This beautiful photograph of the wedding of schoolteacher Delia Josephine O’Donohue and RIC constable Matthew Colgan was taken in Galway on 10 June 1906. They married at St Joseph’s Church, Presentation Road and would go on to have four children: Francis Gerard (1907), Mary Kathleen (1911), Irene Mary (1914) and Gerald Joseph (1916). Their youngest child, Gerry Colgan, was elected Mayor of Galway in July 1976.
From Clooniff, near Moycullen, Delia was a teacher at Barna girls’ school [today Scoil Shéamais Naofa, Bearna]. The son of an RIC sergeant, Matthew Colgan hailed from County Kildare. He served as a police constable in counties Mayo, Clare and Galway before being promoted to sergeant, but resigned from the force for patriotic reasons in 1920.
Patrick W. Joyce, a teacher at Barna NS, was abducted by the East Connemara Brigade IRA on 15 October 1920. Accused of passing information about local republicans to the British authorities, he was presented with a number of intercepted letters, deemed guilty and shot dead. Among those named in the letters – which survive in the Richard Mulcahy Collection at UCD Archives – were Delia and Matthew Colgan. In one of the intercepted letters, the author warned that “the following should be carefully watched as they are still plotting […] Mrs Colgan teacher of Barna, a resigned peeler’s wife”. In another letter, the author refers to “the teacher of Barna girls and her husband that has boasted that he had resigned from the Police for the love of Ireland” and states that “the girls school was the headquarters of the Sinnfeiners for past two years”. In yet another, he states that “the girls school in Barna is the headquarters of Sinn Fein. There all the concerts and dances was held in which Father Griffin, Mrs Colgan teacher and Thornton teacher was the leaders – no one not a Shinfeiner would be allowed into the school and all had to wear Shinn Fein colours”.
Sincere thanks to Nessa Chacksfield, daughter of Irene Mary Colgan, for getting in touch and sharing this wonderful photograph. This post is part of a series researched and written by Brendan McGowan, Education Officer at Galway City Museum, to mark the Decade of Centenaries. If you have any information, stories or photographs relating to the War of Independence in Galway, please contact Brendan by email firstname.lastname@example.org
19 October 2020