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Songwriter SŽamus draws from depths of childhood experiences



Date Published: {J}

Tuam-based songwriter Séamus Ruttledge has recently released Songs To Have With Your Tea, an uplifting album that fuses elements of folk and poetry. The CD is Seamus’ second album, following 2000’s New Boots, New Shoes. Both albums were recorded by Kenny Ralph in Sun Studios, where the Saw Doctors began their recording career.

In the liner notes, Séamus’ children Roshane, Evan and Apphia are credited with co-writing three of his new songs.

“That’s the will made!” he laughs. “I wrote a lot of this when my children were small enough. That youth energy in the house encourages you to pick up the guitar and start writing. I also think that children don’t get credit. Because they do inspire adults; they’re keeping us all sane, really. They’re co-creators in the atmosphere of the songs.”

Séamus’ emergence as a songwriter is a relatively recent development in his life. There is a strong poetic sensibility to his lyrics, and many of his ideas were a long time brewing.

“I was always trying to write,” he says. “Way back I gave Leo Moran a couple of lyrics of some sort or other. He never really gave me a comment back!”

Words had an effect on Séamus from a young age, and many of his songs reflect on the experiences of his childhood years.

“The first kind of impression I got that writing was a really good thing, was with the book Huckleberry Finn,” he recalls. “When I was at St Muredach’s college, that was the book we studied. And I thought this is great, because I can be this guy – I’ve already been this guy.”

When Séamus says he has ‘been this guy,’ he is referring to his early years in an orphanage in Salthill and being adopted at the age of 7.

“I was in an orphanage in Lenaboy,” Séamus says. “I was adopted about 1964 or 5, so I was very conscious of leaving it. In a sense, it was family – they were was great sense of loneliness because I was leaving all these friends behind.

“One girl in particular, I knew her as Mary. You didn’t know anybody’s identity; but her and I had a friendship, a very strong friendship. So we had to part; I had to start up a whole new life in a place called Mayo, on a farm.”

Although it’s well over 40 years ago now, Séamus can still vividly remember leaving Salthill.

“I remember that journey. We went on a train and then someone took us in a green van and brought us out to this country house. There was another boy there called Padraig who became my brother.”

These experiences are referred to in songs like The Secret Child (from his first album) and Orphan Child (from his latest), but does Séamus feel that these early years permeate through all his writing?

“I think so,” he says. “You didn’t depend on having a father or a mother or a legitimate family – you depended on your own self-worth really. So that’s why I write from that background, to affirm that to myself. And even affirm to others of that background. Really and truly, you were born with your own soul and your own dignity.”

Séamus says he first came to Tuam around 1978. He was impressed with original songwriters like Padraig and Joe Stevens, and eventually came to call the town home

“I used to occasionally visit,” he explains. “Then I saw people playing guitar, like Padraig and Joe. I remember Joe singing Roscommon Blues and Padraig singing West Of The Gates. But all this music was happening around me – and they were their own songs. They didn’t have to sing other people’s songs.”

“There’s a sweet security in the streets of Tuam, for somebody that felt like an outcast,” he enthuses. “It’s only in the ordinary things, but they’d have a drink with you or a chat. And also, the fun thing about them; they always seem to be laughing. In that respect, luck was with me.”

The first song Séamus wrote was New Boots, New Shoes. He was encouraged in his efforts by Padraig – and, as it turns out, Leo Moran did make a comment on his work.

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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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