Reillys Uncle Stiofáin operated a thriving transatlantic business out of Conamara in the thirties and forties.

He would supply the four harbours of South Galway Bay – Kinvara; New Quay; Bell Harbour; and Ballyvaughan – with turf from Conamara and return laden down with the finest potatoes in the world from North Clare. 

It was symbiotic barter at its best. 

And it wasn’t just turf and spuds that were traded. Information of both the micro and macro variety was exchanged and robustly debated in the safe and salubrious hostelries in each of the harbours.

One fair and clement day in December 1941, Stiofáin lurched the Gleoteog on her side in New Quay and the crew began unloading and loading cargo for the imminent Christmas season. 

This would be the time he would repair to Linnanes Hostelry and have a ‘Transatlantic Summit’ with his great and wise friend, Bridie Gaynor, the Bean an Tí.

‘Bail ó Dhia ar an obair’ boomed Stiofáin cheerfully to Bridie and some of the local lads sitting at the bar getting into practice for the festive season.

‘Aon scéal? (any news).

‘Gerry Sweeney is after landing a sky blue coloured lobster and he’s at least four feet from claw to claw. I bet ye never saw the likes of that beyond in Conamara’ said one of the lads boastfully.

People listened carefully for Stiofáins response because his opinion on maritime matters was second to none.

‘Anam an Diabhaill. I’ve heard tell of a sky blue lobster landed off Aran but I never yet laid eyes on one myself. That’s indeed a great feat.’

‘And one of Annie Nolan’s hens has taken to laying bright pink eggs,’ said someone else.

‘I’ve seen pink eggs myself in my time, and if I have itself, I’ll wager a shilling she’s got a Rooster called Gay. We threw him out of Conamara years ago.’

The games had truly begun and even the Burren lads couldn’t restrain themselves from laughing out loudly at Stiofáins riposte.

With the banter and the craic Bridie was finding it hard to listen to the one o clock news on the Transistor radio as was her wont.

It didn’t however prevent her from getting the gist of it and that was all that mattered.

‘Whisht,’ she says, with terror in her voice. 

‘I think they’re after bombing Bell Harbour.’

You could have heard a pin drop in the pub. 

There wasn’t a person among them who wasn’t related to or knew someone in Bell Harbour, a bare two miles away.

And there wasn’t one amongst them who didn’t rely in one way or another on the sea for their livelihoods.

Bridies was the only radio in the parish at the time, and as there were no phones either, it was up to the clientele of that pub to go forth and break the news.

Most did so by shanks mare. Those that had bicycles ventured farther afield with the news. Stiofáin made the full eight mile transatlantic crossing of Galway Bay aboard his Galway Hooker.

The quay at Spiddal was as they say ‘lán go doras’ (full to the door) when Stiofáin berthed the ‘Gráineuaile.’ 

They’d come in their slews to get their paws on the exotic ‘liathróidí plúr’ (balls of flour) from New Quay that would adorn the Christmas table with every meal over the festive period.

Stiofáin knew the importance of clarity of communications and saw this as the ideal opportunity to deliver one message to as many people as possible.

Standing tall on the gunwale of the Gleoteog he called for whisht and didn’t utter a syllable until he got it.

‘I’ve just returned from across the sea in County Clare and I regret to inform you that the Japs have bombed Bell Harbour. If they’ve done this to the kind and gentle people of Bell Harbour there’s no telling what they’ll stop at.

‘Go immediately and inform – in particular – anyone who might be living on their own. Tell them, if possible, to sleep tonight with a metal lid over their heads. 

Such was the effectiveness of that communication process that for many years afterwards many of the good people of Conamara could be found sleeping with tin or metal lids over their heads.

And that’s how the people of Ireland got to hear about how the Japs bombed Bell Harbour on December 7th 1941.


  • Words, like bombs, can be used to both kill or to transform.
  • The slightest alteration to a word – even one letter – can change utterly the meaning and the impact of that word and message.

  • Sometimes, the gist of the message isn’t sufficiently accurate.
  • In matters of grave importance it’s useful to check the source of your information.
  • Although the quality of the radios have improved greatly over the years there is more interference now than ever. Imagine how much clearer your reception of the world would be today if you switched off Facebook and Twitter and Instagram!


‘Fact and fiction carry the same intrinsic weight in the marketplace of ideas. Reality has no advertising budget.’

— Daniel Suarez.


  1. Who are the sources of your most important information?
  2. What habits or behaviours might you be practicing that are no longer serving a purpose?
  3. How much communication interference are you tolerating in your business and life?

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