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Woodford

Great are the voices from the past,
Links on a golden chain,
Wings that bear us back to days
That cannot come again;
Yet happy, because we have not lost
The echoes that remain.

--from: Fifty Years at the Altar, Fifty Years at the Convent

 

History

Nestled in southeast County Galway, Ireland, lies the townland of Woodford, established in the late 17th century, with the area's archaeological origins dating as far back as 1200 BC.

Another name for Woodford is Craig na Muilte Iarainn, meaning Village of the Iron Mills, as Woodford was the home at one time to three iron mills that attracted early settlers from Wales, and later, specialized workers from Great Britain. It was the iron industry that made the origins of Woodford different than many other villages in Ireland as Woodford began as an industrial settlement rather than being based on markets or trading.

Because of the availability of oak wood, iron ore, and water power created by damming the local river, a tributary of the Shannon, Woodford was situated perfectly for the development of the iron industry. Within the village today, an iron bar bearing the date of 1681 still exists.

Eventually the iron industry was replaced by mills that made use of the same water supply to power their grinding stones and also to generate electricity for the village prior to the rural electrification project in the 1950s.

The forestry industry began to make its mark on Woodford in the 1930s and it still provides a good deal of employment in the area.

Woodford is not without its share of poignant history in that it played a prominent role during the 1880s Land War. It was young Tommy Larkin, and several others who challenged an attempted eviction at the home of Thomas Saunders at Drummin, 3 kilometers south of Woodford. Larkin, Saunders, and twenty others defended the home for several days against the attacks of Lord Clanricarde and a force of 700 soldiers of the crown. All the defenders were eventually arrested, and Tommy Larkin died later in Kilkenny jail. He has been memorialized as a hero in both legend and song as evidenced by this excerpt from Fifty Years at the Altar, Fifty Years at the Convent, Two Golden Jubilees:

Woodford was the storm center of the great fight for Irish land and she had to do battle with the most heartless lordling of them all, who owned the fertile lands and wrecked the fairest houses along the Shannon...I have seen those young fellows handcuffed and led away to the dungeon, and some to death...an honest farmer's only son from Gorteeny, done to death in prison...Tommy Larkin the Brave.

I remember reading of another scene while away at school in 1883. It was the only eviction fight among the homes of Allendarra. Woodford's landlord was on the warpath. Down the street of the little town marched the 'Crowbar Brigade' to the turn of the old mountain road. Up the old road they went...your rent or your house and land was the challenge...the door was smashed to smithereens, the fire quenched on the hearthstone, and all within thrown out in the rain. Though the fight for the old home was lost by the defenders, the cause had won.The lordling had learned an unexpected lesson. His threats and military forces failed to intimidate...he ceased his nefarious work.

The foregoing is quite in contrast with Samuel Lewis' perception expressed in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland while describing the Portumna area several years prior:

...The tenants of the Marquess of Clanricarde in this neighborhood, who have their land on reasonable terms, and are in comfortable circumstances, testify a growing taste for improving the cultivation of their farms.

Woodford has a rich archeological, religious, and historical heritage. The area offers many attractions including:

St. John the Baptist's Church erected in 1857;
Mercy Convent erected early 1900s;
Woodford Heritage Center erected 1834;
Rosturra Wood and Derrycrag Wood Nature Reserves;
The Holy Well at Derrycrag;
Saunders Fort, site of the above referenced siege;
Ogham stones and stone circles;
Moran's at the Bay and other attractions;


Sources:

1. Craig na Muilte Iarainn/Woodford: A guide to its sights; Woodford Heritage Indexation Project; East Galway Family History Society, pp. 2, 16-18,

2. Fifty Years at the Altar, Fifty Years at the Convent, Two Golden Jubilees; Fr. Frank O'Farrell, ed.; Donnelley and Sons Co., Lakeside Press, Chicago; 1930. (Souvenir of the 50th anniv. of the ordination of Rev. Patrick O'Farrell, 15 June 1929, and Mother Mary St. Patrick O'Farrell, 12 September 1930, both of Woodford).

3. A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland; Samuel Lewis; Vol II, p. 469; London; 1837. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co, Baltimore, Md; 1995.

 

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