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Couple’s seventy years of love and devotion



Date Published: 31-Jan-2013


Staying married for any length of time has almost become a test of endurance in some societies, but one couple in Shantalla celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Wednesday which may very well make them the longest-married couple in the city.

Pat and Maureen Burke of Macdara Road, who are in their early nineties, couldn’t party because Pat is currently a patient in University Hospital Galway. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Mayor of Galway, Cllr Terry O’Flaherty visited Pat in the hospital where Maureen and family members had gathered to mark the occasion.

The couple were only 22 and 23 respectively when they got married at 7am in St Patrick’s Church seventy years ago last Wednesday, followed by a modest wedding breakfast in the Burke family home in Beattystown.

There was no honeymoon in the austere times of the early 1940s and with little work in Galway emigration was the only option despite being in the middle of World War 11. That is how Maureen found herself working in an ammunitions factory in London, having for a short while worked in the woollen mills in Mill Street.

Pat was working in the Galway Foundry, where he stayed for 30 years, and once the couple had decided to get married, he bought an engagement ring in Dillions and trusted a friend to deliver it to his bride-to-be in London.

Eventually, they secured a newly-built home in Shantalla, where they would raise fourteen children. Sadly, their first born, Dominic, died shortly after birth as did another daughter, Margaret Ann, about ten years later.

All of the fourteen, save two (Paddy in Portsmouth in the UK and Josephine in Jersey) live in and around Galway and among those are a set of twins, Martin and Martina.

Pat went on to work in the textile factory in Sandy Road until he moved to St Mary’s College, where he worked as a handyman for 17.

The couple had great faith and the Rosary was a daily occurrence anytime between 6.30pm and 7pm when whoever was home would kneel down to pray together as a family.

In fact, there was a real emphasis on prayer and, in particular, in times of need such as the time their daughter Josephine was very ill in hospital. Pat prayed to the Blessed Martin and she had what the family describe as a miraculous recovery.

And that faith has been handed down to the next generation as Pat and Maureen’s son, Paddy, who is in the British Navy, believes it saved him during the Falklands War when the ship he was on was sunk.

Pat loves hurling and rugby and still has a fantastic memory of sporting events.

Before he went into hospital a few months ago, Pat used to look forward to going to Taaffes Bar in Shop Street every Saturday morning to meet old friends.

Though there were many proud moments for the couple, one of their proudest was visiting Arás an Uachtaran and seeing their son Dominic, a member of the Red Cross, getting a President’s Trophy from President Mary McAleese for First Aid.

Another huge moment for Maureen was seeing her niece, Catherine Connolly becoming Mayor of the city. Catherine was one of 14 children left orphaned when their mother, Maureen’s beloved sister, Nans, died.

The Burkes continue to be a devoted couple – Pat is 93 on Thursday – and their legacy is the rearing of 14 children, who in turn have produced 40 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

For more on this story, see the Galway City 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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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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