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Local Happenings – 1921

Collected by Mary Leary, Kinvarra, Co. Galway from Patrick O’Leary (age 70)
There is nothing as terrific as a house burning. It is dreaded by every-body. There is scarcely a town or city in Ireland without its share of ruins of burned houses. Galway comes under the rigour of burned houses as well as every other town and city in Ireland because in a town called Kinvara the ruins of a burned draper’s shop are to be seen.
This draper’s shop is supposed to be burned by the Black and Tans about the year 1921 when Ireland was infested with them. The burning occurred about eleven o’clock on a dark stormy winter’s night. The Black and Tans entered the shop in a wild fury and went to the kitchen where a range was. They spilled petrol in the fire which immediately burst into flames. The blaze immediately reached the roof overhead, and they followed from the roof to the ceiling and thus the goods caught fire.
The occupants of the shop tried to rush to safety and luckily enough they succeeded in escaping from the flames. Their attempts to rescue the contents of the shop were all in vain. All the goods that were in the shop were burned to ashes. Men from the neighbourhood did their best to quench the flames but it was impossible for them to overcome the raging flames. Water was brought in large quantities but the more water was thrown on the flames the wider they spread. Higher and higher they rose until the whole town was illuminated by their lights. The flames could be seen for miles and miles outside the town.
Many lives were in danger in the conflagration. A near-by public-house was beginning to take fire when the occupants luckily felt it taking root. They sprang at once for water and neighbours helped them to extinguish the flames.
No lives were lost in the burning. The fleeing of the occupants from the house at the beginning saved their lives. The wind blew very strong and this made the flames burn through more swift. On that account there was no possibility of saving the burning house. The ruins of the burned shop are to be seen in Kinvarra to the present day. Never will the terrific burning of the draper’s shop be in oblivion by the people of Kinvarra.