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What’s new this week?

May 25th

Look out men!

According to this week’s Sligo Weekender the women of Sligo are on the move. It seems that while the men are concentrating on getting a leg over, the girls are bent on getting a leg up!

At a recent meeting of the Government funded “Women in Business Network” the ladies declared their intent to, “encourage and enable women in Sligo to succeed in entrepreneurship, enterprise and self-employment”.

And not a squeak out of the usually militant female groups about discrimination! After all we men could use a bit of encouragement from time to time too — especially if Bertie is footing the bill. Or perhaps it's only a harmless natter over a cup of tea and Bertie is funding only the teabags!

Comments here

On page 39 in “Bits and Pieces” we are told that in the latest edition of “Organic Matters”, Ireland ’s only organic magazine, a recent survey of city schoolchildren discovered that some teenagers believed that “potatoes grew on trees.”

Others thought that, down on the farm, each cow had a bull all to themselves and “lived in that monogamous harmony so beloved of humans”.

“Despite the decline in morality amongst our young citizens,” the article went on, “many of them were visibly shocked to learn of the dozens [even hundreds] of relationships that a normal bull could have in a year.

They were startled to hear that even the most decadent macho Hollywood star wouldn’t be a match for an average looking Limousin bull”.

What do you think? Click here

And now to more serious news:

The extradition of a south Sligo priest to  the US on sex abuse charges has been halted.
Moves to send Curry native Father Patrick Colleary back to   Arizona were stalled when pictures of prisoners being paraded in pink underwear shocked High Court lawyers in Dublin.

500 prisoners from Maricopa County jail were paraded in pink underwear which raised concerns at government level that Fr Colleary would be mistreated ahead of his trial. 55-year-old Father Colleary is denying two counts of sexual conduct with a teenage boy and one count of attempted sexual misconduct with a minor in Maricopa County. He was jailed for a month after being arrested in December 2002 after he was accused of molesting a minor. That charge was struck out under the statute of limitations.

Father Colleary returned to south Sligo in early 2003. In May 2003 he faced fresh charges of sexual misconduct with a minor and attempted sexual conduct with a minor.
The south Sligo priest is denying all charges and has fought the extradition proceedings since 2003, on several grounds, including his claim that Maricopa County jails are inhumane.

Judgement in the  Curry priest’s case was due on April 22 but the Irish Chief State Solicitor Charles Wallace has asked for the situation in Maricopa County to be clarified.
Sheriff  Joe Arpaio was quoted in a US tabloid as saying; “I put them on the streets so everybody could see them. If a kid asks his mother what was going on she could tell them this is what happens to people who break the law”.

Mr Arpaio’s offices said that pink underwear was used so that prisoners could not smuggle contraband and the colour was chosen so it would not be stolen. Maricopa County assistant attorney Sally Wolfgang Wells said; “The extradition of Patrick Colleary remains a high priority of the Maricopa County Attorney¹s Office. The crimes for which Mr Colleary stands accused, involving the  sexual abuse of children, are reprehensible and must be addressed. We firmly believed our community should not suffer because of this ill-advised act of the Sheriff¹s Office.”

Sheriff  Joe Arpaio has claimed he was made a “sacrificial lamb” over the issue:
”If the guy doesn’t want to come to my hotel, he can go to the  county club federal prison”. Sheriff Arpaio said that Fr Colleary would be segregated and protected if he were in the county jail. But he would still be given standard jail meals and made to wear pink underwear and a striped jail uniform. “I am not going to change any of my policies,” he said.

Fr Colleary’s extradition case is expected back before the High Court in Dublin later this year.

First with the news: The Sligo Weekender

May 18th

The flour mill at Ballisodare, now undergoing demolititon to make way for new houses, had its modest origins in the 7th century when it was established as part of a monastic settlement by St. Fechin.

Demolition in progress

Messrs. Middleton and Pollexfen took over the operation of the mill in 1862. This management continued until 1883 when the mills were acquired by Messrs. W. & G.T. Pollexfen & Co. The Pollexfen family was arguably the most notable to have been associated with the Ballisodare operation if only by virtue of the fact that it was Susan Mary Pollexfen Yeats that gave birth to the famous poet and playwright W.B. Yeats and to his painter brother Jack.

Wm. Pollexfen’s wife, Yeats maternal grandmother, was a Middleton. It was from the Middletons that Yeats got his interest in the supernatural: ‘and certainly the first faerie stories I heard were in the cottages about their houses’.

Ownership by the Pollexfen company continued until they too passed into history with the sale of the plant in 1974 to Odlums Ltd. Fifteen years later, in 1989, the mill closed forever, thus bringing a final end to an era and an industry which had been in operation in one form or another in the same location for nigh on thirteen hundred years.

The greatest disaster occurred there in 1856 when the mill, then owned by Robert Culbertson, burned to the ground. This is how it came about:

Ballisodare Mill c1912

It was a strongly held tradition in Ireland at that time that no wheel, whether cartwheel, spinning wheel or mill wheel should turn on St. Martins Day, the 11 th of November. Bad luck would surely follow. The custom came about by virtue of the fact that St. Martin suffered martyrdom by being thrown into a mill wheel. Workmen at the mill, wishing to honour the prohibition, declined to work on 11th November. Robert Culbertson, a Protestant, who owned the mill at the time, disbelieving what he perceived to be Catholic superstition, insisted that the mill operate as usual.

On the afternoon of St. Martin's day, 1856 the mill caught fire in mysterious circumstances. Nine workmen were burned to death or died jumping from the building; major damage was done to the fabric of the mill and the contents destroyed. Shortly after the burning at least two ballads were written to commemorate the event; the following is an excerpt:

“Come all you loyal heroes wherever you may be,

Come and pay attention and listen unto me,

Concerning this sad accident, a burning now beware,

And pray for nine who lost their lives,

In the mill at Ballisodare…..


…..There was one man on the top loft,

The fire it did pursue,

Being suffocated with fire and smoke,

Not knowing what to do,

He struggled to the window,

For mercy he did cry;

He was mangled on the river rocks

After leaping three storeys high…..”

Following the disaster the owner fell into bad health and died some years later. In the succeeding years the mill was closed for work on each feast of St. Martin until the outbreak of war in 1939.

According to this weeks Sligo Weekender, Michael Fitzgerald & Sons, a Galway based construction firm, applied in 2004 for planning permission to turn the mill into a massive development of apartments. "As a result demolition work on the mill got underway last week with the massive structure being slowly taken apart."

From ‘Echoes of a Savage Land ’ © Joe Mc Gowan


May 12

Through the Looking Glass

‘Donkeys need the dentist too’ is the header on an article in this weeks ‘Sligo Weekender’. Lucky donkeys and good for them. It’s a welcome change from the ash plant! When we take a look around these days at this upside down world, and how things have changed in our lifetime, we might be forgiven for thinking we have gone through the looking glass with Alice.

Not so long ago, people couldn’t afford a dentist, never mind asses. Heck, there wasn’t even toothpaste. Soot or baking soda did the job — and it wasn’t every house had a toothbrush. A sweaty sock held to the affected jaw, in what was often an all-night vigil, cured toothache.

If that didn’t work and you lived near Ballinamore in Co. Leitrim a round of the stations in the local graveyard might do the trick. In Ballintrillick, Co. Sligo there's a stone image at the entrance to Keeloges cemetery. All you had to do for relief was go there at midnight, kiss the stone three times and ask to be cured.

Who needed dentists?

In 'Looking Glass Land ’ people buy ‘stressed’ designer jeans already ripped at the knees and backside as a fashion statement. Gone the house-proud housewife who would be mortified if holes weren’t neatly patched before articles of clothing were worn.

Who builds thatched houses now? The very wealthy, of course. A few decades ago only those who couldn’t afford slates lived in a thatched house. ‘Vernacular architecture’ the academics call it. We had the Piltdown Man, Iron Age Man and Neanderthal Man. Most people of my generation were born in 'vernacular' houses. Shall we be known to future generations as ‘Vernacular Man’?

Tilling the soil and planting is as old as farming itself. One doesn’t need a fantastic memory to remember when everyone grew their own potatoes and vegetables. They were fertilised by ‘guano’, farmyard manure and sometimes seaweed. ‘Organic gardening’ it’s called now — and we can have it taught to us by immigrants or 'new age' gardeners if we want to get it right.

How could this skill that came naturally to the older generation have been lost in such a short time?


Ancient stone image at Keeloges

Perhaps its Perhaps it's not lost at all: it may not be as trendy, and it won't cost you anything, but all we have to do is go and talk to any of the older farmers who tilled the soil before we started getting our potatoes from Cyprus.

But, back to the Sligo Weekender article and donkey dentists:

Donkeys need the dentist too

CASTLEBALDWIN: Up to 21 donkeys got to visit the dentist over the May Bank Holiday weekend at the Sathya Sai Sanctuary in Castlebaldwin.  Equine dentist Lisa Molloy from Drumshambo and her colleague Sally Kingsley from Yorkshire in UK corrected the teeth of 21 donkeys in the sanctuary.
The day’s work was funded from the ex-gratia payment which was bestowed on the Sanctuary last December from the Department of Agriculture and Food, in order to further their work with equine welfare.

Most of the animals at the Sathya Sai Sanctuary (Registered harity number 10840) are elderly and would have health problems of some sort with their teeth.
The problems are many and varied and almost all can be corrected quite easily by a qualified equine dentist. Older animals commonly starve to death simply because their teeth need treatment.

The most usual problem is caused through general wear and tear which results in razor sharp edges on the sides of the molars. This results in lacerations to the insides of the cheeks when the animal chews, causing pain and abcesses. One of the donkeys had her jaw broken at some stage in her life so her entire mouth needed to be reshaped, and dead and broken teeth extracted so she could eat comfortably again.”

First with the news: The Sligo Weekender

(For a related article see: 'Daintiness and Good Livin' below)

May 4

The big news in Sligo this week centres around the latest incident in a feud between two 'traveller' families. Hughie McGinley was shot dead while sitting in his van in a 'contract killing' on Grattan St. Two men made a getaway on a motorbike which was found some time later burned out in nearby Carrowmore. Fearing more bloodshed the pubs were closed and Gardai put on high alert for the funeral.

So what's new? Sligo is catching up with the world in murder and mayhem!

Since the news is so depressing I have installed a lively new article in Heritage to cheer you up. You can preview it in What's New or go directly to Heritage.

April 27

With the pace of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ showing no signs of slowing down, job opportunities continue to open up all over the place.

Are you sick to the back teeth of that office job? Do you hate your boss and hate work even more?

If you don’t like to get out of bed in the morning and fancy yourself as a swinger the following story in the current issue of the “Sligo Weekender” opens up whole new vistas:

'Rich Sligo ladies hire ‘toyboys’ as escorts

Rich ladies looking for companionship in the Sligo and north west region are prepared to fork out almost E500 for just four hours of friendship. That's the figure quoted by an "Escort Agency" following calls by the Sligo Weekender  to a company called "Only By Invitation".

A lady called Nicole, who is operating from an office off Stephen¹s Green in Dublin , said they had at least 30 rich ladies in the north west region who were looking for male escorts to various functions in the region. "Only By Invitation" are looking for male and female escorts in the Sligo region for their expanding business.

But any male looking to escort these rich ladies to various functions must first be prepared to fork out a E290 signing-on fee. This is to cover the "costs" of advertising their services and getting their profile on the internet. Nicole said they advertised in a local broadsheet because their business was expanding rapidly here.

And those who fancy themselves as "Executive Escorts" must fork out E460 but they can earn up to E900 for entertaining lonely executive ladies, "We would have about 30 rich and successful ladies in this region who will be prepared to pay that sort of money for an escort. This is strictly a social rather than a sexual encounter but if anything else develops that is a matter between both consenting adults".

The agency has a web site on which they display details of their lady clients. "It is E290 to join in order for us to advertise and promote you on our website. "When you pay the money the ladies will then have access to your details as they have a password and then you will be contacted when required. "We operate on a usual ratio of one male escort for every seven ladies and we have around three escorts recruited in the greater Sligo region.

"We don¹t have an office in Sligo but a lot of our business is done from our website and from Dublin . "But you can then earn anything from E350 to E500 which is what these ladies will pay you for bringing them to a function in Sligo or within a 60 miles radius of Sligo."We also get a percentage from these ladies but we would expect you to take out at least four ladies per months to make it viable for all concerned. You could make a lot of money if the same lady asks for your services again.

Nicole said a male escort would have to be prepared  to travel up to 60 miles to meet prospective clients. "The ladies will pay the cost of a taxi for escorts who are prepared to travel that far from Sligo. They range in age from 27 to 54 and are often successful businessmen who want lively company for a few hours and are prepared to pay. Discretion is a very important part of our business".

But any red-blooded male in need of some extra cash must also pay E290 before he can make rich ladies happy for around E500. A word of warning. After some cursory questioning, our reporter was told that he must pay E290 from his credit card within hours of making the call.
And there is no history of the company on their website.'

First with the news: read the 'Sligo Weekender'.

April 19 2005

David Burke of Templeboy now lives in England but has vivid memories of his childhood days. The current Heritage article stirred his memories. Mrs. Burke might not have been so upset had she known that the Child’s power actually increased when the head was knocked off.

The Newsround article below, 'Daintiness and Good Livin' recalled outings to the shore for the dreaded slouc!:

"Dear Joe,

My mother had a Child of Prague, when we were growing up, and was very devoted to it. I knocked the head off it when I was young and it was like I'd murdered someone. I promised to fix it, and I did, but it was in the days before superglue and all that was available in those days was something called Bostic which was black. I’ve still got the little fella but it's like a black line around his neck, almost like a hangmans noose. Poor Mam!

Anyway I went to Prague some years ago and of course had to go and see the Infant. It's in a quite ordinary church and I was expecting something spectacular and was amazed at it's size. It's quite small and wasn't the site of pilgrimage I'd expected. I think my mother would have been disappointed.

And do I remember slouc? Do I ever? When I was a young boy I used to be sent down to the shore when the sea was out to gather it and take it home to be boiled in the big black pot. It was the most vile tasting stuff I've ever eaten. And what about dillisk, and carrigeen moss? I was amazed some years back to see carrigeen moss in little platic bags selling in the chemist shop in London .

Given time the world will catch up with us!

I enjoy your site. Keep up the good work, Joe,

Dave C. Burke"

Poteen Seizure

So you thought poteen making was the stuff of myth and folklore, did you?

Aficionados of the good old ‘mountain dew’ still know where it can be found. They will be disappointed however at the latest news of a poteen seizure at Culleens, South Sligo . But never mind, anything that’s easy got is never appreciated and true devotees won’t mind waiting awhile till the uisge beatha (water of life) flows again.

Gerry Mc Laughlin of the ‘Sligo Weekender’ has the story:

“At least one man is expected to be appearing before Easkey district court after gardai raided a poteen still in the Culleens area of west Sligo. The alleged owner of the still and a number of other individuals have been interviewed in the investigation which followed a tip-off. Gardai in Ballina have confirmed that at least one man will be appearing in court in connection with the find. Gardai in west Sligo seized four gallons of saleable poteen and 14 gallons of wash during the raid. The haul was enough to make 64 gallons of the well known “mountain dew”.

Officers dismantled and destroyed the  still which was producing uisce beatha when the raid took place. Most of the poteen,, apart from a sample needed for evidence, and the wash were disposed of. Gardai searched a number of sheds at the location following a tip-off. Four gallons of poteen were found in the relevant containers ready for sale. The size of the haul has surprised gardai.

Poteen or moonshine has not been as popular in recent years since the growth of the Celtic Tiger. Pubs, supermarkets and off-licences now stock an abundance of more glamorous legal alternatives. 20 years ago a bottle of poteen could be bought for £10. An informed source told the Weekender that the “real stuff” could still be bought for around E20 per bottle. Gardai believe that poteen production is still confined to  isolated rural areas and possibly even in some urban estates. But this is not the first time that poteen has been discovered in west Sligo.

And it might not be the last either.”

For a story on poteen distillation see "Duty Free" in 'Archives'

April 14 2005

"Daintiness and Good Livin'

Carrageen moss, slouc, crannach, limpets: they were all an essential part of diet in the 60s, 50s and before. There were no supermarkets, just the local shop where we got everything on credit and paid as much as we could on the bill when we sold the calves in the harvest time, the turkeys before Christmas or when the creamery cheque came in once a month in the summer months when the cows were milking.

It was a subsistence lifestyle. Most of what we needed we grew or reared ourselves. Horticulture and agriculture was organic long before the term was invented by ‘new age’ gardeners. Supermarkets came along and we abandoned the old ways. We closed up the spring wells and bought Bally this and Crystal that. It was progress. If it was new and thought up by faraway boffins it was good. Wasn't it? What did we country folk know? So we stopped growing our own. We didn’t go to the seashore anymore. That was poor people’s food. To go there implied we couldn’t afford the pre-wrapped, plastic encased, additive-ridden delights lining the supermarket shelves.

Could we have been wrong? Could the boffins have been wrong?

Seaweed, it seems, is being re-discovered. Jim Morrisey of the Irish Seaweed Centre at NUI, Galway recently told a conference in Belmullet, Co. Mayo that extracts from carrageen moss, which grow in abundance along our shores, are being tested in South Africa for their medicinal uses. Internet enquiries are coming in from all over the world for Irish seaweed, he said. The industry’s potential is hugely significant. Tim Quinn of Comhoir Erris Leader Teo said there is a vast array of food, beauty and medicinal products that can be made from various types of seaweed.

Reflecting on changing fashions in diet during his lifetime, Tomas O Crohan in his book ‘The Islandman’, written in the first half of the last century, remarked that people had lost the knowledge of what was best for them to eat, ‘for men that ate that kind of food were twice as good as the men of today. The poor people of the countryside were accustomed to say that they fancied they would live as long as the eagle if they but had the food of the Dingle people. But the fact is that the eaters of good meat are in the grave this long time, while those who lived on starvation diet are still alive and kicking.’

Patrick Doherty of Glenade in the neighbouring county of Leitrim told me of remarkable men he knew who were 'brought up in dire poverty. They're the strongest men going now,' he said, 'Daintiness and good living won't make a man of ye!'

‘Daintiness and good livin' won’t make a man of ye.’

 Maybe Patrick’s final expression contains the essence of a logic we need to evaluate afresh today; a cautionary maxim well worth adopting for life in the 21 st century.


April 6 2005

March, as is it’s custom, came in ‘like a lion and out like a lamb’. April nudged us gently outdoors into balmy sunshine. Moss-ridden lawns, which all winter we ignored, faced us with accusing scruffiness. Dandelions defiantly danced a bright yellow dance where, with the help of Roundup and Hytrol, we fought and routed them last Summer. How to kill them? Admit defeat and move them to the flower bed probably. Ah, the joys of Spring!

But what, I hear you say, with all this good weather, of the Riabhóg Days? Is that another pile of superstition that in these modern times has bitten the dust?

Emulating the old cow of folklore, we kicked up our heels, put the long johns in mothballs, mowed the lawns, pulled down the winter barriers and WHAM, just when we thought global warming wasn’t such a bad thing after all, and happy days were here to stay, the gods sent the Riabhóg Days roaring and shouting in off the Atlantic to punish us for our disbelief.

What! You never heard of the Riabhóg Days?

Well, in olden times the Bó Riabhac (brindled cow) kicked her heels up at the end of March. Mocking the waning month she bragged that she had lived through the winter and now that March had fled, times of plenty were here and nothing could kill her. After a while of listening to this March got fed up, borrowed a few days off April and finished off the cheeky cow. Since then these days are remembered as ‘Laethanta na Bó Riabhai’, the ‘days of the brindled cow’

Even in England where they never heard of this cranky old bovine they say that:

'March borrows time from April

Three days, and they are ill.

The first is frost, the second snow,

The third as cold is it can blow.'

Oh well, when it gets cold and wet we can trust the ‘hospitality industry’ to help us out. Yes the public relations whizzos have been at it and, just in case you might think this is a place you could go with a bad cold or a sore knee, be advised that what we once knew as the local pub is now a part of the ‘hospitality industry’.

What’s in a name, indeed.

An article by John Bromley in the current edition of the Sligo Weekender brings us up to date on the effect of the ‘no smoking’ ban with the dire news that: ‘Sligo has lost 22 pubs in last year’

”A TOTAL of 22 pubs have closed in County Sligo in the past year. While accepting that the smoking ban was not the only reason, the Sligo vintners chairman Enda Scanlon said that it was a major factor in their closure.
Commenting on the first anniversary of the introduction of smoking ban, he said that the legislation had been a tremendous success. ’It has made the pub environment a lot cleaner and has saved publicans a lot on maintenance and cleaning.’
But he said that it has had an effect on trade. In some pubs trade is down about 25-30%. During the winter particularly, pubs which had no place to create a smoking area and where people had to smoke on the street certainly suffered.
Mr Scanlon said that the week nights and day-time trade had been badly hit, particularly in many rural pubs. Referring to the 22 pubs which were presently closed, he said that in 10 cases the licences had been sold and it was not yet known what would happen with the others. The publicans leader said that his members supported the ban and the public had complied very easily with it.
But he added: ‘I don’t we should forget, though, that there are people who have suffered hardship as a result of it.’
Mr Scanlon accepted that the price of drink was also a factor in the downturn in trade. He said that the Vintners Federation was asking leading drinks company Diageo not to increase prices. Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive has revealed that although a total of 73 breaches of the smoking ban have been detected in the Sligo/Leitrim area in the past 12 months, this region has one of the highest compliance rates with the smoking ban nationally. Sligo recorded a 91% compliance rate, according to inspections carried out by the Environmental Health Service.
A total of 800 inspections have been carried out in the Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan area over the past 12 months. Principal Environmental Health Officer for the area, Rita O Grady said: ‘We are delighted with the success of the ban here in Sligo. There has been widespread public support for the legislation and it has resulted in clean, smoke-free workplaces across this county.’
Inspections carried out included visits to all pubs, restaurants and hotels in Sligo/Leitrim with a total of 53 complaints made to the service in relation to infringements of the regulations. Ms O Grady said that the 73 breaches of the ban detected in the Sligo/Leitrim area mostly related to non-compliant smoking shelters and also to evidence of smoking in lobbies and toilets.  In these instances, owners were given written warnings.
’We are currently looking at covered outside areas for smokers nationally. A guidance document on outdoor shelters is expected to be launched in the coming months and we hope this will assist employers in complying with the law.’
The vast majority of people wanted the smoking ban to work.  It has received overwhelming support from publicans, employers and the public alike across the region.  It has been an exciting year for us in the Environmental Health Service ­ we are delighted to have been part of this change in the
workplace and ultimately an improvement in the quality of our health and lives.’”

First with the news. Read the Sligo Weekender.

March 29th 2005

At Eastertime, all over Ireland, small dedicated groups gathered to remember an Easter long ago when men and women, equally dedicated, took part in the Easter Rebellion of 1916.

One such gathering took place in Rathcormack, Co. Sligo on Easter Sunday last where the following address was delivered by Larry Mullin, Secretary of the Markievicz Memorial Committee. The occasion was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Markievicz memorial by Jim Doherty of Rathcormack Residents Association and Philomena Whitten (nee Pilkington) of the Markievicz Memorial Committee:

A dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde,

is ceart agus is cóir dúinn teacht anseo inniú chun smaoineamh ar feadh cúpla noimead ar an laoch Eireannach ata comoraithe anseo – agus churim failte romhaimh go léir.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is right and fitting that we should gather here today at this fine millennium memorial and pause for a few moments to remember the noble, courageous and generous lady it commemorates – that is Constance Markievicz. Her work for Irish nationalism, for womens’ rights, for the rights of prisoners and the poor are all embodied in this monument to her memory. Its location on the green at Rathcormack is also appropriate as it gazes across the bay at the seat of her ancestors and her former home, and is also a short distance from Drumcliff, where she made her first public speech on womens’ rights.

Why this beautiful, intelligent and articulate lady should turn her back on a life of prospects and privilege and choose to ally herself with the cause of Irish freedom and democracy is hard to understand but we do know she did it with the enthusiasm of a convert.

It is difficult for us today, in an age of cynicism and materialism to appreciate what sacrifices Markievicz and her companions were prepared to make in the cause of Ireland . One thing we should not do is to judge historic events through contemporary eyes. People don’t remember, they are reminded. A memorial like this makes remembering easier. Our coming here today is an honour to the memory of Constance Markievicz.

Her work for the poor and marginalized can serve as a guiding light for us in 21 st century Ireland . The Proclamation of 1916 that she and other leaders subscribed to speaks in that oft quoted phrase about “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”. This phrase is very apt in today’s Ireland as we rapidly become multi-cultural and multi-racial.

Two recent facts brought this home to me:

  • the fastest growing religion in Ireland today is Islam,
  • the second most widely spoken language in the country (after English) is not, I’m afraid, Irish, but Chinese. There is ample scope for us at present, without even mentioning Northern Ireland, for tolerance and acceptance of such diversity. I am sure that Constance Markievicz would wish that all the varied facets of Irish life, be they Catholic, Protestant or Dissenter; be they white, black or yellow are accepted into society in present-day Ireland and live lives of peace, harmony and prosperity.

Our ancestors went to America in times of hunger and persecution in Ireland . From being the wretched of the earth they gave children and grandchildren to lead the American and other nations. The children of present-day immigrants in Ireland will no doubt do the same.

A poem called “Nationality”, by Thomas Davis, founder of “The Nation” newspaper and a pacifist by conviction, shows the power of nationhood in moulding a desire for freedom and a feeling of national identity. The emotions expressed are just as strong as those felt by Markievicz and the 1916 leaders.

To conclude, I quote a verse of this poem;

"A nation’s voice, a nation’s voice,

It is a solemn thing

It bids the bondage-sick rejoice

‘Tis stronger than a king.

‘Tis like the light of many stars

The sound of many waves

Which brightly look through prison bars

And sweetly sound in caves

Yet is it noblest, godliest known

When righteous triumph swells its tone ."

Go maire cuimhneachain Markievicz ar feadh i bhfad agus go gcabhroidh si linn chun siochan buan a chur i bhfeidhm in Eirinn.

Go raibh maith agaibh go leir.

Thursday March 24

St. Patrick in Sligo :

Easter and St. Patrick's Day fall very close together this year. Paul Burns of Tallahassee, Florida has followed the saint's footsteps in Sligo and written this very interesting account:

"Tracing Patrick¹s churches in Sligo

It is not easy to separate fact from myth when discussing Ireland¹s patron saint ­ the young Briton named Patricius who was captured by Irish raiders, worked six years as a slave, and returned decades later as a missionary.   All we really have to go on are two religious tracts written by St Patrick, and some slight knowledge of the times. There is hardly a part of Ireland that does not claim to have been visited by him, so what evidence is there that he ever was in Sligo?

Well, nothing concrete, of course, but it is generally accepted that Saint Patrick served his slavery in County Mayo near Killala Bay, within sight of Sligo. It is only logical that he would have returned to Mayo to do missionary work, and for that he had to cross Sligo. The earliest sources of information on Patrick are the Book of Armagh, written about 80AD, and the Tripartite Life of Patrick, written soon after. Both were based on the 700 AD writings of one Tirechan, who presumably had access to documents now missing. It is agreed that Patrick died in 493 AD, which means there was a two-hundred year gap during which legend could have surpassed fact. But if we accept Tirechan as the earliest reliable authority on Patrick, we should accept his description of the sites in Sligo where Saint Patrick established churches.

In 1930, Sligo historian Henry Morris identified eight of these from Tirechan¹s writings. Morris said the locations of five were certain: Shancough, Tawnagh, and Aghanagh in the barony of Tirerill; and Kilnamanagh and Kilaraght in Coolavin. He was not sure about the locations of Rath Riaghbaird in Tireragh, Sean-chill in Tirerill, or Bunduff in Carbury. Nor was Morris specific about Killaspughbrone near to Sligo airport, which most accept as a genuine Patrician site.

I have spent many days searching for the church Patrick established near the now missing Rath Riaghbaird. It could be either in Rathlee or Killeenduff townland in Easky parish, or it could be (as Morris suspects) at Carrowmably in Kilmacshalgan parish. So far, my friends and I have identified two church ruins and a monastery ruin as possibles. This past summer I varied from my search for the unknown and went to see some of the knowns ­ the Patrician sites at Shancough and Aghanagh.

These ruins are much later than St Patrick¹s time, probably of 11th to 13th century churches constructed on the sites of the original ones. Both are magnificently situated on commanding ground, and I would challenge anyone not to feel awe. This feeling may emanate from St Patrick¹s one-time presence, from his pagan predecessors who undoubtedly built on the same sites, or even from the sidhe!

Whatever, it is there."  

Paul Burns Tallahassee, Florida

For more such interesting stories read the Sligo Weekender

A local story told by Sligoman Joe Neilan:

In the days when he was just an itinerant preacher St. Patrick was not universally respected. Joe Neilan heard about it from the old people:

"A pet deer is said to have followed St. Patrick and his monks when he travelled from Tara to Sligo . Making his way through Calry, just outside of Sligo town, on his way to Knock na Rea, the people there stole Patrick’s deer, killed and ate him.

‘He was that disgusted with them,’ Joe Neilan declared, ‘he didn’t wait to try to Christianise them or to baptise them. He put a curse on them. He looked at them and he says: “Ye killed the deer that followed us from Tara , an’ I was fond of that deer. Well,” says he, “I’ll lave Calry but remember this, ye’ll always be poor people here. From Monday morning till Saturday night it’ll be from hand to mouth with ye.’’

With that, he left Calry in disgust.’"

From 'Inishmurray: Island Voices'


Children's Graveyard:

For those of you who have been following events, the group have decided to proceed with preparing the monument for the Children's Graveyard and proceeding to installation. For new readers the story unfolds below. Fundraising has commenced and readers wishing to support our efforts may contact us through the 'contact us' page on this site.

Updated  12/03/05:

A block of stone has been selected from Mc Monagle Stone, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal for erection on the children's graveyard (see below). A meeting of the memorial group will be held on Monday 14 March to choose a design and proceed with fundraising.

Will the group proceed with their plans in light of the fact that no reply from Mr. Hugh Tunney has been received and therefore no co-operation, or indeed access, may be forthcoming? Will Mr. Tunney deny them their ancestral rights to access the little graveyard? Will an Irish landlord be more amenable than his English predecessors?

We will keep you informed.

Lá Fheile Padhraig shona agaibh go léir


Letters sent to Hugh Tunney on whose property the graveyard is situated:

Saturday, 30 October 2004

Dear Hugh,

We are anxious to proceed with a marker for the little cemetery at Cill na mBochtaun situated under Classiebawn.  Given that it is likely that many of my forbears, and that of others, are buried there it is fitting that in this enlightened age their short span in this life should be recognised and dignified.

As you have not replied to my previous letters I take it that you have a difficulty with the plan.  If so, I wish you would let me know what it is.  Our only intention is to mark the spot and say a few prayers.  Nothing else. In fact as I have mentioned previously you are welcome, and indeed it would be appropriate, that you work with us to achieve our modest goal.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, etc...

And most recently:

Dear Hugh,

I am disappointed that you have not replied to my letters.  I know there have been complications between you and the local people in the past but a great man once said that the 'past is a foreign country'.  Shouldn't we leave it there?

Given those difficulties perhaps you should see this project as an opportunity.  It is not right that you should deny the local people access to the little graveyard.  On the contrary if you were to throw your weight behind our efforts you would be seen as a humane, concerned and caring person.

Surely heaven would smile if differences could be buried and a new beginning made over the graves of the innocents?

Yours sincerely, etc...


Residents of Mullaghmore have formed a committee and advised Mr Hugh Tunney of their desire to place a marker on a children’s burial ground that exists on the Classiebawn estate. The place is known locally as Cill na mBoctain and is approximately one mile east of Classiebawn castle (right). The site is ancient and although the villagers relationship with Lord Palmerston and his successor Lord Ashley was not always a happy one it is interesting to note that the landlords never interfered with access to the graveyard.  

image: Classiebawn Castle  

In some areas children’s burial grounds are shown on Ordnance Survey maps, in others they are not. Scattered all over the countryside, these sites are too numerous to mention here and many have been lost to memory. Without local interest ‘Reiligs’ or ‘Cillins’, as they are also known, may be passed over unnoticed, and in time are in danger of being forgotten or destroyed. Some have been lost already in land reclamation work. It is a great pity because most of us unknowingly have ancestors buried in these places.  

What are these Cillíns and how have they come about? In previous times infant mortality rates were very high. When deaths occurred, un-baptised or stillborn children were not permitted to be buried in consecrated ground. The specific teaching of the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II emphasised the importance of baptism as a condition for Salvation and prohibited the burial of pagan children in consecrated ground. The child who received ‘Lay Baptism’ was considered to be only slightly better than the un-baptised child. Because of the prohibition, special plots outside the normal burial grounds had to be found.  

The places chosen for these unorthodox interments were often sites of ancient churches or graveyards, or of ruined abbeys etc. In others a convenient rath, or portion of one, was set aside, or a small piece of ground. A rath being considered as pagan in origin, was an obvious choice for the burial of the unbaptised. In the case of Cill na mBoctain it is likely that the site was chosen because of an early Christian settlement that once existed there. If people could not bury their dead in consecrated ground then they took comfort from the fact that some early monk, his name long lost to memory, once resided in this special place. Burials have taken place to these lonely spots up to the 1920s and 30s, some as late as 1964.  

Such a sad event as the death of an infant, who suffered the additional indignity of being buried in un-hallowed ground, was a deep wound for a family to bear. Burials often happened at dead of night as if it was some great shame. It was little spoken about and few descriptions survive. One account has been left to us by Robin Flower who witnessed such an event on the Great Blasket. ‘A man with a spade had dug a shallow grave,’ he wrote, ‘and there amid the sobs of the women and the muttered prayers of the whole assembly, the father with a weary gesture, laid away his child. The earth was shovelled back, closing with hardly a sound about the little box, a few prayers were said, and then we all turned listlessly away, leaving the lonely, unfledged soul to his eternity…’  

Later, visiting the father, he was told that suicides and unbaptised children were buried in the little island graveyard: ‘A sad association,’ Flower reflected, ‘on those who had known nothing and those who had known too much of this life.’  

Given that it is likely that many of our forbears are buried in such places it is fitting that, in this enlightened age, the short span in this world of these unnamed infants should be recognised and dignified.


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