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The Hooker and the Hurricane – 1877

Galway Hookers
Galway Hookers

The Old Dominion, of the Old Dominion Steamship Company, arrived at New York recently, having on board seventeen men, fourteen of whom were Italians and three, natives of Ireland, who have strange stones, to tell of the recent storms at sea. The. Irishmen have a strange story to relate. One, of the three, Michael Moran, a well-built and hearty-looking man, made the following statement :

‘We are fishermen of a little village named Claddagh, near Galway, and but a short distance from where Father Burke resides. We are in the habit of going out to catch fish, which we sell in Galway. In this way we support our families. That young man there (pointing to one of his companions) is Michael Smith, who has been married but a few months. The older man is my fathor, Patrick Moran. Se is eighty-six years old. I am the father of a family of five. We are all most anxious to return to Ireland.

Hurricane Isabel - 2003 Photo: Astronaut Ed Lu via Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center.
Hurricane Isabel – 2003
Photo: Astronaut Ed Lu via Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center.
I was the captain of a fishing smack, or hooker, named the St. Patrick. Thinking that we might make a good haul of herring, with Michael Smith, Patrick Moran and my uncle, John Moran, I set sail in our nine ton hooker on Monday, the 4th of November, and made for Sline Head about sixty miles from Galway, where we thought the fishing would be good. We had no extra good fortune, and at night foggy weather overtook us.

The wind sprang up, blowing a perfect hurricane. My post was at the helm, where my hands became frozen. On Tuesday night the boat was half filled with water. It is our custom to light turf on setting out and keep the fire going. The water put it out. Although we had potatoes and fresh fish, we had no means to cook them. We were four days and four nights without eating. In order to break the speed with which we were driven we lowered a basket filled with stones and endeavoured to heave to, but the cable broke on Friday morning. We could not, previous to this, reach any sounding. About this time my uncle, John Moran, aged ninety- six, while we were asleep towards morning, must have been drowned by the lurching of the ship throwing him into the water. At any rate, we could discover no trace of him.
When one hundred and fifty miles out we were picked up by a Swedish bark, the Gorgian, Captain P. Olsen, bound for Hampton Roads. The ice drove the vessel into Norfolk, where we arrived on the 6th instant.

I am not a stranger to America, having been here about thirteen years ago. I have served on the Shenandoah. My father was also here twenty -five years ago, being engaged in shad fishing at Fort Lee. We are totally destitute of clothing, and have no means. We intend to see the British Consul to-morrow. We have acquaintances here, but we do not know where they live.’

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How Ethne quitted Tir na nOg

She heard her name called
She heard her name called
T. W. ROLLESTON, Crowell and Company, New York –
How Ethne Quitted Tir na nÓg (abridge
By the banks of the River Boyne, where rises the great Fairy Mound of Newgrange, there once the shining Palace of a prince of the Danaan, named Angus. Of him it is that the lines are written—

“By the dark rolling waters of the Boyne
Where Angus Óg magnificently dwells.”

When the Milesians invaded Ireland, and subdued the Danaans, the Danaans wrought magic by which rendered all their possessions invisible to mortals. Under their enchantments their palaces, dancing-places and folk-motes looked like green mounds or raths, lonely hillsides, or ruined shrines with nettles and foxgloves growing up among its broken masonry. In this way they were safe from humans.

After Angus, King of the Dananns and his folk had retreated behind this veil of invisibility, his steward’s wife had a daughter. She was named Ethne. On the same day Fand, the wife of Mananan the Sea God, also bore a daughter. Since Angus and Mananan were friends, Mananan sent his child to Brugh na Boyna, the noble dwelling-place of Angus, to be fostered and brought up. In turn Ethne, was fostered to Mananan.

In time Ethne grew into a fair and stately maiden at Mananan’s residence. As she was not of the mortal world there was always a store of food of the faery at her foster home. It was charged with magical spells, by eating of which one could never grow old or die. Curiously, after Ethne had grown up she rarely ate or drank of the fairy food, or of any other, yet she continued to seem healthy and well-nourished. Nonetheless a concerned Mananan reported this to Angus, and Angus visited to meet with Ethne.

A lord of the Danaans, who accompanied him was bewitched by Ethne’s beauty. He became quickly obsessed until he laid hands upon her and strove to carry her away to his own dwelling. Ethne escaped from him. However, the blaze of resentment at his behaviour towards her lit up Ethne’s soul. It burned to a point where it consumed her fairy nature. The nature of the children of Adam – the mortal – took its place. From then on she ate none of the fairy food, which is prohibited to man. Sensing Ethne’s transformation and her anger, Mananan and his Fand sought to protect her. They gave her a charm to wear around her neck, to keep her safe within the faery realm.

One very hot day not long after Ethne and her maidens went to bathe in the River Boyne. After they had refreshed themselves in the cool, amber-coloured water, they arrayed themselves in their silken robes and trooped back to the Brugh again; but ere they entered it, the maidens discovered that Ethne was not among them. So they went back, scattering themselves along the bank and searching in every quiet pool of the river and in every dark recess among the great trees that bordered it, for Ethne was dearly loved by all of them; but neither trace nor tidings of her could they find. Eventually they went sorrowfully home without her, to tell the tale to Angus and to her father.

What had befallen Ethne was this. In taking off her garments by the riverside she had mislaid her fairy charm, and finally became a mortal maid. Because of this she could no longer see her companions. Everything became immediately strange to her. The fairy track that had led to the riverside was overgrown with briars, the palace of Angus was gone, replaced by a wooded hill. Ethne did not know where she was, and pierced with sudden terror she fled wildly away, seeking for the familiar places that she had known in the fairy life, but which were now behind the Veil.

At length she came to a high wall wherein was a wicket gate, and through it she saw a garden full of sweet herbs and flowers, which surrounded a steep-roofed building of stone. In the garden she saw a man in a long brown robe tied about his waist with a cord. He smiled at her and beckoned her to come in without fear. He was a monk of Patrick, and the house was a convent church. When the monk had heard her tale, he marvelled greatly and brought her to St Patrick, who baptised her.

The following day Ethne went for a walk within the garden of herbs. She was lonely, thinking of her home. As she did, the sky darkened and she heard a sound like the rushing of a great wind. Mingled in it were cries and lamentations. She heard her name called again and again in a multitude of voices, thin and faint as the crying of curlews upon the moor. Ethne sprang up and gazed around, calling in return, but nothing could she see. Eventually the storm of cries died away, and everything was still again except the singing voice of Boyne and the humming of the garden bees.

Ethne sank down swooning. In that hour she fell into a sickness from which she never recovered. She was buried in the church where she had first been received by the monk; and the church was called Killethne, or the Church of Ethne, from that day forward until now.

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An Irish Ship canal – via Doorus and Island Eddy – 1884

 Island Eddy as it appears on 'A Map of the County of Galway in the Province of Connaught in Ireland' by WIlliam Larkin (London 1818).
Island Eddy as it appears on ‘A Map of the County of Galway in the Province of Connaught in Ireland’ by WIlliam Larkin (London 1818).

The suggestion of constructing a ship canal across Ireland, from Dublin to Galway, or Dublin to the Shannon, has been warmly taken up by eminent and competent men in London. Elaborate plans and surveys have been made at considerable expense, which have been submitted by Captain Eades, the great American engineer. The plans for the Irish Canal have been prepared by Mr. T. A. Walker, Great George-street, Westminster, who recently bored a tunnel under the Severn, the largest undertaking of the kind in the country.

Silently but steadily a staff of engineers have levelled the country between Galway and Dublin Bays, and the plan, although carefully prepared, is largely tentative, its object being to show the practicability of a project of the kind. The proposed canal would be 127 miles in length and would contain upwards of 30 locks. The estimated cost is, of course, ruled by the tonnage of the ships it is intended to accommodate. Thus if for ships of 1,500 tons the cost would be eight millions, for ships of 2,500 twelve millions, and for ships of 5,000 and upwards twenty millions sterling. If built on this scale, and it is considered that anything smaller would be a mistake, the canal would be 200 feet wide on the surface and 100 feet at the bottom.

Suez Canal, between Kantara and El-Fedane. The first vessels through the Canal. 19th century image. From "Appleton's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art", 1869.
Suez Canal, between Kantara and El-Fedane. The first vessels through the Canal. 19th century image.
From “Appleton’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art”, 1869.
In considering these dimensions it must be remembered that the Suez Canal except at its mouth is not 80 feet wide. The depth would be from 30 to 35 feet, and the locks would be fitted with the newest hydraulic apparatus so as to make the process of lockage as simple and expeditious as possible. The passage through the canal would be effected through, a system of towage, although it is somewhat of an open question whether this would be preferable to permitting the steamers to work through.

It is estimated that the passage of a ship from Galway Bay to Kingstown would occupy between 24 and 36 hours. An alternative scheme of a ship railway, in which the ships would be carried in cradles, which, he says, could be constructed for ten millions by his plan, the duration of the passage through the island would, he declared, be reduced to 12 hours.

The proposed course of this great work will be of considerable interest.

The canal starts from Doores Strait (sic.), south of Islandeaddy, in Galway Bay, where the shallowness of the water necessitates the dredging of a channel for a considerable distance out. This proposed canal would give a depth of thirty feet at low water, and would be protected from the silting up of the sand by suitable works. The entrance to the canal would be by a sea lock 600 feet in length, capable of taking ships of 5000 tons. From this lock entrance would be gained to a dock of 29 acres in extent, constructed on an arm of the sea, known as present as Brandy Harbour. The first inland lock would be less than a mile up at Killemaran, (sic.) from whence the canal would pass close to Drumacoo, then turning slightly to the north by Kilcolgan on to Rahasane, and passing about five miles to the south of Athenry, and crossing the Athenry and Ennis Railway at Craughwell, where the fifth lock would be situated. The sixteenth mile of the canal brings it about one mile to the north of Loughrea, from which town there will be a feeder to supply fresh water from the lake which is ten feet above the level of the canal, the latter being 260 feet above sea level. From this point there is; a long straight line of canal without locks until it roaches Eyrecourt, whence an immense aqueduct is to be constructed to carry the canal over the Shannon

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Wreck of the Commerce – 1848

Barque  Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A most shocking loss of an emigrant ship, with upwards of one hundred persons on board, was reported at Lloyd’s. The vessel that met with the sad disaster was the barque Commerce, belonging to Limerick, 267 ton burthen, Halliday master.
She sailed from Galway in the early part of spring for St. John’s, New Brunswick. About seventy families, principally females and children, embarked on board at Galway, taking with them all they possessed in the world. The master was aware that they were near the Nova Scotia coast, but the prevalence of foggy weather and drizzling rain prevented the exact position of the ship being known.

A good look out is stated to have been kept. Be that as it may, however, she run ashore, the first intimation of the fact being her striking heavily on a rock. A strong effort was made to back her, but a current carried her over the rock, and she was swept with violence onto a bold rocky shore. The emigrants mustered on deck in great confusion; the whole of them were in their bed clothes, and their horror on discovering the awful situation of the ship may be easily conceived.

For a few hours the ship remained in an upright position. As the tide rose, however, a gale sprung up, the sea from which swept the decks. The boats had been lowered, and some of the crew succeeded in ascertaining that the shore was accessible to land the passengers. They returned and made two trips, between the ship and the land, with passengers; but on attempting the third, they were driven against the rocks, and many of the poor creatures met with a watery grave.

The vessel, by the continued beating on the rocks, soon filled. The masts were cut away, and other means to save her from destruction , were adopted, but of no avail. In the meantime, the remainder of the crew contrived to effect a communication with the shore by a line. One after another of the emigrants were dragged through the surf to the shore in a most pitiable condition. Many, we regret to say, were drowned, particularly the children. Between seventy and eighty were saved, as also the crew. The following are the names of some of the survivors;
Mrs Mary Burke and child
Mrs Coyee and infant
Patrick Corcoran aged 21
a boy names Fogant and a lad John Leydon.
A large number of the passengers had nothing on but their night clothes when they landed, some even perfectly naked. They were unable to save anything of their little property from the wreck. Captain Halliday acted with great firmness throughout the trying period. The wreck quickly broke up, with all she contained. She was partially insured.

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Haunted – 1914


COMPILED BY St. John D. Seymour B.D & Harry L. Neligan D.I.R.I.C.  1914

Courtesy: Project Gutenberg


The Spirit of the Dead watches - 1892 Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York Wikimedia Commons
The Spirit of the Dead watches – 1892
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Wikimedia Commons
A lady, who requests that her name be suppressed, relates a strange sight seen by her sister in Galway. The latter’s husband was stationed in that town about seventeen years ago. One afternoon he was out, and she was lying on a sofa in the drawing-room, when suddenly from behind a screen (where there was no door) came a little old woman, with a small shawl over her head and shoulders, such as the country women used to wear. She had a most diabolical expression on her face. She seized the lady by the hand, and said: “I will drag you down to Hell, where I am!” The lady sprang up in terror and shook her off, when the horrible creature again disappeared behind the screen. The house was an old one, and many stories were rife amongst the people about it, the one most to the point being that the apparition of an old woman, who was supposed to have poisoned someone, used to be seen therein. Needless to say, the lady in question never again sat by herself in the drawing-room.


Another house in Co. Clare, nearer the estuary of the Shannon, which was formerly the residence of the D—— family, but is now pulled down, had some extraordinary tales told about it in which facts (if we may use the word) were well supplemented by legend. To commence with the former. A lady writes: “My father and old Mr. D—— were first cousins. Richard D—— asked my father would he come and sit up with him one night, in order to see what might be seen. Both were particularly sober men. The annoyances in the house were becoming unbearable. Mrs. D——’s work-box used to be thrown down, the table-cloth would be whisked off the table, the fender and fireirons would be hurled about the room, and other similar things would happen. Mr. D—— and my father went up to one of the bedrooms, where a big fire was made up. They searched every part of the room carefully, but nothing uncanny was to be seen or found. They then placed two candles and a brace of pistols on a small table between them, and waited. Nothing happened for some time, till all of a sudden a large black dog walked out from under the bed. Both men fired, and the dog disappeared. That is all! The family had to leave the house.”

Now to the blending of fact with fiction, of which we have already spoken: the intelligent reader can decide in his own mind which is which. It was said that black magic had been practised in this house at one time, and that in consequence terrible and weird occurrences were quite the order of the day there. When being cooked, the hens used to scream and the mutton used to bleat in the pot. Black dogs were seen frequently. The beds used to be lifted up, and the occupants thereof used to be beaten black and blue, by invisible hands. One particularly ghoulish tale was told. It was said that a monk (!) was in love with one of the daughters of the house, who was an exceedingly fat girl. She died unmarried, and was buried in the family vault. Some time later the vault was again opened for an interment, and those who entered it found that Miss D——’s coffin had been disturbed, and the lid loosened. They then saw that all the fat around her heart had been scooped away.

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Agnes Photo: EO'D
Photo: EO’D

Agnes of the Ark has declined to be interviewed for widgetworld3.  She is getting lessons in the ‘world wide web’ from her great grand niece (me) and has decided to set up her own page. In point of fact told me straight out

“That’s an awful stupid name for a webpage.  What the name of heavens is a widgetworld? Hah? Sounds like something you need flyspray for.  Would you have some sense and pick a name that doesn’t sound like an infestation.”



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Burned by the potato blight – 1850

potato blight wikimedia commons
potato blight
wikimedia commons

The Athens post – September 27, 1850 p3



As every fact connected with the mysterious disease which steals away the food is of importance, we give the following singular statement which appears in the Galway Vindicator:

A woman named M— M——- ages thirty three, was brought a few days ago on a car to the work-house gate.  She appeared to be suffering from acute pain; her hands and face presented the appearance of having been severely burned, as if they had been held over the flame of a strong fire.

In reply to the questions put to her, she made the following statement;

She was employed by a man to weed potatoes, and was at work on Friday, the 18th ultimo, in her perfect health, when a sudden blast of burning air came over her, and she was thrown back.  She felt as if a quantity of pungent snuff had entered her nostrils.  She also stated that the stalks of potatoes where she was at work were burned to a cinder, and the tubers made soft and black.  It is thought the parts of the poor woman’s body which were affected will mortify.

Belfast Whig

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Better to be Crystal – 1904

Photo: Norma Scheibe photo Photo: Norma Scheibe
Photo: Norma Scheibe
Photo: Norma Scheibe


Better to be a crystal and be broken

Than dull clay like a tile upon the roof;

Better to put thy courage, doubtful-hearted,

Unto the proof.

O in success there often lurks a failure

That feeds upon the soul in hidden shame.

And in defeat there sometimes rests a triumph

Greater than fame.

Eliza Boyle O’Reilly

My Candles and Other Poems

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The Tailteann Games

Moher EO'D



(BY N.F. Degidon – abridged)

The ancient festival of Tailteann was first inaugurated in honour of a pagan queen, Tailte, after whom the place was named, and around whose burial mound the athletic feats and various sports and games were performed. It lies about ten miles northwest of Tara.  The date of the first Aonach held there is lost in the mists of antiquity but the Annals of the Four Masters record that “Lugha Lamh Fadha (Lugha of the Long Arm) established the games in the year 3333 of the Age of the World.”  


The festival was a triennial one, ending each time on August 1st and was under the patronage of the King of Tara.  For eighteen centuries – seven pagan and eleven Christian – Aonach Tailteann was held under royal edict, and, whatever its political significance, it was the great triennial social event during the period of Tara’s birlliancy.  It had a very intimate and close connection with the “Feis Teamrach,” or “Festival of Tara,” which was the great national assembly held at Royal Tara.  So important was it that, in the Annals, it is commemorated thus:


Three glories never to be forgotten:

Tailteann, Tara and Aodh MacAinmhireach


the latter being one of the Kings of ancient Ireland.


Ireland Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) Scanned by University of Toronto
Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)
Scanned by University of Toronto


All the athletes of Erin cam to Tailteann to test their skill, and it is said that the Celts of Scotland, Wales, and Brittany sent representatives to enter the lists against their brother Celts.  Feats of prowess, valor, dexterity and strength were the order of the day, while the evenings were given up to music and the gentler arts.  The chieftains of the clans attended these functions with their immense retinues – charioteers, horsemen, runners, jumpers, spear and lance throwers, swimmers, wrestlers, harpists, singers and “shanachies.”


There, during an annual truce, lasting a week before and a week after the Aonach, the laws governing the relations between the clans and the high-king were drawn up or renewed, new pacts ratified, and a sort of general political and social Spring cleaning gone through.  It was designed to build up the spirit of the race, to foster the ideal of mutual tolerationsand brotherhood, and to direct the nation along the road leading to the common weal.


The last official celebration of Aonach Tailteann was held in the year of Our Lord 1169, under the patronage of Rory O’Connor, High King of Ireland; but the festival was of such repute that tradition has it that a fair, or “pattern,” was held there annually up to a century ago.


Though Aonach Tailteann was the chief festival of its kind in Erin, each province, or petty clan, had its own Aonach;  


  • Aonach Carmain was hosted by the Kings of Leinster – the last celebration of which took place in 1079
  • Aonach Cruachan, held at Rathorghan in the Barony of Roscommon hosted by the Kings of Connacht
  • Aonach Colman in the Barony of Ballycowan and afterwards transferred to the site of the present day town of Nenagh
  • Aonach Uisneach in the Hill of Usnagh in Westmeath
  • Aonach an Bhrogha at Brugh na Boinne – the pagan burial place of Irish Kings
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The Magic Harp – 1935

River Boyne - named after Boann Photo: Biekje
River Boyne – named after Boann
Photo: Biekje


“THE MAGIC HARP” (abridged)

As far back as the first historical records the harp has been accorded the place of honour, Irish folk lore places great stress on the harp as the national musical instrument.  In all important events where music was admitted, at feasts and banquets, the harp was foremost as the instrument of romance, heroic qualities, and even love.  Later it was also used by the clergy in their proselytising travels through the country.  (Strangely enough the flute was relegated to the least important place!)

The Irish harp was called the cruit, and as far as can be ascertained the cruit dates back to the twelfth century B.C.  records mention the fact of the cruit being endowed with some remarkable attributes.  It could evoke real, physical responses in those who heard its sound, including, mirth to the point of hopeless and helpless laughter; joy to a level impossible to describe – and sorrow to the point of death.  It was therefore not surprising to find that the players of this instrument commanded considerable attention and respect.

There is an old Irish legend taken from the notes of Oscar Rothschild that tells of the harper Uaithne, who possessed a cruit which formerly belonged to the god Dagda.  Uaithne was married to Boinn, the goddess of the river Boyne.  She in turn was queen of the fairies.  

Maedoc book-cover, Ireland, circa 1000 AD
Maedoc book-cover, Ireland, circa 1000 AD

The couple had three sons called after the three strings of their father’s harp – Gentraiges, Goltraiges and Suantraiges. All three were gifted and remarkable harpists.

A Chieftain’s son named Freoch was related to Uaithne by marriage.  His mother, Befind, also came of fairy train.  The bond of marriage and, perhaps the bond of the supernatural led Freoch and Boinn to form and alliance that included her three sons.  It was all for love.

At that time the reigning King of Connacht (Ailill) and his wife (Medb) had a beautiful daughter.  The fame of her lovliness had gone far afield.  Her name was Findabair.  Freoch wanted to marry Findabar.  To further his chances he enlisted the aid of his aunt, Boinn, and she did her  utmost to ensure his success.  She bestowed on him all the jewellery and equipment of a fashionable man of the highest rank – and –  most valuable of all, she lent the aid of her three sons, trained in the use of their fathers cruit (harp).

Brú na Bóinne, Newgrange Photo: Barbara y Eugenio
Brú na Bóinne, Newgrange
Photo: Barbara y Eugenio

Freoch and his retinue visited the court of the King of Connacht  and his daugher Findabar.   They spent some time in feasting and other happy pastimes.  One day at a game of chess the King wished to enliven his guests with music.  This gave Freoch his great opportunity.  He requested his three harpers to play the chants of Uaithne (Motherhood).  They did.  It was a mournful lament and while the harpers played, tragedy overtook twelve of the King’s people, who sorrowed unto death. The King was startled and upset and it was not long before he began to devise means of getting rid of  Freoch.  He set him trials to test his mettle. 

But these trials were of no avail aginst the fairy protected hero. Freoch  was triumphant in all and when he completed them his three harpers again played a plaintive tune, again with fatal effect.  Thirty of the King’s most dearly loved retainers were smitten to death by the potent magic of the sorrow laden melody.  

The King of Connaught had to grant Freoch’s wish.  He was betrothed to Findabar and the harps, all three, heralded the joy of their union – their music spilling out and across the countryside, lifting the hearts of all who heard.

 Note: Boinn’s husband has also been named as Nuada, Elcmar or Nechtan