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Laid-back Don heading off into the golfing sunset

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Date Published: {J}

I HAVE led a relatively simple life, which is no harm at all,” says Don Wallace. In many respects, that line sums up the character of the gentleman who has been advising golf enthusiasts in Galway City for almost four decades.

An unsung hero of the local game, Wallace has been the ‘pro’ at Galway Golf Club for 37 years – a position he retires from at the end of January. He has no regrets, though, and if anything he is philosophical about the next phase in his life, noting it is something everyone must go through.

Then again, Wallace has a long and fruitful career as a golf pro. Born with a club in his hand in Newcastle, Co. Down, Wallace’s father and uncles all worked as pros in the golf industry, with his father working as the club pro in places like Adare in Co. Limerick and Dungannon in Co. Tyrone while one of his uncles, Leo was the Irish champion in 1928.

“My father Paddy and his three brothers were pros in Newcastle, Co. Down. They had a house there and they got into the golf. Some of them worked as assistants at Royal County Down. They moved around teaching a lot and my father actually worked in Gradige’s (London), making golf clubs in the 1930s. So, it was kind of a natural thing for me to follow into the game.”

Indeed, young Wallace’s first job was as a golf pro in Dungannon in 1960. He worked there for seven years, but after his marriage to Cookstown native Anne in 1967, the couple emigrated to London, Ontario in Canada, where, again, the Down man worked in the local golf club.

“Canada was a great country,” beams Wallace. “The trouble was, though, that there was too much snow in the winter, which is what we are getting here now. The hard winters were terrible.

“What I couldn’t understand about them in Canada was they would come out when the ice was on the ground in March and April and then when September came – when the good weather came – they would hang up the clubs. I couldn’t believe it. That was the best time to play, it was beautiful, but that was just the way they were.”

Although he says he had “good fun” over there, the call of home was always strong. “I went home one day and I said will we go home to Ireland?” he laughs. “Anne said, ‘yes’ and that was it. So, we came home in ’72 and I got an interview for Athlone. I got the job in Athlone, which I liked.

“However, we had bought a house and there were drafts in and out of it. It was terrible and my wife didn’t like it. So, then the job came up for here in Galway. Éamon Corbett, actually, he interviewed me and thankfully I got the job. That was October ’73.”

Interestingly, the adopted Barna man took over as the club pro from his uncle Bob Wallace – “a gentleman,” he says – who had vacated the job in Adare that Don’s father, Paddy, had taken over many years previously. Confused? “Yeah, Bob went to Adare in 1938 and he left in ’46, when my father took over and we moved in. So, Bob came here in ’46 and in ‘73 he left and I took over. So, if you can figure that out!” exclaims the father-of-four.

No doubt, Wallace loves the job, be it selling golf gear in the shop, repairing clubs, or coaching. He is particularly proud of the junior section at the club. “There is a good junior programme here at the moment. You have to look after your juniors. They are the future of the club and we have over 100 young golfers, girls and boys.

“The number does thin out as the year progresses, but I think if parents are pushing them, it often doesn’t work out too well. They (those young golfers) have to do it on their own. They have to want to do it.

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

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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