The recent launch in Athleague of a new local history book – ‘The Elusive Mrs. Walcott: An 18th century Entrepreneur and the Rookwood Estate’ – was very successful, with all in attendance fascinated with the presentation on how the book was researched and written by Nuala Farrell-Griffin.
It is receiving excellent reviews from readers, with most people commenting on the amount of meticulous detail included in the various chapters.
A great number of people in Roscommon can recite that the County Infirmary was built in 1783 at the sole expense of Mrs Walcott and that the building is now home to the Roscommon Library headquarters, however, brought to life in this new book are numerous ‘movers and shakers’ who assisted in that project.
Details of the original lease from Thomas Goff to Edward Mills of the Treasurer of the Infirmary, of one acre, one rood and thirteen perches for the building is noted. The yearly rental of £7 was high for the times.
A fascinating fact is that a portion of the rents of the Rookwood Estate in Athleague were used to help finance the Infirmary until the later years of the 19th century. Tenants on the estate were entitled to treatment at the Roscommon institution even though it was situated in Co. Galway.
The hundreds of thousands of local people who availed of medical attention in the Infirmary and whose names and ailments are recorded in several surviving registers are also mentioned. Some of these registers are available online on the Library website and reveal the ordinary sufferings of rural people from all parts of East Galway and Roscommon in the course of their daily lives. These are a much-underused source for genealogical research.
History buffs do not often think of women in the early 19th century being separated from their husbands. Still, Margaret Thewles (along with her able solicitor Robert French) negotiated an ample settlement from her husband James Eustace in 1810 and lived for the next thirty years in what is now the Abbey Hotel. Several Abbeytown properties are woven into her story.
Based on primary research that has not been published before, this book is packed with local history. The 32 chapters are arranged in digestible segments so the reader can dip in and out at leisure over the long winter months.
The book is available in Newsround in Roscommon, Keane’s Centra in Athleague, Holmes Centra in Ballygar, Strokestown Park bookshop, and Charlie Byrne’s in Galway (local and online sales).