Thursday 9 May 2013


By Guest Blogger, Paddy Waldron...

This one will be quick as I still have to write tomorrow's blog before I go to bed - i.e. my notes for the bus tour.

Although I didn't get to bed until after sending Chris Tuesday's instalment at 1:56am, I was wide awake before 7am and couldn't get back to sleep.  My first appointment of the day was a live telephone interview with Marian Egan (sitting in for John Cooke) for Morning Focus on Clare FM at 10:05.  I am listening to the rebroadcast as I finish this up. Before then, I'd sorted out with Congella McGuire which Illustrated London News/Clare County Council postcards to print for those travelling on Thursday's bus tour, basically those for the sites that we will be visiting.

The rest of the morning went on writing notes for the bus tour.

I left for Kilrush at 1:15pm and my first task was to get diesel for the car.  It was a pleasure to support Whelan's Garage as Joe has been so helpful all week.  It's also probably the last garage in Ireland to employ a man to fill fuel for customers.  And probably the only one with a shop and a separate office where one pays for fuel separately from groceries.

I went back to Regina House Nursing Home where I unloaded my gear for the afternoon walk and then parked the car outside the Teach Ceoil, to be ready for a quick getaway after the walking tour.  People I don't know keep stopping me in the streets of Kilrush.  The first was one of the local kids who have been playing (messing) outside the Teach Ceoil and wanted to know if I knew `Mr O'Brien', so he's probably one of `Miss O'Brien's' (Paul's sister's) junior infants pupils.  He thought my car was Mr O'Brien's.  I guess the chauffeur doesn't usually own the car! Next person to stop me was Connie Prendeville to congratulate me on how things have gone all week.  Then John Blunnie, just arrived from Leitrim - he seemed to be heading for Blunnie's house, so I guessed it might be him, but he identified me first.  He confirmed that his sisters Miriam and Dolores were both en route to Kilrush, Dolores on her way back after less than 24 hours back home attending to urgent matters at work!

We forgot to build in an opportunity to eat anything more than famine soup in today's programme, so I stopped at the Buttermarket for a quick lunch.  Michael O'Connell was there, and having given my order at the counter I realised that it was his Seattle cousins Terry Fitzgerald and Laura Danielson who were sitting with him.  It proved almost as hard to get a word in with Michael over lunch as on the Cammoge walk.  I did tell Michael about the incredible old photograph of Carrigaholt which came from Kerry and which Paul produced last night.  I think we may keep it for the 2014 KDHS calendar, as it will probably sell us a couple of hundred extra calendars around Carrigaholt!

Once again Anne O'Brien refused to take any money from me for my lunch.  The Buttermarket wont last long if everyone who drops in leaves as little money behind as I do!  The explanation this time was that `the historical society' had paid for my lunch, and I eventually figured out that Paul and Kay had left just before I arrived.  Paul had sent me an e-mail saying they would be there - just after I switched off my computer.

It had been perfect walking weather when I arrived in Kilrush, but it started to rain as we left the Buttermarket.  Terry and Laura didn't realise that the Buttermarket doesn't accept plastic money, so had to go to the bank, while Michael and I walked back to Regina House, where another soup kitchen and Famine Commemoration were in progress.  Rob Hopkins was in charge of entertaining the patients, with a private premiere of the piece which he will be producing during the main ceremony on Sunday.  Space was limited, so I didn't have much of a view, but it was well up to the standard of Carrigaholt on Friday - minus the gunshots, which would probably have frightened a few of the elderly residents to death!

The repeat of our Guided Walking Tour of the Famine Sites of Kilrush was due to start at 3pm.  I was in no hurry to get moving, as the entertainment was still going on in Regina House, and I was waiting for the rainshower to stop, and for various people who had said they would be joining us straight from school.  I recruited two battery carriers (Mary Hester and Terry Fitzgerald), a speaker carrier (Laura Danielson) and, as the shower turned into another deluge instead of stopping, an umbrella carrier (Paul Edson).  Then we had to think of Plan B - large indoor spaces along the planned route.  Apologies to those who opened up the Moneypoint pitch, which we had to skip.  I decided to do a mad dash through the rain to Joe Whelan's Museum, the Youth Centre, St. Senan's Church, Quay Mills and Brian Comerford's former Tourist Office.  Kay Clancy (who also provided the umbrella, which went home with Paul Edson) very kindly went ahead by car with grandnephew Michael Deloughery and checked everywhere would be open and willing to let us in.  There was a `Museum Closed' sign on the door, but we still got into Joe's building!  As my notes and myself got wetter and wetter from one venue to the next, my contributions became less coherent.  Paul announced that he hadn't been in the Youth Centre since his first (and last?) dance with a girl at the age of 13!

In the church, we were blessed to bump into Michael Carmody, who volunteered to give a most erudite talk on the stained glass windows by Harry Clarke et al.  I'd forgotten, if I ever knew, that the windows at either side of Fr. Tim Kelly's statue were presented by his brother Matt and sister, who very helpfully didn't include her name in the inscription.  At least we know from the Mahon v. Kelly court case in 1846 that there were only two sisters, Mary and Anne (Mrs. O'Gorman).

Liam Irwin, who usually gives the lowdown on stained glass on Thomond Society outings, seemed to appreciate listening to another expert doing the job.

When we left the church, Seán O'Brien was deputed to pop into Michael Nolan's office down the road and collect the CD for his talk in Kilkee later on.  He also took over as speaker-carrier as Laura and Terry sought shelter in a car.

The rain eased off briefly, so decided to chance going as far as Paupers' Quay.  On the way there, it was nice to meet Rebekah Ní Comardúin who had some difficult questions about freemasonry in Kilrush which I referred to Paul.  I've got to the age where I am regularly meeting people like Rebekah to whom I can say `I knew your grandfather', in her case Anthony McNamara, who described his state of health for the many years I knew him as `waiting for the bugle call'.  Only at lunch I had been telling his cousins Terry and Laura of the day rural electrification came to Carrigaholt, when Anthony managed to throw a chain across the wires so that nothing happened when whatever dignitary was doing the honours flicked the switch!

At Paupers' Quay, Liam pointed out a misplaced apostrophe in the newly unveiled plaque (Pauper's Quay)!  Not as serious as the 1894 which on another plaque which had to be corrected to 1849 at the last minute.

Richard Glynn could not be found, probably at sea, so we didn't get in to see the original Leadmore Auxiliary Culinary Department plaque. There were a couple of people there (including Rebecca Brew) with new knowledge about the location(s) of Leadmore National School and Russell's Store.  Both the Distillery complex and the Custom House complex seem to have at different times included a Russell's Store and a school.

Last stop was Quay Mills, where we got a sneak preview of the art exhibition by Cindy O'Dell and local schoolchildren due to be launched at 7pm.  Most people decided to call it a day there, and either stay and enjoy the exhibition or head home to get dry.  That allowed me to leave the sound system with Rene Franklin, who wanted it for the launch.  Only two people came as far as Market Square, where I told Brian Comerford that we didn't need his hospitality.  Even Michael O'Connell disappeared, and I forgot that he had asked me for a lift to Kilkee.  He was sitting with Laura and Terry in their car and they misidentified my car and never saw me drive off!  I remembered Michael half-way to Kilkee and around the same time remembered that I still had the spare battery for the microphone and phoned Rene to advise her to buy a backup in Supervalu, which she later needed. As usual, Michael (Ireland's most effective hitchhiker) found another lift to Kilkee.

The reason for the trip to Kilkee was an event about Current Famine in the World at Cultúrlann Sweeney at 5:30pm.  Querrin National School pupils (including my fourth cousin once removed Thomas Clancy) gave a great short presentation about their project Famine in Africa, in particular Malawi.  It took me a minute or two to remember where I had met the man operating the computer, who gave me a big welcome - Jim Whitney, husband of their teacher Geraldine Keating, whom I met at Socks In The Frying Pan at the weekend.  This was followed by Dr. Gerard Downes (Paul's office mate in Mary I) talking about The Politics of Famine: Supply, Deceit and Deprivation.  There were apologies from the Trocaire representative who was due to talk as she is still in Somalia, where she has contracted Dengue fever and was unable to catch her flight home.

Having got Michael Nolan's six scanned PDF images sorted out (two needed to be rotated and all needed to be renamed!), I collected the caption for Maura Egan's painting in Quay Mills of the only grave of a Cammoge victim, at Cill na gCailleach, as the nearest printer to print it was in Kilkee.

Then I made a mad dash from Kilkee to Quay Mills in Kilrush to catch the end of the guided commentary by artist Cindy O'Dell, illustrating her inspiration for the photographic collection Messengers of Yesterday. The collection of images explores the Irish American identity in the historical framework of the famine.  It includes the striking image of the 1849 village of Tullig superimposed on the landscape of Kilcasheen, which has convinced most people who have seen it that the Kilcasheen ruins are the remains of the Tullig ruins.  Cindy is an Associate Professor of Art at DePauw University, Indiana.

Ciarán Ó Murchadha has been Cindy's guide on previous visits to Ireland and was present, so I was able to introduce him to Agnes Flewelling, possibly the nearest living relative of the Michael Roughan whose role in the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Kilrush during the Famine Ciarán is researching.

I had to skip the Clare Archaeological & Historical Society Outing to Ballyhee Cutting also at 7pm.  This is located on the Fergus River which was diverted as a famine relief work at the end of the Famine.  I also had to skip the lecture in the Teach Ceoil at 8pm by Dr. Gerard Moran entitled Scattering the People: the Great Famine and Irish Emigration with particular reference to Co. Clare.

Instead of these, my final engagement of the day was the lecture by Michael Nolan back in Kilkee on Failure of Famine Relief.  There was a surprisingly good turnout from Kilrush among the 40 or so in attendance, including Mairead O'Brien, Brian Comerford and Josephine Glynn, while some Kilkee people went to Gerard Moran, including Padraig de Barra, whom I passed on the road.  There were lots of interesting questions after the lecture, with Gearóid Williams (first cousin to the lecturer and fourth cousin to me) revealing that he holds some very old records of Kilrush Vincent de Paul of which he is treasurer, records which may shed more light on its role during the famine.

I managed to set off the alarm when I got back to Doonmore - probably because I closed the door behind me to keep out the wind and rain before turning it off.

 Editor's Note: Rather than insert photos at this time, may I refer you to this Facebook site...of the Famine Commemoration page...

Below are just a few of Kay Clancy's photos taken on the day... I will have to identify them later on.


  1. Thankyou Paddy for another wonderful report on the happenings there and Chris for passing it on to envious people, like me, here in Australia... :-)
    Cheerio for now, Catherine

  2. Thanks for following this series, Catherine... glad you're enjoying it.


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