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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

A time when we learned once more that no man is an island

Francis Farragher

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Country singer Dolly Parton getting the jab: she sang about it and part-funded research on the vaccine.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

One of the oft-repeated pub jokes whenever the price drink was increased, whether it by Finance Ministers or publicans who felt that their margins were being whittled away, was that: “As long as it doesn’t get scarce, we’ll be happy enough.”

Who could have believed though in the first month or two of 2020 that this scenario would unfold (at least in pubs), where the opportunity to meet friends – and the odd ‘auld enemy’ too – over a couple of pints in the local bar would be snatched away from us?

We probably have learned to adapt to the reality of the pandemic and most of us will remember the real sense of fear and constriction that pervaded our every word and action early last year.

2020 was the universal version of ‘annus horribilis’ – the term made famous by Queen Elizabeth in 1992 when royal marriages started to collapse like cards houses in the breeze.

Being of rural stock, I loved the little video earlier this from country music icon, Dolly Parton, who adapted a verse of her famous Jolene song to mark her first shot of the Moderna vaccine (she also donated $1 million to its research) in a very sincere effort to try and encourage the general public to get inoculated.

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,

I’m begging of you not to hesitate,

Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,

Cause when you’re dead that’s a bit too late.”

A year before that, times were indeed very strange across Ireland and indeed the world. I remember on the Sunday night before St. Patrick’s Day when a sense of incredulity greeted the news in my own local that ‘a lot of the pubs in Galway city were closing down’. Surely, this couldn’t happen in our own little watering hole in the sticks, but it did.

Michael Karmen’s soundtrack from the Band of Brothers series – a wonder piece of music even to my untrained ear – will always remind me of that early Spring period of lockdown in 2020.

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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Connacht Tribune

Beat the leaks with reusable Nixx

Denise McNamara

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Ellie Loftus creator of Nixx.

Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Ellie Loftus is one of those super high achievers who makes you feel totally inadequate.  A registered nurse with two postgraduates, one in paediatrics and the other in intensive care, she also has a Masters of Science in Health from UCD. She was Regional Child and Adolescent Health Development Officer for the HSE from 2003 to 2008.

The native of Crossmolina who lives in Barna then decided to go and get herself a law degree and was later called to the Bar. She is currently working as a barrister.

In her spare time, Ellie is a sprinter. She runs for Ireland as a master athlete and competed before lockdown at the European Athletics Championships.

And it wasn’t just running that she excelled at. She represented Ireland on the first female Irish Olympic bobsleigh team, taking part in four World Cups. She was sought out by Prince Albert of Monaco for a chat because she was from Mayo, the home of his beloved late mother Grace Kelly.

Now, at the age of 49, this dynamo has pivoted again, this time setting up her own business. She has drawn on her experience of working with adolescents in the HSE, being a mom of two girls and her years as an athlete.

Nixx.ie is a period and bladder leak range of underwear that could revolutionise sanitary care.

The underwear is reusable by throwing it in the washing machine and can be worn without a tampon or pad.

Each pair consists of four layers of specialised fabrics. Because they can be worn without sanitary products, they are a much more sustainable solution. The first sanitary pads invented are still in a landfill somewhere as they take between 500 and 800 years to decompose.

They also turn up everywhere you don’t want to see them. Sanitary products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches, more widespread than single-use coffee cups, cutlery or straws.

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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Connacht Tribune

Stepping out of time in Burren Lands

Judy Murphy

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Lifestyle – Sacred sites and traditional crafts and placenames are among the wonders that unfold on a walking tour of the Burren led by Anna Casey Donohue. It all takes place on the lowlands and hills of the family farm south of Kinvara, where her husband John is the seventh generation of his family to work the land. JUDY MURPHY goes on a voyage of discovery, led by this retired teacher of Irish and Geography.

Driving towards the Burren from the village of Kinvara, its majestic limestone mountains are a source of wonder, no matter how many times you see them. From a distance, they’re amazing. But it’s only when you get up close, you realise how this seemingly inhospitable landscape teems with wildlife and history.

That wealth of nature, heritage and also spirituality is what Anna Casey Donohue wants people to experience when they take to the hills behind her house on the Clare-Galway border. And there’s no doubt, once you go off the road and start walking towards a field known locally as Páirc na Liadhas, the outside world seems to melt away.

Páirc na Liadhas translates into English as ‘the Field of the Grey Habits’, Anna explains. Located across the hill from Oughtmama, which was an important monastic site in the early Middle Ages, and close to the 13th Century Corcomroe Abbey, this place is steeped in folk history, much of which has long passed into the mists of time. But previous generations remembered Páirc na Liadhas as an area which was home to an order of grey-robed nuns. And as we make the gentle ascent towards the field – a green oasis on the mountain’s lower slopes with hawthorn and hazel copses all around – Anna informs the small group of walkers that it contains the ruins of a convent, which, it’s believed, was connected to the monastic community of Corcomroe.

Anna, a retired secondary school teacher who runs Burren Explore, is a mine of knowledge when it comes to the Burren’s geography, folklore and placenames – and the joy she gets from sharing that knowledge is palpable.

She’s originally from Kilbeacanty in the foothills of the Sliabh Aughty Mountains on the other side of Gort and this farm on which we are walking was inherited by her husband Johnny,  the seventh generation of his family to work this land – doing so in line with the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme.

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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