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Former editor laid to rest as President pays his respects

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By Dara Bradley

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, and his wife Sabina, were among the mourners at the funeral mass of John Cunningham, former editor of the Connacht Tribune, at the Church of Christ the King, Salthill on Friday.

Mr Cunningham – who was affectionately known as JC – was described as a “champion of the little man” and a “colossus in Irish journalism”, who was a “fundamentally decent human being and extremely positive human being”.

In his eulogy, Mr Cunningham’s successor as group editor of the Connacht Tribune, Dave O’Connell, described him as a man of great integrity, a fair man, “but most of all he was a decent man,” who “made only friends not enemies on his journey”.

Mr Cunningham, who died aged 66 after a battle with illness last Tuesday surrounded by family at Galway Hospice, was laid to rest at Rahoon Cemetery – his former colleagues at the Connacht Tribune provided a guard of honour to his graveside.

Recalling Mr Cunningham’s championing of a hospice in Galway before one was built in Renmore and when it was “just an idea”, Mr O’Connell said as a young reporter he had been dispatched by his then boss to Harold’s Cross to view how the palliative care facility worked. “The next time that I went inside the door of a hospice was to see John,” he said.

“He supported the hospice in every way he could, for over a quarter of a century. He was a director of the hospice for a number of years since his retirement and he was angry at the annual cuts to its funding. When the Taoiseach came to see him in the hospice, he found out JC doesn’t do photo calls. He committed the Taoiseach to addressing this problem of funding . . . His last story for the Connacht Tribune was about that shortfall in HSE funding for Galway Hospice and it appeared in last week’s paper in the same place that we recorded his death a week on. The point about this is that even through to his dying days his thoughts were still for somebody else and how he could turn a wrong into a right,” said Mr O’Connell.

During his career, including his 23 years as editor of the Connacht Tribune, Mr Cunningham was “a colossus in the Tribune newsroom; he was a colossus in Irish journalism” and to him “it wasn’t just a job, it was a profession and he loved it right through to this week – his column is in today’s City Tribune.”

Chief celebrant Fr Tony Flannery described Mr Cunningham as a “fundamentally decent human being and an extremely positive human being,” who had “a very deep faith” but “he didn’t wear it on his sleeve”. “He loved politics. But he had a quality that is actually rare enough in modern journalism – he liked and he respected politicians.

He respected them because he regarded them by and large as very good people, committed, dedicated people who were inspired to enter into public life and work hard. How many people in the modern world would say that about politicians? But that was John’s absolute basic human decency coming out all the time,” he said.

For more, read thbis week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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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Archive News

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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