Sunday, May 22, 2011

Athenry and the 1798 Rebellion by Ronan Killeen

In 1775 the American colonists had successfully rebelled against British rule, while in France the monarchy had been overthrown by the Revoultion of 1789.
   In 1798 the revoultionary organisation - United Irishmen were inspired by theses acts and were responsible for Ireland's insurrection in 1798. The Society of United Irishmen held its first meeting in Belfast on 18 October 1791, a gathering summoned by Samuel Nielson, Theobald Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell. All three of the founders were Protestants as so was James Napper Tandy, who helped host the society's second meeting in Dublin a few weeks later.
   Not all members thought alike, in any case, Wolfe Tone arguing passionately for universal sufferage, to include Roman Catholcs, as a means of presenting a genuinely 'United' Irish front against English domination, whilst other Protestants remained uncomfortable about the idea of mobilizing a mass electorate of papists.

Sheer sectarian prejudice played its part but many genuinely radical Protestants would have wondered how progressive politics were to be advanced by electorates brought up from birth to slavish obedience to its parish priests. For most of this era these issues were brought at the Society’s meetings and in the columns of its widely read newspaper, the Northern Star.
   In 1793 the Convention Act was enacted which was to outlaw quasi-parlimentry gatherings while the Gunpowder Act prevented the legal import of guns, such as legislation, it was subsequently argued, compelled the society to choose between extinction and plotting in secret. 
   In 1795 the clergyman-turned-agent William Jackson came to Dublin to test the reaction among radicals there to the idea of an invasion on the part of his French revolutionary masters, he little realized that his travelling companion, John Cockyane was an English spy. Tone had said enough to the unguarded jackson
to covince the authorities that he and his fellow United Irishmen were a real threat: The United Irishmen Society was suppressed and Tone himself was forced into exile:

'I...sought for aid wherever it was to be found'-Wolfe Tone

Tone would eventally tell the military court which tried him, and he may indeed to some extent had been driven by desperation. From the middle of the decade, the society had nowhere to go but towards armed insurrrection: by the middle of 1796 it had completed its reinvention as an oath-bound revoultionary organization.
  The planned French invasion of  that year had been foiled which smashed the 33 feet long fleet of Admiral Hoche which was fatal blow for the plans of the United Irishmen. At the beginning of 1798, the Society of United Irishmen could boast some 280,000 members and a small expeditionary force was sent by the French came late.
    The famous Wexford uprising in paticular was to some extent 'peasants revolt' and involved secterian massacres of which the UIS would have never approved of. In Dublin and Kildare the rebellion went ahead in spite of the opposition of important sections of a divided leadership.
   Volunteers in Ulster also rose spontaneoulsy in support of their fellows in south-east Leinster, exasperated by caution of their nominal chiefs, while 2,000 rallied to the revolutionary banner of General Humbert in the west and were massacred. The insurrection of the '98 failed.

Was there one in Galway? Apparently so, according to Patrick K. Egan's article 'Progress and Suppression of United Irishmen in the Western Counties in 1798-1799'  in the Journal of Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.
   Three men from Athenry Mathias Kinnamore, Micheal Kinnamore and John Higgins committed the crime of houghing and carrying away the flesh of cattle forcebly. Their trial was on the 6 March 1799 and there sentence was to find security for 7 years. They were the lucky ones compared to the rest of men who were executed in the Loughrea, Gort, Galway and Tuam areas and others who were given 5,000 lashes!
   I remember being up in the National Archives of Ireland last year and when I was looking through the rebellion papers I found that a Luke Conway was arrested for taking an illegal oath in 1798 (The United Irishmen?) at the Athenry Post Office.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thirsty Athenry 1934 by Ronan Killeen

Hansberry's Hotel. It is still a pub but the hotel is not in use.

Connaught Tribune  report  9 June 1934


Public House to Every 35 Persons


At Galway Circuit Court on Tuesday before his lordship, Judge O'Donnell, Mrs Mary Hansberry applied for a hotel licence in respect of her hoter at Galway-road Athenry. Mr. T. J. Connolly, B.L. (instructed by Mr. Hogan and Shields, solisters appeared for the applicant.
   Mr. R. J. Kelly, S.S. who appeared for the State, opposed the application on the grounds that there were already sufficent licensed premises in Athenry. Mr. Connolly said the hotel premises in Athenry. Mr. Connolly said the hotel premises had been extended considerably during the past twenty five years and were now a very respectable hotel equipped with all modern convienences and had adequate accomadation. Its old world appearance made it attractive to visitors and an exencsive trade was done. There was a demand by many visitors for drink with their meals and the present application rose from their demand.

Mr. Robert Powell B.E., proved plans of the premises and the applicant gave evidence as to improvements to be carried out to the premises during recent years. Superintendent Murphy, Athenry said the population of Athenry was 1,033 and there were 29 licensed premises in the town -a ratio of one public house to every 35 persons.
   His Lordship: They must be very thirsty people (laughter). The witness added the applicant was a very decent woman who carried on, what was in his opinion, the best business in the town. - His lordship granted the application. [sic]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Athenry Western Sack and Bag Factory by Ronan Killeen (Revised 2018)

On Tuesday 28 May 1935 the Athenry Western Sack & Bag Factory was officially opened by Mr Gerald Boland TD who was Minister for Post and Telegraphs. The road that led to the building was decorated with bunting anda large crowd had come to see him with the GardaĆ­ giving him a guard of honour under Chief Superintendent Clenton, Ballinasloe, and Garda Kelly, Athenry.
The Big Launch 
On the platform were Mr Weir, MD of the factory, TD’s Stephen Jordan and Sean Broderick; JJ Ruane; Haley B Murtagh and C.Taylor; directors of the company, Dr C Foley; RM Burke; Tohermore, Tuam; R Collins Superintendent of the Agricultural College
Athenry; Rev Mr North Bombfard, M Hession, Mayor F Carr, Newtown; Mr Bowes Daly of Dunsandle, and Dr Tom Powell
Mr Weir said he was proud and happy to see the fruits of their labour of the past eighteen months realised in the shape of  hand some factory and he expressed the hope that the undertaking, though small, would help in the promotion and growth of other industries. On behalf of the directors and shareholders of the company he welcomed the Minister. Larry Lardner then read a public address of welcome from the AIDPC (Athenry Industrial Development Promotional Committee).
The sugar beet factories had required one million sacks for pulp and another million for sugar, and the Government could induce the companies to give orders for the sacks to the Athenry Western Sack & Bag Factory. Indeed Minister Boland was happy that the
Minister for Industry and Commerce would do all he could to induce the directors of the sugar company to place their orders with the Athenry factory.
Political Unity
Both Mr RM Burke and Mr Broderick stated that they were glad to see support given by all political parties joined together and supporting industrial revival. Mr Jordan, said it was through Mr Weir’s technical knowledge, expert advice, and sound judgement
that the factory had been established. They also had to thank the Government for helping them with the loan and the promptitude with which local capital was subscribed.
Mr Ruane was confident that if the people of Athenry stood together, as they did in promoting the factory, and forget politics;they would have everything as a centre of distribution that a small town wants to make a success of any industry.
After the public address the Minister and visitors were then shown inside the factory and saw about forty girls at work at different sewing machines it cutting, make-up and stitching of bags. The factory had a capacity of turning out a million bags each year and there was a genuine
feeling that Athenry was finally getting some much needed and much deserved industry.
Sthe Irish Times on 18 October 1952 included a photograph of these women which was included in an article ‘Energy and enthusiasm to one man are helping to revive a forgotten town’. The names of those women, pictured below left, were N Higgins, Peggy Hanley, W Holian (forewoman), Annie Hanley and Kathleen O’Toole.

Above photo sources Connacht Tribune 1st June 1935 and Irish Times 21 July 1962 clipping courtesy of the South East Galway Archaeological and Historical Society

List of Publicans and Hotel Owners/Managers 1856-1936 by Ronan Killeen (Merry Christmas!)

1846 [1] Margaret Barrett, (Hotel and Posting House); Matthias Cannon; John Dunleavy; John Holleran; John Whelan. 1856 [...