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Ex actor Gary puts talents to work for City Council



Date Published: {J}

When Gary McMahon turned up at one of his first City Council meetings, a journalist was quick to note his presence. “Your father would turn in his grave to see you here,” the reporter quipped after learning he had joined the Council staff.

His father, Johnny McMahon, was a journalist with the Connacht Tribune until his death in 1977, an editor of the original Galway Observer and before that he worked with the Roscommon Champion – quite a feat considering he could not drive and lived in Galway’s Canal Road.

Gary’s father regularly worked late, covering corpo, VEC, harbour, and County Council meetings. To this day, the Communications Officer with the City Council attends events where people have a particular memory of something Johnny wrote.

“He hated going to Corporation meetings,” says Gary, referring to the city’s local authority before it was given City Council status. “He’d come back and call them a bunch of hoors and give them the skelp the next day in the Sentinel,” he laughs.

“But actually ‘the Corpo’ is in the blood. All belonging to me was born in the Waterworks in Terryland.”

Gary’s grandfather Tom Corcoran was a caretaker for the city’s waterworks for nearly 30 years up until 1950s and his family lived in the house now managed by the Simon Community on the Dyke Road. On Tom’s retirement the family got a corporation house on Father Burke Road in the Claddagh.

Gary’s mother was a telephonist in the P&T on Eglinton Street, who was quite a stunner in her day, says her son.

He recalls being quizzed during a haircut by Chick Gillen who had a knack of finding out exactly where you came from. “Rita Corcoran from the Waterworks – Miss Post Office 1952!” exclaimed the barber and boxing trainer.

Given his background, it is surprising Gary did not in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in journalism. Their house had newspapers strewn everywhere and the radio was on constantly for snippets of news. Discussions about local and national politics dominated conversations.

From the age of nine, Gary used to accompany his father to Corinthians rugby matches when the club was on College Road. His father reported on these games. Gary’s job was to set up the phone call at the clubhouse with the Dublin newspapers and call his dad from the bar when a copy taker was ready to take the copy. That would become the next day’s match report.

While studying arts in UCG, drama and the arts became his big love. “I did nothing for four years in college except acting in plays, putting on plays. When I was doing the HDip I learned that I couldn’t control the kids. I broke my mother’s heart by announcing I was going to be an actor.”

He had very little work until he joined Macnas, the fledgling community arts group which burst onto national consciousness in the mid 1980s when its enormous Gulliver mannequin ‘washed up’ on Grattan Beach.

Gary’s main role was to look after the Macnas volunteers. By the late 90s the company boasted a large workforce, with 45 people working there on FÁS schemes at any one time.


One of the biggest projects he was involved in was U2’s Zooropa Tour in 1993, where Macnas staged pre-concert shows to highlight the rise in fascism in Europe.

Gary played Captain Chickhead’s sidekick, while recruiting volunteers in the tour cities. During one show in Germany they were pelted with bottles as the audience twigged Macnas was pointing the finger at Nazism.

In the 10 years he worked there, Macnas became one of the key voices in the arts community and Gary was the community representative on various committees and forums, including the City Development Board.

When the Council advertised for community and enterprise development officers in 2000, his application was successful. As he approached 40 and after a decade with Macnas, he felt it was time for a change.

Gary’s role was to support the City Development board and implement the city’s ten-year strategy in economic, social and cultural policy. He also supported the development of the community forums.

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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