The foundation stone for St Brendan’s was laid in 1831, under the direction of parish priest Rev. Raymond Hargadon. The building was part of a wave of new churches built throughout the country following the relaxation of the Penal Laws under the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829. The church is actually located in the townland of Carrowbeg South, and replaced a thatched chapel in Corrandulla townland, the ruins of which can be seen in the present cemetery. The site appears to have been supplied by the Blake family of Cregg Castle, who later provided the adjoining site for the Franciscan Monastery and Boys’ School. The church is built to a standard cruciform plan, along an inverted liturgically-correct axis (east to west rather than west to east). It consists of a two-bay double-height nave opening into single-bay transepts centred on the chancel, with a pitched slate roof, and with a single-bay three-stage tower on a square plan attached to the main entrance.
The building was originally known as Annaghdown Monastery in the Post Office district of Drumgriffin. The first group of Brothers to come in 1851 comprised of four members. They were led by Br. Elias Silke, a renowned teacher of Irish and History. Among those he taught at Errew Monastery, Castlebar was Canon Ulick Bourke who later became a leading professor of Irish at Maynooth and who left him a signed copy of his famous “The College Irish Grammar” as a token of appreciation for his former teacher of Irish. Br. Francis Kelly was a native of Kilkerrin, Ballinasloe. Another member of the founding group Br. John Concannon travelled to New York later where he joined the Franciscan Brothers in Brooklyn. Br. Clement Halloran was the fourth member of the original group. On their arrival from Errew Monastery they were granted a three acre site by Francis Blake of Cregg Castle, on which they were directed to erect a monastery and school. According to a written account,the site comprised of nearly three acres of bare, rocky land”. Immediately on their arrival, the Brothers began to teach “in a small thatched house across from the Chapel”. Shortly afterwards they purchased a farm from John Butler, Esq. of Tonagarraun, and built a temporary dwelling house there while they were completing their monastery. This was probably a small building where the local supermarket now stands.
There isn’t any chestnut tree spreading over the ‘smithy’ at the end of our village, as in that poem we learned at school; but ivy, clawing its way over the walls and on to the roof, and a swath of brambles spreading across the two small shuttered windows. And children on their way home from school do not look in at the open door; for not only do they now pass swiftly by in the luxury of bus and car, the sparks do not fly off the anvil anymore, as the forge now lies derelict and obsolete, having long ceased to be of use, the blacksmith’s craft made redundant by the onset of high-powered farming and automation, and no work-horses in need of shoeing…
St Brendan’s was dedicated on 12 July 1903 by Archbishop Healy of Tuam who referred to it by the name shown above – presumanly to distinguish it from St Brendan’s, Corrandulla. The dedication ceremony was described in The Tuam Herald and The Galway Express of 18 July 1903. It was, to quote the Herald, “a ceremony of great stateliness and pomp”. On 24 July 2003, there were centenary celebration ceremonies in St Brendan’s followed by a reception in Annaghdown school. A commemorative booklet was printed to mark the occasion – it includes the newspaper descriptions of 18 July 1903. The church ceremonies centered on Mass concelebrated by Canon Martin Newell, Parish Priest of Annaghdown, Fr Oliver McNamara, Curate of Annaghdown and Canon Michael Goaley – Parish Priest of Glenamaddy and a native of Annaghdown. A number of priests who had served in Annaghdown were present in the sanctuary.
Of the very many interesting functions of which the Archdiocese of Tuam has been the centre for some months past, none has exceeded in interest that which was witnessesd in one of its most remote parishes when on Sunday morning last his Grace the Most Rev. Dr Healy, Archbishop of Tuam, solemnly dedicated the new church of St Brendan in Annadown, in the presence of a large and edified gathering of parishioners and friends from the surrounding districts, including a strong contingent from Galway City. The new church, the building of which was begun in the early part of the year 1900, occupies a very fine situation in the centre of the Annadown district, around which place cling so many hallowed memories of much that is great and spirit-stirring in the glorious history of the birth and development of Christinaity in Ireland. Replacing, as it does, an old structure which was only intended for temporary use, pending the provision of a more suitable place of worship, the new Church of St Brendan, besides proving an ornament to its locality, will fill a want long felt in so far as the religious requirements of the people of Annadown are concerned.
Evelyn Stevens talks to Dutch thatcher Marika Leen about the art of thatching and how she came to learn the trade. Filmed in Cloonboo, Annaghdown, Co. Galway in summer 2020, at the thatched cottage of Pete Smith and Evelyn Stevens. An initiative of the Annaghdown Heritage Society. Labhraíonn Evelyn Stevens leis an tuídóir Ollainnis, Marika Leen, faoi chéird na tuíodóireachta agus an bealach a d’fhoghlaim sí an céird. Taifeadta i gCluain Bú, Eanach Dhúin, Co. na Gaillimhe, i samhradh 2020, ag teach ceann tuí Pete Smith agus Evelyn Stevens. Tionscnamh de chuid Cumann Oidhreachta Eanach Dhúin.
The medieval monastery and bishopric of Annaghdown was once the most important ecclesiastical centre in Connacht after Tuam Archdiocese. The monastery of Annaghdown was founded by St Brendan and his sister St Briga around 550 AD in the territory of the little-known Delbhna Cuil Fabhair, on the south-east shore of Lough Corrib. This territory of Magh Seola (later the barony of Clare) was taken over after 800 by the Uí Briúin Seóla, ancestors of the Uí Fhlaithbertaig, and Annaghdown grew in power, attracting in the late 12th century two Continental monastic orders, the Arrouaisians and Premonstratensians, and rising after 1179 to become one of the five bishoprics of Connacht.
In 1659 the first service was established to convey mail from Dublin to Galway. By 1807 there was a regular mail coach service, taking almost 15 hours to complete the journey. With the completion of the railway in 1851, trains were then used for the transportation of letters and parcels.
In 1853 it became obligatory to use postage stamps. By 1872 there were 5 letter boxes in Galway city, at Rockbarton, Salthill, Nile Lodge, Mainguard Street and Eyre Square. At first all incoming mail had to be collected at the Post Office. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century that a free delivery service was set up. Postmen traversed their district daily on foot walking up to twenty miles. Cycle deliveries began in 1901, with the postman receiving 1 shilling weekly for cleaning and maintaining the bicycle. It was not until the 1960s that post vans were introduced into rural areas.
Below are two letters by John O’Donovan concerning the Parish of Annaghdown, part of his Letters containing information relative to the Antiquities of the County of Galway collected during the progress of the Ordnanace Survey in 1838 Vol. I. Links to each volume of O’Donovan’s Letters are available on the Ask About Ireland website.
“I have not yet sufficiently examined the antiquities of this parish having only passed through a few townlands of it on my way from Clare Galway to Tuam. I met one old church in the townland of Cill Chathail which bears the same name with the townland or rather which originally gave its name of Cill Chathail or Church of St. Cathaldus to the townland. It lies in a fieldto the left of the road as you go from Clare Galway to Tuam about 8 miles from the latter.”
They used to dine upstairs at the Mill House, in a large room facing the road, with a cabinet in the corner which contained the finest bone china and polished silverware. There was a mahogany table in the centre of the room, and the lady of the house would often rap its surface with her knuckles and emphasise it was solid mahogany and proceed to give an account of the local doctor offering twenty pounds when he had occasion to visit the house. if they were prepared to sell it. However, even though twenty pounds was a substantial sum of money in the early part of the century, on no account would the table be sold, for at the time, corn mills throughout the country were flourishing and the owners were financially secure, so there was neither the need nor the desire to part with such a magnificent piece of woodwork.