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Musical magic keeps Danny and Peggy young at heart



Date Published: 21-Nov-2012

There hasn’t been much cause for cheer in Loughrea this week – on the hurling front at least. But things are looking up for next week as St Brendan’s Choral and Dramatic Society puts the final touches to its annual musical which starts on Monday, November 26.

All Shook Up, a musical comedy set in America during the 1950s is based on many of the songs made famous by Elvis Presley and it’s directed by Brian and Sean Power.

This musical is very much a community event, with people from all age groups taking part. The oldest participant in All Shook Up will be 82-year-old Dannie Cunnane, who first trod the boards with St Brendan’s Society back in 1946 at the age of 17.

In the intervening years, Dannie went to England where he trained as a radio officer and then spent 30 years working in the Merchant Navy, first for an English company, then a French one and finally with a Japan based organisation. He saw most of the world during that time, but every year he would take three months’ holidays and return to Loughrea. And if his visits home coincided with St Brendan’s musical productions, he took part.

“I met a Loughrea girl there,” says Dannie, a lively character, who describes himself as being “as fit as a one-stringed fiddle”. He and Merci, who became his wife, had known each other when they were youngsters, but through the Musical Society, they reconnected. She was a music teacher who played piano for the orchestra, he explains.

She was also an organist in St Brendan’s Cathedral for many years. Dannie and Merci married in 1961 and had three children, two sons and a daughter. One son remains at home, the other two have emigrated to Australia. Merci died two years ago.

“She put up with me for all those years and whenever we rowed, I’d say to her ‘I’m off to sea!’.” jokes Dannie. He has many happy memories of performing with the St Brendan’s Choral and Drama Society through the years, and says that one of his highlights was when he played Commander Harbison in South Pacific “and I never sang at all”, because the part is a non-singing one.

Dannie was also involved in the O’Kelly Players, the local drama group and in that his favourite role was as the Tinker, Pats, in John B. Keane’s Sive.

In addition to being in the chorus for this year’s musical, All Shook Up, Dannie is very involved in other singing groups in Loughrea. He is a member of the Cathedral Choir and is in a Barbershop ensemble.

“My voice is better now than it ever was – not that it was ever great!” he jokes.

The social aspect of his musical activities is also important to Dannie, who explains that he enjoys a regular drink and chat with the cast of the musical society.

“It’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist – and more enjoyable!”

Now almost 83, he has no intention of hanging up his boots and would put many people half his age to shame.

“I have only got one life and I enjoy it. My ambition is to be shot by a jealous husband at 100 – I used to say 94, but I might as well hang on and get the cheque for reaching 100!”

Compared to Dannie, Peggy Marmion is a youngster. The 73-year-old, who is also in the chorus, clearly recalls her first involvement with St Brendan’s Choral and Dramatic Society. It was in 1966 and the show was Aladdin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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