Date Published: 16-May-2012
THE Galway farmer who made history back in 1993 by becoming the first West of Ireland man to be elected as National President of the IFA, has spoken exclusively this week to the Connacht Tribune about his successful battle to overcome throat cancer.
Back in Autumn 2004, John Donnelly from Abbey, Loughrea, was diagnosed with throat cancer, but now, nearly eight years down the road, he is a director of Cancer Care West and an inspiration to individuals and families facing up to the ‘Big C’.
Initially he had been told back in 2004 that sessions of radio therapy would cure him, but a year later he had to face the reality of a throat operation in St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, to remove the tumour and his larynx.
“I was up in St. James’s one before the operation, and I made a vow to myself that I was going to make some battle to survive,” John Donnelly recalled.
Earlier that year during Race Week, 2005, he remembers coming out from Galway after receiving the news that the first treatment hadn’t worked and that it was now ‘an operation job’.
“That was a black day in my life – I thought I was finished – but after a couple of days, my courage and spirit returned and I just faced into the new challenge,” he said.
He recalls waking up after a day long operation in St. James’s and trying to figure out whethere he was alive or dead. He had to learn how to talk again, a voice valve had to be inserted in his throat, but since then he has never looked back.
Read his full story in this week’s special Down on the Farm section of the Connacht Tribune.
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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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