GALWAY SOCIAL HISTORY

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The seats of the opulent gentry are very numerous and well built, and are noticed in the articles on their respective parishes. Those of the farmers are of very defective construction; the floors are generally below the level of the soil; the windows small and often stopped up, so that the light enters only through the door; the offices badly constructed and arranged. The dwellings of the peasantry are still worse, often of dry stones or of sods, and thatched: this description applies more forcibly to the western part of the county, though even there and in other parts there are many laudable exceptions.

In Connemara proper and Joyces' Country the population is thinly scattered along the coast, and by the sides of the old rugged roads; in Iar-Connaught it is dense, and the holders of land in better circumstances than those of the preceding districts, who combine fishing with farming; yet throughout the whole of the three districts there is scarcely a comfortable house, and the habits and appearance of the families, who have means sufficient to improve their condition, are little better than that of those of the indigent.

The food is invariably the potato, with fish in Connemara, where also cows are a frequent appendage to the small farmer's homestead, as is a cabbage garden to his cottage. The clothing is of home-made frieze for the men: flannel jackets and petticoats, generally of blue and dark red, were the prevailing dress of the women, but they are giving way to cottons. The men in winter generally wear shoes and stockings, also home made; the women frequently go barefooted.

Beer is now much more in demand than formerly. Unlicensed whiskey is still made in great quantities in the mountainous districts. The lower classes exhibit the strongest proofs of industry, when working for themselves, as is shewn by their care in clearing the ground of stones, and in the reclamation of bog, when they are secured in a profitable tenure. The use of the English language is daily increasing in all parts. The Irish language, however, is said to be still spoken better here than in any other part of the island, both with respect to idiom and pronunciation. The crying at funerals, the attendance at wakes, and other old customs are still preserved.

The county almost everywhere abounds with springs of the purest water; those of Eyrecourt and Kilconnel abbey are peculiarly celebrated. A spring near the rocky summit of Knocknae is never dry. The most remarkable of the mineral springs, which are numerous and mostly chalybeate, are at Oughterard, Kiltulla, and Kingston; the last is pronounced by Kirwan to be one of the best in Europe: another near Dunsandle is much frequented. At the village of Quose is a well which instantly kills poultry that drink of its water. A spa between Clonfert and Laurencetown has been used with great effect in liver complaints; that at Oughterard attracts many invalids thither. Those at Athenry, Rathglass, near Kilconnel, Woodbrook, Killimor, Abbert, and Hampstead, are all of high repute in their respective neighbourhoods.

The county gives the title of Viscount to a branch of the Arundel family, resident in England. The title of Marquess of Clanricarde expired with the first Marquess, who died without male issue, but the earldom descended to another branch of the family of De Burgh, which enjoys it to the present day, and to which the Marquesate was restored by patent, in 1825.

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