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Taking the pledge will not make you dry



Date Published: 12-Jul-2012

Those of us who received the sacrament of Confirmation in primary school will remember part of the ritual of being confirmed involved ‘Taking the Pledge’ and receiving a juvenile Pioneer Pin.

Some people kept their commitment until they were 18; others fell by the wayside sooner, lured by the pub and intoxicating liquor. But for some, that youthful pledge to be a Pioneer became a lifetime commitment. Noel Boyle is one such person. Originally from Castlebar, but a long-time resident of Galway city, Noel joined in primary school because “I saw so much drink around me”, and he has been in the organisation for the past 65 years.

Noel was one of the founder members of the Mervue/Ballybane Pioneer Centre over 40 years ago and is still very active in the organisation.

The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart – to give it its full title – is a spiritual, prayer-based organisation which was founded in Ireland in 1898 by a Jesuit priest, Fr James Cullen to help address problems caused by alcohol and drug abuse.

The Pioneers promote temperance, especially sobriety through faith and prayer, self-denial and good example. When it comes to alcohol, they also offer alternatives to individuals, especially the young. Well known contemporary members include Aidan O’Brien, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Mickey Harte.

The Association was set up at a time when there was a major problem with drink in Ireland – some might say a similar situation exists today. But as the influence of the Catholic Church has declined, so too has the strength of the Pioneers.

Nonetheless, people like Noel and members of the Mervue/Ballybane Centre remain as active as ever in spreading the message of the Pioneers.

“It’s not that we are against drinking alcohol in moderation,” Noel stresses several times during our interview. “We are just against the abuse of alcohol.”

Fellow members of the Centre, Mary Cannon, Theresa Heaney, Maura Traynor, and Noel’s wife Mary, nod in agreement.

What distinguishes Pioneer members from other people who don’t drink alcohol is the Association’s spiritual aspect.

“I saw the value of being a Pioneer both spiritually and physically – from a health point of view and also by giving glory to the Sacred Heart by saying a little prayer and getting grace for that,” says Mary of her reason for joining.

Mary says the Pioneer prayer, known as the Heroic Offering to the Sacred Heart, twice daily. Its aspiration is pretty straightforward – “to give good example, practise self denial, to make reparation . . . for the sins of intemperance, and for the conversion of excessive drinkers”.

In its early years the Mervue/Ballybane Centre started a Pioneer Youth Club to attract young people. That was in 1970 and it ran for nearly 20 years until it eventually fizzled out. It offered games and activities for people aged 12 to 15 and, with drama, singing and dancing, it also helped with their self-development, observes Mary Boyle.

In addition, Sr Consillio, who set up the Cuan Mhuire alcohol addiction treatment centres, regularly gave talk to club members. Mervue/Ballybane took part in the annual fast for Cuan Mhuire for over 35 years, but now, as members are older and numbers have declined, their role in the fasts is a more supportive one.

Donations raised by the Club members over the years helped pay for basic expenses at Cuan Mhuire, such as heating, electricity and food. In return, youth members visited the centre and it was enlightening for them to see people being treated for alcoholism, says Mary Boyle.


In its early days, the Club had 120 members, with young people coming from all over town for the hops that were held every Friday night after the Club’s activity.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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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