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Man who helped found the Order of Malta in Galway



Bernard Shapiro enjoyed a longer retirement than what most people spend in a job and by the time he had retired he had left two legacies in the city, having helped found the local Order of Malta branch and the Renmore Soccer Club.


The popular, kindly gentleman passed away in December at the ripe old age of 95 in the Galway Clinic after a short illness. He had a surgical procedure a few weeks previously but had been recovering well at home. In fact, he had enjoyed great health throughout his long life.

He was full of beans and when he retired from his laboratory technician job with the HSE at the age of 65 in 1984, he poured his energies into tending to the family half acre garden in Renmore and to travelling with his wife, Dympna. Those trips included ones to Canada to visit two of their sons and one to Minsk in Russia to search for his roots.

His father, a Russian army man who had once taken part in a guard of honour for the then Tsar, walked into Maloneys pub in Woodquay and laid eyes on the landlord’s daughter, Ellen Maloney of Moycullen, and decided she was ‘the one’.

They reared their family in Abbeygate Street. Bernard was their only son. By the time he met the love of his live, Dympna, a Dubliner, he had already been one of the first 12 schoolboy recruits into the Order of Malta ambulance corps which was established in Galway in 1938 by Professor Conor O’Malley, an eye surgeon in the old Central Hospital, now UHG. Bernard was the last surviving member of that first group of recruits.

It was through the Order of Malta that he met his future wife. She travelled to Galway with her friend, who was a member of the Order in Dublin, to take part in First Aid Competitions and it was love at first sight. Then it became a serious correspondence between Galway and Dublin until they decided to tie the knot.

They were one of the first couples to move to Renmore, then one of the first housing estates in the city, where they reared their seven children.

When his sons started taking an interest in sport, he decided to set up a soccer club in their local community and he stayed with it for years and became the club’s lifelong president. He had played a bit of soccer himself but his interests were in rugby and rowing.

He was a great mentor to young people and in fact up until he died, he remained young at heart which meant there was no such thing as an age gap when you were in his company.

Bernard, or Ber or Bernie as some called him, became the Second Officer in charge of the Order of Malta in Galway and though he had long stopped ‘active duty’ with them, he kept a keen interest and attended functions and events.

He had worked for twenty years with the hospital lab before taking up a position with the HSE and his family remember him being called to duty in the middle of the night and an ambulance coming to pick him up.

Bernard took a keen interest in everything he did, whether it was raising his family, his job or his voluntary work with the Order and the soccer.

He had a hunger for life and always appeared to have loads of energy, which was inspiring and contagious. Some have described him as having the mind of a genius, a gifted mentor or a brilliant man but everyone seems to remember him as one of life’s true gentlemen.

On his retirement he poured his energies into their half acre garden but never got around to entering for any Tidy Towns Garden competition. His reason for gardening was for its own sake as it kept him busy and beautified a garden that had been used as a playing field by his growing family until they married and moved away; two of them to Canada, two of them to England while the remaining three set down roots in Galway.

He was also proud of his ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Bernard and Dympna had enjoyed almost 61 years of marriage. They celebrated their 50th anniversary with a party in the Ardilaun Hotel and last April marked their 60th in the Connacht Hotel around the corner from their home.

Fr Des Forde, PP of Renmore celebrated Bernard’s life at the Requiem Mass where afterwards the Order of Malta and the Renmore Soccer Club provided a guard of honour before his burial in the New Cemetery.

He is survived by his wife, Dympna, his children, Patrick, Bernard, Aidan, David, Ellen, Therese and Dympna as well as his sister Ida who lives in the UK, extended family and wide circle of friends.

Connacht Tribune

Organiser picked the perfect time for Inis Meáin blackberry festival



Blackberries against the beautiful Inis Meáin landscape. Photo: Cormac Coyne.

A brand new blackberry festival, ‘Féile na bPuiteachaí’ will take place on Inis Meáin today Saturday 1 October, celebrating the island’s blackberries with a wide variety of events.

The festival is named after an Irish word, ‘puiteachaí’, which is unique to Inis Meáin and is used locally instead of the more commonly-known ‘sméara dubha’.

Events taking place at Halla Naomh Eoin on the day include blackberry ink and jam-making, poetry and baking competitions, a gin workshop and an evening concert.

Festival Director Aedín Ní Thiarnaigh said: “We are absolutely delighted to launch this festival and to celebrate some of the many assets we have here on the island; from the blackberries themselves to the skills of the Inis Meáin community.

“It’s all about appreciating the landscape around us, as well as our local culture and community,” she said.

Entries are welcome for the first ever ‘Féile na bPuiteachaí’ Baking Competition (3pm) which invites bakers to prepare a dish of their choice with blackberries as a key ingredient. Entries will be judged on the day by head baker at the Michelin Green Star Award-Winning Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites, Maedhbh Ní Dhomhnaill, with prizes of €100 for first place, €50 for second and €30 for third.

“There’s great excitement among the local community already about the competitions, which is brilliant. Of course, we also welcome entries from other areas and hope to get support from our neighbours on the Aran Islands and in Conamara,” said Gráinne Ní Chonaighle, Vice Director of the festival and project co-ordinator with Comhlacht Forbartha Inis Meáin.

From food to drink, high demand is expected for Pádraig Ó Fátharta’s drinks workshop (4.30pm), where he will reveal his top tips for gin-making with Inis Meáin’s wild autumn fruits and where participants will make their own wild gin infusions to take home.

Television presenter and folklorist Aedín Ní Thiarnaigh will lead a guided blackberry-picking tour on the day (noon), where participants will gather their own berries and hear folklore associated with the island’s unique landscape.

Participants can then put their berries to good use at the first of the day’s family events, making fresh blackberry ink with local women Juda Uí Loinsigh and Orlaith Bhreathnach and creating their very own ‘puiteachaí’ painting.

No blackberry festival would be complete without some good old-fashioned jam-making (1pm) and festival goers will also have the option to turn their own collected berries into jam on the day in the Halla Naomh Eoin kitchen.

Award-winning harpist Úna Ní Fhlannagáin will take to the Halla Naomh Eoin stage for the festival finale for a night of music and song from 8pm.

More information and event registration will be available at and at Siopa Ruaidhrí Beag in the week before the festival.



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Connacht Tribune

Lackagh students’ mini-boat sets sail in the South Atlantic



Fourth class from Scoil Bhríde, Lackagh with Sheena Fennell, Earth and Ocean Sciences, NUI Galway, teacher Tomás Higgins, and Principal Shane O’Connor.

Spiorad na Gaillimhe, an uncrewed mini-boat built and decorated by students from Scoil Bhríde in Lackagh has set sail in the South Atlantic.

It is one of four miniboats – the others from schools in Spain, Germany and South Africa – that were deployed from the Alfred-Wegener Institute’s Icebreaker, RV Polarstern, as it sails between Germany and South Africa.

These four new vessels will join the 18 Educational Passages boats that are currently sailing around the world’s oceans. Spiorad na Gaillimhe (Spirit of Galway) is the first mini-boat to set sail in the South Atlantic.

School Principal Shane O’Connor and teacher Tomás Higgins were fundamental in ensuring the project was delivered.

Mr Higgins said: “The project was an engaging and great project for the pupils that’s cross curricular in nature incorporating many skills and subjects such as science, maths, art and geography and gave us the opportunity to bring the theme of the ocean and ocean literacy into the classroom in a fun and interesting way.

“We were delighted in Scoil Bhríde to have this unique and great opportunity, thanks to the support of Sheena Fennell, University of Galway, POGO [Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean] and Educational Passages, to participate in the Miniboat Programme.

“And I’m delighted that my colleague Aisling White will continue on working with our pupils during this academic year and she looks forward to following the journey of Spiorad na Gaillimhe and continuing the project with the pupils.”

The project was funded by the Nippon Foundation and POGO and has provided the students in Galway with an opportunity to learn more about oceanography and ocean technology.

Professor Peter Croot and Senior Oceanography Technician Sheena Fennell from Earth and Ocean Sciences at University of Galway worked with the school throughout the process, delivering ocean experiments and guidance with the build.

Professor Croot said: “The students in Scoil Bhríde were responsible for constructing the boat, deciding on a name, decorating the sail and hull and, most importantly, had to decide what treasures to place in the hold for any lucky finder if it comes ashore.

“Once Spiorad na Gaillimhe sets sail it will regularly send its GPS location and values of sea and air temperature. The students will be working to predict where it will sail in the ocean by looking at weather and ocean current maps, thereby learning about our oceans.”

You can keep up to date by searching ‘Spiorad na Gaillimhe’ on



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Connacht Tribune

Motorists urged to think twice about their parking



Motorists are being reminded about careless and illegal parking.

MOTORISTS around Galway have been reminded this week that careless parking on footpaths – or illegally taking up spaces allocated for disabled drivers – can cause untold hardship for people with disabilities.

‘Make Way Day’ is taking place this Friday when motorists will be asked to think twice before leaving their cars in ‘obstructive positions’ – cyclists who tie their bikes onto poles and railings are also being targeted.

And while Friday’s campaign is essentially about awareness and respect, motorists have also been reminded of the severe fines that can be imposed for careless parking on paths or in disability spaces.

One of the campaign organiseers, Peter Gohery from Eyrecourt, said that parking in a disability parking space without the designated blue card carries a €150 fine while the penalty can rise to €3,000 if such a card is being illegally used by someone else.

“There are penalties in place for this kind of parking but first and foremost we want this to be an awareness and respect campaign.

“If, for example, someone with a disability is forced onto the public road because a car is parked on a path, this involves not only an inconvenience for the disabled person, but also a real danger,” said Mr Gohery.

An amputee himself following a farming accident a number of years back, Mr Gohery said that awareness and common-sense by drivers could make a huge difference to people who suffered from disabilities.

“For example, a visually impaired person using a guide dog, can be forced off the path if a car is illegally parked there – we’re just pleading with people to think twice before they park illegally,” he said.

Dr Charlotte May, Galway Public Participation Network (PPN) Co-ordinator, said that Make Way Day was part of a national campaign ran by the Disability Federation of Ireland aimed at bringing people with disabilities and the wider community together.

“The day is meant to be a friendly reminder that cars parked on footpaths; bicycles illegally parked; and bins left on footpaths, all block the way and create barriers for people.

“Make Way Day is not about pointing the finger at local authorities, other agencies, or randomly scattered activism.

“The whole point of the day is making the public aware of an issue that is fully within their power to change. It’s about one impactful, co-ordinated and decisive day of action,” she said.

Make Way Day will be marked this Friday in Loughrea (Bridge Street carpark) at 10am and in Portumna (The Square next to St. Brigid’s) at 12.30pm where obstacles on the paths and streetscapes will be identified and highlighted.

A similar type of event is also planned for Clifden between 11am and 1pm starting off from the Town Hall.

“The campaign brings the disability and wider community together to consider the needs of people with disabilities in the public spaces we all share.

“Everyone can get involved. And everyone should get involved because we’ve discovered thoughtlessness is the big issue,” said Dr May.

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