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Helping you cope when the person you love dies

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

They say that lightning never strikes twice, but for Peggy Costello, it did. When she was 13 her father died, leaving his widow to rear five children, with Peggy being the second youngest. Then, just after 11 years of marriage, Peggy too was widowed, left alone to bring up four children aged between 10 and seven.

Even today, over 30 years later she gets upset as she talks about her husband’s death and the impact it had on her life.

But, mostly it’s her lively, sparky personality that shines through as she talks about her family and the group she helped to establish in Galway 25 years ago for widowed people.

The Galway branch of the Widowed Persons Benevolent Society of Ireland was set up as a support for men and women, she explains. At that time, there was already a society for widows, but “men need support too” and the aim of the widowed person’s group was to assist anybody who had lost a spouse, whether they were male or female.

The group will mark its 25th anniversary next Thursday, June 16, when a memorial tree will be planted in Salthill’s Millennium Park at 4pm, followed by Mass in the Galway Bay Hotel and a dance later on that evening.

In its 25 years, the group has provided a social outlet for some 400 people who have lost spouses, as well as providing financial assistance and practical advice for widowed people and their families.

Peggy and her fellow members share a common bond – all of them know the loneliness and darkness that comes with being left on your own when the person you love has died. She is a strong woman – and given the knocks she has suffered, it’s just as well.

Peggy’s family came to Galway from Dublin when she was five, after her father who worked with the Board of Works, now the OPW, was moved here.

Then, eight years later her father died. Peggy was one of five and they were like steps of stairs, with the oldest being 16 and the youngest 12. At the time, money was very tight – her mother got £1 a week in a pension.

Peggy, who had been boarding in Kylemore, had to leave school early. She got a job working in the administrative area of building and construction and she worked there until she got married to Vincent Costello from Grange, Turloughmore.

“I was 32 when I got married. I’d never wanted to,” she explains. “He changed my mind for me. He had a lovely personality and a great sense of humour.”

Her husband Vincent worked in the ESB as a truck driver and they met in the long defunct Talk of the Town (on the Headford Road) on the one night she ever went there. They had four children – twins followed by a boy and a girl with about three years between the oldest and youngest.

Vincent’s death was totally unexpected, making Peggy’s loss even more difficult to bear.

On December 15 1980, he came home for lunch and returned to work afterwards.

Three hours later a representative from the ESB called to her door to tell her he had been killed in a work accident, she recalls, visibly upset at the memory. It takes no effort to imagine what their Christmas must have been like that year. It was awful, she says, and it has never been the same, even 31 years’ later.

When Vincent died their children were 10, nine and seven

The family lived in Renmore at the time and she was lucky enough to have good back-up, especially from her mother and sister who lived in Furbo.

Financially she was fine, because there was a government pension and an ESB pension. The personnel officer from the semi-state organisation advised her on her entitlements and what she needed to do.

The Costellos had a Corporation loan on their Renmore house – it was in her husband’s name because, at that time, that’s how things were. But Peggy had always been used to managing the family finances and, so handling those kinds of things presented no problem. But she was lonely.

“I don’t know how I coped. I suppose the kids kept me going, they were small and with me all the time after they’d come home from school.”

But she was the only person responsible for them, and that was stressful. “I had to make every decision for them, to do with school and what have you and it was very traumatic at the time.”

Eventually her doctor recommended counselling for both Peggy and the children and that was “terrific”.

“It gave the kids an insight into what I was going through, as well as what they were going through after their father died.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

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

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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.

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