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Connacht Tribune

Slave boxer who ended up penniless in Galway

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Filmmaker Des Kilbane at the grave of Tom Molineaux at St James Cemetery in Mervue, Galway. The story had to be told, he says. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – The fascinating story of freed tobacco-plantation slave and outstanding boxer Tom Molineaux who spent his final years in Galway is told in new film. Judy Murphy recounts the tale.

“He was the worst of fools, in as much as he sacrificed fame, fortune and life; excusing himself by the absurd plea that he was a fool to no one but himself.” That’s an assessment of the life of freed slave and boxer Tom Molineaux (1784-1818) as written by boxing historian Henry Downes Miles in the late 1800s.

Miles’ observation from the book, Pugilistica, The History of British Boxing, is included in a new documentary being screened at Galway Film Fleadh on Friday, July 14.

Ag Trasnú an Atlantaigh Dhuibh/Crossing the Black Atlantic is the amazing and moving story of an outstanding boxer, who was born into slavery in the tobacco plantations of Virginia in March 1784 and died in Galway in August 1818.

Molineaux earned his freedom from slavery through boxing and went on to mix with aristocracy in Britain, but after being cheated out of a major fight in England and a series of other misfortunes, he ended his days penniless in Galway. He was buried in a pauper’s grave in Mervue nearly 200 years ago.

This documentary draws on the history of black slavery in America, the Irish connections with that slave trade, the rise of boxing as a popular sport in the British Empire, and the fatal flaws of a man who rose above the circumstances of his birth, thanks to his extraordinary talent – only to end his life in poverty.

It’s the work of Galway-based DK Productions and will be screened on TG4 later this year.

Des Kilbane, who produced and directed the documentary, heard about Tom’s story by chance.

“It happened four years ago when we were editing A Fighting Heart,” he says referring to a previous film of his, based on the life of American-Irish boxer Johnny Kilbane.

“Andrew Gallimore, the script editor, asked me if I’d ever heard of a freed slave from Virginia called Tom Molineaux who in the early 1800s was robbed of the biggest boxing fight in history at that stage,” Des explains.

When Andrew added ‘we think there’s a Galway connection’ and that Molineaux might have been buried in Galway, Des started researching.

He approached bookshop owner and historian Tom Kenny, whose response was, ‘sure that’s the guy who was buried in Mervue’.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars

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Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.

That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.

Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.

Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.

Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.

“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.

“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.

“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.

Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year.  Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.

Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.

Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.

“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.

Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.

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Connacht Tribune

Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team

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Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.

The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.

Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.

Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.

“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.

It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.

“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”

She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.

“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.

There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.

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Connacht Tribune

Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78

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Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.

Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968

As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.

From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.

When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.

Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.

A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.

Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later

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