Brighter Homes Exhibition, Caheroyan, 1909

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Captain John, Shawe-Taylor (1866–1911)

Extract from The Galway Reformer:

In 1909 Captain John Shawe Taylor, brother of  Frank Shawe Taylor, Moorpark, Athenry, initiated a prize scheme for best-kept cottage and garden as part of a campaign to brighten and beautify the homes of Ireland.

In a letter to the press, John advocated a few simple recommendations to ensure good hygiene and good health in the home – all animals should be evicted from the home, thatch should be kept repaired, walls should be limewashed inside and out annually, everything inside the home should be kept scrupulously clean, window sashes should be painted, window panes should be kept clean, farm refuse should be removed from the front of the house to some distance away, all corrugated iron should be painted either dark green or red and flower boxes or a small flower gardens should be kept.

It was felt that untidiness and uncleanliness were a result of historic circumstance rather than being inherent in the Irish people. In times past, many people had struggled to put food on the table while keeping up with rent payments which were often more than they could afford.  Any attempt at improvement either in the home or upon the person would have been accepted as evidence of a prosperity that did not exist and would have attracted another turn of the rent-screw.

Captain Shawe Talor was instrumental in bringing the first Brighter Homes Exhibition in Ireland to Athenry, Co. Galway.

The idea behind this exhibition was to encourage people to make improvements to their homes and to utilise the land around them to the best advantage.

Twenty ‘model’ cottages, some of which were built in Caheroyan, were built under the Labourers Act (1906) * were on show with their neatly tended grass and flower borders. The outside walls of the cottages were covered with creeper and ivy and colourful window boxes were displayed on the window ledges.

The interiors were well – designed with bright and airy kitchens. Every square inch of the  one acre plot behind the house was cultivated.

County Galway Agricultural Committee presented John Keating, Athenry with a prize of £3 (Over €400 in today’s money) for the best-kept cottage and holding.

An industrial exhibition was held in the courtyard of the ruins of the castle. Demonstrations were given in fruit packing for market, poultry rearing, bee keeping, honey storing, bacon curing, cooking, crochet, báinín flannel, wheelmaking, boot and whip making.

See also: Caheroyan by June Barrett

Brighter Homes Exhibition, Athenry, 1909

* The Labourers Act provided large scale funding for state-sponsored housing for rural labourers and others of the working class and helped to erase the previous inhumane habitations.

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About this record

Written by Finbarr O'Regan

Published here 17 Apr 2023 and originally published 1999

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