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Sometimes a dog really can be just for Christmas after all



Date Published: {J}

They say a dog is for life – not just for Christmas – but once in a while, Christmas is as good as it gets.

We got a dog for Christmas this year, and last week we gave him away; not because we didn’t want him but because we couldn’t look after him and frankly he deserved to go to a better home.

Our Springer Spaniel was gorgeous; people stopped in the street to admire him like they do with new born babies and at times it was like pushing a buggy all over again. Dogs, like small children, make passers-by smile.

The boys called him Rolo for reasons best known to themselves, but, like their own names, as soon as it was suggested, it just fitted like a glove.

We got him on St Stephen’s Day and immediately walked the Prom with all the other dog owners whose ranks we had proudly joined. We’d never had a dog before and there was clearly so much to learn, but there seemed to be security in numbers.

We bought the basket, the toys, the food, the bowls, the collar and lead – from a standing start we had enough gear for a day out at Crufts.

Springers, as their name suggests, are lively lads who would eat their way through anything. Rolo made a fair stab and working his way through the garage door.

We tried to contain him in our small garden but – like they once said in a different context about Bill Clinton – he was a hard dog to keep on the porch.

We bought a dog fence whereby if he crossed it, he got a small shock via a collar on his neck. It frightened him so much that we hadn’t the heart to turn it on half the time. And then he came up with his own solution by chewing the plug to pieces when it was turned off.

We brought him down the Swamp and out the causeway to Mutton Island; we walked him out Salthill, to the NUIG grounds in Dangan where he ran like a creature born to the wild. We hadn’t walked this much since schooldays.

But work meant that Rolo was locked up for most of the day and that simply wasn’t fair. These dogs are meant to run, meant for the open countryside; they’re not couch potatoes.

And even as reality began to bite, you only had to look at him with those big eyes and brown ears and your heart melted. The kids loved him but their time with him was short in the evenings – and the long nights and icy roads don’t lend themselves to nocturnal walks.

In the end the person who’d wanted to buy him at the same time as ourselves was still prepared to have him; and he had the benefit of a rural setting, plenty of room, as well as another dog already on the land to play and run with.

We thought about holding on until the summer when the evenings would be longer, the weather would be better and somehow we’d have Rolo housetrained so that he didn’t produce more crap on a daily basis than Leinster House in a month.

But by then the ties that bind would be irreversibly formed and the option of giving him away to a more suitable home would no longer exist.

Those who’ve had dogs for years say that, when their pet dies, it’s like losing a member of the family – and even after three weeks as a dog owner, I can now appreciate just a little why that might be.

The hard truth is that we weren’t destined to be dog owners and we found that out the hard way; someone needs to be at home more regularly than we are, because lively Springers aren’t meant to spend their day in confinement.

That’s why Rolo is now hopefully enjoying the green fields of Clare, getting used to his new surroundings and family as he gets the sort of life a beautiful dog like him deserves.

We’re invited to visit but it would be like going back over old ground. Sometimes it’s best to make the hard decisions early for the right reasons, rather than prolong the agony and rob an animal of the room to roam he richly deserves.

For more, read page 13 of this week’s Connacht 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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