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David’s journey to hell and back the inspiration for helping others

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Date Published: {J}

DAVID Barry is the kind of man who would stand out in any crowd – his fedora hat, white hair and smart outfit set him apart from his more soberly dressed fellow humans.

But he also stands out for another, far more profound reason. David is campaigning to change people’s attitudes to mental illness and to that end, he is happy to discuss the dreadful health problems which plagued him for 17 years, leaving him institutionalised for an extensive period of his life.

The former road manager with De Dannan has now gathered together many of his friends and former musical colleagues for a major gig in the Radisson Hotel next Thursday night, December 19. The Old De Dannan concert will raise funds for the organisation Changing Minds, which screens people for counselling and if it’s necessary, provides it for free.

Changing Minds is run by himself and Anjie O’Donnell, both of whom have had severe psychiatric illness and who want to help free others from the misery that they endured.

Born in Salthill, David went to England for seven years during the late 1960s doing “the Paddy thing”.

He eventually grew homesick and returned to Ireland and Galway. Back home, he met Alec Finn in the Cellar Bar and they became friends. At the time Alec was working in Spiddal, as a gate keeper for Lord Killanin, living in the gate lodge of the big house. David eventually moved out to Spiddal, sharing a house with Alec, whose musical career was about to take off.

“De Dannan was born and about a year later I joined them as Tour Manager. I wasn’t great at the job,” he laughs, “but I loved it.”

David spent 18 months in the role and, after he left, remained friendly with the members.

“Then I got sick. I woke up one morning and I was depressed and that was the start of 17 years of hell.”

In total, he spent seven and a half years in psychiatric units, suffering from depression and, later, bipolar disorder, but on that first day, he hadn’t a clue what was wrong with him.

“I sat in the apartment and tried to figure it out. I had thought I was aware of things that went on in life, but I hadn’t been aware at all.”

He went to his GP, who referred him to a psychiatric unit. “I was put on anti-depressants straight away and think I spent four months there.”

David explains what depression feels like, but the words only convey some of the awfulness of what he experienced.

“I had no appetite, I couldn’t sleep, I had no concentration, I had a total lack of self esteem, I felt worthless, shameful, a burden on society and I didn’t want to live.”

His form of depression was unusual, he says in that he got sick overnight and, then better overnight. “With other people it happens slowly. In my case it was quickly.”

That brought its own misery.

“One morning after 10 months in the psychiatric unit, I felt better and told the psychiatrist I was going home. Five days later I was back in the unit, and this time I was there for three and half years.”

During his illness David made three major attempts to end his life, overdosing twice and trying to hang himself on another occasion.

“But for some peculiar reason, I think it wasn’t meant to be,” he says.

David’s illness did not respond to drugs – at one stage he was on 39 tablets a day with no benefits. Unsurprisingly both he and his psychiatrist became frustrated. And even during periods when the depression lifted, he wasn’t well.

“I wasn’t functioning, I was very reclusive and a total loner. I was just waiting for it to happen again and invariably, it did.” Back in hospital “I would struggle into the toilet and relieve myself, throw water on my face, wash my hands and head back to bed and put a pillow over my head”.

David didn’t eat, surviving mostly on high nutrition drinks.

For more, read page 27 of this week’s Galway City 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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