Tuam, Irish: Tuaim, is a town in County Galway, Ireland. It is situated west of the
midlands of Ireland, and north of Galway city.
The record of human settlement in Tuam dates back to the Bronze Age when an area
adjacent to Shop Street was used as a burial ground. The name Tuam is a cognate with
the Latin term tumulus (burial mound). The town's ancient name was Tuaim Dá Ghualann,
i.e. the burial mound of two shoulders.
The history of Tuam as a settlement dates from the early 6th century. Legend states
that a monk called Jarlath, or Iarlaith, who was a member of a religious community
at Cloonfush some four miles west of Tuam and adjacent to the religious settlement
at Kilbennon. Jarlath's life became uncertain as he wished to travel. Eventually,
Jarlath's abbot, Saint Benan told him to "Go, and where ever your chariot wheel breaks,
there shall be the site of your new monastery and the place of your resurrection".
Jarlath's wheel broke at Tuam and he established a monastery there, known as the
School of Tuam. As was typical with early settlements in Ireland, religious sites
became established first and towns grew around them. Likewise, Tuam grew up around
the monastery and has kept the broken chariot wheel as its heraldic symbol.
The High Cross of Tuam was erected in 1152 possibly to commemorate the appointment
of the first Archbishop of Tuam, Archbishop Áed Ua hOissín (Hugh O'Hession). An inscription
at the base calls for "A prayer for O'hOisín; for the Abbot; by whom it was made".
It is reputed to have been the tallest of the High Crosses of Ireland, but its artistry
is scarred by the absence of the top portion of the main shaft.
Tuam is long known to have a vibrant music scene. While The Saw Doctors are perhaps
the town's most famous band, many more bands and performers from the town have gained
popularity both nationally and internationally. In the 60's, Tuam was once known
as 'The Showband Capital of Ireland' because at one time, no less than six top class
showbands called the well known market town home. The best known of these was the
Johnny Flynn Showband, a musical combination with its roots firmly in the tradition
of the Tuam Brass Band. In 2009, a compilation CD of over 50 original songs, all
by musicians from Tuam, entitled 'Songs from the Broken Wheel' was released. Tuam
is referenced in The Rocky Road to Dublin, popularised by The Dubliners and various
other Irish folk artists.
The Tuam market was revived in 2006 by the Energise Tuam, a group which organised
by local traders in conjunction with Tuam Chamber of Commerce in an effort to promote
shopping in the town.