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Taking the pledge will not make you dry



Date Published: 12-Jul-2012

Those of us who received the sacrament of Confirmation in primary school will remember part of the ritual of being confirmed involved ‘Taking the Pledge’ and receiving a juvenile Pioneer Pin.

Some people kept their commitment until they were 18; others fell by the wayside sooner, lured by the pub and intoxicating liquor. But for some, that youthful pledge to be a Pioneer became a lifetime commitment. Noel Boyle is one such person. Originally from Castlebar, but a long-time resident of Galway city, Noel joined in primary school because “I saw so much drink around me”, and he has been in the organisation for the past 65 years.

Noel was one of the founder members of the Mervue/Ballybane Pioneer Centre over 40 years ago and is still very active in the organisation.

The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart – to give it its full title – is a spiritual, prayer-based organisation which was founded in Ireland in 1898 by a Jesuit priest, Fr James Cullen to help address problems caused by alcohol and drug abuse.

The Pioneers promote temperance, especially sobriety through faith and prayer, self-denial and good example. When it comes to alcohol, they also offer alternatives to individuals, especially the young. Well known contemporary members include Aidan O’Brien, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Mickey Harte.

The Association was set up at a time when there was a major problem with drink in Ireland – some might say a similar situation exists today. But as the influence of the Catholic Church has declined, so too has the strength of the Pioneers.

Nonetheless, people like Noel and members of the Mervue/Ballybane Centre remain as active as ever in spreading the message of the Pioneers.

“It’s not that we are against drinking alcohol in moderation,” Noel stresses several times during our interview. “We are just against the abuse of alcohol.”

Fellow members of the Centre, Mary Cannon, Theresa Heaney, Maura Traynor, and Noel’s wife Mary, nod in agreement.

What distinguishes Pioneer members from other people who don’t drink alcohol is the Association’s spiritual aspect.

“I saw the value of being a Pioneer both spiritually and physically – from a health point of view and also by giving glory to the Sacred Heart by saying a little prayer and getting grace for that,” says Mary of her reason for joining.

Mary says the Pioneer prayer, known as the Heroic Offering to the Sacred Heart, twice daily. Its aspiration is pretty straightforward – “to give good example, practise self denial, to make reparation . . . for the sins of intemperance, and for the conversion of excessive drinkers”.

In its early years the Mervue/Ballybane Centre started a Pioneer Youth Club to attract young people. That was in 1970 and it ran for nearly 20 years until it eventually fizzled out. It offered games and activities for people aged 12 to 15 and, with drama, singing and dancing, it also helped with their self-development, observes Mary Boyle.

In addition, Sr Consillio, who set up the Cuan Mhuire alcohol addiction treatment centres, regularly gave talk to club members. Mervue/Ballybane took part in the annual fast for Cuan Mhuire for over 35 years, but now, as members are older and numbers have declined, their role in the fasts is a more supportive one.

Donations raised by the Club members over the years helped pay for basic expenses at Cuan Mhuire, such as heating, electricity and food. In return, youth members visited the centre and it was enlightening for them to see people being treated for alcoholism, says Mary Boyle.


In its early days, the Club had 120 members, with young people coming from all over town for the hops that were held every Friday night after the Club’s activity.

For more, read this week’s Galway 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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