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Emotion and melody shine forth in Siar



Johnny Óg Connolly and his father Sean Johnny at the old schoolhouse in inis Bearachain. The now-deserted Connemara island is where Sean Johnny was born and reared. PHOTO: SIMON BOYLE

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

If there’s a more uplifting and melodic tune in the Irish traditional music canon than Waltz an Chleamhnais/Connemara Wedding Waltz, you’ll go far to find it.

Written by Johnny Óg Connolly for his sister Mary Ellen and her husband Patrick, and played for the first dance at their wedding in 2014, it’s on his new album Siar, which will be launched this Saturday night in Spiddal’s Tigh Giblin.

Siar is collection of tunes which Johnny has composed over the past two to three years, each of which has a story.

They are either “written for someone I know very well, a musician I admire a lot or someone who has died”, he explains.

In the sleeve-notes, Johnny describes the pieces as “souvenirs, mementos and collections in music of a life among family and friends, of encounters with great musicians, and of some sad and many joyful occasions”.

Caoineadh Mhaolra Seoighe – Maum Trasna Lament is one of the sadder compositions, written in honour of Myles Joyce who was wrongfully hanged for murder by the British authorities in 1882.  This piece was commissioned by the former Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuireáin as part of a commemorative event, held in Galway City Museum in 2012.

The second lament was written for Johnny Óg’s friend Jane Simmonds, a singer and guitarist from New Zealand who lived in Spiddal during the 1990s and who died in Australia in 2012.

Those laments convey a depth of emotion as, in a different way, do the album’s sunnier pieces, such as In the Warm South, written for his friend Deirdre Nic Chonaonaigh.

A highlight of Siar are Siar go hInis Bearachain and an tÓileán Aerach, waltzes which Johnny wrote for his father, the renowned melodeon player, Sean Johnny Connolly.

“I start off by playing few notes,” says Johnny Óg of the way he composes. “Sometimes I get a feeling in my chest – I can’t describe it but it’s an indication that something is going to happen. At other times, it’s more of a slog.”

He’s not someone who goes around with tunes fermenting in his head constantly, he explains. They generally come if he’s thinking about people he admires, or about family members or about particular events, such as weddings, funerals or christenings.

The Laird of St Johnston, a strathspey, came about because of his admiration for the great fiddle player, Tommy Peoples whose virtuosity was literally, an inspiration.

The aim “is to give a flavour of his beautiful melodic compositions and the virtuosity of Tommy’s music”.

Similarly, the jig, Homage to Rooney is Johnny’s tribute to Leitrim fiddle player Brian Rooney, and his “lightness of touch and lovely variations”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.


Elective surgeries cancelled at UHG as overcrowding continues



Galway Bay fm newsroom – Some non-urgent elective surgeries are being cancelled at UHG in a bid to tackle severe overcrowding at the city hospital.

It follows the issuing of a warning from the Saolta Hospital Group that the emergency department is extremely busy and there is ongoing pressure on bed availability.

General Manager at UHG, Chris Kane, says over 500 people presented at the hospital on Monday and Tuesday.

She says the overcrowding situation is very serious, particularly in relation to the ED, the Surgical Unit and the Acute Medical Assessment Unit.

Members of the public are urged to only attend the hospital in the case of emergency, and contact their GP or out-of-hours service if their health problem is not urgent.

Saolta is also reminding the public that the Injury Unit at Roscommon University Hospital is open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week, to treat adults and children over 5.

Speaking to Keith Finnegan on Galway Talks, Chris Kane said the current level of patients presenting is extremely high and “unusual” for this time of year.

She also noted there’s also been a rise in patients being treated for Covid-19, including in the ICU.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway rowers aim for Olympic gold!



Best of luck to two Galway rowers – Aifric Keogh of Aill an Phréacháin in Na Forbacha, and Fiona Murtagh from Gortachalla in Moycullen – who are part of Team Ireland’s Women’s Coxless Fours team who compete in an Olympic final in Tokyo at 1.50am (Irish time) Wednesday.

Coverage on RTÉ 2 television begins from 1am.

Ireland – who were second in their heat after Australia, who set a new Olympic Record – are in lane two, with Great Britain on their outside, and Australia, favourites for a gold medal, in lane three.

The Netherlands, China and Poland are in lanes four, five and six at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Poor weather meant some rowing events were re-scheduled but the Women’s Fours final was not impacted.

Jim Keogh, Aifric’s father, told the Tribune he was hopeful ahead of the final.

“To make the Olympics is tough, to make the final is tough, to make the medal is tougher,” he said.
Photo: Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty.

*Full coverage of the race and reaction in this week’s Connacht Tribune and Galway City Tribune 

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Connacht Tribune

Paedophile sentenced to a further 17 months in prison



A convicted paedophile, described by a Garda as ‘a prolific child abuser’, has had a 17-month prison sentence added to a 13-year sentence he is already serving for the rape and sexual abuse of children.

Disgraced primary school teacher and summer school bus driver, 69-year-old Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh, a native of Tuirín, Béal a’ Daingin, Conamara, had at all times denied two charges of indecently assaulting a ten-year-old boy at a Gaeltacht summer school in Béal a’ Daingin in 1979.

The offence carries a maximum two-year sentence.

A jury found him guilty by majority verdict following a four-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last month.

At his sentence hearing last week, Detective Paul Duffy described Ó Ceallaigh as a prolific child abuser who had amassed 125 child abuse convictions, committed while he was a primary school teacher in Dublin and while he operated an Irish language summer school in Beal a’ Daingin.

They included convictions for rape and sexual assault for which he is currently serving sentences totalling 13 years.

Those sentences were due to expire in August 2024, but last week, Judge Rory McCabe imposed two, concurrent 17-month sentences on Ó Ceallaigh, before directing the sentences begin at the termination of the sentences he is currently serving.

The judge noted Ó Ceallaigh’s denial and lack of remorse and the lifelong detrimental effect the abuse had on the victim as aggravating factors.

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