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Christmas gives parents a small insight into SantaÕs stresses



Date Published: 12-Dec-2012

Given that they were his own colours of choice, you’d have thought that Santa Claus would know the difference between the respective red and white shirts of Liverpool and Arsenal.

But when you wake up on Christmas morning to look under the tree, consumed with the expectation of finding a smaller version of the shirt regularly worn by Kevin Keegan, only to find that it’s the one associated with Alan Ball and Malcolm McDonald, then the day is off to the worst possible start.

And so it is that, for all of the great Christmases and perfect presents, it’s the year it all went wrong that lives longest in the memory – which is why all those elves at the North Pole are working overtime to ensure that mistakes are kept to the minimum.

And it also explains why the desire to get it right as soon as possible means the shops and websites are already inundated with browsers who want to ensure that Santa is provided with clear advice on what to leave under that tree.

And even with the combined efforts of Santa’s little helpers to keep costs down, this is big business in the shops – the UK toy market is the biggest in Europe, worth £2.9 billion in 2011, with Christmas responsible for £1 billion, or 34 per cent, of that.

Therefore – given the scale of this thing – the occasional disappointment has to go with the territory.


With the benefit of hindsight looking back over 40 years, perhaps Santa had too much on his mind back then, dropping millions of big parcels through tiny chimneys, but any football fan of any vintage will tell you that Arsenal’s red jersey has white sleeves, and if you get that wrong, you might as well go the whole hog and make it a Man United jersey altogether.

This was also the era before replica jerseys became the outfit of choice for males everywhere; there was no short sponsor and no badge, and the replication really went no further than the fact that they were roughly the same colour.

No Premiership pads, no number, no name, no crest, no aerodynamic fibre that accentuates the six pack for the professionals and highlights the consumption of a keg for the rest of us.

Of course, one of the other differences between then and now was that we understood the notion of delayed gratification – in other words, we got presents twice a year at most (birthdays and Christmas) and we spent several months looking forward to either or both.

Glynn’s was our only toy store and more often than not, that was experienced through the front window only; then came the Christmas visit to Santa and the chance to take a closer look at what might be coming your way if you were good.

But back then Christmas used to start on December 8, when all of us country people came into town – now it doesn’t even wait for Halloween to get out of your hair before the trees and the tinsel go up for what has become the two-month festive season.

So the first thing the shops do is come up with a top ten wish list of the toys that every girl and boy want this year – the toys that will then sell out before you can ensure Santa gets a full supply.

This year, if the shops still stock them so close to the big day, make sure he knows that web-shooting Spider-Man figurines, a Nerf gun that can hit victims up to 75 feet away, and ghoulish dolls such as Frankie Stein and Draculaura are on the ‘most sought-after’ list.

And still the old reliable rear their heads because Lego is there – even if it is a version of the Mines of Moria sequence from the Lord of the Rings films, whatever that might be – and an electronic dance version of Hasbro’s Twister.

So too are Furbies and Cabbage Patch Kids, which will bring to mind a whole different nightmare for thousands of parents from Christmases past, when these little creatures never made it under the tree.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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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