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Mountaineer Paddy is still scaling the heights at 80

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Paddy O'Leary, author of The Way That We Climbed, at Lough Inagh in Connemara with the Twelve Bens in the backround. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy meets a veteran hillwalker still with pep in his step and a book just published

Paddy O’Leary bounds up the stairs of McCambridge’s Restaurant on Shop Street with a spring in his step that belies his years. He’ll be 80 in a couple of months but could pass for 10 years younger.

Kerry born Paddy who now lives in Salthill is – literally – a walking advertisement for hillwalking, a pursuit he has been passionate about since he was 17.

That passion has seen him write The Way We Climbed; A History of Irish Hillwalking, Climbing and Mountaineering, which is a detailed, often colourful account of an increasingly popular pastime. This history spans the period from the 1870s right up to contemporary times, chronicling the achievements of Irish mountaineers at home and in far-flung corners of the world from Asia to South America and Africa.

Paddy sees the book as just being “a start”, and expects others to have their own contributions to make in future.

“The nature of mountaineering is that it takes people out of sight,” he observes, so it’s likely he’ll get people saying “you left this or that out.”

Indeed, just after the book went to print he came across an article about a hillwalker in Wicklow from the early days of Irish climbing – it was someone he hadn’t been aware of and understandably, he was annoyed.

Such omissions aren’t due to lack of thoroughness on his part.

There was, he says “a fair amount of research and interviewing” involved.

Here in Galway Paddy used local sources, including the Connacht Tribune for much of the information relating to Connemara’s hills and the role they played in Ireland’s broader history as well as that of hillwalking.

But much of his research involved trips to Dublin and he also travelled further afield to interview past and present climbers and people associated with them.

As someone who has climbed mountains all over the world including leading the first Irish expeditions to the Himalayas and Peru, travelling was not a burden to Paddy, whose day job in his youth was as an electrician. He later went to university and has completed a PhD in on the role of the Irish in India during the time of the Raj, so he is well used to research.

Paddy had been complaining for years that there was no proper history of Irish mountaineering – there was a lack of comprehensiveness in some areas, and a lack of accuracy in others, he says. Friends, who were “fed up” with him going on about it, told him he could sort it.

His research skills and first-hand experience made him ideal for the task. Paddy began hillwalking at 17 when he moved with his parents to Dublin. Having grown up in Listowel, he missed the countryside after moving and started cycling from Dublin into the nearby Wicklow Hills.

From that he joined the fledgling youth hostelling group, An Óige to travel further afield. A person he met in An Óige was into rock climbing and once he tried it, he was hooked.

Paddy explores how that particular pastime has evolved over the decades in the book, which doesn’t “attempt to define the term mountaineering’, but instead covers everything from hillwalking in Connemara to Himalayan challenges and outdoor rock climbing.

This book adds to the archive that already exists of mountaineering in other countries, where it has been well documented, he explains.

In Ireland – as in Britain and Germany – the early days of the sport were dominated by people from the middle and upper-middle classes.

That wasn’t surprising, he remarks, as working-class people couldn’t afford to engage. They didn’t have the money and they certainly didn’t have the time, as there were no statutory holidays.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Taking part in the West of Ireland Bridge Congress at UCG in April 1983 were Phil Carey, Newcastle, Eileen Murphy, Taylor's Hill, Carmel Howard, Cross Street and Claire Burke, Salthill. This year’s Bridge Congress is taking place next week at the Ardilaun Hotel from February 3 to February 5.

1923

Islanders’ distress

A correspondent sends authentic particulars of distress prevailing in the Islands of Aran. There is extreme poverty in Inishmore, especially in Killeany; large numbers in the village are on the verge of starvation, kept alive by the charity of neighbours, with scarcely a healthy child amongst them.

The people own no land, notwithstanding that the Congested Districts Board has a large tract; they fish and labour when the former is profitable or practicable and when the work can be found. To-day they are without either.

Similar stories come from other island villages. Yet last October Mr. Blythe stated in the Dáil that £1,000 had been granted for the relief of distress on the islands. The money was placed at the disposal of the Galway Rural District Council, which refused to have anything to do with the scheme.

Accordingly, the grant was never made. It is alleged that the inhabitants of Inishmore have refused to pay rates, but islanders state in reply that rates were not collected for some two years, nor were demand notes issued. The whole position is so grave that it should be looked into without further delay, and we understand that all the circumstances have been referred to Deputy O’Connell for this purpose.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Long-gone island life captured forever

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Galway County Council Archivist Patria McWalter, (right) and Bernie Kelly, Acting Galway City and County Librarian with photo albums from the George Chambers Collection and the special publication that sheds light on his work on the islands he visited. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

A unique collection of photos and writings that capture life on Aran and Ireland’s other offshore islands during the early years of the 20th Century and which was gifted to Galway is now available to the public. County Council archivist Patria McWalter was responsible for researching and cataloguing the work of Englishman George Chambers who visited these shores regularly from 1929-1938. The project involved working with colleagues in other counties, especially Kerry, and forging links with archivists in England to learn more about this mysterious man. She tells JUDY MURPHY about a special journey into the past.

“A parcel came in the post one day and a colleague dropped it down to my desk saying, ‘this is for you, it’s old stuff’,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter with a laugh.

That’s how Patria became acquainted with the photographs and writings of Englishman George Chambers, which offer a unique record of life on Ireland’s offshore islands in the early years of the 1900s.

Patria doesn’t know why the archive’s owner, Desmond Anthony Power, a Canadian resident with Irish roots, decided to gift the Chambers Collection to Galway, because while it features the Aran Islands, islands from other counties feature more prominently.

“Kerry might have been a more obvious choice”, she notes. Still, as someone who delights in uncovering Ireland’s hidden past, Patria was happy.

Now the archive is available online, accessible to all, accompanied by an illustrated publication, Island Images from the Chambers Archive, 1929-38. A limited number of hard copies have been printed in Irish and English and it’s available to download as a PDF.

Desmond Powers’ initial donation to Galway consisted of five photo albums, which included pictures of George Chambers and his family on holidays in Ireland, as well as images of island life up to 1938. Donkeys feature alongside people in many of the photos.

“He seems to have been very fond of donkeys,” explains Patria with a chuckle.

A series of files subsequently arrived at the library, including letters, diaries and the eulogy that George Chambers’ son Ivan delivered at his father’s funeral in 1960, which shed some light on Chambers and his travels.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Country Living

Tricks, trials and traps of nurturing our memories

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Memory is a strange old business and sometimes quite an uncomfortable investigative process with the passing of years. We all tend to get a bit worried when a name of someone reasonably familiar to us, just simply won’t come into our heads.

One of the little consolations I nurture, more in hope than in empirical logic, is that even when I was a ‘garsún’ attending national school, I had the habit of leaving things behind me for no good reason.

Even a decade or so after that, forgetting to get the Sweet Afton cigarettes for my mother after a few pints in the local – which in those days doubled up as a grocery outlet and public house – drew a fair measure of maternal wrath upon my young shoulders.

Then there’s the recurring daily problem of trying to figure out what some of the least used keys are for, on a ridiculously overcrowded keyring, while all the time vowing to eliminate at least 25% of the out-of-date ‘door openers’ from the collection.

A few years back, I remember some guy on the radio who knew about all things related to memory and good mental agility, saying that there wasn’t really a serious problem in trying to regularly sort out key IDs. However, he did point out – rather chillingly – that if you looked at your bunch of keys and wondered what they were for, then you were in trouble.

As we get older and want to forget issues about our own finitude (a fancy word for ‘the end’) the annoying search for mobile phones, car keys, wallets, glasses, scarves, caps and even jackets sends little worries through our dwindling brain reserves that things aren’t really getting any better.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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