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City’s ‘thrilling ride’ delights Lonely Planet

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 22-Jan-2010

GALWAY City gets a glowing report card in the latest edition of the world’s most popular guidebook, which describes it as arty, bohemian and one non-stop party – a mix that makes for “a thrilling ride”.

The chapter on Galway in the ninth edition of the Lonely Planet opens on such a cheery note that we could almost forget our recessionary woes.

“County Galway presents a major problem: its namesake main city is such a charmer that you might not be able to tear yourself away to the countryside. Conversely (perversely?), the wild and beautiful Aran Islands and Connemara Peninsula might keep you captive such that you’ll never have time for the city. What to do? Both, of course!”

In its section dedicated to the capital of the West, the writer lauds our brightly painted pubs heaving with music and cafes which offer front row seats to observe all the street performers.

The guide points out that although steeped in history, Galway City still has a contemporary vibe, owing to its large student makeup.

“Remnants of the medieval town walls lie between shops selling Aran sweaters, handcrafted Claddagh rings, and stacks of second-hand and new books. Bridges arc over the salmon-filled River Corrib, and a long promenade leads to the seaside suburb of Salthill, on Galway Bay, the source of the area’s famous oysters,” the guide states.

Unsurprisingly, it hails the Volvo Ocean Race as the highlight of last year and described the city as a Celtic Monaco, when “enormous globe-trotting yachts and accompanying glitterati invaded the city”.

And in a thumbs up for the massive behind-the-scenes effort for all parties involved in the event’s logistics, the guide states: “Besides spending lots of cash, the visitors inspired a general clean-up around town, including the removal of some eyesore oil tanks near the gentrifying harbour.”

This newspaper even scores a mention, when former Tribune columnist Charlie Adley describes his perfect day as sitting on a rock on the beach at Salthill watching the tide turn, and watching the world go by outside Neachtain’s pub.

The only slightly sour note is sounded about our infamous climate: “Galway is a very rainy city, even by Irish standards, and water can play a major role in your visit here, whether you’re dodging it from the skies, walking along the bay shore or exploring paths along the river, creeks and canals.”

Sheridan’s pub may not be so happy either as their pub as been banished from existence and its neighbour, Bar No 8, installed in its place below the well-reviewed restaurant.

Among the new highlights of the guide’s city review is a nod to our home grown brew, which it says is a bright spark on the country’s bleak record for beers. The creation of cousins Ronan Brennan and Aidan Murphy, Hooker is described as a tasty pale ale, which will earn visiting drinkers the respect of the locals.

Outside of the city and apart from the Aran Islands, Connemara and Inishbofin, some of the highlights recommended by the guidebook include Brigit’s Garden in Roscahill, and the less touristic hotspots of Athenry, Loughrea, Ballinasloe and Portumna.

Elsewhere, the guide is not quite so enamoured by Ireland and its people, complaining that what made us a top touristic destination is all but gone. The guide says “traditional Ireland of the large family, closely linked to church and community, is quickly disappearing” and that you have to travel to islands and isolated rural communities to find an older version of society.

It calls the new Ireland “a land of motorways and multiculturalism, planned and developed in between double decaf lattes and time-out at the latest spa for a thermal mud treatment”.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 03-Apr-2013

TUAM AQUACULTURE COMPANY TO CREATE 30 JOBS

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After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.

Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.

After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.

“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.

Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”

She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.

In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.

The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.

“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”

After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.

“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”

Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.

Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.

The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.

Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.

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

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