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Nora says farewell to all the fun of the fair



Date Published: 06-Sep-2012

After thirty one years Nora Perks and her husband Russell are retiring from the fun fair business but that is not to say it’s the end of Perks Fun Fair. The fun fair has been a part of Galway and Salthill for three decades and you know the summer season is upon us when you see the amusements being set up at Leisureland.

And while the rides and thrills of the funfair may have fond memories for locals and tourists alike, there’s a whole other group of people who depended on Perks for summer work. Nora reckons at least 500 young people would have worked there over the years and some of them now return as adults with their own children.

Many may have assumed that Perks was an apt company name but it is a real surname and Russell is the third generation of his family in the funfair business, which originated in Coleraine.

In fact Russell’s love affair with Galway started in the mid fifties when he was just 16. He first came to town to help his aunt Rosemary and uncle (Claude Toft) with their annual funfair on Eyre Square.

When Perks first came to Galway it was to the back of Seapoint, a place now called Toft Park and again it was to supplement the Tofts’ go-carts and dodgems. But in 1983, after Leisureland opened, Perks got the opportunity to have their own site for the summer. They have been a seasonal fixture ever since, although there’s now an annual tendering process which makes planning in their business a bit precarious to say the least, says the outspoken Nora.

Nora doesn’t look like she needs to retire. She is very much hands-on and always has been, knowing the ins and outs of the business and also being a fantastic people person.

“I believe, no matter what business you are in, that the owner has to be visible, has to be available to the customers. Otherwise, it looks as if you don’t care.

“Over the years, I can honestly say we have enjoyed meeting people here in Galway and we saw many families returning to the funfair. And because we have repeat business, we always had to have something new every year but it is the dodgems and the waltzers which have been the consistent favourites.”

Unlike her husband, Nora, a native of Dungarvan and the eldest of 10, wasn’t born into the funfair business. Her father worked for the Land Commission and it was he who ‘found’ Russell and introduced him to the young Nora.

Russell was good with machinery and Nora’s dad had hired him and his JCB. Afterwards he was invited up to the house for dinner.


“I didn’t meet him on that occasion properly but he saw me and a week later, he called to the house again and invited me to dinner! Sure people didn’t go to dinner on dates in those days but we did,” she remembers.

That was almost 50 years ago. They were going out for five years before they got married 43 years ago this October.

It wasn’t easy she remembers as Russell was Church of Ireland and in those days it was practically a sin to for a Catholic to talk to a member of that church let alone marry one!

The local Canon threw her out of his house when she went to tell him of her plans but thankfully another priest who was sent to “talk” to her realised Nora was in love and determined to be with Russell, with or without the Catholic Church’s blessing.

“Thank God, all that has changed now and attitudes have changed. My father approved and we were in love. That’s all that mattered to me.”

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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