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Connemara – in North Carolina



Those who argue that there’s no place quite like Connemara may have to revise their position – because the west of the county is not the only area on the planet to lay claim to the name.

Travel ten miles out from the city of Atlanta in Georgia and there it is on a street sign – “Connemara Road”.  Then close to Indianapolis in Indiana there are two areas known as Roundstone and Clifden.

Nobody knows the origins of the former – the name of a mansion and massive ranch – but the explanation for those Connemara place names in middle of America is straightforward.

The developer visited Connemara and brought back very happy memories with him – happy enough to baptize the location of his expenditure and his houses in honour of Clifden and Roundstone.  Prices for the houses range up to €1m.

However, an old mansion and ranch in North Carolina, which bears the name “Connemara” is steeped deeply in the social history of the United States in the 20th Century.

“Connemara” is located in Flat Rock, close to the Blue Ridge Mountains as you move into the American South.  It is a National Historic Site which is administered by the National Parks Agency of the United States Government.

The reason for this status accorded to “Connemara” is that it was the home of poet and writer, Carl Sandberg, for 22 years up until the time of his death in 1967.

Sandberg was an iconic figure in American literature; he was known as the people’s poet because of the strength and simplicity of his writing and his biography of Abraham Lincoln remains the seminal account of the life of the legendary United States President.

The 250 acre ranch and house in Flat Rock was known as “Connemara” long before Sandberg set up home there for himself and his family in 1945.

Miriam Farris, at “Connemara”, explains that the estate was so named by Ellison Smyth, a wealthy businessman who owned the place from about 1900 to 1945.

Miriam says that Smyth named it “Connemara” in honour of his Irish ancestry and “the beauty of the land of his forbears”.

Interestingly, Smyth’s lineage goes back to the Belfast region to about 1800 and his involvement in textile factories in in Carolina appears to mirror the linen industry in Northern Ireland.

It seems the place name “Connemara” was mentioned when Carl Sandberg decided to buy the house and ranch but he was very happy with the name and with the story behind it.

Do some of the 80,000 visitors who come to “Connemara” every year ask about the background to the place name?

“Yes, they do, and we give them the basic story about how it came about,” says Miriam.

However, neither she, nor any of the nine staff in “Connemara”, has ever been to the real Connemara but she plans on coming sometime.

She cannot say if Ellison Smyth who named the property “Connemara” over 100 years ago was ever in the real Connemara either.

When Carl Sandberg died in 1967 the then President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson spoke of him in remarkable terms:  “Not alone was Carl Sandberg the voice of America; Carl Sandberg was America”.

Maybe it’s time the real Connemara established links with the “Connemara” which houses a deep semblance of the cultural and social heritage of America.

Connacht Tribune

Confusion reigns – but publicans continue serving pints outdoors



Galway City publicans continued this week to serve alcohol in newly created on-street outdoor dining sections – despite warnings from Gardaí that it was against licensing laws.

The local branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said it is hoping Government will, if necessary, introduce legislation that facilitates pubs serving alcohol in public spaces reclaimed for outdoor hospitality.

On Friday last, our sister newspaper, Galway City Tribune revealed that Gardaí had visited a number of city pubs warning they were not legally permitted to serve alcohol outdoors in temporary on-street seating areas created by Galway City Council.

Publicans were told that if they continued to flout the rules, files would be sent to the DPP.

When the crux subsequently hit the national headlines, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys urged Gardaí to ‘use their discretion’.

“The overwhelming majority of licensed premises are operating safely, and we in Government are determined to continue to support them. If local issues arise, I would urge local authorities, Gardaí and businesses to engage.

“However, I will also examine whether further measures are required from Government. Licensing law is a complex area but I have spoken to the Attorney General this morning and we will take further action if necessary,” Minister Humphreys said.

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Connacht Tribune

Apple plans second bite at Athenry data centre



An artist's impression of the proposed Apple Data Centre.

Apple intends to have another bite at plans to build a data centre in Athenry.  Apple Operations Europe has applied to Galway County Council for more time to construct a controversial data centre on a greenfield site at Derrydonnell.

The company said it will identify “interested parties to develop the project” between now and 2026 to meet global growth in demand for data storage facilities.

It will spark hope in the County Galway town of a revival of the €850 million project that was dogged for years by planning delays and court appeals and was subsequently shelved. It may also attract fresh objections.

The world’s largest technology company was granted planning permission to build a €850 million data centre near Athenry in 2015.

An appeal to An Bórd Pleanála by a handful of local residents was not successful, and the planning appeals board confirmed the local authority’s decision in 2016.

But the company ultimately aborted its plans for County Galway in 2018 after three objectors sought a review of the decision through the courts.

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Connacht Tribune

Mum’s dream holiday turns to nightmare after cancer diagnosis



Julia McAndrew, in hospital in Mexico.

A mother who went to Mexico on a dream holiday to spend Christmas with family is too weak to return home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

From the minute Julia McAndrew landed in the South American country, her health took a major downward spiral.

Her son and daughter were shocked when she asked for a wheelchair to make it through the airport.

She and daughter Eliska had flown out to see her son Patrick, who had relocated to Mexico to run an online learning business.

They initially thought she had fallen ill due to the rigours of a 22-hour, multi-stop flight.

But when her stomach problems did not improve and she began to lose a lot of weight and suffered from very low energy, they sought medical help.

This had to be done privately and without the financial help of an insurance company, Patrick reveals.

She was initially diagnosed with anaemia and kidney failure and underwent various treatments, including blood transfusions that appeared to be working.

But three weeks ago, medics discovered that what she had was Stage 4 breast cancer. Julia had cancer a decade ago but was given the all-clear after receiving treatment and a major change in lifestyle.

“It’s returned with a vengeance this time around. It’s spread to her pelvis, ribs and lungs,” reflects Patrick.

The cost of the treatment is $40,000 (€33,000) a month. Her family are hoping to build up her strength enough to endure the long flight home to Oranmore.

They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €280,000 to pay for her treatment and in less than a week a phenomenal €36,000 has been donated.

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