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Celebrating Austria’s love of Irish music – and it all began in Galway

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Date Published: {J}

When you think of countries where traditional Irish music is hugely popular, Austria wouldn’t immediately spring to mind.

But for almost two decades some of Ireland’s top trad touring acts, many from Galway, have been finding appreciative audiences in Austria for Irish music and song. Some 50 of these performers gathered together at Leap Castle in Offaly recently, to mark the launch of The Celtic Connections 2 CD, celebrating the friendship between Ireland, Austria and more recently, Austria and Scotland.

The Austrian/Irish friendship began when Austrian music promoter Dietmar Haslinger, first heard Galway singer Seán Keane.

“I wasn’t into Irish music – I had a few albums but I didn’t know anything about the history of Ireland,” Dietmar recalls.

In the mid 1990s, a friend sent him a tape of There were Roses, from Seán’s debut solo album, All Heart, No Roses. Written by Tommy Sands, the powerful song tells the story of how the conflict in Northern Ireland impacted on ordinary families and the destruction it wrought.

“I played it for a day – I was hooked by Sean’s voice,” says Dietmar.

As a result, he was involved in organising Sean’s debut visit to Austria, to play a festival in St Pölten. Their meeting marked the start of a strong friendship as well as professional relationship.

Dietmar scheduled a Christmas tour of Austria for which Sean was the headline act. It became an annual event, with Seán being accompanied by different musical guests from Ireland every year. The female quartet Dordán was among the earliest of these, recalls Dietmar.

“They and Sean introduced me to other musicians and the word spread,” he adds.

Other acts down the years have included the Bumblebees, Lúnasa, Máirtín O’Connor, Alec Finn, Alan Kelly, Johnny Óg Connolly and his father, Sean Johnny, Charlie Lennon, Eleanor Shanley, Marcus and PJ Hernon, Paddy Keenan, Seán Ryan, Jackie Daly, the late Micheál Ó Domhnaill, Cathal Hayden, Cora and Breda Smyth, Fergus Feeley . . . the list goes on.

Eventually Seán Keane moved on from the Christmas festival, and now plays a solo tour of Austria annually. But the Christmas tour continues, with other musicians, and Dietmar also runs other events throughout the year. The Celtic Spring Connection and The Celtic Summer Night feature Irish and Scottish acts, and the Scottish Festival Night focuses on Scottish performers.

The Scottish aspect evolved when musicians in that country contacted Dietmar on foot of the Irish success.

Dietmar credits dance shows like Riverdance as helping to build an audience for Irish music in Austria, explaining that the show was a massive success when it visited Vienna.

But it would be impossible to underestimate his role in promoting Irish acts. All his shows are sit-down events, and while the various venues do have bars, no drink is sold during the concerts.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Galway have lot to ponder in poor show

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

SLIGO 0-9

GALWAY 1-4

FRANK FARRAGHER IN ENNISCRONE

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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