Date Published: 07-Jun-2012
Stories from within a three-mile radius of her own front door have provided local historian, author and journalist Mary J Murphy with the subject matter for not one, but two fascinating books.
The first, Viking Summer, based on the filming of Alfred the Great around Galway in 1986 was published in 2008.
Now the second, a fascinating account of society beauty, model, milliner, arts patron and entrepreneur Eva O’Flaherty is just gone to press. The story of this extraordinary woman, born in Lisdonagh House, Caherlistrane in 1874 might have slipped quietly into local folklore but for a chance encounter between Mary and a neighbour, Brendan Gannon in the parish GAA grounds in 2009.
Mary, her husband Gerry and their three children are big fans of Achill Island and holiday there every chance they can get. On hearing that they were just back from Achill, Brendan informed her there was a strong connection between Caherlistrane and the Mayo island. As Mary puts it in her introduction to the book, “every writerly atom in my being went on red alert’, on hearing of the link.
Two years of painstaking research later, punctuated by many happy coincidences, the book has gone to print and will be launched in Scoil Acla on the island next month.
“Her family on both sides were nationalist royalty,” says Mary of Eva O’Flaherty whose enterprising nature provided employment for women on Achill, offering them a chance to stay at home at a time when emigration – seasonal and permanent – was the norm.
Eva’s story is an extraordinary one and how Mary came to hear of it is equally extraordinary.
Brendan Gannon, who first told her about Eva, had worked with the Hoover Company in the 1950s, during which time he was sent to fix a broken machine at knitwear factory, St Colman’s on Achill. While he was there, one of the employees realised he was from Caherlistrane in Galway.
Mary Glynn took him to meet her boss, Miss Eva O’Flaherty, who had left Caherlistrane many decades before but still had connections with the area.
Eva, who had been a renowned beauty in her youth, was by that time almost blind and was in poor health. She asked Brendan to return to Achill with his father to help her organise her funeral arrangements. Realising she didn’t have many years left, Eva’s wish was to be buried in her home parish of Caherlistrane, in the family vault in Donaghpatrick Cemetery.
Brendan’s father, John helped her plan this and after she died, on April 17, 1963, Brendan oversaw her interment in the family plot – his father had predeceased Eva.
Armed with that information from Brendan, Mary J Murphy began her research, which revealed a fascinating woman from a fascinating family.
Their base was Lisdonagh House on the shores of Lough Hackett – formerly Lough Cime – in Caherlistrane. Now a heritage guesthouse, Lisdonagh House was reputed to have been built by the Reddington family around 1720. The O’Flahertys moved in there in the mid 19th century and Eva was born here in 1874.
As Mary leans on a table in the hallway of the beautifully refurbished house, explaining Eva’s complex family tree, it’s obvious just how much research she has put into this project. She draws the tree from memory, explaining how Eva’s mother, who had been widowed at a young age with seven children, married the much older Martin O’Flaherty, Eva’s father. Eva’s mother was Mary O’Gorman from Co Clare, whose father, Richard had been a brother of one of Daniel O’Connell’s right-hand men. Eva’s own father had been a member of the Young Ireland movement and was friends with all the major political figures including Charles Gavin Duffy, John Blake Dillon; “the lot”, says Mary.
Mrs O’Flaherty died in 1881 on April 17 – co-incidentally Eva died on the same date in 1963.
Then, when Eva was 12, Martin O’Flaherty had to auction the house because of what his daughter subsequently described as “his unfortunate business dealings”.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.
Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.
She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.
Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.
Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.
When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.
Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.
And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.
All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.
“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”
That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.
For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here
Galway have lot to ponder in poor show
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
FRANK FARRAGHER IN ENNISCRONE
GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.
The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.
There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.
It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.
Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.
Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.
Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.
Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.
Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.
Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013