Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Athenry Agricultural College by Ronan Killeen (Revised 2016)


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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:// hansard.millbanksystems.com/search/athenry+agriculture+college

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
Irealnd,

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

See this link http://adrianmartyn.ie/







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) .

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 Athe...