Athenry, as you approach it from over the railway bridge, presents a curious, quaint, and picturesque appearance. Save a few scattered hovels, which are outside, all the houses on this approach are behind the ruins of the old battlemented walls. You can here only get into the town by passing underneath the arch of one of the square towers of former days, and there is a tradition—probably a safe one now—that the massive arch will some day fall when the greatest man in Athenry happens to pass under it but whether it will crush him or not remains to be seen, and can without apprehension be waited for.
Rich in antiquities and antiquarian material
Then there is the old Birmingham Castle in relatively splendid condition and several yards almost intact of the old walls of this once strongly fortified town—the key to Galway for whenever Athenry fell, with it in a very short time after fell Galway. There are also the ruins of an old Dominican convent and an old graveyard rich in antiquities and antiquarian material. For the archaeologist there is not a town in Ireland so rich in ruins of priceless historical value and interest. And yet the guide book makers—those who pen those tedious weary pages that are supposed in Ireland to inform, interest, and instruct, but which can be safely trusted to do nothing of the kind never mention Athenry’s ruins.
The Banking Accommodation.
The banking accommodation of Athenry is supplied by a branch of the Ulster Bank from the head office in Tuam, under the efficient and courteous management of Mr. J. Corry. On every Friday, which is the market day, and on fair days the office is opened for the transaction of business from 10 to 3 o’clock. This is doubtless found an accommodation and a convenience, if, of course, banking is carried on on the principles common to these institutions in Scotland and the North of Ireland.
The Hotels of Athenry.
There are two hotels in Athenry, one at the Railway chiefly the resort of travellers during the long waits and tedious delays so often obliged to be undergone at this station by reason of the want of harmony between the two companies who use it. This hotel is under the able control of Mrs. Cavanagh, and was built by the Railway Company at the expense of the county, and is consequently a well-arranged, spacious structure. Its massive stone-cut front and picturesque situation make it an object of notice if not of admiration to the passing traveller.
The proprietress also runs the refreshment rooms at Mullingar on the Midland system, and her son-in-law, Captain Hackett, a solicitor, in the owner of the large and well-managed es-tablishment in Galway, There is another hotel in Athenry owned by a Mr. T. Kelly, the local commissioner of affidavits, and attached to it is a bar also. In both places the accommodation is good, and I don’t believe there is any cause for complaint found with them.
Fairs and Markets
Every Friday a market is held at Athenry and there are monthly fairs. These are considered good and are usually well supplied with stock. The excellent railway accommodation at hand makes them, of course, very convenient. The district about Athenry is chiefly in pasture, but there are some good villages yet in the neighbourhood, which supply the material for markets. The town is obliged to pay tolls and customs to the local owner for his goodness in owning the place and. what should go to the keeping up of the place, goes to the keeping up of a landlord. Provisions are comparatively cheap and plenty.
The Educational requirements of the place are supplied by a male and female national school, under the management of the priests. The system of teaching is the same as at all those schools—a system very much in want of improvement and alteration, to make it more useful and in someway National, which it only is in name and nothing more, for to call a system National where neither the language nor history of the country is taught, is a misnomer if ever there was a misapplication of terms.
Athenry is in the Loughrea union, and its medical doctor is a Dr Leonard who resides at a place called the Town House and built as the family mansion of the Hickmans, the former owners of the soil. It has been recently purchased by Dr. Leonard (a Tuam man} having been sold by the trustees of the Iate Robert Irvine who once resided here. After him came a man named Gerald O’Connor, who was appointed a J. P. of the county and agent for Lord Dunsandle and other local magnates, but who came on hard times and had to leave the country suddenly, giving many cause to lament his career and departure, He is now, it is said, an auctioneer in Buenos Ayres. A brother of his, George O’Connor, was a very distinguished Oxford graduate and probably one of the cleverest young Irishmen that ever went to that great University. He died suddenly and when great hopes were entertained of his future—and with reason. There is a memorial tablet erected to his lamented memory in the library of the Galway Queen’s College, which in simple, short, and touching language, recounts his great talents and literary attainments.
Henry George and Athenry
Henry George, the now world-famed economist, the preacher of the new doctrine and the evangelist of the new school, in the height of the Land League agitation visited Athenry, then the heart of the movement, at least the seat of its most active manifestation. No sooner did he land and was his personality known, than the peelers ran him in, as they had under the law then existing unrestricted power to do. “A pigmy peeler prefect” as he was called, in a tremendous tirade from the old parish priest of the day—Canon O’Brien—named Bell, panting for promotion as all of his cloth do, seized on his quarry, arrested Henry George and his fellow traveler, Joynes, a tutor of Eaton, and both spent the night in “quod,” only to be liberated the next day as unoffending if not inoffensive politicians, and principally because one was an American citizen, and the brave Lion would not care to quarrel with the great Republic, and the other was an Englishman, and it was the “mere Irish” that were wanted. I was told a very pleasant account of the adventures of the two men and of the horror of the prancing peelers when they found that they had “caught a tartar” and not a poor Irishman whom they could treat as they like.