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Paul’s passion for postcards results in a fascinating insight into Galway’s history

Judy Murphy

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Lifestyle – Judy Murphy meets retired engineer Paul  Duffy who collects postcards from the past

For 35 years, Paul Duffy travelled every highway and byway in Galway as an engineer with the County Council and it was a job he loved.

Now that he’s retired, he is enjoying his other passions of old postcards and history – and has combined those with his engineering knowledge to create a virtual tour of County Galway from times past in a new book entitled Galway: History on a Postcard.

It is a fascinating collection, covering all areas of the county, presented area by area in a highly accessible fashion. Postcards, dating from the late 19th century up to the middle of the 20th century illustrate every page.

Alongside them is a brief, but comprehensive description offering a brilliant insight into life during that time. It was often a dirty, smelly life, but it was one where people used their resources to survive on very little, as Paul points out in his text.

The cards capture towns all over the county – Gort, Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Clifden, Tuam, Athenry and Oughterard, for instance – as well as rural scenes and images from the Aran Islands. It’s no surprise, given his engineering background, that there’s a strong focus on architecture.

 “You can’t take the engineer out of me,” he says with a laugh.

Roscommon-born Paul first developed his passion for postcard collecting while he was a youngster at secondary school in Athlone.

A school friend brought in an old postcard of the midlands town and Paul was intrigued. The friend, whose family had a shop, had about 100 more at home, depicting scenes from all over the West of Ireland and gave them to Paul. His love affair with cards was well on its way.

After graduating in engineering from the then UCG, he worked in Clare and Kerry before eventually moving to Galway where and his Clare-born wife, Mary settled.

As an engineer with Galway County Council he was involved with the rural water supply for years, and later worked in water quality management for the entire Corrib Navigation System, finally moving to roads, so his knowledge of the county is second to none.

Paul has long had a keen interest in architectural history and regularly gave talks to the Old Galway Society on buildings in the city and county. When people attending his talks realised he collected postcards, they gifted him their old images until he eventually had 3,5000 photos of Galway County. He has a separate collection relating to the City, which will be the subject of a second book, he explains.

Postcards were first produced in the late 19th century and quickly became collectors’ items, so Paul is following in a well-established tradition. Collecting and analysing these old cards can yield a great deal of information about a town, he says, especially if have some that are taken several years apart, and put them down side by side.

“Sometimes you suddenly see a real change, and where you really see it is in the streetscape of Clifden between postcards from the 1890s and ones taken just after the railways arrived in 1910.”

As Paul points out in the book’s introduction, several local companies produced postcards of Galway, but many were also produced abroad. He points to two photos of Gort from the early 1900s – in one card, printed in Germany the street is pristine, while the other, produced in Galway, shows a more realistic depiction of life, with cow dung visible on the street.

When you examine the pictures closely, there is plenty of evidence to show some were doctored, he says. One of the hotel in Leenane, dating from the turn of the 20th century depicts the sea and mountains as they really were. The same photo has been enhanced for another card, with extra mountain peaks being added, while the tide is in and there are boats on the water that were not in the original.

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

Country Living

Seeking out little solaces from gloom of November

Francis Farragher

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Advent is on the way in what has turned out to be a full year of penance!

Country Living with Francis Farragher

NOVEMBER is probably one of those months that’s akin to Patrick Kavanagh’s famous line on dandelions ‘growing on headlands, showing their unloved hearts to everyone’.  I’ve yet to meet someone who told me that November was their favourite month of the year, but like the dandelions, it won’t go away and despite the efforts of rugby people to give in an autumn status in terms of titling their international games, for me it will always be that time of darkest Winter.

Mind you, it’s not so bad once you accept your lot with the month. The sunrises, whenever we’re lucky enough to see them under clearer skies, have now slunk back to after 8 o’clock, while each evening the sun’s indecent haste to retreat often ushers in darkness shortly after 4pm.

Our current predicament hasn’t been helped by what’s going around us and by the greyness of the weather, so overall it is a bit of a battle to ease the gloom of November. However, in the midst of all those dark clouds, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have shelter from the elements and who can sit in front of a glowing turf fire, the month does have its little consolations.

Gone are the long evenings when the ‘to do list’ of outdoor chores stretched all the way up to double digits; and now at least there’s the consolation of not feeling one ounce of guilt at getting comfy on an armchair, opening a bottle of Peroni, and listening to the Atlantic tempests belting against the windows.

For those of us lucky (or unlucky) enough to have an interest in sport, there are some real television treats like the hurling and football championships (admittedly not much of a consolation last weekend if you’re of maroon extraction); the Masters’ golf from Augusta; and the rather less-attractive sight of our Irish soccer team getting a mauling from the ‘Auld Enemy’ at Wembley.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Honouring a master of music

Judy Murphy

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Steve Cooney. Photo by Colin Gillen

Lifestyle – Australian-born Steve Cooney moved to Ireland 40 years ago, instructed to do so by his Aboriginal tribe. Since then his contribution to Irish music has earned him admirers and friends at home and abroad. Next week, he will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in RTÉ’s Folk Awards. He tells JUDY MURPHY of his journey.

When ground-breaking guitar player Steve Cooney played the Clifden Arts Festival shortly before Covid-19 Level Five restrictions were re-imposed, he had no idea he’d won the Lifetime Achievement award in this year’s RTÉ’s annual Folk Awards.

The accolade, announced last week, has topped off a good year for Steve who was performing in Clifden with Cúil Aodh singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, and whose new album Ceol Ársa Cláirsí: Tunes of the Irish Harp for Solo Guitar has been getting rave reviews.

On it, Steve has taken Irish harp tunes, which were composed or collected between the early 17th century and late 18th century, playing them on steel-string and nylon-string guitar.

It’s a project he embarked “for personal satisfaction” and the result is a multi-layered, magical, meditative album.

Among the people he credits on the album is the renowned harpist Kathleen Loughnane, who lives in Galway City and whose extensive research into the tradition offered new insights into the tunes of the Connellan brothers from Sligo. Four of their tunes feature on Steve’s album, alongside work by Turlough Ó Carolan, Denis Ó hAmsaigh, Ruaidhrí Dall Ó Cathain and others.

Given that the harp has such a sacred place in Irish music, interpreting these tunes on guitar seems like a brave move. But Steve has always followed his own musical path and loves the harp. So, it’s no surprise that he feels guitar players “should be able to claim it: we pluck strings and should not feel that territory is forbidden to us”.

He has enormous respect for the harpers who were an intrinsic part of the ancient Gaelic tradition that fell victim to English rule, and he praises the complexity of their tunes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

Stephen Corrigan

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A view of Galway City captured from atop Galway Fire Station in 1979, taking in Wolfe Tone Bridge and some of Fish Market Square. The site of McDonogh's Fertilizers is now home to Jury's Hotel, while there have also been significant changes to the buidings on Quay Lane over the years.

1920

Workers for peace

English Labour, which appears to have found itself as impotent in the face of the mechanical Coalition majority at Westminster as the Irish Party found itself against Carsonism in the days of the Curragh revolt, has at last been afforded an opening towards making an effective bid for peace with Ireland.

The Irish Trades’ Congress this week accepted the British workers’ conditions of settlement, and noted that their teams, unlike those of British Ministers, leave no loopholes and are devoid of ambiguity.

Briefly, the British workers suggest that the present campaign of militarism against the Irish people should end; that a constituent Irish assembly should be elected by proportional representation, and that it should devise a constitution subject only to the safeguards of minorities and the naval and military interests of the British Empire.

It is a significant advance that democracies on each side of the Irish Sea find themselves not merely in agreement as to the methods by which peace may be brought about, but ready to translate these methods to action if the opportunity is given.

Older politicians, however, will not fail to register the initial criticism that when British parties are out of power, they are always ready to extend the hand of friendship to Ireland and to back up the gesture with promises that they cannot at the moment fulfil.

Witness to the case of Mr. Asquith who as Prime Minister in 1914 gave the lead in the doctrine that the Irish minority must continue to rule the majority and in 1920 when he is out of power, pours his anathemas upon his successors for carrying his policy to its logical outcome.

Nevertheless, we have not lost faith in a constitutional settlement. It must be obvious to all sane thinkers that sooner or later peace will have to be brought about by negotiation. The sword can never produce a settlement; only those who would recklessly ignore the lessons of history could hold with the doctrine that force can remedy a situation that has become intolerable.

There is a strong will to peace in Ireland to-day, and it is clear that the cumulative effect of the limited publicity that has been gained from present-day conditions in Ireland is having its effect upon English opinion.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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