I recently visited the Sean Chairde group in Headford, and spoke to some of our mature residents about their memories of the Demesne. We have also spoken to other residents of the area about what they know of the history of the town and the estate.
Mary had a pub in the high street and recalled how market day was held, with the animals penned up in the street outside.
Pat remembered, the market was held around the 14th of each month. “The horses were sold up by the bank” he said.
Mary – “The landlord was a good one – good to his tenants. Even though he was Protestant, he gave leave to have a Catholic church built”. She told of when the land was divided – “each family put in twenty or thirty pounds before the land was divided. If you didn’t pay, you didn’t get any land”. I was lucky enough to get the castle, but it’s all good land”.
John – “ the gate posts of the present church were originally from the castle, donated by the landlord at the time”
Theresa – “ We walked through the Demesne every day to go to school.” Her family lived on the Tuam Road and went to the old school, situated where St. Fursa’s Hall is now. “ We had no wellies then – only shoes – and no raincoats either”. “We would get to school with wet feet, all wet from the big floods and puddles in the road”. When asked if she had ever stolen fruit from the orchards on the way, she said no, but she had strayed into Dr. Golden’s garden. “ They locked us in the garden for two hours” as punishment, she said, and of course “ we would be in trouble at home for being late – the parents would kill me. So we (herself and her sister) made up a story that I had a sore foot, and couldn’t walk, and that was why we were delayed”.
Mary had studied some history of the area, and recalled it in some detail:
‘Castle Street, Wyletts? Hotel (the barracks and later the banks) Opposite McHugh’s which was the rent office for the estate. Against the wall of the bank was a shed/building erected as a tea room – to give tea to the farmers rather than have them frequent the public houses. At the gate to the demesne a gardener lived there said to be Scottish. Mr Mackay was his name. He was supposed to be an ancestor of Mackays Seed Co. in Dublin. Opposite this gate was a garden known as the ‘grotto’. The castle was from about the 13th Century and was later owned by the Skewitt family who were ousted by the St. Georges. The caste was extended by the St. Georges into an Elizabethan style house. It was burned down in around 1903? I think. The house was on a height called a fosse or rampart. The stables were to the back and sides. Opposite the now O’Dea’s house, there was a roadway to the farm yard, possibly the White Church. The roadway led to gardens and was called the ‘Lime Walk’. Near Corner Chapel was the Grand Gate into the castle. There was a small thatched church outside the gates and the St. Georges gave a site for the Church provided it couldn’t be seen from the castle. They also gave a donation towards it.’
We hope to add to these accounts if we can, and invite anyone else with stories to come forward. We would love to hear from you.