The ‘vicious appetite’ - the most human of all frailties

Thu, Oct 29, 2020

Mrs Eliza Martin, threw caution to the wind, and settled down to live openly with Mr John Petrie, a merchant, at his London house in Soho Square. Her flaunting of the end of her 13 years marriage to Richard Martin, a man of legendary accomplishments, and the owner of vast lands in Connemara, who was not a man to be reckoned with, left society wondering what his response would be to this embarrassment.

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‘Betrayed into ruin by the arts such as the weakness of humanity’

Thu, Oct 22, 2020

Such is the weakness of man, it seems, that even the mighty Daniel O’ Connell may have succumbed to the allures of the fair sex, committing an indiscretion in his youth, which came back to haunt him in later years when he and his wife Mary shared ‘abiding affection’.

Following the death of Daniel’s uncle, Muirís a Chaipín, their immediate financial difficulties were resolved, and they were living in his home at Derrynane House. The last six years of Mary’s Iife were probably their happiest together, and they were rarely apart despite a pamphlet published by Ellen Courtney, stating that Daniel O’Connell was the father of her illegitimate son. His enemies leapt on the story with joy, and no doubt it was avidly read by the whole of Ireland, and beyond.

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What if a man was abducted and forced into marriage?

Thu, Oct 15, 2020

Daniel O’Connell has weaved in and out of the Diary columns in recent weeks and unexpectedly he appears again, not as the great political champion that he was, but in the interesting study of Marriage in Ireland 1660 - 1925. *

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‘I could not think of marrying such a barbarian.’

Thu, Oct 08, 2020

In 1839 Catherine Cohalan, from Aughrim Co Galway, was abducted from her home by a man named James Cohalan probably a cousin. Here her seizure had been agreed by the couple beforehand because Catherine did not want to marry Michael Campbell, a man whom her father had arranged for her to marry the following week.

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Widow Wilkins and the delicate matter of her ‘breach of promise’

Thu, Oct 01, 2020

The case of Blake v Wilkins in 1817 was so eagerly anticipated that every lodging house in Galway, ‘even the humblest in the town was' was filled to overflowing.

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Lady Gregory’s ‘Book of the people’

Thu, Sep 24, 2020

Augusta Lady Gregory, writer, folklorist and great patron of the arts, who died at her home at Coole Park in 1932, reappeared during the Druid production of five of her plays each evening this week. Druid is no stranger to magic, and such is their skill that Lady Gregory (Marie Mullen) makes several appearances inviting the audience to follow her for yet another of her plays performed in different locations around her home. From the edge of Coole lake to the old stables and yards, her ghostly figure seductively beckoned. The audience followed enchanted, moved by the strange power of her deceptively simple plays.

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‘It is rather the want of the middle class…’

Thu, Sep 17, 2020

For any visitor to Dublin in the early 19th century, to miss seeing the great Daniel O’Connell would have made their visit almost worthless. William Makepeace Thackeray, on the threshold of becoming one of the greatest writers of the English language, spent three months touring Ireland in 1842 collecting his impressions of the ‘manners and the scenery’ of the country and its people, for his successful Irish Sketch Book published some years later. Back in Dublin at the conclusion of his tour he lost no time heading to the Mansion House to see the Liberator in person.*

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‘Ireland will be poor no longer’

Thu, Sep 10, 2020

From the comforts of Ballynahinch, such as they were at the time, William Makepeace Thackeray continues his exploration of the surrounding countryside as he gathered information for his successful Irish Sketch Book published some years after his tour in 1842.

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There was a story told of a mermaid seen at Killala Bay

Thu, Sep 03, 2020

Continuing his wry and sardonic observations on the personalities, and the heaving populated life that he encounters on the roads, towns and villages along the way, the young William Makepeace Thackeray continued his journey through Connemara. In 1842 he spent four months on an extensive tour of this island, and later published his observations in the well received Irish Sketch Book to which he added numerous drawings mainly of the people he met. Yet for all his sceptical comments he is genuinely moved by the landscape of Connemara, and writes eloquently on intimate moments.

As his ‘car’ passes through Oughterard he exclaims ‘a more beautiful village can scarcely be seen than this’. He is on his way to stay three days at the Martin estate at Ballynahinch, and to test the legendary trout lakes around it. From there he would visit Roundstone, and Clifden before heading into the mountains of Co Mayo.

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There was a story told of a mermaid seen at Killala Bay

Thu, Sep 03, 2020

Continuing his wry and sardonic observations on the personalities, and the heaving populated life that he encounters on the roads, towns and villages along the way, the young William Makepeace Thackeray continued his journey through Connemara. In 1842 he spent four months on an extensive tour of this island, and later published his observations in the well received Irish Sketch Book to which he added numerous drawings mainly of the people he met. Yet for all his sceptical comments he is genuinely moved by the landscape of Connemara, and writes eloquently on intimate moments.

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William M Thackeray enjoys a play, and continues his journey

Thu, Aug 27, 2020

‘Aughrim is no more, St Ruth is dead,

And all his guards are from the battle fled,

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‘Words and music are the thing here….’

Thu, Aug 13, 2020

In midsummer 1910 the artists Paul Henry and his wife Grace crossed the bridge into Achill Island, on the west coast of Co Mayo. They were both competent artists, but for Henry Achill was to be his great inspiration, leading to a style and an interpretation of the west of Ireland landscape that was to make him famous, and his work instantly recognisable.

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Two writers on Achill

Thu, Aug 06, 2020

Achill Island, one of the most spectacular and the largest of our islands off the Irish west coast, was the romantic love-nest for a passionate affair between the British novelist Graham Greene and Catherine Walston the vivacious American wife of millionaire British MP Harry (later Lord) Walston in the late 1940s.

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Galway’s secret ministry during Penal Times

Thu, Jul 30, 2020

The Treaty of Limerick, October 3 1691, which was mainly a military success for the Irish/Jacobite army, was indecisive on its civil articles; and those which were agreed were soon ignored by a vengeful Protestant parliament.

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A time when grass grew on Galway streets

Thu, Jul 23, 2020

It is generally agreed that the treaty signed between the Williamite general de Ginkel, and the Irish/Jacobian Patrick Sarsfield, on October 9 1691 in Limerick, was a very satisfactory military outcome for both sides, but not a satisfactory outcome for Catholic Ireland who, with the loss of her armies, was left at the mercy of a vengeful Protestant parliament.

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Galway awaits its fate in ‘a state of nervousness and excitement’

Thu, Jul 16, 2020

Following the victory of King William’s army at Aughrim July 12 1691, the people of Galway awaited their fate in fear and uncertainty. William’s Dutch general Godert de Ginkel, had moved from his headquarters at Athenry, and was now on his way to subdue the town. He had shown ruthless determination in his dealings with the Irish Jacobite army; the citizens must have expected nothing less.

In Hardiman’s famous history however, he digresses from his narrative at this point, to include the bizarre story of Balldearg O’Donnell. ‘A persecuted people will grasp at every shadow in expectation of deliverance’, he sagely remarks; in what a pathetic man, as we shall see, did Galway place its misguided hope for deliverance.

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Treachery at Aughrim

Thu, Jul 09, 2020

The last conventional battle in Irish history was fought on Sunday July 12 1691 at Aughrim, Co Galway. It was by far the bloodiest. In less than 8 hours approximately 8,000 men were killed. Six thousand of them were Irish Jacobites.

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Catastrophy in the heat of battle

Thu, Jul 02, 2020

In the early days of July 1690 the citizens and merchants of Galway must have viewed with growing alarm the collapse of the Jacobite army at the Boyne, and the march westwards of the Williamite forces determined to strike a final blow.

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The boy who grew up beside a battlefield

Thu, Jun 25, 2020

As a small boy Joe Joyce played soldiers on the fields of Aughrim, a small village in Co Galway, between the towns of Loughrea and Ballinasloe. In his early years the games were fun, running among the ditches with his sisters Marie and Cepta, playing around the ruined castle, gazing across the flat east Galway countryside from Kilcommadan Hill, far from the reality of where bitter and often hand to hand fighting took place; and where just before dark, on that fateful wet Sunday July 12 1691, the fearless Scottish general Hugh Mackey led a one-thousand strong cavalry charge into the reeling Irish Jacobite infantry to win the day.

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‘A pale granite dream, afloat on its own reflection’

Thu, Jun 18, 2020

Mitchell Henry’s final days in Kylemore were sad ones. His adored wife Margaret had died at 45 years-of-age, and rested in a simple brick mausoleum in the grounds of his palatial Kylemore Castle. His political life, into which he put a great deal of personal effort, advocating on behalf of all Irish tenants the rights for them to own their own land, was out manoeuvred by Charles Stewart Parnell and the Land League. Henry described the Land League methods as ‘dishonest, demoralising and unChristian’. He probably was not surprised to lose his Galway seat in the general election of 1885. He blamed ‘Parnellite intimidation’.

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