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Pedestrian Brian Lenihan takes his life in his hands

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Date Published: {J}

You wonder if Brian Lenihan knew he was taking his life in his hands by joining the pedestrians in Galway on Tuesday evening of last week – the day when many took to ‘shanksmare’ for the afternoon as the closure of a few hundred yards of roadway turned Galway into a giant parking lot.

Yes, I was one of the thousands trapped in their cars in that moving traffic jam which resulted when they shut down a stretch near the Headford Road junction. And there was Finance Minister Brian Lenihan passing us by going at speed …. on foot!

The Finance Minister was half-trotting along the footpath near University College Hospital, all decked out in a blazer and light-coloured trousers as he fled down the footpath waving hellos to all and sundry as motorists gave him a nod and a wave while he passed the endless line of cars stretching back to Nile Lodge and Lower Salthill.

I thought for a moment that Mr. Lenihan – surely one of the most popular politicians in the country and a definite successor to Brian Cowen, if the Lenihan health picture was different – had added power-walking to the hill-walking in which he engaged during the summer.

But then I spotted the telltale Merc hundreds of yards back, with the driver stuck in the middle of the endless traffic jam. The minister was merely trying to make some progress in getting about.

The incident made me think that Fianna Fáil bods must be wondering if there is some sort of curse on them when it comes to Galway. I have been warned to stay away from politics in this column … but sure it’s no harm to do a piece about the hazards of being a pedestrian in Galway, and the equally hazardous business of being a Fianna Fáil politician in Galway!

Far be it from me to do any damage to the tourism business in Galway-Salthill by warning Fianna Fáil to stay away … but they must be wondering about all the dreadful publicity they got for ‘the Fianna Fáil tent’ at Galway Races, and then ‘the curse’ struck again last week when along came that business of whether Brian Cowen was a bit under the weather when he did that radio interview.

Someone pointed out that quite a few of the scribes from the papers and various other brances of the media, might have been a bit under the weather themselves on that Tuesday morning after the FF knees-up on the Monday night in the Ardilaun. In fact, I met some of them shortly after 11am on the Tuesday as they struggled into the FF ‘media centre’ in the Ardilaun to tut-tut about Brian Cowen.

Some certainly looked the worse for wear after all that Fianna Fáil entertainment. But, as one of the scribes so cogently pointed out, though still in a haze of hospitality, they were not going on the national airwaves at 9 in the morning!

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

Folk group The Unthanks make a welcome return

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

English folk group, the Unthanks make a welcome return to Róisín Dubh on Sunday, February 24.

Their unique approach to storytelling involves using a kaleidoscope of unlikely instruments and spanning a bridge between past and present. It’s hard to conceive how music could sound so traditional and adventurous at once.

While their three albums to date have received much acclaim, the Mercury Music Prize nominated Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank have garnered most praise for their live performances. Stories of love, loss, birth, death, brawls and booze make for a rollercoaster ride through the human condition.

Rachel and Becky’s folk-club singing influences are set against otherworldly musical pictures, arranged by a band who draw inspiration from artists varying from Steve Reich to Miles Davis, Martin Hayes to Robert Wyatt, Portishead to Sufjan Stevens.

The Unthanks have fans as disparate as members of Radiohead and Portishead, Nick Hornby, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Adams, Paul Morley, Ben Folds, Rosanne Cash and Dawn French

They have been described as “supernaturally ancient and defiantly modern, as coldly desolate as achingly intimate”. For their Galway show will play music from their new album, as well as from their previous records.

This gig is not just for committed folkies – anyone with a love for heartfelt, well-played and moving music should check them out.

Doors 9pm, tickets €20/€18.

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Archive News

January 31, 2013

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

1913

Shots at midnight

Further particulars regarding the shooting outrage at Castlelambert have come to light during the week. It appears that the night was remarkably bright, and that the figure of a man could be discerned a long distance off.

A police patrol was ambushed near Caulfield’s house, and saw the attacking party approach, and at the same moment several shots were discharged at the house. The police got ready to fire in an instant, and as the firing party passed out through a gateway near the house, the police discharged several shots.

One of the men was seen to fall, and when the police went in the direction where the man was supposed to have fallen, they discovered a gate post, which had received most of the volleys fired.

Owing to the incident which took place at Craughwell, they did not deem it advisable to press too hard on the retreating foe. Besides, they discovered that in a hill some distance away a number of men were concentrated, probably to cover the retreat, so the patrol had to await reinforcements before moving into the mountain.

The attack was made with great daring, and the party had a hair breadth escape.

1938

Storm strikes

Galway felt the full brunt of the second storm within a fortnight which swept the West coast on Friday night. A strong gale accompanied by heavy rain and lightning was the first indication of the ensuing storm, which lasted into the early hours of Saturday morning.

Lashing rain swept the streets clear of pedestrians, and the wind, which at times reached a velocity of nearly a mile a minute, tore advertising slogans from outside business houses. Coupled with this, flying slates and masonry made walking positively dangerous, so that Galway around midnight assumed a ghost-like appearance.

A large tree in Newcastle-road was struck by lightning, and when falling, it hit the overhead electric cables, disconnecting many lights in the district.

Falling slates and masonry caused blackouts in Taylor’s Hill, Salthill and the docks districts. Working under appalling weather conditions, special men from the Electricity Supply Board had all the wires in the affected areas repaired inside half an hour.

The wind-swept Corrib overflowed its banks at many points, and in Mill-street, Galway, flooded the road but did not enter the houses.

Tuam strike

A strike began on the Tuam building clearance scheme on Wednesday evening. Carpenters and joiners are not affected. The cause of the dispute is the allegation made by the carters of sand that the contractors, Messrs. Bermingham and Sons, Galway, have not carried out their agreement with the men’s Union to give the drawing of fifty per cent of the sand required in the buildings to the carters, and that the contractors employed lorries which drew more than fifty per cent of the sand. The services of some of the carters were dispensed with recently and the Union appealed to the Town Commissioners to try and have the carters reinstated.

The Commissioners were sympathetic, but their efforts failed and the contractors alleged in a letter to the Board that the carters had actually drawn much more than their share. The contract is for 82 houses under a clearance order made by the Town Commissioners being built at Cloontoo and Galway roads. About forty men are affected by the strike.

 

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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