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Scaling heights in business & for charity



Date Published: 24-May-2012

 John Power may have made headlines for his high-altitude charity climbs but he also scaled a few obstacles in the business world on his way to becoming CEO of the Galway-based Medical Technology company, Aerogen.

The local businessman has taken an active role in raising money for World Vision, Foundation Nepal, and Soul of Haiti. In addition to leading a team of Aerogen employees on a Dublin to Galway cycle, he also raised over €14,500 by climbing Mont Blanc in France and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Although a reluctant interviewee, the father of five believes that charity work is a good way to help others while setting an example for his family and encouraging others to get involved. His son was the inspiration behind the Kilimanjaro climb.

“Kilimanjaro was an interesting one,” John recalled.

“My son Patrick got this notion about climbing Kilimanjaro so we went out there. We were the worst-equipped people ever going out! We had rugby jerseys, woolly jumpers and rain macs. That was an experience all right.”

The trip did give them the chance to meet two Tanzanian children they sponsored through World Vision, and to present them with Galway GAA jerseys!

“It was interesting. It was close to where the boys we were sponsoring at the time for World Vision actually lived. So we made our way to the lads. I had never expected that we would ever see the boys we actually sponsored.

“We got to meet them and their family out in the bush. We flew in this tiny little plane out to a strip they had cleared out in the middle of the bush. There are no airports and no roads. They use the riverbeds to drive on during the dry season. That was an eye opener.”

Scaling Kilimanjaro proved less strenuous than Mont Blanc.

“I did Mount Blanc a few years ago with a friend from the States. That was a tough climb. I like going up mountains and hillwalking and stuff but that was a proper climb. You had all the gear and what not.”

John runs on a regular basis and believes that maintaining an active lifestyle helps when it comes to doing charity challenges.

Although he grew up in Wimbledon, London, he has lived in Galway for 22 years. His mother was originally from Killannin and his father hailed from Oughterard so much of his youth was spent in Ireland.

“We came back to Ireland every summer and we used to spend the whole summer between the farm out in Killannin and Power’s pub, as it was then, in Oughterard, where my father’s family were from,” John explained.

“So I knew Galway better than I knew London. I used to go to all the old fairs with my uncle years ago in the small villages.”

Galway in those days provided a great escape from London life.

“They were great times. I can remember when there were no tractors back around that way at all. Everything was done by horse. It was great fun bringing in the hay and what have you. Great times.”

“Coming from London, it was a big difference. You’d be back in London with the Underground and everything so it was two extremes that you lived in. It was a great experience though.”

When the opportunity to set up a joint venture in Knock airport came up, John decided to relocate back to Galway with his wife and their first three children. However, trouble in the aerospace industry led to that project being shelved after they had made the move.

“We had to pull the plug on that one so I was kind of caught. I had three young kids and the project I was involved in was gone. It was tough times, really.

“I ended up getting a project out in Libya, designing pump irrigation systems for Colonel Gadaffi’s man-made river. I used to always say it was designing tanks for Colonel Gadaffi because they were water tanks! Basically, I had to do that one on a “no foal, no fee” basis. We designed this pump irrigation system, got it built by IDT in Spiddal, shipped out to Tripoli, and got it approved. Just when we had not a penny left in the house, a cheque came through the door and that got me back on my feet again.”

John has previously set up new start-ups but he has been involved with Aerogen for 12 years and the company now employs over 50 people.

“I’ve been involved in several start-ups, always technology-based companies – robotics automation systems, aerospace, I worked in petrachems – so I’ve always been involved in high technology.”

Aerogen, a medical device and drug delivery company has become a global leader in its field and it sells to 60 countries around the world. It has garnered international recognition and received a number of prestigious awards in Ireland, Europe and the United States.

“As a company, we have a principal of trying to do it first,” John points out.

“We try and create new market space ourselves and not really bother about what the competition is. You create the space and create the demand and that is the way we do business.

“We put a huge amount of our resources into Research and Development. You get great wins but you get some failures as well. You’ve just got to accept that. It’s a high risk/high reward type business. We’ve done very well in that regard. We’ve won awards for our innovation all over the world now.”

The awards show the strides that Aerogen has made in the industry.

“It’s great, particularly for the staff. Everybody gets excited about it. We have a small company. It’s great for us to get international recognition for what we do.”

Although he has also received awards in his own right, including being a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2009, John puts that success down to the team around him.

“You’re nothing really without your team, particularly in the business I’m in. It’s all around innovation and development. We’re got lots of young engineers and scientists working here and experienced guys who’ve come in from big multi-nationals and left them to join us. We have a great team and you can’t do any of these things on your own.”

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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