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Portumna Festival keeps arts flag flying despite setbacks



Date Published: 05-Sep-2012

Costume designer Joan Bergin, whose film credits include My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father and Dancing at Lughnasa, will officially open this year’s Shorelines Arts Festival in Portumna on Thursday, September 20. The event will also feature local Omna Singers.

Joan Bergin’s presence at the festival is particularly apt, given that she has strong links with Dublin’s Focus Theatre, which is being celebrated in this year’s Shorelines, says Festival Director Noelle Lynskey.

Portumna’s Festival is a voluntary event, and it is taking place despite cutbacks and a lack of promised government funding, according to Ms Lynskey of the Portumna Arts Group, which is organising the festival. She and the group are grateful to business sponsors and local friends, whose support has ensured that the event can continue.


The Tune Makers, featuring accordion player Máirtín O’Connor, guitarist Dave Flynn and American fiddler Liz Carroll, will be in concert on the opening night, September 20 at 8.30pm. The show, in Portumna’s Church of Ireland, will include the performers’ own compositions and those of East Galway musicians, Paddy Fahey, Finbarr Dwyer and the late Vincent Broderick.

Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins will give a reading at Shorelines on Saturday, September 22 at 8pm in The Church of Ireland’s Saturday Show. She will be joined by Portlaoise born poet and broadcaster Pat Boran, who is also facilitating workshops during the Festival. The Saturday Show will also see the debut Portumna appearance of a new group No Strings Attached. They offer a mix of vocals and music, with unique arrangements and vocal harmonies. Darren de Burca, guitarist and singer, will also perform at this event.

Those attending all the concerts are advised to come early as seating in the Church of Ireland is limited.

Visitors to that Church will have an extra treat during the Festival with Tapestry – A Flower Festival designed by Richard Haslam. Richard has over 30 years’ experience in the floristry trade and is a multi-medal winner in Chelsea, Hampton Court and Bloom.

Dramatists are being celebrated at Shorelines with a retrospective on the writings of Declan and Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy, founder members of Dublin’s Focus Theatre Company in Dublin in 1967.

They are still writing and producing plays, novels and poetry. Actors from the Focus, including Tom Hickey, Michael Ford and Bairbre Ní Chaoimh will take part in an evening of readings and performances, curated by writer, poet and director, Neil Donnelly.

Local drama is marked with the launch of Voices in the Loft, a new book documenting history of 60 years of Portumna Players, illustrated with photos of early and recent productions. The book was compiled by local author Aideen O’Reilly whose interest in preserving the history of one of Ireland’s most enduring amateur drama groups began with a search through her late father’s files. Members of Portumna Players will stage The London Vertigo, a one-act drama for adults during the Festival, as well as a series of comic sketches. There will also be children’s drama with The Upside Down Twits, based on the Roald Dahl story.

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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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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