Date Published: 28-Feb-2008
“Holding the mirror up to people and saying ‘that’s what life is like’ is irresponsible for film-makers. We must first question that reflection” says Seán Ó Cualáin, a documentary film-maker from Cill Chiaráin, Connemara who has made over twenty films in the Gaeltacht since beginning his company, Sónta, there five years ago.
“I despise it in documentary film-making that local stories were told up until the beginning of TG4 and, even still, about Connemara people from an outside perspective,” he says.
Seán was born in London in 1977. His father, John was a gas worker and his mother, Terry was a nurse in Holloway Prison. They were adamant that their four children should be reared at home. They returned to Loch an Aortha in 1978 to live beside Seán’s paternal grandparents.
“It was brilliant having them next door, because it was a whole different world. I knew there was something very different about their house because it was where the old people came telling their stories,” he says.
“It was idyllic really — going on the bog and up the mountain after cows. I remember waking up in the morning and the sound of the scythe being sharpened. When I look back, I can still smell the cut hay.”
He went to school in Cill Chiaráin and Cárna where, Seán says, “the craic was too good, so I continued secondary school in Rosmuc until 1996.
“Football was my life more than the studies! But we had very good teachers throughout — they treated us like men rather than kids — they dealt with us as adults,” he says. When Seán and his brother Eamonn were children they………………..
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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
Folk group The Unthanks make a welcome return
Date Published: 24-Jan-2013
English folk group, the Unthanks make a welcome return to Róisín Dubh on Sunday, February 24.
Their unique approach to storytelling involves using a kaleidoscope of unlikely instruments and spanning a bridge between past and present. It’s hard to conceive how music could sound so traditional and adventurous at once.
While their three albums to date have received much acclaim, the Mercury Music Prize nominated Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank have garnered most praise for their live performances. Stories of love, loss, birth, death, brawls and booze make for a rollercoaster ride through the human condition.
Rachel and Becky’s folk-club singing influences are set against otherworldly musical pictures, arranged by a band who draw inspiration from artists varying from Steve Reich to Miles Davis, Martin Hayes to Robert Wyatt, Portishead to Sufjan Stevens.
The Unthanks have fans as disparate as members of Radiohead and Portishead, Nick Hornby, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Adams, Paul Morley, Ben Folds, Rosanne Cash and Dawn French
They have been described as “supernaturally ancient and defiantly modern, as coldly desolate as achingly intimate”. For their Galway show will play music from their new album, as well as from their previous records.
This gig is not just for committed folkies – anyone with a love for heartfelt, well-played and moving music should check them out.
Doors 9pm, tickets €20/€18.
January 31, 2013
Date Published: 30-Jan-2013
Shots at midnight
Further particulars regarding the shooting outrage at Castlelambert have come to light during the week. It appears that the night was remarkably bright, and that the figure of a man could be discerned a long distance off.
A police patrol was ambushed near Caulfield’s house, and saw the attacking party approach, and at the same moment several shots were discharged at the house. The police got ready to fire in an instant, and as the firing party passed out through a gateway near the house, the police discharged several shots.
One of the men was seen to fall, and when the police went in the direction where the man was supposed to have fallen, they discovered a gate post, which had received most of the volleys fired.
Owing to the incident which took place at Craughwell, they did not deem it advisable to press too hard on the retreating foe. Besides, they discovered that in a hill some distance away a number of men were concentrated, probably to cover the retreat, so the patrol had to await reinforcements before moving into the mountain.
The attack was made with great daring, and the party had a hair breadth escape.
Galway felt the full brunt of the second storm within a fortnight which swept the West coast on Friday night. A strong gale accompanied by heavy rain and lightning was the first indication of the ensuing storm, which lasted into the early hours of Saturday morning.
Lashing rain swept the streets clear of pedestrians, and the wind, which at times reached a velocity of nearly a mile a minute, tore advertising slogans from outside business houses. Coupled with this, flying slates and masonry made walking positively dangerous, so that Galway around midnight assumed a ghost-like appearance.
A large tree in Newcastle-road was struck by lightning, and when falling, it hit the overhead electric cables, disconnecting many lights in the district.
Falling slates and masonry caused blackouts in Taylor’s Hill, Salthill and the docks districts. Working under appalling weather conditions, special men from the Electricity Supply Board had all the wires in the affected areas repaired inside half an hour.
The wind-swept Corrib overflowed its banks at many points, and in Mill-street, Galway, flooded the road but did not enter the houses.
A strike began on the Tuam building clearance scheme on Wednesday evening. Carpenters and joiners are not affected. The cause of the dispute is the allegation made by the carters of sand that the contractors, Messrs. Bermingham and Sons, Galway, have not carried out their agreement with the men’s Union to give the drawing of fifty per cent of the sand required in the buildings to the carters, and that the contractors employed lorries which drew more than fifty per cent of the sand. The services of some of the carters were dispensed with recently and the Union appealed to the Town Commissioners to try and have the carters reinstated.
The Commissioners were sympathetic, but their efforts failed and the contractors alleged in a letter to the Board that the carters had actually drawn much more than their share. The contract is for 82 houses under a clearance order made by the Town Commissioners being built at Cloontoo and Galway roads. About forty men are affected by the strike.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.