Your tour guide, John Joe Conwell holds a Masters degree in local history from the National University of Ireland and his thesis on the 14th Earl of Clanricarde during the Great Famine was published by NUI Maynooth in 2002. He has since written a number of local histories including his latest book, Portumna A Galway parish by the Shannon and specialises in the study of landed estates and the Big Houses of the landed gentry.
John Joe co-ordinates and lectures on the University of Limerick local history course run for adult students. He is a founding member of South East Galway Archaeological and Historical Society and gives talks to groups and societies on a range of topics of local historical interest. He has worked as a tour guide with Cycling Holidays Ireland for over twenty years, focusing particularly on the historical features of the country. John Joe also guides on a voluntary basis in the Irish Workhouse Centre and is an authority on the Great Irish Famine of the 19th century. He is also a founding member of Ireland Reaching Out, a company set up to connect members of the worldwide Irish diaspora with their ancestral parishes.
My wife and I and our two sons toured the west of Ireland with John Joe last summer. As a published local historian he has a wealth of knowledge and understanding of history and heritage of this beautiful country. He took us to sites that don’t feature on glossy tourist brochures and interpreted them in a manner that could be understood by ourselves and our young children.
Touring with John Joe truly brought Ireland to life for my mother and me when we visited this past summer. Learning the breadth of the country's history while taking in its beauty and hospitality made this trip deeply memorable. It's one thing to see an ancient tower house from the road and another to walk below its fern-covered walls while learning about the structure, its purpose and the role it played in the development of the country. John Joe has a wonderful sense of humour, the gift of gab and vast historical knowledge. He can customize the trip to fit participants' availability, interests and energy level. Mom and I booked a tour, filled our minds and souls with knowledge and left Ireland with amazing memories and new and wonderful friends.
We had a wonderful experience while visiting Ireland for the first time in 2018. Almost every stone in the countryside seems to have a story associated with it and we were fortune to have John Joe as our guide to bring these stories to life. John Joe epitomises the essence of good guiding in that he communicates in a clear, eloquent and engaging manner and has a thorough grasp of the country’s long, protracted and complex history. He customised the tour to suit our every need and his easygoing and patient style makes it possible for the first-time visitor to begin to understand this beautiful country’s remarkable story. I hope many others get to visit this remarkable place and be guided by an even more remarkable teacher.