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Does this ‘expert’ know anything?

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 04-Jun-2010

YOU know, sometimes I wonder about experts! Like the one who was quoted extensively in our sister paper, The Sentinel, last week as putting forward unique solutions to the traffic problems of this city.

He said we could reduce traffic congestion by 50% by individual action . . . and then went on to suggest the actions which might work. This was either a load of cobblers, or Irish drivers are such a crowd of morons and thicks that you can only expect the worst from them.

Now, I accept that, of course, if I used my car less, if I inconvenienced myself a little more, and if a sufficient number of people did the same thing, we could hugely reduce our car dependence, and whole areas of spending on new roads and infrastructure could be rendered totally unnecessary.

The expert was also quoted as having the theory that one of the reasons that traffic moves quickly, or speeds, is that people have, effectively, ceded the streets to the car. He cited as one of the examples of his contention, the fact that people had stopped their children playing in the streets, and said the cars had simply taken over.

He appeared to suggest that, if a sufficient number of drivers publicly promised that they would always obey speed limits, and then did so, then people might once again be able to allow their children to play in the streets.

This point certainly recalled a childhood spent playing in the streets for this writer . . . though the cars were a great deal scarcer at the time and there was only a fraction of the traffic. More importantly, people felt secure in letting kids out to play in the street. Nowadays, they must be supervised at all times and for all sorts of reasons other than traffic, so, in my opinion, the idea becomes impractical.

But the concept of the ‘moving speed bump’ was the idea that really caught my eye. The expert suggested that by moving at a moderate and legal speed at all times, local people could, in effect, become ‘moving speed bumps’ that would slow down traffic and help people reclaim the streets . . . and without the need for actual speed bumps, traffic calming and other such measures.

Now my personal experience is that anyone driving within the speed limit gets enough dirty looks in this city most of the time. You get the impression if you’re at less than 30mph, most drivers regard you as doddering. And some of the worst of the dirty looks seem to come from young lady drivers who now have even more testosterone than their male counterparts!

I tried a little experiment of my own on two days in Galway last week and the expert might like to hear of my experience and add it to his research store.

My first experiment was at the pedestrian lights at the Docks where I pulled up to allow a pedestrian across. Even though the pedestrian lights were not yet in her favour, she had stepped out a few feet on to the crossing. A gobdaw behind me in a ‘01’ registered car began blowing immediately and continued to do so. I was tempted to get out and go back and ask should I run the pedestrian down?

Chastened, but not yet fully persuaded that being ‘a moving speed bump’ was a bad idea, I drove on to Salthill and slowed-up and stopped to allow a woman across with a baby buggy. Of course she shouldn’t have been there . . .but it was a question of steaming through and not allowing her across, or pulling-up. I felt the situation was potentially dangerous and stopped.

Yes! You guessed it! – that same thick in the ‘01’ registered car was still behind me. He blew and began gesturing at me to move on! Maybe, I thought, this system of slowing down traffic is not for the average Irish driver such as that ‘01’ eejit.

Worse was to follow. A day or two later I was driving down Threadneedle Road, passing the entrance to Salerno, when a bus travelling in front of me pulled over and the members of a hockey squad and followers began to alight from the front of the bus.

They were ‘blind’ because they were crossing in front of the bus, so I remained stopped in the road behind the bus, allowing them to cross in threes and fours – as the bus driver signalled his thanks to me in his external rear view mirror.

One of the reasons I had stopped was that I had learnt my lesson a few weeks earlier when I passed a school bus in such a situation and the bus driver let me know in no uncertain terms what he thought of my driving! It was damned dangerous and I shouldn’t have done it!

On this occasion outside Salerno, however, a woman driver immediately behind my car began to hoot the horn and give me a very ‘bad time’. Then the other drivers of cars in the line held up behind her began to hoot the horns in a cacophony of impatient noise.

Again, I damned near got out and went back to the ‘lady’ driver, but in that kind of situation, all you do is make things worse . . . and cause an even greater hold-up for traffic. All of which makes me think that any so-called solution to the Galway traffic snarl-up which is based on courtesy, driving within the speed limit, and inconveniencing yourself, has about as much chance of working as appeals to Galway people to stop littering the streets, daubing walls with graffiti, and to scoop-up the dog poo on the Prom when their mutts defecate there.

I really don’t know how long I can keep up the courage to drive within the speed limit, wear my seat belt, and hang back when a potential traffic jam is building up – rather than plough into the middle of it and make it worse.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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