History group grazes on story of Galway

LOUGHBRICKLAND Historical Group recently visited Athenry to visit a number of historical landmarks in this ancient, once-walled town.

Members enjoyed a walking tour which brought them past the North Gate, which is the only remaining gate in the walls built in the early 1300s.

Also on the schedule was Athenry Castle built around 1250 by Meiler de Bermingham, as was the Priory (completed in 1261) for the Dominicans. The Priory was sacked by Cromwell and its back wall was later used as a hand ball court with a spectators’ gallery across the road.

In the cobbled Market Square, the locals stopped at the remains of the 15th Century Market Cross and nearby Heritage Centre in what was originally St Mary’s Catholic Church - and subsquently the Church of Ireland parish church.

Other sites on the tour included the French Mausoleum in the woods at Monivea, the 19th Century Ballymacward Catholic Church and Ashtown Mausoleum, Woodlawn House, Woodlawn Railway Station and the Woodlawn Church of Ireland church.

Woodlawn Railway Station, which had originally been built for the Woodlawn Estate, proved an interesting interlude for the eager historians, as Michael Kilgannon told the group how he had stood on the tracks in front of an approaching train to protest about the proposed closure of the station some years ago. Happily, the protestors were successful and Woodlawn commuters can still get to Galway and Dublin by train today.

The group has expressed thanks to Des Doherty, chairman of the Woodlawn Heritage Group, who helped gain permission for the visitors to see inside the historic house which has recently been re-roofed and made waterproof.

Final visit of the day was to the Athenry Heritage Centre and a welcome by ladies in medieval costume who recounted the history of the town and showed the 14th Century Mace and Seal on display. The visitors then donned period dress themselves for more stories from the past, before enjoying afternoon tea and a crash course in archery.

On the second day, more historical site visits were on the schedule, including a visit to Oranmore Castle on the shores of Galway Bay and the ‘Morans on the Weir’ whose owner, Willie Moran, was for many year the world oyster-opening champion.

The two-day visit to County Galway was planned and led by Jean and Sean.