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Accidental tourist now an artist in residence

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Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets artist Derrick Hawker for whom Connemara is his blank canvas

When English-born artist Derrick Hawker was summoned to a meeting in the local pub by a group of friends from the Connemara island of Gorumna back in 1970, he was a bit apprehensive.

He’d been a regular visitor to the Ceantar na nÓileán area of Connemara since first stumbling on it by accident while driving around Ireland in 1965. From that moment, he had been overwhelmed by the welcome extended to him by local people.

Over the course of five years, Derrick, who lectured in art at Belfast, had moved from sleeping in his tent with his Pyrenean mountain dog, to staying in sheds and barns, where people made up beds for him. But he wasn’t sure why he was being called to a parish meeting – however, all became clear when he got there. 

“They told me I was going to build a house locally and said “tomorrow, we are going to show you where”.

Now, some four decades after Derrick built his house and nearly fifty years after first setting foot on Gorumna, he is sharing his unique perspective of Ceantar na nOileán in an exhibition at Galway City Museum. Súil Siar ar Oileáin – An Islands’ Retrospective will run until October.

But, he stresses, the exhibition, which spans a 40-year period, is not about him and he doesn’t want it to be. It’s a celebration of this place and its people, a place which he describes as his spiritual home and which has offered him, his wife Liz and their family a haven through the years.

“If it hadn’t been for the people’s welcome and kindness, I wouldn’t have got the spiritual element of this place,” he observes.

Derrick has been part of Gorumna since he first arrived in 1965, unlike many artists who draw inspiration from West of Ireland scenery while remaining detached from the community.

Back then, he took a two-week driving holiday around Ireland, starting on the East Coast. While he was “dying to see the West of Ireland”, he kept lingering in other places until, with two days left, he arrived in Galway. Intending to travel to Clifden, he took the coast road and took the wrong turn in Casla. Not realising his error he kept going. A local lady named Mary Mulkerrins, who features in the Museum exhibition, came out to meet him. At the time there were six cars, two lorries and one tractor on the island, so his arrival was noticed.

He camped there, leaving himself a day to get back to Belfast, and all these years later, the memory is as vivid as if it were yesterday.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Taking part in the West of Ireland Bridge Congress at UCG in April 1983 were Phil Carey, Newcastle, Eileen Murphy, Taylor's Hill, Carmel Howard, Cross Street and Claire Burke, Salthill. This year’s Bridge Congress is taking place next week at the Ardilaun Hotel from February 3 to February 5.

1923

Islanders’ distress

A correspondent sends authentic particulars of distress prevailing in the Islands of Aran. There is extreme poverty in Inishmore, especially in Killeany; large numbers in the village are on the verge of starvation, kept alive by the charity of neighbours, with scarcely a healthy child amongst them.

The people own no land, notwithstanding that the Congested Districts Board has a large tract; they fish and labour when the former is profitable or practicable and when the work can be found. To-day they are without either.

Similar stories come from other island villages. Yet last October Mr. Blythe stated in the Dáil that £1,000 had been granted for the relief of distress on the islands. The money was placed at the disposal of the Galway Rural District Council, which refused to have anything to do with the scheme.

Accordingly, the grant was never made. It is alleged that the inhabitants of Inishmore have refused to pay rates, but islanders state in reply that rates were not collected for some two years, nor were demand notes issued. The whole position is so grave that it should be looked into without further delay, and we understand that all the circumstances have been referred to Deputy O’Connell for this purpose.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Long-gone island life captured forever

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Galway County Council Archivist Patria McWalter, (right) and Bernie Kelly, Acting Galway City and County Librarian with photo albums from the George Chambers Collection and the special publication that sheds light on his work on the islands he visited. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

A unique collection of photos and writings that capture life on Aran and Ireland’s other offshore islands during the early years of the 20th Century and which was gifted to Galway is now available to the public. County Council archivist Patria McWalter was responsible for researching and cataloguing the work of Englishman George Chambers who visited these shores regularly from 1929-1938. The project involved working with colleagues in other counties, especially Kerry, and forging links with archivists in England to learn more about this mysterious man. She tells JUDY MURPHY about a special journey into the past.

“A parcel came in the post one day and a colleague dropped it down to my desk saying, ‘this is for you, it’s old stuff’,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter with a laugh.

That’s how Patria became acquainted with the photographs and writings of Englishman George Chambers, which offer a unique record of life on Ireland’s offshore islands in the early years of the 1900s.

Patria doesn’t know why the archive’s owner, Desmond Anthony Power, a Canadian resident with Irish roots, decided to gift the Chambers Collection to Galway, because while it features the Aran Islands, islands from other counties feature more prominently.

“Kerry might have been a more obvious choice”, she notes. Still, as someone who delights in uncovering Ireland’s hidden past, Patria was happy.

Now the archive is available online, accessible to all, accompanied by an illustrated publication, Island Images from the Chambers Archive, 1929-38. A limited number of hard copies have been printed in Irish and English and it’s available to download as a PDF.

Desmond Powers’ initial donation to Galway consisted of five photo albums, which included pictures of George Chambers and his family on holidays in Ireland, as well as images of island life up to 1938. Donkeys feature alongside people in many of the photos.

“He seems to have been very fond of donkeys,” explains Patria with a chuckle.

A series of files subsequently arrived at the library, including letters, diaries and the eulogy that George Chambers’ son Ivan delivered at his father’s funeral in 1960, which shed some light on Chambers and his travels.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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

Tricks, trials and traps of nurturing our memories

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Memory is a strange old business and sometimes quite an uncomfortable investigative process with the passing of years. We all tend to get a bit worried when a name of someone reasonably familiar to us, just simply won’t come into our heads.

One of the little consolations I nurture, more in hope than in empirical logic, is that even when I was a ‘garsún’ attending national school, I had the habit of leaving things behind me for no good reason.

Even a decade or so after that, forgetting to get the Sweet Afton cigarettes for my mother after a few pints in the local – which in those days doubled up as a grocery outlet and public house – drew a fair measure of maternal wrath upon my young shoulders.

Then there’s the recurring daily problem of trying to figure out what some of the least used keys are for, on a ridiculously overcrowded keyring, while all the time vowing to eliminate at least 25% of the out-of-date ‘door openers’ from the collection.

A few years back, I remember some guy on the radio who knew about all things related to memory and good mental agility, saying that there wasn’t really a serious problem in trying to regularly sort out key IDs. However, he did point out – rather chillingly – that if you looked at your bunch of keys and wondered what they were for, then you were in trouble.

As we get older and want to forget issues about our own finitude (a fancy word for ‘the end’) the annoying search for mobile phones, car keys, wallets, glasses, scarves, caps and even jackets sends little worries through our dwindling brain reserves that things aren’t really getting any better.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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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