Date Published: 18-Sep-2009
It seemed like a different world in the Seventies. . . and of course it was. It’s hard to imagine now that there were no females on the Garda force until the mid-Seventies.
Galway got its first quota of female Gardaí (or Ban Gardaí as they were known until a few years ago) in 1976. Dublin, Cork and Limerick already had a few women on the force but they were still a novelty.
In fact, it was so newsworthy at the time that Gardaí Imelda Daly from Roscommon and Maureen Igoe from Bonniconlon, Co Mayo were paraded outside the Garda Station, which was then located on Eglinton Street, to be photographed for the Tribune.
Both are now retired – Maureen this very month, Imelda three years ago – but they will be meeting up tonight (Friday) for a reunion function involving other female colleagues and to informally mark 50 years of a female presence in the force.
Of course there are now women in senior positions in the force – Marie Skehill is a Superintendent in Tuam and there’s even a female Commissioner nationally. In fact in the Galway Garda Station, now located in Mill Street, is now occupied with almost a 50/50 gender balance.
Because they were the first two women Gardaí in Galway, they often found themselves on duty in North Donegal or parts of Clare if and when a case required a female Garda.
“We didn’t get special treatment as we were sent to all types of jobs, and we did court and prison as well, but we did notice that in the beginning because there was a shortage of women on the force that often we would be ‘lent’ to other areas when required, even sometimes as far as North Donegal.
“I suppose we were a novelty in the beginning but then more and more women joined and by now it’s a 50/50 situation,” she says.
Maureen was the first in her national and secondary schools to join the Gardaí. Two of her cousins were in the Gardaí and she worked in a solicitor’s office in Ballina after school so she gradually veered towards policework as a career.
When she came to Galway, she was joined by Imelda Daly from Fuerty, Co Roscommon and for a number of years, they were the only women in Galway, and indeed in the West of Ireland.
They were joined a few years afterwards by Ann Griffin and after that by Anne Hogan – all four have retired by now, Anne just this week.
Anne, whose husband Michael was also a Garda in Galway, also now retired, enjoyed every minute of her beat but says the introduction of the uniform trousers for women was “the best thing ever. I was perished for years on the beat in the skirt!”
She started her Garda career in Shannon where she was “treated like royalty” and when she came to Galway, she had three female Garda colleagues, a situation that remained like that for years.
Tonight, no doubt the women will have plenty of memories to share as they embark on their retirement remembering the days when the Ban Garda was a novelty. That title has long since been discarded in the interest of gender equality.
But there’s no doubt about it the force’s first female members were trailblazers, though many women working in the force now may not even realise or appreciate that.
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
Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr
Date Published: 23-Jan-2013
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.