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John bows out after 51 years of seamless customer care



Date Published: {J}

John Sheridan was only 14 years old when he got his first job in the city, where he remained in the retail business for over 50 years

until his retirement.

John doesn’t look anything like his 65 years and for the last 25 of those he spent serving customers in the menswear department of Anthony Ryans, where he says he enjoyed every minute.

“They are great to work for. There were great people working there and I really liked my work but it was time to retire,” he says.

For the native of Oranmore, who was one of ten children, there was no talk of further education in those days and getting a job was high on the agenda for most people.

It was his mother, a regular customer at The Blackrock Tailoring Company in Williamsgate Street, now long closed, who got him the job.

She came home from town one day and announced that John would be starting as a shop assistant. That was 1960. John was just 14.

“That was the way it was. You learned your trade. You started at the bottom, not even serving customers. I remember learning how to package goods people bought. Blackrock was known then for its brown paper packaging tied up with a green twine. That was before plastic or paper bags. I got £1 7s 6d (one pound, seven shillings and sixpence) and like most young boys still living at home, I handed it all up to my mother and she gave me what she thought I needed for the week!

“Training was very important in those days, no matter what age you were. It was expected that the job would train you.

“Not only were we trained in practical ways – like I spent most of my time upstairs at first folding shirts and sweaters – but on how to say ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ to customers. There was great importance put on being polite to customers. I think all that has changed now in a lot of the high street stores where shop assistants don’t even feel they have to look at you, let alone greet you!” he says.


Sure enough John did learn his trade and he found he loved everything about it, most of all dealing with customers. It wasn’t long before he got his opportunity to move down the town to Mainguard Street to a specialist men’s shop called Burtons.

One of the reasons he left Blackrock was because the premises closed for a while following a fire.

He was still commuting between his home and work. Commuting in those days meant “thumbing” as in walking up College Road until he was in the countryside and hitching. That side of town was still undeveloped.

“In those days there was no public transport from our side and I was often running late but that was acceptable at that time because most workers didn’t have a car.”

He says that in those times everyone was at the same level. “We had nothing but we had everything, as in values and respect.”

They were, he says, simpler times, which is why he has appreciated everything he has achieved.

It was inevitable then that a young, athletic man with a steady job (though no car) would meet a girl and settle down. And that’s what happened when he met Bridie Gills from Ballindereen. Her uncle Mick won two All-Ireland medals, one for his native Galway and one for Dublin where he was based later.

As a young man John too enjoyed a few sporting achievements. He hurled with Oranmore. They won the county Minor title in 1963 and the county Junior in 1965 but were beaten in 1968 in the Senior finals by Castlegar who brought an end to Oranmore’s good run.

As a sports lover, it was natural for him to get involved with Galway United when he became a father to three sons, though he quickly adds that he couldn’t kick a ball!

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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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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