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Remembering back to those days of wine and RosŽ

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 18-Apr-2012

There was a time – and really it’s just a few short years ago – when selecting a wine involved a straight choice between Blue Nun, Black Tower and Jacob’s Creek. Now, with all due respects to them, you’d sooner be seen drinking petrol from your shoe.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a good bottle of reisling or Liebfraumilch – apparently those new hybrid cars go like the clappers on a litre or two of it – but sometimes your brand is inexorably associated with a different era. And, as in this case, that’s not always a good thing.

Mateus Rosé represented the height of sophistication, coming as it did in a bottle which could later be revitalised as a lamp stand if you get shells and a heavy paste with which to stick them to the empty bottle.

However the brains behind the brand could probably have lived without the disclosure that Mateus Rosé was amongst the brands said to be stockpiled in the vaults of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. It seems there is such a thing as a bad endorsement, after all.

Such is the baggage attached to Blue Nun, which was itself rebranded and remarketed a year or two ago, that it no longer describes itself as Liebfraumilch at all – which is a pity really given that this is a German word that literally means ‘beloved lady’s milk’.

 

To be more precise, Liebfrau is the German for Virgin Mary. But, that said, milk – from cows, containers or even beloved ladies – never tasted like the sickly-sweet stuff that marked the darker days of our youth.

And even allowing for the combined efforts of the world’s top wine marketing gurus, we ain’t going back there; no more than the next generation will be passing round the Buckfast at a dinner party in 20 years’ time – no matter how much of it they now drink at the back of the handball alley or down by the Spanish Arch.

The irony is that Jacob’s Creek is an Australian wine and was the original in the Barossa Valley region, dating back to 1847, but these days the off licence shelves are groaning with Aussie wines – and Jacob’s Creek doesn’t seem to be at the forefront.

Bizarrely, it is just a year ago since the BBC ran a story where hundreds of fake bottles of best-selling Australian wine Jacob’s Creek were seized by trading standards officers in England and Wales.

Apparently they were made in China and according to Pernod Ricard spokesman Simon Thomas: "This counterfeit product is of very low quality and substandard taste.”

You’d imagine it must have been difficult to spot then – apart from a tell-tale misspelling on the label on the back, where Australia is spelt Austrlia.

But you’d have thought that, if someone was going to the bother of brewing dodgy wine, they’ve have aimed higher up the grape tree in the first place.

There are memories of our formative days that are worth reflecting on with some fondness – guilty pleasures like Abba or Duran Duran, mullets, stonewashed jeans, Pacman – but others are best consigned to the era from whence they came.

In fairness to the good folks at Jacob’s Creek – now part of the Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard Group – they’re not about to give up easily, and they’re currently engaged in a marketing campaign that actually hits Galway this week.

The idea – some might say last desperate throw of the dice – is blind tasting to prove that it’s only your imagination that’s telling you that Jacob’s Creek is to wine what Bertie Ahern is to bank accounts.

Which is why 50 blind tasters – that means blindfolded as opposed to blind drunk – are gathering at the Galway City Museum tonight see if they can tell the difference between prize wines and plonk.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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