Sunday, 5 May 2013


with Guest Blogger, Paddy Waldron...

I spent the morning struggling with facebook and a new version of Fotobounce.  Some of Friday's photos uploaded successfully to

Others uploaded without the name tags or captions that I added offline.  Others have refused to upload at all!  I'll try again tomorrow.

My first appointment of the day was at 11am with Paul O'Brien to plan our guided walking tour of the famine sites in Kilrush.  Paul was up all night with food poisoning after eating chowder but recovered well enough to take part in the day's events.  He and Kay Clancy had already been to the Teach Ceoil to clean up and put out chairs for this afternoon's lecture.

It was 11:30 before we eventually convened in the Buttermarket Café in Burton Street, which has become Famine HQ in recent days and weeks. Many thanks to Cillian Murphy and Mary Redmond and Anne O'Brien for insisting that my coffee and bun were on the house.  Mary was working on a Famine era soup recipe for later in the week: Did `beet' in the recipe refer to sugar beet or beetroot, or was it just a typo for beef?  The consensus was that sugar beet probably didn't come to Ireland until the Irish Sugar Company was established in the 1920s and that the recipe called for beetroot.  A quick google search now reveals that there actually was a sugar beet industry in Ireland just after the famine:

Paul had printed off the latest draft of the article that we are working on for The Other Clare about the workhouse buildings and other famine era sites in Kilrush and I had brought along Paul Gleeson's new edition of "A walking tour of Kilrush" which has a very helpful map of the town.  We quickly put our planned route together.

There were already over a dozen people waiting at the advertised starting point outside Regina House when we arrived just after 12:45. Paul counted an attendance numbering in the 80s later on, by when some of the younger and older participants had dropped by the wayside.  I must thank the Thomond Archaeological and Historical Society for the use of their portable outdoor PA system, and also Connie Corry for carrying the speaker for the duration.  Thomond Society President John Cussen had come by the Shannon Ferry all the way from Newcastle West, and Cindy O'Dell from Indiana was probably the longest traveller.

After some introductory remarks at Regina House, built partly on the site where the main Kilrush Workhouse stood from 1842 to 1936, we had decided to go the Moneypoint sports club premises which command a wonderful view over the workhouse site, the town and the estuary.  One slight hiccup is that we forgot that the gate would be locked!  Most brave participants (including an 81 year old nun!) either climbed or were lifted over a concrete fence, while Kay Clancy and Josephine Glynn kindly went off to borrow the key.  The gate was duly opened just in time for the last half dozen participants to exit without climbing, including myself bringing up the rear.

Numbers were too large to make it practical to make a close examination of the only functional part of the workhouse still standing - the blocked up doorway in the wall used by successive clerks of the union Augustus Warren and Timothy Kelly to make their way to work from their home in the adjoining Broomhill House, previously an auxiliary workhouse.  This doorway leads into the tiny back garden of one of the houses in St. Patrick's Terrace, which was built on the main part of the workhouse site after it was demolished in 1936.

Paul was well enough to come along, look after timekeeping, direct pedestrian traffic, do head counts, take photographs and answer one or two questions, but I did almost all the talking (so that I had no chance to take any photographs myself).  A lot of what I said I have learned from Paul over the last couple of years.  I have learned more from Senan Scanlan's wonderful notes on the history of Kilrush and I was honoured to have him among the audience.

The basic route of the tour was by the Back Road to Paupers Quay, and then by Frances Street, Moore Street, Stewart Street, Factory Lane and Terret Lane to Kilrush Churchyard.  The objective was to see the ten buildings in the town which served at various times as workhouses or auxiliary workhouses, some still standing, some easy to identify, some more problematic.

We detoured to pay a quick visit to the statue of Fr. Tim Kelly, parish priest of Kilrush during the Famine, in St. Senan's Church.  There was an upmarket wedding scheduled for 2:30pm, but we managed to get in and out before guests started to arrive.

Charlie Glynn was on hand to open up what remains of the Leadmore Auxiliary Workhouse, which has also served as a distillery, a national school and a fertilizer factory in its long and chequered history.

I didn't even realise that Assumpta Kennedy (née Madigan) was at the back of the crowd when I stopped at Lillis Travel to talk about her ancestor Thomas (The Poet) Madigan, which picture is now displayed in that window along with the words and music of his best known composition Lone Shanakyle.  Assumpta very kindly took the microphone and sang the song most beautifully again.

We phoned ahead to ask that Críostóir MacCarthaigh's lecture on the impact of the Famine on the Irish language be held off until we arrived at the Teach Cheoil, about five or ten minutes behind schedule.  Some people were disappointed that there wasn't time to go into more detail on the history of the Churchyard and the buildings that it has contained, but there will be more time for that during the rededication ceremony next Saturday.

Críostóir, from the Folklore Department at University College Dublin, but with roots in Tullaher near Kilrush, gave a fascinating lecture on the history of the Irish language in county Clare from the 1700s up to the present day.  About 50 people attended.  I was amazed when Críostóir put up a photograph of Clare's last native Irish speaker, Anraí de Bláca, taken outside his home in Kilbaha with my greatuncle-in-law Gerald Burns and my second cousin-in-law Anraí Ó Braonáin.  I was equally surprised to hear Irish folklore which had been collected from Domhnall Bán Ó Loinsigh of Kilcloher, whose grandchildren were my next-door neighbours during holidays in Carrigaholt.

Meanwhile, Laura Foley Lyons was having another busy day, giving a walking tour in Kilkee at 3:30pm as part of the Famine Commemoration, following her Kilcredaun walk in the morning as part of the Oyster Festival.

After the lecture, it was time for a meal in Crotty's with Paul, Kay Clancy, and Kay's sister and niece who have come over from Birmingham for the commemoration.

The Inis Cathaigh Comhaltas Seisiún was in full swing outside in the Market Square by the time we finished eating.  That was followed by Ennis traditional band Socks In The Frying Pan.  Unfortunately the weather had turned cold and drizzly and miserable by this stage, which kept numbers down.

(Editor's Note... to hear Socks in the Frying Pan  sing another favourite, go to  ) 

I was delighted to meet Linda Culligan Bruce who has come from Wisconsin on another visit to the town that her Culligan and Simmons ancestors left around the time of the Famine.  Pat Joe Culligan has taken her on a tour of the graves of her Culligan ancestors, etc., earlier in the day.  It's great to have a Mayor like Mairead O'Brien who is always willing to whip out her chain of office and step into a photograph to make a visiting tourist like Linda feel like an important guest.

Michael O'Connell returned from the Kilkee walk with a question about the Famine plot in Moyarta Cemetery: Who was the Susan Murray who erected the cross? Picture at

Hopefully Murray Ginnane in New Zealand or someone else reading this will know!

I also met Geraldine Keating, a returned Yank, originally from Carrigaholt (where I knew her family) and now teaching in Querrin.

Tiredness and cold got the better of me, and I returned to my quarters in Doonbeg before Socks in the Frying Pan finished their set.  Their rendition of Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore, another song of emigration, brought back memories of my years in Philadelphia, where I often heard it sung by Mick Moloney and the various groups that he was involved with.


  1. I saw a Famine soup recipe recently in Skibereen Famine Museum that had a quarter pound of beef in two gallons of water, a turnip, a few onions, dripping and salt.
    The lecture sounds fascinating !

  2. You wonder how anyone survived with so little nourishment...


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