Yesterday marked a pleasant break from my usual weekday routine in the form of a day trip to County Galway.
Mum is from the south of the county, and I spent many happy summers in the area as a child. Both Dad and I happened to be free for the day, so we decided we’d make the journey west for a change of scene.
Along the way, I was able to cajole my travelling companion into a whistle stop visit to the battlefield of Aughrim in east Galway.
Fought on 12 July 1691, Aughrim was the climactic battle of the Williamite War in Ireland; and was actually a considerably bloodier and more decisive affair than the better known engagement at the Boyne in County Meath almost exactly a year earlier. Defeat at Aughrim that day spelled the effective military end of the Jacobite cause in Ireland.
|Yours truly looking thoughtful at Aughrim|
This little much I knew prior to my arrival. Our timing, unfortunately, was against us, and the interpretive centre at the village of Aughrim was closed for the off-peak season. Despite a series of numbered battlefield stands and map boards dotted around, I had no proper reference material with me and have never read about the battle in any kind of detail. To my chagrin, I could only amble about and snap off some standard issue tourist shots.
But there was something incredibly evocative about the little village and its monuments on a damp autumn afternoon. I hope to make a return visit, this time having done my homework properly.
Later, in Galway city, I was able to tick off something that had been on the to-do list for a while, with a visit to the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas in the city centre. I’d been aware for some time that a set of colours belonging to the Connaught Rangers had been laid up in the church, and I wanted to see them first hand.
Galway city has a close association with the Connaught Rangers – the former Renmore Barracks (today operated by the Defence Forces as Dún Ui Maoilíosa) on the city’s outskirts serving as the unit’s depot until independence and the disbandment of the British Army’s southern Irish regiments in 1922.
I found the colours easily enough inside the beautiful church (which itself dates back to the fourteenth century), along with a host of other military memorials and plaques relating both to the Connaught Rangers and to individual personnel.
Although almost certainly nineteenth century (the regiment’s final colours were laid up in Windsor Castle in 1922), I’m unsure as to when exactly the colours date to. They display the Connaught Rangers’ battle honours from the Peninsular War, which would suggest a date after 1814, and a plaque elsewhere in the church seemed to imply that they were carried during the Crimean War. I couldn’t tell either in person or from my photos whether a King or Queen’s Crown is depicted on the flags, which would narrow it down.
At any rate, two fascinating artefacts of Irish military history.
‘A moth-eaten rag on a worm-eaten pole,
It does not look likely to stir a man’s Sole,
‘Tis the deeds that were done ‘neath the moth-eaten rag,
When the pole was a staff, and the rag was a flag.’
- General Sir Edward Hamley (1824-93)