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Emotion and melody shine forth in Siar

Judy Murphy



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.


Army removes explosive device in Knocknacarra




An army Bomb Disposal Team was called to Knocknacarra last night to deal with a ‘viable’ explosive device.

Following a request from Gardai, the unit was tasked with investigating a suspicious device in a laneway off Cappagh Road at around 10pm.

The area was cordoned off and following an examination, the device was deemed viable and made safe.

It was removed from the scene shortly after 10.30pm and was taken to a Defence Forces location where it will undergo further examination.

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Hospital worker failed to self isolate after trip to red-list country

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Management at University Hospital Galway have been asked to investigate ‘as a matter of urgency’ an allegation that a security employee at the hospital returned to work within the 14-day restriction period after coming back from a ‘red-list’ country.

The person has already worked at least two shifts at the hospital – including looking after an elderly patient – despite the fact that the restriction period would not have expired until this Sunday, September 20.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that in a letter from SIPTU official to a senior UHG manager, it is alleged there was breach of protocol over recent days by an employee of an outsourced security company.

According to the letter to Services Manager Geoff Ginnety, while the worker was not covered under HSE employee rules, “they still must comply with the Government issued protocols”.

The letter from SIPTU states that the worker in question had told his colleagues that he was in a red-listed country and that ‘he did not have to restrict his movements’ for 14 days and could return to work.

“I request that you [Services Manager at UHG] address these concerns as a matter of urgency and provide clear guidance on how to deal with the issue,” the SIPTU letter states.

According to information accessed by the Galway City Tribune, the employee in question returned from a red-listed country on September 6 last and underwent a test for Covid-19 five days later on September 11.

Shortly after that, according to his employers, the results of his Covid tests came back as negative. The Galway City Tribune understands that he returned to his night-shift work on Tuesday night, September 15, and also worked the Wednesday night shift of September 16.

This newspaper has also been informed by reliable sources that on his first night back on duty the employee was left in charge of an elderly patient, while on his second night back at work, he was dutied to the Emergency Department.

When contacted by the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the HSE said that they could not comment on issues relating to individual staff.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Leisureland sinks with €20,000 per week losses

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The plug is being pulled on Leisureland – leaving hundreds of swimmers, mostly children, and trainee lifeguards, high and dry.

Galway Salthill Fáilte CLG, the company that operates the publicly-owned facility, has confirmed it plans to shut down its swimming pool and gym, leaving members of six aquatic clubs, hundreds of schoolchildren, and the general public, without an amenity for the foreseeable future.

Swimming clubs fear they will lose a whole generation of young swimmers in Galway if the pool closes. And they have warned that it could end up costing €1 million to repair and reopen the pool after a prolonged closure.

Leisureland blamed the impact of coronavirus for its financial woes, with losses running at an average of €20,000 per week.

The company said that by August it had already spent its annual €300,000 subsidy subvention from Galway City Council, and the local authority has indicated it is not in a position to increase the subsidy further in 2020.

The planned closure – which could result in the furloughing of over 20 staff from next month – has shocked the local aquatic community.

A lengthy hiatus with Leisureland closed will mean Galway will lose a ‘whole generation’ of swimmers, according to Eamon Caulfield, President of Galway Swimming Club and member and former chairperson of Corrib Water Polo Club.

“We’re particularly upset and aggrieved that this is going ahead, it’s shocking. They should be looking to reverse this decision,” he said this week.

The majority of the five aquatic clubs that use the facility (Galway SC, Shark SC, Laser SC and Tribes and Corrib water polo clubs) are made up of children aged 10-18, including some international athletes. Hundreds of children from Galway schools also learn to swim there.

A water safety group has been using the pool every Sunday morning since it opened in 1973, he said.

“Historically it is where Galway gets its lifeguards from. How can you not have swim lessons in a public pool? How can you not have water safety taught in a pool in Galway?

“It beggars belief, we’re on the sea. The water safety people, where are they going to go, how are we going to get lifeguards for beaches? How are we going to get teachers for teaching swimming?” asked Mr Caulfield.

The clubs have roughly 150 members each and generate €150,000 revenue annually for Leisureland.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full version, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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