Lifestyle – Artist and businessman Mark Joyce was concerned that Irish legends were being eclipsed by tales from other countries. He tells JUDY MURPHY how he delved deep into folklore to bring these tales to a new generation.
The wonderful wizard Harry Potter is much loved by 11-year old Sadie Joyce and her sister Alice who is almost 10.
Their father, Mark, an avid reader himself, is totally supportive of his daughters’ enthusiasm for JK Rowling’s magical creation, but their fascination with all things to do with Harry and Hogwarts got the Recess man thinking.
“When it comes to Irish mythology, there’s an element that’s being lost,” he says. “We’re so familiar with other mythologies and that’s great, but we have our own stories and they were being left behind.”
But there was no need for that to happen, he adds. “It was just a question of mining what was there.”
And so, he mined. The result is the beautiful hardback book, Mythical Irish Beasts, which he has written and illustrated and which has been flying off the shelves since it was published by Currach Press last month. Its fans include RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy who gave it special mention on The Late Late Toy Show – an accolade that boosted sales enormously, according to a grateful Mark.
He’s the fourth generation of his family to run the renowned Joyce’s gift shop in Recess, having returned to the business by accident in his 20s after initially pursuing a career in visual art and film.
Mark is a graduate of the Dún Laoghaire College of Art and Design where he studied model-making and special effects for film, after which he worked with the Corman Studios in Connemara and also freelanced on several feature films in Dublin and England.
Since taking over the craft shop, he has put his own stamp on it, working hard to promote and support Irish craftworkers, and stocking unique items not available elsewhere.
“I’m very interested in Irish crafts but that’s my day job,” he says, keen to keep the focus on Mythical Irish Beasts.
Mark, his artist wife, Kathleen, and their two girls live just a stone’s throw from the craft shop in a beautifully restored house that reflects their broad artistic tastes and which offers amazing views over the wild Connemara landscape.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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GMIT worker turns her hand to making face masks
A member of staff in GMIT’s School of Design and Creative Arts has been putting her creative skills and resources to invaluable use since April –making hundreds of reusable face masks.
The coverings are tailored for use in nursing homes and more recently for GMIT staff who opt to wear them on return to campus.
Textiles Technician Kelly Roberts from Galway city is making on average 75 non-medical masks a week while continuing to remotely provide technical support to some 40 students on the BA in Design (Fashion & Textiles Design) and also homeschooling her two young children.
Kelly and colleagues are also busy preparing a plan for the safe return to campus of staff and students, in compliance with the HSE’s social distancing measures and public health guidelines.
“I really wanted to use my skills and resources from GMIT to help fight this Coronavirus pandemic, but it had to be something I could do at home and around my children’s daily schedule and GMIT work,” she said.
“I am lucky to have access to the necessary resources in the Textiles Department as shortly after shutdown we were allowed back into the campus for a quick visit to collect items, while adhering to strict physical distancing. I was able to bring a sewing machine and threads home where I set up my workstation,” she added.
Kelly is relying solely on donations of fabric from friends and colleagues. “Mostly I use high quality cotton duvet covers and sheets as they are easy to fashion into non-medical masks, and everyone needs an excuse to clean out their hot press!” she laughed.
She is currently making on average 75 masks a week although it varies from day to day. I started by giving them to nursing homes around Galway and people on the frontline – but through social media, she is now sending masks to locations as far away as Donegal.
Then GMIT Health & Safety Officer Doreen Geoghegan asked her to provide reusable face coverings for GMIT staff who may opt to use them, as currently the institute is working on its Return to Campus Protocol plan which includes a risk assessment component.
“If staff avail of the offer, it will keep me busy for many more weeks and I would hope to have a reusable mask available for those who wish to use them come September, all going well,” she said.
GMIT is currently putting plans in place to ensure public health measures are implemented through social distancing, handwashing and hygiene measures in the first instance. Face coverings are an optional extra personal measure to assist in preparation for winter coughs and colds to prevent the spread of infection.
If anyone would like to donate good quality fabric to Kelly’s campaign, they can contact her on email@example.com
GAA legends reap rich rewards from ‘cocooning chats’
Double All-Ireland winning Galway football manager, John O’Mahony, has ‘enjoyed immensely’ a novel project involving local GAA sporting legends chatting with people cocooning during the coronavirus crisis.
Along with a number of other sporting personalities from the county – including Cyril Farrell, Joe Connolly and Ray Silke – the Mayo man who guided Galway to All-Ireland football successes in 1998 and 2001 has spoken to many ‘cocooners’ over recent weeks.
“I think that I enjoyed it more than the people I was talking to. It really was a most enjoyable project to be involved with and some of those I spoke to, triggered memories of some things that I had forgotten about myself.
“It even brought me into the world of Zoom [conference video style telephone chats] with a number or residents from the Cheshire Home in Galway city.
“To be honest about it, most of the time I just enjoyed listening to the stories that these people had to tell. One man from Loughrea had gone to an incredible number of All-Ireland finals in football and hurling over the past 60 years,” John O’Mahony told the Connacht Tribune.
The Galway GAA Legends On-Call project was the brainchild of Oranmore’s Paul Byrnes – a former Executive Editor of GAA with RTE Sport – and Galway city ‘Community Champion’ Brendan Mulry.
“People like Cyril Farrell, John O’Mahony, Joe Connolly and Ray Silke, who have given many magical and memorable moments to Galway GAA fans, have very kindly made themselves available for this project,” Paul Byrnes told the Connacht Tribune.
Community Champions have been appointed by the Government as part of their outreach programme to help communities cope with the impact of the COVID-19, and Brendan Mulry has been delighted with the response to the Galway Legends initiative.
“While there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules with the project, the focus is really on these fans who need this most.
“Think of a parent or grandparent who is at home isolating who would love to chat all things GAA with a legend of the game,” said Brendan Mulry.
Galway GAA Chairperson, Pat Kearney, said that the idea was ‘a great one in unprecedented times’ and he also praised the ongoing role of Galway hurling icon, Iggy Clarke, who had done a huge amount of work in ‘chairing’ the county’s health and wellbeing committee.
While Galway All-Ireland successes against Kildare in 1998 and Meath in 2001 were the obvious big ‘chat lines’ with John O’Mahony, he said that the conversations embraced a whole range of GAA events.
“I suppose that having retired from politics and with the coronavirus restrictions in place, I found myself with a bit of time on my hands, and it really was wonderful to chat about so many GAA memories.
“These were very knowledgeable people on all-things GAA and the only thing I can say is, that if they enjoyed the chats, half as much as I did, then we’re all winners,” said John O’Mahony.
Even though the cocooning restrictions have eased somewhat over recent weeks for the elderly and those with medical conditions, the chats are still ongoing.
Anyone wishing to participate – or who might know of a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or elderly friend interested in taking part – can do so by contacting Brendan Mulry on 087-2194243 or online at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Byrnes also thanked the GAA clubs around the county for their ‘trojan efforts’ in helping those most in need during those difficult times.
“At this time of year, we should be looking forward to the height of the championship season, but that seems a long way off at the moment.
“However, the GAA is still a major social outlet, and although the absence of the games is hugely felt, the clubs – and their members – are still doing great work to help those most in need,” said Paul Byrnes.
Ex-Minister seeks aid for Gaeltacht households
Money set aside to subsidise student accommodation while attending Gaeltacht courses should still be granted to the ‘mná tí’ to help offset the devastating impact of the cancellation of Irish language summer colleges across the region.
That’s the proposal from former minister and Connemara resident Éamon Ó Cuív, who said that the loss of the Irish colleges for the first time in 116 years has been a massive economic blow to the Gaeltacht.
Households which take in twelve students immersing themselves in Gaeltacht life for three courses can make a gross profit before tax of nearly €15,000 through a subsidy from the Department and a fee from the Irish colleges.
Out of that they must pay for food, light, heat and wear and tear of their homes as well as putting in long hours to provide full board.
Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív estimates that the 500 Galway mná tí would likely make 20% to 30% profit from that once all expenses are paid out.
Yet they are not entitled to the Covid-19 payment of €350 a week because they were not working at the time the pandemic lockdown was declared.
“They work seven days a week for up to 66 days – that’s equivalent to 13 weeks. If they got the Covid payment that would be €4,550. They should be getting the grant equivalent of the Covid payment from the Department of the Gaeltacht which already has the €10 a night subsidy in its coffers for the 27,000 students which would have been attending the courses,” he believes.
“The people who benefit from that subsidy are the thousands of children who get full board and Irish language classes for 22 days at a very affordable rate which are supervised at all times – the record of kids not coming to harm is unparalleled.”
Deputy Ó Cuív understands that a proposal for a grant package to be paid to the accommodation providers as well as the colleges which will also have no income this year was brought by the Department of the Gaeltacht to the Department of Public Expenditure. But it has yet to be approved.
“I’m very, very worried that they’ve had this proposal since late March but have not signed off on it. The Department has in the region of €6 million from the subsidy,” he said.
“I have tabled a question to the Minister for the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan about whether she has brought a need memo into the Cabinet about this so the question of whether to support the people of the Gaeltacht can be discussed by the 15 ministers.”
Colleges, the mná tí and the halls and facilities funded by the Department rely on income from the Irish colleges to pay for things like insurance.
He also called on the Minister to examine a new grant that would encourage families to stay in a house in the Gaeltacht during a shorter period like five days in August.
“This could happen over three or four weeks in August on a rolling basis. The scheme could help retrieve some of the season for the mná tí. It would also give a unique opportunity to families to learn the Irish language together in a programme.”
Deputy Madigan replied that Minister and Senator Sean Kyne as well as officials in the Gaeltacht Department have met the college representative organisation, CONCOS, to examine support packages.
“We are aware that it is important and intrinsic to the entirety of the Gaeltacht, not just the mná tí. The Deputy can rest assured that this is on our radar and something on which we are working intensely.”