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Return of Long Johns Ð but these are in a delicate pink!

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Date Published: {J}

God be with the time when I prayed for snow and frost . . . now, I’m that timorous creature you see inching along gingerly by the wall, clutching any possible railing, and wishing that the City Council gave the same priority to footpaths that they do to the roads.

Of course, for the kids, the Arctic spell has meant a whole new series of games. They are the ones gifted with a sense of balance that is capable of keeping them upright – even if sliding sideways – and they know that if they happen to hit the footpath with a hand outstretched to save themselves, they aren’t inevitably bound for the emergency room of the local hospital.

For folks in my age group, chances are that surgeons will be breaking out the metal plates and screws to try to knit bones together again. And, as one of the surgeons pointed out to me last week, “we don’t just get these things in Woodies you know . . . the screws are €80 each, and the metal plates at €400 to €500 each”.

As I said . . . time was. I went to a school where the primary and secondary schools were side by side, but, in the rivalry between the schools, the secondary boys had a huge advantage when it snowed, because right beside their schoolyard, was an enormous field. Perfect for an endless supply of ammunition when it came to snowball fights.

Us secondary types went into that field and made enough snowballs to fight a war. The preparations went on for ages, but everyone from secondary came back into the school grounds with armfuls of at least seven snowballs . . . and all hell broke loose as the unequal attack began and the smaller boys were driven screaming into corners.

Somehow, we saw no injustice in the sheer size of the opposing armies, or the availability of ammunition. Maybe that was because, in our earlier years, we had also been among the primary ranks . . . and lived in the hope that our day ‘in secondary’ would inevitably come.

However, on one occasion I came off badly the worse of the engagement. The bell had gone for resumption of classes, the lines of pupils were forming and hundreds of us secondary types were lined up with armfuls of ammunition. I let fly with one snowball . . . as ill luck would have it, I narrowly missed one of the Brothers, it smashed on the jamb of the door, and scattered in along the floor of the jacks.

He turned with a look of thunder and shouted, “who threw that?”. Of course, it was greeted with absolute silence . . . but, after a pause, I inched up my hand into the air.

It was fair enough to be ordered down into the boiler room to get a shovel to clean it up . . . but I always had a great sense of injustice at the walloping I got from him as well. So much for the virtue of ‘owning up’.

I suppose it has to be judged against the background of the times. This Brother was a bit too handy with ‘the leather’, but there were others who simply should have been charged with assault.

Hardly any wonder then that, even as a man in my 60s, I still have a recurring nightmare about one Brother – a big, angular, blotchy faced, brown haired countryman who started each morning by battering most of us over phrases from that cursed M’Asal Beag Dubh, and by half ten he was only fit to hang on to a radiator and gaze out a window as he tried to regain his breath.

The sheer terror instilled by this man meant that I

sometimes dodged school lying out in the racecourse beside the school, and rolled about with stomach pain, physically ill at the thought of going to school. Of course, as time went on, I became a much more accomplished mitcher.

Anyone could mitch in early Summer when the countryside was receptive . . . I mitched for weeks on end in the depths of Winter. Like many another, I had a hand-me-down overcoat that must have belonged to a rather larger uncle, but it’s huge lapels, and the fact that it was nearly inches too long, provided real protection when mitching in Winter.

For more, read page 15 of this week’s City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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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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