Gort- I can hardly see you!

Imagine that you are a tourist (Irish or International) on the wild Atlantic way and are passing around or through Gort and you get on TripAdvisor and click [Things to do -> Nearby] – what do you think you would get? Or maybe this searching happened a few months previous when you were planning a trip to see what you would do in the area and again searched for ‘Things to do’ or maybe places to eat etc.  What do you think you would find?

What have people said about this area in TripAdvisor – why don’t you find out for yourself? Many local people have or use TripAdvisor going abroad – why don’t we find out what it says?

Some history..

I’ve been using TripAdvisor for a few years now and our of curiosity, in 2014-2015 – I took a look at what TripAdvisor was saying about Gort and found a few anomalies  – our profile wasn’t as good as I thought it should be.  We have some wonderful restaurants, places to stay and things to do around the area – but it wasn’t really reflecting this. Here were some things I found:

  • Thoor Ballylee had about 20 reviews and the last review was a terrible  1-Star rating and the headline review was ‘National Disgrace’.

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  • Kilmacduagh wasn’t featured in the area – it didn’t come under Gort at all but, it came under ‘Galway‘ in general
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Kilmacduagh Monastary

  • Gort Golf Club wasn’t even listed as something to do.
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Gort Golf Club

So thing weren’t looking up to Gort and the environs – but at least we had Coole Park and LadyGregory Museum.   Back then, I did 3 things.

  • I wrote a 5-star review indicating the Thoor Ballylee was open –  A number of 5-star reviews followed.  Now the only reviews less that 4-stars are typically due to the fact the tower may be closed (in the winter)! But other than that most people reviews are now 5-Star – (Well done to the volunteers!)
  • I wrote to TripAdvisor  – advising them that Kilmacduagh was near Gort and posted wikipedia page that stated “Kilmacduagh Monastery is a ruined abbey near the town of Gort in County Galway, Ireland.”. They added this to the Gort Area within 4-6 weeks.
  • I created Gort Golf’s Club 1st ever review titled ‘Beautiful Golf Course‘ and that it was a ‘hidden gem’

I have mentioned at initial Burren Lowlands meeting that we should support our own locality and help to raise its profile.

 

I can hardly see you

Ok – so now let’s see what has happened since 2015 – Thoor Ballylee has 80 reviews  – most of which are 5-Star – so thats been a going fairly well – we could still support it more though!

Kilmacduagh has 128 reviews, again most of them 5-Star = so that’s going well!

Coole Park is leading the way with 248 reviews and Kiltartan Gregory Museum is 23 (with 19 5-star reviews)

However, Here is what I got when I was in the center of Gort (via GPS_ and I asked TripAdvisor to find me ‘Things to do “Nearby”. This is what I got 🙂

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Not very South-Galway Centric is it?  where is Thoor Ballylee and Kilmacduagh?  What about Gort Golf Club?  This means that if I was interested in a game of Golf and I happened to be Gort  – TripAdvisor  would recommend for me to play in Portumna Golf Club – (which, in fairness has 40 reviews and a high rating). This was a surprise so I decided to check up on how Gort Golf Club was doing on.

Since I created the first Gort Golf Club post in 2015 – it has had just 5 more reviews since – (Yes – that’s just about 1 review a year).  The reviews are pretty good but ‘Gort Golf Club’,  when it comes to TripAdvisor I’m afraid that people can hardly see you.

From, word of mouth, I do hear many very positive things about Gort Golf Club so we know that it offers a lot more than just getting 1-review a year would reflect – so what can we do about this?

What to do?

This is not about creating a massive TripAdvisor marketing campaign – I wouldn’t recommend that, what I would recommend though it for people to simply raise awareness as you are experiencing it:

  • Download the App – it’s very simple!
  • Next time you play a game of Golf in Gort Golf Club ….  Add a review on TripAdvisor.  Be honest! Review it. Add a picture!
  • Next time you have a meal in Gort  –  Add a review on TripAdvisor. Again be honest!  Tell people how tasty it was!
  • Next time you are in Ballylee, Kilmacduagh, Coole,  Kiltartan-Gregory Museum, Kinvara or anywhere in South Galway – leave a review!

Let’s give positive feedback on the wonderful accommodation, restaurants, and things to do in our own locality.  This brings more vibrancy into the area, well need more services and this will bring more jobs.

That’s it – and if enough people do this then from a TripAdvisor Perspective – it will be different – It will be more like:

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It’s up to you!

 

-David Murray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Year Resolution for Gort – Halt the illegal dumping!

In August 2017, on the foot of the Government’s anti-illegal dumping initiative, launched by the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, funding was made available to Galway County Council to instigate a major clean-up of illegal dumping around Gort. This resulted in a blitz clean-up involving Galway County Council and many members of the Gort and South Galway communities.

Local councillor Joe Byrne indicated at the time that this initiative would give confidence to local people that Galway County Council takes the issue of illegal dumping seriously and was looking forward to the installation of CCTV and barriers.  He called on Galway County Council to ensure that culprits caught in the act of dumping are dealt with severely through the legal system. That was August 2017, about 15 months ago. Today, tragically, the same area is like a war zone.

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The pound road, just 70m from Gort Station, with significant levels of illegal dumping.  Note the solar panels on the pole for CCTV

The situation today is astounding on 2 fronts. Firstly, the level of illegal dumping that goes on here is off the charts. There are freezers, fridges, washing machines, household rubbish, nappies, food, tyres, old caravans, broken microwaves, furniture, etc.   The rubbish is spread across a road frontage of 150m and as this stage would easily cover 1000m2. DJI_0100.JPG

The rubbish is spread across a road frontage of 150m and as this stage would easily cover 1000m2

Secondly, what’s even more astounding is Galway Council Council’s lack of response to this.  There were barriers erected to limit access, but these were in the wrong place.  There was supposed to be CCTV installed but 15 months later – we’re not ever sure if there is an active camera there now.  There have been repeated calls from our local Councillors to fix this situation but overall it has been allowed to be developed counteracting the good work that happened 15 months ago. That effort from GCC and community has now been rendered a complete waste of money and resources.

This illegal dumping is a scourge on communities and county councils all over the country.  Galway County council is not to blame for the illegal dumping, but it is  responsible for enabling this to happen when simple solutions could have prevented this.

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Some local residents out for walk on St. Stephens day, came across illegal dumping in progress at this site.

“There were people parked a van next to the wall on the pound road and then, in broad daylight started chucking bags of rubbish and old counter tops over the wall.” said a local resident.  “We took some pictures and notified the Galway County Council hotline. We’ll see how Galway County Council responds – and if they will take it seriously.”

Impact

My own main reaction to this illegal dump is disgust and secondary is embarrassment – I’ve taken all of these pictures on this page, but was embarrassed to put them up online, because I think it shows our community in bad light.  Then I thought to myself – hang on – the community in Gort is not responsible for this. We don’t want this illegal dumping – As a community, we’ve already spent 100s of hours clearing rubbish up down the years and have been continuously highlighting it and fighting it.

The issue of illegal dumping has been brought up time and time again with local councillors, in public consultation as part of the Gort Local Area Plan (2013 – 2019) Strategic Environmental Assessment and it was a major topic on the recent (Nov 2018) County Galway Joint Policing Committee.  This was also highlighted to Galway County Council as part of a delegation from the Gort River Walk Group and this was highlighted in the Connacht Tribune and Clare Chamption as well as on Galway BayFm.

There is a huge frustration that this has been allowed to happen, time and time again and that as a community, we feel powerless to stop it from happening.

We’ve been highlighting it for years and in 2017, with the tidy-up and then broken promises of restricted access and CCTV – it’s allowed the situation to develop again.  There seems to be a blind-spot in Galway County council for this type of illegal dumping.   As a community we know know that this can be fixed with very minimum cost and resources but this lack of action or conviction on part of Galway County Council is not saving money or resources – it’s wasting it and we’ve run out of patience.

Losing an Amenity

The pound road has been used for years as a walking and cycling trail – it’s a wonderful walk but many people have stopped using this route – the rubbish is just too disgusting and as there is every type of waste here – this will attract vermin.  Gort, unfortunately, has lost a valuable amenity.

There is also recent initiative within the town to develop a Gort River Walk but there is a huge challenge here due to the level of rubbish along the river close to the potential route

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The first steps toward a River Walk in Gort are blighted by illegal dumping

Tourism Impact

This illegal dumping will have an effect on tourism.  Gort has been included as part of a Wild Atlantic Way loop but with the train station just 70m away from this ‘war-zone’ – What does this say about our town if this is the first thing you see?

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This illegal dumping site is just 70m from Gort Railway Station

Environmental Impact

From an environmental side, the illegal dump extends to just 10m from Gort river. However, as the litter is thrown freely – a lot of this will end up in, or next to the river where it can be detrimental to our wildlife.

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The litter from the illegal dump can make its way into Gort River

This river system is full of swallow holes and underground rivers and is very sensitive to rubbish build-up so illegal dumping will cause damage to the ecosystem and increase flood risk

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Because of the Karst  network, floating rubbish will accumulate in the swallow holes (Castletown)

Galway County council has a responsibility to protect this waterway and this is specifically called out in the Gort Local Area Plan.

Issues

The key issue is that there is unmonitored and unrestricted access to this area. Not only can people just pop in and get rid of their rubbish, but they can drive overland and dump it where they like.  There have been 3 caravans brought in and burnt out across the site in the past number of weeks.

This is not a smalls-scale random dumping – this is a fully functioning illegal dumpsite.

The other issue is that the access is not monitored. There is a monitoring station there but according to our local councillors, it’s never been hooked up.

Solution

The solution for Gort should be straightforward:

  • Simplify and restrict access
  • Monitor the access and site
  • Prosecute people if they are involved in illegal dumping

Simplify and restrict access

There have been some access restrictions further down the pound road and this has seen a big improvement in the level of illegal dumping there – so .. it works!  Firstly, current access gates need to be brought closer to the station road and installed properly.  This access would need to be discussed with the necessary stakeholders and land owners, but it could be seen as a replacement of an already existing (but broken) barrier. Also as this a potential amenity road, it would be good to ensure pedestrian access.

Even with this new gated access, the land access in proximity to the site will also need to be restricted so people can not just drive onto land and dump stuff. Simple mounds or stone barriers should suffice to restrict land access.

Monitor the access and site

Then we need CCTV/monitoring station, very similar to what is in Gort Station at the moment.  The needs to be installed high-up and be tamper proof.

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Prosecutions

According to Galway County Council  :

Leaving or throwing litter in a public place is an offence that can be subject to an on-the-spot fine of €150 or a maximum fine of €3,000 if you are convicted of a litter offence in the District Court. You can be issued with an on-the-spot fine by a litter /community warden appointed by your Local Authority or by a member of the Gardaí. n such instances, direct prosecutions should be brought against the alleged offender. Where large-scale illegal dumping occurs, Galway County Council feels that the on-the-spot fine of €150 is not sufficient. In such instances, direct prosecutions should be brought against the alleged offender.

With public awareness and the proposed CCTV, we can catch people in the act of illegal dumping but in order to be efficient we need fast follow up fines and prosecutions.

Next Step

From continuous requests for progress on monitor of illegal dumping in Gort – the response from Galway County Council in May 2018 was ” there are technical problems with CCTV, but when resolved, Gort would get priority”. that was 8 months ago– but this hasn’t materialized and therefore hasn’t been a priority.

This worsening situation was highlighted before the Christmas to Galway County Council, referred to by Councillor Joe Byrne where he reiterated his call on the illegal dumping in Gor where he asked specifically:

  • When will CCTV system be fitted on Station Road?
  • When will CCTV system be fitted on Kinincha Road?

We are awaiting a response for Galway County Council but intend to meet them in January 2019 to highlight our intolerance to this situation

In Dec 2018 in the Galway Advertiser – Galway County Council took out a full page Advetisment titled “Galway County Council tackles illegal dumping” and showed the same scenes that we have seen in Gort – a Before.. and After. However from our experience in Gort, there is another after where all that cost and effort is undone.

As we’ve stated – In our opinion, the best solution needs all of the three aspects.

  • Simplify and restrict access –
  • Monitor the access and site  – Install the CCTV immediately.
  • Prosecute people if they are involved in illegal dumping – we have a complaint submitted.

Let’s hope that 2019 makes Gort an Illegal-Dumping free zone.

-David Murray

References

Gort Mill – Its likes will never be seen again

The Gort Mill was built in 1806 as a small tuck mill by a journeyman miller called Butler for the Lahiffes.   He erected a humble wooden thatched building on the east side of the Gort River bank.   In Pigot’s directory of Ireland 1824, under Gort Directory, Daniel Lahiff was named as a miller, however it had already been sold in 1823 to John Mangan. John was born in 1791 and was a member of an Ennis milling family.  He was  noted in the 1846 Slater’s Directory as a Miller and Baker in Gort.

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John Mangan(1791-1864)

Mangan enlarged the mill, converting it into a grain mill. He also reconstructed, enlarged and redesigned the nearby miller’s cottage which he then called it Flower Vale.

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Gort Mill – (Drawing by Michael Howley-Ardrahan)

The mill was 4 storeys high and remained unchanged for over a century and a half.  Alongside at right angles is a similar structure which houses a kiln of perforated brick.  It had large windows with real glass and arched entrances to allow access for carts and wagons to the mill for unloading and loading.  For many decades the annual output was up to a massive 7,000 barrels of flour. White flour manufactured there from wheat grown by local farmers was first kiln dried, prior to grinding and silk screening.  The mill wheel was an undershot model fed from an artificial pond (Mill Pond); wooden sluices were used to control the flow of water to the mill race and a tail race took the water back to the river. The water wheel drove the cast steel pit wheel inside the building. This latter drove a spur wheel which, in turn, drove four smaller wheels.

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The location of the mill, kiln and Flowervale. Note the Mill pond and the Gort river diverted around the old Barracks

Religion

John Mangan was supposed to be a very religious man.  He was the donor of the crucifix at St. Colman’s Church and they had a private oratory in the house. He was one of the main people involved in bringing the Sisters of Mercy to Gort in the mid-19th Century.   There was a spring behind the mill there was this was upgraded to a holy well dedicated to St Manchan’s. According to ‘Gort Inse Guaire- A passage through time’, the well had been rediscovered but it was re-lost in the past decade.

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Sketch of St Manchan’s Well (Gort Inse Guaire- A passage through time)

There is also a St Manchan’s well in Leamaonagham which alludes to curing ‘any disease’ as long as you go there on 3 successive Fridays and be there for 3pm sharp.  There seems to be a connection between St Manchan and the Mangans here.   In Gort, it was supposed to have a cure for eye ailments but holy or not, this well was where many of the locals in Gort used to get their drinking water.

Lancelot Mangan

Eventually the mill was passed over to his John’s son Lancelot who was born in 1820.  John Mangan died in 1864 and is buried in Shangalish.

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Lancelot Spencer Mangan(1820-1901)

The Slater’s directory of Ireland in 1881, names Lancelot Mangan as a Miller in Bridge St

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The mill was facing a new challenge however, the advent of the Railway, which opened in 1869,  and subsequent industries it enabled, it made it possible to procure cheaper white flour from outside (e.g. Limerick).  It was around this time that the Mangan’s sold Flowervale Mills to Martin Hynes.

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The Mangan family, Launcelot Spencer Mangan and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, together with their son, Dalton and Fanny Lynch (sister of Mrs. Mangan) outside their home, Flowervale, Gort, prior to the ¦ departure of the Mangans to Dublin in 1880. (Connacht Tribune)

The Hynes family were also from a milling tradition and had mills in Oranmore and Cloon.   According to John Hynes (Martin’s Grandson), Flowervale was one of the finest examples of a grain mill in the whole country.  “It had all a mill required, including a large kiln where the grain could be dried. The operation of the mill itself involved a complex system of gears, pulleys, locks and hoists. The two most important pieces of equipment were the outside wooden water wheel and the dressed grinding stones (called querns)  inside. There were four querns on the first floor each driven by a shaft from the ground floor. The stones were of French burr, quarried in the Paris basin.  Each grinding stone had 4 sections bound together by an iron band. The carefully cut grooves in the stones required skill and maintenance to keep them in condition.  The grain was hoisted to the top floor and fed into the center of the stones to be ground. It could be ‘roughed’ of ‘fined’ as required. In my father’s words, the mill made the finest of brown flour and I can still remember the taste of the bread

When production got slack and there was no corn to grind , wood became the mills raw material. Sometimes saws or lathes could be attached to the machinery and the mill would turn to wood-craft. Even the planks could be dried and cured in the upper floors.   Often during the summer months, when production as slow and the water was low,  maintenance was done on the mill wheel and grinding stones.

At one point the mill was used generate electricity and supply it to parts of the town, including lights, some house and a Cinema.  According to a report in the Connacht Tribune in February 1928, when recent heavy rains caused much flooding in Gort the town and because of ‘the rush of  backwater at the mills, the turbines were idle, and the town was without electric light for a  few nights‘.  In 1942,  Robert Coen remembers seeing such epics as “The Black Swan” with Errol Flynn, with power supplied by Hynes’ Mill. Pat Hynes (Martin’s son) was the one who had little mill project going on and electricity was one of his key ones.  As one stage, he was also an undertaker and key an old hearse in the mill.

However, the provision of ready-milled flour brought a sharp decline in the mills value  demand gradually reduced to the point where, in the early 1960s, the only customers were people who couldn’t do without the taste of ‘real’ flour, bringing small ‘casicin’s of grain to be milled, on the back of their bikes.

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White flour was all the rage, nobody wanted to eat that old fashioned stuff. Despite its marvelous taste, despite it being in tune with nature’s way, it was simply old fashioned.”, noted Robert Coen.  John Hynes, who was born in 1947 and can remember the yard being full of horses and carts during the 1950s when the mill was fully operational but it declined sometime in the late 1950s.

There was also an orchard around Flowervale that man of the Gort Locals still remember.

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Gort Mill 1964 (Galway County Library)

 

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Gort Mill Wheel 1969 (Galway County Library)

Saving the mill

In 1978, some twelve years after operations ceased at the mill,  W.M Quinn of Gort wrote an article about the mill in the very first Guaire magazine to raise awareness of its importance to Gort. He first offered a glimpse into life at the mill.  “Before the intrusion of the oil engines and the E .S .B. it was a vital pivot in the lives of the farming community for miles around. Its great Big Wheel went round and round driven only by the free rushing waters of the Blackwater river — no diesel, fuel, no dependence on Saudi Arabia or impersonal electric power. This was the age of simple living, of the ass and cart. Old ‘women often trudged miles with a small caiscin of wheat on their backs, arriving at dawn for the mill was a place of animation and necessity.  Long queues waited their turn to have the wheat ground into flour or the oats turned to Pin Head Oatmeal to rear the chickens that grew to hens or fat cocks — or was eaten with relish as porridge for breakfast. This before a long day’s toil in the harvest fields or at the demesne of the local gentleman.

Willie asked for its preservation and indicated that a visit to Hynes’ mill would be a sight of wonderment and disbelief, not only to youth but to grown-up men who have never seen one in motion.

We spend millions in restoring old town and abbeys and fairy Liosanna but future generations will bewail the obliteration of that link with an old style of farming.” said Willie.   A that stage in the late 1970s, the big slates on the mill wheel had rotted away.  He indicated that the custodians then, Mr. and Mrs. John Hynes, would like to see it preserved and he queried as to who would buy the old water mill and preserve this piece of history and heritage.

 

Mill for Sale

Within a year, in August 1979, the mill went up for sale and there was an article in the August 31st Connacht Tribune edition with a headline “Mill from 1806 is for auction“.  The article indicated that the building could well be preserved for education purposes in a manner similar to Tuam’s mill museum.  It describes the intricate workings of the mill and highlighted that ‘A building such as this should not be lost to the present and future generations.”

Unfortunately, within 2 months there was a fire at the mill. It was reported in Connacht Tribune on October 12th 1979.  The fire started on the 3rd floor before engulfing the roof and burning timber and milling machinery but it was not known who started the fire.  Eventually the mill was sold to Gort Co-Operative Livestock Mart in 1980

Mill Destroyed

What happened next caused a lot of controversy and potentially some speculation.  Sometime over a bank-holiday weekend, supposedly at night, bulldozers came onto the site and completely demolished the mill. This was a big shock to many people in the town and made the front page of the Connacht Tribune on March 1st 1985

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Connacht Tribune with headline ‘Old Mill was dangerous say Co-op in row on demolition’

Local conservationists and An Taisce (The National Trust) were up in arms at the demolition of the Gort Mill, which they claimed was done without any advance notice being given to the public. They say the building was irreplaceable and a fine example of the town’s heritage and accused the Gort Co-Operative Livestock Mart Society of ‘wanton destruction’.

Toddy Lahiffe a committee member and former chairman of Gort Co-Operative Livestock Mart Society was unrepentant about the destruction claiming health and safety reasons for their decision. He claimed that they had been doing some work on the development of a yard and car park and they thought the building was close to falling.    “We had a bulldozer in to clear the ground and it was decided to demolish a particularly dangerous building adjacent to the Mill” .said Lahiffe,  “We were shocked at how easily that fell and realised how lucky we were that there were no local kids in there when it would have eventually fallen in. Then we noticed a huge crack up the side of the main building, which actually split it in two. So we completed the demolition job there and then” he said.

Lahiffe said that interested parties had made approaches to the Co-Op some years ago about conserving the building and the Co-Op had agreed to help them. But they had not come back since to them and if they had done so, then they would have received full co-operation.

Local An Taisce member, Mrs. Eileen Kilroy said that many locals were upset about the way Gort Co-Op went about demolishing the Mill.

We were given no warning and we only managed, with the help of County Council officials, to rescue the millstones,” she said Kilroy.  She also stated that an eighteenth century motor hearse (owned by Pat Hynes) was supposed to be in the Mill at the time of the demolition but Lahiffe said that there was no hearse in the-building either at the time of the demolition or indeed at any time previous to that.

According to a Galway County Council, the Gort Co-Op did not break any rules of planning permission by knocking the Mill as demolition was exempt from planning permission and indicated that Hynes’ Mill was not listed as a preserved building in either any development plan.  According to the article, Lahiffe said that the Co-Op could not have left the building standing unless An Taisce would go to the expense of repairing it.

A Ms. Emer Colleran, Environmental Officer with the Galway Branch of An Taisce, said that the building was in good enough condition to be renovated in the future and deplored the action of the Gort Co-Op in demolishing the Mill.  “Now that option is gone and County Galway has lost another building of significant historical value.  Fortunately the millstones have been saved and will be preserved, but Hynes’ Mill is gone.  The loss to Gort is irreparable. When one considers the contribution which the Mill Museum is making to the amenity; and tourist potential of Tuam, the true scale of the loss becomes evident. We had not thought at any stage that the Co-Op would knock the building without giving us good warning“.

Lahiffe said that he felt people were over-reacting to the demolition. “I really don’t think it’s worth all the controversy,” he said.

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The Gort Mill Millstones today in Canon Quinn Park, Gort

Many locals including W.M Quinn who had called for its preservation was very upset over the mill destruction and he penned the following ‘Dirge for the old water mill’

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Poem by W.M. Quinn (Courtesy of Richard Joyce)

‘Dirge for the old water mill’
Too late I cried, for years I tried
To save the water mill
But farming men who’s Kith ‘n Kin
And grandads long ago
Depended on that grand old mill
Driven only be the fast wasters flow
Have bulldozed a loved tradition
That the never can replace;
The mill is gone – I bow my head
In sorrow and disgrace

Vision Denied

How did it come to this situation?  Was is on Taisce failing to protect the mill and mark it as a preserved building? Was it Gort Co-op mart just wanting rid of an derelict and devalued site?  Was it an apathy in the general community? Was it a general undervalue of investment in preserving our heritage. Was it just taking things for granted and not valuing what you have? It was nobody’s fault and yet it was everybody’s fault.

Several people, like Willie Quin had a vision of preserving the mill so that ‘perhaps hear the rhythmic churl of the big wheel turn the might cogs that send the stone querns pouring out brown flour from the brittle corn. Done in its slow unhurried way that made its meal a product far superior to the fast engine-driven mechanisms of today’ (Guaire 1978)

Mill preservation was not new as Galway and Tuam were able to restore their mill and now are tourist attractions, restaurants and small commercial units. There are also wonderfully restored Finnerty’s Mills outside Loughrea. (Coincidentally, this Mill belonged to my great grandmother:)

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The Bridge mills Galway

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The beautifully restored Finnerty’s Mill outside Loughrea

In some ways, I think it was a general under-appreciation of something on our doorstep and while there was a vision of its value, there was no sharing of this vision across the different groups and no coordinated mission to make it so.

I suppose we do things different now and there are development impact assessments that screen for heritage considerations that would stop things in their track.  It’s too late for Gort Mill and John Hynes poignantly pointed out :

Its demise is a personal loss to our family as well as a major loss to the town and the area.  Its likes will never be seen again” (John Hynes, Guaire 2008)

That’s why we can’t take things for granted and in some ways this delving into the Gort Mill history is probably the result of another vision being threatened.  In this South Galway Vision site, the 1st article I wrote was ( A vision for Gort – The Slurry Capital of Ireland? about a massive Biogas plant proposal in 2018 that maligned many peoples vision of Gort. It proposed pouring 100s of HVG Tankers a day into the heart of the town. It had its own gas flare and smell – it would simply have ruined many peoples vision of the town.  It would have rendered the Kinincha Road dangerous for pedestrians and eliminated a beautiful potential looped walk around Gort that all in South Galway could enjoy.  It was this threat that mobilized a group of people into doing something about it and a Gort River Walk Development group was formed to navigate a means of allowing the people of South Galway, easy access to the river which was there in the days of the mill.   Like the Mill this project will absolutely need the support of the local community as the Biogas potential has not gone away and we need to be vigilant for any sleight-of-hand that can take this away from us.

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Location of the Mill and the proposed Gort River Walk

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St Manchan’s well today  – almost forgotten and obliterated (By Luis Morais)

So we’ve come full circle – with this threat to a vision we stumbled upon this history as we opened out the starting of a Gort River Walk behind Aldi and the re-rediscovery of St Manchnan’s well. Then we discovered a treasure trove of snippets and stories of lost heritage and a lesson to share.

Perhaps we should install a memento of the mill as a reminder of our lost heritage to help us but lets aim to be vigilant and raise awareness and push for the development of this river and enable South Galway and north Clare to have a wonderful amenity at our door step.

 

-David Murray

References

  • http://www.celticcousins.net/ireland/pigots1824gort.htm
  • Gort Inse Guaire, A journey through Time, Marguerite Grey
  • Connacht Tribune :  August 31st 1979
  • Connacht Tribune Friday, October 12, 1979
  • Connacht Tribune : Friday January 4 1980
  • Connacht Tribune Friday, August 6th 1982
  • Connacht Tribune , Friday, March 01, 1985
  • Connacht Tribune , Friday, April 12, 1985;
  • Guaire Magazine – 1978
  • Guaire Magazine – 2008

 

Acknowledgements

  • The to Michael Howley for allowing me to share his wonderful sketch of Hynes’ mill (if anybody wants a framed print of the picture – call into Gort Framer )
  • Thanks to Richard Joyce for sharing Willie Quinn’s dirge
  • Thanks to Josephine Curtin (Martin Hyne’s Granddaughter)
  • Thanks to Finnerty;s Mills for working against the grain and restoring their Mill beautifully.

 

Thoor Ballylee – The Power of an Enduring Vision

By Tonii Kelly

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I think of Thoor Ballylee as conceived to be a stronghold for the de Burgos in the 14th or 15th century, a square stone tower that stood as mute witness to the passage of time.  It endured a cycle of renewal followed by ruin through the centuries that followed the decline of the de Burgos. It is in the 20th century that the I consider the stone tower to have gained a vision and a voice through William Butler Yeats.

The history is everywhere: After visiting the area in 1887, Yeats collaborated with Lady Augusta Gregory of Coole, and Edward Martyn of Tulira as they initiated a literature and theatre of the Irish, a vision at once revolutionary and revelatory. WB Yeats’ purchase of the property from the Congested Districts Board was finalised in 1917,  and he proclaimed it both monument and symbol. One cannot overlook the impact of the stone tower upon Yeats’ vision.  It inspired his books of poems, The Tower and The Winding Stair, as well as the synthesis of the occult and astrological that defined his personal statement in ‘’A Vision”.

I, the poet William Yeats,
With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge,
Restored this tower for my wife George.
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.

So when does a vision supersede its inspiration?

Yeats’ work resonated across the world, in a time before social media. Thoor Ballylee became known across the world. However, Yeats had to leave his Tower in 1928, and Lady Gregory passed in 1932, so that the Tower was again in decline by 1958.  Yeat’s forecast was complete as ‘all was in ruin once again’.

At this point, the vision Yeats created took on a life of its own. In 1961, the Kiltartan Society, founded by Mary Hanley’s vision of fostering the literary history of the area and the restoration of Thoor Ballylee, took measures to reclaim the Tower. The Yeats family still owned it, but with the assistance of Bord Failte created a Trust in 1963 to enable the renovations needed. By Sunday, 20 June 1965, the building reopened for the Centenary of the poet’s birth.

The cycle of rebirth and ruin continued inexorably: in early 2009 and 2010, severe flooding occurred and caused the Tower to be closed again.

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But the vision lingered, and in 2012, Bord Failte spent €200,000 to weatherproof the building and protect the fabric of it. Still, it was closed to the public, voiceless.

In 2014 a reviewer on Tripadvisor gave Thoor Ballylee a 1-Star Rating and deemed it as a ‘National Disgrace’ – He staid “This was the holiday home of W. B. Yeats the national poet and hero yet this building has been allowed to get into a very bad state of repair and is an absolute disgrace to the Irish Nation and the Tourist Board. This should be regarded as a national treasure, as is the poet himself and should not have been allowed to get into the derelict stat it is in. Tourist Board please do something to sort out this lovely building and correct the neglect it has suffered over the years!”

In 2014, Ronnie O’Gorman and others began to assemble the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society with the express vision of developing the Tower as a cultural and educational centre. By 2015, their efforts enabled the reopening on 13 June 2015, for the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birthday.

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Disaster Struck again in Winter 2015 when several severe winter storms created flooding which inundated the castle once more.

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It looked like ‘All was in ruin once again’ – but again the resilience of the local community and interested parties near and far came to the fore and quickly restored and reopened it again for the summer.

Today, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society website lists Committee members across a spectrum of Irish cultural life. They include: Sharon Brennan, Failte Ireland; Joe Byrne, Councillor, Galway County Council; Mary Callanan, Failte Ireland; Sue Clarke, Galway Rural Development; Teresa Clay, Burren Lowlands Project; Marion Cox, Managing Director at Eagle Business Advisors; Lelia Doolan, Irish Film Producer; Senator Fidelma Healy Eames; Sister Mary DeLourdes Fahy, Kiltartan Museum; Colin Fahy, Accountant; O’Donnell Keane and Co, Accountants; Alan Farrell, Galway County Council; Colm Farrell, Local Auctioneer; Professor Margaret Mills Harper, University of Limerick; Deirdre Holmes, Local Photographer; Rena Mc Allen, Kiltartan Museum; Catherine Mc Connell, Galway County Council; Ronnie O’ Gorman, Galway Advertiser; Michael O’Grady, Lady Gregory Hotel; Dr. Adrian Paterson, National University of Ireland, Galway; Colman Sherry, Solicitor; Anna O’Donnell, Culinary Historian; & Angela Guillemet, PR and Fundraising.

On a daily basis, the passion shared by Rena McAllen, Nichola Baverstock, the small staff and volunteers keeps the Tower open for visitors and scholars. Thoor Ballylee is a growing resource in the world’s community of drama and literature, and a destination for international tours, plays, concerts and musical performances. In late 2018 the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society undertook the restoration of  WB’s garage, across the road from the Tower to create a venue for writers and artists. With additional future projects planned to sustain local artists, the Tower as a source of creativity continues.

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A concert behing hosted in Thoor Balllee in October 2018

As one of the many volunteers, I can safely say the vision of Thoor Ballylee has become mine and theirs.

And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.

 

 

Application for proposed Biogas Plant in Gort has been withdrawn

 

On the foot of a harsh assessment of a seriously deficient environmental impact assessment (EIA), the developers of a super biogas manufacturing plant in Gort have withdrawn their application.  The key concerns that were raised by concerned residents were reflected in the Galway County Council assessment of the submitted EIA.

The Gort Concerned Residents group indicated that the biogas plant would have a negative impact on the town and surrounding environment.

  • Health and safety issues from a substantial volume of heavy vehicles, transporting materials to/from the plant (Peak of 242 HGVs/ Day) coming to with 200m of Gort centre
  • The biogas plant site was just 10m from Gort River and the connectivity with Coole, Garryland and Kinvara Bay.
  • The feasibility of having a plant this size away from some key biomass sources (e.g. pig farms)

In general people are in favour of Biogas techniques – but not of this size, so close to a town and river.

The developers were given 6 months to submit a revised environmental impact statement to address but the deadline is now passed and the application has been withdrawn.

For more information:

For more information on the key concerns :

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Vision Remembered: Guaire Magazine

Sometimes it’s good to delve back into the past, tease out and identify something that was ahead of its time – something visonary ‘back-in-the-day’ ( A phrase that my kids now use in relation to my youth!) . Something that at the time people could have said – ‘You Can’t do that’, ‘It will never work’ etc.  and yet despite that they went and ploughed ahead and forged something remarkable.  There are many examples of these things and the past week brings one to the fore – Guaire Magazine!

Guaire Magazine

Recently – at the launch of the new Guaire Magazine 2018 in the Lady Gregory Hotel, by Tonii Kelly, Guaire Magazine Editor, presented a special bouquet of flowers to Josephine Ward to celebrate her participation in Guaire Magazine since 1978 and her wonderful artwork has blessed the magazine many a time through the last 40 years all the way up to the latest publication in 2018 – which features the wonderful Kilmacduagh Tower.

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In the early days  Fr. Enda Glynn, Peadar O Conaire, Josephine Ward and Brendan Long where the key drivers and they inspired many of the young and the old to write about their community or contribute stories, poems or pictures.   It captured snapshots of our community that would have otherwise been lost in history.

In a way, Guaire Magazine was South Galway’s first ‘social media’

Founding Guaire Editor, Peadar Ó Conaire, recalls how the magazine started:

How it started was peculiar because I came to Kilmacduagh in November 1966 and then moved to Gort town in 1970 to become principal of the boys’ school. I had wanted to start a magazine in Gort and got in touch with Fr. Enda Glynn in Ros an Mhil, because he had a successful parish magazine going there which I had seen while at university.

“So the next thing, he was transferred to Gort, to my great joy and I approached him and he was delighted with the idea, so we sat down together with the late Brendan Long, a teacher in Kiltartan and Josephine Ward, a local teacher and artist who is still involved and has designed many covers through the years. That meeting was in September 1978 and we got the first issue out in October of that year.

As the years went by the Guaire magazine ebbed and flowed like the tide but there was always a group that kept the vision alive.  So we have to understand that Guaire magazine is a past vision realised.  It had to be difficult to get it off the ground and get it going and now it’s a treasure chest for many. All past issues have been archived so people can browse and reference those snapshots in time.

This years Guaire Magazine is a credit to the editoral committee, producers and artists.  It is so professional and at €5 it’s so well worth it.  Send a copy to someone abroad- its still giving a snapshot of Gort in time.   It’s great to see it drawing inspiration for many of our young writers out there.  We have to make sure that its well supported!

Why not browse through the archives (which are in PDF Format) at  http://www.guaire.org/archives.html

It takes a Community!

Here’s a ‘shortlist’ of people who helped in putting the magazine together sine 1978 and includes editorial board, advertising, photography etc, (Note : It doesn’t include the 100s of contributors – and may not include all!)

Fr. Enda Glynn, Peadar O Conaire, Josephine Ward, Brendan Long, Audrey O’Connor, Mary Moloney, Maria Long , Anne McInerney, Bernadette Fennessy, Elizabeth Joyce, Eva Martyn, ​Niall Shaw, Joan Hallinan, Patricia Kelly, Breda Piggott , Patricia Walsh, Anne Fitzgibbon, ​Nicholas Cafferkey, Suzanne Griffin, Angela Moran, Pamela Jordan, Marian Carr, Patricia Cahill , Annette Molony, Michael Finnegan, John McLoughlin, Michael Cooley, Irene Gill, Frank Lally, Mary Roche, Adrian Moloney , Ken Carr, Chris O’Shaughnessy, Elizabeth Joyce , Fiona Murray, Ingrid McGrath, ​Noreen Corcoran, Patrick Flaherty, Tim Gleeson, Gearoid Keating, Fr Jimmy Walsh, John Finnegan, Tim O’Driscoll,  Margaret Linnane, Paddy Cooke, Evelyn Roche, Sean Leahy, Michael Bermingham,  Hilda Roche, Michael O’Dwyer, Mossey Clabby, Jimmy Hannigan, Pius Murray, Colm Ward, Dick Burke, Patty Cahill, Evelyne Roche, Fr Martin Coen, Johnny Spelman, Peter Walsh, Monica McGrath, Oliver Mahon, Micheal Cahill, Jimmy Collins, Anne Gallagher, Johnny Spellman, Tony Platt, Claire Melville, Fr John Mahon, John Melville, Donal Healy, Pat Fitzgibbon, Brian Brennan, Tony Hannon, Fr JP McMahon, Claire Meville, Ian Cahill, Maura Helebert, Gerardine Killeen, Rose Finnegan, Monica McGrath , Mary Counihan, Mary Hansberry, Christine Brennan, Tony Lannon, Sean Curtin, Richard Wall, Frank Cahill, John Scarry, David O’Reilly, Mike Muldoon, Jim Earley, Tonii Kelly,  Mary Lynskey, , Marty O’Connor, Mavis Gormally, Pat Farrell, Colm Grealish, Fidelma Larkin, Laura McMahon, Hannah Rushe.

Sometimes having a ‘vision’ can be the easy bit, but realising it sometimes takes a community!

-David Murray

References

[1] The History of Guaire : http://www.guaire.org/history.html

 

Trail 1 : Gort’s Golden Mile

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As mentioned previously, Gort was a winner of the Golden Mile competition run by Galway County Council and Galway Rural Development. The Golden Mile of Galway Competition is organised by Galway County Council, Galway Rural Development, Forum Connemara, Meitheal Forbarta na Gaeltachta, Comhdhail Oileáin na hEireann and Galway County Heritage Forum with the support of the farming organisations.

The prize was under the category of  of ‘The Mile showing the Most Potential’.  Sr de Lourdes Fahy with the help of Adrian Feeney, developed the concept and collected the award  (represented the Burren Lowlands Group). They both acknowledged the work carried out by many people in order to achieve this award including Gort No Name Club, Margaret Rochford Community Employment Programme, Pat Finn from Gateway/Galway County Council, Dermot Gillespie, the local farmers, Fergal Fahy, Gort Local Engineer and Gort Gardaí.

The Gort Golden Mile begins in the townland of Ballynamantan and ends in Kinincha and is described by Adrian as follows:

“Views stretch across the countryside into Gort lowlands and across to the Slieve Aughty Mountains. The mid section of the mile consists of a green road. Hedgerow birds are abundant all along the road. A beautiful thatched cottage (Hallinan’s house) can be seen on the roadside; this was the miller’s house in the olden days. A lot of work was done to remove the abundance of litter. The rest of the route into Gort is currently being cleaned up and the Burren Lowlands Group would like to appeal to the public to keep a vigilant eye out for illegal dumping. This is a beautiful road that can be utilised by all members of the community,” he said.

Route

The road stretches from Kinincha to Ballynamantan and provides an alternative access to Coole Park and a loop (4.5km/2.8 miles)  can be completed back into Gort Town.

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A 2.8 mile loop, starting out in Kinincha, via Ballynamantan and out to the Galway road, contains Gort’s Golden Mile – ‘The Mile with the most potential’

Here is a visual tour of the walk!

Realising the Potential

As the winner for the ‘Mile showing the Most Potential‘ – how could this be realised? Firstly, this should be developed as an amenity trail, and not really developed for vehicles (the exception is of course that locals farmer have local access).  Overall to bring the trail to a good level there may not be much development required here but we are probably talking about the following:

  1. The Kinincha road needs a clean up and I’m not just talking rubbish – but also there’s old construction material, cement, blocks that needs to be removed.
  2. The road close to Ballynamantan lake is a bit uneven and can get muddy.
  3. Some seating overlooking the river
  4. Permanent signage along the trail (and from Gort Square) to show people the way.

I’ve talked to some of the locals along the way who were very open to this being developed as an amenity trail.

A second aspect to realising its potential is for people to actually use this.  Karen O’ Neill has been inviting people to come on the trail every Thursday Evening, 7pm from LIDL and the numbers are growing.  Check out the event

 

This is already a beautiful trail and with minimal investment it can be made to realize its potential. Take a walk and see what’s causing all the buzz!  (Send back some pictures!)

David Murray

ps: You can also seem some more picutres of this trail in Katleen Bell-Bonjean’s blog at workinglivingtravellinginireland.com