Was Annaghdown parish populated during the time of Brian Boru and if so did the inhabitants ever hear of the great king? Well we know that St Brendan and St Briga with their communities lived in Annaghdown long before the times of Brian the brave. Dare we enquire how far back in time we can go regarding human habitation in this parish? We hit the jackpot way back in 1934 though few people knew about the discovery then, and perhaps not many know about it today. Remain in ignorance no longer for this is how it happened. At that time the local farmers were forced to try a variety of means available to them to eke out a living on their small holdings of land – not only by raising stock but by such enterprises as cultivating sugar beet or by selling turf, cabbages or potatoes. During the month of November 1934 potatoes were selling at 4d. per stone, butter at 1 shilling a lb., eggs at 2s. 6d. a score, hay at 25 shillings a cwt. while two year old heifers and bullocks would realise 46 each.
One hundred years ago at the end close of 1920, tensions were high across Ireland. November was a bloody month, with British Crown Forces intensifying their campaign of terror. The murder of Eileen Quinn from Kiltartan near Gort, a pregnant mother of four children, followed by the abduction and murder of Fr. Michael Griffin in Galway shocked the world. This was followed by `Bloody Sunday’ in which twenty individuals identified as British agents by Michael Collins and his comrades were targeted and fifteen killed. In revenge for these deaths, Auxiliaries and Black and Tans killed at least fourteen and injured dozens in and around Croke Park that afternoon. At the same time, two high-ranking IRA officers, Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, as well as Clareman Conor Clune were being tortured by Auxiliaries in Dublin Castle. They had been picked up the night before having been betrayed by an informer. Their bodies were found the next day battered, bayoneted and shot to death. It was a big blow to the IRA, but morale was boosted a week later when at Kilmichael, Co. Cork, the 3rd West Cork Brigade ambushed an Auxiliary convoy, killing seventeen. On 29 November, possibly the most gruesome act of the conflict occurred with the abductions and brutal murders of the Loughnane brothers of Shanaglish near Gort by the Auxiliary Division of the RIC.
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.
Next was the potato harvesting or ‘digging the potatoes’ as was the local term. The first thing was to have covering for the ‘spuds’ after digging to protect them from frost and rain. Different materials were used for this such as straw and sedge, but in my time it was ‘scraws’. These were the surface of certain parts of bogland. They were usually two foot square, cut with a sharp spade, allowed to dry a bit and brought by cart to the potato field. The potato was a very stable diet and was eaten by every household in Ireland in days gone by, even twice daily by the poorer families in the countryside. So great care was always taken to save and protect the crop. During our school going time we were given one week off to help pick the ‘spuds’. We dug our crop with horse and plough but I did see some of the smaller land owners in Addergoole dig them with spades. Digging by plough was done by ploughing out every second drill for a number of drills. Then the men (although I have seen women do the job too) would tie canvas bags round their legs and get down on their knees and search the ploughed drill for the ‘spuds’ and when found would leave them behind them for picking. Two drills were always put together that is to say four drills would make two lines of ‘spuds’. The cart was put on the horse and brought between the two lines for the pickers. The big spuds for human consumption were put into the cart and when filled were tipped into the pit. The local name for the pit in this area was a ‘hole’ of potatoes. Some two or three weeks after finishing the digging of the ‘spuds’ a covering of clay would be put on the pit of ‘spuds’ to protect them from severe frost during the winter. The clay covering was about five or six inches thick and well packed.
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.
Labhair Seán Ó Murchú s’againne le Máirtín Tom Sheáinín ar Ardtráthnóna agus é ag fágáil slán le Raidio na Gaeltachta ar 4 Samhain 2020. John Murphy of Cregduff speaks to Máirtín Tom Sheáinín on Ardtráthnóna on the day of his retirement from Raidio na Gaeltachta, 4 November 2020.
We are pleased to launch our podcast with an episode on Living in a Thatched House. Thatched houses are to be found dotted around the Irish countryside, and particularly in west Galway. Evelyn Stevens has lived in a thatched house in Annaghdown since the 1980s, and here she joins Paul Greaney to discuss the joys and challenges of living in a thatched cottage. This complements our recent videos John Joe Duggan: Thatching / Tuíodóireacht and Thatching at Cloonboo with Marika Leen.
Below are births registered in the Annaghdown townlands of Turloughmore Registration District between 1871 and 1875.