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Ireland Gazeteer

Tuam in 1843

TUAM, a city in Ireland, partly in the barony of Dunmore, partly in that of Clare, in the county of Galway, 126 miles west of Dublin, by the road through Leixlip, Kinnegad, Athlone, Ballinasloe, and Castle Blakeney. An abbey is said to have been founded here as early as the year 487, under the invocation of the Virgin; and this abbey is further said to have been made a cathedral by St. Jarlath early in the sixth century: this latter statement would be liable to some doubt, as there occurs mention of three 'abbots' of Tuam after St. Jarlath's death, two of them as late as the latter end of the ninth century, were it not that in the ancient Irish records the title of abbot is repeatedly given to bishops or archbishops. Mention of a bishop of Tuam about the close of the eighth century occurs in the Irish writers. The first archbishop who received the pall from Rome was Edan O'Hoisin or Aeda-Va-Deisin, who rebuilt the cathedral in the middle of the twelfth century; but some of his predecessors are called by the Irish writers archbishops of Connaught. A little before the rebuilding of the cathedral by Edan, a priory, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was established here by Tirdelvac O'Conor, king of Ireland; but to what order it belonged is not ascertained. An abbey for Premonstratensian or White Canons, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was founded by one of the De Burgh or De Burgo family, either in the reign of John or the early part of the reign of Henry III. In the twelfth century a castle was erected here by Roderic O'Conor, king of Ireland, of which (or more probably of a similar building of later date) there are some slight remains. In 1244, Tuam with all its churches was destroyed by fire; and in 1356 it was plundered and set on fire by Charles Oge, or Young Charles, son of William de Burgo.

The parish of Tuam has an area of 13,799 acres: its greatest length is seven miles, its greatest breadth four: the population in 1831 was 14,219, of whom 6,883 were in the town. The parish extends into the two baronies of Clare and Dunmore, and the half barony of Ballymoe, but the town is wholly in Dunmore and Clare, chiefly in the latter. It occupies a low flat site on both sides of the river Harrow (a small affluent of the river Clare, which flows by Lough Corrib into Galway Bay), and consists of several streets, the principal of which meet in the market-place in the centre of the town. The streets are not lighted, flagged, or watched. The houses are for the most part neatly built, and some of them are large and handsome. The cathedral, which is also the parish-church, is on the west side of the town: it retains some portions of ancient Norman architecture. It is a small building, capable of accommodating about four hundred persons. Not far from the cathedral are the remains of an old church, and there are vestiges of others in different parts of the town. The Roman Catholic cathedral is on the east side of the town, and is a handsome cross church of richly ornamented Gothic architecture: at the west end is a lofty tower, under which is the principal entrance, formed by an elegant pointed arch with rich mouldings : at the east end is a lofty oriel window with stained glass. This cathedral is quite of modern erection: we are not aware whether it is yet finished: it is one of the richest ecclesiastical structures in the island. There are a Roman Catholic chapel, and a Roman Catholic college for the education of young men for the priesthood, and also for general education, founded in 1814, by Dr. Kelly, the late Catholic archbishop of Tuam. There is also a presentation nunnery. The plan of Tuam, given by the Municipal Boundary Commissioners, marks the site of St. Mary's abbey, but what remains of the building exist we are not aware. The bishop (of the Anglican church) has a palace and handsome grounds close to the town; and there are a barrack for the military, one for the police, a neat market-house, a small bridewell or gaol, and a court house, in which general sessions for the borough were a few years since held twice in the year, and petty sessions weekly. The business of the town consists in the supply of the neighbouring districts with various articles for the home trade obtained from Dublin or from the port of Galway. Malting and brewing are carried on: there are some flour-mills and a tannery. Some coarse linens are made. There are two weekly markets and five yearly fairs. The quantity of grain sold yearly in the market of Tuam, on the average of the ten years from 1826 to 1835, both inclusive, was 468 tons of wheat, 364 tons of barley, and 2,340 tons of oats.

The inhabitants of Tuam were incorporated by charter of James I, in 1613; but the corporation has been dissolved by the late act 3 & 4 Victoria, c. 108. The borough returned two members to the Irish parliament, but was disfranchised at the union.

The parish of Tuam is a vicarage at the head of an ecclesiastical union comprising six contiguous parishes in the counties of Galway and Mayo, forming a district of about 55 square miles, with a population of nearly 28,000 in 1831, and nearly 30,000 in 1834, of whom about 500 belonged o the established church, the rest were Roman Catholics. There are two churches in the union (including the cathedral) and one chapel-of-ease. There are eight Roman Catholic chapels in the union, without (we believe) including the cathedral. The net yearly value of the benefice is about £626, with a glebe-house.

The parish contained, according to the 'Report of the Commissioners of Public Instruction' (Parl. Papers, 1835, vol. xxxiv.), the Roman Catholic college and twenty-seven day-schools of all sorts. The Roman Catholic college had six professors, and contained 129 students, of whom 95 were boarded in the establishment: the instruction comprehended classics, mathematics, and theology. Of the schools, two were private boarding-schools, one was the free model-school of the Tuam Diocesan Education Society, with 79 pupils; three were free-schools in connection with the National Board of Education, with an aggregate number of 365 children: the rest were private day-schools or hedge-schools.