Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Co. Galway

Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary comprises of several counties, cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland. Here are From-Ireland.net’s records for Co. Galway.

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    TUAM, an incorporated market and post-town formerly a parliamentary borough, a parish, and the seat of an archdiocese, partly in the barony of DUNMORE, but chiefly in that of CLARE, county of GALWAY, and province of CONNAUGHT, 16 miles (N. W.) from Galway City, and 98.75 (W. by N.) from Dublin, at the junction of the mail coach roads from Ballinasloe, Dunmore, and Hollymount, to Galway and Roscommon ; containing 14,367 inhabitants, of which number, 6883 are in the town.

    This place, called anciently 'Tuaim-da-Gualand,' owes its origin to the foundation of a religious establishment, about the beginning of the 6th century, by St. Jarlath, son of Loga, who for some time lived in seclusion in the small monastery of Cluainfois, which he had previously founded. The church of Tuam was soon afterwards made the cathedral of a diocese, of which St. Jarlath became the first bishop, and was called 'Teampul-Jarlath,' in honour of its founder, to whom it was subsequently dedicated. St. Jarlath is supposed to have died in 540, and long after his death his bones were discovered and deposited in a silver shrine, which was placed in a church or chapel called 'Temple-ne-Scrin,' or "the Church of the Shrine." Prior to the year 1150, Tirdelvac O'Conor, King of Ireland, founded a priory for Augustinian Canons, which he dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and in 1161 Roderic O'Conor, then King, erected a strong castle of stone here, which obtained the appellation of "the wonderful castle." The town was soon after destroyed by an accidental fire, but was soon restored, as in 1172 a great synod was convened here by Bishop Catholicus O'Dubhai, at which three churches were consecrated. An abbey for Premonstratensian canons was founded here either in the reign of John or early in that of Hen. III, by one of the family of de Burgo, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In 1244 the town, with all its churches, was destroyed by fire. In 1252, when Hen. III confirmed to Florence Mac Flin the Pope's bull. for annexing the bishoprics of Enaghdune to the see of Tuam, it was on condition that he should have a portion of land within the town for the erection of a castle, in exchange for other land of equal value. The same king by letters patent granted to the archbishop a fair on the 28th of December and the seven following days. In 1356 the place was plundered and burnt by Charles Oge, son of William de Burgo.

    The town, which is situated in a flat and rather low but healthy tract of land, consists of several spacious and some smaller streets, containing 1197 houses, most of which are neatly built and several are large and of handsome appearance : it is amply supplied with water by a copious and limpid stream, which in its course turns several mills. The principal sources of recreation are a reading-room over the market-house, and a public billiard table; a newspaper is published here ; races are held annually about the 1st of September on an excellent course about a mile from the town, called Gurrans Turlogh, which is in winter overflowed with water forming a considerable lake ; an unsuccessful attempt was made some years since to drain it.

    The grounds of the archbishop's palace are tastefully laid out, and the gardens are spacious and kept in excellent order : the mansion, though not possessing much architectural embellishment, is large and handsomely built ; and around the demesne is a walk, a mile in length, thickly planted with trees and furnished with seats affording a pleasant promenade to the people of the town. The house of the Roman Catholic archbishop also adds much to the appearance of the town.

    The ancient market cross, of richly sculptured stone, was a great ornament : it was erected by Turlogh O'Conor, but has been suffered to fall into decay; part of the base is still to be seen in the old meat market, and two other parts in the church-yard, of which that part of the shaft forming the cross; is erected at the head of the tomb of Dr. Singe, one of the Protestant archbishops.

    The trade of the town which is at present next in importance to Galway is very considerable : it is principally for the supply the surrounding districts. A constant intercourse with Dublin is maintained, from which the shopkeepers obtain the various articles for their home trade. There are two good inns, at which the mails and other coaches stops An extensive brewery, belonging to Mr. Blake, produces from 4000 to 4000 barrels of malt liquor annually ; attached to it are a malting concern, making about 600 quarters of malt, and some flour-mills, carried on by the sons of that gentleman : there is also a tannery, and the manufacture of coarse linens is extensive, The markets, on Wednesday and Saturday, are abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds, and with fish from Galway and Ballina ; fairs are held on May 10th, July 4th, Oct 20th, and Dec 15th. The market-house is a neat building nearly in the centre of the town.

    The Inhabitants received their first charter from Jas. I., who in the 11th of his reign incorporated them under the designation of "the Sovereign, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Tuam.

    By this charter the corporation consists of a sovereign, twelve free burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, treasurer, town-clerk, two serjeants-at-mace, and other officers. The sovereign, who is Judge of the borough court and clerk of the market, is chosen annually from the free burgesses by a majority of that body, on the festival of St. John; and is sworn into office on that of St. Michael ; the free burgesses fill up vacancies as they occur, by a majority of their body, by whom also freemen are admitted, and the officers of the corporation appointed. The charter conferred upon the corporation the privilege of returning two members to the Irish parliament which they continued to exercise till-the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. The borough court of record had jurisdiction to the amount of five marks, but since 1826 few proceedings have issued from it, and within the last few years it has been altogether discontinued. The general sessions of the peace are held here twice in the year, and petty sessions every Wednesday ; a chief constabulary police force is stationed in the town. The court-house is a neat and well-arranged building : annexed to it is a small bridewell, containing two day-rooms and airing-yards, and eight cells.

    The parish comprises 13,913 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act : the land is generally of good quality and in a state of profitable cultivation.

    The principal seats are Birmingham, the property of the Earl of Louth, at present uninhabited ; Greenfield, the residence of J. Kirwan, Esq. ; Queensfort, of S. Leonard, Esq.; Wilfort, of W. Lindsay, Esq. ; Tullinadaly, of Jas. Kirwan, Esq. ; Kilclooney, of J. T. Bodkin, Esq. ; and Ballygaddy, of Mr. J. Daly.

    The living of Tuam is a rectory and vicarage, the rectory partly appropriate to the provost and partly to the vicar choral, and partly united to parts of the rectories of Clonbern, Liskeevy, Addergoole, Belclare-Tuam, Templetogher, Crossboyne, and Dunmore, and to the rectory of Boyanagh, together constituting the corps of the deanery of Tuam, in the patronage of the Crown. The lands belonging to the deanery comprise 1629 statute acres, of which 61 are in the parish of Tuam ; the whole are let at a rent of £127. 9s. 1d., with annual renewal fines amounting to £45. 12s. 3.75d. ; the gross value of the deanery is £680. 15s. 2.50d., per annum.. The vicarage, by act of council in 1789, was united to the vicarages of Belclare-Tuam, Kilbennan, Kilconla, Liskeevy, and Addergoole, and is in the patronage of the Archbishop. The tithes amount to £547. 7s. 3d., of which £195 is payable to the appropriators, and £379. 4s. 7.50d., to the vicar. The glebe-house was built in 1792, at an expense of £584, and in 1813 £784 British was expended in its improvement by tire then incumbent. The glebe lands of the union comprise 39 acres, valued at £63 per ann. ; and the gross value of the benefice, including tithe and glebe, amounts to £741. 16s. 2.50d.

    The Roman Catholic (R. C.) parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church : the parishioners attend divine service at the cathedral.

    A college for the instruction of young men for the R. C. priesthood, and also for general education, was founded here by the late Dr. Kelly, archbishop of the diocese, in 1814 : it is supported partly by contributions of £2 per ann. from each parish priest in the diocese, and by the payments of lay boarders ; it is under the superintendence of three ecclesiastical and two lay professors, and has a very extensive library : the premises, being inadequate to accommodate the number of pupils, are about to be rebuilt. A Presentation convent was erected here under the will of the late W. Burke, Esq., who bequeathed his house and a large sum of money for that purpose : there are at present only five sisters in the establishment, which was opened in 1835 ; attached to the building is a spacious school-room, in which poor girls are taught by the ladies of the convent.

    About 570 children are taught in three public schools, of which a model school under the Diocesan Society is supported by the archbishop, who contributes £35 annually and gives a house rent-free and fuel ; and there are 23 private schools, in which are about 770 children, and a dispensary.

    Of the seven churches formerly in this parish, the only one now remaining is the cathedral church of St. Mary ; but vestiges of the other six may still be traced in various parts of the town; they were "the Church of the Shrine," of the abbey of the Holy Trinity, of St. John, St. Bridget, St. Jarlath, and the old parish church, the burial-ground of which is still a favourite place of interment for the R. C. parishioners. There are also some slight remains of the ancient castle, which consisted of a strong keep, with a large court-yard defended by lofty massive walls with towers at the apples and at tile gateway entrance, and was surrounded by a deep fosse, into which the watery of the adjacent river were diverted.