Tom Cadden – poet, political activist and licensee of Bungalow Bar

Friday, 15th March, 2019 4:06pm

Tom Cadden – poet, political activist and licensee of Bungalow Bar

Bungalow Bar in Castlebar.

THE Mayo Genealogy Group have a most fascinating website chronicling the lives and times of famous and infamous Mayo-born people, writes Tom Gillespie.

One contribution by author Sean Cadden deals with political activist and poet Tom Cadden who, through marriage, became the licensee of the Bungalow Bar on Main Street, Castlebar, which today is being run by Ronan Basquille and Amy Mulrennan.

Tom Cadden was born in Ballyscanlon, Crossmolina, on November 16, 1845, the first child of Robert Cadden and Biddy Heffron. The family were evicted in 1852 and moved to a 70-acre mountain farm in Kilhale, Glenisland, Castlebar.

Around 1865 Robert gave up approximately half the holding and took a similar amount of land in the adjacent townland of Monagarraun, with a house which was on the side of the old Castlebar to Belmullet road.

There are no details of Tom’s schooling but he could read and write English and Irish.

Tom spent some time in the United States and on his return at the age of 50 he married Jane McGoldrick on June 16, 1895. She was a widow and had the Bungalow Bar. Her maiden name was O’Connor.

Tom was described as a cattle dealer on his marriage certificate. They had no family.

After he married he took over the bar licence.

Before the bacon factory was built there was a annual pig fair on November 17 in Castlebar. In those days pigs were reared outside and they were well used to walking. The Glenisland people walked their pigs to Castlebar the day before the fair. The pigs were yarded behind the Bungalow Bar that night. Their owners played cards or drank in the bar while they waited for the fair to start in the morning.

The 1890s was a time of the Gaelic revival. Tom was a member of the Gaelic League whose aim was to promote the Irish language. He was a very active member who took the promotion of Irish very seriously.

On one occasion he was a member of a coroner’s jury and he signed his name in Irish, Tomás Ó Cadhgín, instead of Thomas Cadden, which apparently was not legal at the time.

The coroner informed the juror that there was ‘a little bit of law’ about signing names which he would like to read to him. The juror expressed the opinion that Irish was the language of Ireland and that it had for too long been dormant and that it was high time it was raised up.

The coroner was upset and pleaded with him to sign in English but Tom persisted and the Irish signature was accepted.

Tom was also very active in the United Irish League, which was formed in January 1898. This became a huge organisation, with 462 branches and a membership of 60,000.

The aim of the United Irish League was to speed up the division of landlords’ estates and the huge grazing farms. They held large meetings to encourage the grazier tenants to give up their leases and pressurise the landlords to sell to the Congested Districts Board.

The United Irish League did not become involved in illegal activities; their policy was to stay just inside the law.

They were often involved in scuffles with the RIC over cattle drives and the sale of impounded cattle. The RIC were observers at many of their meetings but Tom seemed to be able to keep within the law.

Tom was the first secretary of the Castlebar Home League when it was formed in 1901. This organisation campaigned to improve the condition of tenants in towns. The local landlords generally owned many houses in the towns.

In the early 1900s Tom became a rate collector for the District Electoral Division of Croaghmoyle, his home area in Glenisland. He resigned in 1906 and was later appointed rate collector for the Ballyvary area, a post held until his death.

He passed away unexpectedly on June 16 of that year aged 65 years and was buried in the family plot in Glenisland Cemetery. His obituary said he had poetry published in Irish and English.

This poem was published in The Connaught Telegraph on October 23, 1897.


Scenes of Glenisland

Farewell, farewell, to dear old Glenisland, Its mountains scenes and lakes so grand;

Your attention please now lend, And I’ll describe that sunny land.


Its woodlands streams and hills and heights, And valleys too I know right well,

Where I seen jovial days and nights, Where the good old neighbours dwell.


In the balmy sweet month of May, That to us joy and gladness bring,

When natures garb is fresh and gay, Tis there the thrush and cuckoo sing.


In the bright and sunny summer time, ‘Tis sweet to ramble o’er this sunny land,

Where the sheep and goat climb, Each peak and cliff so grand.


The matchless beauty of its mountains, Where the fox and badger have their dens,

Kelhale’s caves and Dugera’s fountains, Beltra’s cliffs and lonely glens.


A fine summer’s evening the heights of Cruckmor, Would delight you there for to stand, To view the noble lake’s shore, The waters reflecting the mountains grand.


Mucknaugh’s shore and vale so green, Its green leafy bowers I’d fondly rove

And view each wild cliff and scene, Of lake woodland and grove.


The mystic Blackrock seem to cast O’er the river and old woods a frown. Neath the raths of ancient renown.

In dreams I oft ramble to dear old Killeen, Where neighbours and dear friends are at rest, On that river bank so green, In hallowed ground that’s blessed.


I sometimes ramble by that riverside, And for the neighbours and friends I knew,

I fondly thought of them and sighed, Adieu to that riverside, adieu.

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