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Craftsman’s labour of love creates mini Cathedral



He worked on the actual construction of Galway Cathedral all of fifty years ago – and for its Golden Jubilee, Harry Lawton decided to do it all again….only this time in miniature and all on his own.

Now his perfectly proportioned scale model of the magnificent landmark will be on display for all to see during next week’s Solemn Novena, which runs from Monday next until Tuesday, February 23.

It squared the circle of the skilled carpenter from Fr. Griffin Road who started his apprenticeship on the Galway Cathedral build in 1958, at just sixteen years old.

John Sisk was the builder and Jack Lillis was the Site Manager or Foreman. Lillis, he remembers as “a hard man to work for”. Leniency was not his forte; he didn’t suffer fools gladly and ran a tight ship.

Harry recalls cycling to the site one morning arriving at 8:02am. The foreman overshadowed him and bellowed in his ear “Do you think this is a holiday camp?”

Later in life, he says the two became more acquainted and Jack admitted “I know I was hard on you” but maintained that it was for his own good – “you were never late for work again,” he said.

The building itself was made using local natural materials including two shades of local limestone. The high walls are in rock-faced stone, and a finely-chiselled light grey limestone accents the windows, doors, arches, columns and moulding. The coffered ceiling is in cedar and the altar, sanctuary and main passageway floors are in marble.

The arches of the cathedral are supported by great steel beams. Harry was present from the very beginning and informs that the first column and arch was erected in the nave of the Cathedral just outside the bookshop.

Four dedicated carpenters spent 18 months working on the beams and supporting arches; Harry Lawton, Tom Browne, Jimmy Comer, and Michael Garvey. They had to ensure its structural integrity.

The Cathedral took seven years to build, and for most of the time working there, they didn’t have a roof over their heads. On wet days, they were tasked with finding old bits of wood and yanking the nails from them.

The foreman would instruct them to do random odd jobs when the weather intervened, preventing productive work.

“They did this for three reasons,” explained Harry, “to prevent workers becoming lazy; to give them something to do, and to save on nails”.

The work ethic bred into Harry from a young age stayed with him for the remainder of his working days – and even into his retirement.

Harry and his wife Mai have five children; Shirley, Maria, Valerie, Harry Jr., and Brian; thirteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Like his carpenter father Harry Sr., and son, Harry Jr. – Harry extends that he is happiest when engaged in something creative. Indeed Harry worked alongside his son Harry Jr. for twenty years.

Creating a build to scale model was a passion he harboured for a long time. “I always wanted to do it” he says.

The build took him two years to complete. Having just retired, he decided to take a nonchalant relaxed approach to work. On a typical day he would work from 11am to 3 or 4pm, allowing time for breaks and holidays.

“I did it for my own enjoyment,” he explains and describes the experience of model making as “a labour of love”. The completed model replica is done to ¼” scale.

The model is made from yellow pine – a wood with no knots that is also harder and heavier than other commercial species of pine.

The replica model is held together via glue, pins and nails, while this roof is made of perspex, allowing people to view the inside which is also replicated.

Around €2,500 worth of materials went into creating the mini cathedral. “All materials were sourced from local suppliers,” he says, mentioning local suppliers Thomas McDonagh and T Ó hUiginn.

Noel Fitzpatrick is the electrician responsible for lighting the model Cathedral.

The very able seventy-something year-old is already planning his next model – and while he won’t reveal details just yet as they wait approval, he does conceded that it will be another iconic Galway building.

The Galway Solemn Novena will run from Monday 15 February until Tuesday 23 February at Galway Cathedral. Week day Mass times are at 7:45am, 1:10pm, 3:30pm, 7:30pm, 9pm and mass will be said at 9am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 4:30pm, 6:30pm and 8pm on Sunday.

The Candle Light meditation sessions will take place at 10pm on Wednesday 17 and Monday 22 and last about an hour.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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