Posts Tagged ‘Portumna’

A Close Shave

Well actually it was more than a close shave…. it was a very scary experience.  So much so that I had to calm down before recounting the story to you all.

On the Saturday before Christmas we were late heading into Portumna (our closest town).  It was about 3.45 pm by the time we were all cleaned up, in the clean clothes and ready to go.  It was one of those mid-winter dull days, and a storm was due.

We’d only got a few miles along the main road (R439) when on-coming cars started to flash their lights at us.  Alfie was driving, so he slowed down to see what the problem was.  Well, guys, it was 3 young cattle walking the road!  And, yes, of course, they were black with just white faces.  We reckoned afterwards that they were perhaps 1 year old.

It was dusk and getting dark rapidly.  This was not a safe situation.

We did the only thing we could think of… there was no way you could leave them there.  They were a danger to themselves and to human traffic.  We put on the hazard lights, Alfie got out with torch (no idea how come that was in the car), I switched over to being the driver.  Alfie managed to turn cattle around and started to herd them towards a gate about 500 m away.

This road is quite narrow and very busy.

The cattle were so terrified.

Eventually Alfie signalled to me to get ahead of him, and open the gate.  I parked the car where it was in full view of oncoming traffic…. lights on, and hazards going.  Oh, and by the way, the storm had now arrived and it was suddenly dark although only 4.15 pm, and the rain was torrential (and no I did not have a jacket with a hood!!!).

Alfie is very slowly moving the cattle towards the gate.  They were so frightened, they kept stopping.  Alfie was able to walk right up to them and touch them to move them on.

Meanwhile I’m standing in front of the car lights, both ‘stopping the gap – so cattle wouldn’t get past and waving frantically at cars coming along to slow down.  First one slowed and then moved slowly on.  Second one did…. I turned my back on her for a second to see where Alfie was with the cattle…. and guys, next thing she put her foot to the floor and drove straight at me!  It was the sound of the engine that made me turn just in time to be able to jump out of the way!

I cursed very loudly.

Alfie has admitted that if he had not been there, and I told him the story he would have said I was exaggerating…. but he heard and saw what happened.

We eventually got the poor animals safely into the field before a catastrophic accident was caused.

So did this woman think I was going to try to abduct her?  What was she thinking?  It really was the most bizarre and dangerous behaviour ever.



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The River Shannon has burst its banks at Portumna our nearest town.  From the wall to the blue buoy is usually the car park!  At least we had blue skies for a part of the day.

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Portumna is looking very festive for the All Ireland Hurling Final …..

Hurling Final

Portumna is ready for the Hurling Final!

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Last Sunday, Portumna Workhouse had an open day for locals – isn’t that a lovely idea?  I’m sure I’ve said it many times before but how often do we live in an area and never visit the local historical sites?

Workhouse Bench

It was wonderful to see such a large number of locals along at the event.

The workhouse in Portumna was one of 163 built across the country – the biggest construction project undertaken in Ireland until our recent Celtic Tiger arrived.  All workhouses were completed on time and within budget – not a bad feat back in the mid- 1800’s.  The Portumna Workhouse was built at a total cost of €6,500 and was fitted out with a budget of €1,500.  It was designed to hold 600 people but the largest number of people ever recorded in it was at 230.

We only caught the latter half of the introduction about how the restoration had been undertaken and funded by SE Galway IRD.  The video of the work undertaken and the mammoth tasks that faced the team when they started was pretty awesome – the haunting music being obligatory!

Next it was time to go outside and meet our volunteer guide, Pierce.  (There are over 25 volunteers that act as guides and help in the painstakingly slow job of the renovation).

Womens' Yard & Dormitory

There is something eerily disturbing about standing in the inner yard.  At either end are the accommodation blocks – one for girls, one for women – and on either side are 10 or 12 feet high stone walls which were to keep the occupants out of sight of outsiders and the men in the workhouse.

Going to school in Ireland, we were taught the history of the workhouses – how dreaded it was, how desperate families were.  Can we ever imagine or know what it must have been like for a family to go seek help in such a place?   One member of a family would not be allowed to enter – only entire families – the cruelty of it.  Imagine knowing that entering through the gates meant that immediately the family would be divided – never to see each other again!  Women in one block, girls in another, fathers in another and boys in yet another block.  Only children under 2 were allowed stay with their mothers.  Such utter devastation.



And then to add to that…. there was a policy that the food inside the workhouse should not be ‘better’ than that available outside!  So adults were fed 2 meals of porridge or potatoes a day, with children getting 3 meals.

Life was so regimented inside those walls.  The slightest misdemeanour meant you spent some time in the refractory cell – stone shed with no windows.  Your misdemeanour could possibly have been standing on a chair to look out a window in the hope of seeing your child in the yard.

Everyone worked – women did the laundry, men did maintenance and yard work.

Is it worth a visit?  Yes, most definitely – it is full of history and a reminder of how lucky we are now – no matter how bad we think things are.

Portumna Workhouse 

Open 7 days a week – May to October –  09.00 – 18.00 (last admission 17.00)

Cost:  Adults €6.00,  Seniors/Students €4.00,  Families €14.00



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