feet by 72 feet.
The living quarters was composed of dormitories, kitchen, refectory or dining area, chapter room and a monk’s day room. The building to the east of the cloister seems to have abutted against and obstructed the light of three of the church chancel windows. The upper portions of this contain the dormitories. Also this building shows signs of frequent changes. There are traces of three built up openings onto the cloister that probably formed the entrance to the chapter room. There are three stories in the monks’ day room and in the south wall on the upper floor, there is a large open fireplace, at the back of which externally is a built up window. The buildings south of the cloister also show signs of frequent changes. It is possible that the friars who inhabited the monastery in the eighteenth century occupied this portion only, which was changed to suit the needs of a small community who sought refuge in the ruins.
The Friary water gate facing the Clare River
There was probably a water mill about twenty five yards to the south of the friary. Also there are some obscure remains of a building about thirty five feet south east of the friary between it and the Clare river and located on what is designated ‘site of garderobes’ at the lower right hand corner of the accompanying ground plan. It’s reached by steps leading from the north and from the south. A water channel probably flowed alongside both of these buildings.
History of the Franciscan Friary in Claregalway
A south east view with the graveyard in the foreground
The history of the foundation of the Claregalway friary is obscure, like most other friaries. The founding had been generally ascribed to approximately the year 1290. However in 1956, the chance discovery of a thirteenth century document in the State Paper Office in London had the result of “bringing the date of the foundation of the Franciscan house at Claregalway to some year between 1250 and 1256, thirty years before the date commonly given hitherto”.
John de Cogan I, one of the early Normans, built the monastery for the Franciscan friars around 1252 in what was then called ‘Clar an Duil’. Claregalway had been granted to John de Cogan as a reward for his part in the conquest of Connaught. The Normans were major patrons of the church and played a large part in the introduction of religious orders. ‘Clar an Duil’ or Claregalway was considered to be in the diocese of Annaghdown. The friary is reputed to be the first known Franciscan house in Connaught.
In 1291, Pope Nicholas IV issued a bull granting an indulgence of one year and one quarantine (old English for forty days) to all penitents who visited the church of the friars minor of Claregalway on certain feast days. Those were the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Clare, or during their octaves, as well as on the anniversary of the dedication of the church.
In 1297, the Franciscan friary was at the centre of an ecclesiastical dispute between the diocese of Tuam and Annaghdown that reached the courts of King Edward I and Pope Boniface VIII in Rome. The diocese of Annaghdown had been created before the coming of the Normans and had the support of the native Gaelic O’Flaherty family, while the Tuam diocese represented the Normans. The Archbishop of Tuam considered that the territory of Annaghdown, or at least part of it, properly belonged to Tuam.
While the Bishopric of Annaghdown was vacant, its ceremonial items such as the mitre, crosier, ring, sandals together with letters and documents detailing the apostolic privileges were left for safekeeping with the friars of Claregalway. William de Bermingham, bishop of Tuam, raided the friary. His Archdeacon, Philip de Blund, had to appear before the court of common pleas in Dublin, charged with seizing forcibly from the Claregalway friars the chest of the bishop of Annaghdown. And that “he broke it open in the doorway of the mother Church, and with force took away the episcopal mitre, with the pastoral staff and other contents”.
This dispute seems to have dragged on for a number of years. There is a record of the case being heard before the chief justice in Dublin in 1300. In 1303, Pope Boniface VIII ordered the Bishop of Limerick to effect an agreement between the Archbishop of Tuam and the Dean of Annaghdown and failing this to report to the Pope, however it is not known how this concluded.
A view of the ornate East window
In 1327, John Magnus de Cogan gave to the guardian and friars of the convent “all the lands and tenements in Clonmoylan as far as Claredoule.” There is a picturesque condition imposed on the friars in return for this gift of presenting a rose annually to the donor and his heirs on the feast of St. John the Baptist.
In 1328, Robert, Bishop of Annaghdown sued Malachy, Archbishop of Tuam at the justices of the bench in Dublin for having by force carried off his goods and chattels found at “Strothyr Clare” (Claregalway) to the value of £40.
In 1333, another benefactor Philip Hamlin gave ten acres of land to the friars to provide the bread and wine for their Masses.
In 1368, Thomas de Bermingham, Lord of Athenry, gave them all the lands from Clonmoylan to Clare to pay for wine and candles for the altar.
In 1386, John Roch granted the friars as a perpetual alms all the lands of Clonmoylan, also an Alice Kerry bestowed on them two tenements and two and a half acres of land.
In 1387, Joanne Brown gave them more land. Also a James Caer, dean of the diocese of Tuam, gave them six acres of land at Cloynbiggan. (This could be the earliest reference to the present day address of "Cloonbiggen" !)
The friary with Martin Finnerty, Cloonbiggen, c1940
Pope Martin V in March 1426 addressed a mandate to Cormac O’Callaghan, a canon of Annaghdown, in answer to a petition almost certainly sent to him by a Claregalway friar. This mandate authorised him to grant dispensation to a friar named William Pulard from an irregularity incurred by him. The offence was: “that William being then a priest, when playing with other clerics and laymen a game customary in those parts among both seculars and religious, accidentally struck another player, Donald O’hAschi, layman, near the ear with a sharp pointed stick, from which wound, Donald, a year later, owing to his own and his surgeon’s carelessness died”. Also, “if this poor friar was on his knees all this time over the death of this poor man, which was by accident, if the facts were as stated, then the parish priest here was to rehabilitate William Pulard and dispense him and allow him to minister again”.
In 1430, William de Burgo, with the consent of all the citizens of the town of Clare, granted them the pasturage of twenty-four cows in the common pastures of the town.
In 1433, Pope Eugene IV granted an indulgence of four years and four quarantines to all the faithful who visited the Franciscan church of Claregalway, chiefly, it would seem, to encourage the people to contribute to the renovation of the church and the completion of the steeple.
Two great waves of destruction were responsible for the ruined state of most abbeys and churches in Ireland, including the Claregalway friary. The first was brought about by the suppression of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII and the second associated with the Confederate wars and the ensuing invasion by Oliver Cromwell.
On the 11th July 1538, Henry VIII sent Lord Leonard Gray to Galway. It is recorded that the abbey of friars at Claregalway was rifled by Gray’s troops on their way to the western capital and “neither chalice, cross nor bell left in it”.
By 1541 most of the monasteries were closed, their possessions confiscated and their communities scattered into the surrounding countryside. The monasteries were scavenged for anything of value: lead, glass, timber and slates.
Queen Elizabeth I granted the abbey, with all its appurtenances (belongings) to Sir Richard de Burgo in 1570. However the friars remained in or near the place until about 1589 when Sir Richard Bingham, the English governor of Connaught, cleared the actual building of its inmates and used it as a barracks. According to undoubted tradition, he stabled his horses in the monastery chapel, while his soldiers were quartered in the cloisters.
King James confirmed the title of local lords who obtained church lands following the confiscations of the previous century. The Earl of Clanrickard was given the “the late monastery of Balleclare (Claregalway), with the site, church and church yard, 6 cottages and gardens, 24 acres arable, common pasture for 24 cows on the commons yearly, and a waste water-mill…”
After the commencement of the civil war in 1641, the Franciscans made an attempt to restore the buildings, but owing to the turbulence of the times, were unable to carry out their intention.
Edward Synge, The Anglican archbishop of Tuam, wrote on 25 November 1731: “There is a Friary in Claregalway, where three at least are always resident”. Stratford Eyre, the High Sheriff of the county, in submitting his report in 1732 stated: “The friars of Claregalway live close to the Abbey and are building a large house. It is the estate of Thomas Blake.”
In 1791, Coquebert de Montbret, who was then the French consul at Dublin, recorded in his journal that at Claregalway “The monks are settling down among the ruins.”
Portrait of Fr.John Francis, said to be the last Friar to reside at the Friary in 1847
According to a tabulated list of houses in the province, compiled by Fr. J.J. Mullock. OFM, in 1838, the community in Claregalway then numbered two preachers; neither the chapel nor residence had been constructed within the previous decade. Also according to the Complete Catholic Registry for 1845: the community in Claregalway then consisted of but two members.
The difficulty of maintaining the friary in such difficult circumstances had become a very real one for the Irish Franciscan province. Overall numbers had been decreasing steadily, from about 220 members in 1766 to about 150 in 1782, chiefly it would appear, as a result of restrictions imposed by the authorities at Rome in 1751. Of the 36 houses that were occupied in the year 1800, only 16 were still open in 1837, and these were staffed by a total of about 55 friars. It was therefore inevitable that a small foundation such as Claregalway could not continue its separate existence because it was situated in a rural area about 6 miles from Galway, which had its own community. There were just not enough personnel available to staff it.
It would appear from a newspaper report in the Galway Vindicator on November 1847 and supported by a local account that the community ceased to reside at Claregalway friary during the month of November 1847. The account states:
“One day, one of the two friars who were the last to reside at Claregalway, having been questing for contributions for their support felt himself become ill and, instead of returning to Claregalway, asked the driver of the pony-trap to convey him to the friary at Galway. The driver complied and on his return to Claregalway, informed the other friar, who thereupon said in grief, ‘That means that I too must leave here’. On the following day the driver brought him also to Galway”.
The friar who took ill was Fr. James Hughes and the other friar was Fr John Francis.
However on feast days, friars used to come from Galway to Claregalway to celebrate Mass, hear confessions and preach there. From the year 1860 not even these services took place. Guardians continued to be appointed up to about 1872. This however does not necessarily indicate that a community had again taken up residence there, because ‘titular’ or nominal guardianships were traditional, and at that time were numerous in the Irish province of the Order. They were particularly valued for the right of voting at chapter meetings that they conferred.
The Franciscans did not own the friary as such since it had been given to the Clanrickard family early in the 17th century. There is a receipt dated 16th January 1872, which records the payment by the then guardian at Galway of the sum of £9-9-8d, “being one year’s rent due to the Right Honourable Lord Clanmorris up to the first day of November 1871, out of his holdings in the Abbey, Claregalway”.
On the 21st September 1892, the building that was then in the possession of Lord Clanmorris was vested in the Commissioners of Public Works, under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of that year.
While there is no percise information on when the Claregalway castle was actually built, the indications are that it is probably late 15th century and may have been built on the site of an older wooden structure. It’s situated on the lowest crossing point of the Clare River before it flows through bogland into the Corrib. While commonly referred to as a castle, technically it is more accurately described as a tower house. They were fortified residences that also served in a military capacity.
View of Claregalway Castle, as seen from the West
Brief History of the Castle
References to Claregalway and its castle keep cropping up because it was an important strategic point in the defence of the city of Galway itself. Some of these references are fragmented and it’s difficult to get a clear picture, but nevertheless we get some idea of what life was like in those times.
The Normans built a number of castles along the Clare River. The De Burgos were the first of the Normans that came into Connacht. In 1225, King Henry III of England granted the province of Connacht to Richard de Burgo. They secured their territories by building stone castles. They later became known as Burkes and they split into two opposing families, the McWilliam Íochtar (the Mayo Burkes) and the McWilliam Uachtar (the Galway Burkes), who eventually became known as the Clanrickards.
1470 : The combined forces of O’Donnell of Tirconnell and the Mayo Burkes ‘encamped for a night in Claregalway and then burned it and continued for a while laying waste the country round about.’
View of the Castle from the East, with the river Clare flowing by in the foreground and the Friary in the Background
1504 - Battle of Knockdoe : Knockdoe is about 2 miles from Claregalway and it was where the forces of Garret Mór Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, who was the Lord Deputy of Ireland, fought the Clanrickard, head of the Burkes. Garret Mór Fitzgerald led his army from Leinster to thwart the ambitions of Clanrickard. The Burkes had a number of Irish chiefs fighting with them and they also had engaged Scottish mercenaries known as Gallowglasses. It was the first time that guns were used in Ireland to do battle. According to reports they were not sure how to fire them and they used them as clubs instead. Clanrickard was defeated and thousands were killed.
Claregalway is mentioned twice in connection with this battle. The night before the battle, the Burkes ‘played cards in the castle ‘till late hours of the following morning and they were drinking.’ After his victory, Garret Mór marched towards Galway, looting Claregalway castle en route, and taking as prisoners the two sons and a daughter of Ulick Burke.
1538 : Lord Gray on behalf of King Henry VIII attacked Claregalway castle with 250 regular troops and artillery. This artillery included cannons such as a half culverin, a saker and double falcons. Lord Gray took the castle and handed it over to Ulick Burke, it is said, for cash.
1571 : Sir Edward Fitton, the President of Connacht, was camped outside Claregalway and he reported that ‘we are refused at the Earl’s castle by the Earl’s son where the rebel is the constable of the castle and upon hearing of our coming to pass by it to Galway, he burned the town, uncovered the castle and offered plain resistance.’ This action may appear strange, but an important tactic in defending a castle was to burn the town so the army coming in would not have any shelter or food and to unroof the castle, which was made of thatch, so as to prevent archers from firing burning arrows into it. They could defend it perfectly when it was unroofed. However it was reported that Fitton captured the castle and put the garrison of sixteen men to death.
1572 : The Earl of Clanrickard had two sons, John and Ulick who were wild and uncontrollable and caused a lot of turmoil and destruction around Athenry. They were described as ‘the most executable evil-doers, doing destruction across Loughrea, Athenry and so on.’ The mayor of Galway wrote to the Lord Deputy complaining about the two sons.
1576 : Under the English Surrender and Regrant policy, the Earl of Clanrickard surrendered the castle to Queen Elizabeth and she regranted it back to him.
1603-1625 : King James I made a number of grants to local lords to hold fairs and markets in order to boost the local economies. Cattle trade became very important. The Earl of Clanrickard was granted a licence for a weekly Wednesday market at Claregalway.
1641-1651 : In October 1641, rebellion against the English rule broke out in Ulster and soon spread to the rest of the country. For the next eight years, England was the scene of a fiercely fought civil war between King Charles I and the extreme Protestants or Puritans led by Oliver Cromwell. The fighting soon spread to Ireland where armies supporting both sides fought each other. The Catholic rebels, who included Old Irish and Anglo-Irish, formed the Federation of Kilkenny. The Earl of Clanrickard, who was the King’s Governor of Connacht, eventually became involved but was a reluctant rebel.
1642 : Claregalway castle was strongly garrisoned by Clanrickard and he used it as a base for operations to overcome Galway. It was there he received the proposals for the surrender of Galway as signed by the mayor Walter Lynch and delivered by Dominic Browne and others. In 1643 the castle was surprised by Captain Richard Burke of Anbally, through the treachery of a tenant, the carelessness of the warders and the collusion of a Franciscan friar. Its giving up was one of the conditions of the treaty for the surrender of Galway.
1648 : The Papal Nuncio was in Galway and he wrote to Clanrickard about the capture of Thomas McKiernan of the Franciscans in the castle and he asked that he be released.
1649 - Onwards After the execution of King Charles I, William Cromwell landed in Ireland in 1649 with a big army with the purpose of putting down the rebellion. He quickly captured a number of towns and departed in May 1650. Sir Charles Coote, a Cromwellian, seized Claregalway castle in 1651. Galway was the last stronghold to surrender to the Cromwellians. Thus ended about ten years of warfare, which was then followed by the Cromwellian Plantation.
The route of the Clare river was altered so as to flow closer to the Castle offering it protection and fresh water
Claregalway castle is a well preserved rectangular five-storey tower. Its dimensions are 12 metres in length and 9.75 metres in width. The castle entrance is by a pointed arched doorway of cut stone near the northern end of the southwest wall. The presence of opposing vertical grooves in both of its jambs indicate that it was protected by a portcullis. The portcullis is a heavy latticed iron grating in the gateway, which could slide up and down in grooves in the doorjambs and was used for protecting the ordinary wooden door of the castle. There is a small apartment above the door into which the portcullis rose and where the lifting machinery was located.
This doorway opens into a small lobby with a guardroom to the left and a spiral stone staircase to the right. This staircase ascends for the first 35 feet and then a straight narrow staircase leads from the south side of the castle to the top. Directly above the lobby is a small rectangular opening known as the ‘murdering hole’. This was used to pour hot liquids down on unsuspecting attackers.
A stone vault exists between the second and third floors. Mural passages occur in the northeast wall on the first floor and in the southeast wall on the third floor. There are mural chambers in the southwest wall on the first floor and in the southeast, southwest and northwest walls on the third floor.
The castle is located beside the Claregalway bridge over the Clare river, alongside the N17 (Galway-Tuam) Road
Garderobes (used for sanitation) survive inside the southeast wall on the second and third floors. Fireplaces are visible in the southwest wall on the first floor and in the north east wall on the second floor. Traces of the wall-walk survive as well as remains of the parapet along the southeast and southwest walls. The parapet was a low wall alongside the exterior edge of the wall-walk that protected guards as they patrolled.
Protecting corbels centrally placed on top of the walls formerly supported machicolations at parapet level. Corbels are projecting stones, firmly imbedded in the walls, which were usually intended to carry a wooden beam or in this case machicolations. A machicolation was a projecting parapet on the top of a castle wall with openings in the bottom through which missiles could be dropped or discharged on attackers. They protected defenders who were trying to attack the assailants at the base of the castle wall. There was at least one positioned directly over the castle entrance.
There is no part of the roof remaining. It was probably made of oak and thatched, as lead roofs were not common in Irish castles. There were no windows in the lower 20 feet, only loopholes. The castle was originally designed to be defended by archery and was never modified to meet the requirements of firearms. The loopholes are narrow slits that were wider on thel inside to give the defender an advantage when shooting arrows or guns. A variety of window types occur in Claregalway castle. Many display Gothic-like features incuding pointed arches, ogee heads, an intricate curved design and one that is mullioned and transomed (vertical and horizontal stone bars).
The ruins of Cloghmoyle Castle in Carnmore
Cloghmoyle Castle (Cloch Mhaol)
The poorly preserved remains of this castle are located in flat open pastureland in Carnmore West. This rectangular shaped building (length 10.3m, width 7.2m) contains two surviving storeys. There is no trace of a doorway but there are two large gaps in both the north and east walls (1.05m thick). At the southwest and northeast corners are the poorly preserved remains of what appear to be foundations for two turrets. These turrets were tower-like structures. The ground storey is divided internally by a later wall that has blocked a single-lighted window with wide internal splay. This tower house was probably built in the 15th Century by the Normans (De Burgos). Local history also refers to it as being a convent!
This towerhouse was sited on a natural rise overlooking Claregalway. It was originally a three storey rectangular building that was later incorporated into a 19th Century house (Greated's). Until recently traces of a spiral staircase plus a pointed arch doorway were visible. Numerous cut-stone fragments from the towerhouse were incorporated into the later addition.
Sited on slightly elevated area in a generally low-lying region. All that remains of this castle is a small portion of the south wall. This surviving part indicated that it had at least two storeys with traces of two window openings at first storey level. A number of large fragments of masonry are strewn about the site.
Kiltrogue Castle (Cill Torroige)
A fine five-storey towerhouse (length 10.3m, width 7.2m) built on the east bank of the Clare River with a small stream gushing out from a few yards of its walls. In fair condition except for the top portion which is in a very ruinous condition. The four walls are still standing but almost all floors are missing. The east end, which comprises the staircase and subsidiary chambers was six storeys high, while the rest of the tower is five storeys high. A lean-to shed has been built against the north wall. The main entrance is a pointed arch doorway, which is centrally placed in the east wall. Inside a guardroom and spiral staircase are evident with the latter being in a poor state of preservation. A stone vault exists between the first and second floors. This vault is arch shaped. A fireplace is visible in the north wall on the first floor. Corbels, which supported a machicolation over the doorway, are visible on top of the east wall.
The castle was probably built at the end of the 15th Century by the De Burgos and was owned by John Blake FitzRicard. Tirlagh Caragh McSwine owned it in 1574.
It can be gleaned from local knowledge and gathered from interviews with long time residents that Claregalway parish had an abundance of crafts and trades in olden times. Many of those occupations are now in decline. It must be understood that official statistics are difficult to get so we must rely on local knowledge.
Michael Skerret Making a Wooden Cart Wheel
We begin our compilation at the Claregalway crossroads. As we travel towards the bridge there was a row of thatched artisans cottages. First was Pat Egans, where Hughes supermarket now stands. This was a weavers/loom. Pat Egan was Michael Hughes great grandfather. Next was Skerrets. Michael Skerret was a carpenter who specialised in making horse and donkey drawn carts and wheels. His sister Maggie was a dressmaker. Hughes car park occupies the site where the Skerrets cottage and workshop once stood.Next to Skerrets was Donoghues where Horans house is now. Donoghues owned a small grocery shop.Next to Donoghues was James Hession’s public house. It was built by Kellys and then became Longs. James Hession known as ‘velvet’ (because of his jacket) returned from America and married into Longs and so it became Hessions until November 1974. It is now the Summerfield bar and Bruac na hAbhain restaurant.
Dunleavys Thatch House, in the village
Next to the Summerfield bar there is the last remaining one of the thatched cottages, which is the residence of Kathleen and Bob Dunleavey. Brid and James Glynn formally occupied it, Brid was a teacher and James was a local guard. This was the residence of Pat Williams, a cobbler. Pat was the brother of Mick Williams the postman. Next door to Pat Williams was Pat Ross who was a tailor. Nothing remains of the Ross house. After the water pump lived Mick Burke who had a pub there. He was known as a ridire chaorach because he owned 1001 sheep. No descendants now remain.
Lenihans Pub, Where Dunleavys Nine Arches is today
Right beside the handball alley stood Lenihan’s public house, which was popularly known as Binas. Binas father was Pat Lenihan and his wife was Kelly from Waterdale. It is mentioned in an interview with Kathleen Dunleavey (Binas niece) that this may have been at one time a bakery owned by the O’Reillys. In the late 1960’s the business was transferred to where Dunleavys bar and grocery now stands.
Over the river towards Loughgeorge and next to the castle on the right side back in the field is Casey’s cottage. Pat Casey fought in World War II. This was a herd’s cottage. On the left where the Western Irons crafts is now, stood the Hanley brothers engineering company. The Hanley brothers’ father was Martin and he owned a dance hall on this site. It was known as Hanley’s hall.
Kellys Pub, where Terry Brennans Central Tavern
The Central Tavern, which is a pub and restaurant and whose proprietor’s are Joe and Julie Kyne has a long history. Roddy Kelly who was Joe’s uncle owned it. Roddy’s father was Malachy Kelly from Drumgriffin in Corrundulla and he emigrated to America many years ago. He became wealthy in America and returned to Loughgeorge and purchased the pub along with 270 acres of land at a reputed price of £1 per acre. He purchased the property from the Ffrenchs. Joe inherited the pub in 1970. When replastering an upstairs wall the name Helen Ffrench was discovered.
Michael Smiths Blacksmiths Forge, Loughgeorge
Travelling towards Tuam a few hundred yards further on we find Michael Smith’s forge which is still in use. Michael and his ancestors were blacksmiths. In the townland of Peake, Tom Duffy a tailor lived. Tom’s family now live in Prospect Hill beside Lohan's chemist. Also in this locality lived another tailor named Higgins and a cobbler named Commins. Moving left towards Mullacuttra/Bawnmore there lived James Keane who built many of the newer houses in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, including the extension to the Summerfield Bar and Cormicans in Lakeview. William Tarpey at the crossroads was a blacksmith. He was Peter Feeney's grandfather. Tim Tarpey in Cloughaun was a farrier.
The Late Michael Smith, Blacksmith working in his Forge
In Waterdale, Willie Cullinan was a stone mason, John Dolly a thatcher and Willie Keaney also known as “Coogan”, was a blacksmith. The name “Coogan” derived from Fintan Coogan T.D. who was also a blacksmith. Willie worked with Martin Cannon, a blacksmith in Tonroe, Lydacan, his brother Paddy who died in November 1998 was also skilled. In Gortadubha-Cloonbiggen there was a thatcher named Seamus Loftus. Returning again to the Claregalway crossroads and into Montiagh we find Seamus (Liam) Duggan a thatcher (father of Padraig). In Cahergowan-Clogher were the brothers John and Michael Cogavin, known as gaeilge as O’Cogabhain, who were tailors.
Blacksmith shoeing Tommy Reillys horse in 1982
A thatcher named Seamus O Loughlin, a weaver named Martin Duggan and a cooper named Sean McGuinness who was also a boat builder. Stephen Lynskey was a thatcher and he and his brothers Sean and William were members of the Old IRA. John (Kitty) Forde was a champion slaner (turf cutter) and Tom Forde (brother of John and Mary) was a thatcher and also a chimney builder. As we come out onto the main road and return towards Claregalway crossroads we can point out a trademan's house of old where the Concannons now live, whose name was Samways and he was a nailer. Just before that at the Clogher turnoff was Scullys. Pat Scully was a cobbler and his son Mike was a thatcher and a stone mason.
On the left, down the field lived Pat Clancy a thatcher. His brother was drowned at Curraghmore bridge along with Charlie Quinn’s brother and Fahy from Cregboy. There was a grocery shop owned by Clancys where Carrs is now. Pat Carr (Pat’s grandfather, Matties father) lived and he drove a steamroller with Galway County Council. He was a good mechanic. Patrick Cullinan lived where Cullinans old house now stands and he was a horse doctor. He was a member of the cavalry in the USA army, hence his knowledge of horses.
Martin Lally, weaver from Carnmore at work
Mrs Flood, the national teacher, lived near Cullinans. Her son Peter was a bus conductor in Galway. Father Malachy Mannion lived in Cahergowan. Remains of his house are still there, also there is a road through the bog and commonage known as Clochan an tSagairt.
In Tonroe, Lydacan we have Martin Cannon a blacksmith and Andy McDonagh a builder. In Caherlea lived a stone mason named Kerrigan who was known as An Preabaire Ciarragain. Fahy a carpenter, lived in Kiltrogue. In Carnmore we find from local knowledge a thatcher named Flaherty and another named Rabbitt.
House builders named Kings and Kellys, Martin (Mhichil) Fox a thatcher, Rooneys were carpenters who made wheelbarrows. Lallys lived where Feeneys near the airport now live and they were weavers (fiadoiri). Sean O Bane and his son William were stone masons. Moving down to Ballymurphy there was a shop that was owned by two brothers named Murphy. And finally we conclude our journey at Morans old family residence in Lakeview (by the river) and this was originally a herd’s cottage.
In the Second Report of the Irish Education Inquiry of 1826 a Claregalway school is referred to as being “held in the chapel”. It is described as a ‘pay’ school with an attendance of 50 boys and 30 girls. The master, who received an annual income of £12 to £15 per annum (paid by the children), was named as William Loftus. A school is also listed in Carnmore where the master, John Hanly, received from 2s 6d per quarter from each pupil. It is described as ‘a small hut’ with an attendance of 18 boys and 12 girls.
A third school, at Brannamore, is listed in the parish of Claregalway. The mistress, Mrs. Haverty, taught twelve girls. The school is described as ‘a room’ and the income of the mistress is ‘not stated’. We have been unable to establish the existence of a townland called Brannamore in the parish, through local people or through Ordinance Survey maps. Could it possibly be Bawnmore? The Ordinance Survey map of 1840 has a schoolhouse marked just a few yards north of Kynes Central Tavern, directly across from the road leading to Corrandulla.
Part of a letter dated October 1811, from Parishioners complaining about the state of education in the parish
Local folklore (Ciarán Bairéad, Irish Folklore Commission, Notes on the Ecclesiastical History of Claregalway Parish, 1963, Galway Diocesan Archives) refers to two hedge schools in the parish. One, which was said to have been located in Ballinacregg, was run by a man called Grimes who had the reputation of being very harsh. The second school, which was said to have been situated beside the pump in Montiagh, was run by a man called Tomáisín Bacach, who was, as the name suggests, lame. It was said that he was a great penman who wrote books containing Irish songs, etc. one of which is in the Irish Folklore Commission in Dublin (not verified). The books were known as ‘Leabhraí Thomáisín Bacach’ or ‘Leabhraí Thomáisín’. It is possible that this is the school listed at Clash in the 1835 Report of the Commissioners of Public Instruction. Local people say that Clash was the name given to a field behind Mike Hessions but there was also a place in Montiagh called Clash na dTincéirí.
Almost two hundred years on from the earliest written record of education in the parish of Claregalway it can be safely said that the parish is well served with two modern, growing schools. Most of the credit for this goes to Canon Gerard Callanan P.P. who oversaw the building, extending and staffing of the schools during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He has left a splendid legacy to the people of the parish who must also be credited for their financial support during that period.
Original Claregalway School, built in 1855, was located in the present Church car park
The 1851 Commissioners Report on National Education records a boys’ school (with an enrolment of 78) and a girls’ school (enrolment of 54) in Claregalway. (There is no local record as to the exact location of these schools). It is worth noting that the average attendance in schools around this time would have been around 30% of enrolment. The boys’ school, which is listed as temporary, received allowances of £2 0s 7d for school requisites, £10 0s 0d for teacher’s salary and £5 10s 0d as a local contribution in aid of teacher’s salary. Allowances for the girls’ school are shown as £8 15s 0d for teacher’s salary and £2 10s 0d as the local contribution to it. An appendix to the report which, gives particulars of the examinations of teachers of National Schools, lists Mr. Michael Carrick as the Principal of the boys’ school. There is no record of the teacher in the girls’ school.
In 1855 a National School was built in the townland of Cregboy in the Barony of Dunkellin (where the Telecom Eireann station and church car park are now situated). There were two schools within the building – boys and girls were separated. A Daily Report Book (1911 – 1919) from the girls’ school, printed for His Majesty’s Stationary Office by John Adams, Belfast, records that the school was non-vested and “built by the people of the parish” with the dimensions of each school room 35ft long, 18 ½ ft wide and 20ft high.
According to notes by Canon P. Moran, P.P., Claregalway (1915-1946) held in the Diocesan Archives, dated 1st July 1920, ‘these schools, together with the plot of ground, were leased on the 10th July 1888 by the owners, Mary Commins and John Commins to the trust of Rev. Dr. MacCormack and the Rev. Martin Commins P.P., for 99 years at the yearly rent of one penny and vested in fee simple in Bishop MacCormack and Rev. Martin Commins by order of the Irish Land Commission of 7th April 1902.’
Claregalway School Girls c1923
Payment by Results
The oldest records available from the girls’ school are a number of Examination Rolls from 1895 to 1899. The rolls contain the names of pupils who had made 100 or more attendances within the previous year and were thereby eligible for promotion if they passed examinations in reading, writing and arithmetic. The rolls were signed by the teacher, Bedelia Daly (probably the Principal). In 1899 they were signed by Margaret Brady and we assume that she married around the turn of the century as the Principal from 1905 to 1931 is recorded as Mrs Margaret Flood.
These Examination Rolls were of extreme importance to the teachers because the period in Irish education from 1872 to 1899 was known as the ‘pay by results’ period when, as the name suggests, teachers were paid on the basis of results of pupils’ examinations in the 3Rs. Precise programmes were set for each subject from Infants to Sixth Class with Reading, Writing, Spelling and Arithmetic as the obligatory subjects up to Second Class and Grammar, Geography, Needlework (girls) and Agriculture (boys) being added from Third Class upwards. Two extra optional subjects could be taken in the senior classes from a long optional list. A scale of fees was devised for each subject in each grade and a pupil at sixth grade, who was successful in all subjects including two extra subjects, could earn 18 shillings for his teacher. Children were examined by the inspector annually and teachers were paid on the basis of the results.
An accompanying inspector’s report from 1898 states that there were 101 girls enrolled in the school, 37 of whom had made the qualifying number of attendances but on examination of school accounts he had found the names of ten other pupils who had made over 99 attendances but whose names had been suppressed from the Roll!
In his 1899 Report to the Board of Commissioners, District Inspector for Galway, Mr. W.H. Welply expresses concern regarding the practice of suppressing eligible names from the examination rolls and gives the obvious reason for same:
“… one or more pupils may be unlikely to pass creditably and so lest their probable bad marks should detract from the appearance of efficiency of the school, such pupils’ names are sometimes omitted, and the risk taken, that, in the hurry of the examination, the accounts may escape the often long and wearisome check that enables an Inspector to detect these omissions.”
He was also worried about the practice of allotting incorrect ages to children when they were enrolled. He gives an example of “a child of six years on admission. As often as not, his age in the register will be put down as four, and he will, in all probability, remain in the Infant classes until he attains the official age of eight. He arrives in the 1st class at the real age of ten and in 4th at 13.”
The ‘pay by results’ system was scrapped in September 1900 when a revised programme was introduced. As well as the 3Rs, kindergarten, manual instruction, drawing, singing, object lessons and elementary science, P.E., cookery and laundry were added as obligatory subjects.
Buachaillí ó Scoil Bhail Chláir na Gaillimhe, 1946
A Roll Book from 1927 contains an extract, regarding school attendance, from the Irish Education Act of 1892. The extract states that “the parent of every child not less than six nor more than fourteen years of age shall cause the child to attend school during such number of days in the year and for such time on each day of attendance as are prescribed in the First Schedule of this act.” The First Schedule notes that “…. The number of attendances shall be 75 complete attendances in each half year”. Among the reasons regarded as reasonable for non-attendance were “… sickness, domestic necessity, or by reason of being engaged in necessary operations of husbandry and the in-gathering of crops or giving assistance in the fisheries…”.
Mr. Welply’s Report of 1899 notes that “…the Compulsory Attendance Act has been very recently put into force in Galway but beyond casually learning that the unaccustomed scarcity of ‘caddies’ upon the local golf links is attributable to this cause, I have not had an opportunity of judging its effects.”
Daltaí ó Scoil Bhaile Chláir na Gaillimhe, 1994
He also notes that “…. as a general rule fuel is provided by the pupils, and it is not uncommon to see them of a morning carrying along with their books their daily contribution of peat.”
Records from the old boy’s school are not as plentiful but a Register of teachers shows that Mr. George Carter was Principal from 1878 to 1915. Mary J. Carter, who acted as assistant teacher in the school from 1906 to 1912, was probably his daughter. Mr. Carter was succeeded by Thomas O’ Reilly (1915- 1920) and he in turn was followed by James P. Donnellan (1920-22). In 1922 Tomás Ó’Conchubhair, a native of Kerry, was appointed Principal, a position he held until 1962. His assistant for most of this term (1915-1954) was Mary Cullinan (nee Moran), grandmother of Gerry, Cahergowan. Miss Greally succeeded her.
Inspectors’ reports from that period laud their diligence, teaching ability and commitment to the Irish language. Conditions in the old school left a lot to be desired as we can gauge from the following portions of inspectors’ reports:
- 1909 - The roof is unceilinged. There is not sufficient accommodation for shawls, hats, etc. of the pupils. The room is insufficiently heated by one fireplace.
- 1910 - The school is inadequately heated and needs many repairs to floor, walls and windows. Eave shoots are also required.
- 1921 - A map of the British Isles and a scale map of the locality are required.
- 1916 - A fireguard is needed. Desks for small children are not suitable.
- 1919 - The boundary wall requires repair at the back. Stones should be cleared off the playground. Distempering is required. The school has been seriously affected by closing for epidemics, changes of teachers (through the absence of the Principal at a University course for the Diploma in Education) and an occasional absence owing to illness.
Claregalway School built in 1929, now refurbished and incorporated into the new school building
Work began on the building of a new school in the townland of Lakeview in 1929 (the oldest section of the present school). This was completed in 1930 with the official opening on October 6th . It is reported that the building cost £3,000 - the parish contributed £150 and the remainder came from government funds. Boys and girls were separated once again. In 1931 a new principal was appointed to the girl’s school. Eibhlin Bn Mhic Suibhne (Ní Mhuirghuis) – Helena Mc Sweeney – who had acted as assistant teacher since 1919 was the new principal, a post she held until 1940 when Eibhlin Bn. Uí Dhuibhghiolla (Eibhlin Divilly) succeeded her. Assistants during this period were Bríd Nic An Iomaire (Bríd Ridge) (1932-36) and Polín Ní Lorcáin (Pauline Larkin) (1936–43). Bn. Uí Dhuibhghiolla remained as Principal until 1963 when she was succeeded by Máire Bn.Uí Lochlainn (Maire O’Loughlin).
An Oide Bríd Uí Aodh ag éirí as a post ó Scoil Bhaile Chláir na Gaillimhe (1943-1984) - Mrs Hughes on her retirement from Teaching in Claregalway NS
In 1943 Bríd Bn. Uí Aodh (Bríd Hughes) from Oileáin Árann was appointed as assistant teacher, a position she held until her retirement in 1984 – a remarkable forty one years of service to the parish.
The boys and girls’ schools were amalgamated in 1970 under the principalship of Seán Mac Gloinn (Séan Glynn), Woodquay, who had succeeded Tómas Ó Conchúbhair (Thomas O’Connor) as Principal of the boys’ school in 1962. He retired in 1978 and was succeeded, as Principal, by Máire Bn. Uí Lochlainn, who had acted as Principal of the girls’ school before the amalgamation. She in turn retired in 1991 to be succeeded by the present Principal, Pádraig Ó Comhghain (Pat Coen).
Enrollment figures from the old Claregalway girls’ school show that there were approximately 100 girls enrolled around the turn of the century. This number decreased gradually during the 1920s and 1930s and was in fact halved by the 1940s when the enrolment was 50 girls. By 1955 the number had risen to 74 only to start a downward trend again to an all time low of 43 in 1968. Around the time of the amalgamation of the boys and girls’ schools in 1970, sixty nine boys and fifty four girls were enrolled but the following twenty years were to see an enrolment explosion due to a house building boom and the popularity of Claregalway as a place of residence for young families.
Present Day Claregalway School that was built in 1983
As enrolment almost trebled in twenty years (123 in 1971 to 300 in 1993), extra teachers were appointed and a major extension of five classrooms, staff room, general purpose room, etc. was added in the 1980s. Far from the turf fires, cold rooms, substandard toilet facilities and lack of proper water supply in the old schools the children now had the comfort of central heating, en suite toilets, modern furniture and running water in all classrooms. A further extension of two classrooms and a staff room was added in the mid 1990s. The appointment of a remedial teacher brought the number of teachers to twelve.
The introduction of free school education in the 1960s led to an increase in the number of pupils going on to second level education. School records from the 1920s to the 1960s show that only a small number of pupils went on to second level. In the 1990s we see all children going on to second level with a large percentage continuing on to third level.
Old Carnmore School, built in 1855
Details of the earlier teachers in Carnmore are very sketchy. Mrs. Kelly was appointed in 1887 and there is a record of a Mrs. Gaffney being appointed in 1917. Mrs. Kelly was still there in 1928 when she was joined by Miss M. Casserly. Mrs. O Kane and Mr. McDonagh, Principal, also taught in the school and the latter was succeeded by the renowned poet and writer, Máirtín Ó Cadhain. Many people commented on the fact that he was a great teacher but a disagreement with Canon Moran P.P. led to his dismissal as Principal. He was succeeded by Seamus Ó Marranáin (in 1937) who suffered from the fall-out of his predecessor’s sacking to such an extent that he required police protection both in coming to and going from school and even in the school yard. He weathered the storm, however, and remained in Carnmore until 1975 when he retired and was replaced by the present Principal, Pilib Ó Cadhain. Carnmore School was renovated and enlarged in 1935.
Present Day Carnmore School, built 1983
Máiréad Nic Dhiarmada was appointed as assistant teacher in 1949 and she was later succeeded by Úna Breathnach who came from Cill Ainnín in 1968. Carnmore remained a two–teacher school until 1977 when Bairbre Ní Iarnáin – later Bairbre Bn. Mhic Dhonncha – joined the staff as second assistant. The old school was now almost 100 years old and conditions were obviously sub-standard. A new school was built and officially opened on December 14th 1983. Shortly afterwards, in January 1984, Bn. Mhic Dhonncha left for An Cheathrú Rua and was replaced by Nóirín Bn. Uí Eidhin. Enrolment figures were rising and Carnmore soon became a four-teacher school with the appointment of Máire Ní Chuilleanáin from Claregalway. Máire took a career break in 1989 and headed for Australia where she married and settled down. Áine Bn. Uí Mhóráin was appointed in her place and shortly afterwards, in September 1990, Seán Ó Raghallaigh was appointed as a fourth assistant. Úna Breathnach retired in 1991 and was replaced by Gina Bn. Uí Mhainnín.
Old Bawnmore School, opened 1863, closed 1961
Bawnmore National School
Though situated in the parish of Lackagh, Bawnmore N.S. has provided primary school education for many people at that end of Claregalway parish. The history of the school has been documented in a beautifully presented booklet, which was produced for a school reunion in summer 1998. The old school was established by Richard Kirwan of Bawnmore House in 1863 to educate the children of his tenants. At first there were two separate schools – one for boys and one for girls – with Mr. Patrick Heavey being the first Principal of the boys’ school and his wife, Bridget, Principal of the girls’ school. In 1875 the two schools amalgamated. Peter Brennan took over as Principal in 1864 and he in turn was succeeded by James O Brennan in 1898. In 1935 Bill Mannion was appointed Principal and he was later succeeded by his wife, Maura.
Present Day Bawnmore School
Plans by the Department of Education to have the old school closed and the children from the area transported to a central school in Lackagh were opposed by parents in the sixties. As a result of this strong local opposition the plans were scrapped and it was decided to build a new three -classroom school instead. The new school was opened on October 1971 and shortly afterwards Mrs. Mannion retired to be replaced by the present Principal, Mr. Pat Duddy. Bríd Glynn who resided in Claregalway taught for most of her teaching career in Bawnmore. She started in Bawnmore in May 1939 and retired 36 years later in July 1975.
Baile beag socair in ascal abhainn an Chláir is ea Mointeach. Ta sé suite míle éireannach díreach siar ó Bhaile Chláir. Áit stairiúl é ina bealach féin a bhfuil cáil fé leith sa duchas mar gheall ar an iascaireacht mhaith atá le fáil gar don bhaile.
San meán aois bhí mainistir agus manaí ar an mbaile agus tá an áit ar a raibh an mhainistir tógtha le feiceál fós. Tugtar an lisín ar an áit agus bhí muintir an bhaile dá úsáid mar chillín nó roillig do pháistí beaga a fuair bás anuas go dtí 1932.
I dtús an octhú aois déag bhi scoil ar an mbaile (cineál hedge school is dócha) agus d’fhoghlaim cuid mhaith de mhuintir an bhaile léitheoireacht agus scríobhneoireacht. Príomh ghné don scoil sin nach raibh cead ag na páistí Gaeilge a labhairt agus uair ar bith a chuala sé páistí ag labairt Gaeilge sa scoil chuir se píonós orthú. B’fhéidir gurb é sin an fá gurbh é Mointeach an áit deire i bparóiste Bhaile Chláir in a raibh Gaeilge mar gnáth theanga.
I dtus an chéid seo bhí dhá scór teaghlach ar an mbaile. San mblian 1908 tré scéim Coimisúin na Talun fuair roint teaglaigh feirmeacha i gCill Tróig agus ar an gCroisín. Ba iad sinn muintir ó Dúbhagáin, Ó Móráin, Ó Murchú agus O Nuadhain. Chomh maith le sinn chuir imirce isteach go mór ar an mbaile agus thart ar an mblian 1950 ní raibh ach 17 teaglach fágtha agus daoine sean a bhi i gcuid maith dóibh sinn.
Ba cheart a rá go raibh an gaelachas agus an náisiúntas go láidir i gcónaí agus nuair a tháinig tacaí Liam Mellows ar an mbaile i 1916 chuaigh seisear amach leo cun seasamh ar son óglaigh na Cásca. Ba iad sin Séan Ó Conceanainn, Domhnaill Ó Dubhagáin, Annraoi Ó Dubhagáin (Liam), Tadg Ó’Dubhagáin, Tadg Ó Corcaid agus Annraoi Ó Dubhagáin (Seán). Buíochas le Dia tháinig siad ar fad abhaile slán. Mar gheall ar sin is dócha tháinig na Dubh Chrónai (Black & Tans) chuig an mbaile trí huaire ach bhí an "Bush Telegraph" ag obair go maith agus dá bhrí sin bhí fir óga an bhaile imigh "Fé thalamh".
Le gairid anuas sa mblian 1960 d’fhág cúig teaghlach eile an baile faoi scéim eile Coimisúin na Talún agus bhain sin an croí agus an gaelachus amach as an mbaile. Mar sin féin le blianta anuas tháinig ceithre teaghlach nua isteach agus tá fáilte rómpa agus tá súil againn go bhfuil siad ag baint taithneamh as.
Le focal scoir ba bhaith liom ‘Baile o Dhia oraibh’ a rá le muintir
Mhóinteach ar fad agus go háirithe iad sin atá i Meiriceá (Na Dúbhagáin agus na Corcaid), atá i Sasana (Na Conceanainn agus na Dúbhagáin) agus sa tSéalainn Nua (Na Gralaigh).
Seán Ó Ceallaigh
Ar an gCluain i mBaile Chláir na Gaillimhe, a rugadh Seán Ó Ceallaigh (sa bhliain 1916). Bhí an Ghaeilge aige ón gcliabhán. Chuaigh sé ar scoil sa Scoil Náisiúnta i mBaile Chláir agus i Meánscoil Naomh Seosamh i nGaillimh. hOileadh ina mhúinteoir é i gColáiste Naomh Pádraig i nDroim Conrach, Baile Átha Cliath (1934-36). Chaith sé ceithre bliana ag múineadh scoile ar an Oileán Iarthach i Ros Muc, seacht mbliana eile i nDoire Uí Bhriain i ndeisceart na Gaillimhe, agus le hocht mbliana déag, bhí sé ina phríomhoide sa bhunscoil i gCreachmhaoil, i gCo. na Gaillimhe.
Bhain sé amach céim B.A. i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh, sa bhliain 1955, agus bhí sé ina chúntóir i Roinn na Gaeilge i gColáiste na nOllscoile, Gaillimh, ón mbliain 1956 ar aghaidh. Bronnadh céim M.A. air i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh, sa bhliain 1966 de thoradh a thráchtais Filíocht na gCallanán a chuir sé le chéile sa leabhar den ainm ceánna.
Micheál Ó Sioda, Carnmore, well know Seanachaí - early 1960's
Micheál Ó Síoda, Scéalaí agus Seanchaí (1888-1966)
Rugadh Micheál Ó Síoda ar an bPáirc Gharbh, Carn Mór, i bparáiste Bhaile Chláir ar an deichiú lá fichead de mhí na Bealtaine, 1888. Tá an Pháirc Gharbh tuairim a’s sé mhíle Éireannach soir ó Ghaillimh, an taobh ó thua den bhóthar atá ag dul go Muine Mheadha.
Micheál a bhí ar a athair freisin - Micil Ó Síoda mar a tugtaí air - agus feilméaraí a raibh tuairim a’s fiche acra aige ab ea é. Máire Williams a bhí ar a mháthair, agus rugadh ise freisin ar an bPáirc Gharbh i dteach nach raibh mórán le dhá scór slat ón teach ar phós sí isteach ann. Deir an dream a raibh aithne acu uirthi gur bean í a raibh éirim agus meabhair thar an gcoitiantacht inti, agus ina theannta sin go raibh sí ina scoláire mhaith. Dúirt Micheál héin liom go raibh sí ar ghearr-scoil le linn a hóige a bhí i mBaile na Creige, tuairim a’s míle ón bPáirc Gharbh, ag fear den ainm Grimes. Bhí gaol aici le gréasaí i mBaile Chláir a raibh Tom Williams air. Bhí a mhac, Tom eile, ag gréasaíocht ann ina dhiaidh, agus mac eile Mike, ina bhuachaill posta ar fea blianta fada sa gceanntar. Cailleadh Máire Williams i 1909, agus Micil Ó Síoda i 1912.
Ba dh-é Micheál seo againne an duine ab óige de mhuirín fhada. Éamon a bhí ar an duine ba sine den chlann, agus cailleadh é sa mbaile nuair a bhí sé ocht mbliana fichead. Ansin bhí Jude (Julia), an inín ba sine. Níor phós sí ariamh, ach d'fhan sí sa teach, agus is í a bhí ina bean-tí acu gur cailleadh í i 1952. Bhí sí trí nó ceathair de bhlianta os cionn ceithre scór an t-am sin. Ansin bhí Searlaí a chuaigh go dtí an Astráil ina óige agus a chaith blianta ann. Bhí sé ag obair sna gold diggings i Kalgoorlie. Thainic sé abhaile roint bhlianta os cionn dhá scór ó shin agus 'pínneachaí aige', agus d'fhan sé cúpla bliain nó trí sa sean-áit. Ansin cheannaigh sé gabhaltas thalúna i Monach Thaidhg, i n-aice le Creach Mhaoil agus chuaigh sé 'un cónaí ann. Phós sé bean de mhuintir Ghrállaigh as Mearaí i bparáiste Óráin Mhóir. Níor mhair sé ann ach achar gearr gur cailleadh é. Ní raibh aon duine clainne acu. Tá sé ráite gurb é deannach an óir a chuaigh i bhfastódh ins na scamhógaí aige sa Astráil ba siocair báis dó.
Bhí cúigear inín eile ann, Bríd a cailleadh in aois a bliain a's fiche, agus Máire a cailleadh nuair a bhí sí in aois chúig bliana a’s dá fhichead Níor fhág an bheirt an baile ariamh, agus cailleadh gan phósadh iad. Ansin bhí Neilí agus Katie agus Liz. Chuaigh an triúr acu go dtí an Astráil - is é Searlaí a chuir fios orthu agus a d'íoc a mbealach amach. Phós an triúr acu ann, agus tá a gclann ann ina ndiaidh.
Nuair a thosaigh mise ag dul ag an teach, ag déana ar shé bliana déag ó shin anois, ní raibh ann ach Jude agus Patch agus Mike. Bhí Jude ag breathnú chomh sean an uair sin thar an mbeirt dritheár agus go gceapfá gurb í a máthair í. Bean chiúin lách a bhí inti gan mórán le rádh, agus bean 'nár dhúirt focal le aon duine ariamh' (i.e., a bhí cóir múinte le chuile dhuine). Bheadh Mike an uair sin dhá bhliain os cionn na trí scóir, agus Patch seacht mbliana eile. Fear caol éadrom, agus tuairim agus mean-airde ann a bhí i Mike, agus ceann-aghaidh laethúil air, agus taréis gur chaith sé a shaol ag obair ar an bhfeilm, ní lámha sclábhaí ná fir oibre a bhí air. Bhí siad caol fíneáilte. Bhí sé uasal in a intinn freisin. Níl tabhairt amach ar bith sa gcondae i rith na bliana, nó dhá ndéarfainn é, i gConnacht ar fad, is mó ná Rástaí na Gaillimhe. Bíonn an Domhan Mór agus a mháthair bailí' ann, ach dúirt Mike liom nach raibh sé ann ariamh. Nuair a rinne mé íontas dhó shin agus gan páirc an rása ach ceithre mhíle ón teach, dúirt sé liom:
'A, níor mhaith liom ariamh a bheith in aon áit a mbeadh troid ná achrann ná droch-chainteannaí ar bun, agus 'chuile chineál tincéaraí baili’ ann!'
Chuaigh sé ar an scoil náisiúnta ar a' gCarn Mór, scoil nach bhfuil ach dó nó trí chéadta slat ón teach. Beirt bhan a bhí ag múnadh ann an t-am sin, Bean Uí Cheallaí, Cúig-Ulach as Dromore, agus an cúntóir a bhí aici, Bean Mhic Ghamhna. Bhí an bheirt acu pósta le póilíní, agus ní raibh focal Gaeilge ag ceachtar acu ná aon mheas acu uirthi, rud nár fhág aon mheas ag Mike orthu héin. D'fhan Mike ar scoil go raibh sé ins an rang ab airde, agus chaith sé bliain eile ar scoil Bhaile Chláir. Dúirt sé liom gurb é an fáth a ndeacha sé go scoil Bhaile Chláir, go raibh an Ghaeilge ghá múnadh inti. Gaeilgeoir dúchasach as na Forbacha, toabh thiar de Ghaillimh, Seoirse Mac Artúir, a bhí ina phríomh-oide inti ag an am sin.
Fear mórán ar an airde chéanna ab ea Patch, ach bhí sé níos téagaraí agus níos láidre. Dúirt sé liom uair amháin nach ndeacha sé ar scoil ariamh ach ceithre lá, ach bhí an fhíneáilteacht chéanna ag roint leis a bhí le Mike. Fear tuisceanach stuama a bhí ann, agus é deaslámhach. Bhí sé in ann claidhe maith cloch a dhéana, agus cuid de úirlisí an tsiúinéara a láimhseáil le mar bheadh gádh leis, agus go leor rudaí eile.
Bhí foghlaim mhaith ar Mhike nuair a bhí sé réidh le scoil Bhaile Chláir, agus shílfeá go mbeadh rún aige anois 'posta a chuir roimhe héin', sin nó dul thar sáile mar rinne cuid eile den mhuirín, ach má smuintigh sé ar a leithid, níor chuir sé i gcrích é. Níorbh fhurasta dhó mar bhí a chúnamh ag teastáil sa mbaile. Bhí an t-athair ag eirí sean anois, agus ní raibh sa mbaile ach é héin agus Patch le obair na feilme a dhéana. Ina theannta sin fuair siad méadú mór ar an bhfeilm nuair a roinneadh dúiche an Charn Mhóir, agus bhí cuid den tala nua a fuair siad dhá mhíle ón teach, rud a chuir stróbh mór orthu.
Dúirt Mike liom uair amháin nach Síodach ó cheart é héin chor ar bith, go mba Ó'Dúgáin an sloinne ba dual dó. Ar na Croisíní, áit atá dhá mhíle nó mar sin ó thua don Pháirc Gharbh, a rugadh a athair, agus Ó'Dúgáin a bhí air. Nuair a bhí sé ina pháiste chuaigh sé ‘un cónaí le uncail dhó a bhí gan pósadh ar an bPáirc Gharbh - sean-Mhicheál Ó 'Síoda - agus ón am sin thug chuile dhuine Micil Ó 'Síoda air, agus lean an t-ainm sin ar uaidh sin amach agus ar a chlann ina dhiaidh.
Ní raibh teora ar bith leis an stór seanchais agus scéalta a bhí ag Mike, agus bhínn ag cuir tuairisc leis cé uaidh nó cé'n chaoi ar eirigh leis é ar fad a chruinniú. Dúirt sé go mbíodh go leor daoine bochta - 'bochtáin Dé,' mar thugtaí orthu - ar na bóithre an t-am sin, agus bhíodh siad ag fáil lóistín ins na tithe, cúpla oíche nó trí anseo, agus cúpla oíche nó trí ansiúd. Bhí cuid acu ag teacht mar sin, uair no dhó sa mbliain ar fea blianta, agus bhí meas agus ómós rómpu. Bhí leabaí le na n-aghaidh sa teach acu héin, agus shocráití an leabaí sa gcúinne cois teallaigh dhaofa. Bhí scéalta fada agus gearr acu, agus 'chuile chineál seanchais, tairgín agus eile acu, agus ní bhíodh tuirse ar Mhike ag éisteacht leofa, agus ó bhí cuimne cinn ar leith aige, ní dhearna sé dearmad ar aon cheo a chuala sé uatha. Bhí fear acu a rugadh i gceanntar an Ghoirt, agus bhí go leor eolais aige ar Bhriseadh Eachroma. Bhí fear eile ag dul thart leath-chéad bliain ó shin, 'Brother Michael’ a thugadh siad air, bráthair a briseadh as ord eicínt, agus is uaidh sin chuala sé go leor den tairgín a bhí aige. Dúirt sé liom freisin go riabh uncail lena mháthair ina chónaí i bhFuarchoill (Coldwood) in aice le Creachmhaoil - sílim gur Búrcach a thug sé air - agus go mbíodh sé ar cuairt aige go minic. Chuala sé go leor uaidh sin freisin, agus chuala mé ráite é, cuid mhaith den eolas a bhí aige gur ó Shean-Mhicheál Ó'Síoda, ar labhair mé thuas air a tháinic sé. Bhí sé fiosrach i gcónaí i gcúrsaí mar sin, agus rud ar bith a chloisfeadh sé ní bheadh sé sásta go dtuigfeadh sé thríd a's thríd é. Nuair a thugainn héin cuairt air taréis a bheith imí' tamall in Árainn nó i gConomara nó in áit eicínt eile, ní fhéadfainn blas a dhéana an oíche sin ach ag cur síos ar mo chuid imeachta agus ag freagairt ceisteanna ar gach a bhfaca mé agus na daoine a casadh orm, agus bhí Patch 'chuile phioc chomh fiosrach leis.
Bhí eolas mór aige ar luibheanna agus planndaí, agus bhí sé in ann ainm Ghaelige a chur ar os cionn leath-chéad acu dhom a bhailigh muid, agus muid ag siúl thrí na páirceanna. Cá bhfuil an fear eile le fáil a dhéanfadh é?
Le peann agus páipéar a bhínn ag scríobh ó Mhike i dtosach. Níor thaithnigh an t-Eidifón leis donn ná dath, ach bhain sé ceart maith don tape-recorder nuair a fuair mé ceann acu. Is ar éigin a bhí fear ariamh ab fhusa scríobh uaidh ná é. Labhaireadh sé go mall agus go soiléir, agus thiubhradh sé greadadh ama dhuit. Dhá mba scéal fada é nach bhféadfaí a inseacht i n-aon oíche amháin, an chéad oíche eile a rachthá aige, dhá mbeadh sé cúpla lá nó seachtain, nó fiú mí, thosódh sé ar an scéal aríst go díreach san áit ar stop sé chomh maith agus mara mbeadh ann ach sos chúig nóiméad. Bhíodh Patch ag éisteach, agus déarfainn go raibh an oiread eolais aige ar na scéalta agus a bhí ag an bhfearr eile, mar dhá ndéanfadh, Mike dearmad beag ar bith, is beag ag baol go ligfí leis é! Scríobh mé píosa seanchais ó Phatch anois agus aríst, ach sin nuair nach mbeadh Mike sa mbaile. Oíche ar bith a mbeadh Mike ann, d'fhágadh sé an obair faoi.
Is minic a theighinn acu taréis mo dhinnéir, agus d'fhanainn go mbeadh sé deireannach. Thugadh siad mo chuid tae dhom, agus ansin nuair a thuitfeadh an oíche lasadh siad coinneall i gcoinnleoir práise, agus leagadh siad ar chathaoir le mo thaoibh í. Ní raibh acu an t-am sin ach lampa ola, agus bhí siad ag déana amach nach raibh an solas uaidh sách láidir dhom. Go gcúití Dia a gcineáltas leofa anois!
Amannta nuair a bhíodh scéal dhá inseacht a mbeadh eactraí íontacha draíochta ann nó eachtraí faoi fhathaigh agus mar sin, bhínn ag iarraidh a dhéana amach ar chreid siad iad. Tá mé cinnte gur chreid Patch 'chuile fhocal. D'aithneá sin ó rudaí adéarfadh sé. Cuimním uair amháin go raibh Mike ag inseacht scéil faoi dhá bhuachaill beag a sciob fathach leis i gcoill, agus dúirt Patch:
'Á, na créatúir! Nach dhaofa a d’eirigh an mí-ádh! A, a Chiaráin, dheamhan suim a bheadh aige sin iad a chuir síos sa bpota agus iad a bhruith le h-aghaidh n-a dhinnéir ach an oiread a's dhá mbar péire lachain a bheadh iontu!’
Níl mé chomh cinnte sin i dtaobh Mike, ach déarfainn mar' chreid sé ar fad iad gur chreid sé cuid mhaith acu. Scríobh mé leagan den scéal coitianta sin faoi bhás Chromaill uaidh, agus nuair a bhí sé scríofa dúirt mé leis nach mar sin a bhí tabhartha síos sa history.
‘Ó, a Chiaráin,' a deir sé, 'níl an history ceart. Ní mar tá sé sa history a thárla sé chor a' bith!'
Ní thaithneodh leis go gcaithfeá aimhreas ar bith ar aon scéal dhá n-inseodh sé.
Bhí go leor eolais aige faoi Bhriseadh Eachroma. Bhí cuid dá shinnsir ag troid sa gcath sin, triúr dritheár. Maraíodh beirt acu, bhí sé ag rádh liom, agus thainic duine acu as. Ba dh-é an tríomha duine seo sinnsear Sean-Mhicheál Ó Síoda a thóig a athair isteach mar oighre. Is air a bhí an rímhéad Domhnach dhár thug mé soir go h-Eachroim é agus shiúil muid páirc an áir le chéile, agus chonaic muid sean-iarsmaí den chath atá bailí i dteach na scoile ann. Domhnach eile, achar gearr shal má fuair sé bás, thug mé suas ar an nGort é, agus nuair a bhí muid míle nó dhó taobh thuas go Cill Cholgain - ní raibh sé ann ariamh cheana - dúirt sé liom go mba cheart go mbeadh loch a raibh 'Loch na bhFranncach' air in áit eicínt ar thaoibh na láimhe deise dhúinn, mar gur ionsaíodh dream de na Franncaigh ann nuair a bhí siad ag déana ar Luimneach taréis Briseadh Eachroma. Ceart go leor, nuair a chuaigh muid scathamh eile, chonaic muid an loch. Dúirt sé liom gurbh ó'n seanfhear siúil ón nGort a mbíodh siad ag tabhairt lóistín dó fadó a chuala sé an scéal sin.
Cailleadh Mike ar an 29 Deire Foghmhair, 1966. Cailleadh Patch roint blianta roimhe sin ar an 10 Márta, 1962. Tá siad curtha i roilic Leacaigh, buil a sinnsir. Beannacht dhílis Dé agus na hEaglaise lena n-anam!
"An Rud atá le d’aghaidh, Ní feídir leat dul thairis" - Micheál Ó Conaill
Seo mar leanas scéal a d'inis Séamus Ó Mórain dhom as Cathair Ghabhain, ar imeachtaí an t-sean t-saoil agus an cruatan oibre a bhí ann fadó. Níl tuiscint ar bith ag an dream óg atá ag eirí aníos anois ar an saoil sin.
"B'as Mointeach mo mhathair, bhínn feín ag dul isteach ann i mo leath-ghasúr ag tabhairt cúnamh do m'uncail leis an obair.
San am sin, nuair a thagadh an bhaisteach i ndeire an tsamhridh, sceitheadh an abhainn ina thuillte, ba gheall leis an bhfarraige mhór siar go Loch Corribhe í. Leis an mbád a chaithí an féar agus an mhóin a bhailiú agus a thabhairt abhaile. Go h-iondiúl beirt a bhíodh sa mbád, an fear deire le cleithe leis an mbád a stuiriú agus an fear i dtús an bhaid le sluasad, le í a choinneal amach as an tanaí. An lá seo, ar chuma ar bith, bhí muid ag bailiú an féar as na cocaí on mbád, séard a bhíodh muid ag deanamh, na an féar i mbarr uisce a bhailuí agus an bun a fhagháil ansin. Bhí an lucht féir lionta againn agus muid ag deanamh ár mbealach ar an mbaile, mise i dtosadh an bháid ag cartadh leis an sluasad. Bhí an abhainn mhór taobh amuigh dhuinn.
Bhí an oiread sin féar sa mbád nach raibh mé in ann an fear taobh thiar díom a fheiceaíl. Bhí seiseann ag fanacht le comhartha uaimse leis an gcleith a oibriú ar an domhain. Mise ba chionn t-siocair leis mar nár thug mé an fógra don fhear deire. Thanaig sineán gaoithe i ndeas, rug sé ar an bhféar agus chuir sé glan as an áit a bhíomar siar thar Gort Chluain Mór muid go dtí an áit a bhfuil an choill anois. Ní raibh muid in ann an bád a smachtú. I ndeire na dála, thainig muid ar chor san abhainn agus seídeadh isteach muid ar an tanaí arís ar an taobh thall.
Shíl mé go raibh mo phórt seinte. Mise i mbannaí dhuit ! Bhí mo cheacht foghlamtha agam. Bhíos níos airdeallaí ar mo ghnó as sin amach agus thugas mo shean-bheic don fhear i ndeire an bhaíd i am tráth."
"An Rud atá le d'aghaidh, ni féidir leat dul thairis"
Thart ar an mblian míle, naoí gcead agus trí scór (1960), a thánaig fear darbh ainm Liam Ó Donnachú go dtí an paróiste seo. Bhí sé ina oifigeach Gaeilge le Coiste Oideachais Ghairm Beatha Chondae na Gaillimhe. Thánaig sé go Carn Mór ar dtús agus thosaigh sé ag plé le dramaí gearra agus le roinnt ceoil a mhúnadh. Bhíodh na ranganna i dteach na scoile agus d'eirí leis sathach maith.
Bhí saol difriúil ann an uair sin le hais anois agus bhain cuid mhaith daoine spraoí agus taitneamh as na dramaí go háirid ar feadh roinnt blianta. Comh maith leis sin chuir sé roimhe craobh de'n Scoil Éigse agus seanachais a bhunú agus bhí rath ar sin freisin.
Thagadh daoine a bhí sean go maith agus fir a bhí níos óige isteach sna céad blianta. Fir mar Mhichéal Ó Síoda (seanachaí cailiúl), Micheál Ó Ciarrgain, Seán Ó Cleirí, Micheál Ó hEidhin, Eamonn Ó hAinlí agus cuid mhaith eile. Bá ag cumadh píosaí is mó a bhí i gceist - filiócht agus dánta agallamh beirte agus scéalta. Blianta beaga ina dhiadh sin, chuir sé craobh de'n rud céanna ar bun i mBaile Chláir. Thagadh daoine mar Sonny Ó Ceallaigh, Seán Conceannan, Seán Ó Casarlaigh, Seámus Conceannan, "Rocky" Ó Moraín agus go leór eile isteach le freastal air. Thart ar chuile thrí seactainí ar an méan a bhíodh tíocht le chéile ann.
Thainig bainistíocht nua i réim ins na scoileanna tar éis na chead blianta, nach raibh sásta na cruinneachaí a bheith ionta agus i dtighe conaí a bhíodh siad ansin. Is iomaí teach a caiteadh geimhreadh nó dhó ann, ach tigh Leacaí agus Tom Mac Bhailtéar (Qualter) i n'Gort Chluain Mór a thagadh na baill le chéile ar feadh blianta fada sa deire.
Gach samhradh bhíodh Oll Chruinniú na Scoileanna Éigse ann, in áit éicint i gConamara agus thagadh thart ar bheirt ionadaí as gach Scoil Éigse eile le chéile chuig an gcruinniú agus bhíodh siad in iomaíocht le chéile agus thanaig cor dhuais go dtí an paróiste ó h-am go h-am. Bfiú go mór an rud ar fad. Bhí taobh maith soísialta leis, bhí spraoi agus spóirt ann, cuireadh aithne ar dhaoine agus cruithíodh cáirdeas. Chuaigh ceann Charn Mór i leíg do réir a cheíle agus scoireadh ar fad é sa deire ach lean ceann Bhaile Chláir ar aghaidh cé go raibh sé lagtha go mór nó gur eirigh Liam é fhéin as obair go luath ins na naochadaí.
Ceád Slán leis an Scoil Éigse agus Beannacht Dé le h-anamacha na Mairbh.
Gaeilge agus gaelachas pharóiste Bhaile Chláir na Gaillimhe - Padraic Ó Conceanainn, Eanair 1999
Ba i an Ghaelige gnáth-theanga mhuintir Bhaile Chláir i dtús na fichiú aoise agus is feidir liom fein fiannaise a thabhairt go raibh an Ghaeilge á húsáid go forleathan suas do dtí na blíanta thart ar 1950. Bhí sé de nós ag an am sin ag fir an pharóiste tamall a chaitheamh ag comhrá agus ag inseacht nuachta dhá cheile taobh amuigh den seipéil tar éis aifreann an Dhomnaigh. Bhíodh na buachaillí óga, mar mé féin, ag seasamh in aice leis na fir, agus is cuimhin liom gurbh í an Ghaeilge a bhí dhá labhairt ag cuid mhaith doibh cé go raibh Béarla dhá labhairt ag cuid eile. Is e mó bhariúl go raibh tuiscint mhaith ar Ghaelige ag 90% do mhuintir na pharóiste agus go raibh liofíocht sa Ghaelige ag 50% ar a laghad.
Bhí aithne go pearsanta agam ar gaeilgeoiri líofa ó Eocaill, Mullacurtra, Leacht Seoirse, Bothar Bhaile Chláir, Cluain Biggin, Móinteach, Ceathar Gabhann, Clochar, Cluain agus ar an taobh eile den bothar mhór: Creag Bhuí (Baile Fánach), Radharc Locha (Turlach Bréige), Gort an tSléibhe, Baile Ui Mhurchú, Bhaile na Creige, Cinn Uisce agus Chill Tróg. Chomh maith le sin bhí an Ghaeilge a labhairt go forleathan in san gceantar thart timpeall ar Scoil Cairn Mór.
San am sin freisin bhí an Ghaeilge go coitianta in sna tighe Ósta, go h-airthe i dtigh Ósta Ó Leanachan agus is gaeilgeoir líofa a bhí sa bhean tí, Bina agus a dearthaír Tómas.
I rith na mblianta sin bhí Tomás Ó Conchubair ina mháistir scoile i mBaile Chláir, fear a raibh sar-mheas ar an teanga aige agus rinne se obair dhían ar son na teangan.
Tar éis na g-caogadaí bhí athrú mór ag teacht ar an saol agus bhí damáiste mór déanta ag an imirce ó thaobh teanga agus chultúir de, agus nuair a fuair glúin tús na h-aoise seo bás, faraoír, fuair an teanga nadúrtha bás leo.
Tobar an Chúilín - The well on the back road
An bhearna bhui - The yellow gap
Boirin na bláthai - Buttermilk lane
An tsúilin - The gulley
An droichid beag - The small bridge
An ché - Quays (where boats are held)
An scairbh - Where the river turns
An scraith - Strip of land
Caladh bád - Boat slipway
Mullach na nGort - The highest point in the fields
Poll an challa mhór - The deepest point in the river
An sraith buí - Strip of land with yellow clay
Art an Chreide Cré - (Paidir)
Art an creide cré a bhionn againn ar uair ar mbáis
Tháinig an t-aingeal anuas le sonas i gluais na mná
Trí ráithe a bhi mac Dé faoi na broinn nuair a thurling sé air an saol
Nach maith an sagairt e mac Dé agus
nach maith an baiste a rinne sé
nuair a bhaist sé Eoin agus bhaist Eoin é.
Nuair ba mhian leis an gcon seo bheith ré,
mac Rí Neamh ag dul sa gcrann in
aghaidh gach ball da bhfuil sa gcré.
Níl aon duine a dheireann Art an Chreide
Cré uair gach lá nach bhfeicfidh
sé Mhuire Mháthair tri uair roimh a bhás.
Craobh an Achréidh de Chonradh na Gaeilge
Bunaíodh Craobh an Achréidh deich mbliana ó shoin sa cheantar leis an gcuspóir an Ghaeilge agus an cultúr a chur chun cinn. Ciallaíonn ‘an Achréidh’ talamh cothrom. Is sin le rá an réigiún soir ó Chathair na Gaillimhe. Tá Baile Chláir na Gaillimhe i gceartlár an cheantair seo.
Tá go leor imeachtaí ó shoin i leith a raibh baint mhór ag an gcraobh lena bhforbairt agus a gcur chun cinn. Tá dhá naíonra bunaithe sa cheantar ar thug an Chraobh cuidiú dóibh tosnú agus dul chun cinn a déanamh. Tá moladh ag dul do na stiúrthóirí atá i gceannas faoi láthair agus atá ag déanamh dul chun cinn chomh mór le forbairt na ngasúr sa chultúr agus sa teanga.
Bíonn ranganna Gaeilge agus damhsa bliantiúl ar siúl sa cheantar ó cuireadh an Chraobh ar bun. Tá an Chraobh freagrach as an dá Champa Samhraidh atá ar siúl sa cheantar le deich mbliana anuas. Freastalaíonn leanaí ó 8 mbliana go dtí 14 bliana ar na campaí samhraidh seo. Tugann na himeachtaí seo cabhair an-mhór do na leanaí smacht a chur ar labhairt agus úsáid na Gaeilge. Mar sin tá moladh mór ag dul do na múinteoirí agus na daoine go léir a mbíonn baint acu le reáchtáil na gCampaí Samhraidh. Ó am go chéile thug grúpaí drámaíochta agus scoraíochta cuairt ar an cheantar le taispeántas a thabhairt. D’éirigh thar barr leis an himeachtaí seo. Thug muintir an Achréidh cuairt arais ar na ceantair éagsúla a ba’as na grúpaí éagsúla. Le cúnamh ón gCraobh tá cúrsaí Gaeilge ag dul ar aghaidh sa Ghaeltacht do dhaoine atá ag iarraidh feabhas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge. Tugann an Chraobh cúnamh le hAifreann Gaeilge a chraoladh ar Raidió na Gaeltachta ó ionad S.M.A. Baile Chláir na Gaillimhe. Le linn bunú Gaelscoil de hÍde in Órán Mór thug an Chraobh cabhair airgid agus chomh maith leis sin thug baill den Chraobh cúnamh le gach bailiúchán leis an scoil nua lánGhaelach a chur ar a cosa. Thug baill na Craoibhe a gcuid ama saorinaisce agus doibridear go deónach chun an obair fhorbartha a dhéanamh ar an fhoirgneamh ina bhfuil an scoil nua lonnaithe.
Bá mhaith leis an gcraobh ar an ocáid speisialta seo ár mbúiochas a glacadh leis na daoine ar fad a thug a gcuid ama agus saothair in aisce ó bhunaíodh an chraobh.
Ba mhaith le coiste Craobh an Achréidh fáilte a chur roimbh bhaill nua le cabhrú forbairt agus dul chun cinn a dhéanamh ar labhairt ár dteanga.
Mícéal Ó hEidhin - Úachtarán
Áine Nic Ghloinn - Cathaoirleach
Paraic Ó Conghaile - Leas Cathaoirleach
Colette Ní Chonghaile - Rúnaí
Máiréad Geraghty - Leas Rúnaí
Seosamháin Ní Núadhain - Cisteoir
Bríd Ní Chonghaile - Leas Cisteoir
Paraic Ó Núadhain - Oifigeach Caidreamh Poiblí
Bean Sí, Heard but not seen
Many people tell or have heard stories about the Bean Sí. John Casserley, Cahergowan, remembers her. She frequently featured in stories told to him in childhood. Also Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, tells us: “There was a lot of people very much afraid of her. I heard that she combed her hair. She had long black hair and wore a white gown. It was said that there were certain families she would appear to.
The O’Brien’s were one such family. Nora O’Brien (nee Egan, Casla) shares with us her experience of the Bean Sí: “I did not see the Bean Sí. I heard her. I heard my grandmother saying long ago that she would be washing clothes, and that she used to spread the clothes out on a sloe bush, and that she had a lace cap on.
Next Nora describes a close encounter she had with the Bean Sí: “This night (there was an outing to Connemara) for the altar servers and the choir. And they were to be home at nine o’clock Sunday evening. And I had hay and a box of matches so we would have a fire for the bus. It was a summer’s evening and I was out there. It went on to the stroke of twelve, and when I say twelve I really mean one o’clock. I heard this terrible cry. I heard the cry coming up on top, along the wall, up towards me. And when Daniel (a neighbour) heard the crying he ran into his mother. And asked was she trying to frighten Nora about in the road crying like the Bean Sí.
So the crying was coming up, up all along till it was within ten yards of me. And a car pulled up. And I went into the house. And I called ‘Daddy’, my husband, and he came. ‘Do you hear that crying?’ he said. ‘I do’, I said, ‘What is it?’ ‘Ah! I do not know’, he said, ‘it must be someone, a child.’ But no, it was the Bean Sí. When the car pulled off and wasn't the Bean Sí gone. But the bus did not come until four o’clock in the morning. I heard the Bean Sí in Barnaby. It was over forty years ago anyway.
Should you wish to meet the Bean Sí, Michael Walsh, Gortatleva, gives us direction on where to find her: “The people of this parish used to go to a village called Crusheen over there. There was a well there. It was there they saw the Bean Sí. Michael gives a short account of what he heard: What they say: the banshee was a woman that wasn’t churched. That she was after giving birth to a child She was young because she had a child. And he recalls that: There she was anyway washing herself in this well. This fella said something to her. And she followed him. And she nearly got him at the door. I heard talk of that now, that she nearly grabbed him by the head.
Telling Ghost Stories
As well as stories about the Bean Sí, stories are told about other strange encounters. Frequently encountered in the Cregboy area, up the hill from the Community Centre, was a large horse drawn coach. Michael Walsh, Gortatleva, heard of this ghostly Cóiste Bodhair in Cregboy: “It was a kind of hearse drawn by horses and bells.” The name Cóiste Bodhair suggests either a deafening sound or silence accompanying this coach. There is no doubt in Michael’s mind that it exists: “The only thing I will ever know and never forget till the day I die is the story I'm going to tell you now. My father was going to the fair one morning. He said: ‘come with me’. I would say now that it would be anything up ‘till six o'clock. It was down there before you. Come down the hill to the Centre. The damnedest thing came down the road. I heard the bells and the horses coming. And I could see nothing. I 'm not saying that it was that now or not.
And if you have any remaining doubt, Tom Flaherty, Cahergowan tells a collaborating story: “Well, there was an evening I was cycling up by Ballymurphy, this car supposed to have been seen at the back of this house. I was coming along one night at four o’clock in the morning. There is two bends there. And I thought I would have that bend taken before he came down, whoever he was. When I came to the second bend, it went out of mind altogether; until I came below Gortatleva where I thought the car was. I got afraid all right. At the corner there is two gates. And in it on that side of the road and one the other. And that is where the fairies used to call. Geata na gCeann, they used to call it. That is halfway between Gillespie’s house and Gortatleva.
Being had by the Fairies
Some happenings are strange. They are difficult to explain. We are told of strange happenings that cannot be explained. Maybe we can put such happenings down to the fairies. In these days of the ‘X-Files’ on television, it is less easy to imagine that a story is true. In the open-fire days, many people truly imagined that what they heard about the fairies was true. These are some of the stories about the fairies that everyone told in the open-fire days.
Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, tells of an encounter with the fairies at the turn of the last century: “Well, it was a moonlight night and the two men were coming home. They were very fond of the dancing. They stood in the middle of the road and the man began to dance. And it happened to be opposite a fairy fort. He was only dancing a short while when music started to play inside. And, he continued dancing and dancing. And after a while, Seán, who heard the music as well, was afraid he was doing too much. So he caught him and the man was nearly dead. He was jaded out, so he had to be helped to walk. When he recovered a bit, he said: ‘you saved my life.Only for you stopped me, the fairies would have had me’.
Tom Flaherty, Cahergowan retells a story he heard about a man from Clogher who met the fairies: “There was a man from Clogher and he was card playing in Montiagh and used to bring his own cards with him. One time he was coming back across Páirc na Reithe and a table was left down in front of him. He was mad for card playing, it was about two o’clock in the morning and he was coming and the table was left out in the middle of the field for him to play. Yeah, that is what he said anyway. I do not know. A man from Clogher. He was totally convinced it was fairies. That is what he said anyway. A lot of it could be lies.”
People seem to frequently come under such spells. Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, gives us several accounts of this happening, the Fóidin Mearbhaill: “I heard that people used to take short cuts. They could come under the spell at day or night. It can happen day or night. At that time, they would cross fields a lot. People got confused and even places they knew all the time would look different when this would come upon them. Everything was opposite. It happened to a friend of mine. He was near the railway in Oranmore. He went to go home, he lost his direction, but he was lucky because he was not on his own. He had friends who brought him home.
Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, tells of a second such happening: “I heard my father saying that it happened him in town in Galway one day. When he was a young man, he could not know one street or direction from the other. He met a shopkeeper that he dealt with and he told him what was on him. So, the shopkeeper put the horse under the cart, sat my father up in the cart and told my father that the horse knew its way home. And only when he was a few miles from home, the spell left him. There is no explanation for that.
In case you doubt such spells, Michael heard of a third similar happening: “I heard of another man, when we were children, that it happened to him at night time. Outside our place was an awkward place with shrubs and a sink of water and hen house and so on. Didn't my mother open the back door. And she heard this man talking, complaining and wailing. There was someone outside. My father went out of course. There was no electricity at that time. He called out asking who was there. The man outside turned out to be a good friend of my fathers. He told my father that he went astray but he could not make out our house, nothing. He did not know the road when my father went with him to bring him home. They were as far as Ballymurphy when the man said he knew where he was. It comes back all of a sudden. To cure it, I heard that you turn your coat inside out.
James Hession, Cahergowan, remembers a similar enchantment: “A man went down to his farm in Lakeview and into the field to feed the cattle. Then when he was ready to make his way home, he could not find the big stile. He had to wait till morning as he didn't know how to break the spell.
Indeed, James experienced it first hand: “Sure it happened to my sister and I. We went visiting friends and going home we decided to take a short cut. Well we were in this field and we could not get out. I noticed after a while that how I got out was due to the wind being at my side and back. If I kept the wind back I would have been there to this day.
There were also strange sightings. A red light was often seen moving slowly over the bog. Sometimes it was accompanied by a voice. Though called Jack the Lantern, generally Claregalway people did not imagine it to be a person. Sarah Moran, Lakeview, offers her explanation of Jack the Lantern:
“Well, he was a bird that used to be in the bog at Summertime and he had a shiny tail and we used to think it was a person but we found out it wasn't that - it was a bird”.
John Casserley, Cahergowan heard a different explanation: “What I was told of Jack the Lantern is that at night you could see a kind of a red light crossing over the bog and one could hear him saying Mah, Mah and Mah.”
While explanations might differ, there are many stories of strange happenings. So it is no surprise that some elaborate schemes and practices were devised to avoid such frightful happenings.
Pisreoga or Superstitious Practises
To avoid mishap or cure mishaps in life, there are many pisreoga offered in advice. As you would expect, there is plenty of advice given on the weather. If a cock crew then it was a sign that the rain was clearing. A lot more signs were given for rain coming:
- Soot falling down the chimney.
- Hens picking their feathers.
- Birds flying low.
- Clouds looking low.
- Cormorants coming in from the sea shore.
- Black snails creeping on the grass.
Seeing a red sky in the morning is a shepherd’s warning of rain or poor weather. Seeing a red-haired woman first thing in the morning is a warning of mishap or bad luck. There is a story told about an ex-policeman living in Claregalway who met three girls one morning, one of whom had red-hair. Instead of going home, he went about his business for the day. On his return home that evening, the heavy rain had wet the floor and he slipped putting out his shoulder. Most people who met a red-haired woman on the way to a mart would immediately turn believing that they would have no luck.
Of Death, wakes and burials...
Death, wakes and burials involved a lot of ritual practises and pisreoga. Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, gives a detailed account:
“In the past, coffins were carried a lot on men’s shoulders unless the journey would be very long, as there were few hearses then. I understand that there would be six men carrying the coffin. All the dead person’s relatives and sometimes near neighbours would want to carry it in turn. The rule was that two fresh men would go under it in front and the others would fall back a step and the two at the back would fall out. That would happen frequently all the way to the graveyard. Where the pisreog came in was that those that went under the coffin once, felt they had to go under it three times in order to avoid bad luck, sickness or maybe death. And if their left shoulder was under it first it had to be the right shoulder next time. All this meant that often when nearing the cemetery that they would have to stop and change every few yards in order to give everyone his three turns.
I heard that you had to open the windows to let the soul out and up until recently, they turned off the clock the moment the person died in a house and it would not be put on again until the person was buried. I heard that it was bad luck to put ashes out on a Monday, but I do not know why and up until recently, they never dug a grave on a Monday and no one would get a haircut on a Monday. They called it: ‘Lomadh luain ort’.”
Wakes allowed for a mix of emotions. From the crying induced by the keening women to the fun and games. Luke, Séan and Pádraic Concannon, Montiagh recall a story about a wake:
“A man died. And they had to tie him down with a rope to the bed, because he died in a sitting up way. Anyway at the wake everybody was there. Some were crying and more were laughing. And whatever way the coffin was moved, the rope around the corpse came free. And the corpse sat up in the coffin. He was all stiff that when the rope was loosened the body rose up so fast that the people at the wake nearly lost their lives.”
While we are told this happened in Claregalway, similar tales are told in other parts of Ireland. Generally the coffin was taken for burial on a horse cart. Three keening women would sit up on the coffin, two married and one single, facing in different directions. Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, describes the funeral practise:
“There was another story; the horse that would be bringing the coffin to the graveyard. They did not go to the chapel that time. Instead of the night in the chapel, there was a wake in the house. The horse would be taken out three times from under the cart and brought around the cart. They would put the horse under the shafts of the cast twice the left and once from the right or vice versa. I remember when they would be burying a child, they would not dig the grave until the coffin arrived at the graveyard.”
Also the coffin had to be brought in feet foremost. There were also signs for ill health and death. If a hen crowed in or near a house, then sickness would fall on someone in that house. If a bird strayed into a house, then death would fall on someone in that house. Also if you were unfortunate enough to be deservedly cursed by a widow, then you knew that the curse would come true.
There were pisreoga for other occasions too. Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, tells us a pisreog about cows after calving:
“The cow would not be let out after calving without performing a certain ritual. There would be a red rag put on her tail and inside that red rag would be a few stumps of horse shoe nails and some hens dirt and Holy Water. This would be tied on to her tail, so she would be lucky”.
Another pisreog applies to milking a cow. You were not to milk a cow on the first of May. Also if you entered a house where somebody was making butter, you had to put your hand on the churn or dasher for luck.
To restore health, home remedies and old cures were used. Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, explains how people were cured using charms when he was young:
“Well, they were too poor. The doctors would be too dear. They did not really believe in doctors. I remember them using charms. A person had a large boil. I remember them bringing in an old woman and she had a number of irons, old irons, some of them would be horse shoes and all those kind of things and she would say some prayers in Irish, making crosses with the irons and signs and so on. It was only once I ever saw that and I was quite small. The people of the house knelt on their knees and prayed.”
Also there were people who had a cure or special gifts of healing. Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, tells us:
“They cured boils and ringworm. Another used to cure Craos Galar, which is Thrush. He used blow into the mouth. It used to work. There used to be herb cures. There used to be a herb called splineworth for Kidney trouble. It used to be boiled in water and drunk.”
For minor illnesses or flu, a person would take a hot drink and stay in bed to fight it off. Such hot drinks would be made up of pepper, onions, buttermilk, sugar, vinegar, and honey. Some cures were quite strange. If you had a sore throat, you had to put a stocking worn by you that day around your throat.
Of Life, Matchmaking and marriages...
Life, matchmaking and marriage also involved a lot of ritual practises and pisreoga. Matchmaking was a popular practise in open-fire days. There was more than one Matchmaker in the Claregalway area. The Matchmaker acted as a negotiator on behalf of the man who was seeking a wife. Stories are most often told about a middle-aged man who is seeking a younger woman to provide him with an heir.
One ingredient in the negotiation was a "dowry". The dowry was a settlement of money, stock, possessions or land to be given by the woman’s family to the prospective husband. It was generally expected that the dowry would be substantial enough to convince the man that this woman should be his wife. The Matchmaker met with both the prospective husband and his potential parents-in-law. More often than not the woman was told nothing about the arrangement. When the deal had been done, the girl was told. The woman was expected to marry the man chosen by her parents.
Generally, another ingredient in matchmaking was whiskey. Whiskey was often used by the interested man to get on "the good side" of the woman's father. There is a story told by a man about how his sister was matched and how whiskey was involved. To him the matching of his sister, who was only eighteen years, seemed like the buying of a cow. The parents met the suitor over potatoes, ham and of course the drink and bargained away. The young man received one hundred pounds as the dowry, which was a fortune in those times.
Another story is told about a match that fell through, because the girl had no money. The husband-to-be wanted the money to help in the settling down. Later on the girl overheard this man tell someone else why he wouldn't marry her. He said, it was because, "she had spent the last ten years feeding pigs and she hadn't a copper". A lot more matches survived into marriage. The marriage day itself brought with it other superstitious practises or pisreoga.
Marriages generally took place in the evenings, unlike today. When the bride-to-be was going to the church, an odd number of girls accompanied her. If necessary one girl would be sent home. Candles were lit in neighbouring houses, though not in her parents’ house.
When the couple left the church after the ceremony, people used to push the girl out first as superstition said that 'first out the door would die first'. The new bride also was not allowed back to her parents’ house for a whole month after the wedding. The couple went to live with the husband’s family, often passing bonfires on the way. A similar tradition of lighting bonfires at times of celebration has survived in the Claregalway area up to today. When the couple arrived in the house, an oatmeal cake was broken over their heads to bring good luck.
These are some of the ‘pisreoga’ and open-fire tales of Claregalway people. They flame up in this chapter, and fade again. They are the conversations in memory of storytellers. They rekindle the hearth of story telling in Claregalway at its enchanting best.
Claregalway Parish, as we know it today, covers a total area of over 12,000 statute acres. Claregalway itself is divided into 30 official townlands, used for present day administration. Townlands vary in size and most do not contain a town, indeed some lack inhabitants. Natural features such as the River Clare or manmade structures such as the N17 main road sometimes define their boundaries. The official townland names may not always be used, as locals may still use the older Irish townlands and placenames. As is the case all over Ireland, our local placenames are derived from various sources. Most are very old and have been passed down through the centuries by word of mouth or manuscript. These factors and the anglicised versions of Gaelic names have led to some placenames being lost or bearing little or no resemblance to the present features. Names such as Curraghmore (large boggy place) or Gortatleva (field of the hill) have changed only in spelling over the years.
In the following listings we have described Claregalway using the official townlands, along with some facts and local features. We have attempted to include as many local names as possible and have had to pick the most common spellings for some names. Included under each townland are the total area1 and its value2 under the Griffiths Poor Law Valuation of 1855, also included are the family names of that appear in the same Valuation.
1Area is given in acres, roods and perches where 1 acre = 4 roods = 160 perches
2 Value is given in old pounds, shillings and pence £1 = 20s = 240p
Carnmore/Cairn Mór (great heap of stones)
Area:180ac 3r 24p; Poor Law Valuation:£19 10s 6p
Landlord: Valentine Blake
Population: 12 people in 3 houses
Family Names: Kenny and Rabbitt
Carnmore is at the extreme eastern side of the Parish adjoining Athenry along the Monivea Road where Johnny Greaney now lives. Land is mainly good.
Carnmore East/Cairn Mór (great heap of stones)
Area: 221ac 3r 25p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £7 18s 0p
Landlord: Valentine Blake
Population ~1851: 24 people in 5 houses
Family Names : Fox, Hynes, Rooney, Veitch;
Placenames: Clais Bhrein
Carnmore East is on the extreme eastern side of the Claregalway Parish adjoining Lackagh and Athenry Parishes. The land here is of mixed quality. There is a turlough in the area and the remains of a small lisheen. Some stone tools were discovered in this area a few years ago.
Carnmore West/Cairn Mór (great heap of stones)
Area: 2041ac 3r 29p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £359 12s 6p
Landlord: Valentine Blake
Population ~1851: 348 people in 63 houses
Family Names: Beatty, Behan, Burke, Butler, Carr, Cavanagh, Collins, Costello, ,Egan, Fahy, Finnegan, Ford, Fox, Grealish, Hanley, Higgins, Holland, Holmes, Hynes, Kelly, Kenny, Lardner, Linskey, Mahon, Morris, Quinn, Rabbitt, Rooney, Ruane, Rushe, Small, Walsh;
Placenames: Bearna an tSalann, Boithrín Tobar Núa, Caher, Cloch Maol, Cnocán Dorethy, Gortaleasa, Lochán Buí, Páirc Garbh, Páirc na Rasaí
Carnmore West is the largest townland in the parish, stretching from the airport to Greaney Glass and lies between Glenascaul and Lydacan. In this townland is the airport, school, community centre and GAA pitch. The land is of good quality. There is a souterrain in the area and a number of ringforts. There is also a Lisheen or Children's Burial ground within the townland. The remains of Cloch Maol castle can still be seen. There are burials around this castle where according to local tradition "Seán agus trifhichead Sheáin" are buried. There is also a monument of stones similar in form to a fort nearby.
Area: 147ac 3r 36p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £39 0s 0p
Landlord: H. Lynch
Population ~1851: 44 in 6 houses
Family Names: Collins, Duggan, Fox, Kerrigan, Melody;
Caherlea is one of the smaller townlands and it adjoins Lisheenavalla (which is in Lackagh parish). Land is mainly good there and suitable for all kind of farming. Taking the Irish translation of Cathair Líath to be a grey stone fort, would indicate that there was some ruins or fortress in the area at one time but no visible evidence has been found.
Cahergowan/Cathair Ghabhain (fort of the blacksmith/calves) (Or Summerfield/Páirc an tSamhraidh )
Area: 841ac 0r 25p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £384 13s 0p
Landlord: Lord Clanmorris
Population ~1851: 472 in 89 houses
Family Names: Boyle, Burke, Clanmorris, Cody, Cogwell, Conor, Corcuit, Cullinane, Donoghue, Duffy, Duggan, Egan, Fahy, Flaherty, Flesk, Ford, Fox, Gobbobs, Hession, Holland, Hughes, Joyce, Kelly, Lenehan, Linsky, Moloney, Moran, Murphy, Prendergast, Tully, Walsh and Wren;
Placenames: Clogher, Casuala, Carrow Keel, Páircín na Bpoll, Poll an Capall, Tobar Padraic, Cnocán Droighnean, Cúinne na Sceach, Cnocán Lurghan, Garaide an Uisce………
Cahergowan is unusual in that it has two official names Summerfield and Cahergowan. Both are used but Cahergowan would be used more frequently. This townland is large and has always been heavily populated. The river Clare separates it from the townland of Claregalway and it streches along the N17 as far as Pollaghreveagh and on the western side it adjoins Montiagh South. Clogher or Clochár is an old name that indicates a monastic settlement. The Taylor and Skinner road map of 1777 shows Summerville Blake Esq. as the occupants of the big house. At the back of the ball alley there is an old ruin of a church and this was used as a burial ground until recently. There are two pubs and three shops in Cahergowan. The land is mainly arable with some outcrop of rock and hazel and some low-lying land that is liable to flooding. There is also some bog but no turf is cut there now.Near Hessions shop, an old mile stone stands which is engraved with the figure '5' indicating that this spot is 5 Irish miles from Eyre Square.
Claregalway/Baile an Chláir/Baile Chláir na Gaillimhe (Town of the plain)
Area: 585ac 0r 0p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £228 0s 0p
Landlord: Lord Clanmorris
Population ~1851: 133 people in 19 houses
Family Names: Allen, Byrne, Casserley, Duggan, Finnerty, Ryan;
Placenames: Cloonbiggen, Móinín Ribeach, Léana, Cúinne Cam, Bóithrín O'Kane, Bóithrín Lachach;
Claregalway townland stretches from Claregalway Bridge to the Garda barracks and westward along the river as far as Gortcloonmore. The village of Claregalway itself does not lie within this townland. The Parish name was taken from this townland possibly because the original church was located on the grounds of the 13th century Franciscan Friary, one of the main landmarks in the area. Claregalway's present-day graveyard surrounds the ruins of the friary. A short distance from the friary the remains of a 15th century castle stands, overlooking the River Clare. The Nine Arches Bridge also lies within the Claregalway townland. A new landmark is the S.M.A house opposite the friary. Cloonbiggin is a better known name for part of Claregalway townland. A reference exists in an article about the friary in 1387 when six acres of land in Cloynbiggin were given to the friars.There is also a small river, which rises from a spring near Lough George, and it flows through Cloonbiggin into the River Clare. There are some spring wells in this area also. One is known as Tobar Dubh. The land is mainly good but some of it is low lying and liable to flooding in winter.The origin of the name Claregalway is not clear. Variations used in the past include Baile An Chláir meaning Town of the Plank, (Used for crossing the river) and Town of the Plain. Baile Chláir Na Gaillimhe is a direct translation of Claregalway and has been in use for the last 80 years.
Cloon /Cluain (Meadow)
Area: 440ac 3r 7p; Poor Law Valuation: £100 4s 0p
Landlord: James Ffrench
Population 1851: 187 people in 27 houses
Cloon is situated 2 miles from Claregalway village on the western side of the N17. It lies between the townlands of Cloonacauneen and Pollaghrevagh. Cloon and Pollaghrevagh are separated by a by-road, with Cloon lying to the left as you go into the area, although most people living along the boundary would actually use Cloon as their address. The land within Cloon is classed as 233 acres being bog-land and the remaining 207 acres is fertile land suitable for all types of farming.
Cloonacauneen /Cluain an Chainin
Area: 29ac 0r 16p; Poor Law Valuation: £13 5s 0p
Landlord: Robert Faire
Population 1851: 41 people in 5 houses
Family Names: No Record
Place Names: 'Holmes Hill'
There is another townland of the same name in Castlegar parish and both join at the top of Holmes' Hill. There are no houses there now. The land is of mixed quality. It lies next to Cloon townland and the N17.
Cloughaun /Clochan (River/Stepping Stone)
Area: 11ac 1r 39p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £9 10s 0p
Landlord: James S. Lambert
Population ~1851: 21 people in 4 houses
Family Names: Golding, Nolan, Rabbitt
Cloughaun townland is the smallest townland in the parish. In reality the townland is divided between the parishes of Claregalway and Lackagh. The roads to Liscananaun and Baunmore from Baunmore Cross divide the townland and parishes. The land here is of mixed quality. There are no traces of any historical monument in the townland in the present day.
Cregboy / Creag Bui/Creig Bui (Yellow Rock)
Area: 676ac 0r 8p; Poor Law Valuation:£222 6s 0p
Landlord: James Galbraith
Population 1851: 176 people in 31 houses
Family names in 1855 :Boyle, Burke, Casserly, , Tully, Hession, Corenit, Maloney, McDonagh, Morris , Murphy Quinn, Samways, Daly, Heany, Moran, Long, Giles, Connolly, Wade, Kearns and Kelly.
Placenames:Baile Fanach, Gort na Guaillini
Baile Fanach (Bally Faunagh) is an old name for Cregboy and there is evidence of it being used in 1847. It was used by the teachers of Claregalway school up until 1960. There are several definitions in the dictionary for 'fanach' such as aimless, wandering and futile. Gort na Guaillini is the old name of part of Cregboy that joins Lydacan, where the Fahys and Shaughnessy family presently live. It is defined as 'fields with triangles'. The land is of mixed quality. Some very good and dry suitable for all kinds of farming and some with rocky out-crops with hazel. Cregboy is situated off the N17 and extends from the Claregalway/Oranmore road as far as the Kiltulla road. The first 'mile-stone' in the Parish was standing near Ruane's house, near the Kiltulla road, but was removed from there by the County Council. It was re-erected in 1998 at a different location nearby. This stone is inscribed with the figure '4'.
Curraghmore/Currach Mór ( large swampy field )
Area: 792ac 3r 11p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £30 0s 0p
Landlord: Lord Clanmorris
Population in 1851: 8 people in 2 houses
Family Names: Burke, Feeney
Curraghmore is a large townland lying at the most westerly part of the parish and running as far as the shores of Lough Corrib. At present it has no human inhabitants. The Galway to Headford road known as the Curraghline runs through Curraghmore. It was built during the mid 19th century, prior to which boats ferried people across the Cregg river and the river Clare too. The Feeney family was the last family to live there. They left around 1960. The River Clare runs alongside Curraghmore and as the land is low lying it is prone to flooding in winter or indeed any time of severe rainfall. Most of Curraghmore is peat bog. Although alot of turf is harvested there every summer, a lot of the area is virgin bogland known as Gaelige as Eanach. The remainder of the land is good pastureland in summer.
Gortadooey /Gort a Dubha / Gort an Dúaigh (black field )
Area: 229ac 2r 26p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £42 0s 0p
Landlord: James S. Lambert
Population ~1851: 108 people in 15 houses
Family Names: Collins, Concannon, Cassidy, Duggan, Grealy, Glynn, Fahy, Henegan, Lambert, Lenehan, Moloney
Placenames: Ceann na Gairde, Crochan na Creithe, Tolan Ruid, Cappagh Eoghan
Gortadooey lies between Waterdale and Claregalway off the Mullaghruttery road. Gortadooey got its name from the land in the area because when it was dug it was blackish in colour. Land there is mainly good quality although some is liable to flooding.There was supposed to be a well in the area that had a dark dye which, when mixed with other material substances made a type of ink. It is said the friars in Claregalway used it for writing. James Greally was the herdsman for the landlord and his descendants lived in the same house until about 1980.
Gortatleva / Gort an tSleibhe (Field of the Mountain)
Area: 336ac 2r 27p;Poor Law Valuation:£106 13s 0p
Landlord: Andrew H. Lynch
Population 1851: 89 people in 15 houses
Family Names: Bodkin, Cavanagh, McDonagh, Qualter, Walsh, Williams, Hughes, O'Brien, Carr and Murphy
Placenames: Garraigh Raven
There was a pub in this townland in the past, across the road from Walshs. Most of the land is of good quality and is suitable for all types of farming, but also has some low-lying land which is liable to flooding. Gortatleva is situated next to Lydacan.
Gortcloonmore /Gort Clúain Mor ( the big meadow)
Area: 517ac 2r 39p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £50 10s 0p
Landlord: James S Lambert
Population ~ 1851: 64 people in 13 houses
Family Names: Duggan, Feeney, Greally, Noon, Qualter
Placenames: An Loch bheag
Gortcloonmore adjoins the Waterdale River on the north side and Montiagh North at the other end. Gortcloonmore is mainly low lying but has a mixture of land ranging from good grazing pastures to bog. Turf is cut there and in the past it supplied many households in the parish with winter fuel. It has a small population today, with one family home inhabited, another not in everyday use and the Autistic Society/Western Health Board have a house and farm there as well. During the early 20th century, when the Waterdale Estate was divided, some Gortcloonmore families moved to land they got in the division.
Kiltrogue /Cill Tróg (Trog's church)
Area: 98ac 0r 0p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £49 14s 0p
Landlord: Lord Bishop of Cashel
Population in 1851: 76 people in 12 houses
Family Names: Currane, Duffy, Egan, Greaney, Kelly, Kenny, Kyne, Moylan, O'Dea, Ryan
Placenames: Tonn an Cnoic
Similar to Cloghaun, Kiltrogue townlnad is also a strange division. The townland is split into land that is in the Claregalway Parish and the remainder is in Lackagh. Of the land in Claregalway, the area is in two parts, both of which are fully surrounded by the Lackagh part of Kiltrogue. Land is good and suitable for all kinds of farming. Kiltrogue got its name from St. Trog who had a church there, only the bare remains of this survive to this day. A Lisheen is also close by. Kiltrogue Castle, which is still in good order lies in Lackagh parish.
Kiniska /Cinn Uisce (Water's head / River mouth)
Area: 505ac 0r 22p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £192 5s 0p
Landlord: Lord Clanmorris
Population ~ 1851: 155 people in 33 houses
Family Names: Burke, Casserley, Commins, Connell, Kelly, Long, Nalty, Shaughnessy.
Placenames: Bun an Uisce, Caraun (Carán), Pollanrumpa, Tón an Cnoic
Kiniska adjoins the River Clare and Kiltrogue. Quality of land is mainly good with some low-lying land beside Kiniska River. Kiniska River rises, as the name would suggest at Bun an Uisce and joins the River Clare about one mile away. There is a childrens burial ground not far from Bun an Uisce and the last children were buried at the turn of the century. There is a souterrain or cave near the village. Lord Clanmorris retained 18 acres for his own use for hunting it was described as a fox cover in Griffiths Valuation of 1855, that area may have been the wood that was on Pat Duggan's land until about 1953 when it was cut down. The herd at that time was Patrick Nalty.
Knockdoemore/Cnoc Tuadh Mór (Hill of the big axe)
Area: 269ac 1r 30p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £86 11s 0p
Landlord: William Burke
Population ~1851: 61 people in 11 houses
Family Names: Bane, Browne, Comer, Connell, Lardner, Pearse.
Placenames: Tinkers Lane, Baile Úi Chonaill
Historical sites: Enclosure and Ringfort.
Knockdoemore is situated to the east of the N17. Land is mainly very good with some rocky outcrops. Knockdoemore is at the base of the where the famous Battle of Knockdoe was fought in 1504. Tinkers Lane runs through Knockdoemore from the N17 to the Roscommon road. Baile Úi Chonaill has been associated a lot with O'Connell families. Thomas Browne was the herd for the landlord in 1855.
Lakeview / Radharc na Locha
Area: 352ac 3r 18p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £157 7s 0p
Landlord: James Galbraith
Population in 1851: 61 people in 12 houses
Family Names: Hession, Galway, Commons, Duggan, Cordial, Morris, Lynch, Small, Murphy and Giles.
Placenames: Droim Na Gaoithe, Turloch Bréige, Bóithrín De Burca
Lakeview is the name of the townland where the present church, school and leisure centre lie. The old post office, which was owned by the Cahill family until 1927 was also in this townland. This was situated across the road from Dunleaveys bar not far from the Nine Arches Bridge. Local knowledge tells us of a church situated in the same area in the past but very little is known about it. Most of the land is of good quality with some low lying land near the river which floods in very wet weather when the River Clare floods the surrounding land, hence the name "Turloch Breige" (False Lake). "Droim Na Gaoithe" is the name on the O.S. maps Radharc Na Locha is a direct translation of Lakeview.
Lissarulla / Lios a Rúla (Ploughed Lios)
Area: 305ac 3r 20p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £118 7s 0p
Landlord: Andrew H Lynch
Population ~1851: 101 people in 15 houses
Family Names: Murphy, Hanley, Qualter, Finnerty, Culkeen, Cunneer .
Placenames: Ballymurphy, Ballinacreg,
Lisarulla lies between Lydacan and Caherlea. Lissarulla is the official name on the ordance survey maps covering Ballymurphy and Ballinacreg but is not used by locals as often as the unofficial ones. Ballymurphy or Baile Uí Mhurchú, got its name from all the Murphys who lived there. It is also the more commonly used name by locals to this day. Ballinacreg or Baile Na Creige is not an offical townland either but is on the ordance survey maps as a recognised village name. There is a ruin of an old castle near Ballymurphy and also the ruins of an old settlement cluster.
Loughgeogre / Leacht Seoirse (George's monument)
Area: 31ac 3r 38p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £20 15s 0p
Landlord: Directors of Alliance Insurance company
Population ~1851: 36 people in 3 houses
Family Names: O'Brien and Scully.
Loughgeorge is located along the N17. All the land is good and while the local Garda Barracks is not in Loughgeorge itself the Garda District is known as Loughgeorge. There is a well-known pub and restaurant named Kynes Central Tavern. Galway GAA football board has purchased a field in Loughgeorge to be used for training county teams. Loughgeorge or Leacht Seoirse means George's Stone and it is believed that a man named George fell from his horse, was killed and is buried under a large stone in the area. The Cimín is the name of the field across the road from Kynes Restaurant. It was reputed to have been used as a cattle pound in the past. The third mile-stone is standing in this townland and is enscribed with the figure '6'.
Lecarrowmore / Leath Ceathru Mór
Area: 47ac 1r 20p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £17 10s 0p
Landlord: Lord Dunsandle
Population ~1851: 16 people in 3 houses
Family Names: O'Brien, Cassidy and Kirrane.
Lecarrowmore is on the left after you pass the garda Barracks on the Mullacuttrey road. Land is mainly good.
Lydacan / Lideachán/ Laighdeacán
Area: 852ac 2r 26p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £280 7s 0p
Landlord: Andrew H Lynch
Population ~1851: 122 people in 18 houses
Family Names: Collins, Fahy, McDonald, Malony, Cullinane, Walsh, Gardinder, Glynn, Flesk, Flynn, Dillon, Kemple, Sheridan, O'Dea, and Qualter
Placenames: An Feilm, Cathair na Finneoga Cnoc na Leacht, Cnocán Aoibeann, Geata na Geann, Gort na gCuailíní, Páirc an Asail, Rock Road, Tónruadh
Historical Sites: Ringfort, Liseen, Castle and Souterrain
This townland is unique within the parish in that it was a parish at one stage with a church. Lydacan lies between Lakeview and Gortatleva and extends as far as the River Clare. One feature of the area was the landlord's house. The house was burned in 1922 and the occupants, the Greated Family, moved away and bought a farm in Co. Wexford. Their land in Lydacan was divided among the local farmers at the time. Also beside the Lydacan Castle was a constabulary hut. The land is mostly fertile with some acres of rocky outcrops and has Hazel growing there. Cnoc Na Leacht –is the Irish name for Lydacan Hill. It got its name from an old custom of building small heaps of stones inside the wall while a corpse was been taken to the church. Cnocan Aoibeann – is the name of the fields owned by John Fahy and are situated at the back of the commercial truck garage. Geata Na Geann – was the name of the big gates that were at the entrance to Greateds Castle. These gates were in turn given to Canon Moran to be used at the entrance to the old Claregalway Church and were to be seen there until 1974 when the church and walls were knocked. Tonruadh 'Tonroe' – is part of Lydacan between Carnmore and Lydacan. The area gets its name from the red ferns to be seen locally. Cathair Na Finneoga- is the Irish name the old fort beside the rockroad at Lydacan. Páirc an Asail – Name of the field beside Lydacan castle where the Greateds kept a few Asses.
Montiagh South / Mointeach Teas
Area: 331ac 2r 23p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £84 5s 0p
Landlord: Lord Clanmorris
Population ~1851: 238 people in 43 house
Family Names: Burke, Collins, Duggan, Glynn, Heavey, Lenehan, Moran, Noone, Thorpey, Keany, Wall,
Placenames: Leana, An Barlan, Garrai an Botan, Garrai Beag, Gort Clúain mBuilan, Oileean an Coireann
The townland of Montiagh is located along the River Clare between Cahergowan, Cloon and Pollaghreavagh and at the extreme westside it adjoins Sylaun in the parish of Castlegar. As in the parish of Claregalway Irish was the spoken language but it survived more so in Montiagh than in other parts of the parish. There was a hedge school here as well in the past. Tomásín was the name of the teacher and his reward for the teaching of the pupils was vegatables and groceries. There was also a lisheen there it is about 70 years since any child was buried there. As the river is so close to the village boats were very important, in the past, for the transporting of turf, hay and other products. It was also used for shooting and fishing. The type of boat that was used was a flat bottom boat, which was suitable for travelling over flooded land. There are none of those boats in use now only the standard lake boats. Fishing was a very important part of the lifestyle in Montiagh in the past. Salmon were very plentiful then and the catch would be transported to hotels in Galway City, hidden in cartloads of turf. The land is mainly low lying except where the village is situated, and in winter is liable to flooding from the nearby River Clare. Most of the land is good pasture. There is also some bog and turf is cut there up to the present time.
Montiagh North / Mointeach Thaudh
Area: 454ac 2r 17p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £48 0s 0p
Landlord: Lord Clanmorris
Population ~1851: 5 people 1 in house
Family Names: Duggan
The river separates Montiagh North from Montiagh South. The land is low lying and floods in the winter but is good pastureland in summer. There is also a bog here and part of the cut away bog (200 acres) was acquired by the forestry in 1960 and planted. It is now a large wood. Turf is still cut in the remaining bog. Montiagh North adjoins Curraghmore to the west and Gortcloonmore to the North. There hasn't been anybody living there for the past hundred years.
Mullaghruttery / Mullacuttra / Mullach Otraigh / Mullach Chrotaire (Hill of the red cat)
Area: 180ac 0r 16p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £74 11s 0p
Landlord: James S. Lambert
Population ~1851:55 people in 8 houses
Family Names: Connell, Glynn, Golding, Herwood, Hogan, Keane, Hughes, Lambert and Lyons.
It is told in a story from Irish folklore that the name Mullacuttra originated from Mullach a 'Chait Rua' which was a Great Red Cat that guarded a treasure buried in the area in olden times.Land is arable suitable for grazing and tillage.Mullaghruttery is on the right as you go to Currandullla. It adjoins Peak. A feature of the area is the striking stone walls dividing the fields.
Peake / Péic ( Red Ferns )
Area: 220ac 2r 0p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £85 0s 0p
Landlord: William Burke
Population ~1851: 22 people in 5 houses
Family Names: Browne, Carthy, Forde, Griffin.
The townland is situated on the left as you go to Tuam after passing Loughgeorge. Land is arable and suitable for grazing and tillage. There are very nice stone walls dividing the fields here.
Pollaghrevagh / Pollach Ríabach
Area: 417ac 3r 28p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £92 3s 0p
Landlord: James Ffrench
Population ~1851: 29 people in 4 houses
Family Names: Ffrench, Hardiman, O'Brien, Nohilly, Nolan, Wall, Moran, Kineen, Quinn.
Pollaghrevagh lies between Cahergowan and Cloon of the N17. Most of the land is fertile, and there is also some woodland and bog. Locals seldom use the name Pollaghrevagh.
Rockwood / Leach na Coille (Rock in the wood)
Area: 41ac 0r 34p; Poor Law Valuation ~1851: £45 0s 0p
Landlord: John Galway
Population ~1851: 4 people in 1 house
Family Names ~1855: Galway
Placenames: Holmes hill
Rockwood is situated on the left as one travels into Galway from Claregalway. It begins at Kiltulla Road and ends at the top of Holmes hill. The only house in this area at the time was the landlord's house. This is the last remaining landlord's house in the parish to this day. In recent times the house went into disrepair for some years until the Divilly family bought it and restored it to its former glory.
Rooaunmore / Ruadh án Mór ( Large red ferns )
Area: 220ac 2r 0p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £72 11s 0p
Population in 1851: 35 people in 7 houses
Family Names: Hughes, Gaynor, Mooney, O'Brien, Smith, McGrath, and Clancy.
Rooaunmore is situated on the Roscommon road adjoining Kiniska, Loughgeorge and Knockdoemore. In the past there were very few houses in the area as the landlord retained all the land because of its good quality. Due to the size of the fields, horse races were held there in the early part of this century. Here in Rooaunmore is the only remaining forge to be found in the parish. It has been in the Smith family since the last century. Presently Michael Smith is the owner and he continues with this trade to this day.
Waterdale /Eochaill (Oakhill)
Area: 679ac 3r 0p; Poor Law Valuation ~1855: £225 12s 0p
Landlords: Lambert owned 610ac 1r 34p Blake owned 69ac 1r 0p
Population in 1851: 105 people in 22 houses
Family Names: Blake, Carley, Cullinane, Duggan, Glenane, Keeney, Moran, Walsh, Golding,
Placenames: Leana Clocha, Baile Na Móna, Páirc na Ceartan, Waterdale River
The old name Eochaill meant yew wood and bears no resemblance to the English name Waterdale that was given to the area by the Anglo Norman's who owned the land. There is another name for part of Waterdale known as Leana Clocha the Keany family live in that area now. In the past many families lived in Leana Clocha but when the land was divided among the tenants some built their new houses in Waterdale. Waterdale Townland was once one whole estate owned by Lady Lambert. She lived in Waterdale house. There was a church beside the house. The land was divided in 1908 when Lady Lambert left. There are very good examples of an old ring fort and also a Lisheen - a fairies field. Over half the land is of a good quality with the remainder bog or lowlying land liable to flooding. The fourth milestone in the parish is situated near the entrance to Waterdale Village. This stone is enscribed with the figure '7'.
As we approach the dawn of the second millennium, the parish of Claregalway has one church, a parish priest, and one curate, catering for an ever-growing population. However, should the population explosion that is now taking place, due to the influx of an increasing number of suburbanites, be sustained, we might again be blessed with two churches, as we had in the eighteenth century, prior to the establishment of the parish boundary as we now know it. The parish church of Claregalway was situated in Lakeview, adjacent to the present church, while the parish of “Lydecane,” which is currently spelt “Lydacan” had its church in Cregboy.
When the history of this millennium was being recorded in the so-called "Dark Ages,” the parish of Claregalway did not exist in its present form. Records show that in 1484, the then Archbishop of Tuam gave the parish of St. Nicholas in Galway, which had been attached to his diocese since 1324, the status of "exempt jurisdiction". Why he decided to give this parish a type of independence is unsure, but what is known is that he subsequently annexed the Parish of St. James at Balenclear (now Baile an Chlair). Eventually these latter territories and others were assimilated, until a district was arrived at which corresponds basically to the present diocese of Galway. When Pope Innocent VIII ratified the Archbishop's decision, it freed Galway and Claregalway, both originally part of the Annaghdown diocese, from the Tuam Archdiocese. In earlier centuries Tuam had been at loggerheads with Annaghdown, which had long striven for its own identity.
Before this independence was bestowed upon Claregalway, information on priests in the parish is scarce. Among the names recorded in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century are: David Valensis, James Cachyr (1418), Cormac O’Callanayn ( 1419), Urmanus O’Madagayn (1419), Brandon Ymulcroyan ( 1429), Philip Macmaylayn(1430), Donald O’Mulcroyan ( 1430), John O’Douna ( 1480), Risteardus de Burgo ( 1492), Gilleduff O’Brouder ( 1648)
It is recorded that Cormac O’Callanayn required a papal dispensation to qualify for ordination, as he was "the son of an unmarried man and an unmarried mother." He became the Canon of Annaghdown and then he was transferred to what was called the ‘Vicarage’ of Claregalway. An unverified story says that a son of his was later Parish Priest of Claregalway.
The Old Church, about 1974
Church Building (1839 – 1974)
The previous church building, which was demolished in 1974, was similar to the majority of churches that were built in the 19th century. Cruciform in shape, it was somewhat smaller than the current day structure. A large stained glass window adorned the gable end at the front of the church. It had three doors, one on each transom, and one at the rear. There were three galleries, named locally as the Carnmore gallery, the Claregalway gallery, and the grand gallery. Mass times on Sundays and holy days were at 8.30a.m., referred to locally as first Mass, and at 11a.m. or second Mass. The vast majority of worshippers went to first Mass.
There were many local customs, as there undoubtedly were in all rural communities. The women occupied seats on the left, the men on the right. Men, except for members of the choir who used the Claregalway gallery on occasion, occupied both galleries over the transoms. It is said that a woman never set foot in the Carnmore gallery. Women, almost entirely elderly, occupied the seats on both transoms. They usually had their own favourite seat. Both sexes used the grand gallery. Those customs were adhered to with few exceptions. Maybe the occasional traveller might inadvertently stray into “foreign” territory, and that “separatist” custom was tailor made for the “show off” who craved special attention, and would break ranks just to be noticed.
Confessions were held on Saturday afternoon. One day for the girls, one for the boys, one for the women and one for the men. At Sunday Mass this order was repeated for communicants, the girls to receive 1st etc. If there were 5 Sundays in the month, members of the Sodality would be first to receive Holy Communion.
Many parishioners were saddened by the demise of the old church, but the “comforts” of the new church compensated somewhat. Undoubtedly, the same sentiments will be expressed sometime in the future.
Pre-Reformation Church Building This is situated close to the handball alley, directly south of the Friary. There is a path or driveway leading to it from the riverbank. Almost nothing is known about this building. It is assumed that it was built around the same time as the friary and was destroyed during the time of the Suppression of the Monasteries in the 16th century. However according to local folklore the building was a hospital or infirmary that was associated with the Friary. People with infectious diseases were normally kept apart from the rest of the congregation. Parts of the walls are still standing. It was used as a burial ground.
The parish has one graveyard currently in use, which is situated adjacent to the Claregalway Friary. However, other burial grounds (small graveyards and lisheens) are scattered throughout the parish. The most notable being: Montiagh, Waterdale, Lydacan, Carnmore, Kiltrogue, Kiniska, Cahergowan and Clogher. Undoubtedly there are others, like the previous mentioned ones, which have fallen into disrepair, no one having been buried in them for the greater part of the century.
The last account we have of a burial taking place in one of those small graveyards was in Montiagh in 1933. It was a young child, whose father was originally from the village, but was residing in Bohermore, Galway. He was a man by the name of Duggan, and he brought his deceased child out to his native village for burial.
One of the reasons for so many little graveyards scattered throughout the parish was more than likely due to the many deaths that occurred during the famine years. Many were buried in beds of straw matted together, because there were no coffins, and this procedure was referred to locally as “Mata Taoi”.
There is a lisheen in Eddie Hanley’s field in Carnmore West that is sited within a ringfort. There were people being buried there up to the mid 1950s. Michéal Ó’Heidhin, Carnmore, tells us:
“I myself was at a funeral there of an infant about 1946 but there were a few more buried there afterwards. I remember four or five funerals there when I was going to school (most I believe from Mountain West, Oranmore). There are two headstones there – one of them has two names: James Grealish and Michael Cooley on the one stone with a date of 1890. The other one has the name Mary Donoghue aged 53, buried 1898.”
Those burial places are often referred to as children’s graveyards, because it was mostly unbaptised children that were buried in them. The Montiagh burial ground might be an exception because there was a monastery nearby some centuries ago. That was before any road existed between the village and Galway. The priests at that time used a short cut to Galway that was later called “The Priest’s Way” (Clochán an tSagairt).
The oldest recorded date on a headstone in the friary is 1648. The engravings on many of the old headstones near the friary are unusual in that many denote the particular trade or occupation that the person had. For instance an anvil, hammer or pincers while another shows a plough. There were many other engravings.
The new graveyard that was added on to the friary about 1900 was under the Galway County Health District and the earliest record of caretakers is 1936. The following is a list of caretakers:
Mr. Patrick Lenihan (1936 to 1939); Miss Sabina Lenihan (1939 to 1945); Mr. Patrick Monaghan (1946 to 1947); Re. P. O’Dea PP (1947 to 1948); Mr. James Hession (1948 to 1988); Mr. Seamus O’Connell (1988 to present time)
Fr. Andrew Kenny 1770-1805 Fr. Kenny left Ireland in 1750 for the University of Alcala where he studied in the College of St. George the Martyr and was ordained priest in the year 1756 by Augustinius Gonzales Piscador, D.D. Bishop of Tricomoriensis.
Fr.Andrew Kenny made a detailed return, dated 15th November 1800, that gives an invaluable picture of the workings of the parish at this period. The return was in reply to certain queries sent to parish priests by the Archbishop of Tuam, Rev. Edward Dillon at the request of the Government. He states that he was in charge of the parish for thirty years at that date. The return describes the parish income and also discusses regulations for marriage that were followed in Claregalway. The following is a summary:
The number of houses in the parish at that time was 400, and the population was 2,150. To support the priest, as well as an assistant priest, the head of each household paid eight pence twice a year, at Christmas and Easter while the woman of the house was expected to contribute one penny. Young male wage earners paid two pence and young women who were working were expected to pay one penny. The total of these dues, along with some contributions from the better off, came to £35 for the whole parish. These twice-yearly contributions were made, or expected, when the people of each village congregated at a local house with their priest who heard confessions, distributed Holy Communion, instructed the adults and children in their faith, and settled disputes between neighbours. A different house was chosen for the next community meeting.
The parish priest’s income from dues was augmented by payments made at christenings, marriages and deaths. An average of 150 christenings per year brought in about £11-10-0. Funeral offerings to the priest varied, with the more affluent paying half a guinea, while donations from the less well off varied from between half-a-crown and 6s 6d. A contribution was not expected from those of very poor means. The annual income from this source came to about £6. The annual income from wedding offerings yielded an average of £11-15-0, a not inconsiderable amount, which helped greatly towards the upkeep of the parish. At each wedding, the bridegroom placed half-a-crown on the collection plate at the end of the ceremony, while guests contributed anything from 6d to a shilling each. The priest collected anything from between five to thirty shillings for a marriage.
Fr. Kenny estimated his yearly income at approximately £66, of which a third, amounting to £22 was paid to his curate. This left him with the sum of £44, of which he spent £20 on grazing and fodder for his horse. Fr. Kenny died in July 1822 at the age of 90, having being a priest for 66 years.
Fr. Tadhg Ó’Murchú (Thady Murphy) - 1805 Fr Murphy was P.P. at the time of the French landing at Killala and when the parish church was situated opposite the village parish-pump. There is a church document that references a parish of ‘Ledicane’ with Thady Murphy as the parish priest. Was there, at least for a period a separate parish of Lydacan? If there was a parish in Lydacan then there must have been a parish church. There were reports that there was a church on the top of Lydacan Hill.
Fr. Ó’Murchú is buried in the Friary. His flagstone in the north transept has the following inscription:
“Lord have mercy on the Soul of the Rev. Thady Murphy PP of Claregalway who departed this Life the 12th day of August 1805 aged 63 years. This monument was erected by his brother Geoffrey Murphy in memory of him. Requiscat in Pace. Amen.”
The inscription is surmounted by a chalice and host with a biretta on either side.
Fr. Malachy Mannin 1816-1830 Fr. Mannin, fondly known as ‘an sagart mór’. An old document relating to the Wardenship of Galway states: ‘10th September 1809, Claregalway. Petition of Honor Higgins, widow, to the warden complaining of Rev. Malachy Mannin, who possessed himself of ground she ought to have.’ The tradition about him in the parish was that he had a strong personality, although the above extract does not show him in a favourable light.
The following is an interesting story about him. The landlord of Cahergowan had made a seizure of cattle in the village for non-payment of rent and amongst the animals seized was a poor widow’s cow. Fr. Mannin intervened but the bailiffs referred him to the landlord. The priest was getting his own milk supply from this cow but that is not suggested as the reason for his action. He set out for a place called ‘Béal Áth na Lúb’ in Co. Mayo on horseback. He received no satisfaction and thereupon he scraped the threshold of the house with the sole of his boot and departed. He had not gone very long when fire broke out and a messenger was sent after him to ask him to return and extinguish the fire but he refused. This occurred twice and the fire could not be extinguished – as soon as it was extinguished in one spot it broke out in another, until after twelve months the house was destroyed. The value of this story no doubt is that it gives evidence of a tradition that this priest was a fearless champion of the oppressed.
A sundial made of slate, which belonged to him, is preserved in the National Museum, Dublin. It bears the following inscription:
‘Constructed by R. Molloy for the Revd. M.M. P.P. C.G. 22 August 1828’
In this inscription, M.M. are his initials and C.G. is for Claregalway. In 1828, Fr. Thomas E. Gill was appointed administrator, to help the ageing parish priest, but whether he ever took up duty or not is uncertain. A Fr. B. Adams served in the parish but is not credited with the title of parish priest. His tenancy was perhaps a stopgap measure before the arrival of Fr. P. O'Kane.
Fr. P. O’Kane - 1838 Fr O'Kane is said to have been suspended or at least removed from the parish for addiction to drink. He was a native of Kiniska. After his retirement he lived in a house down the (then) bóithrín leading to the new gate into the graveyard around the Friary. He is buried in the Friary.
In 1838 a direct exchange took place between the parishes of Spiddal and Claregalway, with Fr. O'Kane moving to the coast and the ill-fated Fr. Hosty transferring to this parish.
Fr. Thomas Hosty 1838-1848 Fr. Hosty’s arrival coincided with construction of the new church, which was to replace the penal-day, thatched roof chapel, which was also situated in Lakeview, a short distance away. It was completed in 1838 but on the 6th January 1839, the ‘Night of the Big Wind’ also known as ‘Oiche na gaoithe moire’, the roof was blown off and the church was almost destroyed.
The priest and the people were shattered. They had given their money, time and voluntary labour over the years and now with many of their own homes destroyed they could not do or give any more. After reflecting on the matter for a time, Fr. Hosty concluded that the only solution was for him to go to America and appeal to the people there to help them in their plight. So he set off and travelled a good deal there, specially to cities where there were large numbers of Irish and, according to the story, collected a lot of money.
When his task was almost complete he began to prepare to return home. Things then were not the same as they are now and banks could not transact money between one country and another – it had to be carried by person. So Fr. Hosty arranged to have a friend from the parish who was already in America to travel home with him. The evening before they were due to sail home he withdrew the money he had collected from the bank and was to meet his friend at the quayside early next morning.
At that time according to the story a bell would be rung three times before a ship sailed. The first a while before the sailing, the second ringing a short time before but when the bell rang for the third time if a person was not already on board then he should get on immediately. His friend was already at the quayside before the first bell and the priest had not arrived. When he had not come by the second bell he was getting very worried. But when the third bell rang he still had not arrived. As he had an idea of the name of the place where he was staying for the night, a hotel not far from the port, he went and told his story to the police. They found the priest shot dead in a cellar underneath the hotel together with a couple of skeletons but there was no money.
It is related that when he failed to return, his sister, who had lived with him, was affected mentally and that she burned the parochial books. A successor was not appointed pending his expected return. Fr. Michael Kavanagh was appointed interim C.C. until the appointment of Fr. James Commins in 1848.
Fr. James Cummins 1850-1862 Fr. Commins, who was noted for his support of agrarian reform, served until 1862, when he was transferred to Castlegar as P.P. He died in 1880.
Fr. Thomas Walsh 1865-1876 His successor, Fr. Thomas Walsh came from Rossmuc, where he had been parish priest for 25 years. He was said to have been a great preacher and to have tried to become a ‘missioner’, probably a Redemptorist, but for health reasons could not achieve it.
Fr. Walsh is remembered as an advocate of tenant rights in the Land War and may have been one of the priests involved in the Nolan and Trench Election Petition court case that was tried by the notorious Judge Keogh in 1872.
A Captain John Nolan had been elected to Parliament by a large majority. The local bishops and clergy had strongly supported him, chiefly because the family of his opponent, a Captain Trench, was active in Proselytism. Capt. Trench appealed and the petition was heard in Galway in April and May 1872. Judge Keogh found that Capt. Nolan had been elected by the undue influence and intimidation exercised on the voters by the Archbishop of Tuam (McHale), the bishops of Clonfert (Duggan) and Galway (McEvilly) and twenty nine named priests, such intimidation being in some cases exercised in the very churches, and awarded the seat to Capt. Trench.
Among the priests named was Fr. Thomas Walsh. Evidence was given by a parishioner, Edward Morris, who was active in the Trench interest, that Fr. Walsh, in the chapel on January 21st 1872, wished the people to vote for Capt. Nolan – those who had votes – and that he wished that those who voted for Capt. Trench ‘would be Trenched’. He also called a man, called Martin Cullenan, ‘a millers dog’. Cullenan was a bailiff of Lord Clanmorris and also a supporter of Trench. Lord Clanmorris was landlord of some of the parishioners and the allusion was to the fact that Cullenan acted as an agent for the purchase of corn for some miller in Galway.
Counsel for the other side in cross examination suggested that the phrase ‘would be Trenched’ was said as a joke, and the witness admitted that the people laughed, but nevertheless the result was as stated and those against whom the decision was given – in addition to the fact that Capt. Nolan was unseated, were liable to criminal prosecution.
The first to be placed on trial was the bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Patrick Duggan, in February 1873, in the first year of his episcopate. It created a major sensation. It was the first time in these islands that a Catholic bishop had stood in the dock since the trial of Oliver Plunkett in 1681. He was found not guilty and in the event, the prosecution against the others was abandoned.
Fr. Walsh was obviously not afraid of controversy. He served for twelve years, during which period he had the assistance of the following curates: Fr. James Craddock (1870-1873), Fr. Patrick Lally (1873-1874) and Fr. Malachy Hanley (1874-1878). Fr. Walsh died on the 16th March 1876 and was buried under the church - on the site of the present structure.
Fr. Martin Commins 1876-1909 Fr. Martin Commins (Mairtin O “Mullags”) succeeded Fr. Walsh and served until his death on the 14th April 1909. Fr. Commins entered Maynooth in 1862 and was ordained in 1869. After serving as a C.C. in Rahoon, Lisdoonvarna, and St. Nicholas South and West, he was appointed parish priest in Claregalway in March 1876.
He has been described as a strongly built man with a pleasant disposition. Is seems that he got on very well with the local gentry, though he didn't cultivate them ("bhi sé istigh leis na daoine móra ar fad"). It appears that his good sense of humour endeared him to all of his parishioners, rich and poor alike. He broke with the old tradition of having first communion and confirmation on the same day and he refused to confirm anyone under the age of 12. Another change was enforced upon him when he discontinued the practice of saying Mass for All Soul's Day in the Friary, due to a decline in the numbers attending and instead moved back to the church.
His tenure in Claregalway gave him the opportunity to make many improvements in the parish. As well as renovating the church, he was responsible for the construction of the parochial house and affecting improvements to the Friary cemetery. Two Connell brothers from Kiniska built the surrounding wall in 1890. A different set of brothers, Fitzpatrick's from Bohermore, were employed by Fr. Commins to build Carnmore School in 1885. He was much in favour of education and as such was very strict on school attendance. He spared no effort to get parents to send their children to school regularly.
In Fr. Martin’s time the parish had a parish clerk who was known as Micheáilín Cléireach. He served Mass for the parish priest and at the times of the ‘stations’, he brought the priest’s bag to the house in which the ‘stations’ were to be held the previous evening and helped with the preparations, the erecting of the altar etc. and usually stayed the night. He was an excellent seanachai and people from the neighbouring houses used to gather in to listen to him. Raftery’s well known poem ‘Seanchas na Sgeiche’ was first obtained by Dr. Douglas Hyde from a manuscript of Micheáilíns, either written by him or taken down from him by someone else.
He and the parish priest of Lackagh, the Rev. James Heany did the stations in common. They did them in Lackagh parish and in Claregalway parish on alternate weeks. Fr. Martin came in a sidecar and Fr. James, as he was known, came on horseback. He is remembered as a dignified and somewhat aloof figure. On his arrival, the man in whose house the stations were being held, had to rub down and exercise his horse. He heard confessions and had his breakfast with Fr. Martin.
“An t-Athair Máirtín", as he was known in the parish, was much interested in land and farmed very extensively. It was this interest in farming that eventually brought him trouble and a measure of unpopularity. His main "crime", as it was thought of at the time, was his acquisition of a large tract of land in Crusheeny and he had a lot of stock on it. It was widely believed that he had bought the land, which was to have been divided amongst the parishioners, chiefly those from Montiagh, who felt very aggrieved. To his credit he employed many men and fed them well, limiting his profits. Eventually he was obliged to give up his farm, which was divided by the Congested Districts Board.
Due to Fr. Commins’s failing health, Rev. J.T. O’Kelly was appointed to assist him. Fr. Commins was taken to a hospital in Dublin, where he died on 14th April 1909, having served the people of Claregalway for 33 years.
He was buried outside the walls of the Friary and a handsome Celtic cross marks his grave. The inscription reads:
‘Pray for the soul of the Rev. Martin Commins P.P. Claregalway from 1876 to 14th April 1909.’
Fr. Redmond McHugh 1909-1912 Fr. McHugh’s tenure of Claregalway was brief but it made a lasting impact in many ways. He was a native of Baile Bán, Headford and came to the parish from Rosmuc, where he had been P.P. for some years.
He was a keen advocate of the Temperance movement and lost no opportunity in urging the men to take and keep the pledge. To further this cause and to provide a counter attraction to the public house, he founded a parish band composed of members of the Claregalway Temperance Society.
Fr McHugh provided seating in the body of the chapel and put in a new high altar and made other improvements. The old altar of wood was transferred to the abbey. He liked to pay informal visits and discuss their affairs with them, prices, crops etc. He was skilled and interested in such matters and his advice, practical and shrewd was always received with appreciation.
He opposed customs that savoured of superstition e.g. the custom of three women sitting on the coffin at funerals. There was also a custom of nailing an ass’s shoe on the door of an outhouse or stable, probably for luck. He was transferred to the parish of Castlegar in 1912.
Fr. Matthew Griffin 1912-1915 Fr. Matthew Griffin, whose tenure of the parish was equally brief, succeeded Fr. McHugh. He was remembered as a gentle, kindly man. He was fond of horses and always kept a pair.
The most momentous event that occurred during his time was the outbreak of the 1914-18 war. He was remembered as exhorting the young men to join the British army in the defence of Catholic Belgium and saying that if England were defeated, Ireland’s condition would become like what it had been during the Penal Days.
He was a native of Moycullen parish. He was transferred to the neighbouring parish of Oranmore in 1915, much to his regret as he had become much attached to the parish and was well liked by the people.
Canon Patrick J. Moran 1915-1946 The next parish priest was Canon Padraic S. (“Pa”) O'Morain, a native of Castlebar who was ordained on 17th of June 1900, at the age of 25. He spent time in Achonry, Kilfenora, Castlegar, Lettermore and Liscannor (twice, earlier as a C.C. and from 1914-15 as administrator) prior to his appointment to Claregalway in 1915.
In physique he was tall and lithe and active to a very unusual degree. He came to the parish in the prime of his life probably when he was not much more than forty. It is remembered that for many years afterwards he would never trouble to open a gate no matter how high. He simply placed one hand on it and vaulted over it.
A devotee of the Irish language, Canon Moran made extensive use of Irish in the liturgy, including direct translation of the epistle and gospel from Latin. He organised a "feis" every year and was also a member of Coiste Gnotha of the Gaelic League. His large collection of books, all annotated in Irish, is now housed in St. Mary’s College library in Galway.
He translated into Irish and published St. Alphonsus Liquori’s ‘Visit to the Blessed Sacrament’ (1934). It had an introduction by the Most Rev. Dr. Magean, Bishop of Down and Connor. Credited by none less than the President of Ireland, Sean T O'Ceallaigh as "one of the best Irish scholars in the country", it is said that it was largely due to his efforts that Irish is still living and in use amongst the older people in Claregalway. He promoted devotion to St. James (to whom the Claregalway church was dedicated) and he also preferred the name Bridget to Delia.
The habit of celebrating Mass in the friary, as was stated earlier, had ceased under Fr. Commins, but his two successors Fr. McHugh and Fr. Griffin, reintroduced the practice. Canon Moran had two words to describe the Franciscan abode: "Norman" and "alien", sufficient reasons for him to bring the 2nd of November Mass back to the church again. At a later stage, when some itinerants took shelter in the covered portion of the friary, he had that part of the roof removed.
He also had an interest in education and was responsible for the building of the new school in Claregalway and also the renovations to the Carnmore School. He visited the school in Claregalway regularly, Carnmore and Bawnmore less frequently. He used to quiz the pupils on the Gospel and such, often in Irish. Pupils whom he examined at the time admitted that Canon Moran terrified them. He was very strict with children at first confession. On one such occasion he expressed satisfaction with only two pupils from among the first communicants. He was held in awe by the older people too, many of whom openly feared him.
Householders were very terrified when their turn for the “stations” came round. Initially he would satisfy himself as to the sturdiness of the table-cum-altar, after which he invariably lifted the cloth to check for dirt. If he found it necessary to clean the table and use his own cloth it meant embarrassment for the family. By all accounts he appeared to have been a domineering man, although it seems that anybody who stood up to him fared well.
Another aspect of his character was his well-known love of dogs. The following anecdote is worth relating. The Canon met a man in Montiagh, out with his dog and because his own dogs were named in Irish and understood Irish, he said "Dia dhuit, a Sheain, bhfuil Bearla ag an madra?" to which the man replied. "Nil a Athair, ach tuigeann se.”
He was also a lover of horses and he was a member of the council of the Connemara Breeders Association. He sponsored a cup for the County Ploughing Championships and attended annually to present the trophy. His interest in matters agricultural was also evident in that he was a member of the Agricultural Production Consultative Council, and from 1931 on he was Chairman of the Galway County Committee of Agriculture. This committee printed an obituary for Canon Moran stating that he "had a major part in the successful development of agriculture" and also that "he gave his constant help and wise direction". Because of the way he worked for all farmers, especially the small farmers, his death meant "a grievous loss to the farming community...and more especially to the smaller landholders". The committee also stated that his life served three main causes, the Holy Church and agriculture being two, and along with these, his country.
Evidence shows that he was involved in the 1916 events, not directly, but he did supply two revolvers to the forces gathering at Moyode. He was also rumoured to have been a member of Sinn Fein. His close friend Eamon De Valera later confessed that he was shocked to learn of the extent of Canon Moran’s involvement in the republican movement.
The Black and Tans’ frequent raids on his house obliged him to sleep away from home, often staying as a guest of Mrs Greated in Lydacan Castle. Later when the castle was burnt down during the agrarian troubles, Canon Moran rebuked the people, and put a curse on the land saying that it wouldn't yield crops. Taking all this into account, one piece of information that doesn’t add up is that Canon Moran removed a fellow republican, and later a renowned poet, Mairtin O’Cadhain from his post as headmaster in Carnmore school. Mr O’Cadhain had been drilling the pupils in out of the way fields in Carnmore, using their 'camáns', but it appears that the single incident that precipitated the demise of the once strong friendship actually occurred inside the school building. The headmaster had a photograph of James Connolly displayed in the school and when Canon Moran saw it, he told him to take it down as he was, in the Canon's word a "communist". Mr. O'Cadhain refused and from that confrontation, things went rapidly downhill.
The Canon who had been unwell for some eighteen months prior to his death, as a result of an accident when he was knocked down by a lorry while returning from the funeral of a parishioner, became “eccentric” to say the least. On one occasion while travelling from Galway he is reported to have been so abusive to a passenger that the conductor was obliged to stop the bus.
Another close friend, with whom relations became strained, was the then Bishop of Galway, Dr Michael Browne. At a Mass in Claregalway, possibly the Confirmation Mass, Canon Moran vaulted the altar rails, an action that so displeased the bishop that he ordered him into the sacristy and reprimanded him. The coolness between the two clergymen seems to have persisted to the very end. When the Canon was on his deathbed, the Bishop visited him with a view to reconciling their differences. It is said however, that the Canon stubborn to the last, foiled the bishop’s good intentions by pretending he was already dead.
He died on 8th July 1946. Whatever differences existed between himself and Bishop Browne were not in evidence when the Bishop paid him a tribute at his funeral. Amongst the compliments he bestowed on his erstwhile “adversary” were that "he did not spare himself any privation or hardship attending to the people" and "Canon Moran gave the example of a blameless life, of unshaken fidelity to the highest ideals of the Catholic priest." He also commented on the Canon's strong feelings and positive convictions on many subjects, which, he said may have caused offence to some people, but that on that day everyone should forgive. (This message must not have made much of an impression on Mairtin O'Cadhain, who is reputed to have danced on the Canon’s grave).
On a final note, the esteem in which Canon Moran was held was evidenced by the presence at his funeral of an t-Uachtaran Sean T O’Ceallaigh and an Taoiseach Eamon De Valera.
Amongst the clergy present that day were some of the priests who were to serve in the parish after the Canon, and also his two living predecessors.
Very Rev. R. Canon McHugh, P.P. Clarenbridge; Very Rev. M. Canon Griffin, P.P. Oranmore; Very Rev. P. O' Dea, P.P. Kilbeacanty; Rev. M. D. Forde, Adm. Oughterard; Rev. G. Callanan, C.C. College House, Galway; Whether Canon Moran will be remembered as a champion for the Church, the Irish language or as a ferocious man who ruled with an iron hand and struck fear and resentment into many is debatable, but what is undeniable is that he will be remembered and for some long time to come.
Canon Patrick O’Dea 1946-1957 Canon Patrick O'Dea succeeded Canon Moran. He was appointed parish priest on 8th August 1946 and served until his death on the 20th April 1957. A native of Kilfenora, Co. Clare, he was ordained in St. Patrick’s College Maynooth on 21st June 1914. Prior to his appointment in Claregalway, he served as curate in Rahoon, Oughterard, Lettermore, and Gort. He also served as Administrator in Moycullen and Rosmuc where he was to serve as parish priest at a later date. He was parish priest of Kilbeacanty prior to his appointment in Claregalway.
Unlike his predecessor Canon Moran, Canon O’Dea was a quiet unassuming man. At first the parishioners were very wary of him. This was understandable, as Canon Moran in his long reign had left an indelible mark on them. Gradually however the people became less apprehensive and Canon O’Dea quickly gained the respect, and admiration of his parishioners. When his health started to fail in June 1956 he was admitted to St. Bride’s nursing home. His remains were interred in the church grounds on 22nd April 1957. In the intervening period between his illness and death, Fr. Paddy Carroll was appointed as Administrator. While in Claregalway Fr. Carroll started a branch of the legion of Mary and also of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.
Fr. M. D. Forde 1957-1969 Fr. Forde was born in Milltown on 17th August 1906. He was educated in Kilgeverin N.S., where his mother taught, and later in St. Mary's College and Maynooth. After his ordination in 1930, he served in the parish of Saint Nicholas S.W. for two months. He also served in Lettermore, Ennistymon, and Oughterard, (where he was noted for his love of drama and is remembered for his moving portrayal of Christ in the Holy Week ceremonies in the Pro-Cathedral). He later served in Gort and Rahoon (where he was also chaplain to the Central Hospital, now University College Hospital). He returned to St. Nicholas’s as Administrator and P.P. until his transfer to the parish of Claregalway as successor to Canon O’Dea.
Fr. Forde is remembered as a quiet retiring man who carried out extensive repairs to the church and had further plans for renovations which had to be shelved due to his deteriorating health. It is said that when ill, he never complained and bore his suffering very well. A man of great compassion, he had, during his years as a hospital chaplain, been a source of great consolation to the seriously and terminally ill. Fr. Forde served until his death in 1969.
Canon Gerard F. Callanan 1968-1996 Canon Gerald F. Callanan (then Fr. Callanan), who had been assisting the then ailing Fr. Forde for a year prior to his death, was appointed Parish Priest in 1968, a post he held until his retirement on 11th October 1996. Canon Callanan was born on 16th February 1920 in Ennistymon, Co Clare. He attended Maynooth and was ordained in the Pro-Cathedral Galway in June 1944.
Canon Callanan was a man of boundless energy who quickly undertook the daunting challenge of replacing the church which had served the people of Claregalway for 135 years with a modern edifice, in keeping with the changes in the liturgy arising from the second Vatican Council.. Dr. Michael Browne, Bishop of Galway, consecrated it on the 15th of August 1975. The commemorative plaque reads as follows:
Haec Ecclesia Dedicata Est
15a Augusti 1975
B.V. Mariae Coelum Assumptae
Et S. Jacobi
A Michaelo Browne
Episcopo Galv. et Duac
Gerardo Callanan Parocho
The first major event in the new church was the First Communion celebrations, which had been postponed until September of that year. The last funeral in the old church was of John Concannon from Montiagh and the first funeral in the new church was of James Keane from Mullacuttra.
Canon Callanan next set about improving the educational facilities in the parish as both schools were in need of renovation. His initial plan was to accommodate all the children of the parish in one large school located in Claregalway. The old building in Carnmore had fallen into disrepair and the thinking of the time was that it would make educational and economic sense to amalgamate the two schools. This generated some heated debate in the Carnmore school area and after further discussion it was agreed to build a new school in Carnmore as well as extending and refurbishing the Claregalway School.
Canon Callanan conducted his duties without the help of a curate for the greater part of his tenure. In 1989 Fr. Raymond Browne, a priest of the Elphin Diocese, who was working in the Galway Regional Marriage Tribunal, assisted at the weekends. Due to the sharp increase in the population of the parish, Fr. Sean Kilcoyne was appointed curate on January 5th 1991, the first such permanent appointment to the parish this century. The Canon initiated the construction of a new house, adjacent to the Parish Priest’s house, on the site of the building once occupied by Tomas O’Connor, a former Principal of Claregalway N.S. Fr. Kilcoyne served in the parish until 29th September 1995.
Canon Callanan celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination in the summer of 1994. Many tributes were paid to him for his outstanding work for the people of the parish over a period of twenty-five years and presentations were made as a token of the esteem in which he was held. On the request of the bishop he agreed to carry on until a replacement could be found, a difficult task due to the shortage of priests in the diocese as a result of the decline in the number of vocations over a number of years. He used his time “constructively” as once again he set about another construction project; a retirement home for himself at the rear of the parochial house.
The church and its surrounds were a credit to Canon Callanan, who manicured the lawns with meticulous care. He retired on October 11th 1996 and looked forward to many contented hours fishing on his beloved Clare River. He died on 15th January 1999.
Canon Noel Mullin. Canon Noel Mullin was born in Shrule on 2nd January 1938. He was ordained in Maynooth on June 23rd 1963. He served as curate in Rossaveal from July 1963 until July 1964 when he was transferred to Gort where he served until July 1965. His next position was Dean to St. Mary’s College where he served until his appointment as chaplain to Merlin Park hospital on July 12th 1968. On September 1st 1972 he became chaplain in the Galway Regional Technical College, and the Holy Family School, Renmore. On the 9th October 1981 he was transferred to Galway Cathedral as C.C. and became the Diocesan Secretary on July 10th 1987. Approaching the end of Canon Callanan’s tenure, Fr. Mullin assisted in some of the parochial duties and was appointed Parish Priest upon Canon Callanan’s retirement. On the same day, Fr. Thomas Marrinan was appointed to serve as curate.
Fr. Mullin’s arrival coincided with preparations for a historic event in the history of the parish, namely the first ever ordination in Claregalway church. David Cribbin from Cahergowan and a member of the Society of St. Columban was to be ordained in the Parish on the 4th January 1997. Fr. Mullin immediately became involved with the various parish groups involved in co-ordinating this event.
It was apparent even at this early stage in his ministry that he was willing to tap into the enormous reservoir of good will in the parish. Since his arrival, Fr Mullin has called to visit practically every house in the Parish. On September 26th 1997 Fr. Mullin was elevated to Canon of Cathedral Chapter. A fitting tribute to a dedicated and much loved Minister of the Church. On the same day Fr. Marrinan was appointed as chaplain to University College Hospital Galway. Once again the parish was deprived of the services of a full time curate. However, Fr. Ian O’Neill who was ordained on 8th June 1997 was appointed Diocesan Secretary with a brief to assist Canon Mullin, primarily at weekends.
Such is the decline in vocations, that in the not too distant future, historians may well look back to the days when each parish enjoyed the blessings of a full-time parish priest. Or then again, we might experience a substantial increase in vocations. The rule on celibacy might be revoked, or even a more radical change might allow women to be ordained. Maybe then the aspirations expressed in the opening sentences of this chapter might materialise. Things on this earth happen in cycles. God has decreed it that way, and God’s Will will prevail come what may.