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Blyton’s world of fantasy not confined to books



Date Published: 24-Nov-2009

BACK before the world revolved around Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or other video games, boys with a sense of adventure made do with the comings and goings of the Famous Five as they spent Summer after glorious Summer solving mysteries and watching criminals who never seemed to know that Kirrin Island was the last place on earth you should hide out if you wanted to lie low.

Younger bookworms entered the world of Noddy and Big Ears and goblins and gollywogs, or escaped into the world of the Faraway Tree.

And every one of her millions of fans probably imagined Enid Blyton – the author of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Noddy and Malory Towers – to be the perfect mother, entering into a children’s world of fiction and fantasy at will.

BBC4’s new series, Women We Loved, certainly blew any notion of that sort of idyllic lifestyle out of the water with its opening programme, Enid, the story of the most popular children’s author ever.

She was herself a child of a broken home, and throughout her life, she was haunted by her father’s leaving. She blamed her mother and regarded her as dead from the minute she was able to leave home herself.

The portrait created by this study is not a pleasant one; Helena Bonham Carter is superb as the cold, single-minded, selfish mother who turned on the ‘perfect mother routine’ like a tap – but only when publicity for her books demanded it.

She marries her agent Hugh Pollack after he agreed to publish her early books, but he’s a man who drinks too much and she’s more pre-occupied with the world that holds Julian, Dick and Anne than she is with the real one.

Enid has difficulty conceiving, but then has two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, both of whom she subsequently does her best to ignore – most of the time, she seems to care more for her dogs. In her efforts to create this image as a perfect mother, she invites other children – those who read her books – to a tea party at her home, while at the same time banishing her own girls to the nursery.

By the beginning of World War II, she is making more money than the Chancellor of the Exchequer – she wrote 23 books that year alone – but she is growing both bored and tired of her husband.

That’s when she meets Kenneth Waters, a surgeon, at bridge when Hugh is in Sussex with the Home Guard – that quickly develops into an affair and eventually a marriage.

Cold-hearted as ever, she excludes Hugh from their children’s lives and even demands he isn’t allowed back to work as an agent at her publishers after the war.

Time and time again she is painted as a callous, singular woman who cares little for anyone around her but herself. She pretends her mother was dead years before she actually died; she never bothered with her brothers again after she left home, because she never wanted to see anything that reminded her of her past.

She successfully turned her life into a work of fiction, just like her books, but if she sold the world a pup during her lifetime, this drama certainly ensured she was painted in a very different light. And yet for all of that she was the woman who gave the world some of the best loved and bestselling children’s books of all times – she wrote an incredible 750 of them in a prolific career – before she died in 1968 aged 71 suffering from dementia.

This warts and all portrayal of Enid Blyton might have been on a minority channel but, with one and a quarter million viewers, it drew the second biggest audience BBC4 has ever enjoyed .

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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