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Sounds clever – but it’ll never catch on here



Date Published: 06-Aug-2010

THIS is either courageous, or foolhardly. I am about to express an opinion about the future of ‘them digital book yokes’ which some would have you believe are all the rage at the moment and on which there have been ceaseless feature pieces in newspapers in recent weeks.

Before taking my courage in my hands, I have to say that my record in this area of predicting what might be popular, or grab the public’s attention, is about as good as the Kerryman who, when confronted with decimal currency for the first time, said solemnly that it would ‘never catch on down this side of the country’.

Indeed, that might have been a little prophetic . . . at least for some time. For I do know of areas where they were still finding wads of ‘old currency’ up to a few short years ago. That currency, I believe, could be ‘cashed’ in places like the Central Bank.

In one case of which I am aware, some years ago a senior bank official was sent to a farmhouse in County Mayo to count money for an elderly couple who had hoarded the hard cash for years previously but got a bit nervous when there were some robberies of people in rural areas.

The bank official recalled that he and an assistant spent most of a night counting the best part of £30,000 in notes that even he had never seen . . . notes with ploughs on them, and such like, that hadn’t seen the light of day for decades as they lay under the mattress.

I know of another case in County Galway where the thieves robbed a house but missed out on £7,000 which was left under hay under a very cross ‘clocking’ turkey sitting on a clutch of eggs in a half oil-barrel. When the Gardaí counted the money, they encountered notes they had never seen before.

However, I digress . . . slightly. The point I was trying to make, if in a roundabout way, was that my record on predicting the future for electronic gadgets is not the best. I swore I would never own a mobile phone; I protested that I would never send an email; I believed Betamax format tape would dominate the world; and I could never see disc players being popular in cars, and ‘vinyl’ becoming an item only in music museums.

That said, can I venture to suggest that the new electronic books will prove popular – among the generation who have taken to phones with ‘apps’, but that for folk like me, they will never rival the sheer enjoyment of going to a bookshop, leafing through a series of possible choices, and finally taking a book home in a paper bag and setting down to read it.

I’m one of those who will take to a new book, especially a biography, but there are a number of firm favourites which seem to arise time after time, despite the presence of literally thousands of books in my garage, on shelves of bedrooms, in boxes in the attic, and the odd stray edition lying about the place for weeks on end.

The ones I keep going back to are books like Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, To Kill A Mockingbird, the marvellous and tragic biography of Oscar Wilde by Richard Elliman, Lytton Strachey’s biography of Elizabeth I, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Keep The Aspidestra Flying, the collected short stories of Frank O’Connor, Hugh Leonard’s Home Before Night, and The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Now, there’s a diversity of choice which defies any logic, but then, mine is the kind of house where you walk into the garage and are confronted by the paperbacks bought over 40 years, hoarded in the meantime, dipped-into occasionally, and taking up half a house in space.

Each one was lovingly bought, following due consideration, in places like Kenny’s Bookshop, where I hid for days on end; picked up while idling in Eason’s (still known to me as O’Gorman’s), downstairs in Dubray’s in more recent years, or as a special treat while whiling away endless hours in Waterstone’s in Dublin.

Recently I saw a young man with all of the Harry Potter novels downloaded to his phone – and he sat there entranced listening to the entire saga. Now that’s what I call progress. And I speak as a man who swore he’d never own a mobile! Hope for me yet.


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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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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