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Excitement over ‘Holy Grail’ may be misplaced



Date Published: 04-Jun-2010

ENOUGH of that depressing week. Haven’t you heard the good news? To some perhaps, the greatest news of all. You know that Holy Grail thing all the legends are about – Knights of the Round Table, Jones of the Indiana, so on? The very cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper?

They found it.

All right, the archaeologists involved aren’t saying they have the Holy Grail exactly – or indeed, at all. They merely claim to have found a chalice with perhaps the earliest known written reference to Christ on it. Even this relatively modest assertion is controversial though.

After all, most would assume that the New Testament contained the first written reference to Christ. A certain inexactitude in dating however (of about three hundred years) presents the possibility that this object is up to a century older than the Biblical account, which would overturn our entire understanding of. . . ooh, all sorts.

Considering that the sum total of the revolutionary evidence consists of a big cup with ‘Christ’ written on it though, I wouldn’t start ripping up the history books just yet.

Actually, the inscription in full reads "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS," which – according to a guy – means either "by Christ the magician" or "the magician by Christ". While the latter reading suggests merely that middle-eastern potters were inclined to profanity, the former introduces the disturbing image of Jesus wearing a little black cape and asking you to pick a card. Perhaps a better translation would be “miracle-worker”, though in our times even that sounds like something to clean ovens.

There are a few immediate objections. One of course is that Christ was not Jesus’ surname. It’s only the Greek for anointed, which you could also translate as blessed or sanctified. So this cup could easily be saying "Blessed by a magician", which may be something along the lines of a warranty. (The fact that it was found with one handle missing suggests that the purchasers should have gone for the extended blessing.)

With only four words to go on, it’s frankly pushing it to say even what language the inscription is in, never mind what it might have meant in the context of its time and place. It’s in Greek letters, but of course this alphabet was used to write other tongues too. Caesar himself states that Celts used the Greek alphabet. And in this period they did not separate words with spaces, so the inscription might equally be meant to read DI ACHR STOU O GOIST AIS, which begins to look intriguingly like Irish. (Not a lot like Irish, but intriguingly like it.)

Quite what an Irish mug was doing in the waters off Egypt remains a mystery, though even to this day many Irish mugs will be found in such cheap holiday destinations.

What I’m saying here is that really, the chances of this artefact having anything at all to do with Jesus Christ are tiny. Nevertheless I think scholars around the world, archae- and theo-logical, should gather together to declare that, at long last, the true Holy Grail has been found. Because then we could tell Dan Brown to shut the hell up.


Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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



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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