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Passion for motor sport sees Galway exiles return home



Date Published: 23-Aug-2012

FROM time to time, we can all get caught up in the mechanics of sport – winning, losing, performing – that the human side of it often escapes us. However, this aspect is certainly not lost on Galway emigrants Mark Gordon and Pat Conlon, both of whom are to return home from the UK and Australia respectively to compete in the Galway Summer Rally on Sunday.

It just underlines their love of motor sport that they are willing to go to such lengths to compete but both men would not have it any other way. For Conlon, it’s in the blood, having graduated from chasing the rear bumper of his uncle’s race car at seven years of age to calling the notes just six years later on a recce over Moll’s Gap in Kerry. For his navigator Gordon, rallying has been a fascination since childhood.

However, in both men’s cases, work has taken each abroad in recent times and it’s Gordon who Talking Sport catches up with first on one of the former Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry hurler’s monthly sabbaticals home. Gordon, who is based in Glasgow and works for ABP Food Group, moved to the UK last March and since then has been pining to return to the rally circuit.

“My parents (Michael and Dolores) have no interest in it but, from a young age, I can remember running through the fields to get a look at the rally cars,” begins the 24-year-old. “I started marshalling with Galway Motor Club when I was 17 or 18 and, then, sure you meet people. That is how I met my driver Pat. He is originally from New Ross in Wexford but he is married to a girl in Killimor. So, the friendship came about through rallying.”

It is during the course of this conversation that Conlon makes contact via mobile from Western Australia and explains he ended up in the East Galway parish because “the land is cheaper and she (his wife Wendy) didn’t want to move to Wexford!”

No doubt, you get the sense Conlon is a great character but one who is totally committed – almost fanatically so – to motor sport. “To be brutally honest, I have had jobs jeopardised because of it but I have to say, my wife keeps me on the toes.

“I remember one time, I had been competing a lot, and she said ‘come on, is it not time to settle down; is it not time to think about reducing the rallying?’ I told her I had been with her for 14 years but I had been going to rallies since I was seven years of age. That didn’t go down too well,” he says sheepishly.

For Conlon, then, to leave his wife and three children – Rebekah (7), Ellie (14 months) and Kristain (two months) – and the sport he loves to its very core behind to move to Australia last October was extremely difficult. However, it was a decision taken out of economic necessity. A former electrician with the ESB, he had followed the boom until the boom went bang.

He did return at Christmas from Down Under and, again, in March, when he picked up the family and took them to Australia with him. However, his family has now decided to remain in Ireland when they return next week. “There are different reasons,” he explains.

“One is that one of my children has mild learning disabilities and the education system over here, well, she is not benefitting from it. I never thought I would say this but our system is fantastic by comparison and you only see that when you go somewhere else. So, they will be going back to school [in Ireland] in September.”

As he stresses so many times throughout the conversation, it’s family first, even if this means another lonely spell in Australia without the family. “There are nights here when it is very dark and you are looking at the blocks in the wall. You might talk to family and friends through Skype but that can make it even more difficult.

“However, what I am thinking then, I know that by doing what I am doing, my family’s life will be better by 10-fold in five or six years’ time. So, the sooner I am debt free, the better class of life my family will have. I know money doesn’t buy happiness but without it you will be sad,” says Conlon.

“I love Ireland though and I don’t want to stay in Australia any longer than I have to. I am estimating 12 to 18 months and then I will go home. I just want to clear the mortgage and be debt free. I can see though that these are bad times. I have been watching a lot of people come out here and some of them have lost their houses back home. It’s absolutely scary. Some of them come out with nothing, maybe just what little money they have in their pocket.”

In any event, he can at least look forward to a reprieve of sorts from life’s challenges when he returns to the rally circuit in Galway on Sunday. “I can’t wait to do the rally. I can’t wait,” enthuses the father of three. “There is something special about the rallying community in Ireland.

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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