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Students shed new light on fallen Galway hero

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A group of young Galway students are shedding new light on a local war hero who gave his life almost exactly a century ago on the Green Fields of France.

The history pupils at Galway Community College have delved into the world of the early twentieth century to uncover the life of Claregalway brothers Martin and Bernie Fahy, as part of their Leaving Cert project.

September 26 marked the 125th anniversary of the birth of Bernie Fahy, who worked in the tunnels for the New Zealand army before he was sadly killed in action by an artillery shell in France in 1917.

His brother, Martin Fahy, was in active service with the IRA before drowning during the Civil War in January 1923, at just 29 years old.

Bernie Fahy in full uniform.

Bernie Fahy in full uniform.


And in the strangest twist of fate – as the brothers were fighting for two opposing forces – Bernie visited Martin while he was incarcerated in Wales alongside Michael Collins, where the conversations that took place can only be imagined.

There is some confusion over when Bernie was actually born, with some New Zealand records stating September 26, and other war records showing it was June 24, but one thing that is certain is that he was born in 1890. The sixth of eight children, Bernie set off to New Zealand to visit and aunt before joining the New Zealand army.

Cathy Fahy visited the grave at Arras in Northern France, where she was shocked to discover her great-granduncle had his own beautifully kept grave and headstone – a rare occurrence during that period of time.

“I live two doors down from his original home, I’m the only family member left on the homeland,” she said.

“We heard very little about Bernie Fahy in the family; even my mother wouldn’t have . . . just little snippets of information, but very little, whereas we would have heard lots about Martin.

“Both brothers met in 1916 when Martin was incarcerated in Wales. Bernie would have come from New Zealand and travelled by ship all the way with the rest of the tunnellers up to Southampton, I think.

“He had a week or two off so he went to visit his brother; you can only imagine, one dressed in British military uniform and the other one in jail because he was fighting against them.”

One of the last letters from Bernie was written in the trenches on a small piece of notepad size paper with scrawled handwriting, much different to his previous neat and cursive hand on March 16 1916 – a mere five weeks before his death.

The letter to his ‘dearest mother’ read: “If it’s not too much of me to ask you, you might send me a pair or two of homemade socks. They would do just the thing for this damp. Hope I’m not asking too much of you. Well, I must say goodbye. Goodnight, lights out. Best wishes from your son, Bernie Fahy.”

Through the research carried out, the family have since discovered that they have more relatives in New Zealand when they found out that Bernie’s aunt, whom he had visited, had given birth to an illegitimate son before joining the nunnery.

“The can of worms just started opening,” said Cathy, on the new discoveries that keep on coming about Bernie.

Galway Community College Head of History Philip Cribbin heard about the story by chance on his way up to a camogie final in Dublin, conversing with his neighbour Cathy who he discovered was a great-grandniece of Bernie.

“I just thought it was a kind of an interesting story; how somebody could actually go from Cregboy to New Zealand, return to Britain and then go to France and die there,” he said.

“I thought it was a very simple way to explain to the class as to the divisions and tensions of the time.

“Our missionary statement here in the history department is ‘bring history to life’ and so this is basically what we’re doing, we’re making it relevant, making it real for them, and personalising it,” he added.

During a recent commemorative ceremony, the class planted a tree with Bernie’s great-grandnephew Sean Fahy, where some of the students dressed up in costume and one recited a Siegfried Sassoon wartime poem.

A group of students also made two wooden plaques dedicated to Bernie and one of them was left on the Fahy family grave in Claregalway as a memorial.

CITY TRIBUNE

Outdoor dining plans unveiled for Galway City

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A new plan to temporarily pedestrianise city streets to create more space for outdoor dining this summer was published this week.

Galway City Council has said it is planning to close six streets for four months to boost the hospitality sector and attract more custom ‘back the West’ and to Woodquay.

It has also signalled smaller changes for Salthill and around Eyre Square.

“We’re looking to support businesses and people getting back to work. This is an opportunity for us to explore outdoor dining and we’re looking to trial these public realm initiatives,” Ruairí Lehmann, the City Council’s Tourism Officer told the Galway City Tribune.

“There is an appetite for this; the indications we have from Government is it is going to be an outdoor summer and these proposals will support that,” he added.

Chairperson of Galway Branch of VFI, Johnny Duggan of Taylor’s Bar on Dominick Street, said the changes would be very positive and boost hospitality businesses in all areas.

Already, he said as many as 30 businesses have applied for licences to trade outside in the area known as the Westend.

The local authority wants to close to traffic The Small Crane and Raven Terrace 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from June 7 until September 30. Car parking spaces will be removed from Small Crane and one lane of traffic would be kept open, one-way. A decision on which side is still under review.

The Council intends to make Dominick Street Lower (Galway Arms to Monroe’s) a single-lane one-way traffic street to facilitate additional on-street dining. It’s understood this has hasn’t yet got the backing of taxi drivers who have concerns about access to and from the Bridge Street rank but alternative taxi space may be offered at another location in the Westend to assuage those fears.

The Council has signalled its intention to close Dominick Street Upper and William Street West from Small Crane to Munster Avenue, at night only, between 6pm and 11pm, from Monday June 7 until Thursday September 30.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and for full details of the proposals for the city centre and Salthill, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief backs Salthill tidal pools proposal

Stephen Corrigan

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Image Courtesy of Superfly Ireland

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Council is to consider including a specific objective to restore the tidal pools in Salthill in the new City Development Plan – with around one-fifth of the submissions made in a public consultation backing this ‘no-brainer’ proposal.

In a report to councillors on submissions received, Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said consideration of the proposal would be based on technical feasibility, funding, staff resources, climate change considerations and environmental factors.

“A large number of submissions were received requesting the restoration of the tidal pools in Salthill as a year-round public amenity and recreation facility accessible to all. The restoration of this facility would be a huge asset to the city and complement the existing facilities that are available at Salthill,” Mr McGrath states in the document seen by the Galway City Tribune.

Support for the reviving of the Ladies’ Beach facility grew legs after an online petition attracted over 4,500 signatures.

Up to 100 of the 518 submissions made to the Council’s pre-draft consultation supported reopening the pools that have been out of action since the late 1970s.

(Photo: How the pools might look. Image Courtesy of Superfly Ireland)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

GMIT in €9m bid for Galwegians’ Glenina grounds

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – GMIT has put in an offer – rumoured to be in the region of €9million – for the purchase of Galwegians RFC’s grounds at Glenina, the Galway City Tribune understands.

The offer will be presented for a vote at a Special General Meeting of club members set to take place on May 27.

The land at Crowley Park, located just two minutes’ walk from GMIT, had been earmarked for housing by property developer Neil Armstrong, and is zoned residential. However, this deal fell through.

A GMIT spokesperson told the Galway City Tribune they were “not yet in a position to comment”, while a spokesperson for Galwegians declined to comment.

It is understood that staff at GMIT were informed by the institution’s Vice President of Finance at a meeting this week that the ‘deal was done’ and that they awaited the rugby club’s signing off at its members’ meeting later in the month.

The sale would clear the way for the club to proceed with plans to develop a 22-acre site at Boleynasruhaun, Oranswell, where it is expected to make a second planning application after the County Council raised concerns over the scale of the development proposed initially.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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