Carna, County Galway

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Carna Village

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 Chiaráin and they share the peninsula locally called Iorras Aithneach. There are currently 178 people living in Carna village. The population dramatically dropped from the previous average of 8,000 before the Great Famine.

Church in Carna

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.[citation needed] Carna is in a strong Gaeltacht region, so most of the people speak Irish at home. The population is almost totally (96% in 2006) bilingual with English being the second language spoken. There is an Irish language college for second level students located in Carna and Cill Chiaráin called Coláiste Sheosaimh.

History in Carna[edit]

Off the coast of Mace Head in Carna Parish is Oileán Mhic Dara (St. MacDara'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.

16th of July on MacDara's Island

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. 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 the Irish coast.

Sports in Carna[edit]

Carna's main sport revolves around Gaelic football. The local team is shared with the neighbouring village of Cashel giving it the name Carna-Cashel or Cárna-Caiseal. The team are currently playing in the Senior League of Galway GAA. The home ground of Carna-Cashel is nicknamed The Plantation but is also known as Páirc Naomh MhicDara. Carna Cashel have had great players down through the years who have represented the Galway senior footballers. In the 1930s Hugo Carey was playing for Carna and won an All-Ireland medal with Galway, Michael Cloherty was also with Galway in 1998 when they ended the 32-year wait for an All Ireland title. Most recently players such as Val Feeney and Niall Coyne have represented Galway. From 2016 onwards, Carna will have a Women's football team.

Carna Cashel Crest.jpg

Carna is also home to Club Luthchleasaíocht Iorras Aithneach or Iorras Aithneach Athletics Club. The club was formed in 2015. It was helped by the opening of an astro turf ground in Cill Chiaráin. Members of the club have taken part in events in Galway and at the Regionals in Athlone.

Townlands of Carna[edit]

While Carna is the main area of Iorras Aithneach there are a number of areas which can be described as "townlands" attributed to Carna. Beginning in the west and moving along the coast there are: Glynsk, Letterard, Muighros, Coilín, Ard West, and east: Más, Leathmhás, Leitir Deisceart, Crumpán, Cárna, Ruisin na Mainioch, Feenish and Callowfeenish. The island of Muighinis can also be included and this adds the townlands of Ros Dugán, Feithearnach and Ruisín a'Chaladh.

St.Oliver Tragedy[edit]

In September 2004 the St.Oliver, a fishing vessel, set sail for Ros an Mhíl. The ship was being repaired at the local shipyard in Letterard. On board were four men from various parts of Connemara and the Aran Islands including the owner of the shipyard. The route was to be routine but shortly after leaving the bay it began having difficulties and ran aground on Duck Island a rock close to Mynish Island. The Irish Coastguard and the Irish Navy were immediately notified and the shipwreck was found shortly after 11.00 p.m. that night. Throughout the following days the bodies of the men were recovered from the waters and coasts. Two years previous, a Spanish fishing vessel named the 'Arosa' sank killing 12 people after running aground 2 miles from Duck Island at Sceirde Rocks. Following a report from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board or MCIB it was concluded that it wasn't know what had caused the ship to run aground due to the damage to the ships systems caused by the ferocity of the collision and removal of vital equipment during the investigation.

Drowning Tragedy During War of Independence[edit]

On February 6, 1921, during the Irish War of Independence, 4 Volunteers of the Old IRA were making their way by boat from Carna to Roundstone for a Battalion meeting, when they were caught by a violent storm and drowned off the shore of Inishlaken Island.[2]

Famous Residents and Diaspora[edit]

  • Éamon a Búrc, considered one of Ireland's premier traditional storytellers in the Irish language, was longtime resident of Carna. The volumes of his transcribed tales remain in the possession of the Irish Folklore Commission.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Martin J. Walsh the current Mayor of Boston has many close connections to both Carna and Rosmuc.


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