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Not moving with the fashion keeps hotel up with the times

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Date Published: {J}

During Ireland’s late lamented Celtic Tiger era, it seemed that time you went outside the door, a new hotel had sprung up. These creations, which were generally made of concrete, glass, steel and marble, reflected the country’s new-found ‘wealth’ and portrayed a slick, modern image of Ireland that was far removed from our traditional hotels.

But some people continued to believe that the old-fashioned way was best, among them Paul and Brian Hughes of the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden, which this year celebrates 40 years in business.

To call the 45-bedroomed Abbeyglen an institution is no exaggeration – it has hosted guests from Grace Kelly to Woody Allen to Billy Connolly, to Brian Cowen and just about everybody in between since Paul and his late wife June opened the doors in 1970, having taken over the Glenowen House Hotel from the Joyce family, who had run it during the 1960s. If the walls could talk, there’d be no shortage of tales, personal and political, from this establishment.

The house has changed beyond recognition in the 40 years since the Hughes took over, but while they extended and castellated it, the Abbeyglen is built around the original dwelling that was commissioned by John D’Arcy of Clifden in 1832 as a hunting lodge.

D’Arcy was the most important landlord in North Connemara and his family owned vast tracts of land locally. But those were hard years and shortly before his death in 1839, John D’Arcy mortgaged his estates.

They were inherited by his son Hyacinth, who was was not a good businessman, and whose difficulties were compounded by the fact that tenant farmers were unable to pay rent during the famine years.

A committed Christian, Hyacinth subsequently became a vicar. He gave the house to the Church of Ireland and it was run as an orphanage until the mid 1950s. The building subsequently fell into rack and ruin, before being re-established as a hotel.

Today, in the function room to the rear of the Abbeyglen, an informal exhibition gives a brief history of the hotel in all its incarnations, and among the more poignant images is a photograph of the orphan girls from the 1950s.

There are also photos from the early days of Paul and June’s reign as they initially leased and then bought the building.

Paul, originally from Dublin, and June, from Dundalk, had learned their hotel skills in Dublin and subsequently ran Renvyle House Hotel for six years, explains their son Brian, who is now a partner in the Abbeyglen with his father – June died three years ago.

Renvyle was owned by Paul’s uncle Donny Coyle, one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, who set up Hygeia Chemicals in 1939.

“Donny was my role model,” says Paul, whose enthusiasm for life and the hotel industry remains undimmed after five decades in the business.

“You’ve got to live it and love it,” he says. And he did love it, since his early days training in Dublin, firstly in the Russell Hotel on St Stephen’s Green, and later in the Hibernian and the Moira Hotel. He also spent some time in Italy and Switzerland training.

An ebullient, outgoing personality, Paul is perfectly suited to the hotel business, and knew while working at Renvyle, that one day he would own his own hotel.

For more, read this week’s Galway 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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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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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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