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New sounds music to the ears of rock guru Kenny



Date Published: {J}

By Declan Tierney

For many years Tuam has been the envy of the music business nationally. A relatively small country town has produced some incredible acts and artists over the past few decades so that last year it could even release its own album containing 52 iconic songs.

Of course, in terms of music The Saw Doctors have been one of the town’s greatest ever exports and have done more for Tuam’s reputation than any expensive advertising campaign could ever do.


But even before The Sawdocs found their niche market, there were a number of cult bands in Tuam during the ‘eighties who all dipped their musical toes into the water and with some degree of success and released songs that are still highly regarded.

Many pose the question about why there seems to be such a huge talent base in Tuam – not just as regards recordings but also songwriting.

That album of 52 songs, entitled Songs from the Broken Wheel, which was released last year contained all original tracks.

The fact that there was a person and a place in Tuam where bands and individual singers could realise their ultimate dream of cutting a record, making a tape or, in the recent era of the music industry, recording a CD was a contributory factor in the town having an unprecedented musical tradition.

And, even in the past couple of years, a new breed of musicians has been emerging in Tuam – teenagers who have already hit the recording studio on more than one occasion and consequently are beginning to make names for themselves.

But when Tuam native Kenny Ralph first started recording songs as a young lad more than 40 years ago, he did not have the technology that he currently enjoys at his Sun Street Studios where many well known musicians have passed through.

Little did he realise when he was recording songs from the radio with a large boxy type tape recorder with microphone attached, that he would one day become one of the most influential musical figures in Tuam, Galway and indeed the West of Ireland.

Had the unassuming Kenny not decided to pursue a career as an engineer and producer, there is little doubt that there would not have been a compilation album containing some fascinating recordings from his native town – while many musicians would have simply ended up trying to eke a living out of playing in front of local audiences of a weekend.

Kenny’s studio is located along a quiet, narrow entrance to his home. The studio itself is about one hundred yards from his house which is located directly opposite his parent’s house which alone indicates strong family ties.

He speaks about a recent family gathering for a photograph at which four generations of Ralphs were present as he led the way into the state-of-the-art recording studio where Eric Bell of Thin Lizzy, Henry McCullough of Wings, The Saw Doctors, Sean Keane (in fact, all of the Keanes), Arty McGlynn, Mairtin O’Connor, Cathal Hayden among many others have all availed of Kenny’s professionalism.

The studio is full to the brim of CDs. One would be tempted to send Kenny away for a while in order to browse through what is there. For the purposes of the interview, he cranks up the recording equipment and switches on a couple of computer screens where an old photo of Leo Moran of The Saw Doctors comes up. He hasn’t changed much in the intervening years and the cheeky smile is very much in evidence.

Kenny recalls how he first met Joe Stephens when going to school. He was impressed by Joe Stephens because he wrote songs and performed them in the local youth club. Joe played in a band called The Power Pack with a few lads from Dunmore and Kenny used to record them on stage.

His family emigrated to London during the ‘sixties when the rock and roll era was in full swing but returned to Tuam in the early ‘seventies when he renewed his friendship with Joe Stephens and his brother Padraic who was to have a huge influence on the direction music took in Tuam.

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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