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Reeling in the years 1970

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Clare 1970:

The seventies are cherished dearly in the hearts of the older generation. It was a time for change accentuated by individual freedom of expression. Humanitarian and civil rights came to the forefront and Ireland’s political and social landscape took off into the stratosphere, leaving behind traditional, outdated practices such as matchmaking. A collective conscience began to click throughout the world. County Clare quickly began to follow suit. Keep reading as Ennis journalist Cian O’Broin continues his Reeling In The Years series with The Clare Echo.

Springbox come to town:

Political unrest in South Africa made its way to County Clare in 1970 with the arrival of the Springbox Rugby team at the Shannon Shamrock Inn Hotel. There was a large Garda presence at the Hotel keeping watch twenty-four hours per day. A sizeable force of sixty extra Gardai was accrued by Superintendent James Doyle in anticipation of the Springbox fans. The South African Rugby team were in the process of a three-month tour of Britain at the time and were gearing up to face Munster on 14th January 1970. The match ended 25 – 9 in favour of the visitors. The short stay was not far from controversy, however; as rival anti-apartheid demonstrators grabbed the Irish Flag being carried by the Limerick branch of the National Movement. Tensions soon abated as the team flexed their skills on the hotel lawn drawing a flock of starstruck fans. Rugby once again finding a peaceful middle ground amidst political turmoil.

Clare Missionaries in Nigeria:

Moving on from small scale demonstrations to war-torn Biafra in Nigeria, several Clare missionaries survived massacres in 1970. A recurring news item in Clare during 1970, four priests from the Holy Ghost missionaries were reported to be in the danger zone at the time. Rev Michael Frawley, Rev Sean Broderick, Rev Harry Mullen and Rev PJ O’ Connor all partook in massive stints in Nigeria returning home infrequently to spend time with family. Several months later and General Gowan of Nigeria orders an immediate expulsion of all missionaries from the area formerly known as Biafra. Unbeknownst to the people of Clare, General Gowan was assisted by them after purchasing obsolete railway tracks from Dr. Andrews in County Clare. These tracks were used in the transport of troops in Nigeria to the front line.

Last of the Ennis Workhouses:

Our final piece on 1970 relates to the last of the Ennis Workhouse which was to disappear in April of 1970. At the site of St. Josephs Hospital this workhouse stood, a malevolent building with deep and dark secrets which were to be expunged along with its brick and mortar. In 1841 the Workhouse was built to accommodate 800 poor persons. There were also three other similar buildings in Ennistymon, Kilrush and Scariff.

Ennis workhouse fever ward from the south. Photo by Peter Higgenbottom

The workhouses were grim both in stature and in nature and were erected in order to house those who could not adequately provide for themselves. Although perceived as some sort of hospital or safe haven at the time, the workhouses were nothing of the sort. The great work carried out in St. Josephs Hospital cancels out the unjust deeds of the Ennis Workhouse which can stay buried deep below the rubble.





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