All-Ireland Victories inspired Street League Football in Castlebar

The excitement of Mayo winning the Sam Maguire trophy in 1950 and 1951 inspired young boys to engage in street league football in Castlebar. No further encouragement was required after player visitations to St Patrick’s National School and St Gerald’s CollegeMickey the flyer Flanagan, Éamon Mongey and Paddy Prendergast had left an indelible impression.

As for myself, I had arrived in Castlebar in 1948, aged 8, with my parents, sister and brother. My Dad, Bernard McNulty had been appointed as Agent of the Bank of Ireland on The Mall in Castlebar. There we took up residence in a house that I soon heard was haunted. I was led to believe that rebels and others had been hanged from a tree where our house now stood.

Apart from that haunting presence, I had a feeling that something was astir in Castlebar. I made sure to spend time perusing the shelves in Hanley’s nearby newsagency while listening to the local gossip – apparently, much ado about Gaelic football. And then it happened, in 1950, Mayo had won their second All-Ireland title, after a frustrating wait since 1936. I’ll never forget the excitement that gripped the town as the people of Mayo celebrated a victory that lifted morale.

Now it was time for us, young lads, to don our boots and see what we could do on the playing fields. At that time, the population of Castlebar was 4000 according to our geography teacher. The local GAA divided the town into four areas, each of which would support teams at under 11, 14 and 16 years: The Pearses ran from The Mall, up Spencer Street and out the Station Road; The MacHales were drawn from MacHale Road. The Davitts came from the north side of Castlebar around the Linenhall and Staball (now Thomas St) areas; The Emmets were drawn from the west side of the town in the Blackfort and Lough Lannagh areas.

The Pearses won the treble in 1953 (see Note below.) As well as playing at corner forward on the under 14s, I was also a sub on the under 16s, while my brother Hugh was a member of the under 11 panel. The MacHales put manners on us in 1954 when beating us in the under 14 final. On that day, the vanquished Pearses were captained by John Flagsy Flannelly who later went on to play for Castlebar Mitchells at senior level.

My football activity stalled when my parents sent me away to boarding school, Newbridge College, where rugby was king – not my cup of tea! However, I did make a comeback when stationed in the Bank of Ireland, Mullingar in 1958. I played at wing forward with Mullingar Shamrocks in the under 17 and minor county finals. Although unsuccessful, I was proud to have served under the captaincy of Davy Nolan who later played for Westmeath and Leinster.

And now, the dream lives on, as the current wonderfully-talented Mayo team strives for a fourth All-Ireland. My connection with Mayo also lives on following the launch of my first novel, Spellbound by Sibella, in the Castle Bookshop, Castlebar in 2013. More recently, I have presented talks on the family history of the Lynches, Brownes, Blakes and Moores of Mayo at Clogher and Carnacon.

Note: Photo, Courtesy of Maureen Quinn, Carracastle, Carnacon Co Mayo with whom P J Kelly and I cycled to Balla and back on a whim in our younger days. (Identification of players confirmed by Paul & Shane Rodgers, Spencer St, December 5, 2017.)

Back row (from left) Billy Moran, Walter McEvilly, Scorch Connor, Donal Darcy, Joe Egan, Seamus Horkan (RIP), Gussy Jennings, and John Flagsy Flannelly. Front row (from left) Paddy Ward, John Hanley, John Darcy, Sean Reilly, P J Kelly, Henry Horkan, Paul McNulty and Matt Flannelly.

Paul B McNulty, author of the historical novel “Spellbound by Sibella” is flanked by his wife, Treasa, on the left, and by Mayor Noreen Heston, in the middle, who launched his book in the Castle Book Shop, Castlabar, Co Mayo on Wednesday, 20 November 2013.

Thomas McNulty, the grandfather I never knew.

My grandfather, Thomas McNulty, the son of Charles of Derry City and Maria McColgan of Culdaff, Donegal, attended Trinity College Dublin before studying the law at King’s Inns, Dublin. He was admitted as a barrister to the Society in the Trinity Term 1889. He married Mary Boylan of 31 Hawthorn Terrace, Dublin 3 in Rathmines Roman Catholic Church, Dublin on 30 December, 1891. They lived with their children, Charles, Thomas Bernard (my father), John and Margaret Mary at 15 Warrington Place, Dublin 2. Little is known of my grandfather’s professional practice as a barrister. He died young on 8 November, 1903 in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, and is buried with his wife, children and my mother, Kathleen McHugh, of Tuam, Co Galway in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

The following record of my grandfather was provided by Sile O’Shea of the King’s Inns Library, Henrietta Street, Dublin on 26 July 2007:

The entry for your grandfather appears in the book, ‘King’s Inns Barristers, 1868-2004′, edited by Kenneth Ferguson (The Honorable Society of King’s Inns in association with The Irish Legal History Society, 2005), as follows –

McNulty, Thomas (b. 1 Sept. 1863) only s. of Charles McNulty, decd., late of Great James’ Street, Derry, Co. Londonderry, and Maria McColgan; B.A. (T.C.D.); M 1885. 1889/T/03.

The Records’ Room of the King’s Inns library holds the papers belonging to your grandfather if you wish to consult them.

As regards any details of your grandfather’s professional practice as a barrister, it may be possible that after your grandfather’s death an obituary appeared in the ‘Irish Law Times’ periodical which is also held in the King’s Inns library. It would be necessary to know when your grandfather died so that that particular volume could be checked in the library for any details relating to him and his professional life. If his date of death is not known, it might be worth checking the ‘Thom’s Directory’ to see up to what date your grandfather practiced and that might give you some indication of when he died.

Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin,1863-1903.

Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin,1863-1903.

Mary Boylan, the wife of Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin, Ireland.

Mary Boylan, the wife of Thomas McNulty, Barrister-at-Law, Dublin, Ireland.

The Legal Education of Thomas McNulty at King's Inns, Dublin, Ireland, 1889.

The Legal Education of Thomas McNulty at King’s Inns, Dublin, Ireland, 1889.

The Flaying of Human Skin

The flaying of human skin, featured in a Whitechapel episode on ITV (18 September 2013), reminded me of the Judgment of Cambyses, an amazing 1498 portrait by Gerard David. It depicted the punishment of a corrupt Persian judge by flaying him alive. Now hanging in the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, the portrait was intended to remind the aldermen of the city to remain uncorrupted.

A different perspective arises in my historical novel, Spellbound by Sibella, where the skin of a human corpse has been flayed to make a powerful love charm. Known as the spancel of death, Alf MacLochlainn has described it as “an unbroken hoop of skin cut with incantations from a corpse across the entire body from shoulder to footsole and wrapped in silk of the colours of the rainbow and used as a spancel to tie the legs of a person to produce certain effects of witchcraft.”

“Spellbound by Sibella” (now published)

A penniless beauty, a rakish Baronet.  A scandalous affair that shocks a country.

Spellbound by Sibella by Paul B McNulty is now available as an e-book from Club Lighthouse Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Based on real events in late 18th century Ireland, the novel portrays the turbulent liaison between Sir Harry Lynch-Blosse of Balla, Co Mayo and Sibella Cottle, a woman with spellbinding powers reputedly wrought by witchcraft.

This historical novel is downloadable to your computer, Kindle or mobile/cell phone for $5.99, using credit card or PayPal. For further information, click on Club Lighthouse Publishing and follow the attached image on its home page.

“Spellbound by Sibella” by Paul B McNulty is now available from Club Lighthouse Publishing, Canada.


Spellbound by Sibella by Paul B McNulty

Club Lighthouse will publish my debut novel, Spellbound by Sibella, as an e-book. But how does one organise a book launch for its release without hard copy? If you have any ideas please respond on my website or e-mail me at For the record, the novel deals with the turbulent liaison between Sir Harry Lynch-Blosse of Balla, Co Mayo and Sibella Cottle, a woman with spellbinding powers reputedly wrought by witchcraft. Scheduled for release this autumn, the novel is based on real events in late 18th century Ireland. For me, it is a dream come through.

A Story of the Bodkin Murders

On Saturday, 20 March 1742, John Bodkin of Belclare Co. Galway was hanged drawn and quartered having been found guilty of the murder of his brother Patrick on Thursday, 3 May 1739. On the gibbet on Gallows Green (now Eyre Square) in the city of Galway, he refused to acknowledge his innocence or guilt of this crime. Instead, as the noose tightened around his neck, he proclaimed I forgive Mankind implying that he was innocent.

I have investigated the possibility of his innocence through the medium of a historical novel in which John Bodkin and Catherine Bermingham, the third daughter of Lord Athenry, are the principal characters. Both are real people but their romance is fictional.

The delay in John Bodkin’s trial was occasioned by the belief of the local Justice of the Peace, Lord Athenry, that Patrick Bodkin had died of natural causes. It was not until the aftermath of the Bodkin Murders in 1741 that John Bodkin was accused of fratricide. These events have been described in Pue’s Occurrences on 10-13 October 1741, later amplified by Oliver J Burke in his 1885 Anecdotes of the Connaught Circuit (p 86-92). Three members of the Bodkin family, Oliver Bodkin (John Bodkin’s uncle), Oliver’s pregnant wife, Margery, his son, Oliver, a visitor, Marcus Lynch of Galway and a number of unnamed servants were murdered in a family feud.

The Bodkin Murders occurred in Carrowbaun House, Belclare, a village, about four miles west of Tuam in County Galway. I have fictionalised Carrowbaun House as Liscarrow House to avoid confusion with the other Bodkin residence of nearby Carrowbeg House. Recent reports of the massacre include those by Jarlath O’Connell, Martin Dolan and William Henry. These adhere closely to Burke’s version.

Burke took some licence with the primary source, a practise I have accepted in the interests of clarity. The most obvious licence is that John Bodkin had three brothers rather than one, namely, Dominick, the aforesaid Patrick and Frank. It was Dominick rather than Patrick who was reputedly murdered by John. I presume that Burke substituted Patrick for Dominick as the eldest son to avoid confusion with his Uncle Dominick, a convicted participant in the Bodkin massacre. Burke removed the youngest son, Frank from his narrative because he had passed away by the time the Bodkin massacre occurred.

Six servants have been chosen to represent the other unnamed victims whose number varies from four to seven in the various sources. These are fictionally named as Henry Burke, Mrs Agnes Burke, James Fallon, Michael MacDonagh, Thaddeus MacHugh and Nora O’Brien.

I wish to thank my son, Dara, who reviewed a 50,000-word draft of my novel written in the month of November as part of the National Novel Writing Month. I am indebted to the members of a writers group, The Corner Table, who reviewed drafts of individual chapters. I also acknowledge the assistance of Dr A J Claffey, Tuam, Co Galway; Frank Canavan, Belclare, Co Galway; John Courtney, Kilconly, Tuam; Frank Higgins, Carrowbeg North, Belclare and Ger Hoade, Carrowbeg House, Carrowbeg North, Belclare both of whom suggested locations for the now destroyed Carrowbaun (fictionalised as Liscarrow) House as being near Polldarragh, Belclare or near a cattle crush close to the Bird Hide, Pollaturk, Belclare; Sean Murphy, for expert advice on family history; Patricia O’Reilly, who introduced me to creative writing; and members of my extended family.

McNulty Surname

Strange as it may seem, the McNulty surname derives from the MacDonlevys/Dunleavys who fled early Ulster (primarily County Down) after their defeat by the Anglo-Normans in 1177. Those Dunleavys who migrated westward to Donegal became known as Ultach because they came from Ulster as it was then. The Four Masters have recorded two distinguished McDonlevy physicians to the O’Donnells of Donegal, namely, Paul Ultach in 1395 and Owen Ultach in 1586. Their descendants assumed the name, Mac an Ultaigh, son of the Ulsterman, now Anglicized as McNulty.