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One of Galway’s best-known characters retires from work



Date Published: {J}

One of the best known characters in Galway can now kick back and enjoy more time to himself after he retired from working life this week.

Brendan Coffey has finished up working in Debenhams (formerly Roche’s Stores), where he held a position for more than 30 years.

He was born 65 years ago in Dublin on January 10 1945, the same day as Rod Stewart, and his work mates and friends this week honoured him with a big farewell party in the Imperial Hotel.

Brendan was born in Rathfarnham, Dublin on January 10 1945, he was cared for in his early years by the Sisters of Charity in Cabra, and later as a young boy transferred to the care of the brothers of Charity in Cork.

From there he moved to Galway and in his late teens he began a working career that saw him work in many Galway hotels including the Warwick, The Rio, The Timree, The Banba and the Corrib Great Southern before taking up his position with Roche’s Stores and, subsequently, Debenhams.

Brendan lives independently in Renmore under the Brothers of Charity semi-independent living programme. He has a beautiful modern home in which he is extremely happy.

At the farewell party for him in the Imperial Hotel at the weekend, Brendan was described by former colleagues as “a unique and generous man who has endeared himself to many sporting and charitable organisations in Galway for whom he works tirelessly”.

“Not a man for formalities he invariably self-appoints to the cause of many organisations and the fruits of his endeavours, for the causes, were always, without exception, deeply appreciated,” the tribute said.

It would be impossible to list all the organisations, but he is a familiar sight collecting for Western Alzheimers, Daffodil Day, Irish Kidney Association, Croí, CRY (Christmas Day swim), Brothers of Charity, Oranmore Senior Citizens, Abbey Church Sale of Work and St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church to name but a few.

On each St Patrick’s Day Brendan volunteers as steward for the dignitaries stand for the city’s parade and he also helps the Galway Vintage Motor Club, the Galway Solemn Novena and for years he helped the Renmore Panto.

“Another major role he plays is that of Mascot to the Galway Senior footballers and, as he says himself, he is the only one left from the John Dunne era. He is known throughout Ireland’s main GAA grounds, not least Croke Park where he has been on first name terms with Presidents and Taoisigh alike,” colleagues said in their tribute.

Those who know the man well say that his persona, despite being literacy and numerically challenged, is amazing and he never forgets a face although everyone he knows is invariably greeted by ‘Hello Boss’.

“He is one of Galway’s true characters who is happiest when he is with people let it be in his workplace, GAA stadia, travelling on the bus or train or sitting in Eyre Square, and it is our hope that he enjoys the long, happy and healthy retirement that he truly deserves,” the colleagues said.

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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