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Bakery business is a piece of cake for Eileen

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Eileen Shiels is proof that it is never too late to follow your dreams – and from a mother of seven, that’s saying something.

The woman behind Bacús Bearna bakery has no notions of stopping either, and plans to add new products to the successful brand before the end of the year.

Originally from Moycullen, Eileen was one of thirteen children born to Martin and Bridget Barrett, and it was through her early home life that the love of baking first took hold.

“As a child, I was always watching my mother baking,” she recalls.

“All the girls were great cooks – the girls did everything for boys then – but there was no money to put people through college. I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do, and my mother thought this would be ideal, because I liked baking.”

Her mother was a friend of Kathleen Barrett (mother of Gerry), who ran a successful wedding cake business on Abbeygate Street. When she was 14, Eileen’s family moved into the city centre, across the road from Mrs Barrett, and the young teenager had a new lease of life.

“Coming in from the country was the greatest experience, we were near everything – and everything was so safe then, we walked to Seapoint and walked home,” Eileen says.

More significantly though, Eileen began training with Mrs Barrett. But, by the tender age of 16, the latter advised her to travel further afield.

So, Eileen moved to Skerries where she trained to be a confectioner. In those days, she needed to have five years of experience under her belt to be considered qualified.

But, once that period was over, she came home to Galway, and got a job in Silke’s Bakery in ‘The West’ area of the city.

One of the biggest businesses of their kind at the time, they had many products, and Eileen spent seven years learning every aspect of the trade. She then moved to Griffin’s Bakery, where she worked until shortly after getting married to Sean Shiels in 1970.

A Cavan man, working as a bricklayer on the Great Southern Hotel, they met at a dance in Seapoint Ballroom in August 1969. They were engaged by Christmas, and married the following July.

Seven children followed – Carolyn, Finola, Ronan, Shane, Aoife, Grainne, Rory – but Eileen never gave up on her dream.

“I’ve always baked, every Saturday morning I made bread and tarts for the weekend… Rory was just six when I started up (the business),” Eileen says.

“Sean said I was always talking about it, and then Lydon’s closed in Westside, and I went looking for a grant. But the attitude of the bank was: ‘bakeries are two a penny – open today and closed tomorrow’. I had been looking for €10,000, and then Údaras Na Gaeltachta gave me €5,000, and they suggested the name.”

In her converted garage, Eileen started up Bacús Bearna in 1993, assisted by her daughter, Finola, who gave up her job in Dunnes Stores. Carolyn looked after the younger children while her mother built-up her business. The recipes were her own, crafted over the many years she had spent working in the industry.

Her first customer was Peggy Deacy’s vegetable shop on Cooke’s Corner, from where demand quickly ballooned.

“She was always asking why didn’t I do it, that I could do the scones and apple tarts for them. She was taking about it, but in my head I thought it would never happen.

“But then, didn’t the lady giving them the stuff let them down, and she rang me. She asked would I make scones, tarts, and brown bread, and that she would need it for the following week.”

Another of her first stockists was the butcher, James Davoren, in Shantalla.

“His counter was filled every Saturday – they were flying off the shelves, it was marvellous,” she says.

“Then the phone started going all the time. I would deliver to the shops when I was bringing the kids to school, then I got a van and a driver, my nephew Gerard Murphy, for five or six years.

“There was such demand, we worked morning, noon, and night. And, after all the years, we’ve never changed any of the recipes, and have never cut back on the product. We haven’t touched the prices since 2007, even though everything else has gone up.”

Now firmly-established in shops and supermarkets throughout the city and county, and in parts of Clare and Mayo, Bacús Bearna’s appeal has always been its quality and homemade taste.

Eileen now employs eleven people (including her sons) and has three vans on the road, but corners are never cut – up to 100 boxes of apples have to be peeled every week, the pastry is homemade, and there are still no preservatives used.

Despite the fact that Bacús Bearna already supplies apple tarts, brown soda bread, wheaten bread, raisin bread, fruit loaf, rock buns, queen cakes, spelt bread, carrot cake, rhubarb tarts, and mince pies, the grandmother of six has plans to introduce more products before the end of 2014.

Incidentally, Eileen’s daughter, Finola, has followed in her mother’s footsteps and set up a success story of her own. ‘Manor Hill Home Bakery’ is based in Longford, but has a very wide client base, with stockists in Dublin, Monaghan, Westmeath, and Roscommon.

CITY TRIBUNE

Living with the ignominy of anonymity on social media

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Technically, I am on Facebook and Twitter, but I can never seem to quite motivate myself to tell all my virtual friends that my dog has overeaten today; that the cat has disappeared again without a word of explanation; or that the neighbour down the road is driving out in a brand-new car.

At times, I imagine that I’m suffering from some type of serious personality disorder because of my failure to get excited about sharing the most boring details of my daily chores with a cohort of people, some of whose names I am familiar with, while others could have no possible connection to my existence on this planet.

Mind you, I bear no animosity towards those people who want to befriend me via the world of fibre optics and instant communication from any part of the globe, but neither do I harbour any great desire to start up conversations about the banalities of life.

It really is bad enough to have to endure and survive those tribulations every day without having to trouble my newly-acquired set of friends – that I don’t know – with the details of how good or bad my day has been.

I’m sure that there are super ‘shrinks’ out there who will make a case for the virtue of being able to share your daily woes and wonders with those in the world of cyber space, but a thousand Facebook communications (not that I’ll ever make them) just can never compensate me for a face-to-face interaction with an old friend or even a regular verbal sparring partner in the local watering hole, who can jibe me about some alleged minor transgression on my part over recent times.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Huge study gives thumbs up to dairy in the diet

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Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Every time I go to a café, I am amazed by the offering now available for people who no longer want to add milk to their brew. Even in the tiniest of coffee kiosks, they stock oat, soy or almond milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, usually for a surcharge of around 50c, reflecting the high cost of these alternatives.

The big food companies have lately got in on the act, offering non-dairy yogurts in the convenient small pots in most supermarkets. Customers no longer have to head to the health store for these premium, specialist products.

The trend to non-dairy and vegan diets – which means no animal products at all – has certainly become mainstream among Generation Z and Millennials.

But is it good for your health?

A comprehensive new study originating in Sweden would suggest otherwise – at least when it comes to the consumption of dairy.

The international team of scientists studied the dairy fat consumption of 4,150 adults aged 60 living in Sweden which has the world’s highest levels of dairy production and consumption.

They measured blood levels of a particular fatty acid that is mostly found in dairy foods rather than relying on people recording the amounts and types of dairy foods eaten, which may be unreliable given that dairy is commonly used in a variety of foods.

Experts then followed this group for an average of 16 years to observe how many died, had heart attacks, strokes and other conditions indicating cardiovascular disease (CVD). After statistically adjusting for other known CVD risk factors such as age, income, lifestyle, dietary habits, they concluded that those with higher intakes of dairy fat had a lower risk of CVD compared to those with low intakes.

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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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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At the official opening of the new tile factory in Portumna on January 13, 1967.

1921

Tenants’ desperation

That the land question is far from settled in certain areas is obvious to those who have been reading the series of articles contributed to these columns by a correspondent in South Galway. The slowness of the Congested Districts Board has been proverbial.

Our correspondent suggests that failure to effect local settlements within a reasonable time, coupled with the inefficiency he charges, have brought about a condition of discontent which may result in a violent explosion at any moment.

No one could contemplate with equanimity such an outburst, for it might have an effect far beyond that intended and might endanger national peace at a period when its preservation is of supreme moment to the Irish people.

But it would seem indisputable that the Congested Districts Board is taking risks that no public body is entitled to take; and the completion of the division of the estates involved should be pushed forward in the public interest without further unnecessary delay.

The tenants on the Ardilaun estate at Cong have already taken the matter into their own hands. At a meeting attended by congests, some of whom walked fifteen miles to be present, it was declared that all confidence had been lost in the Congested Districts Board “which has long since practically ceased to function on this estate” and the tenants requested Dáil Éireann to take over the administration.

The facts in regard to the Ardilaun property are sufficiently remarkable to afford in themselves a damnatory criticism of the Board’s methods. It contains seven hundred householders, whose average valuation is from 15s. to £3. Congestion and poverty is abound; there is little untenanted land to relieve either.

Migration of bodies of tenants is the only real and permanent remedy. But nine years after the late Lord Ardilaun expressed his desire to sell, the Congested Districts Board has not, it would appear, put forward any real effort to relieve a distressing situation.

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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