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Athenry’s civic seal, mace recovered after 160 years

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The ancient mace and seal of Athenry, Co. Galway, have been returned to the town after an absence of 160 years following detective work that tracked them down to a London family.

The civic insignia will now take center stage in a heritage center

set up in the former Church of Ireland in the town.

The town’s corporation is thought to date back to 1310 and was

dissolved in 1840 when the then portreeve (the equivalent of mayor) one of the Blakeney family, was presented with the insignia.

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At a ceremony in Athenry last weekend, Anthony Blishen of

London, returned them to the town.

The former head of the Arch’ology Department in NUI Galway, Professor Etienne Rynne, said both items were made of brass, unlike many similar insignia, which are made of silver.

"The mace is about 11 inches long with four inches of a clenched fist in brass with a polished wooden handle inserted into the wrist," he said. "It looks like a gavel or club for keeping order at meetings.

"The seal is generally interpreted as a town gate with turrets and

with two bearded heads mounted on spikes above the gate. It was used for authenticating documents." The seal may date from the mid- to late-16th century.

Rynne believes the mace dates back to the early 14th century — just after the famous Battle of Athenry, when a great battle was fought outside the town between Irish chieftains and the Anglo-Normans.

The Irish were routed with many chieftains slain and the victors were reputed to have walled the town out of the profits from the arms and armor taken from the dead.

Rynne said Blakeney, his sons and grandson had keep the insignia for 60 years until a Joan Alice Blakeney married an English Captain Blishen, who lived on the Isle of Wight.

"Eventually they went to his son, but we couldn’t trace him," Rynne said. "We had the good fortune of having a friend, Tom Bermingham, an Irishman, who lived in England and he found Anthony Blishen, the son."

The Blishens were happy to present the insignia back to the townspeople.

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