I was talking to my friend the archaeologist, we call him Matt the Digger, because that’s what archaeologists do. They dig holes and find all sorts of treasure and things from the past. Some job, eh!
Well he was telling me he was working on the new bridges at Claregalway and they came across a gruesome find. A skeleton. A skeleton that had been killed by a battle axe, by the looks of it.
That’s part of archaeology I wouldn’t like. Skeletons give me the creeps.
Anyway, Matt told me they think the skeleton is that of Black Bart O’Flaherty, the meanest pirate who ever sailed the Connemara coast. He was even worse than the Pirate Queen Granuaile who was said to chop off the head of a prisoner every day after breakfast.
But what was Black Bart doing in Claregalway to get a battle axe through his skull? I asked.
Well, as you know, there is a beautiful Abbey in Claregalway. Hundreds of years ago the monks who lived there had many beautiful treasures. Illustrated book like the Book of Kells and golden chalices like the Ardagh Chalice. You can see these in museums in Dublin and online. Ask your teachers about them.
Anyway, Black Bart was brooding on his pirate ship anchored near Spiddal when a traitor arrived at the gangplank. For a bag of gold he told Bart all about the treasure in Claregalway and how the Abbey would be unprotected on the night of the full moon because the de Burgos from Claregalway Castle opposite were going to a wedding in Athenry Castle.
So on the night of the full moon Black Bart and the worst cut-throat crew ever to sail the seas slipped quietly into Galway harbour.
Then they stole a number of fishing boats and rowed up Lough Corrib until the traitor guided them to the mouth of the Clare River. (Check your maps).
Silently they rowed up the river until they could hear the sound of the Monks chanting their prayers. There were no soldiers around because they were in Athenry having fun at the wedding.
Black Bart hatched an evil plan. They would storm the Abbey and kill all the monks. Then load up the boats with all the precious treasure. And before leaving they would burn the Abbey to the ground, just for badness.
The monks were very popular with the people of Claregalway and all the surrounding areas. They ran a hospital and helped poor people. This is where everybody went to Mass.
The only one out that night was a shepherd boy named Finn. He was guarding his father’s flock of sheep from wolves, which were a problem back then,
Being alert he heard the pirates on the river and ran to warn his father. His father roused all his neighbours and when the pirates came ashore at the spot where Claregalway bridge now stands they got some shock.
The villagers fell on them and it was a terrible slaughter. Black Bart fought well, it is said, but Finn’s father knew how to handle an axe and split his skull right down the middle.
Nobody liked pirates so they just a dug a big hole right there and threw all the bodies in. And that is where they lay for centuries until my friend Matt the Digger dug up the gravesite.
The villagers were rewarded for their bravery and the monks lived for many more years in the beautiful Abbey protected by the big Castle. You can still see both buildings today.
Some say that on the night of a full moon you can still hear the ghost of Black Bart moaning on the riverbank and searching the ruined Abbey for treasure and gold.
It sends a shiver down my spine.
Bye for now,
Uncle Jasper, Tuam Herald