Michael Fox Singer & Radio Presenter

Flying to County Mayo

 Flying to County Mayo – in the days before Knock Airport


 (And be sure to drive on the left when you get there!)


When Knock Airport, now designated as “Ireland West Airport Knock” (and also shown as “Connaught International” on departure screens in certain foreign airports) but forever destined to be known, simply, as “Knock”, was officially opened in May 1986, after five years in construction, it was not, in fact, the first commercial airport to be established in County Mayo.


No, that honour goes to the airport which had been established some years earlier at Knockwrower, alongside theBreaffy Roadone mile out from the centre of Castlebar, the county town of Mayo and its administrative centre. Sadly, today, there is no trace that an airport ever stood at that location, hosting flights to and fromDublinand elsewhere, as well as being the home for some 30 years of the Mayo Flying Club.




A monument to those who went away, and to those who came back


An item in a recent edition of the RTE Television programme “Nationwide” engaged my interest, bringing back as it did memories of childhood travel to and from this country I now call “home”.

It concerned plans by the local Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown local council to redevelop the redundant Carlisle Pier located within the sheltering arms ofDun LaoghaireHarbour, six miles down the coast from the mouth of the River Liffey andDublin.

Have “Bradshaw’s”, Will Travel

Have “Bradshaw’s”, Will Travel


I have in my possession a 1985 reprint of “Bradshaw’s General Railway and Steam Navigation Guide for Great Britain and Ireland, July 1922 issue” published by Henry Blacklock & Company, Manchester. 

The new edition, in hardback and almost 3 inches thick, was reproduced by David & Charles of Newton Abbot, the idea being to create a typical issue of this publication in a more permanent form. The original mammoth “traveller’s bible”, produced monthly for the benefit of the wayfaring public of the times with painstaking attention to detail, was seldom late in issue and was almost totally accurate. It appeared during the last Summer before a myriad of individual railway companies in mainland Britain were swept up into a “big four” of railways” i.e. the London Midland & Scottish, the Great Western, the Southern Railway, and the London & North Eastern Railway. Such grouping was to be later mirrored in Ireland. With the partition of the country following the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922 some railways became “international” straddling as they did the border drawn between 26 counties in the south and north west of the island of Ireland and 6 counties of the northern province of Ulster.



 What’s in a name?



  Boycott  verb. To refuse to have any business or social

dealings with (a company, a country, etc) because one

disapproves of something it is doing; to refuse to handle,

buy, etc (goods) because one disapproves of something

the producer is doing.

Chambers Dictionary


The word boycott, its meaning defined above, is in common usage in the English language. Indeed, it has its equivalent in many languages around the world.

 From where, then, did this word originate? To find the answer we must travel to the west ofIreland.


 This word entered the English language during the “Land War” in Ireland, being derived from the name of one Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, born in 1832 in Norfolk in East Anglia and departing this life some 65 years later having, literally, “made a name for himself”, but not in a way for which he would have opted given a free choice in the matter!

Home to Mayo, the Census of Ireland 1901, and all that

Home to Mayo, the Census ofIreland1901, and all that

 (declare your Imbeciles, Idiots and Lunatics!)



Following our return fromEnglandand upon settling into our new home in thevillageofCallowin the “half parish”, of the same name, of Killasser near Swinford,CountyMayoearlier this year we were warmly welcomed by the local community. Many of our new neighbours were of course known to us, from years of regular visits to the area and maintaining “below the surface” contact with friends and relations (albeit some a little “removed” now, with family bereavements etc) and, indeed, affinity with local happenings and social change.

 Indeed, I would submit, such contact is so essential for an “exile” contemplating taking that major step of uprooting home and family inEngland, theUSAor elsewhere and relocating, permanently, toIreland, perhaps in pursuance of a long held “pipe dream” or “vision”, or whatever their particular motivation may be.

GRANUAILE Ireland’s Pirate Queen


 Ireland’s Pirate Queen


The counties of Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim comprise the western province of Connaught. The oldprovinceofConnaught, in fact, had the reputation of being the “wild west” orIreland!

 Back in the early part of the 16th centuryConnaught had its very own Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, or Granuaile as she was more better known. She was an important, somewhat larger than life, person in Irish legend, and was dubbed “The Sea Queen of Connaught”


 Granuaile was born around the year 1530, the exact dates of her birth, indeed death, are not known, the only daughter of one Owen O’Malley. He was a clan chieftain who ruled over that part of the western seaboard ofIrelandwhich stretched fromAchillIslandinCountyMayoto theislandofInisboffininCountyGalway.

The Gombeen Men are on the go!

The Gombeen Men are on the go!


“Mountain breezes as they blow

Hear their echo in the glen below

The gombeen men are on the go

In the hills of Connemara”

So goes a verse of Tommy Makem’s rousing song “The Hills of Connemara” (sometimes known as “The Mountain Tae”, an overture to that traditional Irish distillation, poteen) and including a mention of “the gombeen men”.

Who, in fact, were the Gombeen Men? To find the answer we must go back in time to a period in Irish history during which, today, we might characterise as a time when Ireland was “a land without leaders”.

In the wake of the Act of Union, enacted by the English Parliament, and the consequent closure of the Irish legislature, the so-called “Landlord Class” left Ireland. However, they did not give up there lands but rented these out through “agents” to “strong farmers” who, conversely, sublet parcels of land to “cottiers” (small tenant farmers).

SAINT PATRICK – A Reflection

SAINT PATRICK – A Reflection


“The fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright”


During a flying visit to County Down in Northern Ireland recently, and with the approach of Saint Patrick’s Day in mind, I took the opportunity of visiting what is reputed to be the grave of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s greatest and much loved saint, in Downpatrick.

Downpatrick, the county town of Down, is a pleasant and sedate place of some 10,500 inhabitants. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Ulidia from which the province of Ulster derives its name.




“The greatest all-around athlete of his day”

Located along the N5 national trunk road between the towns of Swinford and Castlebar in the County Mayo is the picturesque village of Bohola, with its infamous “three pubs” and the beautiful church of the Immaculate Conception and Saint Joseph.

Nowadays, the centre of the village is largely bypassed by the reconstructed main road. Prior to this the old road snaked its way through the village passing on its way, positioned facing the church on the opposite side of the road, a splendid monument erected in 1966 to the memory of, possibly, its greatest son, Martin J Sheridan.

On The Trail Of The Big Fellah



General Michael Collins, Clonakilty’s most famous son

 I have long been fascinated by the story of Michael Collins, the Irish leader and patriot, otherwise known as “The Big Fellah”, born 115 years ago near Clonakilty, in his beloved West Cork, and perhaps its most famous son.



His was a name that always seemed to be around, as I grew up. At one stage, I recall an old first edition of a book about him coming into the possession of my family and then disappearing, never to be seen again, after being loaned to a relative, whom in particular I cannot even rememberl now. I recall its powdery, fragmenting, pages interspersed with black and white “plates” (photographs to you and I) showing Michael Collins in full military regalia at various locations and in the company of others whom no doubt were representative of the Irish and British political and military establishments of the time.

Famine - Then & Now

Famine – Then and Now

In the mid to late 1700’s, some five percent of Irish land was in Catholic hands, notwithstanding that Catholics accounted for some seventy five percent of a population which had expanded greatly through the eighteenth century, a population which, as the century came to a close, was nearing five million in total.

 For members of the incumbent Protestant aristocracy in eighteenth century Ireland this period was a lucrative one. Landlords became wealthy, erecting large and grand residences on their biggest estates, while their tenant farmers strove to pay compulsory rents and tithes (one tenth of income or produce) to a church to which very few of them owed allegiance.

A Pat On The Back For Irish Butter Making

A pat on the back for Irish butter making - its fame has spread far and wide!

 One of my earliest and enduring memories from happy summer holidays spent back in the ‘50’s, as a  young “gossoon”, with my paternal grandparents in their smallholding in the rural parish of Killasser near Swinford, County Mayo, is that of my grandmother “churning” butter.

 That is, the making of butter from of “the white stuff” (a milk marketing term I heard here recently!) freshly “milked” from their small number of cows in a “cowhouse” (albeit the original Fox family dwelling) located across the road (or the “street”, as my grandmother would call it) from a newer dwelling built for my grandparents by my late father, in his early twenties, and in between work sojourns in England. Necessary, given the prevailing depressed economic times. Indeed, by comparison, far worse than the current economic times here in Ireland.

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