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New style of health walking puts you in pole position

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Date Published: 09-Mar-2012

 THE six people striding over and back across the car park in Oranmore’s Rinville Park on Sunday last, dragging walking poles behind them were the subject of curious stares among some folk, who were setting off on more conventional constitutionals.

It was hard to blame people for staring. Five of the six were learning Nordic Walking, a very specific skill, which requires practice to perfect. We were being tutored by Flan Kelly, a trained instructor in this technique, and four out of the five of us were total novices.

As the name suggests, this type of walking was developed in the Nordic countries, and it offers the upper body a workout that’s similar to that provided by cross country skiing. Nordic Walking is popular among Europeans, but it’s less well known in Ireland, although there is a club in Dublin and that’s how Flan got involved.

The experienced hill walker was born in Dublin but returned to his Galway roots three years ago since taking early retirement. Both his father and grandfather came from Athenry.

Flan first saw an ad for Nordic Walking in one of the daily papers when he was in Dublin and decided to try it on a weekend when he was at a loose end. “I went out a few times and got interested and saw there was nobody doing it in the West of Ireland.”

He took part in an instructors’ training course in Dublin last Autumn which was run by British Nordic Walking Group and endorsed by the International Nordic Walking Federation.

“It’s a set programme and a set method you use with people who are learning the Nordic Walking technique. It takes about six weeks for people to be able to do it properly,” explains Flan. And, as to why a person wanting to exercise would opt for Nordic Walking rather than the gym, it’s a no brainer for Flan.

“It’s an outdoor activity, where you are getting fresh air and you are taking part as a member of a group, so it’s a social event.”

Sunday’s outing certainly was that as we all chatted away to each other during the hour-and-a-half long class. But the first thing we had to do was learn what was involved in Nordic Walking. When you go for a regular walk, without poles, you work the lower body and get an aerobic workout. By adding the specially designed poles, the upper body is also being exercised and the aerobic benefits are greater.

“But you have to learn how to use the poles properly before you get the full benefits,” says Flan.

There are specific poles for Nordic Walking and Flan generally supplies these to students as they aren’t very widely available in the West of Ireland.

Our first task on Sunday was learning how to hold the poles, which are made of carbon fibre and have straps for your hands – it’s clearly indicated which pole is for either hand.

That done, it was time to get moving and to warm ourselves after standing around in the biting wind of Galway Bay.

For Judy’s complete piece see this week’s City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

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