Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tynagh Mines - Gold in them there hills.

On a sunny afternoon in the early 1960's a Canadian sea-plane touched down on the silvery-grey waters of Loughrea lake, taxied to a jetty and tied off. The children swimming at Long Point were distracted by the unusual sight, but pretty soon were back at doggy-paddling in the lake and playing ball on the shore. 
Within hours a couple of bemused geologists working in the make-shift laboratory on the lake's shore, started analyzing the 4 foot long core-samples taken from a farm near the village of Tynagh, a tiny one-pub hamlet, situated between Loughrea and Portumna in the south-east of County Galway. Very quickly they realised they were looking at no ordinary core-samples, these were golden...well not quite golden, lead in fact, and zinc, copper and silver, in traces that hinted at much bigger reserves below ground than previously imagined. They made a call to Toronto, on a windey-up phone in the office, to the CEO of Northgate Exploration....and the rest is history.
All during the 1960's and 1970's Tynagh Mines were the defining industry that was a constant in the lives of communities all over East Galway providing much needed work, wages and opportunity to the mostly rural Galway region, underpinning the economies of Loughrea, Portumna, Balinasloe, Galway City and every village and parish within twenty miles radius..
'The Mine's' as we called them, though there was only a big hole, defined my youth. It was our very own, local Klondyke. Hundreds of people who would otherwise have emigrated, perhaps forever, found work there. And not just work, overtime, a word that had never been heard outside of Dublin heretofore. Very soon the entire area   began to benefit, new cars, new houses, more stock on the farms, better roads, singing pubs.
Each day, and night, all day and all night, for twenty years, the big 40 ton truckloads of grey ore on Iggy Madden trucks trundled through the village of Gurtymadden, on through Loughrea, changing gears as they strained up the hill on the Main Street, shaking every building to their 14th century foundations, on out the yellow bog road, shaking-up Craughwell and Oranmore, turning at McDonagh's thatch pub there, blackening the thatch with their diesel exhaust fumes and hauled on, under the battlements of 15th century Oranmore castle, turning left at Moneenageesha, passing along the shores of Lough Atalia, to tip the dry ore into the big silo at the docks in Galway, where the ore was loaded onto cargo ships and out onto Galway Bay, by the Aran islands, down past the Cliffs of Moher, and Skellig Rocks, southing Kinsale, sailing across the Irish sea and the English channel to Rotterdam, where the mounds of grey Irish rock were processed by the ever-hungry, smoke-belching smelting plants in Germany. 
Not that we knew it, but for thousands of years, we had been sitting on the richest vein of zinc, lead and silver in Europe. While we starved in our blight-surrounded cottages in 1847, our potential salvation lay just a few hundred feet below us, unseen, unsuspected. Well not quite unknown, some mining had been done there in the 18th century, but British tarriffs on Irish goods made it non-viable and the mine-workings were quickly forgotten. Lord Clanrickarde owned all that land, and most of southeast Galway and he brooked no nonsense from his tenants, evicting them at will and opposing the Land League at every step in The House of Lords. He only visited his vast estate once and declared it awful and tedious. So he employed land agents to milk his tenants dry, and perhaps never heard of the old mine, back at Tynagh. He died, a lonely recluse on a park bench in Hyde Park. No one in Tynagh mourned his passing.
The new Irish State had not heard of Tynagh either. They were too busy fighting each other and making sure the Catholic Church was kept abreast of every penny and pound in the new Ireland. So it came as news to us all when these mad Canadians started buying up the land locally and digging up perfectly good farmland. Fools' gold we thought, while we took their money and dug where they pointed. And while we worked hard while it lasted, we were the victims of our own greed. The mine that should have lasted fifty years was open-cast mined and exhausted within twenty years. Yes it was great while it lasted, but it didn't last long.
The caveat,' beware of Greeks bearing gifts' hold true here especially. Northgate Exploration, a Canadian mining company, and their international shareholders, made multi-millions of pounds, tax free, from this massive hole in the ground in Tynagh, and when they left, all we inherited was an environmental disaster, with little or no lasting benefits to the community. No swimming pools, community centres, industries, social services, university scholarships, endowments, philanthropic enterprises, nothing, just a few nice houses, some better roads, bigger pubs, a rotting jetty on Loughrea Lake, and lots and lots of arsenic and old slag.
The Erris Peninsula and the North Mayo communities are right to demand more from Shell Oil for the massive reserves of natural gas that Shell will siphon, tax free, from the Atlantic off Belmullet. Shell, like Northgate Exploration, have done their homework well. The tax regime in Ireland benefits them hugely, and our politicians are either afraid to make a stand, or possibly, too 'involved' to make one. Some local people in Pulathomas, near Belmullet, protesting with the 'Shell to Sea' group, have been jailed by the Irish State for their temerity in 'asking for more', but this is no Dickensian tale. This is real life for the people on whose turf, or under whose turf, these millions, nae, billions of Euros will be made.
Loughrea is a living example of short-sighted gain, versus long-term sustainability. Northgate Exploration's success and the unseemly rapid pace of their mining, was driven by tax incentives, share price, commodity markets, political expediency, and greed. If anything greed was the vice we all succumbed to, cashing our overtime checks, while the long-term societal benefits of such a rich resource in our backyard were ignored, largely.
Yes the wages were great, while they lasted, in the poor 1960's and 70's. Few people emigrated from Tynagh, Duniry, Killimor, Mullagh, Cappaghtaggle, Kylebrack and Abbey. The pubs were busy and we certainly benefited from an influx of amazing and talented people, who contributed to the county and our communities in many, many ways, even now, but we cannot look back at the Tynagh Mines now and not wonder if we could have done it better. 
A bittersweet documentary. Do tune into it. 
Thanks. Brian Nolan

Thanks for visiting; 
First published by Brian Nolan on 25th September 2014. 
All Rights Protected
''Galway Walks, Walking Tours of Galway''
Other blog at 
Contact; Phone 086-3273560

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Titanic - The Galway Connection


RMS Titanic was the greatest ship of her age. Thought to be unsinkable, Titanic was 882 feet long (this replica model, pictured above on the Prom in Salthill, was built by a Men's Shed project in Lahardane, County Mayo, to mark Titanic's 100th anniversary in 2012 is 1/10th scale). The real Titanic was built in Belfast to be the fastest liner in the world. Titanic struck an iceberg some 200 miles off Newfoundland, at 11.20pm on the night of the 14th of April 1912. She sank at 2.20 am on the morning of 15th April 1912, while on her maiden voyage to New York, from Southampton, England, via Cherbourg, France and Cobh (Queenstown), Ireland.
There were 2,223 passengers and crew aboard Titanic when she sailed from Queenstown (899 crew and 1,324 passengers) on the morning 12th of April 1912.
In total, 1,517 people died when Titanic sank (685 crew and 832 passengers). 120 Irish passengers boarded Titanic at Queenstown (42 survived, 78 died). 37 of the Irish passengers were from Connacht.
Nine passengers on Titanic were from County Galway. 2 others aboard had a very strong Galway connection.
Hanora "Nora" Healy, 29, of Athenry, Co Galway boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger. Her ticket cost £7-15s. Nora escaped the sinking in lifeboat 16. She died 11 March 1919 aged 36.
Andrew ‘Andy’ Keane, 20, Derrydonnell, Athenry, Co. Galway. He was a keen hurler and brought 2 county medals and a dozen hurley sticks with him on Titanic. He died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
Margaret Mannion, Loughanboy, Caltra. Co. Galway. She survived the sinking and returned to Ireland in 1919. She married Martin Hopkins of Ahascaragh. She died in Clontuskert on 15 May 1970.
Ellie Mockler, 23, Caltra, Co. Galway. She survived the sinking and in 1917 became a Mercy Nun in New York. She died in 1984, aged 95.
Martin Gallagher - Currafarry, Caltra, Co. Galway. A hero of the tragedy, he saved several women to escape certain death by helping them into lifeboats. He died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
Thomas Smyth – Chapelfinnerty, Caltra, Co Galway. He died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
Thomas Kilgannon - Currafarry, Caltra, Co Galway. He died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
John Flynn, Carrowhakin, Clonbur, County Galway. He emigrated to America some years previously and was only home on a visit. He died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
Patrick Shaughnessy, 24, Tynagh, Co Galway. He died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
Other Galway Connections;
Bruce Ismay, head of the White Star Line, the company that owned ‘Titanic’, was a captain of industry, an extraordinary entrepreneur, and the driving force behind the new breed of luxury liners purpose built to race across the Atlantic. He was vilified after Titanic sank and shunned as a social pariah. He left his life in London and moved to Connemara where he mostly lived from 1913 
Eugene Daly -Athlone, Co.Westmeath. 
A weaver and a talented piper, sailed on Titanic. Luckily he survived the sinking by clinging to an upturned liferaft. He testified at the Titanic hearings in New York. He married in New York and in 1921 returned to Ireland initially to Athlone. Later, he settled in Galway city and after his wife died in 1961, he flew back to America where he lived with his only child, Marion Joyce, in Missouri. He died on 30 October 1965. (see his story, Erin's Lament, below)

The Piper on the Titanic;
Erin’s Lament, Galway’s Gain - A Titanic tale
In April 1912, Eugene Patrick Daly, 29, a weaver from Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland, was travelling to New York City, just one of 113 Irish passengers who unfortunately chose the Titanic to emigrate to the USA. He boarded the Titanic on the 11th of April, 1912, at Queenstown (ticket number 382651). The ticket cost him £7-15s (seven pounds and fifteen shillings) or almost 6 months pay for a working man.

It has been confirmed in eye witness accounts of the Titanic’s call to Cobh, that Daly played "Erin's Lament", "A Nation Once Again", "Boolavogue" and other well known nationalist tunes on his uilleann (elbow) pipes (a traditional Irish instrument) for his fellow steerage passengers, as America, one of the two tenders to the Titanic steamed away from Queenstown harbour, bound for the gleaming liner that lay at anchor far out in Cork harbour, near Roches Point. It was both a heartening and a poignant moment listening to those traditional airs as the passengers left Ireland, most of them for the last time. In the Titanic Movie one of the band who played the dance music that Rose and Jack enjoyed below decks was playing an uileann pipes, no doubt a reference to Eugene Daly.

When Titanic sank, Eugene Daly was cast into the waters and no doubt he thaough his hour had come. However, amazingly Daly survived the Titanic’s tragic sinking by clinging to an upturned collapsible lifeboat (Collapsible 2). He credited his survival to his heavy overcoat. It had been his grand-father's coat and his mother had insisted on his wearing it. Though frost-bitten and near death, he was rescued, but he lost his precious pipes. He would later file a claim against the White Star Line’ for $50 for their loss. Similar pipes, possibly Daly's, were recently salvaged from the Titanic wreck and are now in the Titanic Museum collection.
Eugene Daly got married in America to Lil Caulfield from Co. Mayo, and whether he was homesick or inspired by the Irish Free State, he returned to Ireland in 1921. He suffered terribly from paronia on the return ship journey and never again set foot aboard a ship once they arrived home. With his new wife he moved to Galway where he found work in the Galway Woolen Mills. He lived at 7 St. Johns Terrace in Galway and was a popular musician in the city, playing pipes and flute in ceili bands around the city.
In 1961, after his wife died, he emigrated one last time to the USA, to Missouri, but this time by plane. He lived out his last days there with his only child, his daughter Marion Joyce.
Eugene testified at the Titanic Hearings in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel New York and his description of the sinking, the inadequate lifeboats and especially his eye witness testimony of a ship’s officer shooting third class passengers who were trying to board a lifeboat has been relied on heavily by historians of the Titanic and is the stuff of film legend now. His credible eye witness testimony of the chaotic scenes and passenger discrimination onboard Titanic was instrumental in the passing of new Lifeboat laws for passenger ships.  He helped save many lives in subsequent ship wrecks because of the new Lifeboat laws.
His account of the tragedy was used as research in many movies and stories about the great liner. He was unique amongst survivors in his willingness to recount the story whenever asked, as most other survivors, no doubt suffering from post-traumatic shock, or grief, rarely or never uttered a word on their brush with death when Titanic sank.

Eugene Daly died on 30 October 1965 aged 82. He is buried in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx

He lived at 7 Johns Terrace in Galway's 'West' district. He played music in Galway at various halls, but strangely never played the uileann pipes again, preferring to play the concert flute instead. He was invited as a guest of honour to the opening of the film about the Titanic, 'A night to remember' at The Claddagh Palace theatre in Galway and it is said he attended the showing every night of it's run there. 

Recently, I heard a story of how local children in the early sixties would chide him as having been a coward and dressing up in womens clothing, confusing him with Bruce Ismay, perhaps and not knowing the full story of his bravery and character. They taunted him with cries of  'Did ya get a white feather for your birthday from the Queen?' and worse I am sure. In Missouri he is remembered as a daily mass-goer and a community volunteer. I am not able to throw any light on why he is buried in the Bronx. His house in John Street is still there today. 

I tell this story and many more about Galway and its interesting past on my 'Walking Tours of Galway' and my 'Fireside Tours' at O'Connors Pub in Salthill. For more information see the Galway Walking Tours website or email me at for tour times and booking. Galway Walks - more than just a leisurelay stroll!

The above notes and story were prepared by me for the exibit of the replica Titanic at the Prom opposite the Aquarium.

Here's what was on show then:

From Mayo to Galway - with love, ' The Titanic' on the Prom!

Visitors to Galway, and locals alike, might be surprised this week by the graceful presence of the Titanic, 'moored' on Salthill's promenade, one of Ireland's best known seaside resorts. The replica 1/10 scale model of the famous ship, is on loan to Galway from the Mayo community of Addergoole, who celebrated the centenary of the ship's sinking last April. The commemorative events in the tiny Mayo village of  Laherdane were the focus of national and international media coverage, and 'the boat on the bay' is already attracting hundreds of curious onlookers to Salthill. The Titanic replica is 88 feet long, and is accurate in every detail, down to the portholes, smokestacks and anchors, and the decks are fully illuminated at night. 

Eleven young emigrants from Mayo lost their lives on the ship, a tragedy which devastated the local community, and prompted a group of local men from Addergoole to build a model of the liner. They worked tirelessly and in secret over a period of eight weeks, to ensure that the replica was in place for the opening ceremony in April this year. The 'gift' from Mayo is an acknowledgement and mark of respect to the nine Galwegians who boarded 'The Titanic' at Cobh in April 1912, six of whom lost their lives. "It was a real labour of love," according to Brian Nolan from Salthill, who is also a founding member of the Addergoole Titanic Society, "and while the locals are missing it terribly, it's great to be able to recognise Galway's loss on the Titanic too," he said.

Martin Gallagher, from Galway, was one of those who selflessly helped up to nine women into lifeboats before he lost his life. Another of the more well known Galway connections to the ship is Eugene Patrick Daly, a weaver, originally from Athlone, but who subsequently settled in St John's Terrace, Galway., where he worked at the Galway Woolen Mills, and was also a popular local musician.  Eugene testified at the Titanic Hearings in New York, and his credible eye witness testimony of the chaotic scenes and passenger discrimination onboard the Titanic was instrumental in the passing of new Lifeboat laws for passenger ships.

The West of Ireland connection to the ship extends to Connemara where Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, lived for thirty years.  He escaped the stricken ship on the last lifeboat, but his reputation never recovered.

In spite of it's tragic history, the Titanic and it's present-day replica continue to fascinate and attract the interest of passersby. Managing Director of Salthill Tourist Board Roger O' Sullivan, was impressed by the efforts of the Mayo community to keep the story alive, and he took the initative to bring the ship to Salthill in memory of the lost Galwegians. "The Titanic is just one of many welcome visitors to Galway this week, and is a continued boost for local business who are delighted with the increase in trade," he said. The arrival of the ship was celebrated at a launch in the Galway Business School in Salthill on Friday, where the Mayor of Galway Terry O'Flaherty welcomed the local tourist initiative.(pics in circulation)  

Situated on the prom, opposite the Aquarium, it's an ideal spot for a fun day out, with many visitors already enjoying close access to the ship for family photos. Titanic memorabilia and souvenirs are available from 10 am in the adjoining tent where talks on the boat's history will take place each evening at, beginning on Saturday August 4th,and continuing until August 20th. 
Volunteers who would like to take part in promoting Galway's historic link with the ship, are invited to contact Brian Nolan directly on 086 327 3560.

The replica is now housed in a warehouse in Castlebar, awaiting sailing orders. Who knows where it will go next (after necessary repairs and refurbishment!