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Performing pandas fail to make most of their chances



Date Published: 11-Apr-2012

Occasionally there are still moments which bring you right back to the embarrassment of that first ever teenage chat about the birds and the bees – and last week’s blow by blow account, so to speak, of the efforts of Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas to produce a baby panda certainly had the squirm factor by the spade load.

As it turned out what it didn’t have was a sufficient amount of another word that sort of sounds like squirm, because the best efforts of Yang Guang and Tian Tian to leave a lasting legacy came up, well, short.

For those who missed all the excitement and embarrassment – and indeed the build-up – to this tryst, these two pandas are on a ten year loan from China for the last four months and in case you’re thinking about renting your own panda you might need to know that this costs around $1 million a year.

So obviously then the sooner you can grow your own the better – but the female panda is fertile for only two or three days each year, usually at some time between March and May.

So there was daily testing of Tian Tian’s hormone levels and regular reports about her mate’s yen for bamboo before Edinburgh Zoo opened the love tunnel for Britain’s only pair of giant pandas.

No detail was left unreported – although the zoo did turn off the panda cam and covered the glass on the viewing gallery for the duration – but the loving couple were allowed five liaisons during the day, each lasting five minutes. By the end of that first day, their meetings had been physical and playful; they coupled more than once, but failed to reach the summit.

And we’re not talking about two bears in the first flush of romance either because Tain Tain has previously given birth to twins and Yang Guang is a daddy on the front too.

But in the end, the zoo confirmed the bad news in a press release headlined simply ‘close but no cigar’ but so far management is resisting proposals to use artificial insemination to ensure a pregnancy, for this year at least.

Still, the upside is that the couple now has eleven months and three weeks to grow to understand each other better through the grille that separates them, and maybe if they are allowed to chat intermittently over bamboo shoots, they’ll be better primed for a successful lift-off in twelve months time.

Or perhaps time will make no difference and the Scots will continue to trousers up a million dollars a year for an underperforming or incompatible panda who is proving to be nothing more than a drain of the state.

In fairness, it’s a lot of pressure to be looking through a cage at your potential partner for 362 days a year and then be pressurised to perform to Olympian levels during a very short spell with the eyes of the world on your actions.

That could lead to a loss of libido – or then again maybe it’s the old problem. Even pandas like Tian Tian like a little romancing and Yang Guang seems more of an “up and at ‘em” kind of guy. Maybe Tian Tian would appreciate a little less action and a little more panda-ing.


For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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



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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