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The Christmas Fair idea is a huge success in other cities



Date Published: {J}

When all the debate is ended – the first over whether there should be a Christmas Fair in Galway, and then the price of being part of it – let’s hope that, when it goes ahead, it proves to be an enormous success.

I prefer to call it a Christmas Fair because we already have a Christmas Market, but the concept has been so successful in other places that it would be a shame if a city as progressive as Galway did not have one.

Of course, what we have traditionally called ‘The Christmas Market’ in Galway, has been there for umpteen years. It has its own colour, attractions, vibrancy and that special atmosphere of the season which is difficult to define, but of which everyone has their own ideas as to the ingredients which must be present.

In Galway that unmissable part of the Christmas spirit is the market which takes place approximately from the front door of the Connacht Tribune right down to O’Brien’s Bridge, and stretches around St Nicholas Collegiate Church – the church itself is a wonderful heart for the season, and is the scene of a carols service which visitors have acclaimed worldwide.

The occasion of the service seems to bring out all that is best about the Christmas festivities. There is the invariable good humour, the greetings are many, effusive and genuine, the most dyed-in-the-wool old curmudgeons feel constrained to at least acknowledge the rest of humanity, and yet the hustle and bustle of the shopping seems to be left outside the doors.

If Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol established much of the backdrop and colour which became associated with ‘the typical Christmas’ in the minds of many, then, in Galway, the Christmas Market and St Nicholas Collegiate Church Carols Service, have encapsulated much of it for this writer.

In the minds of most of us, Christmas goes back to younger days, and undoubtedly in my case, part of that inescapable feeling of ‘Christmas’ has to be attributable to the fact that, as a very young cub reporter, it was my job to report on the Christmas Market.

Those days, everyone worked on a Saturday morning, and I remember year after year stepping outside in bitter cold, and heading into the magic world of the market. You had to step gingerly – for the footpaths were crowded with turkeys and geese as well as people!

Then there was the meeting and greeting with the turkey and geese sellers, the lads flogging holly, and the tree vendors on O’Brien’s Bridge – all necessary so that you could return to the newsroom with the prices of everything, and a ‘colour piece’ for the following week’s Sentinel and Tribune.

It was unfortunate that snow very rarely obliged on the occasion, but, whatever about the ‘colour’ writing, the prices had to be correct.

Variations in the price per pound of turkeys and geese were watched in the local newspapers at the time like the sale of Government bonds on the business news these days! Many appeared to be less well-off in those days, but life was a great deal simpler and much less seemed to suffice.

Returning to the new Christmas Fair planned for Eyre Square this year, in my opinion, the arguments against are pretty easy to dispose of in any sensible discussion. The idea that it would in some way ‘take trade away’ from long-established business houses, is a strange one indeed . . . for, if one attempts to sustain that argument, then where do we go about the concept of events which simply draw-in people in the hope of doing business as a result?

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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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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