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Lots to celebrate but cause for sadness too



Date Published: 03-Jan-2013

 IN a year where there was little reason for optimism on the economic front, the Galway arts community demonstrated that creativity can shine, even in bad times.

Theatrically, the high point of 2012 from a national as well as a local level was Druid Theatre’s celebration of Tuam playwright, Tom Murphy. DruidMurphy – consisting of three plays, Conversations on a Homecoming, A Whistle in the Dark and Famine – opened in London’s Hampstead Theatre in June before travelling to New York’s Lincoln Center. It then returned to Ireland in July for a sell-out run at Galway Arts Festival and a national tour.

The first of the trilogy captured the darkness of smalltown Irish life in the 1960s and the second explored the fate of an Irish family who carried their old tribal ways with them, when they emigrated to England. Famine, meanwhile, was Murphy’s exploration of how the great hunger of the 1840s affected one Mayo community and destroyed everything that had held people together.

The good news for those who missed out is that Druid will return with two of the three plays this April, for a nine-venue tour that will last to June. Conversations on aHhomecoming and A Whistle in the Dark will be performed in Galway, Tralee, Dublin, Portlaoise, Ennis, Letterkenny, Longford, Dún Laoghaire and Limerick.

Druid are among the best funded theatre companies in Ireland and their reputation assists them in getting support from other organisations, such as NUIG, in order to showcase their work internationally.

Other local groups are still trying to fly. One such is Decadent Theatre, run by Andrew Flynn, which embarked on an Irish tour of Conor McPherson’s Port Authority in October, despite getting no subsidies to assist with the production or tour. Decadent had already toured John Patrick Shanley’s powerful play, Doubt in February and it would be good to see a group of that calibre getting more State support, as they help keep Galway audiences in quality shows throughout the year, even on a shoestring.

The arts community also said farewell to another hugely significant figure in March when the Manager of the Town Hall Theatre, Michael Diskin, died.

Galway born Michael, who had previously served as Arts Festival Manager and Manager of Galway Arts Centre, became Manager of the Town Hall when it opened in 1995.

After a three-year career break from 2007-10, when he spent some time managing Belfast’s Lyric Theatre, he returned to the venue, and worked right up until his death.

A new name to emerge on the literary world in 2012 was Menlough born writer Mary Costello, who showed that persistence, coupled with talent, can pay off. her debut short-story collection, The China factory has received rave reviews and saw Costello, who now lives in Dublin where she is on a career break from her teaching job, long-listed for the Guardian First Book award in September.

She is currently working on her first novel and that’s something to look forward to.

All told, 2012 was an eventful year for the arts community locally, with much to celebrate, but also sadness at the deaths of people who had contributed so much over the years.

For more of the Arts Review of the year 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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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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