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Mountaineer Paddy is still scaling the heights at 80

Judy Murphy

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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.

Country Living

Seeking out little solaces from gloom of November

Francis Farragher

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Advent is on the way in what has turned out to be a full year of penance!

Country Living with Francis Farragher

NOVEMBER is probably one of those months that’s akin to Patrick Kavanagh’s famous line on dandelions ‘growing on headlands, showing their unloved hearts to everyone’.  I’ve yet to meet someone who told me that November was their favourite month of the year, but like the dandelions, it won’t go away and despite the efforts of rugby people to give in an autumn status in terms of titling their international games, for me it will always be that time of darkest Winter.

Mind you, it’s not so bad once you accept your lot with the month. The sunrises, whenever we’re lucky enough to see them under clearer skies, have now slunk back to after 8 o’clock, while each evening the sun’s indecent haste to retreat often ushers in darkness shortly after 4pm.

Our current predicament hasn’t been helped by what’s going around us and by the greyness of the weather, so overall it is a bit of a battle to ease the gloom of November. However, in the midst of all those dark clouds, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have shelter from the elements and who can sit in front of a glowing turf fire, the month does have its little consolations.

Gone are the long evenings when the ‘to do list’ of outdoor chores stretched all the way up to double digits; and now at least there’s the consolation of not feeling one ounce of guilt at getting comfy on an armchair, opening a bottle of Peroni, and listening to the Atlantic tempests belting against the windows.

For those of us lucky (or unlucky) enough to have an interest in sport, there are some real television treats like the hurling and football championships (admittedly not much of a consolation last weekend if you’re of maroon extraction); the Masters’ golf from Augusta; and the rather less-attractive sight of our Irish soccer team getting a mauling from the ‘Auld Enemy’ at Wembley.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Connacht Tribune

Honouring a master of music

Judy Murphy

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Steve Cooney. Photo by Colin Gillen

Lifestyle – Australian-born Steve Cooney moved to Ireland 40 years ago, instructed to do so by his Aboriginal tribe. Since then his contribution to Irish music has earned him admirers and friends at home and abroad. Next week, he will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in RTÉ’s Folk Awards. He tells JUDY MURPHY of his journey.

When ground-breaking guitar player Steve Cooney played the Clifden Arts Festival shortly before Covid-19 Level Five restrictions were re-imposed, he had no idea he’d won the Lifetime Achievement award in this year’s RTÉ’s annual Folk Awards.

The accolade, announced last week, has topped off a good year for Steve who was performing in Clifden with Cúil Aodh singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, and whose new album Ceol Ársa Cláirsí: Tunes of the Irish Harp for Solo Guitar has been getting rave reviews.

On it, Steve has taken Irish harp tunes, which were composed or collected between the early 17th century and late 18th century, playing them on steel-string and nylon-string guitar.

It’s a project he embarked “for personal satisfaction” and the result is a multi-layered, magical, meditative album.

Among the people he credits on the album is the renowned harpist Kathleen Loughnane, who lives in Galway City and whose extensive research into the tradition offered new insights into the tunes of the Connellan brothers from Sligo. Four of their tunes feature on Steve’s album, alongside work by Turlough Ó Carolan, Denis Ó hAmsaigh, Ruaidhrí Dall Ó Cathain and others.

Given that the harp has such a sacred place in Irish music, interpreting these tunes on guitar seems like a brave move. But Steve has always followed his own musical path and loves the harp. So, it’s no surprise that he feels guitar players “should be able to claim it: we pluck strings and should not feel that territory is forbidden to us”.

He has enormous respect for the harpers who were an intrinsic part of the ancient Gaelic tradition that fell victim to English rule, and he praises the complexity of their tunes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

Stephen Corrigan

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A view of Galway City captured from atop Galway Fire Station in 1979, taking in Wolfe Tone Bridge and some of Fish Market Square. The site of McDonogh's Fertilizers is now home to Jury's Hotel, while there have also been significant changes to the buidings on Quay Lane over the years.

1920

Workers for peace

English Labour, which appears to have found itself as impotent in the face of the mechanical Coalition majority at Westminster as the Irish Party found itself against Carsonism in the days of the Curragh revolt, has at last been afforded an opening towards making an effective bid for peace with Ireland.

The Irish Trades’ Congress this week accepted the British workers’ conditions of settlement, and noted that their teams, unlike those of British Ministers, leave no loopholes and are devoid of ambiguity.

Briefly, the British workers suggest that the present campaign of militarism against the Irish people should end; that a constituent Irish assembly should be elected by proportional representation, and that it should devise a constitution subject only to the safeguards of minorities and the naval and military interests of the British Empire.

It is a significant advance that democracies on each side of the Irish Sea find themselves not merely in agreement as to the methods by which peace may be brought about, but ready to translate these methods to action if the opportunity is given.

Older politicians, however, will not fail to register the initial criticism that when British parties are out of power, they are always ready to extend the hand of friendship to Ireland and to back up the gesture with promises that they cannot at the moment fulfil.

Witness to the case of Mr. Asquith who as Prime Minister in 1914 gave the lead in the doctrine that the Irish minority must continue to rule the majority and in 1920 when he is out of power, pours his anathemas upon his successors for carrying his policy to its logical outcome.

Nevertheless, we have not lost faith in a constitutional settlement. It must be obvious to all sane thinkers that sooner or later peace will have to be brought about by negotiation. The sword can never produce a settlement; only those who would recklessly ignore the lessons of history could hold with the doctrine that force can remedy a situation that has become intolerable.

There is a strong will to peace in Ireland to-day, and it is clear that the cumulative effect of the limited publicity that has been gained from present-day conditions in Ireland is having its effect upon English opinion.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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