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Portrait paints realistic picture

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Date Published: 30-Oct-2009

ONE of Galway’s most famous authors, Walter Macken, earned international acclaim for his depiction of Irish life. The portrayal of his hometown in the 1950s, as seen in his novel, Rain on the Wind, was praised by many for its realism and authenticity and gave him worldwide success. Now, 32 years after his death, another well-known Irish writer, playwright Christian O’Reilly, has set about telling Galway’s story for the 21st century in his new play, Here We Are Again Still, a work commissioned as part of Public Art Galway, Galway City Council’s public art programme. This is the first time that the City Council has worked with a playwright on a theatre commission, and is co-producing the play with the Galway Arts Centre and Decadent Theatre Company. However, what makes the play unique is how its story was inspired. During the Summer of 2008, Mr O’Reilly set up weekly workshops in the area named after one of the men that would have inspired him to become a storyteller, Walter Macken Place. It was here that Mr O’Reilly heard the stories and learned about the lives of the Mervue residents, which led him to be able to depict a realistic portrayal of what it is like to live alone in a small community. According to Mr O’Reilly, the resulting play is not based solely on the true accounts of life in Mervue that he heard, but rather it is a work that is inspired by these to create a fictional but realistic portrait of Galway life. “It was more a sense of what it might feel like to live alone in that kind of community,” says Christian. “The idea behind [the workshops] is that you engage with the community, so instead of writing from what you think is accurate, you get a better idea of what is authentic.” For Mr O’Reilly, who lives in Galway but was brought up in Listowel, Co Kerry after being born in London, these types of workshops were not new. In 2005 the playwright had a similar experience in Listowel, but on a smaller scale, writing The Avenue for the Per Cent for Art scheme there. In the case of his Galway experiment, then, Mr O’Reilly knew what his first duty was in order for his play to be a success. “We knocked on all the doors, buzzed all the buzzers, asking if people would go to the workshops,” says Mr O’Reilly. While some were less than enthusiastic by the idea, others quickly came on board, leaving him with a core group of 12 Walter Macken Place residents, each with their own stories to tell. For more see page 8 of this week’s 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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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

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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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