Michael Davitt’s father, Martin c.1814-1871


The Padden family grave in the Cathedral Cemetery, Scranton, where Martin Davitt was buried in December 1871. (Davitt Museum, Straide.)

  Michael Davitt, ‘the Father of the Irish Land League’, was born at the height of the Great Irish Famine, on March 25, 1846, in Straide, County Mayo, the son of Martin and Catherine. His father, Martin Davitt, who was born in or around 1814, was a yearly tenant farmer on the estate of John Knox in Straide. 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 these stories were to nurture strong patriotic feelings in Michael as well as a big dislike of the landlord system. As a young person, Martin was involved in a local agrarian secret society during the 1830s and, arising from these activities, he went to England for a period before returning home to farm a small holding of land.  Martin married Catherine Kielty from the nearby parish of Turlough in or around 1840. Four children were born to Martin and Catherine Davitt in Straide: Mary (1841), Michael (1846), Anne (1848) and Sabina (1850); a fifth child, a boy named James, was later born in England but he did not survive.

  The late 1840s was a difficult period in which to rear a young family in County Mayo.  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 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 as part of the “Great Clearances” at the end of the Great Famine, an unforgettable experience for any family. The Davitt family went to the workhouse in Swinford, Co. Mayo, 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. Sharing the fate of many thousands of Irish dispossessed by the famine, the Davitt family emigrated to Haslingden, a small textile town in Lancashire, north of Manchester, where Martin undertook a variety of jobs.

  Michael Davitt’s eldest sister, Mary, married a Mayo-man Neil Padden in May 1863 in Haslingden. Shortly afterwards, Neil emigrated to the United States and ended up in Scranton, an industrial town in the north-east of Pennsylvania, where Mary joined him in 1865. Five years later, having regard to his involvement in Fenian activities, Michael persuaded his parents and other sisters, Anne and Sabina, to emigrate to Mary and Neil Padden in 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 emigrate to America.  Preceded by Anne and Sabina, Martin and Catherine Davitt sailed from Liverpool and arrived in New York in April 1870, from where they went to Scranton. They were never to see Ireland or England again, which was the experience of almost all emigrants to America at that time. Michael was arrested and sentenced on to fifteen years’ penal servitude on July 18, 1870, most of which was served in Dartmoor prison in Devon.

  Of all the hardships Michael endured in prison, his most depressing experience was when he learned of his father’s death in December 1871, at the age of about fifty-seven.

Michael had great love and respect for his father and agonised about his role in persuading his parents to emigrate to the USA. Martin was buried in the Padden family plot at number 24, section D1, at the Cathedral Cemetery, Oram Boulevard, Scranton, Pennsylvania. After Martin’s death, Catherine Davitt and two of her daughters, Anne and Sabina, moved to Manayunk, Philadelphia, in search of better employment opportunities. After her death there on July 18, 1880, she was buried in the grounds of the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Manayunk.



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).

National Museum of Ireland-Country Life


National Museum of Ireland-Country Life and Turlough Park House

  The National Museum of Ireland-Country Life, located just off the N5 at Turlough, 8 km east of Castlebar in County Mayo, is now one of the main tourist attractions in the west of Ireland, and it is free. It was opened in September 2001 to house the Irish folklore collection, most of which was in storage until then. However, with a collection of over 50,000 items, and constantly growing with donations, only a fraction of it is on public display. Mayo County Council purchased Turlough Park House and estate for the state in 1991, and were successful in having the National Museum of Ireland locate its country life collection there, their only branch outside Dublin.

  The Museum of Country Life is designed with modern exhibition galleries on four floors in the spectacular grounds of Turlough Park. Here you travel back in time and experience a vanished civilisation incorporating artefacts from rural Ireland, chiefly from about 1850 to the 1950s, with displays using archival video material and interactive screens. These include farming and fishing activities, the homes in which people dwelt, examples of furniture, dress and footwear, items relating to religion, education, emigration, politics, games, past-times, customs, festivals, as well as a wide variety of trades and crafts, like the blacksmith, tinsmith, thatcher, carpenter and cooper. The Education Room is fully equipped to offer a range of educational programmes for schools and groups.

  Surrounded by landscaped parklands of 29 acres, beautiful gardens, a modern freestanding glasshouse, and an artificial lake (known as a turlough), visitors can also see Turlough Park House, which was extensively restored by the Office of Public Works. The house was built in 1865 by the Fitzgerald family, who received the estate under the Cromwellian settlement in the seventeenth century. Turlough House and adjoining courtyards were designed by Thomas Newenham Deane, who was also responsible for the Church of Ireland in Westport and the National Museum in Kildare Street, Dublin.

  There is a 2.9m high sculpture by Ballintober-born artist, Brother Joseph McNally, in the grounds of the National Museum of Country Life. The Portal sculpture by Barry Linnane symbolises a link between past and present.

(www.museum.ie/en/intro/country-life)


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).

Mark Rode: A Distinguished Sculptor

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara sculpture by Mark Rode in Cong, County Mayo.

 Mark Rode (born 1965) is a distinguished figurative sculptor, whose work can be seen in several Irish counties, especially in County Mayo. His speciality is creating a perfectly modelled figure in bronze, with empathy, subtlety, and a desire to connect with viewers. After studying art, anatomy, proportion, and bronze-casting in his native Australia, he moved to Europe in 1998, and gained experience in England, France, Italy, and Germany before settling in Ireland with his Irish wife, Jacinta Guinan. They eventually took up residence in Killasser, Swinford, County Mayo where his business is located.

  One of his early Irish figures was the Brother Walfrid sculpture in Ballymote, County Sligo. It was unveiled on October 24, 2004, to honour Andrew Kerins (1840-1915), a native of Cartron Phibbs, Ballymote, who emigrated to Glasgow and later joined the Marist order, taking the name Brother Walfrid. He became the founder of Glasgow Celtic Football Club on November 6, 1888, which became the most successful sporting institution of the Irish diaspora, winning the European Cup in 1967. Mark’s other early public work include the Mayo County Crest, Castlebar (2005), Leaping Salmon, Foxford (2005), as well as Man Reading Newspaper and Man with Suitcase, Kiltimagh (2006), both with artist Sally McKenna, the Jim McPadden Memorial in Leitrim (2006) In co-operation with Tim Morris, Mark Rode was the sculptor of a woman and child from the 1950s entitled Strength of a Woman, donated to Swinford in 2007 to remember the women who looked after their homes and families while their men worked in England.

  One of his best known Irish public sculptures is the Champions in Tralee, County Kerry. Four metres in height, it depicts four footballers jumping for a ball, and was commissioned by Kerry County Council to celebrate the county’s long and proud tradition in Gaelic footballa Over a tonne of bronze was used in this spectacular sculpture, which was unveiled in Tralee on May 14, 2007. He did the Tour de France Memorial in Enniscorthy, County Wexford (2008), and the All-Ireland hurler in Birr, County Offaly, in 2009. The bronze statues and ship bow in the Addergoole Titanic Memorial Park in Lahardaun, County Mayo, are the work of Mark Rode. The park was opened on April 12, 2012, to remember the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, 1912, with twelve local people on board, eleven of whom perished. Mark did the Marish Brother in Athlone in 2012.

  Mark’s sculpture of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, who played the roles of Sean Thornton and the feisty Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man film in 1951, was unveiled in Cong, County Mayo in October 2013. He did the Thomas McDonagh Sculpture in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary (2016), one of the seven leaders of the Easter 1916 Rising, who was born there. In 2018, Mark’s sculptures of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama were unveiled at the Barack Obama Plaza, a popular service station at Moneygall, County Offaly, at junction 23 on the M7 Dublin to Limerick Motorway. Moneygall was the ancestral home of a maternal great-great-great grandfather of the forty-fourth President of the United States, who visited the village in 2011.

  Mark’s most recent work was a sculpture of Grace Kelly (1929-1982), who won an Oscar for her role The Country Girl in 1954 and a year later married Prince Rainier of Monaco, was unveiled in Newport, County Mayo, in 2023. Her paternal grandfather, John Kelly, came from near Newport. In January 2024, his sculpture of Grace O’Malley, was also unveiled in Newport. She was the pirate queen along the wild Atlantic coast of Connacht during the second half of the sixteenth-century, and lived for some time in Rockfleet Castle, near Newport. In addition to his public sculptures, Mark Rode has exhibited his work in galleries in Australia, England and several venues around Ireland. His sculptures are held in many public and private collections in Ireland, Australia and the United Kingdom.



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).

Saint Patrick: Ireland’s Patron Saint


The Saint Patrick Window from the Harry Clarke Studios (1943) in the Church of St Thomas, Callow, Killasser, County Mayo. It shows him holding the shamrock and teaching about the Trinity.

Saint Patrick was a fifth-century British-born missionary bishop, who is chiefly credited with the conversion of the then pagan Irish to Christianity. Several holy people in early Christian Ireland who devoted their lives to spreading the faith and founding churches were often described as saints (it was many centuries later before the formal church process of canonization was introduced). Nevertheless, Patrick is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, and other churches. Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, the date on which he is believed to have died (but the year in uncertain), is celebrated by Irish people at home and around the world in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. It is believed that the first St Patrick’s day parade was held in Boston in 1779, now a big feature of the day everywhere, with the biggest every year in New York City. It is now customary for the Irish taoiseach to visit Washington DC on St Patrick’s Day and present a bowl of shamrock to the President of the United States. March 17 became a Catholic Church holiday in Ireland in the seventeenth century, and a public holiday in 1900.

Christianity was introduced to Ireland at the start of the fifth century, if not earlier, and Pope Celestine appointed Palladius as first bishop to the Irish Christians, but it is Saint Patrick who is credited with the spread of Christianity in Ireland. According to his own writings, he came from an ecclesiastical family in Britain and that his father was named Calpurnius, a deacon in the church. After capture by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen, Patrick was sold into captivity herding sheep on the slopes of Slemish mountain in County Antrim. There, he spent many hours in prayer, which was critical to his spiritual development. After six years, he escaped and returned home. He later said that in a dream he heard ‘the voices of the Irish’ asking him to return. After ordination at Auxerre in France he was appointed as bishop of the Irish and returned to Ireland. His early years in Ireland as a missionary bishop were in the north and, according to various accounts written in the seventh century, as first bishop he made Armagh the capital of his Irish church (to this day it is the capital of both Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland in the country, with both cathedrals there named in his honour). He appears to have spent some time in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, including, according to legend, forty days and nights on the summit of Croagh Patrick, fasting and praying for the people of Ireland. Other Patrician sites recorded for the county include Aghagower near Westport, Ballintober, Kilmoremoy, near Ballina, and various parts of north Mayo as far west as Ballycastle.

Saint Patrick is said to have baptised thousands, ordained many priests, and became the chief evangelizer of the natives, bringing Ireland within the See of Rome and part of universal Christendom. Saint Patrick is associated with the shamrock, because it is said that he used a three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of The Holy Trinity (three persons in one God, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit). The shamrock became an Irish symbol. He also lit a paschal fire on the hill of Slane in County Meath in defiance of the local high king. The legend that he drove all the snakes from Ireland is a fallacy, as there were never snakes in the country.

St Patrick wrote two concise documents in Latin, his autobiographical Confessio and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. These were the earliest writings to be penned in Ireland, and they are preserved in manuscripts that are kept in Continental libraries, although an abbreviated version of the Confessio is found in the Book of Armagh, an early ninth-century manuscript, now in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. A text written in the late seventh century by Bishop Tírechán, from Tirawley in north Mayo, suggested that the area west of Killala was the location of Silva Vocluti, ‘the wood of Fochluth beside the western sea’ mentioned by Patrick in his Confessio.

  It is believed that St Patrick died at Saul, in County Down, and that he was buried nearby in the grounds of Down Cathedral at Downpatrick.



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).

Peadar O’Dowd 1941-2024: A Great Galway Historian

Peadar O’Dowd in the 1990s

Peadar (Peter) O’Dowd, who died on January 3, 2024, at the age of 82, will be remembered as a lecturer, a newspaper columnist, a great Galway historian, and a prolific author. Born in Bohermore, Galway City, on June 29, 1941, Peadar was the eldest of four children. His formal education started at St Brendan’s Primary School in Woodquay, Galway, where he developed a life-long interest in nature, especially birds, trees, and shrubs. After his secondary education as a day pupil in St Mary’s College from 1954 to 1959, he attended University College Galway, graduating in 1962, and with a Higher Diploma in Education the following year. His first teaching post was in Abbeyknockmoy Vocational School in County Galway before going to Glenamaddy for eight happy years until the end of 1972. In January 1973, he was appointed as a lecturer in business studies, and later in heritage studies, in the newly established Regional Technical College in Galway, giving outstanding service until his retirement on August 31, 2006. There, Peadar gravitated towards the Archaeological, Historical, and Folklore Society, which organised an annual programme of lectures and outings. Peadar became hooked on all aspects of heritage, and in effect developed a parallel career in that field.

  Peadar became a gifted communicator with the ability to convey his wide knowledge of Galway’s heritage with clarity, precision, and language, always stating that he was writing for the general reader and not the specialist. His books include Galway City Waterways: A Walking Guide (1985), Old and New Galway (1985), Vanishing Galway (1987), Galway: Heart of the West (1991), Touring Galway: A Guide to County Galway (1993), Down by the Claddagh (1993), The Great Famine and the West (1996), Galway on the Bay (2002, with Derek Biddulph and Dick Byrne), In From the West-the McDonagh Dynasty (2002), Galway in Old Photographs (2003), A History of County Galway (2004), Galway Lawn Tennis Club (2005), Christmas Tales of Galway (2006), More Tales of Galway (2007), Final Tales of Galway (2008), Tracing Your Galway Ancestors (2011), The Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora: An Illustrated History (2011), St Mary’s College Galway Centenary 1912-2012 (2012), and editing his last book in 2018, Glenamaddy Boyouragh: Our People-Our Heritage.

  He became a weekly columnist with the Connacht Sentinel from 1992 until November 2014, and thereafter with the Connacht and Galway City Tribune to his last article on December 29, 2023. He also contributed articles to various publications like Galway Life, Galway Now, Galway Roots, Ireland’s Own, New Horizon, and the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.

  Peadar gave numerous public lectures on various aspects of Galway’s heritage, conducted innumerable tours, broadcast on radio and television, as well as serving for 13 years as secretary of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society and five as president. He was also a member of the Old Galway Society, the Royal Society of Antiquaries, and a director of Galway Civic Trust. One of the people Peadar impressed during a walking tour of Galway was the wife of Richard Daley, Mayor of Chicago. This led to her nominating Peadar and his wife, Mary, to be invited to Chicago as the Irish representatives for a big celebration on December 31, 1999 to inaugurate the new millennium with two representatives from every country in the world. One of the Rehab Galway People of the Year in 2003, he received a mayoral award in 2007, an honorary MA degree from the National University Galway in 2011, and was honoured by Galway City Council for their huge contribution to local heritage in 2013. Galway has lost a great champion.



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).

Downpatrick Head in Ireland

  Downpatrick Head, near Ballycastle on the north coast of County Mayo, is one of the most fascinating heritage sites in Ireland. Rising to 38metres from the sea, it is a Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way. It is renowned for its spectacular sea stack, known as Dún Briste, ‘the broken fortress’, which broke from the mainland in 1393 in some natural cataclysm caused by the wild Atlantic waves. The sea stack, with its myriad layers of rock about 228m from the shore, once measured 63m by 23m, but further erosion has taken place in recent years. It was once the site of a promontory fort, one erected during the Iron Age, 600 BC to AD 444, with large earthen banks or stone ramparts on a natural coastal site. The headland is named after St Patrick, who is said to have founded a church there, and who is reputed to have had a big association with north Mayo. The ruin of an early church (possibly a successor of a still earlier church) can be seen there, as well as a holy well and a statue of St Patrick.

  The headland was once a place of pilgrimage on Garland Sunday (the last Sunday of July). The name of the headland, in Irish Ceann Dhún Pádraig, Patrick’s headland fortress, comes from St Patrick and from the promontory fort on Dún Briste. On the east side of the headland there are the remains of a smaller promontory fort. The headland has an underground cavern with open crevices and a blow-hole with a subterranean channel to the Atlantic Ocean. A sensitive architectural and landscape installation, known as The Crossing, was erected as a safety installation there from 24 June to 4 July 2014 by Travis Price and architectural students on the Spirit of Place Programme from the Catholic University of America, Washington DC, in co-operation with local landowners and Mayo County Council. Twenty-five local people lost their lives there while hiding in the aftermath of the defeat of the French/Irish at Ballinamuck in 1798.

  The location provides great views of the Atlantic Ocean and the fascinating Belderg cliffs. There is an observation hut, or lookout post, from the Second World War there, built to help guard the coast of neutral Ireland. Each such hut had a unique number, the one on Downpatrick Head being number 64. The country’s name, ÉIRE, was laid out nearby with white flagstones to warn approaching aircraft of the State’s neutrality. There are great views on the horizon from Downpatrick Head as far away as the mountains of Sligo and Donegal. The cliffs are a natural haven for wildlife, especially nesting sea birds. Visitors are warned by a notice at the carpark that they are entering at their own risk, as the area is dangerous with blow-holes, subsidence and eroding cliffs. This is in an area of great scenic beauty and interest, but extremely dangerous and should be treated with caution


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).

The Country Boy

One of the most popular plays ever staged in the west of Ireland was The Country Boy by John Murphy from 1959, chiefly by Charlestown Theatre Group and produced by a doyen in local amateur dramatic circles, Paddy Henry. The play had many resonances which were familiar in the west of Ireland at the time. Located near Castlebar in County Mayo in the late fifties, The Country Boy is based on the theme of emigration and its effects on those who went and on those who stayed, with the dreams, thoughts and fears as seen from both sides of the Atlantic over two generations. The plot centres around the family of Tom Maher and his wife, Mary Kate, who farm a small holding. They have two sons, Eddie and Curly. Eddie has just arrived back from the USA after fifteen years, with his American-born wife, Julia, and is hailed as a paragon of success. Curly, 25, now wants to follow Eddie to America, chiefly to escape from the stultifying influence of his obdurate, dominating, and uncommunicative father. After a short time, the initial boasting of their success by Eddie and Julia gives away to exchanges which show a troubled marriage and that their real lifestyle, of hardship, alcoholism, and numerous regrets, is far from what they led their family in Ireland to believe. As a result, Eddie does not want Curly to follow in his footsteps and tries to convince him that he would be far better off to remain at home. Curly has a girlfriend, Eileen Tierney, and is torn between his love of her and his desire to escape to a new life. Tom Maher, a product of his time, place, and circumstances, has inevitably to accept change. It results in a happy ending, but with a final revealing comment from the aging patriarch. Eventually Curly and Eileen agree to marry and stay at home. He informs his parents of the news and that the wedding will take place on Monday… three weeks. His father, Tom, responds:

“Monday, three weeks (slowly something dawns on him and he turns back into the kitchen, his face a mixture of pain and frustration), well wouldn’t you swear he does it to me on purpose. Monday, three weeks! The bloody fair-day in Castlebar!”

  John Murphy (1924-1998) was born in Bellaghy, Charlestown, County Mayo. As a youth, he was a member of the Charlestown Dramatic Society. Like so many young men and women of his generation he was forced to leave and seek employment in England. After some time in England, he went to Belfast, working as a ship engineer for a company based in Rugby. There, he regularly attended plays staged by the Ulster Group Theatre. He wrote The Country Boy in Belfast in 1958. Its first production was by the Ulster Group Theatre in Belfast on April 7, 1959, followed by a month later by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin on May 11. It proved to be a great success. After attempting to secure employment in RTÉ, John Murphy became disillusioned with Ireland and, after marrying Kathleen Rodgers from Sonnagh, Charlestown, they left the country, settling for a few years in England before emigrating to Los Angeles. He worked as a lighting technician and engineer in Hollywood for Disney, Paramount and 20th Century Fox. He started another play, “The Man from Ballybeg”, but it was not published or produced. John Murphy came to Charlestown in September 1996 to see the local Dramatic Society unveil a plaque on the house in Bellaghy where he was born. (Thanks to Paddy Henry, I had the pleasure of meeting him on that occasion). John Murphy died in Los Angeles on May 31, 1998, and his ashes were buried on the side of Nephin Mountain in County Mayo at his request.



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).

James Daly: A Forgotten Man in Irish History

 James Daly, a pioneer of the Irish land agitation in the late nineteenth century (Dr Mark Garavan).

       James Daly (1836–1911) has been described by historian Joseph Lee as ‘the most undeservedly forgotten man in Irish history’ in his book The Modernisation of Irish Society 1845-1918 (1979, pp.69/70).  He had a big role in the land agitation that started in the west of Ireland in the late 1870s, which led to the formation of the Land League and eventually to tenant farmers becoming owner-occupiers of their holdings within a generation.

       A native of Boghadoon in the parish of Addergoole in north Mayo, James Daly inherited a large holding of land on the Palmer estate from his father.  He was educated locally and at the Franciscan Friary at Errew, near Castlebar. With Alfred O’Hea, he purchased the then Mayo Telegraph newspaper in February 1876, and changed its name to the Connaught Telegraph.  Due to illness, O’Hea sold his share of the newspaper to Daly in January 1879.  A strong nationalist, a town commissioner and Poor Law Guardian, James Daly served as secretary of the Mayo Tenants’ Defence Association from 1878, and became a tireless constitutional champion of agrarian reform. Under his editorship, the Connaught Telegraph became the most important newspaper in the country for articulating the grievances of tenant-farmers and social conditions in general in the west of Ireland.  Despite his large farming interests, James Daly was a big supporter of those with small holdings.

         Some tenants on an estate near Irishtown, County Mayo, who were under threat of eviction in January 1879, met James Daly, and asked him to publish their grievances in the Connaught Telegraph.  He rejected their request, in fear of libel action, but advised them to hold a public meeting to ventilate tenant grievances in general, as well as demanding a reduction in their rents.  A meeting was held in February 1879 in Claremorris attended by James Daly, Michael Davitt and others at which arrangements were made for a demonstration to be held at Irishtown on Sunday April 20, 1879.   The Irishtown meeting, which was attended by a large crowd and chaired by James Daly, ignited the flame that was to change the face of rural Ireland. The eviction notices were withdrawn and the rent was reduced by twenty-five per cent. The next big meeting took place in Westport on June 8, 1978, again chaired by James Daly, at which both Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt spoke.  All such land meetings were well publicised in the Connaught Telegraph.  The National Land League of Mayo was established on August 16 ,1879, in James Daly’s Hotel in Castlebar.  This evolved into the Irish National Land League, which was established in Dublin on October 21 1879, with Parnell as President and Michael Davitt, its organiser-in-chief, one of the secretaries.  After becoming a member of its central committee, it is said that James Daly addressed over a hundred Land League meetings.  He, Michael Davitt and James Killen were arrested for alleged seditious speeches on November 19, 1879, at Gurteen, County Sligo and sent to Sligo Jail, but the trial against them later collapsed.  The Land War lasted from 1879 to 1882. After the introduction of the Coercion Act in 1881, James Daly was arrested and spent five weeks in Galway Jail.

         The pioneering work of James Daly in ventilating the grievances of tenant-farmers in the Connaught Telegraph created hope that the system could be changed.  His major roles as secretary of the Mayo Tenants’ Defence Association from 1878, in organising and chairing the important meetings in Irishtown and Westport, in his influential evidence to the Bessborough Commission in 1880, which led to major changes in the 1881 Land Act, as well as his involvement in the Land League campaign deserve special recognition.  However, it was Michael Davitt who recognised the potential of the local agitation in the west of Ireland to change the landlord system.  It was his vision, organising genius, and networking skills which transformed this local protest in Mayo into a county movement and later into a national one with the immediate goal of protecting the rights of tenants and the ultimate radical objective of replacing the landlords with tenant-owners within the law.

         A rift developed within the Land League, and James Daly felt that it had deserted the social group for which it was founded, and left the organisation. In 1888, he sold his newspaper to Thomas Gillespie, who had managed the paper for him, and became a full-time farmer. He was elected as a Castlebar Town Commissioner and from 1899 as a member of Castlebar Urban District Council. He supported the United Irish League after its establishment in 1898 campaigning for the redistribution of large ranches to small farmers. James Daly died in January 1911 and is buried in the new cemetery in Castlebar.



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).

Woman’s Big Role in D-Day Landings

Blacksod Bay Lighthouse with Achill in the background (Ionad Deirbhile)

A woman  and a lighthouse on the north-west coast of County Mayo in the West of Ireland had a huge and unexpected role on the outcome of the Second World War. The weather-monitoring unit at Blacksod Bay Lighthouse, at the southern end of the Mullet Peninsula, had a big influence on the D-Day landings in Normandy, in France, on June 6, 1944.   At that time during the Second World War, most of France was occupied by Hitler’s German army. Weather forecasts from Blacksod Lighthouse on June 3, which had to be repeated three times, showed a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure and the arrival of a storm. They were taken by Maureen Flavin, on her twenty-first birthday, for Ted Sweeney, the lighthouse keeper at Blacksod, the man she would later marry.   A native of Knockanure, County Kerry, Maureen came to Blacksod to work in the local post office. The forecasts were relayed to the UK Meteorological Office in Dunstable, north of London, and carefully considered by the Allied Command.  The readings showed a storm coming over the Atlantic to arrive in Normandy on June 5.  Plans were underway for the biggest seabound invasion in world history on Monday June 5 at full moon and low tide, depending, however, on the weather. Partly because of the adverse weather forecast sent by Edward Sweeney (1906-2001) from Blacksod, the landing did not take place on June 5 as planned.  General Dwight Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied cross Channel invasion of the European mainland, considered the opposing weather forecasts from the UK and USA weather forecasters. Good weather was required for the landings and the necessary back-up air support.  Eisenhower took the weather forecast received from County Mayo and decided to delay one of the biggest and important military seaborne operations in world history by one day, when the weather forecast showed a short window as an opportunity. The Normandy landings, known as ‘Operation Overlord’, took place on June 6 1944 on several beaches in Normandy, and their success, together with the heroic role of the Russians in the east, paved the way for the liberation of Europe. 

            Maureen celebrated her hundred birthday in June 2023. In June 2021, the US House of Representatives presented Maureen Sweeney with a special award to recall her special role in world history. Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, in a letter to her in July 2021 wrote: “Yours is such a story and your legacy a most important and enduring one. Your actions so long ago in Blacksod Bay have had a significant influence on the journey that has brought the world to this contemporary moment”.



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).

Landscape of Mayo

Mweelrea, the highest mountain in County  Mayo and  Connacht

       County Mayo, in the west of Ireland, stretches from Lough Corrib and the long fjord of Killary Harbour in the south to Killala Bay and Erris in the North, and from Achill Island, Clew Bay and the Mullet peninsula in the west to the counties of Sligo and Roscommon on the east.   It has astonishing scenery, with an unspoilt natural environment, where people have lived in harmony with their surroundings for over 6,000 years. The natural beauty of the green countryside and varied landscape, with mountains, lakes and rivers, is a dream for lovers of nature. Each vista has its own special delight.

       Its coastline, the longest of any Irish county, has three major bays: Clew Bay, Blacksod and Killala. The landscape varies from the relatively flat carboniferous limestone terrain in East Mayo, through a chain of beautiful lakes down the middle of the county from north to south:  Lough Conn, Lough Cullin, Lough Carra, Lough Mask, and the northern section of Lough Corrib, all renowned for their game fishing, to the quartzite peaks along the indented Atlantic coast, where there are cliffs interspersed with pristine sandy beaches.  The cliffs have some of the oldest rocks in the country to delight geological enthusiasts. Large tracts of blanket bog in North Mayo contrast with the mountains of South Mayo, and illustrate the diversity of topographical features that characterise the county, varying from valley to valley.   Mweelrea (817m), the highest mountain in Connacht, situated just north of Killary Harbour, is the start of a charming mountain range: Ben Gorm, Ben Creggan, the Sheeffry Hills, Maumtrasna and the Partry Mountains. This area has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

      Further north, the landscape is dominated by Croagh Patrick, where for a thousand years and more, thousands of pilgrims annually have worn a path to the summit. The view from the top is enchanting on a clear day; the islands of Inishturk and Inishbofin rise out of the pounding Atlantic waves on the southwest, with Clare Island on the northwest, the drumlin-studded Clew Bay to the north, and Achill Island in the background.  There are spectacular sea cliffs on Achill Island.  The Nephin Beg range of mountains lies north of Clew Bay, with peaks of Nephin Beg (627m), Slieve Carr (722m), Glennamong (628m) and Nephin (806m), giving way further north to a large area of blanket bog.  South of Ballina, the River Moy (100km from its source in the Ox mountain range in County Sligo to Killala Bay) forms a fertile valley around the western end of the Ox Mountains in County Mayo.  There is a drumlin area between Lough Conn and Lough Mask and westwards to Clew Bay. Spectacular sea-cliffs can be enjoyed along the North Mayo coastline, especially between Benwee Head and Downpatrick Head, and several sandy beaches all the way along the indented shoreline to Enishcrone (alias Inniscrone) in County Sligo.

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).

Monsignor James Horan and Ireland West Airport, Knock.

Sculpture of Monsignor James Horan at the entrance to Ireland West Airport, Knock
(Henry Wills, The Western People).

          If Monsignor James Horan, parish priest of Knock from 1967 to 1986, were alive today, he would be delighted to see his dream being realised with the success Ireland West Airport. The airport received considerable publicity on April 14, 2023, when President Joe Biden arrived and departed from there on his visit to County Mayo.  The airport also welcomed two pontiffs, John Paul 11 on September 30, 1979 and Pope Francis on August 26, 2018.  It is going from strength and strength and expects to carry about 850,000 passengers in 2023.

          Overcoming numerous obstacles, the airport was built after a long and controversial campaign under the leadership of Monsignor James Horan, on schedule and within budget.  James Horan was born on  May 5, 1911 in the townland of Tooreen in Partry, County Mayo, the son of Bartley and Catherine Horan, née Casey.  After his education at Partry National School, St Jarlath’s College, Tuam, and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, he was ordained in 1936.  After serving for a number of years in the diocese of Glasgow, he returned to his native diocese of Tuam and worked in Ballyglunin, Tiernea and Lettermullen in County Galway, and Tooreen, County Mayo (where he built a popular dancehall), Cloonfad, County Galway, before his appointment to Knock in 1963, first as curate and parish priest in 1967.  In co-operation with Mayo County Council, he had a development plan prepared for the village, which was implemented over the following years.  His big achievement there was the erection of the new church in 1976, which was later designated the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland.  He also oversaw the refurbishment of the Shrine of the 1879 Apparition Gable, the building of hostels for the sick, St Joseph’s Rest Home for residential invalids, a Rest and Care facility, a new confessional chapel, a processional square, and a museum.  His work also ensured that the area around the shrine was landscaped and generous provision made for car parking, as well as arranging for Mayo County Council to make huge improvements in the local village.

           Father James Horan asked the Irish hierarchy to invite Pope John Paul II to visit Knock for the centenary of the apparition, and had the pleasure in welcoming the Pope to Knock Shrine on September  30, 1979. The Pope said in his homily that day: ‘Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland, the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock’.  The Pope elevated the new church in Knock to the status of a basilica and promoted James Horan to the rank of Monsignor. Monsignor James Horan, who was chosen as Mayo Person of the Year in 1984, died suddenly on  August1, 1986 on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.  He was buried four days later beside Knock Basilica.         

           Monsignor Horan was totally committed to the development of the west of Ireland and his big project was the erection of an international airport, with the help of a small group of committed friends. They moved quickly to secure an option on about hectares of land from 27 local farmers.   After approval of the project, a new government, facing a crisis in national finances, withdrew support after a commitment of £9.6m. Monsignor Horan and his supporters had to overcome numerous obstacles, and raised nearly four million pounds in private subscriptions in the west of Ireland, the USA and Australia to complete the airport.  This was a huge undertaking by a small group of people on a voluntary basis. However, after Trojan work, the airport was completed and officially opened by Charles J Haughey on Friday May 30, 1986.    The story of the origin and building of the airport as well as the people involved is told by Terry Reilly in his book On a Wing and a Prayer: the Story of Knock Airport, now known as Ireland Airport Knock (2006).  It also inspired a song by Christy Moore, and a musical, On a Wing and a Prayer, directed by Tommy Marren of MidWest Radio in collaboration with Terry Reilly in 2010.

       Situated 5.6km SW of Charlestown and 20km from Knock, Ireland West Airport Knock is an international airport and the gateway to the west, north–west and midlands regions of Ireland. It was first used on October 25, 1985, for three Aer Lingus charter flights to Rome. In 2006, its name was re-branded to Ireland-West Airport, Knock. Passengers like the convenience, value, parking facilities and hassle-free nature of using Ireland West Airport Knock. It is a major amenity for the west and midlands of Ireland, and recent growth, after a very severe recession and COVID-19, is very impressive. (www.irelandwestairport.com )

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).

Ballina Celebrations

Saint Muredach’s Cathedral, Ballina, outside which President Joe Biden made a public address on April14, 2023.

           This year 2023, Ballina, in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, is celebrating the tercentenary of its foundation.   The town made world headlines on Friday April 14, 2023, when the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, visited the ancestral homeplace of his great, great, great grandfather, who emigrated from there to the USA in the 1850s. He had visited the town as Vice-President of the USA in June 2016.        

           From the early fifteenth century onwards, a small settlement developed around the friary on the east side of the River Moy, but the modern town of Ballina was founded in 1723 by James O’Hara, second Baron Tyrawley (1682-1774).  James was a member of the O’Hara family from Annaghmore, County Sligo.  Their support for the Crown was rewarded with the title Baron Tyrawley in 1706.  The founder of Ballina built the first street, on which he set up a linen mill.  After establishing a colony of weavers from Ulster, he secured a patent for a weekly market and a fair. Ballina quickly developed into an important commercial town and small seaport.   A military barracks was erected in 1740, followed by two bridges over the River Moy. The town was briefly captured by General Humbert and his Franco-Irish forces in 1798.

          Ballina (Béal an Ātha, ‘the mouth of the ford’) is now a busy industrial, commercial and tourist town at the mouth of the River Moy, and a gateway to north Mayo.   Originally called Belleek according to Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary (1837), it is the cathedral town of the Catholic diocese of Killala.  St Muredach’s Cathedral (1827-1834), overlooking the River Moy, was designed in the Neo-Gothic style by Dominick Madden.  The spire was erected in 1858.  Ballina is a renowned angling centre, the ‘salmon capital of the world’, with excellent river, sea and lake waters nearby.  The Ridge Pool in the town, about 275m from the head of the tidal waters at the fish traps to Ham Bridge, is the most famous beat for salmon angling in Ireland.  Belleek Woods, on the west bank of the River Moy, are a delightful haven for relaxation, exercise and leisure, with walking, cycling, and nature trails. The quay and marina are also big attractions.

              The principal local landlord family, the Knox-Gores, had a big role in the development of the town.  Investment during the early nineteenth century led to the construction of roads, the quay and two new bridges over the Moy, the five-arched Ham Bridge erected in 1836 and the lower one built by Armstrong and West in 1835.  Other developments from this period included the port, the courthouse and the cathedral as well as several new houses. Belleek Manor was designed by the Dublin architect John Benjamin Keane (d.1859) in the Neo-Gothic style and erected between 1825 and 1831 as the opulent residence of the Knox-Gore family. 

           The Jackie Clarke Collection, which was opened to the public in Ballina on 15 June 2013, contains an amazing accumulation of more than 100,000 items relating to Irish history over four centuries, especially the struggle for freedom. It was assembled over a lifetime by Ballina businessman and politician, Jackie Clarke (1927-2000), and gifted in perpetuity to Mayo County Council and the Irish State by his widow, Anne, in 2005.  Jackie Clarke served as a councillor on Ballina Town Council from 1957 to 1974 and held the office of cathaoirleach in 1960 and 1968.  He attended antiquarian and second-hand book sales in Ireland and abroad, purchasing Irish historical books, maps and documents. The collection is housed in a former Provincial Bank on Pearse Street.  Now a listed building, it was designed by Thomas Newenham Deane in the 1880s, and acquired by Mayo County Council.  It was completely renovated and refurbished to store and exhibit the Clarke Collection.

        The town will soon have another major attraction, the Mary Robinson Centre, which has been developed in her childhood home to celebrate the extraordinary career of the first woman to become President of Ireland, 1990-1997. The main themes explored there are human rights and climate issues.

 For more information on the year see www.Ballina2023.ie


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).

Dr Pádraig Carney’s medals presented to County Mayo

Séamus Murray, Mayo Association Galway, making a presentation to Dr Pádraig Carney in May 2000.

        The medals of the late Mayo All-Ireland winning footballer Dr Pádraig Carney were presented to the county by his son, Cormac, on Wednesday 26 April in the Library and Cultural Centre in Swinford,  where they will be displayed. A photographic exhibition there will showcase his career as a Mayo footballer. Cormac Carney, Pádraig youngest son, said:“ my siblings and I are delighted that our father’s medals  will return home to Mayo for all to see”. Bernard 0’Hara, a good friend of Padráig’s for over 40 years, said that he “is delighted with the foresight and generosity of the Carney family to keep their father’s medal collection together in the town where he grew up”.

         Pádraig Carney, ‘The Flying Doctor’ who passed away in Southern California on 8 June 2019 at the age of 91, was perhaps Mayo’s best ever Gaelic footballer, in my opinion the greatest, and one of the all-time greats in the history of the game.  He wore the green and red senior jersey of Mayo with distinction from the age of seventeen in 1945 until his emigration at his prime in March 1954 at the age of twenty-six.   After qualifying as a doctor in 1951, Pádraig married Wexford-born Moira McCabe, a member of his UCD medical class, on 14 October 1953, and he was as determined to succeed in medicine as he had on the football field.  Their decision to emigrate caused consternation in the county and shock throughout the country. The 1950s Ireland was a decade with few opportunities and massive emigration. Mayo had qualified for the National Football League semi-final prior to Pádraig’s emigration and the Mayo County Board brought him back from New York for that game against the favourites Dublin on 25 April 1954.  After completing a day’s work on Friday evening, he left New York for the then twelve-hour flight to Dublin. He captained Mayo the following Sunday to a thrilling 0-11 to 0-7 victory, scoring seven points. It was his finest hour in the green and red and he was once again ‘sports star of the week’. Micheál Ó Hehir, the wonderful commentator, immortalised Pádraig that day as ‘The Flying Doctor’. Pádraig was brought back again for the 1954 League final, where he once again led Mayo to victory.   Mayo County Board told him that they could win the 1954 Connacht championship without him to save money, but that they would bring him home for the All-Ireland semi-final and final, such belief.  However, Galway and the great Séan Purcell had other ideas and they defeated Mayo in the Connacht semi-final. That was the end to his football career with Mayo. We can never forget the joy that Mayo team of the late 1940s and early 1950s brought to the people of this county during a very bleak period in its history.

       Pádraig Carney won every honour in Gaelic football: two All-Ireland back-to-back senior football medals in 1950 and 1951, four Connacht senior medals 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951, two National League medals 1949 and 1954 and one Connacht Minor, 1946.  In addition, he won three Sigerson Cup medals with UCD in 1945/46, 1947/48 and 1949/50 and was captain in 1947-48. After playing for the Combined Universities in 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951, he was selected for the Rest of Ireland against the Combined Universities in 1952 and 1953.  He won a Railway Cup medal with Connacht in 1951, as well as two Mayo senior football championship medals with Castlebar Mitchels in 1951 and 1952 (while working in the County Hospital) and a junior championship medal with Charlestown Sarsfields in 1953 (while serving as a doctor in Charlestown).  

      Pádraig Carney was not selected on the team of the century, or the team of the millennium; in both cases he was nominated against Seán Purcell (1928-2005) at centre forward and because of the latter’s long and distinguished record there was only going to be one winner there. With all players on the millennium team included in the newly established GAA Hall of Fame in 2000, Pádraig Carney was nominated to the GAA Hall of Fame in 2001, the first year two new players were to be nominated each year (the other nominee was Jack O’Shea of Kerry).  This indicates how close he was to selection on the team of the millennium, and the result would be the same regardless of who was nominated against Seán Purcell.  A postage stamp (30p/38c) was issued in Pádraig’s honour on 5 September that year. He was selected at centre-field on the Connacht team of the Century in 2000, when all positions were keenly contested except for centre-forward where there was only one sole nominee, Seán Purcell of Galway, who was widely regarded as the best player of the twentieth century. Pádraig Carney was selected on the Sigerson Cup (for universities) team of the Century in 2011 (the only other Mayo player selected was Seán Flanagan). He was inducted into the Western People Hall of Fame in February 2005. The above is an incredible list of football achievements for a career that ended at the age of twenty-six.

        Pádraig Carney was outstanding in most games, and really excelled in many, including the 1948 Connacht final replay against Galway. He was playing centre-field against his great rival, Séan Purcell, which many people regard as the two greatest displays ever seen on a football field in Connacht. Pádraig Carney scored nine points that day in Mayo’s 2-10 to 2-7 victory.  James Laffey in his excellent book, The Road to 51: The Making of Mayo Football, stated:

The Swinford man was still only 20 and knowledgeable football men in the county were already saying they had never seen anything like him…. The nine-point salvo in the Connacht final replay propelled Carney’s burgeoning reputation through the stratosphere. The finest young footballer in the country had been revealed in all his splendour. And he was wearing a Mayo jersey. The famine of the Forties was officially over.

Seán Flanagan, captain of the Mayo 1950/51 team, in a tribute in 1979 said:

“Pádraig Carney was gifted, fearless and at his best majestic. He combined great strength with the most delicate touch and gained more possession than any of his contemporaries. Of his greatness there is not and never will be any doubt and he is deservedly a legend!”

 Bernard O’Hara said:

“It is wonderful to have the medal collection of this football legend in Swinford. I would like to compliment Cormac Carney and his siblings, Brian, Terence and Sheila, and all ten grandchildren in the next generation, for their foresight to keep all Pádraig’s medals together and for their generosity in presenting them to County Mayo. It is an act of exceptional generosity having regard for the esteem in which he is held by his own family.  It has been decided to place the medals with a photographic collection in Swinford Library, in the town where Pádraig grew up. Here they will be treasured as long as Gaelic football is revered in this county, and, hopefully, that will be forever.”



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 Irish Primary School Curriculum

     A new Primary School Curriculum Framework was launched in Ireland on March 9, 2023, by the Minister for Education, Norma Foley. Developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) after several years of consultation, it sets out ‘an overarching vision’, principles and components for the new curriculum, designed to prepare pupils to adapt in a rapidly changing world with digital technology, artificial intelligence, climate challenges, and continuous change. Work is underway to develop the specific content, but no date has been announced for its full implementation.

     It builds on the current curriculum introduced from 1999, which has six main areas: languages (English and Irish), mathematics, social, environmental and scientific education, arts education, physical education, social, personal and health education.  That curriculum is designed to develop a pupil’s ability to learn independently, to question, think critically, solve problems and  develop good inter-personal skills. There is a big emphasis on doing.  It emphasises numeracy and literacy, as well as science, technology, citizenship, social, personal and health education.  A new religious education programme is also provided.  The White Paper on Education, Charting Our Education Future (1995) enunciated State policy in relation to primary education:

Each child is entitled to an education and learning environment, which facilitates the nurturing of her/his educational potential, in all its richness and diversity. All schools should aim to create such an environment for their students, to the greatest extent possible. The school environment should be a caring one, in which each child’s right to a joyful and safe childhood is guaranteed at all times.

 It went on to state that the curriculum is based on the following principles in accordance with this child-centred approach:

  • The full and harmonious development of the child, with due allowance made for individual differences;
  • The central importance of activity and guided-discovery learning and teaching methods,
  • Teaching and learning through an integrated curriculum and through activities related to the child’s environment.

    The proposed new framework has five broad areas: a language in addition to English and Irish; science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM); wellbeing; arts education, social and environmental education.  The major changes are the introduction of a language  in addition to English and Irish for an hour a week from third class, and an increased emphasis placed on STEM subjects with three hours per week in the junior years to four hours from third class.  The proposed curriculum also aims to aid pupils wellbeing, and support their social, emotional, and physical development, as well as the promotion of active citizenship. Religion is changed to ‘religion, ethical and multi-faith education’, to provide pupils with a wider perspective on faith beliefs.

       Education and training for all walks of life are now a life-long process, ‘a journey and not a destination’. While qualifications can be passports to various occupations and careers, competence and high performance require continuous learning.   Learning is not confined to formal schooling: it is a continuous process from a wide range of sources, family, peers, general social interaction which is important for emotional intelligence, the media in general, social media, libraries, the internet and personal life experiences.

      A good primary education is very important for everyone as it lays the foundation for future development. A positive interaction between teachers and students, in a spirit of love, mutual respect, wonderment and exploration, has a huge influence on young lives.  The objective now is the creation of a joyful, carefree, and enriching educational experience, which fosters a love of learning, self-esteem, wellbeing, imagination, creativity, and high expectations, thus facilitating the holistic development of the potential of all pupils and preparing them to become productive, participative and responsible members of society.


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).

IRELAND’S  REGIONAL  COLLEGES  BECOME TECHNOLOGICAL  UNIVERSITIES

         The opening of the Regional Technical Colleges from 1969 initiated one of the most exciting developments in Irish education during the twentieth century.  In the 1960s, Ireland had a small elite system of higher education, catering almost exclusively for the professions and some employment outlets in the public sector.   After developing awards of different levels and types, the regional technical colleges increased access to third level education, especially in those parts of the country away from the main centres of population. They brought a strong applied orientation, increased participation, and an important regional dimension to higher education in Ireland.  They made a huge contribution to economic development by providing suitable graduates ‘over a broad spectrum of occupations, ranging from craft to professional level’ for an expanding labour force, as well as facilitating participation, fostering social cohesion and becoming drivers of regional development.  Alumni from the Regional Technical Colleges found ready employment in Ireland, except for the recessions in the late 1980s and in 2008.  They made a significant contribution to the attractiveness of Ireland for foreign direct investment and in the promotion of indigenous enterprises.  Their geographical distribution was a big factor in increasing access to and participation in higher education.  They also made a huge contribution to increasing participation from lower socio-economic groups and providing students from a variety of backgrounds with opportunities to develop their talents and realise their potential.  The colleges developed the ladder system of progression, which facilitated the integration of further and higher education, and they were responsive to the demand for life-long learning and up-skilling of the labour force.  The colleges were quick to provide new programmes to satisfy new needs by learners and employers, working closely with regional and community organisations).  They endeavoured to foster enterprise development, promote partnerships with industry, and participate in national and European funded research initiatives. They also tried to advance knowledge by teaching and research. They made a huge contribution to transforming the small elite system of higher education in the country during the 1960s (less than 15 per cent of the relevant cohort) to a mass system (15-50 per cent participation), and in recent times to a universal one (over 50 per cent participation). 

         Following amalgamations and mergers, these regional technical colleges have now been designated into five technological universities. These are: the Technological University of Dublin, established in January 2019; Munster Technological University, established in January 2021; Technological University of Shannon – Midland and Midwest, established October 2021; Atlantic Technological University established in April 2022, and South-East Technological University, established in May 2022.   It is hoped that this development will enhance Ireland’s reputation as an ideal place for foreign direct investment and provide a further stimulus for indigenous businesses.


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).

 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).