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Blyton’s world of fantasy not confined to books

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Date Published: 24-Nov-2009

BACK before the world revolved around Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or other video games, boys with a sense of adventure made do with the comings and goings of the Famous Five as they spent Summer after glorious Summer solving mysteries and watching criminals who never seemed to know that Kirrin Island was the last place on earth you should hide out if you wanted to lie low.

Younger bookworms entered the world of Noddy and Big Ears and goblins and gollywogs, or escaped into the world of the Faraway Tree.

And every one of her millions of fans probably imagined Enid Blyton – the author of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Noddy and Malory Towers – to be the perfect mother, entering into a children’s world of fiction and fantasy at will.

BBC4’s new series, Women We Loved, certainly blew any notion of that sort of idyllic lifestyle out of the water with its opening programme, Enid, the story of the most popular children’s author ever.

She was herself a child of a broken home, and throughout her life, she was haunted by her father’s leaving. She blamed her mother and regarded her as dead from the minute she was able to leave home herself.

The portrait created by this study is not a pleasant one; Helena Bonham Carter is superb as the cold, single-minded, selfish mother who turned on the ‘perfect mother routine’ like a tap – but only when publicity for her books demanded it.

She marries her agent Hugh Pollack after he agreed to publish her early books, but he’s a man who drinks too much and she’s more pre-occupied with the world that holds Julian, Dick and Anne than she is with the real one.

Enid has difficulty conceiving, but then has two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, both of whom she subsequently does her best to ignore – most of the time, she seems to care more for her dogs. In her efforts to create this image as a perfect mother, she invites other children – those who read her books – to a tea party at her home, while at the same time banishing her own girls to the nursery.

By the beginning of World War II, she is making more money than the Chancellor of the Exchequer – she wrote 23 books that year alone – but she is growing both bored and tired of her husband.

That’s when she meets Kenneth Waters, a surgeon, at bridge when Hugh is in Sussex with the Home Guard – that quickly develops into an affair and eventually a marriage.

Cold-hearted as ever, she excludes Hugh from their children’s lives and even demands he isn’t allowed back to work as an agent at her publishers after the war.

Time and time again she is painted as a callous, singular woman who cares little for anyone around her but herself. She pretends her mother was dead years before she actually died; she never bothered with her brothers again after she left home, because she never wanted to see anything that reminded her of her past.

She successfully turned her life into a work of fiction, just like her books, but if she sold the world a pup during her lifetime, this drama certainly ensured she was painted in a very different light. And yet for all of that she was the woman who gave the world some of the best loved and bestselling children’s books of all times – she wrote an incredible 750 of them in a prolific career – before she died in 1968 aged 71 suffering from dementia.

This warts and all portrayal of Enid Blyton might have been on a minority channel but, with one and a quarter million viewers, it drew the second biggest audience BBC4 has ever enjoyed .

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Archive News

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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