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Inishmaan is AranÕs best kept secret no more



Date Published: {J}

It is to my shame that I had never been on Inishmaan before last month – but after a glimpse of paradise just an hour from our doorstep, my first visit most certainly will not be my last.

It’s not just the beauty of the place; the Atlantic lapping or crashing onto the shores, the stone walls that separate fields that are little more than stone themselves anyway.

It’s the sense that you’ve stepped back into a better Ireland; where the front door is always on the latch, where there’s no need to close the door of the island’s only church – complete with its Harry Clarke stained glass windows – where people greet each other automatically even if they’ve never seen them before.

Everywhere you looked there were old men leaning on a wall chatting, or women stopped in the road talking. There was no point getting overly anxious about the speed of your pint in the island’s only pub either – because everything will be done in its own good time.

The word was that Inishmaan has no crime and perhaps there are two reasons for that; one is that a clean getaway would be more challenging than normal, but mainly it’s because these are peaceful people who know their neighbours and trust them.

No doubt, life on any small island is challenging – life on this bigger one is no walk in the park just now either – but even a quick visit would suggest they’re not as bogged down in materialism as the rest of us.

That might sound patronising and it’s not meant to, because Inishmaan boasts a very fine new hotel – albeit a little price prohibitive for the likes of us – one of the nicest pubs I’ve ever been in, a state-of-the-art new pier, broadband, a dynamic school, a fine hall, a welcoming church…..and a culture and history to envy.

Little wonder that Synge was so inspired in his famous stone chair, looking out over the waves, his mind cleared of all distraction as he contemplated nature at its most beautiful in front of him.

You can see the other islands, the Burren, Galway’s coastline….all on the horizon and all equally awe-inspiring – but most of all you can actually feel the peace, feel the worries and pressures of the world lift from your shoulders, experience the pace of life slowing to one that shows you there’s more to Ireland than a faltering economy.

And all of this isn’t an hour from Galway city – a straight run to Inverin, a seven minute flight to the island and a view as you arrive in that would take your breath away. There’s also the ferry which might even add to the sense of occasion as you approach the rocky shoreline.

Inishmore and Inisheer are equally beautiful, but it’s the middle island that tends to get overlooked just a little – which in another way just makes it Aran’s best kept secret.

At least to me, because I may well be the last to know – there were many Galwegians already on Inishmaan before we arrived, but just in case there remains another unconverted mainlander out there, do yourself a favour this summer.

Pack an overnight bag, head for the plane or ferry and transport yourself into a better Ireland when we had time for each other – and in essence we just had time. You’ll come home with a radically improved sense of perspective.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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