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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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

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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BallinasloeÕs young squad aiming to floor Armagh junior champs

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

A new chapter in the history of Ballinasloe football will be written at Breffni Park, Cavan, on Sunday when Sean Riddell’s young side take on Ulster champions An Port Mor of Armagh in the All-Ireland Junior semi-final (2pm).

It’s the first competitive game outside the province of Connacht in 33 years for Galway football’s ‘sleeping giant’ with the enticing prospect of an appearance at Croke Park on February 9 on offer for the winners of what should be a competitive tie.

Ballinasloe have romped through Connacht since overcoming a couple of tricky hurdles on their way to collecting the Galway junior title, which was their target for the campaign this time last year.

With a return to Intermediate football secured, Riddell’s youngsters really have nothing to lose – while their triumphant march to county and provincial titles has revived memories of the club’s glory days when they contested three Galway senior finals in a row between 1979 and ’81.

Intriguingly, the seniors of St Grellan’s never got to play in Croke Park when they reached the All-Ireland final back in 1980 – they lost by 3-9 to 0-8 to St Finbarr’s of Cork in Tipperary Town.

This team’s progression has provided rich rewards for an abundance of hard work at underage levels in the past ten to 15 years and the current side’s ‘do or die’ attitude was very much in evidence in the cliffhanger wins over Tuam and Clifden in the domestic championship.

 

They are a well-balanced side who really never know when they are beaten and have an inspirational leader in county panelist Keith Kelly, whose exploits at centre back have been among the key components in their dramatic run to reach the All-Ireland series.

Riddell, who recalls playing senior football with the club during their heyday, is determined to get Ballinasloe back among the county’s leading clubs but, for the moment, he is delighted just to have a shot at getting to Croke Park in a bid to emulate Clonbur’s achievement in winning the title outright last year.

Riddell went to Newry on a ‘spying mission’ to see the Armagh champions overcome Brackaville of Tyrone by 2-9 to 0-11 in November – and was impressed by the quality of the football produced by An Port Mor in the Ulster final.

“They are a nicely balanced side who play good football,” he said. “There was a bit of the physical stuff you’d expect from two Ulster side, but I was impressed by their performance.”

An Port Mor became the first Armagh side to win the provincial junior decider. First half goals from Shane Nugent and Christopher Lennon sent them on the road to victory, before a red card for Brackaville captain Cahir McGuinness eased their progress to the All-Ireland series.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Coalition promised an ocean of reform Ð but the wind has gone out of its sails

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

CITY ENERGY COMPANY TO CREATE 12 NEW JOBS

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