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Cards can just be for Christmas after all



Date Published: 28-Dec-2012

 I’D be the first one to admit that I don’t send Christmas cards, just as I rarely bother with birthday cards, absolutely abhor Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards and can only laugh at the notion of sending them for Easter or St Patrick’s Day.

When we’re on holidays, I’m never the one to send postcards – not least because I’m always back home before they are and also because there’s nothing more annoying for the recipient than heading out to work with an image of someone else’s holiday view in your head.

And yet even I was surprised by how few Christmas cards dropped onto the doormat this year – not to mention how rare they were in the office.

Time was you couldn’t see the desk for the flow for Christmas cards. Some of them were from people you’d never heard of and some of them were from PR people and politicians who mustn’t have known me because they didn’t put my name on the card and their signature came in the form of a stamp.

Still, they were cards that could be lined up along the wall behind you as a reflection – however misguided – of your popularity in the wider world.

Now it looks like the Christmas card equivalent of tumbleweed twisting slowly along your empty shelves.

Instead we were inundated this year with emails from people who told us that they weren’t sending cards to anyone, but still managed to find fifteen seconds in their busy schedule to include us in a group message to wish us all of the joys of the season with every hope for a brighter 2013.

Some even shopped for a little animated cartoon to go along with this general mail; we had snow falling on a forest, Santa coming down a dirty, sooty chimney, Rudolph with his nose glowing red every three seconds – that sort of thing.

A few claimed they weren’t sending cards because they were donating the money to a good cause – frankly, while I’d love to believe them, I think the good cause they had in mind might have been the till of their local pub.

Perhaps my poor return is entirely my own fault for not sending cards to anyone for years – although there were other members of our household who have been more diligent and have even forged my signature on cards, so that I don’t seem like the Grinch – but maybe it’s also down to the lost art of letter writing.

These days the only handwritten notes we get are prescriptions from doctors whose writing we cannot decipher in the first place.

It’s too easy to send an email or a text, and obviously it’s not just cheaper – it’s free – but equally, you get what you pay for. And you’ll find it very hard to string text messages on a length of ribbon over the mantelpiece. I may have to review my position on sending – not just so that I start getting cards back, but just so that we can keep the tradition alive.

Memories are made of Christmas cards drawn by little hands in the classroom, spidery pictures of Santa or ones of the Baby Jesus with a giant star hovering overhead, looking perilously close to crushing the entire crib.

We remember when cards were made from thin sheets of card that wouldn’t even start a fire, before they had to become – literally – all singing, all dancing giants of things that sang jingle Bells or Silent Night every time you opened them.

Perhaps that’s where the rot set in; because instead of covering the cost of cards for all of your friends and relatives with twenty quid, it now became a major project to buy individual cards for everyone – or at least make sure that you didn’t send the same Nativity scene to two people who might then be visiting each other’s houses over the Christmas.

There’s also another side to this whole card thing – because there are many charities who depend more and more on the proceeds they receive from the sale of their Christmas cards, and that’s another good reason to stay in the loop.

But the main reason is that, despite my reservations regarding spurious celebrations concocted by card companies, there is something about a handwritten greeting that texts or emails will never beat.

And as the great man once said in a different context, it is in giving that we receive – and if we don’t play the Christmas card game by sending a few, we cannot really have cause for complaint if we then find ourselves left out of the loop.

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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