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Highlights through the decades on the ultimate Christmas box



Date Published: 19-Dec-2012

There’s no way that every childhood Christmas could have been spent gathered round the single-channel telly, once again watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after a big dinner – it just seems that way.

For that matter, it might have been ET phoning home at a later stage or Willie Wonka drowning in a vat of chocolate or, as innocence gave way to acne, whatever was new from the James Bond stable.

Television gave us the chance to experience other people’s Christmases – Joe Dolan’s, Val Doonican’s, Tony Kenny’s, Dustin the turkey’s – on the understanding that their Christmases involved choirs of schoolchildren and fake snow in a show that was almost certainly recorded in early November.

Undoubtedly the Riordans featured in the evening time, with Benjy up to his old tricks and Tom accepting his fate as Mary poured out his dinner. Then we lost the plot and spent a portion of December 2008 watching Podge and Rodge’s Christmas Craic.

These days, it’s Coronation Street or Eastenders, where someone is murdered every year and the dinner for the entire Street or square either ends in tears or a massive fire.

There’s a children’s movie around tea-time – or what we tend to call the hour they get violently sick from eating sweets non-stop for a solid 24 hours – before you try to get them out of the way for an hour so that the older people can watch Gavin and Stacey or the Royle Family in relative peace.

Whatever was actually on the box, the reality is that television has always played as big a part in the events of Christmas Day as Brussels sprouts and the turkey.

For a while, Donnybrook was dominated by puppets, as Zig and Zag headed out of the Den to visit the North Pole – looking suspiciously like a backdrop rather than a shoot in a cold climate – or Dustin steering us through an excruciating Top ten of something.

Back in the day, if you were lucky enough to have relatives in multi-channel land – in other words, up North or in Dublin – you might get to enjoy Morecambe and Wise, Mike Yarwood or the Two Ronnies.

A few years on from that it was those Christmas specials of Only Fools and Horses, One Foot in the Grave, Last of the Summer Wine, the Office, Vicar of Dibley or Wallace and Gromit.

As soon as the double-issue RTE Guide came out, someone went through the festive season with a pen to mark all of their scheduled viewing, knowing deep down that they’d be lucky to get to see a quarter of it.

These days, with the help of Sky+, you just have to look up the programme guide and record everything to your heart’s content, so that – even if you don’t get to enjoy the shows at the same time as the rest of the world – you can celebrate Christmas on the telly in your own time in the New Year.

And you’ll have plenty of time as well, because once St Stephen’s Day is out of the way, television land goes into hibernation – and you’ll spend the last week of this year and the start of 2013 watching ‘highlights of the year’.

That’s a euphemism for what we used to call either repeats or ‘cut and paste’ television, where you repackage the Olympics or the sports events of the year, so that those who work in live television can have the Christmas off too.

This year, RTE fans can look forward to spending the New Year in the company of Miriam O’Callaghan – now officially the woman who welcomes everyone and everything onto the telly, including 2013 – in the company of a feast of Irish talent.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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.

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