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Land-deal drama set in bathroom bubbles over with savage humour



Date Published: {J}

By Dara Bradley

John McManus is one man who’s delighted the recession hit. The Cavan native worked as a plasterer during the hectic years of the building boom and rarely had the time to concentrate on his passion – writing.

When the building work dried up, McManus’s creative juices began to flow but even during the busy Celtic Tiger era it was clear he had a talent for writing drama.

At a meeting over coffee – he opts for a pint of Guinness instead – McManus is shy, laidback, possibly even insecure or uncomfortable about discussing his achievements and it becomes clear why the 31-year-old needed some forceful encouragement from his mother to pursue writing.

Mammy’s persistence paid off though when his first radio play written back in 2005, No Hate Going To Loss, which was written in a matter of hours, scooped a fairly prestigious national award and was broadcast on RTÉ radio.

“I wasn’t going to enter, it’s just my mother sent away for the form and she made me do it. She knew I was good at it (writing). I didn’t even know there were such things as radio plays – I wasn’t really in the field even in terms of listening to them. One day I just wrote it and had to drive up to Dublin the next day because I’d missed the posting deadline. I didn’t expect to win, I just did it to please my mother,” he says.

Win he did and three years later, McManus, who had no formal writing training, entered another radio play Will You Swap Your Knees With Me? in the same competition and came third.

The two plays and awards brought McManus to the attention of theatre company Druid, who was clearly impressed with his raw talent, and his first ‘big break’ came in July 2008 when his stage play, A Lock of Fierce Roars, received a rehearsed reading as part of Druid Debuts in the Galway Arts Festival.

“It went really well and got good reviews,” recalls McManus, although Druid was not convinced he was ready for a full professional stage production.

“I was working with them (Druid) for a year or so and I showed them my plays but they rejected them all – we kept working on a lot of the shows but eventually they told me I was five years of hard work away from being produceable as a playwright. I’ll never forget it,” he laughs, just weeks away from the opening night of The Quare Land in the Galway Arts Festival, his first play to receive a professional production.

After the Druid setback, McManus “basically gave up and kinda quit” writing but then his second break came in October last year.

“I kind of gave up then but just before I left Galway I saw in the paper that the Galway Theatre Festival had put out a call for scripts. They picked four scripts, including mine, and did stage readings during the Theatre Festival and they picked The Quare Land [to go to full production].”

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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