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Country Living

A time when we were the ones waiting for the cash from abroad

Francis Farragher

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Irish immigrants arriving on Ellis Island in the early 1900s for a new life in the United States. Photo: Courtesy Irish Times and Library of Congress.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Through all the hullabaloo of recent weeks about the amount of money that being sent out of Ireland to the home countries of so-called ‘foreign nationals’ working here, I just thought to myself that some of us have very short memories.

We’ve had a troubled history here in Ireland from colonisations to wars and famines but despite a number of recessions and the infamous collapse of the Celtic Tiger back around 2018, we are in general a wealthy country.

That is not to say that we don’t have our ongoing problems, the most pressing of which is probably the homelessness issue, but the vast majority of our people are now highly educated; they are working in decent jobs; and they all have a reasonable chance of getting onto the housing ladder, even if that latter aspiration can be difficult near the bigger urban centres.

There was always a great tradition . . . nay, probably more of a necessity . . . back the generations of money and goods coming back from countries where often the main breadwinner had to move to foreign soils to earn the money that kept his family above the breadline.

The Great Famine or Gorta Mór, that peaked from about 1845 to 1851, is estimated to have claimed the lives of about one million people but it also set in train one of the great movements of people from a small country to different places around the world.

Somewhere in the region of two million people are estimated to have left Ireland during The Famine, the vast majority of them travelling across the Atlantic for new lives in the United States and Canada.

There was work there and consequently money, a significant amount of which had to be sent home, to keep the family they left behind in some kind of a position to maintain even a half-dignified lifestyle.

During a little trawl through some very informative data available from the Mayo County Library, historians estimated that during the latter half of the 19th century, the Irish in America sent $260 million back to Ireland, which one Dennis Clarke described as ‘the greatest transatlantic philanthropy of the nineteenth century’.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Country Living

A season far removed from more innocent days of yore

Francis Farragher

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Advent author, Patrick Kavanagh, along with fellow-scribe, Anthony Cronin, in a scene from Dublin in the 1950s. Picture courtesy of the Irish Times.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

There was a time . . . alas many moons ago . . . when our primary school days would always be marked out by the holiday periods, and almost inevitably too by a visit from the local Parish Priest who would do a quick check on our knowledge of Christian Doctrine.

Thankfully, I have no unpleasant memories of those visits with the PP from Corofin, a man of kindly disposition and ailing years, always tending to ask the same questions, especially in the run-up to Easter and Christmas.

Often his pre-Christmas visit to the school would happen around the end of November, probably to coincide with the run-up to the season of Advent, an ‘event’ that we’d have been well tutored on by our Franciscan teachers, keen to ensure that our religious knowledge was at the tip of our tongues.

So, when the inevitable question would be asked by the PP in the dying embers of November about what was so special about this time of year, we’d all have our stock answers ready about Advent, and it’s time of preparedness for the arrival of the baby Jesus, about a month later.

We’d all have the same rhymes to blurt out and we’d be bursting a gut to ‘get there first’ with the replies, and in the process pick up some kudos from the teacher about how well spoken and smart we were about the arrival of Advent.

A little tale I heard last week prompted this line of thought when a teacher asked his class about what was the big event that was coming up around the end of November, one that would be a forerunner to the Christmas festival.

In my era, the standard answer would have been flooded with images of Advent and Christmas but in 2019, the reply was quite a different one. Kids being kids, the answer that they piped up, to a child, was: “The Toy Show”, and I suppose at least there was honesty and spontaneity there.

Our little lectures about Advent, despite being wrapped in a cloak of solemnity, still couldn’t disguise our anticipation that this season gave notice of Christmas not being that far away . . . with all its trappings of feasting, presents, Santa Claus and of course holidays from school.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Country Living

A fair deal is needed to help save rural Ireland

Francis Farragher

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Rural isolation remains a huge challenge.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Maybe it goes back to the old terminology that prevailed when I first set foot in a pre-fabricated classroom in Tuam CBS many moons ago. Back then there were two classes of people – the townies and the buffs, the latter being those of us who travelled in from rural areas to further our education.

There was many’s the initial scrape – even scrap – between the country urchins and the townies, some of whom refused to believe that a world existed past the railway bridge on the Athenry Road edge of the town.

After a while though, we all settled down to a large extent with our little and mostly imaginary barriers between our two classes eventually broken down. The townies and the buffs even became good friends in many cases.

And yet, there are those of us who love to live in the country where that feeling of space and freedom can never be replaced by the services and facilities of a larger town or city.

Conversely, there are city folk who could never contemplate that sense of isolation and being away from the bus-stop around the corner; the supermarket that just a few minutes away; or the choice of restaurants that’s within a stone’s throw of their house.

Both ways of life have their intrinsic merits but probably the one that’s now facing the greatest challenge is the rural way of life as more and more post offices, local shops, Garda stations and pubs close their doors.

There’s also the influence of online shopping where practically anything can be bought without leaving your computer screen as compared to traipsing into your local town and village and purchasing from your local shop.

The demise of the rural pub has also had a hugely negative impact on the social interchange that used to occur on a weekend and often nightly basis as farmers and neighbours enjoyed a chat and banter while consuming a pint or two.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Country Living

Can the printed word survive in tech world of instant news?

Francis Farragher

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A Titanic newspaper story of the early 20th century.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I suppose that I am from an era where newspapers were always part of the weekly literary diet in our house. As a child the Tuam Herald could never be missed; the Connacht Tribune would have been a more intermittent purchase; while my father had a little penchant for the Evening Herald during the 1960s when it often opted for the quirkier type of news items.

There used to be talk of the odd heathen here and there who had access to The News of the World and very occasionally a second-hand copy of that publication would find its way into our kitchen, hidden away but not well enough to avoid the curious eyes of a 10-year-old on the verge of prurience.

The News of the World did have coverage of all the big soccer matches across the water but of course all the saucy stuff was contained in the front and inside pages where the low morals and the fetish ways of our UK cousins were exposed in ‘glorious’ black and white.

Now and then, there was even talk of the local Parish Priest having got word of this ‘rag’ being sent by post to a particular house and having a ‘little chat’ with the purchaser about the moral error of his ways. Maybe it was the postman who ‘spilled the beans’ but at least in one instance, word had it, that the clerical intervention did not work and was robustly fended off.

One way or another since the time of the French Revolution (and before), newspapers – or the Fourth Estate – have been part of our lives, and for some of us, who ply our trade in the printed word – and made a half-decent living out of it – there are of course growing concerns over whether newspapers can survive the technology avalanche of instant news, information and images.

Old-fogies like myself would like to believe that newspapers can survive into the future, and when I have the time, there is nothing more I enjoy than sitting down and enjoying reading a good story, a decent gripe, a column that stirs the senses, or maybe a descriptive piece about a great sporting occasion.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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