The Return of An Sídhe

The Fairies Take up Residency in our Forest Garden!

Thanks to the artistic, creativity and imagination of one of our younger volunteers, the fairies (Sídhe) are starting to appear amongst the trees, rocks and wildflowers of the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden. The 'little people' have not been seen in the locality for decades, as their once green homelands were destroyed by concrete, tarmac, traffic, hoards of dumped refuse, pollution and chemical toxic fertilizers.

Yet over the last decade, the ongoing planting of tens of thousands of trees and wildflowers in the man-made Terryland Forest Park, the return of insects, foxes and birds, the removal of rubbish and the development of an organic neighbourhood garden created a natural environment where fairies could once again live. 

All it needed then was the magical paintbrushes of Lynette McGowan to cast their awesome spells and the 'little people' miraculously started to appear last week from underneath rocks and from behind the base of tree trunks!

Can you help us with this wonderful work of maintaining a little community garden and natural woodland in Terryland Forest Park?

Once again we need volunteers from 11.15am on Saturday (Aug 2nd) to continue supporting the ongoing enhancement of the Living Willow Tunnel, in laying the foundations for a giant Celtic Cross feature that will form the axis of the garden as well as the more mundane tasks of weeding, watering and general upkeep. We will also be litter picking and putting up locally made (Cumann na bhFear) bat boxes in the adjacent woodlands.

So with so much tasks to be completed, we could use your presence on the day!
Google Maps location:

The Giant Celtic Cross & other Garden Stories

Volunteers are needed on Saturday (July 26) to help with a plethora of tasks within the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden and surrounding woodland area, including the maintenance/upkeep/development of a Living Willow Tunnel, a Wildlife Pond, Weeding, Scarecrow construction, Pathway enhancement and laying the foundations for a giant Celtic Cross feature that will form the axis of the garden.

We could use your presence on the day! 

Google Maps location:
The Celtic Cross takes shape!
The photograph above shows the top section of the 'Celtic Cross': each of the four sun panels are covered with clay planted with wild-flowers under the supervision of Christine McGowan. Plus regular volunteers such as Caroline Mc Donagh, Deasún ÓSeanáin, Michael McDonnell Justine Delaney and other local residents are doing wonderful working bringing Nature into an urban setting. 

Gaza: World's Largest Concentration Camp

Gaza: where 1.82 million people are squeezed and imprisoned in a sliver of land; the descendants of people forced there as a result of ethnic cleansing by the Israeli military from 1948 onwards.

Gaza: the world's largest concentration camp

Gaza: besieged by land, sea and air by Israeli military forces for seven years, over twice as long as the Nazi siege of Leningrad.

Gaza: where today the people that stole their homes and lands can gather together to sit out on deck chairs, enjoy the sunshine, joke with friends and have a nice cold beer or two on a balcony or rooftop whilst looking out towards those poor unfortunate refugees who once lived in their neighbouhood as they are being mercilessly bombed with the latest high tech weaponry.

Gaza: where if I was a Palestinian living there, I would find it hard not to fire rockets at the illegal occupiers and colonists of my grandparents home especially when I see no future for my own children.

Gaza: Today's Warsaw Ghetto.

Castle Ellen & the 3 Athenry Castles Heritage Cycle Trail

As part of National Bike Week  and Galway Bike Festival, I initiated on behalf of Cumann na bhFear (Men's Shed) a new heritage cycle trail on Sunday June 15th
Known as the Three Athenry Castles Heritage Looped Cycle Trail, it started at Athenry (Irish = Baile Átha an Rí, "Ford of the King") Castle, continued on through the bogs of Bengarra and Monivea, through the demesne of the Anglo-Norman fFrench family, onto the village of Monivea (Irish = Muine Mheá, "Meadow of the mead), with a stopover at the fine Georgian mansion of Castle Ellen and finished up at its medieval starting point. 

Botharín, Currantarmuid
The rural landscape covered by the trail is a delightful though largely unknown (to the non-residents) cornucopia of small farms, hedgerows, traditional drystone walls, botharíns, villages, lakes, bogs, rivers, castles, and Gerogian mansions that are waiting to be discovered by walkers and cyclists. 
fFrench Mausoleum, Monivea
The highlight for participants was the stop-over at the 1812 Castle Ellen (Caisleán Eilise) mansion where we were greeted by the owner and renowned antiquarian Michael Keaney (Micheál Ó Cionnaith) and his assistant Annette Flanagan.
Castle Ellen jn its imperial heyday
Michael has a keen interest in ensuring that our looped heritage cycle trail becomes a permanent tourism fixture in east Galway as he has ambitious plans to transform this historical building and it grounds into an alternative hostel aimed towards the walkers’ and cyclists’ market. 
The new Dormitory
The proposed living quarters for guests has a dormitory layout, woodfire stoves, limestone walls and paintings by Lol Hardiman (see photo above).  
The Courtyard
Michael brought us on a guided tour of his fascinating mansion, its extensive farmyard and outbuildings, the pasture lands and a new wood that he is populating with trees, native wildflowers and pathways.
Climbing an old demesne tree
Castle Ellen is the former residency of the Anglo-Irish Lambert family and the birthplace of one Isabella Lambert who was mother of the arch-Unionist and the great hate figure of Irish republicanism, Edward Carson
Captain Peter Lambert of Castle Ellen (c1785-1844)
He was known as the creator of Northern Ireland and a huge statute of him dominates the front of the Northern Ireland parliament at Stormont in Belfast He is also remembered as the barrister responsible for prosecuting and ending the career of Oscar Wilde, his former friend.
Dining Room
It seems that Edward spent many happy times at Castle Ellen. It was during his sojourns in east Galway that he learnt the Gaelic game of hurling which he helped popularized at Trinity College Dublin, one of the great bastions of British imperialism in Ireland.
Steps to the former Tennis & Croquet Lawns
Michael bought the demesne in 1974 when the buildings were in an advance state of disrepair and has spent much energies and monies over the subsequent years endeavouring to bring the place back to its former Victorian aristocratic splendour. A true labour of love that he deserves great admiration for.
Old farm machinery, Castle Ellen
In the process, he has built up an eclectic mix of memorabilia, from military artifacts to ancient farmyard machinery. You get a strong sense of the British Empire at its zenith as you wander through the remnants of croquet and tennis lawns, the walled gardens with their orchards and maze, the tree lined avenue, court yard, the pony-driven water well and the livestock tunnel.
Basement Servant's Quarters, Castle Ellen
During the 1990s, Castle Ellen was an renowned artists’ retreat, where painters, sculptors and others were given residency in lieu of restoration and enhancement works to the mansion,
The Three Athenry Castles Looped Heritage Cycle Trail: Overview
The c29km looped cycle tour starts at Athenry Castle and then travels onto the Monivea Road before turning right approximately 1.5km outside Athenry in the direction of Graigabbey. 
Bog Cotton, Monivea
The route then passes through the farmlands and bogs of Bengarra, 
Bengarra Bog
on into the village of Newcastle, along a botharín through the Monivea Bog with its fascinating flora and fauna; 
Monivea Woods
to the Monivea demesne with its collection of historical sites that was for centuries the home of the renowned Anglo-Norman fFrench family, one of the famous merchant tribes of Galway. 
Monivea Fair
This is followed by a stopover in the quaint colonial plantation village of Monivea where flax in former times was laid out to dry on its spacious green. From there the tour continues onto Castle Ellen where visitors can enjoy a walk along the lawns of the famed Georgian mansion that was formerly the residency of the Anglo-Irish Lambert family. The route then continues onto for five km to the medieval town of Athenry.  

Next Tour:
As part of National Heritage Week the Three Athenry Castles Heritage Looped Cycle Trail will once again take place on Sunday August 31st at 10.15am from Athenry Castle.
Athenry Castle

'Operation Bláthanna' Continues: Join Us for 'Wild Garlic' Seed Collection & Sowing on Saturday!

The campaign to populate the Terryland Forest Park in Galway city with tens of thousands of native wildflowers continues this Saturday when Conservation Volunteers, under the tutelage of flora enthusiast Padraig Kerrins, will collect the seeds of wild garlic from a mature forest for immediate sowing in a designated section of Ireland's largest community-driven urban forest.

A few months ago, members of the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden took responsibility for nurturing 1,200 native Primroses in preparation for their planting in the Terryland Forest Park next Spring. Last month, volunteers planted over 500 Oxide Daisies, St. Patrick's Cabbages, Comfreys, Sanicles and other native flora in the grasslands, woods and verges of the Terryland Forest Park. The aim of 'Operation Bláthanna' is to plant the wildflowers that will dramatically increase the biodiversity of this great natural resource.
Rendevous: 11.30am next Saturday (July 12) at the Ballinfoile Mor Community Organic Garden

1980s Reports on Westminster Paedophile ring missing. Surprised?

There is no doubt that the political establishment in Britain for decades covered up extensive immoral, anti-democratic and criminal activities that victimised amongst others Irish republicans, British and Latin American left wing activists, environmentalists and now we discover children
The establishment consists of the higher echelons of the judiciary, police, politicians and civil servants. It was announced today by Teresa May that an investigation will look into the accusations of a high level cover-up over the child abuse element.
 But sadly as we know from painful and expensive experience in Ireland investigations, namely tribunals, have achieved little in terms of justice. Denis O'Brien for instance survived the damning conclusions of the Moriarty Tribunal that went to the core of corruption of the Irish parliamentary system

Vintage Typewriter for Galway's Patrick Kavanagh Celebrations

Today my friend Christy O'Carroll called to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland (which I curate) located at the Insight Centre for Data Anlaystics in NUI Galway  to collect a 1910s-1920s 'Underwood' typewriter to be used as a prop in an event tomorrow to celebrate the life and works of Patrick Kavanagh, the great Irish poet and novelist who was born 110 years ago in Inniskeen Co. Monaghan.  (ps. my family live 5km from his birthplace).

The sixth annual 'Kavanagh Days' takes place in the Salthill Hotel on Saturday July 5th at 7pm. It will pay homage to the "people's poet" in verse, drama, music and song. Tickets are 10Euro and can be purchased on the door.
Check out

The American 'Underwood No. 5' typewriter launched in 1900 was known as "the first truly modern typewriter. Its design became the universal standard for typewriters up until the 1960s. By the early 1920s sales were equal to that of all other typewriters combined.

Hippie "Flower Power" Returns to Galway!

Launched in May 1998, the iMac heralded Steve Jobs triumphal return to Apple. The product was a spectacular success, returning the company to profit after many years of what seemed to be terminal decline. 

With its distinctive egg shape, translucent candy-colours, and all-in-one simplicity of design, the iMac became ingrained into the pop culture of the late 1990s. It was the first piece of Apple hardware to use the symbol ‘i' in its name, highlighting its function as a window into the new world of the Internet. Once again the Apple brand became cool.
After the initial Bondi Blue exterior, subsequent years saw the iMac come in a wide range of colours including the spectacular multi-coloured Flower Power model of 2001 which harked back to the hippie movement and its strong associations with San Francisco during the late 1960s.
Photograph shows Wille Shaw holding the Flower Power iMac which was donated to the museum by 'Screenway'.

The Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland, located at INSIGHT Centre at NUI Galway,  is open to the public 10am-5pm Monday to Friday during the summer months. For details of guided tours (by booking only) of this great technology facility, contact Brendan Smith at

The Village School - the Heartbeat of Rural Ireland

Enjoying a communal meal, GAA Community Centre, Kiltormer June 2014
Last Saturday, I attended a wonderful 50th celebration of a school in the little village of Kiltormer in east Galway. Thanks to the herculean efforts of principal Grainne Dooley, the teaching staff of Margaret, Sean and Mary and their committee, the local population united in a supreme effort to celebrate, not just the opening of the present St. Patrick's National School in 1964, but even more to celebrate the meaning of 'community'.
Traditional musicians, GAA Community Centre, Kiltormer June 2014
There was an array of exciting events to mark the occasion: a parade, a communal mass, children's outdoor fun activities, a display of vintage farm machinery, a hurling match comprising players from across the decades; young traditional Irish musicians, an in-school local history museum and an exhibition of photographs of Kiltormer in times past.
Artifacts and old photographs on display, Kiltormer school celebrations, June 2014
I played a small role in this event by helping the school host an open community night where people from all across the locality brought in old photographs reflecting life in days gone by. 
These images are still being digitised, cleaned up and posted online as part of a digital heritage archive action known as BEO (Irish for Alive) which could become the most important national heritage project since the 1937 Irish Folklore Commission. It will reinforce the connections with the Irish Diaspora.
Eyreville demesne, 1930s
Like many towns and villages across rural Ireland, Kiltormer has been devastated by a high level of emigration exacerbated about by the economic collapse in 2008 that resulted from the activities of a greedy unpatriotic troika of property speculators, bankers and politicians. But the problem goes much deeper and further back in time, to 1973 when the state joined what was then known as the European Economic Community(EEC). The key characteristic of Ireland for over 5,000 years has been agriculture. But ever since the early 1970s, there has been a huge exodus of people away from farming as the policies of successive governments favoured the big rancher, supermarkets and agri-corporations at the expense of the family farm. This is not what the population expected- we were promised a sustainable agriculture that would give a living wage to farmers and their families.
The small manufacturing industries that once dominated rural towns have all but closed down as a result of cheap imports, with their localities failing to secure replacement jobs in the new technologies sectors such as biomedical and computing. 
Kiltormer village, 1932
Ghost Villages
Ireland in the 21st century has become a land of ghost townlands and villages as young people emigrate to Australia, Canada and elsewhere  to find employment.
As we the people and our descendants are being forced to pay for the gambling debts of financial and property speculators and their cronies, austerity measures are leading to the closure  of Garda stations. post offices, pubs, marts and schools across the country. 
Kiltormer School, 1959-'60
The decline of the small rural school
Schools are the lifeblood of rural Ireland.  Without schools, communities die. More than ever before, we need to ensure that the schools stay open so that the heritage, stories and memories of a hinterland are still treasured and passed on to a new generation; and the children and their parents continue to transform the word 'community' into a living reality. 
Carrowreagh Bog
Hopefully the politicians of this land wake up soon to the destructive nature of their economic and social polices on rural Ireland. So well done to St. Patrick's National School Kiltormer for the wonderful work that they are doing to help reverse what can feel like a terminal decline. Giving people a sense of place will give them an identity,  a sense of value, of belonging and of purpose. Everyone involved is a true patriot.
Hurling match, Kiltormer Celebrations, June 2014

An Insight into an Urban Wildlife paradise.

Heritage expert Tom Cuffe will give a talk on his wildlife research findings of the Terryland Forest Park at 7.30pm on Tuesday July 1st in the Menlo Park Hotel.
All are welcome to attend.

With its diverse range of habitats including meadow, river, wetland, pasture and woodland, this unique man-made wildlife sanctuary of 180 acres boosts an impressive array of insects, birds, mammal and aquatic species that would be the envy of any urbanized environment in the world. 
In both the spring of 2013 and of 2014, Mr. Cuffe used transect surveys to scientifically estimate the density of the bird as well as the butterfly and moth populations. His research identified forty eight bird species in one defined area alone thus highlighting the importance of the park to the biodiversity and ecology of the city.
The presentation will include a wide selection of the beautiful photographs taken by Tom of the varied wildlife that live in this unique forest park created by the people of Galway in conjunction with Galway City Council.

The event hosted by the Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park group will also include presentations on native wildflower maintenance by horticulturalist Padraic Kerins and proposals for a major ‘Outdoor Classroom’ in the locality by Brendan Smith.