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Every now and again, we lost a gang member to Ôoul kissinÕ

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

In writing recently about the heyday of the cinema, when visits to ‘the pictures’ were often twice or three times a week, one of my abiding memories is of the huge proportion of the audience who smoked and the all-pervasive air of tobacco smoke.

Of course it was in the days long before it became an offence to smoke in an enclosed public space . . . but I very distinctly recall the fact that when they turned on the projectors at the back of the cinema, you could see the wreaths of cigarette smoke drifting through the rays of light.

Certainly, by the time we were 12, the vast majority of us younger cinemagoers were quite the experts on the various cigarette brands, their taste and how well they were packed, and we had our favourites among the brands. Certain shops sold them at 2d (old pence) each.

The changes which have come about in smoking habits – though I still see what look like disproportionate numbers of young girls and young women smoking – are certainly to be welcomed, but, when we were 10 and upwards, it was regarded as almost part of the ‘rite of passage’ to teenage years, that you smoked. By the way, I have long since given them up.

Perhaps our parents of the time deluded themselves that strictures about not smoking were being followed . . . but, by then, many of us were very firmly hooked on the weed, and my particular taste was for Sweet Afton.

Maybe part of the reason for that was that one of my older brothers smoked the brand, so it’s possible I developed the taste for them because I could filch the odd one from a pack in his pocket.

I found that they might have been slightly milder than Gold Flake, and they were certainly milder than the John Players Navy Cut favoured by my father. The occasional one of those was enough to make your head swim when you first inhaled, but at Christmas when they lay around the house in presentation boxes of fifties and hundreds, the Players were also hard to resist.

Occasionally, other unusual sources of supply came into play. There was a tradition in this country of the ‘parcel from America’, in which relations sent clothes. But they also sent a rarity known as chewing gum, and packs and packs of Chesterfield, Marlboro, Pall Mall and other loosely packed but very welcome cigarettes.

We budding connoisseurs tended to ‘look down our noses’ at the Woodbine . . . quite a bit cheaper than other brands, though my father swore by them during the ‘war years’. Personally, I always found the Woodbine was just too loosely packed and you spent too much time trying to get rid of the bitter pieces of tobacco off the tip of your tongue.

Of course, there were other much more exotic brands which we encountered. Don’t ask me how we managed to get hold of the occasional Churchman – now there was a cigarette! It was thicker than any other brands I had encountered, was packed as firmly as a pencil, and one puff could make your toenails curl.

All of this meant that, when we went to the cinema, within minutes of the film starting, we all lit-up and puffed away madly. John Wayne would be battling his way through the dugouts and foxholes of Iwo Jima, and we sat rapt and puffed.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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