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The Big Chill’ brings out the best in many people



Date Published: 07-Jan-2011

AS Charles Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities . . . "it was the best of times and it was the worst of times." I refer of course to what must go down in history as ‘the big freeze’.

I think we will remember it for more than just the extraordinary temperatures. It will also be recalled for what people did for others.

The visitation was only a few days old at the beginning of December when I was calling on some friends in Waterford over a weekend. I had arrived on the Friday evening and intended to stay until the Sunday, but the persistent fall of the snow on the Saturday morning, forced a decision to head for home before the snow got too deep.

We had scarcely left Waterford City and gone through one of the major roundabouts leading to Limerick, when the roundabout closed behind us, according to the AA Roadwatch. An articulated lorry had jack-knifed.

Behind us there were now five inches of snow in Waterford and as we drove through heavy snow at four miles-per-hour in places like Mooncoin, we realised that, maybe, we were escaping from the dawning of an historic weather event.

The first 20 miles took nearly an hour-and-a-half, but just up the road in Tipperary town there was bright sunshine, not a sign of snow, but bitter frost.

People were looking rather peculiarly at our car passing through their town carrying three inches of snow on the roof and with the wiper blades now thudding into frozen and compacted snow at the end of their travel on the freezing windscreen.

But already, some of the remarkable things which people would do to help each other, were starting to happen. At one point, a farmer was out with his tractor at the end of a narrow side road where cars were having difficulty getting up an incline to the main road. He was towing cars which otherwise would have been stranded. And with him were a gang of four young fellows who were pushing an Avensis on to the main carriageway.

There were plenty of similar examples in the following days and weeks, but one which struck me particularly was the case of a City Link bus which was travelling from Dublin to Galway on a night when the journey was taking five to six hours.

Cars were stuck on roads near Chapelizod for hours-on-end as people tried to get home, and some even abandoned their cars.

One of the inconveniences – and that is putting it much too mildly – was that people needed to go to the loo after possibly five hours on the road. The bus driver obliged by allowing a group of them go on board to use the toilet facilities on the coach.

For more of JC’s column see page 15 of this week’s 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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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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