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End of a decade when our world has come to nought

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

The world never really warmed to the noughties – it never had a ring to it, like the eighties or the nineties, sounding instead more like a room for bold children. But now as the curtain comes down on the first decade of the new millennium, we remember how much things have changed in a decade.

Back in the year 2000, we listened to music – for the most part – on a cassette; if you had a CD player in your car, chances are it was a walkman on your seat attached to your cigarette lighter and your cassette slot like a badly constructed set of Christmas lights.

We put floppy disks into our computers; our televisions couldn’t be mounted flat screen over the fireplace or they’d have pulled the next door neighbours’ dividing wall in on top of you.

We found our way from A to B using badly folded maps that frequently obstructed the driver’s view, in an era before we had sat nav.

People smoked in pubs; indeed people drank in pubs. We only had wine at home if there was a special dinner or it was Christmas.

Travelling to Europe meant changing currency, but at least you didn’t have to take off your shoes and belt every time you passed through an airport.

W communicated by letter or – the height of sophistication – by fax; we paid for expensive purchases by cheque not by credit card, and we stayed in on a Friday night to watch the new boy, Pat Kenny, presenting the Late Late Show.

It was only twelve years since Galway hurlers had won an All-Ireland; the footballers hadn’t even won their most recent Sam Maguire. The GAA still had Rule 21 which meant the RUC couldn’t play hurling. Now we don’t even have the RUC.

Glenroe was still on the box and Dinny was still in the land of the living; Billy Meehan wasn’t dead in Fair City; Top of the Pops was on the telly until 2006; Bull Island was the cutting edge of political satire.

We’d only won the Grand Slam once before and were thrilled to win the Triple Crown in 2004; we didn’t have the euro; we’d rejected Nice but then we passed it and we never knew we’d be doing the same thing on Lisbon before the decade was at an end.

Half the country went to New York for the Christmas shopping, where they marvelled at the Twin Towers which were still standing.

We had foot and mouth, which meant we all had heavily saturated mats to wipe our feet on. Now half of Galway has heavily saturated doormats once again but it’s down to flooding and their homes are in ruins.

Bill Clinton was President of the US, and making full use of the Oval Office; Fine Gael was wiped out in 2002 and Enda Kenny – a man who held onto his own seat by the skin of his teeth – took over a party in disarray.

Waterford Crystal wasn’t just one of our most recognisable brand names on the world stage; it was also a horse who won Olympic gold with Cian O’Connor on its back before it was disqualified for taking drugs in 2004.

On New Year’s Eve of that same year, Bertie Ahern pledged €10m in Irish aid to the people affected by the tsunami in South-East Asia. That’s about the same amount as Brian Cowen pledged to the people of Galway and Cork three weeks ago.

We lost some sporting greats over the decade – close to home, Enda Colleran died in 2004; Sean Purcell died in 2005 and his fellow Terrible Twin Frankie Stockwell joined him in 2009; George Best died in 2005; Charlie Haughey died in 2006; John McGahern died in 2006.

Back in 2000, Roy Keane was playing for Manchester United and Ireland and seemed reasonably happy doing both; his home city of Cork was the European Capital of Culture in 2005 as opposed to the underwater city of Atlantis in 2009.

Pope John Paul died in 2005; Pope Benedict took over and Brendan Comiskey’s resignation was an early glimpse of the sort of scandals that have marked the entire decade for the Catholic Church.

The GAA opened up Croke Park to ‘foreign games’, and Lansdowne Road closed in 2006. Now we’ve won the Grand Slam in Croker and Lansdowne is almost ready for re-opening, giving up two world-class stadiums in the country.

The M50 was completed in 2005 – before they started to dig it up and start all over again so that we’d get in and out of Ikea easier for all the furniture we needed for our second homes before the bubble burst and we couldn’t even afford our first homes any more.

We had a heatwave in 2006 with the warmest temperature this century recorded at Elphin in Co Roscommon. July 2006 was the warmest, on average, since records began in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. Now we’re up to our necks in water.

Decommissioning became a reality in 2005 and the Greens – who started out the decade eating lentils and hugging trees – came into Government in 2007…just in time to take the rap for the spectacular bursting of the economic bubble.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end – the foreign holidays, the Galway tent, the two new cars outside the recently extended house; the holiday apartment in Kusadasi that’s now worth the cost of a packet of crisps.

And when you think of it, perhaps the noughties wasn’t such a bad name for it after all – we came into the decade full of promise and we leave it with nought to show for our investment.

For more read page 15 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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



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



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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