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Races bring out the sharp dressed men – for one day only



Date Published: 08-Aug-2012

 IT’S the get-up of the ladies that draws all of the attention of course, but one of the funniest sights of Race Week in Galway is the sartorial elegance of the county’s young males, trussed up like turkeys in their best bib and tucker for Ballybrit.

These are guys who, quite honestly, wouldn’t be seen dead in a shirt – let alone a suit – on any other day of the year and here they are, parading around town in their shiny suits and ties as though they were heading for a night at the opera as opposed to a day at the races.

And these aren’t the sort of suits we might have had back in the day on the off chance of a job interview – the kind of suits you hoped you’d one day grow into, where the sleeves were down over the knuckles and the trousers were belted up to the chest.

No, these look like Louis Copeland was working overtime to ensure they fitted our young fashion followers like the proverbial glove, topped off with shiny shoes, gelled hair and a two day old growth – if they were old enough to shave – for the premiership football look.

There wasn’t a bus stop in Galway last Wednesday or Thursday that wasn’t frequented by dozens of sharp dressed young men looking like a flash mob from a Quentin Tarantino movie – even young fellows who didn’t have a suit to their name at least had a well ironed shirt on their back and what we used to call a pressed pair of slacks.

Half of them may have looked like they were enjoying a feed of pints after making their first Communion and loads of them looked like the fella out of Crystal Swing, but at least they made an effort – at least to the point where the shirt came out and the tie was loosened and the eyes began to roll of their own accord in opposite directions.

And that also – it must be said – saw a level of aggression and stupidity on the streets that we could live without. It’s all good and well to don best bib and tucker, but it takes more than a sharp suit to make you a man.

But really the question is why is it that these young bucks are prepared to tog out like superstars once a year and then spend the other 364 days looking like they were dragged through a hedge backwards?

Perhaps it’s just the novelty; maybe it’s because the fake-tanned girlfriend insisted on it, or simply peer pressure insisted on it – and in any event it’s no bad thing.

There used to be a theory regarding Sundays in Ireland that those who wore suits all week opted to dress down on the day of relative rest, while those who dressed casually would don shirt and tie for the one day of the week they were off.

As a fully paid-up member of the anti tie brigade, there are only a few occasions a year when I’m forced to constrict my breathing by closing my shirt and knotting a tie – and, yes, sometimes the Galway Races is one of them.

But at this stage I’m way past impressing the ladies – that’s, indeed, if I ever did – and it’s more down to manners and etiquette than anything else.

You roll back the clock to the height of the dancehall days and every male in the ballroom had a suit; then came the disco era of long hair, bell-bottoms, paisley shirts open to the navel with perhaps a medallion to complete the look. The late Tony Gregory has a lot to answer for as well, as the first man who refused to wear a tie in the Dail – now we have Slick Mick Wallace in a print tee-shirt and People Before Profit prophet Richard Boyd Barrett in a crumpled shirt, and it’s all gone to pot in Leinster House.

The geeks at the cutting edge of the digital phenomenon probably don’t own a single tie between them – indeed some of them don’t seem old enough to own a pair of long pants – and the dress code is strictly beachwear even when multi-billion dollar flotations are going down.

So given their influence on the youth market, it’s probably a good thing that an event like the Galway Races presents itself as an annual chance to dig the suit from the back of the wardrobe, if only for an airing.

And anyway, if they dressed like that all the time, they’d look like members of Young Fine Gael – which, in fairness, probably isn’t a big magnet with the ladies.

Fair play to them for making the effort because they add just as much to the gaiety of the day as the best trussed ladies – but we’re probably all happier to see them back to normal now in shredded jeans and torn tee-shirts.

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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