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Archive News

Not moving with the fashion keeps hotel up with the times



Date Published: {J}

During Ireland’s late lamented Celtic Tiger era, it seemed that time you went outside the door, a new hotel had sprung up. These creations, which were generally made of concrete, glass, steel and marble, reflected the country’s new-found ‘wealth’ and portrayed a slick, modern image of Ireland that was far removed from our traditional hotels.

But some people continued to believe that the old-fashioned way was best, among them Paul and Brian Hughes of the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden, which this year celebrates 40 years in business.

To call the 45-bedroomed Abbeyglen an institution is no exaggeration – it has hosted guests from Grace Kelly to Woody Allen to Billy Connolly, to Brian Cowen and just about everybody in between since Paul and his late wife June opened the doors in 1970, having taken over the Glenowen House Hotel from the Joyce family, who had run it during the 1960s. If the walls could talk, there’d be no shortage of tales, personal and political, from this establishment.

The house has changed beyond recognition in the 40 years since the Hughes took over, but while they extended and castellated it, the Abbeyglen is built around the original dwelling that was commissioned by John D’Arcy of Clifden in 1832 as a hunting lodge.

D’Arcy was the most important landlord in North Connemara and his family owned vast tracts of land locally. But those were hard years and shortly before his death in 1839, John D’Arcy mortgaged his estates.

They were inherited by his son Hyacinth, who was was not a good businessman, and whose difficulties were compounded by the fact that tenant farmers were unable to pay rent during the famine years.

A committed Christian, Hyacinth subsequently became a vicar. He gave the house to the Church of Ireland and it was run as an orphanage until the mid 1950s. The building subsequently fell into rack and ruin, before being re-established as a hotel.

Today, in the function room to the rear of the Abbeyglen, an informal exhibition gives a brief history of the hotel in all its incarnations, and among the more poignant images is a photograph of the orphan girls from the 1950s.

There are also photos from the early days of Paul and June’s reign as they initially leased and then bought the building.

Paul, originally from Dublin, and June, from Dundalk, had learned their hotel skills in Dublin and subsequently ran Renvyle House Hotel for six years, explains their son Brian, who is now a partner in the Abbeyglen with his father – June died three years ago.

Renvyle was owned by Paul’s uncle Donny Coyle, one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, who set up Hygeia Chemicals in 1939.

“Donny was my role model,” says Paul, whose enthusiasm for life and the hotel industry remains undimmed after five decades in the business.

“You’ve got to live it and love it,” he says. And he did love it, since his early days training in Dublin, firstly in the Russell Hotel on St Stephen’s Green, and later in the Hibernian and the Moira Hotel. He also spent some time in Italy and Switzerland training.

An ebullient, outgoing personality, Paul is perfectly suited to the hotel business, and knew while working at Renvyle, that one day he would own his own hotel.

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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