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Sunny days, haggis and theatre at lunchtime – life is good



Date Published: {J}

Ah, what lovely weather. I was just walking down Quay Street, feeling like all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, McDonagh’s were selling haggis.


Wait, what? But it’s true. Galway’s famous seafood eatery prominently advertises deep-fried sheep’s guts. That’s like a restaurant serving Szechuan chicken and mash, or Mexican spaghetti. Now I have a Scottish friend who thinks fried sheep’s guts is fantastic – she gave up smoking recently so I guess she’s looking for another way to risk her life – but I would be surprised if they’re doing this just to cater for Galway’s small Scots community. I think I know the real reason:Because tourists kept asking for it. Eventually McDonagh’s got tired of explaining that they were in the wrong country and realised that it would be easier – and more lucrative – to just sell them the haggis.

One question remains though. Are the tourists merely confused about the difference between here and there – as in "those whiskey-drinking, bagpipe-playing, English-fighting people are all the same" – or do they actually think they’re in Scotland? Galway, Galloway. It’s an easy mistake when you look at it.

Speaking of the summer, it’s nearly time to get run down by the festival train again.

Discussing the history of Cúirt in An Irishman’s Diary in The Irish Times last Tuesday, Fred Johnston lamented how it and other celebrations of the arts in Galway have grown from little local festivals into highly professional, commercial events. It may seem churlish when you look at the impressive line-up Cúirt is bringing this year, but I can’t help agreeing that something has been lost. Events on this scale attracting huge numbers of tourists may make commercial sense, but I’m not so sure they make cultural sense. Back when things were on a more moderate scale it seemed like a thriving art scene could only benefit the community. Yet instead it became commoditised as cultural tourism, even helped stoke the property speculation boom.

As Fred Johnston put it, "the hour of the cultural amateur died in the mid-1980s". Though I agree, I would take issue with the word amateur – chiefly because it has the implication of not getting paid, which is the exact opposite of what artists need to do art. Clearly though, it is not in the world of established organisations and professional "arts administration" (a contradiction in terms, surely) that the interesting stuff happens.

So I’m glad to see that the lunchtime theatre scene is making a comeback. Remember its heyday? Comedy in the King’s Head, The Flying Pigs, Tommy Tiernan. Small-scale things like that really stimulate and sustain cultural creativity. Things that were forgotten in the boom years, when you didn’t need any entertainment to pack a place at lunchtime.

Now Kelly’s Bar are reviving the tradition. They’ve just hosted a show called A Wing And a Prayer, a beautiful piece of cast-created comedy in the guise of a FÁS scheme for vaudeville performers. It says a lot about Galway that a new company doing work of professional quality can materialise as if out of the woodwork.

That show will be over by the time you read this, but the season in Kelly’s continues for another two weeks. Check it out.


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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