In spring, 1940, twenty-four families (127 people) boarded two buses in Clonbur to make new lives in a new Gaeltacht colony in Meath. Their cattle, sheep and all their worldly possessions travelled separately on thirteen lorries.
There was sadness, weeping, keening and excitement, trepidation and hope in equal measure. The children, many of whom had never seen a bus before, were excited and boisterous, the men were stoic and the women were emotional, but strong. There was a living wake the likes of which had never seen before in Clonbur. Strong men were kissing stone walls.
They left the beautiful scenic lakes, rivers and mountains, for their new homes on the lush, fertile lands of Meath. The area they left had a very turbulent history; with murder, non-judicial killings and beatings by the Black and Tans, proselytising and cruel evictions, burned into the hearts and souls, and still in the living memory of the elders. It was among the poorest and most congested of districts anywhere on the west coast of Ireland.
The Meath land was purchased by the Land Commission from Vice Admiral Arthur William Craig-Waller who captained the HMS Barham at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and rose to high office as Vice Admiral of the British navy. This resettlement was identified by De Valera’s government which swept into power in 1932 and by the Irish Land Commission as Gaeltacht colony number 5.
They made this journey in the face of fierce and at times vitriolic opposition from opponents in Meath. There were slogans painted on roads and rooftops proclaiming, no migrants here, the Meath land for the Meath men. Migrants are not welcome. This internal migration would shape the rest of their lives, the lives of their children and of generations to come.
This is their story; of severe poverty and congestion in rural slums in the west, the selection process by the Land Commission, threats and conflict, the migration process, settlement and social integration in Allenstown, their struggle for survival during the ‘emergency’, their triumph and their ongoing relationship with the western homeland, and the death of a Gaeltacht. The book also gives a sense of the life in the big house and the dismantling of a country estate.