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Stan takes centre state after lifetime behind lens

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Stan Shields has photographed thousands of college graduates getting their degrees over the past four decades and this week he got to wear the gown and cap himself when NUI Galway bestowed on him an Honorary Masters Degree.

Stan is probably one of the best known people Galway city and county because in the last 49 years he has covered an estimated 4,000 jobs (known in the journalistic world as markings), a mix of news, sporting, social and feature events.

It is no wonder then that the university decided he was worthy of an honorary degree for photographically recording Galway life.

Rarely seen without his camera, Stan continues to take photographs in a freelance capacity having retired as Chief Photographer for The Connacht Tribune Group in 2007.

“I love taking pictures and I love meeting and talking to people so if I am asked, I still cover events. Looking back on my working life, I have been extremely lucky that I had a job I loved. I had the best of fun but I also covered my fair share of tragedies because when you work for a newspaper, that goes with the territory,” he says with the same passion and enthusiasm he probably had for the job the day he started in the early Sixties.

He was trained and mentored by the great Jimmy Walshe, a character known for his directness, much of which has rubbed off on Stan, who doesn’t suffer fools and calls a spade a spade – traits he needed sometimes to ensure he got the shot he wanted.

The Salthill native was only a year in the job when the US President, John F Kennedy, visited Galway in 1963 and his enthusiasm then almost got him shot as he stepped up onto the front seat of the open topped car to get a close-up!

“I looked at him and he looked at me. I pointed to my camera and just before two security men tried to pull me away, JFK said it was okay and I got my picture. That was in Eyre Square and when I tried to take a short cut behind the President’s car to get out to Salthill, where he was going next, I had to be escorted by his Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger, who told me there were 20 sniper guns pointed at me in case I was a hit man.”

Stan got his famous black and white pictures of the US President, made all the more poignant by Kennedy’s assassination two months later. Many of the images have been published all over the world.

 

Things have changed. In those days he remembers going to the local Garda Station for his accreditation – there was a lot more paperwork when Ronald Reagan came to Galway 21 years later!

Another big story covered by Stan was Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ballybrit in 1979. He remembers taking his shots from a pedestal on a specially erected scaffold and still remembers the thrill he got when the Pope’s cloak was caught by the wind and he knew he had ‘the shot’. The photograph was captioned ‘Vat Man’.

When he talks about his career, there’s a twinkle in his eyes, such is his love of being in the front line of delivering the news to the public. He was hospitalised a few weeks ago but was determined to be discharged in time to make it to the conferral ceremony on Monday.

“I was determined to be there. I have covered so many degree days in my time and it was a great honour to get one myself.”

And of course it is an event he enjoyed with his wife Kathleen and children, Louise and James, and their two grandchildren – after all, he has spent years recording other people’s events. For a change he was the focus of attention on Monday.

It’s not the first time his work has been recognised though, Stan having won five national photographic awards.

One of the best selling local publications of the past few decades was a book of photographs taken by Stan called Stan’s Galway. It sold 5,500 copies and was a labour of love.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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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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