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Songwriter SŽamus draws from depths of childhood experiences



Date Published: {J}

Tuam-based songwriter Séamus Ruttledge has recently released Songs To Have With Your Tea, an uplifting album that fuses elements of folk and poetry. The CD is Seamus’ second album, following 2000’s New Boots, New Shoes. Both albums were recorded by Kenny Ralph in Sun Studios, where the Saw Doctors began their recording career.

In the liner notes, Séamus’ children Roshane, Evan and Apphia are credited with co-writing three of his new songs.

“That’s the will made!” he laughs. “I wrote a lot of this when my children were small enough. That youth energy in the house encourages you to pick up the guitar and start writing. I also think that children don’t get credit. Because they do inspire adults; they’re keeping us all sane, really. They’re co-creators in the atmosphere of the songs.”

Séamus’ emergence as a songwriter is a relatively recent development in his life. There is a strong poetic sensibility to his lyrics, and many of his ideas were a long time brewing.

“I was always trying to write,” he says. “Way back I gave Leo Moran a couple of lyrics of some sort or other. He never really gave me a comment back!”

Words had an effect on Séamus from a young age, and many of his songs reflect on the experiences of his childhood years.

“The first kind of impression I got that writing was a really good thing, was with the book Huckleberry Finn,” he recalls. “When I was at St Muredach’s college, that was the book we studied. And I thought this is great, because I can be this guy – I’ve already been this guy.”

When Séamus says he has ‘been this guy,’ he is referring to his early years in an orphanage in Salthill and being adopted at the age of 7.

“I was in an orphanage in Lenaboy,” Séamus says. “I was adopted about 1964 or 5, so I was very conscious of leaving it. In a sense, it was family – they were was great sense of loneliness because I was leaving all these friends behind.

“One girl in particular, I knew her as Mary. You didn’t know anybody’s identity; but her and I had a friendship, a very strong friendship. So we had to part; I had to start up a whole new life in a place called Mayo, on a farm.”

Although it’s well over 40 years ago now, Séamus can still vividly remember leaving Salthill.

“I remember that journey. We went on a train and then someone took us in a green van and brought us out to this country house. There was another boy there called Padraig who became my brother.”

These experiences are referred to in songs like The Secret Child (from his first album) and Orphan Child (from his latest), but does Séamus feel that these early years permeate through all his writing?

“I think so,” he says. “You didn’t depend on having a father or a mother or a legitimate family – you depended on your own self-worth really. So that’s why I write from that background, to affirm that to myself. And even affirm to others of that background. Really and truly, you were born with your own soul and your own dignity.”

Séamus says he first came to Tuam around 1978. He was impressed with original songwriters like Padraig and Joe Stevens, and eventually came to call the town home

“I used to occasionally visit,” he explains. “Then I saw people playing guitar, like Padraig and Joe. I remember Joe singing Roscommon Blues and Padraig singing West Of The Gates. But all this music was happening around me – and they were their own songs. They didn’t have to sing other people’s songs.”

“There’s a sweet security in the streets of Tuam, for somebody that felt like an outcast,” he enthuses. “It’s only in the ordinary things, but they’d have a drink with you or a chat. And also, the fun thing about them; they always seem to be laughing. In that respect, luck was with me.”

The first song Séamus wrote was New Boots, New Shoes. He was encouraged in his efforts by Padraig – and, as it turns out, Leo Moran did make a comment on his work.

For more, read 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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