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I wish you all a Merry Mammalian Christmas!



Date Published: 20-Dec-2012

Have I run out of cling film? No, I haven’t. There’s a spare roll in the cupboard under the sink, next to the spare roll of aluminium foil, the packet of sandwich bags and the ice cube bags.

The wine is sorted, no thanks to Michael Noonan. A good bottle of Chablis for the Snapper and an ancient Bordeaux for the cook. Oh, and a few lesser bottles as back-up, for that stage of proceedings when the thirst has fled upriver with the tastebuds.

There’s a bottle of Port for the stinky creamy Stilton, which I like on digestive biscuits. Must remember to get those digies. They can slip through the shopping net if you’re not careful.

A strong nutty Cheddar from Cheddar and a gooey ripe Normandy Brie, along with the brandy to flambé the pudding, make the brandy butter and provide a healthy slurp of Winter warmth to the cook.

He seems to crop up quite a lot, that cook, especially when there’s a slurp in the sentence.

Talking of slurp, in the fridge is the bottle of champagne that kicks off proceedings, consumed whilst opening presents in front of the fire on Christmas morning. By that time the turkey is in the oven and the cook is feeling pretty chilled.

In this house we choose sausage rolls as an accompaniment. Champagne and sausage rolls, representing exactly what my much-missed Dad taught me as a child: enjoy the fine things in life while really appreciating the simple ones.

Sausage rolls. Blimey. Haven’t got them yet.

What else have I forgotten?

Well there’s a small perfectly-formed tree in our living room, so I didn’t forget that. Cards are strewn around the planet, my presents long-since sent off to England, while a little pile of promises for the Snapper are sitting under the tree. They look fantastically raggedy and boy-wrapped, next to her perfectly pretty ribbon and bow creations.

At this time of year I’m driven by strong primal forces. Oooerrr, Matron! My natural propensity for list writing goes into overdrive, alongside an overpowering impulse to stockpile everything.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by Blitz generation parents, or maybe it’s because my father was raised by Holocaust refugees. In Jewish circles, the hoarding of toilet paper, over-cramming of fridges and cupboards is called ‘Holocaust mentality’, driven by a terror that I thankfully do not suffer.

No, I’m just a hairy mammal like you, and we’re all responding to our animal instincts to prepare our caves for hibernation. As mammals, we need to be warm, feast on high fat foods and feel safe enough to sleep until Spring. Yet instead we rush around in the cold and dark, becoming stressed out at the least apt time of year.

When we turn our backs on mammalian ways, we start to behave slightly crazily. Hence my own list-ticking neuroses, nurtured through many rural West of Ireland Winters.


For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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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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