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Death of the bedsit marks the end of an era



Date Published: 28-Nov-2012

Long before we lost the run of ourselves with our luxury apartments and fancy duplexes, living in a bedsit was a right of passage for every student and civil servant worth their salt.

Some of them were dingy to the point that your best friend was the rising damp; hot water often came in the form of a steel unit over the sink and heat came from sitting in the broken armchair wrapped in your sleeping bag.

But soon the world of bedsits – at least in Ireland – will be no more because of former Green Party leader John Gormley’s parting gift.

And while those of us who came through the bedsit era unscathed may look back with nostalgia on the days of our youth, the reality is that there are many people who now would be able to afford a place to rent.

No matter how attached you might be to the room that trebles as a kitchen, sitting room and bedroom, if you could afford it you know you’d be in an apartment.

But there are those who have never managed to make that move – never mind found the cash for an actual house – and now they are being forced from their homes through ill-conceived legislation.

Under new rules, which come into effect early in 2013, one-room units can no longer be rented because all rental accommodation must have a separate room with ‘sanitary facilities’; or a bathroom in plain English.

But not just a toilet and sink – you must also provide a fixed bath or a shower with hot and cold water. The fact that there is just such a facility but it’s shared between four or six isn’t good enough.

Of course, we’d all prefer our own bathroom in an ideal world – especially when one of your fellow bedsitters returns home late from the pub and falls asleep in the one convenience, leaving the rest of the house holding onto their business until they made it into work.

And without a doubt, there are ‘flats’ out there that shouldn’t be used to house farm animals let alone human beings. But supply and demand dictates that some people cannot afford the lap of luxury – and in those circumstances, a shared toilet isn’t the worst inconvenience that could be bestowed on you.

I have lived in basements, attics and garages in my time – I’ve been so cold that I’d wear most of my clothes while cooking the sausages and toast that used to constitute a balanced diet.

I had one bedsit that seemed to have been selected by the mouse world as a Dublin base for all of their activities and I had a place in Cork where the floor sloped alarmingly from all sides towards the centre.

I had one flat where the bed had to fold up into the wall in order to make space to move around it.

I had another where a sliding door meant you could only access either the tiny bathroom or bijou kitchen – but given that when you were in one the door blocked the other, you couldn’t enter both at the same time.

Which was fine when you were on your own, but if you had visitors who suffered from claustrophobia, you daren’t use the bathroom while they were mooching in the kitchen for fear of pinning them to what was laughably called a cooker.

But early next year, the days of eight flats in a standard three bedroomed house are at an end and while there will be some who won’t know where to turn to for a new, upgraded place to rent, there probably won’t be too many tears shed for a throwback to a bygone era.

And anyway it’s not like there aren’t empty spaces up for rent or purchase just now – half of the houses in Leitrim are vacant and virtually all of Longford is empty, thanks to Albert Reynolds’ tax relief scheme.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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