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Rootsy sound of the Henry Girls for Arts Festival

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Date Published: 04-Jul-2012

The Henry Girls play Monroe’s Live on Friday July 20, as part of this year’s Galway Arts Festival. The folk and roots band is fronted by three sisters – Lorna, Karen and Joleen McLaughlin – who hail from Malin in County Donegal. Why did they call themselves The Henry Girls when their surname is McLaughlin?

“Well, we just thought that McLaughlin was a bit long winded!” says Lorna. “Up here in Donegal, every clan gets a family nickname so ours is Henry, after our grandfather. And we thought The Henry Girls was a bit snappier!”

The Inishowen Peninsula is a popular spot for traditional music, which would have been an early influence on Lorna and her sisters.

“There was a lot of traditional in the house, growing up,” she says. “I remember one time having a session over in Granny’s house with The Dubliners there. And then some members of Altan were in our house, [as well as] Four Men and A Dog. That’s the scene around here, folk and traditional.”

Yet there’s a swing to The Henry Girls sound that suggests they aren’t hemmed in by any one genre.

“Our Mum’s really into singing, she was always a fan of jazz music – she would’ve listened to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald,” says Lorna. “She’s not a professional musician, but she would’ve sung a lot around the house. I think that passed on to us.”

The Henry Girls also add some American folk to the mix, and plan to return to the US soon, having done a brief tour there.

“We’ve been listening to loads of bluegrass in the past three or four years,” Lorna says. “We did collaboration with The Fox Hunt, a bluegrass band from for Virginia, for the Earagail Arts Festival, a couple of years ago. We wrote songs together and did a tour around Ireland, and also went to Celtic Connections in Scotland with them.”

Last year The Henry Girls released their fourth album, December Moon, an ambitious offering that will appeal to fans of more commercial folk acts like The Dixie Chicks, while also remaining rootsy.

“It was recorded this time last year in Glasgow, in a new studio, by Calum Malcolm,” says Lorna. “He’d be a well known producer, particularly in Scotland – Clannad, Wet Wet Wet, Simple Minds and The Blue Nile.”

Malcolm’s experience proved vital to the making of December Moon.

“He was fantastic to work with,” Lorna says. “It was the first time in a while we worked with a producer, and there’s such a difference when you’re working with somebody, to give you that direction. When you’re sisters, you’re trying to keep everything equal; it’s hard for us to direct each other.”

To help them explore their jazzy inclinations, The Henry Girls called on an in-law.

“Karen, the fiddle player, her husband is a saxophonist,” says Lorna. “He’s part of a brass ensemble and they played on the record as well. It was quite a lot of work, but it was really worth it.”

The Henry Girls may draw on the folk tradition, but they are not relying on old songs to make albums. December Moon sees them take a step forward as songwriters.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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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

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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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