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Local Landscape

Almost 180 years ago when the Henry’s first came to Connemara, they witnessed the effects of what would become to be known as the greatest tragedy in Irish history, The Great Irish Famine.

The Henrys could see the struggle and pain the Connemara people were enduring at that time, but they understood the potential of this remote area on the wild Atlantic coast. From Henry’s political battle for Home Rule and his use of the Kylemore Estate to trial and demonstrate the efficacy of new farming methods and the positive outcomes of a good tenant-landowner relationships, Kylemore was created and ran as an example of forwards thinking.

But beyond the Kylemore Estate, Connemara also saw many developments including the invention of long-distance radio in nearby Clifden and the site of the first ever trans-Atlantic flight achieved by Alcock and Brown.

Tenant-Landlord Relationships & Home Rule:

Mitchell Henry was well liked among his tenants. He was a fair landlord that encouraged new farming methods on his own land to try to test possible advancements for other farmers in the region and suspended payment of rent when the crop yield was low. As an MP for Galway, Henry was a key advocate for Home Rule, a founder of the Home Rule Party and was known for publicly campaigning for the welfare of all tenants. While Henry had many supporters, his beliefs were still divisive. Many fellow landlords continued to raise rents and evict tenants while at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Land League took a radical approach that Henry at times felt incited violent acts, acts which he felt were foreign to Irish nature. Falling between these two ideals often made Henry unpopular, but he nonetheless continued to fight for his views in Parliament and practice his own beliefs in Kylemore, which he held up as what was possible.

“I consider it is the duty of a landlord to share in the unavoidable losses arising from bad years, for which none of us are to blame, and I will therefore allow each of my agricultural tenants the remission of the whole of the present half years rent…I trust that this arrangement will tide us over our difficulties, and I confidently rely on your preventing the accumulation of arrears, which are simply destructive to the happiness and well-being of all concerned”
Galway Vindicator, 10 September 1879, p3

Local Developments

Connemara is famed for its beauty, and is harsh, distinctive landscape. Less known is that it was here in 1905 that Italian Inventor, Guglielmo Marconi built a radio station from which the first successful trans-Atlantic transmission of wireless radio was achieved just two years later. Marconi expertly used the local geography including the many Connemara hills to strategically place his radio masts. One such mast was on Duchruach, the mountain behind Kylemore Abbey. It is thought that these were the first mast which received the tragic news of the Titanic’s demise in spring 1912.

The same bogland that was home to Marconi’s radio station became the site of another historical event when John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed the first ever transatlantic flight by crash landing in the Derrigimlagh bog. Both men escaped the crash unscathed and went on to become decorated pilots. The fighter plane in which they completed their journey from Newfoundland, Canada to Clifden, was a Vickers Vimy which had been specially adapted to make the long journey and yet the men suffered many difficulties on their flight including failures in their radio, intercom and heating equipment. The aircraft was also weighed down with many items including the first ever trans-Atlantic airmail, as is pointed out in this letter from John Alcock to his sister Elsie which was presented by the granddaughter of Alcock’s cousin on the BBC Show Antiques Roadshow

“My Dear Elsie
Just a hurried line before
I start. This letter will travel with
me in the official mail bag, the
first mail to be carried over the
Atlantic. Love to all,
Your loving Brother

*Burton Constable 2". The Antiques Roadshow. Series 39. 19 March 2017. BBC. BBC 1