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Parlour games leave family home with room to improve

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

Back in the days when television was black and white and there was no need for a remote control because we had only one channel, most houses had a room that no one ever went into.

The good room or the parlour was the exclusive preserve of the parish priest; occasionally it was opened if you had visitors from America – but otherwise the good couch was covered in a dust blanket and the entire family spent their downtime around the kitchen table.

The Kirwans in Co Kilkenny had maintained that tradition up to the arrival of architect Dermot Bannon and his Room to Improve team to the rolling fields around Knocktopher.

Series three is currently enjoyed a second run on RTE; well merited too, given that extending is the new moving – and here’s a man who is willing to help you accomplish that.

Dermot is not just an architect; he’s also a drama queen who has the ability to make the choosing of a kitchen seem as weighty as a debate on the pros and cons of NAMA.

He furrows his brow under his hard hat and takes on the appearance of a man who is preparing the next budget as opposed to one deliberating on the right sort of hardwood for the kitchen floor.

Perhaps it’s to make for better television but he rarely gets through a project without some major crisis – although the biggest issue he had with the Kirwans was the colour of their kitchen units.

Bridget and Michael Kirwan had bought their ex-council cottage in 1985. Built in the forties, it consisted of four basic rooms, with no bathroom or running water when they moved in.

They immediately added a basic extension to the full length of the back of their cottage to accommodate an extra bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom – and therein lies the source of their problem ever since.

The corridor is a space only marginally more useful than the redundant sitting room. The kitchen, meanwhile, is bursting at the seams with all the family flocking into its like sardines into a can.

Bridget and Michael have four children and two of them are already over six feet tall – daughter Roisin is 6′ 3" and son Michael 6′ 5".

The kitchen has one sofa where three of the Kirwans can sit; four, if sixteen year old Louise sits on her father’s knee!

There’s one small telly and it’s on the kitchen counter beside the sink; so if someone is washing up that’s the end of the goggle box.

Meanwhile the empty, television-free zone of a living room lies in splendid isolation; darker than a confessional box with arm chairs lined up like a nursing home, facing into the fireplace, all set off by the corridor that acts as a sort of no man’s land.

The sleeping arrangements were also somewhat unorthodox; the aforementioned six foot tall children are stuck in bunks but the biggest bedroom in the house is only used every third weekend when Bridget’s mother comes to stay.

The Kirwans called in Dermot and his team – and set him a budget of €65,000 which the architect saw as more of a target than a limit from the start.

Michael says he doesn’t want much change at all; Bridget says she likes simple changes – so clearly Dermot is the wrong man for them, because he likes change in the way that monkeys like bananas.

In fairness, though, the design is fairly standard stuff; changing the emphasis and the lay-out and throw in more space and light. The only problem is that there’s a crisis for Dermot every time one of the builders lifts a hammer.

Despite being dry-lined ten years ago, there’s actually no insulation in the walls, bar a thin strip of foil – or fresh air, as Michael puts it. All the wiring and the windows also need to be replaced which means the project is immediately over budget, by €8,000.

And it gets worse – because the floors in the old house are rotten, the walls are crooked and the ceilings need to come down. There’s more warmth in a fridge and now that the outside needs a sort of insulation cladding, the roof has to be extended so that it meets the thicker walls.

And when the dust settles, the Kirwans have a fine home, complete with the maroon kitchen units, loads of light and space – and in effect a brand new house.

So the children have their own beds, the sitting room is reclaimed as a living space and the kitchen has a space to flop down and watch the telly without the dinner table obscuring the view.

And Dermot furrows his brow before taking himself off to his next assignment, wreaking havoc on someone else’s life … and in the end, leaving them with the home of their dreams.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



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

Moment of truth for Galway U21s

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 01-May-2013

 Dara Bradley

FOUR matches, four victories, one after extra-time, a Connacht title, four goals and 56 points scored, four goals and 30 points conceded, a heap of wides from their opponents, sinews strained, buckets of sweat and blood spilled.

It’s been one hell of a roller coaster campaign for the Galway U21 footballers but all that will be forgotten come 7pm on Saturday evening at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick when they cross swords with Cork for the honour of being crowned Cadbury’s All-Ireland champions.

Six weeks ago as Galway set out on their 2013 U21 journey against Sligo in Tuam, the May Bank Holiday weekend final was always the target. They took each game as it came and now it has come down to this – 60 minutes of football to decide who the best U21 team in the land is.

And while there were times along the way when Alan Flynn’s charges looked like they’d fall off the wagon, against Mayo, against Roscommon and again against Kildare, Galway showed resilience and mental strength to time and again bounce back and defy the odds. Often down, never out. It is that perseverance that will stand to Galway in the heat of battle this weekend.

Cork has won an All-Ireland at this grade more times than any other county since the competition’s inception in the 1960s. The most recent of their 11 titles was won in 2009, and they’ve claimed a three-in-a-row of Munster titles with a defeat of Tipperary last month.

Interestingly, five players – Alan Cronin, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Tom Clancy and Damien Cahalene, the son of former inter-county player Niall – that are expected to start this Saturday lined out in each of the last three Munster finals, so they have experience of playing in the pressure cauldrons.

Galway aren’t as experienced. True, a couple of players already have a All-Ireland medal from 2011 – a year Galway beat Cork in the semi-final – but there are a lot of young guns in the panel. Of the squad of 33, about 19 of them are young enough to play U21 next year as well, while eight or nine of the starting 15 will be eligible next year, although you wouldn’t think it given the levelheadedness they’ve displayed throughout the past six weeks.

Galway had plenty to spare over a hapless Sligo outfit in Tuam the first day out, winning by 16 points, which didn’t flatter them, but old rivals Mayo in the following game at the same venue was a different story. After a tense and tight hour of fare, Galway took the spoils after showing immense character to dig it out by two points in a dogfight, 0-9 to 0-7.

Fighting qualities were needed again in the Connacht final in Hyde Park against Roscommon – Galway were minutes from being knocked out of the championship when a heroic comeback, three points in as many minutes from Kilkerrin/Clonberne’s Shane Walsh, rescued extra-time, a period which Galway never looked like losing.

The Tribesmen took their chances when they presented themselves, a trait that also saw them knock-out Kieran McGeeney’s highly rated and much fancied Kildare outfit in a thriller at Tullamore a fortnight ago.

The Lilywhites were wasteful, true, but that’s their problem, and Galway just had too much natural footballing class to take their chances and emerge with a deserved five points, 2-10 to 2-5 victory, despite 19 wides from the vanquished.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

GalwayÕs U-13 and U-16 sides both through to national finals

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 14-May-2013

Mike Rafferty

It proved to be a very successful weekend for Galway Schoolboy soccer as two representative sides qualified for national finals at the end of the month.

It was drama all the way in Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday afternoon as the U-13 side drew 1-1 with the Midlands League, but came through the dreaded penalty shootout to prevail by 5-4.


Meanwhile the U-16 side had to travel to Cork, where they emerged 2-1 winners following a very impressive performance. For the second game in succession, it was the goals of the Connolly brothers that proved crucial to both team’s success.

Andrew lines out with the U-16 side and he notched both their scores in terrific away win, while younger brother Aaron was on target for the U-13 side and also converted the winning spot kick.

Mervue United captured a third consecutive Connacht Youth Cup with an impressive 4-1 win over Castlebar Celtic in Milebush on Saturday.


Galway League 1

Midlands League 1

(AET-Galway won 5-4 on pens)

A low scoring contest might indicate few chances, but one has to credit two outstanding defences whose splendid covering and marshalling of the front men was a joy to watch.

Galway’s Oisin McDonagh and Adam Rooney never put a foot wrong in central defence, while full-backs Byron Lydon and Matthew Tierney were equally efficient in defence, and getting forward with regular forays.

Further afield, they matched the visitors in terms of intensity and creativity and in the second half in particular should have pulled away from a Midlands side that won the U-12 national title last year.

The visitors certainly offered the greater attacking threat in the opening half, but found home custodian Mark Greaney in top form. Galway’s best chance fell to Joshua Quinlivan, but he pulled an effort wide of the target.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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