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Remembering the days of the shelves of Penguins



Date Published: {J}

Interesting to hear on one of the RTÉ radio book programmes lately that Penguin are bringing out editions of some of the most popular works of today . . . which brings me back to the dim distant days when I was in digs, or a flat.

In those times, just about everyone seemed to have the Penguin edition of books like Orwell’s 1984, Keep The Aspidestra Flying, Brighton Rock, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, Lord Of The Flies, Of Mice And Men, For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Grapes of Wrath.

The pretty eclectic choices were put on makeshift bookshelves in flats and digs which were weighed-down with the collections. You wonder if there are similar collections these days in view of the growth of television, the increased use of DVDs, the exponentially increased use of the Internet, and all of the social networking that goes on through YouTube, Facebook and the like.

My betting is that there are long shelves of useless videos waiting to be dumped, endless lines of DVDs which were swopped, or got as Christmas presents, but that this technology is also going to be out of date because of the increasing ability to download. In 10 years’ time, will these be the equivalent of the now untouched books of my heyday?

The outcome seems inevitable looking at the changes in the music industry . . . and interesting to note that some of the software technology in the film download area was pioneered in Galway not so many years ago.

Maybe all these changes have replaced the concept of sitting in a chair reading a book . . . goodness it sounds so old-fashioned and so solitary now, though I am not all that impressed by the idea of a ‘social life’ built through electronic social networking. It seems a bit like the idea of a ‘text message’ compared to an actual conversation.

The numbers of advertisements on certain channels involving agencies which offer to introduce people to each other – I am speaking of the legitimate introductory agencies! – may be an indicator of a significant number of people more reliant on the electronic media to simply contact other humans.

That said, I have to admit that, increasingly, I find myself using something like Google when I want to chase-up some reference or other . . . it’s that, or poke about in the garage, or the attic, among literally hundreds of editions of books, many of them the familiar Penguins of all those years ago.

I am doubly hampered in this department because, more than 20 years ago, we moved house from one town to another and part of the packing process was the business of getting all those eight or 10 shilling editions of Penguin books together, putting them into boxes. I have to confess that I never opened many of those boxes again!

The boxes were loaded into a CIE truck, moved to our new house in Waterford, moved again when we came back to Galway . . . and then left strategically placed on the joists in piles in the attic from whence they have never been moved in more than 20 years.

There was a kind of recurring mental half-promise on my part that, some day, I really must unpack them. But the memory of the fearful weight of those boxes, and perhaps the onset of a greater degree of laziness on my part, meant that they still sit accusingly in the attic all those years later, only seen occasionally when there is frost and a danger of a burst pipe in the attic.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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