The earliest gravestone unearthed within the city walls dates from the 13th century and contains a plea for prayer to transport a man’s soul out of purgatory written in Norman French.
A major survey of the 28 cemeteries and graveyards of Galway City has so far forensically documented the graves in five – Old Rahoon, Menlo, The Dominican in the Claddagh, St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church and Roscam Graveyards.
The survey will be one of the subjects up for discussion at this year’s seventh annual Galway City Heritage Conference, a free event open to the public that is taking place on Saturday, June 24 in the Harbour Hotel where archaeology, cartography and art history at home and abroad will be explored.
So far the earliest gravestone unearthed by the survey across the city boundaries after six years dates back to between the eighth and the tenth century at Roscam.
Galway City Heritage Officer Dr Jim Higgins said while no name exists on the grave, the style of the cross dates it as early Christian.
Within the old city walls, the burial place of Adam Bury is believed to the location of the oldest known gravestone.
“The inscription asks for a prayer for his soul. It says there’s so many pardons given, it refers to the idea of purgatory, requiring people to say a certain amount of prayers to relieve his time in purgatory. He was a descendant of the Anglo Normans, it doesn’t say anything about him, rather it was more concerned about asking for his soul to be saved,” explained Jim.
Elsewhere the survey has uncovered some fascinating inscriptions – they will all eventually form part of an extensive online record of gravestones in each of the 28 graveyards. It will prove an invaluable resource to people researching family and local history.
“There’s a one in St Nicholas about a boy who died in the 1820s when a carriage rolled over him when he was playing one of these spinning tops,” recalls Jim.
“There are hundreds of examples of symbols denoting the trade of a person – that’s unusual on a national level, it was only in County Galway, parts of Sligo and Roscommon you get that. A shepherd’s crook denotes a shepherd, a bottle denotes feeding lambs that were orphaned; in the old graveyard in Rahoon there is the symbol of keys, denoting a locksmith, and a picture of a hammer and an anvil to show a blacksmith in Forthill.”
The project is being funded by Galway City Council and the Heritage Council, with the support of Irish Historic Graves.
Among the most spectacular graves to visit is the one given by the Blake family in Menlo, while the cemetery in Bohermore has quite the wow factor.
Here are buried Lady Augusta Gregory, poet Pádraic Ó Conaire and William Joyce, who was known as Lord Haw Haw for his broadcasts during the second world war on behalf of the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
Also well worth visiting for its fantastic vaults and box tombs in Forthill Cemetery on Lough Atalia Road.
When each gravestone inscription is published online, a leaflet of each graveyard will be produced.
”We’ll reprint them in a book so people can have the plan of each graveyard and each of the monuments will be numbers so you can go onto your computer and see every inscription.”
Up to 200 people attend the annual heritage conference in Galway.
This year there is a particularly impressive menu of speakers. Among them the internationally renowned archaeologist Dr Seamus Caulfield, who is the leading authority on the Neolithic Stone Age Ceide Fields in Co Mayo.
Recent earlier discoveries dating to the Middle Stone Age and excavations by Michael, Clodagh and Elaine Lynch in West Clare will be presented.
Stunning new medieval sculptures found in Cóilin O Drisceoil’s archaeological dig at St Mary’s Church, Kilkenny City will be explored, some of which have parallels in the Galwegian sculpture at St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.
The conference is free of charge and includes a light lunch but places should be booked with Elaine Coffey at Galway City Council 091 536410 or email@example.com
Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.
Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.
The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.
As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.
Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow: collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.
In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.
As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.
Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.
Park fun to mark Africa Day
On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.
Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.
Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.
Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.
Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.
In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.
Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.
The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.
Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.
Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’
BY TIFFANY GREENWALDT-SIMON
A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.
Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.
The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.
The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.
Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.
“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.
“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.
“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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