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Connacht Tribune

Golden Trumpet man Johnny Carroll marks 60 years in showbiz

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Not many can boast that they have been performing professionally for six decades – but that is the milestone that Johnny Carroll will be celebrating in a tribute night in Salthill in a few weeks’ time.

His fans call him ‘the man with the golden trumpet’ and he not only made his mark on the Irish scene but internationally, having met some of the greats in music including Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison and Chubby Checker — the man behind The Twist.

A Roscommon man by birth, Galway has been his home for the past 40 years. And little did the 13 year old boy know – when he first expressed an interest in the trumpet in his home town of Castlerea – that it would be his passport to success.

Contemplating on his life and career in the lead-up to his tribute night in the Salthill Hotel on Thursday, September 21, he recalls the hardship of going on the road at such a tender age but quickly adds that he wouldn’t change a minute of it.

He believes in fate and often wonders if he hadn’t been overheard playing the trumpet in his kitchen by a passing band member, might he have followed his father into the painting trade.

“I don’t think so. Once I picked up that instrument, I knew I didn’t want to do anything else and when I got the opportunity a few years later to go on the road with the band, my parents couldn’t stop me because they knew how much I wanted to play music.

“In those days (the fifties) most of the bands were pioneers so at least my parents didn’t have to worry about that.

“But as there was no dancing allowed in Ireland during Lent bands went to England and I went with them. They were a hard few weeks going from one town to another playing to mostly Irish crowds.

“I loved every minute it. I loved meeting people and being on stage even if it was from 9pm till 2am. There were no relief bands in those days. We used take it in turns to have a little tea break but I didn’t mind. I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Johnny remembers.

Sitting in his salubrious home on the outskirts of the city, he knows how far he has come but appreciates that the music business has been good to him, certainly better than what a trade in a rural town would have gained him.

The Premier Aces was one of the first Irish bands to tour the US in an era when venues were massive and hundreds danced the night away. They also topped the charts in Ireland and the UK.

He stayed with The Premier Aces until he decided it was time to start his own band and move to Galway, where he knew he would have a greater chance at establishing himself as a musician.

The Magic Band was different because it was fronted by a singer whose costume was lit up. As it was Johnnny’s band, he was finally running his own show.

The Premier Aces had brought out a few albums but by now Johnny was synonymous with his trumpet so it seemed natural for him to bring out solo albums — he has 15 in all under his belt.

“I played instrumental versions of well-known songs from Danny Boy to The West’s Awake and every hotel, restaurant and B&B in the country played it and sure guests started asking where they could get it,” he says.

There were TV guest appearances and requests to play at special event. He embraced all of this because he felt it was meant for him.

And while his musical career was on the up, tragedy was to strike on the domestic front when his beautiful wife Stella, the mother of their four children, died after a short diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 37.

He tearfully recalls how most of the next decade was heartache for him as he kept working at his career while rearing children, aged from seven to 14, on his own.

“I had no family here in Galway and we had just built this house (referring to his Salthill home). We were only in it a few years when she died. Bills had to be paid, I had to stay on the road. It was hard. Those were the days before mobile phones. I remember ringing home from pay phones to check in on them.”

He is very proud of his children, all grown up now though none followed him into the music business. But they have given him seven grandchildren, aged from 19 to a few weeks old, whom he adores.

He remembers driving on bad roads around Ireland in second hand vans that often broke down.

Bands on the road would head home after playing for hours from venues in the far corners of Ireland.

“I remember one night the van broke down in Abbeyfeale in Kerry. I got a lift home but the lads stayed in the freezing van until I returned the following day with a tow truck.

“People wouldn’t live that life now. I remember too the first house we bought in Highfield Park. Stella and I lived downstairs and we turned the upstairs into two small flats. We had no choice as the mortgage interest rates were double digits at the time.

“Life was hard. I remember long journeys to gigs and the kids would be in bed when I got home and I’d still be in bed when they left for school. That’s how it was for showbands at the time.”

He has a strong faith and is grateful that he always had good health, something which is crucial when you are self-employed.

He also believes he was lucky when he met Ann, his second wife at a gig in her family’s hotel in West Limerick.

“I believe she was an angel sent to me. . . I’ve had a good life, no doubt,” he says in a room adorned with his two golden discs and family photographs.

His highlights are reaching Number One in the Irish Charts with Oh Mein Papa, playing The West’s Awake when Galway won the three All Irelands in the 80s and meeting and sometimes playing with some of his musical heroes.

Johnny says he has no regrets as he believes everyone’s life is set out for them, as his was and continues to be. There’s longevity in his family genes as his mother Rose turns 102 the same week as his tribute concert.

“No, it’s not my swansong. There’s life in the old dog yet,” he laughs.

Tickets for the gig which feature a host of guest musicians are on sale in The Salthill Hotel, Des Kavanagh Electrical, Tom Dempsey’s in Oranmore and Quinn’s Newsagents in Tuam.

Connacht Tribune

Tests reveal high pollution levels close to Barna bathing spot

Denise McNamara



New bathing water testing in Barna has revealed dangerously high levels of pollution at an inlet stream that discharges into the local pier which is a popular bathing spot.

Galway County Council confirmed that it had recently started sampling at Mags’ Boreen Beach in the village and at the inlet stream that feeds into the pier.

The results from May 26 show levels of E.coli at 198,636 cfu/100 ml and Enterococci at 2,900 cfu/100 ml at the stream. Cfu (colony-forming unit) is a measurement used to estimate the number of viable bacteria or fungal cells in a sample.

Mags’ Boreen Beach was 86 for E.coli and 7 for Enterococci at low tide.

The levels of both pollutants in the water for it to be deemed ‘sufficient quality’ are 500 and 185 cfu/100ml respectively.

E.coli is a bacteria that lives in the gut of humans and animals. Some types can cause illnesses such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and vomiting and can be life-threating to infants and people with poor immune systems.

Enterococci are bacteria which indicate contamination by faecal waste that can cause disease in the skin, eyes, ears and respiratory tract.

Galway County Council Secretary Michael Owens said the Council would continue to monitor water quality at these locations during the bathing season.

“The monitoring results for the inlet stream to the pier are concerning and may indicate a risk of poor water quality at the pier. Local people have noted that young people use the pier area for swimming,” he stated.

“The results of monitoring of Mags’ Boreen Beach indicates that the water quality was compliant with the standards for excellent water quality. Further sampling will be carried out during the bathing season.

“We will carry out further investigations to try to identify any sources of contamination in the catchment. We have already installed a sign at the inlet stream noting that the inlet stream is contaminated and may pose a risk to health.”

Chairperson of Barna Tidy Towns, Dennis O’Dwyer, said there had been a lot of speculation for years about the stream polluting the water.

“It’s extremely high but at least we now know that the stream has a problem while Mag’s Boreen Beach is safe,” he said.

“We will probably now ask the Council to go further upstream where two streams converge at Donnelly’s Pub, one under The Twelve Hotel and other beside the bus stop so we can eliminate if individual houses or housing estates not linked to the sewage pipes are causing the pollution.”

The group will also request testing at Barna Pier which is a popular jumping off point.

“It’s not a designated swimming area but people do swim there, including children. I don’t think anyone has ever been sick but we’d rather know because a lot of kids do jump in.”

Mr Owens said it can be very difficult to identify sources of pollution in a stream or river as it is generally a combination of multiple sources.

“The majority of properties in the village are connected to the public wastewater scheme, which is pumped to the Galway City public wastewater treatment plant. There is a possibility that some properties that should be connected to the public wastewater scheme are misconnected.

“Other possible sources in the catchment include private wastewater treatment systems connected to individual homes, housing estates and businesses and discharges from agricultural activities. Galway County Council intends to carry out inspections of private wastewater treatment plants in the area and will issue advisory notices if issues are identified.”

The catchment has been put forward as a Priority Area for Action for the next cycle of the River Basin Management Plan which is scheduled to commence in 2022. If this is approved, additional resources will be available for investigations in the catchment.

There is no requirement on the Council to notify the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the sample of concern was taken from an inlet stream. The local authority is required to notify the EPA in the event of non-compliances at all designated bathing areas. The inlet stream is not a designated bathing area as it is too shallow.

“If necessary, additional signs will be put in place at the pier,” added the County Secretary.

“The EPA advise that after a heavy rainfall event it is best to avoid recreational water activities at a beach or bathing area for at least 48 hours to protect public health. It is especially important in areas where sewage may pose a risk.”

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s delight at club’s first ever Irish rugby international

Stephen Corrigan



Members of Monivea Rugby have expressed their delight at the naming of one of their own in the Irish team for this year’s summer series – with Caolin Blade looking set to be the clubs first to don the Irish jersey as a new era at his home club gets underway.

Blade, who is part of a 37-man squad named by Head Coach Andy Farrell this week that will take on Japan and the USA in two test matches in Dublin this July, exemplifies what can be achieved by a player from a small club in the West of Ireland, according to its recently appointed President Anthony Killarney.

“The sense of elation and pride in the club is immense, to see the Blade name on the Irish squad sheet. A very well-deserved achievement and timely indeed, based on his performances for Connacht.

“Caolin is showing such a great example – on and off the pitch – of what can be achieved through dedication and hard work to all the young players in Monivea RFC. We are all so proud today, and for this to happen as we approach our 50th year celebrations,” said Mr Killarney.

Caolin’s dad Pat was Monivea’s star player for years, he added, so to see his son rise up to international rugby was no surprise.

Blade’s naming on Monday coincides with a shakeup at the club that includes the election of a new committee aiming to grow the club and achieve the long-held goal of building a clubhouse.

As well as Mr Killarney becoming President, Carmel Laheen has been elected Vice President, while local councillor Shelly Herterich Quinn has taken the position of Chairperson.

Speaking to the Connacht Tribune this week, Cllr Herterich Quinn said she’d been involved in the club for almost ten years and was hugely honoured to take the role, as she paid tribute to the outgoing President, Pádraic McGann.

“I was delighted to receive the nomination for Chair from Pádraic McGann and I want to sincerely thank Padráic for everything he has achieved for rugby in Monivea over the past 49 years. It is absolutely true to say that without Pádraic’s grit and determination, we would not have a rugby club to go to every week, to play the game we love so much,” she said.

“2021 has been a significant years in more ways than one, but in particular here at Monivea RFC where one of the main figures in all things rugby for the last 49 years will take a back seat as we face into exciting times. Affectionately known as Mr Monivea, Pádraic McGann has been the driving force behind Monivea Rugby since 1972 which he founded, based on his love and enthusiasm for the game.”

The new committee comes from a wide variety of backgrounds, she said, and share a determination to build on the clubs successes – and to produce more players like Caolin Blade.

“The absence of a clubhouse is notable but we know that with the determination of the new committee, and the help of all our members, Monivea RFC will soon put down some solid foundations and continue to build on what has already been achieved in this wonderful club,” said Cllr Herterich Quinn.

“What better way to mark 50 years of rugby in the small picturesque village of Monivea than the opening of a clubhouse.”

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Connacht Tribune

Man jailed for using coercive behaviour to control family




A man whose young children fear for their mother’s safety once he is released from custody, has been sentenced to three years in prison for using coercion to control his family.

Imposing the sentence at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week, Judge Rory McCabe concurred with the findings of psychiatric and probation reports handed into court, that 49-year-old Paul Harkin posed a high risk of reoffending and of committing violence against his partner.

Harkin, a native of Derry who formerly lived with his wife and two children near Kilchreest, Loughrea, pleaded guilty before the court last January to knowingly and persistently engaging in behaviour that was controlling or coercive on a date unknown between June 24 and August 13 last year at an unknown location, which had a serious effect on a woman who is or was his spouse, and the behaviour was such that a reasonable person would consider it likely to have a serious effect on a relevant person, contrary to Section 39 (1) and (3) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2018.

Judge McCabe heard evidence at Harkin’s sentence hearing last week but adjourned finalisation of sentence until this week to consider the findings of comprehensive psychiatric and probation reports.

The court heard Harkin believed in several conspiracy theories and his coercive control of his wife and two young children, then aged nine and seven, escalated on the run-up to the children’s impending return to school last September as he feared they would be vaccinated against Covid 19, which he believed was a hoax.

He made veiled threats to his now former wife, Fiona Clarke, that he would burn their house down, and the homes of her extended family without warning, resulting in the loss of twelve lives, if she did not behave and do as she was told.

The court heard Ms Clarke went out to work while her husband stayed at home. He got her to withdraw money from her account on a regular basis and give it to him. He spent most days watching conspiracy videos on his phone and drinking beer, the court heard.

In her victim impact statement, which Ms Clarke read to the court, she said she lived in fear for the future when Harkin got out of prison.

“I went against Paul by speaking out and I am now terrified of the consequences. I don’t know if he will want revenge,” she said.

Detective Sergeant Paul Duane told the court that he arrested Harkin on September 2 last year.

He confirmed Harkin had previous convictions from Northern Ireland in 1998 for threatening to kill a former partner there, for two aggravated burglaries and causing criminal damage for which he had received a two-year suspended sentence.

Judge Rory McCabe said Harkin’s 1998 convictions showed he had ‘form’.

The judge placed the headline sentence at four-and-a-half years which he said, reflected the gravity of the offence, which carries a maximum tariff of five years.

Taking the early plea, Harkin’s expression of remorse, and his intention to leave the jurisdiction and go back to live in Derry as mitigating factors, Judge McCabe said the sentence he had in mind was three years.

However, he decided not to finalise the structure of that sentence until this week, stating this was a complex matter and he needed more time to consider the reports before the court.

Judge McCabe said an immediate custodial sentence was unavoidable and warranted when passing sentence this week.

The judge said he believed Harkin would make no effort to rehabilitate and it was his belief he would pose an ongoing risk of reoffending.

Imposing the three-year sentence, the judge directed Harkin to have no contact with the victims and come under the supervision of the probation service for twelve months on his release from prison.

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