This is an All Ireland Prize-Winning Ballad for 1983. It was composed by Tony Waldon, Kingsland, Athenry

“The Fields of Athenry”

1.

Down by the C1aran’s mossy banks one evening I did stray

To while away those leisure hours before the close of day.

When my mind began to wander back to days long gone by,

When I roamed as free as gaoth na síogh o’er the Fields of Athenry.

2.

Oh! how often with our dogs and sticks before the break of day,

Bare footed o’er the dew clad grass we carelessly did stray,

To hunt the rabbit and the hare ‘till the moon rose in the sky,

Oh! these were happy days we spent round the Fields of Athenry.

3.

We had some famous hunting dogs, I ’ll mention but a few,

We had Speed and Spot and Rebel Brave we had noble Murry too,

But Brute he was the king of all as o’er the sod he’d fly,

And ’twas woe betide the hare that strayed round the Fields of Athenry.

4.

The hunting done by the bright new moon our homeward track we’d make

Across the bogs to Poll Mhic Eoin by Cahertubber Lake,

And then we’d climb Cnockan-Cabhair, the lights of home to spy,

and hear the curlew’s plaintive call o’er the Fields of Athenry.

5.

Now Cnockan-Cabhair, that fairy-hill, it is no longer there,

The gravel-trucks have hauled it off to Galway City fair,

To make concrete for foundations, and the fairies had to fly,

Before diggers and bulldozers in the Fields of Athenry.

6.

All through the long hot Summer days through these green fields we’d stray,

The youthful blood coursed in our veins and death seemed far away,

We thought we were immortal, that it’s just the old that die,

But now there’s few of the friends I knew ‘round the Fields of Athenry

7.

When the Great Good Lord will come for me and my final peace be made

On that hallowed hill above the town its there I will be laid,

But when the final judgement comes with its fanfare from the sky,

I will rise up then and hunt again through the Fields of Athenry.

At the All Ireland Festival, this ballad was sung, to music of his own composition, by Sean Flanagan, Craughwell. Sean is a famous Irish traditional musician, and ballad singer.

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book.

A May Bush hung over every door on May Eve. A great night for Cross-road dancing around the May-Pole. The tradition of May Bush is still continued by a few senior citizens.

Bonfire Night was a great festive occasion – a night of dancing, music and mirth. Bonfires blazed in town and country.

Returning from the Annual Novena on the glorious mid-summer night of last year, I think of the great bonfire nights I knew:

“Its Bonfire night in Ireland, O God don’t the years go fast;

And here I stand, the lonesome one, all dreaming in the past;

My long life’s toil has ended, the stars come out above;

But they’re not like the stars of old, those twinkling ones I loved;

And neither is this burning night like that of long ago;

When ‘round the auld bonfire we danced down the road to Abbey Row”.

Easter Sunday in my father’s time the young people were up before sunrise to watch the sun dance. The towers on the four comers of the town were taken over by the cheering youngsters. They adorned themselves with the first flowers of Spring, and joining hands they danced with joy. This I believe was of pagan origin – a form of worship to the Sun God – and was replaced by the Faith in the Risen Christ.

Cnocán-Cabhair or Hill of Help, to the east of the town was the centre of Fairy Lore. People swore they heard the fairies sing and make music there. They went to the hill and requested favours of the fairies and they said they were granted.

Jack-the-Lantern Tree – four trees in one. In Leonard’s Lawn below the bridge. The light could plainly be seen on dark nights.

Big Hound with square face and long ears seen many times guarding the Old Court and retreating to a tunnel under the Castle.

Death Coach heard in the dead of night passing through the town. It was never seen or heard since the advent of Electric Light.

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book

In attempting to write the History of Athenry, I discovered that nearly all Historical Records were destroyed at the Four Courts during the Civil War. I succeeded in getting the few that remain. According to Prof. Rynne, Athenry began with the coming of the De Berminghams and the Castle. Before then, there was some kind of little settlement around the place surrounded by Cahers, Caheroyan, Cahertubber, Cahercrinn and all the others. Cahers, I understand were made up of very poor people, who lived in rather primitive conditions.

Even before de Bermingham, the place had its own degree of importance as a centre of ideas and communication. Of added attraction were the thousands of acres of the best limestone land, which came to the possession of de Bermingham, as 1st Lord of the Barony. He choose Athenry as a suitable place to establish a great Norman stronghold.

Athenry advanced rapidly, to become a town of great importance and prosperity. This continued for two hundred years or more. Apart from the famous Battle of Athenry (1316) the town was scourged by invasions and plundering. Clanrickards’ sons sacked the town in 1577. A few years later, 1594, it was plundered by Red Hugh O’Donnell and his army. All those had devastating results, many of the great families including the Brownes moved to Galway. The town went down-hill, and rapidly sank into decay.

The Down Survey map made about 1655 (after Cromwell) shows the authentic face of Athenry. It was then gasping for survival, but miraculously made a “come-back” about 1780. By 1820 the cottage industries were thriving, and Athenry was set to improve, but again the British Industrial Revolution ruined all. The town was later hit by famine and plague, and it was not until the l880s that it was given the ‘kiss of life’.

Athenry soldiered on to happier and prosperous times. Today it ranks as one of the most progressive rural towns in the County.

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book

From any research (1780 to the tum of the century) I leamed, that the people of town and country were just struggling for survival. Some struggled harder than others, but all were in the same boat, and at the same level. You can easily assess the level and conditions when, before the Wyndham Act (1903), only three per cent (3%) of the Land of Ireland was owned by the people.

They stood united – courageously resisting the challenge of the times, bonded in loyalty, sympathy, friendliness and helpfulness. “The Fields of Athenry”, tells the sad story of our past, a past now far behind us, but time has proved that poverty was no barrier to respectability and no hindrance to progress, thank God for that. It is equally true to state that wealth is not, and never was, a guarantee of integrity. From the poorest have come the finest of people. In every area they have made it to the top – Farming, Professions, Business and Administration.

We can feel a great sense of pride, that the families of this parish, raised in the hardest of times, have proved themselves a credit to Athenry, both in the new world and the old.

My sincere thanks to the following, who gave me old photographs for this:

History – Eamon Whelan (Ballygurane) Boys of the Old School 1921.

Mrs. Nora Keary, (Clorane) Ladies First Aid Class 1917.

Mrs. J. Egan, (Cheltenham) Athenry Fair and Inner Abbey.

Paddy Burke (Cahertubber) Tickets to Athenry Races 1892.

Sergt. Michael Shaughnessy Map showing location of Chaleybeate Spring also Finnerty’s Arch Calendar 1895, with postage information of time ,and old Athenry fairs.

Mrs. Maura Hardiman Male Dress at tum of century and others.

Downes Survey Map of Athenry 1655 was given to me by the late Eddie Joe Kennedy, Kingsland, who came to my house to read the map for me.

In 1920, James Daly of the Connaught Rangers led a mutiny in India in protest against the atrocities of the Black and Tans in Ireland. He ripped down the Union Jack and then led a company in an attack on a British army post. The result for Daly was Court-Martial and execution. He was buried within the walls of an Indian prison. Daly ’s name was consigned to the list of forgotten men for over fifty years until the late Guard Burke, the Grove, Athenry, a close friend of the Dalys, highlighted the case.

He approached a number of influential men, who formed a committee, and launched a very successful campaign to have Daly’s remains returned to Ireland. The response from the Irish people was immediate and over-whelming – the Government acted quickly, and with the approval of the Indian Prime Minister, the bones of this great man were brought back to rest in his homeland.

Every organisation was represented at the Daly funeral. He was given all the honour, recognition and drum-beating befitting a brave soldier and martyr. We can be justifiably proud that an Athenry man played such an important and decisive role in this historic and memorable event.

I might also add that the Government of this country over a period of fifty years, from1922 on, must feel a sense of shame for their attitude of total indifference to James Daly – a man so brave, that he sacrificed his life in far-off India for Ireland’s cause.

In 1942, during WW11, four Generals of the Allied Supreme Command made a forced landing at Athenry. Travelling from America to London for a military conference, they made an unplanned inspection tour of North Africa.

They visited Cairo, refuelled at Gibraltar on the return journey, but lost their way over the Bay of Biscay. They asked for their exact position on radio but were intercepted by a German fighter, who picked up the message. Due to the bitter encounter with the enemy plane, which they shot down, they found themselves completely off course, and finally landed at the at the farm yard (Mellows College). .

A plucky five footer, Dinny-the-Barber, armed and in uniform, was one of the first to appear on the scene. He approached the plane with the words “A member of the Irish Defence Force”. A tall, uniformed officer stepped forward, stood to attention and replied “A General of the American Army”.

It was a day of great excitement in Athenry. The Generals, glad to be alive and in a safe country, laughingly shouted “catch”, as they hurled all kinds of goodies to the people – chocolate, grapes, bananas and oranges – all special luxuries in the war years. Dinny, who was married to Mary Cunniffe, died recently in England.

July 27, 1988 was a memorable day for Athenry. Charlie King, a member of one of the oldest parish families won the Galway Plate with his horse ‘A-Ford-A-King’. Charlie made racing history by being the first Athenry man ever to win this distinction. Well done, Charlie!

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book.

De Wetts: Immortal Sport Stars of 80 years ago. Their achievements on the football field  brought fame and glory to Athenry. They will soon, I understand be given their place, on “Roll Call of Fame‘, in the G.A.A. History Book. They named their team “De Wetts” to honour the hundreds of Connaught Men, who fought under General De Wett against the British in the South African Boer War.

Mick Good – a great fisherman, and the late Michael Tierney of Caheroyan fought with De Wett. John McBride – Father of Sean McBride – recruited hundreds of Irishmen to fight for the Boers.

Peter Barrett; of Castle Lambert figured in the most sensational trial of the last century. Charged with the attempted murder of the Landlord Lambert, he faced trial three times. The pulse of the nation stood still with emotion, as they awaited the final verdict. Every Irish heart – at home and abroad – beat for the cause of Barrett. He was found ‘Not Guilty’. Barrett was defended by Isaac Butt, who for his legal strategy and oratory was described as the “Law Wizard”. He broke down the greatest Counsellors of the Crown. For his defence of Barrett he was conferred with a ‘Knighthood’. The year was 1869.

Johnny Kelly a man famous in many ways – a man of great philosophy. He was involved in the G.A.A. in the last century. He could compose a ballad in five minutes. A wonderful story-teller”, a great counsellor. My father referred to him as a man of “great lore”. He lived at Whelan’s, The Square.

Julia Mary Morrissey would have married Liam Mellows had he lived, so her closest friends said. She was a great pianist. She lived in and owned Jimmy Nolan’s Shop.

An Old Prophecy “Athenry was, Galway is, but Aran will yet be the best”. Aran is free from pollution and contamination of the outside

world. An island people of simple faith, who hold dear the old values, retain the Irish culture and the soul of the Gael. When Athenry ranked 2nd in Ireland, Galway was but a small fishing village – Claddagh.

A Coal-Mine was opened at Castle Lambert in 1875-76, and a quantity of good coal found, soon discontinued – trouble over evictions. Proprietor Lambert intended to re-open it.

Old School at Ball-Alley in 1875 had 55 boys and 35 girls. Last lay Principal teacher in girls school was Mrs. Dolan. She lived beside the Ball-Alley, now Whelan’s. She had three beautiful daughters – tall, stately and handsome – Minnie, Annie and Aggie – all raised in the l880s.

Chaly-Beate Spring: This was mentioned in documents of the l860s, 70’s and 80s. After exhaustive enquiries I found it on an old map only 20 yards from Abbey Row. When I was a child, it was called the Spa. A Chaly-Beate spring is impregnated with minerals particularly Iron. What a pity it is lost to the people!

Rita Persse, the great heiress of Belville, was married in the Protestant Church about 1910. Her husband was Mr. Keary Bernard, a millionaire. It was the sight of the century. The red carpet stretched out to the Square. The town could hardly hold all the carriages. All the Gentry of Ireland were there. Two members of the British Royal House were present.

Lady Gregory was Persse of Roxborough Mansion.

Doctor Burkett acknowledged as the greatest Medical Scientist of Europe and Africa is grandson of Dr. Minister Burkett, who lived in Riverdale House until the early l920s (Presbyterian Minister).

Professor Margaret Heavey One of the greatest scholars in the British Isles. She mastered many languages: English, Irish, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. She was equally brilliant at Mathematics and had complete command of the six books of Euclid at l5 years. Bom and raised at Old Church St., she was Professor of Ancient Classics at U.C.G. for many years. She died in 1980.

Padraig Fallon poet and playwright of National and International fame, was born and raised at Old Church St. Son of John Fallon, a great athlete, and nephew of Paddy Fallon a member of the famous “De Wetts”.

Michael Whelan was born at the Square, where his mother still lives. He has reached the pinnacle of fame in the Business World. A Barrister by profession, he also holds a Master of Science Degree, and became Assistant Head of Board Failte at a very early age. After a serious accident he bounced back to become Chief Executive of Aran Energy.

James Ruane installed an Electric Plant in the very early l920s which gave light to streets, houses and church. This was a great uplift to the town. James Ruane was a man of great vision, enterprise and initiative – a man before his time.

Michael Shaughnessy in his own simple humble way was one of the most intelligent men I ever knew. Listening to him telling stories was like seeing the past on a television screen. The man never knew his gifts. 120 years of authentic local history was lost by not recording his stories.

Anthony Blyth of Rockfield'(now Lord Blyth) crossed the Atlantic with four others in 1952. They sailed form Galway in the Aisling, a boat specially built in Galway for the occasion. Excitement ran high. There were thousands there to see them off. After 28 days they reached Porto Rico, on to Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Miami and finally reached New York. This was a daring and dangerous adventure demanding a lot of courage. Their bravery captivated the imagination and admiration of the World.

Kingsland: Legend has it that King Felim O’Connor was slain there at the Battle of Athenry, hence the name. Legend also said that De Bermingham prayed at “Lady’s Well” for victory. Both statements tie with logic. The heights of Kingsland and Rahard were of great strategic importance. The Old Road passed at the back of Madden’s Forge, crossing at Cleary’s field to Madden’s hills. It crossed to Kingsland at second tum to Lady’s Well.

Wishing Stone at Kingsland on roadside. “To sit and wish and your dream came true”. A great custom when I was young, and for generations.

The Mill opened by Robert Irvine in 1866. Samuel Taylor, of the big land owners of Castle Taylor, bought the mill about 1890 – the last family to run it. Sam Taylor was a J. P.. The Taylors were a protestant family. The eldest son Herbert became a convert at marriage. There is also a four generation Catholic Branch who gave two members to the Church in recent decades – Father Taylor (Maynooth) and Sr. Stanislaus (Presentation Nun).

Mr. George the man arrested in Athenry during the Land League was the celebrated author of ‘Progress and Poverty’. Extract from his report – “As a result of British Rule in Ireland, I saw sad and horrific sights everywhere I travelled”. Parnell of course took the Land League platform with Davitt.

Protestant Church built in 1828. Catholic Church built in 1852.

Major Lopdell lived in the Town House before Raheen House was built. He was killed at the Railway Station – falling between train and platform. Miss Lopdell married Chichester Clarke in Northern Ireland. Their son was premier for a short time. He was overthrown by the Unionists because he was a “moderate”.

A boy of 17 fell from the top of a Ball-Alley in the 1880’s and escaped with a few scratches. The fall was broken by a tree or bush growing out of the wall in the inside Abbey.

Edward Carson, Son of Isabella Lambert of Castle Ellen, spent much time there as a lad and, as a student in Trinity, came there on holidays. He loved the place. My father, who knew him during the course of his duties, said “Ned Carson was a decent chap – a man of the people, different entirely to the rest of his breed”. However decent he was, Edward Carson, more than any other, was responsible for the partition of our Country. Whether he intended it to be permanent is another question which I would love to hear a well-informed answer.

Bogs reclaimed in 1954 and the great industry Bord na Mona started at Attymon and Cloonkeen. A source of great employment for the people of the parish.

Major Hall’s Daughter, Knockbrack married Sir Norman Stronge of Tynan Abbey, Co. Armagh. He and his son were victims of assassination in recent years. Sir Norman was “Speaker” of Stormount.

Fairs: Calendar of F.J. Finnerty, The Arch, 1895: Big Horse Fairs, Feb. 8th; May, 23rd; Aug 17th; Nov 30th.

Inland Postage Rates: Letters not exceeding 4 oz.1d and, above that weight, 1/2d for every additional 2 ozs. Parcel Post was as follows; l lb. 3d; ld per lb. up to 9 lbs; up to ll lbs. 1s.

Emigration It is of interest to note that the total emigration figure for Co. Galway alone, going back from March 1861 was 227,666.

Teacher: Athenry had the best teacher in Ireland, or so they said. He turned out great scholars. He educated them on the basis of the 3 R’s. They were all well versed in latin Roots. He was Mr. O’Reilly, father of Tom and Essie O’Reilly, Old Church St. He was here in 1869.

River Lane: When the river was diverted in 1860, for the mill, people squatted in the eyes of the Bridge, and six families erected make-shift houses in the Lane. As no one owned the River-bed they could not be evicted. Mag Dilleen died in River Lane early in the century. Mag came from a good family, but she had a hard life – the times were against her – Padraig Fallon has written a poem “The Funeral of Mag Dilleen”.

Old Mike Martin, a blind, man also lived there. He travelled on an ass and cart selling cockles and mussels. The ass acted as a guide-dog, and never made a mistake. When the smallpox disease was raging in Athenry two large families, victims of evictions, lived in the eyes of River Bridge. Although every house in River Lane had the small-pox neither of these families caught the plague. According to Dr. Leonard it was because they had so much contact with cattle. Medical opinion of today may dispute this statement, but this is as I heard it.

The Shaughnessy Family reached great academic heights in America. I read this in a Boston paper more than forty years ago. Mentioned as the sons of Johnny Shaughnessy, who emigrated from the village of Athenry in the l880s. One was a famous Attorney; another a University Lecturer”, a third, another Lawyer, was a Mayor of Waltham, while the fourth son was then the highest Ranking Officer in the American Navy.

Kinneens and Brownes opened two big grocery stores at Bridge Street – one on either side, about forty-five years ago, which resulted in it becoming one of the most important business streets in the town. The Post Office was moved to Bridge St., less than thirty years ago.

The late Dick Morrissey was star in the All Ireland Final, when Galway won in 1923. He married into the Clasby home in Kingsland.

P. J. Molloy: Another All Ireland Star when Galway won in 1980 – a native of the parish, married to an Athenry girl, Pauline Loughnane.

Titanic sunk on maiden voyage in April l4th, 1912 – the greatest peacetime sea tragedy in history. Andy Keane, a popular young lad of Tobberroe, perished.

Castles: three of the most beautiful castles in Ireland at the height of their glory were Monivea, Moyode and Dunsandle – all only five miles from Athenry.

Robert French is buried in the Mausoleum in Monivea Wood. It would now cost more than £100,000 to build. A visit to the Mausoleum is worthwhile. One can also enter the vaults by a winding stairs. Robert French was envoy to Russia at the height of the Tzarist power.

Knockaunglass House: The parish visiting house for generations. Set dancing, cards and story-telling. Ned (the father) had a wonderful memory. Pat Brody had a great fund of Co. Clare fairy stories, but the Queen of all storytellers was Bridgie Clasby. She died in 1977. The old Madden home, now vacant, stands like a Sentinel guarding the great characters of the past – a landmark in local history as the “House of the thousand welcomes”.

Derrydonnell: When Red Hugh O’Donnell sacked the town in 1598 he pitched camp at an oak wood there. The name is derived from Doire Donnell, – Doire meaning oak wood in Gaelic.

Lady’s Well: A famous Marian Shrine for more than seven centuries. One of the holiest places in Ireland.

The Oldest Pub in Town was Kelly ’s, opposite Fitzsimmons on the comer. At one time it was owned by Carberrys, relatives of Kellys, The Square. Mr. Kelly, the last owner, was American born – his father left Athenry on the famous “Rag-a-Dee”.

Dr Brennan’s House, was built by Dr Monsell, a private doctor. When he left it was bought by the Church of Ireland. Munster Roe was next tenant, followed by his son, another Protestant Minister and later Cannon Bomphart.

Christy Howley: During World War 2 when no toys were available, Christy flooded the market with the best of wooden toys of every shape and make. A man of great creativity, he became the Parish Santa Claus.

Parnell: When he visited Galway in the 1880s, hundreds walked and jogged there to see the “uncrowned King”. They knew every field-track, stile and short-cut. It seems they were all marathon runners in those days.

Drisheen: A good and delicious meal in by-gone times. Sheep’s blood mixed with some oatmeal, chopped onion, chopped suet, parsley and a little herbs. Tie in clean floured muslin bag – leaving room for expansion. Plunge into salted boiling water. Boil for fifteen minutes and simmer for 3/4 hour. Drain by hanging bag. Flavour with salt and pepper while mixing. I believe that Drisheen was never heard of for at least two generations.

Watly’s School – one of the old Hedge Schools, was at Court Lane, somewhere near Mio Dempsey’s Slaughter House. It was probably at the end of Coen’s garden, as the teacher – a great scholar – was named Coen.

Sean Broderick: After the Treaty when the British Garrison handed over Renmore Barracks to the Irish Anny, the Commanding Officer was Sean Broderick, later T.D.

Mommy Healy’s Shop was on the site of Mio Dempsey’s Stall. A big, friendly, buxom woman she offered a varied choice of the following for one half penny: Bars of Fry’s Chocolate, Peggy-’s Leg, Sugar-Candy, Butter-Scotch, Liquorice-Ball or a bag of can-sweets. Weren’t the times great only we hadn’t the half-penny! If one of six or seven was lucky enough to have the “make” we all invaded Mommy’s for a “lick”.

Robert Irvine, the Mill, established Athenry as a market town. Before that the markets were held in Monivea through the influence of the Frenches.

Fred White, on his maternal side comes from a very old Athenry family. His mother was Biddy McNamara – daughter of Michael McNamara (Cross St., 1850). Michael McNamara was married to Biddy Cannon – my father’s Aunt, and the woman who reared him. Fred White’s father came to Blackall McDonagh’s Tailoring Department as a “Cutter”.

Quinns, Caheroyan a very old family. James Quinn married Kate Madden, sister of Edward Madden, Knockaunglass.

Tom Cleary, Abbey Row – very well-read and knowledgeable man. He died the day Brendan Higgins was married. His death caused me great grief. Behind a very arrogant appearance I discovered a man of great feeling and understanding. He married a member of a very old Athenry family – Coppinger. Thomas Cleary was a man with a “great presence”.

Light: Before the invention of candles or oil-lamps, bog-rush tapers were soaked in tallow fat and left to dry. Hung on a devised wall-clip they provided light.

Tom Raftery, born and raised in this parish (Coshla), was elected to the European Parliament in June. The fact that he polled 42,000 – 43,000 first preference votes speaks for his popularity. He joined a political party only two weeks before the election. He holds an M. Sc Degree and was appointed Professor of Dairy Science at the age of thirty. He master-minded the “Fota Project”. A self-effacing man, we wish him luck and success in Europe.

Headd: About eighty years ago the occupier of Manning’s Bar was a man named Martin Headd. He was married to a very beautiful woman, Mary Fahy, aunt of Kitty Fahy.

Population Figures For Athenry From 1841 – 1901

Year Population

1841 – 1236

1851 – 1487

1861 – 1283

1871 – I failed to find!

1881 – 813

1891 – 774

1901 – 694

A population figure for Athenry town for 1981 I find very hard to accept – 1479 – 8 less than in 1851. It was given to me by the Library Assistant.

Featured Photo – Mick Goode’s House in Northgate Street.

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book.

Athenry always had an abundance of stage talent. My earliest recollections are of Stephen Jordan, Bridgie Hegarty and Willie Kennedy.

The “Greats” of my own time, and especially those no longer with us are foremost in my mind: the producer Tommy Reilly (tragically killed at the Arch); Mike Fahy; Jack Cunniffe; Mike Kilkelly; Detta Fahy (who died so young) Noel O ‘Grady and, in later years , Christy Howley and our lovable curate Fr. Langan. I must also mention that great character-actor who died more than forty years ago – Tom McHugh.

Happily, we still have with us Kitty Lardner, Joan Murphy, Winnie Kennedy, Michael Hession and the talented duo Chris Kearns and Rosemary Kennedy – the latter is building up a name in London with her stage productions.

How we looked forward to the colourful Christmas musicals produced by Joe Mahon (who died last year – a young man) and his wife Josie Curran!

Can Athenry ever forget those gifted people for all the happiness they brought to our lives? Never!

There’s plenty of stage-talent still – it runs in the blood. In 1981 and ’82. Eileen Donohue and Ruth Dobbin gave us Christmas Shows as good as was ever seen – with all the young people participating. Family commitments did not allow them to continue. What a pity!

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book.

John Blake, Clanrickard’s agent, a cruel and ruthless man was assassinated between Craughwell and Loughrea in June 1882. After the shot, Blake slumped. The driver, taken by surprise, foolishly looked back and recognised one of the killers, or so they said. He too was shot dead, and fell by the way-side.

The horse took flight and madly raced on. A screaming Mrs. Blake also in the car held on and was rescued by a group of men at Loughrea, who succeeded in stopping and holding the runaway horse. On the dusty Loughrea street, Blake breathed his last. A beautiful stained-glass window to commemorate his memory is to be seen as Esker Monastery. It was presented to the Dominicans by the Blake family.

The arrest, detention and trial at Athenry, in 1882, of Henry George, the American journalist, caused indignation in America. As an American observer, George travelled much of Ireland, and saw for himself the appalling conditions and sufferings of the people under landlord tyranny.

Inspector Bell who arrested him got quick promotion. On his return to America, George succeeded in getting his message to the world. Through his paper he highlighted the tenants’ cause, appealing again and again for support for the Irish in their struggle for justice. He predicted the success of the Land League under Davitt and Parnell.

A statue stands at Washington to the memory of a famous Irishman, General James Shields, who is recorded as one of America’s greatest military strategists. He led many armies to victory in the American Civil Wars. Apart from his achievements of fame and glory on the battle-fields, the General stands out as the only man ever to be United States Senator for three different states. He filled the highest positions in the land with outstanding success – Lecturer, Lawyer, Legislator, General and Supreme Court Judge. We can also feel proud that this famous son of Ireland took a bold and determined stand against slavery. Bom at Pomeroy, County Tyrone General Shields was granduncle of Nora Shields, (Solicitor, Clarin Crescent, Athenry, and of the late Vincent Shields founder of the Shields Law practice, Athenry and Loughrea.

In 1484, Archbishop Donatus O’Murray made a decree elevating the parish church at Athenry to a collegiate. The decree was confirmed by Pope Innocent VIII. Canon John De Burgo, then Parish Priest of Athenry, was nominated the first warden. The Archbishop died the following year and his successor Archbishop Joyce never promulgated the Papal Bill. He saw no future for the collegiate.

William Butler Yeats once described Athenry as a most forlorn and depressing place.

Marion Fahy, Bridge Street, and of Presentation Convent, Athenry was awarded the Irish Free State Prize for the best essay (All Ireland Competition 1929) promoted by Central Savings, and open to all National Schools. Marion, now married, lives in Newport, Tipperary.

Ivy House as it was once known, now Whelans was built later than Murial Nolan’s house – about 1855. Away back, before 1870, Dr. Leonard and his family lived there. Lavelles, I think, lived there in 19 l 5. The father was an auctioneer. The sons became famous surgeons in Dublin and Galway. The house was later bought by the Fallons, parents of the poet Padraig Fallon, who then owned a butchers stall further up Old Church Street where Padraig was born. They ran a very successful hotel there known as “The Ivy Hotel”. Padraig Fallon frequently came to the Ball-Alley to watch the games, but never played. He was a gentle, good -looking young man. No one ever imagined then that Padraig after Yeats would become the greatest poet-dramatist of the country.

Hanberry’s Hotel: A Branch of the Lopdells, Aunts of the Major in Raheen, lived at Hanberrys when I was a little girl. It was then a long, thatched house. The old ladies, who dressed in a strange way, were always driving around in a pony and trap, and talking to “Bella”, the pony. When wearing dust-veils, they looked weird and sinister. I was always running the opposite way in sheer terror. I’ll never forget them, but it was all in my own foolish head.

When the Lopdells left, the house was bought by the Hanberrys, who in time made it one of the best- run hotels in the county. Stone steps from the hotel garden lead to a medieval tower on the old town wall. This lends a great sense of history and antiquity to the place. All the honour for the great success of the hotel must go to Kathleen Hansberry, now retired and living in Dublin. The Hotel is now owned by Martin and Lily O’Beirne.

Herbs: When I was young, a doctor was called only in a case of grave illness. People used their own herbal treatment. They believed infallibly in nature cures, and they worked. I realize, and often regret, that I missed out, because I failed to take stock, make a note of all the cures, and how they were made up.

Featured Photo: Hanberry’s Hotel, Athenry

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book

Caheroyan House

Rockfield House was lived in by the Catholic branch of the Blake family. They had their own private chapel and resident chaplain. A spire and cross on top of Rockfield House could be seen miles around. Blakes left Rockfield about 1 850, when the Nugent a brother of the Earl of Westmeath came to live there. Lieut. Col Concannon was the next owner followed by Lord Blyth – an eminent doctor. Present owner is his son, Lord Blyth.

Mulpit: Many protestant families lived in this area:  Bradish, a school teacher at Rock Lodge, now Finn’s. MacCoys at Mulpit House, now Donohues. McCoy (his brother) at Rockmore House, now Healys. Smyth at Wilmount House, now Tony Murphys. Turbin Smith at Castle Turbin House, now Cahills. Moneyteigue House was lived in by Davis and burned down by the I.R.A. Davis was a Catholic Landlord, but one of the worst. He was a hated man. He evicted 34 tenants and left them on the roadside. He was a Surgeon at Galway Hospital.

Rockmore House – “Craughwell, A Parish in County Galway” Gerry Cloonan 

Caheroyan House: Occupants from 1840 were: O’Connors, who owned all the land around there; Attie Hall (son of Major Hall, Knockbrack House); Doctor Quintan; Major Darcy; Captain Murray-Allison; Mr. Walsh N.T. principal teacher); Michael Dempsey (late of the Centre). The present owner is Sean Dempsey.

Moorpark: Frank Shaw -Taylor, was assassinated for refusing to give up the land. His wife was one of the Ushers. His brother, Shaw -Taylor of Ardrahan was the first landlord in Co. Galway to hand over his land. Shaw- Taylor’s mother was a sister of Lady Gregory (a Persse of Roxborough).

Raheen: The Lopdells were not popular in Athenry. I heard my father refer to them as proper “Orange Bastards”. I then believed that they grew oranges at Raheen as I was unable to relate the word “orange” with “bastard”. Now know better. A Lopdell, who came here from the North, was the first to put his name to the “Black Petition”. In fact, it was said that it was Lopdell’s brain child. “The Black Petition” (1845) was a “boycott” which came down heavily on Catholics. It urged Protestants not to give any work to Catholics, or to have any dealings or business transactions of any kind with them, and that Catholics must at all times be treated as social outcasts. It was a policy of “Apartheid” like that of South Africa. It seems the Orange religious hatred and bitterness was there then as now. This boycott of Catholics spread to other areas. The Lopdells had very high British Army titles like Colonel, Lieutenant, Colonel and Major. “Black Protestant”, an expression frequently used when I was young to describe those bigoted and anti-Catholic people, had its origin in the Black Petition.

Moyode: Mrs Burton Persse, Moyode Castle, opened a fund for the relief of Athenry people after the small-pox plague in 1875. All clothes and bedding had to be destroyed. A deep and long pit was dug on the west side of the B ack Lawn and Army Personnel moved in to carry out the work. The survivors feared that the smoke would cause another outbreak, but Dr. Leonard assured them that there was not the slightest danger. The fund was open to all gentry in the county. Subscriptions included £10 each from Lord Ashtown, Lord Clonbrock and Ffrenches of Monivea. All the others gave £5 each.

The Chapel Bell from the Old Belfry Tower could be heard throughout the parish. The Angelus brought a stand-still to all work and gatherings. Heads were bowed in silent prayer as the great tradition of Ireland’s Marian devotion was faithfully upheld by our people. Has the old order changed? The Chapel bell was hand rung by the Regan family for over a hundred years and never a second out of time. The youngsters around were allowed to dance in the Ball Alley for a half hour with the grown-ups, as Tommy Regan rang in the New Year. Michael (his son) followed. The last to hand ring the Old Bell was Nellie Regan. It is fitting to pay tribute, across the great divide, to this lovely parish family, who left us such happy memories of the Chapel Bell echoing through the years.

Photo Gary Ryan facebook

Alas the Belfry Tower has gone. Nothing now remains, but the photograph in the town library. Its absence has created a terrible void in the skyline. It was said that the Qualters, John Qualter was great grandfather of the late Paddy Qualter, voluntarily gave their time in the building of the tower.

Those of us who remember the tower must ask the question – How do the modern engineers and craftsmen of today compare with those of Victorian times? The answer is easy to find.

Cromwell: When his army landed in Athenry the horses were stabled in the Dominican Abbey. It was a way of showing disrespect for sacred places. Some of the soldiers were also billeted in the jail as Athenry was then the site of the County Jail.

River Lane: Families who lived there in the last century were: Dileens; O’Briens; Martins; Connors; Murphys. The lane is now raised and integrated with the town park.

Mary Broderick S.R.N. nursed Tom Lambert of Burl Hall, Shropshire and formerly of Castlelambert. He was a lovely man, then over seventy years, and often spoke of Athenry with great affection. He told her that many a time he strolled down memory lane to wander around Castle Lambert where he was born and raised. He was married to a member of the Vaughan family. The Lambert vault is at Coshla graveyard.

The Land: In 1875 seven Lambert families owned 28,189 acres. One of the Lamberts was Earl of Cavan.

Great Landlords of Co. Galway in 1875:

Lord Clanrickarde 52,601 acres.

Lord Ashtown 37,257 acres.

Lord Dunsandle 37,057 acres.

Lord Clonbrok 28,246 acres.

Lord Clancarty (Trench) 23,896 acres.

Clanrickarde was described by William O’Brien as the greatest monster in recorded history. No words can describe the sufferings endured by the tenant farmers of Clanrickarde country during the land struggle. Many of the priests backed the people. One outstanding man was Father Fahy.

The Woodford Evictions stand out in history as the greatest resistance movement to Landlordism. The ringing of the old Chapel Bell at Looscaun was the signal for action. The people banded together, and fought bravely to save their little homes from the Battering Rams, often holding out for more than a week in an effort to break the Landlord power. Their indomitable spirit could not be broken. The Woodford people of today have every reason to be proud of their forbears.

Athenry Town in 1841 had 254 houses

in 1851 had 245 houses

in 1861 had 226, inhabited and 10 uninhabited.

Gurteenacra 60 acres in 1841 – 3 houses and 17 people

1851 – same

1861 – 1 house and 4 people

Rahard 328 acres in 1841 had 6 houses and 63 people

1851 – 21 houses and 132 people

1861 – 22 houses and 120 people

Caheroyan 269 acres

1841 – 6 houses and 32 people

1851 – 1 house and 7 people, O’Connors

1861 – 3 houses and 19 people

Kingsland North 90 acres 3 rds

1850 it was occupied by four Hanley families and was then locally known as “Hanley Land”.

John Hanley – House and land 43 Acres 1 Rood 30 Perches

Patrick Hanley – House and land 42 – 1 – 13

Patrick (Junior) House and land 5 – 0 – 27

John (Junior) Cottiers House and a few Roods.

One family of Hanleys emigrated and the farm was purchased by the Brodericks, parents of Fenian and Peter Broderick who were born there. Both of them were involved in all national movements – Fenianism, Land War, and G.A.A. The farm was bought by the Kennedys about 75 years ago. The late Eddie Joe Kennedy was the last owner.

West Gloves 328 acres

1841 – 28 houses and 163 people

1851 – 21 houses and 132 people

1861 – 22 houses and 120 people

Gloves Middle 1841 – 9 houses and 60 people

1851 – 6 houses and 37 people

1861 – 11 houses and 56 people

Athenry Mart in 1985 had a turnover of 31 million – a great success story. Padraig Raftery, Coshla and the late Mattie O’Donnell were tireless workers and great organisers in establishing the mart in the town. It has become the leading mart in the west.

Taylor’s Mill – Photo Gary Ryan Facebook

Athenry Mill: The Dominicans had a little grinding mill there many centuries ago. Sometime later Montgomery, a Protestant, became the owner, followed by Robert Irvine who made it a water-powered mill in 1866 when the river was diverted for this purpose. Finally, Samuel Taylor bought the mill around 1890. His sons Herbert and Charles were the last owners of the mill – now demolished.

King Phelim O’Connor of Connaught was slain in the Battle of Athenry in 1316, the bloodiest battle ever fought in Ireland. According to manuscripts of 94 unbroken generations held in Clonallis House by the O’Connor Dons 12,000 Irish were slain. A wonderful Television Documentary on Clonallis was shown in July 1986. A portrait of the King hangs in Clonallis Hall. He was only 23 years when slain. The defeat of the Irish at Athenry was the turning point in history. From then on Norman Power was secure.

Another famous battle was fought at Moyvilla in 250 near Athenry where Cormac Mac Art, Fergal (King of Connaught) and the sons of the King of Munster were slain.

The Wyndam Land Act 1903 brought 11 million acres of land to the ownership of the Irish tenants,  and a further 2 million through the principle of compulsory sale by landlords – in all 13 million acres. Davitt’s dream “The land for the people” – became a reality.

St. Bridget’s Church at Ivymount was the Church of the true Irish – the “native Irish” as they were then called. The Norman Settlers attended mass within the walled town. The town of the people, old Athenry, stretched out around New Ford, adjacent to the Church at Ivymount. This Church was in ruins in 1455.

From the book – Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book

Nationalisation of the Schools, about 1840 I think, was strongly opposed by Archbishop McHale of Tuam, who did not allow the implementation of the Act in the Archdiocese for many years. He believed it would kill the Irish Language. Cardinal Cullen on the other hand thoroughly approved of nationalisation. He was a man with great perception of the future and saw emigration as the only solution to Ireland’s population explosion of the time. He realized that English was the world’s most important language.

Less than a decade later, after the Famine, one and a half million of our people were driven through starvation from their home-land. It was Ireland’s greatest tragedy, but imagine their plight, if they entered the new world with a language barrier. Cardinal Cullen proved to be man of sound judgement, having great qualities of leadership and in my mind stands out as the guiding light of his time.

The unbreakable resistance of Bishop McHale left Athenry without a National School, until nearly 1860, when the four-roomed school, boys and girls, was built near the Old Ball Alley. The site was unsuitable – then waste ground. The school was built close to the Abbey wall, with no space, no sewerage and no playground. The girls left about 1910, when the Presentation Sisters opened the new convent National School. It was not until the early l940s that the boys moved to their new school at Swangate.

The late Father Concannon (our curate) worked very hard for this goal. He was the only priest I ever saw with coat of shovelling concrete. God rest his soul. He must get all the credit for the boys’ town-school. This was a great achievement in years when money was scarce. This much-admired school is a monument to the memory of a great priest, who served the people well.

From the book – “Athenry, History from 1780, Folklore and Recollections” by Aggie Qualter, March 1989

Click on the Author’s name, below, to find more articles from Aggie Qualter’s book