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Connacht Tribune

An Gaírdín celebrates 25 years a-growing

Judy Murphy

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Noreen Lyons at the Gaírdín, Portumna.

Lifestyle – An organic and ecology centre set up in Portumna in 1994 by a small group of Mercy nuns, is now a focal point in the community. Rooted in its own area, this garden is also part of a bigger environmental movement. JUDY MURPHY hears how it’s evolving.

When the Mercy order of nuns allowed Noreen Lyons and three other Sisters from the Clonfert Diocese, “to follow our dream” back in 1994, they gave the green light to a project that was way ahead of its time.

The vision involved a small group of nuns – former teachers – opting to live in harmony with the land and the seasons, cherishing the Earth and all its inhabitants. They developed a centre in Portumna on two-and-a half-acres of land belonging to the Mercy order, where people could live and work with nature.

“It was to rediscover our relationship to the land and the earth,” explains Noreen, a woman with a warm nature, a quiet spirituality and the air of someone who gets things done.

Their site had formerly been the garden of Portumna’s Domestic Economy School, an institute the Mercy nuns had set up in the late 1800s, to teach women crafts and agricultural skills that would help them earn their living as farmers’ wives.

The school closed down in the late 1980s after almost a century of providing this service. Its building now houses apartments, while its gardens are home to An Gáirdín Organic and Ecology Centre. It plays a vital role in Portumna, where it’s used by groups from schoolchildren to creative writers, while produce from the organic garden is sold locally.

When Noreen and other members of the fledgling Centre ran their first organic gardening course in 1993, they struggled to find tutors who had any knowledge of organic gardening. She recallst his as she, her fellow Sister Anne Mills, gardener Des and several volunteers give the Connacht Tribune a guided tour of An Gáirdín.

That’s not a problem today, thanks in large part to their work. An Gáirdín has become a hub for educational courses including organic production, bee-keeping, cooking, composting, cosmology and more besides.

For 25 years, it has played a vital role in educating people about making choices that benefit the Earth and all its inhabitants – including human beings. This is done in a hands-on, positive way that encourages and engages people. Children, especially those from the local primary school, love coming here, foraging and enjoying a variety of teas made with herbs from the garden, says Róisín, one of the volunteers who helps out with the comprehensive Schools Education Programme.

Recent warnings from the United Nations about global warming have focused on the urgent need to care for the natural world.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Homemade Wimbledon is a different bale game!

Francis Farragher

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James Craughwell about to serve over the tape – and the sheep gates – to brother Christopher with mum, Anne, in the background. The family dog Prince is showing a keen interest in taking up the role of ‘ball boy’. The brollies on the deck chairs were actually purchased at the Wimbledon tournament that the Craughwells attended in 2017.

WIMBLEDON mightn’t be happening for the tennis professionals this year due to COVID-19 – but one North Galway family are planning their own version of the tournament.

The younger members of the Craughwell family in Menlough village have had a tradition over the years of lining out their own court on the silage slab that’s available for recreation purposes during the early weeks of the Summer.

The three sons of Jarlath and Anne Craughwell – Christopher, Shane and James – rarely missed the opportunity through the years to ‘get the silage slab ready’ for their own Wimbledon tournament.

“The dimensions of the silage slab are almost exactly the same as a tennis court [78 feet X 36 feet} so back the years we always organised our own games. When the silage was made, then that was always it for another year,” Christopher Craughwell told the Connacht Tribune.

As the lads grew older the summer tennis court hadn’t been used for a few years but in 2020 with the introduction of the coronavirus restrictions, it seemed like a perfect time to bring it back.

“This year we took it a stage further. We used the sheep gates for the net with a line of white electric fence tape along the top so this is probably the best job we’ve ever made of it.

“The silage won’t be made for at least another month so were planning to stage our own family tournament over the coming weeks. With the weather so good, it’s been a great way to pass the time,” said Christopher.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

City Council houses Travellers in county

Declan Tierney

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Cllr Donagh Killilea.

Galway City Council will spend close to half a million euro to house a Traveller family – in a property well outside its own local authority boundary.

Instead the family of four, who previously lived on the Carrabrowne halting site, will be accommodated in the house at Kiltulla near Carnmore, which is deep in Galway County Council’s local government area.

The City Council is understood to have paid €388,000 for the property which will require another €50,000 to refurbish – leaving little change out of half a million euro.

Angry residents, who were unaware of the plan, have now organised a petition to City Council CEO Brendan McGrath to voice their objection to the move.

But Cllr Donagh Killilea believes that there is a bigger issue at stake – with Galway City Council acquiring property wherever they like.

And Senator Ollie Crowe said that he believed the City Council – of which he was a member up to his Seanad election – should be acquiring property within their own area and that this acquisition was ‘unprecedented’.

He said that it was his view that there would be nothing bought outside the city boundary and that the money spent on this property would refurbish a lot of the City Council’s housing stock that had fallen into a state of dilapidation.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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Connacht Tribune

Long drives still out of bounds for golfers

Declan Tierney

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Teeing off from the 12th tee at Galway Bay Golf Resort in Oranmore this week on the re-opening of golf courses around the country. There is nothing to suggest that any golfers travelled more than 5km to play in Oranmore. Photo: Keith Kelly.

This week’s relaxation of travel restrictions saw an exodus to the garden centres and the golf courses – but Gardaí have this week reiterated their warning to those planning to excede their five kilometre limit that they may find themselves in the heavy rough.

The first phase of a return to ‘normality’ went to plan, despite the early rush to newly reopened facilities. Even the rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of furloughed golfers, who were on the first tee from daylight.

Time sheets for golf clubs across the county were choc-a-bloc as they opened their doors to members for the first time since the end of March – but many clubs privately admitted that more than half of those who played had travelled way beyond the 5k restriction.

That led Gardaí to warn that they will be mounting checkpoints and turning people back home – adding that the golf clubs themselves have a responsibility to advise members on the travel rules.

Tuam Sergeant Pat Hastings confirmed that Gardaí had the power under the Health Preservation and Protection Act 2020 to turn back individuals travelling more than 5k from their homes.

He warned that a file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions to deal with anyone who continually breached the regulations.

See the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops or available for delivery with your groceries. You can also order the paper from An Post at no additional charge – or purchase a digital edition on this website.

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