Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Reminder re BOOK LAUNCH on Thursday 30th May at 8 pm in the Old Ground Hotel.
Clare Roots Society will launch the Publication

written by Brian Dinan

 based on the History of St. Flannan's Terrace 
and the people who lived there over the past 100 years.
Clara Hoyne
Clare Roots Secretary


Genealogy in Time (genealogyintime.com), the fifth largest free family history website in the world, is an online Canadian genealogy magazine that provides advice, news of new records and some clever custom Google searches that allow access to, it claims, 2.2 billion free online ancestral records and 3.8 billion records in online family trees.

What really catches the attention are two lists the site publishes, showing the top 100 genealogy websites worldwide in 2012 and 2013. Now, ordered lists are a well-worn staple of journalism, politics, marketing, even religion, simply because they are instantly noticeable – "Ireland's Top Ten Love Cheats", "The Seven Deadly Sins", and so on. So the idea of ranking top genealogy sites is not new. But trying to do it objectively and for the whole world, by basing the ranks on independently measured internet traffic, is indeed new.

On a global scale, one trend is absolutely stark: a third of the top 100 are now owned by the three biggest commercial players, Ancestry, MyHeritage and brightsolid (owners of FindMyPast). They outnumber free record sites by four to one and their share is growing. The global future of genealogy is corporate.

From Ireland, four sites are listed in 2012, rootsireland.ie at No. 64, irishgenealogy.ie at 72, igp-web.com at 79 and FindMyPast.ie at 91. In 2013, only rootsireland is still in the top 100, dropping to 83. Why such a drop, especially at a time when the Gathering should be driving traffic to these sites? I suspect it is because measured traffic to non-Irish sites has mushroomed. Norwegians, in particular, seem to have suddenly gone mad for genealogy. But that's no more than a guess.

Read more…

Monday, 20 May 2013


Many of us know a little about IGP, others know a whole lot more... where do you fit in?

Irish roots: genealogy for the people, by the people

Volunteers are taking up the challenge of maintaining county records

Genealogists have long memories, it's almost the job definition. So many Irish researchers of a certain age, myself included, will feel a frisson of horror at the acronym IGP.

For them, it brings back the "Irish Genealogical Project" – an attempt under the Haughey regime to shoehorn everyone involved in genealogy into a single rickety organisation by flinging cute-hoor money at them. Money from the IDA, the Soldiers and Sailors Fund, Fás, the Ireland fund, Bórd Fáilte . . . all with different (and competing) strings attached.

It is no more, thanks be, though it has a kind of afterlife in rootsireland.ie. But the acronym IGP had already existed, and continues to exist as something more benign entirely.

"Ireland Genealogy Projects" (igp-web.com) is the umbrella name for a series of Irish-American volunteer transcription sites, some dating from the 1990s, dedicated to providing gateways to genealogical information about each Irish county. The idea is that an individual takes responsibility for a county and then curates the county webpages, providing a home for volunteer-transcribed records. And the range of these records is huge, including such things as gravestone transcripts, local RIC enlistments, mass cards, directories, school registers and church records.

Read more



From Christina...

These are a tad late going out. Sorry. But here are the larger files added in the first two weeks of May:

ANTRIM Genealogy Archives - Cemetery Records
Glenarm Churchyard Memorials - O'DONNELL

ARMAGH Genealogy Archives - Miscellaneous
Protestants in favor of Catholic Emancipation (Signatures obtained in ARMAGH)
Protestants in favor of Catholic Emancipation (Signatures obtained in NEWRY)

CORK Genealogy Archives
Aglishdrinagh Churchyard Memorials
Monanimy Churchyard Memorials

DOWN Genealogy Archives - Miscellaneous
Protestants in favor of Catholic Emancipation - signed at Hillsborough    
Protestants in favor of Catholic Emancipation - signed at Newry

DOWN Genealogy Archives - Cemetery Records
Balligan Church, Parish of Inishargy Memorials

DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Headstones
Mount Jerome Victorian Chapel Memorial Plaques

DUBLIN Genealogy Archives - Cemetery
Drimnagh or the Bluebell Churchyard Memorials v. 7 pg 29-34

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Census
1766 Derryloran Parish Religious Census
1766 Devenish Parish Religious Census
*numerous others

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Colaghty: List of young persons confirmed by the Bishop of Kilmore on 16/6/1856
Tempo (CoI) Births, Marriages & Deaths

FERMANAGH Genealogy Archives - Church
Colaghty: List of young persons confirmed by the Bishop of Kilmore on 16/6/1856
Tempo (CoI) Births, Marriages & Deaths

KERRY Genealogy Archives
Kilmurry Churchyard, Ballincuslane Parish Memorials

LAOIS Genealogy Archives - Military & Constabulary
1857 Irish Constabulary Enlistees

SLIGO Genealogy Archives - Cemetery
Aghanagh Churchyard Memorials


Wednesday, 15 May 2013


by Guest Blogger, Paddy Waldron...

The Office of Public Works (OPW) and Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DAHG) were due to take over Frances Street at 5am.  I couldn't be there quite that early, not least because I had been up writing this blog until 1:45am.  The previous nine days had been organised by our local steering group, but Sunday was in the hands of the National Famine Commemoration Committee and the Dublin authorities.

I turned on the radio when I got up and was very disappointed that there was no mention of Kilrush on the early morning RTÉ news bulletins on a quiet news day when the big story was a bus strike.

I was on the road to Kilrush by 11am and was pleasantly surprised to find a parking space in a quiet Henry Street.  It wasn't so quiet a moment later when Seán Sexton, who had just driven back from Dublin, pulled up in the middle of the street to ask if I could help him to find his co-author Christine Kinealy, and started a traffic jam.  A couple of phone calls revealed that Christine had moved back to the Central B&B after a night in Crotty's.

I wanted to enjoy the calm before the storm and soak up the atmosphere.  It was more like the storm before the calm as there was a relentless misty rain coming in off the estuary, and that was the main thing that I soaked up.  The weather forecast had been promising that it would stop by lunchtime.

Seán and I wandered round into Frances Street, now closed to traffic between Toler Street and Hector Street and dominated by a massive stage outside Supervalu.  Outside AIB, we bumped into Garrett Dundon who had stayed overnight with his father in Castleconnell en route from Dublin.  Garrett is finishing up his master's thesis on preserving famine sites in west Clare and elsewhere and talking about going on to a PhD, so has been in regular contact with us in recent months.

The Illustrated London News sketch of Miss Kennedy distributing clothing at Kilrush has become our logo over the past four months - just one of the 18 ILN sketches reproduced on postcards; the cover of the printed programme; the 4' by 4' road signs that wouldn't fit into any of our cars; Giles Watson's haunting song
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwRC5Eg3104 ); Paddy Murray's sculpture; on both podiums on the stage; and in an enormous and stunning backdrop to the stage.  One of those stunned by it was Carmel Buggle, who later gave both Paul and myself an earfull on the phone about how it was not to be allowed to leave Kilrush.  I had a quiet word in Mairead O'Brien's ear, Mairead had a quiet word in the ear of Mary Hurley from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and when it was taken down in the evening it was rolled up and left in Foley's Store.  (If I remember correctly, Mary Hurley is the Department official who was part of the delegation who made a few site visits to Kilrush and who acted as M.C. for the afternoon.)

Now we have to figure out what to do with the stage backdrop!  My biggest regret of the week is that we failed to bring any of the descendants of the Kennedys to Kilrush, despite private appeals by the Mayor and public appeals in The Irish Times.  Perhaps when Paddy Murray's sculpture is mounted on its permanent pedestal outside the Town Hall we'll have another chance to organise a visit, and the backdrop from the stage could certainly be rolled out again.

I was disappointed to see folding chairs already being set out in the rain.  Those for invited guests were left upright to gather the rain; those for the army band across the street were left upside down.  The public later sat on their wet seats, but the band for some reason eschewed their dry seats and played standing up.  We tried to get the word around that people should bring towels to dry their seats, something that I should have posted on facebook.  The authorities also provided a collection of rags of various sorts for this purpose.

Seán went off to look for Christine and Garrett and I went down for a closer look at the stage and to take some photographs.  As we headed back towards the Market Square, Mairead O'Brien appeared in her trusty old '93-reg jeep and relieved me of the three high-vis jackets that I had brought back from Doonbeg the night before for the stewards who were scheduled to meet at 1pm. Then a green van appeared and John Fitzgerald rolled down the window to announce that he had his brother-in-law Paddy Murray's sculpture in the back.  Conor Murray was in the passenger seat and Paddy was following a few minutes behind in his own car.  I opened up the `road closed' barriers to let them through, and introduced them to Des Swords, who was running the show on behalf of the OPW.

There was a long standoff over the arrangements for the unveiling.  The sculpture, destined to be ultimately mounted on a stone plinth outside the Town Hall, was unloaded and left on the ground.  Paddy had a brought a sturdy but rusty metal table, on which to mount it, and a lovely black curtain specially made to hide this rusty base.  Des insisted that the President wouldn't be able to reach it if it was lifted onto this base, and that he wouldn't be able to pull a heavy curtain of the size necessary to cover it.  Paddy insisted on lifting it onto the stand where it looked magnificent and Des found himself in a minority of one.  Connie Prendiville was also on hand to take pictures and went off and found a scissors to cut the holes in the black curtain necessary to screw the monument to the base.  A few fingers were nearly crushed as the curtain was tucked under the base.  Eventually we reached a compromise and agreed that only the stone plaque with the Miss Kennedy image would be covered with the unveiling curtain and the metal arms surrounding it would be left exposed.  Just as well that we didn't go to the trouble of getting the curtains that Paddy and I had designed the previous Monday made up.

This inscription appears on the back of the Miss Kennedy picture:

"Dedicated to the benevolent efforts of two friends of the poor, Captain (later Sir) Arthur Edward Kennedy (1810-1883) and his daughter Elizabeth Henrietta Kennedy (1842-1925), later Countess of Clanwilliam, during their time in Kilrush Poor Law Union (1847-1850)."

The names of the 13 electoral divisions of the original Kilrush Poor Law Union appear bilingually on all four sides of both arms of the supporting steel structure, arranged from bottom to top according to their distances from Kilrush:

Kilrush/Cill Rois

[Group 1 - parishes adjoining Kilrush]

Kilfearagh/Cill Fhiarach
Killard/Cill Ard
Kilmacduane/[Ainm Gaeilge le deimhniú ag logainm.ie!]
Kilmurry (Clonderalaw)/Cill Mhuire (Cluain idir Dhá Lá)
Killimer/Cill Íomaí

[Group 2 - one parish from Kilrush]

Kilfiddane/Cill Fheadáin
Kilmihil/Cill Mhichíl
Kilmurry (Ibrickan)/Cill Mhuire Uí Bhreacáin
Moyarta/Maigh Fhearta
Killofin/Cill Lua Finn

[Group 3 - two parishes away from Kilrush]

Kilballyowen/Cill Bhaile Eoghain
Killadysert/Cill an Dísirt

When the compromise was agreed, it was just coming up to time for the noon Famine Folk Mass around the corner in Saint Senan's Church, which was very nicely done.  This was the last of the `babies' handed out by Mairead O'Brien at our community meeting back in February, in this case being handed to her sister Lisa Walsh.  Most of the various symbols of famine etc. used during the ecumenical service in Doonbeg the night before were reused.  Fr. Sheedy urged the congregation to remove their cars from Hector Street and Toler Street ASAP after mass as these streets were also to be closed to facilitate the commemoration.  I bumped into Michael Carmody leaving the church and sympathised with him on the death of his brother and thanked him again for his talk on the stained glass windows on Wednesday.  I had just photographed the inscriptions on the Kelly windows which he drew to my attention on Wednesday.

Nick Reddan from Canberra texted me at 12:55 to say that he was in Kilrush.  Not bad progress since he had e-mailed me from his hotel room in London at 5:25am, since when he had flown to Dublin, and driven to Kilrush!  He had been at last year's commemoration in Drogheda with Paul and myself.

After mass, I walked round to Quay Mills to see if any help was needed with arrangements for stewarding, but all appeared under control, and it was mostly performers making preparations in the foyer.  Meanwhile, the army were rehearsing in Frances Street.  I also stopped to take a photo of P J Murrihy and his wife Mary and of several members of the Crack'd Spoon Theatre Company as they arrived for rehearsals and last-minute instructions.

There was no sign of the hoped-for flotilla in the estuary which had to be cancelled due to a gale warning and the general bad weather.  The absence of the Celtic Mist, stranded in Wexford by gales all week, and of the Navy, had already put a big hole in this part of our plans.

As I passed the Monastery, Edel Glynn was coming from mass (also for her mother-in-law's fourth anniversary, as well as for the famine victims) and wanted to bring me in out of the rain, but I wanted to be out in it!

Next task was to visit Supervalu for another copy of the Clare Champion for Patricia Zanini, whose presence in the diplomatic delegation was reported in it; for two plastic bags to keep dry the various things I had to give to Patricia and to Mary Troy; and for a pack of tissues, in case I needed them to keep my spectacles dry throughout the day.

By now the stewards were in place and crowds were beginning to gather. Morgan Roughan and Rebekah Comerford were on stewarding duty together outside Supervalu, well wrapped up in waterproof gear and high-vis jackets and umbrellas.  Pat Cusack and Brian Sheehan, both home from Dublin, arrived as I was chatting to them.  Morgan has multiple careers - eircom employee in Limerick; genealogy student; volunteer sound technician in the Teach Ceoil; and professional singer.  I'd seen his gig advertised in Igoe's window in Doonbeg for 11pm the day before, but suddenly realised that I was in Igoe's at 11pm and there was no sign of him --- he was so absorbed in Famine Commemoration that he got his dates confused and forgot all about it until he got a phone call reminding him at 11:05pm!

Mary Rose Counihan was stewarding further up the street in a clear plastic waterproof poncho.  I discovered that she had a pocket full of these and she gave me one in case I needed it later.

I spotted Patricia and Maurizio Zanini walking in front of me as I headed back up Frances Street towards Market Square again, and hollered at them.  They waited in their chauffeur-driven car outside Crottys as I ran round the corner to my own car in Henry Street and then to get Paul O'Brien from the Buttermarket (where I also met Kay and Arthur Caball, entertaining a great great granddaughter of Ellen Powell - one of the Earl Grey 'Orphans' from Killarney Workhouse - who later said that she was 'overwhelmed' by the day).

In gratitude for the Zaninis' recent hospitality to us at a Tuscan Evening in Lucan House, Paul and I gave her two Clare history books which mentioned her Kilrush relatives - Sr. Pius's history of the Convent of Mercy, as Patricia's greatgreatgrandfather Daniel Scanlan Bulger was on the convent committee in the 1850s; and Tom Burnell's book on the Clare War Dead, which lists her greatuncle José Laurent Tinchant who was killed in the Belgian Army in 1915, when his grandmother Mrs Bulger was still living in Lisdoonvarna.

The crowd was really beginning to gather at this stage, and we took photos outside Crotty's with Michael O'Connell (I'm sure it's the first time I ever saw him in a suit and tie, and probably the first time he saw me in a suit and tie), John Pierse from Listowel, Ciarán Dalton from Ardfert (who went missing for a while, trying to buy a pair of waterproof leggings), Patricia McCarthy from Shannon, Clara Hoyne and John Bradley from Clare Roots Society, Pat Daly (Mayor of Clare), Ger Dollard (Ennis Town Manager), Nick Reddan, Michelle Shannon (Raidió Corca Baiscinn), Seán Sexton, etc.  The rain finally began to ease off at this stage.

Then it was time to present our invitations to Mary Rose for checking and look for the row of seats reserved for Famine Commemoration Committee, which we had been advised included both the National and local committees.  We were immediately behind the diplomatic contingent.  Mary Troy (against her doctor's advice) and her granddaughter Abbie were among the first to be seated in unreserved seats, so I went over and gave Mary the copy of Matt Lynch's book which she had asked for.

Rene Franklin and Congella McGuire were worried about getting all their finery soaked and were very impressed that I was able to run off (as far as Mary Rose who had just checked our tickets) and be back in a few seconds with two plastic ponchos for them.  I dried a chair with one of the rags provided and sat between Rene and Paul.  Someone with connections to the National committee sitting on Paul's other side later told him that she had attended all four previous National Commemorations, but that this was the first one which moved her to tears.

Miriam Scahill and Nick Reddan thought more carefully about where to sit and had relatively unimpeded views from aisle seats on my left.  Several heavy showers blew through during proceedings, causing a forest of umbrellas to go up, completely blocking any view that I had of the stage.  Paul and Nick and I probably had better views standing behind the barriers at Drogheda had last year than what I had this year!  There were numerous photographers running around also blocking our views, ranging from John Kelly of the Clare Champion to Arthur Ellis, the Department's official photographer, to RTÉ cameramen.  Mary Kennedy of RTÉ (presumably no relation to Captain Kennedy) did various pieces to camera for Nationwide while different parts of the ceremony went on behind her.

Niamh McNamara from Clare FM, who were broadcasting the whole event live, phoned me just before things got underway and asked me to come up to the stage and say a few words live on air to John Cooke.  The two Mayors and Siobhan Garvey and John Corry were also queuing up to talk to him.

To our pleasant surprise, one of the new RTÉ channels was also broadcasting live on TV.  I learned later that word of this spread around the west Clare grapevine, but unfortunately we weren't advised to announce it in advance on either facebook or website.

I couldn't help glancing back and forth from the row of old cornstores on my right (Behan's, Foley's and Kelly's), all formerly used as Auxiliary Workhouses, to the stage on the left.  The staff of Supervalu had the best view, as they (apart from the Mayor, who was off duty and sitting in the front row!) were able to get out on the roof of their building.

Behan's Store (nearest camera), Foley's Store and Kelly's Store, all used as Auxiliary Workhouses during the Great Famine, alongside the stage at the National Famine Commemoration 2013.

I'm not going to try to name all those who attended.  There were widely varying estimates of the total attendance.  From where I was sitting I had no view of those at the back standing and watching on a big screen.  P J Murrihy estimated the crowd watching him sing the West Clare Famine Song at 4,000, but others said perhaps 3,000.

Minister Deenihan was the first to be escorted to the stage, followed by President Higgins.  After Minister Deenihan's welcome, P J Murrihy took to the stage.  I'd heard the West Clare Famine Song many times, either performed by iPod and speaker or (at Cammoge and at the Churchyard rededication on Saturday) by P J accompanying himself on guitar, while I held the microphone. For his big day, he had three accompanists, on accordion, mandolin and harp.

The two Mayors then read the extracts from the Illustrated London News that I had selected for them months ago.  Mairead had been rehearsing hers about scalps and scalpeens since day 1, but Pat Daly told her when he arrived that he hadn't read his piece about Miss Kennedy at all!  I'm sorry I didn't know in time about the Mary McMahon soliloquy which would have been much more suitable.

Ciarán Ó Murchadha read beautifully as Gaeilge.

Crack'd Spoon Theatre Company was undoubtedly up to its usual standard, and seemed to move the Higginses to tears, but from where I was sitting I couldn't see what was happening.

Prayers by Jewish, Christian and Islamic representatives followed.  The latter read from the Koran in Arabic, the only part of the ceremony which I didn't understand.  The Christian churches were represented by the Catholic and Anglican bishops (Kieran O'Reilly and Trevor Williams respectively) and by Vicky Lynch again.

Around this stage an almighty gust of wind blew the accumulated rainwater from the roof of the stage down on top of whoever was unfortunate enough to be standing beside it!

Assumpta Kennedy sang Lone Shanakyle as beautifully as ever.

The dance piece performed in the rain by Banner Productions under the direction of Jenny Bassett was the only part of the ceremony that was really new to me, not having been performed either in Drogheda last year or anywhere else during the local commemorations.

Then it was time for a fine speech by Michael D. Higgins, who struck exactly the right note.

After his speech, he left the stage to plant a tree in a ceremonial pot, to unveil Paddy Murray's sculpture, and to lay the first of a number of wreaths, followed by 36 ambassadors or other diplomatic representatives.  The office of U.S. Ambassador to Ireland is currently vacant, but there was a U.S. representative present.  Well over 40 ambassadors had originally accepted invitations, but some cancelled later.

As the shivering crowd made their way to Foley's Store and the new Quay Mills foyer for some welcome heat and tea and biscuits, to which everyone was invited, work was already beginning on disassembling the stage and clearing the street.

The reaction to the afternoon's events was overwhelmingly positive. Cillian Murphy was almost lost for words as we made our way into Foley's Store together.  He introduced me again to his wife Mary Redmond, who was unaware when he had our little chat about soup kitchen recipes away back at the start of the week that we are fourth cousins once removed and that the Waldron family stayed with their cousins in Pink Lodge in Kilkee from at least as early as 1916, long before it became the Strand Hotel, as it was when Mary's mother was growing up there.

Simon Berrow, of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and the Celtic Mist, whom I hadn't met before, came over to congratulate me on my contribution to the organisation of the event.  I learned from him that his crew member on the Celtic Mist and my second cousin and namesake Padraic de Bhaldraithe is godfather to one of the President's children!  I knew they were friendly, but only since I saw Padraic sitting in the front row in Dublin Castle for Michael D's inauguration.

I didn't go into the foyer, where Seisiún na hÓige performed traditional music, accompanied by the Browne boys, to their mother's obvious delight.  The President eventually began to make his way through the crowd in the Foley's Store side of the complex, where I had a few words with him about our mutual acquaintance, Padraic eile.  Later, his handlers moved him into the corner for an impromptu press conference with Peter O'Connell of the Clare Champion and other representatives of local and national media.  Meanwhile, the local steering committee were lined up against the wall nearby and shot by a large group of photographers, nobody prepared to move until the President and his wife eventually got away from the pressmen and into the photograph.  I gave Clara my camera, but the battery, recharged the night before, was worn out after 176 photos, so I have to rely on others for pictures of myself with the President and on my memory for what happened afterwards.

Mary Troy phoned me on Monday, delighted that herself and Abbie had been photographed by Josephine Glynn with Michael D., but very anxious to get a phone number for Josephine so that she could ask for a copy of the photograph.

Some people skipped the reception.  Larry Brennan had left his mobile phone on the seat of his car and was terrified that it would attract the attention of thieves.   Terry Fitzgerald and Laura Danielson were so cold and in need of a break that they ended up back at Crotty's for an early dinner.  Jimmy Deenihan had another engagement in Killimer at 6pm, so if he came in he didn't stay long.

Eventually the tea (in paper cups) and biscuits ran out and people began to disperse until only the committee and their family members and a few more hard core followers like Nick Reddan and Clara Hoyne were left. Randal Counihan had brought a couple of floral arrangements which were not sufficiently wind-proof to be put on the stage, but were in the foyer with two armchairs between them, where Mairead sat and was photographed with various men, not including her camera-shy husband.  On the way up Frances Street, she was secretly photographed from behind linking arms with Paul.  There were rumours that they had acted out a Romeo and Juliet scene on the town hall balcony after the Hermitage Green concert the night before.  They had certainly toured the whole town hall trying in vain to find the light switches before locking up.

The decision was finally made that we would go for something to eat in the Haven Arms, the best equipped place in Kilrush for catering for large groups.  On the way, we passed and congratulated the street cleaner who had the town looking spotless again.  He had missed one of the laminated `Reserved' notices from Frances Street, which I instead retrieved for Rene's archive of the week.  The group who ended up in the Haven included lots of O'Briens, some related, some not (Mairead, Stephen, David, Andrew, Paul and Ann); also Dickie Burke, Rene, Congella, Dolores Hamill, Clara, Randal and Mary Rose, Michael, myself and maybe one or two others.
  People were getting a little silly by the time dessert came around and I was criticised for being prepared to eat a knickerbocker glory (described on the menu merely as `selection of ice-cream') but not being prepared to enter the knicker-hanging competition during the family fun day.

The hard core moved on to Crotty's, where we began to sort out each other's future lives.  Having done everything voluntarily this year, we discussed the consulting fees which we might charge for organising next year's event in Connacht.  Paul O'Brien wants Rene's job as Clare County Archivist.  Rene misses Dublin where she studied at UCD but can't afford to live there.  I have inherited a house and an archive in Dublin and need a tenant and an archivist, so I offered Rene both roles, so that I can eventually sell up and buy a place in the west.  The consensus was that Kilrush House would be the ideal place to house my books and bookcases, but Paul dissented, as he expects the Glynns to give the house to him in gratitude when he finishes his PhD and book on the Glynn history!

I finally had a proper chat with the Fitzgerald sisters, who packed so much genealogy and famine into their week in Kilrush and were not looking forward to flying back to Seattle the following morning.  We plotted how best to share their Famine Commemoration experiences with their mother, who has Alzheimer's, hates flying, is desperate to return home to Kilrush, doesn't know that they've been here without her, doesn't remember that she had three stents in her heart a few weeks ago, but can still sing the Irish National Anthem as Gaeilge in its entirety.  They were hoping that they would be able to find some footage of the day on the internet to show her, but footage in which they would not appear!  We did not consider the very real possibility, suggested by some on our facebook page, that RTÉ not be to available to an elderly and ill Kilrush woman just because she is in the U.S.

When I realised that it was after 11pm, I decided that politeness demanded that I return to my hosts in Doonbeg, so I left Paul in the company of five good-looking women - Rene, Mairead, Dolores H, Terry and Laura - and headed off, ready to sleep for a week.

I didn't even think about turning on my laptop when I got in, but Paddy and Dolores Murrihy still kept me up chatting until nearly 2am.

Thank you to all who have followed this blog over the past 10 days, and even to those who have suggested that I should continue, although the Famine Commemoration has now drawn to a close.  I hope I haven't unintentionally libelled anyone or invaded anyone's privacy.

Thanks especially to the hundreds of people who have helped out in hundreds of ways over the last ten days since we got underway in Carrigaholt; over the last four months since Kilrush was announced as the venue; and over the last sixteen months since I dropped a tiny pebble into the ocean that is facebook, a pebble which has sent out ripples far bigger and wider than I ever could have anticipated:

Reposted in part here for non Facebook Users...

The National Famine Commemoration is held in a different location every year. I just read that the 2012 event will be held in Drogheda. Wouldn't Kilrush be an ideal location for the 2013 event, given how well the impact of the famine in the Kilrush Poor Law Union has been documented by Captain Kennedy at the time and by present-day writers such as Ciarán Ó Murchadha and the late Ignatius Murphy?

Over and out.


More photos available at 

EDITOR'S NOTE: I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Paddy Waldron for agreeing to be Guest Blogger during the National Famine Commemoration in Kilrush, 2013. I don't think either of us knew just how big an ask this was to be... or how much time it would take for both of us in putting this series together. Paddy has created a series that will be of great interest for many years to come.. by detailing the events, the places and the names of so many involved...a genealogist's treasure chest.

 Paddy has the knack of taking us all on this wonderful adventure with him... I had been invited to attend in my capacity as a fellow member of the Clare Roots Society Committee, but was unable to accept due to family commitments. However, thanks to Paddy, I feel I have been there in the next best way.

 If, like me, you appreciate being able to be there virtually, please leave your comments below.

Thank you to each and every one who has been involved in this great event in whatever capacity. This is definitely part of living history.

To complete this series, I am asking anyone who was there if they would like to share their photos, their summaries, their feelings so that we can all enjoy them. I will create a dedicated page for the Commemoration with links to Paddy's series of posts.

 You can contact me via Facebook, or email at the address given in the About Me column. 

Thank you.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


I'm writing this back at home in Killaloe after a great 10 days and 10 nights in west Clare, even though the trip began and ended with two funerals.  It's a bit like the `is there life after the Leaving Cert?' syndrome, except this time there are lots of other things from property taxes to potential publications that I have been putting off while my life was consumed of late by famine commemoration.

On Saturday morning, I would love to have done the 15km Kilkee Famine Commemorative Cliff Walk led by Conradh na Gaeilge, Kilkee, commencing at the Bandstand, Strand Line, Kilkee, via the cliff road to Goleen and back to Kilkee via the upper Moveen road.  This was the reverse of the route that we took after lunch on the bus tour on Thursday, along the road constructed as part of a Famine Relief Scheme in 1846.

There were two reasons that I couldn't do it: (a) I'd been up until 3:47am, when I sent Chris the latest instalment of this blog and (b) I was required at Kilrush Churchyard for noon to prepare for the re-dedication ceremony at 1pm and wasn't guaranteed to get back in time if I went to Kilkee.  Michael O'Connell managed to take in both events, but was very late for the re-dedication.

I had time for a quick breakfast in Doonmore before I set out for Kilrush.

For Kay Clancy, who has spent so much time working in the Churchyard since she retired almost two years ago, the rededication was always going to be the highlight of the week.  I too had been involved with the Churchyard for almost as long as with the Famine Commemoration, but unlike Kay I don't live just round the corner and can't be there anywhere near as often.

Those buried in family vaults in the Churchyard include my grandmother's great friends Rose and Flo Clancy of Moore Street.  They died just a few years before I was born, but their memory is not yet preserved in the inscription on the family vault, which has never been updated.  At least their memory is preserved in a collection of about 60 years of weekly or fortnightly letters from Flo to my grandmother, which are in the Waldron archive.  My father's efforts to visit the Clancy grave over many years were thwarted by the fact that the Churchyard was either locked or overgrown or both.  Thankfully, neither of these is any longer a problem.

Paul O'Brien phoned me at 11:31, from Kay Clancy's phone this time, to say he'd been up half the night putting together a slide show of before and after photographs of the churchyard and wanted me to bring my laptop to display it.  Unfortunately, under Control Panel, Power Options, Choose when to turn off the display, in the Turn off the display row and Plugged in column, I had selected "10 minutes" from the dropdown menu instead of Never, and so the slide show kept going off every 10 minutes.  Back in the quiet of my own office, it took me only a couple of minutes to find that setting, just as obvious as everything in Microsoft Windows (at least to those of us who appreciate that Microsoft's philosophy is less `the obvious gains many marks' and more `to stop, click start'!).  In front of 150 people, I assumed that the problem had to do with `Screen saver' rather than `Power options'; similar ideas, but poles apart in Microsoft-speak.  If Pat Cusack of Microsoft hadn't been delayed by his uncle's funeral, no doubt he would have rescued the situation!

Paul and Kay had pretty much everything else under control when I got to the Churchyard.  After all the rain during the week, there was surface water lying on parts of the Churchyard, so the decision had been made to hold the main part of the event indoors.  The rededication was part of The Gathering Ireland 2013 calendar of events compiled last November, but we were able to bring it forward by a week when the Famine Commemoration date was announced two months later - another case of the right hand (Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) not knowing what the left hand (Transport, Tourism and Sport) is doing in the Irish Government. Thanks to Gathering funding, we were able to get Noel Ryan, Phil and helpers to lay on light refreshments.

Not for the first time this week, we found ourself with an audience of over 100 ready and waiting in the Teach Ceoil to listen to a speaker who had not yet arrived, or in this case to four speakers of whom only three had arrived.  The latecomer, who shall remain nameless, appeared just in time.  Paul O'Brien got things underway by thanking the long list of people who contributed time, materials, labour and/or funds to the restoration fund.  Then he introduced representatives of four religious denominations who contributed in turn to the ecumenical prayer service: Rev. Bob Hanna of St. Columba's Church of Ireland in Ennis; Fr. Michael Sheedy, Parish Priest of Kilrush; Rev. Vickie Lynch of Christ Church Methodist/Presbyterian Church in Limerick (who had hosted a great genealogy day back in March at which there was a big attendance from Kilrush); and Mary Hamilton, a local member of the Pentecostal Church (Eaglais na Cincíse).  Mary's talk, based on Ezekiel 37:1-14
(The Valley of Dry Bones), made a big impression, at least on Terry Fitzgerald.

From Terry:

One of the most powerful things I heard today during the Church of Ireland re-dedication. A woman spoke of the famine plot in the old Shanakyle cemetery and seeing old bones there as a child. During our Famine Commemoration activities, a prayer service was held and this passage from Ezekiel came to her mind. She read it to us today, and spoke of us being the flesh to those old dry bones. Very, very moving.

Ezekiel 37:1-14
The Valley of Dry Bones

Editor's Note: For the full text please see the notes at the end of this post... you can't help but be moved by these words...

We also asked John Masterson, who had come all the way from Toronto to attend the Commemoration, to say a little bit about his research into Famine emigration through Grosse Ile, and in particular about the Aerial, one of the few ships to arrive in Canada with all passengers in good health, and the only one listed as coming from Kilrush.  It was owned by William Blair, whose family vault is one of the finest monuments in the Churchyard.  After Foley's Store ceased to be an Auxiliary Workhouse, it was leased from Peter Foley by William Blair, who was listed as occupier in Griffith's Valuation in 1855.  We would love to know where William Blair went after the auction of his Kilrush residence, Cappa House, in September 1878.  His widow appears in Morehampton Road in Dublin in the 1901 census.  Neither of their names appears on the vault, which has inscriptions to the memory of her mother and of their son and granddaughter.  John ended his talk by presenting two volumes on emigration to Canada to me on behalf of the Kilrush & District Historical Society.

Dolores Hamill continued in her role as concert promoter by arranging for the young Browne brothers (Colm, Liam and Seán) who had played at Cammoge on Monday to perform again, and even joining them on stage herself.  They were expected to play at a family month's mind mass immediately afterwards, but were happy to squeeze in both events.  We got our signals crossed and in my role as MC I tried to send them on their way to their next appointment before they were finished.

After the prayer service, we went outside for a ribbon-cutting and unveiling ceremony at the new prayer garden on the site of the Famine soup kitchen.  I had to hold the portable microphone, so couldn't take photos.  James Hall and Colm Hayes cut the ribbon, and Tommy Scully and a representative of the family of the late Seán Danagher did the unveiling of plaque and cross (donated by Michael Cusack) and wreath-laying.  Dolores Murrihy immediately asked for the loan of Kay's curtain for the unveiling of a plaque in Doonbeg later in the day.  I think we're still looking for Carmel Buggle's curtain which was used for unveilings earlier in the week.

Joe O'Connor greeted me with words along the lines of `fancy meeting you in another graveyard', obviously not realising quite how many graveyards I frequent in a typical week, let alone this week, and leaving me at a loss as to which one I knew him from.  Several hours later, I remembered: Lisdeen, Day 1!

Martha and John Howard (undertakers) came along to honour the memory of Martha's Bradley relatives, among those buried in the Churchyard. Martha apologised that she would have to miss Sunday's big event because of a funeral.  I was very sorry to hear from her of the death of Seán King of Kildeema, formerly the residence of several generations of my Blackall relatives.  Seán and I appeared on a Léargas programme about the Blackall sisters several years ago, filmed at Kildeema.  At the age of 93, he came in on Friday morning after feeding the calves, told his wife of 63 years that he didn't feel well, lay down and died.  A great way to go.  Some of those who attended the Famine Commemoration event in Moyasta on Friday reported seeing ambulance vehicles speeding westward towards Kildeema, but it was to no avail.  May he rest in peace.

Indeed, there is a Famine connection with Kildeema, as the Limerick Reporter of Friday evening 11 Jun 1847 announced the death `At Kildimo [sic] House, Co. Clare, in the 25th year of his age, of a protracted illness, after a violent fever which he caught among the poor to whom he devoted the most part of his time attending to their wants, George, eldest son of Henry Blackall, Esq., sincerely and deservedly regretted by all who knew him.'  John M'Mahon Blackhall, Esq, Killard and his brother Henry Blackhall, Esq, Kildrina [sic] House moved or seconded resolutions at a meeting of the united parishes of Kilfera and Killard to investigate what Public Works might be most advisable in a season of threatened starvation towards the start of the Great Famine.

On the other hand, Captain Kennedy reports the details of eight families turned out by Summary Eviction of the Lands of Ballard, Parish of Killard, Property of John and Henry Blackall
http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/kr_evictions/kr_evictions_enclosure16.htm ).

I passed on the sad news about Seán King to Paddy Murrihy, who tried to pass it on to his wife, who instead formed the impression that Seán was in attendance, and was consequently more shocked when she realised the truth later in the day.

The crowd of well over 100 for the re-dedication made short work of the food (my second meal of the day) and after it ran out I proposed going outside again to demonstrate the talcum powder trick for highlighting the great collection of gravestone art hidden in the Churchyard.  This had been such a big hit at Cill na gCailleach during the bus tour on Wednesday that it caused a run on talc in Supervalu when we got back to Kilrush.

I thought it would have been appropriate to ask Assumpta Kennedy to sing Lone Shanakyle at the grave of its composer, but didn't want to impose on her yet again.  I noticed that she and a few others loitered at the grave as Paul directed the rest of the group to another grave with unique carvings, but it was only when I checked facebook later that I discovered that that great fan of all traditional singers Joe O'Connor, had a special moment when he invited Assumpta Madigan Kennedy to sing her great great grandfather's song, as they stood at his graveside.

My camera battery and my talc and Kay's talc all ran out at this stage.  Between the Teach Ceoil, the hot dog van in the Market Square and the Murrihy's kitchen, I managed to get the camera re-charged in time for the Doonbeg commemoration later on.

Afterwards, Bob Hanna confirmed that the Church of Ireland building, like the present Catholic Church on the other side of town and the original pre-reformation church in the Churchyard, was dedicated to St. Senan.  Lewis in 1837 wrote: "The church, a large edifice with an embattled tower crowned with pinnacles, towards the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £1500, was built in 1813, near the site of the ancient church, of which the ruins form an interesting and picturesque appendage: it contains a well-executed mural tablet to the late Mr. Vandeleur, and has been lately repaired by a grant of £121 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners."  He makes no mention of the dedication to Senan.  Bob headed back to Ennis briefly, but promised that we would see him again at Doonbeg in the evening.

Paul and I and Michael O'Connell set the Teach Ceoil up for Evelyn Conlon's evening lecture and reading while Phil cleared up in the kitchen.  After all our trouble setting up the Council's laptop and projector, Evelyn never used them.

Then we headed up town to join Mairead O'Brien at the Family Survival Celebration Day which she had organised.  Mairead and Mary Rose Counihan begged Michael and myself to enter the knicker-hanging competition, but we refused - inappropriate at any time, let alone as part of a solemn week of commemoration! Michael did buy me a hot dog (my third meal of the day).

As I strolled down Frances Street to buy my Irish Field in Supervalu, there were still two houses getting a last minute coat of fresh paint, despite rumours that all shops in Kilrush had sold out of paint.  Brian Comerford reported seven painters on ladders in Frances Street at one stage on Friday, and Congella McGuire reported six houses still being painted when she arrived in town at 6pm on Friday for Edel O'Brien's concert.

I eventually got going for Doonbeg, having circled around a few times checking whether Michael was ready for a lift, and whether Mairead could spare a few hi-vis jackets for walk stewards.

John Masterson was driving past me in the opposite direction as I turned into the driveway in Doonmore.  He had missed the oft-repeated announcements that the start time of the Doonbeg commemoration had been postponed from 5pm in the original printed programme to 6:45pm, as shown on the up-to-date website. So had Tony and Mary Cassidy, who spotted me getting my laptop out of my car (to post another reminder on facebook) as they too drove back from Killard. They had hit the road only in spots after decided at 4:20pm to come from Ennis.  I invited them in and we had tea and cake and tart (my fourth meal of the day) before heading for the Hill of Killard.

I brought the Thomond Society PA system and put the Clare Roots Society PA system in the Murrihys' car, which Dolores was driving to the Doonbeg end of the walk, hoping to cover all eventualities.  Paddy Murrihy had barely started his introductions when the PA went down and trying all three speaker batteries and both microphone batteries failed to rectify the situation, so we gave up and left the gear in the boot of my car.

Noel and Tommy O'Brien had also come out at 5pm to film the event, but hung around and waited for us.

Rob Hopkins and the Crack'd Spoon Theatre Company were also on hand, to perform re-enactments related to the habitation under the bridge in Doonbeg, as described in the Illustrated London News.  I captured what is certainly my favourite from among the 547 pictures taken with my camera during the week:

Facebook photos

The sun shone for the easy walk from the Hill of Killard to Doonbeg Bridge which almost 30 people completed.  For Michael O'Connell, it was just a little footnote to the morning walk from Kilkee to Goleen and back.  There were brief stops for prayers and silent reflection at the three cemeteries along the route - Killard, Doonmore and Doonbeg, probably the only three adjoining townlands I know of each with its own cemetery.  We were expecting at least one member of the clergy on the walk, but the local clergy were detained saying regular Saturday evening masses, and Bob Hanna got confused by all the time changes and didn't reappear until we reached the church.

Dolores Murrihy appeared at Doonmore Cemetery with the backup PA system.

Crack'd Spoon Theatre Company took the long way round by Baltard School and were waiting for us at the bridge, where Judy O'Donnell took refuge after the eviction re-enacted at the Hill of Killard.  Whereas on Thursday and Saturday we had Mary Ryan's permission to approach the habitation under the bridge through her field, in 1849 Judy O'Donnel feared prosecution for trespass and had to use a ladder to access her habitation.  Francis O'Dea had constructed a replica of the ladder shown in the ILN sketch to add realism to the re-enactment.

As an O'Donnell by birth, Dolores Murrihy was chosen to unveil the plaque for the bridge in a temporary location in the riverside park, where Fr. Joe Haugh also said a prayer.  Mary Blake emerged from her house across the road for this part of the proceedings.

Next, there was a very appropriate ecumenical service in the church, conducted by Fr. Gerry Kenny, P.P., his assistant Fr. Joe Haugh, and Rev. Bob Hanna.  By now the numbers had more than doubled since the end of the walk.  The Mary McMahon soliloquy was read for the fourth time during the week, and again moved those present - Mary (Chambers) Egan read it at the Doonbeg schools mass on the first day; Ciara Comerford read it during her father's play on Sunday; the late Cissie Roughan had read it in Brian Comerford's radio play; and now it was the turn of Marie Shanahan, who was just as good as any of the others. Thanks to Ciara for the words:

I am Mary McMahon. Mary McMahon, Chapel Street. Mother of the dead child, Brian. Up to two years ago we were tenants at Tullabrack, on Mr. Westby's property, but two years ago, the houses were tumbled and we had to take to the road. I was part of my time since begging about the world. That was the hardest part of my time. The McMahons were never beggars. I stopped at John McDonnell's in Ballyurra for a while. Then I went into the Workhouse. I was three weeks in the Poorhouse. I left the Poorhouse the Friday before Christmas. I left of my own accord but the child, Brian, was sick. I left him there until he got better. Then I brought him out of the Poorhouse Hospital. The child was delicate Sir. I got outdoor relief last Thursday. Two stone three quarters of meal. My family was myself, my husband and five children. We had about five pounds of meal daily for seven in family. Five pounds between seven of us. It wouldn't answer any more for me Sir. I never made any use of the meal but for food, except for a half stone I sold to pay the week's rent. I got fippence for the half stone, I gave thruppence to pay the rent, and the other tuppence to buy milk for my sick children. I sold a can I had for tuppence hapenny and I pawned my husband's coat for two shillings. There was yellow meal in the house the day the child died, but he could not eat it. Why did I not report the child's death to the Police? I couldn't sir. I was not able to go out. Myself, my husband and family were so weak and exhausted we could not leave the house. It was the want of food caused all our sickness. What day was it the child died? What day Sir? The days are long for the hungry Sir. I can't remember exactly. Four, maybe five days ago. The child was as fine a child as could be seen.

Murt McInerney, rumours of whose death have proved to be greatly exaggerated, read a poem.

The gifts presented in the course of the service, and the sacred space in which they were displayed on the altar, were most appropriate, particularly the basket of crosses inscribed with the names of those recorded as having died or been evicted during the Famine.  Mairead O'Brien has stressed over and over again that the names recorded in Captain Kennedy's reports and in the Workhouse records are our names, the same surnames that are prevalent in the former Kilrush Union today, the surnames of our own relatives and friends.

I didn't appreciate that the whole display was disassembled immediately afterwards and transferred to the boot of Helen Crowley's for re-assembly in Kilrush Church for the Famine Mass there the following morning.

From the church, we moved on to Halla an Phobail for tea and biscuits (my fifth meal of the day).  The application video was being played while we ate, thankfully without sound, as I can't bear to listen to my voiceover any more.  Then Kieran Fitzpatrick gave a brief lecture about the impact of the famine in Doonbeg parish and Kilrush Union.

I got to meet many Doonbeg people that I had not met since Doonbeg invented the concept of The Gathering with a parish reunion back in the mid-1990s, or had never met at all.  My second cousins once removed Anna Roche and Sr. Margaret Roche had come to Killard for the afternoon and stayed on when they learned what was planned.  It was the first time I met J. J. Downes.  I knew I was supposed to talk to him about some aspect of family history, on the recommendation of Matthew Breene, but as it wasn't Famine-related, I've forgotten exactly what I was supposed to ask him.  Murt McInerney began his conversation with me by asking `Did you hear I was dead?' and we had a good laugh about the false alarm of earlier in the week.

My sixth meal of the day was 7Up, sandwiches, chips and sausages from Caroline Kennedy in Igoe's with the Murrihys, the Cassidys and Bob Hanna.  Others who were due to join us fell by the wayside.  By now it was after 10pm, so we missed the opportunity to hear live what Donncha Ó Dulaing said on his weekly Fáilte Isteach programme about his visit to Cammoge on Monday.  I'm listening back as I type at


He managed to name-check almost as many of those at Cammoge and elsewhere on Monday as I have done in this blog.

Paddy Murrihy drove the Cassidys to their car in Doonmore and me to mine in Killard.  When we eventually got back to the house, we tested the Thomond Society PA system, which was working again.

By 1:45am, I had finished Friday's blog instalment and sent it off to Chris and after transferring a few day's photos to my laptop I was ready for bed.

The full text

Ezekiel 37:1-14
 The Valley of Dry Bones
37 I felt the powerful presence of the Lord, and his spirit took me and set me down in a valley where the ground was covered with bones. 2 He led me all around the valley, and I could see that there were very many bones and that they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?”
I replied, “Sovereign Lord, only you can answer that!”
4 He said, “Prophesy to the bones. Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the Lord. 5 Tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them: I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life. 6 I will give you sinews and muscles, and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you and bring you back to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I had been told. While I was speaking, I heard a rattling noise, and the bones began to join together. 8 While I watched, the bones were covered with sinews and muscles, and then with skin. But there was no breath in the bodies.
9 God said to me, “Mortal man, prophesy to the wind.[a] Tell the wind that the Sovereign Lord commands it to come from every direction, to breathe into these dead bodies, and to bring them back to life.”
10 So I prophesied as I had been told. Breath entered the bodies, and they came to life and stood up. There were enough of them to form an army.
11 God said to me, “Mortal man, the people of Israel are like these bones. They say that they are dried up, without any hope and with no future. 12 So prophesy to my people Israel and tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am going to open their graves. I am going to take them out and bring them back to the land of Israel. 13 When I open the graves where my people are buried and bring them out, they will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land. Then they will know that I am the Lord. I have promised that I would do this—and I will. I, the Lord, have spoken.”

Sunday, 12 May 2013


by Guest Blogger, Paddy Waldron

I've already had an approach from an entrepreneurial local publisher (Larry Brennan) for these daily blogs, so I'd better not fall any further behind even though it's after midnight on Sunday morning as I start this.

Friday looked like an easy day on the printed schedule, with only Labasheeda National School scheduled before 4pm.

After my first proper night's sleep for at least a week, the day began with a phone call from Mary Troy, a faithful attender at historical events throughout west Clare, who has been laid up with a chest infection for almost a fortnight and is very upset that she has missed so much this week.  She asked me to get her a signed copy of Matt Lynch's new book.  Her doctor warned her not to risk a relapse by sitting out in the cold on Sunday afternoon, which upset her even more.  I had the bright idea of asking Brian Comerford, who has been studying the map of Frances Street for Sunday, if he could find her a spot in one of his neighbour's windows, which he very kindly later did, in the middle of his own very busy day (`too busy to join an active retirement group'!).

John Cooke interviewed Minister Jimmy Deenihan and our own Ciarán Ó Murchadha during Morning Focus on Clare FM and both did great interviews.  It's nice that there is so much praise from on high for what we have done in Kilrush.  In the middle of the Minister's interview, Matt Lynch phoned as he had lost Paul O'Brien's phone number: when I told him what I was listening to, he hung up and turned on his own radio.  When he called back, I was also able to pass on Mary Troy's request for his autograph.

Clare FM also brought the sad news of the death of Brendan Carmody from Henry Street, by which several people who have helped out during the week were bereaved. His brother Michael talked about the stained glass windows in the church during Wednesday's walking tour; his niece Mary Cusack acted in Brian Comerford's play on Sunday; and his nephew Pat Cusack has promised to help with a photographic archive of the week.  At least the obsequies in Brendan's adopted town of Roscrea were timed to suit the many Kilrush people travelling west for the weekend.

Dolores Hamill also phoned and asked me to call in to her sister Miriam and herself in Burton Street later.

I observed the national minute's silence at noon sitting on my own at the dining room table in Doonmore.

I was just sitting down to start on Thursday's blog at 12:20pm when Paul, out of mobile phone credit as usual, phoned from his father's mobile to say that one of his old history teachers Mary Fitzpatrick had requested that we come to the secondary school at 1:40pm to say a few words to the 1st, 2nd and 5th years before they set out on their own famine walk around the town.  I didn't think it was right to refuse such a request, so had to drop everything and start preparing for the return of my hosts by clearing my famine office from their kitchen table.

When I got to Kilrush and while waiting for Paul, I scribbled a few notes as to what I thought might be appropriate things to say to an audience of teenagers about the Famine.  Sister Maura stopped on her way to join the school walk to say nice things about what we have done during the week.  It used to be easy to recognise nuns by their religious habits, but now that they dress in civvies it's a little harder.  I've been assured that the Kilrush Sisters of Mercy have been out in force at all our events during the week.

When I met Paul and Mary, they explained that they wanted the pupils to hear something about the Famine associations of the places that they would be passing on their walk, so I had to tear up my hastily prepared notes and speak off the cuff.  I don't think I'd been in a secondary school since I finished my leaving cert 32 years ago.  My audience listened most attentively and hopefully learned something.  I wasn't looking for familiar faces but at least two of the first years had attended lectures in Teach Ceoil during the week: I spotted David O'Brien and I'm sure Luke Clancy was also there.

Mary brought us into the staff room for a quick cup of tea afterwards before she went off to join the walk.  I'd brought a Trócaire box  and Mary wants to take up a collection in the school next week, so we counted out the contents, left the empty box with Mary, and Paul later went off to the bank with the proceeds.

We drove back to Burton Street.  There was nobody in Blunnies, and when I phoned I discovered that Dolores and Miriam were visiting their sister Imelda in the Community Hospital, so I joined Paul and Mairead O'Brien in the Buttermarket across the road while waiting for them to return.  I started up my laptop in the hope of making a start on Thursday's blog, but didn't get very far, as there were various announcements to be made on facebook, such as the fact that the scheduled food fete at 4pm wasn't happening.  Dolores and Miriam joined us to have lunch before we headed back across the street to their house.  Dolores had filled a 4GB memory card in her camera with video footage and stills and asked me to take a copy for the archive.  I was pleasantly surprised to see from her video of the lunchtime event in Moyasta N.S. (a pageant entitled "Famine Memories of Captain Kennedy") that Mary Troy had left her sick bed to attend.  Nobody'll get away with anything in west Clare this week with so many cameras in constant action.  I'd half-forgotten about the Moyasta event, not least because it was inadvertently added to the schedule at 10pm instead of 1pm.  As usual, I had trouble paying for my decaff coffee as I was leaving the Buttermarket, and had to just leave my money in the tips jar.

It was great to sit down for an hour with Miriam and my laptop as she dictated the history of Frances Street.  Larry Brennan takes months to produce one of his books on the streets of Ennis, but I think 24 hours with Miriam and someone who can type as fast as she tells Kilrush history would produce something similar for any street in the town.

Paul came back to Blunnies after going to the bank and the dentist, and we then had to tell Miriam to pause and make a mad dash to his home in Carnanes as his parents had invited me to come to dinner some time during the week, and this was the only free hour in the schedule all week!

After dinner, it was back to the church for a wonderful concert by local soprano Edel O'Brien at 6pm.  Her accompanists had let her down a few days earlier as one of them got a gig in Cuba which clashed.  Luckily Dolores Blunnie is becoming something of a concert promoter and found Michael Hennessy to fill in at very short notice.  After fretting about amplification all week, it was amazing to see what the combination of a powerful human voice and a building with great acoustics can achieve. As I looked around at the huge crowd, I wondered how much might have been raised if this was not a free concert.  As I looked around again, I could see no sign of a Trócaire box, so thought I should lean forward and whisper in Mairead's ear.  She slipped her car keys to Paul beside her and sent him out to fetch it.

There was a slight distraction when one of the candles on the altar caught fire, but a member of the audience made his way to the sacristy and found the implement necessary to quench it just as Fr. Blake arrived with similar intent.

The Céilí with music by Four Courts Céilí Band was already underway in the Market Square as Paul and I made our way to the Teach Ceoil.  We spotted Christine Kinealy walking down Moore Street and picked her up. She gave another great lecture to another full house at 8pm on "Philanthropy during the Great Famine with particular Reference to County Clare."  She has a slightly different style to some of those who lectured earlier in the week, and likes to throw questions out to her audience.  She was very impressed by the gentleman who knew that Polk was president of the U.S. when the Famine began, but disappointed that he didn't know that George Dallas (the slave owner for whom the city in Texas is named) was his vice-president.  She neglected to point out that the city of Talty in Texas, now almost a suburb of Dallas, is named after Michael Talty from Rahaniska, greatuncle of Patrick Talty who has been so helpful this week, and brother of Kathleen Talty whose grave we visited in Cill na gCailleach on Thursday.

It would be impossible to rank the five world-class famine historians who have given our evening lectures this week, each setting a remarkable standard of knowledge and presentation and keeping their audiences spellbound.

We suspended the Trócaire collection for once, and had a bucket collection at the box office instead for Comhaltas, who have made the Teach Ceoil available to us free of charge for events every day during the commemoration.  It raised EUR221.55.

I had to miss the Mass, also at 8pm, at the site of the old Church in Kilfearagh Graveyard, organised by the Friends of Kilfearagh Graveyard Committee, followed by unveiling of a memorial for the victims of the Great Famine and all those buried in Kilfearagh Graveyard.

I left Paul in the Teach Ceoil, setting up with Noel Ryan and Phil, the caterers for the rededication ceremony the following morning, and rushed back to the Market Square, hoping to catch the end of the Chapel Gate Cooraclare Wrenboys' performance, but was just too late.  I've seen them at the all-Ireland Wrenboys' Championship in Listowel and they are great.

Mairead was still tidying up, and sent me off with directions for information about Saturday's events to be posted to facebook.  I asked her to send me on the text and said that I would copy and paste.

Paddy and Dolores Murrihy were back from Belfast when I returned to Doonmore, and wanted to see the photos for the five days that they had missed and hear a blow by blow account, which took until after midnight.

By 1am, there had been no word from Mairead, so I texted her, and found that she was still in Crottys with Paul!

Only then did I manage to start cleaning up the outline of Thursday's tour enough to forward it to Chris for publication on her blog, at the slightly silly hour of 3:47am.

 Editor's Note:  photos to be added...