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Connacht Tribune

Historical tour offers insight into Galway – and what lies beneath

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You may not always be aware of it, but every time you walk through Galway City centre there are centuries of history right under your feet.

Michael Quinn of Galway Civic Trust (Dúchas na Gaillimhe) describes the stories in the stones, starting with the Hall of the Red Earl on Druid Lane and winding through the narrow cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter all the way around to the Kings Head on High Street.

“The intrigue of the medieval story in Galway is as colourful as any episode of Game of Thrones, with beheadings and sieges and murders all over the place,” he reveals in a matter of fact way.

Among the many sites of interest are the Hall of the Red Earl, The King’s Head pub, St. Nicholas’ Church, and Lynch’s Castle.

One of the oldest and most significant landmarks in the city, the Hall of the Red Earl is associated with the establishment of the town of Galway by Anglo-Normans in the 13th century.

It was built by Richard de Burgo shortly after completing the city walls and functioned as a key municipal building, acting as revenue office, court house, and town hall.

Customers know the King’s Head as a popular pub – but when it was built in the 13th century, this was the home of Galway Mayor Thomas Lynch Fitz-Ambrose before it was seized from him by Cromwell’s henchman Col. Peter Stubbers in 1654. The building still houses two medieval fireplaces, cut-stone windows and the walls of Bank’s Castle at the rear. St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church has the distinction of being the largest medieval parish church in continuous use in Ireland.

Founded in 1320 and dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra, legends have it that Christopher Columbus worshipped here in 1477.  Leabhar na nGenealach, or Book of Genealogies, was written in the church by Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh in 1650.

Lynch’s Castle – dating from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century – started life as a town house belonging to the most powerful family of Galway’s 14 tribes, and still stands on the corner of Shop Street and Abbeygate Street.

It’s been part of AIB for a lifetime – but the old carvings and crests still adorn the four-story limestone exterior.  Michael Quinn covers these and other notable historic Galway landmarks in free bi-weekly walking tours, which take place at 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays from May until September.

Galway Civic Trust has been running the tours for five or six years now. “We’re funded by the Galway City Council, so we sort of see it as a public service obligation, a way to give back to the community,” he says.

But next week – for a little extra medieval kick – Michael Quinn and Galway Civic Trust are partnering with the Kings Head to run a Medieval Walk, Talk, & Banquet tour in aid of Galway Simon Community.

The one-off event next Wednesday, May 10, will include a guided tour of the city’s most colourful medieval monuments starting with a welcome wine reception at the Hall of the Red Earl at half five.

After the walking tour, which includes a special appearance by Dave Swift of medieval re-enactment group Claíomh, the evening will end at the King’s Head for a special medieval banquet of food, drink, and festivities bookended by Galway Early Music.

“People will get to experience the living history thing, the education side of it, and then it’s back to the pub for craic,” Michael explains.

He came up with the idea for the unique fundraising event as a way to get locals involved in history.

“It’s a way for people to appreciate their own city, and the medieval fabric of the town,” he says. “The streets are still laid out as they were in medieval times. So much of Galway’s character comes from its history, and people aren’t always aware of it.”

Tickets for the Medieval Walk, Talk & Banquet tour are €50, available at the King’s Head pub or online at www.galwaysimon.ie

Connacht Tribune

Packed like sardines in Salthill and only 200 allowed gather at a game

John McIntyre

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John McIntyre

Inside Track with John McIntyre – sports@ctribune.ie

IN a moment of madness, I decided to take a cycle out to Salthill last Saturday. By the time I got to the Blackrock Diving Tower, I thought I had just come through Torremolinos or one of those sun hot spots on the Costa Del Sol. There were cars and people everywhere.

The first inkling that Salthill would be heaving came when there was a traffic-jam halfway back the Lough Atalia Road leading to the Docks. Such were the number of cars, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Pearse Stadium was hosting a Connacht football final that afternoon.

If the people of Offaly, Laois and Kildare – all currently under partial Covid-19 lockdown – could see the carefree holiday mood in one of the West’s favourite tourist attractions, they’d be wondering had they stumbled on a parallel universe.

As readers will know from previous columns, I have a jaundiced view of NPHET and the Government’s cautious approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions. The scaremongering continues at frightening levels and many people are living in a climate of fear – though few of them were in Salthill.

NPHET must be immune to what’s really happening on the ground. If it thinks that there is widespread compliance, the group is living in cloud cuckoo land. All over Ireland’s favourite tourist attractions, there are thousands of holiday makers with little or no observance of social distancing.

My frustration over this scenario is fuelled by the way sport and its followers have been so badly compromised by the Covid-19 restrictions. My club Lorrha was playing in the Tipperary hurling championship last Friday evening and many of our diehard supporters couldn’t get a ticket to the match.

It’s the same in every GAA parish. So much unnecessary agitation and frustration. On Sunday evening, reporting duties took me to Ballinasloe for an attractive derby clash between Tommy Larkins and Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry. In a nutshell, there was nearly as many people inside as outside the wire. The ‘gathering’ limit of 200 annoyingly remains, especially in the context of the throngs in places like Salthill.

NPHET have justified not increasing crowd limits to beyond 200 over fears that people will congregate afterwards and the assumption that individuals from different families are travelling together in the one car. Frankly, it’s a load of nonsense and just irrational justification for not being prepared to compromise.

Of course, if the Government had any backbone instead of acting like a lapdog, it would never have come to this. I am fed up of hearing the line, in the interests of ‘public health’, as if people are dying from nothing else other than the coronavirus. The reality is that there have only been a handful of fatalities from the disease over the past fortnight. In the same period, how many have passed away from cancer and cardiac issues when their standard of care wasn’t what it should have been due to the fixation with Covid-19 over the past four months?

There’s now a genuine health and safety issue at play as well in relation to sporting fixtures. We have all images of fans hanging off trees and ladders, and others on rust-laden roofs, in their desperation to support their local teams. Furthermore, does NPHET have any idea what their draconian approach is doing to the mental health of some people?

There was no justification for stopping sporting activity in Laois, Offaly and Kildare last Friday. Locking down the affected towns where there was a surge of new infections in local meat processing plants would have made more sense. There have been no clusters spread through sport so why should codes like GAA and soccer be punished?

We all appreciate that the virus hasn’t gone away and there is an obligation on all of us to act responsibly, but only making the use of masks compulsory for most indoor settings from last Monday takes the biscuit altogether. Why has it taken so long? The pandemic has been with us since last March and only now is this measure deemed appropriate.

Over the past few weeks, I have observed individuals wearing masks travelling alone in cars, while cycling, and outdoors where there’s hardly a sinner in sight. What’s that all about? It’s not as if you can pass on the virus to yourself! Horse racing is going to extremes altogether. Now everybody at a meeting has to wear a mask outdoors. Suffice to say, they all look ridiculous walking around in what is the equivalent of big open fields.

I have absolutely no issue with our civil liberties being compromised in the ongoing quest to supress the virus, but logic is being repeatedly thrown out the window. NPHET’s ‘one size fits all’ approach must be urgently reviewed and the Government needs to stand back and make up its own mind about what activity constitutes genuine risk.

Though I believe the horse has long since bolted when it comes to wearing masks in indoor centres, I am willingly obeying the rule while as team manager of Lorrha, all our players have their temperatures checked before each training session; there are hand santisers supplied; and the training props are disinfected.

The primary focus should be on sorting out meat processing plants and the direct provision centres, while travel in and out of the country ought to be restricted to emergencies or on compassionate grounds. House parties also need to be clamped down on. Everything else is hardly worth a hill of beans in tackling this pandemic.

Keeping gatherings at 200 and not allowing pubs to reopen are soft targets. I am not proposing anarchy or anything like that, but the powers that be need to wise up and concentrate their efforts on the places where outbreaks of the virus are occurring. Everything else is just window dressing.

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Connacht Tribune

Old mills set for new life as distillery

Declan Tierney

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An artist's impression of the new distillery.

An old corn mill in East Galway is set to be transformed into a €6 million whiskey and gin manufacturing distillery – once planning permission has been granted for the development.

And if approved, the distillery has the potential to create more than 15 new jobs directly in the village of Ahascragh, providing a huge economic boost to the area – and rescuing the old corn mill which ceased operation in the 1950s.

A planning application for the new brewery has just been submitted by Gareth and Michelle McAllister of McAllister Distillers in North Dublin, with a decision due before the end of the year.

Gareth McAllister told The Connacht Tribune that he intended to renovate the old building while retaining some of the old features such as a mill wheel, and utilise the stream that runs through the property.

The complex, as well as producing various styles of Irish whiskey and gin, will also include a visitor centre, rooms for hospitality events, a retail shop and cafe.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Wait is over for frontman’s first solo venture

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John Martin Tierney

Multi-instrumentalist John Martin Tierney has been a recognisable face on Galway’s music scene for several years – but up to now, largely as the focal point in a band setting.  Comfortable operating as both energetic frontman and rhythm-setting guitarist, he has featured in an array of impressive local outfits; most notably, his work with Dead Horse Jive has seen the five-piece develop into one of the city’s top live acts.

But with all of that experience in a collaborative setting, John’s solo work has sometimes been put to the side.

That’s about to change – if just temporarily – as John releases his debut single, I Will Wait, this Friday; a three-and-a-half-minute ballad, the song incorporates piano and acoustic guitar more than much of his band work has done.

Though the track has existed in some form for a long time, its subject matter was particularly pertinent over lockdown.

“Around the start of June, I started properly putting energy into something that would have an end product,” John recalls.

“I wanted something I could be proud of, even if I wasn’t going to release it while lockd I Will Waitown was going on. I had an earlier version of it but I was never happy with it. I started rewriting it in about May or June.

“It kind of talks about missing people that you love. It’s from the point of view of not being able to see someone physically because of whatever restrictions are in place. That’s where it came from anyway and I think it translates well… I hope it does.”

For full interview, read the Groove Tube in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in all shops now – or purchase the digital edition; full details on this website.

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