Newport all the richer with new publication

De Facto

LAUNCH The ‘Newport 300’ publication was launched earlier this month by former taoiseach, Enda Kenny.  Pic: Newport Historical Society

New book offers a wealth of insights on local heritage and history

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

There’s no comparison between gleaning information from a book and information taken from a social media platform. A book has a sense of life and presence whereas social media is, essentially, one-dimensional. A book has a feel, smell, texture and weight. Social media can never compete. It’s like you can have a relationship with a book!
‘Newport 300 – The First Two Hundred Years (1720-1920)’ has just been published by the Newport 300 Committee (chair, Cormac Kelly). Peter Mullowney, Elma Brazel and Charlie Merritt made up the ‘book sub-committee’. They have done a breathtaking job. It is a beautiful hardback production – layout by David Moran, printed by Knock’s KPS and supported by SW Mayo Leader and Mayo County Council.
Newport was often seen as the poor relation so close to Westport in terms of infrastructure and services, but when it comes to áit dhúchais, awareness of native place, Newport is up there with the best. This book adds to the lexicon of outstanding recent Newport classics, ‘Remember Us – The People’s War, Newport Area, Mayo 1914-1924’ and ‘St Patrick’s Church, Newport 1918-2018 – A celebration of Burrishoole Parish’.
Newport was to celebrate its 300th anniversary on April 2, 2020. The Covid curse had other plans, yet Newport people were not deterred. This year the festivities are underway with the community firing on all celebratory cylinders.
Hats off to contributor John Moore, who, while researching his thesis (‘The foundation, rise and decline of Newport Pratt, Co Mayo 1719-1798’), discovered a deed of indenture of the foundation of the town between Thomas Medlycott and John Pratt on April 2, 1720, a copy of which is produced in the book.
‘Newport 300’ follows the story of the town’s development and its people. Notables include James Moore (an insightful chapter on the town’s development by Joe McDermott), O’Donels, Medlicotts, Martin Carey, Patrick Walsh, Davis family, Mahonys, Nixons, and the row between Fr Hughes and Rev Stoney.
Fr Manus Sweeney, the Dookinella-born (I’m from that school!) priest hanged on June 9, 1799, for his activities during the 1798 Rebellion, is brilliantly recounted by Tommy Hughes, who also writes of The Great Hunger. Breege Hyland gives a wonderful overview of the Newport Poor Law Union and the workhouse.         
Elma Brazel traces the history of the linen industry, the railway, stories from Medlicott Street and houses in Sandymount, all enhanced with beautiful old photographs and drawings. Noreen Bracken paints a most interesting picture of Knockaveely Glebe and Glebe House.
There are 47 chapters, with an index containing 3,446 names! It is truly remarkable. Peter Mullowney has written almost 40 of those chapters. There are chapters on the Encumbered Estates Court, education, fair days, industry and trade, law and order, medicine, politics, religion, transport, sport, and over 20 chapters on the houses in the various streets and surrounding areas of Newport.
Every house is numbered, and the history of its owners is listed. It is amazing to glance at the generations of people who have lived in a particular building over the years. One has only to stop for a moment and think that under the lintels and between the doorposts ‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil’. It’s a sobering thought. History is unfolding under our noses, literally, as you wish them all blessings and peace.
Peter Mullowney and his team have created a masterpiece that will give hope and encouragement to countless people searching out family histories. It will put the text of family history into a broader context, and encourage people to insert their little piece into the Newport jigsaw.
Numerous high-resolution photographs, maps, drawings and tables serve to augment what is a 384-page tour de force in local history. We should all be proud that such a volume has been produced in our county. It will serve as an inspiration and a goal for what can be done when you have local people committed to a cause. The joy is that volume two has still to come! Comhghairdeas to all. Maith sibh!

‘Newport 300 – The First Two Hundred Years (1720-1920)’ is available in local bookshops, retailing at €30.