Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fadó Tales Of Lesser Known Irish History- Availability

  (The cover shows Donegal Castle, Dongeal Town, the stronghold of the O'Donnells)

Fadó is a self-published book (Troubador 2013) and is currently print on demand. Self-published books are often scoffed at and it is often forgotten that most authors, especially in the 19th century were self-published.
The sequel however, will not be print on demand and will hopefully be more widely available. I do my own marketing, which is quite demanding and a full time job in itself.

It is available from amazon and directly from the publisher.

 It is also available from 
Book Direct (free shipping)
The National Museum of Ireland (Kildare Street)
Books Upstairs, College Green, Dublin
Hodges and Figgis, Dawson Street, Dublin
Dubray Galway. Its also on their website so it can be easily ordered.
Charlie Byrnes, Galway
Easons (e-book only)
The Village Bookshop, Moycullen
Kennys of Galway

A copy of Fadó is available at Galway City Library and eight Dublin City Libraries. If you want to see it available at your local library, contact your librarian.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Arthur Colahan- The Man Behind Galway Bay


Galway Bay is song of longing which continues to captivate and its poetic vision has attracted visitors from all over the world to the City of the Tribes, yet the writer of this much loved song has been condemned to oblivion in his beloved Galway. Arthur Nicholas Colahan was born in Enniskillen on 12 August 1884. The family moved to Galway where he attended the ‘Bish’ and later Mungret College, Limerick as a boarder. He did an arts degree in UCD in 1900 before going on to study medicine and graduating as a doctor at Queens College Galway in 1913. He worked at the County Infirmary (now the County Buildings), before moving on to Holles Street. As war clouds grew, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was badly affected by mustard gas in India. After the war he settled in Leicester where he spent the rest of his career as a neurological specialist. 
Among his many interests was music and he enjoyed playing the piano. He composed several of his own songs such as ‘Asthoreen Bawn’, ‘The Kylemore Pass’, ‘The Claddagh Ring’ and his best known song, ‘Galway Bay’, which he composed in 1927 in memory of his brother Randolph who drowned in the bay in 1912.  He composed more songs but wrote few of them down, preferring to rely on his memory.  There are a number of theories as to where the song was written or where it was first heard. Some say it was in the home of Doctor Morris at Montpelier Terrace, others that it was in The Vicars Croft on Taylor’s Hill from where there was a view of Galway Bay. He sung it for years after this and once while on holiday in Ireland, a music promoter heard him singing it and it began to be broadcast regularly on Radio Éireann making it available to wider audience. Some of the lyrics were changed somewhat and the word ‘English’ was substituted with ‘strangers’. The changes were retained when the song was copyrighted in 1947. While some argue the lyrics should not have been changed, Colahan himself does not appear to have objected. In 1947 it was adopted by Bing Crosby and its popularity skyrocketed. It would also later be parodied by the Clancy Brothers. The song was included in The Quiet Man (1952) starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The film however only acknowledged the song’s arranger Victor Young and mentioned nothing of Colahan.

There are of course two songs about Galway Bay, though the older version is sometimes referred to as ‘My Own Dear Galway Bay’ and was written by Francis A. Fahy (1854-1935) from Kinvara on the southern shores of the bay. Though buried in Putney Vale Cemetery in London, Fahy is not forgotten in his native Kinvara and is remembered with a plaque in the village. The song is rarely sung, perhaps because the hauntingly beautiful version sung by Dolores Keane cannot be matched.

Colohan was regarded as a modest and quiet man, for whom riches and glory were of little interest. He died at his Leicester home at 9 Prebend Street on 15 September 1952. The ill-feeling with his estranged wife and in-laws meant that although his body was brought back to Galway, he was buried with little ceremony in a multiple grave in Bohermore cemetery. Though the names of other family members appear on the monument his name does not, and it is odd that the man who single handily did more for tourism in Galway than anyone else should be forgotten in this way. A blue circular plaque commemorating his achievements on the wall of his former home in Leicester was unveiled by Leicester City Council in 1986. Galway Bay is a song which encapsulates the soul of Galway and maybe a plaque will someday honour his name in Galway.

Galway Bay

If you ever go across the sea to Ireland,
Then maybe at the closin' of your day
You will sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh
And see the sun go down on Galway Bay.

Just to hear again the ripple of the trout stream
And the women in the meadows making hay,
To sit beside the turf fire in the cabin
And watch the barefoot gossoons at their play.

For the breezes blowin' across the sea from Ireland
Are perfumed by the heather as they blow.
And the women in the upland diggin' praties
Speak a language that the strangers do not know.

For the strangers came and tried to teach us their way.
They scorned us just for bein' what we are.
But they might as well go chasin' after moon beams
Or light a penny candle from a star.

And if there's to be a life in the hereafter --
And somehow I'm sure there's going to be --
I will ask my God to let me make my heaven,

In that dear land across the Irish sea.

Fadó Fadó- More Tales of Lesser-Known Irish History

The cover of my next book, which will be published in April of 2015

While writing Fadó Tales of Lesser Known Irish History, I came across many more tales on characters and events long forgotten about, yet deserving recognition. This book is the fruit of my research. Hope you enjoy it!

Available to order directly from the publisher at:


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Section of the wall of Tuam

The above archway is centuries old and once formed part of the wall around the town of Tuam County Galway. How old exactly it is, I am unsure of, but given that the walls of Derry, built between 1613 and 1618 are Europe's youngest walls, we can presume this archway is considerably older. It was taken from Tuam by the Handcock family, who owned much of the town and who resided here at Carantryla. The archway formed part of the orchard. Carantryla house itself  was demolished, possibly in the 1940s and it now nothing  more than a memory.

My thanks to Eamonn Boyle for guiding me there and to the Hessian family for allowing me access.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Adergoole Stone Cross

The remains of Adergoole Stone Cross, Dunmore, County Galway. It is believed to be 12th century and is the oldest High Cross in the Galway region.

Menlo Monument, Galway City

Menlo is a small village, on the shores of Lough Corrib  upstream from the city. This particular monument was built to commemorate a visit by King James II, around 1690.
It is believed that his army set up camp in Menlo and stayed for a number of months, while awaiting more favourable weather conditions. The road is known as Monument Road.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fadó Fadó

My new book book will be out in April 2015!

Fadó Fadó

More Tales of Lesser Known Irish History
by Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill

A long, long time ago…

Fadó Fadó: More Tales of Lesser Known Irish History is the sequel to Fadó: Tales of Lesser Known Irish History (Matador, 2013). It reveals more episodes from Irish history throughout the ages. 

The Irish abroad are not neglected in this collection of tales, many of which are not widely know or have been long forgotten about. The author makes no attempt to heroise or demonise the figures, though some of the characters do not deserve the obscurity to which the passage of time has condemned them, while others are probably best forgotten. Their stories illustrate the rich tapestry that forms Irish history… 

Who was the walking gallows man of Wicklow? What was it about a cave in Donegal that attracted visitors from all over Europe? What happened to the priest who evoked the ire of the Irish government? How did an Irish civil servant defy the Nazis at a time when appeasement was popular? Whose corpse in Galway created wonder and fear? Why did a Monaghan man eat his fellow convicts? And how did a Dublin woman try to assassinate Mussolini? 

Laid out in chapters long enough to cover what is important and still retain the reader’s interest, this book can be started from anywhere. Just like its prequel, Fadó Fadó is a must-have book for anyone interested in Irish history.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

RIC handcuffs

The above handcuffs belonged to my great grandfather John Deneny, who came from Cavan. He served in Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick. If you have relatives who served in this police force, more information can be obtained from the PSNI Museum in Belfast or the archives in Kew, London.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Key to Carantryla House

It is just an old key, but it unlocked the main door to one of County Galway's  "Big Houses". Carantryla House, located near Dunmore, County Galway was demolished around the 1940s. My great-grandfather John Deneny was caretaker at the house until Major Handcock returned in the 1920s.  Despite the attempts to erase the past, its memory lingers on.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Aideen's Grave, Howth, County Dublin.

Aideen was the daughter of Aonghus, who lived at Binn Edair. Her husband was killed in battle around 284 and she died of grief and was buried there. While she may have been buried there, the portal tomb, with its 35 tonne capstone is at least two thousand years older than this. The peninsula later became known as Howth after the name was adopted by the Normans.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Giant Irish Elk

The Irish Elk was not limited to Ireland, though Irish bogs have proven themselves a good source for their remains. Complete skeletal remains have been discovered and a good example is to be found in the Natural History Museum in Vienna. The antlers, such as the ones photographed above, had a diameter of nearly three metres. This particular example is at Bunratty Castle. Experts are unsure what caused their extinction, but some believe it was as a  result of climate change after the last Ice Age. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The King's Head Galway

Although a somewhat impersonal superpub, the building itself is around eight hundred years old. It is said to have been taken from the Lynchs by Colonel Peter Stubbers, the man believed to have executed King Charles I, hence the name of the pub. 

Remnants of Medieval Galway

Remnants of a bygone era seen on the streets of Galway. Many medieval ruins were erased in the 20th century, but many fragments still survive. Above: a medieval doorway. Below: one of the marriage stones, which formed part of the fireplace among the ruling 'tribes'. At some stage they were stuck into the walls of some buildings. In this case,  Subway at the bottom of Shop Street.

Several medieval churches around the country have mermaids.This example was seen on the front of St Nicks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

1798 memorial, Sligo


1798 memorial in Sligo town.

Sheela na Gig

A medieval sheela na gig at Bunratty Castle. It may have been a fertility symbol, a warning or protection from evil.

James Joyce's "The Dead"

The above building was the setting of James Joyce's short story "The Dead". It is now Richardson's pub and is located at the top of Eyre Square in Galway city.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sixteenth Century Irish Dress

Sixteenth Century Irish Dress. The man of the far right is holding a scian or single edged knife.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Irish Palatines of County Limerick

In 1709, about eight thousand Germans arrived in Dublin and were settled in Carlow and Wexford, but it was in Rathkeale that the largest colony was to be found. For more information check out my chapter on the subject in "Fadó-Tales of Lesser Known Irish History". See also my photo of Aunty Lena's pub, which was established in 1806. The photos below show the Palatine Museum in Rathkeale. It is a private museum, which can be opened on request by ringing the number given.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Punt Gun, Limerick City Museum

An unusual item seen in Limerick Museum(admission free). Its usage is recalled in the 19th century ballad Kelly the Boy from Killane:
What's the news, what's the news oh my bold Shelmalier
With your long barrelled guns from the sea
Say what wind from the south brings a messenger here
With the hymn of the dawn for the free

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lisdoonvarna in September-love is in the air

Oscar Wilde -Merrion Square, Dublin

Located in front of his former family home, the house of Sir William Wilde, the archaeologist, is the statue of Oscar Wilde, known locally as "the fag on the crag". Below:  a few quotes from the wit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Pikeman, Tralee, County Kerry.

A pikeman monument in Tralee, County Kerry

Rodger Casement

The statue of Rodger Casement at Ballyheigue, County Kerry. A German U-Boat brought him to Ireland and he came ashore in a rubber dingy. The locals informed the British and he was soon apprehended. After a trial for treason he was hanged at Pentonville Prison. His body was reinterred in Ireland in 1965.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Irish Brigade Flag, County Galway

Clare's Dragoons
When on Ramilles bloody field
The baffled French were forced to yield,
The victor Saxon backward reeled
Before the charge of Clare´s Dragoons.
The flags we conquered in that fray
Look lone in Ypres choir they say,
We´ll win them company today,
Or bravely die like Clare´s Dragoons
The Battle of Ramilles was fought in 1706. The flag pictured above was carried into battle by the Irish Brigade. The Flag is on display at Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway 

Irish High Cross, Kilfenora, County Clare

The Jeannie Johnson

Some advice for those going to the United States in the 1840s.The poster is on display aboard the Jeannie Johnson, a replica "Coffin ship" museum, docked on the Liffey.

An Irish passenger on her way to America
What the passengers got to eat on the voyage, though on most of these ships the food amounted to a starvation ration.


The sheela-na gig (possibly from the Irish meaning "Sheila of the breasts") are found throughout the country, usually on churches, though some are also in castles. One possible function was to ward off evil. This particular example is from the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary.

Stone Fort , County Kerry

The Irish did not live in towns and inhabited earthen or stone ring forts until the collapse of Gaelic society in the 17th century. This example is just outside Waterville, County Kerry.

Traitors' Gate Dublin

The Fusiliers Arch, erected to the men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who fought in the Second Boer War. It forms the gateway to St. Stephens' Green  in Dublin. For decades it was known locally as Traitors' Gate, though today many view this as derogatory.

Nora Barnacle and James Joyce

The hotel may be long gone, but the name is still preserved on the gable end. It was in this hotel that Nora Barnacle worked  as a chamber maid and just outside, on Nassau street, where she met James Joyce. Their first date on 16 June would be immortalised in the novel Ulysses.

Matt Talbot

Matt Talbot- the alcoholhic, who became a holy man and held up as an example to all. When he died in 1925 he was found to be wearing chains, a sign of penance. His statue is located on the South side of the Liffey, just beside the Bank of Ulster.

Irish Civil War Grave, North County Dublin

Located on the Malahide Road, just after St Doulagh's Church lies this forgotten monument.  Bernard Daly was murdered by Free State Soldiers in 1922.

Bernhard Daly was from Armagh but grew up in Drogheda. He joined the IRA and fought in the War of Independence. During the Civil War he served on the Anti-Treaty side and fought in the Parnell street Area.  He was taken from his place of work, a pub now called O’Neills,  by three men in civilian clothes. They may have been part of a group known as the Oriel Street Gang, dedicated to stamping out any resistance to the to the newly founded Irish Sate and were involved in several murders. His body was later found at this spot.

Fairy Tree, County Galway

The sceach or fairy tree. This example is located just outside the village of Leenane in County Galway, on the road to Kylemore. In times gone by, there was a belief that if you wanted a cure for a sickness, you would bind a rag to a  fairy tree and when the rag rotted away, your sickness would go away. Unfortunately, tourists have taken to abusing this custom and it is often seen with toilet paper.

Rag Tree

The rag tree at Doon well, County Donegal. The site has been a place of veneration for thousands of years.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Church of Saint Nicholas, Galway

In the heart of medieval Galway is the 14th century church of St Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. The photos here show a small fraction of the monuments on display. The Lynch memorial window-the heads of the angels were apparently smashed when the church was occupied by Cromwellian troops who used the church as a stable and ransacked the city in the 17th century.
Around 750 men from Galway city and county fell in the Great War. The Celtic Cross, hidden away in this church is their only monument.
The crusader grave for a knight called Adam. It predates the church by about fifty years and whoever prays for his soul will have forty days less to spend in purgatory.
The remnants of a flag, the proud banner of “The Devil’s Own” as the Connaught Rangers were known.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


 Two Irish chieftains as depicted on the cross of Scriptures.
 A bullaun stone.It is said to cure warts.
 The Cross of Scriptures(the real one).
 The Cross of Scriptures (copy)
A window in the cathedral