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Passion for motor sport sees Galway exiles return home

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Aug-2012

FROM time to time, we can all get caught up in the mechanics of sport – winning, losing, performing – that the human side of it often escapes us. However, this aspect is certainly not lost on Galway emigrants Mark Gordon and Pat Conlon, both of whom are to return home from the UK and Australia respectively to compete in the Galway Summer Rally on Sunday.

It just underlines their love of motor sport that they are willing to go to such lengths to compete but both men would not have it any other way. For Conlon, it’s in the blood, having graduated from chasing the rear bumper of his uncle’s race car at seven years of age to calling the notes just six years later on a recce over Moll’s Gap in Kerry. For his navigator Gordon, rallying has been a fascination since childhood.

However, in both men’s cases, work has taken each abroad in recent times and it’s Gordon who Talking Sport catches up with first on one of the former Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry hurler’s monthly sabbaticals home. Gordon, who is based in Glasgow and works for ABP Food Group, moved to the UK last March and since then has been pining to return to the rally circuit.

“My parents (Michael and Dolores) have no interest in it but, from a young age, I can remember running through the fields to get a look at the rally cars,” begins the 24-year-old. “I started marshalling with Galway Motor Club when I was 17 or 18 and, then, sure you meet people. That is how I met my driver Pat. He is originally from New Ross in Wexford but he is married to a girl in Killimor. So, the friendship came about through rallying.”

It is during the course of this conversation that Conlon makes contact via mobile from Western Australia and explains he ended up in the East Galway parish because “the land is cheaper and she (his wife Wendy) didn’t want to move to Wexford!”

No doubt, you get the sense Conlon is a great character but one who is totally committed – almost fanatically so – to motor sport. “To be brutally honest, I have had jobs jeopardised because of it but I have to say, my wife keeps me on the toes.

“I remember one time, I had been competing a lot, and she said ‘come on, is it not time to settle down; is it not time to think about reducing the rallying?’ I told her I had been with her for 14 years but I had been going to rallies since I was seven years of age. That didn’t go down too well,” he says sheepishly.

For Conlon, then, to leave his wife and three children – Rebekah (7), Ellie (14 months) and Kristain (two months) – and the sport he loves to its very core behind to move to Australia last October was extremely difficult. However, it was a decision taken out of economic necessity. A former electrician with the ESB, he had followed the boom until the boom went bang.

He did return at Christmas from Down Under and, again, in March, when he picked up the family and took them to Australia with him. However, his family has now decided to remain in Ireland when they return next week. “There are different reasons,” he explains.

“One is that one of my children has mild learning disabilities and the education system over here, well, she is not benefitting from it. I never thought I would say this but our system is fantastic by comparison and you only see that when you go somewhere else. So, they will be going back to school [in Ireland] in September.”

As he stresses so many times throughout the conversation, it’s family first, even if this means another lonely spell in Australia without the family. “There are nights here when it is very dark and you are looking at the blocks in the wall. You might talk to family and friends through Skype but that can make it even more difficult.

“However, what I am thinking then, I know that by doing what I am doing, my family’s life will be better by 10-fold in five or six years’ time. So, the sooner I am debt free, the better class of life my family will have. I know money doesn’t buy happiness but without it you will be sad,” says Conlon.

“I love Ireland though and I don’t want to stay in Australia any longer than I have to. I am estimating 12 to 18 months and then I will go home. I just want to clear the mortgage and be debt free. I can see though that these are bad times. I have been watching a lot of people come out here and some of them have lost their houses back home. It’s absolutely scary. Some of them come out with nothing, maybe just what little money they have in their pocket.”

In any event, he can at least look forward to a reprieve of sorts from life’s challenges when he returns to the rally circuit in Galway on Sunday. “I can’t wait to do the rally. I can’t wait,” enthuses the father of three. “There is something special about the rallying community in Ireland.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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