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Another world – how much the travel industry has changed

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Date Published: {J}

When teenager Michael Staunton took a few steps from his own house into the shop next door to help a sick neighbour back in 1961, he couldn’t have known the gesture would change his life.

Michael never intended working in travel and tourism but ended up spending his life in the industry – so much so that his former employers, Fahy Travel of Bridge Street in the city, recently honoured him for his 50-year association with that company.

These days, when a seat on a flight is only a couple of clicks away on the internet, Michael can recall a long-gone era, when air travel was a major undertaking.

In the 1960s, if a person wanted to book a seat with Aer Lingus, which was Ireland’s only airline, they had to contact their local travel agent.

The agent would send Aer Lingus a request – in quadruplicate – by post and wait until for a reply, also by letter. When that arrived, the agent could finally inform the customer if there was a seat on the flight.

The nearest Aer Lingus office was in Limerick and making phone calls to anywhere outside Galway involved going through a central telephone exchange – which made the process of booking flights a lot more time consuming.

Those were different times, Michael says, and the story of how he got involved in the travel business shows this clearly.

Michael’s family owned a drapery, Thomas Staunton’s on Bridge Street which was next door to Fahy Travel, one of Galway city’s oldest travel companies.

In November, 1961 Kate Fredrica Fahy, who ran the business, got a heart attack and her grandnephew Sean called on her neighbours for assistance.

Sean was a senior reporter in the Connacht Tribune – he later became editor – and wasn’t able to take over the business.

November was quiet in the drapery business, so Michael obliged, going in next door and diverting business to Shannon Travel where Hartman’s Jewellers is now based. He returned to his father’s shop for the busy Christmas season and resumed his Good Samaritan work after that as Miss Fahy was still alive but very ill.

In Fahy’s he would light the fire, sort the post and deal with companies who called. At the time Fahy’s were agents for Aer Lingus, Pan American Airlines, TWA and KLM as well as the Cunard and White Star Liners.

But, there wasn’t a lot happening in the travel business.

“Most of it would have been emigration,” he recalls.

Michael became increasingly interested in travel and says that the companies he was dealing with encouraged him to learn more. So, too, did Seán Fahy and Michael remains grateful for that encouragement. Kate Fahy died in 1962 and the family decided to keep the business open. The shop was renovated and Michael was appointed manager.

“Most of the work at the time was emigration, people going to the States,” he says. Then, as now, going to the US involved a lot of form filling, which a lot of people found stressful, especially those whose first language was Irish.

Michael would take their details and at night, when his day’s work was done, he’d return to his home next door and fill in forms for those emigrating.

He remembers in the early 1960s one woman and her family of 13 children went to America, just leaving their house and closing the door behind them.

A one-way boat ticket to America cost two pounds, 10 shillings or three pounds. Most people opted to travel by liner because they could bring all their belongings. Boats had an unlimited baggage allowance, while the airlines had 66lb allowance for emigrants and 44lb allowance for regular travellers – generous by today’s standards but very restrictive compared to the ocean traveller.

But around this time, employment was beginning to pick up and so, too, was an appetite for foreign holidays. In Dublin, Joe Walsh, who had previously worked for UK travel company Thomas Cook, had set up Joe Walsh Tours in 1961, offering charter flights to Spanish resorts such as Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar, around Barcelona. The two men became great friends through working together.

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

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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

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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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