Category Archives: History

St. Patrick’s Day on Achill in the time of Emily

“One Home Two Away”

It was possible that Emily spent St. Partick’s Day on Achill in 1919. The worst of the flu epidemic was over ending her long hours of nursing its victims. She was now free to travel back home to Achill after a long absence. Dublin was now her temporary home, as her employment as a nurse was there. However, correspondence with Fainne an Lae, the new name for the Gaelic League weekly, located her in Achill in March 1919.

St. Partick’s Day was then as it is now a big festival on Achill, celebrating it in the same way it was celebrated in 1882, to mark the fourteen hundred and fifty years that the saint arrived in Ireland.That year the Church called for a special effort to be made by the people of Ireland to celebrate the anniversary. Achill was well prepared. The year before the First Band or Tom Vesey’s Band was formed. Initiated by him and some local musicians.

“The First Band had always been known as Tom Vesey’s Band. Tom Vesey lived in the middle of the Village [Dooagh] and as a youngster he served his time in Scotland as a cooper… Tom Vesey was by all accounts a gifted cooper, and like all artists he tried something new, he made a wooden frame for a bass drum, a tanned goat skin was used to complete the drum. That drum was carried in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade for 26 Years.

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982,

Some years later when St. Partrick’s Day became an official holiday (1903), and the Gaelic League took over, the local branch put on a concert, where the islanders were entertained with music, drama and song. When Emily arrived on Achill the agenda for St. Patrick’s Day was well established. She was happy to get involved and when the night was over her husband, Captain Weddall treated the performers to tea and cake.

The Accrington Drum

Years later, still when the Gaelic League and Scoil Acla was well established on Achill and when the Dooagh Band had acquired a new drum. The large drum was a gift from grateful music fans from Accrington, Lancashire. It went down in folklore as the Accrington Drum.

In 1914 a Mr. Rainsford was brought in by Mrs. Weddall, director of Scoil Acla to teach new members of the Band new tunes on the flute, he also trained the drummers. He trained them to cross the sticks on the big drum. He called the style – “One home two away”.

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982


Sources

As Time Marches on; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982; J.J. McNamara, J. McNamara, N.T.

Mayo News April 04 1908. Page 3

Special thanks to John ‘Twin’ McNamara


St. Patrick’s Day 1919

St. Patrick’s Day 1919 was the first one since the end of WWI. Rationing had all but ended, a fact that had not escaped retailers, as seen in the advert below. The usual novelties, such as badges, rosettes, cards and pictures of the saint, were also advertised and offered at competitive prices.

In honour of the national saint of Ireland Seachtaine na Gaelilge was and still is marked by Connrad na gaelige. Nowadays it runs for a fortnight then it was a week long.

Sources

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 15 March 1919

Dublin Evening Telegraph 15 March 1919

Achill Railway Extension

Nine-nine years ago today an article appeared in the Irish Times, about the annual general meeting of the Great Western and Midlands Railways. The members were doubting the viability of the railways, particularly in the west, where tourism outweighed industry. The Railway hotels in Mallaranny and Recess were doing quite well.

Anita has her Say

Anita McMahon, who was the Hon. Secretary of the Lower Achill Co-operative Society, made a good case for the extension of a light railway to Lower Achill. She put the case as follows;

Irish Times February 27th 1920

The powers that be took her idea on board, but it never materialised. The fishing and tourist industry continued the railway lasted just about two more decades. If the light rail had been built who knows what would have come out of it.

Undeterred, Anita would put forward equally ambitious ideas on behalf of the people of Achill, with successful outcomes. Because of her endeavours she was known in Achill as Auntie Anita.

Anita, courtesy of Scoil Acla

Sources

Irish Times February 27th 1920

http://scoilacla.ie/

Achill Railway; The early years

The time the railway was completed, tourism began to take off in the West of Ireland. With the new improved infrastructure of rail and roads, tourist began to make their way west. Before that it was only the odd intrepid traveler that wandered to remote Island. In the 1870’s newspapers and magazines began to recommend Achill and similar places such as Connemara and the Cliffs of Moher as tourist destinations, talking about them as them as they were new discoveries, which in a way these places were at the time.

The above was written in 1877, when tourist books on Ireland were beginning to be printed, enticing visitors to places such as Connemara and Clare and the lesser known regions of Donegal and Achill. The areas mentioned would be known collectively as the Wild Atlantic Way.

The above accounts were taken from the Handbook of the Midland, Great Western Railway Guide to Connemara and the West of Ireland.

Sources

http://www.failteireland.ie/Footer/What-We-Do/Our-History.aspxID

recommending Achill Pall Mall Gazette 04 October 18772

Handbook of the Midland Great Western Railway Guide to Connemara and the West of Ireland.

Achill Railway; In the Beginning and at the End

It is more than eighty years since the closure of the Achill Railway. It was in it’s time a great asset to the island, greatly improving, the flow of goods and people to and from the Island. But ironically the improvement made to roads in the early twentieth century, lessened the demand for rail travel to the area.

Officially open for business on May 13th of 1895, although the first train to make the forty mile journey from Westport, traveled the previous year. Its maiden journey was not celebrated. It carried the bodies of the victims of the Clew Bay Disaster, the first of the two tragedies that book-ended the route. The second 43 years later, carried the victims of the Kirkintilloch Disaster. Again the track was opened specially for the tragic occasion, another coffin train. The prophecy by Brian Rua O’Cearbhain, the 17th century seer, complete.

In spite of the tragedies that overshadowed its short existance, the Achill railway, contained all the elements of romance that rail travel carries. The scenery from Westport to Achill rivals any in the world. The vista from the forty or so miles of track, displayed mountains, valleys, lakes, seascapes and beaches, not to mention the quaint little villages with their human and animal inhabitants, scattered along the route.

When it first opened for business in 1895, the Sligo Champion 08 June 1895, reported that; “Already the Achill railway line is being largely patronised. There is a large amount of strangers present on the island.” Island life had changed for good, and was on the brink of changing even further, with the build up of tourists and day trippers that, began to make the 1 hour 40 minute journey.

The Achill line carried in and out people that would help “put Achill on the map”. Many public figures, the good and the great of those times, traveled the line that terminated at the end of the main land adjacent to the Michael Davitt bridge that joined it and the island at Achill Sound.

Sources

http://www.mayonews.ie/sports/20746-a-story-of-triumph-and-tragedy

https://www.eu-train.net/connect/story/stories/achill_railway.htm

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0086H, Page 02_001 

Freeman’s Journal 22 January 1898

11 December 1907 – Irish Independent – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Belfast News-Letter 18 April 1906

An Irish portrait; London, New York, B. T. Batsford [1951]