Earlier this year I made a return trip to the birthplace of our grandfather James Gallagher in Mulnamina, near Glenties in County Donegal. Our grandfather never knew any of his 14 grandchildren as he had died before any of us were born, yet he loomed large in our lives as we were frequent visitors to his family home, where his elder brother John and his youngest sister Maggie lived for all of their lives and who always had a warm welcome for us.
This was a place of wonder to us growing up, and we loved to visit on warm summer Sundays. Uncle John and Aunt Maggie had never married and were the last surviving members of their family of ten siblings. Situated on the side of a hill overlooking the Gwebarra Estuary, the house was well sheltered from storms and prevailing winds. There was no running water and no electricity and the kettle hung over the open turf fire on a crane. Soon after our arrival a fresh cake of bread, made in a flat oven with embers on top of the lid,was produced for our tea. There was always a choice of homemade jams too. We piled in on a form at the table (no chairs at the table, only forms) and loved eating the fresh bread covered with beautiful jam, while sitting there in the flag floored kitchen with the lovely scent of burning turf.
Our car was parked at the bottom of the lane, as it was not possible to drive up the steep hill, so we ran up the rest of the way. We ran across in front of the house next door, through the gate and into the warm kitchen to announce our arrival, and then away out again to explore. There were a few outhouses – a turf shed, a cow byre and a hen-house that I remember, a dog who slept in a fabulously fashioned stone kennel, a beautiful pale donkey and a long path that wound up the hill to summer pasture where the cows grazed and where white heather grew. White heather was said to be ‘lucky’ and Aunt Maggie would send Uncle John with us up ‘the mountain’ along the well-worn cattle path in search of it. Sometimes we found some, sometimes we didn’t, but we always enjoyed the search! And on every visit we implored Uncle John to go up with us, just to look for some.
In later years we learned that this was the house of our great grandparents, Daniel and Isabella Gallagher. As children it never occurred to us that anyone other than the people we met had lived there! So, who were they and what could we discover about them?
Daniel Gallagher son of John Gallagher of Mulnamina and Isabella nee Mulloy, daughter of John Mulloy of Strasallagh, Glenties were married on February 2, 1874. The Roman Catholic marriage register shows that they were first cousins. Dispensation had been granted in respect of 4th degree of consanguinity to enable them to marry in the church. The witnesses were Conal and Bridget Gallagher.
Daniel and Isabella had 10 children.
Ellen, born December 2, 1874 in Strasallagh. (I wonder if Isabella went home to her mother, as was the tradition in Ireland, for the birth of her first child)
John was born August 19, 1876 in Mulnamina, the place of birth of all subsequent children)
Ann born Jul 18, 1878
Mary born on June 4, 1880
Bridget arrived on June 1, 1882
Catherine born May 22, 1884
James born March 15, 1886
Sarah born September 28, 1888
Rose born August 12, 1890
Margaret born December 28, 1893
The next reference to them we can find is on the 1901 census, which can be seen here. I remember the extraordinary emotion of seeing our great grandfather’s beautiful writing and his signature on the census return, when I first laid eyes on it a few years ago when the Irish census became available online. We can see that the elder two children, John and Ellen are not at home on census night, and that the family spoke both Irish and English. The household return shows that they had a 2nd class thatched house with three rooms and 3 windows plus 3 out buildings – a cowhouse, a fowl house and a piggery.
Ellen, Mary and Bridget are absent on the night of the 1911 census, which can be viewed here. Annie has been married for a year and is now Brennan. We don’t know if she was still living at home or possibly returned to her mother to give birth to her first child, or simply visiting. In this census we learn that Isabella had 10 children during 38 years of marriage and that all are still living. The house is still thatched and a barn has been added to the outhouses.
The house had been slated at some stage, and I certainly do not recall it being thatched, but it is still the original house with its three windows, one in the kitchen and one in each of the two bedrooms. The kitchen was in the middle of the house with the bedrooms at each end. It is odd to think that many were born here, that all of them lived here, and that some of them died here – here in this wee house that we knew so well.
The little house is now unoccupied and is gradually disappearing under encroaching foliage. The first view of it as I reached the gate was so familiar and the fuchsia bushes were looking splendid on what was a very wet day.
Unfortunately I was not able to get even the length of the house as the vegetation was too dense and as I was alone I did not want to risk having a fall.
It is strange to think that when we played here as children we had no idea in whose footsteps we were walking nor of the family history that had unfolded here. We walked in the same yard and same fields and paths where our great grandparents had walked and worked and loved and laughed. We had played in the same places where all of our great aunts and great-uncle and grandfather had played, where they did their schoolwork by candle light or by the light of a tilley lamp, where they collected apples and eggs, and heard the sound of badgers and spoke in Irish and English. And we did not know that we were walking on paths made smooth by our ancestors.
The next references to our great grandparents and their family are to be found in death records. Four of those who lived here, also died here.
First was Isabella who died on 16 November 1925, almost 92 years ago. She was 76 years old and had been in poor health for a few years. Cause of death was chronic bronchitis and heart failure. Ellen’s husband Andrew Mc Dwyer was present at death.
Only 9 months later, their 6th child Kate died on 2 September 1926. She had suffered from TB and cardiac failure for several years. Her brother James, our grandfather, who was then living in Carrigart, was present at death. Her death may well have been expected if he made the journey back to Mulnamina in her last days. Kate was 42.
Daniel died on July 16 1929 at the age of 87, after only a short illness of influenza that developed into pneumonia. He died after 5 days. His eldest son John was present at death.
Many years later on February 26, 1966, Uncle John died just five months short of his 90th birthday. The cause of death was cerebral thrombosis and senility.His nephew Danny O’Donnell was present at death.
These four coffins made their last journey back down that lane that we loved to run up. The tragedy is that we do not know where Isabella, Kate and Daniel are buried as it seems no-one thought to ask. It is very strange also that neither my father nor his siblings remembered these grandparents, although the eldest Aunt May was 12 years old when Daniel died. John is buried in the new graveyard in Glenties with Maggie who died in 1979 in Dungloe hospital.
Our father, his sisters and brothers had no idea who their Gallagher Grandmother was, not even her name. They ‘thought’ she may have been Doherty from Lough Finn. They seemed to know nothing about her at all, in spite of the fact that as youngsters they spent summer holidays in Mulnamina. I recall our father asking one of his first cousins, Bella Brennan, if she had any idea who she was and she didn’t know. The subject often came up about who she might have been, but she remained a mystery woman. Fascinating now in hindsight as at least four and possibly five of her grandchildren were named Isabella after her! I am absolutely delighted that my own 6-year-old granddaughter Isabella, proudly carries her great great great grandmother’s beautiful name. I hope she would be pleased!
Ireland’s Ancient East, A Guide to Its Historic Treasures is a recently published guide to a newly designated tourist trail in Ireland featuring remarkable heritage sites in 17 different counties, that encompass about 5,000 years of history. Compiled and written by Neil Jackman, an archaeologist who has produced excellent audio guides for many of Ireland’s top historic sites, this guidebook has everything for the traveller to Ireland and a wealth of information for those of us who live here.
This is a beautifully produced book, packed with high quality colour photographs, with at least one on most of its 300 pages. Each of the 100 sites in the book has been photographed by the author and it is these photographs that are for me the stunning feature of the book. These are the hooks that may well tempt the traveller to go and seek out the amazing heritage across this island.
There is detailed historical information for each place as well as maps, site co-ordinates, distances from nearest towns, driving directions, site facilities, opening times, car parking, and entrance fees, if any.
The heritage sites are varied and range from castles, cathedrals, churches and caves, high crosses, tombs gardens and cliff walks, old copper mines, gardens, country homes, stone circles and workhouses, to name a few!
Maps, a detailed index, an extensive bibliography and a glossary of terms complete the book, which to me is not just a guidebook, but a handbook of Irish history and places worthy of a place in any book collection. This is a gorgeous visual and practical guide to some of Ireland’s ancient heritage, a useful handbook for those of us who have yet to discover some of our hidden gems, a worthy souvenir for any visitor to Ireland, or an exceptional gift for those of Irish heritage. I am happy to have it on my shelves!
Ireland’s Ancient East published by Collins Press €15 and also available as an e-book
Abarta Audio Guides
Continuing along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, rain and low grey cloud were my only companions as I headed into this remote Irish-speaking part of County Mayo. Although visibility was reduced it was still possible to enjoy some lovely sights. The Irish-only road signs were something of a challenge at first, even though I am used to our bilingual signs here in Ireland and Irish-only signs in Donegal, and other Gaeltacht areas, these places were not familiar to me. However, once I figured out that ‘An Fod Dubh’ meant ‘Blacksod’ and that therefore ‘Chuan and Fhóid Duibh’ was Blacksod Bay, I chugged along happily in the beautiful Mullet Peninsula that protects Blacksod Bay from the worst of the Atlantic weather.
This eye catching beach is one of many big sandy beaches in the area. It sports the Blue Flag, one of the world’s most recognised eco-labels, indicating that it complies with a specific set of criteria on water quality, information points, environmental education, safety and beach management. Raining or not, this is a good beach for swimming!
Tír Sáile – the North Mayo Sculpture Trail –is the largest public arts project ever undertaken in Ireland. Several of these sites are located here on the Mullet peninsula. This work is entitled ‘Deirbhile’s Twist’ and I like that it was formed by raising large granite boulders already lying around on the ground and arranging them into an eye catching feature. This is located at Falmore which is a beautiful location, even in the mist!
Saint Deirbhile (Dervilla) is a local saint who arrived at Falmore in the 6th Century. Arriving by donkey she was pursued by an unwanted suitor who,so the story goes, was very attracted to her beautiful eyes. Rather drastically she plucked them out to discourage him and he left, heartbroken. Water gushed from the spot where her eyes fell and after bathing her sockets her sight was restored. The ruins of her convent are here near the seashore with Deirbhile’s Well nearby. Modern day pilgrims believe that water from the well can help cure eye complaints and they come here for special devotion on August 15 each year.
And then on to the site I was particularly interested in – Blacksod weather station, situated at the end of the peninsula.
This is Blacksod Lighthouse, looking very unlike a traditional lighthouse, perched atop an old granite building that dates from 1864. This is a very significant place because it was from here that a weather report issued on 3rd June 1944 changed the course of history. The World War 2 D-Day landings scheduled for June 5th were delayed because of the hourly weather report lodged by Irish Coast Guardsman and lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney, which indicated that there would be adverse conditions in the English Channel for the following few days. Blacksod was of particular significance because it was the first land-based observation station in Europe where weather readings could be professionally taken on the prevailing European Atlantic westerly weather systems. Ted’s report on June 3rd mentioned a rapidly falling barometer and strong winds which would have augured badly for the planned invasion. A further report from Ted at 12pm on June 4, said ‘heavy rain and drizzle cleared, cloud at 900 feet and visibility on land and sea very clear’. This meant that better weather was on the way for the south of England, and so Operation Overlord went ahead on June 6th 1944 with calm clear conditions in the English Channel.
There is a nice little harbour alongside the lighthouse, Termon Pier, which was almost totally deserted when I was there with only rain and wind to be heard and seen and a few currachs pulled up out of the water.
Winds were picking up the rain was relentless so it was time to leave. I was delighted that I had made the trip out here and discovered a few sights, in spite of the conditions. Suddenly there was an incredible noise that almost deafened me and for the life of me I could not figure out what on earth it was. On turning round I saw a helicopter had just taken off from right beside me, as there is a Helicopter Landing base beside the Lighthouse!
I left here very pleased with my foray into this area, and with the few treasures I had discovered. However, the Mullet Peninsula had one more surprise in store as not far along the road I came upon Ionad Naomh Deirbhile, a local Visitor and Heritage Centre.
Although they were about to close I was invited in for tea and a homemade scone and here discovered the story of The Tuke Fund assisted emigrants. It is not always recognized that hunger in Ireland did not end with the famines of 1845- 1852 and 1879. Hunger and deprivation were a fact of life in poorer districts of the western seaboard in particular, with hundreds of families needing relief into the mid 1880s and beyond. James Hack Tuke (1819-1896) was an English Quaker who made it his mission to aid people suffering from starvation and deprivation in the West of Ireland. One of the features of the Tuke Fund assisted migration was that only entire families would be facilitated, thereby freeing up smallholdings for another family. The emigrants were provided with the fare and money to enable them settle in their new locations. In 1883 and 1884, 3,300 emigrants left North West Mayo and Achill, boarding ships in Blacksod Bay. They sailed on 10 separate voyages, for Boston and Quebec. There are impressive storyboards at the centre, where descendants of those who left here almost 140 years ago are welcomed. One such family arrived while I was there. It is reckoned that over 2 million people are descended from these North Mayo emigrants
The research on the Blacksod Tuke Emigration scheme was carried out by Rosemarie Geraghty, I believe for her thesis. Rosemarie has researched the 10 ships manifests that carried these families to their new lives in what she describes as the time of the ‘forgotten famine’ and is absolutely delighted when descendants arrive here in search of their roots. I asked her what the charges are for family research and she said ‘They left here with nothing, we are never going to charge them to know where they came from.’ Rosemarie is ably assisted by Norah Cawley, a superb scone maker who makes visitors feel very welcome indeed. I have been to many a family research centre before, but never one like this – with such enthusiasm, warmth, passion and great scone making!
All of this information with family names is available free to view, and is searchable under various headings, at http://www.blacksodbayemigration.ie . They just love to hear from anyone wherever in the world whose ancestors may have left this beautiful place over 130 years ago.
On what was a miserable wet grey cloudy day, how lucky was I to discover such wonderful silver linings at the Mullet Peninsula and on the shores of Blacksod Bay! More treasures of the Wild Atlantic Way – Beidh mé arais arís!
The first touring All Blacks rugby side to play Munster was the famous “Original” All Blacks who lined out against them in the Markets Field, Limerick in November 1905. Munster were defeated 33–0. On that day, the victorious New Zealand All Blacks were captained by an Irishman from Donegal, the legendary Dave Gallaher.
I grew up in Donegal and am very familiar with one of Donegal’s most beautiful villages, Ramelton, which sits on the banks of the River Lennon. In this village on 30 October 1873 my namesake David Gallagher was born into a relatively comfortable family. His father was a shopkeeper, his mother a school teacher. When David was 5 years old, the family left Ramelton for the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. They settled in Katikati, on the North Island where David’s mother Maria, became the local schoolteacher. Maria died in 1887 at the tragically young age of 42, leaving 11 children without a mother.
Two years later, the 17-year old Dave Gallaher (as he was now known) went to Auckland and played rugby – first for the Parnell Club and then the Ponsonby Club from 1896. In that year he also debuted at provincial level. His rugby career was interrupted when in 1901, he joined the New Zealand Contingent of Mounted Rifles to fight in the Boer War. At a farewell dinner, it is reported that the popular rugby player was ‘presented with a well filled purse of sovereigns’.
Safely home, he resumed his rugby career and played for New Zealand in the first ever encounter with the British and Irish Lions in 1904, and in 1905 he captained the legendary ‘Originals’ All Black team that toured Britain, France and North America.
This was the first time that the New Zealand team toured beyond Australasia and it was the first time that the name ‘All Black’ had been used. The 5-month tour was a triumph for Gallaher’s team as they scored 976 points and conceded only 59 in 35 matches. They won 34 and lost only 1 against Wales (controversy still rages about a referee decision that cost them the match!).
Following retirement as a team player, Dave Gallaher remained an influential figure in rugby. He continued as a selector for Auckland and for the All Blacks from 1907 to 1914. He co wrote a coaching manual, The Complete Rugby Footballer, that is still widely consulted to this day.
Dave volunteered to fight in World War 1 and it is believed that he changed his date of birth to enable him to do so, as he was exempt from conscription because of his age. (His youngest brother Douglas had been killed in action in France the previous year.)
Following training in England, on 26 June 1917 his unit went into action in the Third Battle of Ypres where they fought in the La Basse Ville area. At the rest camps in late August intensive training began for the battle that became known as Passchendaele. About the same time the region experienced the heaviest rain in 30 years that effectively turned the area into a muddy swamp. On October 1, he marched through the battle ravaged town of Ypres, and 3 days later….
”In drizzly rain, he had advanced through the deep mud of a small river and up the slopes ready to take over from the leading battalions for the second stage of the attack. A strong westerly wind chilled him to the bone and he waited for his orders. It was as he took over that his men came under heavy fire from a German stronghold named Korek, situated on the highest point of Graventafel ridge, and Dave Gallaher became one of the 330 New Zealanders to lose their lives in what is known as the Battle of Broodseinde”
Gallaher had been hit in the head by shrapnel and died some hours later, on October 4, just weeks short of his 44th birthday. Of the 9 brothers in the Gallaher family, 5 fought in the Great War. Douglas was wounded in action at Gallipoli on May 4 1915 and killed in action at Laventie, France on June 3 1916. Dave was killed in action on 4 October 1917 and Henry was killed in action on 24 April 1918. Henry’s twin brother Charles, was shot in the back in Gallipoli and survived for some years with a bullet lodged close to his spine. Laurence survived the war without any recorded injury.
Dave Gallaher is buried at Nine Elms Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium, not far from The Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, Belgium. His grave, which bears the New Zealand emblem the Silver Fern, so proudly worn on the All Black shirt, has become a place of pilgrimage for All Black teams touring France.
The All Blacks have also been known to wear an embroidered poppy on the jersey sleeve to honour their countrymen who died in the battlefields of Europe during both World Wars. 12 All Blacks died in World War 1 and 2 died in World War 2. Their team proudly remembers them and all New Zealanders who lost their lives on fields of conflict.
The name of Dave Gallaher lives on and continues to be remembered in the world of Rugby. In 1922, the Gallaher Shield became the trophy for Auckland club competitions and since 2000 the Dave Gallaher Cup has been awarded to the winner of the first rugby test between New Zealand and France in any year. Standing outside Eden Park Stadium in Auckland is a bronze statue of Dave Gallaher. Standing 2.7 metres high, this imposing statue is fitting testament to the esteem in which Dave Gallaher is held.
Meanwhile in Donegal, Dave Gallaher is proudly remembered. His home town Ramelton has honoured him with the lovely Dave Gallaher Park .
Just up the road in Letterkenny, the local rugby club has named their home ground ‘Dave Gallaher Memorial Park’. There was great excitement in the area in 2005 when the All Blacks visited Donegal to connect with and honour the remarkable Dave Gallaher, who changed the face of rugby forever.
Dave Gallaher, First All Blacks Rugby captain, Rugby legend, Donegal Man, Soldier, is remembered today 99 years after his death at the Battle of Broodseinde.
(From an original post on this blog in October 2011)
The history of Wales versus New Zealand at t Rugbyrelics.com
Rugby History at Rugby Football History- Rugby at War.
History Learning Site – Passchendaele at http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle of passchendaele.htm
Ramelton at http://rameltontidytowns.squarespace.com
Dave Gallaher 1873- 1917 at http://www.davegallaher.com
Visiting the uniquely interesting Ceide Fields was a damp experience and as I left there heading west on my trip along the Wild Atlantic Way in June of this year, conditions became even wetter, with persistent view-blocking rain. It was disappointing to be in this beautiful area for the first time in inclement weather but I saw enough to be sufficiently captivated to resolve to return again….sooner rather than later.
As I drove along with Sruwaddacon Bay to my right, windscreen wipers at full tilt, I came across a very ‘odd looking’ graveyard on the side of the hill. I pulled up to investigate and couldn’t quite make out why this place did not look ‘quite right’ for want of a better term.
I was quite amazed then to discover that this beautifully situated graveyard had suffered after very heavy rain some years ago when a landslide send thousands of tons of mud down the hill and carried coffins into the sea, never to be recovered. This catastrophic event took place in September 2003 and the signs of it are clearly visible today.
The catastrophic landslide was blamed on overgrazing by sheep as the heather and upland plants were no longer able to bind the peaty soil together. The torrential downpours came after a particularly dry summer and the hillside was turned into mud that slid down the hill into the sea. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for families whose graves had vanished under the tons of mud.
There are three distinct sections to the graveyard at this site, but only the one in the foreground was affected by the landslide.
Steps have now been taken to make sure that there will be no repeat of this awful event,with barriers installed to hold back any further soil slippage.
The location is quite beautiful, with the seashore only feet away.
This graveyard is also known as Kilcommon graveyard or Pollatomish graveyard. There is an excellent website here that has details of those buried there and, unusually, includes people for whom there are no headstones.
Had it not been pouring rain, I may not have noticed this site as I drove by. A beautiful place for sure, one that reminds us of the power of nature which we should never underestimate.
It has come as a tremendous surprise to have been selected for the finals of the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016. To make the long list was great and then the thrill of making the short list in two categories was wonderful. But here we are now in the final of the Education and Science category! It is an honour indeed to be in the company of such excellent bloggers and I send congratulations to all them for having made it to the finals. I also wish to acknowledge those who did not make the final cut – among them are some of Ireland’s most dedicated and expert bloggers who spend untold hours researching their subjects and generously getting their information on line to share with others! A huge ‘Bula Bos’ to them all!
As a senior citizen who was encouraged and advised by younger techies, I must say what a thrill it is to be in the final list. How I wish more of my generation in Ireland would join the blogosphere! We have stories to tell; we have a perspective that is uniquely ours; we have history to record; we have peers to encourage! And there are wonderful people all over the world who read blogs and who communicate and relate back. To each of them I want to say a big ‘thank you’ for the encouragement to carry on! To the judges who took time to pore over these pages and deemed them worthy of a place in the final, a huge thanks! The Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards Ireland 2016 Finalist badge will be worn with great pride on this site.