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Peeling back the years to Easter mornings of long ago

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

The great joys of Easter were many in my day – but the ultimate delight, of course, was Easter morning when you finally cracked open that chocolate egg and took part in the absolute gorge which was on among kids all over the country.

I think that in those days more than 50 years ago there was more of a sense of the solemnity of the Lenten and Easter seasons . . . certainly the various observances were taken a lot more seriously, the fasts and abstinences were rigidly enforced.

As a result, perhaps we arrived at Easter morning with a greater sense of the impending occasion, our very intake of bread, meat, even the contents of what might make up a soup or a gravy, having been interpreted by a much more rigid church . . . which maybe might have been better employed had it been a little less into the externals of observance.

Perhaps it was because they were more innocent times, but there was a genuine feeling of being bereft and almost alone on a Good Friday, with the purple hangings on the sacred pictures and statues in the church, the altar utterly bare, the tabernacle gaping wide open, giving a sense of deprivation.

As youngsters, we crept into the church on the Good Friday with a feeling of awe for the interminable prayers and chanting in Latin. The churches were packed with the faithful, the air of something momentous being commemorated was inescapable. It all seems so far removed from the somewhat matter-of-fact air which seems to pervade today even on solemn occasions like the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.

It was hardly surprising then that the air of celebration was so palpable on the evening of Easter Saturday when the churches were again packed to capacity for the ‘Easter Ceremonies’. For hours beforehand, my father would be busily engaged in a shaving ritual that took half an hour, getting his clean collar out, busily searching about for the various collar studs, knotting the best tie, polishing the shoes and generally fussing about to see that we were all spick-and-span for the occasion.

We lived no distance from the church, and they sounded a bell to tell the faithful that the ceremonies were 25 minutes away from starting, and then another to announce that we had just 5 minutes. Nothing would do my fussy father but to announce that the ‘25-to’ bell was in fact the ‘5-to’ and that we’d all be late.

The luminous Westclox on the mantelpiece, which controlled all our lives, might well be telling the real time, but his answer to that was ‘that clock is slow’. The only way to find peace was make a dash for the door with him behind us, scattering Holy Water from the font inside the door with all the gusto of a Holy Saturday celebrant before the choir and organ eventually broke out into a Gloria in Excelsis Deo that shook a town.

No one ever came in, or out, our front door without a drenching of Holy Water. And at night you might be warm and well tucked-up in bed, but when he was passing the bed, there was another cold splash of water from the font over the mantle in the bedroom.

Despite the shock of the cold splash, I found it comforting betimes . . . especially if I had been to the local flea pit, seen the latest Dracula film and knew that one thing that definitely kept vampires away was Holy Water.

All that feeling of being in some way spiritually connected became more mundane with the gorge of eggs on Easter Sunday morning. They were an extraordinary luxury at a time when very few families had any money to spend . . . that was in the days when, if you wanted something, you saved for it and then the family got it. All families budgeted every week to get by.

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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Rory takes on fresh challenge as lauded DruidMurphy returns

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 03-Apr-2013

TUAM AQUACULTURE COMPANY TO CREATE 30 JOBS

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After twenty years Sarah lands dream role in Druid

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 04-Apr-2013

 Sarah Lynch has been living and breathing Druid Theatre since she wangled a job as a runner fresh out of college two decades ago at age 20. After holding down just about every role imaginable there – from company manager to director to stage manager – her appointment as general manager to one of the country’s most prestigious theatre companies last October seemed almost inevitable.

Because once she had tasted the fruit of Druid she was going nowhere . . . and going everywhere. Sarah’s tenure at Druid since 1998 has brought her on a journey that has reached just about every corner of the globe and almost all the islands off Ireland in between.

After graduating from Limerick with a degree in French and English Sarah spent a stint teaching in a secondary school. But it immediately became clear that wasn’t the road for her.

“One thing I was always certain of was I’d be involved in the performing arts, whether on stage or off stage or behind it. The immediate reaction of the audience is such a buzz,” she grins.

Her earliest memory was of her grandfather, Bud Clancy, on stage with his trumpet and dance band. “I must have been three or four because he died shortly after that. But it never left me. I got bitten by the bug. I started playing the trumpet. A friend of my grandfather taught me how to play and I was with the Limerick brass and reed orchestra known as the Boherbuoy Band, I was just a kid with all these adults.”

She learned to play other brass instruments such as the French horn and cornet before turning her hand to the guitar and song-writing. “I taught myself guitar. Sometime I tinker on the piano and I think that’s my next instrument. I love percussion. You can’t get me off a drum kit for love or money. Many is the night I’ve made a fool of myself on one of those,” she laughs.

In 2010, Sarah released her debut album, Letter to Friends, which was launched by playwright Enda Walsh, whose short play, Lynndie’s Gotta Gun, she had directed as part of the 2008 Galway Arts Festival.

The collection of songs was produced by Wayne Sheehy, a musician she had met when opening for Juliet Turner on Turner’s Burn the Black Suit tour.

“I could probably have done it ten years ago but for the manic schedule with Druid and touring so much,” she reflects. “I haven’t done much with it since. I used to play gigs in the Róisín Dubh. The bigger twin is theatre at the moment. The bigger twin bullies the other twin. You don’t get much time to do music.”

After fleeing the classroom, Sarah knocked on the door of a former college mate, Andrew Flynn, now with the Galway Youth Theatre, who kindly offered up his couch. He also managed to get her a job as a runner – the person who does everything from making tea to helping with props – on a Druid production of As You Like It.

“I remember working with Mark O’Halloran, I had great fun with him. There was Helen Norton, it was Maeliosa Stafford directing. He’s coming back to the Druid after ten years to star in Tom Murphy’s A Whistle in the Dark. He left me as a runner, now I’m general manager.”

Much of Sarah’s time behind the scenes at Druid has been spent on the road. In 2009 alone, Druid toured to Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA presenting 364 performances in 26 venues.

Indeed so much of life has been out spent living of a suitcase that she gave up her base in Galway to move back in with her family in Caherdavin, on the Galway side of Limerick city.

The tour of the Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh was so long the crew were instructed to pack two suitcases, one with summer clothes, the other winter gear, as they would be spanning the seasons. Her job now entails a lot of commuting, but driving is where she gets a lot of thinking done.

Sarah’s decision to apply for the more home-based job of general manager was one she made discreetly while on the Druid Murphy tour around the US. She had to undergo her interview in between shows at the Lincoln Center in New York. It was the most nerve wrecking experience of her life, she admits.

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

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