Last week I took a trip on my bicycle out to the township of Kingstown. For those of you who are not familiar with the Clifden area and maybe for some of those who are but do not stray far beyond the town boundaries, Kingstown lies to the west of Clifden at the end of the Sky Road. In the past, it was an area where the only way to make a living was through farming or fishing, both tough tasks and the area’s rugged beauty still catches the eye today. In the past, Clifden presented the only outlet where the people of Kingstown could sell their wares. It is a measure of the hardship that the inhabitants of Kingstown endured that it is said that the barefooted women bringing goods to Clifden would carry their shoes all the way to the edge of the town in order to preserve the leather before donning them to enter the market in order to preserve their dignity.
My own connection with Kingstown goes back to my Great-Great Grandfather, Conn “Con” O’Mara who based himself there for a while as a farmer and fisherman. It is a little known fact that at some stage he decided to capitalise on our family’s distinctive (some might say distinguished) physical appearance and so he invented the tee-shirt as a suitable piece of clothing to bear that image. Unfortunately, he proved to be ahead of his time and the fashion moves of the Victorian era meant that people were reluctant to wear the new piece of apparel. Instead, it was left to American G.I.’s in WWII to revive the garment. Similar ideas Con had using baseball caps and umbrellas had to await the much later inventions of boy-racers and rain respectively before they became universally popular.