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Images of a more innocent Galway



Date Published: 10-Aug-2012

 PHOTOGRAPHS, especially old ones, can transport us down memory lane which is why their nostalgic qualities are so powerful.

An American tourist visiting Galway City in the summer of 1953 took a number of photographs while she was here and recently sent them to us.

They show a different city, a quieter one obviously with less traffic on the street, few pedestrians and buildings which have long since been demolished and replaced with new developments.

One photograph gives a clue to when they were taken and that image is of Queen Salote of Tonga being escorted out of a black Rolls Royce and up the steps of the Great Southern Hotel, which is now the Meyrick.

Her visit to Galway was in June, just days after attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in London where she got international press attention for the way she sat in an open topped carriage waving and smiling at the crowds who lined the streets in the rain.

She is wearing a mid-calf full skirted dress which was fashionable at the time. She was a tall woman who travelled with her own bed to accommodate her big frame of 6’ 3”. She had spent a few days staying in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin before she came to Galway, possibly as a guest of a member of the English royal family who enjoyed fishing in Connemara.

What is noticeable from all the photographs is the fine weather and one in particular shows four young boys, possibly aged no more than eight years walking across the Wolfe Tone Bridge, two of them barefoot. The other two are wearing what look like homemade slippers.

Wisely for them, they are walking along the footpath as there are horse and cow droppings in the middle of the road. The boys are wearing breeches with buttoned fronts, no zippers and check shirts. But, one thing’s for sure, they look very happy, very comfortable walking the city streets.

In the background is the Arch Garage, now home to the Townhouse Bar and only one vehicle, possibly a Morris or an Austin, is parked in the area.

Those four boys, if they are still alive would be in their sixties now and the American tourist wondered if they could be identified.

Another photo shows High Street which then had two-way traffic but, again, the street looks quiet with few people or cars on it.

The Stella Cafe is prominent in the image, a hostelry which was popular with the Aran Islanders and which was one of the first places in the city to serve late night food, though in those days it was more likely to be greasy crubeens (pigs feet) than a burger!

Kennys bookshop can be seen and there are bolts of cloth outside what must be Sonny Molloy’s drapery. What it doesn’t show is the Connacht Mineral Water company, which was based on the street and which was one of the bigger employers in the city at the time.

For more of these fascinating photos see this week’s 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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