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Irish connection: Terry Smith’s visitor’s card from Richmond Prison; the signatures read “Thomas Francis Meagher” and “William S. O’Brien”

We’ve had so many lively, informative and fascinating comments from readers about this series that we’ve decided to publish a selection of them. We’re also working on several columns based on readers’ suggestions, so if yours hasn’t appeared yet, bear with us: it may well be in the pipeline. And please keep the emails coming: we love to hear from you.

University of Edinburgh medical school

George Walsh wrote to tell us of a more recent Irish connection between the medical schools in Dublin and Edinburgh. “I work in stained glass and was commissioned in 2002 by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, in Dublin, to make windows depicting the history of medicine in its Albert lecture theatre. In 2005 I was asked by the Dublin college to create a window for Edinburgh to commemorate its 500th anniversary. It is situated in its entrance hall. The windows show many aspects of surgery: surgeons are depicted at work; the poles at each side represent the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh [the 16th-century guild that eventually became the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh]; the sea stretches across the work, a symbol of cleansing and healing, and suggesting the evolution of man.”

Irish connection: George Walsh in front of his stained-glass window at the University of Edinburgh medical school

Hurling Club of Buenos Aires

The Irish Connections article on hurling in Buenos Aires wove an entire web of connections all by itself. The Offaly-based sculptor Michael Bulfin directs us to the Wikipedia entry article “Hurling Outside Ireland”, which says that the man who promoted hurling in Argentina in 1900 was the author and newspaperman William Bulfin. “I can vouch for this excerpt, as William Bulfin was my grandfather,” Bulfin writes. He adds that there is a bronze wreath, sent by Hurling Club de Buenos Aires, on William Bulfin’s grave, at Eglish Church, near Birr, Co Offaly.

Eddie Gallagher, from Stillorgan, wrote to say that his grand-uncle, Richard Gallagher – born in Wattstown, Co Westmeath, in 1846 – arrived in Argentina in 1866. In Buenos Aires he married Mary Ann Farrell from Longford. They had four sons and three daughters; the girls married two brothers, Miguel “Mike” Scally and Thomas Scally. Two of Thomas’s sons represented Argentina in field hockey in the 1948 Olympics.

John Bray from Tramore, Co Waterford, tells us he has been to Buenos Aires twice in the past three years, as well as Astana, in Kazakhstan, “spreading the gospel of hurling and all things Cork”. He adds that a group from the Buenos Aires club visited Ireland in August.

George Campbell and Malaga

Carmel Heaney notes: “The reference to George Campbell’s mother in the Irish Connections article does not do her justice. As Gretta Bowen she became Ireland’s Grandma Moses. Like the American folk artist, Bowen started painting only late in life. She was in her 70s when she discovered a box of paints discarded by her son. Bowen exhibited in Belfast, Dublin and (at the age of 99) London. She died in 1981.”

Hugh Kelly and the Sydney suburb of Kellyville

Terry Smith writes from New South Wales: “I thank you for taking the trouble to remind your readers of the Irish connection to the history of Australia, especially the story of one man’s efforts to make a better life for himself in the early colony. I am a descendant of Esther Harley, Hugh Kelly’s second wife. I have spent some time trying to put the story of Hugh Kelly and the Harley family together from the few sources available – newspaper articles, incomplete burial records, etc. I also have what might be a very important item of historical interest to both Ireland and Australia. My partner’s grandmother emigrated to New South Wales from Ireland in the early 20th century. Following the death of her daughter (my partner’s aunt) a ‘visitor’s card’ was found among her possessions. It apparently came with her mother from Ireland. It is signed ‘Thomas Francis Meagher. Richmond Prison, May 31st 1849’ and ‘William S. O’Brien, Richmond Prison May 1849’. This is an original embossed card with authentic signatures. Both Meagher and O’Brien were sentenced to transportation to Tasmania for their part in a rebellion. Meagher famously escaped aboard an American whaler and became a general in the Union army during the American Civil War.”

  • If you know of an Irish connection that would interest readers of this column please email with details of the story, as well as your contact address