Carna, County Galway

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Carna is a small area in Connemara, County Galway, Republic of Ireland. It is located on the country's west coast in the heart of the Gaeltacht, about 50 km west of Galway city. Carna is a small area, but it has a large enough influence on the surrounding areas in Connemara as it contains a Garda Síochána station, a Health Centre including a Rapid Response Ambulance and it also houses an Irish Coastguard lifeboat. Carna is located close to the village of Cill Chiarain and they share the peninsula locally called Iorras Aithneach. There is currently 178 people living in Carna Village but there are 1786 people living in the townlands around Carna and the Iorras Aithneach area. The population dramatically dropped from the previous average of 8000 before the Great Famine. There are a number of public buildings in Carna. There is a hotel in carna called Carna Bay Hotel, there is a nursing home located there and there is a pharmacy called Cogaslann Agatha located in the village centre. There are also 4 shops located in Carna and 3 pubs.

The National University of Ireland, Galway, has an Irish-language and educational centre (Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim) in Roisín na Mainiach, near Carna. It also operates a marine biology station Martin Ryan Institute in Maínis and an atmospheric research station at Mace Head, Carna, which is run by the university's experimental physics department.[1]

There is a water reservoir in Carna that provides West Connemara including Roundstone with fresh water. A bus is also based in Carna that brings passengers between Carna and Galway City picking up passengers along the N59.

Following the Cromwellian War and the subsequent Down Survey based confiscations, many of the dispossessed settled in Connacht. The statement "to hell or to Connacht" originated in this migration. Carna is in a strong Gaeltacht region, so most of the people speak Irish at home. The population is almost totally (96 per cent – 2006) bilingual with English being the second language spoken. There is an Irish language college for second level students located in Carna and Cill Chiarain called Coláiste Sheosaimh.

History in Carna[edit]

Off the coast of Mace Head in Carna Parish is Oileán Mhic Dara (Mac Dara's Island). This is the site of a stone-built early Christian church and the cross of Saint Mac Dara, who is the Patron Saint of fishermen and sailors in the area. There is a pilgrimage to the Island once a year on 16 July followed by a race of traditional boats.

Another archaeological gem in the area is a standing stone on Lake Scannive / Loch na Scainimhe, which can still be seen.

During the scatter of the Spanish Armada's around Britain and the west coast of Ireland, a Spanish ship, the Concepción de Juanes del Cano went onto rocks off the Carna coast in Mace. The sailors were brought to Galway and were publicly hung in Eyre Square by Governor Bingham of Connaught. No wreckage is left but it is believed that some sailors escaped capture and settled in Carna.

There are also the remains of the Martello Tower built during the Napoleonic Wars. These towers were erected to spot French ships off the coast. The tower on Coilín hill, a 5-minute drive from central Carnais, is now in ruins. The remains of what archaeologists think is a cellar can be seen as a hole extends downwards inside the ruins. Local myths say that a tunnel located close to the tower was used to bring people from the tower to Carna faster, but no evidence has ever been found. Also out on Mace Headland 10 minutes from Carna, close to where the Spanish Armada ship went aground, there are the remains of an army bunker used by the Irish Defence Forces during The Emergency (WWII) to spy ships lurking off he Irish coast.

Famous residents[edit]

  • Joe Heaney, (Irish. Seosamh Ó hÉanaí or Joe Éinniú) (1919–1984) was a sean-nós singer from Carna in County Galway, Ireland. Heaney spent much of his life living in England, Scotland and in New York City. From 1982 until 1984, Heaney was an artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle. The Joe Heaney Collection of the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives was established after Heaney's death in 1984. The Féile Chomórtha Joe Éinniú (Joe Heaney Commemorative Festival) is held every year in Carna.
  • Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, born in Carna, as of 2011, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science.
  • Colonel Joseph McDonagh, born in Carna, as of 2011, Colonel McDonagh of the Irish Defence Forces is serving in the 2011–2012 deployment to Lebanon for the United Nations Peacekeeping force there.
  • Dónal Ó Cuailáin The Chief Superintendent of the Garda Síochána in Galway County was born in Carna.
  • Denis McDonough The Chief of Staff for the United States National Security Council. His grandfather came from Ard West in Carna before his family moved to Minnesota where Denis grew up. He had a prime role along with the President, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence in the death of the FBI's Most Wanted man Osama Bin Laden.
  • Liam Cosgrave, The former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave lived in Carna for a number of years to learn Irish in the old national school in Carna.
  • James Berry, farmer and writer of Mayo News column Tales of the West - Recollections of my Early Boyhood.


Coordinates: 53°20′N 9°50′W / 53.333°N 9.833°W / 53.333; -9.833