Geography

Newcastle Townlands

 

Newcastle Townlands

Currantarmuid, Graigeabbey. Knockbrack and Shudane

By

Judy Feeney (2012)

Map Source: Google Earth

Currantarmuid

Closha malone on a fork on the road going into townland.

Right turn after Jimmy Flaherty’s house called the Sumora.

Then a lane going from the bog end of the area to the Monivea road known as the Famine Way.

It is believed that this townland got its name from the mound that is believed to contain the tomb of Diarmuid, which is supposed to be in one of the fields.

The townland took in the area left of the road from Monivea to Athenry, the road to Newcastle Church and north towards Monivea for about three quarters of a mile. This area had quite a few families at one time during the 19th century. One area at the crossroads towards Monivea is known as South Park.

Families known to have lived in the townland were:

Discin (Mark)

Collins later Shaughnessy: John Shaughnessy later married into family.

John Blade and Bridget: now Flaherty’s since 1932.

Glynn family (deceased).

John Murphy family.

Lawless family moved to Ballyboggan.

Feeney family moved to main road.

Moffatt Family: Mick Moffatt married Helen Noone of village.

Divilly family: Tom Divilly’s mother was Bridget Noone. Noone brother went to America in 1800s.

A landlord known by the name of John Scanlon was supposed to receive corn to relieve the tenants on his estate during the famine, It is said that it was fed it to his stock. It is said that he was cursed and later had an accident in which he was injured. Like all folklore there is no evidence to confirm it apparently. John Scanlon was an agent for Major Hall of Knockbrack.

When John Scanlon died his body was allowed to rot as nobody would bury him. Somebody eventually notified the police and his remains were gathered up and buried.

One resident remembers being told by his uncle that there were famine children buried in the field next to his home.

John Connolly was educated and started a school in a shed and taught there. Jack Connolly invented the rotisserie (spit) and patented it. This farm has changed hands several times over the years

Graigeabbey

The area consisted of small holdings of land. The lands of Graigeabbey were mostly woods and had two fields known as the Front Lawn and Back Lawn. There was one large field for growing crops, that was Gort a Graig. There was a large orchard and garden for fruit and vegetables. The large field by the gate was called the Lodge Garden. There was a tree-lined road that was called the Beech Walk, which ran along the wall of a field known as the Dew Park and the orchard.

The estate was small with the main residence, gate house and cottage at the other end of the estate that was said to be a school for children of the estate at one time. The land was mainly forest and some arable land and bog with rivers running through it.

There was one other small estate across the road known as Binn. Adjoining that farm was the village of Bengarra. Five families had small holdings there. The land was mostly good, arable land. This land was part of the purchase made by Halls of Knockbrack.

In the mid1940s a very strong wind of hurricane force, struck the area. Dozens of mature beech and oak trees were uprooted. They blocked the road from the bridge of Graig to the main gate and further on. The front lawn was strewn with giant uprooted trees. Luckily, nobody was injured.

The river, which flowed beyond the main gates, was divided with strong walling to make a sheep-washing area. The actual sheep-washing pond was filled by blocking off one half of the river with removable planks and putting a sluice in the walled area to let foul water flow away after each flock of sheep was washed and replaced to refill the pond for the next flock. This washing takes place before shearing. Sheep dipping takes place after the sheep were shorn to prevent the bluebottle fly from laying its eggs and causing infestation with the resultant maggots, which could give severe wounding and even death to the sheep. This dipping took place in a sheep dipping tank at the rear of Graig Abbey House.

It was ideal for wildlife. There were foxes, badgers, otters, stoats and rabbits in every field and lawn. The rivers had brown trout and eels, which we caught as children with homemade fishing rods. There were songbirds and crows of all kinds including hawks who made raids on young chickens and turkey chicks. Occasionally, a heron would come to the area but it does not seem to have rested there

Knockbrack

This townland became the estate of a Major Hall in the nineteenth century. It had been occupied by many groups of families in little groups of cottages previously. Some of these cottages were on a site off the main Athenry to Monivea road. Apparently the occupants of these cottages were evicted from their homes, which were demolished and the stone used to build what is known as the China Wall.

There was a ring fort in the Back lawn and a lisheen at the other end of the townland. At one time there may have been a little church in one settlement.

There is a lot of forestation as well as arable land. This townland was the estate of Major Hall until it was vacated Major Hall about 1921. Thereafter it was divided among local farmers by the state.

Farming in the area was mixed. Tillage consisted of oats, wheat, barley and occasionally rye. Root crops included potatoes, turnips, swedes and beet for the local beet factory as well as carrots an parsnips. Potatoes, swedes and turnips would be harvested and placed in pits, which were covered in straw, clay and “scraws” – large squares of turf to keep the frost out and preserve the crop through the winter.

The corn was brought into the haggard and made very expertly into stacks on stands to keep it off the ground after which it was thatched to keep water out and therefore prevent rot. These stacks were kept until the corn was threshed later in the year or the following spring.

Knockbrack had a family of carpenters and wheelwrights. They made horse, pony and ass carts, horse and pony traps and gipsy caravans. They were the Gardner family who later moved into Athenry and are still in the carpentry trade. The Monaghan family had carpenters among their sons.

Shudane

Shudane had a blacksmith who shod horses and repaired farm machinery. His name was Jimmy Molloy.

Newcastle

Newcastle is regarded as the half parish of Athenry. It has a primary school and a church. The first school was set up about 1852-1855. Tiaquin also had a primary school which has closed. Pupils from that area were educated in Newcastle primary school from its closure.

Post primary education was seldom availed of owing to the fact that it was private and there was no local secondary school until the Presentation Sisters opened a secondary school in Athenry. That school was also private but the Sisters kept the fees low so that more parents could send their daughters there. The closest boys secondary school was in Loughrea. Sending boys there meant that train fares and bus fares had to be found as well as school fees. Very few parents could afford to pay.

Wildlife in:

Curranturmuid

Kestrel (uses magpie nest)

Bats

Owl

Hares

Snipe

Knockbrack

Foxes, hares, pine martens in forest

Like on all farms up to recent years the corncrake could be heard in meadows and cornfields

When we were children we were told if the otter in the river caught us he would not let go our legs. No doubt we did not go near the river just in case he did.

Way of Life

The people of these townlands worked well together. When planting and harvesting took place they helped each other, lending each other horses, carts and cultivation equipment to get their work done. All hands in a neighbourhood were used including children old enough to help. No doubt they were the original version of the co-op movement. No money changed hands.

The only sports taking place in the area during the 1940s to 1960s was hurling, football and handball. A few people became interested in athletics. One of them was Willie Morris from Bengarra, now in his 90s. He did very well in cross country events winning All-Ireland titles.

Nowadays, the interest in sport has widened to take in all sports, which is very good for young people as they have a broad choice to choose from.

Andy Keane: Glass Craft Worker

Artists & Craft Workers in East Galway Source: The Athenry News and Views , November/December 2011   Andy, son of Tom and Eileen Keane, Rathmorrissey, Athenry, ...