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Wild Sports of the WestIf Wild Sports of the West had not been read by Eric Craigie certainly the family would never have fished the Owenduff. He bought the book in 1935 and fell instantly in love with Ballycroy. In August of that year, he and his brother Jack set off to find the Owenduff River and discovered Shean. Count John McCormack (the Irish tenor) was in residence at the time. They asked him for permission to fish.  The Count suggested they fish and shoot. By evening, they had a salmon and a brace of grouse in the bag.

Thus, began the Craigie association with the district.

Although Maxwell is not really a neighbour as such, his influence is so great that a little about his life and times is definitely part of the Shean story. William Hamilton Maxwell was born in Newry, County Down in 1792. He was ordained into the Church of Ireland in 1813 and given a parish in 1819.

After offending many people with practical jokes, he was transferred to a parish in the Tuam area. It was ideal for him in that the parishes only existed on paper, which allowed him to enjoy the shooting and fishing of the area with a good income. He became a friend of the Marquis of Sligo, who then owned Croy lodge, situated on the Owenduff.  He took rooms in the Officers' Mess in Castlebar Barracks, although he never had any connection with the army, and was a popular member of the mess.

W. H. Maxwell

Wild Sports of the West is not easily read, and people have as many false starts with it, as they do with Ulysses. It is not a boring book, quite the reverse.

It is the language; it slows the reader down, so that the pace of the read disappoints.  If you are tempted to read it, give it plenty of time, it is available for free on the Internet. Here is an example, from the book to whet your appetite.

Maxwell tells us how he overcame the problem of catching Ferrox trout in the Nephin lakes that overlook Shean. The lakes were large and the fish few. He sent messengers from their camp on the mountain back to Croy lodge for geese. He attached a cast of worms to the bird's legs and swam them across the lake. He never did give an account of the outcome.

Even Eric Craigie would be hard-pressed to beat that bit of lateral thinking.

Maxwell's life ended sorrowfully when he lost his Tuam parishes and his income, but despite having a good income from writing, his wife left him because he constantly overspent.

He died in Musselburgh in Scotland in 1850 and was buried in an unmarked grave.



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