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A foolproof guide to achieving bodily perfection Ð the HSE way



Date Published: {J}

For those of you holding in your girth just now so that you can get close enough to the table to eat your egg and chips, the accompanying photograph is brought to you as an incentive to show you what your family could look like if only they would only obey a small few simple rules.

It comes free gratis, with the compliments of the HSE – which is not a phrase you hear too often these days – and, having taken a good look at it (don’t get the egg yoke all over it) it’s now just a few easy steps to a blonde wife, a beefy husband and two gorgeous children who would wipe the floor at the Olympics of bonny baby competitions.

It accompanied a substantial body of advice from the Community Nutrition & Dietetic Service of HSE West, which is advising parents to encourage their children to make healthy lifestyle choices every day.

And that’s a most worthy aspiration, because recent research from the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative found that 26% of girls and 18% of boys aged seven are overweight or obese. And I will never be mistaken for a beanpole myself either.

But there’s losing a bit of weight and there’s perfection – and personally I’ve never seen such a beautiful family, although the downside of that must be the pressure to get into the bathroom before leaving the house in the morning.

All of the All Bran and wholemeal bread inthe world couldn’t have me reshaped like this perfect Dad; in actual fact, Caroline Morahan’s Cosmetic Surgery Programme on TV3 couldn’t do. To be honest, a Continuity IRA man with a half a ton of Semtex couldn’t manage it if he detonated it in front of my face.

So perhaps I’m green with envy when I really should be eating my greens.

But I might be more inclined to see this target as attainable if one of the children had a scrape on the forehead or a bruise on the arm, or Daddy’s teeth weren’t more perfect than Shergar’s, or Mammy’s effortlessly blonde hair had even the tiniest hint of a grey root.

Incidentally – and on a related topic – If I had tuppence for every time a proud mother confides that she thinks her little darling has been on this earth before, I’d be as wealthy as these mammies are deluded.

Just because a three month old baby picks up mammy’s mobile and puts it to his ear – as opposed to straight into his mouth – doesn’t actually imply they were once Methuselah in a previous life.

It just means that there’s an in-built acknowledgement that it’s hard to chew phones when you have no teeth.

And when, for example, a mammy tells you that their new born baby was smiling back at her before the umbilical cord was cut – “I know, I know; he’s not supposed to be able to but I just knew he knew me” – he wasn’t and he didn’t; he wasn’t looking at you because he can’t see anything much and he hadn’t a clue who you were either.

Equally he’s not smiling at you from the start, and when he gurgles something that sounds like Mama or Dada at three months, he actually just has wind and it came out in a funny way. And no matter how little sleep you’ve had over the last few months, you should always know the difference between a burp and a catchphrase.


It’s not just mothers of course who think their little darlings are the future of the species before they can even hold their own bottle – fathers have been known to whip out a few baby photos as well, even though nobody asked them to.

But by and large, it is the proud mammies who fly the flag for child prodigies and who believe they have a bond with their baby never before achieved since we humans lost the hair on the palms of our hands.

The painful truth is that little Johnny may indeed look like you, but chances are – if they handed you some other mother’s son from the maternity ward – you’d probably think he looked like you as well. Unless you were both different colours.

Anyway, back to the health and nutrition guidelines and the funny thing is that our family, which as far as we know has not been here before in a previous guise, follows at least half of the suggestions already, without it making the slightest impact.

We eat breakfast and dinner to the point that we can honestly say we do make mealtime a priority – so much so that we prioritise practising our eating between mealtimes as well.

Okay, so the kids don’t necessarily see vegetables as mouthwatering snacks and if they found one in their lunchbox they’d probably ring Rentokil. But we’ve been known to walk to places as well. We have to; sometimes the remote control is on the other couch.

Obesity is a serious issue and we should be taking greater care of ourselves and the kids, but suggesting we could look like this with anything less than massive liposuction and full facial transplant is undoing the good of it.

The only way to look like this is to scan this photograph, have it enlarged to the size of your bathroom mirror and pose in front of it – standing very still – as a family once a week or so.

Then settle back on the couch with a beer and a Yorkie bar – but do walk to the fridge rather than sending the children when you need another cold one.

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

Corinthians inflict a first home defeat of season on Banbridge



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Banbridge 6

Corinthians 27

Corinthians inflicted a first home defeat of the season on Banbridge in Rifle Park on Saturday, and in the process leap-frogged the Ulster club in the standings to move third in the table.

Both sides were testing each other early in the contest with the ground been very heavy and the two packs evenly matched. The visitors were first on the score board after 18 minutes with number eight Aaron Conneely driving his pack forward, allowing evergreen scrum-half Steve Bruce to get the ball out to his outside-half, Mick O’Flynn. The number 10 linked-up first centre Cian Begley and he in turn released to right winger Darrin Classens, who touched down in the corner for an unconverted try.

Banbridge had their opportunities also with second centre Andy Morrison having a go, but Begley stopped him in his tracks with the try-line at his mercy. O’Flynn then extended Corinthians’ lead with a penalty after Banbridge’s flanker Dale Carson was pulled for loitering in an offside position by IRFU referee Eddie Hogan O’Connor.

The Ulster side were punished again just before the break after a great turnover in the lineout by flanker Colin Parker with locks Gary Warde and Ultan Dillane doing the donkey work. Centre James Buckley was the one to benefit, pouncing on the loose ball and getting in for the try, with O’Flynn missing the conversion in what were very difficult conditions.

The home side got on to the score board five minutes with a penalty after Corinthians were pinged for pulling down the maul, scrum-half Ian Porter doing the honours from in front of the posts to leave the score at 13-3.

Banbridge upped their game after this and were ably led by their captain veteran second row Simon McKinstry, but the ball was turned over again and Corinthians’ full-back Conor Murphy secured a fine touch to relieve pressure.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Archive News

Grave humour in a quirky story from Martin McDonagh trilogy



Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

Theatre director Andrew Flynn who has just been nominated for an Irish Times Theatre award for his most recent production, Port Authority, is currently preparing his next show, Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara.

“He’s working us like slaves,” jokes actor John Olohan, who doesn’t look a bit stressed as the cast enter the final week of rehearsals with Andrew’s company, Decadent Theatre.

A Skull in Connemara is the central play in McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy which was premiered by Druid Theatre in the late 1990s. It’s set in a graveyard, and centres around a Connemara man Mick O’Dowd whose job it is to exhume skeletons in an overcrowded graveyard. His newest customer is the wife he was accused of killing years before.

“It’s a very quirky situation – and funny, we hope,” says John, who plays Mick. “Martin’s plays are so at the edge of reality – they keep within the bounds but with a mad streak. And so it’s easy to play because everything fits in.”

John, one of the country’s busiest theatre actors, is a regular visitor to Galway. He most recently worked with Druid on that company’s DruidMurphy trilogy, appearing in Famine, the final of the three plays featured. Rehearsals began in Galway in April for DruidMurphy and, apart from a brief time in England, the company was here until the Arts Festival, after which they went on tour to locations from Clifden to Washington.

He was back on stage at the Town Hall in November in Living Dred’s production of the play Ride On.

He has previously performed in the Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Lonesome West with Decadent Theatre.

“It’s got to the stage that every time I walk into the Town Hall Theatre the girls say ‘welcome back John’,” he laughs.

John, who is married to actor, Catherine Byrne who plays Judith in Fair City – the couple have two adult sons – is one of the busiest actors in the country and has been working almost non-stop for the past 18 months.

“I can’t say I haven’t been lucky,” he says. But there’s more to it than luck – talent also plays a part.

Last year he won the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance as Byrne Druid’s production of John B Keane’s Big Maggie.

The Meath born actor worked on the TV series Glenroe for 10 years, having spent the previous decade working with the Abbey Theatre; he is a graduate of the Abbey School of Acting from the 1960s, having taken up drama after a brief period in a band. After graduating, he worked with Young Abbey company, doing work for schools and then joined the Irish Theatre Company, a national company dedicated to touring. So in a profession renowned for its insecurity, he has been busy all his life.

And he has no plans to retire. “I’m having a great time. And actors don’t retire,” he laughs.

These days, he usually gets called upon to play Irish characters, generally from a rural background and says that’s partly because there aren’t too many actors around to take on these roles.

“A lot of them gave up the game a long time ago and some are dead.”

Working in a black comedy such as A Skull in Connemara might seem a million miles away from his most recent role in Famine, Tom Murphy’s play about the great hunger of the 1840s, set in Mayo. But that’s not strictly true, he feels.

“Martin McDonagh is a different kind of writer to Tom, but there’s a kind of savagery and grittiness and roughness to his plays too, that becomes more apparent the more you delve into it.”

And there’s a lot of delving, literally as well as metaphorically. Owen McCarthy’s set, which he says is magnificent, has several graves dug and some to be dug.

“The set is straight out of [director] Tim Burton, it’s so gothic”.

John is joined by Bríd Ni Neachtain, a regular with the Abbey Theatre, who was most recently seen with Decadent in its production of Doubt early last year. Patrick Ryan and Jarlath Tivnan also feature in A Skull in Connemara.

The production opens in Galway on Monday and then goes on an extensive tour of the country.

John came late to touring, but he loves it. You are well looked after, he says. The shows are on at night, so you get to sightsee by day, if the weather is fine, otherwise you spend time in the hotel’s leisure centre. He sees no reason to complain about that.

He wouldn’t mind having a few weeks off before the next job, although he hopes saying that isn’t tempting fate.

For him, acting is like any other job – there’s no mystery to it.

“If you work hard at the business, it pays off. It’s like anything else, if you keep trying things, it will work out for you.”

A Skull in Connemara previews at the Town Hall from this Thursday January 31 until Saturday, February 2. It opens on Monday, February 4 and runs until February 9 before going on the road.

For tickets telephone 09156977 or online at

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