In Carnaun School we learn a lot of local history. This year we did some research about a highwayman called Liam Joyce. (“Deois” was the local pronunciation). His “Stomping Ground” was from the Cúinne Geal near Galway Airport to Cusaun Cross. Cusaun Cross is very near our school, is on the Galway – Monivea road. Along this road is the townland of Ballybackagh, which could mean place of “hindrance”. It probably was if Joyce was around and not far from that is “Gleann ‘a Gadaí” the glen of the robbers.

Our neighbour, Hughie Hynes, put us in touch with Micheál ÓHeidhin from Carnmore, who told us a lot about the highwayman. Micheál, a fluent Irish speaker, rich in folklore an authority on the poet Antoine Ó’Raftearaí was a joy to listen to.
Antoine Ó’Raftearaí mentions “Casán Liam Deois” in his poem about the hanging of Antony Daly, who lived across the road from where Egan’s pub is in Coshla, Athenry.

Liam Joyce lived during the 19th Century. He was a big man and people feared him. He robbed people who were going to and from the market in Galway. He would rob their goods and money. He liked to rob rich landlords of their money and jewellery. After his crime he would disappear into thick scrub and bushes or into hollows such as “Poll Liam Deois” in Carnmore or “Gleann ‘a Gadaí” nearer to Carnaun School. During the summer months he went on his “holidays” to the seaside and spent his time holding up people on the Oranmore – Galway road near Merlin Park and Renmore.

After a long reign of terror Liam Joyce was finally captured at the Cúinne Geal. A man and his son were on their way from Galway after selling a cart of hay. Joyce knew they had the money from the sale of the hay, attacked them but they put up a great struggle. The father who didn’t want to part with his money, grappled with the highwayman and succeeded in wrestling him to the rear of the horse cart where the son hit him on the head with a loaded butt. A loaded butt was a lead filled stick used at the time in faction fighting. Before he could recover from the heavy blow to the head they tied him with the hay ropes which were normally wrapped around the shafts at the back of the cart. They then dragged him after the cart to the police station in Oranmore.

We do not know what happened to him, was he hanged or jailed? However many of his kind if they were spared the gallows, were transported, with thousands of other criminals to be used as cheap labour in the Clyde coalmines or in Australia. The need for people to work in these places was so great that often those who committed the most venial of petty crimes often got their “seven long years transportation”. This practice was also carried out in England where the “mail order” workers for the colonies comprised “undesirables” and vagrants and often, anyone who could be rounded up to fill the quota.

Feature Photo: A big rough man, taken from an old school reader!

The most outstanding memory of my time in Carnaun was the tremendous rivalry between

Cussane and Castle Lambert. You didn’t need to be from either of these areas to be firmly entrenched in either camp; it all depended on which way you went home—-up the road you were a “Cashel” man, and down the road you were a “Cussane” man. It still amazes me that this great rivalry was contested in a football match rather than in hurling, after all the catchment area of the school was and still is one of the great “hotbeds” of hurling.

On glancing back over the record books one becomes acutely aware of the great contribution past pupils have made to hurling clubs in the area. Over the years clubs like Turloughmore, Coolarne, Moorpark, Derrydonnell, Athenry, Boyhill, Crumlin, Cregmore, Tuam and Cussane were the main beneficiaries of the constant stream of talent that emanated from the school. A It must be remembered, that at that time, there was no Parish Rule and consequently there could be several clubs within a parish. The decision as to which club you played for was therefore a very personal one.

Personalities and, sadly, family rivalry played an important part in that decision. It was not unusual to find someone from Coolarne playing for Cussane and vice versa. Indeed, many past pupils of Newcastle N.S. were firmly committed Cussane men. Once you had thrown in your lot with a club, there was no going back. The rivalry between Cussane and Newcastle, Cussane and Coolarne and Cussane and Athenry was indeed intense in the 1940s and 50s. I still have vivid memories of the

Cussane team and supporters being transported by lorry to matches in Monivea and the battle cry of “Up Cussane” was enough to send shivers down my spine.

When talking to many of the old stalwarts of that era, I’m intrigued by the fervour with which they can recall those battles on the field of play and the almost inevitable objection sagas that followed. The 1943 Co. Junior Hurling Final between Coolarne and Cussane will still be hotly debated today. It was played in Monivea on the 29th October, 1944. Coolarne won by 6-1 to 3-5. But then came the objection and appeals. Eventually a replay was ordered but Coolarne refused to play and Cussane got the medals. He would be a brave man who would venture an opinion on the rights and wrongs of that one down Carnaun way.

To the historian they are intriguing stories of rivalry and sometimes bitterness but for me it’s tinged with regret, regret that the Parish Rule came too late, too late to have all those stalwarts from the various corners of the parish play under one banner. It will always be a source of speculation, to what might have been achieved in the forties, fifties and sixties had there been a united parish. The phenomenal success of the parish teams in the eighties has heightened that speculation.

I’m glad to be able to record that Carnaun past pupils have continued to contribute handsomely to the success stories of Turloughmore and Athenry in recent decades and long may they continue to do so.

The award winning Athenry Heritage Centre is the ideal place to discover the rich history of this medieval town. Learn how the Anglo-Normans made Athenry the town it is today and experience this history with interactive exhibits of weaponry, armour, the dungeon and the market square. The centre is also the home of the town’s original 15th century Mace & Seal, the oldest of their kind in Ireland. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the range of activities which also includes dressing up in medieval costume and testing your skills with Have A Go archery.