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Buzz of arts world lured John from steady job



Date Published: 12-Jul-2012

Spearheading a festival that costs €2million to stage and remains one of the biggest such events in the country is no mean feat.

Yet the man at the helm of the Galway Arts Festival which kicks off on Monday is as calm as a cucumber, even if there are 160 performances, talks and exhibitions in 27 venues around the city and county in the next 14 days.

John Crumlish, the Festival’s Chief Executive, says he works with “an excellent team” who have been supported fantastically by “a loyal and sophisticated audience” since the event was founded in 1978.

He admits he has “one of the best jobs in the world”, not only because he is involved with one of the best festivals in the world but because of the people he works with.

“I work with the nicest people and it’s a pleasure to come to work every morning because of that, not to mention the excitement of organising gigs, events, exhibitions, parades and concerts,” he says.

It sounds overwhelming but it’s all in a day’s work for John, who hails from Carndonagh in County Donegal and who came to Galway to study psychology in NUIG.

“I fell in love with Galway sure as soon as I got here. Derry was our nearest city at home but Galway had a buzz about it.”

He then went to Ulster University to do a Masters and after that taught psychology for two years in the North West College of Technology. He says he knew early enough that a life of teaching wasn’t for him.

“I was more excited attending gigs in Derry, where I first saw The Waterboys, The Undertones and Petrol Emotions. Some of the best gigs ever were in the Rialto Cinema in Derry.

“But I never got Galway out of my system and I jumped at an opportunity to return here when a friend, Declan Gibbons, asked me to write music with him for the summer. That was the summer Macnas put Gulliver on parade and then brought it to Dublin. I had never seen anything like it in my life. . . I was hooked.

“When Pearse Doherty, who is also from Carndonagh, was recruiting for volunteers to help with Gulliver, I said yes and that was the first time I took part in the Macnas Parade.”

John had commitments to his job so he returned to teaching but lasted just another year before he packed it all in to move to Galway full-time. By this stage, himself and Declan had their own band, The Sleepwalkers, which he felt justified his move to the City of the Tribes – though others might have thought it was a foolish decision at the time, leaving a full-time teaching post to write songs and play in a band!

Time has proven that John did the right thing when he moved to Galway and immersed himself in the arts to start a whole new career.

Leaving the North had nothing to do with The Troubles, which he describes as being “full on at the time, but it didn’t bother us”. The move was all about his new found ‘grá’ for Galway, which in turn has led to his love of the Irish language.

John sang with the band, which played pop music and some of its own original music. He describes it as “very enjoyable but definitely not profitable”.

So he joined Macnas full-time. “My technical abilities were limited so I got into management by default.”

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

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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