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Galway Bay FM News Archives

Redundancy spurs Tom to turn his hobby into livelihood



Date Published: 24-Mar-2011

When architectural technician Tom Cuffe was made redundant from his job in March 2009, after nearly three decades working in the construction business, he wasn’t sure what to do next. But his aunt Peggy Ryan offered him a valuable piece of advice.

“Put your hobbies to work,” she said.

Although he could see the wisdom of this, Tom wasn’t convinced. “I didn’t want to because hobbies are meant to be an escape,” he explains.

But he did eventually follow Peggy’s advice and now his love of birdwatching is something he shares with primary students throughout Galway.

Tom visits schools througho

ut the county, working as a Heritage Specialist in a scheme run by the Irish Heritage Council in conjunction with the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation. The aim of the Heritage Specialist Scheme is to give children in primary school a greater knowledge of their heritage – both natural and historic.

Some Specialists focus on local archaeology, some on folklore, some on traditional skills. Tom has two specialities – birdwatching and genealogy – and up to now most of his work has centred on birds.

His passion for birds started when he was a child and a member of the Cub Scouts in England, where his family had emigrated from Westmeath.

“My first proficiency badge was in birdwatching when I was seven years old. My next was in photography, also when I was seven.”

After they back to Ireland his father helped to nurture Tom’s interest in birdwatching and they’d regularly go off hunting together.

“Nature was always close at hand, and I suppose you could say I am now a poacher turned gamekeeper!”

His father was a stonemason and Tom worked on building sites with him, which is where he developed his interest in architecture. He studied this in Limerick and, after coming to Galway for a 21st birthday, he got a job locally and never left.

Birdwatching and photography remained passions, although his priorities changed when he married Mary and they had two children, Sandra and Stephen, who are now aged 25 and 22.

But he always had a birding book and binoculars in the car in case the opportunity arose. And now, his hobby has become his livelihood.

Schools who are interested in availing of his skills can contact him via a directory of Specialists compiled by the Heritage Council. To be included on that list, “you have to have a knowledge of your subject and prove it”, he explains.

To ensure he was an expert in the area, Tom was interviewed by the Heritage Council in November 2009, following a training period with artist and ornithologist Gordon Darcy and further training in Dublin.

He got approval in April of last year, after which he printed forms advertising his business. He posted them on May 4 and got his first bookings on May 7, which coincidentally, happens to be his birthday. It was an auspicious beginning.

Tom’s work period is dictated by school holidays, so it’s not a year-round job, but in a 66-day period he clocked up 32 schools both in the city and the county and he deals with groups from Junior Infants to Sixth Class.

“You don’t go out birdwatching immediately. First you have to do your grounding,” he says.

Depending on the age group he is dealing with, he will do a slide presentation, focusing on the world’s biggest birds, the world’s smallest birds and the world’s rarest birds. Then he will do the same presentation concentrating on Irish birds. Then he’ll bring their attention to endangered birds.

After that, he’ll teach every class how to draw a bird; “each bone, each feather, each claw”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway Bay FM News Archives

Galway has country’s largest population of young people



Date Published: 07-May-2013

Galway has a population of young people which is more than twice the national average.

According to information gathered by the Central Statistics Office, Galway’s population of 20 to 24 year olds is more than twice the national average.

The number of 25-34 year olds in Galway is also more than the norm nationally, with the two main colleges thought to be the main reason.

However immigration in Galway is much higher than in other areas at 19.4 percent, compared to the national average of 12 percent.


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Galway Bay FM News Archives

Call for direct donations to city charity shops



Date Published: 07-May-2013

A city councillor is encouraging people to donate goods directly to charity shops.

It follows allegations of thefts from clothes banks in Galway and across the country in recent months.

However, cameras are in place at some clothes banks and surveillance is carried out by local authorities.

Speaking on Galway Talks, Councillor Neil McNeilis said the problem of theft from clothes banks is widespread.

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Galway Bay FM News Archives

Galway ‘Park and Ride’ could become permanent



Date Published: 07-May-2013

A park ‘n’ ride scheme from Carnmore into Galway city could become a permanent service if there is public demand.

That’s according to the Chief Executive of Galway Chamber of Commerce, Michael Coyle.

The pilot scheme will begin at 7.20 next Monday morning, May 13th.

Motorists will be able to park cars at the airport carpark in Carnmore and avail of a bus transfer to Forster Street in the city.

Buses will depart every 20 minutes at peak times and every 30 minutes at offpeak times throughout the day, at a cost of 2 euro per journey.

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