Parish History 750 Years
Claregalway Historical and Cultural Society, 1999, pp 277, ISBN 0-9536210-0-6, Hardback, Price: €20 +postage
This parish history may be unique. No editor is noted, because as we are told in the Acknowledgements, “The compiling and writing of this book was a true community effort – no one individual did it all. A large number of people helped in many ways”. While the initial research and gathering of information was done by dedicated FÁS workers, we are told also that “first drafts of chapters were written by individuals and then were re-drafted and polished by others”.
Thus, eighteen individuals initially took responsibility for writing a chapter, and although a communal ‘polishing’ of the presented work subsequently took place, here, at least, we see both the strength and weakness in this fine volume. Although one or two chapters thus might appear uneven in content compared to others, all glow with a popular enthusiasm usually missing from the works of the professional historian. Here, there is a freshness dipped in honesty in the precise presentations, with the text enhanced by numerous illustrations and tables.
It took me many hours to read through this comprehensive work, which really is a benchmark for other parishes to follow. As well as accounts of the usual parish organisations, church/parish priests, trades and occupations, sporting and school statistics (obviously important in any local history), a gem trail of other facets, such as poems, prayers and recitations, demands and easily acquires our attention in this volume dedicated to the heritage of Claregalway.
Take, for example, the chapter on the 85 km Clare River, which, in its last meanderings through the parish, left its imprint on both landscape and memory. The story of its bridges, (the earliest, of planks on pillars over ‘the old Gar or Devil’s Flat’ gives the name ‘Clare’ to the parish title); its transport system with forty flat bottomed turf boats at Montiagh; its drainage schemes; floodings and poaching problems all underline the uniqueness inherent in this parish.
Claregalway’s Franciscan Friary also demands and duly gains close attention from the historical and architectural points of view, but for me, the chapter on Townlands and Placenames is the ‘true grit’ of this work. Each of the thirty townlands of the parish is covered in fine detail including Irish title plus English translation, Area, Poor Law Valuation, Landlord(s), Population 1851, Family names, and Placenames as well as special features.
This, then, is just one of the important functions of this publication, according to an tOllamh Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, who launched this work, because as well as recalling Claregalway as it was for its older parishioners, it records truly this unique heritage for the younger generation and newcomer alike. Many of the latter are now settling down in this old village on the periphery of Galway City, bringing with them, as he noted, new talents and energies to mix with those deeply rooted in the past.
In the Foreword to this work, an tOllamh Ó Tuathaigh concludes, “But the account presented in this volume will certainly enable the living community of Claregalway to know their parish better and to feel better about themselves. It will also enable all others who read it to take the pulse of a Galway parish with a rich past, a vibrant present and, one hopes, a confident future as a cohesive parish community”. This book certainly does just that.
Review Author(s): Peadar O’Dowd Review by: Peadar O’Dowd Source: Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 52 (2000), pp. 181-182
Published by: Galway Archaeological & Historical Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25550239 Accessed: 29-10-2017
Parish History Pictorial
Claregalway Historical and Cultural Society, 2002, Hardback, Price: €20 +postage