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. 


“Viae pars qua itur ad Jacobi sacellum, castrum novum,
castrum fortitudinis, v{ulgo} in Daingan”
Part of the road that leads to St James’ chapel, The new castle,
and the strong castle, commonly called an Daingean  (the Fortress)
Notation No: 47 on 1651 Map of Galway. 

The New Castle in Galway, as distinct from the older 1124 Dun Gaillimh castle built by Turlough Mór O’Connor, King of Connacht and High King of Ireland (1120-1156 ce), was built in the late 14thcentury by the descendants of Edmund Lynch Fitz-Thomas, a wine merchant of Galway who had built the Great West Bridge (that would link the New Castle with the town) in 1342. The New Castle was built by the Lynches to marshal (and take tolls from – along with the paired de Burgo Terryland  (Tir Oileann) Castle) – the low-tide fordable crossing of the Corrib river, approximately where the Quincentenial Bridge is today. In addition, in 1509 a Stephen Lynch Fitz-James a mayor of Galway left money in his will for the completion of a chapel dedicated to St James in the castle demesne in Newcastle. 
Bellin Map 1764

The access roads to the ford across the Corrib river and depiction of the New Castle is best seen on the 1764 Jacques-Nicholas Bellini Map as a fortified enclosure. There is no separate building identifiable as a chapel depicted and the access roads appear to traverse the enclosure. The 1390s castle, partially demolished during the Cromwellian wars, was eventually pulled down when the Persse whiskey distillery established on the banks of the Corrib in 1815. St James’ chapel remained intact until 1838 and in a roofless form until about 1920. Of note in the 1872 OSI map the walled enclosure with two southern turrets, as depicted in the Bellin map, persists as a garden and the location of the ruined St James chapel appears to be outside the enclosure to the NE, close to the shore of the river.

Pictorial Map Galway 1651

The old road to the Newcastle, and the road at the center of this journey into Victorian Galway, is a road that originated, according to the 1651 Pictorial map of the town, at the Great West Bridge, then crossed in a westerly direction over the small island protected by Jordan’s Castle at the Bald Bridge (junction of Dominick St upper and lower today) and then north west along what is now Henry St and St Helen’s St before branching northwards from the Shantalla Road, firstly passing the New Castle and then Daingean Castle as it headed into western and north western Connemara along the Corrib shoreline. There is a junction on the Bellin map to the road where the University 1845 building is, which was also called New Castle Road as it also led there. This road is now called University Road and links Newcastle Road to the city via Beggars Bridge, Nun’s Island, the 1815 Gaol Bridge, St Stephen’s Island, Newtown Smith and Abbey Gate street.

On the 1stJune 1658 Oliver Cromwell wrote to his son Henry, his Lord Deputy (Governor) in Ireland, recommending to him for employment a Henry Whaley, the eldest son of Cromwell’s cousin Lt-General Edward Whalley, a very capable Parliamentary military commander and one of the regicides who signed the death warrant of King Charles I, second wife. Originally the position had been promised to a Capt John Whaley, Henry’s older half-brother but as John Whaley had been imprisoned the same week for fighting, and being wounded in, a duel with Philip Stanhope the 2ndEarl of Chesterfield, his move to Ireland with Cromwell’s blessing was out of the question. Four years earlier, on the 29 June 1654, Cromwell had issued an Ordinance against “challenges, duels and all provocations”, banning duelling’s increasing popularity for settling private “Quarrels” as “displeasing to God”. It carried a mandatory 6 months imprisonment.
In any event, this Henry Whaley had an uncle already living in Ireland also called Henry, but with two “ll”s in the surname. Henry Whalley, the MP for Selkirk and Peebles, had been a Judge Advocate of the Army in Scotland and was an astute Adventurer. He had gained, under the original Cromwellian Settlement, lands in the Liberties of Galway and Athenry. On the 1stMay 1659 in the Irish Convention, Whalley tabled a motion that was adopted condemning the Regicide (committed by his brother Edward amongst others) of Charles I. This motion was tabled even before the outcome of English Parliament’s motion of the same day was known. Ten days later, again on a further motion of Henry Whalley, the Declaration of Breda was accepted and Charles II proclaimed King. 
Whaley Family Holdings in Galway and County of Town of Galway 1678

In 1633 Henry Whalley, following the restoration of Charles II, was appointed Recorder (Magistrate) to Galway and four years later following his death his own son, another John Whaley – a 1stcousin of the duelist – was granted patent in Oct 1667 and again in Aug 1678 over his father’s 1600 acres in Galway and Athenry under the 1665 Settlement Act as well as further lands in Barna, Loughrea, Moycullen and Athenry. 
In October 1681 John Whaley sold back his patent over lands in Barna to Nicholas Lynch fitz-Marcus, the original pre-Cromwellian owners of the lands by virtue of a marriage in 1638 of a Lynch to an O’Halloran heiress, for £644 13s 9d (about €90,000 in todays values). The O’Hallorans were the original Gaelic family that had controlled the tuath or Clan Fergail of 26 townlands from Barna to east Moycullen, to Oranmore, to the Claregalway river and which included the land that Galway city was built on. 
In 1690 John Whaley sold his Rahoon holdings to Richard Joyce, goldsmith and former Barbary pirate captive in Algiers and about 200 years later the final substantial Whaley Galway property of Belmont on the Newcastle Road was purchased from the Whaleys in 1845 to build the new Queens College. The maps below give an approximation of the Galway Whaley holdings in the 1690s and the remaining Newcastle family holdings in 1911. As an aside it was John Whaley’s daughter Susannah who married a cousin Richard Chapell Whaley and it was one of their descendants who was the infamous Thomas “Buck” Whaley.

Whaley Estate Galway 1911

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 early September 1845 potato blight caused by the mold (oomycyte) phytophthora infestans(late blight) was evident in Belgium and other parts of Northern Europe and on 11thSeptember the Freemans Journal announced its arrival in Ireland as the ‘cholera” of potatoes. The potato, in particular the Irish Lumper variety, was the stable crop (and had been since its introduction in late 16thcentury) upon which survival of the majority of the Irish population depended, given its ease of growth in generally what were small tenant holdings. The partial failure of the autumn crop of 1845 was followed by an almost complete devastation of the crop across the entire country in 1846 and in the 2 years that followed.
Ireland was already an entirely marginalized society, teetering on the brink of extinction caused by sectarian disenfranchisement, agrarian mismanagement and profiteering. Allied to this was, in contrast to England, an over availability of labourers and non-availability of work. Families became destitute on the back of a common cold or minor farmyard accident if the primary earner could not work for a week or more. The margins were that critical.
The Irish Poor Law Act 1838, modeled on the English Poor Law Act of 1834, introduced into Ireland the legacy of the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601. Removing the responsibility of controlling poor-relief and “Houses of Correction” from the parishes the Poor Laws divided the county up into Unions, with a central Workhouse in each of these unions, run by a Board of Guardians. By 1849 there were 10 “Unions” in Galway County. The Aran Islands were part of the Galway Town Union. 
The conditions of the famine were so severe that the Workhouses became massively overcrowded and full of pestilence. Separate fever hospitals, some built as early as the 1820s to deal the national louse-borne typhus epidemic and smallpox of 1818/19 now had also to contend with the famine associated cholera pandemic of 1848, and the devastating dysentery outbreaks, particularly that of the winter of 1846. In total there is an estimate of about 1,000, 000 attributable excess deaths between 1845 and 1849 as a consequence of famine associated disease and starvation.
Newcastle Rd, Galway 1840

The Galway Fever Hospital on Earl’s Island, built in 1820, was linked with the East-West part of Newcastle Rd. (University Rd. today) by the “Beggars Bridge”, and remained in operation until a new one was built in the Galway Workhouse in 1910. The Galway Workhouse, opened on the 2ndMarch 1842 for the admission of paupers was built on the North-South part of Newcastle Rd. It had capacity for 800 - 1000 “destitute persons” and the sexes and indeed families were segregated. The Workhouse contained an Infirmary and in 1847 two extra Fever Sheds were erected in the Workhouse Grounds to accommodate 140-190 extra patients. The onset of the Great Famine necessitated the establishment of Auxiliary workhouses at Merchant’s Rd., St Helen’s Street (part of the original New Castle Road from Galway), Barna and for children at Newtownsmyth, Parkavera, Moycullen, Straw Lodge (also situated on Newcastle Rd. behind the Workhouse) and Dangan (which accommodated in 1849 1000 children aged 5 -15 years) at the very end of the Newcastle Rd.
On the night of the Census of 1851 there were 2,099 persons in Galway Workhouse and a further 1,919 in the Auxillary workhouses consisting of about 6.5% of Galway Union’s (including Aran Islands) population of 61,578. A sewer from the Workhouse to the River (exiting into a channel midstream somewhere between the two Persse breweries!) was laid in 1861 and the Galway Dispensary established in 1822 was moved from Flood Street to Newcastle Rd alongside the Workhouse in 1865. 
Retaining the Fever Hospital built in 1910, the Workhouse was part-demolished and replaced by the Central Hospital in 1924, and this was subsequently demolished and replaced by the 1955 Regional Hospital Galway now University Hospital, Galway. Displaying a professional interest, the Dispensary on Newcastle Rd. became Galway’s Lying-In maternity hospital (moving from Mill Street) in 1922 until its closure (because of increasing number of cases of puerperal sepsis) and building of a dedicated maternity hospital on a nearby site in 1942, the building funded by the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes. 

             “Now Sir, in dealing with th subject of education, it cannot be dissembled –      for experience has fully demonstrated it – that religious differences constitute the great difficulty in the way of a satisfactory adjustment of a general system of education.”
With this introduction, on the 9 May 1845, Sir James Graham, Home Secretary in Sir Robert Peels Government between 1841 and 1846, stood up in parliament to introduce a motion on the Academical Institutions (Ireland) to establish three colleges of higher education in Ireland: one in Belfast, one in Cork and one either in Galway or Limerick. In trying to remove obstacles to Catholics attending a predominantly Presbyterian institution in Belfast or Protestants attending predominantly Roman Catholic institutions in Cork or Galway the Peelites wanted to Religion out of the equation and would not sanction an official faculty of Theology within the proposed colleges. The religion of both the faculty staff and the students was to be irrelevant to the functioning and purpose of the colleges. Graham reiterated,
“The principle – the fundamental principle – on which we ask the house to carry this proposal of the Government is, the absence of all interference, positive or negative, with the conscientious scruples of the students in matters of religion.”
 In the debate that followed the introduction of the motion, Sir Robert Inglis the Member for the University of Oxford, an exclusive Established Church enclave, in decrying the lack of religious direction in the proposed colleges stated that the students – “ creatures of a day” – intended instruction was geared for “this world only” and did little or nothing to prepare them “for the world hereafter”. He referred to the proposal as “ a gigantic scheme of Godless education”, a term of antagonism to the scheme that was going to stick, and a denigration used by all religious persuasions in attacking the foundations of the colleges.

Late Victorian Postbox beside entrance to
NUIG campus

Following a direct intervention, and an appeal to a “reciprocal charity” amongst “good Christians”, in the debate by Sir Robert Peel the motion and subsequent Colleges (Ireland) Bill was carried on the 10th July 1845 and received the royal assent on the 24thJuly (Colleges (Ireland) Act [8&9 Vict.,c.66]. Galway merchants and politicians had been very proactive in lobbying to have the “western” college located in their town instead of Limerick and following receipt of an inspection of possible sites by the commissioners of the Board of Works on the 1stNovember 1845 it was confirmed that the “New College” would be located there with Rev.Dr Kirwan as its first President. 
It was the Rev. Dr. Kirwan who promoted the acquisition of Belmount, the property of Mr John Whaley – a distant relative and beneficiary of Oliver Cromwell’s 1652 and, it must be remembered, Charles IIs 1665 deforestation of Irish Catholics – at the junction of the two Newcastle Roads, as being the best site for the New College. Additional lands to the east between Belmount and the Corrib owned by a Lachlan McLachlan were also purchased, for a total price for about 14.5 acres of £3,469 9s 0d, the final deeds of transfer occurring in May and July 1846. The first sod was laid in October of that year and after many difficulties in the building process, the “Godless” Queen’s College, Galway opened on Tuesday, 30 October 1849. The old Belmont house became, and still is for a short time more, the Department of Anatomy. 
There is a benchmark on the archway of the Quad from the 1912 re-levelling survey. 
NUIG Quadrangle doorway
 FATWAS – An Evil of a Formidable Kind

       “It is by the sternest sense of duty – by a painful but irresistible feeling of necessity – that we are compelled dearly beloved, to announce to you that a system of education, fraught with grievous and intrinsic dangers, has within the past twelve months, been brought to your own doors… Hence the institutions [Queens Colleges of Belfast, Galway & Cork], which would have called for our profound and lasting gratitude, had they been framed in accordance with our religious tenets and principles, must now be considered as an evil of a formidable kind, against which it is our imperative duty to warn you with all the energy of our zeal and all the weight of our authority.”
Judgment of the Synod of Catholic Bishops,
Thurles 1850
The year after Queen’s College in Galway opened for students the first Synod of Irish Bishops in nearly 200 years was held in August 1850 in Thurles, Co. Tipperary at the instigation of Paul Cullen, the recently appointed Archbishop of Armagh and former multi-lingual Rector of both the Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fideand Irish Pontifical College in Rome. In the vanguard of a new assertive Catholic enfranchisement driven by Pope Pius IX, Cullen in Synod reiterated Daniel O’Connell’s adoption of the “Godless academies”charge where the new Queen’s College was concerned when he told the assembled bishops, “One alarming spectacle of the present times is the propagation of error through a godless system of education.”
Pope Pius IX' Quill Pen encased (with me)
in Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan

The new Queen’s Colleges were not entirely Godless of course as the Act establishing them allowed for clergymen to be appointed Deans of Residence. The Synod however prohibited any Catholic priest, on pain of suspension, from participating in the administration of the Colleges. The consequence of this orchestrated opposition by Cullen et al. was that although an absolute ban on Catholics attending the colleges was not formalized in essence it had the same effect on the non-sectarian Queens Colleges. In addition the foundation of a Catholic University of Ireland, along the lines of Louvain was established, with the appointment of John Henry Newman as the first Rector in 1854. 
In 1880 the Queens University system was replaced by the Royal University of Ireland, which immediately broke with the “Godless” convention and began awarding degrees to students of theological based colleges such as Magee Presbyterian College in Belfast and the Catholic University of Ireland incorporating St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and University College Dublin.

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 methods of 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.

The West Convent, Claddagh, Galway
Sharpe 1844

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 closed formally in 1936, became the Department of Chemistry of the University and was subsequently pulled down to have a convent built for the Mercy Nursing Sisters who had been displaced by the building of the new Regional Hospital from their convent behind the old Central Hospital. The walls of the handball alley of the Old Model School still exist in the form of a café and the site is now 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.


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  Victorian zeal, and defined by a Victorian levelling. Your journey from Town to the wilds of Iar-Connaught is “mapped” along the New Castle Road 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. 

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


Monday, April 09, 2018


THE MOLLY BLOOM 'yes I said yes I will Yes' PROTOCOL

Since the conclusion of the recent 8-week trial in Belfast where the jury, after what appeared to be a very short deliberation, found the two men accused of rape/sexual assault, the one man accused of exposure and the one man accused of obstructing justice in relation to the other defendants, not guilty there has been an enormous outpouring of concern about the nature of consent in sexual assault cases.

The following blog entry is an abbreviated version of a lecture I gave on CONSENT and the CONSENT provisions of the then new Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, in October 2017 at Farmleigh House.

There is a general misconception as to the prosecution of rape crimes in that most rapes are "stranger" rapes, are usually aggravated i.e. associated with other physical trauma, coercion or intimidation; and therefore the interpretation of whether consent existed or not should never really an issue. Unfortunately, however, in practice most sexual assaults/rapes/ Section 4 rapes (c.75%) are perpetrated by known acquaintances, either of short or long duration, a familiarity engendered on Tinder, Facebook, in pubs, in the workplace or in one's own home. It is this familiarity, however tenuous, that creates difficulties in prosecution.

Increasingly, because of the high level of familiarity in sexualised crimes it is establishing or refuting or creating reasonable doubt as to the presence or not of consent that determines outcome, and sadly influences heavily the present day low-conviction rates.

In addition concerns about conflicts in adversarial court proceedings over the issue of consent is what drives most victims to either not proceed with or withdraw their complaints.


From earliest times CONSENT in sexual relationships was considered a proprietary issue!


The provision for a Yes Means Yes Protocol was introduced into law by 
the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.

James Joyce and Sylvia Beach

'yes I said yes I will Yes

James Joyce and Galway's Nora Barnacle



This is also my perception but we must continue to find a way recalibrate the notion of CONSENT.  I agree entirely with an opinion piece by Roe Mc Dermott (Irish Times April 7,2018) when she writes,

'A "yes means yes" framework is far healthier, 
safer and more empowering, 
as its basic tenet is that consent given freely 
without coercion;
is enthusiastic and active; 
and is ongoing, so must be a 
continual process during sex.'

'We can, we should,(be asking for consent) and with the slightest bit 
of practice, asking for consent
will soon feel like a natural part of sex. 
And not just sex – good sex.'

Molly Bloom would also agree!

'yes I said yes I will Yes.'