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Raucous, rootsy Tupelo ready to get Galway and Clifden rocking



Date Published: {J}

Hang up your boots and prepare to go back to your roots! Dublin five-piece Tupelo are coming west for a trio of gigs and will play in the College Bar, NUI Galway at 2pm this Friday, March 26 before going to the Róisín Dubh later that evening to play as part of the JD Set. Then on Saturday, they lay claim to Vaughan’s, Clifden.

Tupelo bring their own style to old music – their front man James Cramer has been soaking up influences from a very young age. Van Morrison is one artist he admires, amongst others.

“I was big into [Morrison’s] Veedon Fleece,” he recalls. “And I really like Astral Weeks, obviously. I listen to a lot of old blues stuff as well, like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Josh White, the Clancy Brother – I was brought up on a lot of folk music, through to some of the rock and roll stuff; Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison.”

Tupelo have some cracking tunes to their name (like the toe-tapping Dirty Money) but they’re always keen to road-test new songs.

“We have this new one called I’m An Irishman,” says James. “It’s a song about the 1916 Rising, about Kilmainham Jail and the fellas who were shot in the courtyard there. We’ve been gigging that, it’s one of those songs that’s taken on a life of its own.

“It’s not about being a Republican or anything like that,” he adds. “It’s a song about Irish history; it’s coming from the rebel stance really. I suppose it could be taken as rebel song, but I don’t want it to be like that.”

Tupelo are a band who keep themselves busy and James regularly bring new ideas to the table.

“I write about a lot of stuff,” he says. “Whatever comes my way; then I just run with it. I don’t really put a lot of thought into it; I just do it. Next song, really – that’s the way I work. I bring it to the band, we put it down and then we gig them. That’s the best way – after three or four shows you start knowing what works and what songs are going down well.”

He’s not one for over-thinking things, then?

“Not at all. What’s the point? I suppose everyone writes differently – Brendan Behan wrote in a different way to James Joyce. It depends.

“I don’t really believe in sitting down and trying to re-write a song. I never buy the thing when I hear someone say ‘it took me three years to write this song’. I can’t really relate to that.”

James has been playing with guitarist Paul Murray and double bass player Damien McMahon for over 10 years, and that long musical relationship is vital to their tight, down-home sound.

“With the two lads, knowing them for 10 years, we’ve played everywhere from the biggest shithole to some of the nicest venues. They understand when I bring in a new song where I want to with it. Damo, the bass player, often says to me I nod and a nod can mean 10 different things. They know what the nod means!”

The line up is completed by Tim Condon on saxophone and Kevin Duffy on violin/mandolin. The sense of ambition that these five musicians have makes Tupelo the kind of band who’ll make a winning first impression.

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

Super Mac steps in again



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013


The Supermac’s logo will appear on the Galway senior footballers’ jersey for the first time against Derry this weekend after the Irish fast food giant was announced as the new title sponsor of the county’s GAA teams.

For 22 years, Supermac’s has featured on Galway hurling jerseys but with the County Board determined to have ‘one jersey, one crest, one sponsor’ for its flagship teams, Supermac’s have once again answered the county’s call.

Although Supermac’s have signed up on a two-year deal initially, there is an option for the partnership to continue for up to five years . . . which, should it do so, it is believed, could see Pat and Una McDonagh’s company invest in excess of €1 million in Galway GAA.

Speaking to the Sentinel yesterday afternoon, Supermacs Managing Director Pat McDonagh was unwilling to talk numbers but said it was by far and away Supermac’s “biggest ever sponsorship” deal.

In addition to the Supermac’s logo being carried on hurling and football playing gear – from minor to senior – its subsidiary company Papa John’s Pizza will feature on all underage jerseys.

“That is still within the Supermac’s brand but that is the name that will go on the underage teams,” said Pat McDonagh.

“It is initially a two-year deal with an option to go to five years. We are delighted this process has come to a conclusion at this stage after lengthy negotiations. So, we will be launching the new jersey – the new football and hurling jersey – and this will be worn by both teams this year. Hopefully, that will be ready next Sunday.”

There were fears in some quarters that with a main sponsor sought to support both codes, Supermac’s may have lost out on the deal to a multi-national, and that not only rankled with a number of officials loyal to the McDonagh family but with proud GAA Gaels across the county.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Archive News

Macnas set off to explore the world



Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

Macnas gets 2013 off to an exciting start with performances in China next month in February and Australia in March.

‘Chaosmos’, a newly devised piece, will premiere at the Chaoyang International Spring Carnival in Beijing from February 10-15 while the Boy Explorer heads to the WOMAdelaide festival in Australia from March 7-11.

Initiated in 2002, the Chaoyang International Spring Carnival is a highly anticipated event taking place over the Chinese New Year Holiday period with an attendance of more than 400,000 visitors. This year Ireland has been awarded ‘Country of Honour’ by the Festival; with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs Macnas have been invited to showcase Irish Street Theatre and celebrate Chinese New Year in an uniquely Macnas way. ‘Choasmos’ is an exciting, ethereal performance with vivid and stunning costumes, bespoke imagery, stilting beasts, masked performers, musicians, suitcases, lotions, potions, a music box and a bag of curiosities.

The well-travelled Boy Explorer continues his Quest for Brilliant Ideas Down Under with an appearance at Peter Gabriel’s International Music and Arts Festival, WOMADelaide, in South Australia. The Boy will rub shoulders with music legend Jimmy Cliff as well as some of the world’s leading music performers and over 15,000 visitors each day. Although he tested his sea legs on a trip to Scoil Ronáin on Inis Mór in December, this is the Boy Explorer’s first time going overseas and casting his net further afield.

It is an extremely exciting time for the company, with so much new work in the offing and as many requests to present at home and abroad. “This will be one of the most exciting years in the long history of the company,” says Sharon O’Grady, General Manager of Macnas. No doubt the rest of the year will hold many more exciting appearances and tours for one of Ireland’s busiest performance companies.

For the most recent news follow Macnas and The Boy Explorer on Twitter, @Macnasparade or @boyexplorer, and on Facebook or check out for more information.

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