Micheál Ó Lócháin (b. 1836)

Micheál Ó Lócháin (or later Ó Lógáin), who was born in Curraghderry, Milltown in September 1836.  Little is known of his youth.  His father was a Lohan and his mother’s name was Hession.  He went to school between the ages of nine and eighteen.  This may well have been, initially at least, at a hedge-school run in Curraghderry by a teacher named Martin Doyle.  Ó Lócháin remembered that while there, he was taught to memorize the bilingual catechism produced for the people of Tuam by Archbishop MacHale.  He was a schoolmate in his youth of William Joyce, who was later parish priest of Louisburgh.  One of his last teachers was Peter Duggan, an uncle of the future Bishop of Clonfert, Patrick Duggan.

Ó Lócháin emigrated and around 1871 he qualified as a teacher from St. Joseph’s School in Brooklyn, New York.  He taught in St. Joseph’s for some time and it was at that stage that he began to earn a name as an activist for the Irish language.  There were about 200,000 Irish emigrants then in New York, many of whom were native speakers.  He began a Gaelscoil first in Jefferson Hall, at the corner of Willoughby and Adam Streets, and later at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street.  He wrote many letters concerning the need to preserve Irish in the pages of the Irish World and the Brooklyn Citizen and founded the Brooklyn Philo-Celtic and Gaelic societies.  In 1884, he helped found and became secretary to a national Gaelic Society for the US.  It was around this time that he started the bi-lingual An Gaodhal and remained its owner and editor until his death in 1899.  By 1897 he could boast that it had a monthly readership of around 1,500.  It was in the pages of An Gaodhal that Raftery’s ‘Anois ag teacht an earraigh’ was first published. He also organized numerous social and cultural events, and in 1884 he helped produce a drama for stage at Steinway Hall, New York called ‘An Bard agus an Tó.’

After some years as a teacher he became an estate agent and auctioneer.  Although unsuccessful, he attempted to get an ambitious scheme off the ground that would see half a million acres of land purchased in the American Mid-West to establish a settlement for a new Irish-speaking community made up of recent emigrants from Connacht; an Irish Zion of sorts!

Some years after his death, Tadhg Ó Donnchadha, editor of Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge and Professor of Irish in UCC penned Tuireadh Mhichíl Uí Lógáin in praise of the man from Milltown.

Tuam Herald, 23 May 2018

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Pat O’Shea (1931-2007)

‘Rising up into the air, they took to the sky and flew.  From west and beyond west, into the wind and through it, they came past countless moons and suns.  One laughed and briefly wore a scarf of raindrops in her hair, and then with wicked feet she kicked a cloud and caused rain to swamp a boat … They had been silent for so long … Silent, while man followed man as tiny blushes of life.’

Hounds of the Morrigan

Patricia Mary Shiels was born 22 January 1931 in Galway, the youngest of five children.  She went to school in the Presentation and then the Mercy.  In 1947 she went on holiday to England, but stayed and began working in a bookshop.  She married J.J. O’Shea in 1953 and they had one child, Jim.  In 1962 she moved to Manchester.

She began her writing career with the theatre in the 1960s.  Here she was supported by David Scase and his successor Tony Colegate, who were directors of the Library Theatre in Manchester.  She wrote for a number of years for both theatre and television.  From 1969 however she began to write alone on a number of different projects: short stories, poems, and an unpublished comic novel.  She then started on what was to become her magnum opus The Hounds of the Morrigan largely to please herself, her friends and their children.

Although it reads now with great ease and light-hearted spontaneity, every word had been weighed meticulously with, as Pat was to later claim, many of the chapters written eight or nine times.  Such devotion reflected her wish to create something worthy of her own favourite books: John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, James Stephens’ The Crock of Gold and The Demi-Gods, Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and the novels of Flann O’Brien.  Her book is a fantasy aimed at children and young adults, yet it is difficult to categorize.  It has been hailed as a classic by many reviewers; Benedict Kiely once claimed that Pat’s “own uninhibited fancy sets fire to all this in a most extraordinary fashion.”  By 1982 the book was almost finished, and she decided to submit it to publishers.  On six occasions it came back within a fortnight, unopened.  The Oxford University Press published it in 1985, a wise move as it was a bestseller and was swiftly translated into five languages.

The story begins with the discovery of a mysterious manuscript in a Galway bookshop, which leads to the reappearance of the Celtic war-goddess, the Morrigan, who seeks a blood-stained pebble that will ensure her return to power.  She is opposed by the good-god Dagda and his human agents, a young brother and sister, Pidge and Brigit.  They are chased throughout the hills of Connemara by the Morrigan, on a high-powered motorbike, and her hounds.  Along the way they encounter sweaty Gardai, cart-wheeling nuns, an angler who transforms into an angel, swans who turn into Gypsies, a frog with an inferiority-complex and an earwig who thinks he’s Napoleon.  The Hounds of the Morrigan is a highly original and moving work and should be of interest to anyone young or old familiar with Galway.

She wrote a few ‘brilliant’ chapters of an unfinished sequel containing: a Christmas card scene, candelit shop windows, carol singers and a robin … and into this cheerful scene rides the great Irish witch the Morrigan with her wild sisters, bringing mayhem and magic and mischief.  Pat O’Shea died 3 May 2007.

Works 

The Hounds of the Morrigan (Oxford University Press, 1985)

Finn MacCool and the Small Men of Deeds (Holiday House, 1987)

The Magic Bottle (Scholastic, 1999)

 

References

David Fickling, ‘Obit: Pat O’Shea’ The Guardian (23 June 2007)

 

Published Tuam Herald, 11 April 2018

Michael Mahon (d. 1925)

Michael P. mahon (2)

Michael Patrick Mahon was born in the village of Kilmore, outside Tuam.  He attended St. Jarlath’s College during the time of Archbishop Mac Hale, who encouraged him in his enthusiasm for the Irish language and in a love for the music of Thomas Moore, the songs of whom Mac Hale had translated into Irish.  He studied for the priesthood at St. Mary’s Seminary in Boston and then served for thirty-five years in the archdiocese, between 1890 and 1925.  The archbishop at that time was Cardinal William Henry O’Connell.  Mahon wrote for many years for Boston’s Pilot newspaper under the penname ‘Gadelicus’, and for the Hibernian and the Sacred Heart Review.  He also wrote in Irish for An Gaodhal, the New York journal founded by his ‘neighbour’ Mícheál Ó Locháin, a native of Curraghderry in Milltown.

Michael P. Mahon

His writings were primarily concerned with Irish history and folklore and he was heavily influenced by the work of P.W. Joyce in this area, especially his A social history of ancient Ireland (1903).  He also made use of the writings of Geoffrey Keating, du Jubainville, Douglas Hyde and the recent translations of early Irish sources by the Irish Texts Society of London.  His writings for the Pilot for the years 1910-11 were later published in what became his most famous work Ireland’s fairy lore (1919), a speculative study of folk and religious beliefs in Ireland before the arrival of Christianity.  His book is in many ways quite unique for its time.  He had a particular interest in all aspects of fairy-lore and his book covers everything from the banshee, the Finn Cycle, the druids, the ‘evil eye’ to the ancient gods of the Irish.  He was particularly perceptive at picking out where some very ancient Irish beliefs had modern echoes in the traditions, pisreogs and festivals of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  He perhaps realized that many of these practices were in decline in his own time and so wanted to record their existence for posterity.  His views of early Irish paganism were romantic and largely benign and he made much of the fact that there is little or no evidence for human sacrifice in Ireland in early times.  The same year saw the publication of Ireland in religion and letters, which focused on topics of a more Catholic nature, but with a special focus on St. Brendan, Maynooth and prayers and hymns in the Irish language.

Fr. Mahon returned briefly to visit his birthplace shortly before his death in 1925.

 

Bibliography

Ireland’s fairy lore (1919)

Ireland in religion and letters (1919)

 

Tuam Herald, 16 May 2018

John Healy (1841-1918)

John Healy (Pic 1) Jpeg

This year marks a significant centenary in the death of John Healy, Archbishop of Tuam.  He was installed on St. Patrick’s Day 1903 and died on the same day in 1918.  Although he was regarded in his own time and remembered long after as a ‘Castle’ bishop, this is perhaps not the fairest assessment.  Healy was certainly a conservative in the ecclesiastical and political senses; he was an admirer of the celebrated orator Edmund Burke, and much like Burke, his critical regard for British parliamentary order was based on an aversion to radical, oath-bound or potentially violent movements, anything especially that may have had the machinations of continental Freemasonry behind it.   In fairness, as his career progressed and his involvement in the land struggle and the Irish university question deepened, Healy’s sympathies became somewhat ‘greener.’

He was born to Mark Healy and Mary Gallagher in the village of Ballinafad, Co. Sligo in 1841.  His mother was regarded as an outstanding teacher; his father too, though he suffered from long-term ill-health.  John picked up Latin initially from his parents before attending a classical school in Sligo, run by a lawyer named McNiffe.  He then went to Elphin’s diocesan seminary at Summerhill, Athlone, before moving to Maynooth.  After his father’s early death his mother moved with some of the family to Halifax in Yorkshire where she established a school for girls.  There she ran into bother with the local church and eventually returned home.  It is possible that she was made unwelcome due to the success of her establishment, as her school quickly impacted enrolment at the local convent school.  Following ordination Healy was appointed curate in Ballygar.  In 1871 he moved to Ahamlish, between Sligo and Bundoran.  He went on to become a professor in Maynooth (1879-84), Bishop of Clonfert and finally Archbishop of Tuam.

John Healy (Pic 2) Jpeg

He was also one of the most prolific writers of his time in the west of Ireland.  He began writing for the Jesuit Irish Monthly in the 1870s, and the subject matter of his articles here were on medieval history, and which included studies of Inishmurray, Gerald of Wales, the Annals of Loch Cé and the Ó Cléirigh family of Donegal.  He also wrote much for the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, of which he was editor in 1883-84.  His contributions here were on the whole more theological.  In 1890, while based in Portumna he published his magnum opus, Ireland’s Ancient Schools and Scholars.  Five years later he published a Centenary History of Maynooth, and five years after that he became one of the founders of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.  As a historian Healy was a romantic, though his unique style and forthright defence of the Irish past paved the way for others.  He was hampered by his lack of Irish, though at a meeting of the Gaelic League in Loughrea in 1900 he encouraged its revival.  He left behind him a large body of work, much of it published as Papers and Addresses in 1909.  His centenary should not pass unremarked on.

Tuam Herald, (14 March 2018)

Tadhg Mac Lochlainn (1906-99)

Tadhg MacLochlainn (Pic)

(The Ballinasloe Zenith)

Tadhg Mac Lochlainn was born in Killure, between Ballinasloe and Ahascragh, in 1906.  After leaving national school, he worked as a shop assistant for Mannion’s of Castleblakeney and then for an uncle in Aughrim.  It was at this time that he first became a message ‘runner’ for the IRA.   Between 1926 and 1934 he worked in a hotel in London, and while there, as well as being active in numerous Irish societies, he continued to help Republican prisoners ‘on the run’ make their escapes to Canada and the US.   In 1925-26 he helped organize two Irish-themed concerts in the Queen’s Hall and it was there that he first met Douglas Hyde and Éamon de Valera, whom he became a life-long admirer of.  He once recounted that one of the more memorable moments of his life was of guiding Dev around the battlefield at Aughrim.  He had a great love of poetry and song, and while in England he had two of his own songs recorded; ‘Charming Salthill’ and ‘The Ballad of Fr. Griffin.’  He later produced a collection of his ‘Songs and Ballads’ (1976).  Health problems saw him return to Ireland around 1934.

On returning to Ballinasloe he married Mel Kelly and began taking an active role in the sporting, social and cultural life of East Galway; the GAA, An Taisce, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí, and the Ballinasloe Comórtaisí Dramaíochta, that was to last the best part of 70 years.  The family lived Killure, then Derrymullen and later moved to Duneeda.  Their children went on to become prominent people in the worlds of sports and business.  He worked as a Home Assistance Officer for the local council and was a member of the local Development Committee, the greatest success of which was the founding of the Ballinasloe Co-op Mart.  Around the time of retirement he penned the polemical Community cooperation with the autocrats, bureaucrats and plutocrats (1977)

He had a great interest in the Irish language and along with a team of volunteer teachers established classes in the old Ballinasloe Workhouse.  He wrote the history of the Gaelic League in the town (Craobh Ghrealláín) and his influence had an impact on the development of Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, who went on to become one of the most accomplished writers of modern Irish in recent times.   Mac Lochlainn was a founder-member of the Ballinalsoe Historical Society, helped organize the erection of plaques on many of the town’s sites of historical interest, and with the Battle of Aughrim Memorial Cross.  He campaigned successfully to have bi-lingual signage on many of Ballinasloe’s streets, the first town in Ireland to ever do such.  Towards the end of his life he was active in preventing the destruction of the Poolboy Mill.  He wrote six works on local history, the most famous of which was his Ballinasloe: inniu agus indhé (1971), but followed it up with short but impressive histories of his native Killure, and of Ahascragh, Aughrim and Lawrencetown.  Tadhg Mac Lochlainn died on his birthday.

Bibliography

Ballinasloe: inniu agus indhé, a story of a community over the past 200 years (Galway, 1971)

The story of Killure, Fohenagh and Kilgerril parish over a period of almost 200 years (Ballinasloe, 1975)

Songs and ballads [Songs sung by Escir Riada] (Ballinasloe, 1976)

Community cooperation with the autocrats, bureaucrats and plutocrats, as seen by a democrat in Ballinsloe (1977)

Conradh na Gaeilge, Béal Átha na Slua: Comóradh 75ú bliana de Chraobh Ghrealláin 1902-1977 (Ballinasloe, 1977)

A historical summary of the parish of Ahascragh, Caltra and Castleblakeney (Ballinalsoe, 1979)

The parish of Aughrim and Kilconnell (Ballinasloe, 1980)

The parish of Lawrencetown and Kiltormer (Athlone, 1981)

 

References

M. Mac G., ‘A man for all seasons’ Connacht Tribune (2 July 1999)

Tom Kinnucane, ‘Tadhg McLoughlin’ The Ballinasloe Zenith, Vol. 2, Issue 2. (June 1995): pp. 10-11

 

First published Tuam Herald (7 March 2018)

 

Margaret O’Connor – Forgotten Patron of the Arts

margaret-o

‘Clad in cloth of gold, her dearest friends about her’

Mairgeag Ó Conchobhair was one of those truly remarkable women that medieval Ireland produced.  She was the daughter of Tadhg Ó Cearbhaill, the king of Éile [N. Munster], and her mother was one of the Mag Eochacáins.  She married the Ó Conchobhair Failgi [of Meath/Offaly].  In 1433 she issued two ‘general invitations’ to all the ‘poets, musicians, chroniclers, gamesters and poor men’ of Ireland and Scotland.  The first meeting was held on March 26th [New Year’s Day], near Killeigh, Co. Offaly. The second, a huge gathering of almost three thousand people, was hosted later that same year at the Uí Faighle traditional seat at Rathangan in Kildare on the ‘first autumnal festival of Mary’ [The Assumption].

In 1445 she led a company of Irish nobles on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, as it was a year of indulgence.  She was noted by the annals as a great benefactor of the church; endowing chalices and books.  She also oversaw the building and upkeep of many bridges and roads.  She died of breast cancer in 1451.  Her son Calbach Ó Conchobhair Failgi died the same year of leprosy.  The following account of her is by the Sligo historian Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (DmcF) from a partial translation of ‘The Annals of Ireland’ he carried out for the antiquarian Sir James Ware.  The rolls of attendees at these gatherings mentioned are now long-lost, but the entry is of some interest because of the mention of two individuals from senior Connacht learned families.

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Annie Keary – Forgotten Irish Novelist

Annie Keary

Annie Keary (signature)

The novel Castle Daly was published in 1875.  Set in a great house in Galway during the famine, its author Annie Keary was a popular novelist in her time, but has been sadly overlooked since.  She was celebrated as an author of travel guides, historical fiction and for her adapting of myths and legends for schoolchildren.  Of interest to Tuam Herald readers is that, although Annie spent most of her life in England, she was born to a family that played a central role in the life of Tuam in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Disentangling the various generations of the Kearys is complicated by the habit of the family naming all of their successive eldest sons William.  They had a house and land at Clough in Corofin.  Her great-grandfather established a brewing business at Waterslade Place in the 1740s.  In time, owing to the rise of the Guinnesses, his business suffered and he was bought out by the Blakes.

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Paddy Finnegan (1942 – 2014)

Paddy Finnegan

Paddy Finnegan

“There are enough lunatics, winos and gobbaloons roaring and shouting to themselves.  I should not like to be confused with one of those.”

Patrick Joseph Finnegan was born in Dereen, Kilkerrin, Co. Galway on the last day of 1942.  He was the third of five children to Michael Finnegan and his wife Mary (née Kelly).  He had three sisters; Bridget, Margaret and Sara and a brother, Jimmy.  In his youth he knew older local people who were native Irish speakers and developed a great love of the language.  He was educated at the Franciscan Brothers’ National School in Kilkerrin before he won a scholarship to St Jarlath’s College, Tuam in 1956, where he excelled academically.  After school, he went to Wolverhampton for a year, before returning to join the civil service in Dublin.  He worked for the Dublin library services in the 1960s and as a bus conductor with Dublin Bus, based mostly at the Donnybrook depot.  His exploits passed into the folklore of the workers at CIÉ.

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The Great Leveller

Gone The Way of Truth (Pic)Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill, Gone the Way of Truth: Historic graves of Galway (History Press, 2016)

Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill, whose mother’s family hail from Dunmore, is something of a polymath.  He has great fluency in many aspects of Irish and German language and literature after many years in Europe.  He works now as a secondary teacher in Dublin, from where he blogs as An Múinteoir Fánach; writing regularly on diverse aspects of history and folklore.  He has published a number of books already; a collection of Irish legends in German, and more-recently Fadó: Tales of lesser known Irish history (2013) which covers intriguing and forgotten stories from around the country; body snatchers, priest catchers and female pirates.

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NUIG’s Special Collections

James Hardiman 2James Hardiman Library: Highlights from our Special Collections (eds. Marie Boran & Olivia Lardner, 2016)

The James Hardiman Library of NUI, Galway has only recently launched an impressive new guide to some of its most rare and culturally valuable possessions.  The university library has undergone tremendous development and expansion during the last few years, and it makes their most recent publication especially timely.  The work of many people, but especially of librarians Marie Boran and Olivia Lardner, Highlights from Our Special Collections is a beautifully-illustrated guide to the university’s rare books collection.  Moreover, it provides a fascinating guide to old printed material; how to interpret and how to make the best use out of such material.  There are insights into the works of individual printers, bookbinders, and former owners.  The book opens with a brief overview of the uniqueness of the Galway collection, and how it came together over the past 170 years through the foresight of librarians, antiquarians and academics; James Hardiman, William King and Valentin Steinberger were all impressive collectors.  This led to NUIG accumulating a remarkably eclectic and diverse collection, reflecting subject areas that remain major areas of research in the university to this day; from Anatomy, Engineering, and Architecture to Astronomy, Zoology, Law and Languages.  Along with the large number of books, NUIG’s Special Collections is also the home to many valuable drawings, map and photographs.

James Hardiman

The library has also benefited much from the donation of individual collections, including those of Lord Killanin, the folklorist James Delargy and the library of Joseph Henry.  The Henry Library is a collection of special interest to Tuam, as it was long based in of St. Mary’s Cathedral here, and was moved on permanent-loan to NUIG in 2006.  Joseph was one of the Henry’s of Toghermore House and the ancestor of Bobby Burke.  He himself spent much of his life as an Anglican chaplain in Peru.  In 1881 at a meeting of the Tuam Diocesan Council he offered his own ‘large and well-stocked library and bookcases to the Diocese.’  Before his death in 1885 he left his books and £15 a year for the purchase of new stock.  The collection contains numerous works on history, geography, topography and travel, with a small number of interesting titles on polar exploration.  The library grew through purchase and some stock like bibles and prayer books were added to it over the years by the closure of Church of Ireland buildings locally.  There is a near complete set of the Achill Missionary Herald, printed by the evangelical Irish Church Mission Society at their unique settlement on Achill, from the 1840s to the 1870s, which would be of great value to west of Ireland historians.  It also contains the Protestant Tuam Diocesan Council Reports covering almost a century, from 1871 to 1951, the works of Dean Edmund Burton of Tuam, T.J. Westropp’s study of the fort of Dún Aonghusa (1910), Hubert Knox’s Notes on the early history of the dioceses of Tuam (1904), and Edward Sirr’s A Memoir of the Hon. Power LePoer Trench, Last Archbishop of Tuam (1845).

Tuam Herald, 29 June 2016