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Crafty Jason brewing up a storm in pub world

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Date Published: {J}

The first business Jason O’Connell ever ran was making coleslaw and delivering it to bars around town on his bike from an ‘office’ in the Jes secondary school.

It was a modest start for the 41-year-old entrepreneur who is currently co-owner of three trendy bars in Galway and another in Dublin, with one more set to open in early January. All have a focus on microbrewed beers with one of them being one of only two microbrewery bars in the country.

Commerce teacher in the Jes, Pat Bracken had set up mini companies with students, drawing up business plans and bringing students to Shannon to see how small enterprises operated.

As part of the initiative, Jason rented an office in the school and ran Celtic Coleslaw. Another summer he ran the famous kiosk on the Prom, selling ice creams and beach paraphernalia.

That experience gave him a realistic taste of the ups and downs of running your own business. The first day the tills rang up £90. The very next day the fridges had to be refilled three times and he clocked up £1,000 in sales.

“It was a hot day and I thought this is the life, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. But then it rained for the rest of the summer,” he smiles wryly.

The experience led him to doing a Fás business course after which he opened a clothes shop on Abbeygate Street called Jeans Junction in 1991. But Galway wasn’t quite ready for yellow, red or even green jeans. The shop folded after two years and he decided to move to

Bristol where the hospitality industry beckoned.

The son of Bohermore native John O’Connell, who is well known in rallying circles, Jason moved with his three sisters back to the Claddagh from Derby in the UK when he was 10 years old.

“Very early on I wanted to work for myself. I was always driven by goals. I wanted to work in food, but never qualified as a chef. I started working for the Hilton group and it was my form of college. It was very structured. I started off as restaurant manager and became deputy GM (general manager) of the Hilton in Bath.”

At the time there was a real revolution happening in the British pub trade with customers demanding more than a ham and cheese sandwich with their pint of ale.

But it wasn’t just the concept of gastro pubs that was whetting the public appetite. In the 1970s, only eight microbreweries were operating in the UK. Following a campaign by a group called CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), some 800 now exist.

“In the 60s and 70s the mainstream beer companies changed their recipes to produce golden, cold and gassy beers. Life expectancy for a keg went to a year from six weeks.”

After six years he returned to Ireland, going to work for the Jurys Doyle Group in Dublin. There again he worked his way up to deputy general manager over four years. When they approached him about opening up a new Jurys in the UK it was time to make a life decision.

 

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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