Tag Archives: Galway

Surf and turf: Beach reappears as wildfires spread

These two environmental stories caught my eye:

Dooagh Beach is back! The strand on the west side of Achill Island, Mayo, disappeared 33 years ago during a storm.  Now, a “freak tide” has deposited hundreds of tons of sand where for more than three decades there has been nothing but rocky tide pools.

This Smithsonian.com story links to other coverage.

Meanwhile, The Irish Times reports that 30 to 40 gorse fires are raging across the country. The majority of the fires are burning around the Border area and Roscommon and Sligo, but the most significant blaze is in Cloosh Valley in Galway, according to the Times.

The beach is back. Image by Sean Molloy/Achill Tourism Via Reuters.

Remembering the catch turned catastrophe

One hundred years ago, as the west of Ireland daylight neared its summer solstice peak, four Connemara fishermen made an extraordinary catch: a “barrel-shaped” object with “handles on each side” floating in Galway Bay.

The men tied off the object and began rowing to shore, the big black barrel bobbing behind their boat. The slap of water on the currach punctuated their excited talk (likely in Irish) about the haul, which they suspected was a barrel of oil, tallow or similar shipwreck treasure. They knew the stories of other fishermen making similar lucky finds.

They rolled the barrel on the beach and began to manipulate some screws and pulled out a piece of cord. That’s when the marine mine exploded, killing the four fishermen and five others gathered on the shore. There was “not a trace of the mine or men … only a great hole in the beach,” said a report published a few weeks later in several American newspapers.

The tragedy was quickly blamed on a German munition, “without evidence to back that up,” according to a centennial remembrance in The Irish Times. The determination kept the surviving families from making a compensation claim with the British government, then in the third year of the Great War.

Fifty years later, a plaque with the names of the nine victims was secured to the face of a boulder in the remote location. But the tragedy was mostly forgotten. Now, the plaque has been restored as part of an enhanced memorial, to be rededicated in centennial ceremonies 15-18 June, as the west of Ireland daylight nears its summer solstice peak.

The restored memorial to the nine victims of the 1917 barrel mine explosion near Galway. Image by Joe O’Shaughnessy, part of a photo gallery and short video in The Irish Times.

2016 Census results detail modern Ireland

Ireland’s population increased to 4,761,865 in 2016, up 3.8 percent from 2011, according to data collected last year on the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising. The state had experienced 8 percent growth in the 2011, 2006 and 2002 census counts.

The proportion of the population who were non-Irish nationals fell to 11.6 percent in 2016 from 12.2 percent in 2011, the first decline since the census question was introduced in 2002. This is partially explained by a near doubling of people holding dual nationality, a separate category.

The 6 April data release is the first of 13 reports on Census 2016 that are due to be published this year. The Central Statistics Office will publish 11 thematic profiles, which will each explore topics such as housing, the homeless, religion, disability and carers in greater detail.

Highlights of the initial report include:

  • Self-identified Roman Catholics fell 3.4 percent, from 84.2 percent of the population in 2011 to 78.3 percent in 2016. Nearly 10 percent of census respondents said they have no religion.
  • The country is slightly older, with average age of 37.4 in April 2016 compared with 36.1 five years earlier. County Fingal, north of Dublin, had the youngest average age at 34.3, while Kerry and Mayo in the west were each at 40.2
  • The largest number of Irish speakers who use the language daily outside the education system remain concentrated in the Gaeltacht areas of counties Donegal, Galway and Kerry.
  • Private residences with no internet connection fell to 18.4 percent of dwellings, down from 25.8 percent in 2011.

On hurling … and moonlighting … in Ireland


Hurling is expected to be included on the Unesco list of the “world’s intangible cultural heritage” in 2016, The Irish Times reports.

Unesco defines “intangible cultural heritage” as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.”


I always enjoy Dan Barry’s pieces about Ireland or Irish America in The New York Times, including his latest on the very Gaelic sport of hurling. (Barry’s 2013 story about Duffy’s Cut is linked in my last post.)

The lede of the hurling story, datelined Kinvara, in County Galway, is a little curious, or ironic, to my thinking:

Thirty men battle on a deep-green field, each one wielding what looks like a field hockey stick moonlighting as a broken oar.  (My emphasis.)

Of course Barry is using the verb moonlighting in its common definition of a secondary job. But the word has origins in the nighttime agrarian violence of late 19th century Ireland. It was the guerrilla warfare or terror tactic of rural nationalists fighting against the English land tenure system.

The-Hurling-Match. Painting by Martin Driscoll.

The Hurling Match. Painting by Martin Driscoll.

Barry hints at some of this background as he outlines hurling’s history:

For a while, the game enchanted the gentry, with landlords fielding teams to play other estates. But they gradually distanced themselves from the game, either having concluded that such Irish pursuits were beneath them or suspecting that hurling smacked of rebellious nationalism.

The game’s hold had loosened by the mid-19th century. The Roman Catholic clergy disapproved. The police distrusted large gatherings. Some areas used matches to settle scores. And the wholesale death and emigration caused by the Great Hunger, the potato famine, darkened everyday life in places like Kinvara.

But in the early 1880s, Michael Cusack … began championing Irish customs, at a time when English games, especially cricket, were growing in popularity. His crusade coincided with a renewed push by Irish nationalists for home rule. He and others soon established the Gaelic Athletic Association, which provided a nationwide structure for Irish sports based on parishes and territorial boundaries, all with an implicit rejection of English ways.

The game survived, and even thrived, in the destiny-determining decades that followed, through the audacious acts of rebellion, the Irish War of Independence, the civil war.

There is certainly plenty of evidence of nationalist sentiment within the ranks of the fledgling G.A.A., especially in the west of Ireland. For those interested in the subject, I recommend “Forging A Kingdom: The G.A.A. in Kerry, 1884-1934,” by Richard McElligott; and “Land, Popular Politics and Agrarian Violence in Ireland: The Case of County Kerry, 1872-1886,” by Donnacha Sean Lucey.

A search of Hansard, the official record of British Parliamentary debates, returns hundreds of hits for the term “moonlighting” from the 1880s into the early 20th century. For example, from May 1887: “The Government say they want to put down exceptional crimes—such as murder, firing into houses, mutilation of cattle, and Moonlighting.”

That is not to say that all hurlers or other G.A.A. participants were moonlighters. But some of these young, single men likely did engage in such activity, and everyone living in Ireland at the time was aware of the term. Surely nobody in late 19th century Ireland would have described a hurley, or camán, as “moonlighting as a broken oar.”

I don’t know if Barry and the Times‘ editors are aware of the historical meaning of moonlighting. I’ve dropped him a line to ask and will post his response, if any. It’s use here certainly isn’t incorrect. And at least the story doesn’t mention anyone boycotting the hurling matches for being too rough and tumble.

But that would be another blog post.


Old Ireland glimpsed in 1934 James FitzPatrick travelogue

Here’s an 80-year-old travelogue of Ireland called “The Melody Isle.”

IrishCentral posted it the other day. It’s a 1934 James FitzPatrick travelogue.” The American producer, director, writer and narrator, was known from the early 1930s as “The Voice of the Globe.”

You might wince at some of the cliches, but there’s some good footage from the days of the Irish Free State, including the Lakes of Kilarney; Blarney Castle; digging, drying and loading turf on a donkey cart, the River Shannon hydroelectric plant; and Claddagh village near Galway.

Ireland is beautiful even in black and white. Enjoy!

Boston’s Irish Americans, good and bad

The old gangster and the young mayor. Two recent stories out of Boston reflect the good and bad of the city’s Irish-American community.

James “Whitey” Bulger, convicted earlier this year for his role in 11 murders, drug trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and other crimes, was sentenced this week. A federal judge handed the 84-year-old gangster two life sentences, plus five years.

The young punk. Bulger, 60 years ago on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. (AP Photo/Boston Police)

The young punk. Bulger, 60 years ago on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. (AP Photo/Boston Police)

Bulger was a lifelong criminal and ruled Boston’s Irish underworld for most of the 1970s and 1980s. He fled from the city in 1994 and remained on the lam until 2011, when he was finally captured in California.

Here’s my August 15 post about living in South Boston, one of Irish-America’s landmark neighborhoods, toward the end of Bulger’s reign of terror.

The better story from Boston is the election of Martin J. Walsh as mayor. The 46-year-old is a lifelong resident of the city’s Dorchester neighborhood, another heavily Irish enclave. Both of his parents are from rural townlands of western County Galway.

Marty Walsh

Marty Walsh

Walsh’s recovery from substance abuse was part of the Boston campaign. He is among the type of people referenced in my earlier blog post about Southie.

Irish Central’s Niall O’Dowd wrote a flattering column about the mayor-elect:

“He has authenticity written all over him, the kid from Dorchester who put together an extraordinary coalition of Irish and minorities to win the election. … This is a man who survived childhood cancer, alcoholism, a minor bullet wound in a drive by shooting.”

Walsh’s recovery from substance abuse is certainly a better story than the crack and alcohol-fueled mess of Mayor Rob Ford in Toronto.

Who knows how long Ford will survive at City Hall. Walsh is scheduled to take the oath of office in Boston on Jan. 6.

Guest post: Visit to Ireland, Part 2

Our friend Tim McDonnell visited Ireland in October. This is the second half of his guest post about the visit. Part 1 is here. MH

5-Star Eating

Contrary to popularly held beliefs, the food in Ireland was excellent and dramatically exceeded our expectations. Fresh fish, lamb, the mixed grill, full Irish breakfast, brown bread and seafood chowder, fresh scones – all as good as you’ll taste anywhere in the world. But – beyond the more native dishes, there is a very global and diverse range on offer, like any good culinary hub. It was not just the high end restaurants, although we went to several – like O’Grady’s in Barna, the Lodge in Doonbeg, Market Lane in Cork City – heck, we even ate in Stormont’s royal dining hall called “The Long Gallery.” It was also family restaurants like O’Loughlin’s in Miltown Malbay (Clare), Kate McCormack’s in Westport (Mayo), Paddy’s Barn in Downpatrick (Down), and our B&B’s in Doonbeg and Cork City – and the homemade variety with family and good friends in Dublin and Crosshaven (Cork). There’s nothing like local hosts and guides – but if you don’t have family over there or any Irish friends to help personalize your trip, not to worry. Just stop in for a pint at a pub anywhere on the road and lighten up for a laugh – one of the easiest things you can do is befriend an Irishman.

The Self-Deprecating Celebrity

Guest blogger Tim McDonnell, far right. Others left to right are Tim's wife, Amber, his cousin Edelle O'Meara of Galway and jockey Davy Russell.

Guest blogger Tim McDonnell, far right. Others left to right are Tim’s wife, Amber, his cousin Edelle O’Meara of Galway and jockey Davy Russell.

My cousin from Galway, Edelle O’Meara, is dating Ireland’s best horse-racer Davy Russell – and we got to spend some time with the man himself while we were over. Horse racing is one of Ireland’s favorite past times, and everywhere we went, the Irish people knew Davy. As recognizable there perhaps as Evan Longoria might be for the average person walking in downtown Tampa. Davy generously provided tickets for Edelle, my wife and I, along with Amber’s parents, to watch him compete at the Limerick Races in Limerick City. He placed us in a suite along with the University of Limerick racing society – and came up to the suite before the races started to give the students betting advice on the 5 races that he was set to compete in. As Americans, we thought he would be explaining why he expected to win all 5 races – but he went in a much different direction with it. It sounded something like, “Ah Jeannie Mac, that horse there could fall over twice and still beat my horse to the line in this race.” And, “Ah sure, you see now, if I were a betting man – I would wager that my horse in this race will end up in that man’s yard right over there.” Belly laughs all around. Entertaining, endearing, and easy friends – like most everyone on the island, God Bless it. I think we may have even made a couple Euro betting against his advice.

Kennedy’s ’63 trip to Ireland nears 50th anniversary

Before Dallas there was Dublin…and New Ross…and Galway.

Historian Myles Dungan shares his memories of John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 visit to the Irish capitol in a post that sets the stage for next month’s 50th anniversary of the historic trip.

America’s first (and only) Irish-Catholic president “lapped up the blatant adulation,” Dungan writes, as he shared the motorcade with Eamon De Valera.

The U.S. Embassy, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, the National Library of Ireland and other organizations are marking the anniversary with a number of special events on both sides of the Atlantic.

We will post more about this anniversary over the coming month. It will be good to enjoy these happy memories before having to recall the dark anniversary of November 1963.

JFK in Dublin, June 1963. Image from thegatheringireland.com

Kerry drink drive, rural isolation (Part 2)

Some quick folo-up on the last post about County Kerry passing a measure to allow limited drink driving in rural areas, in part to allow isolated residents more freedom to socialize at the nearest pub.

The Irish Independent has this story about a pub-owning couple in Kilflynn (between Listowel and Tralee) who have been driving home their customers for the past 15 years.

The Irish Times has an in-depth story about the closing of nearly 100 rural garda stations across Ireland, including one near Kilflynn. (See map with story). To be sure, many of the stations were open only part time, and “564 Garda stations will remain – significantly more than Northern Ireland, for example, which has 86 police stations for a population of 1.5 million people, with further closures planned; and Scotland, which has about 340 stations for 5.2 million people.”

But a County Galway woman quoted in the story sums up the concerns of many rural residents:

“Rural Ireland is slowly – and not even slowly – being closed down. Everything they are legislating for in Dublin has a huge impact here, and it will eventually close villages down. Why would young people come back here? Even to farm? The barracks is gone … the health centre will be next. The post office will be next. You can’t come out for a drink any more. People who for all their lives had the pub as their social outlet have had that taken away.

Irish priest in showdown with Vatican

An Irish priest and the Vatican have engaged in a showdown over his ability to publish liberal views at odds with Roman Catholic Church doctrine.

Fr. Tony Flannery of County Galway told a press conference in Dublin on Sunday that he would not sign a pledge agreeing to adhere to church orthodoxy regarding women priests, contraception and homosexuality. Now he is being threatened with excommunication.

Here is a portion of Fr. Flannery’s statement in The Irish Times:

I either put my name to a document that would be a lie, and would impugn my integrity and my conscience, or I face the reality of never again ministering as a priest. I have always believed in the church as the community of believers and as an essential element in promoting and nourishing the faith. I have enjoyed my years of preaching, the main work of Redemptorists, and never had any doubt that Christ’s message was one worth proclaiming.

But to give up on freedom of thought, freedom of speech and most especially freedom of conscience is too high a price for me to pay to be allowed minister in today’s church.

The online reader comments below Fr. Flannery’s column offer a wide range of views both for and against his stance. As of 10:30 Monday morning (USA EST) there was no coverage of the issue on the Vatican news site.