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Job loss helps John to make a business of his pet project



Date Published: {J}

John O’Connell has nothing against cats and dogs – in fact the two happy, healthy looking dogs running around his back garden in Knocknacarra in the suburbs of Galway city are proof that here is a man who loves his pets.

But, a quick look into the tank in the corner of his kitchen shows that he also enjoys more exotic creatures. Stretched out inside the tank looking as happy as a reptile can be is a seven-year-old bearded dragon affectionately known by John and his family as Izzard the Lizard.

So it’s no surprise that John is the brains behind a new website,, which he set up late last year and which he is now totally focusing on since being made redundant from his job as a sales manager with Oranmore-based Event Bars when the company implemented cutbacks in January. It’s an online directory which aims to list every type of species of animal and bird that is legally available in Ireland.

“I’d been preparing for it before that, but it was one of those sink or swim opportunities,” says John of the website. “The down time gave me the chance.

“The idea of this website is to open up people’s imaginations when they decide to get a pet; to let them look at what else is out there,” he explains. And more unusual potential pets can be anything from a pygmy goat to an Alpaca to a couple of hens.

“Or a ferret,” he suggests. “All the people I’ve spoken to who have them love them. One person was telling me that when you come home from work tired, they can really cheer you up because they will dance in front of you. They really interact with their owners.”

Part of the reason for establishing this website arose from John’s own experiences of looking for unusual animals.

At one point he was trying to buy a Marmoset monkey for himself, and he wasn’t happy with what he found on websites. So he felt that establishing a proper database would allow animal lovers to ensure they were getting their pet from a proper source.

And he feels that a site such as his has a real future in light of legal changes which are in the pipeline.

“We have one of the loosest regimes [of any country],” when it comes to breeding animals. At present, the trend is that when breeders in Ireland want to sell animals, they put an ad here and there, he says. Most breeders are registered and totally legitimate, but the law as it stands allows for chancers.

However, the new regulations which are currently being drawn up will mean more control. John is not sure when the legislation will be introduced, but he’s ready for when it is.

His idea is that his website will be a one-stop-shop for everything bred in this country: dogs, cats, cattle, horses, bees, goats, hens, ducks, geese . . . basically to have every type of animal that is legally available on one site.

Hens and geese are becoming really popular, he says and with hens costing between three and six euro each, they make great and productive housewarming gifts, once you ensure that they have a proper run, secure from foxes.

He illustrates what he can offer by going to the pages featuring Mary Murphy from Offaly, who breeds Alpacas [a sheep-like member of the camel family from the Andes] and who has provided fantastic information about what’s involved in keeping them.

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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