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Night of nostalgia back in the world of the little people

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Date Published: 07-May-2013

 WE had some small visitors to the house recently – children, not mice – and, in an effort to calm the atmosphere so that some sleep might descend on them the right side of midnight, we tuned into those channels that are usually off-limits.

Well, not those channels – but the children’s ones. It’s been almost a decade since our world was last ruled by them . . . and boy how things have changed.

RTÉ recognised this too by repackaging its own entertainment for younger viewers into RTE Jr, although this might have more to do with being able to sell advertising on RTÉ2 again, having been forced to leave kids’ TV ad-free up to now.

Back in the good old days, there was an hour of children’s television if you were lucky, with perhaps the Brady Bunch to enjoy. And that was cutting edge because a generation earlier had to make do with Daithi Locha and Drawing with Blaithín.

We had Sesame Street of course, where the moral message mixed with the fun – a formula taken to a higher and infinitely more annoying level with Barney and his perfect ethnic mix of little friends.

But now – to misquote Bruce Springsteen – there are 57 children’s channels and, while they frequently have nothing on, there is a more subtle educational side to all this; it’s not the mindless noise you might think at first glance.

Take Dora the Explorer – and there are many who wish you would – who is bilingual and gives you a blast of Spanish to go with your traditional English.

One might argue that the Teletubbies were dreamt up under the influence of drugs, but they also induce a trance-like state in the under-twos – which sort of justified the abuse of illegal substances, if that’s how this all came to fruition.

But there is an educational dimension here too, and the greatest compliment you can pay to children’s television is that it stimulates and entertains all at the same time. Which is certainly the case with a programme called Little Einsteins on Disney Junior, and – as the title might suggest – this brings subliminal education to a higher level.

Because this isn’t just a cartoon; it was also designed to teach the kids a little bit of culture, hence the backdrop of famous art work with classical music, with a composer of the day.

The show is also designed to encourage viewer interaction – they pat their knees to make the Little Einsteins’ submarine go faster or they have to gesture or sing along to help the characters succeed on their quest.

Despite the usage of Einstein’s name, there is no discussion of anything physics-related in the series – although one could argue that good kids’ TV actually is rocket science.

They say it’s harder to write a successful children’s book than one aimed at adults because children won’t persevere just because they feel they have to – and the same holds true for television.

If it doesn’t hold their attention, they’ve switched the channels, because while the only alternative for those of us from the ’70s was to watch what was on or turn it off, Sky has enough kids’ TV to see you through to parenthood.

And while those channels are as under-used in our house now as a calculator was at the Department of Finance, it was with a touch of nostalgia and a desire for peace that we surfed down an old familiar road once again.

We enjoyed catching up with the Rugrats after a gap of a decade, and SpongeBob SquarePants proved for the zillionth time that he’s actually aimed at an older audience while masquerading as a children’s programme.

Which sort of brings us to where we normally find ourselves when there aren’t three and four year olds visiting – series that might look like cartoons at first glance and then reveal adult themes that would give your granny a heart attack.

Okay, so everyone knows what The Simpsons are all about and that’s one show that can be enjoyed by children of all ages – even the grown-up ones – but do not mistake Family Guy or American Dad or The Cleveland Show for mere animated dramas. Because that would be your first mistake.

To these guys, a minute without sexual references is a minute wasted, so the only way to stop your teenagers from watching it is to sit down beside them and try to watch it with them.

So it was nice to look at animated television of the more innocent kind once again – if only for one evening. Although it does make you wonder why you’re paying for television channels you watch one night a year.

Still, there wasn’t much on the regular channels and even if there was you wouldn’t have been able to hear them through the din.

In any event, normal service will be resumed next week.

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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Archive News

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

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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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