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A far cry from Hollywood – it’s a matter of life or death

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Gerard Lally and Fiona Quirke on lifeguard duty at Silver Strand, Barna. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets up with some  of the lifeguards who help keep people safe on Galway’s beaches

The highly responsible job of serving as a lifeguard got the Hollywood treatment in the 1980s American TV series Baywatch where a cast of impossibly beautiful, glamorous, sun-kissed people in skimpy bathing costumes glided around the beaches of California in eternal sunshine, with not a cloud in the sky.

Lifeguards in Galway, however, need to be made of sterner stuff. On a Friday morning in Silverstrand, Barna, Gerard Lally and Fiona Quirke are on duty.

Both are as fit and as athletic as their fictional Californian counterparts, but there the comparison ends. It’s bucketing rain outside their brightly coloured galvanised hut and a thunderstorm threatens.

On top of that, a farmer in a nearby field is spreading slurry. The smell, to put it mildly, is pungent.

Not that Gerard or Fiona take any notice as they set up for the day.

There’s a surf ski (which resembles a kayak, except a person sits on top of it) to be put outside and other tasks to be completed as they prepare for their eight-hour shift. The tide is in and despite the rain there are swimmers in the water.

Throughout this interview, the two keep their eyes firmly fixed on the sea and on those swimmers.

The pair are part of a highly trained, highly fit group of 30 fulltime and eight part-time beach guards who patrol beaches throughout Galway City and County on a daily basis during July and August. During June, lifeguards are on duty at weekends.

They work in pairs and different lifeguards are rostered to different beaches every day, from the lake beaches of Portumna and Loughrea in the east of the county, to Inis Mór and Inis Oírr to the west, Traught in Kinvara to the south and Dogs Bay in Roundstone to the north.

“It’s the fairest way, to move people around. That way nobody is getting the good beaches all the time,” says Gerard of the rostering system.

We are on a ‘good beach’ in Barna.

“Silverstrand is one of the nicer ones,” Gerard says, and Fiona nods in agreement. “It has a nice big beach with lots of sand, fewer rocks and it’s open.

“None of the beaches in Galway are particularly dangerous, but when you are near water, there are always dangers,” Gerard adds. However, there are no big waves to contend with because Galway Bay offers shelter.

One of the most challenging locations for a lifeguard is Blackrock, they say, because it is so busy all the time.

“There is almost never a moment in the eight-hour shift when nobody is swimming,” explains Gerard.

Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge for lifeguards, whatever beach they are on, is to be constantly vigilant. Even when it’s quiet, you have to be watchful.

Good eyesight is important, and their kit includes binoculars. On a beach such as the City’s Grattan Road, these are crucial, because the area is vast when the tide is out, they say.

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

 

Connacht Tribune

Rich legacy of a musical revolutionary

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Historian Tomás MacConmara, centre, with Pat Talty of the local history society, left, and Seán Halpin after the plaque was unveiled

After the 1916 Rising in Galway was quashed, its leader Liam Mellows and two companions found refuge in a remote hilly area south of Gort. Mellows had his treasured fiddle with him and during five months hiding in Knockjames, he played and taught the instrument. For more than 100 years, it’s been in the care of New York’s Carmelite Order but it recently rang out again in the hills that gave him safety. JUDY MURPHY learned of its journey home.

The role played by Liam Mellows in the 1916 Rising in Galway has been well-documented. Likewise, his involvement in Ireland’s subsequent War of Independence and the Civil War, when he was one of four anti-Treaty soldiers executed by the new Irish government in retaliation for the murder of pro-Treaty TD, Seán Hales.

But a less well-known aspect of the revolutionary leader – his love of music and talent on the fiddle – was the focus of a recent ceremony at a tiny church in the mountains between Galway and Clare.

Mellows’ grá for music was something he shared with people in the hills around Knockjames in the months immediately following Easter 1916.

It was in this remote area between Gort and Tulla that Mellows and his fellow revolutionaries, Alfie Monaghan and Frank Hynes, found refuge when they went into hiding after the British authorities quashed the Easter Rising. Many of those involved in the insurrection in Dublin were executed, while others, who had been involved either in Dublin or in uprisings elsewhere in the country, were deported to prison camps in England and Wales.

Mellows had led the rising in Galway and was a wanted man when he fled over the Sliabh Aughty Mountains in late April 1916, with his two companions – and his fiddle.

“Had he been caught, he would almost certainly have been executed,” says Seán Halpin, the man responsible for returning Liam Mellows fiddle to Ireland. It’s on loan from New York’s Carmelite Priory, where it has been housed safely for more than a century.

Seán, who works as a quantity surveyor in New York, was studying for a Master’s in History at New York University’s Glucksman Center for Irish and Irish-American Studies, when he learned about the fiddle, which Mellows had left in the Carmelite Priory in Manhattan in 1920. Having fled to New York for safety in Autumn 1916, Mellows returned to Ireland four years later to take part in the War of Independence.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

Trying to get it correct all of the time is a waste of energy

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Six-of-one and a half-dozen of the other.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Political correctness was never a term I was familiar with as a kid, and maybe just as well, thinking back on some of the stuff we used to come out with.

We learned nursery rhymes where the ‘N word’ featured through 10 verses in a row without even having the remotest clue this was offensive in any way.

Travellers for examples during the 1960s were referred to with the other T word which at the time, to the best of my childhood memory, did not have any derogatory connotation.

They were regular callers to our house when around the area and never left emptyhanded due to the good nature of my late mother.

Euan McColl, that great singer/songwriter of the liberal left even used the old T word in his tribute song to the life and ways of Travellers contained the line:

‘All you freeborn men of the travelling people,

Every tinker, rolling stone and gypsy rover,”

With the passing of time of course, we’ve all had to clean up our vocabularies and with good reason too. Frequently, words used to describe people of a certain colour, religion, way of life or sexual orientation were used in the context of prejudice and hatred which just had to change.

I’ve often said in social discourse over a pint of plain that Ireland is a far nicer country to live in now that it was when I was a child of the 1960s.

This was still the era of corporal punishment in schools – and worse too in cases as has been well documented – while woe betide any single young woman who got pregnant, or any family who had a member with a mental health issue or one of sexual orientation differing from the norm.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Orla McArdle, Leonie Ryan, Maeve Lohan, Sinéad Armstrong, Maria Lyons and Paul Ryan who were taking part in the Coláiste Iognáid production of 'Joseph' in the Jesuit Hall, Sea Road on February 5, 1991.

1923

Training ex-soldiers

A meeting of the committee of Galway Technical Institute was held on Tuesday, Mr. Eraut presiding.

The secretary, Dr. Webb, stated that there was a deputation outside from the Galway Carpenters’ Society in reference to the offer made by the Ministry of Labour to the committee to have up to 100 ex-soldiers trained in the institute in various crafts from joinery to thatching houses and making tin cans.

The difficulty he foresaw in regard to the scheme was to train maimed ex-solders and for this the Ministry of Labour was willing to give the committee 15s. per head per week. It was a money-making scheme so far as that committee was concerned, and would result in bringing a good deal of money into the city, because there would also be certain allowances for the wives and dependents.

He estimated that it would mean something like £200 or £300 per week. It was a question for the committee whether they would provide these classes. He had inquired from an authoritative source whether the training of these men would be likely to interfere with the employment of the recognised carpenter, and he was informed in the negative.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

 

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