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An Englishman rambling on an Irish ramble!



Date Published: 28-Feb-2013

This morning I walked on melting frost in late Winter chill, under early Spring blue skies. The higher sun pours scorn on these late season freezes, while pregnant buds struggle to survive.

But they will. They’ll survive, as will we all, emerging from the darkness into the light, breathing collective sighs of relief that we made it through.

Even though this cold dry air grips me by the gonads, I’ll take it every time over endless wind and rain. Winter in the West of Ireland offers fantastic colours, moments of perfect silence and festive mayhem, but as the months go by we feel more and more beaten up by the weather.

Hunkered down into our coats, we dip our chins toward the ground, denying ourselves the chance of human contact. We walk hunched, subservient to the storms, like a defeated army in a war with weather.


Having lived in much warmer climes, I’m always surprised how much I love the climate in Connacht. Yes, the rain can bring me down, but then I call it ‘good writing weather’ and it serves me well. Yes, my heart sinks when I see RTE TV’s weather forecaster telling me in July that “Tomorrow it might even go as high as 20?C!”

As high as 20? What am I doing living here?

But I know. I know why I’m here. I’m here because I love it. Warmer climes are all very well, but here there are no forest fires. The ground doesn’t suddenly quake under my feet. There might be the odd mudslide and a fair bit of flooding but there aren’t the country-wide catastrophes that exist elsewhere.

For 300 days a year we live with sunshine and showers and temperatures that dwell between 10?C and 20?C. It’s all very moderate, temperate as meteorological types would have it, and that’s fine. When I lived in Northern California, not a dribble of rain fell on my village from May to November, and when those first drops finally fell, this mad Englishman was to be seen dancing loopy in the street with joy.

There’s truth in what the auld fella on Dominick Street told me many years ago. We were sheltering in a shopfront, watching Galway’s notorious sideways rain fly past us up the road, and he turned to me and said.

“God’s gift to Ireland, the rain! Without the rain there’d be hotels on every cliff top and not an empty beach to walk.”

A man after my own heart.

Yes I love it here, and today the sun kisses my cheeks with the promise of warmth to come. Turning onto the bog road, my mind drifts naturally to politics. For me, observing Irish politics is like watching a repeat of the English version from 20 years ago. It was painful to live through another construction-driven boom and bust, because I’d seen that deadly cocktail of greed and house prices in Thatcher’s Britain in the 1980s.

Frustration rose in me recently as I watched those late night Dáil sessions, because I was witnessing a political act that created a cultural change which will serve this country ill.

In the past you used to hide your money under the mattress so that your English overlords could not rob your children’s inheritance. Now you’ve swept your debts under the carpet to hide it from your European overlords, forcing your children to live their adult lives in debt.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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