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Discovering the treasure on our own front door

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Date Published: {J}

With money tight and the recent volcanic ash cloud making one think twice about taking to the skies, more and more people are continuing to look at holiday options at home, especially those with young families.

Some people are considering not even wandering outside their own county borders, instead preferring to discover hidden gems in their own back yard, so to speak, and considering Galway is the second largest county in Ireland, covering almost 2,500 square miles, there is plenty to discover here.

Brigit’s Garden in Roscahill, Glengowla Mines in Oughterard, the Aran Islands, Coole Park, Turoe Pet Farm outside Loughrea, the Battle of Aughrim Interpretative Centre, Spiddal Craft Centre, the Marconi Station in Clifden, the Galway City Museum – all places worth a visit during the Summer.

Galway has its own fair share of castles as well, which are in varying states of disrepair, such as Glinsk Castle in north east Galway, Cloghan Castle near Loughrea, Menlo Castle in Galway City, and Oranmore Castle.

Oranmore village takes its name from a great well, also called Poul na Gour, which is located near the castle. The well was fed by a river stream to the south of Oranmore, which The Connacht Tribune of 1921 described as expanding “in a broad watery termination called the Reask, where it went underground”.

There appears to be no record of when the castle was first built. The style and architecture of the building suggests it was built in the early 1400s, but as the site commands the old road, which ran along the castle, to Galway City from both the south and the east – the original stone bridge connecting Oranmore and Galway can still be seen at low water – it is very likely that the castle was built on the site of an earlier castle or fort, possibly from the 13th century. There is one school of thought that suggests the front tower was built then, with the great hall added in the early 1400s.

The castle as we know it today was built by the invading Normans and was used as a garrison to house soldiers. In the 17th century the Earl of Clanricarde held the castle for King Charles I, and used the adjacent pier to supply the besieged garrison. Galway City fell to General Ireton, the son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, in 1652, and legend has it that Oranmore Castle was his first port of call.

In 1693 there is a mention of Walter Blake, the Galway MP, living in the castle with one of his sons. The Blake family built a house adjoining the existing building, when the castle changed in use from a soldiers’ garrison to living accommodation for a family.

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Archive News

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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