Photograph of Group at foot of Croagh Patrick

Back row: (L to R) Conor Caulfield, James Lee Burke, Jason Hyland, Stephen Molloy, Gearoid Fahy, Leeann Waldron, Louis Burke, Mairead Kelly, Natalie Jordan, Katelyn Duane,

Middle Row (L to R) Martin Kelly (Principal), Daniel Cowman, Aiden Gannon, Tiernan Scully, Thomas Hardiman, Aaron Glancy, Shane Kelly, Liam Jordan, Kevin Madden, Johnny Daly, Niall Quinn, Aoifa Touhy, Rebecca McGreal, Jacqueline Caulfield.

Back Row (L to R) Kieran Kelly, Jack Burke, Cian Talbot, Stephen Jordan, Connor Ruane, Margaret O’Halloran and parents Johnny Gannon & Peter Kelly.

Missing from picture: Fr. Ciaran Blake, Liam Burke, Geraldine Burke, Anne Kelly, Kathleen Duane, Brian Hardiman, Rita Scully, Helena Fahy and Carmel Caulfield.

This year the pupils of the senior classes in Newcastle School replaced the traditional “school tour” with a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick led by their teacher Martin Kelly, an enthusiastic group of parents and Management Board Chairman Fr. Ciaran Blake. Twenty-nine pupils successfully scaled the 780m mountain, as generations of their families had done before them. At the summit Fr. Blake officiated at an end of school year Mass, surely the highest elevated of its kind celebrated by an Irish School.

No decision has been made about next years “school tour” but Fr. Blake is said to be already in contact with the Abbott of the Monastery of St. Bernard in the Alps!

John Mac Kelly from Lisheenkyle is hale and hearty at 100 years of age.

John or “Mac” as he is better known is the last surviving child of Sean Mór Kelly and Julia Freeney.

Sean Ó’Ceallaigh NT of Craughwell who is a member of the same extended family, states that this branch of the Kellys first came from County Mayo and settled in Cluain, Claregalway.

Former generations of the family are buried in Lackagh cemetery. From Cluain, Mac’s family moved to Lisheenkyle in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Mac was a teenager during the Black and Tan war and the following extract from a tape made in 1990 gives a graphic picture of the Black and Tan terror carried out in Lisheenkyle in the early 1920s.

Mac still lives in Lisheenkyle with his son Sean, daughter in law Anne and grandchildren.

John Mac Kelly and “The Black and Tans” Extract from “The Castle Lambert Tapes”

The “Castle Lambert Tape” were recorded as videotape in Pat Kelly’s house in Castle Lambert in August 1990 and is an important part of our folklore.

The main speakers in the video are Pat and Martin T. Kelly, John Mac Kelly, Paddy Kelly and his brother Jack, Nora O’Brien and Fr. Michael O’Malley who conducted the interview. The interviews in their entirety are published in “The Lamberts of Athenry” 1999 by Finbarr O’Regan.

Michael (Rev. ML. O’Malley): Tell me, Mac, you had an experience, yourself and your brother.

Mac: About the Tank! We slept out for a couple of months (in hiding) anyhow, at least three or four months and your fathers (Paddy and jack) was in the same dugout as us.

Michael: Where was this dugout?

Mac: About a half a mile from my place – a very wild place. They made a monster big hole and they put sticks across and sciathans and scraws over it and a little burrow going in like a ladder in the ditch. There was place for six or seven men in it. We had the blankets and the sheets and everything above in it and we used to have great fun in it when we’d go in in the night- time.

We were two weeks home and we thought things was quietened down and the Tans came. They walked into the room and there was myself and the brother in the one bed. They went up on top of the bed.  They put the bed down to the bottom with all they jumped on top of it. They pulled (hit out) first out any side they could and I know I got a welt (got hit) across the mouth and a kick in the hip and a welt in the side and on the Iegs.

They were questioning me here and questioning me brother on the other side. And they caught me by the two legs and drew me out in the yard and put me standing up against the wall of the tank — questioning me. Questioning me about the Landlord too they were, to be honest about it.  They thought that I might give them information. I know nothing I said. I’m only a young lad, seventeen. I said I don’t know what is going on. And the next thing I know I was caught up and threw into the tank of water.

Martin T: And what about Mick (Kelly -Mac’s brother)?

Mac: They pulled him out into another place and they says ‘If you give us information about that Landlord and all that like — give us the information – we won’t shoot you but your brother is going to be shot. Wait now till you hear the shot‘. I don‘t mind I says. I don’t mind what you’lI do. I’m innocent I says. I’m only a young fellow. I don’t know what’s going on in the country.

Next thing I was in the tank and after a few minutes me brother was threw on top of me in the tank — down to the bottom.

Michael: That was Mick?

Mac: That was me brother! Nothing but me head out of the top of the water and nothing on but a shirt on a winter’s night and if you’d scream or roar that’s when you’d get the punching of the gun in the ribs. If you kept quiet —if you screamed they’d punch you. After a bit they pulled me up and pulled me up around the yard by the two legs like an ould dog and threw me inside the door in the kitchen — not to go outside that door ‘till daylight.

Next thing me brother was kept out an hour in the tank after me – kept in it for half an hour. He was pulled in too. I went in me father’s bed for the night, a nice dry bed and me sister putting hot lids and sheets and the devil knows what — trying to warm us.

Nora (O’Brien): Wasn’t it awful too!

Mac: They were questioning me about one certain man. I was making out he was killed anyhow. They were asking me questions about him. Of course, I gave no information.

Nora: They beat Martin Ruane, didn’t they, that night!

Mac: Oh, a good beating! That’s when they came to our house. I said to me father then – ‘Go back’ said l to Martin Ruanes. I sure Martin Ruane is killed’.

He went back around the turn in the old road and he seen the lights coming towards him again and he ran in and said there’s another crowd (of Tans) coming. Do you know what the other crowd came for? They had all the fowl in the place and geese and turkeys bagged and a new bicycle and an accordion left at the back of the house bagged. They came up across to bring the bags with them. And be God all mighty me and Mick took into Leonard’s woodin (small wood) and I brought the blankets with me anyway and I was starting to get warm inside with the blanket over the two of us and after a half an hour there was somebody calling us. My sister, Aggie, was calling us.

They took all the fowl they could and bagged them outside. They came up across from Connells and Ruanes and they took the fowl with them and the bike and the accordion and the devil knows what.

Me father went out to the top of the hill to see would they turn over you’re way but they went the opposite way. They (someone) went up Castle Lambert across the fields to tell your father ‘the Tans are coming’. That’s all I know about the Tans.

The monastic foundation at Templemoyle was at least 560 years in existence when the Norman town of Athenry was founded in the 13th. Century.

The annals record the existence of a monastery at a place called “Ti Sacsain” which is today the name of an adjoining townland to the west and north of Templemoyle. The assigning of “Tysaxon” as a name to an adjoining townland would have been a mapping decision made in relatively recent times. Research carried out by Professor Rynne, Athenry, has established that Tysaxon of the annals and present day Templemoyle are one and the same place. This is to say that the present day Templemoyle is the monastery founded by a disciple of St. Coleman called St. Balan.

Coleman, Abbot of Lindisfarne, returned to Ireland via Iona with a group of loyal Saxon monks following the defeat of the Celtic Tradition at the synod of Whitby in 664 A.D. Coleman and his followers founded monastic houses on Inisbofin, Mayo of the Saxons, Tysaxon and Tullylease, Co. Cork.

The original 7th. Century foundation would have been enclosed by one or more earthen ramparts and would have consisted of simple buildings of wood or stone offering few creature comforts in line with the asceticism of the period. To date no trace of the original structures have been found but traces of a least two concentric enclosing ramparts can be seen surrounding the site. A portion of the southern graveyard wall appears to be co-linear with the inner ring. The name “Teampuil Maol” is locally taken to mean “roofless church” which in turn may mean an abandoned church or an unfinished project.

Tobar Collumbaun

The remains of a Holy Well (Tobar Collumbaun) lie 100 metres to the south of the graveyard on lands owned Jim Kelly, Athenry. There is evidence of a traditional ritual associated with the well. Mrs. Eileen Hynes of Castle Ellen, (nee Donnellan of Templemoyle), recalls her grandmother mentioning the last pilgrim (a woman) to visit Tobar Collumbaun at one time in her childhood. This suggests that the holy well at Templemoyle was a place of visitation up to 150 years ago much as St. Dominic’s Well near Esker Monastery, St. Kerrill’s Well, Gurteen and Our Lady’s Well, Athenry, are today. The well was a source of clear water up to the 1970s but it is now dry probably because of the artificial lowering of the water table in the locality.

Medieval Church

A fragment of the south wall of an early 13th Century church featuring two single-light windows with round heads together with the footings of a portion of the north and west wall are still extant within the graveyard. The church thus indicated was a rectangular structure aligned in an east/west direction. A large portion of the north wall and east gable are recorded as still surviving in the 1927 Ordnance Survey Letters. There is anecdotal evidence that stone from the site was used in the building of Gurteen church.

Templemoyle Bell

The Templemoyle Bell, now on display in the National Museum, was found in a sand pit close to the graveyard in 1979 by Gerry Rabbitte, Tysaxon, then a pupil of Newcastle School. He recognised the bell from a drawing the author had done of St. Patrick’s Bell on the blackboard. Gerry promptly declared to the class –“We’ve a bell like that at home ourselves.”

True to his word Gerry arrived in next day with what turned out to be a significant find; a riveted iron hand bell coated in bronze and belonging to period between 600 A.D. and 900 A.D.

The Rabbitte family presented the bell to the National Museum where it is now on public display.

Templemoyle Grave Slab

The bell found by Gerard Rabbitte was probably buried with an Abbot of the monastery as a symbol of his temporal authority. A grave slab, bearing the inscription “Oroit ar Mael Poil” and an incised cross was found nearby. The carving of a cross following the name indicates a prelate of high standing so it is quite possible that both the slab and bell belonged to the interment of an abbot called Mael Poil.

These finds were found in an extensive burial ground stretching eastwards from Templemoyle on top of a low esker which was excavated for sand and gravel during the 1960s and 70s. The shallow graves were mistakenly interpreted as ”famine graves” and the human remains were reburied at different times locally. lt was planned that the inscribed slab found close to the bell be removed to the safety of Newcastle Church but unfortunately it was taken from the site before this could be done. Efforts are been made to have the grave slab returned to Newcastle.

Templemoyle Carved Figure

About twenty years ago, local historian Sam Quinn of Mountpelier, was shown a carved figure found within the graveyard of Templemoyle. Sam carefully hid the object within the site thus saving it for posterity. Two years ago he revealed the location of the figure to Peadar Monaghan, then chairman of the Community Council who in turn kept it in safe keeping until it was viewed by Professor Rynne. It is a female figure with limbs splayed in an exhibitionist pose, carved on one end of a of a limestone cuboid measuring 62cm.x25cm.x2Ocm. It may have been originally set over a church doorway and bears some resemblance to a classical Sheela na Gig. It is now on display in the front porch of Newcastle Church together with an explanatory note, written by Professor Rynne.

“Cailín Féachach” Tradition

Prior to the figure being found by Sam Quinn there had been a reference to a “Cailín Féachach” (staring woman) within the graveyard in local folklore. This is testified to by John Willie Conan, Newcastle, who points out a hillock called “An Cnoc Féachana” which lies in Joe Corbett’s land, close to the Athenry – Newcastle road and approximately 500m south-east of the monastery. According to John Willie local lore tells of a staring woman who stood on this hillock and watched the monks in the monastery to the north-west thus intimidating them to the degree that they abandoned the place, leaving their church unroofed. This early embodiment of radical feminism may have to give way to her more abiding counterpart in stone as the real origin of the “Cailín Féachach” legend.

This carving may have ornamented the church at Templemoyle before the destruction of the building. Most Sheela-na-Gigs* have bulging or bossed eyes and this figure is certainly within the Sheela family.

A selection of dressed and carved stone from various periods has been found within the site. Templemoyle also contains a number of ornate 19th Century funerary monuments as well as grave slabs with trademarks and diverse motifs dating back to the 18th Century and earlier.

Subterranean Chamber

A stone built underground chamber with an arched entrance facing east lies a few metres south of the existing church wall. Local tradition holds that coffins were left in this chamber overnight prior to burial but there is no evidence as to when, if ever, this practice prevailed.

Templevalley/Teampuil an Bhaile

A few hundred metres north of Templemoyle, in the townland of Tysaxon and on lands owned by the

Cooke family of Monivea, lies an ivy covered church ruin. A mid 15th Century date is suggested for this church and it is said that it was founded by the Burkes for the Franciscan Tertiaries. The name

“Templevalley/Teampuil an Bhaile” may derive from the meaning “Church of the town land” as opposed to “Teampuil Maol”- “Church of the monastery”.

Restoration Scheme

A scheme of restoration of this nationally and internationally important site will shortly be started through a subcommittee of Newcastle Community Council. The scheme will be in three phases:

1.      The preservation of the stone and mortar church wall. (Approved by DÚCHA$)

2.      A professional survey of the built, natural and cultural heritage of the graveyard and its associated       features. (This is an addition to a detailed Archaeological Survey already carried by Martin Fitzpatrick, Arch. Consutancy Ltd, Athenry).

3.     The preservation of the graveyard in its three aspects and of associated features.

*Sheela-na-Gigs, Origins and Functions‘, Eamonn P. Kelly, N.M I. 1996.

Martin T. KelIy, B. Ed., Dip. ArchaeoIogy, is Principal of Newcastle School.

Temple Moyle – Teampall Maol – Temple Valley – Teampall an Bhaile – Tysaxon – Tigh Sacsan

A visitor to Newcastle, situated five miles N.E. of Athenry town, will notice two stone ruins lying west of the church and school.

One, Temple Moyle, consisting of a single wall with two narrow windows and set on a mount within a crowded burial ground is what remains of Temple Moyle – Teampall Maol (The roofless church). The other, Temple Valley, standing in open grassland some distance away, is a more complete remnant of a rectangular church and is known locally as Temple Valley – Teampall an Bhaile (The church of the town). Historians identify both as late medieval Franciscan foundations.


The townland of Tysaxon (The house of the Saxons), which lies close to the ruins of Temple Moyle is believed to derive its name from a monastic foundation established by St. Balan (a disciple of St. Coleman) following the confrontational Synod of Whitby (664 A.D.).

It is suggested that the site of Temple Moyle church and that of the ancient Saxon foundation are one and the same. A number of factors support this suggestion: the absence of ecclesiastical remains within the townland of Tysaxon as presently delineated; the close proximity of the Tysaxon boundary to Temple Moyle; and the time-worn aspect of the place surrounded as it is by a crowded and patently ancient burial ground.

Handbell and Graveslab

The discovery in 1978 of an iron, bronze-coated handbell and an inscribed graveslab close to Temple Moyle, strengthens the case for linking the two sites. The handbell, identified by Professor Etienne Rynne as being of a class associated with the A.D. 600 – 900 period, was found during the excavation of the sand hills close to Temple Moyle. The commercial excavation also threw up an inscribed graveslab, the inscription reading “Oroil ar Maelpoill”. Professor Rynne confirms that the characteristics of the slab are consistent with a ninth or tenth century dating. The circumstances of discovery give strong (but not conclusive) evidence that the slab and the handbell belonged to the same interment, the combination of factors are suggestive of the adjacent sandhills having being used as places of ancient burial with strong evidence of at least one important ecclesiastical interment.
The handbell is preserved in the National Museum and may be viewed by appointment.
The graveslab has been removed to an unknown location.

Thus it would seem that the ancient ecclesiastical house of Tysaxon shares a fraternal origin with that of Mayo (Magh Eo Na Sacsan), Tullylease and Inishbofin. Through the personages of St. Coleman and St. Aidan of Lindisfarne Tysaxon can trace a direct link to the motherhouse of Iona itself.

Martin Kelly, Newcastle School, 1994 – Published in the Athenry Journal November 1995

Acknowledgements: Professor Etienne Rynne, U.C.G.; Gerard Rabbitte, Tysaxon (responsible for the discovery of the bell and slab).

Reference: “Locating Tysaxon. Discovery of a bell and graveslab near Athenry” Etienne Rynne, 1979

Athenry Historical Society made a welcome foray into the half-parish of Newcastle recently to consider the origins of Temple Moyle / Tysaxon.

Professor Etienne Rynne, no stranger to the locality, traced the history of the religious foundation in a manner which entirely satisfied the contentions traditionally held in area; that the site predates the “Renaissance” and the “Medieval” and much more besides.

The hub of the professor’s thesis is that Temple Moyle and Tysaxon are one, and the same location having been founded as part of the Coleman Migration following the Synod of Whitby.  His attention had originally been drawn to the place on the discovery of a hand-bell and graveslabs by Gerrard Rabbitte during sandpit excavation in the late seventies.  A study of this site and others has given rise to a renewed interest in Northumbrian influences on Irish monastic art in such locations as Mayo na Sacson, Innishboffin, Ardagh, Tullylease and Derry na Flan.  The Lindesfarne tradition of the celtic church returning to influence that of its origins was a fascinating aspect of the professors talk.

Fascinating to were the pieces of local lore offered during the tea break by John Willie Cloonan, Matt Kelly, Eugene Coleman and retired teacher Paddy Joyce.

Two artifacts in particular were the subject of this discussion,a “Sile na Gig” sculpture and a carving of a “Caileach Feachach”. The speakers were adamant that both carving were to be seen in Temple Moyle graveyard until recently. The story goes that building of the Temple Moyle (the roofiess church) was abandoned due to the baleful attentions of the starving crone (Caiteach Feachach) perched on a nearby hill.

The locals were reluctant to share this piece of lore with the professor and other learned people present for fear of ridicule or scepticism and so it remained confined to a small group at the tea-break. But not even the sceptic professor can deny that a small hillock lying a few hundred meters south of Temple Moyle is known locally as “Cnoc Feachana”.

During the summer the parish mourned the passing of one who loved life, Christy Kelly.

Christy’s personality lit up many facets of life; the workplace, the golf-club, the local bar, the playing field and the neighbourhood. He was always the one to ‘break the ice’ for the visitor or stranger or to enliven even the most serious debate with a humourous story or well timed joke.

Always a participant and never merely an observer, Christy encouraged his friends to venture into areas previously unknown to them. There are many now with a ‘respectable’ handicap, who, were it not for Christy’s encouragement, would never have swung a golf club. A whole generation of camogie players remember with affection his advice and support during good times and bad.

Christy took up the sport of hunting at a time when the sport was opening up to local landowners and their families. Hunting lore abounds with many accounts of his courage and skill as he traversed the ‘double stonewalls’ of Ballygurrane, Castle Lambert, Moorpark, Cahertymore and Carnaun in pursuit of the elusive fox.

This was his native landscape and he knew every field and common.

Christy passed away as he had lived, in giving pleasure to others. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

“The Castle Lambert Estate”

Aughrim Park, including Moor, occupied the fertile eastern portion of the Barony of Clare. The Barony was almost identical in extent to the ancient district of ‘Muintir Murchada’ and ‘Magh Seola’. The placename ‘Aughrim’ derives from the original name in the Irish language variously rendered as `Each Dhroim` (horse backed ridge) or ‘Ach Dhruim’ (good hilltop land from ‘acha’ as in ‘Achreidh na Gaillimhe’/ the fertile plain of east Galway). Following the Anglo-Norman settlement of south and west Connacht led by Richard de Burgh, Aughrim fell within the invaders’ sphere of influence. ‘The Irish Barons came into Connacht and began the building of castles therein’.

An inventory of castles of the period does not include one at Aughrim but a more modest structure such as a moated farmstead may have been built there. An enclosure having the appearance of an early Norman moated site lies two miles to the east at Carnaun. The geographical spread of castles and hall houses built by de Burgh and his vassals in Galway between 1237 and 1250 shows a strategic intent. Castles at Súicín and Aughrim (Ballinasloe) controlled the eastern route. Ardrahan and Kiltartan guarded the pass from the south. Meelick, Galway, Castlekirke, Cargin and Annaghkeen controlled river or lake crossings. The castles of Dunmore, Moylough, Athenry and Tiaquin formed a buffer between de Burgh and his enemies the O’Connors in the King’s Cantreds and the O’Kellys of Hymany. The rich land of Aughrim was undoubtedly settled but may not have been deemed strategically important enough to merit a stone castle during the early period of Norman settlement 1.

An inventory of castles, compiled between 1574 and 1585 for the use of the Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney and his successors, included a castle at ‘Achrym’ owned by Edmund Owhny (0’Heyne). This list named 34 de Burgh castles in the Barony of Clare, which at the time was under the joint chieftainship of John Burke Fitz Thomas MacHugh and Mac Creamon. All the castle owners on the list bore Anglo-Norman names (McMeyler, Burke, Fitzambrose etc.) except for two: MacSwyne and O’Owhny of Aughrim. The castle in nearby Carnaun was listed under the ownership of John Oge Fitz John Fitz Ed. Grange, another adjacent castle, was owned by Walter Boy (Buí, probably Burke) 2.

O’Heyne of Aughrim was a loyal follower of Clanrickard (ruler of the southern portion of the de Burgh territory i.e. that of MacWilliam Oughter) and may have suffered at the hands of Sidney or his successor as a result. Sidney said of him: ‘O’Heyne in the sute of Clanricard once mighty now meane’.

Richard, Earl of Clanrickard, though loyal to the queen, was sent by Fitton, the President of Connacht, to London to be examined and detained by the Privy Council. This sparked a rebellion by his sons Ulick and John which broke out in 1572 and simmered for ten years. The attack on Athenry by the two ‘Mac an Iarlas’ in June 1576 brought the conflict within three miles of O’Heyne of Castle Lambert and he may have found himself involved in it. There was general hostility among the Gaelic and Norman chiefs to the introduction of English law in Connacht because it aimed to deprive them of their traditional sources of revenue. Thus it was common to find chiefs such as Clanrickard remaining loyal to the sovereign but opposed to her representatives when they shired the province and imposed a new order upon it. O’Heyne, though loyal to Clanrickard and the Queen may have fallen foul of the Lord Deputy on this basis.

Colonel J. P. Nolan, historian, writing in the G. A. & H. Journal, 1900, said of Edmond Owhny (O’Heyne): ‘O’Heyne was of fair importance in Galway as late as 1585… the Lord Deputy did not appreciate Irish country gentlemen with castles.’ (Sir John Perrot was appointed Lord Deputy in 1584.)  The tone of Sidney’s remarks regarding O’Heyne of Aughrim suggests his possible dispossession. During the period following 1586 the name of Henry Ormsby became associated with Aughrim. He is said to have come to Ireland in the Queen’s service on the invitation of Sir Nicholas Malby, President of Connaught. Ormsby married Elizabeth Newman, the widow of Thomas Crompton, and thereby obtained an interest in a lease of Knockmoy Abbey. He is said to have settled in Aughrim and was killed in a sandpit there in 1601 at the hands of the Mayo Burkes and others. His death ‘in her Majesty’s service’ is recorded in the Acts of the Privy Council 3. The end of the century saw the expansion into the countryside of wealthy Galway City merchants as new landlords replacing the declining Anglo-Norman families.

The Book of Survey and Distribution records a transaction relating to the lands at Aughrim owned by two such ‘tribesmen’, Sir Richard Blake and Sir Robuck Lynch. They are named as proprietors, in 1641, of 2,599 acres of profitable and unprofitable land at Aughrim. The entry records the granting of the profitable portion of these lands (1,070 acres) to Sir Thomas Newcomen and Peter Blake. By certificate and patent, act of Settlement 1662-16844. Thus a portion of the lands of Aughrim became part of the estate of the Blake family of Corbally (Castle Daly). In time the Blakes of Corbally themselves fell victim to the repeating cycle of  prosperity and ruin which, over the years, had contrived to replace old landlords with new. In 1742 Martin Blake of Aughrim and Corbally found himself in debt to Walter Lambert of Creg Clare. By virtue of this indebtedness John Lambert acquired in 1756 (from Patrick Blake) ‘the Castle Park of Aughrim and Moor Aughrim’ probably on behalf of the Creg Clare estate5. It was to become the property of his brother Thomas Lambert. In 1785 the Brownes of Cahermacrinode sold what was to become the basis of the Castle Ellen estate to Peter Lambert, another son of Walter Lambert of Cregclare. Peter Lambert having been a successful merchant in Dublin was in a position to add lands bought from the Brownes of Coolarne to the new estate of Castle Ellen6. It would appear that the Castle Ellen Lamberts lived first in the Tower House which still stands close to the mansion, then moved to St Ellen’s in an adjacent townland of that name (the house is recorded on an O.S. Map of 1838). They finally settled in Castle Ellen House, the gateway and yard of which was completed in 1875 by Walter Peter Lambert, by then a proprietor of 3,829 acres.

At Aughrim the stone castle/tower house and bawn were probably demolished by the new owner Thomas Lambert and his son Walter to make way for a family mansion. It is also possible that the keep was incorporated into the newly built mansion `Castle Lambert` as happened in the case of Monivea and Castle Taylor.  It is likely that the building of the mansion of Castle Lambert with its extensive yards and out-houses was begun by Thomas after 1756 and was continued during the lifetime of his son Walter Lambert (Fig.1). Local lore relates that the Lamberts used stone taken from a disused church, which reputedly stood close to the boundary between the townlands of Caherbriscaun and Knocknacreeva, in the building of their mansion. A corbel set over an archway in the stables and bearing the sacred anagram IHS is significant in this regard.

Walter Lambert married Elizabeth Persse daughter, of Burton Persse (Moyode), in 1791 and died in 1824.

The letters of Henry Stratford Persse (nephew of Mrs Lambert) written between 1821 and 1832 contain many references to Castle Lambert and show the estate to have been a well established seat by that time. Persse portrays Walter and Elizabeth Lambert as having been hospitable hosts yet frugal in their daily lives. He reminded his sons in America (the recipients of his letters) that he ‘saw on the young Lamberts coats made of the cloth their mother manufactured’ and that Mrs Elizabeth Lambert (nee Persse of Moyode) of Castle Lambert made shoes for her whole family. The Persse letters give us a glimpse of a pre-famine estate which, though not in the hands of a profligate, had by the 1830s become heavily encumbered. Persse for example recorded in his  letters that Mr. Lambert ‘could not raise the five pounds necessary to send his son Robert to join his brothers in America … do you wonder that Mr. Lambert, although having a vast estate in this country should be without five pounds to send out his son to you?’

Persse, employed as he was as a customs officer, saw at first hand the operation of the prevailing taxation system and lay the blame for the country’s ills at the door of those who conceived the penal taxation code. He wrote (of Mr. Lambert): ‘If he or his tenants want tobacco they must give a good ewe to pay the duty on one pound of tobacco, or fifty two stone of potatoes or ten stone of oats or ten horseloads of turf. If he wants ropes for his farm use he must give two hundred weight of wheat for the tax upon a hundred weight of hemp, one hundred weight of wheat for a licence to shoot upon his own land…’ 8. The burden of taxation and tithes caused real hardship even to landed gentry in the period prior to the famine and wrought hardship in the extreme on the tenants, labourers and herds who had a tenuous existence within the system at the best of times.

The news of the death of Walter Lambert (1824) was communicated by Persse to his sons with a sense of great loss: ‘You will learn with regret the death of our friend Mr. Lambert. Castle Lambert was always open to our family’.9 He held out no hope for the continuance of an hospitable regime at Castle Lambert on the accession of the new owner Walter Lambert: ‘Watt will let no one stop at Castle Lambert that he does not specially invite…. Robert (Watt’s younger brother) got the turn out there and must now seek shelter from his brother Burton who is in Kerry’.10 The new incumbent, Walter (1795-1867), married Ann, the eldest daughter of Colonel Giles Eyre of Eyre Court. This marriage, in 1817, united two of the leading landed families in Galway. Walter Lambert achieved some notoriety gaining for himself the positions of DL, JP, and High Sheriff.  Such notoriety and a good marriage alliance did not however prevent the entire estate of Castle Lambert and Streamstown being offered for sale in 1855 by the Commissioners for the sale of Encumbered Estates in Ireland. By this time the estate had passed into the ownership of Walter’s eldest son Thomas Eyre (b. 1820) with an interest also recorded for one Charles K. Magrath. Magrath’s interest may have been in relation to the Streamstown farm. Giles Eyre Lambert, Walter’s second son, is recorded as having a lease of the Moor Park portion of the farm, making him a tenant of his brother Thomas at the time of the proposed sale.

The Bill of Sale divided the estate as follows; Cashla/Ballinloughaun (part of)/Peakroe (c. 325 acres), Lisheenkyle E./Lisheenkyle W./ Ballinloughaun (part of), (971 acres), Moor (part of), (613 acres), Cashla (part of)/Moor (part of)/Barrett’s Park (492 acres), Ballybackagh (318 acres), Caherbriscaun (374 acres), Tobernavean / Deerpark (485 acres), Carraunduff /Knocknacreeva/ Pollagooil (519 acres) and Castle Lambert (588 acres). The estate in all measured c. 4,600 statute acres. Included in the sale was the family mansion described as follows; ‘a large and handsome edifice with extensive ranges of well appointed offices in perfect repair’ (figure3).

A study of the economy of the estate shows an income deriving from two main sources; rental income from tenants holding farms on a year to year basis and income accruing from the produce of the Castle Lambert home farm of 588 acres. An interesting concession to diversity was the opening of a coal pit at Pollagooil (reputedly under a German manager), an enterprise which didn’t prosper. The profile of land occupancy among the tenants shows a wide discrepancy in terms of farm size. Giles Eyre Lambert was by far the largest tenant leasing 1,583 acres at Moor Park, Lisheenkyle and Ballinloughaun. Except for the home farm the remaining land was rented to a total of 28 tenants who held farms ranging in size from 4 acres to 421 acres. The shareout can be broken down as follows; eight tenants held farms of less than 10 acres; four tenants held farms of between 10 acres and 30 acres; five tenants held farms between 30 and 100 acres; and nine tenants held farms in access of 100 acres. The total yearly income of the estate was estimated at £1,043-18-03 for the purpose of the sale.

As it happened the sale of the estate turned out to be an internal family arrangement. The title and burdens of Castle Lambert passed to the father-in-law (or possibly brother-in-law) of Thomas Lambert namely William Blakney Persse Trousdell of Fort House, Kilrush, Co. Clare. (Thomas Eyre Lambert had married, in 1850, Sarah, third daughter of Trousdell of Kilrush). Trousdell brought a greater portion of the estate into use for the purpose of farming and thus reduced the proportion of land let to tenants following a prevailing general trend. It would appear that Thomas Lambert remained in residence during a considerable period after the 1855 sale as is borne out in the background details disclosed during the trial of Peter Barrett, whose attempt in 1869 to assassinate Capt. Lambert has been documented far and wide. It suffices to say that the evidence given by servants, Capt. Lambert himself and others testifies to Captain Lambert being in permanent residence and carrying on the normal lifestyle of a landed country gentleman. Such evidence told of Barrett calling to the hall door on a number of occasions seeking Captain Lambert, of Captain Lambert having walked his brother Giles part of the way home to Moor Park and of the ladies having picked fruit in the orchard earlier in the day and so on.

The records of the Galway Hunt (the Blazers) show the pack having been kept at Castle Lambert between 1888 and 1890 while the Master of the day, Burton de Burgh Persse, resided there. The huge farming enterprise undertaken by Trousdell would necessitate his residing there also for at least part of the year. The death of Alexander James Trousdell of Castle Lambert (infant) is recorded for the year 1877 on a headstone in the Church of Ireland section of St. Mary’s, Athenry. (See ‘Buried in Athenry’/Plot no. 9, in this book.)

The stewardship of Trousdell did not stop the estate’s slide to bankruptcy. On the petition of The Scottish Widows’ Fund and Life Assurance Society the estate was offered for sale by public auction on Friday June 17th 1892. The Bill of Sale of 1892 showed that much had changed on the estate since the publication of the previous one, 37 years earlier. The amount of land retained by the owner had increased to 2,835 acres. Giles Eyre Lambert remained the largest tenant leasing 611 acres. The remainder (1,239 acres) was rented by a total of 31 tenants holding farms, which ranged in size from 1.5 acres to 241 acres with the average size being 15 acres. The annual yearly rental income was estimated at £968-3-5 for the purpose of the 1892 sale.

The outcome of the 1892 sale was the breaking up of the estate among a number of parties with the core properties i.e. Castle Lambert (614 acres) and Moor Park (611 acres) and sundry other lots being taken over by Frank Shawe Taylor of Castle Taylor. Many smaller lots were disposed of also, some to sitting tenants and some to outside parties. Lands in Knocknacreeva, Lisheenkyle and Pollagooil were taken over by Thomas O’Donnell who in turn sold separate lots to Tommy Kelly (Knocknacreeva), Seán (Beg) Kelly (Caraunduff), the Caulfield family (Pollagooil) and Patrick Costello, Martin Willie Higgins and the Grealish family (Lisheenkyle), for example. The relatively large farm leased by John Kidd in Cashla (241 acres) was bought by the family of Pat and William Higgins. Henry Walsh bought other lands at Tobernavean (212 acres). It was also prior to the coming of Frank Shawe Taylor that a Mr. Adamson farmed for some time within the estate. Local lore tells of his progressive farming methods, which included ploughing and baling hay by steam power. It is also said that he sent milk on a daily basis by train to Dublin. It is also said, however, that his efforts were a financial failure and did not last for much longer that a year or so. Strictly speaking Frank Shawe Taylor derived from the Shawes but this surname became subsumed into that of the landed Taylor family. The Taylors were granted the lands of Hy Fiachra McGrath following the 1649-1652 Cromwellian campaign and renamed the location Castle Taylor. The name ‘Shawe’ was introduced in 1825 when Albinia Hester Taylor, daughter and heiress of Sir John Taylor, married Francis Manly Shawe. It was by pre-nuptial agreement that Shawe agreed to forsake his surname in favour of ‘Taylor’.

The books of rateable valuation for the period 1915-1917 confirm Shawe Taylor’s occupation of Castle Lambert and Moorpark with the ‘immediate lessor’ named as Wm. B. P. Trousdell. By the same token Henry Walsh is named as occupying 212 acres at Tobernavean with the ‘immediate lessor’ named as the representatives of Peter F. Lambert. It is also possible that Shawe Taylor’s entire holding was purchased in time by Martin Walsh, a brother of Henry Walsh and an owner of two public houses in Eyre Square, Galway. An Irish Land Commission rent demand, dated 1927, named Martin Walsh as owner of what were formerly Shawe Taylor’s lands at Moor (See -’The Castle Lambert Tape 2. The Land’). Taylor assumed the Castle Lambert/Moor Park property at a time when the estate was loosing its outdated Manorial nature and when tenants were demanding real ownership of the land, which they and their predecessors had rented on a year to year basis. This agrarian agitation together with the spread of the Home Rule Movement and the later Republican Movement in the locality generally (Athenry had been one of the few places outside Dublin to have answered Pearse’s call to arms in 1916) made for a very volatile situation in Castle Lambert during the early decades of the century. Added to that was a bitter local dispute which arose between Shawe Taylor and local residents concerning their use of the grand entrance as access to the Cashla/Athenry road especially when going to weekly Mass. Shawe Taylor offered them the option of constructing a new roadway close to a traditional mass path which joined the Athenry road in Pollnagrough. A start was made on this project but it proved impractical and was abandoned.

The eviction by Shawe Taylor of his herd Tommy Kelly from the herd’s cottage in Castle Lambert exacerbated the situation further. Tommy Kelly had refused to carry out his herding duties in sympathy with the local tenants. There is no doubt that the land question and specifically the division of the estate among the tenants was an important issue also. It is reported that Shawe Taylor received a number of deputations from the tenants on this issue. His assassination in March 1920 while going by car to the fair of Galway pre-empted a peaceful resolution of the question, which may be presumed to have been the purpose of the tenant delegations. There followed from Shawe Taylor’s death a period of reprisal on the part of the security forces which caused many local people to ‘go on the run’ and which culminated in the shooting dead of Tom Egan of Cashla in his own kitchen. Thus two families became tragic victims of the prevailing volatile situation. The death of Shawe Taylor and the departure of his wife and family from Moorpark was followed by a period wherein the lands were divided on an ad hoc basis.

It appears that a local committee undertook the purchase of the estate and its division among the tenants and estate employees in the period immediately following 1920. Bank repayments proved to be a severe burden and when the Irish Land Commission assumed responsibility for the division of the lands in 1928 it was a welcome development. A typical case in point was that of Paddy Kelly of Ivy House. He was granted 56 acres in 1924, as his division and bank repayments amounted to £48 per annum. Following the Irish Land Commission taking over the estate and re-leasing it, the repayments were reduced to £24 per annum, a considerable saving at that time.

In all 50 farming families were set up within the boundaries of the Castle Lambert estate and for the remaining years of this century have diligently carried on, with considerable success, what they know and love most, farming.

Acknowledgements: The writer would like to acknowledge the help and information given by the following people: My father, Pat Kelly, My neighbour, Mick Kelly. Tommy Kelly, Ivy House. Martin Higgins, Castle Lambert. Eileen Holian (nee Higgins), Athenry. Mattie (William) and Bridie Higgins. Staff of Galway Co. Libraries, Cathedral Square and NUI Galway. Above all Finbarr O’Regan who was a bottomless well of information.

Main Photo: Martin Kelly, Author

1) Annals of Connacht, for AD 1237, Four Masters, Inishfallen, Ulster.
2) Carew Mss. Vol. 611 fos. 239-246, Lambeth Palace Library.    (Jrl. G. A. & H. Soc. Vol. 1)
3) The Ormsby Letters. Jrl. G. A. & H. Soc. Vol. 4, nos. 3 & 4.
4) The Galway Book of Survey and Distribution, 1663-1703.
5) Registry of Deeds, Bk. 107, p. 516.
6) Melvin, Patrick, `The Composition of the Galway Gentry` (The Irish Genealogist pps. 81-98, 1986) 7) ‘To the Land of the Free from this Island of Slaves’, Narratives. Henry Stratford Persse’s letters from Galway to America, 1821-1832.Edited by James L. Pethica and James C. Roy. Cork University Press, 1998.
8) Ibid.
9) Ibid.
10) Pethica and Roy.

The close association of the O’Regan family with Carnaun National School which began with Tim O’Regan and Babs, continued through Mrs. Tim O’Regan and is now maintained by Finbarr O’Regan and Anita Coffey (O’Regan) is, intriguingly consistent with Irish Bardic tradition.  The ancient Gaelic system tended to assign the art of teaching more than any other to specific families, members of the learned class or “Aos-Dana”.  These families transmitted the traditions, laws, customs, history and genealogy of the race from one generation to the next and often maintained a close link with teaching within the family itself.  The long association of the O’Regan family with teaching and specifically with Carnaun has given to that school a unique tradition. and a spirit which has always fostered a pride in local identity and heritage.  This partly explains the special relationship between “oide” and “dalta” that has existed there, a relationship said by Padraic Pearse, to be characteristic of the ancient Bardic schools also.  The school has always been conscious of its location, set firmly as it is, in the heart of rural east Galway and drawing its pupils from an industrious farming community.  Aspects of local life such as farming practices, local lore, the Irish language, hunting, sporting and social activities have always been part of the particular curriculum of this school.  Indeed it can truthfully be said that bearing was “environmentally based” here before the principle was ever enshrined in the official national curriculum.

The link with the Bardic tradition in the case of Carnaun school is not as far fetched as it may seem when one considers that teachers of Tim O’Regan’s generation had second hand if not first hand exposure to bearing within the “hedge” school system, particularly in Munster.  The hedge schools survived as a link between the days of Cromwellian persecution and the setting up of the national school system.  They were chosen by Catholic parents in preference to the parish schools and grammer schools established by the crown authorities and protestant societies.  Dr. T.A. Flanagan N.T. of Ballinasloe has written that the oral method of instruction involving memorisation and recitation which was associated with the Bardic schools was also used in the hedge schools.  Added to this is the fact that Carnaun school, like other national schools, replaced the hedge schools in the area.  It is recorded that at least two such schools were in operation in Athenry parish in the mid nineteenth century.  One school was kept by Mrs. and Robert Kane in Athenry town which had an attendance of thirty pupils who each paid a maximum of two shillings and six pence per quarter.  The setting up of another hedge school at Palmerstown in 1835 is also recorded.  It was established by a Mr. Donoghue and instruction was given in reading, writing, arithmetic and Roman Catholic catechism.  Though there is no mention of this school in local oral tradition it is interesting to note that pupils walked from Palmerstown to Carnaun school in the days before Lisheenkyle school was built.


National Schools System

The Irish National System of primary education was the first of its kind in these islands.  It was established under the new Whig government in 1831 by the chief secretary for Ireland, Edward Stanley.
The setting up of the system was the subject of much controversy, not alone between the various churches but also within the catholic church itself.  One section of the catholic hierarchy was prepared to accept the system but another group, led by Dr. John McHale, Archbishop of Tuam, opposed it.  Archbishop McHale regarded the system as both anti-catholic and anti-Irish in its spirit and intent.

However, a severe shortage of proper schools and the spread of protestant proslytising societies in the Arch Diocese gave the Archbishop no option but to give a grudging “go ahead” to the system.  In a pastoral letter of 1852 he wrote in favour of the establishment of national schools, where there was no alternative.

Thus, Tuam was a late participant in the system and not many of its original school buildings are much older than Carnaun National School.

Carnaun National School – Almost in Turloughmore!

It is an interesting fact that the school standing in Carnaun today was almost built in the parish of Lackagh, probably on the Coolarne side of Cahertymore Crossroads.  Canon Thomas of Athenry first set about building a school in the district around the year 1877 but failing to get a site within the parish boundaries he accepted a site from W. Meldon of Coolarne in the parish of Lackagh.  The stones for the school were quarried but before any building had begun Canon Thomas died.  About a year and a half afterwards Canon Canton came to the parish and Walter Lambert of Castle Ellen gave him a site at Carnaun where the present school stands.  The school was originally built to accommodate forty pupils but was later extended to cater for thirty eight additional pupils.  The last major renovation of the building took place in 1961 when a new third classroom was added.
It is fitting that this proud institution enters its second century refurbished and fitted out to a standard which will prepare pupils for the challenges of life in the new millennium.