My grandfather also had large tracts of land in Connemara and kept a lodge there just for fishing and shooting parties. It was here that you could get that famous brand of Irish whiskey called “poteen. It was as clear as water and just as harmless, providing you did not test its strength too often. It was kept in wooden casks, buried and covered over with burlap sacking with generally a pile of stone over that. This part of the country is very wild and barren and the crops fail more often than not. So, if the peasants did not make whiskey they would simply starve to death but with the sale of a little contraband spirit, they were a little better off.
Lord Iveagh’s home was near here. It was called Kylemore Castle, beautifully situated on the shore of the lake and with stately hills surrounding it. No one could wish for a lovelier spot in which to live. Mitchell Henry also lived in this neighbourhood and kept quite an extensive establishment, but even these two estates could not employ anything like the number of peasants who lived here, so the manufacture of poteen was all they had to support themselves.
The name Connemara is derived from Conmac, the second son of the famous Queen Maeve of Connaught, who resided here in the 1st Century and the descendants of this prince all dwelt in this wild country.
Mitchell Henry, who was a very good landlord, went back to England after a very sad event happened to his family. His wife and two children were driving home from a shopping excursion to Galway when, to save time, his wife took a short cut over a rustic bridge on her own estate. The bridge gave way, and she and the children were drowned. Her husband never lived there afterwards, the shock being so great that he dreaded seeing the place again.
Speaking of Connemara, there is a very pretty little spot called Recess, famous for its quarry of Connemara marble nearby. As you doubtless know, this beautiful stone is much used by jewellers in making all sorts of ornaments and trinkets. And what a charming drive it is from Recess to Kylemore, through miles of the finest scenery with mountains and streams vying with each other in beauty and grandeur. And then on to Galway, we pass through the pretty little town of Oughterard famous for the Falls of Feogh, and from here on to Moycullen. The lovely ferns by the roadside and the trees meeting overhead make a picture not easily forgotten.
Galway is only seven miles from here but, before leaving this inviting part of the country, I must say something about Ross, where three miles past the station are the ruins of Aughnanure. This was the seat of the 0’Flahertys, whose modern home is Lemonfield.
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Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert
Published here 23 Aug 2022 and originally published 1979
Page 0088 of Athenry History
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