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A reluctant participant in the modern communications age

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Date Published: {J}

At a time when there is an ever-increasing number of television channels and, despite that, many an evening when there seems almost nothing even vaguely capable of being watched, some of the old comedies on G.O.L.D. can provide a few minutes entertainment.

It is a testament to the talents of writers and actors in Only Fools and Horses that, though all of the programmes have certainly been seen previously, they do take watching for ‘just one more time’ and give the odd good laugh.

However, this is not a piece about Del Boy and Rodders, no it is about the growth of that indispensable piece of modern technology, the mobile phone, of which Del was one of the first possessors and which he waved about in the bars and nightclubs under the noses of just about everybody.

The technology has come a long way from the time when the darn things weighed five pounds, the aerial was a bit like the one on a portable television, and, even if it wasn’t Del Boy special offer, the signal was so poor and so intermittent, that you were likely as not incapable of getting through to anyone for any sustained length of time.

My first experience of using one was during a General Election quite some years ago when one of the first owners of a mobile in Galway – it was the latest Motorola of the time – offered to lend it to me. It came with a charger unit which weighed at least two pounds, and the phone itself weighed three or four pounds.

I turned up to the count as the proud user of the latest in telecommunications technology – however, within an hour of the election counting starting, I abandoned hope on ever getting through to the newsdesk with the count figures . . . and had to scurry to the nearest public phone where you put in your pennies, pressed Button A and gave out the election returns in the time-honoured fashion of journalistic hacks for decades previously.

I’m not sure, maybe it was that experience which made me one of those who was determined that he would never carry a mobile phone. Of course, I was also one of those who swore that he would never abandon the typewriter . . . until one day a load of Macintosh computers arrived on the desks in the Tribune office, and suddenly I had to learn how to ‘type’ and ‘save’.

But, I have always been one who was dragged down the road of technology – whatever about ‘type’ and ‘save’, I vowed I would never be involved in the process of e-mailing. Not for me. It would always be pen and paper, a few lines to someone, the day would never come when paper would be scarce on my desk!

I’m still better at sub-editing ‘on paper’ because I find it easier to spot misspells, or whatever, with an eye trained over years of looking at words on paper. But, sad to say, the amount of paper that ever crosses my desk at home these days, amounts to the odd sheet . . . usually a bill because I am still very reluctant to put my credit card details out there into cyberspace and pay them electronically.

That is one thing at which I have drawn the line in this race to change communications. I figure that if there are umpteen thousands of chancers, hackers and computer whiz kids sitting out there at keyboards, then it would be just my luck as a reluctant participant in this cyberspace communications maelstrom that some hacker would hit on my credit card number and clean out the few hard-earned quid sitting there.

I believe that all those guys who always seemed to send me the offer to help them get umpteen millions out of some African country – for which I would be paid of fee of $10 million – are now sitting out there at keyboards busily burrowing away at the various security measures which I am assured are incapable of bring penetrated. Then along comes someone who hacks into millions of bank accounts, or, worse still, into the Pentagon systems.

Of course, I also swore that the day would never come when I would ‘surf the net’ for anything. For me, it would always be one of my thousands of books left in stacks around the garage, or in any one of a number of rooms.

I ignored the time wasted spent shifting the damn things about as I looked for some reference to Shakespeare, or Oscar Wilde . . . and then one day I typed in on Google a half-remembered quote from Hamlet, and up popped the quote, the line, the scene, the act.

Shamefaced I cogged it down resolving that it was a once off. Never would I get to the situation where the trips up and down the stairs to the garage, the sneezes among the dusty books, and the curses when I failed to find the reference speedily, would become a thing of the past. I would always be a man for the reference book . . . that too, like many a resolution, has fallen the way of the convenience of Google.

However, there must be hope for me. I have, as I said, embraced all of the new developments very slowly indeed. I still insist that no one show me the full range of things which my computer might do. I learn these things as I need to learn them, I tell my would-be tutors.

I say there must be hope for me, though – for now I find myself inside the front door checking if my mobile is in my back pocket; if I chance to forget it, I turn back for home; I get a little agitated if the battery is low and I send text messages with the best of them, though they tend to me long-winded and slightly literary.

That’s because I draw the line at some of the abbreviations which are so commonplace in texting – OMG I’ll never do that!

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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

Teenage Kicks hard to beat Ð unless youÕre Eden Hazard

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Date Published: 28-Jan-2013

A receiver has been appointed to Greenstar, which operates Kilconnell dump near Ballinasloe with a staff of approximately 15

The company has a workforce of 800 across the country in collecting waste from 80 thousand households and 12 thousand businesses

It is part of the NTR group which last month (july) published a report stating its subsidiary Greenstar will close its nationwide landfills over the next three years unless prices improve

However in a statement today the board of Greenstar said it wanted to express its disappointment at what it called the ‘unexpected’ move of the appointment of a receiver

The company said it was regrettable that its lenders have chosen to take this action – as the company has not missed any scheduled repayments and is in a strong cash position to continue trading for the foreseeable future

Business Analyst Ian Guider says Greenstar feels there was no need for the banks to take this drastic measure

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Archive News

Galway loses a vibrant voice with the passing of Tony Small

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Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

With the passing of Tony Small, Galway has lost a truly vibrant voice. Growing up the son of a tailor in Corrandulla, Tony was reared in a musical house. His brother Jackie was the host of RTÉ 1’s The Long Note, and is also a piper and accordion player of some repute.

Over 30 years ago, Mick Crehan, who runs The Crane Bar, struck up a friendship with Tony Small.

“The first time I met Tony I was playing with an outfit, we were touring around Germany,” he recalls. “Tony was playing with The Wild Geese. They were huge in Germany at that time. There was Tony, Peadar Howley, Norman White, Christy Delaney, Mick Ryan and later Eoin Duignan. They were wild in every way! Tony was a great frontman, a tremendous voice.”

At the time, De Dannan and The Bothy Band were also touring Germany, but as Mick says, ‘The Geese were always top of the bill.’ Tony had a deep affinity with Irish traditional music, but he also put his own spin on it.

“Tony had an extra quality that I find hard to put into words,” says Mick. “He had a vast repertoire of traditional songs and ballads, plus he was writing his own. He had great respect for tradition, but he always added something extra. He bred new life into old songs; he was very innovative.”

“I’d put Tony in the same league as Andy Irvine, who I have tremendous respect for. Andy did things with traditional music that I don’t think have been improved upon. Tony had that type of approach to the songs as well.

Tony Small and Gerry Carthy played the very first gig in The Crane back over 33 years ago. The occasion was re-lived at the beginning of January, when Tony and Gerry played together once more.

“Luckily for Tony, shortly before he died, Gerry was over from the States,” says Mick . “We had a gig here with Gerry, Tony, Jackie, and Sean Tyrell was here, and Johnny Mulhern, and Eugene Lamb, the piper. A fantastic gathering of old buddies.”

Last year, Tony Small released Mandolin Mountain. Recorded in Dingle by Donogh Hennessy from Lunasa, it saw Tony at the peak of his powers.

“It’s definitely his best work,” says Mick. “Nearly all the songs are written by Tony – or re-written. I had the privilege of launching it and writing the notes. There’s a huge variety of stuff on it, there’s philosophical songs, travellers’ songs, rakish songs, very deep songs. I think it gives you a picture of Tony and what he liked, and a very good picture of himself.”

Tony Small took a delight in music that was infectious. In an interview with the Connacht Tribune last November, he reflected on a lifetime’s playing.

“I’m able to sing and I’m able to play a bit,” Tony said. “I’m no virtuoso, but I love doing it. And I love sharing it. I do the best I can. What more can I do?”

Tony Small loved playing music, and had an effect that will endure beyond his lifetime. The Galway music scene has lost a truly gifted player. As Mick Crehan says, “he’ll be really missed.”

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