Rathra celebrates Michael’s 90th birthday

Friends, neighbours and family gathered in the Sideline Bar in Frenchpark recently to celebrate the 90th birthday of local man Michael Carty. A member of the farming community, Michael grew up as a neighbour of Douglas Hyde, who went on to become Ireland’s first President. Born on April 1st 1918, Michael was one of two sons born to John and Catherine Carty. The family lived next door to Dr. Douglas Hyde’s Rathra House and had much interaction with the Gaelic League founder. Michael married Margaret Anne in 1958 and the couple had two sons, John J and Michael Patrick. Margaret Anne passed away in September 1978 and for the past thirty years Michael has lived and farmed in Rathra. His farm contains three separate parcels of land and Michael can often be found driving between the three and he continues to shop locally and has lots of social interaction with his neighbours. From the day that Michael started in Tibohine NS at the age of five, Douglas Hyde was a part of the local landscape. In an article written for a Douglas Hyde Conference, he recalled, ‘We passed by his mansion every morning and evening on our way to school. There was a public footpath for the local people through his estate and woods. I loved to walk through the dry leaves on the avenue from all the beech trees. I often talked with him and his wife and daughter Una.’ Apart from the chats, there was interaction at farm level. Dr. Hyde set his meadow to the local farmers and Michael recalled the family paying for hay by the acre. Dr. Hyde spent most of his time in Dublin where he was a professor at Trinity College, but spent his summers on holiday at Rathra House. Other memories of Michael’s include fishing in Dr. Hyde’s boat on nearby Lough Gara and some of Dr. Hyde’s difficulties with his various Ford cars. On a few occasions Michael acted at Dr. Hyde’s driver, driving him into Ballaghaderreen. Another connection between the two families was the fact that both Michael’s father and Dr. Hyde were in California in 1903. At the time Douglas Hyde was seeking funds for the Gaelic League and Michael recalls that he got a great response from all the Irish working there at the time. The havoc wreaked by an earthquake in the region was another topic of conversation for the two men.  Of course, the elevation of the owner of Rathra House to the position of first President of Ireland was a hugely important affair for all of the people of Rathra at the time and Michael recalls that the name of the Vice Regal Lodge in Dublin was changed to Rathra House for a time. After his spell as President, he always had security at his house in Rathra and among the more memorable guards which Michael remembers was Captain Butler, father of Eamon de Butleir of RTÉ fame. The sudden death of Douglas Hyde’s wife and the subsequent funeral was also recalled in the article. ‘I remember his wife and the sudden time of her death. There was very bad snow and frost at that time. The house was private but all the neighbours, young and old, walked to Portahard Protestant Church. At that time a Catholic could not go into the church or you would have to go to the bishop to get pardon.’ Michael’s son, Michael Patrick went on to become the first doctor in Rathra since Dr. Hyde and now works in NUI Galway. This was a special night for the family, as Michael and his neighbours danced until the week hours. We wish him many years of continued health and happiness.