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City shows its heart to couple in crisis

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Dec-2009

AN elderly Australian couple who had to spend over nine weeks in Galway after the husband fell into a coma during a two night stay last summer have expressed huge gratitude to two city businesses for their “unbelievable hospitality” during their ordeal.

The family of Keith Hawkins, who came to Ireland to celebrate his 70th birthday in July, wrote to Failte Ireland to highlight how the staff of Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Big O Taxis, and University College Hospital looked after them during a difficult time.

They have extended season’s greetings from Australia to all the people who provided wonderful hospitality to them during their stay in Galway.

Keith and his wife, Trish, only expected to spend two nights at the hotel when they checked-in as part of an Australian ‘Scenic Tours’ group who were on a two week guided holiday in Holland, Britain, and Ireland.

Keith had gone to a doctor in Dublin the previous day, complaining of back pain after the long flight from Australia. He was prescribed some anti-inflammatory tablets before he came to Galway and collapsed in his room at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel at about 5am on the morning after his arrival.

After being rushed to hospital, he slipped into a coma and was diagnosed with a large epidural abscess. His wife, unable to join the rest of the group when they left Galway the following day, ended up spending over nine weeks at the hotel and became so friendly with the staff that she even joined them for staff outings.

Their son, Paul, and his partner, Kelly, made a dash to Galway from Perth, arriving four days later, and Paul also joined Trish for two weeks in the hotel.

This week, Keith wrote to Failte Ireland to thank everyone for their help during their crisis and to confirm he has made a remarkable recovery.

Paul, amazed by the hospitality they received, said that he was compelled to bring the matter to the attention of the Irish tourism authorities. “What I wish to bring to your attention is the outstanding service provided by Big O Taxis and all the staff at the hospital,” said Paul. “We travelled to and from Glenlo each day by Big O and found their drivers to be polite, responsive, and very helpful.

“Most of all, I want to mention the staff at Glenlo Abbey. I stayed there for two weeks, my partner seven days, and my mum for over nine weeks while dad was in hospital. All the employees afforded us hospitality that was way beyond what I could have expected. We were treated like family in a city where we knew no-one in a time of uncertainty.”

Mr. Hawkins said neither the hotel or taxi company were seeking any publicity when they went out of their way to help his family.

For more on this story see page 16 of this week’s City Tribune


Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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

Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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Archive News

A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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