The Great Edward Blake of Castlegrove
The Tuam Herald, Saturday, November 1, 1941.
Castlegrove lies about five miles west of Tuam and here in olden times a man named Edward Blake lived and owned the vast estate surrounding. He was a gentleman, except in the domain of morals, for which he had little or no respect. He was High Sheriff for the County Galway for a term. A noted horseman, he was considered the best driver of a pair of horses and a four—wheeled carriage to be found in the province of Connacht. Once he drove a carriage and pair at full speed from the Square in Tuam, down Shop Street, and turned them at the bridge without slackening rein, and back again at the same pace to the Square. It was said of him that he could whip a fly off either of his horses without in the least disturbing them — and that at the full length of his whip. A splendid mansion was built by him in Castlegrove of cut and carved stone, and was furnished with high class furniture. For the work, while in progress, he paid unskilled labour at the rate of 8d per day of 11 hours, and for skilled labour 1s 4d per day — same number of hours. I have seen farm laborers working in Castlegrove and elsewhere for 6d per day from 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening, with one hour for dinner. After Mr. Blake had finished his mansion he thought that the road from Tuam to Ballinarobe and Claremorris ran too close to it and disturbed his privacy, being about 150 yards away from his door. So he determined to build a new road further away, and forthwith set men to work on a road which was two miles long, for the most part running through bleak, swampy bogs, connecting with the main road at each end. By this means he sought to divert the traffic from his precious mansion. Now the new road being completed, he bided his time until one stormy night when he sent his laborers to fell trees across the old road, at the same time dispatching others to each end of the new road to warn the mail coach drivers that the old road was impassable owing to fallen trees, advising the drivers to take to the new road. This they did, and later affirmed that it was a better road than the old one. Having accomplished this he now set about building an avenue, placing a gate—keeper there for the purpose of opening and closing the gates. But "vaunting ambition overreached itself", and Mr. Blake's grandiose schemes and planning came to a sad end when he found himself forced to seek the aid of money lenders to keep up and others began to press the unfortunate Blake for the money lent him, and as he was neither able to pay principal nor interest, the Castlegrove estates were sold by auction, the whole property — house and all — not realizing as much as it cost to build. Thus did his extravagance and ambition bring him to ruin. The place was sold in February, 1853, the year that your humble scribe was born. Mr. Blake was forced to leave Castlegrove, and lived, I understand, some place in Dublin until the year 1873, when he died and his remains were brought to Tuam by rail and hence to Kilconly to be interred there. The hearse that conveyed the remains belonged to Mr. Daly, the then proprietor of Daly's Hotel, now the Imperial, and the driver was a man named Michael Moloney. So the great Edward Blake lies in Kilconly burial ground, taking his last long sleep until the angel calls the infinite multitude of humanity to the heavenly throne to render an account of their stewardship.
The Castlegrove estate was bought by a man named Cannon, who came from the North of Ireland. Some comical was remarked that the great Edward Blake was driven from Castlegrove by one Cannon without firing a shot. But Cannon, too, was unfortunate and never gained much happiness from his purchase. He was subject to a various complaint from which he got no relief except at sea. He, therefore, spent most of his time on board a yacht coming on land only at short intervals. Finally, his life became such a burden to him that he committed suicide by shooting himself, leaving his vast estates to his agent, Fred T. Lewin, then of Cloghan's property was Mr. Tom Lewin, who died and was buried in Kilmaine a year or two ago. The Land Commission now has it and has been divided amongst the tenanatry, the rightful owners, and so ends my short account of Edward Blake and Castlegrove.