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Is Saint Anthony a special Galway favourite Ð and why?

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Date Published: {J}

THE stalls at the Solemn Novena became a stop in a little piece of research in the past fortnight as I tried to pin-down precisely the apparent devotion to St Anthony which seems to be special in some parts of Galway City and which only came to my notice recently.

I have always regarded St Anthony as the saint you prayed to when something had been lost. He is mentioned colloquially most frequently in just such a context . . . my memory also is of people writing the initials SAG (St Anthony Guide) on the back of envelopes.

You still see SAG occasionally on the backs of envelopes when one of the slightly older generation is in need of some reassurance that, if all else fails, the intervention of St Anthony may see that letter safely to its destination.

As someone who loses his car keys at least twice in any one day, I have, on occasion, been known to pray to St Anthony to find them and promise to make a donation to the selfsame saint who is reputed to have a particular gift of helping people to find things.

Inevitably, the promised contribution becomes more ostentatious by the minute, as I run my hands down the sides of cushions on armchairs, and begin to feel about in the darkest nether regions of the sittingroom sofa . . . before remembering that I left the keys in my coat pocket because it was raining when I came home and I was wearing an overcoat.

However, in the past few weeks I have run into this practise during the course of the Solemn Novena, of Galway people saying they will offer a prayer to St Anthony when someone was sick, or unwell. This arose in the context of the many, many petitions which people submitted during the Novena for help for those who were unwell.

From what I can gather, it would appear to be a devotion which is particularly associated with older areas of the city such as Woodquay, Suckeen, Bohermore and in and around the city centre. While others pray to someone like Padre Pio, those districts seem to have this particular devotion to St Anthony. At least that is what I am given to understand.

Other than that, I am a

t a loss to explain it. Perhaps the explanation is simple – maybe it is that those parts of the city naturally associate with The Abbey, the Franciscan church, which is in the city centre.

Hopefully, someone out there in ‘reader land’ may be able to shed some light on precisely why the name St Anthony should be associated with prayer for people who are unwell . . . but, in the meantime, I have been doing my own little bit of sleuthing into the popularity of certain saints and whether ‘fashions’ have changed in recent years.

There was surely no better place to start the investigation than at one of the stalls outside the Solemn Novena in Galway Cathedral. However, before going on with my rather sparse findings, can I say that my only definite information on St Anthony is that he was a Franciscan who died in Padua in 1231.

For more, read page 12 of this week’s 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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