Journey to the South Pole

On a recent trip to Kerry, we decided to visit the village of Annascaul.

The main reason was to visit the pub once owned and run by the famous Irish Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean and to visit his grave site.

I think I first became aware of Tom Crean, from the iconic Guinness Ad from 2002 and the newspaper reports about Tom’s life.

A few months ago, we went to the Hawks well theatre in Sligo to see the one man play about Tom Crean, written and performed by Aiden Dooley, it was really enjoyable and I learnt a lot about the life of Tom Crean, the Kerry man, who went on three expeditions to the Antarctica with Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. If you get the opportunity to go to this play, go see it.  As we had a trip planned to Kerry a few weeks later we decided to put Tom Crean’s pub on our road trip itinerary.

We saw another play related to the Antarctic voyages last year, in the Factory Performance theatre space on Lower Quay street, Sligo.  The Blue Raincoat theatre company produced an audio visual performance more than a play, four silent actors recreated the scenes and atmosphere of the Antarctic and Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, using old photographs, ship puppetry, sounds, lighting and shadows.

Tom Crean

In 1893, at the age of 16, Tom Crean from Annascaul in Kerry, enlisted in the Royal Navy. He travelled the world with the Navy and in 1901 while docked at a port in New Zealand, by chance he got the opportunity to join Captain Robert Scott’s Discovery expedition.  He later rejoined Captain Scott on the Terra Nova expedition, this is the expedition where Scott lost his life and Crean saved the life of his comrade Edgar Evans, he was awarded the Albert Medal by King George on his return.

Kerry Antarctic explorer Tom Crean
Famous photograph of Tom Crean on the wall of the South Pole Inn

Crean’s third expedition was with Sir Ernest Shackleton on the Endurance expedition.  The ship became trapped in ice and was crushed, the men had to escape onto the ice and drifted for 492 days before the ice melted and they had to row their small boats to Elephant island.  After reaching Elephant island, deserted except for Elephant seals, Crean was part of a small crew lead by Shackleton which volunteered to row a further 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) from Elephant Island to South Georgia, to seek aid for the stranded party.  Crean and the crew miraculously survived and managed to get help and all of the 22 men were saved.

Crean retired from the Navy in 1920 and returned to Kerry.  He married Ellen Herlihy and had three children, opening a pub that he decided to call the South Pole, in recognition of his time in the Antarctic. He sadly died in 1938 from a burst appendix, he was only 61 years old.  Crean rarely talked of his achievements, he was quite modest and gave no interviews.

This sculpture in the village, depicts Tom Crean holding the sled dog puppies in the Antarctic and was erected in 2003 across from his pub.

Statue of Tom Crean in Annascaul, county Kerry, Ireland
Sculpture of Tom Crean with his sled dog puppies

About 5 kilometres from the village, we visited Tom’s grave, its located in Ballynacourty cemetery.  Many of the graves in this cemetery,  are above ground in crypts.  People have left coins and piled small stones on his grave.

Antarctic explorer Tom Crean's grave
The grave of Tom Crean and his wife Ellen and their daughter Kate.

Crean bought the pub in Annascaul in 1927 from a bursary received from Captain Scott’s widow in gratitude.  The pub itself is a warm and rustic place and serves nice food and has lots of old photographs on the walls about Tom and the Antarctic voyages.

Endurance voyage
Photos of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance voyage hanging on the wall of the South Pole Inn

Annascaul is a quaint small Irish village, the day we visited it was lashing rain but we walked up the street for a look round and we passed another well known Irish pub by chance, as I didn’t realise it was located in Annascaul. Dan Foley’s pub was once featured on an Irish pub postcard series and also on a pubs of Ireland poster.

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The story behind Ireland’s smallest chapel

A few photos from a visit to Carrick-on-Shannon in county Leitrim, we regularly drive through Carrick heading to Sligo but decided to stop for lunch and a stroll a few months ago. I had heard that Carrick had the smallest chapel in Ireland which had been renovated in the last few years so we decided to go and view it, we found it tucked away on the corner of Bridge street and Main street.

The story goes that when a local woman named Mary Josephine Costello died at the age of 47 on the 6th of October 1877, her husband Edward Costello, a local rich merchant was so heartbroken by the death of his beloved wife, he decided to have a chapel built in her memory and have her coffin interred within it.

Victorian mourning

The Victorian era (1837 to 1901) introduced new funeral rituals and in particular after 1861 when Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s husband died and she went into a long period of mourning, influenced many Victorians and would of had an influence on the grieving Edward’s decision to commission the building of a chapel in memory of his wife.  Early deaths were viewed increasingly as tragic and deserving of elaborate and grand-scale mourning.(i)  Following Queen Victoria’s example, it became customary for middle class and wealthy families to go through elaborate rituals to commemorate their dead. This included wearing mourning clothes, having a lavish and expensive funeral, curtailing social behaviour for a set period of time, and erecting an ornate monument on the grave.(ii)

Costello had his wife’s remains embalmed and entrusted her body to the care of the local Marist Sisters convent in Carrick until the chapel could be completed.(iii)  Two years later on the 22nd April 1879, the chapel building works were completed and the chapel was dedicated with a mass held where Mary Josephine’s body was interred in a decorated coffin and placed into a sunken floor and covered with a thick glass lid.  Edward had a mass held in the chapel every month until his own death in 1891, his coffin was also interred in the chapel.

The chapel is believed to be the smallest chapel in Ireland and the second smallest in the world, it measures 16 ft by 12 ft and is made of cut stone, there is no woodwork in the church, the roof is made of arched piece of masonry and there is a large stained glass window made from designs by Mayer of Munich.(iii)  The Carrick Heritage group raised funds and had the chapel renovated in 2009 and it is opened daily all year round, its free admission but donations are welcome.  

Chapel in Carrick
Costello’s Memorial chapel


Church doorway
Archway into chapel


Edward Costello’s coffin


Mary Josephines carved coffin
Mary Josephine Costello’s coffin


Mary Josephine Costello Leitrim Portrait
Portrait of Mary Josephine Costello


Coffins encased in the glass floor of the chapel


Irish stained glass smallest church
Stained glass window from designs by Mayer of Munich, renovated by Connon studios Dublin

A quick look inside the chapel





Images: melcoo


A Winter murder at a Seaside Village

The seaside village of Enniscrone in west Sligo along the wild atlantic way, has long been a popular holiday destination, going back as far as the 19th century, when the Victorians began visiting the small seaside village, located on the shores of Killala Bay in west county Sligo. It has been a popular destination since the 1850’s, when the local landlord, Robert Orme built the Cliff bathhouse for holidaymakers to enjoy the Atlantic ocean, the old bathhouse building still exists to this very day.

In the winter of 1909, a newly married couple visited the village on a short holiday, while one of the spouse’s planned a short relaxing break, the other had more grisly plans.

On the 10th December 1908, Michael Gallagher a native of Mayo and a Constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary, married Sarah Knox, a 22 year old young woman from Crossmolina in Mayo. Michael was older at 30 years old and had joined the RIC in 1898. He was described as a powerfully built man and nearly six foot tall.  

Michael told Sarah as he was eleven years in the force he needed to have a longer service before getting married and so the marriage was to be kept secret. Sarah remained living at her family home at Cloonkee, Crossmolina, Co. Mayo, unaware that it was after seven years a member of the R.I.C. could marry.

Sarah Gallagher nee Knox

In November 1909, Sarah received the following letter written from the barracks at Aclare, Co. Sligo.


R.I.C., Aclare
Dear Sarah – Just a line to let you know I received your welcome letter a few days ago. I am glad to see by it you are well. I will meet you Thursday next, 4th Inst. at Ballina at the usual place. Then we can have a few hours before we start for the seaside. Keep your mind to yourself, and I will get a few days at home about the matter. Excuse haste – post leaving. – Yours as ever.
x x x

At Enniscrone, Co. Sligo the couple stopped off at a hostelry and Michael asked for two rooms for himself and his “sister”.  There were no rooms available and they secured a room elsewhere as man and wife. Later that day, the couple were observed by the Coastguard as they went for a walk on Saturday evening at 5 pm strolling along the pier.

Enniscrone Pier & Cliff bathhouse – Credit: National Library of Ireland


Two hours later, at 7 pm, Michael returned to their accommodation alone and didn’t alert anyone to Sarah been missing. Michael paid the hotel bill and left Enniscrone village and cycled back to the RIC barracks in Aclare in south Sligo, a distance of 19 miles (31 kilometres).
On Sunday morning, the body of Sarah was discovered by two fishermen.  An investigation was quickly launched and it wasn’t long before the woman was traced back to the hotel and walking with a man the previous evening.  When tracked down at Aclare barracks, Michael Gallagher denied being at Enniscrone with a woman. He was allowed to sit at the fire in the dayroom as a search was carried out. Being granted permission to go to his room he “dashed out the back door into the dark night. In a moment all was confusion and alarm. The police abandoned their search and snatching lanterns ran in pursuit of the fugitive. Some jumped on bicycles and rode furiously down the different roads.”
At the Inquest into Sarah`s death, held a few days later, when her brother was being questioned, a jury member remarked

“I suppose he got a fortune when he got married”

“Yes” said witness, “but not all.”

Dowry system in Ireland

Dowry (generally called ‘fortune’ in Ireland; spré in Irish) is money or property brought by a bride to her husband at marriage. It was an important matter in nineteenth-century Ireland.  In the past, many marriages in Ireland were set by financial standing, and by today’s standards it would be nice to think love and compatibility came into the equation, this was not the main reason for marriage in Edwardian times, despite this, in the majority of cases love did grow through companionship and endearment, sadly this wasn’t the case for Sarah and Michael.

Though some brides married without dowries, payment could be substantial for others. The need for dowries helped parents to control their children’s choice of marriage partner. Not surprisingly, dowries were often the cause of disputes, particularly because they were sometimes paid by instalments or full payment was delayed.

The Inquest

The Inquest was opened by Dr J. Flannery and was held at the Enniscrone coastguard building, as the landlady of the hotel was giving evidence, a telegram was received, the fugitive Michael Gallagher, had been found with his throat cut at Harlech’s Lodge in Aclare, Sligo.
“The reading of the wire was received by the Jury with loud applause, which the Coroner promptly suppressed. The Jury found that Sarah Gallagher had been murdered by her husband who drowned her.”

Sarah’s funeral attracted many mourners, “The whole countryside afterwards followed the funeral cortege for miles along the roads home.”, which was in stark contrast to Michael’s funeral.

The funeral of Michael Gallagher took place from Aclare to Bohey near Crossmolina. Practically unanimously all car-owners refused to hire out their vehicles for the occasion. There was vigorous booing as the funeral passed and one woman flung mud at the hearse.  A special force of police from Crossmolina met the cortege as it passed through Sarah Knox`s village. It was quite dark when the body was laid in the grave, and no priest was present.


Constable Michael Gallagher was born in Co. Mayo in 1876 and joined the RIC in 1898.


Poignantly, on the morning of her murder Sarah had complained to a fellow guest that “she had lost her wedding ring and cried long and bitterly because she thought it was an ill-omen.”
A wedding ring was later found in Michael Gallagher`s possession when he was searched.

An Edwardian lady watches over her children fishing beside the Cliff bathhouse at Enniscrone. Credit: National library of Ireland


Possible Motive

The Coroner thought it was money related and Michael had been insane, but it was thought it was premeditated if he took the ring from Sarah in the morning.  Her brother, said Michael had sent 10 shillings on one occasion, that the marriage was known about in Sarah`s parish but he did not know if Michael`s family knew.  Perhaps he married her for money, but did not get all he was expecting, if the marriage became known to his superior’s it would have been a black mark on his career.  He had Sarah coached to call him Tommy at the boardinghouse but she slipped up a couple of times and called him Michael. Her brother said she often complained that Michael did not bring her away, but the excuse about not being long enough in the service was believed by Sarah’s family.




Sarah appears on the 1901 census aged 15 years old, living with her father James, a farmer and her 6 siblings in a house in the townland of Cloonkee, Fortlands, Mayo which is a few miles from the village of Crossmolina.




Newspaper archive - Independent, 14/11/1909
Newspaper archive - The Sligo Champion - 11/1909
Text: Tricia Dillon - Facebook group - Royal Irish Constabulary1816-1922 -A forgotten Irish Police Force
Irish census 1901
RIC rules:
Dowry System:
Dowry endearment quote:
Photos: National Library of Ireland

The Secret Scripture walking tour

Book your tickets today via Eventbrite.

Book a ticket for the guided Secret Scripture walking tour and discover Sligo town at the turn of the 20th century, from the perspective of one Sligo family, follow in their footsteps and see where they lived, worked and played. The Sligo secret scripture trail, is a local history and literary tour based around Sligo town. The award winning author Sebastian Barry, set his novels in Sligo town and wrote about his family who resided in Sligo at the time. This tour will take you through the streets of Sligo where the characters walked, combining the books and social history of Sligo.

Organiser: Melcoo Tours

Email: or

Phone: 353-85-2086386

Walking tour Sligo
Book a local history and literary tour of Sligo


Self-guided App Tours

You can also download an app I have created for the Secret Scripture tour.  The walking tour app is available on iOS and Android


Go to the Apple or Play store and search for Guidigo, download this free app, then search for Sligo Secret Scripture trail and sign in with a gmail, facebook or email account.

The app, guides you around several locations, the majority of which, can be reached on foot, the locations further out from the town, have been placed towards the end of the tour. We have suggested an order to explore the places but feel free to take the tour at your own pace, in whatever order suits you best. The map suggests a route of numbered stops but where you start and stop is entirely up to you. Instructions and directions are provided and you can check the map at any time, during the tour.

The tour is based around the books of author Sebastian Barry who set his novels, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman in Sligo.

A scandalous event at the Dromore West Workhouse

I came across this interesting social history case in the DIPPAM Archives recently. DIPPAM which stands for Documenting Ireland: Parliament, People and Migration, is an online virtual archive of documents and sources relating to the history of Ireland, and its migration experience from the 18th to the late 20th centuries.

The documents related to an event which occurred in 1879 and an inquiry was called to investigate how the Dromore West Workhouse was been managed.

A Captain Spaight, who was the Local Government Board Inspector, chaired the Inquiry, and it concerned a Miss Annie Kiolehan, who was working as the headmistress in the Dromore West Workhouse in county Sligo in the north west of Ireland in 1879.

Annie Kiolehan had given birth to a baby girl on the 24th September 1880, Annie was living and still teaching in the workhouse in the weeks leading up to the birth and she appears to have kept the pregnancy hidden until a week before the birth. As Annie was not married the baby was deemed illegitimate and after giving birth to a girl named Estella, Annie was obliged to resign from her teaching post and leave the workhouse, she left her baby under the charge of the workhouse. The birth of the baby by an employee of the workhouse caused scandal in the area and letters and articles appeared in the local press at the time.  An inquiry was called for, to investigate the incident and to find out how the workhouse was been run.  At the time of the birth, Miss Kiolehan had not stated who the father of the child was, a few weeks later she gave the name of the father as a Peter Hale.

Irish Times newspaper report – Nov 1880


Peter Hale, was the son of the Patron of the workhouse and had visited the workhouse several times. The report reveals how employees at the workhouse were frequently drunk and it was believed this gave rise to the incident.

Annie states that on New Years Eve of 31st December 1879 she had gone to bed early and woke up to find a man in her room, she then fainted and when she woke up the man was gone, she wasn’t certain at the time but thought the man looked like Peter Hale. When questioned about why she thought it was Peter Hale, Miss Kiolehan stated she had received an anonymous letter referring to the incident and how she shouldn’t report it as to not disgrace herself. She also gave evidence, stating how she was out walking one day after the incident and Peter Hale had tried to kiss her and asked her, had she anymore Midnight visitors.

Several witnesses were called to give evidence at the Inquiry, including the Chaplain at the workhouse who baptised the baby, he states he baptised the infant Estella, the Chaplain is also asked about the name Emma, which he denies knowing about.  A Porter gave evidence and his entrance book was submitted as evidence, which records the coming and goings of visitors to the workhouse, as Peter Hale was related to the Patron, he wasn’t recorded in the book. The inquiry also mentions how the Master of the workhouse, a Thomas Lavelle and his wife the Matron, Mary Lavelle were frequently drunk and even while attending the Inquiry.

Old Skeleton keys
The Master and Matron of the Workhouse were questioned about access to keys to Annie’s room.

















Peter Hale denied the accusations that he was the father of the child or that he had more than a passing acquaintance with Miss Kiolehan.  Peter was the son of Richard Hale, one of the director’s on the Board of Guardians for the workhouse, he was also related to the Matron Mary Lavelle and the Medical Officer Doctor Charles Mahon.  Peter Hale mentioned other men he had seen Annie walking with or talking to, one of which was her cousin Peter Wall.

The inquiry verdict

After two days of evidence, Captain Spaight recommended that the Master and Matron should resign from their posts and that Annie Kiolehan had most likely been seduced outside of the workhouse and that Peter Hale was not the father of the child. Thus ensuring the Workhouse was not held responsible.

The child remained in the workhouse and Annie offered to pay 1d 6s for the child’s upkeep, this was refused by the Board of the workhouse, who stated the child must be removed from the workhouse as the child was not sick or if the child remained, Annie would need to admit herself into the workhouse.

Annie appears to have come from a well to do family, as she mentions during her evidence how she spent 12 months in New York, after she failed a teaching exam, she was a young educated woman of about 30 years of age in 1880, who had the fare to travel and return from America in the late 1870’s and also how despite resigning from her teaching position she was offering to pay money towards her child’s upkeep. On the advice of her sister, she hired a solicitor a Mr Mannion to represent her during the Inquiry.

Reading between the lines of the inquiry report, I think Annie and Peter, had a relationship of some sort at the time, as Annie mentions lending a book called Kusheen to Peter, they appeared to be more than passing acquaintances.


Old vintage photo of an unknown little girl

I wondered after reading the report, what became of Annie and her child, I checked the census for Kiolehan, which is an unusual spelling of the surname and I found Annie/Bridget in the 1901 census and in the genealogy records, it shows the birth of Estella Kivlehan in September 1880 and then a record for Estille Hale, christened on the 4th of November 1880, her parents are listed as Annie Kivlhan and her father as Peter Hale and the place of residence is the workhouse, next to the record is the word illegitimate. and the name Emma has been inserted, which ties in with the details which came out during the inquiry.

Estille Hale
Source: National Library of Ireland – Parish records


I checked the 1901 census and can’t find a 20 year old Emma or Estille, I did find Peter Hale and his wife of twenty two years, Winifred and their four children. One of the witnesses during the inquiry, remarked how Annie was unfortunate to be seduced by such as person, where she had nothing to gain and no hope of marriage, the inference that Peter was already married. On the 1901 census, Bridget Kiolehan is listed as a retired national school teacher and was living just a few miles away from the workhouse, in what appears to be a boarding house in Templeboy, Dromore West in County Sligo.

I can’t find any other records for Emma or Estella, perhaps she was adopted and her name changed.

I was telling my mother about the case as she is originally from Dromore West and she hadn’t heard of it but she did mention, how her great grandfather had worked in the Workhouse, a William O’Hara and how they were never sure where he had come from originally as he had died young. I would love to learn more about my family connection to the Workhouse and about this case, if you have heard about it before or know more about it, do let me know.


1. Paper relating to Management and Discipline of Workhouse at Dromore West, County Sligo

National Archives of Ireland


4. Images:

5. National Library of Ireland - Parish records

6. Newspaper archive - Irish Times - 16 Nov 1880