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Achill man’s unique call to arms


HISTORIC The late Michael Callaghan is pictured holding the the 19th-century bugle with his grandson Emmet. Pic: Paul Mealey

Achill bugle sounds a clarion call in Croke Park

Edwin McGreal

For generations it was used to call villagers in Dooagh on Achill Island to the shore when seaweed arrived.
But now a 19th-century bugle has found a modern day use – to rally Mayo fans behind the county’s footballers.
The bugle has been in the hands of the Callaghan family in Dooagh for five generations. And its current holder, Emmet Callaghan, lent it to his neighbour, well-known Dooagh historian and musician John ‘Twin’ McNamara for the recent Mayo v Dublin game.
So McNamara brought it to Croke Park, encouraging Mayo fans around him to roar ‘Maigh Eo, Maigh Eo’ every time he sounded the clarion call.
It has been a campaign of McNamara’s since 2012 for Mayo fans to call out ‘Maigh Eo, Maigh Eo’ as a call to arms for the players and he has christened the bugle the ‘Golden Horn’.
“So once I sounded the golden horn I wanted people to chant ‘Maigh Eo, Maigh Eo’ to give the team a lift. I was in the Upper Cusack Stand and I got a huge response to it. People were queuing up to have a go,” said Mr McNamara (84).
He added the bugle, or horn, is in Achill lore and has been written about by renowned early 20th century artist Paul Henry, who was inspired by the Achill landscape for much of his work.
“I think it is fitting the golden horn, that has such a long tradition in Achill, is used to exclaim ‘Maigh Eo, Maigh Eo’, the Irish spelling of our county, a spelling that has a long history stretching back to 731AD,” added McNamara.
The bugle has been passed through generations of the Callaghan family since Emmet Callaghan’s great-great-grandfather first acquired it. It was made in Birmingham and Emmet describes it as a typical army bugle.
“It would have been used by my great-grandfather and his father to call the villagers to the shore. They lived on the shore and would be the first to see a wrack of seaweed wash up. All the villagers would come down then once they heard the bugle and they would divide up the seaweed and use it for fertilising the land,” Emmet Callaghan told The Mayo News.
Emmet’s late grandfather Michael, who passed away last year, was the first of the family to use the bugle ceremoniously in Scoil Acla, the renowned summer music school on the island.
Last year Emmet himself sounded the bugle to mark the end of the Scoil Acla week.
He said the bugle can be very loud and with some skill, different sounds can be played on it.
And it will go into a sixth generation too. Emmet’s fiancée Kelly Hughes gave birth to baby Darragh Callaghan two weeks ago.
The bugle has been named the ‘Golden Horn’ by John ‘Twin’ McNamara for two reasons.
Firstly, it is a reference to the golden strand beach in Dooagh, which famously reappeared in 2017 after a 30-year absence and has since come and gone almost with the tide.
Secondly, it is also a nod to the Golden Horn Beach in Croatia, which came first in the Big 7 Travel list of the top 50 beaches in the world, which placed Keem Bay, just over the hill from Dooagh, at number eleven.
And both men hope it will be in use for plenty of golden days for Mayo football.