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An inquisitive ‘new auntie’ arrives on the scene



Date Published: 05-Nov-2009

People in the slightly older age bracket will be interested to hear that there is a sort of new auntie on the scene who is concerned about our welfare.

Officially the name is Tilda, but that sounds ever so slightly ‘Brit’ to me . . . so I’m going to call her ‘Auntie Matilda’.

‘Auntie Matilda’ would appear to be taking over just as ‘Auntie Mary’ is proving to be such a disappointment.

Auntie Mary (aka Mary Harney) has been months telling us about the new ‘fair deal’ under which – in the final analysis – we would only pay up to a total of 80% of our weekly income, and only 15% of the value of our house towards the cost of a bed in a private nursing home, if we needed such nursing.

But, secretly, many of us were still hoping that we might get nicely ensconced under the duvet in one of those ‘Rolls Royce’ public beds in one of the few public nursing homes. They are a rarity, but, if you got into one, you got the best of care and at a fraction of the cost of the private nursing home beds.

Let me tell you, when it came to those few public beds in public institutions like Loughrea and the one on Newcastle Road in Galway, and at a fraction of the cost of the private beds, they were the places to be.

And to think that my old father, if he saw a light left on in an empty room, would sigh loudly . . . “we’ll all end up in Loughrea”. If he were alive today, he’d know that was the place to spend your final days, always assuming your loving children hadn’t taken you into the bosom of their own homes.

So, the public beds in public nursing homes have been cheaper and there was always a chance that – a bit like winning the Lotto – you could get your bum one of them and hide there for a few years from the Grim Reaper, at a hugely reduced cost compared to the booming private nursing home sector.

That was before it was discovered that ‘Auntie Mary’ had a cunning plan under which as part of the ‘fair deal’, the cost of a public bed in a public nursing home would rise to the same level as a private bed in a private nursing home. Dammit now! – you can’t get fairer than that!Because of this, I have to confess I lost faith in ‘Auntie Mary’. Then along came self-confessed veteran broadcasters Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh and Olivia O’Leary to introduce us to our new ‘Auntie Matilda’.

The first thing they want is that she would get to know us better, so they’re going to ask us a number of questions in the coming months in a study to find out as much as they can about us older folk and factors which contribute to successful ageing. And there was I thinking that just making it to the ‘older’ bracket was no mean success in itself!

The presumption is that the survey workers looking at the lives of 8,000 to 10,000 of us, will get past the front doors of any number of people who are in the older age group. They will need a pretty convincing set of identity papers, a good line in patter, and an ability to assuage the natural suspicion of many in our age group, if they are to get the replies needed.

‘Auntie Matilda’ is, apparently, determined to make things better for senior folks who are here in greater numbers than in the past thanks to the ‘one aspirin per day’ routine, the odd stent, no great longing in later life for feeds of burgers and chips, and cigarettes being priced out of our reach.

According to the website, our new auntie wants to know how do people’s health and disabilities change over time? Well, precisely how long do you have for that answer?

Sure don’t you know yourself, loveen! Basically, you feel a bit more bo****ed every year. You tend to have more girth, less hair and less teeth, and there are increasing numbers of occasions when you get out of the bed in the morning, try to straighten, and say to yourself ‘Jaysus, what was that?’

Next question is – what happens memory when they age? To which the smart answer is, ‘I can’t quite recall’. Would it set the scientific world alight if I said, on behalf of the cohort of the older folk – perfect sight, sound and smell of events which happened 40 years ago, but damned if we can remember where we were last Tuesday.

She also wishes to know what are the factors which determine when people retire, and how they plan for their retirement. Could we set the research world alight by saying that the big determining factors are money and health.

And, the answer to the next question is that, no, people do not have enough savings for their old age . . . that’s the reason Auntie Mary is setting up that ‘fair deal’ of which we wrote a few paragraphs ago.

How do people’s activities, relationships and quality of life change over time? What is the relationship between people’s health status, economic situation and social circumstances? Well, put it this way – I find I don’t go clubbing as much; one of the reasons is that the obligatory waltz at the son’s wedding had me winded and clutching the nitrate spray, and I’m sure I’d be a damned sight worse off if I had even less money.

How do relationships change over time? Perhaps Oscar Wilde gave the best answer to that one when he referred to ‘swapping the hurly burly of the chaise longue for the relative tranquillity of the marriage bed’. We don’t have a chaise longue anymore . . . but you get the drift.

Any more questions – please address them to

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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