Martin Joyce 1909 – 1991

Mar 1st, 1991 | By | Category: Uncategorized
Martin Joyce

Martin Joyce, Aughrim’s favourite son, whose contribution to the Vilage and it’s history has been remembered alongisde that of his famous collection and legacy of museum artifacts, preserved over the years in the local primary school where Martin was Head Master, and which are currently housed in the Aughrim Interpreative Centre. Martin worked tirelessly in gaining recognition for the important legacy of the The Battle of Aughtim and in getting the Battle of Aughrim Interpretative Centre established.

Martin Joyce
Living in an area where old men could still remember their fathers and grandfathers recounting stories and local traditions about the battle, where you could still stumble across musket balls, rusty, broken swords, buttons from uniforms, Martin Joyce, after his retirement, devoted his time and energy to authenticating, where it was possible, the folklore, and harmonising it with the few contemporary accounts of the battle that have come down to us.

More than any other individual, he created an interest in the Battle of Aughrim, He took people’s interest as recompense enough for his efforts and was deservedly immortalised in Richard Murphy’s epic poem The Battle of Aughrim:

‘The Story I have to tell

Was told to me by a teacher

Who read it in a poem

Written in a language that has died’.

‘Murphy later described (in his autobiography, The Kick) his first meeting with him at a Military History Society gathering in Galway: By the time Murphy met him, in the late 1960’s, his museum of local artefacts was well established in the national school of which he was then principal. Pride of place in the constantly growing collection went to a wooden Madonna that had come from Kilconnell Abbey. The collection was also much wider than the detritus of the battle unearthed by ploughs or spades; it also included domestic and farming implements, coins and documents, indeed anything which had an interest and illustrated how life was lived in times gone by.

As such, he was a long time member of Galway County Council’s Ancient Monuments Committee which took a strong interest in other developments like the fate of Clontuskert Abbey and of Athenry’s historical heritage. He was also a founder member of the Military History Society of Ireland and of the Galway Archaeological Society.

In most respects, though, Aughrim was the centre of his life, both its history and its present. He was involved in numerous community developments, including the Aughrim Dramatic Society which staged plays annually after many Christmases. He loved the village and the countryside around it which he knew intimately, from his days shooting and later – after he gave up shooting because of his qualms over blood sports – from walking.

As a teacher, he eschewed corporal punishment long before it became required legally and tried to imbue pupils with a love of nature and the environment long before that, too, became a popular cause. Above all, he tried to make them understand the depth of the heritage they had inherited in their native area.

After his retirement from teaching in 1975, he continued his other interests without any slackening in his level of interest and activity. His last years were preoccupied with the effort to raise the money required to have the Aughrim Heritage Centre built and to provide a permanent home for the historical collection he had built up over the previous five decades. He lived to see the foundations laid formally by the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, but unfortunately, not to see its competition and opening. He died in March 1991 and is buried in Kilconnell Abbey.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Skip to toolbar