Pádraig Maye 1940-2021: A Personal Tribute

Pádraig and Terry Maye on their wedding day,
14 December 1968

The sudden death of Pádraig Maye on 31 January 2021, following a stroke, shocked everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. Always a gentleman, with an engaging  pleasant personality, and modest in regard to his numerous achievements, Pádraig was affable,  kind and caring in thought, word and deed, who greeted everyone with a warm smile. His presence radiated happiness. He was a wonderful selfless human being, a loyal son, a devoted husband, an exemplary father, a loving grandfather, and a friend to everyone who knew him, as well as a teacher, Gaelic footballer, handballer, and a renowned competitive track-and-field athlete. He will be greatly missed way beyond his own family, with all holding treasured memories of him. 

        Pádraig was born on 1 May 1940, the eldest son of Patrick (Pake) Maye and his wife Nancy (Nance, née Egan) from Castlerock, and grew up in Aclare, County Sligo. I find it hard to adequately express my huge admiration for Pádraig from his early years.   As first cousins on the Egan side, my mother and Padraig’s mother were great friends; my mother rarely passed through Aclare without calling in to see Nance. I recall Pádraig’s name with great affection for as long as I can remember. He became my early idol and always remained so.   I was present when Pádraig won his first ever medal at Killasser Sports in 1952, for the 100 yards under-fourteen sprint.  He brought me to my first inter-county football games in the late 1950s. 

           Pádraig attended Kilmacteige and Castlerock primary schools before going to St Nathy’s College in Ballaghaderreen in September 1954, a place then with very strict rules, which were a big shock to him. Our huge pride in him continued when he was a member of the St Nathy’s senior football team that qualified for and won the All-Ireland Hogan Cup final on 14 April 1957 in Croke Park, while in his intermediate year (now the junior certificate).  With his neighbour Éamon O’Hara as captain, they had a great campaign and defeated St Colman’s of Newry in the final by 1-7 to 0-4.   Seven members of the winning team came from Sligo and the rest from Mayo. The following year, St Nathy’s lost to St Jarlath’s of Tuam, who went on to win the Hogan Cup.   In 1959, St Nathy’s defeated St Colman’s College, Claremorris, St Jarlath’s, and St Enda’s, Galway, to win the Connacht title, with Pádraig playing at centre-field.  They defeated C.B.S. Newry in the semi-final, before losing the 1959 final to St Joseph’s, Fairview, Dublin, in a game they could have won. St Nathy’s were leading by a point and playing well with about ten minutes left in the game when they missed a penalty. A goal then could have decided the game in their favour.  However, St Joseph’s gained a new confidence and went on to win by 3-9 to 2-8 in what Peadar O’Brien described the following day in The Irish Press as ‘a thrilling victory’.  One of the highlights of the game was the contest between Pádraig and the precocious Des Foley, then not alone a Dublin senior footballer but also a Leinster Railway Cup player.   In St Nathy’s, Pádraig won three Connacht Colleges’ medals in athletics, and was chosen as the best all-round athlete in the college for both 1958 and 1959. I followed his days playing senior football for Sligo and Tourlestrane with great interest, before he went to Nigeria in 1963, going with him to games on a number of occasions. He was a member of the Tourlestrane senior team that qualified for the 1960 county final, where they all had an off day and lost to Ballysadare.

          After going to University College Dublin (UCD) in September 1959, I followed his illustrious athletics career there in the newspapers, especially The Evening Press.  I recall one photograph of him retaining the Leinster long jump title in 1960 at 7.2 metres, while competing with a broken arm in a cast, an injury sustained that morning playing football. He won the All-Ireland junior and senior long jump titles in 1960. However, his mother was not too impressed by those newspaper reports as he was named as Pádraig Maye, UCD.  I heard her say several times: “why do they not get it right and put down Aclare instead of UCD?”  She had a big collection of cuttings from papers about his sporting career, which she showed me several times.

           After graduating with a BA degree in 1962 and a Higher Diploma in Education in 1963, Pádraig went on a two year contract to teach for the SMA Fathers in Nigeria, which was extended to three, a year that led up to the start of a civil war in that country. We exchanged many letters during that time.  While his experience was interesting, he often recalled his fear of mosquitoes and contracted malaria twice. After a stint in London, he went to Chicago in 1966 for a short visit; Nance always said that he was offered a job in Banada, and she wanted him to take it.  I lost touch with him in Chicago because his mother kept talking about him coming back. Every conversation included a reference to Pádraig coming back.  We now know that he liked the place and met Dublin-born Terry O’Shea, who had emigrated with her family to Chicago as a child. They were married on December14, 1968, in St Clement’s Church, Chicago, and later two beautiful daughters, Coleen and Erin, were born.  While teaching in ‘the windy city’, Pádraig completed a master’s degree in guidance and counselling.  In Chicago, he won twelve football medals from 1966 to 1980. The short trip was extended, and extended.  However, Nance always believed and hoped that he would come back to Aclare because she knew that he would be happy there. She had great foresight! When they arrived in 1980, people were comparing Terry with Jacqueline Kennedy!  Pádraig started teaching in Banada Abbey secondary school in September 1980, and soon earned a reputation as a good and dedicated teacher of history, geography and English.  He was held in high esteem by his students, their parents, and colleagues. When Banada closed, he moved to their new school St Attracta’s in Ballyara.   He retired from teaching in November 2004.

Pádraig Maye at the British over 70s  Open Indoor Athletics competition on
28 March 2011

          With regard to sport, it has to be appreciated that Pádraig did not compete in any Irish athletic competition from 1962 until 2001, when he resumed his career with Ballina Athletic Club. This intensified following his retirement up to the end of the life, leading to incredible achievements that will not be equalled.  After that, he won numerous All-Ireland medals in ten different athletic events, chiefly the long jump, the high jump, the triple jump, javelin, the shot put and 100m sprint.  In his distinguished athletic career, he won 171 Irish national medals (first, second or third), 31 British Open Masters’ medals, 48 Ulster Open medals and numerous other trophies. He was All-Ireland over 60s long jump champion in 2001, shot put champion in 2002,  second in the high jump 2003, second in the javelin 2003,  and  went on to excel in these competitions for over 60s, 65s, 70s  and over 70 until 2019. In that year, he won three All-Ireland gold medals in over 75 age group for the long jump, high jump and javelin, as well as silver medals for the shot put and weight throwing.  This all came to an end in March 2020, when COVID-19 arrived in the country.  In May, 1993, he received the Merit Award as the Best Connacht Athlete in the O’Duffy Cup over the previous fifty years (that was an annual athletics contest, now defunct, between competitors from Ulster and Connacht).   In both 2011 and 2012, he was named as ‘Mayo Athletic Association Masters’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year’, and later received several other special awards.  No short tribute can do justice to all his athletic achievements.        

            He had a lifelong interest in handball and enjoyed playing in all the local alleys like Banada, Ballymote, Castleconnor, Charlestown, Cloonfinish, Killasser, Collooney, Cully, Swinford, Sligo, and Kilmacteige. He won four All-Ireland handball titles, the Emerald  title in 1998,the Diamond Masters’ singles in 2000, as well as the doubles title that year with his neighbour Séamus O’Donnell, and in 2010 won the masters ‘A’ title with Paddy Walsh. He also won four All-Ireland runner-up awards in handball.

                Pádraig made a huge contribution to his local community in many ways, including video recordings with numerous people about their memories and life experiences, as well as co-editing (with Marie Fleming and Daniel Jones) two books on local history and heritage, Kilmactigue Parish: History and Memories, volumes 1 and 2. He loved his own place, and believed that local stories should be recorded for posterity, which he did, establishing a big invaluable collection.   I was fortunate to make a short visit to Pádraig and Terry during Christmas week in 2020, of course with elbow greetings, masks and social distancing because of COVID-19.  I received copies of the recently published Kilmactigue Parish: History and Memories, volume 2 that day. After reading it over the Christmas period, I rang Pádraig in mid January to compliment him on it. We discussed a number of its fine articles. He asked me was there anything I would like to see in volume 3.  I said perhaps a profile of Mick Christie and one on renowned singer Tommy Fleming.  After recalling that Mick Christie from Castlerock was a great footballer who played not alone for Sligo but for Connacht in 1948, 1950, and 1957 when the standard in the province was the highest in the country, he asked me to write the profile of him.  I declined because I did not know enough about him as he was well before my time, but that I heard many sing his praises and  he should be remembered.  This was to be our last conversation. Pádraig was the last person I expected to get a stroke, but that is life.  As Irish Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats wrote in ‘The Municipal Gallery Revisited’:

                                  ‘Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,

                                   And say my glory was I had such friends’.

 Our sincere sympathy to his widow, Terry, daughters Coleen and Erin, his eight grandchildren, Kayla, Alana, Aiveen, Conor, Caoimhe, Cora, Rory, Gavin, and his great granddaughter Éire Jane, his son-in-law Seán, Erin’s partner, Patrick, as well as his other relatives, especially his brothers, James (Chicago), Milo (Aclare) and Willie (Raphoe). It has to be some consolation to his family at this difficult time to know how much he was admired and loved.  No words of mine can adequately express my admiration for him.  May he dwell in the Lord’s house forever and ever.

 Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.   Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

(Bernard O’Hara, formerly from Killasser, is now living in Salthill.

In addition to his other publications, he is the author of a trilogy on his native parish,

Killasser: A History,

The Archaeological Heritage of Killasser, County Mayo,

Killasser: Heritage of a  Mayo Parish,

as well as editing : St John’s School, Carramore, Killasser, 1913-2013.)

 

 

Anthony Raftery (c.1779-1835): The Last of the Gaelic Bards

The Raftery Sculpture in Kiltamagh, County Mayo

            Anthony Raftery (Antaine Ó Raiftearaí), who was born in Killedan (Cill Liadáin) between Kiltamagh and Bohola, County Mayo, Ireland, about 1779, is described as ‘the last of the wandering Gaelic bards’. His father was a cottier and a weaver at Killedan House, home of the local landlord, Frank Taaffe, and his mother, née Brennan, came from the area.   After attending a hedge school for a few years, he contracted smallpox at the age of nine, which left him without sight.  His eight siblings are said to have died in childhood with it. Anthony began to play the fiddle but never became a good musician.  He was a regular visitor in Killedan House, and one day took one of Frank Taaffe’s horses for a trip to Kiltamagh.  The horse fell and broke its neck, which made the owner very angry.  It is said that Taaffe banished Raftery from Killedan. Whether the story is true or not, Anthony Raftery left County Mayo and spent the rest of his life wandering the roads of Galway, visiting house after house, bringing the news of the day, reciting his poems, playing his fiddle, drinking, and talking about his experiences.  He is said to have attended a hedge school in Ballylee, County Galway, and had books read to him.  He had two children with his partner, Siobhán.

            Raftery could not write, but his poems were preserved in the oral tradition of the people of the Athenry/Gort/Loughrea district of East and South Galway. His poems were recited at weddings, wakes, on special occasions, and around many firesides. These were polemical with a strong historical, political and religious content. A few people recorded his poetry in manuscripts, most of which were later collected by Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932), who gave them to the Irish scholar, Dr Dubhglás de hÍde (Dr Douglas Hyde).  Hyde published thirty-two of Raftery’s poems in Irish, with English translations and background information in ‘Songs Ascribed to Raftery’, the fifth chapter of The Songs of Connacht (1903).  Raftery’s poems and ballads include attacks on those who tried to suppress rural agitation (Na Buachaillí Bána /The Whiteboys); celebrations of contemporary events such as Daniel O’Connell’s election victory in Clare, 1828, which led to Catholic Emancipation a year later (Bua Uí Chonaill /O’Connell’s Victory); pieces in praise of pretty women with whom he was besotted, in spite of his visual impairment (Máire Ní Eidhin/Mary Hynes and Brídín Bhéasaí /Breedgeen Vesey; singing the praises of tradesmen (An Gréasaí /The Shoemaker), and lamenting some nineteen people tragically drowned in  Lough Corrib between Annaghdown and Galway in 1828 (Eanach Dhúin/Annaghdown). There is an astonishingly-detailed summary of Irish history containing more than 400 lines (Seanchas na Sceiche/Traditional lore with the Bush) and a confession of the poet’s many sins (Aithrí Raiftearaí /Raftery’s Repentance).  In Mayo his best -known poem is Contae Mhaigh Eo (County Mayo) or Cill Liadáin, in which he sings the praises of his native place:

                            ‘Killedan (is) the village in which everything grows;

There are blackberries and raspberries in it, and fruit of every kind’,..

Translation by Douglas Hyde

            There is some doubt about the provenance of his best-known poem Mise Raiftearaí /I am Raftery, which laments his life as a blind man, with his back to the wall, ‘playing music unto empty pockets’.  It was published by Seán Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Loughrea living in Oswego, New York State, in the journal An Gaodhal in 1882; it is thought to have derived from material in folk memory relating to Raftery.  It was later credited by Douglas Hyde to Raftery himself.  Anthony Raftery died on December 24, 1835, and was buried in Killeeneen cemetery between Kilcolgan and Craughwell in County Galway.  Lady Gregory was responsible for the erection of a headstone on his grave which was unveiled on August26, 1900. The big attendance included not alone Lady Gregory, but also other major figures from the Irish cultural renaissance like W. B. Yeats, Edward Martyn and Douglas Hyde. In 1985, a granite memorial was erected in his honour in Kiltamagh.



Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.
The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.
Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble
It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).
An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

New Public Holiday in Ireland

A Saint Brigid’s Cross

        In January 2022, the Irish Government announced an additional annual public holiday to thank citizens for all their sacrifices and work during Covid, and to remember those that lost their lives in the pandemic.  This year the additional day is on March 18 to make a long weekend as the previous day, St Patrick’s Day, is already a public holiday.  From 2023, the new public holiday will fall on the first Monday of February and celebrate St Brigid, the patroness of Ireland, one of the three national saints with Saints Patrick and Columba.  This will bring the number of public holidays in Ireland to ten. As provided for in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, the existing nine public holidays are January 1 (New Year’s Day), St Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, the first Mondays in May, June and August, the last Monday in October, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day. In respect of each, an employee is entitled to a paid day off on the holiday, or another paid day off within a month, or an extra day’s annual leave, or an extra day’s pay, as the employer may decide.  If a public holiday falls on a Sunday the next day becomes the public holiday, and in respect of Christmas Day, the following Tuesday.  Part-time employees must have worked at least forty hours in the five weeks before the public holiday to qualify for payment.

       The first is celebrated in Ireland as St Brigid’s Day, a date originally associated with the pre-Christian festival known as Imbolc, which marked the start of Spring and growth.   From early Christian times in Ireland, the date became the feast day of St Brigid, the most renowned female saint in the country.  Many miracles were attributed to her.  From that time, it became traditional for each family to make and display a Saint Brigid’s Cross, a small cross made with rushes.  Straw and small sally rods were also used to make Saint Brigid’s crosses and there were a number of different designs.   The origin of the tradition is said to have begun when a local chieftain in Kildare was ill and Brigid went to see him.  She soon realised that he was dying and decided to speak to him about Christianity. While doing so, she picked up rushes from the floor of the house and knitted them into a cross.  He asked her what she was doing. She placed the cross in his hands and explained to him about Jesus, His crucifixion and resurrection. When told of its symbolism, the dying person asked to be baptised. Shortly after his baptism, he died. Afterwards Saint Brigid came to be associated with hope, renewal and growth.

       In Ireland it was traditional to place a Saint Brigid’s Cross over a doorway in the belief that it protected a house from fire and saved its inhabitants from any harm.  Saint Brigid’s Cross became one of the symbols of Ireland with the harp and shamrock.  Today the custom is kept alive in Ireland, especially with primary schools playing big roles in observance of this custom. It is still customary to see a Saint Brigid’s Cross in many homes.

        It is believed that Brigid (c. 451-524) was born in Faughart, about 3km north of Dundalk, in County Louth, where there is now a Saint Brigid stone and pillar as well as holy well.  It is still a place of pilgrimage. After becoming a nun, Brigid became a great Christian leader and founded a number of monasteries, especially one in Kildare where she spent a big part of her life. Brigid is said to have established the first community of women dedicated to religious life in Ireland at Kildare. She is said to have founded two communities there, one for women and the other for men. Kildare developed into an important monastic foundation in early Christian times. It is believed that Saint Brigid died there. Many place names in Ireland are called Kilbride, the church of Brigid, in her memory. Henceforth, St Brigid will be remembered in a special way in Ireland on the first Monday of February each year.

Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.
The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.
Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble
It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).
An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

A Difficult Irish Centenary Year

This year 2022 will be a sensitive and difficult one in the Irish decade of centenaries, 2013-2023, because it recalls the divisive acceptance of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the start of the Civil War, the killing of Michael Collins and the foundation of the Irish Free State.  After weeks of difficult negotiations in London, during which the UK refused to recognise ‘an Irish Republic’, articles of agreement, generally known in Irish history as the Anglo Irish Treaty, were signed on December 6, 1921, providing for an Irish Free State in the twenty six counties as a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth, with the monarch as Head of State, and Irish Members of Parliament obliged to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown.  The six counties of Northern Ireland, which had its own parliament from June 22, 1921, was given the right to opt out. After a bitter Dáil debate, where the oath emerged as the main issue, the treaty was ratified by sixty-four votes to fifty-seven on January 7, 1922. The Irish Free State Provisional Government was established on January 14, 1922, with Michael Collins as chairman. Until September, there was a system of dual government in Ireland, with the Dail and provisional government functioning concurrently.  Dublin Castle, the centre of British rule in Ireland, was surrendered to the Irish and the British withdrew their soldiers and administration. On 16 June, a general election was held, which resulted in the pro-treaty group winning 58 seats, anti-treaty followers 36, Labour 17, and various independents 17. Despite an election in June 1922, which supported the treaty, civil war broke out soon afterwards, which lasted from June 28, 1922, until May 24, 1923. Animosity between supporters and opponents of the Anglo-Irish Treaty within the republican movement started to ferment even before the agreement. The civil war, which ended with the surrender of the anti-treaty republicans, claimed about 4,000 casualties and caused considerable damage to property. Even supporters of the treaty believed that partition would be temporary as article 12 of the treaty provided for a Boundary Commission, which was expected to give more territory to the Free State and make Northern Ireland unviable. The commission turned into a disaster for the Free State.  The rights and wrongs of the Civil War dominated Irish political life for a generation and relegated economic, social and cultural development to second place whilst the cream of Irish youth emigrated.

     The Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireannn) came into existence on December 6, 1922, one year after the treaty, following the adoption of a Constitution by the Dáil in October 1922. The constitution implemented the provisions of the treaty, including the oath of allegiance and the governor-general representing the monarch. While executive authority was vested in the monarch, his/her power was nominal, with actual power residing with the executive council led by a president nominated by the Dail. The Northern Ireland parliament opted out of the Irish Free State, as was expected. There were then two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.  Northern nationalists found themselves abandoned and alienated, living as second class citizens  under continuous sectarian one party rule, which sowed the seeds of later conflict. There was also a minority of unionist supporters in the Irish Free State.  De Valera grew frustrated with Sinn Fein, and founded a new party, Fianna Fail, in 1927, which came to power in 1932. Various changes to the treaty took place over the years, especially from 1932 to 1936 when symbolic structures of Crown supremacy, that were divisive in 1922, were  gradually dismantled. A new Constitution was adopted by plebiscite on Ju1y, 1937. It came into effect on 29 December 1937, under which the State became an independent republic in all but name, known as Éire in Irish and as Ireland in English (articles4 and 5). While an Irish Republic was proclaimed in 1916, and re-affirmed by the First Dáil on January 21, 1919, it was 1949 before it became a reality at midnight on April 18 that year under the Republic of Ireland Act, when Ireland left the British Commonwealth.

Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.
The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.
Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble
It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).
An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

Stone Circles in Ireland

Glebe Stone Circle, near Cong in County Mayo.

Stone circles, or stone rings (as some are not exactly circular), are perplexing archaeological monuments in the Irish countryside. They usually consist of an arrangement of free-standing-stones placed erect in the ground to form a circle with an enclosed open area.  The entrance is generally in the north-east between a pair of tall matching stones known as portals.  The smallest stone, called a recumbent stone, is normally the lowest of the perimeter and located opposite the entrance. Some sites are erected into earthen banks. Stone circles are mainly late Neolithic or Bronze Age monuments (c.3000 – 600 BC), once used for a multiplicity of purposes, including ceremonial, ritual, meeting places, trading sites, and burials. The main axis in some stone circles is orientated towards the rising or setting sun on specific days of the year like the summer and winter solstices. They are also believed to have been used for astronomical purposes, and could have had a role in the calendar of the ancient farming community.

     There are approximately 200 surviving in Ireland, with two big concentrations, South According to the late Dr Seán Ó Nualláin, the number of stones in the Munster circles Munster and mid-Ulster.  The Munster stone circles are located in County Cork, especially the Beara Peninsula, and in south Kerry. The number of stones here vary from five to nineteen,  with the circle diameter on average from 7m to 10m, but some are much larger. Some circles contain boulder burials, usually cremated burials under small capstones measuring about 2m by 1m placed on low supporting stones. The best-stone circles in Cork are those near Glandore, between Skibbereen and Clonakilty. There are concentrations in Counties Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone, with Beaghmore complex, N-W of Cookstown, and Aughlish in Derry the best known. Some circles here have more than 20 stones, with many sites containing multiple rings to add further intrigue.

         There are scattered examples of stone circles in several other counties like Grange at Lough Gur in Limerick, where one circle has 113 stones and a diameter of 45m; Newgrange, County Meath,  Kildare-Wicklow border, Louth, Carrowmore in Sligo,  and Masonbrook, near Loughrea, in Galway.

        There are twenty-four stone circles in County Mayo. An impressive collection can be seen in close proximity in Glebe, Nymphsfield and Tonaleeaun, near Cong, in the south of the county. Sometimes a stone stands outside, associated with, but not part of the circle, as at Dooncarton, near Pollatomish, in north-west Mayo.   Other stone circles are located at Gortbrack North, Letterbeg, and Knocknalower, west of Glenamoy in the north-west; at Rathfran, near Killala; at Knockfarnagh on the west coast of Lough Conn, and on Achill Island.



Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.
The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.
Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble
It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).
An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

Martin Davitt: Father of the Founder of the Irish Land League

The Padden family grave in Scranton where Martin Davitt
was buried in December 1871
(His daughter, Mary, and her husband, Neil Padden,
were later buried in the same grave).

        Martin Davitt, father of Michael, the founder and chief organiser of the Irish Land League, died in Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA, one hundred and fifty years ago in December 1871 at the age of about fifty-seven.  Martin was born in or around 1814 probably in the townland of Straide, County Mayo. As a young person, Martin was involved in a local agrarian secret society during the 1830s.  Arising from these activities, he went to England for a period before returning to Straide to farm a small holding of land as a yearly tenant on a local estate.  Martin, who probably attended a local hedge-school in his youth, was literate, bi-lingual, and a good reader, with a big interest in Irish and American history.  He had a reputation as a good seanchaí, or storyteller, and in later years his son, Michael, remembered his narratives of the French landing in Killala Bay on 22 August 1798 to support a rebellion in Ireland, accounts of the Great Irish Famine, and other events in Irish history.  These stories were to nurture strong patriotic feelings in Michael as well as a dislike of the then landlord system.  In or around 1840, he married Catherine Kielty, from the parish of Turlough in County Mayo.   

        Four children were born to Martin and Catherine Davitt in Straide:  Mary (1841), Michael (1846), Anne (1848) and Sabina (1850).  (A fifth child was later born in England but did not survive.)  They were christened in the nearby seventeenth-century church in Straide (which was refurbished and opened in 2000 to house the Michael Davitt Museum).  The late 1840s was a difficult period in which to rear a young family.  With the frugal subsistence of most families deteriorating each year, it was a major struggle to survive.  Despite securing work on a local relief scheme and going to England as a seasonal migratory labourer for the summer of 1849, Martin Davitt was unable to pay off the arrears of rent which had accumulated during the Great Famine.  After being served with an ejectment notice in 1849,  the Davitt family were evicted, probably in October 1850, as part of the ‘great clearances.’  This involved the landlord’s agents forcing in the door of their home with a battering-ram, putting the family out on the road, and knocking the house, an unforgettable experience for any family. 

        The family went to the workhouse in Swinford, which they hated doing, but when Catherine Davitt was told that male children over three years of age had to be separated from their mothers, she promptly took her family away after one hour.

        Sharing the fate of many thousands of Irish dispossessed by the famine, the Davitt family emigrated to Haslingden, a small textile town in Lancashire, about twenty-seven kilometres north of Manchester.   They were transported to Dublin by another family from the vicinity of Straide who were going by horse and cart. They then crossed to Liverpool and stayed with some friends for a few days before making the twenty-seven kilometre journey to Haslingden by foot.  The Davitts stayed with friends in Wilkinson Street until they were able to rent a house of their own at a place called Rock Hall in Haslingden.  It was in Rock Hall that their fifth child and Michael’s only brother, James, was born in June 1853 (he died two years later). Martin’s first job was selling fruit from door to door, and he later became a labourer. 

        After Michael became involved in Fenian activities, he persuaded his parents and sisters to emigrate the United States. It was their wish to return to Ireland if they could make a living there, but acceding to Michael’s pressure they decided to cross the Atlantic.  Preceded by their daughters, Martin and Catherine Davitt sailed from Liverpool and arrived in New York on 13 April 1870, and from there went to Scranton. (They were never to see Ireland or England again, which was the experience of almost all Irish emigrants at that time.) Shortly after their departure, Michael was imprisoned for his Fenian involvement. Of all that Michael endured in prison, his most depressing experience was when he learned of his father’s death in December 1871. Martin Davitt was buried in the Padden family plot (his son-in-law’s family), number 24, section D1, at the Cathedral Cemetery, Oram Boulevard, Scranton, Pennsylvania. 

Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.

The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.

www.mayobooks.ie also sell the print versions of Killasser – Heritage of a Mayo Parish , Anseo and Davitt.

Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.comamazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble

It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

Anna Parnell Remembered

 At long last, Anna Parnell (1852-1911), one of the many forgotten people in Irish history,  was  remembered  in September 2021 with a blue flag on the Allied Irish Bank at the top of O’Connell Street in Dublin, the site of the Ladies’ Land League, which she founded.

         During 1880, it had became obvious that the arrest of the Irish Land League leaders was only a matter of time, and its founder Michael Davitt was determined that their work should be continued in their absence.  He asked the Land League executive to authorise the formation of a provisional committee of ladies to carry on the work.  The proposal was opposed vehemently by the executive, but Davitt persevered and secured a passive assent.  Prior to that, numerous women were involved with the Land League, but not in a leadership role.  On January 31, 1881, Anna Parnell (a   sister of the Land League president, Charles Stuart Parnell) presided at a meeting in 39 Upper Sackville Street, Dublin, at which the Ladies’ Land League was formally established.  It was the first political association led by Irish women.

       As general secretary, Anna Parnell spoke at the first public meeting of the Ladies’ Land League in Claremorris, County Mayo, on February 13, 1881.  She was reported in the Connaught Telegraph of  February 17  as stating that the Ladies’ Land League was not going to be a charitable organisation but a ‘relief movement’.  From its inception, it had a difficult relationship with the Land League, most of whose members had strong views on the role of women in society and deemed political activity by them  as inappropriate, views strongly reinforced by Charles Stewart Parnell, who never approved of the Ladies’ Land League.  As a result, the role of the Ladies’ Land League was never clearly defined and its champion, Michael Davitt, was imprisoned only three days after its inauguration.  The Ladies’ Land League, however, established branches around the country and raised money to support families of those evicted or imprisoned.  It became very active following the suppression of the Land League in October 1881, taking over the League’s functions and extending its relief activities, including the provision of pre-fabricated huts for evicted families and paying court expenses for tenants fighting ejectment notices.

The Ladies’ Land League built up a very efficient organisation within a few months became quite radical in its approach.  This was illustrated early in 1882 when the imprisoned Land League leaders ordered the ladies to call off the ‘no rent campaign’, but they refused, as well as taking a more aggressive stand at evictions. During the imprisonment of William O’Brien, the Ladies’ Land League published and circulated the United League newspaper.  The Ladies’ Land League was suppressed on December 16, 1881, and some members were imprisoned for their activities.

After the suppression of the Ladies’ Land League, Anna moved to England, living as a virtual recluse for the rest of her life.  She wrote The Tale of the Great Sham in 1907, which was not published until 1986, expressing her disillusionment with the outcome of the land war in placating large tenant farmers and achieving very little land distribution for those on small holdings. Anna Parnell died in a drowning accident at Ilfracombe in Devon, England, on September 20, 1911, at the age of 59.  Only seven attended her funeral there beside Holy Trinity Church; her grave remained unmarked until the Parnell Society erected a stone in her memory in 2002. Anna Parnell deserves to be remembered in Irish history for the courageous pioneering feminist and patriot that she was.

Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.

The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.

www.mayobooks.ie also sell the print versions of Killasser – Heritage of a Mayo Parish , Anseo and Davitt.

Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble

It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

Anglo-Irish Truce

Castles in County Mayo

Michael Davitt’s mother