Saturday, May 26, 2018

Elopement in County Galway by Ronan Killeen

Back in 2013 i printed of a newspaper article from the 19th century it was to do with an 'Elopment'

'Elopment in the County of Galway'

'About three o'clock a.m. on Monday morning, the 27th inst., the inhabitants of the little village of Athenry, Co. Galway, were disturbed from their slumbers by the sound of a carriage wheels driving rapidly over the shingled road and balting at the hotel door.
Presently a loud knocking announced that the parties required admittance. The waiter instantly obeyed the summons,  and the inhabitants of the carriage were ushered in. Fifteen minutes scarcely elasped when a car drove up in hot pursuit, and it became known that Mr. _______, of Castlebar, had eloped with a daughter of the late Captain  _______ of County Mayo.
The car contained her brothers who immediately demanded their sister, which was refused. Pistols were recalled into requistion, and were it not for the timely interference of H. M. McCormack, Esq., S. I. (Sub - Inspector), and a party of police the consequences may have been serious.
The lady, who is only eighteen years of age, and has a large fortune in her own right, refused to leave her partner of her flight.
However, she at last consented, and so the matter rests for the present. The young cavalier having lost his fortune, and being the worse for taking much (of?) the 'native' to drown his sorrow, got into a row with the postmaster who  inflicted on him a severe castigation. The materr will come before the magistrates at petty sessions 

                            Correspondent of Saunders. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Selection of Holy Wells in East Galway: Lady's Well, Athenry; St. Dominic's, Esker and Tobar Crónán, Ballymana, Craughwell by Ronan Killeen

Above: Lady's Well, Athenry, Co. Galway (author's collection)

Some Holy Wells near Athenry

 From earliest times, Irish people have believed in the healing powers of sacred well waters. In fact, religious cults associated with water date back to the Late Bronze Age. Though holy wells appear to be Christian monuments, many rituals including special days to visit wells and leaving gifts like coins in appreciation display strong pre-christian elements.
 Nowadays, most locals frequently light candles and recite the rosary while walking around the wells referred to as ‘doing the rounds’.

While all of us cherish our local heritage, in truth there are as many as three thousand holy wells throughout Ireland which were / are used for religious pilgrims, or visited for cures of ailments. In his book, Holy Wells in Ireland, the historian Patrick Logan demonstratesthat the custom of visiting the wells is likely very old, and in many cases confirms pre-Christian in origin.
The custom of leaving offerings is just as old e.g. in Lady’s Well (Athenry) votive offerings such as medals and rosary beads surround the statue of the Immaculate Conception to this day.

Logan highlights that the ‘Custom of visiting holy wells is mentioned in our oldest literature. There is the reference to the healing well which was prepared by the legendary physician of the Irish, Dian Cecht, and was used by him to treat the wounded at the Battle of Moyture.
Chritianised version of archaic stories about these wells can be found in the ‘Lives of the Irish Saints’, generally written before the thirteenth century. Types of plantation regularly found nearly holy wells are whitethorn, hazel, ash, and formerly oak, but holly, rowan and yew are also found near wells. In a few cases the ‘well’ is found in the stump of a tree.’

At one time the Catholic Church did not approve of pilgrimages to holy wells, but this attitude changed over time with some holy wells still known for curing eyesight or the senses. In truth, a virtual industry for the church was build around some sites.
According to Logan – the pilgrimage of the holy well generally took place between the 15th of August and 1st of November, and when seeking a cure or making any special request, people visited them three times. One of the senses to be cured by the holy wells was the eyes which may have been due to people living in smoky cabins creating inflammation of the eyes.

Lady’s Well, Athenry

This is one of the most famous wells in the county. Interestingly, according to the archaeological survey the well is located at Baunmore GA084-02200. However to many of the people in the Athenry locality and google search of location of the well is located at Kingsland/Kingsland South.
Reviewing the ordance survey map of 1883-1913  there is well called Toberblanra (see image below) is well there just at  tip of Baunmore townland and the entrance today  is a the Kingsland side.

However, some of the Ordance Survey maps may not be right e.g. on one of the 19th Century O. S. maps one of the town gates the Spittle Gate shows it is located North West of the town (up by Brady's field opposite the Roman Catholic church St. Mary's Church of the Assumption, Athenry) when the Spittle Gate is actually located opposite Joyces Shopping Centre beside the apartment blocks. It would make an interesting historical geographical discussion on proper locations of monuments in Galway at some stage.

The date for the Marian apparition there is generally given as 15 August 1249 (though clearly we do not have any formal documentation to substantiate this claim). There was firsty the ancient tradition that the this event took place on the 15th August after ‘The Battle of Athenry’, and secondly an ancient account in the Annals of Iar Connacht that a major battle took place in Athenry on 15 August 1249. This battle is not to be confused with the later and more famous Battle of Athenry which was fought on 10 August 1316.

The annals record that the Normans, within the town, beseeched the attacking Irish not to dishonour the feast by attacking on that day. The Irish did attack and were defeated. Tradition / legend states that the Marian apparition appeared to some of the defeated soldiers as they were retreating from the battle. We can be quite certain that the promotion of Marian devotion would have been a very important priority for the New Dominican order whose Priory had just been built in the town (1241) since their founder Saint Dominic (1170-1221) was a great apostle of the Rosary.

At least two monuments at the well date from the medieval period. While one cannot be certain that the well was the original location for either of these, the fact that they have been located at the well for at least three centuries shows a continuity of the tradition honouring this location as a place of prayer.
Firstly, the Celtic Pieta, which at present is set in the outer wall of the well, dates from the 14th century. Until the recent renovations it was placed in the inner corner where the statue now stands. It is unlike the continental pieta in style as the mother holds the body of the dead Christ not cradled in her arms, but in an almost upright position and tradition here suggests that it was defaced by soldiers during the Cromwellian Wars. Secondly, the ‘Headache Stone’, a large rectangular stone with the cavity in the centre was a socket for a medieval cross. There is a very strong tradition of personal healing associated with this stone.

In summary, this well has been a major centre of pilgrimage for generations. In the last century it was a place of pilgrimage for people from all over Southern Connemara who came in thousands each 15th August. While devotion to the place weaned somewhat in the 1950s and 1960s, it was always a place of prayer for the people of Athenry and in recent years is growing again in popularity. There is also a pilgrimage on 8th September but this tradition is not as popular as that of the 15th August.

Saint Dominic's Well, Esker 

St. Dominic's Well, Esker, Athenry.

There are very many wells in Ireland dedicated to Saint Dominic. One such well dedicated to Saint Dominic is located at Esker Monastery which was founded in the 18th century after the Dominican Order were evicted from the Athenry Dominican Priory (monument number GA096-174, Esker townland). According to the Esker Monastery Booklet, it is a powerful spring at the foot of the 200 ft. high Dominican Hill.

At midday on the January 5th, there is a vigil of the Epiphany with water from the well put into a stone trough and blessed with the ordinary blessing of holy water. For those interested in detail of their own holy wells, look no further than the 1937 national school’s folklore. Extracts from the website of the children in Presentation Convent National School for example provides considerable detail on the wells in Athenry. Tobar Crónán Mannin townland (GA104-198). O’Donovan (1838) confirmed that stations were ‘performed at this well’.

Tobar Crónán, Ballymana, Craughwell, Co. Galway

Mannin townland (GA104-198). O’Donovan (1838) confirmed that stations were ‘Performed at this well’. In the early to mid nineteenth century. The following is the folklore detail on the holy well from the school’s folklore (Written by; Nora Ballanan, Mannin with Information obtained from Nora Connolly, Mannin.). Below also is the 1840 OS map with the well in the south-east of same.

Above: OS Map of the location of Tobar Crónán, courtesy of the South East Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.

'In the parish of Ballmana, a holy well is situated. It is called Tobar Crónan. Tradition has it that this was once a holy well, and several people were cured. It is sheltered on either side by hawthorn bushes and ash trees. The water is pure spring and holds its depth in winter and summer. It is also surrounded by numerous rocks some of a huge size. The water rises beneath the bushes and forms into a pool. Then it gradually expands itself and at length flows, and forms a stream. After about half a mile of a course it adjoins the well in two but nobody seems to interfere with the water on the upper side. It is believed the water would not boil, but nobody tampers with it. The water which flows through the wall supplies the inhabitants of the village, and in summer, people travel several miles to obtain some. It is said to be one of the finest wells in the county. No fish us ever seen in this well, but it is covered over with water - cress.'.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Iggy's Bar by Ronan Killeen

In a previous article I already talked about the Old Barracks Resteraunt which used to be the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks of Athenry. I also mentioned about the European Region of Gastronomy - West of Irealnd, Galway. So I am doing what one might call a mini-series of articles of a heritage building of some sort that would be used today with food or beverage.

In the early 20th century Iggy's bar was P. Mahon's he was a grocer and emigration agent in 1901…/At…/Athenry/1385558/ and Nora Mahon was mother to writer Mary Lavin.

The architecture significance of the building was built circa 1860 and it is a three bay two-storey house. It is built with limestone (a very common stone used in building 19th century buildings in Athenry). A camber-arch of red brick is around the windows. This is a common feature of many of the windows of 19th century Athenry buildings. 
The window cills are made of cut-stone. 
One aspect of the social history of Iggy's Bar is the tragedy of the Titanic.
It was in 15 April 1912 when the Titanic sank with over 1,500 passengers. Two people from Athenry were
the following Andy Keane (member of the Derrydonnell hurling team), Derrydonnell, Athenry, and Annie Kate Reilly, Athenry.
On the 2 May 1912 according to the Irish Independent 'An Athenry woman whose son had intended to sail on the Titanic dreamed three nights in succession that the vessel had done down with all aboard, and she succeeded in prevailing upon him to defer his departure'.
Andy Keane is mentioned in a text from Jarlath Cloonan's Athenry G. A. A. Story: A History of Gaelic Games in Athenry:
"Gaels from all over the County attended a Solemn Requiem Mass in the Parish church , Athenry in July, celebrated by Very Rev. Cannon Canton P. P. for the respose of the soul of Andy Keane. An enthusiastic Gael and member of the victorious Derrydonnell team Andy was on board the ill-fated Titanic and was drowned with hundreds of others.
Having decided to emigrate, his sister who was already in America, sent him the far of £8 and he booked through Mahon's Travel Agents, Athenry. Mahon advised him to go on a different ship where conditions would be much better but he decided to take the Titanic. He had with him a dozen hurley's, a melodeon and his County medal.
The large congregation that attended the mass included all the prominent G. A. A. officals in the County, teammates and representatives of the various clubs. 'The departed comrade was dearly loved by his associates in the movement. At the county convention later in the year the Board presented a potrait of the deceased to his brother Patick"

There dosen't seem to be much research on tracing Annie Kate Reilly in Athenry. I have not come across in my research yet did she survive the Titanic or not.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Royal Irish Constabulary of Athenry (Revised 2017) by Ronan Killeen

Above: Old Barracks Resteraunt present day (ref: Old Barracks Resteraunt facebook page)
If you feel like dining out why not look up the Old Barracks opening hours see
Above: The photo is of Cross street c. 1911 on the right hand side is an RIC constable where the Old Barracks Resteraunt is to day (ref :

As next year is the European Region of Gastronomy 2018 and the richness of heritage in Athenry,
Co. Galway. I have decided to write about the Royal Irish Constabulary of Athenry. I would like
to thank the 'South East Galway Archaeological and Historical Society'.

In the early nineteenth century Sir Robert Peel MP successfully introduced a Peace Preservation Force (1814-22), A permanent national constabular had finally been established, which in turn became the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) - the ‘Royal’ element being added 150 years ago.
Athenry (the RIC were based at Abbey Row, before moving to where the Old Barracks Restaurant is now).

Recruitment and Training
From the 1840s the Constabulary in Ireland were trained in a similar manner to the military. New recruits were drilled as soldiers, for six months or more, and were even trained in the use of arms and in military movement. The ‘day room’ or ‘orderly room’ in every station differed little from a squad room in a military barracks.

In the force, Constables were to be of: ‘Sound constitution; able-bodied; and under the age of 40 years; be able to read and write; and of good character for honesty, fidelity, and activity’.
The new officers would take the following oath ‘I ________ do swear that I will well and truly serve our sovereign lord, in the office of (rank) without favour or affection, malice or ill will, that I will see and cause his majesty’s peace to be kept and preserved, and that I will prevent, to the best of my power, all offences against the same, and that whilst I shall hold said office, I will not, while I shall hold the said office, join, subscribe, or belong to any political society, whatsoever, unless the society of Freemasonry’.

The age of new recruits ranged between 18-27 years, and candidates were ideally to be at least 5ft 9in, with a chest measure of 37 inches. After training, recruits were allocated a uniform and a modest allowance for boots and other necessaries. They were then appointed to counties, as prescribed. Constables would reach a maximum rate of £70 per annum after twenty years of service, sergeants a maximum of £86. Men in the constabulary were to have seven years service before permission to marry was granted.

Inspection & Promotion

There were monthly inspections by the District Inspector, periodical other inspections, and a quarterly visit from HQ. During inspections, Constables were expected to be found proficient in drill, have a good knowledge of the police duties, and demonstrate the efficient discharge of their duty. County Inspections were responsible for the efficiency of their county; District Inspectors for their district; and Head Constables/Sergeants for their stations.

Alcohol (‘intoxicating drink’) was a source of much trouble for the men and strict rules were applied. ‘Drunkenness’ was defined as the ‘slightest departure of sobriety’; tippling, or having an appearance of recent tippling was regarded as an offence. Up to the 1880s it was an offense to enter a public house whether on or off duty for the purpose of drinking; but this rule was modified to allow for reasonable refreshments.

The entire system of promotion was the cause of sourness and resentment. Religion was evidently an issue in the background of many promotions, and Catholics felt that Protestants relied more on religion and Freemasonry then on merit. It is unclear how much matters like this within the force played in the antipathy some of the public  held toward the force, and how large an element that was in its demise in the twentieth century.


The rigidity of rules, the military-style training, and other issues in the force would contribute to its downfall. Using Athenry as a typical barrack-area, the following are some of the issues faced, and some of the failures.

The inevitable ‘protect our own’ culture within the force (something we have heard a great deal of lately) would play no small part in its downfall by 1922.


Fatigue, frustration and issues with regard to unreimbursed expenses were among the regular issues that ordinary RIC members faced in Athenry.


There was often little room for constables to use their discretion with regard to some minor crimes. Pictured right is a force of RIC Constables in Athenry in 1915.


 The shooting of Colonel Lopdell in 1906, wherein a Constable O’Halloran was shot when protecting him, was increasingly typical. O’Halloran had been on the list for early promotion to the rank of sergeant.


 The following year, a charge of embezzlement against Sergeant Kearney was dismissed as there was insufficient evidence that he was wilfully and corrupt of perjury.


During this period, delegates from the GAA were said to be ‘shadowed’ and photographed by the RIC as division and suspicion grew around Athenry.


 Increasing in popularity, in 1897 the GAA instituted ‘Rule 21’ after it became apparent that some RIC members were joining GAA clubs to spy on members' political activities.

Poor Public Relations:

 A grievance highlighted in the Connacht Tribune, 17 August 1912, wherein mass goers
were obliged ‘to go deep in the mud while the footpath was occupied by [those] idle fellows.
Poor Management: Neglect on behalf of the government was arguably as destructive as the later IRA guerrilla campaign. The importance of central barracks like Athenry or rural policing was never appreciated.

Collapse of Intelligence Network:
Long a strength of the force, over time fear of being branded an ‘informant, or worse, began to out-weight any financial reward.

As indicated, despite three quarters of the force being Catholic, the majority of the senior officers were Protestant. In Athenry, a Church of Ireland officer led a force of 8 ‘RC’ the night of the 1901 census.


 On 31 Aug 1913, the DMP (Dublin Metropolitan Police) and the RIC rioted in O'Connell Street, attacking what they mistakenly thought were a crowd of Larkin supporters. 500 people were injured, and two were killed.

Above: A newspaper article from early 20th century newspaper

Misplaced Loyalty: Unlike to their subsequent approach in Dublin, the Belfast Newsletter of 2 Aug 1907 (right) confirms the force sided with their Belfast counterparts who mutinied rather than take action against striking Protestant dock workers.

Evictions: Enforcement of eviction orders caused the force to be despised by the poorest of the population. Evictions in Athenry are evident in the EPPI and referenced in the variousnewspapers during this period.

The RIC faced considerable challenges in the early twentieth century and proved incapable of adopting to the evolution of those they were seeking to police. Listed were just some of the challenges that the force failed to meet, though there are many more reasons for that failure (macro and micro). It is a case however that the issues of ‘estrangement’ long before the war of independence were not capable of being managed by their existing rules or training.

References: House of Commons debates 1907-1912; Connacht Tribune; and The Royal Irish Constabulary by Thomas Fennell.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Munster and Leinster Bank Robbery of 1923 by Ronan Killeen

The year was 1923 when the Munster and Leinster Bank was robbed by two men Joseph O’Rourke, a servant boy from Ardrahan and Michael Murphy, Garragh, Gort a farmers son (Authors note: Murphy's address seems to have conflicting accounts in the newspapers of the time)  who had been with the Irregular IRA at the Renmore Depot, Galway before it was burned. The two men  were subsequently captured wit ha sum of £687 on them.
O’Rourke; Murphy and another accomplice hired a car off  Mr. J. Cunniffee who worked for W. P. Higgins stating that the car was being hired to bring two girls to Loughrea. [1]
It was 3.30pm when O’Rourke and Murphy entered the Munster and Leinster Bank and ordered for the bank manager Joseph O’Kelly Lynch to to ‘Put his hands up’. O’Kelly Lynch who was shaking in fear replied to the raiders ‘I have no firearms so you can take down that thing’.[2]
One of the raiders guarded  J. Lynch while the other raider partner went behind the counter to get the bags. The bags contained  £700 in notes. J. Lynch was severely warned by the raiders that ‘If he gave the alarm within half and hour he would be shot and there was a man watching outside’.
After the robbery the the raiders quickly disappeared down the street. [3]
A shopkeeper Miss McLoughlin was after finishing her dinner next door and had seen the raiders enter the bank. She soon realised that the door between the shop and bank had been locked against her, and the two raiders escaped.
The hired car was standing nearby while the driver Cunniffe was having refreshments with the other one of the raiders. Miss McLoughlin warned Cunniffe that the bank had been robbed and  when Cunniffe saw the two raiders approach  he became suspicious and asked where were the two girls? This irritated the two raiders making them unable to get away. Cunniffe then cautioned the two robbers that ‘If they do not leave me quickly you will be caught!’J. Lynch had by means of signals of succeeding of attracting the attention of Mrs. Jordan; Stephen Jordan’s wife  who saw J.Lynch with his hands up. Mrs. Jordan rushed to the scene and was followed by Reverend T. Lynch. Reverend Lynch reported the robbery to the Civic Guards and the military.
One of the raiders had been held up by the civic guards at the Post office but the raider coolly declared he was attached to the military was allowed to pass because he said he was attached to the military.[4]
The Guards and Captain Curran soon arrived including about 25 military turned out to catch the raiders. Captain Curran divided them into small parties and sent them in search of the fugitives.
That evening about six o’clock accompanied by Sergeant Major Hargrave was returning to Athenry when he left his car about three miles from the town decided to cross the field near the Mulpit river..[5]
There were two men spotted walking along the river banks of the river who had aroused suspicion. The two men were called to halt when but as they started to double back  Captain Curran and Sergeant Hargrave closed in on them and it was alleged they found £687 on them and two revolvers excellent condition, and containing four and three live cartridges. However, the authorities were still on the look out for a third raider. The raiders were then handcuffed on Wednesday in the Tuam Barracks, and were court-martialled on  Thursday. [6]The prisoners were then lodged in Athenry Barracks on the Tuesday night and then removed to Tuam Wednesday morning.[7]
They found money and revolvers in On the 31st May 1923  the Freeman’s Journal reported that; ‘Michael Murphy, Ardrahan, Co. Galway and Joseph O’Rourke, Coxtown, Ardrahan, Co. Galway were tried before a military tribunal at Tuam on 24th Day of May 1923. On charge of taking part in an armed robbery, in that they did, on 22nd May 1923 stole from the Munster and Leinster Bank, Athenry, Co. Galway.. in Tuam Military Barracks.’
The condemned men admitted their guilt but had stated that it was of no political significance and they were forced agents of combination in connection with the land trouble. The night before their execution  Rev. Father Cunningham, Adm who was the army Chaplin stayed with the prisoners and the following morning attended Mass and received Communion . On the 31st May 1923 the prisoners were blindfolded when executed 8.a.m. that morning. [8]

[1] Tuam Herald 26/05/1923
[2] Irish Independent 24/05/1923
[3] Tuam Herald 26/05/1923
[4] Southern Star 26/05/1923
[5] Ibid
[6] Freeman’s Journal 31/05/1923
[7] Ibid
[8] Freeman’s Journal 31/05/1923

Friday, January 27, 2017

Aspects of Athenry Folk Medicine by Ronan Killeen

‘Many of the men and women who practised it (folk-curing) were intelligent and honest and believed in the effi-cacy of their treatment’ – Seán Ó Súilleabháin , Department of Folklore UCD.

First of all I would like to thank the South East Galway Archaeological and Historical Newsletter for being the first to publish my article on folk medicine.

As far back as the 17th century, before so called modern medicine, people the world over could not explain (in any rational way) the causes of ailments or the diseases from which they suffered. This led them to look else-where for the explanations, and it seemed obvious to them that the blame for bodily disabilities / afflictions could rest with inimical beings i.e. fairies, spirits, the dead, and such.

The role of a ‘healer’ against such illnesses was an important one. The healer’s diagnosis of the ailment, and of the cause, was one of the main parts of these functions. The key to unleashing any placebo-effect appears to have been to leverage the patient’s faith. And if a ritual curing happened to fail and the patient did not recover, the belief was that a new type of ailment had come into being and the healer was again called to deal with that.

According to folklore archivist Sean O’Súilleabháin, ‘It maybe said that the Folk-healer had a social function to fulfil; not only to those who were ill, but the whole population group as well depended on him for advice and help’. Folk medicine provided treatment for all the ‘ordinary’ ailments, but it did not deal with all illnesses e.g. treatments for cancers were very rare and disorders of the central nervous system were almost never treated.

Folklore — Background
In 1937 the Irish Folklore Commission, in collaboration with the Depart-ment of Education and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation began the collection of folklore which we know today as the ‘School’s Collec-tion’. For the completion of this article the local cures documented by the students at the Presentation Covenant Athenry have been reviewed and patterns noted e.g. animals being the cure for illness like whooping cough and other strange cures offered for everyday conditions.

Whooping Cough
One of the more common ailments for which folk cures were offered was for the whooping cough. The symp-toms, so the folklore informs, saw the patient having severe spasms of coughing during in which they feared they would die of asphyxia. The spasm lasted for a minute or more, and ended with a characteristic whoop.
Various, sometimes ridicules, treatments were offered in the folklore around the country e.g. in Co Leitrim it was suggested that any part of food which a ferret refused to eat should be given to the patients to cure their whooping cough; with ‘transference through animals’ another treatment offered i.e. to be cured the patient would crawl under the belly of an ass foal which had not been ridden.

One of the many skin diseases that a treatment was offered for was ‘corns’, where the ivy leaf tail around a soft corn was said to cure it. A more elaborate treatment offered was to soak the feet in strong solutions of washing soda. This was to be repeated daily for several days until the pain of the corn was relieved.
The following are two adverts, spanning 70 years, reflecting the desperation of people to cure ailments and dis-eases with ointments before modern medicine and treatments ‘caught up’ with the needs of people.
Galway Vindicator, 4 Sept 1844. Connacht Tribune, 20 June 1914 (see below).

Sore Eyes
In the 18th and 19th centuries many people suffered from ophthalmia, or had been blinded by smallpox. The most significant cause of ‘eye disease’ may however have been smoke which was a major inconvenience in the houses of the poor when efficient chimneys were rare, and more often there was no chimney at all.
For stys, there were a number of treatments offered and there was even a children’s game where the child called out to the patient ‘there is a sty in your eye’, with the cure given by replying ‘you lie’! One suspects the ‘cure’ had more to do with the children playing outside, away from the smoke irritation.

Keeping with the ‘religious belief’ tradition, another cure was to make the sign of the cross over the sty with a marriage ring and indeed this was offered for very many folk cures (to be repeated for nine days). The use of the number nine is part of ancient leech lore of the Irish and is sometimes still found in modern folk medicine.

Seventh Son & Seventh Son of the Seventh Son
Famously, the seventh son of the seventh son was ‘a healer’ e.g. for thrush on the mouth. Indeed, the seventh son is credited with the power to heal many diseases. This was evidenced by the fact that he could kill worms by touching them. He could also cure eczema and ringworm and very many other conditions by his folk medicine.
In realty, the ringworm ailment was caused by a fungus infection of the skin, understandable given the hygiene levels of bygone eras. One form of treatment was to put the Friar’s Balsam on the infected areas daily for about a week (or linseed oil), then fully cure by the touch of the seventh son... or sometimes the seventh daughter. For the record, almost a third of the cures nationally relate to dermatology.
As highlighted in the Winter 2015 edition of this journal, the folklore collection is important for local historians when studying the prevailing culture at various times and in understanding a place-specific history. Understand-ing the folk traditions is also an essential part of understanding the period in question. The collection is readily accessible on-line at and is well-recommended.

The following essays are from children of Athenry written in Presentation Convenant back in 1937
on local cures. Enjoy!

Cures by Nora Kilkelly, Ballydavid information obtained from Mrs. Kilkelly Ballydavid.

Long ago before chemical cures were invented the old Irish folk cured various diseases themselves.
When whoopong cough spread among the children the old people cought a hedgehog, boiled it and gave the soup to the children to drink. If they did not succeed in capturing a hedgehog they gave them milk that a ferret left after him.
Another cure for whooping cough was to walk under a white horse or to ask a cure from a man who owned a white horse.
If a person was aflicted by "thrush" he went to a man who had never seen his father. If the wan breathed into his mouth he was sure to be cured.
There was a very peculiar cure for warts. If the person havin such got a snail and rubed the wart with it, then put a needle through the snail and left it in a wall. By the time the snail was decayed the wart also vanished.
If a person suffering from ring-worm went to the seventh son of the family and asked him to breathe over it he was instantly cured.
Those who had "leitne" got flagger leaves and put them on in the shape of a cross. This was supposed to cure the disease.

(Author's Note to above essay: The last line that says 'Those who had 'leitne' got flagger leaves and put them on in the shape of a cross'. The word 'Leitne' is probably a phonetic transcription of themselves Irish word 'Leicneach' which means 'mumps'. As for the 'flagger leaves' according to one of the Irish Folklore School's Manuscripts a pupil from Ballinderry National School writes in the essay 'Herbs' that 'Flagger Leaves' were were herbs that grew in old gardens. It could cure a sore throat. It is a flat herb. These were sown together and put round the place where the throat was sore. This herb was able to cure that disease.' The informant go this from his Unlce Patrick Freaney, Ballinastack, Ballyglunnin, Co. Galway.)

Cures by Mary King, Rahard, Athenry information obtained from Mrs. King, Rahard, Athenry

Long ago few people visited doctors, but they were cured by animals and by various other things. The seventh son born in succession without an intermission of a female is a called a Doctor and the female is known as a Lady Doctor. It is said if they breathe upon a person who is suffering from ring worms and boils they are cured instantly.
If the whooping cough should break out in the neighbouhood a few men would go about in search of the hedge hog. After getting it they must take its rough thorny coat off while still alive. Next it is cooked and put into bottles. It is left in the bottle for 3 or 4 days then it is given to the person who has the cough and after the second drop taken the cough is banished. Another cure for the whooping cough is the leavings of the ferrets. A basin of milk is given to the ferret and whatever is left in the basin after he has taken his amount is given to the person. After the person has drank the milk they are cured. If a person got a very bad cut they would be cured by first rubbing a piece of grease over the cut and next etting a collie dog to lick it. After the second rub of the dogs tongue the sore is cured. If a chip of wood should get into the skin it is said if a fox would be killed and its tongue pulled out and put on to where the sore is that the tongue would suck out the chip, however far it would be stuck into the skin after two days. A person who would be suffering from sore eyes could be cured long ago by getting a jet black cat and rubbing cream on its tail and then rubbing the cats tail three times round the sore and reapeating may I be cured. After the third time the sore is cured.

Local Cures by Maisie Hahesy, Station House, Athenry information obtained from Mr. Hahesy, Staion House, Athenry.
1. A cure for a sore finger is to pour the first drop of milk on the sore when any person is milking a cow. 
2. A cure for a cut is to put a cob-wel on it.
3. A cure for a headache is to drink strong tea without sugar.
4. A cure for a sore eye is to bathe it is cold tea.
5. A cure for a toothache is to mix soot and salt and put it into the tooth.
6. A cure for a sore throat is to heat salt or oats and put it into a stocking and tie it around your neck.
7. A cure for a whooping cough is to eat the food left over by a ferret.

Local Cures Continued by Eileen Everand, Old Church Street, Athenry information obtained from Mrs. Everand, Athenry.
1. If you have corns put bread-soda in hot water and soak your feet in it.
2. If a person was aflicted with rheumatism they drank the water of boiled nettles.
3. Smoke a pipe for a toothache.
4. If you have a swelling in your leg put a red flannel bandage on it.
5. Get an iwy leaf and put the dull side to heal a sore and bright side to draw it.
6. A cure for a wart is to put your fasting spittle on it.
7. If you had the whooping-cough drink the milk of a donkey.

Local Cures Continued by Clementine McGuinness, Clarke Street, information obtained from Mrs. Nolan, North Gate Street, Athenry.

1. If you have a stye on your eye it can be cured by putting the Sign of the Cross on it with a gold ring three times for nine mornings.
2. The rough side of a leaf of cabbage draws a wound and a smooth side heals it.
3. A cure for a headache is to put your head over a teapot of hot tea.
4. If you get a burn rub it with soap, apply bread, soda and wrap it up paper and it will keep it from rising.
5. If you have corns walk through a bog in your bare feet.
6. Any person that never saw their father can cure a desease called the thrush.

- The Irish Folklore - The School’s Collection,
- Logan, Patrick, Irish Folk Medicine, (Appletree Press, 1981), vii-viii.
- I would also like to acknowledge Mr Cian Marnell for his help on this subject of folk medicine

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Athenry Agricultural College by Ronan Killeen (Revised 2016)

No automatic alt text available.
Athenry Agricultural College year unknown.

If one looks back to before the Athenry Agricultural College was built in the early twentieth century, this was an era when the prominent Goodbody family held a large estate at Athenry. They were a Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) family who had come to fore in the nineteenth century.

They had initially started flour-milling enterprises, before branching out into the tobacco and the tea trade, as well as more famously into stock-broking and the law. Most prominent in the family was Marcus Goodbody who married the daughter of the Reverend James Perry, and who had inherited Perry’s Athenry estate during the mid-nineteenth century. At the time of Griffith’s Valuation, the Reverend Perry had held land at Ballygurrane West, today the site of the Agricultural College. The land comprised of 102 acres, 3 roods and 33 perches valued at £73.

Interestingly, the Reverend Perry also purchased the former Oranmore and Browne family estates at Athenry from the Encumbered Estates court in 1850. He was a wealthy Quaker who had successfully backed the builders of the Irish railways and invested in the coalmines in the Ruhr district of Germany. According to a report from the Tuam Herald on 22nd October 1904. the ‘Goodbody estate at Athenry’ was then ‘purchased for migration and division purposes by the Congested Districts Board at a cost of £24000. It comprises of 518 acres of tenanted land and 1,790 untenanted land.’ It wasn’t until November 5th 1904 that the Western People referenced that plans for the estate gave notice that ‘the purchase of this large grazing property, containing over 1,600 acres, has been completed.

We learn on very good authority that it is intended to make it the home of the proposed Agricultural College for the Province of Connaught, it is situated near the important railway junction of Athenry being considered a most desirable and convenient one’. There would be a long wait however. In April 1903, an inspector from the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction visited Moyode Castle to see if it was a more suitable site for an agricultural college for Galway.

The location had been proposed by the Chairman of the County Galway Committee of Agricultural Instruction and the Chairman of the County Galway Committee of Technical Instruction. It was though eventually decided that the location was unsuitable for an agricultural college. In 1905, a balance of £35,000 was used to meet expenditure on marine works in the region; new buildings and equipment of the Albert Agricultural College and also Athenry.

 There were nine farm apprentices in residence at the Agricultural station in 1907 and one vacancy. One teacher was employed in addition to the farm manager, whose duties included instruction in practical agriculture. The extent of land crop last year was 230 acres. The cost of maintaining the start was £917, including the salaries, wages, and general up-keep of the station.

Besides the use for teaching purposes the station was utilised as a distributing centre for the operations of the department’s livestock scheme in the West of Ireland. In June 1907, a sum of £10,000 was provisionally allocated for the erection of an Agricultural College at Athenry.

Owing to the unsettled state of the distinct, action in regard to the expenditure was indefinitely postponed and the department were unable to say when any portion of the said sum would be expended. The area of the farm occupied by the department for the purpose of their agricultural station was a considerable 670 acres. During that time 250 acres were under rotation crops, 20 were under plantations, 80 were permanent meadow, and the remainder was pasture. The number of livestock, exclusive of premium cattle disposed of at the station, was between 400 and 500 head, including lambs.

Still the wait continued for work to begin on the new college. In 1908 the station was attacked and £425 worth of damage caused. In 1909 plans were again in preparation for an Agricultural College and the sum of £370 10s. 3d. was expended due to the chaos of agrarian and labour troubles to which Captain Craig retorted in the House of Commons ‘Will the right hon. Gentleman have any objection, seeing that there is so much agrarian trouble about Athenry, to building this college in one of the law-abiding counties?’ . Pictured right is the Connacht Tribune of 14 August 1909.

 By 1910 there was still no college as we know it today, but the plans were for ‘an agricultural station where livestock for the Department’s schemes for the West of Ireland are distributed, and where certain apprentices are taken in connection with the farming operations carried on there. The cost of acquiring the lands and providing the buildings has been £23, 117. The annual cost of maintenance is approximately £2000. The station has been established five years. The Athenry station serves chiefly the western congested districts. No county committees have made contributions in respect of the cost”.

That same year Mr. Duffy asked the Chief Secretary ‘Whether he is aware that a large farm of land was acquired some years ago by the Congested Districts Board in the neighbourhood of Athenry; that the farm was subsequently acquired by the Estate Commissioners; and that later on the greater portion of the farm was sold to the Agricultural Department for the express purpose of building a college thereon and maintain the farm for the training and education of the young men of Connaught in the science of agriculture; will he state at what date the farm was purchased by the Department; what sum of sums of money have been earmarked for the purpose of building the college’ to which Mr. Redmond Barry replied ‘I have given nothing to add to the reply given by the Vice-President of the Department to a question on the same subject asked by the hon. member for South Mayo on 29th July 1909’.

In 1910 agitation in Athenry was at its height, the agricultural station and the wider farm belonging to the department were protected by no fewer than sixteen police; of whom eleven belonged to the free force and five were extra police. Half the cost of the extra police was charged to the county, and no part was paid by the department. The agrarian unrest meant that the town would have to wait still longer for their ‘formal’ college but, famously, the next major reference to the site was for its being home to Volunteers on Easter Week a century ago. Athenry town would have to wait for independence for its college status but the wheels were now in motion for the agricultural station to become an agricultural college, with the final approval confirmed in the Connacht Tribune on 5 August 1922.

Other Sources The Goodbodys, Millers, Merchants, and Manufacturers: The Story of an Irish Quaker Family by Michael Goodbody which is available in Galway City Library; Patrick Melvin’s book Estates and Landed Society in Galway; and the URL ---http://

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Tribes of Galway 1124-1642 by Adrian Martyn

Is your surname or ancestor's surname Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'Arcy, Deane, Font, French, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris or Skerrett? 

Do you have an interest in medieval history of Galway and Athenry? Then this book is for you
it can be got a Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, Galway City, Ireland or Kenny's Bookshop Galway City

Don't worry for those of you who live abroad it can also be purchased ONLINE!!!! 

See this link

Monday, December 5, 2016

Law and Order in 19th Century Galway by Ronan Killeen

A specialised area of study of mine is in criminality and law and order in Ireland. In 2011 I completed my thesis on 'Three cases of capital punishment in Galway, 1885-1923'. In this article I am focusing on the prisons. I would like to thank the South East Galway Archeological and Historical Society for putting it into their previous newsletter publication. I am very proud of this piece of work.

Galway Jail photo courtesy of Tom Kenny.

 Law & Order and Crime in Galway and Irish Prisons 1700-1900

 In the 18th century each county had its own prison located in the chief town of that county and would save on the cost by using town and county jails jointly. The law also stated that every county would have a house of correction called a bridewell; where drunkards, petty thieves, rioters and vagrants were held before their trail albeit this could extend to years in exceptional circumstances.

Lunatics were also sometimes kept in bridewells. As well as jails for criminals and those accused of criminal acts, there were also jails for debtors i.e. for anyone who could not pay their debts and were liable for imprisonment. These were actually quite a large proportion of the prison population with many imprisoned for owing small sums. The debtors’ prison was known as a ‘Marshalea’; the ward was called the Marshall. According to Joseph Starr (1995) in History Ireland, the overcrowding prisons report in 1796 lists 51 jails throughout the kingdom which would appear to have been more than enough for the population of about five million.

Starr asserts that: ‘The crowded jails and marshaleas grew out of the custom paying fees to prisons officials. No inmate was allowed to leave without paying fees to the local sheriff; warden or marshal and their assistants. This custom led to great hardships. Jailers and marshals received very little in the way of salary.

Parliament legislated on the subject for the first time in 1635 when it empowered justices of the peace to appoint the salary of the keeper of the local house of correction’. A serious problem from the outset was alcohol. Given the condition of jails it was natural that many prisoners turned to alcohol which was inexpensive and easy to obtain.

It was pointed out that ‘a noggin or gill of…whiskey, is sold in Dublin so cheap as one-and-a-half pence or two pence, and half a pint for three pence or four pence’. On one occasion, in 1741, sloppy jailing allowed an escape (below). The quickest way to obtain the necessary money for contraband substances was extortion. All attempts to stop the selling of liquor in prisons were usually frustrated by jailers who usually kept a tap in the prison.

Three times Parliament tried to make alcohol free in the years 1763, 1783, 1786, unfortunately the acts remained inoperative. Due to the modest salaries and the want of regulation, serious complaints of corruption, cruelty and neglect were being levelled against jailers and marshals throughout the eighteenth century. Many of these changes were by no means groundless. In 1698, parliament discovered that a great number of prisoners were starved to death and for this reason parliament required every parish to levy a reasonable sum of support for local prisons. And there was evidence that some good was done, but it was very much haphazard.

Prison Reform

During the 18th century prison reform came in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ - a period where many intellectuals firmly believed that men were perfectible and that, having achieved that state, an era of peace and progress would emerge. With these ideas, some ‘men of standing’ set-out to reform every aspect of life ranging from education, through to politics and social life, and to prisons. The common view remained that those in the jail were wicked and deserved their punishment. The reformer, John Howard, was not one of those.

He made his first trip to Ireland in 1775 and over the next 13 years returned five times describing the situation ‘as savage as the inland parts of Russia’. The Country Journal, 12 Nov 1741. Howard also railed against corruption and, in the jails, he declared that he never saw prisons or abuses as bad as Ireland. Positively, in 1786, perhaps the greatest of all prison reform bills was passed. What this new act did was create new regulation of prisons with many laudable articles. Inspectors, were to visit prisons at least once a week and forward reports to the officer who was to be the apex of the system. The inspector-general was required to visit every prison once every two years.

During 1787-1788 Howard was delighted to discover that the grand juries had spent money liberally to supply prisoners’ medication for health but regrettably there were still some abuses including dirty prisons, negligence, and dishonesty.

 Galway Jail 1400-1892

The earliest known record of a jail in Galway goes as far back as 1496 on Mainguard Street. The Galway Town Gaol was located under the Old Thosel (sketch right from James Hardiman’s History of Galway) but was transferred to Mainguard Street in the 1650s.

In 1674 it was used as a temporary county jail, a makeshift arrangement that continued for twelve years. In 1686 Blake’s Castle was acquired by the Grand Jury and was used as a county jail until both prisons were transferred to Nun’s Island. In the following century, in 1788, Howard visited both prisons. He noted that an exercise yard had been provided in Blake’s Castle, but not Mainguard Street. In the years 1791 and 1792 the County Galway Grand Jury passed presentments for the construction of a more spacious prison and the necessary Act of Parliament was finally passed in 1802. Between 1804 and 1810 two jails were built on adjacent sides of Nun’s Island.

One was the county jail, and the other serviced the town.

Management, Staff & Labourers of Galway Jail 1878-1892 

Curtin’s The Women of Galway Jail: Female Criminality in Nineteenth Century Ireland describes to use the running of the prisons: ‘Between the years 1878 and 1892, there were between fifteen and twenty-four people employed in the prison. This included a Governor, a chief warder, two chaplains, a surgeon/apothecary, a clerk, and a schoolmaster/schoolmistress. The warders were all male, and the only female staff members were either matron’s assistant; matrons; or servants.’

 Elizabeth Fry, another prison reformer, emphasised the need for female staff, unfortunately this remained largely unchanged in Galway. The statistics show that while there had been two-to-four female employees working in the prison during this period, in many years there were only two members of staff who were women.

At 6.30am in 1882 - the winter timetable of Galway prison - the warders would summon the prisoners out of their cells by calling ‘All out’. A routine, in which exercise, eating, labour and schooling was scheduled was set out by the General Prisons Board (GPB). There was no schooling of women prisoners between 1877 and 1888, despite the fact that school was scheduled. Most able-bodied prisoners, both men and women, were sentenced to hard labour. The GPB had been strongly influenced by the prison reformers of the nineteenth century. Prisoners were classed by their ‘moral character’, the length of time they had spent in prison, and their behaviour.

This system, reformers believed, encouraged prisoners to work and to reform.

Prison Life 

As an incentive, prisoners would be awarded ‘marks’ which were accumulated in order to progress from one class to another and which could also be translated into money. The Governor of the jail was obliged to submit a yearly return detailing work engaged in by prisoners. Much of the work done by the prisoners was done for the upkeep of the prison. Prisoners were engaged in the following labours such as tailoring, tin-smithing, whitewashing, sewing and washing clothes and bedding, cooking, knitting, and nursing sick prisoners.

The more traditional types of prison labour such as mat-making and the picking of coir and oakum also occupied prisoners of both sexes. Prisoners were paid for these labours and on their release could claim wages. Unruly prisoners would be punished by four categories of punishment permitted by the prison authorities – iron handcuffs; corporal punishment; punishment cells; and dietary punishment. The offences which led to such punishment were in four groups; violence; escapes and attempts to escape; idleness, and ‘other breeches of regulations’.

Whipping and leg irons had been abolished in the 1860s, and the corporal punishment appears to have been in place for men only. From 1884, irons and cuffs were no longer used.

Prisons and Courthouses in Galway

An architect from Westminster, Mr Hardwick drew up plans for a new prison modelled on that of Gloucester Jail. Richard Morrison was the supervising architect of the new construction which was to cost £27,000.

An area of three acres and eleven and half perches were purchased on Nun’s Island for a cost of £664.37, on the understanding that a roadway would be provided outside of a prison. During ‘The Night of the Big Wind’ (6 Jan 1839), the roof was stripped of the county courthouse and most of the windows were propelled in. Little seems to be known of the earlier county court-houses but at least one was located in Courthouse Lane (known today as Druid Lane), left off Quay Street in the 1600s.

This is now the location of the ‘Hall of the Red Earl’ run by Galway Civic Trust. The town courthouse was designed by Alexander Hayes who submitted his plans to the Town Grand Jury after the body decided to abandon the Old Thosel in 1820. Work started on the building of the new town courthouse in August 1825 and the building was constructed opposite the County Court-house.

The two separate and distancing courthouses operated separately but eventually merged in the latter half of the nineteenth century when the Town Grand Jury agreed to pay a portion of the County Courthouses upkeep.

 Sources Curtain,

Geraldine, The Women of Galway Jail: Female Criminality in nineteenth century Ireland, (Arlene House, 2001).

Vaughan, W. E., Murder Trials in Ireland 1836-1914, (Four Courts Press in association with the Irish Legal History Society, 2009).

Starr, Joseph, ‘Prison Reform in Ireland in the Age of Enlightenment’, History Ireland, Issue 2, Vol.3 (Summer, 1995) .

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ronan Killeen interviews Eddie Sommers by Ronan Killeen

Back in 2012 I interview Eddie with my pen and paper. I took a few notes. Some pieces I think are missing but enjoy anyways.

"Taylor's Mill had a turbine underneath. The course of the river had changed. River flows in under the bridge. Trout would be caught down there. The turbine wheels under the river.
The farmers association knocked rates would have to be paid on it. Taylor's mill knocked in the 70's. Sean Broderick would be shouting Irish.
The old boys school teachers house between the school down by the handball alley. Mrs. Woods went teaching in 1940. Whelan came in from Newcaslte."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A list of Athenry Musical Society Show's 2000-2013 by Ronan Killeen (Revised 2018)

Athenry Musical Society's production of 'My Fair Lady' 2004. The scene is 'Ascot' with the Ascot Chorus for the
song 'Ascot Gavotte'.

In the 1950's, the Athenry Musical Society was known as the Athenry Choral Society which performed Gilbert and
Sullivan operettas such as HMS Pinafore; The Mikado; Trail by Jury and The Gondoliers.
After the 1950's the musical society was dormant. However, fast forward to the December of 1997 when a variety
concert was staged in Athenry with a group of singers singing various tunes from musicals. It was proposed 
in 1999 that the musical would be revived by Olive Marie Gardiner. 
Subsequently, a permanent committee was formed and the musical society was brought back into life again. Below is a list of show's done in the 2000's. 

Athenry Musical Society show 2000-2013.

Fiddler on the Roof                                 2000
Anything Goes                                        2001
Oklahoma                                               2002
'Sugar' (some like it hot the musical)     2003
My Fair Lady                                         2004
South Pacific                                          2005
Me and My Girl                                      2006
Guys and Dolls                                       2007
Pirates of Penzance                               2008
Suessical                                                 2009
All Shook Up                                          2010
Athenry Musical Extravaganza              2011
Calamity Jane                                       2012

Sweet Charity                                        2013

Above: 'The Sun Has Got His Hat On' from Athenry Musical Society production of 'Me and My Girl' 2006.

Elopement in County Galway by Ronan Killeen

Back in 2013 i printed of a newspaper article from the 19th century it was to do with an 'Elopment' 'Elopment in the County of...