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Hell to Paradise – story of triumph over tragedy

Judy Murphy

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Author Suzanne Strempek Shea with Mags Riordan of Malawi's Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic, and Leo Moran of the Saw Doctors.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Suzanne Strempek Shea started writing fiction while working as a journalist in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since her first novel, Selling the Lite of Heaven was published in 1995, she has gone on to write four more, with her fifth due out later this year.

The US born author is in Galway this week, reading from her latest book, a true story which proves that fact is stranger than fiction. And in this case, sadder, although This is Paradise is also an amazing account of how one woman overcame enormous tragedy and transformed it into a positive force for other people.

This is Paradise is about Cork-born Mags Riordan whose 26-year-old son Billy drowned in Malawi in 1999. The country in the south-east of Africa, is one of the most beautiful, but poorest in the world. After he drowned there – the third of her five children to die in tragic circumstances – Mags travelled to Africa to erect a stone in his memory in Cape Maclear, the village where he died.

It was beautiful, but when she saw the poverty in which people were living, Mags decided that a memorial stone was not enough. So, with great determination, and in the face of many obstacles, she set up the Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic in Cape Maclear.

Since then, it has served over 275,000 people and saved countless lives. With a staff of 34 it is also the second biggest employer in the village, a place where unemployment is at 90 per cent, .

Suzanne first got to know Mags in 2004 when the career guidance teacher, who lived in Kerry, took part in the Eastern State Exposition, a major fair held annually in Massachusetts, where Suzanne lives. Mags was selling crafts from Malawi to raise funds for the fledgling clinic, while Suzanne was working at another stand, helping a friend from Kerry who was selling knitwear.

The stands were beside each other and Suzanne, as a journalist, was keeping a good ear on nearby conversations. She noticed people going to Mags’ stand, asking about the crafts.  Mags would tell them about Billy’s death and the clinic she had established in his memory. Some people listened and bought, others found it harder to cope with the story.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Textile artist Kathy makes her mark

Judy Murphy

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Kathy Ross puts the finishing touches to her stag quilt.

Lifestyle – Artist Kathy Ross fuses age-old crafting techniques and textiles to depict wildlife in a vivid, hyper-realistic way. She worked as a painter for many years before returning to her first love. Now, her work is making an impact internationally as she continues to push herself creatively, inspired by her local surroundings and her love of nature. She talks to JUDY MURPHY about her latest projects.

Runner’s knee, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow – all problems caused by repeated physical activity. And don’t forget quilter’s shoulders!

Kathy Ross didn’t even know such a condition existed – at least until lockdown, when the Tuam-based artist embarked on a project to quilt a stag, measuring one square metre.

And not just any old stag. This magnificent creature is set against a forest background with different trees and leaves. Kathy used a range of techniques including drawing, needle-felting, applique and free-form embroidery to create this quilt, a true labour of love.

When it was nearly done, Kathy called to her local craftshop in Tuam, ‘Quilt, Yarn, Stitch’ for supplies. During her visit, she mentioned to owner Róisín McManus that her shoulders were killing her.

“Róisín just laughed and said ‘you have quilter’s shoulders’,” recalls Kathy. But it was worth it, she adds happily.

Kathy has now entered the finished work into an international quilt festival in Brighton. This is an annual event and on a normal year, she’d be bringing her stag over there, but because of Covid-19, she’s sending photos of the piece instead.

Kathy, who studied Fine Art and Art History in the National College of Art and Design, initially embarked on a career as a watercolour artist, taking part in group and solo shows and earning a reputation for her landscape and portrait pieces.

Originally from Lackagh and now living near Tuam, she made the transition to textiles about three years ago.

“I was doing a show called Timeless on old buildings around Tuam and I got frustrated by how two-dimensional they were,” she recalls of the process.

Around that time, she found a forgotten textile piece which she had made while in she was still in college. It reignited her interest in this form, which she’d also loved at school.

She started learning more about the process by drawing sketches on paper and sewing through them. Known as “free-motion embroidery”, this is basically painting with thread, she explains. She learned more about embroidery as well as about applique – stitching pieces of fabric onto a larger piece – so she could create extra layers and dimensions in her work.

Her resulting textured artworks of animals from cattle to sheep to hares were all inspired by local residents in Togher, where she lives with her husband Alan and their children Millie (11) and Luke (7).

Kathy’s love of nature means animals have always featured in her work and while her medium has changed as she aims to push herself creatively, her subject matter hasn’t.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Stephen Corrigan

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An aerial photo of the Docks area in Galway City, captured on May 5, 1970.

1920

Racing optimism

On page six we give the entries for the two principal events at the Galway meeting of 1920. These and the figures we published a week ago indicate that the meeting will outrival all previous records.

Ballybrit has been gaining fame from year to year. Six years ago, it was held under the shadow of the outbreak of the greatest war the world has known. The morrow was uncertain, the first money panic had begun, and students of affairs looked out upon a clouded horizon.

But Galway “carried on” bravely, and the famous week rant its course. Already there is gloomy speculation as to this year’s fixture, but there is an old axiom that “it is time enough, etc.”

The Cassandras love to indulge in gloomy prophecy, but the Race Committee is taking the sensible view, and proceeding with the preliminaries on a scale commensurate with the importance that will attach to this year’s event.

If the worst comes to the worst, and the railways bring us no passengers, the owners will find a way, and the sport-loving West will recognise that difficulties were made to be overcome.

The resources of a sporting people cannot be exhausted. “What did we do before James Watt made it possible to travel by steam?” asked an insuppressible optimist.

Bookeen siege

Rescued in the nick of time, seven policemen who had withstood a continuous siege lasting over two hours, escaped from the burning police barracks at Bookeen, County Galway, in the early hours of Friday morning.

The little garrison on the roadside station, about a mile from the main highway between Athenry and Loughrea, and six miles from the former town, numbered nine men, but one was absent in hospital on Thursday night and the other away.

The barracks was fortified in the usual way. It stood in a remote part of County Galway, the only other important building in the neighbourhood being a country church.

On Thursday night the customary preparations were being made for attack, trees being felled to blockade the approaching roads, and walls being built across them.

About midnight the station was attacked by rifle and revolver fire, and an attempt was made to blow it up and set it on fire.

The seven policemen stood to arms and replied with vigour, hurling hand grenades in the direction from which the fire of their invisible assailants came, but they were hampered by their surroundings and could not make an effective defence.

Meanwhile, Verey lights were sent up for help, and these with the sound of the high explosive rockets and the detonation of the bombs, made a deafening din.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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Connacht Tribune

Post-Covid syndrome a reality for survivors

Denise McNamara

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The chilling long term effects of Covid-19 should inspire us to don masks and keep up with the hand washing.

Health, Fashion and Beauty with Denise McNamara

After the strictest restrictions on our movement were lifted and the return of normalities like Gaelic training and eating out, it’s so tempting to think it’s all over.

Particularly, given there are so few new cases in our part of the country.

Yet the health authorities are urging us to remain extremely careful and keep up the hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette and to wear masks where social distancing is not possible.

I don’t know about you but I have become lax. Call it Covid fatigue.

I used to be screaming at the kids about hand sanitizing the minute they came into the house or the car after being outside. They did it automatically. Now I may only remember to remind them a while after they troop in.

I’m no longer watching them like a hawk when outside if they encounter other kids. I’ve had a few friends and family over and while we socially distanced for the first few hours we couldn’t help embracing after a few vinos.

So, it is rather sobering to learn that Covid-19 may have long-term effects if contracted for a significant minority. In fact, scientists are currently studying how widespread Post-Covid Syndrome may be.

Anecdotal reports say people are being left with severe fatigue, aching muscles and difficulty concentrating.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said these long-term effects look like a post-viral fatigue syndrome.

Professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Leicester Chris Brightling is leading an £8.4m study of the long-term health impacts of Covid-19 involving 10,000 patients.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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