Marie Nash


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A sad poem relating to Portumna and the times of the Famine.

Marie Nash


In the gay years of my boyhood
One day I rambled down
Along the crumbling Old Street
of Portumna ancient town

A poor old woman met me,
She was withered lame and grey,
and as she struggled forward
she kept muttering away

I asked her for her history
and the favour of her name
if she was born here about
if not, from whence she came

A ray of light shot from her eyes
Like lightnings vivid flash
as she answered without pausing
Saying my name is Marie Nash

5 Since the gallant sons of Redmond
Burke spread desolation around
very ancestors were reared up here
on a small bit of ground

But as the clansmen of Clanrichard
took part in many a fray.
From the soul at Castlelat
back to Kinsale’s Red Bay.

Bound by the ties of friendship
ah: for a bit of land
They fought against cruel Saxon
At the chieftains dire command.

Poor slaves in a plantation
fierce war dogs on their lease
They killed and fought just as
They would, said poor old Marie Nash

But when the war years were over
Then Clanrichard claimed
that land bought by the blood and sweat
a tribute which he named

For England’s laws gave him that right
to make the tenants at his will
as they improved the stubborn soil
the rent was raised until
at length in my fathers life time
On a cold Novembers Day
the Sheriff stood before the door
and says come quit or pay

None of your whimpering blarney now
Come fork me out the cash
that day they tore out roof – tree down
says poor old Marie Nash

My father and my mother in the
Union workhouse died
They are resting in the new churchyard
their graves are side by side

To uphold the right of England
by Alma’s flashing wave
my noble brother died
I shall never see his grave

Twas not for love of England’s flag
that day of hateful strife
when high on basbians rugged cliff
he risked his limbs for life

Twas hungers pinch made him enlist
Oh God his ache was rash
Twas better for he starved at home
Says poor old Marie Nash

Now after years of work and want
A worn out beggar I
shall enter soon the workhouse
and a paupers death to die

But Darcy Bob and Matthew Burke
and the most noble Ulick John
to answer for their wickedness
before God’s throne are gone

and when the book was opened
they were asked I’m very sure
to explain their noble robberies
and oppressions of the foot

The verdict then recorded
which no earthly court can quash
for Clanrichard had no interest there
says poor old Marie Nash

So lonely now and homeless
are the broad fields of Gortrea
while Claggernagh and Thornfield are desolate as they
undisturbed the graziers bullocks sleep
Mid the ruined walls of Drumscar
altho’ a few homes still survive
midst the hills of Attygar

The older clan is going now
and ah; ’tis almost gone
the emigrant ship and workhouse
and that work too surely done
but on the fearful final day
mid fire and thunders crash
God shall avenge the ruined homes
say poor old Marie Nash

Another Marie Nash tale
When I grew, in our house it was always a test of your pronunciation

Marie Nash had seven asses drawing ashes out of Marie Nashes ash hole.

Say that fast!!!

1914 Disgraceful uproar


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Disgraceful uproar

The scene of uproar that marred the quarterly meeting of the Portumna District Council was, in all conscience, a degrading exhibition. But there is not a right-thinking man in Co. Galway who will not approve of, and back up, the attitude of Mr. Kennedy, the newly-appointed Co. Surveyor.

As the turmoil roared around him, he spoke with quiet emphasis. “Earn your money,” he told the howling contractors, “and you will get it. If you think you can frighten me, you are mistaken. You will not deter me from doing my duty. If you don’t conduct yourself, you will be cleared out.”

It is no credit to our county that a public official is this forced to speak in his own defence, but it is certainly a matter for congratulation that at least we have a public official whom no loud shouting or contemptible threats will dissuade from the straight and honest path of duty.

We earnestly hope that Mr. Kennedy will live up to the reputation he has earned. Our roads are admitted to be the worst in Ireland; and it is by no means certain that the contractors are altogether to blame.

In the past, they have scarcely been taught how to do right and justice by their contracts. The reputation of the county has suffered accordingly, and the work of transit and traffic over out public highways has been rendered a tortuous, and, in some instances, a dangerous proceeding. The matter has attained the dimensions of a great public scandal.

At Portumna District Council, Mr. Moran, Co. Surveyor reported: “Very little work has been done in your district during the quarter.

The gross quantity of material specified for all your roads is approximately 7,040 tons, and out of this amount, about 2,600 tons, or slightly less than 37%, has been laid down.

“With such a deficiency staring us in the face, and at a period of the year most favourable for work of the description, it is out of the question to expect much road improvement in your district, and this is principally the reason why we find bare and rough surfaced roads so plentiful in your district.

“The work of surface cleaning, so essential in bad weather, has been very much neglected in your district. It is astonishing how periodical cleansing helps to preserve a road, especially is such situations where drainage is naturally defective.

“A noticeable feature in the work of road maintenance in your district is the want of skill in doing surface work. For instance, in some cases, we find the high or ridgy portions of the road getting all the material, while the weak and depressed portions are neglected.”

Ulster Planters on the Clanricarde Estate


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 Ulster Planters on the Clanricarde Estate

lynches field

Lynches Field

As a result of Clanricarde’s intransigence, East Galway was a hotbed of land agitation following massive evictions from his estate in 1887. Protestant planter families from the Caven-Leitrim-Fermanagh counties came to the Portumna area during these turbulent years in the 1890s. A schoolhouse was built in the townland of Claggernagh near to the Clanricarde Demense for the education of their children, and its ruin is still visible today. The schoolhouse served as a temporary golf clubhouse when during the War of Independence the original clubhouse was maliciously burned.[1] The presence of these planter families working the land of local evicted tenants always led to many disputes, boycotts and intimidation in the region.

Following a spate of evictions in the summer of 1890, Clanricarde’s agent, Mr Shaw-Tener, began to allocate the vacated farms to Ulster tenants.[2] On 30 September 1890, the Office of National Education sent a memo to Gortanumera school asking ‘what was the cause of the low average attendance’ during the last two quarters as ‘the average required for the 2nd  assistant is 105’.[3] In reply, an inspector wrote that the principal, Ms. Hurley, and Ms. Gohery, the senior assistant, were held in high esteem but that the family of the second assistant, Ms. Broder, had ‘incurred popular resentment by re-taking the farm from which they had been evicted…Children may have been kept from school owing to the feeling against the second assistant.’ Further some of the children were tenants who were recently evicted and were now living in Land League huts in the neighbouring parish of Tynagh, and attending the new national school in Killeen which was also nearer. The Inspector’s conclusion was that the numbers had so declined as to warrant Ms. Broder’s position untenable.

Due to an amendment to the 1907 Evicted Tenants Act, the Estates Commissioners resolved to purchase 4,000 acres of planter-land from Clanricarde to reinstate the evicted tenants.[4] In the following years, the planter families gradually left the area so that the National Education Office noted ‘as the average attendance or the year ended 31.3.1913 was only 17, the question of the continuance of grants arises under terms of Rule 184.’[5]

1916 - Letter from Rev. Rush to the National Education Office

1916 – Letter from Rev. Rush to the National Education Office

On 24th April 1916, Rector Rush writes to the National Education Office that the Claggernagh teacher has left and he fears there is little chance of the school restarting due to dwindling numbers. He writes that  “owing to the Congested Districts Board taking up their holdings, the Planters have left this part of the country – most of them have returned to the North of Ireland”.

As a result of declining numbers, the Claggernagh school eventually had to close and it can be assumed that the remaining pupils were dispersed among the schools in the parish. The nearest school under Protestant management was almost seven miles away in Lorrha in North Tipperary with twelve Established Church and four Methodist pupils and with accommodation for fifty-one. [6]

List of schools in the area 1914

1914 – List of schools in the area

Through the persistent efforts of Reverend Edward Rush, the local rector in Portumna, in 1918 a new Protestant school called Portumna Parochial was finally granted and funded in the town with one teacher, Miss Mabel Hatch. As part of his efforts, Rev. Rushe had to list all the schools within 3 miles of Claggernagh, their religious denominations and number of pupils — giving us excellent information on the number and types of schools in the area one hundred years ago.

_DSC0189 1917 list of possible pupils

1917 – List of potential pupils

Rev. Rush also drew up a list of prospective pupils as part of his campaign. The list includes their ages, how far they live from the school, religious denomination, how they are currently educated etc. Names on the list:

  • Vivienne, Eva and Robert Mansfield
  • James Shaw (possible relative of Edward Shaw-Tener, Lord Clanricarde’s land agent)?)
  • May Stanley
  • Alison and Lewis Gordon (many will still remember Lewis who lived in Abbey Street)
  • Eva and Maureen Anderson
  • Sara, Ethel, Florence, Wilkins and Violet Elliot
  • May, George, Violet, Victoria, Jennie, Albert, Evelyn and Ethel Patterson (many will still remember the Patterson sisters from St. Brendan’s Rd.).

Little else is known of its further history so far — or if it ever got off the ground.

[1] John Joseph Conwell, From Little Acorns…, A Centenary History of Portumna Golf Club (2013), p. 23.

[2] Miriam Moffitt, Clanricarde’s planters and land agitation in east Galway 1886-1916 (Dublin, 2011), p. 20.

[3] National Archive of Ireland, ED/9/6291.

[4] Miriam Moffitt, Clanricarde’s planters and land agitation in east Galway 1886-1916 (Dublin, 2011), p. 39.

[5] National Archives of Ireland, ED9/27949.

[6] Ibid.

Emigrants to Australia from Portumna 1828-66


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Portumna to Australia immigration 1800's. People of Portumna, co. Galway, Ireland

Portumna to Australia immigration 1800’s.

Botany Bay is just south of Sydney Harbour and acts as Sydney’s industrial port. Botany Bay was found unsuitable for settlement in 1788 so the First Fleet rowed north to Port Jackson (aka Sydney Harbour) and settled on a fresh water stream, which they named Sydney Cove. Governor Phillip called the site Sydney Cove in honour of Lord Sydney, the Secretary of State for the colonies. So began Sydney (Cove dropping from the name) with 568 male and 191 female convicts and 13 children; 206 marines with 26 wives and 13 children; and 20 officials. It now has a population of well over 4 million. From about 1800 onward, when the first Irish political prisoners landed, they were kept in either Paramatta, in West Sydney, or Botany Bay.

Botany Bay, Ireland and the penal colonies are forever linked together in myth, legend and song. The aboriginal people were the earliest inhabitants of the Botany Bay area. They set up camps along the banks of the Cooks River and on the shores of Botany Bay, hunting, fishing and gathering food. Trees and plants provided the raw material for food, medicine, implements and weapons. It was discovered by Captain James Cook on April 29th, 1770 – the first European to land on the east coast of Australia. He named it Stingray Harbour. Two of his companions, Daniel Solander and Joseph Banks, were botanists, and they were entranced by the number of flowers blooming in the area. Banks persuaded Cook to change its name to Botany Bay. Their vivid impressions were responsible for the projected location there of the convict establishment under Captain Arthur Phillip of the Royal Navy in 1788.

Botany Bay is now a modern municipal city, with a population of 300,000. Its population would have been only about 3,000 in the early 1800’s, mostly political prisoners and a few platoons of Redcoats. Sydney Airport’s third runway juts onto the bay. A monument on the south shore marks the site of Cook’s landing.

Immigration from Portumna to Australia, New South Wales & Queensland from 1828 to 1866

Surname/First————Rschr—Year–Age——Native Place—-Parents-names & locations—-Relations in the colony—–Ship info—Other

BROOKS Honor 1841 25 Portumna Patrick / Mary NOLAN Mother is dead.Bap certified. Friends=Mary Govan & Mary Ann McAvonea. John Renwick

CADDIN Hugh 1838 18 Portumna Caro & Ann CADDIN Enniskillen. Sis = Jane C. & Helen Scales on — Ship = Coromandel 4 Jun 20

CADDIN Jane 1838 20 Portumna Caro & Ann CADDIN Enniskillen. Bro = Hugh & Sis=Helen Scales on Ship = Coromandel

CAHILL Edward 1862 21 Portumna xx xx xx Ship = Ocean Empress

CALLANAN Anne 1845 16 Kiltormer Michael / Mary xx – both dead. Known in Laurencetown, Employed at Portumna. Ship = Herald

CAMERON alias* Catherine 1856 19 Portumna John / Kate xx M other dead ; Father at Portumna. xx *alias CAMPBELL Ship = Kate

CAMPBELL Catherine 1841 21 Portumna John / Mary xx – both dead. Baptism certified. Known to Connor Pelly. Ship John Renwick

CARROLL Ann 1853 27 Ballinakill John / Kate xx – Father dead; Mother lives at Portumna. Sister = Judith on board.
Ship = Australia

CARROLL Judith 1853 25 Ballinakill John / Kate xx – Father dead; Mother lives at Portumna. Sister = Ann on board. Ship
= Australia

CLARK John 1842 7 xx Portumna ? William / Winifred HIGISON On board this ship. xx Ship = Agnes Ewing

CLARK Sarah 1842 8 xx Portumna ? William / Winifred HIGISON On board this ship. xx Ship = Agnes Ewing

CLARK William 1842 35 Portumna John / Catherine xx – father a farmer Baptism certified ,Protestant. Wife = Winifred,27 & 2 chn on board. Ship = Agnes Ewing

CLARK Winifred 1842 27 Portumna John HIGISON / Ann xx Father is a farmer. Husb = William,35 & 2 chn on bd. A Mary Ann,2 was also named in cert. Agnes Ewing R/C.

CLARKE Anne 1842 26 Portumna John / Catherine xx Father is a farmer. Protestant. Ship = Agnes Ewing

CLARKE Maria 1841 16 Portumna John / Eliza xx xx Bap cert – protestant. Dressmaker,Known-Richard Clarke. Ship
Earl Grey

DIAMOND Mary 1855 25 Portumna Hugh / Mary xx Both dead. xx Paid 1 pound. Ship = Nepaul

DONELAN John 1852 49 Portumna John / Mary xx – both dead. Wife=Ellen,44 & 5 chn on bd. Long notes re land ownership. Ship Agincourt

DOWD Elizabeth 1849 27 Portumna William DOWD / Bridget xx Both dead. Sister = Celia TULLY on board. Ship = John Bright

DOWD Sarah 1849 24 Portumna William / Bridget xx Both dead. Has 2 sisters = Elizabeth Dowd & Celia TULLY,per ‘Emigrant’. Ship = Scotia

ENNIS Anne 1854 24 Portumna? owna? Thomas / Anne xx – Father dead; Mother at Newbridge,Wicklow xx Ship = Patrician

HALLORAN Anne 1860 22 Portumna Patrick / Bridget xx Father at Birkenhead,England xx Paid 10/- Ship = Tudor

HANRAHAN Peter 1842 24 Portumna Roger / Margaret xx father a farmer. Baptism certified. Known in Guirane. Ship Agnes Ewing

HOLAHAN Mary 1850 21 Portumna Edward GEOGHEGAN / Cath. xx Both dead. Husband = William,30 on board. Ship = Maria

HOWARD Sarah 1841 20 Portumna Thomas / Catherine xx Father dead,was a carpenter. xx Ship = Pearl

MADDEN Bridget 1842 22 Portumna (not given) From Patrooney ? xx xx Ship = Agnes Ewing

MAHER Maria 1850 14 Portumna James / Margaret xx Both dead. xx Ship = Thomas Arbuthnot

MANION Mary 1866 19 Portumna Thomas/ Mary – both dead. xx Cous= Bridget M.,Sussex St, Sydney Ship = Racehorse

McDONNELL Alexander 1841 21 Portumna Martin / Ann KELLY Father is a farmer. Protestant ,known to Rev John Armstrong.
Says born 16 Apr. Ship = Susan

MORAN Bridget 1842 20 Portumna (not given) From Patrooney ? xx Baptism certified. Ship = Agnes Ewing

PAGE Anthony 1840 29 Galway Daniel (a farmer) / Judy xx Known in Portumna. Bap cert by Revd Armstrong. Ship = Alfred xx

QUINN Margaret 1841 14 Portumna (not given) xx Bapt – 13 Jan 1826 Known to John McEvoy. Ship = Fairlie

SCALES Helen 1838 24 Portumna Caro & Ann CADDIN Enniskillen. {& husband = Henry ,27 of Clare + NO chn} Ship = Coromandel 25 Sep 14

SWEENEY Ellen 1841 16 Portumna (not given) xx Known to Samuel Davis. Ship = Fairlie

TRACEY Mary 1842 17 Portumna (not given) xx Baptism certified at Eyrecourt. Ship = Agnes Ewing

TULLY Celia 1849 28 Portumna William DOWD / Bridget xx Both dead. Husband =Jeremiah,38 & 2chn on bd. Ship = John Bright Sis=Elizabeth Dowd on bd.

TULLY Francis 1849 5 Portumna Jeremiah / Celia DOWD On board this ship. xx Ship = John Bright

TULLY Mary 1849 3 Portumna Jeremiah / Celia DOWD On board this ship. xx Ship = John Bright

BRODERICK Margaret 1855 18 Portumna Patrick / Margaret xx Father dead; Mother at Portumna. Bro-in- law=James Quinn,a messenger for * Ship = Golden Era *branch Bank of NSW at Moreton Bay.

Population Decimation


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Population Changes in Portumna 1841-2002


Screen Shot of the Irish Population Change Atlas

The Famine of 1846-50 determined the course of Irish history even to this day, and reduced the population dramatically through starvation, disease and emigration. In terms of death by famine alone, the biggest losses were in Galway and Clare. The National Centre for Geocomputation’s (NCG) Online Atlas Portal is an absolute goldmine of information on 160 years of population data mapping changes across the decades. The data used in the Atlas is from 16 censuses, taken in both the Republic and the North of Ireland between 1841 and 2002.

It is incredible to learn that almost 6,000 people lived in Portumna in 1841! Between 1841 and 1851, Portumna suffered a massive 30.6% loss of population, and in the years after the Famine, another 29%. The population has never recovered and steadily declined ever since except for the period after 1971 when it has risen slightly. The surrounding parishes of Meelick, Tieranascragh and Tynagh suffered even greater declines of over 40%. The parishes of Killimor and Meelick are today 10% of their 1841 populations!

Total Population 
Names 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1926 1936 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2002
EYRECOURT 2521 1670 1520 1120 1018 738 670 625 518 546 590 586 580 565 552 532
KILLIMOR 2779 2096 1459 660 623 604 812 829 847 850 759 687 745 754 379 321
MEELICK 2096 1172 894 833 745 570 484 441 434 410 391 336 311 273 258 231
PORTUMNA 5887 4083 2892 2626 2660 2270 2082 1998 1841 1851 1721 1618 1669 1889 1883 1920
TIERNASCRAGH 968 577 444 338 321 251 228 242 354 296 297 262 255 210 181 164
TYNAGH 2308 1329 833 801 750 685 550 512 546 568 510 425 452 476 409 369
WOODFORD 2046 1452 1266 1207 1147 1068 870 749 670 620 499 9 411 452 441 479
 All maps produced in this Irish Famine Population Change Atlas are produced under the National Centre for Geocomputation (NCG) mapping license: Ordnance Survey Ireland Licence Number EN. 0072711 © Ordnance Survey Ireland / Government of Ireland

Portumna Lawn Tennis Club


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History of Portumna Lawn Tennis Club

Portumna Lawn Tennis Club can be dated back as far as 1880, and in this year six grass courts were established in Portumna. The Tennis club facility also included a wall-ball and a clubhouse where senior citizens would go regularly to socialise and play cards – bridge mainly. The wall-ball was made of timber with no sides and this facility allowed patrons to practise their shots while waiting for a game. In 1913 a British vessel was commissioned to carry out a hydrological survey on Lough Derg; the vessel was known as the “Chanqsha” vessel. The crew was skippered by a man called Tommy Suggat. Tommy Suggat was captain of that vessel and spent much of his spare time, as did the crew, playing the game at the club in Portumna. The crew was ordered back to Britain in 1914, when World War 1 broke out. They donated a cup to the club called the Chanqsha Cup which was made out of sterling silver. There was also a cup donated for the ladies but there was no name given to this cup. Unfortunately both cups were never returned after the last tournaments prior to1960 and the location of these cups is unknown.


PictureAll members of the club wore full length all white outfits. This dress code was strictly adhered to for all practicing members of the club.In the 1920’s the club was again beginning to falter. Many locals of Portumna did not want to see the tennis club faltering so the chairman of the club in 1923 was Mr. Moran who embarked on a campaign to entice more members to join and maintain membership of Portumna Lawn Tennis Club. The O’Kelly family was instrumental in getting catholic families to join the club and membership of the club increased and an offshoot of table tennis came from this. The members used to have table tennis competitions in an upstairs room at Portumna Workhouse during the winter.  It is interesting to note that an outdoor court also existed in the grounds of the Workhouse.

The courts were kept in good condition and were taken care of by a man named Joe Coniry. Joe had made a bargain with the club that he would take care of the courts if his donkey was allowed to graze on the courts during the winter months. When there were enough members in the club, a committee was formed. When new members wanted to join the club, the committee would vote by placing white beads if they were in favour and black beads if they weren’t in favour into a jar. This was a practice used by the free masons also and the term “black balled” was used when someone was excluded using this process of voting. The black beads and the white beads were counted and if the black beads outnumbered the white beads, then the prospective member could be excluded from joining the club. The Club organised competitive tennis matches against clubs in Nenagh, Birr, Athenry and BallinasIoe.

High Teas

It was common at the time that the ladies of the town baked delicious strawberry cakes that were consumed in the pavilion and these events became very important socially for quite a number of years. These events added another dimension to the social life of the club.Members of Portumna Lawn Tennis Club were also instrumental in starting Portumna Players. In the mid- forties a meeting was held to raise funds for a Table Tennis Club, it was proposed to stage a play to raise funds.The last Chanqsha Tennis Tournament took place in St. Mary’s (1960) and the competition was won by Sean O’ Dwyer but the cup was never presented because at some stage it had not been returned to the club. There is no known account of the equivalent cup for the ladies.

More Recent Years

Tennis Club Map

Click to enlarge

In 1967 a number of entrepreneurial minded business men embarked on a very ambitious project. This was the provision of a hotel, ‘The Westpark Hotel’, to provide for the needs of the thriving local tourist industry. A site was secured but there was a problem with the lack of car park facilities adjacent to the hotel itself. Rev. Fr. Solan, who was curate at the time in the parish of Portumna, negotiated with the Tennis Club to give up their facility on the west side of the hotel and they would get three hard courts further out St. Joseph’s Road. The Tennis Club agreed to this and they gave up six grass courts and their pavilion and agreed a hundred year lease with Town Development and the Hotel at that particular time. The Hotel provided the three courts and the Pavilion was built by the club itself. The indenture was made on the 26th of November, 1969, between Portumna Hotels Limited and the Portumna District and Development Company.  The Hotel would have access to one court for its patrons when not in use by the club.

The future is continuous with the past and a major effort is being made to restore the facility at St. Joseph’s Road and provide tennis in Portumna yet again. This is an extremely worthwhile enterprise which offers to the youth of Portumna an added facility which will enhance not just sporting skills but also promote healthy activities in an era more and more concerned with healthy lifestyles.  The committee has undertaken this initiative with the Portumna and District Development Company so that exercise, teamwork, skills development and social activity can be the hallmark of the club going forward just as it was in the past.

(Source: Portumna Tennis Club website)

The Romance of the Fisherman’s Daughter


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Millers Vault  MillersVault

The Miller vault in St. Brigid’s Graveyard Portumna, Co. Galway is one of the many interesting architectural features to be seen on a walk around the town. With its vermiculated decoration it is quite unique in the town according to Christy Cunniffe, Galway County Council Field Monument Advisor. Today we ask ourselves who were the Millers who are commemorated here and where did they live — because there are no longer any Millers in the town? Well, look no more: the recently digitally-released Folklore Commission stories for the Portumna area tell the origin of the Miller family in the town. A beautiful romantic story… or legend!


Extract from original school essay (click to enlarge)

Around 1880, Portumna was the scene of a marriage between a Mary Coen of humble means and an English millionaire named Miller. This is the story of the Miller Vault in the old St. Brigid’s Graveyard as related by John Mulcahy, ex RIC man and aged 56 as part of the 1937-39 Folklore Commission Collection.