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Return of Long Johns Ð but these are in a delicate pink!



Date Published: {J}

God be with the time when I prayed for snow and frost . . . now, I’m that timorous creature you see inching along gingerly by the wall, clutching any possible railing, and wishing that the City Council gave the same priority to footpaths that they do to the roads.

Of course, for the kids, the Arctic spell has meant a whole new series of games. They are the ones gifted with a sense of balance that is capable of keeping them upright – even if sliding sideways – and they know that if they happen to hit the footpath with a hand outstretched to save themselves, they aren’t inevitably bound for the emergency room of the local hospital.

For folks in my age group, chances are that surgeons will be breaking out the metal plates and screws to try to knit bones together again. And, as one of the surgeons pointed out to me last week, “we don’t just get these things in Woodies you know . . . the screws are €80 each, and the metal plates at €400 to €500 each”.

As I said . . . time was. I went to a school where the primary and secondary schools were side by side, but, in the rivalry between the schools, the secondary boys had a huge advantage when it snowed, because right beside their schoolyard, was an enormous field. Perfect for an endless supply of ammunition when it came to snowball fights.

Us secondary types went into that field and made enough snowballs to fight a war. The preparations went on for ages, but everyone from secondary came back into the school grounds with armfuls of at least seven snowballs . . . and all hell broke loose as the unequal attack began and the smaller boys were driven screaming into corners.

Somehow, we saw no injustice in the sheer size of the opposing armies, or the availability of ammunition. Maybe that was because, in our earlier years, we had also been among the primary ranks . . . and lived in the hope that our day ‘in secondary’ would inevitably come.

However, on one occasion I came off badly the worse of the engagement. The bell had gone for resumption of classes, the lines of pupils were forming and hundreds of us secondary types were lined up with armfuls of ammunition. I let fly with one snowball . . . as ill luck would have it, I narrowly missed one of the Brothers, it smashed on the jamb of the door, and scattered in along the floor of the jacks.

He turned with a look of thunder and shouted, “who threw that?”. Of course, it was greeted with absolute silence . . . but, after a pause, I inched up my hand into the air.

It was fair enough to be ordered down into the boiler room to get a shovel to clean it up . . . but I always had a great sense of injustice at the walloping I got from him as well. So much for the virtue of ‘owning up’.

I suppose it has to be judged against the background of the times. This Brother was a bit too handy with ‘the leather’, but there were others who simply should have been charged with assault.

Hardly any wonder then that, even as a man in my 60s, I still have a recurring nightmare about one Brother – a big, angular, blotchy faced, brown haired countryman who started each morning by battering most of us over phrases from that cursed M’Asal Beag Dubh, and by half ten he was only fit to hang on to a radiator and gaze out a window as he tried to regain his breath.

The sheer terror instilled by this man meant that I

sometimes dodged school lying out in the racecourse beside the school, and rolled about with stomach pain, physically ill at the thought of going to school. Of course, as time went on, I became a much more accomplished mitcher.

Anyone could mitch in early Summer when the countryside was receptive . . . I mitched for weeks on end in the depths of Winter. Like many another, I had a hand-me-down overcoat that must have belonged to a rather larger uncle, but it’s huge lapels, and the fact that it was nearly inches too long, provided real protection when mitching in Winter.

For more, read page 15 of this week’s 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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