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CITY TRIBUNE

Freemasons’ TLC project brings comfort to kids in hospital

Stephen Corrigan

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There didn’t seem to be much mystery shrouding proceedings at the Freemason’s lodge in Ballinfoile, with its door wide open and events playing out for all to see.

Perceived as an exclusive and secretive group, Galway Freemason’s Lodge on Bóthar an Choiste seemed the furthest thing from elitist as the group gathered to celebrate the success of their ‘Teddies for Loving Care’ initiative.

TLC has been running now for a number of years and involves Freemasons providing teddies for paediatric units in hospitals up and down the country.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest organisations for men and, having had a presence in Galway since 1722, the group certainly has staying power.

Almoner of Galway City Freemasons (Lodge 14), Basil Fenton, says that perceptions of the organisation are sometimes distorted.

He believes that ultimately, the group aims to have a positive impact on society and to the benefit of more than just their members.

“There are altruistic reasons for wanting to try and do a bit of good and that’s where the main focus is in terms of the charities,” says Basil.

TLC is a national initiative but one that has had a significant local impact – with anything up to 70 teddies being delivered into University Hospital Galway every week.

“This is where 36 hospitals within the country have A&E departments with specific facilities for paediatrics and we supply teddies free of charge to those hospitals.

“We provide the teddies and then it is at the discretion of nurses on duty – if a small child comes in distressed, they get a little teddy,” explains Basil.

“They are bought in from abroad and stored in Dublin – then by some means of distribution, they are brought down to Galway or Limerick or up to Belfast or Ballymena or wherever.

“A local member will keep in touch with nurses in paediatrics and they bring them in as they require them – the teddies are sterile and approved for hospital use,” he continued.

It is believed that the Freemasons emerged in the fifteenth century – as Basil says, “when they were really stonemasons”.

It was from here, according to him, that the symbolism and rituals originated.

“In one sense, it would have originally been almost like a trade union and you hear people talking about the secret signs and symbols – at that time you didn’t have certificates or diplomas to say what level of qualification you were.

“It was using these signs and symbols that you could prove you were really an advanced carpenter or mason and therefore eligible to earn more money,” says Basil.

To maintain tradition, the Freemasons continue to wear regalia that includes sashes and aprons – representative of the apron that stone masons would have worn to protect their trousers.

The rituals as members progress from apprentice to fellowcraft before becoming a Master Mason still continue – something that Basil concedes that his wife refers to as “play-acting”.

He feels that misconceptions of the organisation both attracts and deters – and leads to people seeking to join for differing reasons.

As a result, it is quite a laborious task to join, involving a period of scrutiny to ensure that potential members want to give back rather than just take from the organisation.

“Some people come in with expectations of rituals or sudden introduction into somewhere and that is why there is the scrutiny or screening process – to try and let the person know that your perception of what to expect is not what it really is.

“There are three basic qualifications – first of all, he has to be a man, he has got to believe in some supreme being of some sort and he must live in good repute amongst his friends and neighbours,” explains Basil.

And it isn’t some covert or secretive applications process – it is simply a matter of making an online application to be contacted.

“It isn’t for everybody but a lot of people get great enjoyment out of it – there are about 25,000 members around the country.

“People join a rugby club because they enjoy rugby – people join us because they find it enjoyable and they have similar aims in terms of trying to improve things for charities or whatever along the line,” says Basil.

As for why he joined, it was a combination of curiosity and security – with the Freemasons offering support to any families left behind if a member passes away.

“There are the Masonic charities for people who have fallen on hard times within the order – I saw security in terms of children getting support through education – children of members, if the member dies, will get support.

“The function of the Almoner is to look after the brethren so if somebody is sick, you visit them or you organise for them to be visited and you keep an eye on any widows you may have – if somebody has a problem or anything, you might help them with it,” he says.

As the Freemason’s lodge in Ballinfoile flooded with people and the table was filled with foil platters of party food and teddies, the so-called secret society seemed anything but.

“The fact is that there is a booklet that anyone can go in and collect in the Grand Lodge in Dublin that has all the names and addresses of every lodge in the country and the contact details for them.

“There’s nothing clandestine or hidden – it’s in the public sphere, identifiable and available,” says Basil.

CITY TRIBUNE

Hundreds of snapper Pat’s Galway photos set to be showcased

Denise McNamara

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Well-known face: amateur photographer Pat Cantwell

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Pictures of everyday Galway faces and places – captured by an amateur photographer as part of a hobby – are to be featured on new hoarding to be erected around the Bonham Quay building site.

Pat Cantwell’s photos of Galway people, scenery and buildings have garnered over 8,000 followers on his Facebook page, ‘Galway Faces & Places’.

He has now been approached by the developers of Bonham Quay to use 500 images as part of a hoarding around the massive €105 million development creating office space, retail and restaurant units.

Pat has advised members of the public whose photos he has taken to let him know if they are unwilling to be featured in the ‘people wall’.

“I have literally taken thousands of pictures of Galway people – it could be as many as 14,000 people – and I tell them it’s for my website and get their permission,” he explains.

“But it would be madness to try and get 500 signatures for this. Since I told people about it on the website, I’ve had 400 positive affirmations and only one man declined to be involved and that’s fair enough. It will be a random selection of people – as many well-known people as I can get.”

Pat, a native of Raleigh Row who now lives in Mervue, was a salesman in O’Connors TV & Video outlet for 25 years before moving to O’Shaughnessy’s Audiovision and Peter Murphy Electrical prior to his retirement.

It was following an unfortunate accident while on holiday in Australia to visit his son who lived in Perth that his passion for photography really took hold.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

At least 240 Galway City Airbnbs flouting planning rules

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – At least 240 short-stay apartments and houses in Galway City are operating without planning permission, according to local authority estimates.

However, former mayor Niall McNelis has said he believes the real figure is “far higher”, while Green Party councillor Pauline O’Reilly said Airbnb is “destroying our city”.

Under legislation introduced last July, the owners of some Airbnb-type rental properties must apply for planning permission – where they fall within certain criteria – because the city is classed as a Rent Pressure Zone.

For any property which is a second or subsequent home (not the owner’s home) which is used for short-term letting, a ‘change of use’ planning application is required “for the purpose of residential short-term letting/B&B”.

Since the law was passed, Galway City Council has received just three change of use planning applications for short-term lets.

The Council’s own estimate is that there are 1,200 properties in the city that come under the short-term letting umbrella. It estimates that only 720 of these are ‘active’, and of those some 480 are exempt from the new legislation.

That means, according to the Council’s own estimate, that 240 properties in the city are operating without planning permission in breach of the legislation.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Four-fold increase in homeless children

Stephen Corrigan

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Emergency 'Cold Weather Response' accommodation for being provided by COPE Galway and the City Council at Seamus Quirke Road.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City councillors gave their backing to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy this week, despite being told that the numbers of families and children homeless in the region had sky-rocketed by more than 300% in three years.

At a meeting of the local authority on Monday evening, the Draft Region Homelessness Action Plan 2020-2022 was presented to councillors, in which it was revealed that in terms of homelessness, the West is worst – since 2016, the region had the highest increase in the country.

Three years ago, some 130 adults were accessing homeless services through emergency accommodation. In August of this year, that figure had risen to 351.

The number of homeless families stood at 17 in 2016; this year, that figure was at 83 by the end of September.

Some 200 children were homeless at the end of August 2019, a 344% increase on the 47 who were without a home in 2016.

The report notes that 30 people were sleeping rough in Galway City in October, while there were 251 homeless adults in the city by the end of the third quarter – 146 males; 76 families; and 185 dependents.

A series of actions are set out by the plan, with homelessness prevention at the top of the list. This comprises of ensuring early intervention for high-risk categories, including: prison discharges; young people exiting care; hospital discharges; people exiting direct provision; and victims of domestic violence.

The Mayor and Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) both described the new Housing Task Force established in Galway – which does not include any elected representatives – as a farce, with the Mayor hitting out at the arrogance of the Minister for Housing in saying that things were improving.

“You’ve a situation where you’ve kids going to school and their news of the day is that they’ve moved to a new B&B – and they’re being laughed at in class,” blasted the Mayor.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage of the issue, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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