Abbey Row Bridge could be the theme of this song when I was young. The Ball Alley, it seems, was the attraction. The elders and young men sat on the bridge during the long evenings chatting and debating. The children sat on the other side taking it all in. Looking back, I just marvel at the depth of knowledge and delivery of words of these men, many of them born in the l850s. Their debating ability would put today’s second level students to shame. “Irish Leaders”, “British Statesmen”, “Current Affairs” and “Sport” were the favourite topics.

All their knowledge came from the Irish Independent (price l/2d), which they read from cover to cover. They were equally expert with figures. It was all head-work then. They could solve their mathematical problems quickly and accurately. From my experience of that generation, it is my firm belief that no system of primary education can ever compare or compete with the “3Rs”, now long abolished.

O’Gradys, Cross Street: From the l880s until the coming of the motor-car, conducted a big Horse Drive business in carriages, hearse, and side-cars. The hearse was solely for the rich. The horses were adorned with black and white rosettes. One of the O’Gradys sat on top in evening suit and high hat trimmed with a white band. Carriages followed with the mourners. The town’s poor were shouldered to the grave. Carriages were hired at the railway station by the well-to-do to take them to their place of residence, often long distant. Carriages also collected the ladies in town and country for the “Big Balls” at the Town Hall – strictly invited affairs.

The new houses in Bridge St. were built in 1911. “The Court Hotel” was opened by Judges, now Brownes. The two adjoining houses were occupied by O’Connor, a P.O. Inspector and Thomas Rohan, a teacher at Newcastle N. S. Mrs. Rohan was a McEvoy, Craughwell. Frank Rohan and his brothers were born there.

The Pound: When I was young, I believed the Pound to be one of the loveliest of places. It had everything that nature could endow. I remember Connor’s thatched white-washed house just beside the river and roman-arched bridge – a wonderful setting. On the other side some yards away – just outside the Old Town Wall was another stone thatched house. In the l880s Ned Cleo lived there. It was then known as the “Rambling House”. His daughter Bridgie Cleo, priest’s house-keeper, married Stephen Burke, Clampar Park, (parents of Paddy Burke, Lodge). When I was a girl, Flannerys lived there (Pat Flannery, Park). History repeated itself, as it was again a great house for the kitchen-dances, and games. I can still see it as it was in years now long gone with its climbing roses, and beautiful flower-beds surrounded by white washed stones – a land-mark on the town periphery. Now roofless, the once well-kept garden is completely overgrown, and “gone is the home that had cradled many”.

Barrack Lane Around l900: an old man, Tom Long, was found dead propped up with pillows, and had to be tied down with wire for the laying out. That night, as the people prayed the Rosary, Tom Cleary and Michael Shaughnessy were kneeling on either side of the bed, as arranged. They cut the wire and the corpse sat up. There was pandemonium, panic and running in all directions. Those were the years of the “merry wakes”, later stamped out by the clergy.

People of the Past, who by their stage performances, brought great happiness to our people 65-70 years ago: Stephan Jordan, Josie and Vinny Mahon, cousins of Mary Lavin, Jimmy and John Payne (Cross Street), Pa John and Sarah Ann Daly (Shamrock Bar), Josie and Tommy Kelly (brothers and bakers), Sonny and Julia Mary Morrissey (Jimmy Nolan’s Shop), Willie Kennedy (Arch), Mrs. Larry Lardner and husband Larry, Frank Hynes, Dick Murphy, Jack Broderick, Mary Rooney (Caheroyan, aunt of Mrs. J. Murray). Sarah Ann Daly (Mrs. Carter) is still alive.

Athenry Races held at Raheen was a great event. People came from all over. Money was won and lost there. The plain people were admitted for one shilling. Major Clarke, Craig-Abbey House was Secretary. He was married to one of the Lopdells.

Protestant Church: As a little girl I nosed my way into the Church. A lovely red carpet was laid up the centre, and the seats were covered with red plush. The Church had one pf the best heating systems of the time. The heat was transmitted through grills on the floor – fed from a furnace in the back wall. It was a fine engineering job.

Food: A widespread practice in hard times was trapping birds for food. A riddle was held up with a short, forked stick and crumbs placed inside. A long twine tied to the stick extended under the half door. When the birds entered for the bait, the twine was pulled trapping them inside. This worked very effectively in hard weather. When scalded, cleaned and stewed the birds made an excellent and nourishing meal. Pigeons were a valued catch.

Hurling: Athenry parish was a place of constant jubilation from mid-1987 to mid-1988. The reason, of course, was that the Parish Club team won the County Final, The Connaught Final, The All Ireland Semi-Final, and had the distinction of contesting the All Ireland Final at Croke Park, but were very unlucky not to win. Athenry is now established as a centre of hurling talent that ranks with the best in Ireland.

There were great storytellers in Athenry when I was young – an art now dead. Listening to them was a great pastime and an education in itself. Tales of Folklore, Ghosts, Leprechauns, great men and events long past, were all related. The gift of words and the accompanying expressions, gave a colourful picture of the past, and brought the characters to life. Saddest stories were those who had emigrated. The loss of popular characters was a cause of deep sorrow and great lamentation. In my mind’s eye, I could see the people who went to America ten years before I was born. Their memory lived on through the stories.

My generation also witnessed the sadness of emigration and the American wakes. I’ll never forget the day, early 1920s, Sonny Hession left for America. The railway platform was packed. I was standing on the cross bridge looking on and the crying and wailing of young and old left a scar on my memory. The train driver too gave his own farewell salute with a long shrieking whistle that lasted until Sonny and his waving handkerchief was well out of sight.

In later years I endured the same heartbreak, as the boys and girls I knew and loved followed the same trail. It seared the souls of our people, and left an emptiness in their lives that could never be filled. America was then far, far, away. It was the point of no return.

The arrival of the cuckoo was an occasion of great rejoicing. The news spread that she was calling. The Abbey Row people rushed out to the wall and Barack Lane people to the Bridge. On hearing the joyous sound, hats were raised, and hands outstretched with the prayer “Buidheachas le Dia” (Thank God) and “Agus go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís”. (May we be alive at this time of the year again) Memories such as these often surfaced and I realise that the people of my childhood were very close to God and Nature.

Jimmy Cleary who died in 1980 was born at Abbey Row. I’ll be the last of Old Abbey Row to leave. Sure, there’s no cure for growing old, only to die young, and the cure is worse than the disease or is it? Sometimes I wonder.

Meitheal – A great day in village life. The thrashing-machine pulled in. Every man was at the ready. They joked and laughed, as they fed the machine with the golden sheaves of corn. The feasted with the harvest meals, then off to the next house, and finally to the last house for the dance, drinks and hooley. The meitheal was a great example of village co-operation – sharing and working together for the good of all. ‘

The Big Wind of l832 caused widespread devastation. There were also severe storms in 1859 and 1894 – three hurricanes in the course of one century.

In 1864 Registration of Births began in Ireland.

Large Athenry town families in my time were Burkes, Caheroyan, 14 children; Hessions, North Gate Street, 12 children; all very successful in life. In those years seven and eight children was the accepted average family , especially in rural areas.

Wireless: The first wireless I ever heard was at Jones Sweeney’s garage (top of Barrack Lane). A crowd assembled to hear the Blessing and Sermon at the Eucharistic Congress 1932.

Train fare, return from Clifden to Dublin for Eucharistic Congress, was 10/- (now 50p)

Bóthar Wob ran from Rahard to the far side of Murphys Boyhill – A lovely walk when I was young. ‘Bóthar Wob’ is still there, but overgrown. ‘

After the Great Famine People from the parish and indeed from the county went into America in their bare feet and in tatters. There was no welcome for them. Notices in New York and Boston stated, “No Irish accepted”. They were forced to do the most degrading work. Courage and faith sustained them. In time they achieved social standing and moved to trustworthy positions.

Dama: Athenry got the best of the touring companies, fifty and sixty years ago – Carrickfords; Louis Dalton; Mark Wynne, Dobelles; Harry Bailey; Anew McMaster, O’Meara and Boyer-Westwood Opera companies. Queues for admission stretched from Western Hotel and Muriel Nolan’s.

Jimbo, the town’s bellman was a familiar figure at Glynn’s Comer well over 60 years ago. A great source of local news – Political Meetings, Touring Companies or the Circus coming to town, Bullocks lost from the fair or a Purse of money lost. Crowds assembled to hear all. It was a special after-mass occasion.

Captain’s Pond at Martin Burke’s House should be known as the Colonel’s Pond. Col. Robert Persse – younger brother of Burton (Moyode Castle) was killed there about 1890. Members of the Blazers were waiting while the hounds searched the covert at Caheroyan House. The Col. was adjusting the girth of the horse alongside, when his own horse suddenly shied throwing him heavily. He died instantly of a broken neck. The old people said, that he was “no loss and no good”.

Fields of Athenry: The words “He stole Trevelyan’s com, so the young might see the mom”, may convey that he was a local landlord. He was, in fact, the chief civil-servant and head of the Treasury responsible for the control and distribution of food in Ireland. His policy was a disaster for the Irish. A warning of impending famine was on the cards for four years, yet Trevelyan allowed the grain to be shipped from our shores, which cost us one million lives, and another one and a half million in emigration.

Johnny Coppinger, Grandfather of the late Jimmy Cleary died at the Swangate in 1903 aged 101 years. Dr. Rosario’s house is built on the site.

Swan Gate when l was young: People living there were Waldrons, Mitchells, Nolans, Ryans, McHughs, Hoades. In 1341 there was a forge at the last house.

Caretakers of the Protestant Church were the Stokes, one of the first tenants of Newford Cottages (now Caufields). He was a Sergt. Major of British Army (retired), Mrs Stokes a catholic. Children of mixed religion. They attended both churches. Sammy, a son, was killed in Battle of the Somme. He also married a catholic and left one son who won the Lord Kitchener Scholarship to U.C.G. He qualified as a doctor and was brought to England by British government to specialise and became an eminent doctor there.

Lady’s Well is one of the holiest places in Ireland and a very important part of our religious heritage. Eight hundred years ago and more it was as it is today, a place of pilgrimage and prayer to Mary, the central and greatest woman of our Christian faith. A visit to Ladys’ Well is a great religious experience. Through prayer there, many requests and favours have been miraculously granted. The ancient holy-stone is now affixed to the front wall of the shrine. It was the old custom to touch this stone with the prayer, “Mary, I believe, and I trust in you”. This was very important to past generations. I’d give much to know the origin and history of this stone-sculpture of “Jesus in the arms of Mary”, but the precious knowledge was lost through the centuries. A station to Ladys’ Well is never complete without taking three sips of the Well-Water and reciting an old prayer from the past – “By the word of God, by the Cross of Calvary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, and the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God, and the power of this water I believe”. Modem intellectuals may scoff, but people will continue to follow the old way. Let us never forget that the shrine is immersed in the faith and prayers of centuries.

Many improvements to Lady’s Well were carried out in 1988 which include a new approach road with ample parking space. A lovely stone-cut wall now surrounds the well and within the enclosure, a new Marian Shrine. Shrubs and flowers adorn the place and the new laid lawns are in first-class trim. Congratulations to the hard-working committee who give so much of their time to maintain the excellent standard and have made Lady’s Well one of the loveliest rural Marian Shrines in Ireland.

Redemptorists Monastery, Esker, just three short miles from Athenry, is a place of great beauty. Situated amidst the most picturesque surroundings of fertile fields, woodland, and hills, Esker has the added attraction of being steeped in the history of four centuries. Apart from the spiritual uplift we get at Novena time, a visit to Esker is always a mental tonic. A walk through the woods surrounding the monastery is a worthwhile experience. The very hard work put into it through the years has paid off and brought it to a very high standard. The Redemptorists have made Esker what it now is, the scenic attraction of the whole area.

The Redemptorists are a noted “Preaching Order”. In the past their sermons were loud, harsh and frightening. They constantly preached of Hell’s fire, and thundered the vengeance of God from the pulpit. It was a God without mercy for the sinner, a God without hope of salvation. For many it was a message of doom and gloom. In recent years the young Redemptorists have completely changed the pattern and tone of the missions. Their sermons and lectures are based on a kind and loving God. The message they now bring is Hope, Joy and Peace to all.

Robert McNamera, Prospect, entered the Redemptorists in 1986. A great scholar, a gifted organist and a grand boy. We wish him well.

In 1900 a Flower Show was held in the Old Court followed by a concert and sketch. It was an event much talked of for decades. Of the people who took part, a few names come to memory – Mary Coleman, Jimmy Dolan, John Kelly, Tom Curtin, Pakie Noone. The best part came, when it was all over. A chance street musician, Bartley Small, played for a ‘bit of a dance’ at the Mill Bridge. Bartley was a ‘wonder-man’ with the fiddle. They said that the “likes” of Bartley was never heard before or after. Notwithstanding the poverty of the times, when half-pennies and pennies counted for so much Athenry must have been a very happy and homely place.

Pakie Noone lived at Old Church Street, around Howley’s. He was later one of the famous De Wetts, football team, (Called after Christian deWet of South Africa). Mary Coleman lived at Cross Street, now Sean Hynes’ house, a lovely old Athenry family. She went to America in the early century. Tommy Curtin lived near Stauntons, now the flats. I have a feeling that Kelly was Johnny Kelly (The pub) – now the Square Inn. Johnny wrote the play. He was a real character, and a very clever man.

Athenry in the 1840s showing the old police barracs where Abbey Row is now

Jimmy Dolan lived at the Ball-Alley School House. His mother was principal of the girls’ school. When a row blew up between mother and son, Jimmy stormed out the back-door, climbed up to the top of the Ball-Alley and stood on his head there. He was dead safe, as a foot or more of thick ivy stretched out on either side, and he had two very safe hand-grips of ivy stems that could never give. While it was frightening watching him, they said that Jimmy could’nt}; fall. Noreen Ryan, Abbey Row, met a grand old man at an English beach two years ago. He told her, that he was born beside the Ball-Alley at Athenry, and that his father was Jimmy Dolan – a small world!

The Crowning of King John 1 of Athenry was an echo from the past. Medieval Athenry had come to life again. Blessed with beautiful weather, August 15th 1984 was a night to remember. The Castle (Bermingham Court) was torch lit as of old – the torches blazed from the great battlement towers. The setting was superb. Thanks be to God that I lived to see the sight and witnessed the crowning of King John Brady, who by hard work and great endeavour collected £8,000. The four contestants were paraded through the town in a horse-drawn open coach, flanked on either side by three beautifully decorated steeds and riders – a wonderful scene. Monsignors, Priests and Nuns came from right across the world, Australia, U.S.A., Canada and Britain, for the great occasion.  They all tripped the light fantastic in the marquee. A smaller marquee was also there for the banquet that followed. It was one of Athenry’s most memorable nights. The other contestants were, Jerry Melia, Cyril McNamara and Mrs. Bridie Finn.

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

Editor’s note: The featured Song ” Sittin’ on the Bridge below the Town” comes from an EMI CD called ‘An Ireland of Treasures’ from 1991 where they re-issued recordings from the old HMV catalogue. It was sub-titled ‘The Voices and the Melodies of Ireland 1913-1948’ (CDP 7965772)

 

 

Edward Carson was born to Elizabeth Lambert of Castle-Ellen, Athenry in 1854. His father was a well-known Dublin Architect. Carson was a very important man in British politics and few others achieved such status. His sole aim was to protect the Union with Britain. The Home Rule Bill put on the Statute Book in 1914 saw the defeat of the Union for Carson. In 1928 Carson said that he admired Cosgrave for his building of the Free State but despised him for the ruthless way he treated the Republican fighting companions of pre -Civil War years.

Edward Carson and Oscar Wilde were great pals as youngsters and spent many happy holidays together at Castle Ellen. The close friendship continued while students at Trinity until Wilde at twenty distinguished himself by winning a scholarship to Oxford. They parted ways and did not meet again for over twenty years, when they confronted each other at the famous Oscar Wilde Trial. Carson was then an eminent Barrister defending the Marquis of Queensbury. How strange the tricks of fate! Carson’s legal strategy and cross-examination succeeded in cracking Wilde’s evidence. The rest is History which makes a sad and tragic story.

The word “Athenry” had a golden ring for Carson. Known locally as Ned he spent much of his youth and student holidays at Castle Ellen and had a great relationship with the surrounding tenantry. Many a time he swung the hurley with the local lads. When Carson was at the Centre of power, many people from the district were known to have approached or written to him asking that he use his influence in various ways in their favour. At all times he went out of his way to help. A reference from Carson was the sure passport to success.

During his frequent and prolonged visits to Athenry in the early l880s Carson was known as a friendly, popular young man. He attended the fairs and markets for the “crack” and chatted and joked with the people in the pubs. I’ll never understand what a member of the great Lambert family had in common with the simple ordinary people of the time, only to conclude that Carson was a ‘humbug’ and a ‘bluff’.

In later years as Leader, Lawyer, Orator, and Politician he reached the pinnacle of fame. Indeed, in British history few others achieved such distinctions.

Let us now look at Carson’s influence on Irish History, especially during the second decade of this century. From the way he exercised his power and the events that followed, he must be seen as the most evil man of Irish affairs.

In 1914 Ned Carson, as Leader of the powerful Unionist Council, shipped arms from Europe, and in defiance of British law landed then at Lame. To add fuel to the flame, he armed the Ulster Volunteers, 80,000 strong, and marched them through the province -“Europe’s first fascist” (Greaves). Home Rule, he declared, was Rome Rule, and protestant Ulster must be saved. He threatened to risk the collapse of the whole body politic if the Home Rule Bill came into operation. As a result, Home Rule was shelved until after World War 1.

When the war was over the Irish troubles blew up again with greater force – the worst was to come. On the 12th of July 1920, Sir Edward Carson, then a Cabinet Minister and 1st Lord the Admiralty addressed a mass Unionist rally, l00,000 strong, with a speech of fiery incitement. As the mob shouted, “To Hell with Home Rulers” Carson retorted, “I am sick of words, action we now need”. Action of inconceivable horror followed. On the 20th of July the Carsonite mobs invaded the Catholic quarters of Derry and Belfast. – The Belfast Riots 1920

Summary statistics from July 20th 1920 – April 1922 show 400 Catholics slaughtered, 1700 wounded, 8,750 driven from their jobs, 23,000 driven from their homes (Source McArdle).

By the free democratic vote of the British Parliament, Home Rule was ours (1914). The goal of all great Irishmen had been achieved, but Carson and his gang turned back the hands of history. It was lreland’s darkest hour. The power of Carson was so great as to prevent the British Army from moving against Ulster and enforce the Home Rule Act. General Sir Henry Wilson, Head of the War Office, and a die-hard Unionist, Gough at the Curragh and Commander Paget were all part of Carson’s game (Wilson was later shot dead by the I.R.A. In London). A United Ireland, within the framework of the Home Rule Act was signed sealed and on the Statute Book, but Carson succeeded in tearing to shreds an Act of the British parliament – an Act signed by the King of the then British Empire. It is all above and beyond me – unbelievable but true.

This half Athenry man (Carson) left us the legacy of partition with all the strife, deaths, suffering, hatred and bigotry that followed. The message from history is loud and clear, that the people of this parish can never boast of their claim to Carson, nor his kith or kin.

When Ireland got Home Rule, tar-barrels blazed from the tops of the Ball Alley, Old Court and the towers. I heard them say, that many of the peelers (RIC) lined up outside the Old Barrack. They stood to attention and saluted as the band and crowd marched past singing, “A Nation once again”. They believed they were saluting the future National Anthem and that all their troubles with nationalists were at an end.

Windows to the Past – Athenry parish has given many famous people to Church and State. In the fields of Literary achievements, scholarship, drama and sport, they have won national and even international acclaim, but for reasons completely different to any of those, the fame of one man from this parish echoed around the world – the name was Peter Barrett of Castle Lambert. In the year 1869 Barrett was the central figure in one of the most famous and controversial trials of Irish History. He was charged with the attempted assassination of Tom Lambert, the Landlord of Castle Lambert. If found guilty he faced certain death by hanging – the punishment suffered by Anthony Daly of Seafin some years before.

The parents of Barrett lived on a small holding on the Lambert estate, now known as “Barrett Hill”. They were evicted by the ‘Tyrant’ and left on the roadside. Peter, their son, then working in a London Post Office, learning of his parents’ plight, set out on his journey of revenge, and armed with a revolver headed straight for Castle Lambert House. Athenry was his nearest stop, but he continued to Oranmore where he might escape recognition and on foot went through Glanascaul and Lisheenkyle. However, as he crossed a stile, he was observed by two boys playing ‘pitch and toss’, and at Frenchfort he called at Murrays’ house for a drink. Mrs. Murray gave him a mug of milk and bread. Barrett was so thankful, that he gave each of her children a piece of silver. She told others about the “generous caller”.

Later the police heard the story, and summoned her to identify the man. These three people, played vital pans at the trial that followed. On reaching the private grounds of Castle Lambert House, Barrett hid in a lime tree opposite the great door. It provided a view and cover. A house party was in swing. He waited, then came his chance more favourable than he had anticipated. The door opened, and Lambert emerged alone. After the wining and dining he needed fresh air and a stroll down the avenue. Barrett tailed him, waited for his return and fired at close range aiming straight for his heart. Lambert slumped and Barrett leaving him for dead made a quick getaway.

By a twist of fate, the gold watch in Lambert’s breast pocket stopped the bullet. He was unconscious for some time but recovered, and crawled to the Big House where he told his story. The hue-and-cry was on.

Meanwhile Barrett, who was a first-class athlete, standing six foot two and as fleet footed as a deer, made the cross-country run to Athenry. He knew every mass-path, ditch and gate on his run and arrived in the “nick of time” to step on the night train to Dublin. Lambert in his statement to the police said, “I did not see the man but if Peter Barrett is in the world it was he who fired in retaliation for the eviction”. Barrett was arrested at Dublin and brought back.

Money poured in from America for his defence. Isaac Butt, the defender of the Fenian leaders, acted as his Senior Counsellor and McDermott, an equally brilliant lawyer, as his Junior. The case opened at Galway. It was the trial of the century and attracted world-wide attention.

Barrett stuck firmly to his statement, that he was not in the Castle Lambert area on the night of the shooting. Large sums of money were offered to witnesses to prove the contrary. No one “guggled” but one of the pitch and toss boys, who swore that he definitely identified the man who crossed the stile as Barrett. The other boy with equal conviction swore he was not Barrett. Mc Dermott handed his hostile witness a needle and thread and requested him to thread it. After several attempts he failed. He handed the same needle and thread to the other boy, and in a flash he succeeded.

What of Mrs. Murray? She was a God-fearing, soul-searching woman, and carrying her fifth child. She sought a Confessor at Galway, a Dominican.

The story told was, that the priest wore his stole, and said to her “You came to me for advice not Confession, because you have no sin to confess. We cannot judge Barrett’s intentions. Only God can do that, but one thing is certain, Barrett took no man’s life, and if you can save his life, it is your duty to ‘do so’. When asked in court if the man in the dock was the man who called to her house, she’ replied firmly, “No Sir, he is not the man”. This was the answer that Ireland waited for and wanted to hear. It was the answer which went eighty per cent of the way in swinging Barrett’s life away from the scaffold, and to freedom.

The Jury was in disagreement and after many months Barrett faced his second trial at Dublin. Again, the Jury failed to agree. After almost twelve months in Jail, Barrett was brought to trial for the third time. His innocence or guilt had to be finally decided on one point, twelve minutes had elapsed from the time Lambert’s watch stopped until Barrett stepped on the train at Athenry. Could he have made the run in that time?

Was there even the remotest possibility to have done so?

By their handling of the Barrett case, Isaac Butt and Mc Dermott made legal history. Their wizardry and strategy broke down the arguments of the most eminent Crown Counsellors in the British Isles. Those two men were absolutely dedicated to the cause of freeing Barrett. For eloquence and forcefulness Butt’s final speech was described as the greatest court oration ever heard in Ireland. The day was won. The Jury disagreed for the third time and Barrett walked from the Green Street Court a free man.

Ballads were composed and sung around the Irish Hearth-Stones. As a child, long ago, I remember one something like this.

“Hurrah for Peter Barrett, the Castle Lambert Giant,

Some twelve long months he served in jail to break the landlords’ might.

Now all ye sons of Erin wherever you may be

Give three loud cheers for Barrett and his Great Court Victory.

After the trial Barrett left Ireland for America, where he got a hero’s welcome. He was very successful in the new world. Some years later he visited his life-long friend, Batty Corbearsy, St John’s, later Finns. He spoke freely of the trial, and the woman who saved his life. Did he make the run in twelve minutes? “Certainly not” – he said it took him twenty five minutes at least. God was doubly good to him.

(i) Lambert’s watch withstood the initial shock and continued ticking for at least ten minutes.

(ii) The Station-Master at Athenry, in order to cover up for some man at Galway, logged the time the train should have arrived, when in fact it was almost six minutes late. The driver made up the time-loss before reaching Ballinasloe and the Station-Master stuck steadfastly to the time entry.

What of the revolver? It was the missing link in the murder chain. All the Peelers of Ireland combed every square foot of ground from Castle Lambert to Athenry. He hid it in a rabbit burrow on a small sand-hill about a quarter mile from the “Big House”, and thirty or forty yards off his run and not far from a Sycamore tree. His greatest problem and delay he said was searching for the right make of warren, knowing that, in order to surface in the morning, the rabbits would keep scraping the sand from below causing the revolver to sink deeper in the ground.

Today “Barrett Hill” is a permanent monument to his memory, but let us remember with pride that at Castle Lambert in July 1869 Peter Barrett struck a blow for the Tenant Farmers of Ireland, against the evil and tyranny of Landlordism within our shores. “Go ndéanfaidh Dia trocaire air”.

Author’s note: Before her marriage, Mrs Murray, Frenchfort, was a member of the Burke family Lodge, 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!

See also: Ann Healy –Did the Evicted Tenant’s Son shoot the Landlord?

Also – The Castle Lambert Tapes: Tape 3 – The Shooting of Captain Lambert

Few counties suffered as much as Galway during the struggle for Independence. Our high profile in 1916 ensured that we were flooded with troops Tans and R.I.C., Auxiliaries and Regulars, when the fight was resumed.

About thirty people in all gave their lives in the years 1920-21. The best known of those are Fr. Michael Griffin of Gurteen, Louis Darcy of Headford and Joe Howley of Oranmore, both high-ranking officers in the I.R.A., Michael Walsh, an elected Sinn Fein member of Galway Corporation and the Loughnane bothers of Shanaglish.

Our parish was not spared its share of sorrow. On October 24,1920, the forces of Law and Order burst into the home of Tom Egan at Cashla and shot him dead on his kitchen floor. His wife, with their youngest daughter in her arms, pleaded in vain for her husband’s life. He had been intensely interrogated after the shooting of Shawe-Taylor in March but insisted that he had seen or heard nothing. Others, living farther away from the scene, subsequently admitted that they heard shots. Tom Egan’s silence left him a marked man, and he paid for it with his life.

One of the last Volunteers to die in this phase of the struggle was Bill Freaney. He tragically lost his life at the Gentry’s tennis and cricket pavillion at Athenry on the night of June 30, 1921. A pavilion was erected there for meetings and entertainment of the club members, who were the staunch supporters of British Rule in Ireland. The pavilion was a potential billet for Crown forces. Members of the I.R.A. travelled cross country equipped with a supply of petrol. The pavilion was well sprinkled; young Freaney went to the cellar doing a similar job. One member sprinkled petrol on the east side to a distance of twenty yards – all were ready for a quick get-a-way! When all were believed to have been outside, a lighted match was thrown on the grass. Within seconds the pavilion burst into flames trapping young Freaney below. When clearing the rubble human remains were found, but all was silent. If the name was divulged, the result would be carnage. The Tans would bum all Derrydonnell. The victim of this terrible tragedy was buried in St. Mary’s graveyard marked “the grave of the unknown warrior”. Some weeks later, the Truce was called and everyone believed that the Irish question would be finally settled. The remains of Bill Freaney were exhumed and he was given a public funeral with full military honours. It was miles long – the biggest funeral ever seen in the parish. As a school girl I was standing at Glynn’s corner watching the cortege go by – his mother a sad sight on a side-car, followed by his beautiful girl-friend. The sympathy of the by-standers went out to those two. Fenian Broderick, then an old man, was standing nearby. He struck the road with his stick and with great emotion said “I never thought I’d live to see this day. It’s a sad day for Athenry but a great day for Ireland. Our great men have not died in vain.” He believed as did all others that the sun would soon rise on a free and united Ireland. It was not to be. Bill Freaney rests in Teampeall Geal graveyard, Derrydonnell.

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

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We had a most enjoyable evening last July, when a large crowd accompanied Professor Rynne on a Lecture Tour of the Athenry Medieval Ruins, which will always be a great attraction to the tourist and the stranger. A great past is visible through the Abbey Ruins. As I listened to Professor Rynne, and viewed the impressive, towering tombs of the De Berminghams and Clanrickardes, I could not help thinking that all those great Norman Lords left nothing but a trail of misery to the people of Ireland.

It was easy achieve power, fame and wealth at the expense of others, but death is the great leveller.  “The paths of glory lead but to the grave”. All around us were the simple grave-slabs of our own – Lardners, Kellys, Morrisseys, Hanlys and, in the outer Abbey, hundreds of nameless graves. It was those who peopled this town and parish in generations gone by – good, righteous, christian people who knew no wrong, but who suffered great hardships in their time. Their bones are cradled in this old Abbey; their roots have spread to the farthest ends of the Earth; they have left their imprint on the five vast continents and laid the solid foundation stones of the great Irish Catholic ethos. I could not attempt to write Local History without remembering them. They were the greats of this parish, and with all the people of their time made up ‘greats’ of Ireland. Their kind will not pass this way again.

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

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About 1655 – According the Downe Survey

St. Mary’s Parish Church was in  ruins. I believe the original entrance was from North Gate Street.

Town house, where Paddy Gardiner’s Yard is now, one stone house (thatched) and  five cabins around the Ulster Bank and on left of Church Gate.

Abbey Lane, now Bridge Street, 8 thatched cabins and com mill.

Small Castle without loft or roof.

Abbey (Priory) much out of repair, roofs wanting shingling.

Town Jail on grounds of Telecom Exchange, 2 stone houses and 6 thatched cabins from Jail towards the Square.

North Gate St. 5 thatched cabins.

Old Church St. 6 small thatched cabins, 1 small stone house.

Around Swan Gate 10 thatched cabins, 1 stone house without roof.

On Spittal Lands ruined Church and the ruins of the poor-house, then called “The Spittal” (Ivymount I believe).

Total Picture of Athenry – 40 cabins, 4 stone thatched houses, 1 stone house in ruins.

In one of his lectures (1984) Prof. Rynne said, that the de Berminghams got ‘fed up’ living in the Castle and left to live in a house at the Square. More than likely this is “The Town House” on the Downes Survey Map.

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

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One of the truly great houses in Ireland, the seat of the Daly family, was situated two miles from Moyode. It was known as Dunsandle Castle. I never knew Moyode, as it was partially destroyed by fire in 1910, but Dunsandle in all its grandeur survived into the 1950s.

Many a time during my teens, and into my twenties, I cycled there – in one avenue and out the other – passing the Castle on the way. We believed, and rightly so, that there was no place to compare with the beauty of Dunsandle. It was out of this world, a fairy land of loveliness of woods, dells and walks could be truly described as the reflection of heaven itself.

In 1875, the owner was Denis St. George Daly, late Captain of 11th Dragoons, Lord of the Realm, known as Lord Dunsandle. The Dalys were one of the oldest families in Ireland, and boasted that they could trace their roots back to Niall of the Nine Hostages. Lord Dunsandle was the second greatest landlord in Co. Galway. His land possessions totalled 37,072 acres.

Clanrickarde, of course, was first with 52,601 acres. The Dalys in the past were cruel and merciless landlords. In their time they inflicted terrible hardships and punishment on our people. Apart from their role as landlords, the Dalys were people of great power and influence. As heads of Galway’s municipality, they held control of the city for many decades, and exercised their power in an unjust, corrupt and unscrupulous way. They implemented laws to further their own interests and satisfy their greed, but with no regard for the rights and liberties of the people. A Denis Daly was Speaker of Grattan’s Parliament.

About one hundred and fifty years ago, after a long and a hard struggle, Galway succeeded in beating the stranglehold of Daly power within the city of Galway.

We cannot tarnish all the Daly’s with the same brush, and it must be said in all truth, that the last master of Dunsandle, Major Bowes Daly was a popular and likeable man. We must keep in mind, that he lived in different times, when the power of the Landlords was vanquished. Major Daly was as fine a man as you could wish to see. His wife, the former Lady Diana Lascelles was a beautiful lady, tall, slender and commanding. She was niece of Lord Lascelles, husband of the Princess Royal of England. They had one son, but the marriage broke down. Although Lady Di refused to divorce the Major, he moved to Sligo, where he lived with Mrs. Trundle of Belville House (her mother was a Persse).

In 1946 a big row blew up between the Church and Galway Blazers. The Bishops of Tuam, Galway and Clonfert opposed the appointment of Mrs. Trundle as Master of the Blazers, on the grounds that she was a divorcee. The farming community split on the issue, some backing the church, others the Blazers. For a time the affair became heated and ugly. Farmers were out with hay forks and other weapons keeping the hunt off their lands. After one season the row petered out. Looking back through the eyes of to-day’s world, it all seems like a hilarious comedy, when one considers that a referendum was held a few years ago in an effort to legalise divorce in this country.

The people of Ireland held fast to their Catholic tradition and teaching. The government was defeated by a 5 to 2 majority. In Dublin city the vote slightly favoured divorce, a sign of changing times and a bad omen for the future.

A few years ago Major Daly died in Sligo and his remains were brought to Loughrea for burial. The funeral was a reflection of the great respect in which the Mayor was held. Former Dunsandle tenants were given the big parts at the ceremony – guards of honour, pall-bearers and readers. He is survived by his wife, in Sligo, and members of his family, who now live abroad.

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

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The Hiring Fairs at Athenry were part and pattern of what life was in years gone by. The Connemara men came in their hundreds to be hired by the farmers of the parish, and neighbouring parishes. They were known as “Spalpeens”, meaning in Gaelic “a scythe for a penny”. Around Athenry, their implement was mainly the spade for spring work. Indeed, it can be said that many a sod was turned by those spades for one penny.

The Spalpeens were the finest of young men, often as young as 16 years but mostly around the age of 25. The Hiring Fairs were held after Masses on Sunday, when the Spalpeens lined the walls dressed in bawneen coat, flannel trousers, Aran sweater and a woollen cap – all cottage made. Their only belongings, a change of clothes, were tied around the spade, as they stood around waiting to be hired on the slave market. It must be remembered that, in those years, the farmers themselves were at a very low ebb financially. They too were scraping the soil for a living that was only a mere existence.

These fine Connemara men were carefully examined by the farmers for physique and strength, so that they could shrewdly assess the ones who would give the best return in labour. Spalpeens’ wages were usually £30 with their feeding from the 1st February till Christmas, and the younger ones as low as £15. They worked from dawn till dark for this pittance, and more often than not, these decent men from the Gaeltacht were assigned beds of straw in the barn. It was a form of “Apartheid” which they were forced to accept, however galling they found it.

Their only crime was that they were held down by economic pressures due to the depressed region of their birth. Being native Irish speakers, they could not converse well in English. On the other hand, the farmers knew little Irish. So, the native tongue appeared to many as a barrier to progress. When l was growing up, the finest looking of Connemara girls worked for 2/6d. a week, with no hours, and little sympathy from their employers. At that time they were treated like outcasts.

At the end of the l930s, de Valera implemented a plan, that gave human status, and human dignity to this most important sector of Irish society. Millions were pumped into the Gaeltacht areas to make his plan a reality. Of first importance was education. Religious and other educationalists were quick on the move. Secondary schools were erected with the aid of generous grants. Roads and proper housing were quickly tackled. The work which all this entailed, provided wealth for the people. Transport was then arranged, and the plan was off to a very successful start.

The first aim of the teachers was to establish a bilingual society. English had to be taught through Irish, their mother tongue. The children were quick to absorb all knowledge and were given extra marks at exams for answering in Irish. They were successful in competing for places in the Civil Service and in a short time gained entry to the Universities, Training Colleges and other professions.

The Gaeltacht children were gifted, not only in the academic field, but in every area of education, hotel catering, guest house management and cooking. They excelled in crafts through their own cottage industries and proved to have exceptional creativity.

Comfortable family homes were erected and Gaeltacht scholarships were awarded to English speaking children to help them grasp a speaking knowledge of the native tongue. They went in their thousands each year on a monthly basis, so the plan worked very successfully on a two-way system.

Beautiful hotels and guest houses sprung up to suit the magnificent scenery of Connemara where mountains, sea and lakes all combine to make it one of the great tourist attractions of Ireland. Connemara today is transformed. Its people can hold their own with the best in the land, and have taken their rightful place in Irish society.

The de Valera plan has proved to be most fruitful in productive investment and the millions poured into Connemara have yielded a great dividend to the nation in tourist earnings. It brings home to us forcibly the truth of the Gospel preached by Thomas Davis to the oppressed people of Ireland in 1843, “Educate to uplift, educate to advance, educate to be free”.

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

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One of the last public executions in the county was carried out on Seafin Hill, about seven miles from Athenry on 8th April, 1820. The victim was Anthony Daly of Kilrickle, found guilty of shooting at the Landlord, Burke of St. Clerans, with the intent to kill. It was said that Daly was innocent, and that the case against him was a frame-up.

He was a captain of the White-Boys – a subversive organisation engaged in guerrilla tactics against the landlords. On his way  from Galway Jail to Seafin, Daly sat on his own coffin, and along the way is said to have stood a drink on the hangman. The

Before the execution the Commanding Officer read a crown declaration, stating that Daly would be reprieved, if he gave them the names of the Whiteboys guilty of the crimes against the Landlords. A female voice was heard from the crowd – “Anthony, you were a born a Daly, now let the world see you’ll die like one”. It was said, that those words of encouragement came from his mother.

When about to be blindfolded Daly kicked the hangman with terrific force. When his body was removed from the scaffold, the hangman, in temper and revenge, savagely kicked his head several times.

Daly’s wife was expecting a child the following August and a son was born. Perhaps it was he (there were two others) who later made a career for himself in the English police. It was said that his fine physique attracted the attention of a local landlord, who encouraged him to join, and used his influence to help advance his prospects. In all charity it is hard to blame him for his decision. The success of O’Connell’s constitutional tactics had eroded support for Whiteboy activities, and it was not until the Great Famine that a physical force movement, the Young Irelanders, again emerged. Also, he may have felt, that his family had suffered enough in the struggle against landlordism and that he should carve out his own destiny.

On a beautiful July evening in 1984 I visited Seafin and mounted the steps to view the imposing Celtic Cross that now marks the spot. A verse of poetry by Raftery is inscribed on the base. It was unveiled about twenty five years ago, and a wonderful oration was delivered by Rev. John Fahy of Closetoken. Thank God that Ireland remembered and honoured Daly even if it had taken 140 years to do so. He gave his life for the down-trodden people of Ireland and was no less a martyr than the greatest of his time.

Before leaving that sacred place I offered a prayer for the soul of that great and valiant man.

Anthony Daly is buried in his native Kilrickle; a fine monument marks his grave with the following inscription:

Under this speaking slate

Lies Anthony Daly of the Catholic Faith

Who went to meet his God with love and free will

On the eighth of April on Seafin Hill.

This great country well may know,

He left his friends in grief and woe

His wife and parents and loving children,

Tom, John and Denis in the utmost grief for him,

Let us pray incessant without control

The Lord have Mercy on his soul. I

Alas my grief there go tell,

‘Twas at Dunsandle my Hukey fell

They are both beneath this Marble Slate.

This stone was erected by John Daly

In memory of his son Hugh Daly

Who departed this life September 12, 1819, aged 27

Anthony Daly who departed this life April 8th, 1820, aged 34 years.

Requiescant in Peace

I do not know the circumstances of Hugh Daly’s death at Dunsandle.

Whiteboys had planned to free Daly by ambushing the soldiers who were bringing him to the gallows, but the Authorities were informed, and travelled by a different route.

At his trial Daly swore, “If I shot at Burke, he would not live to tell the tale”. He was one of the best shots in the land. If three Landlords had signed a petition, Daly would not have hanged. Two were willing to sign, but Denis Daly of Dunsandle refused. Raftery, the poet, cursed Daly of Dunsandle for causing the death of this good man.  “May his seed and breed be banished from Dunsandle forever”.

Featured Photo: Seefin, near Craughwell, where Anthony Daly was hanged!

Read also: The Hanging of Anthony Daly!

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

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Abbey Row was occupied by the Cromwellian Soldiers in 1650-51. They were billeted in a three-storey structure, formerly part of the Dominican Priory living quarters. Their school, college and other buildings extended to the field below and at the back of Abbey Row.

The Commander of the Army in Ireland was General John Lambert. He led many campaigns in England and Scotland before being posted to Ireland. The Lamberts claimed to be direct descendants of General John. Shortly afterwards they settled here, as did many other Landlords (Cromwellian Planters).

The Barracks were later occupied by various regiments – 37th Regt. of Foot; 30th South Regt.; 7th Battalion and the 57th Regt. of Foot who were the last to leave Abbey Row in 1819 when the Police Militia moved in and remained until the R.I.C. was established. This force occupied the new barracks at Cross St. about 1850 (now F.C.A. headquarters).

The barracks at Abbey Row became vacant but soon squatters took over as housing conditions in the town were the lowest of the low. Many tales were told about some of the squatters keeping pigs upstairs. After some years the squatters were evicted but soon returned, till finally the barracks were demolished and on the site Abbey Row was built and completed about 1892.

They were the first prestigious group of houses in Athenry. The reasons were: (1) They were stone-made and slated; (2) They had long gardens and out-offices; (3) They had dry closets opening into deep walled pits where all excrement could be burned with lime.

Many members of the R.I.C. lived at Abbey Row. They were, starting at No.8: – Inspector Pathe, Sergt. Murtagh, Sergt. Taheny, Sergt. Craven, Constable Wynne. When Inspector Pathe was transferred, Constable Lyons moved in, and they remained in that order until 1922.

The weekly rent of Abbey Row Houses in 1892 was 3/6d. a week (to-day’s money 17p). Rent Collector was Malcolm Goss. The late Richard Murtagh M.A.B.L. was born and raised at Abbey Row. He was ordained a Jesuit priest at the age of 70. Donal Taheny M.A., the well known historian ,was born at No.6. John, his brother, who later entered the Dominicans and became a famous historian and writer of the order, also lived there. The first tenants to Abbey Row were Cannons, Egans, Clerys and Murtaghs.

Decades before Abbey Row was built (1850 or thereabouts) all the parish came to see the Misses Hennelly’s house at Clarke St. (now Muriel Nolan’s). This wonderful new house was the talk of the seven parishes. The Hennellys were formerly gentlemen farmers of Boyhill area and had a brother a parish priest — Canon Hennelly, Ballinrobe. That placed them in the highest rank.

At that time, and indeed a hundred years on, the status of a family was determined in the following order: (1) A priest in the family – this put them sky-high -, (2) A pump in the yard, (3) A bull in the paddock. Times have changed. Farmers’ sons no longer queue for admission to the seminaries. Every farmer has a bull running with his herd of cows and, to crown it all, the motor-car bull is on call to bestow a special breed on the calf.

Every house in town and country has hot and cold water on tap in at least two rooms and very often in every room. Status is now judged by wealth and education and no need to state that political power is the key to all.

Helen Tully, has a lovely article on Aggie and Abbey Row  in Athenry Parish Heritage site.

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

Editor’s note: The featured photo, from the Valentine Collection shows from right the Old Boy’s School with the teachers’ residences at both ends, the Priory (Abbey) with the Ball Alley in front and on the left, Abbey Row, with Aggie Qualter’s house at No 1, built on the site of the Cloister of the Priory and the former Military Barracks.

The Valentine Collection, in The National Library of Ireland, comprises 3,000 negatives from the period 1900-1960. It is catalogued by county, for the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland. The topographical images were generated for the postcard trade particularly in the years between 1929 and the 1950s.

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