The connection between Galway, scarlet fever, library books and a plane carrying post-war Italian emigrants to Venezuela isn’t altogether clear at first – but the recent introduction of a fine amnesty on public library books unearthed an extraordinary link between the four.
On August 15, 1949, four years after the end of World War Two, a Transocean Air Lines Douglas Skymaster carrying displaced Italians seeking refuge in Caracas when it went down in Galway Bay – causing the death of nine of its 58 passengers.
At the same time, Kathleen Daly (nee Breheny) of Ballinlass was hospitalised at Galway Hospital – quarantined with scarlet and rheumatic fever.
Following the plane crash, a major rescue operation was launched and Galway Hospital was cleared to make way for a major influx of injured patients off the aircraft.
Kathleen, then 14, had in the days previous to this borrowed a copy of Hans Christian Anderson’s Favourite Fairy Tales from what was likely a visiting library service.
And as she was dispatched from the hospital, so too was the library book.
Some 70 years later, with the announcement that fines on library books are to be abolished, Galway County Library Service was contacted by her niece who said the book was now in the proud ownership of her mother, Phil, travelling with her from her childhood home in Galway when she moved to Dublin.
Kathleen now lives in Lincolnshire but the book has gone to good use, having been read from cover to cover on numerous occasions by Phil’s children since it was first borrowed over half a century ago.
This is just one of several quirky stories that have been thrown up across the country since the announcement that library fines are to be a think of the past, said County Librarian, Catherine Gallagher.
According to Catherine, it’s rare that a book isn’t returned – and the decision to ditch fines should be welcomed as making Ireland’s library service completely free and accessible to anyone who wishes to use it.
“The vast majority of stock is returned. It had been found that imposing a fine didn’t actually encourage people to bring books back,” said Catherine.
“If you had a book out for a certain period of time, you just weren’t going to bring it back.”
In fact, it is hoped that by abolishing overdue fees, people will return overdue titles and begin to use their library once again.
“It’s all about social inclusion. The service is now free to join and free to use. The feedback has been positive, particularly from families with children,” said Catherine, explaining that many feared incurring fines because of misplaced books.
The library service is currently going through a period of transformation as part of the strategy, ‘Our Public Library 2022’.
Since last year, members of any library in any county can present their card anywhere in the country to borrow a book – and can return it to any other public library.
Members therefore have access to a catalogue of over twelve million titles, from which they can request books to be delivered to their local branch.
“It’s still a very well-used service and in 2016, we had 17 million items borrowed,” said Catherine.
Two arrested in Galway over spate of burglaries
Two men in County Galway have been arrested as part of a Garda investigation into a series of burglaries in businesses in Limerick and Tipperary.
As part of the operation, three houses were searched yesterday (Saturday) morning in Co Galway and two men in their 20s were arrested. They were brought to Henry Street and Roxboro Road Garda stations in Limerick, where they were detained under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007.
During the search operation, two vehicles were also seized for technical examination.
The eight burglaries were carried out in the Limerick and Tipperary area in the early hours of last Wednesday morning.
As part of these investigations, an operation was put in place by detective Gardaí from Henry Street Garda station with the assistance of the Armed Support Unit in the Western Region and Gardaí from Tipperary, Limerick and Galway.
Branar reaching for skies at former airport
Lifestyle – The disused terminal at Galway Airport is being transformed for Sruth na Teanga, an immersive journey through centuries of Irish language and culture. Created by theatre company Branar, it was commissioned by Galway 2020 and will use puppetry, music, video and live performance to give audiences a fresh insight into the oldest vernacular language in Western Europe. Its creator and director, Marc Mac Lochlainn talks to JUDY MURPHY.
Entering the terminal of Galway Airport is like visiting the place that time forgot.
The desks for Avis and Budget Travel are still in place, exactly as they were when the facility closed nine years ago. So too are signs saying ‘Departures’ and ‘Garda and Customs only’, while the yellow pay-machines for the empty car-park stand abandoned by the main door and wind howls through the deserted building.
At the reception desk, a dog-eared copy of Dan Brown’s novel, Deception, is a lonesome reminder of the days when people thronged through this airport, carrying reading material for their flights.
“It’s a bit like the Mary Celeste,” says Marc Mac Lochlainn, the director of Branar Téatar do Pháistí with a mischievous grin. He’s referring to the American shipwreck that was found abandoned off the Azores in 1872, with everything perfectly intact but its crew missing.
At the height of Storm Brendan, with the rain lashing and wind howling, the space does feel eerie, but from March 2-29, thanks to Branar, it will become home to magical forests, streams and islands for one of the main events of Galway 2020 – European Capital of Culture.
Branar’s new show, Sruth na Teanga, was commissioned by 2020 as one of its flagship productions. Now the theatre company has just over a month to transform the abandoned terminal building into a space for an immersive journey capturing the evolution of Western Europe’s oldest written, and still spoken, language. That language is Irish – a subject which caused so many people so much angst at school.
Marc is aware of this difficult legacy, but points out that Irish language and its culture far predates what has happened to it in the 20th Century at the hands of the Irish education system.
And that’s what Sruth na Teanga – based on the metaphor of a river – is all about. With puppetry, music, video mapping and live performance, it’s for children and adults and Marc hopes it will give people a fresh appreciation for Irish and its ongoing role in shaping us as a nation, through our place-names, our stories, our songs and the way we view the world.
Transforming the deserted airport terminal for this production will be no small feat but then Branar have never been short of ambition, as anyone who has seen their magical productions, such as How to Catch a Star and Woolly’s Quest, will be aware.
Sruth na Teanga has been evolving since 2015 when Galway first sought the European Capital of Culture designation and invited people such as Marc to dream big.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Corofin stand 60 minutes away from club football crowning glory
IT’S a date with destiny like none other in the history of club Gaelic football. A team from Galway trying to go where no parish team has gone before.
Protecting a remarkable 35-match unbeaten run, Corofin stand on the threshold of becoming the first team to win three All-Ireland club senior titles on the trot.
It would represent a phenomenal achievement and the crowning glory for the Galway champions who have been such a compelling force over the past decade.
Standing in their way are All-Ireland final debutants, Kilcoo from Down, and while Corofin are red-hot favourite, the biggest occasion on the club GAA calendar has been littered with upsets down through the years.
It’s not in the nature of Kevin O’Brien’s charges to take anything for granted, however, and if they bring their A-game to Croke Park for the third year running, Corofin will have secured a cherished place in the record books on Sunday night.