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City’s ‘thrilling ride’ delights Lonely Planet



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



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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Little margin for error as footballers host Wexford in a critical league tie



Date Published: 21-Mar-2013

IN the context of the championship season ahead there is a bigger picture to look at, but for now, Galway footballers will be concentrating solely on getting a result from their Division 2 National Football League clash against Wexford at Pearse Stadium on Sunday (12.45).


Promotion is a mathematical possibility but realistically Galway will have an eye on avoiding the trapdoor to Division 3, as they are one of four mid-table teams locked on five points.

With Armagh (away on April 7) left after next Sunday, a home win in Pearse Stadium is an absolute essential for Alan Mulholland’s charges, but there has to be anxieties in the camp after the heavy defeat they suffered last weekend at the hands of Laois.

Galway struggled badly in a lot of key positions at Portlaoise and despite Wexford going down to Westmeath in Wexford Park last Monday, the visitors will have survival on their minds too on Sunday.

Wexford apparently did not get the ‘rub of the green’ last Sunday against Westmeath. They were going ‘great guns’ early in the second half, leading by 0-13 to 1-6, when midfielder Daithi Waters controversially got sent off.

The decision, by all accounts, changed the course of the match with Westmeath dominating possession from there on, before eventually winning by a 4-12 to 0-16 scoreline.

Wexford centre forward Ben Brosnan proved to be a real thorn in the Westmeath defence, kicking seven points from play and frees, so he will be a man to watch for the Galway defence on Sunday.

Galway report a clean bill of health for the Wexford match, but management may be considering at least some changes in the wake of the Laois defeat.

Selector Donal Ó Fatharta said that while Galway were very disappointed at the defeat in Portlaoise, it was a matter of re-grouping for what was a critical league tie against Wexford.

“After last weekend’s defeat, our priority must be to maintain our Division 2 league status and home wins in the league are vital.

“Laois were very strong on Saturday evening but Wexford too have put in some strong performances in the league – there are no easy games in this division.

“All our long term focus is on the May 19 championship clash with Mayo, and we are looking at a lot of players, but for the moment it really is a case of picking up two points on home soil against Wexford,” said Donal Ó Fatharta.

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Love and violence in new play that explores troubled history



Date Published: 27-Mar-2013

 Days of Darkness, the latest drama from city based community theatre group, Alâ will be staged at An Taibhdhearc Theatre from April 3-5.

It follows their success last November with a re-imagining of the story of the pirate queen, Gráinne Mhaol, which was presented in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.

With this new play, the company, which was set up to address social issues, again takes Ireland and its mythologies as subject matter and again the piece is being written and directed by Gerry Conneely.

“The idea was to do a series of four new plays and we started with Granuaile and The Pages of History to explore the mother/woman myth,” Gerry explains on a break from rehearsals.

“We are a forum theatre group, so we take on issues from contemporary life and we deal with them,” he adds.

Days of Darkness is set in the 1970s and its subject is darker than Granuaile and the Pages of History. It examines the development of a revolutionary republican group from its inception to its eventual disintegration through betrayal and fragmentation.

“We are exploring republicanism, nationalism and Marxism through a young couple who get tied up with the Troubles in a small left-wing group like the INLA. Both their lives are negatively impacted by their involvement,” Gerry says.

Days of Darkness explores a range of issues, including identity, religion, socialism and nationalism in the context of the Northern Ireland conflict. It also analyses the devastating impact of violence on the lives of its two central characters. Its message to the audience is not to forget the past because if when that happens, people are destined to repeat it.

That message is particularly relevant at present, with the rise of splinter republican groups following the Northern Ireland peace agreement. Many of these have formed relationships with criminal gangs in Dublin and in other cities and towns and, as the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising looms these groups are, to paraphrase Gerry Adams, “not going away”.

Given that there are so many young people out there who have no memory of the dark days of the 1970s, it’s important to inform them of how these paramilitary groups affected society in Ireland, both North and South, says Gerry.

The subject matter is undoubtedly serious, but it is treated humorously and lightly, according to Kinvara man, Gerry, who has extensive experience working with community theatre groups in Ireland.

“It’s as much a play about love as it is about politics,” he observes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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