Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us

Connacht Tribune

Feast of food in Famine’s workhouse of last resort

Judy Murphy



Siobhán Avrillier of Labouche Restaurant with Steve Dolan of Portumna Workhouse at the Taste of Portumna Food & Biodiversity Festival held at the Portumna Workhouse. Photos: Hany Marzouk.

Lifestyle – Judy Murphy visited Taste of Portumna where the array of food on view was in stark contrast to the area’s sad history

The array of food and drink on display within the walls of The Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna last Friday would have been beyond the wildest dreams of those poor souls who flocked there when it first opened in 1852, just a few short years after the Great Famine.

The workhouse was a place of last resort for local people, a place where families were torn apart. Men went to one side of the vast building, women to another. Boys and girls were also kept in separate areas – only those children under the age of two were allowed to stay with their mothers.

Food consisted mostly of stir-about, milk and potatoes. Adults had two meals a day and children had three. These were eaten in silence, off tin plates or timber table tops.

However, there was no such silence on Friday as the place rang with the sounds of laughter and music – the latter courtesy of young members from the Portumna branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.

They were performing as part of a Taste of Portumna, a free event in which artisan producers from the surrounding area were showcasing their produce to local people.

And what a range there was; curries, cheese, meats, chocolates, wildflower liqueur and everything in between.

Goats cheese from the immediate area came courtesy of Killeen Farmhouse, while cheese from Aran Islands could be found on the stand that also showcased Sliabh Aughty Honey.

This honey from bees in Noel Leahy’s farm, outside Loughrea, was selling like hot cakes and customers were enjoying sweet talk as well as sweet produce, with non-stop banter from beekeeper, Noel.

But behind the banter was the more serious message that eating local honey helps our immune system and that a healthy honeybee population is crucial to the pollination of the fruit and veg we eat every day.

Various by-products were also on sale, including lip balms and beard salves, all made from beeswax from the Sliabh Aughty farm.

Bees, too, were responsible for the artisan honey and variety of beautifully packaged beeswax candles on sale at the stand of Brookfield Farm in Tipperary. That farm, located at the other side of Lough Derg, operates a ‘sharehive scheme’ where people can buy a share in the hives and visit the farm.

Located on the shores of Lough Derg, Portumna is a town surrounded by agricultural riches on all sides – Galway, Offaly and Tipperary – and A Taste of Portumna, which was organised by the Irish Workhouse Centre in partnership with Galway County Council, had drawn from all these areas.

Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell



Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell



Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara



Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

Continue Reading

Local Ads

Local Ads