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Homage to the horse and a rural way of life

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Willie Leahy with an old-horse drawn crop sprayer at the Dartfield Horse Museum and Heritage Centre.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy visits Dartfield Horse and Heritage Centre and finds it to be a hive of equine-based activities

Dartfield Horse and Heritage Centre, a couple of miles outside Loughrea on the Dublin Road is the sort of place where, if you hung around for any length of time, you’d be given a job to do.

The impressive set-up in Kilrickle, which pays homage to Irish horses and ponies, and to a rural way of life that’s now gone, is a social hub. On a busy Friday morning, neighbours drop in for a chat and cup of tea before engaging in tasks that range from cleaning to clay pigeon shooting. Right now, the emphasis is on preparing for a visit from tourism minister Michael Ring, but behind the scenes, stable hands are also preparing ponies for export, because Dartfield is much more than a heritage centre.

Owned by farmer and businessman Willie Leahy, it is also a working farm, one of several in his possession. Willie, who is now in his 70s, has been buying land since he “was 15 years of age” and regards it as the only asset worth having.

He grew up on the other side of Loughrea, at Aille Cross on the Woodford Road, where the family had a 30-acre farm which “I inherited eventually, but I’d bought all over the place before then”.

Sitting at a table in the museum café, with his neighbour Brian nodding in agreement, Willie explains his passion for land.

“There is nothing like land. You could have all the houses in the world, but old houses will fall down. Land is always there. And it is the backbone of everything. Nobody could live without land. People would have no breakfast without it. People forget that, especially in cities. But somebody has to be a farmer.”

That’s a role he is more than happy to fulfil. He is the largest breeder of Connemara ponies in Ireland and owns about 400 horses and ponies according to the museum leaflets, although he is coy about the exact figure. Willie also keeps cattle and sheep on his various holdings.

He is an able herdsman and horse dealer, and even as a child, had a good eye for horses and an aptitude for hard work.

At the age of 10 he borrowed a donkey so that he could go to the bog to cut and harvest turf for sale.  Unlike his six siblings, he never had any interest in college and says simply “It takes up time. I couldn’t understand why you would spend years and years in college when you could be making a living”.

That’s what he did. The young Willie bought a potato sprayer on hire purchase and worked for farmers, spraying against potato blight – in those days, every farmer grew potatoes, he explains.

“I made a lot of money spraying potatoes.”

And that money wasn’t wasted. Willie bought land, he bought cattle and he bought horses. While his family background was modest, his love of horses led him to take up hunting as a teenager, although traditionally this was the pursuit of well-heeled farmers. Willie didn’t care. The first time he went out, he had a sack for a saddle because he didn’t own a proper saddle, he recalls. Later, he went on to become Field Master of the renowned Galway Blazers.

He didn’t give a toss for social divides then, he says, and he doesn’t now.

“I meet them all and everybody is the same to me.”

‘Them all’ includes the Kennedys and the Clintons among others and he takes it all in his stride.

“The small person is as important as the highest person. I’m able to talk to everybody and everybody is the same.”

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

CITY TRIBUNE

Celebrations to forge new links

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Ester Kiely, Eilís Ní Dhonncha and Gráinne Ní Bhroin from Headford Lace Project at the launch of Corrib Beo’s programme of Heritage Week events, ‘Connecting Corrib Communities’ at Claregalway Castle. Photo: Brian Harding.

Lifestyle – An initiative involving community groups from around the Corrib has been launched for Heritage Week, with events taking place to showcase the area’s many riches, while also creating new connections among organisations. JUDY MURPHY hears from some of the groups involved.

”Ní neart go cur le chéile,” says Eilís Nic Dhonncha of the Headford Lace Project as she quotes the old Irish proverb about strength in togetherness to describe a new initiative which involves 13 communities around the Corrib, lake and river.

Linking Corrib Communities is running as part of Heritage Week and involves people from different communities showcasing their local heritage while also working to develop closer ties with each other.

The initiative, organised by the voluntary umbrella group Corrib Beo, was launched in Claregalway Castle on Tuesday at an event attended by people from all around Lough Corrib, including Fine Gael Senator, Seán Kyne (Moycullen), and Cllr Frank Fahy (Menlo).

But most of all, this was an occasion for people involved in the historic, cultural and leisure life of their local communities, and among the highlights was a demonstration of bobbin lacemaking from members of the Headford Lace Project, in the castle.

The Headford group came into being in 2016 to revive a craft that had been synonymous with the area from the mid-1700s to the early 1900s – census returns from 1911 show it was still alive in that year – but which died out as machines took over the highly-skilled work, practised for so long by local women.

It had almost been forgotten by 2016 when the Headford Lace Project was created as part of the Small Town Big Ideas for Galway 2020. Since then, the group has done extraordinary work to research and revive this unique heritage. So much so that Headford Lace was last year granted UNESCO status, being placed on Ireland’s National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, up there alongside hurling.

Eilís and fellow project member, Ger Henry Hassett explain that people don’t need to be skilled at bobbin-work to get involved in the Headford Lace Project. While it’s a particularly intricate style of lacemaking, many other initiatives have taken place in the town, including one that involved local blacksmiths,  Pat Monaghan and Simon Harte, working with artist Róisín de Butléar to create a sculpture representing the tradition, located in the town’s square. There’s also ongoing research – a huge part of the project.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Vitamin D and good postural balance may help as we age

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Health, Beauty and Lifestyle with Denise McNamara

Having just turned 50 aging is particularly on my mind this month. So two recent studies about aging peaked my interest which are worth sharing. The first is a study from the University of South Australia and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is based on data from 294,514 participants from the UK Biobank, a biomedical database with half a million British participants.

Scientists found that in some populations, up to 17 per cent of dementia cases could be prevented simply by raising people’s vitamin D in the blood to 50 nmol/L, which is considered to be the normal level.

Dementia affects over 55 million people worldwide and every year 10 million new cases are diagnosed so the implications could be huge.

It is the first time the impact of very low levels of vitamin D are examined on the risks of dementia and stroke by using genetic analyses among a large study population.

There is widespread vitamin D deficiency among people worldwide, even in sunny regions where sun awareness campaigns, indoor living and other factors contribute to the low vitamin D levels,

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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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Rev Fr Raymond Watters O.P recites a decade of the rosary as the rain begins to pour down during the Blessing of Galway Bay on August 15, 1882.

1922

Dawn surrender

National troops operating from Galway and Athenry at dawn on Wednesday morning surrounded an area about four miles between Liscananaun village and Aucloggeen, on the eastern side of the Corrib, and after a smart movement captured nineteen irregulars, with their officers, twenty-two service and Mauser rifles, a number of service revolvers and automatics, and considerable quantities of ammunition for bombs.

The National troops were under command of Co-Commandant Austin Brennan, O.C., Galway area, and the various battalion and company officers, and the plan to surround these villages, which lie in a marshy waste between the Curragh Line, or Galway-Headford road, and the main road from Galway to Tuam, was evolved after information had been received that a number of irregulars were quartered there, and were commandeering sheep and foodstuffs from people in surrounding districts.

Slowly and silently, accompanied by a Lancia armoured car on which machine guns were mounted, the National troops moved out from Galway shortly before two a.m. on Wednesday. One column took the Galway to Headford road, the other taking the Tuam road.

The column operating on the Headford road swung to the right beyond the Cregg river, taking the road to Drumgriffin. By dawn they had taken up extended formation in the woods around Cregg Castle, and this formed a trap into which the irregulars were subsequently driven.

Trade unions position

Mr. Cathal O’Shannon, T.D., in his presidential address at the Trade Union Congress on Monday, declare that organised Labour was separate from and independent of any political party, and would take no dictation from any quarter outside its own ranks.

He strongly protested against militarism, from whatever quarter it came, and condemned the political censorship of thought and opinion, the ignoring of laws relating to the custody of prisoners, the existence of a semi-military police force, and the propaganda on both sides.

The present conflict or strife, he declared, was unnecessary and counselled the Irish workers to keep aloof from it.

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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