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Modest Joe gives new twist to craft of basket-making



Date Published: {J}

He is known by his peers as the man who helped save the traditional craft of basket-making in Ireland and is widely rated as the country’s leading basket-maker. But, although he has received many awards for his work, Joe Hogan would prefer not to have any accolades heaped on him.

This softly spoken, warm man would far rather be left alone to make his beautifully woven baskets and ramble the hills in Loch na Fooey where he and his wife Dolores have lived for over 30 years. But there’s an exhibition to promote and interviews are part of the process.

Joe is taking part in the Irish Craft Portfolio 2010 show at the Kenny Gallery in Liosban, one of two Galway craft workers doing so – the other is Salthill jewellery maker Berina Kelly.

The Irish Craft Portfolio was established by the Crafts Council of Ireland in 2005 to promote quality Irish crafts. This year’s group has exhibited in Kilkenny and will be in Dublin’s Farmleigh Gallery from November, as well as in Kennys until September 9.

The benefits of being selected by the Crafts Council to be in this group is that it gives Joe freedom “to try to make stuff you fancy doing”, he explains.

And in recent years the man who originally hails from near Caltra has fancied making more abstract pieces than the baskets, creels, skibs and turf holders which initially helped create his reputation.

He did an Arts degree in UCG in the 1970s, specialising in philosophy and history before deciding to embrace basket-making.

“I wanted to do something practical. Back then, there was a big craft movement around pottery; basketry not so much,” he says.

In fact, basket-making from traditional willow and hazel rods was in serious decline by the late 1970s as new containers and cheap baskets from Eastern Europe threatened one of Ireland’s traditional crafts.

“But an ideal time to get into something is when it seems to be dying,” Joe says. “People who feel they might be the last makers of their work can be very generous.”

He recalls that when he first moved out to Loch na Fooey a local man Tom Joyce was making creels and skibs (large flat baskets, traditionally used to hold potatoes) and within a few weeks the older man was coming over to Joe’s place, teaching him how to make these items.

Similarly out in Rosroe, near Leenane there was a man who made lobster pots. Joe got one and learned how to make them before these traditional pots disappeared.

For Joe and Dolores moving to Loch na Fooey and being largely self sufficient was a shared dream. They have a 25 acre farm, with 20 acres going in to the mountain. There are four acres of arable land, and an acre is given over to willow for the basketry.

Part of the reason Joe was attracted to basket-making was that it was cheap to set up in business, unlike something like pottery which required a large outlay.

He needed willows, which he could grow – it takes two years to establish a crop, with small yields in the first year. Then all that was required was a knife, a secateurs and a bodkin – a large needle.


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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