The Return of An Sídhe

The Fairies Take up Residency in our Forest Garden!

Thanks to the artistic, creativity and imagination of one of our younger volunteers, the fairies (Sídhe) are starting to appear amongst the trees, rocks and wildflowers of the Ballinfoile Mór Community Garden. The 'little people' have not been seen in the locality for decades, as their once green homelands were destroyed by concrete, tarmac, traffic, hoards of dumped refuse, pollution and chemical toxic fertilizers.

Yet over the last decade, the ongoing planting of tens of thousands of trees and wildflowers in the man-made Terryland Forest Park, the return of insects, foxes and birds, the removal of rubbish and the development of an organic neighbourhood garden created a natural environment where fairies could once again live. 

All it needed then was the magical paintbrushes of Lynette McGowan to cast their awesome spells and the 'little people' miraculously started to appear last week from underneath rocks and from behind the base of tree trunks!

Can you help us with this wonderful work of maintaining a little community garden and natural woodland in Terryland Forest Park?

Once again we need volunteers from 11.15am on Saturday (Aug 2nd) to continue supporting the ongoing enhancement of the Living Willow Tunnel, in laying the foundations for a giant Celtic Cross feature that will form the axis of the garden as well as the more mundane tasks of weeding, watering and general upkeep. We will also be litter picking and putting up locally made (Cumann na bhFear) bat boxes in the adjacent woodlands.

So with so much tasks to be completed, we could use your presence on the day!
Google Maps location:

The Giant Celtic Cross & other Garden Stories

Volunteers are needed on Saturday (July 26) to help with a plethora of tasks within the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden and surrounding woodland area, including the maintenance/upkeep/development of a Living Willow Tunnel, a Wildlife Pond, Weeding, Scarecrow construction, Pathway enhancement and laying the foundations for a giant Celtic Cross feature that will form the axis of the garden.

We could use your presence on the day! 

Google Maps location:
The Celtic Cross takes shape!
The photograph above shows the top section of the 'Celtic Cross': each of the four sun panels are covered with clay planted with wild-flowers under the supervision of Christine McGowan. Plus regular volunteers such as Caroline Mc Donagh, Deasún ÓSeanáin, Michael McDonnell Justine Delaney and other local residents are doing wonderful working bringing Nature into an urban setting. 

Gaza: World's Largest Concentration Camp

Gaza: where 1.82 million people are squeezed and imprisoned in a sliver of land; the descendants of people forced there as a result of ethnic cleansing by the Israeli military from 1948 onwards.

Gaza: the world's largest concentration camp

Gaza: besieged by land, sea and air by Israeli military forces for seven years, over twice as long as the Nazi siege of Leningrad.

Gaza: where today the people that stole their homes and lands can gather together to sit out on deck chairs, enjoy the sunshine, joke with friends and have a nice cold beer or two on a balcony or rooftop whilst looking out towards those poor unfortunate refugees who once lived in their neighbouhood as they are being mercilessly bombed with the latest high tech weaponry.

Gaza: where if I was a Palestinian living there, I would find it hard not to fire rockets at the illegal occupiers and colonists of my grandparents home especially when I see no future for my own children.

Gaza: Today's Warsaw Ghetto.

Castle Ellen & the 3 Athenry Castles Heritage Cycle Trail: Part 1

As part of National Bike Week  and Galway Bike Festival, I initiated on behalf of Cumann na bhFear (Men's Shed) a new heritage cycle trail on Sunday June 15th
The event will be repeated on Sunday August 30th. Rendezvous: 10.15am, in front of Athenry Castle. 
Known as the Three Athenry Castles' Heritage Looped Cycle Trail, it starts at Athenry (Irish = Baile Átha an Rí, "Ford of the King") Castle, continues on through the bogs of Bengarra and Monivea, through the demesne of the Anglo-Norman Ffrench family, onto the village of Monivea (Irish = Muine Mheá, "Meadow of the mead), with a stopover at the fine Georgian mansion of Castle Ellen and finishes up at its medieval starting point. 

Botharín, Currantarmuid
The rural landscape covered by the trail is a delightful though largely unknown (to the non-residents) cornucopia of small farms, hedgerows, traditional drystone walls, botharíns, villages, lakes, bogs, rivers, castles, and Georgian mansions that are waiting to be discovered by walkers and cyclists. 
fFrench Mausoleum, Monivea
One of the main highlight for participants will be a stop-over at the 1810 Castle Ellen (Caisleán Eilise) mansion where we will be greeted by the owner and renowned antiquarian Michael Keaney (Micheál Ó Cionnaith) and his assistant Annette Flanagan.
Castle Ellen jn its imperial heyday
Michael has a keen interest in ensuring that our looped heritage cycle trail becomes a permanent tourism fixture in east Galway as he has ambitious plans to transform this historical building and it grounds into an alternative hostel aimed towards the walkers’ and cyclists’ market. 
The new Dormitory
The proposed living quarters for guests has a dormitory layout, woodfire stoves, limestone walls and paintings by Lol Hardiman (see photo above).  
The Courtyard
Michael will bring us on a guided tour of his fascinating mansion, its extensive farmyard and outbuildings, the pasture lands and a new wood that he is populating with trees, native wildflowers and pathways.
Climbing an old demesne tree
Castle Ellen is the former residency of the Anglo-Irish Lambert family and the birthplace of one Isabella Lambert who was mother of the arch-Unionist and the great hate figure of Irish republicanism, Edward Carson
Captain Peter Lambert of Castle Ellen (c1785-1844)
He was known as the creator of Northern Ireland and a huge statute of him dominates the front of the Northern Ireland parliament at Stormont in Belfast. He is also remembered as the barrister responsible for prosecuting and ending the career of Oscar Wilde, his former friend, who supposedly was brought on a number of occasions to enjoy the hospitality and scenery of Castle Ellen whilst they were students together in Trinity College Dublin.
Dining Room
It seems that Edward spent many happy times at Castle Ellen. It was during his sojourns in east Galway that he learnt the Gaelic game of hurling which he helped popularized at Trinity College Dublin, one of the great bastions of British imperialism in Ireland.
Steps to the former Tennis & Croquet Lawns
Michael bought the demesne in 1974 when the buildings were in an advance state of disrepair and has spent much energies and monies over the subsequent years endeavouring to bring the place back to its former Victorian aristocratic splendour. A true labour of love that he deserves great admiration for.
Old farm machinery, Castle Ellen
In the process, he has built up an eclectic mix of memorabilia, from military artifacts to ancient farmyard machinery. You get a strong sense of the British Empire at its zenith as you wander through the remnants of croquet and tennis lawns, the walled gardens with their orchards and maze, the tree lined avenue, court yard, the pony-driven water well and the livestock tunnel.
Basement Servant's Quarters, Castle Ellen
During the 1990s, Castle Ellen was an renowned artists’ retreat, where painters, sculptors and others were given residency in lieu of restoration and enhancement works to the mansion,

The Three Athenry Castles Looped Heritage Cycle Trail: Route Overview
The c29km looped cycle tour starts at Athenry Castle and then travels onto the Monivea Road before turning right approximately 1.5km outside Athenry in the direction of Graigabbey. 
Bog Cotton, Monivea
The route then passes through the farmlands and bogs of Bengarra, 
Bengarra Bog
on into the village of Newcastle, along a botharín through the Monivea Bog with its fascinating flora and fauna; 
Monivea Woods
to the Monivea demesne with its collection of historical sites that was for centuries the home of the renowned Anglo-Norman fFrench family, one of the famous merchant tribes of Galway. 
This is followed by a stopover in the quaint colonial plantation village of Monivea where flax in former times was laid out to dry on its spacious green.

All the Fun of the Monivea Fair!

Our tour of August 30th coincides with the hosting of the annual Monivea Fair aka Agricultural Show where we will enjoy all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, culinary delights, displays of prized animals and vintage farm equipment, fairground attractions, games and merriment of a traditional rural gathering at the end of the harvest in Ireland in days gone by.

Prized Sheep at Monivea Fair

Fowl & Vintage Tractors at Monivea Fair

Archery at Monivea Fair

After this thoroughly enjoyable event, we will continue onto Castle Ellen where visitors can enjoy a walk along the lawns of the famed Georgian mansion that was formerly the residency of the Anglo-Irish Lambert family. 
Lamberts' Coat of Arms
The route then continues onto for five km to the medieval town of Athenry.  
Click here for an online map of the route.
Keep, Athenry Castle


'Operation Bláthanna' Continues: Join Us for 'Wild Garlic' Seed Collection & Sowing on Saturday!

The campaign to populate the Terryland Forest Park in Galway city with tens of thousands of native wildflowers continues this Saturday when Conservation Volunteers, under the tutelage of flora enthusiast Padraig Kerrins, will collect the seeds of wild garlic from a mature forest for immediate sowing in a designated section of Ireland's largest community-driven urban forest.

A few months ago, members of the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden took responsibility for nurturing 1,200 native Primroses in preparation for their planting in the Terryland Forest Park next Spring. Last month, volunteers planted over 500 Oxide Daisies, St. Patrick's Cabbages, Comfreys, Sanicles and other native flora in the grasslands, woods and verges of the Terryland Forest Park. The aim of 'Operation Bláthanna' is to plant the wildflowers that will dramatically increase the biodiversity of this great natural resource.
Rendevous: 11.30am next Saturday (July 12) at the Ballinfoile Mor Community Organic Garden

1980s Reports on Westminster Paedophile ring missing. Surprised?

There is no doubt that the political establishment in Britain for decades covered up extensive immoral, anti-democratic and criminal activities that victimised amongst others Irish republicans, British and Latin American left wing activists, environmentalists and now we discover children
The establishment consists of the higher echelons of the judiciary, police, politicians and civil servants. It was announced today by Teresa May that an investigation will look into the accusations of a high level cover-up over the child abuse element.
 But sadly as we know from painful and expensive experience in Ireland investigations, namely tribunals, have achieved little in terms of justice. Denis O'Brien for instance survived the damning conclusions of the Moriarty Tribunal that went to the core of corruption of the Irish parliamentary system

Vintage Typewriter for Galway's Patrick Kavanagh Celebrations

Today my friend Christy O'Carroll called to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland (which I curate) located at the Insight Centre for Data Anlaystics in NUI Galway  to collect a 1910s-1920s 'Underwood' typewriter to be used as a prop in an event tomorrow to celebrate the life and works of Patrick Kavanagh, the great Irish poet and novelist who was born 110 years ago in Inniskeen Co. Monaghan.  (ps. my family live 5km from his birthplace).

The sixth annual 'Kavanagh Days' takes place in the Salthill Hotel on Saturday July 5th at 7pm. It will pay homage to the "people's poet" in verse, drama, music and song. Tickets are 10Euro and can be purchased on the door.
Check out

The American 'Underwood No. 5' typewriter launched in 1900 was known as "the first truly modern typewriter. Its design became the universal standard for typewriters up until the 1960s. By the early 1920s sales were equal to that of all other typewriters combined.