Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets the acclaimed artist Vicki Crowley whose colourful early life is chronicled in a new book
When Victoria Xuereb’s answer to a difficult maths question at her boarding school in England didn’t please her irascible teacher, his riposte was to tell her to “marry young”.
The vividly drawn scene is one of the hilarious moments in Vicki’s new memoir, Beyond the Ghibli, which will be launched this Friday at Kenny’s Bookshop in the city’s Liosbaun Retail Park.
Coincidentally, Maltese-born Vicki did marry young, at the age of 20 to Galway engineer Don Crowley, whom she met in Libya, where her family lived and where he was working.
But their marriage was for love and not a reflection of Vicki’s mathematical skills. Those were just fine, which she proved by qualifying as an architectural draughtsman after finishing school, a job that required mathematical precision and numerical skills. Her peripatetic childhood, meanwhile, meant she could speak five languages fluently and had a good grasp of several others, including Arabic.
When Vicki met Don, at the age of 18, they knew they were meant to be together and married two years later, in February 1960.
For the following 10 years, they moved between Malta, Gibraltar, Sierra Leone and Cameroon, as Don’s work dictated.
Finally, in 1970, they settled in Galway with their young family. Vicki has since built a career as a successful artist, working mostly from her studio at the family home in Barna.
This memoir, Beyond the Ghibli, is an account of her life until then, and it’s fascinating
A natural storyteller, Vicki gives a unique take on landmark events such as World War II and post-colonial Africa, while also having an eye for the intimacy of family life. The book’s title comes from an African sandstorm, or Ghibli, that was blowing when she and Don first set eyes on each other.
Born in Malta in 1940, to May (nee Brennan) and George Xuereb, Vicki entered a world at war. Malta, which was part of the British Empire, bore the brunt of German bombing in World War II and her name reflected her parents’ hope of a British victory. She has a vivid recall of those years of danger and food shortage. But it was also a time when unbreakable bonds were forged between family and friends.
Vicki’s father was in India with the British Army, when she was born – she was five and her older brother Jo was seven before he returned.
George Xuereb and his brothers ran a successful business, importing and exporting goods between Malta, Italy Greece and North Africa. He rejoined the business after the war, moving to Eritrea in East Africa – May, Vicki and Jo followed later, travelling by boat through a series of exotic ports.
Their years in Eritrea were idyllic – until Jo and Vicki were sent back to Malta to boarding school.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Exploring the merits of moving into the west
Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.
“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.
These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.
But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.
Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.
One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.
The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing
A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.
They lifted and footed his turf.
John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.
He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.
“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.
Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!
“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.
Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.
They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.
Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat
It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.
After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.
“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”
But it could have all been so different.
Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.
She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.
Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.
Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.
Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.