Anne Rodda, MAGI, Co. Galway

In most Tuam histories and guides there are images of the Kilbannon Round Tower. What remains of the tower is still an imposing structure, on the grounds of the modern day church at Kilbannon. The tower dates to about 1000 AD and marks the site of a church and school for the training of priests established by St. Patrick. The place name Kilbannon is for St. Benin, who was appointed by St. Patrick to head the church and school. St. Jarlath and St. Conla were trained there. The remains of the adjacent church that dates from the twelfth century and the tower are monuments to the illustrious history of Tuam as the old ecclesiastical centre of Ireland.

[photograph courtesy of Paddy Coyne]

The place is significant to me as a family historian because it is very near where my grandmother, Kate Newell, spent her childhood before going over to Brooklyn, USA, in 1903. When I was a girl and my grandmother told me stories about where she grew up, I heard about everything on her lane and in the area, forming many mental images of her father’s blacksmith forge, the National School she attended at the Kilbannon Crossroads, the countryside. It seemed like every pebble was described to me and as a child, I listened patiently and politely, but really was not that interested, but somehow I absorbed all the stories and recalled them in middle age when I became captivated by genealogy.

After years of research, I finally visited the Irish home place and saw the Kilbannon Tower. I was amazed to realise that in all her stories, my grandmother never mentioned the round tower that was in her sights every day of her life growing up.
I suppose to the blacksmith’s daughter it was so familiar that she did not think of it as unusual or of any particular importance. It was just there.

So it must have been for so many emigrants who lived near historic places in this country that treasures its ancient monuments. Living in the shadow of these relics must have affected their view of the world, whether or not they were aware of it.