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Erris remembers those who sailed from Blacksod to America

One of the highlights of Tóstal Iorras 2013 was the commemoration of James Hack Tuke’s assisted emigration scheme – when thousands of people emigrated from Erris.

Special guests included at the July 24th event was Atlantic Rhythm, the Achill Island Pipe Band, craft makers from the area, and Dr. Gerard Moran of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Rosemarie Geraghty, a researcher in Ionad Deirbhile Heritage Centre, Eachléim, has spent over five years transcribing and collecting information about Tuke’s scheme, to the extent that they now have copies of the original ships’ manifests for all 15 ships that left Blacksod Bay.

Dr. Gerard Moran launched a new online database which hosts a wealth of information relating to the passengers – where they came from, who they travelled with, where they went to etc.

The committee of Ionad Deirbhile marked the occasion with a walk, tracing the route that the emigrants from Achill, Newport, Belmullet and Erris regions would have taken to Blacksod.

There was also an emotional re-enactment of a family leaving their home, heading for the ship, which led the audience to the unveiling of a new memorial garden in Blacksod, in memory of all those who sailed for the New World in 1883 and 1884.

The garden is just a stone’s throw away from the historic Blacksod Lighthouse, overlooking Achill Island and the Atlantic Ocean.

It was an idyllic location in which to conclude Tóstal Iorras 2013, promising hope and confidence for the future of the area – a stark contrast to the events of 1883 and 1884.

Tóstal Iorras

The event was part of several triumphant Tóstal Iorras events that took place in the Barony of Erris over the past week – some of which have already attracted national and international attention.

There were excursions to the Inishkea Islands on July 20. The amazing Agricultural Show took place on Sunday, July 21, and Áras Inis Gluaire hosted an Irish house party on July 22.

The opening of the new Kilmore nine holes took place at Carne Golf Links on July 23, and last, but by no means least.

All of the Erris gatherings drew hundreds of people – individuals and families, young and old – to celebrate and to enjoy all that the area has to offer: activities, sports, history, music, heritage, arts, and culture, to name a few.

The opening of the new nine holes at Carne Golf Links drew a number of international journalists and writers, as well as various tourism representatives from around the country.

The links course received acclaim amongst the golf journalists, and Erris was highly praised by tourism groups – indicating that the area has a lot to offer and that there is a positive future for tourism in Erris.

The inimitable Ian Mac Aindriú introduced nine guests who all spoke highly of the course and of the area: Michael Ring TD, Minister of State for Tourism & Sport; Cllr Johnny O’Malley, Cathaoirleach of Mayo Co. Co.; Peter Hynes, Manager of Mayo Co. Co.; Eva Dearie, Fáilte Ireland; Ally McIntosh, golf course architect and writer; Gerry McGuire, Chairman of Erris Tourism; John Garrity, sports writer from the USA; John McLaughlin, North & West Coast Links Ireland; and Chris Tallott, Captain of Belmullet Golf Club.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.