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Craftsman’s labour of love creates mini Cathedral



He worked on the actual construction of Galway Cathedral all of fifty years ago – and for its Golden Jubilee, Harry Lawton decided to do it all again….only this time in miniature and all on his own.

Now his perfectly proportioned scale model of the magnificent landmark will be on display for all to see during next week’s Solemn Novena, which runs from Monday next until Tuesday, February 23.

It squared the circle of the skilled carpenter from Fr. Griffin Road who started his apprenticeship on the Galway Cathedral build in 1958, at just sixteen years old.

John Sisk was the builder and Jack Lillis was the Site Manager or Foreman. Lillis, he remembers as “a hard man to work for”. Leniency was not his forte; he didn’t suffer fools gladly and ran a tight ship.

Harry recalls cycling to the site one morning arriving at 8:02am. The foreman overshadowed him and bellowed in his ear “Do you think this is a holiday camp?”

Later in life, he says the two became more acquainted and Jack admitted “I know I was hard on you” but maintained that it was for his own good – “you were never late for work again,” he said.

The building itself was made using local natural materials including two shades of local limestone. The high walls are in rock-faced stone, and a finely-chiselled light grey limestone accents the windows, doors, arches, columns and moulding. The coffered ceiling is in cedar and the altar, sanctuary and main passageway floors are in marble.

The arches of the cathedral are supported by great steel beams. Harry was present from the very beginning and informs that the first column and arch was erected in the nave of the Cathedral just outside the bookshop.

Four dedicated carpenters spent 18 months working on the beams and supporting arches; Harry Lawton, Tom Browne, Jimmy Comer, and Michael Garvey. They had to ensure its structural integrity.

The Cathedral took seven years to build, and for most of the time working there, they didn’t have a roof over their heads. On wet days, they were tasked with finding old bits of wood and yanking the nails from them.

The foreman would instruct them to do random odd jobs when the weather intervened, preventing productive work.

“They did this for three reasons,” explained Harry, “to prevent workers becoming lazy; to give them something to do, and to save on nails”.

The work ethic bred into Harry from a young age stayed with him for the remainder of his working days – and even into his retirement.

Harry and his wife Mai have five children; Shirley, Maria, Valerie, Harry Jr., and Brian; thirteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Like his carpenter father Harry Sr., and son, Harry Jr. – Harry extends that he is happiest when engaged in something creative. Indeed Harry worked alongside his son Harry Jr. for twenty years.

Creating a build to scale model was a passion he harboured for a long time. “I always wanted to do it” he says.

The build took him two years to complete. Having just retired, he decided to take a nonchalant relaxed approach to work. On a typical day he would work from 11am to 3 or 4pm, allowing time for breaks and holidays.

“I did it for my own enjoyment,” he explains and describes the experience of model making as “a labour of love”. The completed model replica is done to ¼” scale.

The model is made from yellow pine – a wood with no knots that is also harder and heavier than other commercial species of pine.

The replica model is held together via glue, pins and nails, while this roof is made of perspex, allowing people to view the inside which is also replicated.

Around €2,500 worth of materials went into creating the mini cathedral. “All materials were sourced from local suppliers,” he says, mentioning local suppliers Thomas McDonagh and T Ó hUiginn.

Noel Fitzpatrick is the electrician responsible for lighting the model Cathedral.

The very able seventy-something year-old is already planning his next model – and while he won’t reveal details just yet as they wait approval, he does conceded that it will be another iconic Galway building.

The Galway Solemn Novena will run from Monday 15 February until Tuesday 23 February at Galway Cathedral. Week day Mass times are at 7:45am, 1:10pm, 3:30pm, 7:30pm, 9pm and mass will be said at 9am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 4:30pm, 6:30pm and 8pm on Sunday.

The Candle Light meditation sessions will take place at 10pm on Wednesday 17 and Monday 22 and last about an hour.


Cyclists and disability groups don’t feel the love for ‘kissing gate’ barriers



From the Galway City Tribune – Cyclists and disability groups long campaigning for the removal of ‘kissing gates’ on popular routes were overjoyed to see the one at ‘the Swamp’ in the Claddagh removed last week.

But their joy quickly turned to anger when it was returned a few days later. They learned that it had only been taken out to facilitate a private company. Grant Thornton had organised a 5K run along the Salthill Promenade for corporate staff and sports teams.

Gráinne Faller, who organises the Sundays4Safety awareness campaigns in Salthill, said she could not believe how quickly the Council could act to remove, then replace the barrier when bike groups have been calling for their removal for years, only to be met with inaction.

“These gates lock so many people out of our parks and playgrounds. How can we justify blocking access to public spaces? They are ableist, ageist and they block people with buggies and bikes. They really discriminate against parents. And then we learn that the Council is claiming that this isn’t a problem? We wait. And wait. It is not okay. It’s Council-sanctioned discrimination.”

Chairperson of the campaign group, Neasa Bheilbigh, said the gates excluded families and people with mobility impairments from using safe active travel routes to school and public amenities.

“To suggest quiet routes through housing estates and parks are not active travel routes, shows a lack of understanding about how people move in our city,” she insisted.

She highlighted the fact that the National Transport Authority (NTA) has committed to providing funding to remove barriers to promote universal access.

“I always feel safer cycling than walking at night, but having to dismount leaves me feeling vulnerable. The Council don’t seem to grasp the needs of people who use non-standard bikes as mobility aids and who cannot dismount or have the strength to navigate through these barriers.”

Liam Ferrie from Menlo said he was long past retirement age but he found his e-bike was a great way of getting around Galway.

“Last Sunday I cycled a total of 28km without any difficulty – apart from a very close pass by a motorist. However, if I had come to a kissing gate I’d have had to turn back as there is no way I could lift the bike through it.”

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for the National Ambulance Service, Reg Turner, said his family cycles along the Terryland Forest park en route to school and they have to manoeuvre a large cargo bike carrying his baby son through a kissing gate.

“My seven-year-old calls them jail gates. She says she is sick of lifting her bike and asks when are they coming to remove the gates. The crazy thing is the forest can be accessed from various other exits and entrances which don’t have these gates.”

At a Galway City Council meeting last July, City Council Director of Services for Transport, Patrick Greene, told councillors the NTA had written to Councils acknowledging that kissing gates were problematic for some users.

He said the NTA was working to come up with a new design for gates that are more accessible for users such as people on cargo bikes, pram users and people in wheelchairs, and the Council would act on any recommendations from the NTA once an alternative was sourced.

He said the City Council was planning to do an audit of all kissing gates across Galway.

Cllr Noel Larkin stated that without kissing gates, housing estates and public parks would be more accessible to vehicles and could result in antisocial behaviour.

Cllr Donal Lyons said motorbikes and other vehicles could access public parks and amenity areas if they were removed and not replaced.

(Photo: A cargo bike stuck at a kissing gates. The City Council removed one in Claddagh recently for a road race but then reinstated it).

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune, September 23. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

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Council needs extra loans for home-buying scheme



From the Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has had to draw down further loans to keep up with demand for the Local Authority Home Loan Scheme.

At a meeting of the City Council, Director of Services for Housing, Brian Barrett, said they had initially sought approval from councillors for a loan of €4.1 million but such was the demand that they required a further €1.4 million.

A renewed Local Authority Home Loan was announced in December last year and provides for Government-backed mortgages for first-time buyers and ‘fresh-start’ applicants – those who are divorced or separated, or who have undergone personal insolvency or bankruptcy.

The scheme was introduced to provide lower interest rate mortgages to those who are creditworthy but would otherwise find it difficult to access sufficient finance.

Mortgages up to 90% of the value of the property are available, with a limit of €320,000 applicable to Galway. An income ceiling of €65,000 applies to single applicants, or €75,000 in the case of a joint application.

Mr Barrett said since the original scheme was launched in February 2018, 277 applications had been received by Galway City Council and 120 had been approved.

Twenty-three of those loans applied to the Tenant Purchase Scheme for local authority tenants buying-out their homes.

“In February, councillors approved a loan of €4.1 million and we need another €1.4 million . . . we require €5.5 million,” said Mr Barrett, who explained this applied to 2022 applications only.

The funding would be borrowed by the Council from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) raised the issue of joint applications in the case of parents and an adult child who wished to buy out a local authority house under the Tenant Purchase Scheme.

“There is a situation arising where a parent with a son or a daughter in the house and the parent is in their 60s. After getting approved, they go to the Housing Finance Agency and they’re told they can only get a four-year mortgage – they waste five months getting approved to be told that,” he said, explaining that money would not be loaned for a period beyond when the parent turns 70.

“That information was not relayed to the Council,” added Cllr McDonnell.

Dermot Mahon of the Council’s Housing Department said he was aware of this issue, but it was part of the scheme.

“The loan scheme specifies that the maximum age of the eldest borrower is 70,” said Mr Mahon.

Councillors agreed to increase the loan, bringing it to €5.5 million.

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City councillors pack their bags for Dutch transport junket



From the Galway City Tribune – A group of city councillors will be packing their bags for Holland in the coming weeks as part of an initiative to introduce them to revolutionary transport solutions.

A meeting of the Council heard that the National Transport Authority (NTA) was willing to fund a trip for councillors to an area similar to Galway – in order to highlight the possibilities in relation to sustainable travel.

Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that the NTA “feel it would be beneficial for councillors to see some of the solutions implemented in other areas”.

“It would be to a town in Holland, similar in size to Galway, to see their active travel solutions,” said Mr McGrath.

There would be no cost to the City Council, he added.

The meeting heard the trip would last three days and would be open to nine councillors – half of the full Council – while two City Hall officials would accompany them.

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