Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Victorian Galway

Rihla (The Journey) – was the short title of a 14th Century (1355 CE) book written in Fez by the Islamic legal scholar Ibn Jazayy al-Kalbi of Granada who recorded and then transcribed the dictated travelogue of the Tangerian, Ibn Battuta. The book’s full title was A Gift to Those who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling and somehow the title of Ibn Jazayy's book captures the ethos of many of the city and country journeys I have been lucky to take in past years. 

This Rihla is about Benchmarks, in particular those chiselled marks and map notations of 19thCentury OS surveyors, and of the BENCHMARK locations which link the notions of method and missions with education in late 19thC Victorian Galway.
The Liberties of Galway

Wandering through the inner urban landscape of Galway, you weave through a pattern of medieval streets, a pattern that first evolved under the lordship of the Norman deBurghs (de Burg or Burkes) in the 1230s and has remained much unchanged since, a template of the past and the future. This urban heart of the town of Galway was first formally recognised and demarcated, by the murage charter of Edward III (Pat. 34 Edward III 20 May 1361) and subsequently – by being incorporated as well as walled and paved – by the Charters of Richard III in 1396 and 1405. 
Newcastle & Shantallow Galway 1840 (Farmland)

Power and politics are fickle masters. From a trading entrepot controlled by one feudal family, the de Burghs, once that family was marginalised Galway evolved into a city-state controlled by a number of merchant families, the so-called Tribes, such as the Lynches, the Martins, the Kirwans etc. Richard III’s Charter had also granted Galway town control over its “Liberties”, land that would belong to the Town, “on both sides of the water” outside the city walls, but not really defined more than that. Much remained unchanged until the Elizabethan Sir Henry Sydney’s shiring of Connaught in 1579 and the transfer of real administrative power in the mid–west from that of the “City-State” of Galway and its merchant families to the Royal controlled County of Galway with its headquarters – a safe place “for the keeping of the Assizes and Cessions” – in Ballinasloe. 
St Nicholas Collegiate Church Galway benchmark
The Town corporation fought back against this control of the town by the County, and the merchant families determined to hold on to as much territory (and income) as possible petitioned the Crown to try and redress the balance. The lobbying worked and on the 18thDecember 1610 the Charter of James I formally acknowledged the traditional territorial “Liberties” by renaming the territory as “The County of the Town of Galway”. The new County status given to the Town, separate and distinct to the greater 1579 County of Galway headquartered in Ballinasloe, was declared to be a distance of two miles in all directions from the city walls. 
Lynches Castle benchmark
In 1687 the burghers of the Town of Galway, under the mayoralty of John Kirwan Fitz-Stephen of Castle-Hackett, were to take a liberty with the “Liberties” of the County of the Town of Galway, and extended them to ‘four myle’ in all directions. As a result the town now controlled almost the original townlands and territorial remit associated with the tuath of the O’Hallorans – the Clan Fergail – the tribe who had controlled pre-Norman Galway and its surrounds from their castle in Barna. 
It was in these Liberties, on land of the County of the Town of Galway that for the most part, even as late as the 1790s, had lain fallow and underdeveloped alongside the western banks of the Corrib river delta, that the full fervour of 19thcentury Victorian industrial, educational and missionary zeal, empowered by the cascading waters of the Corrib river, came to fully imprint itself. 

In leaving those medieval streets – in crossing the bridges to the West – to enter the County of the Town of Galway you enter an urban landscape framed by the that Victorian zeal, and defined by a Victorian levelling. Your journey from Town to the wilds of Iar-Connaught is “mapped” by the “benchmarks”, the chiselled horizontal line and arrows of the late 19thC Ordnance Survey levellers, found carved on solid limestone and granite blocks. In complimenting longitude and latitude the “benchmarks” provided a vertical reference to our evolution from an primordial sea to stand at the intersection of the Geoid and the ellipsoid.  
The Poolbeg Datum

In 1824, for reasons of valuation and taxation (the cess tax) primarily, the Limerick MP Thomas Spring Rice’s Committee in British House of Commons proposed a Survey of Ireland at a scale of 6 inches to the mile. Colonel Thomas Colby (he became a Major-General on Retirement in 1846) who had been appointed Superintendent of the British Army’s Ordnance Trigonometrical Survey in July 1820 suggested that his department should conduct the survey. Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington and his older brother Richard Wellesley the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland agreed, insisting that the surveying be done entirely by English army engineers and surveyors. 
Colby raised 3 companies of Sappers for the interior surveying donkey-work and after organising a specially-designed period of instruction in Chatham, Kent moved them to Ireland and established the Ordnance Survey of Ireland in 1825. Colby established himself in a lodge close to Mountjoy House in the Phoenix Park where the OS was and still is based.
The survey, under the day-to-day control of a Capt Larcom moved briskly along and the first maps of Ireland (County Derry) were printed and shown to King William IV in 1833. In 1838, with the Irish survey nearly complete and published Colby returned to the UK where the original 6-inch series had never been completed.  Some of the output had required an extraordinary effort. For instance mapping the County of Galway had required 137 double-folio printed sheets. Height of the landscape had not been a feature of the Irish survey but from 1840 in the UK a new survey involving “levelling” began that used a fixed mean sea level in Liverpool docks as the primary vertical “datum”. All future survey maps would include notations referring to height above this datum known as benchmarks.

The reference datum for Dublin was established at Poolbeg Lighthouse for the Spring Tide Low water level on the 8thApril 1837, and five years later in 1842 it became the national reference datum point for Ireland. (In 1970 this national datum reference moved to Portmore Pier, Malin Head and it uses the Mean Sea Level.) The actual symbol for benchmarking, the bar and arrow marks, was approved in 1854 and incorporated into all surveying and maps thereafter. It was a policy to maintain about 5 benchmarks/km2in rural areas and about 30-40/km2in urban areas. 
In 1841 the Survey Act was passed in the UK allowing OS mapmakers to enter any property in Britain with three days written notice. The Irish Geological Survey Act 1845 followed suit, omitting the three-day notice requirement, and specifically allowing for the carving of surveyors marks on private property if permission had been granted. From 1854 this mark was bar& arrow benchmark. It is interesting to note that the 1845 Act is still operative in Ireland, having been retained and saved by the Statute Law Revision Acts 2007 & 2009. There is a penalty of £10 for obstructing or interfering with the work of the surveyors, but it requires two justices of the peace to make this determination and apply the fine.

A modern "leveller" placing his GPS device on a Benchmark 


In 1842 there had been food riots in Galway and in 1845 the near starvation conditions were compounded when the Great Irish Famine began with a failure of the potato crop. The Poor Law Commission (est 1834) had commissioned and built the Galway Poor Law Union Workhouse in 1841. During 1847 and 1848 11,000 inmates of Galway workhouse died as a consequence, in the main, of cholera, typhoid and shigella dysentery epidemics. The experiences of the famine in Ireland and its management propelled the Poor Law Commissioners and Health Commissioners to demand from the OS highly detailed 5 foot/mile and 10 Foot/mile scale maps of all major UK and Irish Towns. Unfortunately because of the competition for surveyors from the huge expansion of the railways the Galway 10 foot edition was not completed until 1872.
In time the Workhouse and its infirmary wing known since 1893 as the Galway Union Hospital was adapted to become the Central Hospital and new Fever Hospital after the move from Prospect Hill of the Infirmary and of the old Fever Hospital from Beggars Row in 1922.  The Central Hospital was in 1949 partially demolished to allow the building of the new Regional Hospital, which has since evolved piecemeal into the University Hospital of today. 
The Dispensary to the west of the Workhouse was demolished and in its stead is a wing of the Maternity unit and the Genitourinary Medicine (STI) Clinic. I am not entirely certain whether the Benchmark implanted in the wall outside of where access to the Dispensary once was is the exact original location. 

Newcastle Road was named after the approach from the town to the castle that had been erected opposite the 13thCentury de Burgh Terryland Castle (The Old Castle) on the western banks of the Corrib river to guard a ford, where the Quincentenial bridge is now. As you move eastwards along the road from the bridge the first Victorian buildings of note are those of the Quadrangle Buildings of the National University of Ireland, Galway. The Queens Colleges of Belfast, Cork and Galway were established in 1845, and in 1850 became constituent colleges of the Queen’s University of Ireland. The intent was to provide, along the lines of the intent of the National Board of Education for a model school-based primary and vocational system, access to a non-denominational university education. The college was to provide the first battleground on Newcastle Rd. for the souls of Galway.
In 1845 Sir Robert Peel’s government brought the Queens Colleges to fruition and gave an initial endowment of £100,000 for the buildings. From the start there was significant opposition from English Protestants who felt that non-denominational education ran counter to all English education systems. Sir Robert Inglis, once an MP for Dundalk, was a virulent opposer of Catholic higher education (He opposed the Maynooth grant in1845) and called the colleges “a gigantic scheme of godless education.” This phrase was to be adopted by the Catholic Archbishop Cullen at the Synod of Thurles in 1850 when he said to the assembled prelates that, “One alarming spectacle of the present times, is the propagation of error through a godless system of education.”  

By 1880 the opposition caused the scheme to flounder and the Queens University of Ireland was succeeded by the Royal University of Ireland in 1882 which also included Queens Belfast, Cork and Galway colleges, Maynooth, St Patricks College, and UCD (Newman College) amongst others. Cork and Galway broke away from their “Queens” link to Belfast in 1908 to form the National University of Ireland. The hope that was to be a future of non-denominational education was imploding. The new Queens University of Belfast recalibrated to providing almost an exclusive Protestant third level education.
In addition Catholic women were doubly discriminated against. When Queens College Galway opened its doors for female admissions to degree courses in 1888 John McEvilly, Archbishop of Tuam in succession to McHale, banned Catholic women from entering the College.
There is a benchmark on the archway of the Quad from the 1912 re-levelling survey. 
NUIG Quadrangle doorway
Further west down Newcastle Rd is the next battle site for the hearts and minds of Galway students, the old Model School of Galway. In an atmosphere of deep hostility between the main churches, following on from the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, and in a time throughout Ireland of social and agrarian unrest the Duke of Leinster was invited by Edward Stanley (later Lord Edward Smith-Stanley, Earl of Derby and 3 time Prime Minister) Chief Secretary for Ireland in October 1831 to establish the National Board of Commissioners of National Education to oversee the development and delivery of a secular national education system through the establishment of Model Schools.  The original intent of a purely secular remit was diluted within a year to a ‘secular and moral instruction’ thereby allowing involvement of the religious orders and congregations in the running of the new schools.

The National Board, working closely with the Board of Work’s (also established in 1831) architects, commissioned the design and building of a Model School and Normal School for the teacher training component, at Tyrone House (still the headquarters of the Department of Education) on Marlborough St in Dublin. 
The “Normal” school meant that its curriculum was delivered “According to rule.” In other words the National Board felt that it was more important to have a training base for the trainee teachers to concentrate on the desired methodsof teaching rather than the actual needs of the children being taught.
The buildings were ready for the reception of students and teachers by 1836. The main teacher training school for all of the Model School system always remained at Marlborough St.

In 1854 the Model School on Newcastle Road opened as a non-denominational, co-educational school with a mixture of child and adolescent “secondary” pupils who in addition to “reading, ‘riting, andf ‘rithmitic”, classics and science were also taught vocational skills. The school was designed by Frederick Darley and was probably similar in design to his Dunmanway Co. Cork Model School. Interestingly the management of the school was placed in the hands of the Dominican Friars of the West Convent in the Claddagh, who also had their own vocational Piscatorial School next to the church.
As mentioned previously in 1850 the Synod of Thurles was held, the first Catholic synod held in the country since 1642. Under the guidance of Archbishops Paul Cullen of Armagh and John McHale of Tuam there was an enormous determination to enfranchise Catholic emancipation in religious teaching, in education and in politics. One of the main resolutions of the Synod was to counteract the “godless colleges” but the Synod also mooted the establishment of a Catholic University of Ireland under the Rectorship of Cardinal Newman, an Anglican convert. 
In Galway Bishop John McEvilly, emboldened by the Synod of Thurles, was determined to see the end of the non-denominational Model School in Galway. He encouraged the Dominican nuns on Taylor’s Hill to establish a day school for ‘Young ladies” in 1858 and the Patrician Brothers to establish a secondary school for boys in 1862, and banned Catholics from attending the Model school. The school then became the non-Catholic primary school for Galway until the Church of Ireland opened the St Nicholas primary school beside the Town Hall on St Stephen’s Island. The school was subsequently pulled down but the walls of the handball alley still exists in the form of a café and the site is the home of the Community Care arm of the HSE. 
The original Benchmark in the OS 1872 map was at the corner of the site, where there was a small entrance gate, and where Costello Road is now. The Benchmark moved in later surveys to the base of the main gate, which is depicted above.

The next benchmark is on a building that has an even more interesting history in the battle for faith and reason. It is on the corner of St Mary’s Road and Taylors Hill. The road, originally called the New Line, was a western extension of Newcastle Rd., and renamed after the 1912 opening of the new Diocesan College of St Mary’s that had relocated from its 1844 location on St Helen’s street. 
Following on from his battles as Bishop of Galway with the Queens College and Model Schools on Newcastle Road as Archbishop of Tuam, Dr John McEvilly was also to establish, in 1887, the later infamous St Joseph’s Industrial School or “Scary House” in Letterfrack, Connemara in a school and orphanage that had once belonged to the Protestant Irish Church Mission to Roman Catholics.
In 1846 an evangelical Anglican preacher – and a former Assistant Commissary-General (supplies and stores) to the IIIrd Division of Wellington’s army at Waterloo in 1815 – the Rev Alexander Dallas saw an opportunity arising out of the ravages of the Famine to establish a mission to convert “starving” Irish Catholics to Protestantism. Initially supporting the Irish Society of missionary Protestantism he later established a Fund for the Spiritual Exigencies of Ireland and then formalised, in a similar fashion to the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, with the support of about 200 Irish based Anglican clerics, the Irish Church Missions to the Roman Catholics 1n 1849. 

In 1848 Dallas established his future headquarters in Connemara on the Droimsnamh peninsula north-east of Castlekirk island in Lough Corrib close to a school initially established by the Church of Ireland and Mrs Blake of Doon Cottage. He built a rectory and church beside the school and called the enclave after Castlekirk. Dallas had been the first person to adopt the advantages of mass marketing for evangelical purposes utilising the new ‘Penny Post’ to send thousand of leaflets to Roman Catholic homes in January 1846. 
In Connemara Archbishop of Tuam MacHale and later McEvilly made it their mission, to confront the evangelical Anglicans, with the poor and destitute of Connemara becoming the pawns in a power battle for minds and hearts (and stomachs) between the two faiths. By 1861 the Archbishops sanctioned, often violently disruptive, methods were becoming effective, as was evident from the census of 1861 and the small number of people declaring themselves to be Protestant. This failure of mission was to have an impact. Donations from England began to dry up. The Irish Church Mission began withdrawing from the isolated West to concentrate their efforts in the main towns and in Dublin in particular. 

The gate with its "Benchmark" moved between 1871 and 1913 
about 20 yards eastwards along St Mary's Rd to current location.

In Galway The Irish Church Mission established the Sherwood Field’s Orphanage, chapel and school in 1862 at what is now the corner of St Mary’s Road and Taylors Hill road. The school was always Irish-speaking in the main as Dallas in the Irish Church Missions carried on the Irish speaking catechism delivery of the Protestant but less militant Irish Society that he originally had attached himself to. The Irish Church Mission withdrew from here in 1906 and for a time it was a British Army recreation centre. In 1929 the irony was not lost, when an Irish-speaking Summer School in the name of Archbishop MacHale was established in the building. In 1933 Galway’, s first all-Irish school was opened here as Scoil Fhursa (pronounced ursa), and it is still operational. 
At one point the main gateway was moved from the corner so I am uncertain whether the depicted Benchmark is in its original vertical alignment. 

Wesleyan Chapel Salthill 1872


“On the importance of education generally we may remark, it is as necessary as the light—it should be as common as water, and as free as air. . . . . .”
Rev Egerton Ryerson 1931
The Rev Egerton Ryerson was a Methodist Minister who later became Chief Superintendent of Schools for Upper Canada. He had visited the Model school system in Dublin and in 1846 introduced non-denominational primary education to Upper Canada. Like in Ireland, however, the Catholic Church rose in arms to oppose this development and by 1855 had stymied its development by getting the Taché Bill (Separate (Catholic) School Act passed. 
John Wesley first came to Ireland in 1747 and in 1765 founded the first Methodist preaching room in Galway. The Methodist community of classes and societies was to split in 1816 over the administration of sacraments into the Primitive Methodists, who remained attached to the Church of Ireland, and the Wesleyan’s. The Wesleyan’s in Ireland thrived under the preaching circuits of the Rev Gideon Ouseley, Methodism’s “apostle to the Irish” funded and built Galway’s still extant main Chapel in 1839, the year of his death. 
The earliest nickname for the Methodists in Ireland was “Swaddlers” and Ouseley himself was called affectionately “an síoda na bhfear”, the silk of men.
In 1862 another Chapel in the newly expanding suburb of Salthill was erected, built by George Glanville of Ballinasloe. Despite the arrival of the tramway in 1885 by 1888 the Wesleyan congregation was falling off and the chapel was sold and converted to a private residence, which it still is today.
The former chapel provides a fitting end to this rihla of survey and salvation, this chiselled perambulation through a city and an era caught in and out of time. The benchmark on the left hand pillar of the Wesleyan chapel gateway has, unusually, two levelling lines. The surveyors’ stonemason must have got his first chisel mark wrong and dropped down a “notch” to complete the job. The battle for "faith" in the method, in the measurement, won out over expediency. A real Victorian imprint. 

The "Double" Benchmark at the former Wesleyan
Chapel in Salthill, Galway.

Not everything in faith however, or in reason, or in salvation is ever what it seems! 
And the battles are still being fought.  

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